Saturday, 15 April 2017

Early Spring

Last Saturday morning, my family and I took a long awaited trip to our local nature reserve: Willington Gravel Pits. I haven't been out much due to lots of school work but with it being an extremely sunny morning I couldn't resist.  I took this opportunity to take my Opticron Natura BGA ED binoculars and MM3 60 ED scope, I haven't used the scope much this year, so I thought it would be a good chance to use it.

We stopped at each of the hides to see the usual species: Mallards, Canada Geese, Black Headed Gulls and Cormorants. It was also really nice to see a pair of Teal and a male and female Reed Bunting just a few meters away, the Reed Buntings swinging on the reeds in the soft breeze and sunshine really created a beautiful scene.

We saw Brimstone and Orange Tip butterflies and lots of Bees buzzing around - at last Spring is here!  We heard plenty of Warblers, such as Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers and Cetti's Warblers, another sign of Spring! However we didn'ts see any Hirundines, but it is still fairly early, so we will have to visit again in a couple of weeks when they are more likely to be there!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Coombe Valley, Cornwall

My dads photo
On the 13th of February, my family and I headed down to Cornwall for our holiday. We were going to be staying in a cottage in Coombe Valley until Friday. We went on many a walks, which gave us the opportunity to see lots of wildlife and spectacular views.
Another of my dads photos

The first morning we took a walk around the local area, which is mostly ancient woodland, it was brimming with nature! During this walk I thought I'd fully try out my Opticron Natura BGA ED binoculars. I'd normally go for a magnification of 8x42, however this time I thought I would try 10x42, and I have to say I love the magnification because it provides closer views. We saw plenty of Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Robins, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Ravens overhead, Mistle Thrushes and a Goldcrest and Marsh Tit! It was a beautiful, bright, sunny morning, almost like a warm spring day!

My dads photo again!
My mums photo this time!
Longer walks later that day and later that week to several different bays and King Arthur's Castle in Tintagel also gave me plenty of opportunity to try out the binoculars for the whole day, luckily they are a nice weight yet still are very robust. We saw lots of the usual (Blackbird, Mistle Thrush etc.) but we also got great views of a Kestrel hunting over the castle ruins and lots of Fulmars! My binoculars provided a great, clear view of the Kestrel, so it was lovely to see. The Fulmars were sat on cliff edges, mostly in pairs, perhaps thinking about the breeding season?

And dads photograph!
We took a coastal walk, which caused us to cross paths with several Stonechats; the Stonechats we came across were often sat on coastal scrub scanning for food. We also saw many Buzzards, often perched on posts all over, appearing very authoritative. On the last day I got a fantastic view of a Grey Wagtail on the thatched roof of our cottage, wagging its very long tail constantly, allowing us to see the yellow on it - this gave me a very big smile!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Big Schools' Birdwatch

On Wednesday the 8th of February I organised our school to take part in the RSPB's Big Schools' Birdwatch. We soon received our free id poster and I before we knew it we were outside counting the birds!

We decided the best place to do this was in our newly developed conservation area which includes bird feeders, 2 fat ball feeders, a ground feeder, one hanging feeder and a bird table.

The children from year 6 (aged 10-11) came out in two groups; they sat outside doing some colouring in whilst they came over in groups of 4-7 to a small hide we set up. Each group had about 10 minutes to spot as many birds as they could. All the children were very enthusiastic and were eager to tell me what birds they see at home on their own bird feeders too! Overall, we had a good turnout of birds, including Black-headed gulls, Goldfinches, Blue tits, Magpies, Wood pigeons and House Sparrows. Each of the children brought their own binoculars, which gave me a good chance to try out for the first time Opticron Natura BGA ED binoculars. They are fantastic; they feel very sturdy in the hand and provide light clear views!

Due to its success this year I am looking forward to doing the Big Schools' Birdwatch next year and getting more children involved and perhaps doing more activities on the day, such as making our own bird feeders.

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!