Saturday, 20 January 2018

Raven display

With the first decent days sunshine of the year I witnessed plenty of display from both Raven, one of our earliest breeding birds, and Buzzard yesterday.
The Raven is unusual amongst British birds in that it will regularly do a complete roll whilst in flight and I just managed to catch this bird whilst it was upside-down and calling.
Raven - rolling
I also got a reasonable comparison shot of Raven and Buzzard flying together for size comparison, similar size with Raven just a bit longer in the wing.
Raven and Common Buzzard

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

New Year Hawfinches - St Helen's Church

I've been away over the New Year so today was my first chance to have a look at the Hawfinches at St Helen's Church. Whilst away it looks like the numbers have generally been around 20 but in the last few years there have been counts of up to 30. 
There feeding behaviour appears to have changed since December, they now look to be spending more time on the outside of the Yews making them a little easier to see and photograph. It looked to me as if they are now eating fresh shoots rather than the berries, which look to have largely disappeared, which might be an explanation for this.
The photos below are all males and show the strange spatulate tips to the inner 5 primaries.
Aside from the Hawfinches I think it's been fairly quiet for birds locally over Christmas/ New Year.

Hawfinch - males

Saturday, 23 December 2017

More Hawfinch - St Helen's Church, Darley Dale

The number of Hawfinch at St Helen's Church increased slowly during the week to 12 by Friday but this morning there were at least 20 feeding in the Yew trees around the church or sitting in the surrounding trees. I saw groups of birds flying off towards Warren Carr and towards Darley Hillside and presumably Stancliffe Hall where there are also several large Yews so there could easily be more.
This is by far the largest flock I have seen in the area and it would be fantastic if they stayed and re-established breeding in the area.
Hawfinch - there are at least 13 in this photo plus 1 Greenfinch
Hawfinch - distinctive in flight with large body, short tail & white primary bases seen from above and below

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Bradford Dale

No sign of the Great White Egret mid-morning in Bradford Dale but it had been seen earlier. Unfortunately, as the valley is narrow where the pools are, the bird is disturbed by any walkers on the footpath. Apparently this is at least its third day in the area so it may return.
Nice views of Kingfisher and Dipper along the river but rather cold this morning.
Kingfisher - female, with extensive orange on lower mandible

Monday, 18 December 2017

Great White Egret - Bradford Dale

Exciting news from Doug Aston today of a Great White Egret in Bradford Dale. It was seen and photographed by Doug between Youlgrave and Middleton-by-Youlgrave.
This is the first record I can recall in the immediate Matlock/ Bakewell area but is not entirely unexpected as the numbers in the UK have increased dramatically during the past decade although there are still only around 10 recorded in Derbyshire each year.

Great White Egret (© Doug Aston)

Chatsworth in the sunshine

A beautiful sunny day today with no wind and I spent the morning walking around Chatsworth. I called in at St Helen's Church as I left Darley Dale and soon found two Hawfinch but couldn't locate any others, there were 9 there yesterday!
On the river I came across the hybrid male Tufted Duck x Pochard just below Chatsworth House. This is the first time I've seen it since January when it was at Bakewell. The Pink-footed Goose was still with the flock of around 50 Canada Geese.
Male Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid

Not much else seen but a female Grey Wagtail showed well in the sunshine.
Grey Wagtail - female

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Hawfinch and Crossbills

I was very surprised this morning to come across a lone male Hawfinch on Flash Lane. This is the first time I've seen one so close to the moor. Walking back along the lane crossbills could be heard calling but were hidden by the trees. It sounded like quite a few birds and this may have been the same flock I saw at the end of November in Farley which numbered at least 20 birds but again seen only in flight.

Common Crossbill - males

Walking through 70 Acre Plantation with Alan we found two males which we were able to confirm were both Common Crossbill. There have been several flocks of Parrot Crossbill seen in the country including one small group in Upper Derwentdale so it's worth checking any crossbills seen.
Back in Darley Dale I saw at least 4 Hawfinch at St Helen's Church but speaking to the couple of other birders present it sounded like all 8 may still be visiting the churchyard.

Hawfinch - that's an impressive bill!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Hawfinch Update

The female Hawfinch is still being seen most days in the Whitworth Park but can be difficult to locate, especially now that the snow has gone. 
On Tuesday Alan Stewardson had a group of 7 Hawfinch flying over the railway line towards the Whitworth from the St Helen's Church direction and today Simon Roddis had 8 birds around St Helen's Church. The birds were feeding in the Darley Dale Yew and adjacent yew trees and I managed to see 7 of them mid-afternoon.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Hawfinch - Whitworth Park, Darley Dale

My last record of Hawfinch in the Darley Dale area was in 2010, prior to then I had occasional sightings each year when they used to breed locally. 
This autumn there has been a huge influx of birds to the UK from the Continent, which must involve several thousand individuals. Locally there have been around 100 birds seen at Carsington and several dozen in the Ogston area but despite searching there had been none in the Darley Dale area until Simon Roddis found a female in the cemetery adjoining Whitworth Park on Saturday. 
I looked for it on Saturday and Sunday, during the persistent snowfall, without success but it was found again this morning by Alan Stewardson in the Whitworth Park. 
Fortunately I was nearby and saw it several times during the morning feeding with Redwing and Chaffinch below Yew and other conifers which were free of snow.
It will be interesting to see if these Continental immigrants stay to supplement the declining UK breeding population.

Hawfinch -female

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Pink-footed Goose - Chatsworth

I always check the Canada Geese along the River Derwent in the hope of another stray goose joining them but without any luck until today when I found this first winter Pink-footed Goose with the flock in front of Chatsworth House. We have plenty of Pink-footed Geese flying over the area during autumn and winter, around 200 flew NW yesterday, so it's not too surprising that a stray bird would join the Canada's.

Pink-footed Goose

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Jay in the first snow of the winter

A significant snowfall on higher ground overnight. Nothing much in Darley Dale but a decent covering on the moor. Everything looks so much brighter in the snow so pleased to get photos of this Jay.
Beeley Moor

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Merlin and Stonechat in the sunshine

Glorious sunshine today and I managed to catch up with a Merlin that Ken had first seen on 31st October. I had rather distant views but Ken got some great photos, one of which I've posted below.
Merlin - probably a juvenile female (© Ken Smith)

Still several pairs of Stonechat on the moor, perhaps 5 or 6 pairs around Beeley Moor.
Stonechat - male and female

Down at the Whitworth the Water Rail still present this morning along with Kingfisher and the regular Cormorant.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Water Rail back at Whitworth Park

I can only assume that it is the Water Rail seen at the Whitworth Park last November that has returned again this autumn. First seen by Mary Wilde about a week ago it was still there this morning but very difficult to see. 
There is no mud at the moment so it is hidden in the vegetation most of the time. I just caught it as it decided to swim from the bank to the island, where it would be almost impossible to see. 
Water Rail

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Vestal finally makes it to Darley Dale

With the warm evenings persisting I've continued to run the moth trap in the hope of catching a migrant from the south. Last night it paid off with a single Vestal in the trap this morning. The mild southerly winds have carried large numbers to the south coast but they are scarcer inland and few get this far north.
It's the fourth record for my garden with one in 2011 and two in 2013.
The Vestal

Friday, 20 October 2017

Winter thrush arrival

Lots of flocks of winter thrushes, in groups of 40 to 50 birds, were arriving from the coast and passing over Beeley Moor this morning. Mainly Redwing but with a few Fieldfare also several Brambling which were my first of the autumn.
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