A Flying Start to the Birding Year

Wednesday’s tour was the first one of 2013 and gave a couple of Verdant’s regulars a chance to get their birding year list off to a flying start with some speed birding around North Nottinghamshire. Although the day started wet, this didn’t dampen our spirits and we ticked off wood pigeon, jackdaw, blackbird, robin and collared dove before we even left the car park in Edwinstowe.  First stop was Vicar Water in order to spot some of the more common woodland and water birds, but as we arrived the rain got heavier. Fortunately the resident water birds were still present and we soon had mallard, moorhen, coot, black-headed gull and tufted duck. However, our walk around the woodlands provided quiet. After thirty minutes we had only managed to add sightings of a solitary siskin, blue tit and great tit to the list, along with hearing (but not seeing) goldcrest, bullfinch and goldfinch, but we confidently thought we’d see them later on.

The drive to the next stopping point added a few more birds such as carrion crow, magpie and rook but surprisingly despite driving through village, town and rural locations and passing many farms we still hadn’t seen any house sparrows.  Just before we pulled up at our next stop near Welbeck lake we added pheasant, goosander and mute swan to the list as we drove past the lake. A quick stop in a layby where people feed the birds added coal tit and nuthatch and we were lucky to see a skeen on pink-footed geese passing overhead.

Next stop Clumber Park to add more woodland birds and perhaps even the elusive but often seen hawfinches that over-winter near Clumber Chapel. Unfortunately we weren’t in lucky with the hawfinch, but a treecreeper gave us good views and the ubiquitous Canada geese boosted the list. A herring gull passed overhead as we took a well deserved coffee stop and a pair of bullfinch obliged by sitting in a tree right in front of the cafe, although we’d heard one already it was nice to see them too. Then whilst having one last look for the hawfinch we noted a marsh tit sat on the ground right in front of us. On the way back to the car we saw four redwings passing over and heard the unmistakable call of a great spotted woodpecker. Still no house sparrow, but they are so common we were bound to see them soon.

A soggy buzzard, photo by Christine Booth

Whilst driving to the next location we kept our eyes peeled and managed to add kestrel and a rather soggy looking buzzard (above) to the ever growing list. We ate our lunch while observing the feeding station at Daneshill Lake and were rewarded with great views of a jay stuffing peanuts into it’s beak and flying off to stash them somewhere for later. The great thing about making bird lists is that even the most common of birds starts to be exciting as it is a new “tick” for the day, such as the wren we saw skulking through the undergrowth, or the humble house sparrow (which we still hadn’t seen so far during the day).  The lake helped us add gadwall, gave us more views of goosander, greylag goose, great crested grebe and both lesser and greater black-backed gull (well, that’s the ‘G’ part of the list sorted then!). Another rain shower stopped us adding any more species so we headed back to the car and onto Lound Gravel Pits, peering over the hedges into people’s gardens as we drove by, still looking for house sparrow to add to the list.

At Lound we noticed how high the water was compared to usual after all the recent rain, which probably explained the lack of wading birds we saw. However, we did managed to add pochard and cormorant that were present on the lake and long-tailed tit as a flock noisily passed along the hedgerow.  There was also a bar-headed goose hiding amongst the greylags but as this was obviously an escape, we decided to leave it off the list. Time for another coffee stop and a warm in front of the real fires at Ye Olde Bell Inn and then a scout round the garden for house sparrows. Surprisingly still no house sparrows but a mistle thrush was sat high in a bush.

The light was fading fast now even though it was barely 3.15pm, but the dark rain clouds were threatening to curtail our day so we practically jumped out the car at Idle Valley to make the most of the last few minutes of precious daylight. Views over the lake gave us shovelor and shelduck, then as our eyes grew accustomed to the fading light we realised there were probably around 50 lapwing roosting at the island’s edge. Time to leave and head back home now, ever hopeful of adding an owl or two on the way, but we were out of luck. Totally up we had managed a respectable, 51 species, which considering the poor weather wasn’t a bad effort. There were some notable common species missing from the list such as greenfinch, pied wagtail and of course, house sparrow, but all in all we were happy with our attempt.

And do you know what, as I sit at my desk writing this blog, what can I see through the office window? Yep, you guessed it, my bird feeders are awash with house sparrows!

One thought on “A Flying Start to the Birding Year”

  • Christine

    Thanks for such a fun trip Andrew, despite the grey weather! Didn't we cover a lot of ground? This wasn't our first trip out with Verdant Wildlife and certainly won't be our last.

Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.