Eakring Birds 2002
A monthly review
January was quiet and generally mild.

Two Goosander at Eakring Flash on 26th and 29th were the rarest wildfowl during the period, the pair generally commuting between here and other small waters outside the recording area. Teal counts continued to increase from those achieved the previous Autumn, finally peaking at a record 150 on 18th. Eakring Meadows was the favoured area, but birds regularly moved to Eakring Flash when flushed. Counts over 60 birds were regular throughout, but another three-figure count of 103 came again on the 21st.

Large over-wintering finch/bunting flocks have remained absent here since coverage began in 1998, so records of 230 Linnets in the old Kale/set-aside field near Eakring Flash on 1st, then smaller counts for the remainder of January, and then a mixed flock containing minimum counts of 100 Yellowhammer and 100 Chaffinch from 21-26th, were both most welcome. The finch/bunting flock favoured the stubble field adjacent to Eakring Flash, which was ploughed in readiness for Sugar-beet sowing at the end of the month.

February saw Teal counts remain high throughout, peaking with counts of 90 (5th) and 60 from 15-16th. A female Goosander was present at Eakring Flash on 15th and 23rd, with the returning Shelduck pair becoming resident there from 3rd onwards. A "sinensis" Cormorant on 7th, was the area's first ever record.

Raptor highlights included a regular Common Buzzard in the Hare Hill Wood/Eakring Meadows area from 5-21st. It is likely that breeding could be attempted in the near future, as records of lingering individuals are on the increase. A Merlin whch flew high east over Eakring village on 16th, was a nice record of a species which just about manages to retain it's annual status.

February is one of the prime month's for producing Jack Snipe. A single at the area's most regular haunt of Eakring Meadows, was present from 15-20th. Two were then found at the same site, from 21st till the end of the month. With much of the Eakring Meadows Nature Reserve remaining considerably water-logged during the first part of the year, it was no surprise that Snipe were found in record numbers. These rose from 39 (15th) to 42 birds by Feb 21st. With smaller numbers at Eakring Flash, at least 48 were in the area on this latter date.

Large numbers of Wood Pigeon, peaked at over 5 000 in the Leyfields area on 5th, with 1 000 around Hare Hill Wood/Parkhill Plantation on the 24th. Thrush counts however, remained rather poor and the only Fieldfare flock noted in the area, consisted of 200 birds at Red Hill on the 1st. Near Eakring Flash, the Linnet flock still produced counts of 170 (16th) and 150 from 19-21st, with birds tending to commute between the Kale/set-aside field and other sites outside the recording boundaries.

March opened with 57 Pink-footed Geese moving low NW on 1st. This remained the only record for the first half of the year. Seven Goosander were at Eakring Flash briefly on the 1st, with a later record of four moving very high south-west over there (18th)

The year's first real rarity came on the 8th, when a Red Kite flew north-west over Eakring Flash and Lound Wood early morning. A female Peregrine was over Hare Hill Wood before flying off east on 30th. Common Buzzards included regular birds around Red Hill and Hare Hill Wood/Kersall, both on several dates, but a migrant bird drifted high north-east on March 19th.

Typical March wader records were 122 Golden Plover west on 8th and a Green Sandpiper high north over Red Hill on 18th. Snipe totals reached a new record, with 49 at Eakring Meadows (54 in area) on 6th. In with these were two Jack Snipe at Eakring Meadows on March 1st, then five on 6th and finally six on 12th.

Visible migration figures were the worst ever recorded, only Fieldfare producing a decent total when 482 flew north on 23rd. Counts of all other regular early Spring species' were all considerably well below the 50 mark. Now an annual early Spring migrant, Stonechats were found at Eakring Meadows and Eakring Flash, both on 12th. The second half of the month saw the first Wheatears arrive (a female at Eakring Flash on 25th) then another two females at Hare Hill Wood on 30th. Other Summer migrants to make their first appearences of the year were Chiffchaff (17th) Sand Martin on 25th (joint earliest date) and a new earliest date for Blackcap on 30th.

Three Brambling flew north-west over Eakring Meadows (30th)

April saw the brief return of last year's Mandarin pair to the Eakring Meadows area from 2-5th. The birds were very elusive and only noted in inclusive dates. An Egyptian Goose was at Eakring Flash briefly (early morning of the 25th) but returned a few hours later.

Hobby sightings consisted of birds near Parkhill Plantation and Lound Wood/Eakring Flash on 24th and 30th respectively. Despite some favourable weather conditions for waders, it remained a poor month. Single Curlew flew through on 2nd and 4th, Little Ringed Plover (21st) and a Whimbrel north-west on 30th.

Chat migration reached a peak during late April. The young Sugar-beet field at Eakring Flash and Eakring Meadows provided all the records of both Whinchat and Wheatear, in what was a good Spring for both species. Single Whinchats were present on 23rd, 25th and 27-29th, with a pair at Penny Pasture Common on a windy 27th. Wheatear produced a similar series of records and the two species, obviously migrate in mixed groups. Single Wheatear were present on 23rd, 24th, 25th and 29th. In addition three were at Eakring Flash on the 28th. There were at least six individuals involved in these sightings, representing a good turn-over of birds. Several were present only briefly, before continuing north-wards and there was also a variation in arrival times.

Summer migrant arrivals dates saw several warblers produced new earliest arrival dates. This was largely due to favourable weather conditions during the period. First dates for the year included Willow Warbler (4th) Swallow 12th, Cuckoo 20th, House Martin and Whitethroat 21st, Lesser Whitethroat 22nd, Turtle Dove and Sedge Warbler both 24th. Grasshopper Warbler arrived on April 23rd, with a male taking up territory at Eakring Flash for the first time since 1998 and remaining till the end of the month.

May was quiet. Highlight of the month went to the female Marsh Harrier which flew north-west over Red Hill during the afternoon of the 16th and was the area's sixth record to date. Wader records included a rare Spring Greenshank north-west (13th) two Whimbrel south-west (4th) and a single north-east, two days later on the 6th. A very late Green Sandpiper was at the southern end of Eakring Flash early morning of the 8th, till moving off high to the north mid-morning.

Kersall hosted yet another late Fieldfare (3rd) for the thrid time in four years and a single Whinchat was feeding on insects around a partially dead Oak there on the same date. Wheatears included a single at Eakring Flash (2nd) followed by a male Greenland Wheatears at the same site on the 16th.

The male Grasshopper Warbler remained at Eakring Flash till the 2nd and an arrival of three Garden Warblers (3rd) was the best one-day total for the species. May also saw the arrival of the last of the Summer migrants, with Swift (6th) and Spotted Flycatcher finally arriving on the 31st, when a single was briefly at Eakring Flash.

June was typically rather quiet, but eventually produced two area rarities and a new breeding species.

Three Teal at Eakring Meadows on 3rd (two drakes/one female) were not surprising as this continued an almost annual series of June records. Breeding wildfowl had a good year, but counts of Mallard broods seemed rather low again. Three pairs of Gadwall bred successfully at two sites, producing broods of nine, seven and four, whilst Shelduck bred for the first time at Eakring Flash. After hatching of nine young, a few days later the brood was down to four. This was almost certainly due to predation and was not surprising as the female spent much of her time away from the area, but did return during the late evening. Even when just a few days old, the four young were quite independant and grew rapidly.

A Hobby was hunting hirundines over Eakring village on June 18th and briefly over Eakring Flash on 29th. A Long-eared Owl around the Pastures/Red Hill area during the evening of 17th, could almost certainly have been the bird from July of last year.

One of the highlights of the month, was the return of Quail to the area for the third time in five years, when a male was found calling briefly from Oil-seed Rape, during one of June's many dusk moth trapping forays, just north of Lound Wood on 25th. Although listened for on an almost nightly basis since the middle of May, regular sites used by Quail in 1998 and again in 2001 all drew a blank and it was pleasing that this bird called from a new site, several km from these.

Early returning waders included two Green Sandpipers at Eakring Flash (28th) with one remaining till 30th at least. Six Curlew flew high west on 29th.

Migration began as June drew to a close, and small Swift movements were daily. Sand Martins reappeared from 25th and 32 moving south (29th) was a good count. At the same time, early warblers began to appear at Eakring Flash briefly. Among these were Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap.

July was quite productive, especially with respect to a good series of early returning waders during the first half of the month. Two Ringed Plover briefly on 17th, were the first since 1998 and a most welcome year list record. A single Dunlin (3rd) was another year first after a surprisingly blank Spring period. More expected were Green Sandpipers on 5th, 9th and 17th, with a Whimbrel moving south-west on 23rd. Further Curlew sightings following on from those of late June, included three on 6th and four on 9th, all moving west. Another species which went unrecorded in the first half of the year was Common Tern. One moving west (18th) was quickly followed by further records of two moving south-west (22nd) and singles south-west (24th) and north-west on 26th.

The only wildfowl highlights of July, were four very early Wigeon on 25th, briefly. Only one of the original brood of nine Shelduck, reached the flight stage. All remaining young from the start of the month, were gradually predated by a Fox. Of the wildfowl broods produced this season, the Shelduck suffered the highest failure rate. Mallard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck, all showing little reduction in brood counts originally produced.

The only noteworthy raptor sightings involved 1/2 Hobby on five dates. Some of these records definitey referred to one bird, but there were also the first true migrants of the Autumn. June's Long-eared Owl was reported in Pastures area on again on 12th and remained unseen by myself and was very elusive, but evening coverage was very limited during July.

A very brief Grasshopper Warbler at Eakring Flash on the 6th, was noted flying north along the new hedge and only seen the once. Throughout the month, good numbers of Willlow Warblers (75 in total) moved through the Eakring Flash site. Smaller numbers of most other species' were noted, a migrant Garden Warbler was in the Pastures area on the 6th. This mirrored a very similar record from 1998 when one was noted on July 4th. A total of five Spotted Flycatchers through Eakring Flash, mostly came from the old hedge and several of these eventually went north towards Lound Wood.

August was a varied month, producing some excellent records, but frequently remained generally quiet for much of its 31 days. Visible migration watches (often a greater part of August's bird watching routine) remained dreadfully quiet and unproductive for several days at a time. Even July produced some better totals than August could muster. This quietness was rarely broken throughout the first-half of the month, but August's latter stages did produce some rich rewards, coming in the form of several area rarities.

A juvenile Garganey present at Eakring Flash on the evening of 19th, was the second such record (the other in 1999) Mandarins were at Eakring Meadows on two dates, with a single there (21st) and three on 25th, followed by one at Eakring Flash on 28th. Sightings of Teal increased. Initially with a single at Eakring Flash on 23rd, hastily being followed by 22 at Eakring Meadows the following day, then four at Eakring Flash on 23rd.

Raptors moved through, the area producing a Honey Buzzard over Eakring Meadows (27th) which circled over Penny Pasture Common before dropping into Hare Hill Wood. Two Marsh Harriers were at two sites on the 21st. One (an adult female) near the pumping station between Eakring and Wellow, and then several sightings of a different bird which was initially seen near the Poplar Plantation late morning, then later perched in the dead trees at Eakring Flash before flying off east towards Maplebeck mid-evening. The same date also produced five Common Buzzards over Red Hill 21st, with four there, being joined by one which spent several days in the Lound Wood and Red Hill areas.

Hobby were recorded on both 11th and 25th. An immature female Peregrine favoured the Lound Wood/Eakring Flash area from 24-28th, frequently hunting the large flocks of feral pigeons which fed in the harveted cereal fields.

Wader records were disappointing, August producing a Green Sandpiper (8th) two Dunlin on 11th. The only Whimbrel was noted on nocturnal passage during the night of 12/13th. The highlight was the Oystercatcher which flew over Red Hill on the 11th. This was the third record of Oystercatcher here. Snipe returned to favoured sites mid-month.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls peaked at 750+ on 18th, with similarly high counts on many dates during the whole of the month. A Green Woodpecker roamed the Red Hill and Lound Wood areas from 18-28th after being seen initially at Penny Pasture Common.

Two Tree Pipits provided a year-list first, when they flew over Red Hill moving south-west on 28th. Eakring Meadows held a female/immature Redstart in the Hawthorns on Penny Pasture Common (27th) and single Spotted Flycatcher on 30th. A good arrival of warblers on 28th included the first record of Garden Warbler at Eakring Flash. In general, many warblers produced new record monthly counts during August. With most exceeding previous totals by some considerable margin.

September produced something of interest on an almost daily basis and once again proved to probably be the most rewarding and varied month of the calendar.

66 Pink-footed Geese moving high south-east on 21st were not the earliest birds recorded here, but still represented an early date, quickly followed by 240 through on 25th. Four Egyptian Geese were at Eakring Flash on 25th. Teal numbers slowly increased through the month, with Eakring Flash and the pool on Penny Pasture Common holding most birds. By the end of September, there were regular combined site counts of over 20 birds. Six Mandarin (including four young) were at Eakring Meadows on the 3rd, but the rarest wildfowl was the Shoveler which flew north on 5th.

In a month of several highlights, perhaps the best was the long-staying (but very elusive) Honey Buzzard in the Park Farm/Hare Hill Wood area till 13th. This was almost certainly the bird seen at the end of August, but because of the small influx into eastern counties this year, a second individual could not be totally ruled out. Seen on several dates, the bird almost certainly ranged much further afield, due to its elusiveness here. Common Buzzards continue to increase, with birds now becoming resident at two sites and regular at several others. Ageing birds showed that at least nine different Common Buzzards were present at some time in the area during the month and multiple sightings included seven on 1st (including two migrants south-east) six in area on 6th, over Lound Wood on 12th and in the area on 21st. A pale-phase juvenile was seen in the Hare Hill Wood area on one date, and the full total was found to contain four different adults. Single Hobbies were at both Eakring village and Eakring Flash (1st) moving high south-east on 2nd, 10th and 11th, then an adult and a juvenile at Eakring Flash on 14th. Rounding up the raptor picture was an immature female Peregrine from 12-14th.

An immature Water Rail was at Eakring Flash on the 2nd only, setting a new earliest date for the species here.

Unusually for September, waders were well represented during the opening week. A Greenshank was at Eakring Meadows on 1st before flying off west, a typically brief summer-plumaged Dunlin flew north-east over Eakring Flash (3rd) with a Whimbrel high south-east (5th) The best of the month was a Ruff in fields with a large Lapwing flock near Eakring Flash on 5th. A Curlew was like-wise in the same field with Lesser Black-backed Gulls on 18th. Golden Plover sightings increased during the month. Yellow-legged Gull's are annual visitors to the area, so single adults in fields with Lesser Black-backed Gulls on 4th, 12th and 18th came as no surprise.

Much of September is geared towards visible migration and counts gradually increased after mid-month. Swallows and Meadow Pipits were the primary movers, then small numbers of finches began to be noted, but counts were generally well within those expected. Three-figure Meadow Pipit movements occurred on 16th, 17th, 18th and 21st, and a Tree Pipit announced its presence among Meadow Pipits moving south-east on 17th. The migation highlight were the four Wood Lark which flew low south over Eakring Flash on 30th, representing the third record here. Swallows peaked with 541 south-east on 18th, with an albino bird through with 131 south-east on 25th.

Whinchat produced singles at Eakring Meadows on 2nd, 7th, 10th, 13th and 17th, with one at Eakring Flash on 6th and Hare Hill Wood on 11th. A Stonechat at Eakring Meadows on 20th was a very early record here, considerably beating the previous earliest date of October 10th. Wheatears were at the usual sites of Eakring Field Farm on 3rd and a single Greenland Wheatears was near Church Hill on 19th.

There were some good monthly warbler counts during the month, but the best records involved juvenile Reed Warblers along the old hedge at Eakring Flash on 1st (among a small arrival of warblers) on 10th with a Sedge Warbler and another on the 18th. An adult Grasshopper Warbler was elusive in the boundary ditch at Penny Pasture Common, Eakring Meadows (5th) being initially flushed from long grass before quickly diving into cover and providing the area with its third true Autumn migrant. Late Spotted Flycatchers were at Eakring Flash from 2-3rd and at Hare Hill Wood on 11th.

A Nuthatch on 21st was the area's second ever record and came in quite unusual fashion, appearing over Eakring Flash moving south-west in open flight, before alighting in trees in the Pastures area.

October was generally quiet. However there were a few highlights from the area's otherwise typical October fare.

Two skiens of Pink-footed Geese totalled 63 south-east on 13th and 84 east on 17th. Duck numbers increased, most notably Teal, which are now the commonest Wintering species here after taking over that status from Mallard a couple of years ago. October saw numbers build to around 70 by the end of the month. A wildfowl influx on 22nd included 12 Pochard at Eakring Flash and 11 Wigeon over there moving south-east.

The only notable Raptor sightings included at least two resident Common Buzzards (with five together on 19th) throughout and a Peregrine on present early on the month. A large raptor species was reported by the Kingston Estate Gamekeeper and several other non-birders around Hare Hill Wood, taking pheasants with ease in flight (something which Common Buzzards have been seen to do) but this was apparently a large unidentified Falcon, seen at rest on several occasions.

Jack Snipe were flushed from The Beck at Eakring Flash (10th) and Eakring Meadows Nature Reserve (17th) A Greenshank early morning only at Eakring Flash on 13th was by far the area's latest ever record and a surprise. A Grey Plover flew west with a small party of Golden Plover on 18th. On the whole, Golden Plover numbers were unimpressive throughout the month.

Eakring Flash is now annually attracting Water Rail and a bird first seen on the 3rd, could have been the September individual, remaining till the 8th when joined by a second bird on the 9th. Both birds remaining throughout October.

Gull numbers were low, but scanning the Lesser Black-backed Gull flocks revealed two adult Yellow-legged Gulls at Tug Bridge Farm on 11th, and another in the area on 16th.

Stock Dove numbers produced a massive area count, when two flocks totalling 279 birds fed in the Eakring Field Farm and Tug Bridge Farm areas towards the end of the month on the 26th.

Earlier in the month, the first of the Winter migrants arrived, among which were good numbers of Song Thrushes, first noted late September. At least 13 were along the old hedge at Eakring Flash 2nd, and many were noted moving through the area. Winter migrant arrival dates were Redwing (10th) Fieldfare (15th) and Brambling on 16th. Redwing passage produced the first really large counts since recording here began in 1998, but these could so easily have been missed. Counts of 1 158 west on 17th, followed by 2 048 west the next day, all occurred through the area within a narrow geographical band of probably no more than 300 metres, centred along a high point in the Red Hill area. Scanning points further north and south with binoculars, revealed that this was a very concentrated passage, illustrating just how some parts of the county can record very low or insignificant numbers of migrants, whereas others record four-figure movements. A Stonechat was at Eakring Meadows on 26th.

Last dates for the area's Summer migrants included Blackcap (3rd) Chiffchaff (2nd) Swallow (17th) and House Martin 15th, with breeding House Martins finally vacating Eakring village on October 11th. Two Nuthatch were in Lound Wood on 20th, the area's third documented record. These birds were busy caching quantities of nuts for Winter feeding, giving rise to the hope that they may stay and breed in the area.

November saw small amounts of coverage. The first week of the month was almost completely missed and accounts for some very low migration totals achieved this Autumn. Certainly good numbers of Fieldfare arrived during the first week, when counts reached 500 birds at Eakring Meadows, building to 700 in the area by the end of the month, as several large flocks roamed the area in typical fashion. Redwing were present at most sites in much smaller and less obvious numbers, producing counts well below three-figures, as birds remained generally elusive.

The only skien of Pink-footed Geese saw 80 moving east on 22nd just after mid-day.

Eakring Flash produced early Goosander records, with four present on 10th (presumably brought down by heavy rain) and then a pair on 24th. An annually increasing number of Shoveler records saw the latest involving a pair on Eakring Flash on 21st, though Shoveler still remain scarce here. Wigeon were at Eakring Meadows with two on 30th, before flying off west.

Small numbers of Common Snipe were in the area, with up to seven at Eakring Flash throughout November and a highest count of 22 (on 30th) at the more favoured Eakring Meadows. Among these were Jack Snipe. The single bird present from mid-October remained at Penny Pasture Common to November 1st, before two were found (23rd) and then three on 30th. The two Water Rail remained at Eakring Flash throughout the month, mostly favouring one small section of the eastern-side.

December was generally very mild, apart from a slight cold spell around mid-month. Cross-country relocating Pink-footed Geese went through on two dates, with 130 east on 3rd, 189 east and south-east in two skiens on 28th and 109 north-west (31st) The first ever December record of Shelduck involved one (sometimes two) from 5th onwards. Teal peaked at 86 on 17th, but many counts from favoured sites usually involved around 40 birds. A pair of Wigeon on 9th, then again a few days later were notable. More expected at this time of year were the three Goosander at Eakring Flash (17th) and a single moving west (30th) Four Mandarin were along The Beck on 16th.

Usually a very quiet month for wader records, December produced a Green Sandpiper around Eakring Flash/Pastures (3rd) and a Redshank moving south-west on 11th. The mid-month cold spell saw small numbers of Lapwing moving south-west on 6th, 8th and 11th and up to 68 Golden Plover were around the Kneesall Road/Leyfields area at around the same time.

A female Peregrine was hunting in the Eakring Meadows area on 16th and two/three Common Buzzards remained faithful to the area. The two Water Rail remained at Eakring Flash until the end of December, continuing to show well on many dates along the eastern-side of the flash.

December will be remembered for it's large numbers of over-wintering birds (quite unusual for the area) Throughout the month, large Fieldfare and Redwing flocks roamed the area. Redwing counts for this time of year, normally fail to reach 50, but this month has been exceptional. Counts rose from 100 throughout the area at the start of December, to around 400 by the month's end. Fieldfares numbered at least 1 500 by the end of December, a massive count in comparison to other highest counts produced during corresponding months in previous years.

Another unusual but distinctive feature was the northerly Redwing movements that occurred on both 17th and 18th, when counts of 256 and 276 were reached respectively. This was by no means an isolated short-distance movement, but was also noted from other visible migration sites further north in Yorkshire and Lancashire. There were also large counts of finches in the area as well, with combined totals of at least three Chaffinch flocks producing at least 400 birds. These included up to 250 in the Kersall/Hare Hill Wood areas from 7th, with another 200 at Red Hill on 8th. 100 were in a mixed finch/bunting flock along Kneesall Road mid-month. This latter flock also held a minimum of 30 Tree Sparrows and highlighting an exceptional month for finches, a similar number of Siskin were found near Kersall on 28th. Siskins continued to move through the area on several dates, with 23 south-east on 24th. Redpoll however remained scarce. Yellowhammer counts peaked at 50+ in the Red Hill area on 8th, but small groups scattered throughout the area probably meant that the full area count was much higher.

Monthly reviews