27 January 2014

Notts Rose-coloured Starling fiasco

This morning, I got a FB notification informing me that Andy Hall, the Notts county recorder, had posted something on the Notts Birders Facebook group. It concerned a possible Rose-coloured Starling at Bilsthorpe. I immediately text Paul Naylor ti inform him of the news. He then contacted AH for more info and promptly made his way to the site. 90 minutes later, I received a phone call from PN excitedly telling me they'd 'had it' albeit very briefly & views weren't conclusive. My heart sank. I was stuck at work and had no chance of getting til the weekend... unless......

My boss allowed me to take an extended dinner break in return for working late. I spanked it over to Bilsthorpe and spent an agonising 40 minutes scanning a very distant swarm of c1500 Starlings via my average glove box bin's. Nothing!

I returned to work feeling pretty gutted but my mood was lifted somewhat when I received a text from PN informing me that he'd spied a very convincing RCS lookalike albeit it was a standard council estate Starling with albino style RCS patterning. The story then became muddled when a chap who had apparently seen the RCS mid morning informed PN that the dodgy bird knocking about no way resembled the creature he & his mates had seen. Hmmmmmm, two bird theory????
Then, PN alerted me that he'd then found another partial albino Starling with dodgy patterning but this didn't resemble a RCS. Now, I ponder whether that other chap, had also seen the second dodgy bird and when quizzed by PN if his initial sighting was actually an aberrant Starling that is knocking about, the chap thought PN was referring to the '2nd' dodgy bird and NOT the RCS lookalike that was knocking about (I know, complicated isn't it).

It just seems too much of a coincidence to me that there is a partial albino RCS lookalike Starling knocking about in the area AND a genuine RCS, bearing in mind Notts has had two genuine records of RCS in the last three years after a gap of c50 years. Has Notts suddenly become the RCS capital of the midlands??
I don't think so.

26 January 2014

January 2014... the result.

Last Saturday, 18th Jan, I'd just dropped Isabela Oriole off at her grandma's for a couple of hours and on the way back home I was contemplating which 'chore' to crack on with when I got back. As I turned onto my street, my phone must have picked up some signal as I suddenly received an handful of texts regarding a Brent Goose at Attenborough. Now, I've seen loads of Brents in Notts (dark bellied & pale) but due to me stupidly 'doing a Notts year list' this was a bird I HAD to get due to them not being at all common c85mls inland. I collected Paul Naylor from Sutton in Ashfield and tanked it down the M1 to J25. On site, armed with just bins due to each of us assuming the other would bring a scope, we headed for the visitor centre complex initially to scan the sailing pit but with no sign of the bird we decided to scour other pits. Still nothing. Returning to the visitor centre, we happened across Chris Galvin & Tim Sexton who were doing a bit of an optics demo where they informed us that they'd spied the Brent only 30 minutes before but it'd now 'vanished'! Mint! Another major county bird dipped.
Attenborough in late afternoon light - I once saw a Hoopoe beneath one of them cooling towers. 
Dawn the next day saw me heading into the Dukeries with a few targets in mind. As I approached the entrance to Clumber Park, a Barn Owl (89) drifted over the car, swept into an adjacent horse paddock and pounced onto some unfortunate critter. Being here so early, I was able to slip into the confines of the park before the gestapo arrived and thus saving me £6. At 'The Ornamental Bridge', in the half light, 6 Mandarin (90) were picked out as they snaffled around the overhanging bankside branches. Over the next 25 minutes, more and more Mandarin dropped in, small parties of between 3 & 6, whistling in, landing in the centre of the 'river' and insidiously slithering away into the darkness of the adjacent watery tangle. I reckon more than 25 birds arrived from their roost sites somewhere within the forest. Also in the Clumber area I added Marsh Tit (91), Jay (92), a mobile flock of c40 Brambling (93) & a few fly-over parties of Common Crossbill (94).
I then headed to Budby to search for the now highly elusive Great Grey Shrike. I met a few birders upon arrival & whilst I was on site & upon enquiring whether they'd seen it, I was unfortunately met with the same response "Sorry, we haven't been looking for it, we've been watching the Parrots". Anyhow, I avoided them & their watchers and scoured the western quarter of the common, alas to no avail. I was rewarded however with 4 performing Ravens (95), some Linnets (96) & a covey of Red-legged Partridges (97). The only other highlight of the day came as I was leaving. I had stopped to scan a fizzing flock of finches & buntings in a set-aside area (well, ya never know, Little Bunt & Pine Bunt are long over due in Notts) when I was approached by a bunch of randoms who excitedly asked "Are you watching the Parrot Cross Billed Finches?" to which I replied "I was but they've just been eaten by a marauding badger!". They soon fucked off.

Working Monday to Friday in a standard 8.30am - 5pm at this time of year obviously gives no time for birding so it was with great excitement that I awoke Saturday morning (25th Jan). My plan was to head to Cotham Tip in the east of the county to snare a white winger. As I approached Newark at around 8am, I realised I would be a tad bit early for the gulls so I diverted and hit Collingham, a few miles further north. The pits looked in excellent condition & with lots of standing flood pools and muddy fringes, it was no surprise that I picked up a snazzy Green Sandpiper (98).
Collingham looking awesome, especially with no other birders about. 
I thorough search through the many Wigeon, Teal & Gadwall failed to pull out anything too interesting although a couple of Little Egrets & Shelducks were pleasant enough. Moving along the lane towards the Trent, a quick scan of the 'last pool' resulted in 10+ Redshanks (99) and another covey of Red-legged Partridge. I then headed to Langford where after carefully traversing the most rugged, unkept, huge-crater & building brick infused lane in Britain (I seriously feared for my motors life) I began to scour this magnificent site. A huge distant constellation of Lapwing promised Golden Plovers surely but no, not a single GP! Speaking with Notts artist Mike Warren on site, he revealed that they're now very rare here and hadn't seen one at Langford for weeks, bizarre!! Where are they?? I didn't add any new additions here but a massive swarm of Yellowhammers & Chaffinches deserved attention as did a huge congregation of winter thrushes.
Langford, this pic doesn't do the site justice. 
Arriving at Cotham, I managed to find 'the cycletrack' and began the long trek to the viewpoint overlooking the tip. I then picked up a twitter message regarding two Iceland Gulls in a field between the tip & village. That field was currently on my left but only Black headed Gulls resided so a quick convo with local birder Nick Crouch revealed that the IGs had actually done one 20 minutes previous and had headed back to the landfill. I began straining my retinas, scouring the melee of scruffy gulls. Nothing & no other birders to help out either.
Cotham Tip & its 'white' Crebain wannabes
I rolled a smoke and was casually watched the comings & goings with the naked eye when a flash of white wings in a group of squabbling gulls caught my eye. Rising my bins, a gorgeous 1w Iceland Gull (100) was collected! Choosing not to switch to scope in case of losing the creature in the mess, I watched it for about 5 minutes before it slowly drifted off over the ridge and presumably down into the fields to the east. Happy with that, I was about to stack it when suddenly all of the gulls got up. Seeing many more in the sky now than I had done for the last hour, I realised I'd been missing loads of them and recalling that another white-winger sp. had been seen in recent days I waited for them to settle in order to have one last scan now they'd been shuffled. They settled, I jammed my eye to the scope, panned to the left to begin a sweep thru and landed immediately on an adult Glaucous Gull (101).

Simple as that. I hung about a while and enjoyed this brute as it stood proud, ruling the pack. A bit of gen from another local had me wasting an hour scanning some nearby weedy fields where apparently up to three SEOs have been performing recently  but my luck had ran out and so had my time. I traipsed back to the Notts/Derby's border (thru a pretty vicious thunderstorm) pretty chuffed that on my last possible days birding in January I'd hit and surpassed my target for the month.
February, I'm ready for you!

17 January 2014

Two Thousand & Fourteen...

So, a new year and new stuff to scribe bollocks about. Well, this year's a bit different. In wack on four weeks, I'll be breaking up from work for three months to take primary daily care of my daughter (she'll be 6 months old). I've also decided to stick religiously (birding wise) to my beloved Notts and attempt to see/near/imagine as many species as possible in the county in 2014. Now county listing is quite possibly the realm of only deranged psychotic nutjobs due its habit of forcing one to drive ridic' miles for the most shit birds eg if a Spot Red rocks up at Misson, c40miles away, I'd have to go for it. Now I'm not going for the record (held by Palmer, 208 in 1996) but I'd like to get somewhere between 190 & 200.
As of February 14th, I'll have a nice juicy three months off work to indulge in some serious county ticking... I'll also have the company of a 6 month old little girl. Christ knows how I'm gonna combine the both but I'm gonna give it a good go. I've got the weird 'kangaroo style' carrying pouch, the top of the range, hooded, gortex covered, polar bear fur insulated rucksack thing and a four wheel drive, rugged, all weather, cairngorm tested pushchair. I've also got myself one of those snazzy chunky Nissan Qashqui things to transport us to & fro locations. It'll be an adventure I'm sure.

This year so far, as of 17th January, my Notts year List currently stands at 88. The commonest stuff I'm missing include R-l.Part, Redshank, Jay, Marsh Tit, Bittern, Barn Owl, Crossbill, Mandarin, Corn Bunt & Linnet. So far I've attempted for the Firecrest & Lesser Whitethroat at Hallcroft TWICE and dipped both times. I scored with Hawfinch at Rufford within 5 minutes of arriving, bagged Peregrine & Little Owl at a undisclosed site, both birds sat within 40ft of each other, snaffled them 14 Macaw Crankybills on Budby, experienced the euphoria of watching the sunrise at Attenborough whilst being serenaded by Cetti's Warblers & Water Rails(!) and been depressed by driving 176 miles within the county in 7hrs and bagging just 8 year ticks... It has it's up & downs.

Attenborough, Notts at dawn. Can you hear them Cettis?