17th December-Brinsley Headstocks and Christmas meal.
This was a very well attended event with fifteen of us going on the walk; this is our biggest group so far. This just goes to show that Christmas pudding and custard is a lure too tempting to resist for even the most diet conscious amongst us. Due to unseasonably clement weather we had an excellent walk, with many interesting birds spotted amongst the bare branches of the trees. Much debate took place over an early sighting, which proved to be a female chaffinch in its winter colours. Robins and blackbirds were around in abundance as well as coal tits and long tail tits. A mistle thrush put in an appearance, which was a special joy because they are becoming so rare. Greenfinches and the very attractive goldfinches were also showing in numbers. Two firsts for the group on U3A visits were a flock of redwings and a treecreeper. This was also a first for me. It was fascinating to see the bird climbing up one side of the tree, under and along a branch, then flying to the next tree to start it’s walk all over again.
We ended our walk slightly early and made our way to The Brinsley Headstocks, where we had an excellent Christmas dinner, very kindly organised by Barbara Wigley. Thanks again Barbara. This was the perfect end to a whole year of interesting bird watching.
19th November Aldercar Flash
Cancelled due to high winds.
15th October Idle Valley
An excellent day out was enjoyed by all at Idle Valley near Retford. This is one of the flagship conservation areas of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. We took two cars up to Idle Valley. A big thanks to Terry and David who volunteered to drive us there. Without the good will of our drivers it would make trips very difficult indeed, so just to let you know we do appreciate your efforts.
Armed with binoculars and telescope we set off from the visitors centre round the main island and lake. fairly quickly we were treated to a view of a green woodpecker. This is a first for our group and was a very good start to the trip. On the lake itself, there were several tufted ducks, geese, a few great crested grebe and a couple of teal, as well as many gulls.The walk through the woodland and past the stream to our left was very pretty, especially as the autumn colours of the leaves were fully in evidence. On the central island of the lake there was a group of common snipe resting, with their unmistakeable strong yellow and white markings showing along the backs of their heads. This is another first for the Eastwood U3A birdwatching group and a full testament to the hard work of the wildlife trust, without whose conservation efforts many of these treasures of our natural fauna would have disappeared completely. Blackbirds and a few unidentified warblers were singing amongst the leaf canopy as we continued on round the lake.
Having had a good walk , with a kestrel putting in an appearance we returned to the visitors centre for a well earned lunch. Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, a wildlife trust representative called us to look at a common scoter on the lake. Don’t let it’s name fool you. this is an extremely rare sighting indeed, and what a joy to end a fantastic day out. Good friendship, excellent birding, perfect walking weather and great food. What more could you ask for.
On our return, I put the sightings of the group on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire birdwatchers sites. The Lound birdwatchers and members from both Notts and Derbyshire birders wanted to know exactly where we had seen the woodpecker and scoter, so well done U3A birders. Our efforts are not going unnoticed. See you next time at Stoney Lane.
17th September Annesley Pit Top
A very enjoyable trip out with the regulars to Annesley Pit Top. The weather was fine and the walk very pleasant. This is a good example of you don’t know what is on your doorstep until you go and look. For the past few years Newstead volunteers have been turning the headstocks and slag heaps of the old Annesley Pit into a country park There is still a way to go, but it will prove to be a valuable resource to the area. Lapwings were in evidence, a buzzard and a kestrel were in evidence. A heron provided some amusement as we could not decide whether it was one heron or two standing next to each other. We also saw some little grebes being enchanting. Regarding flora, there was some amazing fungi, including a fairy ring. An excellent time was had by all. I’m pleased to say that Terry is walking well after his operation, and on a personal note I would like to thank John for his free gift of tomatoes and damsons, courtesy of his allotment. See you all next time.
20th August Shipley Park
Again, this is going to be a fairly short report, because we did not really see very much. Barbara led us on a lovely walk round Mapperley Reservoir. It was great Barbara, thanks. I’ve never walked that particular route before, so it was very enjoyable. We did see a young kestrel and a few of the usuals, tufted ducks, Canada geese, mallards and great crested grebes, but apart from that, very little indeed. This is probably indicative of the time of the year though. Summer visitors are beginning to take flight, and over the next few weeks and our winter migrants will be arriving. Don’t forget to feed garden visitors. Although this is not relevant to our U3A bird group, I was horrified to hear a talk by Chris Packham ( of Springwatch fame), that we have lost 40 million birds from the skies of the U.K. in the last thirty years. Let us all please try to do what we can in our own back gardens to encourage habitat and feeding stations for our struggling birds,
16th July Attenborough
The weather was glorious, with T shirts and shorts very much the order of the day. Although some of the sand martins had fledged, there were enough there to keep everyone happy with their speed and acrobatic dancing in the air.We made our way up to the tower hide. It was good to see Terry making the climb after his operation. Well done.
For those of you who don’t know, Attenborough, run by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, successfully had its first pair of breeding bitterns this year- a real tribute to patience and great ecology. We were hoping to see the two juvenile bitterns from the Tower hide, but we were not to be treated to this very rare delight. We did ,however, manage to spot a juvenile kestrel through our new telescope, optimistically sitting on top of the bird feeders waiting for something to eat. We did have a bit of a debate about what it actually was because it seemed a bit small for one of the larger raptors. Anyway Barbara managed to get a shot, and I might even be able to work out how to get it on to the site for you all to look at.
Next, I wanted to pay a visit to the recently opened Delta Hide at the North end of the reserve. Whilst walking past the main lake we saw the usual godwits, lapwings, mallards etc. etc. Amongst them we also had a siting of something else which caused a quandary. Again, thanks to Barbara we have a picture. I’m going to stick my neck out and say it is a Little Grebe, but if anyone knows better, I am happy to be challenged. A yellow legged gull also put in a rare appearance and a juvenile common tern, which seemed to have taken up home on the weir bridge.
After a longish walk, we did arrive at The Delta Hide. Although we did not see anything very rare there, the view was amazing and well worth the walk. We had a few magical moments watching a mother and juvenile great crested grebe together on the water, so close we could almost touch them, as well as saw a heron slowly stalking through the water, providing an almost hypnotic entertainment.
18th June Moorgreen Reservoir
This is going to be a short article, because we didn’t see much in the way of birds. I think they were all in hiding under dense leaf cover. However, in a way we did not really mind. The day was glorious. We had a beautiful walk, enjoying listening to warblers singing and the sun shining. It was one of those day’s when we were all glad that we lived in England and even more glad that we were enjoying the walk in good company. A special welcome to newcomers Linda, Jenny, Freda, Ivan, Terry and Gill. Ivan’s scope came in useful when observing two baby great crested grebes across Moorgreen Reservoir. John again showed his expertise in recognising various birdcalls, and Ron was most helpful in leading the group. One latecomer to the day’s experience was a buzzard, which took to the sky as we walked past. Otherwise nothing else to report.
11th May Netherfield Lagoons
What a great afternoon. We had three new members join us, Anne, Paul and Chris, so a special welcome to you. With the sun shining and Pete Smith leading us, we set off on our warbler walk, round the fantastic nature reserve of Netherfield Lagoons. Pete’s knowledge and love of the place became quickly infectious.( I think he must be blessed with bionic hearing, because he could easily hear and identify so many birds on our walk.) I certainly think we all learnt a great deal from him.
Normally I would focus on birds we saw, but this time I have the very difficult job of attempting to imitate the sounds we heard; also, because the trees and bushes are now in full leaf, it is much harder to see woodland birds than it is to hear them.
As we set off , walking past the fifteen year old reed beds and marsh orchids, our first sound was of a black cap with its flutey high pitched call. The second sound was of a willow warbler, battling it out with the black cap. Walking on past the intoxicating smell of May blossom, we heard a reed bunting with its repetitive three tweets, a sort of eep, eep, eep.This varied with a reed warbler making four sounds, a sort of wh, wh, wh, wh. Ron spotted a green woodpecker, pointing out it’s distinctive tapping, as we walked past the second of Netherfield’s lagoons.
Continuing our walk along by dense hedgerow, Pete pointed out the sound of a cettis warbler. It’s song is recognised by a distinctive burst of plosive sound, like a chip chippa, chip chip chippa chop. We birders were all delighted because to have a cettis warbler on site is very special indeed. So many bird watchers have heard the bird, but actual sightings are as rare as Rocking Horse droppings. A garden warbler was our next delight, emitting a sort of throaty sound, a little lower in pitch than the cettis, sounding a bit like-chiff chaff chiffy chiffy chiff chaff.
Next we witnessed a full bird choir with contributions from a willow warbler, a black cap, a reed bunting and a robin. I found it difficult to distinguish the separate sounds, but Pete the bionic ear recognised them easily.
On our final stretch of the walk we heard the scratchy sound of a white throat, and also, just as we were leaving, we saw a couple of goldfinches and a sparrowhawk.
My special joy was a sighting of my first acrobatic swift of the year, a reed bunting and a reed warbler For the first time since we took up bird watching, David and I saw a Little Ringed Plover, nesting near a lapwing. Although we did not see them, we heard a Cettis warbler, garden warbler, and a white throat, all firsts for us. These are all great rarities. We have to thank the continuing efforts of the RSPB and wildlife trusts who are working so hard to maintain and increase bird numbers, and consider ourselves even more lucky that we can see them still in Nottinghamshire.
Added to our other sightings were the usual birds, mallards, moorhens, great tits, great crested grebes, cormorants, swans, and a pair of gadwall spotted by Linda and Ursula. Netherfield was also well represented by lots of damselflies and southern marsh orchids.
Thanks to Joan for recommending the site and I am sure we will visit again later in the year.
Meeting Report April 23rd visit.
I would like to begin by welcoming our new member John to the group. His knowledge will be a valuable contribution to our activities.
Today we focussed our activities on a local site down at Erewash Meadows. This proved a popular choice with the group because it offered a mixed venue of Woodland, hedgerow and marshes giving lots of opportunities to observe a range of birds on our doorstep. The only drawback was the stiles we encountered, but thankfully the men were too gentlemanly to take photos of the ladies gamely struggling to climb over them.
John proved his immediate value to the group by recognising the call of a Cetti’s Warbler . David and John then saw a black cap, which gave a good start to our bird watching day. On the main lake itself, we saw two pairs of shelducks, half a dozen teal and a pair of pink footed geese, besides the regular great crested grebes, gadwall and seagulls. Whilst walking along the hedgerow we spotted chiff chaffs, happily back for the Summer, and a pair of kestrels across the fields. Linda also spotted a hare, which was a welcome sight acknowledging Spring.
It was good to affirm that the Meadows, run by the Wildlife Trusts of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire has so much to offer. Keep up the good work guys.
I look forward to our next outing in May and seeing our U3A birders with the bins at Netherfield.
19th March Carsington Water
Another great trip out for Barbara, Ursula, Linda, Ron, David and myself. Today the sun was shining, and there were hints of Spring coming along at last. Initially, the reservoir was a little misty, but soon the mist burnt off, leaving a still, silvery mill pond that was lovely enough just to watch even if you had no desire to look at birds. Wave watching was definitely the order of the day.
Our group managed to cover all the bird hides at Carsington, getting good clear early views of a reed bunting, three glorious looking goldeneyes (one male, two females), two oystercatchers, several teal and a heron. Lots of common terns and black headed gulls, mallards, Canada geese, tufted ducks and crows were also in evidence pretty much everywhere we went. The single redshank is maintaining its solitary presence, along with one shag, although the cormorants seen a couple of weeks ago seem to have mysteriously disappeared.
As for the signs of Spring:-three barnacle geese were happily flying about; three mallards were formation flying(reminding me of Hilda Ogden’s front room in Coronation Street), and absolutely gloriously two chiff chaffs were heralding their return with acrobatic flights in and out of the hedgerows lining the lanes of the reservoir.
For David and myself, our great sghting of the day was the Great Northern Diver preening itself in the middle of the lake near the Lane End Hide. It was sitting very low and dark in the water, just enjoying the sun.
Overall a very successful day out. Look forward to seeing you all again at Erewash Meadows in April
Thursday 19th February
This morning a very brave and intrepid group of birdwatchers, totally undaunted by torrential rain, set out to Attenborough for a morning’s bird watching. Not to be beaten by Nottinghamshire in February, we hunkered down in the main hide with binoculars poised, ready for a good morning’s twitching. We were hoping for a sighting of the rare and somewhat elusive bittern, but alas this was not to be.
On the positive side, however, we were very privileged to see two quite rare water rails. Not only did we have a sighting of them, but we managed to observe them quite clearly for a good hour happily scuttling about on the bank and amongst the reeds in front of the hide. Barbara was delighted because she had never had such a good view of them before, and for Joan it was only her second sighting ever.
A heron, little grebes, two great crested grebes, a red crested pochard and shovellers were present and in clear view.Moorhens, coots and tufted ducks were also gracing the lake in goodly numbers.The two maybes of the day was firstly an elusive kingfisher ( spotted by a very patient birdwatcher who happened to be sharing the hide with us), and possibly a marsh harrier; I say possibly because I wouldn’t really know one even if it had a big label on it saying exactly what it was. However, piecing together snippets of information from glimpsed sightings from 6 sober members of the U3A birdwatchers and an RSPB identification book, we think it could have been one.
Anyway after a good couple of hours bird watching on a day of bad weather, we left the hide, not disappointed having seen such delights. As we retired, a little cold and wet, to the cafe for a well earned lunch, the lone cormorant that had been sitting observing the lake from its perching post in the middle of the lake proved that it was far more intrepid than we were and won the prize for being the most patient birdwatcher of the day.