Another unexpected garden tick

Been birding sporadically since my last post, spring migration in full effect now having heard my first Reed warbler, willow warbler etc. Also managed a single house martin over the East Pit at Deeping Lakes a couple of weeks ago, seems like it must have been one of the first birds back in the country as i haven’t seen any since!

Deeping Lakes continues to play host to a smattering of decent birds including the long staying drake Scaup, a pair of Cattle Egret, 12+ Yellow Wags and a handful of decent waders. I missed the Little Gulls earlier this week found by Mike W which was disappointing but sure there will be plenty of other opportunities later in the summer.

Biggest birding news this week came in the form of a new garden tick. I was sitting in the conservatory on the 24th and saw a group of 4 birds come into view over the top of my neighbour’s roof. Initially thought they were large gulls but could tell by the flight pattern and the general jizz that they were something different. Got the bins on them and they were Crane. Not massively unheard of in these parts (having bred at Willow Tree Fen last year) and obviously common on the Nene Washes, but this was a new bird for me in the Deepings. Better yet, a tick for my garden list too, awesome stuff!

That brings my Deepings total to 179. Still on my pursuit of 200, i wonder what will bring in the big 180! My money is on Curlew which has still evaded me so far.

Cattle Egret – Deeping Lakes. One of the pair of regulars.
Good numbers of Oystercatcher along the Welland now with at least 6 between the bridge and 4 mile bar.
An unexpected bonus was a close encounter with a handful of gigantic rats which have made the muck heap opposite Gull Farm on the high bank their temporary home. This little fellow was particularly curious!
The squadron of Crane overhead from my garden in Deeping St. James.

When it rains… it pours!

News came in this pm from Josh Jones, he’d relocated the female Ring-necked Duck from Tallington. Turns out it had been a half kilometre or so away at Langtoft West End pits, the whole time! I was eating dinner and dealing with family chores etc when the news came in so I sat on it, debating….

Then a further notification popped up from Mike Weedon, a Kittiwake in the adjacent pit. Needless to say, I was out the door and on my way not long after, I arrived at 19:00ish in rapidly fading light but was quickly put onto the loafing Kitti by Mike et al. The bird was cruising around the pit (no other gulls in sight) always distant but busily feeding, an excellent Deepings tick, never easy to twitch. The RND meanwhile had disappeared, I scanned the tufted flock on the pit but it was fruitless.

Heading back for the car, a call from Mike came in to let me know Chris Jones had relocated it on the pit closest to the road. A 400m romp down to their location and I was enjoying full frame scope views! Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with the record I got at Tallington but was always a little miffed I didn’t get better views or record shots, this made up for all of that. The bird was fighting off the sleep with it’s tufted companions approachable to about 75m. Dying light made photography difficult but the views were immense! Things are really starting to hot up locally, watch this space!

Ring-necked Duck – Langtoft
Awful record shot of Kittiwake – Langtoft

Spring mig starts

The signs have been building up over the past week or more, last weekend I got my first Wheatear of the year (courtesy of Josh Jones). A shy female on Cradge Bank Road. Always too mobile and / or distant for any decent photos.

Today I went out late evening to Deeping Lakes following news of a Grey Plover, LRP as well as Yellow Wagtails. All were still present when I arrived as well as a pair of white wagtail among the 50+ pied wagtail in the East Pit pre-roost. The plover is my first photographable individual in the area, my only other record being a FO.

I was elated to see my first Yellow Wagtails of the spring, my favourite of all the spring migrants, and a much needed blast of colour.

Grey Plover Deeping Lakes
It doesn’t get any better than a clean Yellow Wagtail for me!

The Pink, the Peregrine and the bizarre

Birding locally has been slow to say the least these past couple of weeks. The wintering birds have started to depart, shown by the thousands of whoopers which were seen flying over the fens (including 15 NW over the garden) and the reduced numbers of things like Goosander. But Spring birding hasn’t really gotten going, at least locally. I’ve been down to Deeping Lakes pretty regularly the past 14 days or so, mainly looking for waders. Not much to report but did have a pair of green sand which were my first migrant waders of the year. I dipped on the drake Scaup found by Will at East Pit and dipped on the Brent Goose which was also seen there. So birding has felt a bit morose lately. That is, until yesterday.

It was 14:40 and I was readying myself to go and collect Noah from school, finishing off some things on the computer. I’ve recently had to relocate my desk and PC to the conservatory to allow us to convert the old study into a nursery for our expected daughter (due June). Turns out this was a bit of a blessing in disguise as I looked up from my desk to see a bird on the patio, it was front on and my initial thought was ‘oh, a Dunnock, that’s a garden tick!’. The bird then flew from the patio up to the arm of our outdoor sofa and I was stunned to see the rusty red tail of a Black Redstart. Not a bird I ever remotely considered to turn up in my urban garden in the Lincolnshire fens! Luckily my desk is where I keep my camera so i calmly removed the lens cap and began blasting through the conservatory door so as not to scare the bird away. It stayed there for the next 15 minutes whilst i put the news out, looking at me and me looking at it. It sat preening, feeding and generally loafing about without a care in the world. There are few memories I have of birding which i will cherish as much as this one, such an awesome bird. Following me putting the news out, locals Will Bowell and Josh Jones managed to connect whilst the bird was still in the locality of my house, I went to pick up Noah and by the time I had returned, the bird had relocated to a couple of houses down but very elusive. It took about 45 minutes and a very heavy rain shower to put the other birders off the trail. As soon as the rain lifted, I was out again and down the street and there it was, calling it’s little heart out on a 3 ft high fence outside my neighbour’s house. It then spent 15-20 minutes feeding on the driveways and rooftops of the adjacent houses. A further 4-5 birders connected whilst those who turned up a little later sadly dipped. One things for sure, I’ll be looking a lot harder at the birds in the garden this weekend!

The Garden tick of dreams… a Black Redstart!
Peregrine – Deeping High Bank – not a common bird in these parts, especially to see stationary.
The Pair of pinkies which have made Deeping Lakes their home for the late winter / spring.

Clearing the backlog

I’m going to be dumping a few photos of recent birds i’ve seen in and around the Deepings, including some new ticks. I can’t really muster the motivation to write the long narrative blogs i normally post here as i’m working through a backlog of photos off the camera. Below each photo will be a brief description of the bird and the circumstances.

Pair of Goosander – Deeping High Bank. Another good winter for these birds on the fens with numbers up to 35+
Grey Partridge – I’ve seen a pair of GP the last few times i’ve been down the High Bank, smaller numbers than previous years but definitely seem to be more reliable.
Imposter! A female tufted duck on East Pit Deeping Lakes giving knee-jerk Scaup calls to lots of birders, i’m sure.
Again, a good year for Whoopers on the Lincolnshire fens with really strong numbers of 150+ in certain flocks though the percentage of Bewick’s among them is rapidly declining.
Red-throated Diver – Deeping High Bank. This bird turned up after the deep freeze mid Feb and this particular bird, despite losing all mobility in it’s left leg, stuck around until at least the 1st of March. Towards the end of it’s visible stay, it spent most of it’s time on the bank close to the jetty around Crowland Bridge and was approachable sometimes to within 5m. The reports stopped after the 1st so one presumes it unfortunately perished. A tick for me in the Deepings area.

I was abroad on my Honeymoon when the 2020 influx of White-fronted Geese occurred in the Deepings so didn’t get a chance to connect. Needless to say I was pleased when this wandering individual turned up on the High Bank 04/03/2021. It turned up at the same time as an individual appeared on Baston Fen so a good contender for a genuine bird. Subsequently, a flock of 6 were located close to the Maxey Etton complex whilst this bird relocated to BLGP to join the other individual from Baston Fen. Another (overdue) Deepings tick!

My last addition to the Deepings list came in the form of a Juv / Female type Ring-necked Duck which Josh Jones found on Tallington Lakes. The bird was present for a week or two and gave a handful of local birders challenging views. When Josh originally found the bird, it was pretty confiding and remained close to the vegetated island near the footbridge over main lake. By the time I got a chance to come and look for myself, the bird (along with close to 750 tufted duck and 250 pochard) had dispersed across the lake. The winds were awful and the water choppy but i managed to pick out the bird close to the lodges on the opposite side of the lake. An hour and a half it took to pick out but certainly happy i did so before it departed later that week. No record shot from me unfortunately but below is an image Josh managed.

Ring-necked Duck – Tallington Lakes – Photo by Josh Jones.

Testing the new camera

Been a while since i last blogged, not much happening in the way of birding, both in terms of the birds available and the time i can put into birding itself. Did manage a trip down the deeping high bank last weekend to test out the new camera i got for Christmas. It’s a significant improvement in terms of lens stability and shutter speed so confident my picture quality will improve as a result. See below:

Barn Owl – Deeping High Bank
Great White Egret – One of two birds still frequenting the High Bank.
There are still 2 pairs of Stonechat along the river too, male bottom left and female sitting up top right.
We’ve had our fair share of rain in the East Midlands and the river level is very high as a result.

A record breaking week

It was 9pm Sunday when news broke of a Radde’s Warbler in peakirk. Less than 3 miles from my front door, the first twitchable inland record of this Siberian breeder.

I was on site by 6:30am the following morning and was quickly joined by 3 other birders. I staked out the presumed roost site for 2 hours with no success. Time was pressing on so I made for the car, assuming it was a no-show. As I drew parallel with the other birders, I was informed it had started calling from the brambles. I quickly tuned in to the low ‘Chuck Chuck’ call it was giving out and saw the silhouette of a bird in the top of a Berry bush. I raised my bins to an eyeful of phylossc with a pronounced buff / gold tinged supercilium. The bird also showed mottled ear coverts – a clinching ID that this was the Radde’s. What a bird to turn up so close to home, that will take some beating!

… or so I thought! Cut to last night (Wednesday 8th) and news starts rolling in of the Yorkshire lammergeier seen to go to roost in a poplar tree just south of Moulton Chapel. News was patchy and thanks to the hard work of Josh Jones (from remote Ireland no less!) he pinned down the observer and got a nailed on location for the giant vulture’s sleeping spot.

After a restless and nervy night, me and Noah (my son) hit the road before dawn and arrived on site at 7:00am. After the short 1km walk north, we were just about to set up the scope on the roost site when the bird flew, patrolling with monstrous wing beats along the copse of poplar and pine trees. Again the bird came to rest and gave us good enough scope views. The bird then flapped over to the field on the other side of the road and quite happily plonked itself down in the middle.

Words cannot describe the absolute beauty of this bird, a species I used to ogle at in the back of my Dad’s Collins field guide as a child and think wow! I’d love to see one of those. To think that I connected with this bone crushing monster that would usually call the french Pyrenees it’s home… in the fens of Lincolnshire, is something I’ll be getting over for some time. This is only the second time this species has been recorded in the UK, truly legendary status. Question marks still remain over the status of the bird and whether it will be accepted by the BOU. The bird is part of a conservation population boosted by introduced birds but its un-ringed signifying it’s born to wild parents. DNA tests are being conducted and only time will tell if this bird makes it onto the British list, though to tell you the truth, I don’t care either way!

Lammergeier – Moulton Chapel (ridiculous!)

And tonight there’s been news of 3 short eared owl on the deeping high bank – not quite lammergeier, but a sure sign of some good birding ahead.

Tuesday 29th September

We’re well and truly entering the Autumn migration period now and with heavy winds forecast at the latter end of last week, I was hopeful of something decent turning up. I went down to Deeping Lakes on Thursday evening to see if any waders had appeared and to see if the reported 4 female type Goosander were around.

No Goosander but good numbers of most wildfowl with shoveler being the majority, tufted ducks close behind and a smattering of teal and wigeon. It does often pay to sift through these wildfowl flocks with a keen eye during the eclipse season as interesting birds can easily be overlooked, I managed to pick out a single female pintail among the shovelers.

Female Pintail

There wasn’t much by way of waders with the normal 2 Little Ringed Plover and a handful of Lapwing. I was about to pack up the scope when a small wader appeared on the waters edge closest to the carpark. Not unusual, but it wasn’t there before and the two LRP were still in situ on the islands. I scoped it and the bird was immediately bobbing up and down, persistently – clearly a snipe species and then I checked off the ID features – two defined broad yellowish back stripes were a good sign. The bird was then flushed by a sheep coming to drink and when it turned to run for cover, the bird displayed a stout bill around 2/3 the size of its body – a Jack Snipe! These birds are scarce passage migrants in these parts and it was good to add this elusive species to the list. Admittedly – it should have been on there already with wintering birds seemingly annual at the Maxey Etton complex.

A terrible photo but does show the two broad yellowish back stripes on the bird.

That brings the list to 164 and with plenty of autumn migrants moving about – some good opportunities to add some more ticks before the year is through.

Two for the price of one

It’s been a slow week on the patch with very little of interest passing through at all. Interest was peaked though by a report of two Great White Egret at Deeping Lakes East Pit. Subsequent reports however were negative.

Cut to today and I thought I’d try my luck at east pit, alas, no egrets (of any sort!). The only birds of note were a pair of Ringed Plover and a single Little Ringed Plover. I thought it best to drive down the high bank to look for the long staying Great White from my last blog post. It didn’t take me long to find it nestled in the reeds opposite the turn to Deeping St. Nick. 5 minutes later another Egret flew past me! They both settled together on the East bank long enough for me to get a grab shot through the scope. Not new, but really great to see these birds in such an open setting and so local.

Great White Egrets – Deeping High Bank
Great White Egrets – Deeping High Bank

Bird beyond the border

It was Saturday morning when news broke of a pair of Whinchat ‘on the Deeping High Bank’. These birds, although not rare, are certainly not easy to come by within the Deepings area. They are usually elusive, not very obliging to photograph but they are one of my favourite British migrants.

It was evening before I had the chance to go and see the birds. The description provided was that they were in the weedy sheep fields just off of Cradge Bank Road. If that description was accurate I could post up at 4 mile bar with the scope and get them from within the border, worth a shot!

When I got there however, it became clear the birds (or bird in my case as I only saw a single bird) were actually around 1km beyond 4 mile bar, no chance of me scoping it and it didn’t move from this spot at all. Bit of a shame, but that’s birding i suppose!

Whinchat – Cradge Bank Road – Deeping High Bank
Red line shows my area border and the blue cross indicates the location of the Whinchat. Close, but no cigar!