Saturday, 19 January 2019

First significant snowfall of the winter

There was not a flake of snow left on the A6 in Darley Dale this morning but just a 100m higher around Beeley Moor there was a good 6cm of fresh snow. Birds were few and far between but this Robin appreciated the food put out for him.
Still plenty of Common Crossbills on Flash Lane with a single flock of over 50 yesterday but I couldn't find them this morning. Several Brambling but the large flock on Bent Lane appears to have dispersed now.
Flash Lane in the snow

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

First Dipper of the New Year

Although New Years Day started off overcast and very windy the sky partially cleared late morning and I had decent views of a Dipper feeding on the River Wye north of Rowsley. A small party of Mandarin flew down the river with a single drake Goosander. 
At least a dozen Common Crossbill and several parties of Lesser Redpoll still on Flash Lane so not a bad start to the year.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Barn Owl - Beeley Moor

I am only aware of a single pair of Barn Owls on the edge of Beeley Moor, they successfully fledged two young this year and this is probably one of those birds.  
Hunting around the moor appears to be undertaken almost exclusively in the dark making them difficult to observe but this bird appeared mid-afternoon today providing a rare opportunity to get a photo, against a background of dark coniferous woodland.
They struggle to feed when the moorland and its fringes are snow covered for prolonged periods and this perhaps limits their occurrence around the moor.
Barn Owl

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Waxwings in Youlgrave - an early Christmas present

In the early autumn it looked like this was going to be a Waxwing winter with some large arrivals on the Scottish east coast and smaller flocks further south in England but the arrivals quickly dried up and there were few inland records as autumn turned to winter.
So it was a real surprise to receive a call from Ken this morning to say he was watching three birds in Youlgrave feeding on berries by the Health Centre entrance. I didn't manage to get there until mid-afternoon and couldn't find them then, although there were still plenty of berries with Blackbirds and occasionally both Redwing and Fieldfare visiting the Rowen tree.
They may still be in the area and plenty of trees with berries so it's worth keeping an eye out and perhaps checking some of the other areas that have had Waxwing in the past.

Waxwing © Ken Smith

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Common Buzzard and Pink-footed Geese

During the autumn and winter earthworms are an important part of the Common Buzzards diet and they can be seen standing and walking, or even running sometimes, in fields in search of their prey. They often sit on the dry stone walls or, as in this case, a fence post from which they can watch their chosen field. The pale iris on this bird indicates that it is not yet an adult.
Common Buzzard
Several parties of Pink-footed Geese have overflown the area during the past week some still going SE, presumably to the Wash but other skeins have been seen heading back NW as at least 300 did this morning in 2 large skeins. There used to be a distinct gap between birds passing over SE in the autumn and early winter and returning NW in the late winter but that distinction is now rather blurred perhaps linked to the timing of food availability around the Humber and Wash.
Pink-footed Geese

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Mandarin in winter

The number of Mandarin Duck decrease dramatically on the local rivers during the autumn. For example during my last couple of visits to Chatsworth I haven't seen any on the River Derwent and it appears that after completing their autumn moult birds move on to enclosed waters such as Linacre Reservoir north of Chesterfield and perhaps further afield to Clumber Park. 
It was a surprise therefore to hear of a large group on the small lakes at Ladygrove in Two Dales. I went up today in rather poor weather and counted at least 60 birds on the upper lake. I'm not a regular visitor to Ladygrove so can't say whether this is a regular gathering or indeed whether this is a particularly large count so it will be interesting to see how the numbers fluctuate over the rest of the winter. 
Note that it is possible to view them from the main footpath which runs parallel to and well above the lake without disturbing them.
Mandarin Duck

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Stonechat on frosted Gorse

Whilst it remained misty and murky all day in the valley around Darley Dale the moors enjoyed blue skies for the morning but becoming overcast from mid-day. There was a heavy frost overnight with the first icy roads of the winter resulting in a sadly predictable car crash on the Bar Road. Birdwise the Common Crossbill flock is still around the 70 / 40 Acre plantations and numbering around 50 birds this morning. There are still Brambling on Bent Lane, I saw about 350 this evening. A flock of around 500 Lesser Redpoll is difficult to pin down and includes several Mealy (Common) Redpoll although I have yet to see any.
This male Stonechat is one of a handful that are still on the moor and looking rather festive in the early morning light, doubtless they will move in to the valleys with the first snow.
Stonechat - male

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Brambling influx

The number of Brambling in the area has continued to increase, as have the places where I have seen them locally. Which now include the area around Chatsworth House including the woods around Swiss Lake and the Calton Lees Garden Centre, Coombs Road in Bakewell, Whitworth Park in Darley Dale with several hundred on Flash Lane and at least 500 on Bents Lane this morning. However, the largest flock I have heard of is 1500 at Matlock Moor at the Cuckoostone Lane end. This is possibly the largest single flock recorded in the County although The Birds of Derbyshire records 5700 which were counted flying in to roost in Shinningcliff Wood in December 1967.

Brambling - male
The flock of Common Crossbill is still present on Flash Lane but are only seen intermittently and often are dispersed in to smaller groups, but I counted over 40 this morning around 70 Acre Plantation where there is also a large mobile flock of Lesser Redpoll which included 2 Mealy Redpoll on Monday.
Common Crossbill - the topmost male looks rather large billed although it is slightly open

Monday, 12 November 2018

Goosander - Bakewell

I quite often see one or two Goosander on the river at Bakewell but ten this morning is a record count for me. Two males and a mix of adult females and first winter birds. 
One of the males had a strong pink tinge to the breast whilst the other was yellowish. 
As is usually the case on the river at Bakewell they are less wary than elsewhere.

Goosander - males


Saturday, 10 November 2018

Hooded Crow - Rowsley

Todays star bird was a Hooded Crow picked up by Ken over Rowsley mid-morning which followed the Wye valley NE and was last seen over Haddon Hall. 
It's only the second I have seen in the local area following the bird seen in March last year. There was a small influx of birds on the coast in late October with 10 being seen at Flamborough and a few singles at Spurn but there have been singles at Bardon in Leicestershire and Wintersett, West Yorks in the past week but no other Derbyshire records as far as I am aware.
Hooded Crow
Good numbers of Brambling around at the moment with at least 150 on Flash Lane this morning and around 40 at Chatsworth yesterday, but surprisingly no Crossbill today. 

Saturday, 27 October 2018

First snow of the winter brings more thrushes

Much cooler this morning and the first snow fall on Beeley, but not cold enough for it to settle. The cooler weather brought approximately 500 hundreds Fieldfare on to Flash Lane which was great to see, and hear! Also my first local Brambling of the autumn.

More unusual than the Fieldfare, a Stoat ran down one of the drainage ditches. Difficult to know what the population is locally but I only see 3 or 4 a year so I regard them as scarce, but doubtless under recorded. 
It was difficult to photograph as they move so quickly and the light was very poor.

Friday, 26 October 2018

A late Small Copper and more on crossbills

I suspect this will be my last Small Copper of the year, sat in the sunshine on the edge of Beeley Moor yesterday, rather worn now. 
Small Copper

I also saw the Common Crossbill again in 70 Acre Plantation, about 40 all feeding in the same conifers. It was interesting to watch the crossbills feeding, some birds removed the cone completely and flew a short distance with it to the centre of the tree, presumably where they can support it to remove the seeds. 
I think the tree in the photo is a Sitka Spruce and there is an interesting article on the RSPB web site which looks at the impact of the introduction of Sitka Spruce on wintering crossbill in the UK over the the crossbills normal food plant, the Norway Spruce.
I like this photo, showing two female type Common Crossbill with a Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. 
Common Crossbill with Siskin and Lesser Redpoll

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Common Crossbills - Flash Lane

A change in the weather today with the calm, warm, anticyclonic system replaced by a strong cool NW wind and overcast skies. It didn't look promising first thing but three swans flying high over Flash Lane must have been Whooper Swans. Several parties have been seen at Carsington in the last few days.
After several groups of Fieldfare overhead and several finch flocks a part of at least 35 Common Crossbill flew over and disappeared towards Whitesprings Plantation. More groups of finches crossed the lane heading west then more, or possibly the same, Common Crossbills. 
A party landed reasonably close and posed briefly for photos in 70 Acre Plantation, hope they hang around.

Common Crossbills - male upper and female
Common Crossbill flock shot of 32 birds

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Meadow Pipits on the move

A large movement of Meadow Pipits over Beeley Moor this morning. Parties of generally 15 to 30 were moving SW across the moor on a broad front but some groups numbered several hundred. Difficult to estimate the number of birds involved but 10,000 were counted passing over Wintersett Reservoir this morning. Many of these birds will be travelling down to the Iberian Peninsula for the winter.
A Northern Wheatear on Flash Lane allowed a very close approach but in heavily overcast conditions. I think this bird is an adult male, with lots of grey showing through on the crown and mantle and uniformly fresh plumage. It could be a 'Greenland' Wheatear, race leucorhoa, looking at the length of the primaries. These birds migrate from Greenland and Iceland through the UK and western Europe to Africa and, as is generally the case, longer distance migrants have longer wings.
Northern Wheatear - adult male

At least 6 Stonechat and 6 Red Grouse, which is my largest group of the autumn, rounded of the morning. 
I then headed over to Carsington where a second Grey Phalarope had turned up but I failed to find it.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Grey Phalarope - Carsington

The recent spell of gale force winds have impacted on migrating birds with large numbers of seabirds seen close inshore off the SW coast whilst some have been driven inland including this Grey Phalarope found by Alan Stewardson at Carsington Water this morning. This is a juvenile moulting in to 1st winter plumage and is only the eight time the species has been recorded at Carsington.
Breeding within the Arctic Circle, with a small number of pairs in Iceland, they migrate down the North Atlantic at this time of year, remaining at sea until they reach their wintering grounds off eastern and southern Africa. Their occurence inland is almost always as a result of displacement due to very strong westerly winds like we have experienced recently. There have been around half a dozen on inland waters, and around another 40 around the UK coast during the last couple of days, and they will doubtless continue their southward journey once the wind decreases.

Grey Phalarope moulting to 1st winter plumage
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