Todwick Environment: Wild Birds

SK58 Birders – December 2016

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 25th January 2017 at “The Loyal Trooper” Inn, South Anston. The talk and slideshow will be presented by our own member, Mick Clay. The subject will be about a recent birding trip to Morocco, a great country for birds which includes both African and European species.

Locally, Peregrine Falcons have been seen hunting over the Axle Lane fields, probably targeting the wintering Golden Plover but also the ubiquitous Woodpigeon. Golden Plover numbers hover around the 100 mark, disturbance from Raptors setting them to flight in tight flocks wheeling around the site for some time before judging it safe to settle.

Tommy Flockton’s Marsh, the field east of Kiveton Fishponds, holds a good stretch of shallow water. This has attracted 40+ Mallard, 10+ Teal and at least 6 Wigeon. Wigeon are attractive wildfowl, the males with a grey body, chestnut coloured head with a distinct buff crown stripe, as is the normal females are more brown overall. Kingfisher are also visitors to this site.

  1. Water Rail
    Water Rail
  2. Whooper Swan
    Whooper Swan
  3. Waxwing
    Waxwing

Water Rail, a long-billed relative of the Moorhen, have been recorded in exceptionally large numbers throughout the SK58 area. The annual survey of wetland sites in November found 4 birds at Langold Lake and 2 at Carlton Lake, together with previously recorded birds at Roche Abbey, Kiveton Woodlands and recently at Harthill Reservoirs have made 2016 a bumper year for this elusive species.

Whooper Swans, Northern European birds, have been recorded overflying our patch. Very similar to our native Mute Swans the main difference being yellow bills instead of the Mute’s orange/red. A flock of Swans is more likely to be of Whoopers at this time of year.

Another winter migrant which should appear soon is the Waxwing. Flocks of 600+ birds are present in Scotland and are expected to move south when the weather deteriorates or the Scottish berries are all eaten. Experts expect this to be a good year for Waxwing, very few last year. Previously they have settled on well-berried trees in a garden on Danby Road, Kiveton, they could appear anywhere if there is a well stocked berry tree present. They are also frequently seen in supermarket car parks where Rowan berries are present.

If you fancy a post-Christmas walk then the regular bird watching stroll around Langold Lake will be on Monday, 9th January 2016, meet at Andy’s Café for a 10.00 am start.

Merry Christmas everyone, please remember to feed your garden birds throughout the winter months.

Brian Chambers

SK58 Birders – October 2016

SK58 Birders meeting is on Wednesday, 26 October 2016, the usual 7.30 pm start at The Loyal Trooper pub, South Anston. Everybody, especially non-members, are very welcome to attend. Ian Cowgill will give a talk entitled “Eilat”. November’s meeting will be on the 30th – Andrew Lowe will give a presentation “Birding in Notts”.

Our summer visitors, having completed their breeding, have now made their way back south to warmer countries and a better supply of food. The winter migrants are now appearing.

Migration is usually thought of as a long distance journey, this is so for the Redwing and Fieldfare, the Winter Thrushes from Scandinavia and snowbound Northern Europe. Also perhaps less noticeable are many Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch and others which boost our common bird flocks. Then there is the influx of Wildfowl, on Tommy Flockton’s Marsh this month have been over 70 Mallard recorded most of which must have made their way from distant parts.

Then there is the more local migration from northern UK and from upland areas. Included in this category are Siskin and Redpoll, two small finch species which will be feeding on Birch and Alder seeds at Kiveton Woodlands this autumn and winter. 60+ Golden Plover have returned to the Axle Lane fields already, during daytime they can usually be seen resting together, they feed mainly at night-time on worms, insects and probably a bit of grain.

The strong easterly winds have blown many birds to the UK which normally only migrate to India or the Middle East countries. The East Coast sites of Flamborough and Spurn are local hotspots. Here Siberian Accentor, Eastern Crowned Warbler have been the stars and seen by a number of our members. The term Twitchers applies to travelling far to see rarities, a somewhat derogatory term but it’s nice to make the most of spotting something rare, and adding a bit of spice to the day’s bird watching.

Locally, at Dinnington Woodlands, an Asian species appeared – Yellow-browed Warbler. There have been more than usual of these birds at Spurn this year, over 70, and one (possibly two) made it into the SK58 recording area. One of our sharp-hearing members picked up its call having heard it at Spurn the previous day. Although a very mobile bird, good views were obtained as it flitted about the willow coppice trees near the Hospice – a great find.

SK58 Birders – June 2016

During June, July and August there aren’t any indoor meetings at the Loyal Trooper. The 28 September 2016 is the next meeting date.

Locally, a Common Tern has been seen over the Axle Lane fishing ponds. It is not unusual to see this species fishing over inland lakes and rivers. They are usually recorded at Langold Lake and over the Brampton Road fisheries. It is a close relative of the Arctic Tern which has been in the news recently because of its amazing migration route. The Arctic Tern nests in the UK, good views are had on the Farne Islands, they then spend the winter in the Antarctic thus involving a round trip of about 20 thousand miles.

The Common Tern is not such a traveller, wintering off the coast of Africa. They are somewhat Gull-like but much daintier and sport a black crown, their flight is very buoyant and hovering as they hunt over the water before diving at their prey.

  1. Common Tern
    Common Tern
  2. Common Tern
    Common Tern
  3. Red Kite
    Red Kite
  4. Red Kite
    Red Kite

A Hobby has been seen over Woodsetts, this is another agile flyer. They are Raptors and migrate from Africa to Europe, our area is close to the northern limit of their range but they do seem to be appearing further north now, another indication of the warming climate. A pair has nested in the Carlton area in recent years, but so far do not appear to have returned, perhaps this sighting is an indication that they are still present in our area.

Red Kite continue to be recorded in SK58 territory, birds have been seen over South Anston and over Firbeck this past month. The southern end of the M40 is a well-known site for this species, recently on returning from London I saw 25+ birds while driving along the motorway.

SK58 Birders – May 2016

The meeting on 25 May 2016 will be the last one before the summer, the next will be in September 2016. The speaker will be Mathew Capper and his subject is “Old Moor – The Present, Past & Future”.

Old Moor is a RSPB Reserve in the Dearne valley about 3 miles from Wombwell. It is easily accessed from Junction 36 of the M1, taking the A61 then the A165, after a few miles Brown Signs indicate the route.

The site has all the usual hides, footpaths, information etc, throughout the year with meadow, water and scrub there are always plenty of birds to see.

Locally there are also plenty of birds on the sites close to Todwick.

The Axle Lane fields now have a number of Yellow Wagtail nesting in the rape seed crop. The males have a stunning yellow head and breast with the typical long tails of the species, females as usual a bit more subdued to provide some camouflage on the nest. Also around are nesting Reed Bunting, the males with a black head and white collar. Overhead there should be plenty of singing Skylark.

At Dinnington Community Woodland, SK58’s base site, both Sedge and Reed Warbler are back. There is now a good area of reeds alongside the Hospice entrance road. Here are at least 2 pairs of Reed and a pair of Sedge Warblers. Generally they are heard, both have croaking songs, the Reed less varied than the Sedge. If you do get a glimpse the Sedge has a creamy eye stripe. Lapwing have also returned here to breed, 4 little young chicks have been reported.

House Martin and Swallow are now quite common, Sand Martin are back on the sandstone face of Brown Bayley’s pond at Foxcovert, today (11 May 2016) I saw my first few Swift over the Dinnington site, these are always the last of our aerial flyers to arrive.

  1. Ring Ouzel
    Ring Ouzel
    (May 2011)
  2. Common Redstart
    Common Redstart
    (April 2010)
  3. Blackcap
    Blackcap at Owday Wood
    (April 2010)
  4. Grasshopper Warbler
    Grasshopper Warbler
    (April 2016)

Click the images to see larger versions

A Blackcap is singing in Bluebell Wood, there is a great Bluebell display this year thanks to some earlier scrub clearance.

Dinnington Community Woodland has been the local hot spot site for SK58 rarities this spring. 4+ Ring Ouzel passed through in April, also a stunning male Redstart, and an Oystercatcher. Another well-established summer resident here is Grasshopper Warbler, 3-4 birds have been singing.

Bird song is now at its best, a good time to try and learn a few of their warbles – it’s a great help in finding a bird and making an identification.

SK58 Birders – March 2016

The March meeting is on Wednesday the 30th in the upstairs room of “The Loyal Trooper” Inn at South Anston, starting at 7.30 pm. The talk will be given by our own member, Geoff Facer, entitled “Birders’ Britain”. The April meeting will be at the same venue on the 27th, non-members are most welcome to attend for whom a charge of £2 is made to help cover costs.

March and April are interesting birding months, Winter visitors start their northerly migration back to breeding sites and the Summer birds begin to arrive.

Fieldfare and Redwing, Winter Thrush species, depart although a few do remain to breed in Northern Scotland. Numbers of these birds appear to be low this year, mild weather on the continent has enabled them to find sufficient food without the need for our berries on the Hawthorne, Rowan etc.

Wildfowl numbers are also enhanced in Winter, Mallard and Tufted Duck being the most numerous. Pochard numbers at Langold Lake have been higher than usual, 20+ birds, but Gadwall have been very few at the same site. The Lake is now home to about 14 Great Crested Grebe, an attractive long necked species with a colourful head pattern, well known for their dancing courtship displays.

  1. Corn Bunting
    Corn Bunting singing
    (May 2012)
  2. Two male Pochards
    Two male Pochards on Langold Lake
    (November 2015)
  3. Turtle Dove
    Turtle Dove at Dinnington Woodlands
    (April 2008)
  4. Male Wheatear
    Male Wheatear on the Axle Lane wall
    (April 2011)

Click the images to see larger versions

Anston Stones Wood, the former Pit sites at Kiveton and Dinnington and along the Chesterfield Canal plus many other areas will soon be home to returning Warblers – Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Listen out for their song, Chiffchaff repeats its name, the other two have pleasant warbling songs.

One species to look out for locally is the Wheatear, the Axle Lane fields towards South Anston is always one of the first sites in our area to record this attractive bird. Basically it has a grey back, orange chest and a black eye-mask, the female a duller version. The most obvious feature is a white rump, clearly visible as the bird flits about in search of insect food.

Sand Martin usually return in March, they breed on the sandstone face of the old quarry at Fox Covert. Swallow arrive a little later usually early April, then House Martin and the last of these aerial feeders the Swift.

Last year Cuckoo, Turtle Dove and Corn Bunting were all unrecorded in the SK58 area, hopefully things will be better in 2016, but all three species are struggling in the UK.

SK58 Birders – January 2016

The next club meeting will be on Wednesday, 27 January 2016, this will also be our AGM. Following official business there will be an illustrated talk from Malcolm Walpole, his subject is entitled “Botswana 2”, having already given a previous presentation on the country this is the next instalment. If your New Year resolution is to support more local events or develop a new interest, then you will be most welcome to give SK58 Birders a try.

The following meeting is on 24 February 2016, starting at 19.30 as usual, details of the presentation for that meeting not yet available.

As I write this Newsletter there is a good covering of snow and it is quite cold – difficult conditions for the birds. Birds need the basics of survival, food, shelter and nesting sites, Winter conditions are a challenging time to find food, many perish, survival of the fittest in action.

Prolonged cold spells are particularly hard for Owls, their prey is often below ground under the snow. In our area we have Tawny, Barn, Little, Long and Short Eared Owls – all the UK Species. However, they can be difficult to find not least because they emerge at unsociable hours.

Tawny Owls are the commonest, in Todwick they use Bluebell Wood and are heard around the village. They are very nocturnal only hunting in the dark.

Barn Owls, most people’s favourite, do venture out at dawn and dusk especially when feeding young or if the weather is bad and food difficult to catch. A good site to try is Dinnington Woodlands, the reclaimed colliery site by the Bluebell Wood Hospice.

  1. Tawny Owl
    Tawny Owl
    in a cage at the Butterfly farm
    (March 2015)
  2. Barn Owl
    Barn Owl
    flying over Norfolk marshland
    (January 2009)
  3. Little Owl
    Little Owl
    near Dinnington Woodlands
    (April 2008)
  4. Short-eared Owl
    Short-eared Owl
    at Spurn Point
    (September 2015)
  5. Long-eared Owl
    Long-eared Owl
    at Dinnington Marsh
    (March 2008)

Click the images to see larger versions

Little Owls are quite commonly seen during daylight, recently they have been recorded near Roche Abbey and in the Lafarge Stone Quarry at Anston, this spot can be viewed from its adjacent footpath – scan the rock faces, the Owls often perch there.

Short-eared Owls are much rarer, usually visiting the area in the Winter, possibly migrants from Scandinavia. One has been seen hunting at dusk over the reclaimed pit site at Thurcroft, this species is also one that hunts during the early and late part of the day. They have also been seen in previous years at the Kiveton Woodlands site – all the reclaimed Colliery sites are good for Owls.

Long-eared Owls are the most difficult to see. Sometimes they gather in communal roosts of perhaps 3–5 birds, a few years back there was one such gathering in Rother Valley Country Park.

Needless to say, garden bird feeding is a great help and will definitely attract plenty of birds, sometimes one of an unexpected species. Keep a good look out and you may be in for a pleasant surprise!

Continue to 2015 reports.