Todwick Environment: Wild Birds
Brian Chambers, a member of SK58 Birders, writes articles about wild birds in Todwick.
SK58 Birders is a local birding group that meets monthly in the upper rooms at The Loyal Trooper, South Anston.
We have over 60 members; club nights always include a slide-illustrated talk and a report on local bird sightings. New members are always most welcome.
For further information please contact Brian Chambers, 01909 770816 or visit: www.sk58birders.com
SK58 Birders – December 2018
November and December 2018 months have seen a lot of high-flying Geese pass over Todwick. This annual spectacle of flocks, called skein, of Pink-footed Geese flying in a V formation are great to see and hear as they migrate between the feeding sites of Norfolk and the Solway Estuary. In Norfolk they feed on leaves and roots left behind after the sugar beet crop, in Scotland I think they mainly eat the grain stubble. These skein usually fly on clear bright sunny days. What triggers these movements I do not know but the birds commute between sites in both directions, possibly determined by the availability of food. The Geese breed in the arctic areas of Iceland, Greenland and Northern Europe.
Winter also sees the arrival of large numbers of Wildfowl, leaving the frozen north to feed in our comparatively mild climate. Mallard are the commonest of the ducks, good numbers can be seen locally on Kiveton Hall ponds, Tommy Flockton’s Marsh and at the best water site within the SK58 recording area, Langold Lake.
Langold Lake has also supported good numbers of Pochard, about 10+, a few Shoveler, the ducks with the huge beaks, and Goosander.
Two other interesting species that can be seen around this time of the year are Water Rail and Woodcock. Again, they are migrants from the colder areas of the continent. Water Rail, a well-marked brown bird with a longish red bill, have been seen by the vegetated water fringes at Kiveton Woodlands and Langold. Woodcock have a long bill, used to probe for worms etc in woodland. These birds usually sit tight but can give you a surprise when flushed out from a few yards away.
Kingfisher continue to thrive in the SK58 area, there are frequent sightings by the Chesterfield Canal, Langold Lake, Carlton Lake, Roche Abbey plus a few other places. That flash of bright blue as they fly low over the water then perch on an overhanging branch is always a thrill.
Siskin, small yellowish finches, are another Winter visitor. Locally they are common at Kiveton Woodlands where they feed on the Alder and Silver Birch trees. Often present with Siskin are Redpoll, small brown birds with red on the forehead but not as numerous. Langold Lake area is also good site for these birds, in fact it’s a great place for all sorts of birds.
I must give a mention to Little Egrets, white birds similar but smaller than Herons, which are being recorded much more often. This year they have appeared on Tommy Flockton’s Marsh, Carlton Lake and at Kiveton Woodlands. As the climate warms this is one species which spreads further north.
Finally, the usual plea to continue feeding the birds, our gardens are valuable mini nature reserves which help to keep them going throughout the cold months.
SK58 Birders – July 2018
The next Indoor meeting of the group at “The Loyal Trooper” will be in September. Holidays plus it being a quiet time for bird activity makes it a good time to have a break.
Swallows, Swift and House Martins were later arriving in our area than in previous years, even now I think that numbers are much less than is usual. Swallow and House Martin, the ones with the clearly visible white rump in flight, can be seen feeding over the fields towards South Anston. They swoop low just over the corn crops to catch their insect prey in contrast to Swift which are generally higher in the sky although they can feed at the same level as the others. Swifts are the largest of the three, the black swept back wing shape being diagnostic. When feeding lower down around the housing the screaming calls of the bird flocks is one of the most evocative of summer sounds.
Sand Martin are the fourth member of these fast flying insect chasers, they are the smallest and essentially brown. They like to breed in colonies, the nearest site to Todwick is at the old Fox Covert sand quarry. Here there are numerous holes in the sandstone cliff face with about a dozen occupied, much less than in the recent past when 30+ nest holes were in use.
This prolonged hot spell has brought out the butterflies in much greater numbers than in recent years. Locally the Stewardship Field between Anston Stones Wood and Rackford Lane is a good site for many species. Also, an excellent site is the field just past the wood and adjacent to the A57 and the Dog Kennels, actually part of Lindrick Golf Course. Here there are plenty of Marbled White and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies, the former pretty obvious and the later with large orange coloured well patterned wings. Both very attractive butterflies. Also present are the somewhat rare silver studded blue butterfly, smaller than the common blue. A number of other species are also present making the small site of about 2 acres a real butterfly haven.
There are plenty of young birds around our gardens at the present time, many of which will struggle to survive particularly in this dry hot weather. There have been a few stranded birds in our garden – Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Blackbird, generally it is best to leave well alone and hope that the parent birds will come to their rescue. Keeping water available plus well stocked bird feeders are probably the best you can do to help.
SK58 Birders – May 2018
The next meeting of SK58 birders will be on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 starting at the usual time, 7.30 pm, in The Loyal Trooper Inn, South Anston. Carl Dixon will present a talk and slide show on BRAZIL, a country with lots of birds but deforestation is a big threat.
Locally, the summer migrant birds are now back in their familiar habitats.
The fields between Todwick and Anston have always supported a number of Wheatear as they make their passage back to the upland regions. This year some splendid looking male birds have been spotted together with the drabber but still very attractive females. On one day a total of 9 birds were recorded on the A57 side of the wall, feeding on grubs etc present on the ploughed field.
Yellow Wagtail are another familiar species here where they favour the yellow rape seed crop. So far only one or two birds have been recorded, possible because the extent of the crop is not as large as usual. However, it is early days so a few more birds still have time to show up.
The resident Skylark are plentiful and very vocal over the cereal crops, these are ground nesting birds and will probably nest close to the tractor wheel lines. Also, Reed Bunting, the male with the black head, are common amongst the rape.
SK58’s main site is at Dinnington Woodlands, the reclaimed colliery site adjacent to Bluebell Wood Hospice. The vegetation is becoming well established, there are areas of reeds, a shallow water Scrape, low shrubbery, grassland and woodland making for much varied habitat.
The reed bed near to the Cramfit road entrance holds both Reed & Sedge Warblers, these birds are migrants and are more often heard than seen. The similar lengthy croaking songs indicates their presence and with patience a sighting can usually be made. The Sedge Warbler has a distinct eye stripe which distinguishes these otherwise small brown birds.
The shrubbery is home to the Grasshopper Warbler, another small brown bird but again with a very distinctive song. Its name suggests the insect and this is derived from the bird’s song, it is also similar to a fishing line being reeled out so the term reeling is also applied to it. The song is best heard early morning, once picked out is very obvious and goes on for quite a time. Other Warblers present include Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler & Chiffchaff, all on this site.
The water area can support birds but nothing much has shown this year. There have been a pair of Greylag Goose, Mallards and 2-4 Lapwing. In previous years the Lapwing young have been predated and this together with human disturbance has led to a drop in numbers from about 10 pairs to just one this year.
So, April/May are exciting months for bird migration and breeding, a good time to get into the countryside and see what’s about.
SK58 Birders – March 2018
The next meeting of SK58 birders will be on Wednesday, 28 March 2018 starting at the usual time of 7.30 pm in the function room of The Loyal Trooper Inn, South Anston. The speaker is our own Rob Hardcastle who will look back over the club’s bird records to identify trends in species occurrence and frequency. There will be the usual update on birds recorded during the previous month. There is lots of information – birds spotted, locations, field trips etc on our website which can be accessed at www.sk58birders.com.
The recent cold spell and snowfall brought flocks of birds into Todwick in search of food. Many people have asked me about the large Thrush birds which have been all around the village. These are Fieldfare and the slightly smaller Redwing, birds which have left the colds of Scandinavia in search of food. They are both essentially berry eaters, gardens with cotoneaster, crab apples, fruit trees etc being a great attraction but a few of them have been eating the bird seed in my garden, there have been 75+ on our lawn. They also flock onto grassy fields especially those holding sheep or horses, the animal activity must stir up the worms, leatherjackets and similar. There have been flocks approaching 200 on the fields south of the path alongside the wall to South Anston, here is some stubble and weed amongst which must be a good supply of insect food.
The Scandinavian thrushes arrive every year in large numbers, but there has been another visiting flock of birds – the much rarer Hawfinch. Huge numbers have been recorded throughout England, most numerous in the south, but 50+ birds have been recorded around the Roche Abbey area. There was a similar fall, the birding term for an unusual number, about 10 years ago, also present in this same area. They are fairly shy birds, easily spooked, but they do favour perching on the tops of trees like Beech, Oak, Chestnut and Hornbeam – present around Firbeck and Roche Abbey, attracted by their fruit. They are unmistakeable with their huge beaks, stocky heads and colourful plumage.
Tommy Flockton’s Marsh, situated opposite the Hard Lane carpark at Kiveton Waters, has a good water level at present so attracting the birds. Recently there have been good numbers of Wildfowl – Mallard, Wigeon and Teal, but more unusually a pair of Little Egret. These long necked, white members of the Heron family are being seen more frequently in our area, unmistakeable – like a small white Heron. This is also a good site to record a passing Wader bird, Redshank, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover are all possibilities.
It’s not much like Spring but the summer migrants will soon be back.
Continue to 2017 reports.