Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dusky Thrush still present in Beeley at year end

The Dusky Thrush was again on Pig Lane in Beeley this morning from 08:00 to 09:30 whilst I was present but was still being reported mid-afternoon.
All week it has favoured a hawthorn hedge about half-way along Pig Lane, best viewed from the metal gate just beyond the barn on the right hand side. It is usually seen feeding on the grass below the hawthorns but sits in the hawthorns for periods when it can sometimes be seen feeding on the berries. Occasionally it has flown across the fields and fed with Redwing in neighbouring fields.
Hawthorn hedge below large Ash tree favoured by Dusky Thrush

Friday, 30 December 2016

Merlin still on Beeley Moor

The female Merlin was still present on Beeley Moor this morning. She sat preening for 15 minutes before finally taking flight, presumably in search of her next meal.
She was very distant but with little heat haze and some sunshine I managed a record shot
Merlin - female

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Waxwing near Frogatt

Waxwings have been on the move again in the last couple of days. There were 5 reported in Matlock yesterday and there are 40 at Crosspool, Sheffield. Around 20 turned up yesterday by The Grouse Inn near Frogatt, this group had increased to 44 this morning but by late morning when I arrived there was only a single bird left but it put on a good performance.
I keep looking in the usual spots around Darley Dale but no luck so far.

Waxwing first year, probably female

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Mandarin in sunshine

Nice views of the Mandarin on the river at Rowsley yesterday. It makes a big difference seeing them in sunshine as opposed to the overcast conditions recently.
Had distant views of the Dusky Thrush this morning at Beeley. It appears to have settled in to a line of hawthorns with a large ash tree on the right hand side about half way down Pigs Lane viewed from the metal gate just beyond the small stone barn. It's either in the hawthorns, when it is generally not visible, or hopping around on the ground nearby.

Mandarin - drake

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Fieldfare - Beeley

Had a look for the Dusky Thrush this afternoon but it hadn't been seen since a brief appearance at 8am this morning on School Lane. Those present first thing also had brief views of a flock of 27 Waxwing in the orchard area.
Still plenty of Blackbirds and Fieldfare feeding on apples in the orchards but very few Redwing around the village. 
The Fieldfare below is a 1st winter with 4 fresh inner greater coverts and the rest duller, paler tipped retained juvenile feathers

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Dusky Thrush back in Beeley village

After leaving the moor this morning Mel and I decided to stop off in Beeley village. The sun was shining, for a change, but we had no great expectations. However, as the orchard came in to view at Dukes Barn Outdoor Centre the first bird we saw was the Dusky Thrush hopping off the ground in to the closest apple trees! 
It was around 10:15 and it stayed around the orchard until about 10:25 before flying up the hedge at the back of the centre. Mel then picked it up again feeding with Redwing in a hawthorn. We then lost it so went to have a look at the orchard on School Lane but no sign, so walked back to Dukes Barn and there it was again at around 11:30. Again it flew away up the hedgerow at the back of the centre.
Doubtless it has been in the area all the time and now present for 2 weeks.
Dusky Thrush

Stonechat at sunrise

Nothing much to report on the moors this morning but this silhouetted female Stonechat made a nice photo as the sun was rising.

Merlin - Beeley Moor, shades of brown

Whilst I was searching for the Dusky Thrush yesterday Ken had a more productive morning on Beeley Moor and came across this female Merlin. 
In overcast conditions the female's colour is a close match to the heather moorland and grasses. Looks like she has fed recently with extended crop.
With just one or two sightings a month they are scarce on the moor in the winter but then so are the Meadow Pipits which they hunt.
Merlin - female (© Ken Smith)

Friday, 16 December 2016

Mandarin at Rowsley but no sign of the Dusky Thrush

I'm not clear on the movement of Mandarin in the Darley Dale area. Numbers peak during the breeding season and late summer then rapidly decline in the autumn but then start to increase again in the late winter. There is a significant increase in birds at Linacre Reservoir in the early winter so perhaps our birds go there for a few months?
I check the Mallards at Peak Village for Mandarin but haven't seen any for at least a month but today there were at least 6 males and 3 females. All looking very smart.
Mandarin -male
I spent a couple of hours at Beeley this morning but no sign of the Dusky Thrush. My last sighting was on Wednesday  morning (14th at 9:20) and it looks like this may be my final photo our our rare Siberian visitor.
Dusky Thrush

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Grey Squirrel Beeley and the RSPB report on understanding Hawfinch declines

I admit that I am not a great fan of the Grey Squirrel. They predate young birds and are a nuisance around bird feeders. I had also convinced myself that they were a significant factor in the loss of Hawfinches in the Darley Dale area.
Grey Squirrel

Twenty years ago I regularly saw Hawfinches flying over the woodlands neighbouring my garden and I found displaying birds in the immediate area but sadly the number of sightings steadily declined and it is now three years since I last saw one around Darley Dale.
Fortunately the winter flock at Cromford Meadows still survives and there are usually a dozen or so birds there each winter.
The RSPB has recently reported on a study conducted between 2012 and 2016 to understand the national decline of the Hawfinch. During the study they managed to find and monitor over 50 nests and whilst this is the start of a longer term study I was surprised to read the following;

Nest monitoring has revealed the number of young birds hatching and fledging as well as causes of nest failure, which have included poor weather and predation by jays, crows, goshawks and great spotted woodpeckers. Interestingly, there have been no recorded instances of grey squirrel predation despite them being common within the study woods.

So, I may have been a little unfair on the Grey Squirrel, at least in respect of their impact on Hawfinches.

Sat waiting for the Dusky Thrush, which only showed for 10 minutes during my four hour vigil this morning, I couldn't help smiling at the antics of this Grey Squirrel feeding on apples in the orchard.

RSPB 2016: Understanding Hawfinch declines

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Dusky Thrush - Beeley village day 10

I gave the weekend a miss in anticipation of the large number of visiting birders wanting to see the Dusky Thrush. It sounds like there were perhaps a 1000+ visitors over the weekend, which appears to have run smoothly with Dukes Barn offering a free park a ride from the Chatsworth Calton Lees car park. As far as I'm aware this is the first time a park and ride has been provided for a UK twitch!
I have spent this morning and yesterday morning at the orchard with around 50 other birders each day, many of whom were making second visits. The weather has remained misty and overcast with some heavy rain showers and although it was present in the orchard most of yesterday morning it sat preening for long periods when it was generally partially obscured in the apple trees. It occasionally fed on the ground when I took the photo below which shows the rusty outer edges to the tertials, secondaries and base of the outer tail feathers.
Dusky Thrush

There was a report of a potential Black-throated Thrush on the bird news services for 09:30 yesterday but I was there and there was no mention of it, so not sure how that came about.
This morning it wasn't seen in the orchard by mid-day but most visitors managed to catch up with it late morning from the track which runs up the hillside on the other side of the hedge bordering Dukes Barn ropes course. 
May try again tomorrow but again the weather forecast is poor.
Dukes Barn are hosting the annual village Xmas lunch tomorrow (Wednesday 14th) so their parking may be restricted and there will be no access 22nd December to 2nd January as they have a private function.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Dusky Thrush - Beeley village day 5

There is still a lot of interest in the Dusky Thrush, despite continuing poor weather. 
I had a couple of hours there today and was lucky to see it well in the orchard feeding on apples.

Dusky Thrush - first winter, probably female
It's also made the news featuring on the BBC and various news papers both local and national during the past couple of days.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Dusky Thrush - Beeley village present for 3rd day

The Dusky Thrush was still in Beeley village this morning. It showed well several times in the Orchard, viewable from the Dukes Barn Outdoor Centre from first light to about 8:30. It returned about 10:30 to feed on an apple in one of trees before turning up again in the hawthorns on the northern end of the playing fields. It was then not seen again until 12:50 when it was again at the northern end of the playing fields finally, It returned briefly to the Orchard around 3pm.
Dusky Thrush - probably first winter

Thanks again to the folk at the Dukes Barn Outdoor Centre who again provided parking (just £3 for the charity), bacon and sausage cobs and toilet facilities. They even brought out chips and sandwiches to the birdwatchers waiting patiently by the Orchard and at the Playing Fields.
Birders at the Playing Fields

I estimated there were around 250 birders yesterday and a similar number today. 
The weather was gloomy and overcast (again!) and the Beeley - Chesterfield Road is still closed during daylight hours.
Beeley village

Monday, 5 December 2016

Dusky Thrush - Beeley Village, 13th record for Britain

Beeley resident Rachel Jones posted the photo below on the internet yesterday unsure what species of thrush it was. It was clearly a Dusky Thrush and only the 13th recorded in Britain and a first for Derbyshire. An amazing find from her garden!
Dusky (©Rachel Jones)
This morning, in very overcast and misty conditions, there were at least a dozen birders looking for the bird but, following an early sighting by the church, the numbers increased rapidly with around 100 birders there by late morning.

The bird favoured an orchard which is overlooked by the Dukes Barn Outdoor Centre and thanks to the people there who both provided additional car parking and allowed access on to their site to view the orchard.
This morning the bird showed several times in the orchard but in gloomy conditions, Rachel took another photo of the bird feeding in an apple tree. 
It's a first winter bird and, with extensive black spotting on the underparts and dark ear coverts, I think probably a male.
Dusky Thrush (©Rachel Jones)
If it stays during the week it's likely to attract many more bird watchers, including me hoping for slightly better light.

I took a couple of record photos;

Dusky Thrush
Birders in the village
The Dusky Thrush breeds in Eastern Siberian and winters in southern China and Japan so it's a long way from home.
Dusky Thrush distribution (© Birdlife International - I think this map may also include the recently separated Naumann's Thrush)
The list of British records is as follows;
1905 Nottinghamshire: Gunthorpe shot 13th October
1959 Cleveland: Hartlepool 1st winter male 12th Dec - 24th February 1960
1961 Shetland: Fair Isle 1st winter female 18th-21st October
1968 Shetland:Whalsay 24th September
1975 Shetland: Firth, Mainland 6th-13th November
1979 West Midlands: Majors Green 17th-19th February, 27th-28th February and 18th-23rd March
1983 Cornwall: Coombe Valley, Bude 13th November
1987 Pembrokeshire: Skomer 3rd-5th December
2010 Greater Manchester: Leigh near Wigan 9th December
2013 Kent: Margate 15th-18th May
2013 Devon: Brixham 26th October - 2nd November
2016 Isles of Scilly: Penninis 26th October (subject to acceptance by BBRC)
2016 Derbyshire: Beeley 4th December -?

Please respect the local residents and park sensibly in the village if you are visiting for the bird.
The Chesterfield - Beeley road is closed during the week for repairs to the dry stone walls so access to Beeley is best either via Baslow and Chatsworth or on the B5057 then A6 through Darley Dale.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Little Owl - Bakewell

It's been sometime since I have seen the Little Owls so it was nice to see both the male and female enjoying some early morning sunshine today.

Little Owl

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mottled Umber

With the relatively mild weather continuing there are still one or two moths on the wing. I caught this Mottled Umber last night. This is a male and they will continue to fly on mild evenings in search of the flightless female through to January.
Mottled Umber

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Middleton Moor

The Lesser Black-backed is by far the commonest of the large gulls in the Peak District, currently there are around 500 to 600 roosting at Middleton Moor. They can then be seen feeding in grassy fields in the area during the day.
The increase in number of birds wintering in Derbyshire is a relatively recent change, and can number several thousand at Carsington. Prior to the 1970's is was mainly a migrant with most records in the Autumn.
Almost all the birds are of the western European race Larus fuscus graellsii which breeds around much of the British coastline.
Lesser Black-backed Gull - adult graellsii

Starlings leaving the roost - Middleton Moor

I made my first visit of the winter to Middleton Moor last night. Plenty of Starlings but they all flew straight in to the reed bed without even a suggestion of a murmuration. There were both Peregrine and Sparrowhawk on the hunt which sometimes causes them to fly around more, but not last night. Very difficult to estimate the number of birds, last night I was thinking it was around 15,000 but I went back this morning to watch them leave the roost and the numbers seemed much higher. I saw a Sparrowhawk take one bird at first light but no sign of the Peregrine this morning. 
There was a Water Rail squealing in the reed bed last night.
Starlings leaving the roost

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Raven - Bent Lane

Glorious sunshine this morning but just 2°C on the moor and rather icy first thing, with snow visible on the higher slopes above Stanege Edge. 
Not many birds about but I caught this Raven flying over the dead bracken on the edge of the moor. It has clearly just eaten with extended crop and still with some blood on the bill. It's a difficult bird to photograph being all black but with the sun on it and a coloured background the feather detail shows up nicely.


Friday, 18 November 2016


There appears to be a few more Brambling about this week. I had 30-40 along Bent Lane yesterday and at least six visiting the feeders at Shillito Wood on Big Moor this afternoon. 
With some sunshine today the birds at the feeders looked fantastic.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Red Deer river crossing - Chatsworth

On Sunday there was a report of a Great White Egret at Chatsworth which is the first record I can recall from this area. Given the exponential increase in the population in the south of the country and their gradual spread northwards its a bird that we can expect to see more of in the future. Anyway, no sign this morning, but I did just catch a group of Red Deer crossing the Derwent which is always nice to see. 
The Great Grey Shrike was still on the moors this afternoon at the northern end of Flash Lane but otherwise a rather dull, grey day.
Red Deer

Friday, 11 November 2016

Water Rail - still showing well

The Water Rail was still in the Whitworth Park this morning and with a little patience it was possible to get very close views as it fed in the muddy channel by the seat overlooking the pond.
In addition to the resident Grey Heron we had Kingfisher and Crossbill which is not bad for such a busy park.
Water Rail

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Water Rail - Whitworth Park, Darley Dale

I mentioned a couple of days ago that a Water Rail had been seen in the Whitworth Park. I finally managed to see it this morning and it gave fantastic views from the seat by the pond.
A scarce winter visitor and rare breeding bird in Derbyshire this is the first I have seen in Darley Dale.

Water Rail

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Crossbill - Flash Lane

I've seen Crossbills flying over Flash Lane for the past 3 or 4 weeks, usually just ones or twos but there were 13 on 22nd October. This morning a party of 10 landed in trees at the moorland end of Flash Lane but didn't stop for long. Quite a few red males in the group which is unusual.
No sign of any Waxwing this morning nor of the Great Grey Shrike.
Common Crossbill

Friday, 4 November 2016

Waxwings arrive in Darley Dale

Following a large arrival of Waxwing down the east coast yesterday the first Waxwings were seen in Darley Dale this morning on Park Avenue. After an absence of several years, let's hope this is going to be a good winter for them locally.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike - Beeley Triangle

Glorious morning but much cooler today. The Great Grey Shrike was again around the Triangle briefly but was clearly in hunting mode, very active and always distant. Despite having been in the area for more than two weeks it's still very unpredictable and doesn't stay in one place for long.
Another good movement of Pink-footed Geese with several thousand passing directly over the moor.
A Water Rail has been photographed in Whitworth Park at the start of the week which is a very good local record and the first I have heard of in Darley Dale.
Got some better shrike photos this evening so have updated.

Great Grey Shrike

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