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Todwick Village

Todwick Environment: Wild Birds

Autumn Birds in Todwick – November 2022

The 30 November 2022 meeting of SK58 Birders will feature a talk and slide show by local birder Ron Marshall. His talk is about Lesvos, or Lesbos, the popular Greek island in the East Mediterranean, close to the Turkish coast, an island famous for its bird life. The venue is as always The Loyal Trooper, South Anston, start time 7.30 pm.

Locally, a number of Stonechat birds have been recorded in the fields towards South Anston, frequently perched on the stone wall beside the footpath. The male is very handsome, sporting an orange breast and black head, the female duller but with the same patterning. They are Robin-sized birds which breed in hilly areas, particularly in gorse, in Winter they move to coastal or lowland areas, hence their appearance near Todwick.

A similar bird also seen perched on the stone walls is the Whinchat, the male also has orange on its breast but has a distinguishing white line over the eye, a white supercilium. This is more migratory than the Stonechat, wintering in Africa, the Stonechat is more of a local migrant, wintering in less harsh areas although some will make it to Southern Europe or Africa. Most years there are more Stonechat recorded than Whinchat, true for our local fields.

Walking on the footpaths across to South Anston in Autumn you will often see large flocks of Gulls, especially if there is ploughing, many hundreds of birds. Lesser black-backed and Black-headed Gulls are the 2 usual species, approximately in equal numbers. Lesser black-backed Gulls are larger with black or grey backs. Black-headed Gulls lose their black heads at this time of year, just retaining a black spot behind the eye, they are a smaller and whiter Gull. There may be a few Herring Gulls present, this is the typical large gull of the coast, very vocal and likely to steal your chips, ice creams if you’re not careful.

There are still good numbers of Pink-footed Geese flying in their typical V formation, skeins of 50-150 birds are quite common, they commute mainly between Norfolk and Scotland. Locally you may also see small flocks of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese commuting between local water sites, they fly at a much lower height.

The weather recently has been generally good for walking and bird watching, hopefully you are seeing and identifying plenty of local birds.

Brian Chambers

Summer Birds in Todwick – August 2022

The peak summer months of July and August are always a rather quiet time for bird watching. The main breeding season is over, bird song is much reduced and the birds have dispersed.

Spring was generally quite cold which delayed a lot of migrants returning to our local sites, and possibly reduced numbers in early summer. Willow Warblers, one of our most numerous of species, their soft warbling song has been much reduced in local woodlands.

Numbers of Swallow, House Martin and Swift also seem less than in previous years. The familiar evening sound of screaming swifts is sadly quite a rare event in these parts.

However, there have been some good birds around locally. Yellow Wagtails have been recorded in the corn fields at the top of Goosecarr Lane and in the fields across to South Anston, occasionally perched on the old stone wall. These birds are very yellow, especially the males, the similar Grey Wagtail has yellow underparts but a grey back, the Yellow Wag has a brown back. Grey Wagtails are generally near water while Yellow Wagtails are often seen on agricultural land as well as in damp habitats.

A Hobby was seen in the Storth Lane area of the village. These small raptors have reddish under tail feathers, also pointed wings which aid a very agile flight to chase small birds and insects especially dragonflies, they are not unlike a large swift. Their agility enables them to target Swallow, House Martin and Swift, especially newly fledged birds.

Red Kite are now a fairly common bird in our area, they are large raptors with the very distinctive forked tail, in contrast to the wedge aspect seen on our even more common raptor, the Buzzard.

Another bird to look out for is the Oystercatcher. They are black and White birds with a long orange/red bill which probe grassland for their insect prey. They are more of a coastal bird but do venture inland, 3 were feeding on the Lindrick Golf Course fairways recently.

Good luck with your Summer Birdwatching.

Brian Chambers

Spring Birds in Todwick – May 2022

Springtime is the best bird watching season, wondering which migrant birds will show up locally and where.

The fields and ancient stone wall across to South Anston are always good sites. Wheatear have been recorded here in the past couple of weeks, they love to perch on the wall, drop down to pick up some morsels then return to the wall. During the last few days Yellow Wagtail have also arrived from their African wintering quarters, they have always liked the yellow rape crops, it will be interesting to see if they take to the corn fields. Walking to South Anston and back to Todwick the Skylarks are singing all the way, it has always been a stronghold for this resident species. Swallows and House Martins are just beginning to arrive, some should be flying around the farm buildings on Kiveton Lane. Swifts are always a few weeks later in the year.

A walk along the Chesterfield Canal is perfect to listen for our returning Warblers. As a general rule Chiffchaff are the first with their name repeating song. Next the Blackcaps with their lovely flowing warble and then the Willow Warblers with their quieter song. Willow Warblers are probably about twice as numerous as Chiffchaff, Blackcaps are common but not as numerous. Whitethroat are later arrivals but are now being recorded, soon the less common Lesser Whitethroat should be around and hopefully a few Grasshopper Warblers which were very scarce last year.

On a 4/5 mile walk, particularly if it takes you through different habitats, then a count of 20-25 species would be a good haul, over 30 would be excellent. Try jotting down the species on your next walk, you may be surprised by the number you record.

Locally our dedicated bird watchers, some are out every day, have had some good finds. A pair of Ring Ouzel were recorded at the old Tarmac Quarry, opposite Anston Stones Wood. These are an upland Blackbird, very similar but with a white throat patch, a few pass through our area every year on their flight to the hillier parts of the country.

A White Stork was recorded over the Sandbeck Estate and later over Langold, a rare record for our area but a species which will become more common as the climate changes.

Two large raptors are now much more common, Red Kite are often in the Firbeck area and occasionally over Todwick / Anston / Dinnington. 20 years ago Buzzard were rare, then numbers increased in the Sandbeck area and today they are everywhere. One day, on a watch in the Firbeck area, a total of 3/4 Red Kite, upwards of 30 Buzzard and an Osprey were recorded.

Hopefully the warm sunny weather will continue and chance to enjoy our local footpaths and bird life throughout the Spring.

Brian Chambers

SK58 Birders – January 2022

SK58 Meetings and Field Trips are all back to normal and comply with all the current Covid advice.

The January monthly meeting was held on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 at “The Loyal Trooper”. Andy Hirst looked back over the past 30 years of the group’s activities, pinpointing the birding highlights. Everybody, including non-members, are always welcome. The February meeting is on the 23rd, the talk is by Bob Croxton, a regular SK58 speaker, his topic is “Hebridean Autumn”.

Locally, Tommy Flockton’s Marsh has attracted its usual number of wintering Wildfowl. This site is off Hard Lane opposite the entrance to Kiveton Community Woodlands fishing ponds. Here, a flock of Wigeon has been feeding on the grassland for a few weeks, 42 birds has been the highest count. They are one of our most attractive ducks, the male unmistakable with its chestnut head and neck plus a creamy yellow stripe on its forehead and crown. They are usually in a tight flock feeding on the moist areas beside the water.

Teal are usually around somewhere close to the water, 10+ birds have been recorded. The males again are very distinctive with their brown and green patterned head. Both male and female birds have a fairly obvious green speculum, this shows on the duck’s side near the rear. Occasionally a pair of Gadwall are present, Mallard size but fairly grey. They look dull from afar but through binoculars, close up, the finely vermiculite plumage can be seen. Little Egret are now common visitors to the site, 3 birds were recorded a few weeks ago. A Kingfisher was present on January 18th, despite frost and ice it must have hoped to find a few small fish. Winter weather will push this species to the coast or down south.

Across the road, at this time of year, on the Kiveton Woodlands site, Siskin are usually around somewhere. They are present in flocks, favouring Alder tree fruit. They are essentially yellow-coloured birds, busy feeders often foraging upside down. They are easily spooked, then fly up together, all chattering, then circle around and often land back on the same or neighbouring tree. Sometimes they are joined by Redpoll, another small finch, these are browner birds and support a red forehead, hence the name.

Another regular but scarce bird on this site is the Water Rail. These birds favour wet ditch sort of habitat, they are seen but more often heard. They have a sort of squeal call, likened to a pig. If seen, then their long red bill plus a longish neck are distinctive. They are present throughout the Winter, with migrant birds arriving this is the best time of year to see this species, Kiveton Woodlands, the wet area near the old sewage works, is the place to look for them.

The cold, frost and possible snow, all tend to push the birds into our gardens in search of feed, so keep putting something out and see what turns up.

Brian Chambers

Continue to 2021 reports.