25 March 2014

The Adventures Begin

At the beginning of the year, I wrote this  - ''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...''

So February came & went pretty swiftly didn't it. I didn't actually manage that much birding during the month (a lot less than I expected certainly) what with beginning my paternity leave on Valentines Day - I'd inexplicably underestimated what it would involve & how my birding time would be reduced. I only managed to add three birds to my county year-list during the month, the first two falling on the same day, at the same place. February 9th I was at home minding the baby when I began to get calls & texts. I was feeding Isabela so ignored them initially but after one too many missed calls, I checked my phone to see that Wayne Collingham had found a Gannet at King's Mill Res, my old local patch & just a swift 10 minutes drive away! I quickly chucked some sort of coat thing on Izzy & strapped her in her car seat, grabbed my gear and spanked it down to the res. Ditching the car, we ran (well I ran, carrying Izzy) to the apron in front of the sailing club and immediately locked on to the adult Gannet bobbing about on the water, like some huge albino, bath tub, rubber duck! After a very enjoyable half hour of watching this beast (seeing such a maritime creature flying around very urban habitats is always incongruous), the weather took a turn for the worse so I decided to stack it (purely for Isabela's sake I might add) but minutes before we left, Paul Naylor picked up a Kittiwake flying around amongst the B-h.Gulls virtually over our heads! Class, King's Mill currently rivalled Bempton in terms of sea birds, sort of, maybe... Ok it didn't but it was bloody exciting and I left pondering at what stage on my journey home that I'd get the phone call to say a Puffin had dropped in. That didn't happen & I spent the rest of the evening having some RJ (Rouge Juice = Red Wine). The Gannet was only the second one I'd ever seen in Notts and only my 3rd ever in an inland county.
The montage above was taken by my none birding mother (Michelle Dunn)
This stunning image was taken by Mike Hill
And a rather shabbier effort by yours truly (mobile phone papped). 
There then followed a period of birding inactivity (only punctuated by seeing the usual mundane dross on my walks out with Chief Brody in the meadows behind my house) until on the 19th Paul Naylor informed me of the presence of a Stonechat at Sutton-in-Ashfield which I duly went and spied on (Yes, I twitched a bleeding Stonechat, on a shitty bit of set-aside, sandwiched between two revolting housing estates). I finished the month on 104 species for Notts, well below what I had envisaged being on. On the plus side, I'd just done my first two weeks paternity (with many many more to come) and was starting to get the hang of it. With March knocking on the door and the promise of warmer days & early spring migrants, I was looking forward to many more adventures with Isabela Oriole & Chief Brody!

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March (already!)

With the reappearance of the Glossy Ibis in the Lowdham/Gonalston area, I took the first opportunity I could to go and add this bird to my Notts year-list. The 9th saw me up & away early doors and on site by 7.15am. Initially it was a bit daunting as I wasn't too sure the exact location of the bird and there were no other birders about either! After a bit of grubbing about, creeping along hedgerows & popping my head over, clambering up trees (I didn't clamber up any trees actually but if I had to I would have done, I like to climb a tree every now & again, makes me feel young), peering into fields I eventually located the bird, snaffling around a muddy flooded corner of a field, about 20yds away from me. It was feeding away busily, quite unconcerned about me perving on it. It was such a relief to connect after missing it on its only other visit to the county this year on January 5th.
Glossy Ibis (S.Dunn - mobile phone papped) 
From Gonalston I drove the short distance to Hoveringham and spent an hour or so scanning the 'Super Railway Pit'. Nothing that unusual was picked up but a few boisterous (amorous?) Oystercatchers were new for the year. Being stood next to this huge expanse of water on such a gorgeous spring morning was quite superb and something I'll definitely be doing again when the proper spring action kicks off in mid April (easterlies & drizzle, that'll be just fine!).
Hoveringham's 'super railway pit' 
I was then spoilt for choice on what my next location would be. I was tempted to head to Lound for a Slav' Grebe but with the weather as it was, I plumped for Budby Common/The Dukeries. Within 10 minutes of being on Budby, I could hear Woodlarks calling & singing and it wasn't too long 'til I found one perched on the edge of a tree, doing a spot of whistling. With the sun ahead of me though, it was tricky to get a decent pic so it was with a little surprise that I soon located another bird, rooting about on some short turf 4 metres away from me! Such a snazzy looking creature when views are this good...
Woodlark, Budby Common (S.Dunn mobile phone papped)
Leaving Budby, I nearly headed off home for some grub but chose to have a quick peek at Welbeck, just in case. Luckily, upon arrival, Alan Clewes was present & informed me that he'd had three sightings in the last 45 minutes so I decided to give it a shout. Within fifteen minutes, a Gos' was located over the estate and showed reasonably well for more than 10 minutes, an excellent end to a pretty decent few hours in the county. On the 11th I visited a local site to do a bit of old fashioned 'patching' and to add Black-necked Grebe to the year list. A pair were present along with a Raven & some more Woodlarks.
BNG, undisclosed site (S.Dunn, mobile phoned papped)
The 13th saw my first Blackcap of the year singing from the wood behind my house and on the 14th, a major surprise was had - I had decided to go for a stomp with Isabela & The Chief along the five pits trail which my house backs onto (sadly in D*rbyshite). Prior to leaving, I decided to have a smoke on the garden. As I was sparking up, I heard Buzzards calling (a common enough sound round our way) and upon casually glancing up saw three birds, two of them seemingly interested in the 3rd. The 3rd bird looked slightly larger with the naked eye & I thought I caught a glimpse of a decent amount of white on the inner tail so I rushed inside, grabbed my bins out the kitchen, back out onto the front garden and spent the next ten  minutes watching a fabulous adult Rough-legged buzzard being all nonchalant & cool above my house, despite the seemingly unwanted attention from the two Common Buzzards. Eventually at around 1215hrs, it began drifting off SE and I lost it behind distant trees. A cracking garden tick but sadly, like anything I have from my garden, it was in D*rbyshite! Later in the day, news reached me that a RLB had passed east thru Rufford, Notts, some 30 minutes after my sighting. Anyhow, after the excitement of that, The Chief, Isabela & I went on our yomp thru the local countryside. We didn't see anything of real note, although plenty of singing Chiffchaffs told us spring had truly sprung. One slight peculiarity that we (well, I ) encountered was a snippet of song that I heard. It was a very brief but loud acro type of chugging emanating from some very dense hawthorn & bramble tangle about 50yds away. Unfortunately with Isabela on my back and The Chief in tow, I wasn't in a position to be scrambling down old railway embankments to investigate. I stood & scanned the area with my bins, seeing nothing but hearing three more brief 'chur' calls, almost as if it wanted to start singing again. Unfortunately, Isabela required feeding so I had to evacuate and return home. I checked out the area very briefly the next day but heard nothing more...
The Chief, Isabela & I on our March 14th stroll
March 16th saw me & The Chief at one of my local D*rbyshite stomping grounds. We'd arranged to meet D*rbyshite birder Dan Martin for a mornings birding at Doe Hill Flash. Thankfully The Chief was on top form & produced three Jack Snipe from the northern end of the flash.
Chief Brody looking pleased after accidently disturbing 3 Jacks.
On the 20th March, news came thru of a drake Garganey at Eakring Flash. I was unable to visit that day but early on the 21st, Isabela & I arrived at Eakring and swiftly bagged the truly gorgeous duck. I really want a pet Garganey for my garden pond (and a Turnstone for my living room, there'd be no need for a hoover, it'd just scuttle around, grubbing up any stray crumbs Izzy spills).

Izzy bags her first Notts Garganey @ Eakring Flash
Sunday 23rd March saw me out and about scouring local Notts sites just over the border. Very little sign of any spring migrants but Willow Tits were very obvious with 2 at King's Mill Res', 3 at Brierley CP & 5+ at Silverhill CP. The next day, I bagged another Notts year tick with a single measly Sand Martin at King's Mill Res.
Tuesday March 25th, I didn't go birding, I forgot to feed my dog & neglected my paternal duties - instead I wrote this blog post for all of you to peruse, 'cos I'm good like that.
Hope you enjoyed it.
Now, which room did I leave the baby in....    and where's my dog????