Sunday, 18 September 2016

Willington Gravel Pits..again!

Willington Gravel Pits is our local birding reserve, therefore its is our most visited site and a good job too, because I love it! There are 4 fantastic platforms and one of which has a magnificent hide (which you have to be a member of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to get into).

This morning Abby, my mum and I went on a guided walk run by the Derbyshire Ornithological Society, with about 5 others, including our guide.

We straight away saw the usual: Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Robins etc. We also heard and caught a glimpse of the wonderful Cetti's Warbler, which you can often hear walking down the path in the dense vegetation either side of you. Its amazing really. You just stroll on the soft mud of the track and listen to the powerful bursts of the delicate bird. I hear it every time we visit! At one of the platforms we stopped at, we saw a beautiful Mandarin duck, full of colour, which was nice to see.

We soon made our way to the hide at the end of the path, where we spent most of our time observing the vast amount of birds. We enjoyed fabulous views of 3 Water Rail emerging from the vegetation to the edge of the water, as well as a couple of Snipe hiding in the overhang of the plants for a while.

One species I sat watching for a while was the Little Egret. I usually see it at Willington but this time I paid more attention to it! I zoomed in on my travel Opticron MM3 60 ED scope, getting crystal clear views of it and watched it. I found its movement so amusing to watch. It would pace slowly through the water, gliding smoothy. Then, suddenly it would see a fish and run as fast as it could through the water lifting its legs high up. It looked almost excited when it ran!

After a few more minutes we headed back, raring for our next trip to Willington Gravel Pits!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Our Trip To Spurn

Last year I took part in the 'Young Birder of the Year' competition at the Spurn MigFest, one prize I won was a free stay in the new Spurn bird Observatory. Last weekend I decided to use my free stay with my family and spend our time birding. Since we live in Derby I saw this as a good opportunity to improve my wader skills!

As my family and I are trainee ringers, we want to improve our ringing by experiencing ringing with different groups and people, learning individual approaches and methods. We contacted Paul, the warden, to ask him if we could help out and on the Saturday morning we headed out. It was a fantastic opportunity as I got to ring a House Martin and a Swallow, two species I had never done but always wanted to.

Spurn is a fantastic place, on the Humber estuary there were several species of waders, some of which included: Dunlin, Knot, Curlew, Redshank and Golden Plovers.

Saturday evening we watched murmurations of thousands of Dunlin and Knot, creating patterns in the sky. Not only that, but a pair of Peregrines appeared to catch their meal amidst the thousands of waders however they unsuccessful. And to top it all off, just as we were leaving to head off to bed, a Barn Owl flew into the sunset with its prey in its claws.

Sunday involved more ringing, however due to the weather conditions, there weren't many birds about only a few birds were caught. We then went to the canal hide which was quiet, although there were some Yellow Wagtails and a Swallow nest inside the hide, which was being regularly fed by the parents. We also spent some time sea watching a skill I want to develop and hearing the experienced sea watchers shouting out what they have seen was inspiring.

It was also nice to see Georgia Locock, who has been staying there during the week, helping out counting the birds for Spurn.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Willington Gravel Pits

The other day I went birding at Willington Gravel Pits with my family and Simon Roddis (a great birder we have met through Twitter). Willington is my local nature reserve and it is always a favourite place to go birding in my opinion. We were also keen to try the new hide which has recently been completed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

I took our new scope my family received for Christmas, it was the first time using it and I absolutely loved it. The scope is an Opticron and is the MM3 60 GA ED/45. We were so excited about it, we forgot to take a photo!

It worked really well and gives really clear views of the birds on the wetlands. It is great for us because it's a nice simple scope to use and light to carry.

There were plenty of species to see, such as Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Lapwing, Redwing, Fieldfare,Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit and Great Crested Grebe. We also heard Water Rail and several Cetti's Warbler.

At the new hide we had a great view of a Kingfisher there catching from the large shoals of fish you could see. And thanks to the scope we had amazing views of the species, the colours appeared really bright and beautiful.

Sunday, 27 September 2015


On September the 4th, my Mum and I headed to Spurn for The Migration Festival (MigFest). I was a competitor in the Young Birder of the Year Competition, along with Findlay Wilde and Ellis Lucas. I was feeling very nervous but I was also excited about what to expect, learn and experience.

My mum and I arrived eagerly at Spurn after a nights stay at Highfield Farm B&B, we soon bumped into Findlay and his Mum, Heather. We last met them at Hen Harrier Day in the Goyt Valley and it was good to see them again, we soon saw Ellis and his Dad, Mark too. An hour later Ellis and Findlay and I began the competition. (Check out Findlay and Ellis's blogs for more information on the actual competition I won't repeat what they have already written very well: Findlay Wildes blogpost and Ellis Lucas' blogpost.)

Spurn is an amazing place, full of a variety of different habitats such as, wetlands, estuary, garden habitats, farmland scrub and coastal. It was amazing to see the damage caused by the severe winter storms along the point, we took a guided trip in the Unimog to the lighthouse excellently guided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Ellis and his Dad Mark came too - it was a fun trip! We saw a lovely Wheater too. During our stay at Spurn I saw new species to me, one of which was a juvenile Red Backed Shrike (summer visitor that winters in tropical Africa); a gorgeous bird that is a lovely red colour, it hunted insects quite openly which allowed us to get fantastic views of it perched on a branch or a fence. We caught a very,very brief glimpse of the Barred Warbler (passage migrant), it felt quite strange to be peering at birds in people's gardens along with lots of other people!

There were plenty of opportunities and areas to experience different types of bird watching, such as areas to sea watch, wetlands and of course looking up for vismig!. On the mud flats there were several different species of waders, such as: Golden Plovers, Redshank, Little Plover, Curlew etc. Sea watching was something I'd never really done much of before apart from the day before in the competion which was a challenge and little bits on holiday, living in Derby means the coast is not very handy for us! As I don't have a scope, to start with I did find it difficult to see the distant birds well , however once I borrowed a scope from Chris on the Opticron stand I soon got the hand of it and I managed to spot Gannets, Gulls, Scoters and Skuas. Now I want a scope!!!

Spurn has very good ringing facilities , they have a couple of Heligoland traps (A Heligoland trap (or funnel trap) is a large, building-sized, funnel-shaped, rigid structure of wire mesh or netting used to trap birds, so that they can be banded or otherwise studied by ornithologists.) and  mist nets. They were catching Whitethroats, Redpolls, Warblers and even a Kestrel, which I released, thanks to Tim for allowing me to do this, it is a wonderful bird and this one was a lot calmer than the Sparrowhawk I had ringed in Derbyshire, however not as calm as the Tawny Owl I helped ring in February when out in Thetford Forest with the BTO. 

I was very grateful for the oppurtunity to take part in the competition and would like to thank Nick Whitehouse and his team for this and the lunch! I really enjoyed the competition despite the nerves. it is great that Spurn want to encourage more young people to visit and if the competition can grow this should encourage more young people to attend the festival.
We were all lucky enough to win free membership of the Spurn Bird Obsevatory and two frree nights stay at the obs. I can't wait to go back but am reliant on my parents having the time to take me!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

BirdFair 2015

Wristbands and bracelets from BirdFair
This year my family and I spent all three days at BirdFair, on previous years we had only been for one day, so I was excited about how much time we would have there and that we would finally be able to explore the reserve. Everyone on Twitter had been talking about Birdfair so I was becoming increasingly excited about it,which was adding to my anticipation!

Once we arrived we headed straight to the BTO stand as Ben Moyes, Toby Carter and I were volunteering for the BTO, promoting their new membership for under 18's.

AFON Young Birders
On the Friday we began handing out the leaflets for the BTO youth membership whilst exploring all the stands, we bumped into a few familiar Twitter faces including; Sam Pitt Miller, who was on the ringing stand working hard all weekend. Josie Hewitt, Georgia Locock, Billy Stockwell and Sorrel Lyall. We also caught up with David Walsh and a few other Twitter people, too many to mention!

That evening we attended a talk involving Bill Oddie, Lucy McRobert, Adam Rowlands and Ian Wallace. The talk was about their best birding days and at the end of the talk the audience had to vote for the best story told. Bill talked about the Faire Isle and all the amazing birds he found in their vast numbers on migration, Lucy spoke about searching and  finding Capercaillie, Red Grouse, Black Grouse and Ptarmigan in Scotland. Adam Rowlands spoke about rare birds he found and missed at Minsmere and Ian Wallace told his best birding day at Flamborough Head in the style of  a play. Ian Wallace won by telling a very captivating story about his adventure spending a whole day in pursuit of rarities.

Afterwards we headed straight to the events marquee where Josie and Georgia were hosting a talk asking questions of  Chris Packham, Nick Baker and Simon King. The evening was very interesting and we heard about their highlights and low points of their wildlife experiences. It was very funny but also had some serious messages about the choices humans face in the care of the planet.

On Saturday we went to an event hosted by Chris Packham and sponsored by the BTO, where Josie, Georgia and Connor Coombes spoke about their passion for wildlife and inspirations. Josie talked about ringing, including RAS and CES schemes, which I enjoyed very much, being a ringer. Connor talked about his passion for photography and what was the main stimulus for his interest in birds and finally Georgia talked about all the volunteering and campaigning she does for wildlife and what she does to help and inspire others.

Afterwards, a few young birders (Myself, Abby Miller, Ben Moyes, Toby Carter, Sorrel Lyall, Billy Stockwell, Max Hellicar, Noah Walker, Sam Pitt Miller and Zach (nerdboy386) went on a walk around some of the hides. We saw plenty of birds, including: Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Lapwing etc.

The Millers & Nick Baker
That day we also went to listen to Lucy McRoberts talk about mammals, which was fascinating and Beth Aucott's presentation on the work of A Focus On Nature; a growing organisation for young people to help them get involved in conservation of which I'm proud to be a member. So thank you to Lucy and all the other members of the group. 

That evening my family and I went on a cruise with Nick Baker, there were many species of Gull and also Grey Herons, Egrets, Common Tern and best of all 8 Ospreys! One we watched hunting and successfully - it was a great trip!

Ben as Henry the Hen Harrier
Finally, Toby, Ben and I headed over to the Swarovski tower, where we spotted a Great White Egret - a first for me! 

After viewing all the stands again we headed over to see the performance of the Gruffalo. Lucy McRobert played the  Squirrel, Rob Lambert as the Fox, Nick Baker as the Snake, Domenic Couzens as the Owl, Mike Dilger as the Mouse and Bill Oddie as the Gruffalo. It was a very funny performance, which all age groups enjoyed. 

It was also great to see so any supporters of the Hen Harriers, many people were wearing their Hen Harrier day t-shirts and wristbands!

Thank you to the BTO for allowing me to volunteer for them an help out, I had a wonderful weekend. It was great to be involved with the BTO and help them recruit many new young members, the BTO are very supportive and I feel a part of their family.

Also thank you to the BirdFair for the whole event. I can't wait until next year, put the date in your diary now  August 19th-21st 2016!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Swan Round-Up

Last weekend, my family and I attended our first swan round-up with Sorby Breck ringing group. It was a great experience.

We arrived and after a drink in the aptly named 'Swan Cafe', several people in a kayaks herded the swans downstream, where the experienced ringers caught the swans and started ringing them.

Teams of up to 4 of us weighed, ringed them (we use metal rings and yellow plastic rings), measured the wings, took moult and age and sex data. Then then we carried them further downstream where we released them and watched them swim off into the distance.

The Swans were really calm, it was great to get up to them so close. I look forward to next year and thank you for the opportunity.
Mute Swan being ringed

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Nest Boxs Update!

I am writing this blog post late due to the fact I have been so busy with end of year mock exams and tests.

My sister and I went to check on the nest boxes we put up around school for our nest box project. All nests were Blue Tits and we had 11 nest attempts. From that, 36 young Blue Tits hatched, but only 23 chicks fledged. With the guidance of our trainer we ringed all the chicks and a few adults. The survival rate out of the chicks that hatched was 63.8%. All the results will be submitted to the BTO for NRS.

More information will be published in the BTO magazine 'Lifecyle' later in the year.

We cant wait to make further improvements to next year and seeing the results.