Durham Bird Club's Castle Lake Nature Reserve

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Egretta Garzetta

Four Little Egret today at Castle Lake, three gave great views on the small pond in the south-west corner.

Others of interest included 3 Buzzard up together over Mainsforth, 1 Peregrine, 2 Golden Plover, 8 Ruff, 8 Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 adults), 1 Little Owl (only my 2nd this year), 2 Goldcrest and a flyover Siskin.

The Fishburn Lake area produced 10 Grey Partridge, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Green Sandpiper, a female Blackcap, 2 Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll over.

Still plenty of Chiffchaff around including some giving short bursts of song.

John Olley reported the following from Farnless Farm;
36 Grey Partridge, 8 Corn Bunting, 110 Tree Sparrow, 40 Yellowhammer, 90 Mallard, 70 Linnet, 50 Meadow Pipit, 60 Skylark, 3 Curlew, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sunday Best

Sightings today from Joe Hughes, John Olley and myself.

Castle Lake
Bittern seen again from 5.20pm exactly a month since it was first found, 19 Wigeon, 2 Little Egret, 1 Ringed Plover, 40 Golden Plover dropped-in mid-morning but didn't settle and soon departed, 7 Ruff, 5 Dunlin, 2 Snipe, 15 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gull (4 adults 2 juveniles), 1 Swift, 20 House Martin, 1 Yellow Wagtail in the field behind the hide, 3 Chiffchaff with one singing near the old sluice gate on the River Stell, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Willow Tit, juvenile Bullfinch and 4 Reed Bunting.

Mute Swan family on Alan's Pool this morning.

Wigeon numbers gradually increasing adding some welcome colour and noise.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull watches on as two of its offspring fight over some inedible object.

One of the four Reed Bunting that appeared below the hide.

Hardwick Hall CP
8 Crossbill, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Willow Tit, 4 Nuthatch, 3 Treecreeper, 6 Song Thrush, Jay, 150 Coot.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

YLG Update

Further to my sighting on 13th September of a possible Yellow-legged Gull on Castle Lake, Stephen Buckle has kindly sent me an e-mail concerning an interesting bird he saw there on 30th August. (Apologies to Stephen for not posting this earlier).

Stephen describes the bird as follows;

Bird is a Herring Gull type which I aged as (moulting into?) 3rd winter as it had some pale faded brown on the upper row of coverts (not clearly visible in the photos).  My attention was drawn to it because it had much darker shade of grey to the back than argenteus Herring Gull, in fact side-by-side with adult Common Gulls you could see it had a slightly darker shade than them.  It was however (in my view) nowhere near dark enough to be an LBBG.  The bird also seemed to have a lot of red on the distal part of the bill.

These features got me excited about the possibility of Yellow-legged Gull but when we (myself and a friend I was with) got a clear view of the legs they were pale pinkish i.e. looked like those of a Herring Gull.  I said to my friend that it could not be a YLG, but could be a Scandinavian Herring Gull.

On the standing bird, the wing tips looked completely back with no white tips to the primaries.  I didn't get a good view of the spread wing, partly because I wasn't sure how helpful this would be on an immature / moulting bird, but probably also due to lack of confidence that I'd be sure of what I was seeing during brief flaps.  In hindsight I probably should have tried to get a photo or at least a good view of the spread wing.

It certainly appears that this Gull is a strong candidate for Scandinavian Herring Gull despite the early date and inland location.
Many thanks again to Stephen for the photo's and description.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday 23rd September 2011

Another evening visit to Castle Lake with the following highlights;

10 Wigeon, 1 Great Crested Grebe (the first sighting since the last of the resident birds departed in August), 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Greenshank and an incredible 55+ Pied Wagtail.
Couple of poor record shots of the SpotShank & Greenshank.

Yesterday (22nd)  John Olley reported the excellent sighting of 2 Long-eared Owl and a late Swift.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Birds seen this evening on Castle Lake;

10 Wigeon, 70 Teal, female Goosander, 3 Ringed Plover, 13 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 2 Snipe, 9 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 300 mixed Gull's mostly Black-headed but also 4 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (two pictured below).

On the A1 Flashes were 2 Grey Heron, 2 Green Sandpiper and 6 of the Ruff from Castle Lake.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bar-headed Goose

Following the Chiloe Wigeon earlier in the year another escaped or feral species not on the British List visited Castle Lake this morning when this Bar-headed Goose flew in and joined up with the Canada Geese flock.

Others seen this morning included 8 Wigeon, a female Goosander (pictured below), 1 Little Egret, 3 Ringed Plover, 13 Ruff (the biggest count so far), 4 Snipe, 22 Curlew, 1 Redshank and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Back In The Village...

...is the name of an Iron Maiden song that I find myself singing as I drive into Bishop Middleham but by the time I've reached the hide the tablets have kicked in.

Back down this evening, now that I'm starting to get into Gull's (it won't last), I thought I'd grill each and every one but its a bit daunting when they are all over the place. Tonights totals went something like this;
Black-headed Gull 170
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 adult
Common Gull 30
Herring Gull 50 flew in together from the south, apart from 2 adults and a 2nd winter the others were all 1st-winter birds.

Other movers and shakers included 52 Teal, 2 Kestrel, 3 Ringed Plover, 6 Ruff (4 of which later relocated to the A1 Flashes), 1 Dunlin, 1 Snipe and 6 Curlew.

A tractor ploughing the field next to Stoneybeck Lake resulted in only 5 Moorhen of note.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Just Blown In From The Windy City

No not Chicagi as calam called it just Castle Lake where not only was the wind still very blustery but it also pushed a few squally and occaisionally heaver showers through as well.

Highlights from today;

Possible Yellow-legged Gull, present only until 09:20 and possibly the same individual seen briefly on the 7th.
This bird exhibited a much darker mantle than that of Herring Gull but not as dark as Lesser Black-backed Gull (both of which were nearby offering a good comparison), yellow legs seen when it took off, small amount of streaking around the eye only and a large red spot on the lower mandible.
After posting this picture on Birdforum there has been some doubt cast over its credentials as Yellow-legged Gull particularly concerning the amount of white in the wing tips. So what is it? Scandinavian Herring Gull is another possibility.

A 'bog standard' Herring Gull seen today.

Canada Geese an increase to 109 today
Grey Partridge 3 adults escorting 8 juveniles below the hide

Little Ringed Plover still a juvenile refusing to migrate
Ringed Plover 3 present though not together

Been trying for ages to get a decent comparison shot of juvenile Ringed Plover next to juvenile Little Ringed Plover and this is probably the best I'm going to manage.

Ruff 4 (one pictured below)

Dunlin 4
Snipe 2
Curlew 7
Green Sandpiper 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 adults and at least 1 juvenile
Wheatear 1 on the southern wall (picture below)

Linnet flock of about 80

Also noted today was a small passage of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and House Martin.

Stoneybeck Lake was quiet with only 1 Ruff of note.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday 11th September 2011

Birds seen this morning included the following;

Stoneybeck Lake
30 Teal, 16 Grey Partridge, 6 juvenile Ringed Plover and 2 Ruff.

Three of the juvenile Ringed Plover at Stoneybeck Lake this morning.

Castle Lake
87 Canada Geese, 25+ Teal, 4 Cormorant, 2 Kestrel, 1 Peregrine which actually landed on one of the Islands but not before flushing all the waders, 1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover, 5 juvenile Ringed Plover (almost certainly some of the Stoneybeck birds relocated), 2 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 5 Curlew, 1 Green Sandpiper, 400 Black-headed Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Arctic Tern and 1 juvenile Black Tern which was seen in the early morning only.

Today's juvenile Little Ringed Plover, getting quite late for this species now.

Arctic Tern

Tried to get some in-flight digiscoped photo's of the Arctic Tern this morning, not an easy task given how active the bird was.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Friday 9th September 2011

Highlights from the evening at Castle Lake;

Bittern showing well for 10-15 minutes, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, female Peregrine, juvenile Little Ringed Plover, 1 Ruff, 2 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 10 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Arctic Tern, juvenile Black Tern, 2 Wheatear.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Added two excellent birds to my Bishop Middleham list this evening with Bittern and Black Tern.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

About Tern

Sorry no more Tern puns. Well the pools panel have deliberated, sifted though the evidence and come to the unanimous conclusion that Castle Lake scored a home win yesterday in that the Tern sp that was causing an id headache was in fact an Arctic Tern.
If my juvenile Tern recognition skills weren't so totally inadequate I would have probably reached the same decision last night, and to think I only went down in the first place for some relaxation and solitude! Oh and to look for the possible Citrine Wagtail and the Bittern (seen again tonight by the way, but not by me of course, it knows what shifts I'm on).
Castle Lake keeps on producing the goods, and long may it continue.
Patch Tick #142 & Year Tick #126 Arctic Tern

Possible Citrine Wagtail?

Many thanks to Steve Evans for sightings and pictures from Tuesday 6th September 2011.

3 Common Buzzard, 5-6Kestrel, juv fem Peregrine, 2Sparrowhawk
16 Shoveller, 6Gadwall, 25Teal, 4Cormorant, 4Swan, 1Greylag,
5Ruff, 4Curlew, 1Dunlin, juv Lrp, juv Ringed Plover, 3Snipe, 3Common Sand, 4-5Green Sand, 140Lapwing
5Yellow Wagtail, 4Pied Wagtail, possible juv Citrine Wagtail, 1Little Egret, 1Whitethroat
vis mig of Siskin, male Redstart, 110Goldfinch, 25Linnet, 5Stock Dove, prGrey Partridge,
50Sand Martin, 200Swallow, nilSwift, 60House Martin

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tern Up For The Books

This evenings visit to Castle Lake was with the intention of looking for a possible Citrine Wagtail that Steve Evans saw yesterday, however things didn't quite go according to plan.
I hadn't been in the hide five minutes when Brian Clasper and another birder came running in asking if I'd seen the Tern that was about, Brian had gone back to his car to pick up his Collins as he was leaning towards it being a Whiskered Tern but needed to check some of the features from the book.
After some deliberation the call was put out as a possible Whiskered Tern though there was still some doubt particularly surrounding its pure white rump as opposed to grey with Whiskered Tern, though the general 'jizz' of the bird certainly suggested it could be a 'Marsh Tern'.
Soon other birders started to arrive and eventually after much discussion opinion swayed away from Whiskered and more towards juvenile Common or Arctic Tern.
The bird itself spent most of the time picking up insects from the surface though it did on a few occasions dive into the water from a greater height and was still active as the light started to fade at 19:45 having not landed at all in the two and a half hours of viewing it.
For me I go along with it being a Common Tern but I'm not totally convinced, it certainly provided a useful learning experience as juvenile Tern's are not my forte.

Link to Paul Hindess video of Tern.


There was still time to check what waders were about (there's always time to check what waders are about!), and 3 Ringed Plover (an adult and two juveniles), a juvenile Little Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 3 Common Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper were noted.
Sadly no sign of the possible Citrine Wagtail and no time to check the flashes or Stoneybeck Lake.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Redstart, Wet Finish

Another good selection of birds seen today on two circular walks around Castle Lake, the more noteworthy of which included the following.
Wigeon 2
Teal 15+ including 2 on the A1 Flashes
Little Egret 1 very mobile bird

'Billy no mates'

Common Buzzard 1 over Town End Farm at 08:45 then it or another over Castle Lake south at 11:15
Little Ringed Plover still a juvenile on Castle Lake
Ruff single on Castle Lake
Redshank 1 on Castle Lake
Green Sandpiper 2 on Castle Lake and 3 on the A1 Flashes
Common Sandpiper 3 on Castle Lake
Redstart excellent views of a worn adult male near the Wildlife Garden, spent most of its time chasing other birds including 2 juvenile Bullfinch
Wheatear 3 on the edge of the recently ploughed field on the east side of the Castle Lake boundary wall
Two of the morns Wheatear
Spotted Flycatcher a juvenile also near the Wildlife Garden
Grey Partridge a covey of 12 between Castle Lake and the A1(M)

The Partridge Family

Other birds seen today including sightings from Dave Makinson & Ian Liddell were 3 Cormorant, 2 Common Buzzard together, 2 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, 600 Lapwing, an additional Ruff, 7 Curlew, 2 Snipe, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 10+ Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest (along the bridlepath, my first since February!), Willow Tit, Bullfinch (2 adults and at least 1 juvenile along the bridlepath) and 2 Reed Bunting.

Stoneybeck Lake contained 2 Ruff and a Green Sandpiper.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Saturday 3rd September 2011

Many thanks to Joe Hughes for today's sightings.

Stoneybeck Lake - 6 Ruff, 1 Green Sandpiper.

Castle Lake - 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Redshank, 3 Snipe, 3 Yellow Wagtail and 1 Curlew.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Friday 2nd September 2011

Many thanks to Andrew Kinghorn for todays sightings and video clips.

Bishop Middleham: 4 Mute Swan, 2 Green Sandpiper, 120c Black-headed Gulls, 2 Common Gulls, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Common Sandpiper, 15c Pied Wagtail, 8c Little Grebe, 22+ Teal, 3+ Mallard, 3 Lesser black-backed Gull, 4 Tufted Duck, 600+ Lapwing, 1 Sparrowhawk. 
A1 Flashes: 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Grey Heron, and 2 Canada Geese. 
Stoneybeck Lake: 1 juv Curlew Sandpiper and 4 Ruff only birds of note.

Link to Andrew's video of the Sparrowhawk;

And a link to Andrew's video of the Curlew Sandpiper;

Thursday, 1 September 2011

September Starts Here

Much quieter today, down Castle Lake late morning/early afternoon, where the following entered the notebook;
6 Shoveler, 20 Teal, 5 Cormorant, 2 Little Egret, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover, c600 Lapwing, 6 Ruff, 3 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 10+ House Martin and a Yellow Wagtail.
The A1 Flashes held 19 Curlew and another Green Sandpiper while a Kingfisher was seen along the River Stell.
The three Green Sands together.

Poor record picture of five of the six Ruff that dropped-in briefly.