Monday, 19 March 2018

Whooper Swans heading back North

A call from Ken this morning alerted me to a herd of Whooper Swans flying up the Derwent valley over Matlock. I missed them in Darley Dale so they may have crossed towards the moors over Halldale Wood. These birds will most likely be heading back to Iceland to breed.
Whooper Swans (photo © Ken Smith)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Oystercatcher - Chatsworth

Further signs of Spring with a single Oystercatcher in front of the house at Chatsworth this morning. I had a pair there last year but not sure if they bred.

The lone Pink-footed Goose was still present with the Canada Goose flock and at least 30 Mandarin along the river.
Pink-footed Goose with Canada Geese
With the milder weather I ran the moth trap for the first time last night and caught; 
Pale Brindled Beauty,
Satellite 3,
March Moth 4,
Chestnut 2
Common Quaker 1

Not a bad start to the mothing year.

Friday, 9 March 2018

First Curlews back on the moors

For any regular visitors to the moors there is no more welcome sound than the call of the first Curlews arriving back to start their breeding cycle. Whilst it may not yet herald the start of Spring it certainly marks the start of the end of Winter! I saw my first today although birds were back at the start of March having spent the winter, most likely, on one of our coastal estuaries.
Curlew back on the moors

Friday, 2 March 2018

Goosander, Mandarin and a record count of Hawfinch

Although the main roads are all clear of snow the minor roads are still snow covered so again I've not ventured far from Darley Dale. 
Simon Roddis and Alan Stewardson had an amazing count of 51 Hawfinch at St Helen's Church this morning which must be one of the largest flocks recorded in the County. Roy Frost & Steve Shaw's 'The Birds of Derbyshire' cites a winter roost in 1979/80 of up to 50 birds at Chatsworth which is the only reference to a similar number. At St Helen's this afternoon I could 'only' find a dozen birds and I wonder if they have started to roost at the church, dispersing to feed more widely during the day? 
Moving on to Peak Village I was rewarded with nice views of a pair each of Goosander and Mandarin.
Lots of thrushes about, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, presumably moving west to avoid the cold weather.
Goosander - male
Mandarin - pair

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Bullfinch in the snow

With the so called 'Beast from the East' weather system arriving in Darley Dale yesterday I have not been far from home. 
This morning it looks like we have about 16 cm of standing snow and day time temperatures of -3 to -5 °C. I've put plenty of food out for the birds with many Siskin and a few Redpoll, which are scarce in the garden, putting on a good show. The Bullfinch however prefer the fresh buds on the hawthorn hedge which attract them in the late winter.

Bullfinch - male

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Displaying Common Crossbill

I came across a small group of Common Crossbill locally today feeding in larches with a large group of Siskin. Several of the males were in song and one male gave a brief display flight with wings held open whilst it glided giving a typical, repeated 'glip' call.
Common Crossbill is a sporadic breeding bird in the area and they are very early nesters and could be feeding young already!
Common Crossbill - male
Common Crossbill - female

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Darley Yew

On a rather grey morning with intermittent drizzle I returned to St Helens Church. During the past week there have been around a dozen Hawfinch reported and it didn't take long to find the first birds sitting in the trees at the back of the churchyard. After half an hour, with birds coming and going, it looked like there were at least 10 Hawfinch still in the area.
Whilst in the churchyard I took another look at the Darley Yew which has been a source of food for the Hawfinches during their stay. With an estimated age of 2000 years it's impossible to comprehend such a span for any living thing but the small plaque gives some sense of the events it has witnessed. 
Whatever its age its certainly an impressive tree.

The Darley Yew

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Death of a Roe Deer

The Roe Deer is much the rarest of the three deer species found locally and I have only seen it on four occasions. Two of these sightings were at the back end of last year in the Farley Woods area, on one occasion two Roe Deer came out of the wood and crossed Farley Lane near Sydnope Stand. Sadly this is the area where this animal was found on the roadside by Roger last Saturday morning (10th Feb).
I think there have been three or four Roe Deer resident in the Farley Woods/ Sydnope area for several months having spoken to some of the regular dog walkers who frequent the area and this is doubtless one of those animals.
Roe Deer (photo Roger Carrington)

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Blackcap back in the garden

Saw the male Blackcap in the garden again today and managed a photo this time. I've only seen it twice now but it has presumably been in the area most of the winter.
Blackcap - male

Friday, 2 February 2018

Hawfinches still at St Helens

Although the Hawfinches have still being showing well at St Helens, mainly in the famous Darley Yew in front of the church, the numbers are declining with around six present most of this week. It was nice to watch them in sunshine today.

Hawfinch - males
Aside from the Hawfinch it's been quiet although a Blackcap feeding in my garden is the first of this winter but appears to be coming a feature. Several Crossbill on Flash Lane and over Beeley village but little else of note.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Raven display

With the first decent days sunshine of the year I witnessed plenty of display from both Raven, one of our earliest breeding birds, and Buzzard yesterday.
The Raven is unusual amongst British birds in that it will regularly do a complete roll whilst in flight and I just managed to catch this bird whilst it was upside-down and calling.
Raven - rolling
I also got a reasonable comparison shot of Raven and Buzzard flying together for size comparison, similar size with Raven just a bit longer in the wing.
Raven and Common Buzzard

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

New Year Hawfinches - St Helen's Church

I've been away over the New Year so today was my first chance to have a look at the Hawfinches at St Helen's Church. Whilst away it looks like the numbers have generally been around 20 but in the last few years there have been counts of up to 30. 
There feeding behaviour appears to have changed since December, they now look to be spending more time on the outside of the Yews making them a little easier to see and photograph. It looked to me as if they are now eating fresh shoots rather than the berries, which look to have largely disappeared, which might be an explanation for this.
The photos below are all males and show the strange spatulate tips to the inner 5 primaries.
Aside from the Hawfinches I think it's been fairly quiet for birds locally over Christmas/ New Year.

Hawfinch - males

Saturday, 23 December 2017

More Hawfinch - St Helen's Church, Darley Dale

The number of Hawfinch at St Helen's Church increased slowly during the week to 12 by Friday but this morning there were at least 20 feeding in the Yew trees around the church or sitting in the surrounding trees. I saw groups of birds flying off towards Warren Carr and towards Darley Hillside and presumably Stancliffe Hall where there are also several large Yews so there could easily be more.
This is by far the largest flock I have seen in the area and it would be fantastic if they stayed and re-established breeding in the area.
Hawfinch - there are at least 13 in this photo plus 1 Greenfinch
Hawfinch - distinctive in flight with large body, short tail & white primary bases seen from above and below

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Bradford Dale

No sign of the Great White Egret mid-morning in Bradford Dale but it had been seen earlier. Unfortunately, as the valley is narrow where the pools are, the bird is disturbed by any walkers on the footpath. Apparently this is at least its third day in the area so it may return.
Nice views of Kingfisher and Dipper along the river but rather cold this morning.
Kingfisher - female, with extensive orange on lower mandible

Monday, 18 December 2017

Great White Egret - Bradford Dale

Exciting news from Doug Aston today of a Great White Egret in Bradford Dale. It was seen and photographed by Doug between Youlgrave and Middleton-by-Youlgrave.
This is the first record I can recall in the immediate Matlock/ Bakewell area but is not entirely unexpected as the numbers in the UK have increased dramatically during the past decade although there are still only around 10 recorded in Derbyshire each year.

Great White Egret (© Doug Aston)

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