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.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Common Lizards - Flash Lane

Plenty of Common Lizards soaking up the sunshine this morning including some youngsters. The top photo is a composite of two shots in order to have both in focus, unfortunately I have a central area between the two that wasn't in focus on either shot so should have taken three!
The middle photo looks like an adult with a regrown tail and the bottom photo is a youngster only 4 cm long and still with a very dark tail.

Common Lizard

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Marsh Harrier - a migrant over Harewood Moor

This cream crowned Marsh Harrier flew rapidly SE over Harewood Moor this afternoon and looks like a juvenile.
With the dramatic increase in the UK breeding population we do appear to be getting a few more sightings over the moor, usually on Spring or Autumn passage.
Marsh Harrier

Monday, 28 August 2017

Whinchat = Beeley Moor

I've no evidence that Whinchat bred on Beeley Moor this year so this juvenile photographed on a fence on the edge of the moor was probably a local migrant from East Moor or Big Moor where there is a larger breeding population.
Whinchat - juvenile

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Water Vole - Rowsley

The Water Voles at Caudwell's Mill and adjacent River Wye appear to have had a tough time in recent years. They were fairly widespread there up to late 2014 when they disappeared entirely. I found one dead at that time and with hindsight I wish I had done more to establish the cause.
In 2015 and 2016 I saw very little evidence of their presence although I did here several reports of sightings. At the start of this year I started to see regular signs of droppings but the Water Voles themselves remained elusive although I did manage some brief sightings.
As we have moved in to the summer sightings have become more frequent but they remain very shy, which may not be such a bad thing!
Water Vole

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Two striking caterpillars at Wraggs Quarry

Very windy today with some rain showers, birds were few and far between on the moors so I decided to look for a Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar which Alan Stewardson had found earlier in the week. It took some finding in a Sallow bush, despite its size (6cm).  
Whilst looking for the Poplar Hawkmoth Alan and I also found a Puss Moth caterpillar.
Both are common and widespread moths locally but not seen too often.
Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar
Puss Moth caterpillar

Sparrowhawk - juvenile

Had a lucky encounter with a juvenile Sparrowhawk. It chased a small bird in to a bush close to me and I just managed to get a photo before it carried on the chase in to another bush.
Sparrowhawk - juvenile

Monday, 14 August 2017

Bank Vole feeding in the open

Twice in two days I've come across Bank Voles feeding quite unconcerned out in the open. On each occasion my initial thought was that the animal must be ill but both were able to run for cover when they wanted to. In the photo below a finger was used to push a stalk of grass out of the way and I've left the finger in to show how close we were able to get to it. I'm assuming both animals were very young and perhaps freshly emerged from the nest.
Bank Vole

Kestrel and Sparrowhawk

Kestrels and Sparrowhawks generally appear to get on pretty well together or at least tolerate each others presence so it was unusual today to see a pair of Kestrel in aerial acrobatics with a Sparrowhawk for several minutes today. 
The Kestrels looked like an adult pair and the Sparrowhawk a young female so it my just have been high spirits of the youngster that triggered the interaction.
Kestrels and Sparrowhawk

Red Grouse family on Beeley Moor

The Red Grouse is quite scarce on Beeley Moor so I was pleased to see a male with three youngsters today. I've stated before that numbers have declined during the past couple of decades and I'd be surprised if there are more than five pairs in the Beeley Moor area. 
I've no idea why the numbers are so low. Its a good while since I've seen shooting on the moors so I'm sure that is not the reason. Although numbers may well have been higher when they were managed for shooting. Red Grouse are susceptible to a number of diseases and parasites so that may be a factor.
Whatever the reason it would be a sad day if they were lost from the moors.
The flowering heather looks amazing at the moment.
Red Grouse male with juvenile

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Juveniles on the wing

I've mentioned previously that Green Woodpecker is a scarce bird in the area so I was pleased yesterday to see a juvenile on 70 Acre Plantation I also had a very smart juvenile Wheatear in the same area which is the first of the birds that pass through during the late summer and autumn. Although the Wheatear breeds as close as Harrington they are a very scarce breeder around Beeley.
Green Woodpecker - juvenile
Wheatear - 1st winter
On Friday I had the very unusual sighting of a Little Egret flying across Harewood Moor. Perhaps heading towards Carsington where there are at least 6 at the moment. Amazing how the numbers of Little Egret have increased in the UK in the last few years. 
Poor photo but an interesting record.
Little Egret

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Broad-leaved Helleborine - Via Gellia

Having finally caught up with Dark-red Helleborine I decided to do a further search for that plant in the Via Gellia. It's a bit late really as it mainly flowers in the month of July but I did find several examples of its close, and much commoner, relative the Broad-leaved Helleborine.
The Broad-leaved Helleborine flowers from July to September so any helleborines seen from now onwards are likely to be Broad-leaved.

Broad-leaved Helleborine
The colour of the flower varies considerably, some were almost white whilst others were quite pink but never as red as the Dark-red Helleborine. I have seen it several times in Clough Wood and looking at the Derbyshire Flora map it has been recorded quite widely in the dales around the confluence of the rivers Wye and Derwent.
Distribution of Broad-leaved Helleborine from the Derbyshire Flora

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dark-red Helleborine in the Peak District

I finally caught up with Dark-red Helleborine today, one of the rarest orchids found in the Peak District. It's only regularly recorded from Cressbrook Dale, Coombs Dale and Priestcliffe Lees but has been recorded in the Via Gellia and Biggin Dale. 
Dark-red Helleborine from the Derbyshire Flora

There was an infamous incident in July 2008 when a solitary plant was uprooted and stolen from Coombs Dale SSSI, so I had best not give the location of today's sighting. 
They flower during the month of July so are at the end of their flowering season now and are past their best.

Dark-red Helleborine
Thanks to John Bradley in particular for pointing me in the right direction.
In common with other areas that are good for flowers there were plenty of butterflies including Dark Green Fritillary and the Six-spot Burnet moth.
Dark Green Fritillary
Six-spot Burnet

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Whimbrel over Beeley Moor

Despite the frequent heavy showers yesterday I spent the afternoon on the moor. I wasn't expecting to see much but after a particularly heavy downpour at around 2:45 the sky cleared briefly and I was very surprised to see a party of 12 Whimbrel flying directly towards me. They carried on straight overhead, heading SW.
We see, or hear, one or two Whimbrel on passage most years but 12 is a record for me and the highest count I am aware of in the Beeley area.
Whimbrel part of a flock of 12

Monday, 17 July 2017

Marbled White doing well at Clough Wood

Since the first records in 2015 the Marbled White have continued to increase in numbers at Clough Wood. The highest count I am aware of is of at least 12 at the start of July from Alan Stewardson and I think there was probably a similar number on the wing there this morning.
Marbled White
Some were showing signs of wear but this individual looked very fresh. I don't think we will ever know whether they arrived naturally or with a helping hand but, whatever their origins, it great to see them doing well locally.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Common Shrew - Beeley Moor

Finally back home after my trip around Northern Europe. 
Up on the moors this morning with Roger and had an unusual encounter with a Common Shrew. It ran out in to the road but instead of running straight across, as they usually do,  it stopped by the roadside where it appeared to be nibbling a small piece of wood. It stayed long enough for me to grab my camera then it then ran around on the edge of the road, still in the open and actually ran between my legs. A few minutes later it reappeared in the middle of the road so I chased it in to the vegetation for fear of it becoming a road casualty.
Not uncommon locally but I doubt I have more than a dozen sightings in a year.
Common Shrew

Monday, 1 May 2017

Travels abroad

Today I start my journey to Poland to continue the tour of Europe I started last year. All being well I'll be away until the end of June but will post any interesting photos or sightings that are sent to me during that period. 
You can follow my progress on the twitter feed, in the right hand column of this post and I'll also be posting updates on my Wildlife Diaries blog.
Alan Stewartson recorded the first Wood Warbler in the Darley Dale area today, their breeding season will be just about finished when I return.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Stonechat - Beeley Moor

It looks like there are at least 7 pairs of Stonechat nesting on Beeley Moor this year which is up on recent years, perhaps due to the very mild winter. Several pairs are already feeding young, so with some decent weather over the next few months they could have a successful breeding season.
Stonechat - male

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