Eakring Birds 2010
A monthly review
Severely cold weather, with standing snow and ice for the first two weeks of the year, helped to ensure an excellent start to the new year. With many birds having left south before the start of 2010, some evidence of continued cold weather movement was recorded during the first week, with six Lapwing west on the 1st, then 77 Lapwing (19 low south-west and unusually 58 high south) on the 7th. Moving species did not include the expected Golden Plover, but 21 were mobile in fields along Kneesall Road (1st)

The largest ever movement and/or influx of large gulls, with 395 Herring Gull south and south-west 84 Great Black-backed Gull south and south-west, took place on the 3rd. However, counts of Common Gull and Black-headed Gull remained small throughout January. Most Sky Lark had obviously already left northern parts of the country and just 11 moved south-west (7th) but more were noted mid-month after the thaw had set in. With the snow melting quickly, a total of 179 Sky Lark flew west and north-west on 17th, the count being made up of mostly two's and three's but two flocks of 19 and 26 also went through 17th. Movement continued the next morning when 50 went west on the 18th. With this occurring mid-week, it does not seem to have been witnessed at other migration watch points elsewhere. January's biggest rarity was the Lapland Bunting (second Eakring record) through low north-east over Eakring Flash on the 20th, just a few days after the thaw and following the return Sky Lark movement. The bird called three times and appeared to come down in a small area of rough grass, but there was no further sign, despite an extensive search.

The cold weather also produced a Short-eared Owl at Eakring Flash (2nd) which was initially disturbed from long grass at the bottom of a bank. The bird then flew across a field and found similar cover for a while, before heading off back over fields and remaining in the area, but was not seen subsequently. Short-eared Owl remains a true rarity at Eakring and this record was without doubt, totally due to the weather conditions.

The first few days of the month all produced records of Pink-footed Geese, with 122 south-east and 91 north-west (1st) three skiens of comprising of 20 west, 330 west and 13 west (a total of 363) on 3rd, whilst another 95 flew east (7th), with at least some of these appearing to come down, but these could not be located. An additional record of at least 23 flew west over the area (18th) just being glimpsed below the dense fog at one point. On the whole it was a decent month for wildfowl. Despite the fact that Eakring Flash remained virtually totally frozen the the first half of the month, once the ice started to thaw, there were records of Goosander, with two females south-east (17th) and a pair at Eakring Flash, till they flew off west (20th) Mallard peaked at a maximum of 64 on 20th and Teal at 19 on 28th. A pair of Wigeon flew over Eakring Flash on 17th. Single Water Rail were at Eakring Flash on 14th and at the small Sewage Treatment Works at Eakring from 14-17th at least.

Between one and four Common Buzzards were noted on most dates all month, but a male Peregrine went east over Eakring Flash on 17th and a female was seen circling high over Lound Wood, before drifting off north on the 28th.

In general, small birds were in much depleted numbers and many had clearly left the area altogether whilst it remained below freezing. Counts of Winter thrushes were reduced to maxima of just 110 Fieldfare and 48 Redwing at Eakring Flash on 18th, although small flocks were at several sites within the area. A flock of 82 Fieldfare north on 23rd, were clearly relocating after the return to milder weather.

Other sightings associated with cold weather were 38 Lesser Redpoll east and south-east and 16 Linnet south-east and south-west on 7th, a group of 12 Reed Bunting at Eakring Flash (14th) were unusual and probably the highest ever single count here, 22 Yellowhammer flew west (including groups of nine and ten) on 17th and increased numbers of Bullfinch were obvious at several sites. Of note was a count of 26 Long-tailed Tit in three groups at Eakring Flash, Eakring Meadows and Penny Pasture Common (20th)

After the relative excitement of a very cold January, February lived up to it's routine quietness gained over the past 12 years. There was precious little on offer in the form of real rarity and only limited accumulations of pre-migratory Starling and Fieldfare.

An unseen number of Pink-footed Geese flew west over a foggy Eakring Flash on the 6th, remaining the only record of the month. More pleasing, was an increase in numbers of both Tufted Duck and Pochard (formerly regular here) with five Tufted Duck at Eakring Flash on 6-7th, then six on 11th. After a drake Pochard at Eakring Flash on 11th, seven arrived on 27th, which was the earliest count here since March 2005. A female Shoveler was a welcome year tick, arriving at Eakring Flash from the west (7th) Teal peaked at 13 at Eakring Flash (11th) the same day as the first Shelduck and Coot, both returned to the area.

Once again, there were daily sightings of Common Buzzards, with peak counts of four (7th) and five (20th)

After the last of the snow had gone, Lapwing movement was evident on 25th, with 45 moving east and 27 back in fields at Eakring Field Farm. Gulls were also noted moving, but largely only on February 25th, with very small numbers being noted moving through after this date. Best of the counts were of 51 Black-headed Gull moving east and south-west and 70 Herring Gull south-east. A notable flock of 42 Common Gull were in fields at Eakring Flash on 28th.

There were no particularly high or notable counts of wintering thrushes, which typically begin to build up towards the latter days of February, but 130 Starling were in fields adjacent to Eakring Field Farm on 25th. Early signs of visible migration were limited to just a handful of Sky Lark, Linnet and Yellowhammer.

Shelduck peaked at four on 6th, with at least a pair on many March dates. There was a welcome increase in the numbers of Pochard at Eakring Flash, with the male/female ratio suggesting numerous passage birds were involved. A drake on 6th, preceded an excellent seven on 11th, six on 12th and then five on 21st. Two were present on 24th. A real wildfowl surprise was the two drake Mandarin that flew into Eakring Flash from the north-west and then promptly disappeared, although one did return north-west a short while later. Mandarin have not been recorded here for many years, so this was a welcome year tick. Another difficult year tick of recent years has been Little Grebe, and one was at Eakring Flash from 6th-12th, but then a pair were present from 23-24th. Coot continued to arrive during the first week of the month and Eakring Flash held a peak of nine birds.

March marks the start of raptor migration, but with up to four regular birds in the area, frequently being joined by birds from Dukes Wood, Kirklington, Wellow and Rufford, detecting genuine migrants is often difficult. Counts of more than four during the month included five over Lound Wood on both 5th and 21st and nine over the Red Hill area on 23rd, of which some were probable migrants. Migrant Sparrowhawks are easier to detect than the routine hunting flights of the area's two resident pairs and definite migrants moved north on 14th and 23rd. A male Merlin flew low north-west past Eakring Flash and over Lound Wood (14th) and sightings of Peregrine included singles south over Eakring Flash (23rd) and over Church Hill on 27th.

There were few wader records, but Lapwing reached a peak of 92 at Park Farm on 6th, with 40 Golden Plover north over Park Farm the same day. Four Curlew flew west over Eakring Flash on 23rd. Following a very poor Winter for Common Snipe numbers in the area, a count of 62 on March 6th (41 at Penny Pasture Common and a further 21 around Eakring Meadows) was probably an area record and representative of return migration. A few days later, just six were present in the same area on 11th. There were no large gull counts, but 24 Common Gull north and north-east (14th) was a notable count for the date. The first Lesser Black-backed Gulls were two at Tug Bridge Farm on 7th, which preceded very light passage during the rest of the month.

A count of 355 Fieldfare at Tug Bridge Farm on 12th, was never bettered, with the only other counts of note being 74 again at Tug Bridge Farm on 23rd and 57 north-west on 28th. Occasional groups were noted moving through the area, but there was no big movement. Similarly, Redwing fared the same and the only notable count was of 31 at Hare Hill Wood on 11th. A Stonechat was in fields north of Eakring Meadows on 13th (per Ian Blackmore) whilst a male at Eakring Flash all day of 21st, showed white on the rump and was possibly of continental origin, but not as obviously striking as the April 2008 bird.

Visible migration throughout the whole of March was poor. A Starling flock at Tug Bridge Farm (12th) totalled 522 birds, but only very small numbers were recorded moving east this Spring. Meadow Pipit counts often barely reached double-figures, with the best being 25 north-west (23rd) and a maximum of 72 north-west (28th) Small numbers of Goldfinch and Linnet were moving north all month and a Bullfinch flew high north on 24th. A Willow Tit at Tug Bridge Farm 7th was unusual, but much rarer was the drumming male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker at Hare Hill Wood on 13th (per Ian Blackmore)

Summer migrant first dates included Sand Martin on 21st, Chiffchaff on 23rd and a Swallow north on 27th, which equalled the earliest ever date of March 27th 2005.

April provided a varied and interesting month. Although much of the weather was fine and clear (which meant small numbers of birds visibly moving through) migration was often evident by warbler arrivals, a relative "fall" of chats and numerous raptors during the month.

As to be expected, April proved quiet for wildfowl, but an Egyptian Goose flying east on 20th, represented the first Eakring record since September 2005. Between two and four Shelduck commuted between various locations within the recording area all month, whilst Eakring Flash held a pair of Teal all month, with four there on 20th. Two drakes were also at Penny Pasture Common on 11th. Seven Tufted Duck on 29th was notable by recent standards.

There were numerous Common Buzzards in and around the area, but notable counts of ten (3rd) included some probable migrants appearing to move through at high altitude. On the 8th, a total of at least nine Common Buzzards also included some migrant birds. More definite migrant raptors were the Osprey (the first since 2005) which arrived at Eakring Flash low from the south-east (presumably having roosted nearby overnight) and then left low north-west after five minutes on 4th and the female Marsh Harrier that flew low south-west over Lound Wood and Eakring Flash on 11th. Another female Marsh Harrier was mobbed as it drifted off east early morning of 30th. A male Peregrine flew north-west (15th) and a group of three Sparrowhawk all drifted north-west together on 15th.

The fine weather was never going to be good for waders and the only notable sightings included 50 Golden Plover in the Red Hill area on 1st and 22 moving north on 24th. A Curlew went north on 1st and an Oystercatcher west over Eakring Flash on 26th, was a welcome year tick. There was a trickle of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving through all month, but the only other large gulls were two Common Gull north-east on 15th and three 2cy Great Black-backed Gulls on 25th.

With the anti-cyclonic weather, hirundine totals were small and the following counts were the best on offer. Sand Martin counts included 16 north-west (8th) 24 north (20th) and 11 north-west (25th) whilst the only real House Martin total was 18 north-west on 30th. Swallows were a little more obvious and the following counts were reached; 27 north-east and north-west (19th) 35 north-west (20th) 30 north-west (25th) 38 north-west (29th) and 30 through on 30th. Early Swifts were recorded on both 23rd and 24th.

Winter thrushes were noted moving through the area on numerous April dates, but there were no exceptional daily counts out of a monthly total of 287 birds. Small Fieldfare flocks were always checked to no avail for Ring Ouzels, but a female Ring Ouzel was found at Eakring village on 19th, where it remained elusive and generally favoured gardens and hedges containing Ivy, surrounding the horse paddocks at the rear of Ryall's Farm

Some 13 Wheatear were recorded during the month, with three together in fields opposite Eakring Field Farm on 8th, a male at Tug Bridge Farm on 20th, a male at Eakring Flash, three males and a female at Tug Bridge Farm on 21st, a male at Tug Bridge Farm on 23rd, a female at Tug Bridge Farm on 25th and a female at Eakring Flash on 30th. A Greenland Wheatear arrived at Eakring Flash and fed quickly before moving on again within the space of ten minutes on 24th. The five Wheatear in the area on 21st were part of an unexpected arrival of chats during the morning, with a female Whinchat turning up at Eakring Flash and single female Redstarts at both Tug Bridge Farm and Penny Pasture Common 21st. Another female Whinchat was along The Beck at the northern-end of Eakring Flash on 30th.

Throughout the month, there were numerous daily arrivals of warblers, with birds often noted going straight through Eakring Flash and continuing north. But the most strangest record was of a tight group of three male Blackcap together at the top of a Sallow at Eakring Flash, that all left north on 28th. Male Grasshopper Warblers were at Eakring Flash on 23rd only and Penny Pasture Common from 23-30th. Summer migrant first dates in April included Blackcap on 3rd, House Martin on 15th, Willow Warbler on 17th, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail all on 19th and Swift on 23rd.

Other sightings during April were an unusual count (for the time of year) of 18 Tree Sparrow at Tug Bridge Farm on 22nd, a Marsh Tit briefly at Eakring Flash before continuing north along the hedge towards Lound Wood on 21st and a late Water Rail at Eakring Flash on 8th. A Barn Owl was hunting over Penny Pasture Common during the late evening of the 12th and a notable Spring movement of Jays included a total of nine north between 20th and 30th.

Some decent highlights during what was an otherwise quiet month. Spring migration seemed to end extremely quickly and although new migrants continued to arrive till mid-month, the general feeling was that this was a relatively short Spring this year.

Up to four Shelduck remained in the area for much of May, although they often went missing, but a pair of Teal remained at Eakring Flash till 2nd at least and hopes were raised of possible breeding in the area this year.

Two welcome raptor records were another Marsh Harrier which flew north over Eakring Flash on the 2nd, followed late in the month by a Red Kite, which remained in the area for several days and was last seen on 26th. A Hobby flew east through Eakring Flash on 8th.

May 8th produced north-easterly winds, heavy cloud cover and some rain. Typically in such conditions visible migration was severely limited, but produced a flock of 28 Whimbrel high north-east (just below the cloud base) Phone calls confirmed these were part of an impressive movement of Whimbrel over many Midlands waters this morning. The same morning also produced a single Oystercatcher north-west.

Other sightings during the month included a Whinchat along hedgerows near Eakring Flash and a Cuckoo heard once (and distantly) on 1st. A male Grasshopper Warbler arrived at Eakring Flash the same day and remained till 2nd and a Garden Warbler was at Eakring Flash from the 8th.

June, July and August
The area was rarely visted during the three months, but notable breeding records came from pairs of Shelduck at Eakring Flash (one young) and Penny Pasture Common (three young) A pair of Teal remained on Penny Pasture Common throughout June and July, but there was no confirmation of successful breeding.

A Common Tern was at Eakring Flash for 15 minutes on July 3rd, feeding until eventually flying off south.

September saw coverage increase and subsequently produced some good records. There was a welcome increase in visible migration during the month, with counts seemingly more in line with those achieved in the early part of the decade.

The first of the Autumn's Pink-footed Geese passage saw seven high south-east over Eakring Flash (18th) and 38 very high south-east, a week later on 25th. All other wildfowl counts remained low.

Notable (but typical) Common Buzzard counts during September saw seven over Hare Hill Wood on 16th, with at least ten in the area on 18th, of which four eventually drifted off high west. An immature female Peregrine was hunting in the Park Farm area on 18th. A single Long-eared Owl was flushed from it's daytime roost along the old hedge at Eakring Flash on 16th.

The highlight of the month was an unseen Grey Plover, which called twice as it flew very high south-west over Eakring Flash (30th) and was only the third record here. A flock of 16 Common Snipe flew west 19th. An adult Yellow-legged Gull was with around 70 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in fields at Church Hill on 25th and a small and seemingly early Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull passage occurred from 19th.

As commented on earlier, visible migration showed a general increase, following a run of years producing hardly anythin in the way of a notable count. September saw considerably higher numbers of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Sky Lark. Sky Lark numbers towards the end of the month were much larger than normal for the time of year, with flocks of 21 in stubble fields at Eakring Flash and 62 at Leyfields on 26th. Passage of all three species was also more evident, especially both Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, which showed increases on most corresponding months over the past 14 years.

A fine day on September 30th, saw the best visible migration counts of the Autum to date, with 97 Chaffinch west and south-east, 103 Meadow Pipit and 133 Sky Lark south-east, 82 Linnet east and south-west, 11 Pied Wagtail south and 386 Swallow south-east. A Sand Martin south-east with a party of Swallows the same day, finally broke the long-standing latest ever record here, dating back to 2001. Other notable counts during the month were 160 Meadow Pipit south-east and three Turtle Dove through (16th) and 182 Swallow south (18th) There were still 12 Yellow Wagtail presnt near Eakring Flash on 8th and a Redstart was at Red Hill on 30th, the same day as three Brambling went south. A flock of Linnet in the Leyfields area east of Eakring Flash peaked at 247 (19th)

One or possibly two Nuthatch were present at Lound Wood from 25th onwards and nine Cormorant high east over Eakring Flash was an unusual record on September 16th.

Without doubt, Eakring experienced it's best ever month, with an almost continuous stream of rare, scarce and uncommon local patch birds. Time off from work allowed much greater coverage during what became the best of the Autumn months for visible migration, with an excellent and different Redwing passage, record numbers of Brambling and lesser known species recorded moving through. In particular, October 10th proved to be a special day, with both migrants and rarities in the mix.

More Pink-footed Geese crossed the country over Eakring Flash on 10th (heard only), 152 east on 11th and 214 east in three skiens on 24th. Wigeon included groups of six on Eakring Flash (2nd), and five over Eakring Flash on 11th. Teal counts were low all month, just ten on 21st at Eakring Flash being the best count made. Five early Goosander flew west over Eakring Flash on 16th.

October proved to be a good month for raptors. Highlight was the ringtail Hen Harrier high south-east over Eakring Flash at 10:50h on the 10th, but there was an unprecedented passage of four Merlin recorded, with an immature male (5th), two seperate males moving south-east at 09:35h and 10:25h on 10th, before another adult male hunting Sky Lark briefly, before continuing south-east on 16th. An adult male Peregrine flew south-east over Leyfields on 5th, before records of an immature male in the area from 6-12th, seen on four dates.

The first Jack Snipe of the Autumn (and year) was found at Penny Pasture Common on October 13th, with a Green Sandpiper there briefly at before flying off north later the same morning. Two Water Rail took up residence and were calling at Eakring Flash onwards from the 9th. Gull counts proved generally disappointing, but notable were the 36 Common Gull south on 10th, but there was a steady trickle of all of the larger Gulls on most dates.

Visible migration provided the best counts here for many years. Excellent monthly counts were reached by Redwing, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Brambling and Yellowhammer. Starlings began to move through later in the month, after being held up by the weather over the continent. Yet it was the same weather system, that allowed the perfect conditions for birds to leave Scandinavia, with strong north-easterlies for much of the period. Redwings were the first to arrive in numbers, but came in exceptionally high and were easily missed. The north-easterlies also brought plenty of low cloud, which certainly affected some parts of the UK more than others, being almost fog and greatly reducing visibility.

The first Redwing were three moving north on 7th, then 736 south over Eakring Flash on the 9th. The next day saw Redwing flocks pouring through very high south again till 11:00h, when all movement stopped, but by then, a total of 2 401 had been reached. This movement seems to have been north/south down the UK, with sites either side of the Pennines not getting any. The southerly movement was also very unusual and only noted here before during cold weather movements. Some Redwing flocks contained other species, such as Fieldfare, Brambling and Pied Wagtail, but the 10th was also notable for a record total of 45 Song Thrush south. 25 Song Thrush flew through high in various directions on 12th and was another excellent morning's total on 12th. By the end of October, a total of 125 migrant Song Thrush had been recorded. Fieldfare arrived later than Redwing, with the first being 21 west on 10th. Migration peaks came later in the month with 1 194 west (21st) and 2 821 west (24th) Associated with Scandinavian Thrushes was a 1st Winter female Ring Ouzel, which was located by call, then gave only brief views in the Hawthorn and Blackthorn thicket dividing Penny Pasture Common from the rest of the Eakring Meadows NR on 13th.

Two other species to break previously held monthly totals were Chaffinch and Brambling. Nearly 1 100 Chaffinches were recorded, with a peak of 148 south and west on 5th. A monthly total of 278 Brambling finally ended their visible migration drought at Eakring. Birds were recorded on most days, but best of the month's counts included 15 north and 23 south 11th, 44 low south-west 23rd (including a flock of 43 birds) and another 44 Brambling through on 24th. Sky Lark also produced a new record monthly count, with migrants going through, whilst some very good sized flocks built up in at least two sites within the area. Best of the Sky Lartk counts were 65 west and south-east on 2nd, 154 south-east on 4th, 79 south on 7th and 5 south-west on 14th. One of the Sky Lark flocks was in the Red Hill/Eakring Flash area, where Yellowhammer numbers also reached unprecedented highs for Autumn. At it's peak, 136 Yellowhammer were counted at Eakring Flash on the 9th, with birds also noted moving south-west for much of the month, again producing a record 177 October total.

Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail migration peaked at 417 south-east, 53 south and south-east respectively on 7th. Rarities noted during the course of migration watches included a single Wood Lark north-east over Eakring Flash on 4th, three Waxwing west (28th) and a Rock Pipit high west (8th) Two Lapland Bunting went south over Red Hill at 10:25h on 2nd, both birds giving good views as they flew past at not that great a height. With Lapland Buntings moving over one Pennine watchpoint on an almost daily basis during October, it was not enitrely surprising that a third Lapland Bunting appeared, calling several times as it approached from the north-west and eventually continuing south-east over Red Hill at 08:00h, on the 12th.

It was not all about the arrival of Winter migrants, as many Summer migrants continued to be noted throughout the first half of October. The best of these, was the 1st Winter male Redstart present in the Hawthorns at Red Hill from 4-7th. Swallows produced some decent late counts, with 66 south and south-east (2nd) 67 south-east (4th) 91 south (6th) before the last of the year on 17th. Four Chiffchaff in the area on the 7th, was the highest count of the month.

As mentioned at the start of this summary, some species were recorded moving through the area, that are not normally recognised as doing so. Coal Tits are regularly noted moving/dispersing here, with 11 moving through the Red Hill watchpoint on October 4th alone. Associated with these were both Blue Tits and Great Tits seen to go high south or south-west, with monthly totals of 12 and 18 respectively. A single Great-spotted Woodpecker also went high west over there and 18 Mistle Thrush south-east and south-west (5th) were part of a monthly total of 49.

16 Grey Partridge were at Red Hill on the 14th.

November was never going to match October, with migration coming to an end mid-month. Starlings eventually moved through in greater numbers than in the preceding month, with a peak of 1 739 west on 7th. 1 038 Wood Pigeon south (6th) was the only real movement detected as less time was spent in the area.

Even with less site visits, totals of 528 Pink-footed Geese went east on 6th, then six skiens totalling 324 east and 68 west went over Eakring Flash on the 7th. There was a good sequence of Goosander records, though all involved fly-overs. Five females flew west over Eakring Flash (6th), a female went west (7th), four flew west (14th) before a pair of flew south over Eakring Flash on 18th.

One/two Water Rail were still present at the northern-end of Eakring Flash for much of the month, but a Woodcock flushed from Lound Wood on 18th and a Dunlin over Eakring Flash unseen with Golden Plover on the 7th, were both very welcome additions to the year list.

60 Yellowhammer were in stubble fields next to Eakring Flash 4th, but counts dropped considerably as heavy snow arrived mid-month.

The heavy snow meant that the area was visited little during December.

There was continued movement of Pink-footed Geese, with 429 through Eakring Flash in five skiens on 19th. A female Pochard at Eakring Flash (13th) was an unusual record for the time of year. At least two Common Buzzards remained in the area throughout, with a male Peregrine low east over Eakring Flash on the 19th.

70 Sky Lark had returned to stubble fields at Eakring Flash after the clearance of snow (17th) but had moved on a few days later and the only other sign of migration, included 33 Fieldfare, four Redwing, three Greenfinch and singles of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Brambling all south and 320 Wood Pigeon north on 19th.

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