Photograph of a brood of Kestrel chicks in a box made by Brian and put up by him only last year at his Lincolnshire reserve.
Photograph subject to owners Copyright, reproduced here with permission.
Last month we posted about our new nest boxes for Swifts in the Bakewell Church Tower.
Swifts returned to Bakewell dead on schedule, May 9th, and we almost managed to get our swift boxes ready in time, just a couple of days late. Mike was recovering from his holiday in Germany so this time it was the aforesaid John Boyle, myself and my friend Jack from Sheffield who climbed the stairs and ladder into the belfry. Angela was in Cyprus sunning herself so – no coffee.
While John finished converting the circular holes in the shutters into slots of the designated width (22mm) Jack and I assembled the electrical equipment which makes the swift noises. This consists of a 12v amplifier of the type used on motor cycles, a 240v/12v power adaptor and a pair of speakers or “tweeters”. The amplifier is fitted with an SD card slot, the type you put in your camera, whereas our swift calls had been recorded onto a CD given to us at Tanya Hoare’s swift talk by Andrew and Barbara Wager of Thorpe and I’m very grateful for their help. I cajoled a friend who has a computer with both a disc drive and an SD card slot to transfer the swift calls onto the card then I set it all up in my living room beforehand – and it worked! And all for under £50.
We sited the amplifier adjacent to one of the boxes on the N window and fixed one of the speakers inside (photo). We threaded the speaker cable through the bottom of the box and secured them to the terminals at the back of the amp. Needless to say this is a rather simplified account of what actually happened, in actuality more time was spent discussing methodology, looking for lost screws and avoiding accidents. Then there were the ear piercing bongs every quarter of an hour although it seemed like every 5 minutes: time definitely goes faster in a bell tower (cf Einstein). The second speaker was fitted inside another box on the NW window. All that was needed now was to set the times on the plug socket timer when the calls would play, we chose 7 to 8am and 8 to 9pm.
As we descended into the sunlight swifts were circling the bell tower and we dared to think that they might use the boxes this year….So if you are in Bakewell on a summer evening stroll up to the church and listen to the swifts.
Brian Shaw May 2016
On April 21st five intrepid climbers scaled the fifty-seven steps up to the ringing chamber of All Saints’ Bakewell church, carrying twelve boxes which Brian Shaw and Mike Nelms had made, to entice our visiting swifts to set up home.
John Boyle, bell-ringer and winder of the church clock, led the way for Brian and Mike to scale a ladder, go through a trap door and emerge into the bell chamber. They spent the next two hours erecting the boxes. The photo shows four in place, with the back slid open to show the entrance hole to the outside world.
Pauline Boyle, the Tower Captain, welcomed us and made sure we knew the safety procedures for working in the tower, and I? I provided the coffee!
The recording of the swifts calls is now being assembled. This will be fitted soon and will play for an hour, morning and evening, from May to July. Young swifts will cruise round to suss out suitable desirable residences for the future, so the boxes may not be used for two or three years.
I am so pleased that the Bird Study Group has adopted this as a project and thank Brian and Mike for giving their time and energy to make it happen. And we thank the church for welcoming their feathered friends. Let’s just hope the swifts aren’t too choosy!
Angela Bird. April 2016.
Please see our update on the swift boxes from May 2016
The first outdoor meeting of the year began at The Riverside Gardens Belper. Located within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and adjacent to Strutts North Mill it proved a worthwhile place to start.
The bird life was very quiet at first but the list of birds began spectacularly when a pair of peregrine falcons came soaring towards the pigeons perching on the mill. They were in no hurry to move, perhaps the pigeons realised that despite the grating scraa coming from the female the peregrines were not hungry.
After this exciting start we walked through the gardens and back along the promenade enjoying the beautiful flower beds and hanging baskets. A grey wagtail was enjoying the pond and black headed gulls the riverside.
We moved on over the river and down Wyver Lane enjoying the riverside gardens belonging to the local houses. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher cutting across a garden from a pond to the river. As Wyver Lane changed from from housing into fields all seemed very quiet but Stuart was able to pinpoint several smaller birds.
We eventually reached the premier wetland reserve of the DWT. From the hide we were able to watch buzzards and note the very white front of a juvenile which has hints of an osprey. We carried on to the end of the lane where we were treated to a family of jays and a raven flying overhead.
We retraced our steps ending our visit in style. Whilst watching the feeders in one of the gardens a sparrow hawk lived up to its name as it came in swiftly to attack the the house sparrows. Coming from behind us it gave a spectacular acrobatic display.
Bird list – wood pigeon, feral pigeon, magpie, blackbird, mallard, house martin, swallow, peregrine falcons, moorhen, robin, grey wagtail, great tit, tufted duck, black headed gull, muscovy duck, mute swan, little grebe, chiffchaff, canada goose, carrion crow, greenfinch, jay, kingfisher, buzzard, heron, cormorant, teal, chaffinch, jackdaw, dunnock, greater spotted woodpecker, goldcrest, siskin, raven, pheasant, nuthatch, blue tit, goldfinch, wren, greylag, house sparrow, sparrow hawk.
by Veronica Wheeldon
The Evans magic worked again. The weather forecast said heavy cloud and cold winds off the North Sea and hinted at something even worse. The reality was broken cloud, bursts of sunshine and a gentle breeze. So eighteen members were able to explore Alkborough Flats without streaming eyes and without clinging on to wind-rocked telescopes.
The Flats are well named. The Lincolnshire Wolds end abruptly with a few houses and a church and then, where the Trent meets the Humber, the land tumbles down to an expanse of reed and marsh and lagoons. The paths through the reeds are raised and well maintained; the hides solid and cleverly sited.
Most of the birds listed were seen, but some, like the Cettis Warbler, only heard. Just a few years ago the news of a Cettis this far north would have had the twitchers flocking. Now we put it on the list along with the Little Egret and move on.
Also more vocal than visible was the Water Rail, doing its imitation of an outraged pig.
Three Marsh Harriers seemed to be sharing a narrow strip of territory, rising and falling and getting in each other’s way. Once it appeared that two of them had had a mid-air collision but perhaps it was just something that Marsh Harriers do. But at least they were easy to watch.
Not like Bearded Tits. A bright flash as they flit from one reed to an identical one and they have gone before you can raise your binoculars.
But, for me at least, the highlight of the day was the view from one hide of ducks and waders spread over the water and mud banks of a lagoon like an illustration of a ‘Teach Yourself Bird Recognition’.
How many? Difficult to say. A single Heron, a few Curlew and Ruff, dozens of other species of duck and wader as well as a hundred-plus Lapwing and even more Golden Plover. But other people may have counted more. And the surprising thing, to me at least, was how colourful they were. No winter drab yet. The Golden Plover still had golden flecks and the Lapwing still had bright heads and a greenish sheen.
Every now and again, for no apparent reason, the Golden Plover would take off, fly around in a tight flock then land again while everything else ignores them and gets on with dabbling and probing.
Just before leaving the marshes, as seventeen members were peering down a drain in search of an elusive Water Rail, the lucky eighteenth was the sole witness of the classic panic of the ducks and the waders as a Peregrine passed overhead.
And finally, by some thoughtful management, the mini-bus was waiting at the foot of the hill and sixteen*grateful members were saved a long wearisome climb. (*Two of our number came by car).
Thanks for a smooth ride to the driver who happened to be a birdwatcher and brought his own telescope (perhaps we should have charged him) and to Stuart Slack for instant recognitions, both seen and heard, (sometimes of things that only he has seen or heard) and most of all to Dorothy for seamless arrangements.
Photographs taken by David Frost on a club visit to Teesdale on 17-19th May 2015.
Click on an image to see a larger version.
It’s been a difficult breeding season in the wood this year especially for blue tits and great tits probably because of the cold spell at the end of April and early May. Lots of desertions and low fledging rates have meant far fewer fledglings than usual. Only 105 blue tits fledged compared with 273 last year and over 200 every year previously for the last 6 years. Fledging rate was only 44% compared with around 70% normally. Unlike 2102 when we also had a cold snap and there were lots second broods this year there was only one with two fledglings still in the nest on July 1st.
Great tits did no better: only 30 fledglings compared with 105 last year which was amazingly good, the usual is around 70. Fledging rate was even lower than the blue tits: only 38% compared with 94% last year.
Pied flycatchers fared better with 7 nests compared with an average of 4 the last few years. They started breeding a week later than usual so missed the cold spell. Nevertheless fledging rate was lower than usual, 68% compared with 90% normally (only 70% last year) probably as a result of scarcity of food. Certainly the shredding of the silver birches by caterpillars has been markedly absent this year. Still, 32 fledglings isn’t a bad result and each one was ringed so it’ll be interesting to see if they come back next year.
The highlight of the spring was the tawny owls which again outwitted the mandarin ducks for dominance of the favourite box. Two chicks fledged, one nearly a week before the other such was the difference in size. The big one let me take a picture and I also managed to get a picture of mum as I surprised her when she was dozing. For once I had camera at hand and managed to snap her just before she took off.
At the beginning of our walk in May we stood on Froggatt Bridge and watched
a grey wagtail with nesting material in its beak. It was reluctant to show
us its nest site and now I know why. A month later I was standing in the
same place watching the same grey wagtail with food in its beak when a
neighbour of mine came along and asked me what I was looking at. I showed
him the wagtail and I said I thought the nest was somewhere on the bridge
probably on the parapet that runs along the bridge about three feet under
the wall that we were leaning on. As I said this I looked over and saw
immediately beneath us three fledglings sat cosily in a nest behind a stand
of ragwort growing out of the parapet. Both parents are still feeding the
youngsters as I write this on June 26th. They haven’t moved despite a stream
of people crossing the bridge and no doubt stopping right above them to
admire the view completely oblivious of the family drama a few feet below
Things have got off to a flying start in the wood this spring. A mistle thrush has been sitting on a nest for nearly two weeks in a fork in a sycamore tree that I had hacked about during the winter in an attempt to kill it with a view to providing dead wood for a woodpecker. Obviously the thrush hasn’t read my master plan. And a robin has rather perversely built a nest on the ground only a few feet from a footpath which the highland cattle churn up with their big feet while what would appear to be a much safer option, namely an open fronted box on an ivy covered tree just a few meters away has been spurned. Robins always seem to nest on the ground round here – and there are plenty of robins so they must know what they’re doing. Not more than 20 meters away a long tailed tit has nested in the same gorse bush as last year when it fell victim to the snow. No such problems this year (hopefully).
The big story however is the ‘owl’ box. Last year a pair of mandarin ducks raised eight ducklings in it. This year they returned but a quick pic on April 3rd showed that things weren’t quite as simple as we imagined: three tawny owl eggs and two mandarin duck eggs. We assumed the owl had laid first and the ducks had taken over. A few days ago (10th) however the owl was seen leaving the box and two days later the ducks were loitering with intent (photo). What’s going on! If only I’d bought that camera I saw at the Carsington Water bird shop I’d know. What a great saga it could be for Spring Watch. Anyway I’ll keep you posted. Oh yes, and the first pied flycatcher returned on April 11th, the earliest I can remember.