Sunday, 30 November 2014

Ageing Great Grey Shrikes

Haven't done much today as we had a family shopping trip planned but an early morning visit to the moor, which was finally under blue skies, produced three skeins of Pink-footed Geese (totalling 300+) and Stonechat.
A chance meeting with John Bradley led to a discussion on the age of the Great Grey Shrike which he had just been watching by Wragg's Quarry,  whilst we were watching several Brambling on Bent Lane. John thought it was probably a first winter whilst I had indicated that I thought it was an adult based on the dark lores and the very narrow pale tips to the greater and primary coverts.
I've since checked various papers and photos and consulted George Briggs, who as a bird ringer has a lot of experience in ageing birds in the hand, and we now all agree that the bird is a first winter. George made the following comments;

"I think it is a this years bird due to several feather tracts showing a bit brownish, and also at least 2 greater coverts may by un-moulted."

Adult Great Grey Shrikes undergo a complete post-breeding moult and thus the majority of flight feathers and coverts are glossy black when they arrive in the UK in the autumn.
Whereas juveniles undergo only a partial moult of the body feathers and thus most of the coverts are worn and brownish black, with pale tips in the autumn.
Looking at photos of Great Greys in Britain the colour of the lores, the area between the eye and the bill is very variable and is often black in first winters.
Clearly the age of the bird is interesting as for a first winter bird this is its first visit to the area and it is not the same bird that has over-wintered in previous years.

Anyway it's a good excuse to post another photo.

Great Grey Shrike - first winter

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Stoat - Ogston Reservoir

Another Saturday with the moors lost in mist, the conditions were slightly better in the valley so headed for Ogston. Nothing unexpected bird wise but nice to see Willow Tits which are very scarce around Darley Dale. 
A Stoat spent several minutes chasing around the island in front of the hide, only my second for the year,  which made up for the poor weather.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Great Grey Shrike - Wraggs Quarry

A Great Grey Shrike has been reported occasionally since late October but from a variety of locations. Pete Rawdon saw it yesterday from Bent Lane on the edge of Whitesprings plantation and Roger saw it this morning on the Rowsley road between Bent Lane and Flash Lane. It was still there this afternoon despite the constant stream of cars. 
Hopefully it will stay in the area, but not quite so close to the road!

Great Grey Shrike - first winter

Mist inversion from Longstone Edge

This was the view looking SE from Longstone Edge towards Chatsworth this morning, strange light creating a sepia effect. The mist persisted in the valley around Darley Dale all day.
View from Longstone Edge

Starlings leaving the roost

This is one of those times when photographs simply can't adequately convey the spectacle. Perhaps 100,000 birds all taking flight together with a low rumbling rush of wings and the sound of the birds calling. It really is a spectacle, but it is all over within minutes. The birds leaving the Middleton Moor roost at first light normally in two groups.
I've added a single portrait just to show what smart looking birds Starlings are in the winter.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Raven and Crow

The sunshine yesterday afternoon encouraged a few birds to take advantage and I heard Dippers singing along the river and saw several Raven displaying. This bird attracted the attention of a local Carrion Crow which makes a good comparison of the bulk and bill size of the Raven compared to the crow.
Raven and Carrion Crow

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Starling numbers increasing at Middleton Moor

The number of Starlings roosting at Middleton Moor is increasing. I went last night and had the benefit of a clear end to the day. Unfortunately most of the birds flew straight in to the roost site so there was not much of a pre-roost murmuration, but plenty of time yet and it's still an impressive sight.
Starlings flying to roost
It's very difficult to estimate the total number of starlings entering the roost. I've just counted the birds on the photo above and come to a total of 5875 birds, coloured in groups of 1000 birds.  This was just a part of the stream of birds from mainly west, north and north-east entering the roost. There does not appear to be many from the southerly direction. I would estimate the roost at present to be 100,000 to 150,000 birds.
Starling count in coloured groups of 1000 birds

Chatsworth Swiss Cottage - autumn colour

Another walk around Chatsworth produced a couple of male Wigeon feeding with Mallards by the river, 70 Pink-footed Geese but little else of note on another grey and wet day. With the trees still carrying a lot of leaves there are some great colours at the moment. No Mandarin on the lake which is unusual.
Swiss Cottage

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Goldeneye - Carsington Water

Another grey day with the moors completely enveloped in mist. Carsington Water was a little better, a nice group of displaying Goldeneye and distant views of 4 Red-crested Pochard which have been present for some weeks. A Woodcock flew over the dam wall which was a surprise.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hybrid Tufted Duck back at Chatsworth

Ducks on the river at Chatsworth this morning included a male Pochard, female Gadwall and the hybrid male Tufted Duck/Pochard which I last saw in February, so it could be back for the winter.

Male Tufted Duck/Pochard hybrid

Redshank - Chatsworth

It's been a very grey weekend with constant mist over the moors but a walk along the river at Chatsworth produced a Redshank which brightened the day somewhat. A regular breeding bird on the gravel pits in the south of the county a now regularly breeding at Carsington it's largely disappeared as a breeding bird of the moorlands. The Birds of Derbyshire cites a breeding record for Beeley Moor  in 1981 but this is my first in the immediate area. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Scarce Umber

Several Scarce Umber trapped during the warmer weather this week, also another December Moth. This fresh looking male was trapped this evening despite the drop in temperature with the clearing sky.
Scarce Umber

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Red Deer - Beeley Moor

Whilst there now appears to be a small established Red Deer population in the Whitesprings / Flash Lane area they are not frequently seen on the open moor. These three hinds looked like they were set to cross the road but then moved off towards Fallinge Edge followed by two young males.
A walk around Chatsworth produced a couple of female Gooseander on Emperor Lake, three Mandarin, 6 Tufted Duck and 20 Teal at Swiss Lake and a few scattered Brambling during the walk.
Red Deer

Pink-feet on the move

There was a large movement of Pink-footed Geese on Wednesday 5th, Pam rang me to say two skeins had passed over the house and there were 2,700 recorded at Ogston. Ken took this photo of a large skein over the valley.
Pink-footed Geese (K Smith)

Red Grouse in a bush

Ken sent me this photo of a Red Grouse in a Hawthorn bush, not how you usually see grouse although some other members of the grouse family spend a lot of time in trees. I presume this bird was tempted by the berries?
Red Grouse (Ken Smith)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Fieldfare on the move

There were a couple of hours of dry weather this morning before the rain set in. Groups of Fieldfare 100 to 200 strong were crossing the moor generally heading SE. Simon Roddis was counting at Upper Loads and recorded 7460 between 07:45 and 09:45.
Overnight caught my first December Moth and Scarce Umber of the winter.

Redwing migration

George Briggs provided details today of a Redwing he rang on 19th October 2013 on Beeley Moor which was found dead on 15th May this year in Kargopol, Arkhangelsk, Russia a distance of 2586Km. 
The Redwing breeds widely across Russia and most winter in Europe or the Middle East so some must cover over 6000Km in both spring and autumn.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Peregrine and Raven - Harland Edge

I'm just back from a week on the island of Rhodes, not a great autumn birding location but still a few birds and other wildlife of interest. I'm gradually adding a few photos to my flickr site.
Locally it appears to have been fairly quiet with a few Pink-footed Geese moving, I had about 150 yesterday and another 20 this morning. Steve Mann located the Great Grey Shrike yesterday at Hob Hurst's House by Bunkers Hill Wood (this is in addition to another at Leash Fen) but I had a look this morning without success. 
The Peregrine on Harland Edge put on a good show with a pair of Ravens but as usually the birds were distant.
Mothing has been quiet with just a couple of Silver Y the only evidence of any migrants despite the warm weather. Several Feathered Thorn, Red-green and Juniper Carpet were also attracted to the trap.
Peregrine chasing Raven

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