Monday, November 30, 2020

Responsible Diary: Monday 30.11.20


With a wee bit of mist in the air, I figured a trip out along the Deeping High Bank may produce some stray from the coast (Red-breasted Merganser and Slavonian Grebe are the chief targets). Alas, all I could muster was a couple of Stonechats.

But I did get the promise that good things were to come...

Responsible Birding Diary: Sunday 29.11.20


I took a trip down to the Nene Washes today. The Glossy Ibis, which was missing yesterday, was back in place on the Skating Lake by the Dog in a Doublet sluice. Also present were a couple of dead swans, which are almost certainly victims of the presumed Avian Influenza which has had an outbreak recently. I hope the Buzzards, crows and Marsh Harriers eating the corpses will not be affected.

I took a walk out from March Farmers, east, but the best I could muster were 5 singing Cetti's Warblers. Wow, this species has flourished like crazy recently! It used to be a major local rarity, but the mild winters have helped this resident warbler thrive in recent years.

Responsible Birding Diary: Saturday 28.11.20


Deeping Lakes LWT produced the goods for me today. At first, there was not much to report, except the regular Pink-footed Goose on the East Pit. And, as the number of visitors (not birdwatchers, just visitors) to the reserve seemed very high, I decided to skip looking for the Long-eared Owls, cut my losses and leave.

As it happens, as I was leaving my friend Matt Fitzgerald was arriving. So, we parked and chewed the fat a wee bit, moaning about this and that. I said to Fitz, "I just want to see a Merlin!". And that very second, a small raptor wen whizzing over the nearby River Welland. It was a Merlin! Perfectly on time. That is the last of the 'core' birds for my year list, which is now on 187 species (pretty respectable) for the PBC area.

Fitz and I decided to head for a site in the Maey area to see if there were any jack Snipes around, this winter. We encountered 2 Jackos plus 3 Snipes at the site. Jack Snipes are just wonderful little waders. It is amazing to think that there are apparently 100,000 of them wintering in the UK, as they are so elusive!

Responsible Birding Diary: Friday 27.11.20

This lunchtime I once more took advantage of the beautiful sunshine and again took a drive along the Deeping High Bank. All the 'good stuff' from yesterday had moved on: no Whoopers, no Ravens etc. At Deeping Lakes, there was a Pink-footed Goose and a calling Chiffchaff as the main highlights. But, as it happens, someone reported that three Long-eared Owls were showing in the area called The Gully, by The Lake.

So I wandered around there, and found that there were actually four Long-eared Owls giving excellent scope views. They are certainly closer in this roost site than when they are on the island on The Lake, which has become a regular wintering spot for them.Three of the four owls are shown below. I will leave it up to you to find them in the photo...

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Thursday 26.11.20


This lunchtime I took advantage of the beautiful sunshine to take a drive along the Deeping High Bank (the road next to the River Welland on a stretch between Deeping St James and Spalding, south Lincs). The highlight was a pair of Ravens which were feeding on and near the road itself. This the second time I have seen a Raven in the same area (near the turn off to Deeping St Nicholas) in recent weeks. And both birds were apparently keen to move back to the vicinity of the road once I moved off.

Ravens are still pretty scarce around Peterborough, but are becoming common enough that I am thinking of demoting them from 'elite' status for next year's year list. In a nutshell, in order to keep track of progress on my list, I divide all birds into 'core' or elite'. The core of some 135 species are the birds that any moderate local birder should expect to see each and every year in the Peterborough area. Anything else is 'elite'. This year, for instance, I have seen just over 50 elites (with Merlin being the only bird missing from the 'core'; a bird which may be 'promoted' next year).

Also of note along the DHB were two decent flocks of more than 100 Whooper Swans, separated by a few miles, and seven Goosanders (one drake, the rest female types).

At nearby Deeping Lakes LWT on the east pit were a Pink-footed Goose, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Cetti's Warblers and a Chiffchaff.

Raven by Deeping High Bank, Lincs

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Wednesday 25.11.20


Before work, I popped over to Baston Fen NR in south Lincolnshire to see what was about, now it has been partially flooded. My main aims were Water Pipits and raptors. I saw none of the former and only the odd Kestrel and Buzzard of the latter. The highlights instead were a couple of Stonechats (female below) and six Redshanks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Tuesday 24.11.20


I went back at lunchtime to check out the Dog in a Doublet action (on the skating pool). Today there were:

Glossy Ibis, 1, (see photo below)

Spotted Redshank, 1,

Redshank, 4,

Ruff, 33, (spot the one below)

Black-tailed Godwit, 75, (see photo below)

Whooper Swan, 58, (see photo below)

Wigeon, 152,

Buzzard, 3, eating a dead swan, and

Mash Harrier, 1, juv

Responsible Birding Diary: Monday 23.11.20


The Dog in a Doublet is the name of a pub on the north bank of the River Nene, north of Whittlesey, some 15 minutes drive from home. There is a sluice in the river here (known as the Dog in a Doublet sluice), which marks the westernmost extent of the tidal section of the Nene. Some good birds had been reported in the flooded field just south of the sluice, known as the skating pond (people still skate there when it is properly frozen!). Anyhow, some good birds had been reported there yesterday, so I took a lunchtime trip to see for myself.

It was superb and very easy viewing (despite being a tad cold) from a pull in on the B1040 just south of the DinD. On the edges of the flooded field and on the flood itself were the following excellent birds:

Glossy Ibis, 1,

Spotted Redshank, 1,

Ruff, 20,

Black-tailed Godwit, 133,

Whooper Swan, 78

It was almost surreal seeing such riches in one easy to view (with a scope) spot, just a quarter of an hour from home.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Sunday 22.11.20


This morning I was up in the Baston and Langtoft pits complex seeking out a White-fronted Goose which had been reported as the sun set yesterday. There are lots of Greylags(several hundred) in the area but they are feeding in all sorts of different fields, many farmland inaccessible to the public. A large chunk of the supergaggle came to bathe at the T-junction pit in the morning, and I was able to see a Barnacle Goose and two Pink-footed Geese among them, but no Whitefront. There were probably a couple of thousand Golden Plovers mixing with the Lapwings in the nearby fields.

I bumped into a couple of locals i the form of Josh Jones and well known farmer and landowner Nicholas Watts. As we chatted, Josh spotted a raptor coming towards us and it turned out to be an adult female Hen Harrier, which was a delight.

There was no more scarce goose action, so I gave up and went to relocate the Ailsworth Hooded Crow again, with some success.

In the afternoon I was back again and watching the goose flock in a nearby field. There were now two Barnacle Geese in with the GGs. Better though were the two Short-eared Owls hunting in the distance. A couple of Barn Owls were also hunting nearer to where I was standing.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Saturday 21.11.20


I tried to relocate the diver again this morning, but it seems to have departed (or at least definitely moved). So, I dibbled around the Deepings area and eventually moved south and west to look for the Hooded Crow, once again. I couldn’t see that bird either (but was told it had been fluched by a Peregrine earlier). I did, however, have a nice flock of nearly 60 Pink-footed Geese passing by nearby, heading south-west. We don’t get a huge amount of these birds in our part of norther Cambs, despite being only a few tens of miles from the hundreds of thousands that winter in north Norfolk. However, we do get the odd skein which goes off course, or is seeking feeding grounds further inland.

It is wonderful to see a distant V-shaped skein and hope for anything but Greylags or Canadas, then hop out of the car and hear the distant ‘wink wink’ call of Pinkfeet!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Friday 20.11.20


In case you are wondering, what is going on with the Responsible Birding Diary, the original diary ‘page’ on the website had, after eight months become unwieldy to add to. Daily updates from April to late November with words and pictures scattered throughout meant that adding new material had become glacially slow.

So, we have split the diary up, so you can still revisit the older stuff through the ‘archive’ link, but you can continue to see what I have been up to at this link. Please continue reading, and email the magazine at or tweet @birdwatchingmag if you want to send some feedback.

Anyhow let’s get started (again)This morning it is a wee bit chillier than it has been recently. I didn’t go out looking for Hooded Crows or our ‘resident’ great Northern Diver (nor elusive Merlins), but instead have popped into the garden to see how it is coming along. Back in the day, I would have expected all leaves to have fallen and most plants to have stopped growing and gone into dormancy for the winter. But, these days, autumn and winter come later, and though the garden is covered in fallen leaves (which are also filling up the pond), some of the pond plants are still green and obvious, as perhaps you can see in the photos below.

Otherwise, the garden had Wren, House Sparrow and a fly-over Feral Pigeon and not much else, this morning in my brief visit. Perhaps at lunchtime, I may pop out in search of that Hooded Crow, again

…And indeed I did pop out at lunchtime. I relocated the Hooded Crow in the road! But could only get a quick record shot before a car came hurtling along and flushed it. Ho hum.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Thursday 19.11.20


I got out early this morning to try to get better views of the Hooded Crow. Eventually, I tracked down the flock of about 200 Carrion Crows in which it was feeding. Don’t believe all that amateur nonsense about Rooks being the flocking crows and crows feeding alone. It is poppycock. Anyhow, it was lovely to watch this grey and black visitor.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Wednesday 18.11.20


Today was my last day off, and last chance to catch up with a Merlin, this week (until the weekend, anyhow). I did see my favourite Great Northern Diver, but came home at lunchtime without a Merlin on my list.

But, thanks to some dedicated finding by local birder Derek L and his reporting on our local WhatsApp group), I was able to head out while it was still just about light enough to see, and see his Hooded Crow, near Castor Hanglands and the village of Ailsworth (just west of Peterborough). This is bird number 186 on my local year list and only the fifth Hooded Crow I have seen in 20 years birding in the Peterborough area.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Tuesday 17.11.20


I am on a seeming eternal quest to see Merlin locally this year. Last year, I couldn’t move for Merlins, but this year I can’t see one for love or money. I decided to bite the bullet and walk the few miles of the Long Drove of the Nene Washes RSPB reserve in search of these little falcons. It was hard work in the strong winds (and my knees are bad at the moment) and I had no luck with Merlins. I did see a specularly huge juvenile female Peregrine which looked about the size of a Marsh Harrier as it was mobbed by a Kestrel!

Other highlights of the walk were 6 Stonechats, a single Great White Egret, and a fly-over Dunlin.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Monday 16.11.20


As I had today ‘off’, I spent more time exploring different sites in the the Peterborough area. Most interesting was coming across a bunch of fields just north of the A47 (the road which links us to Leicester in the west and Norfolk in the east), east of Thorney. I counted 880 Whopper Swans in one field alone. With them were just about 10 Bewick’s Swans (we used to get many more of these smaller swans, but fewer of the Whoopers). Also there were at least 33 Cranes. It is a reminder of what a great place the Peterborough area can be, to see such a mass of brilliant wintering birds!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Loon revisited

Responsible Birding Diary: Sunday 15.11.20


And what can I say about today, other than I was once more watching the River Welland Great Northern Diver for an inordinate amount of time?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Saturday 14.11.20


This weekend sees the start of a five day break from work, most of which I will probably spend birding, as my daily exercise. I decided to concentrate on the Deeping High Bank (again) and Deepings area in general, logging about 60 species. The best of the bunch were a Great White Egret by the Crowland Water Tower and the Great Northern Diver in its usual place. I also saw a couple of Stonechats and the odd Marsh Harrier.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Friday 13.11.20


The diver (which is becoming an obsession) was present again this morning. I managed one or two photos, and also a picture of a ‘tame’ Buzzard just outside Deeping Lakes LWT.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Thursday 12.11.20


Once more, I found myself driving the Welland in search of the Great Northern Diver (or anything else). At first there was ‘no sign’ and I thought the diver may have moved on. But as I was heading home, I saw it, but a little further downstream than is its customary setting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Wednesday 11.11.20


This afternoon, I went to Maxey pits to try to film the Starling murmuration which has been building up there. On the way, I thought I would call in on my beloved Great Northern Diver. Sure enough, after a bit of a wait, he appeared and swam very close to the gate where I originally found him on Sunday. But then, he abruptly turned round and went back the other way.

When I looked a little downstream, I noticed what I thought was a thin branch sticking out of the middle of the river. A second glance revealed it was an Otter, waving its tail in the air, almost like a flag to see off the diver, which was close to invading the Otter’s fishing area! It was a quite extraordinary sight!!

Later on, though I did see getting on for about 30,000 Starlings come to roost, they never really formed a single big swarm, preferring to dive almost immediately into the roost site. Another afternoon, perhaps…

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

More Welland Great Northern Diver photographs

Responsible Birding Diary: Tuesday 10.11.20


The Great Northern Diver was in position again on the River Welland. I took a lunchtime trip up there with my dear wife, Joe, and I managed to get a few more photos. At one stage, a Great White Egret flew over our heads.

Meanwhile, a quick pop in to nearby Deeping Lakes produced a calling Chiffchaff, which I guess is going to linger for the winter, now.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Monday 9.11.20


I drove up again to the Welland on this the fourth foggy morning on the trot. After a bit of a waiting, I saw the Great Northern Diver in exactly the same spot as I last saw it yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Great Northern Diver, River Welland, near Deeping Lakes LWT, south Lincs/north Cambs

Responsible Birding Diary: Sunday 8.11.20


For the third day running there was fog on the Welland, and so the temptation to seek birds which may have got slightly lost in the haze. Things started well enough with the Great White Egret, again fishing along the river in the mist.

But then I got lucky! I found a juvenile Great Northern Diver on a stretch of the river, where it branches off from the road (near Deeping; and where the river forms the boundary between Cambs to the south and Lincs to the north). The diver fished the same stretch of river all day. giving great photographic opportunities. (for photos see the next post; meantime here is the Great White Egret in the fog).

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Saturday 7.11.20


For the second day running it was a foggy start, so I was back at the Deeping High Bank (a road which follows the River Welland for a few miles). A Great White Egret was again fishing the banks of the river, and that was about the sum of the goodness on the river. SO, I went to Deeping Lakes and hung out for a while compiling a list from one of the screens.

I reached just over 50 species, with the highlights being a female Pintail and a Green Sandpiper popping in. In the afternoon, I went down to Eldernell (Nene Washes) for a bit of an early evening ‘roost’s session. It is very good there at the moment. My totals were as follows:

Hen Harrier, 1, ringtail,

Marsh Harrier, 7 (minimum)

Crane, 59,

Great White Egrets, 4,

Little Egret, 19,

Stonechat, 2

Friday, November 06, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Friday 6.11.20

Despite moaning about a lack of time in the morning pre-work, for birding, I drove up to the Deeping High Bank this morning, as it was foggy, and fog should never be ignored (It brings some very good birds, sometimes). All I had to report was a Stone chat and five Whooper Swans. By the time I got to Deeping Lakes, it was still too foggy even to see the islands properly. A couple of Cetti’s Warblers were singing and that was looking like the highlight, when a Bearded Tit called from near my screen. And a few seconds later a lovely male Bearded Tit flew by calling.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Thursday 5.11.20


It is hard to get any birding in outside the weekends, at the moment. There is not much time in the morning to get a decent cycle in with birdwatching, before work, despite the clocks going back. Still, I can always pop out to the garden and enjoy the birds. There are always birds in our garden, and with the falling of the leaves, it is easier to see them in the hedges! So, I have been enjoying the Dunnocks, Great Tits and Wrens. But I also had a Linnet fly over and a Sky Lark; the former was my first over the garden, this year, and the latter an indication that there is still some migration going on.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Wednesday 4.11.20


I popped out for a bit into the sunny but cold garden this morning. Easily the highlight was the pair of Goldcrests working their way through the trees. I have never seen more than one Goldcrest in the garden, before, and these are pretty uncommon ( less than annual).

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Tuesday 3.11.20


The most interesting thing in the garden today was a fresh scattering of Woodpigeon feathers. I think it looks like the remains of Sparrowhawk kill (which we get from time to time) and hope it isn’t a result of hunting by one of the thousands of semi-feral cats that come into our garden!

Monday, November 02, 2020

Responsible Birding Diary: Monday 2.11.20


A quiet day, wildlife wise (and too windy to get up to much on my bicycle), the best I could get out of the day was watching Great Tits, Robins and Magpies enjoying the garden.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Glossy Ibis, Ferry Meadows CP, Peterborough


Responsible Birding Diary: Sunday 1.11.20


As the weather was somewhat better today, I decided to pay the Ferry Meadows Glossy Ibis another visit, and I got lucky, with some close views and some sunshine. It may be a brown, dull-coloured version of its species, but it was fascinating watching it probing for endless earthworms. It is a great tribute to the staff at Ferry Meadows, especially my friend Chris Park, that the flooded fields of Heron Meadows, there, have delivered such great birds!