Durham Bird Club's Castle Lake Nature Reserve

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Saturday 30th July 2011

Castle Lake this morning produced the following of note;
500 Greylag Geese, drake Scaup, 1 Cormorant, 2 Little Egret, 1 Sparrowhawk, 300 Lapwing, 3 Ruff, 1 Snipe, 1 Curlew, 1 Greenshank, 4 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 Mistle Thrush. 2 Spotted Flycatcher were near the wildlife garden.

One (and a half!) of today's three Ruff.

Over at Stoneybeck Lake were 4 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Corn Bunting singing and c100 Swift.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Peewit City

Wader variety continues to provide the main interest and this lovely sunny evening at Castle Lake was no exception with the following on offer;
3 Oystercatcher, 3 Little Ringed Plover, a whopping 600 Lapwing, 1 Ruff, 1 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Curlew (including a juvenile) and 2 Green Sandpiper.

Two of this evenings waders, Black-tailed Godwit and a rather long-billed Dunlin.

Other birds on view included the drake Scaup, 2 Little Egret, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 90 Black-headed Gull and a Sparrowhawk.

Still hundreds of Greylag Geese present including this one with a white base to the bill and a much paler head and neck (though its difficult to tell from this rubbish picture).

Monday, 25 July 2011

Ruff With The Smooth

Didn't think I'd have to wait until 25th July before I saw my first Ruff of the year, wintering birds have been regular in recent times and there's often spring birds passing through too but not this year. The circumstances leading up to the appearance of today's bird were a bit strange too, Peregrine chasing and failing to catch a Snipe, flies off south spooking a big flock of Lapwings near Low Hardwick which then fly to the lake bringing the Ruff with them!

2011 patch tick #121 - Ruff

An early morning arrival at Castle Lake saw a very active Common Tern but this soon moved on, 4 Green Sandpiper, though one was flushed and flew off high west when a dog walker got too close to the waters edge and 5 Snipe flew in (I think five is the most I've seen here so far this year).
Onto the hide, from where the Scaup, 2 Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 juvenile Yellow Wagtail and the aforementioned Ruff and Peregrine were seen. Greylag Geese were coming and going all the time with an estimated 500 birds in the area.

Tufted Duck family on Castle Lake today.

A good selection of species were in and around Davison's Farmyard including Song Thrush, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Goldfinch.

After lunch I walked over to Low Hardwick, looking for Whinchat and Stonechat (remember them Durham birders?), but I couldn't even manage a Meadow Pipit or a Reed Bunting today.
Birds that were around included a Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, a group of 80 Swift moving south, juvenile Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler carrying food, Blackcap, Willow Tit and 2 Bullfinch.

A quick check of Stoneybeck Lake on the way out revealed what was probably the same juvenile Ruff that had graced Castle Lake earlier in the day.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls

Combine Harvester in operation in the fields between the hide and the A1M this evening was presumably the reason for another increase in the gull numbers on Castle Lake - 225 Black-headed Gull, 6 Herring Gull, 5 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 15 Common Gull. Despite much searching I couldn't find any Mediterranean Gull, no lost Little Gull and definately no Yellow-legged Gull.
Some of the many.

6 Green Sandpiper is possibly the most I've seen together here, five favouring the east side with the other still prefering the area below the hide. Other waders included 3 Little Ringed Plover and only 1 Common Sandpiper.
Now 2 Tufted Duck broods of 5 and 9, quite amusing watching the young ducklings learning to dive at such a young age. The drake Scaup was still loafing around the lake.
The resident Great Crested Grebe (one pair still sitting, surely this clutch should have hatched by now? and the family group of 2 adults and 3 immatures) have been joined by a further 2 immature birds.

The two interlopers, I wonder where they originated from, perhaps Saltholme RSPB.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Green Sands

A summary of the more interesting sightings from today's late afternoon/early evening visit to Castle Lake;

Greylag Geese - another big increase in numbers, 250 present.
Pochard - 2 females and the sole duckling.
Scaup - the drake is still present and showed well from the hide.
Tufted Duck -  A pair with 5 young ducklings is the first breeding record this year.
Little Grebe - 20 today, my best count so far this year.
Little Egret - still 2 around though quite mobile.
Little Ringed Plover - only 3 seen today two of which were juveniles.
Redshank - 2 summer plumaged adults.
Green Sandpiper - 3 present, two below the hide (picture below).

Common Sandpiper - only two seen today.
Black-headed Gull - numbers continue to rise, 120 today, a mixture of adults and juveniles.
Common Gull - only a small increase with 10 adults present.

Others included 5 Mute Swan, 1 juvenile Shelduck, 7 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 Yellow Wagtail.

Couldn't resist another Green Sandpiper picture from today;

Stoneybeck Lake held 3 Little Ringed Plover and at least 12 Pied Wagtail.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Morning Redstart

This morning dawned bright and sunny and as is often the case this called for a clockwise circular walk around Castle Lake keeping the sun behind me.
The views from the wall that forms the eastern boundary of the lake offer a different perspective from those from the hide and as I made my way around I picked off most of the birds on offer including the expected good selection of waders - 8 Little Ringed Plover, an impressive 300 Lapwing, 2 Dunlin (one in summer plumage, the other looked like a juvenile), 8 Curlew, 2 Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper and 5 Common Sandpiper.
The drake Scaup remains present and 2 Common Tern looked at home, often settling on the Island or various fence posts, hopefully they'll be back to breed here next year. Groups of Greylag Geese sideslipped in from the south and eventually they totalled 130.

One of this mornings Common Tern viewed from the hide.

The only inhabitants of Alan's Pool were the Mute Swan pair with their three cygnets and two family groups of Coot.
Usually at this point I take the quick route back to the hide following the boundary wall, however this morning I decided to follow the raised embankment towards the old sluice gate where the Skerne and Stell converge. About halfway along a small bird flew left to right ahead of me perching in open view, and as soon as I noticed the quivering bright red tail I knew I was looking at my first Redstart for the Bishop Middleham area. As I slowly advanced it moved further ahead of me flying from tree to tree, then re-crossed the river into some dense foliage and out of sight. I believe it was an adult female but as most of my views were of it in flight I can't rule out a very worn adult male, but I wasn't too bothered I was just chuffed that I'd seen the first of my target birds for the area this year, the others being Pied Flycatcher and Osprey.

As I waited in vein for the Redstart to reappear a Common Buzzard flew overhead.

Best picture I could manage of the Buzzard with the compact camera, certainly missing a few feathers this one.

Continuing on to a half-hour session in the hide, though nothing else of interest was added to the notebook here, but a Spotted Flycatcher near the car park area finished the morning off nicely.

Spot the Spotted Flycatcher! You can just make it out in the centre of the picture (honest!).

Redstart is the 140th species I've seen in the BishMidd area since April 2007 and the 120th species this year.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Scope For A Scaup

This afternoon's late afternoon/early evening visit to Castle Lake resulted in a rather unexpected year patch tick with a slightly unseasonal drake Scaup mingling amongst some Tufties. Only my second ever here, the first, also a drake, was back on 29th December 2008 and that, as today's, was self-found.
As is to be expected with this species it dived frequently spending more time underwater than above it, but eventually after a spot of preening it clambered onto an Island and went to sleep.

Pictures below are the best of a bad bunch;

Apart from the Scaup, the other birds of interest were nine different wader species including 10+ Little Ringed Plover, 1 Snipe, 1 summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit, 2 juvenile Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpiper and 6 but possibly as many as 8 Common Sandpiper.

sp Blackwit and...

...the two juvenile Redshank

There's been a sudden increase in the number of Greylag Geese around recently and 105 were on Castle Lake this evening, 3 Little Egret were seen in flight, one dropped down into Fishburn Lake, while two together over Low Hardwick headed south, a Sparrowhawk put quite a few birds into the usual panic, 6 Kestrel in the air at the same time over Low Hardwick, whilst a single Common Tern fished the lake before heading off eastwards.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tuesday 12th July 2011

Many thanks to Steve Evans for Tuesday's sightings and picture.

3 Common Tern - 1 presenting fish to its mate, also chasing Crow from 'gravel tray area'
2 Little Egret
6 Common Gull (4 ad & 2 sub-ad)
1 Green Sand
1 Dunlin (ad)
11 Oystercatcher
3+ Common Sandpiper
9 Little Plover 6juv
1 Curlew
juv Peregrine unsuccesfull twice by noon.
1 Hobby A1 Flashes
4+ Kestrel
9 GCGrebe pr with nest, pr with 3 & a third pair.

last but not least, a minimum of TEN Gadwall broods seen, with a total of 92 ducklings.

Common Tern's at Castle Lake.

Monday, 11 July 2011

#118 Kingfisher

'Kingfisher over' is not a common occurance when out birding, I certainly can't recall seeing one fly over my head ever before buts thats exactly what happened this morning as I stood on the bridge that straddles the River Skerne just east of Fishburn Lake. Surprisingly this was my first Kingfisher sighting in the area this year, the last two winters have certainly had an effect on numbers, but as today's bird was carrying food hopefully there are young around and the population can recover.
Earlier I ventured over to Low Hardwick where a family group of five Kestrel were airbourne together, by the moto-cross pools were four Sedge Warbler including two juveniles and further on were a party of Willow Tit.
Back at Castle Lake it was pretty much business as usual with a similar selection from previous days, the only new arrivals looked to be two Wigeon.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

#117 Cuckoo

It's amazing how many unexpected birds you inadvertently pick-up when scanning with the scope, another lengthy shoreline sweep of Castle Lake this evening for that much hoped for Spotted Sandpiper (think big thats my motto) yielded my first patch Cuckoo of the year (in fact only my second ever at Bishop Middleham, though I am putting a bit more effort into my birding this year!), fence hopping in the south-east corner.
It didn't stay put long enough to allow anything other than this record picture.

Other highlights this evening included singles of Little Egret, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank, 4 Common Sandpiper and 10 Little Ringed Plover including now 6 juveniles, leaving no doubt that new arrivals are dropping in all the time.

Waders are continuing to avoid Stoneybeck Lake despite plenty of excellent habitat, only 3 Wigeon of note tonight.

Scores On The Doors

Update on my Bishop Middleham patch year list;

#100  Grasshopper Warbler     18/4/11
#101  Common Whitethroat     20/4/11
#102  Greenshank                    25/4/11
#103  Sedge Warbler               26/4/11
#104  Swift                              2/5/11
#105  Wood Sandpiper            5/5/11
#106  Barnacle Goose              7/5/11
#107  Temminck's Stint             7/5/11
#108  Grey Plover                    8/5/11
#109  Quail                              15/5/11
#110  Common Tern                21/5/11
#111  Spoonbill                        23/5/11
#112  Little Egret                     10/6/11
#113  Hobby                           13/6/11
#114  Black-necked Grebe      23/6/11
#115  Spotted Flycatcher         29/6/11
#116  Little Owl                       1/7/11

And then there's the one's that got away (so far) including Garganey, Osprey, Red Kite, Ruff, Black Tern, Cuckoo, Kingfisher, Waxwing, Whinchat, Great Grey Shrike and Crossbill.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Thursday 7th July 2011

Back down to Castle Lake again this evening, arriving in the middle of an absolute deluge with thunder and lightning overhead, had to sit it out in the car until the rain subsided from biblical flood proportions, then legged it to the sanctuary of the hide.
Nothing out of the ordinary amongst the ducks, grebes, gulls or geese so the waders took centre stage (hurrah!), highlight being yet another Wood Sandpiper, its been an excellent year for these delightful birds, I've lost count now just how many have past through and there's still time for more, only one typically elusive Green Sandpiper, and after much scanning of the shoreline a very impressive and almost certain new site record of 8 Common Sandpiper and all in view at the same time! a single Snipe still awaits some company and only three Little Ringed Plover, two of which were juveniles, a big reduction from the double figure counts earlier in the week suggesting some of the adults have already started moving south.
Earlier in the day John Olley had one Little Egret but its believed there are four in the area.

A quick roadside scan of Stoneybeck Lake revealed the only birds of any consequence were two Wigeon and by now it was a lovely sunny evening with just a few puddles serving as a reminder of what had gone before.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Monday 4th July 2011

Sightings today come mostly from Steve Evans and myself.

Birds seen in the Castle Lake area today included the following;

male Whinchat, 6 Teal, 10+ Little Grebe (2 juv.), 2 Cormorant, 2 Little Egret, 1 Buzzard (A1 Flashes), 2 Sparrowhawk, 4 Kestrel, 9 Oystercatcher, 10+ LR Plover, 1 Ringed Plover, 100+ Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 2 Curlew, 1 Greenshank, 3 Green Sandpiper, 5 Common Sandpiper, 40 BH Gull, 3 LBb Gull and 5 Common Gull.

The first returning Greenshank at Castle Lake this evening.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Friday 1st July 2011

Birds seen today included the following;

Castle Lake
13 Mute Swan, drake Wigeon, 2m2f Teal, Pochard with single duckling, 1 Cormorant, 11 Little Ringed Plover (2 juv.), 1 Redshank & 3 Common Sandpiper.

Low Hardwick
1pair Shoveler, 2 Grey Heron, Coot pair with young, 1 Little Owl, 2 Sedge Warbler and 4+ Whitethroat.

Umpteen Pied Wag's around at the moment.