Eakring Birds 2004
A monthly review
A mild and largely wet January helped to ensure a quiet month to open the year. Much of the birding interest concerned the usual mix of wildfowl and commoner raptors. Finch flocks generally failed to impress and even numbers of wintering thrushes were down on previous years.

132 Pink-footed Geese north-west on 2nd and a Shelduck on several dates from 22nd, were typical of most Januarys. Numbers of wildfowl remained low and even Teal continued to be rather erratic in their occurrence at Eakring Flash.

Single Peregrines were in the area on 2nd, 23rd and 29th and it is thought, that the same female was responsible for the latter two dates. Sightings of Peregrine have continued to remain constant throughoutt the Winter here since 1999. Common Buzzards fare similarly, with single birds recorded on four dates, whilst five together over Red Hill/Eakring Flash on the 24th, was quite unusual for January.

One to two Water Rail remained at Eakring Flash from 22nd, but had almost certainly been present there all month. The only waders noted, were 40 Golden Plover (2nd), then 99 around the Church Hill area at the end of the month (30th) Lapwing peaked with a high January count of 120 on 29th. There were no Jack Snipe recorded and 11 Common Snipe at Eakring Meadows on 23rd, was a poor count when compared to recent years. This may have been due to the lack of suitable feeding habitat, when birds arrived the previous Autumn.

There were no exceptional gull numbers noted, but a count of 77 Great Black-backed Gulls moving through the area (10th) was of note.

Wintering passerines included 50+ Skylark in stubble fields at Eakring Field Farm on 2nd, with smaller numbers of both Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. High counts of thrushes included 600 Fieldfare in the area (10th) with 425 of these in one flock at Tug Bridge Farm, whilst Redwing peaked at an exceptional 100+ near Eakring Flash on 24th. Following the best Autumn for Brambling here since 1997, a single Brambling was with Chaffinches at Eakring Meadows on the 10th, with another in with the small mixed finch/bunting flock in set-aside along the Kneesall Road from January 2nd-11th.

The Lesser-spotted Woodpecker on 21st, provided the only true highlight during what can safely be said, to be the quietest month of the calendar. It was present in trees not far from Eakring Flash and near the pastures area, being found by regular visitors to the area - Robin Brace and Tony Wardell. The record continues a run of similar sightings involving birds moving through the area via roadside trees. The series beginning with single birds seen at Tug Bridge Farm and Eakring Flash at opposing ends of 2003. These had been the second and third Lesser-spotted Woodpecker records since the first way back in November 1997. Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers have remained scarce within the county in recent years and there are few sites now, where the species can be relatively easy to find. This includes the Eakring area, with this particular record being well recieved from a year list viewpoint.

Eakring Flash hosted the first Little Grebe of the year on 3rd, whilst counts of Coot at the same site rose to ten by the end of the month. Coot also returned to several other areas of water as February progressed. There were movements of Pink-footed Geese on two dates, with 82 moving west (12th) and then a good morning's passage involving approximately 391 birds heading north-west on the 19th. Rarest wildfowl was the pair of Wigeon on February 1st (only the third record for the early part of the year. At Eakring Flash, Gadwall peaked at 24 (5th) and Teal at 25 (26th) There were few Goosander sightings, with a female on 1st and then a male at Eakring Flash on the 14th.

Water Rail remained present throughout, occasionally betraying their presence by calling regularly. At least two birds were responsible, but it is possible, that three could have been at different areas of Eakring Flash.

Counts of Fieldfare were generally uninspiring and well below those normally expected at this time of year, but mixed finch/bunting flocks in the Park Farm and Kneesall Road areas, provided some entertainment, separating the various species. A small increase in Song Thrushes was noted at the end of the month, with birds at many sites throughout the area.

March was another rather quiet month. The first Tufted Duck arrived on odd dates during the month and six Pochard arrived on the typical date of March 11th. A pair of Goosander frequented Eakring Flash on odd dates from 12-30th, with Shelduck also there on several dates and peaking at four on 11th.

The only raptor sighting of note, was the Peregrine which was hunting the Leyfields area on 20th, but some belated news from the owner of Park Farm, concerned a male Hen Harrier. The bird was present from 29-31st and was seen on two occasions by several people. It frequented the fields south of Park Farm and Penny Pasture Common. This was only the third Hen Harrier record for the area. Common Buzzard sightings were fairly frequent during the whole of March. Sightings mostly involved single birds, but at least two were in the Park Farm/Eakring Meadows area from 25-26th. These birds appeared to be a pair.

A Water Rail remained extremely elusive, but was very likely present at Eakring Flash all month and was only noted on two dates including the 30th. A Woodcock flushed from Lound Wood on the evening of the 31st, was very likely a brief migrant, with the date coming conveniantly between the latest true Winter date and that of the male in territory last year. Woodcock continue to be a rare bird here. The only Golden Plover flock seen during the month was the 25 which went north-west on 21st. The highest Snipe count recieved was of 16 in the Eakring Meadows area on 27th.

Visible migration was very quiet - a situation which seemed to correspond with counts from other parts of the country. Meadow Pipit passage was more or less daily and included 86 and 81 north-west on both 21st and 26th respectively. The highest single total was the 147 heading north and north-west on 29th. March typically provided the first Summer migrants, with a White Wagtail north-west on March 21st, five Sand Martin were over Eakring Flash on 23rd setting a new earliest date and three Swallows north over Eakring Flash (30th) representing the second earliest date for the area. Chiffchaffs arrived on time (from 18th) but there was no concentrated influx this year. Birds were frequent at Eakring Flash throughout the month and territorial birds were in at Hare Hill Wood by

The highlight of the month, were the three Stonechats which were found. These included males at Eakring Flash on 7th and Eakring Meadows (26th) and a female also at the latter site a few days previously on 23rd. These last two records, provided new latest dates for Stonechat. Record Spring numbers of Redwing were in the area on March 18th, including some moving south. Total count for the morning was 336 birds. Fieldfare counts remained relatively low throughout the month, but three figure counts were reached with 188 on 18th, 150 at Tug Bridge Farm (23rd) and 130 in the Red Hill area on 25th.

April failed to produce any real notable rarity, but did produce some sought-after species and regular migrants. Although the weather was as rarely condusive to migration, as it was during the same period in 2003, it was very surprising that a number of Summer migrants did produce new earliest arrival dates. Across the board, arrival dates of all the regular migrants suffered mixed fortunes though. Two species which were held up by the weather at some point in the journey, were Blackcap and Willow Warbler. Both were late to arrive (second week of April) and establish territories. Other warbler arrival dates included Whitethroat and the earliest-ever Lesser Whitethroats on 16th, male Grasshopper Warbler at Eakring Flash (17th) Sedge Warbler (22nd) and Garden Warbler (30th) Grasshopper Warblers have always been quite erratic in their appearances here and have produced a wide range of arrival dates. The "reeling" of the male at Eakring Flash was short-lived when it was joined by a female on April 20th. With another male arriving and setting up territory from the 24th, the species looks set to breed here this year.

The most distinctive period of arrivals took place on April 16th and 17th. High pressure allowed good numbers of migrants to arrive on the back of light southerly winds. Included in this, were birds like Wheatear. On these two dates, a minimum of eight birds were found. The most favoured site was the horse paddocks on the outskirts of Eakring village, but traditional areas like Church Hill and both Tug Bridge and Eakring Field Farms again produced records. The first Wheatear in the area was a female at Church Hill on the 9th. This date was very late, as the first Wheatears are usually recorded here in the last week of March. Associated with the 16-17th arrivals was a male Redstart. This was only the third ever Spring record here and presumably had arrived alongside the Wheatears. Although this was the first time the two species had ever been found within the same area (at the same time) it had long been suspected that the two actually species associated on migration. There was certainly a good Redstart passage in Nottinghamshire on the 16th, with birds also recorded at several other sites. The only Whinchat of the month, was a male which was present at Penny Pasture Common later in the month on the 27th.

When northerly-baised winds drew in cloud and rain, conditions for wader and tern passage were fairly good. Little Ringed Plover have become scarce here over recent years, so the three birds recorded on 1st, 18th and 27th, were all welcome. Ringed Plover are even rarer and there have been only a handful of records to date. Two flew north over Eakring Flash on 28th and a Greenshank went high north over there the previous day. The only terns noted, were two Common Tern north over Red Hill. Though there were good numbers of Arctic Terns through the Midlands at the time, there were no records here from this hoped-for species.

Hirundine migration was typical of all visible migration throughout April - very little. Although there was a very early House Martin at Eakring Flash on 3rd, most other species were recorded in low numbers. The only real exception to this were Swifts, which did produce record numbers for April after one flew north on 22nd (earliest-ever) By the end of April, the total for the month was very reminiscent of that reached during May, as good numbers of birds moved through over a two day period spanning 28-29th.

A White Wagtail was near Church Hill on 3rd, but the first Yellow Wagtail was not seen until one in the horse paddocks on 16th. Cuckoos seem in very short supply so far this year and the only record was of a male in the Eakring Flash area on 25th and 26th. At least two Hobby were noted in the area, after the first arrived on 24th. From the 26th onwards, two were noted regularly, suggesting that breeding is likely nearby again this year.

Fieldfare remained virtually ever-present throughout April, with a (low) peak count of 250 birds in the Church Hill/Tug Bridge Farm areas on 7th and 8th. Aside from this flock, numbers were much smaller and from a wide range of sites across the area. By the end of April, odd northerly moving birds were still occasionally being seen.

This was one of the quietest May's on record here, with little to show in terms of rarities, but there were some interesting records. Perhaps the most unusual, regarded the first ever May record of Goosander, when ten flew north-east over Eakring Flash on the 5th. This count was also the largest Goosander count here. Gadwall were again present in good numbers and for the first time, breeding pairs equalled the much commoner Mallard. Gadwall first bred in the late 1990's, but have since increased annually and were found breeding at favourable sites throughout the area. Other notable wildfowl sightings were few. Shelduck (whilst not settling to breed) appeared on several dates during the month and included four visiting Tug Bridge Farm from 11-15th.

There was virtually no wader passage this month. The only such records involved a Whimbrel heard during the night flying over Hare Hill Wood and "roding" male Woodcocks at both the area's woodlands. This is the first time that two birds have been present. Hare Hill Wood was also the best place to see Common Buzzards, with a pair in that general area on and off throughout May. Hobby were also noted on several dates and a pair were seen on two occasions.

Overall, visible migration was typically quiet. Hirundines moved through regularly, with a second Spring peak in movement around mid-month. A female Redstart (1st) was the bird of the month, favouring hedgerows in the Church Hill/High Trees areas. It also represented the second of the year. A Fieldfare provided yet another early May date, when seen moving north over Eakring Flash on 3rd. The last of the Summer migrants to arrive were Turtle Dove (two on 1st) and Spotted Flycatcher at Eakring Flash (15th) There was a welcome rise in the number of migrant/breeding Garden Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats this Spring. Small numbers of most warblers continued to arrive during the first half of May, but the two mentioned species have always been rather uncommon here. However, by the end of the month it seemed certain that previous annual breeding totals of each had been doubled.

A very quiet June was highlighted only by the continued presence of up to three male Grasshopper Warblers at Eakring Flash. Though two pairs were present throughout the month, a third male was discovered singing from Oil-seed Rape, near Eakring Flash on the afternoon of 23rd, but not after.

A drake Teal was present at the same site on June 12th, and although this does represent a rare record, the timing of such a record is not totally unusual, as there have been similar late May/June occurrences over the years. A drake Ruddy Duck took up residence from 25-27th. The only Common Buzzard sighting was of one in the Kersall area on 27th. By the end of the month, there were the first indications of some return Swift movements. A notable 275+ birds were present in the area on 26th, with many of these birds slowly moving south-east at the onset of rain. 53 also moved south-east on June 22nd.

With daily coverage impossible, July was another fairly ordinary month. However, there were some highlights to break the frequent silence which prevailed across the area during the month.

A single Hobby hunting over over Eakring village on the 8th, was surprisingly the only July record and an adult Peregrine was hunting over the Lound Wood and Eakring Flash areas later in the month on 25th. This, sighting (whilst ealry) is not totally unusual, but August is a more traditional month for the first post/failed breeding birds. Common Buzzard sightings were few, but regular enough to suggest that at least one pair was possibly breeding in the area. All sightings revolved around one-three birds.

It was a very poor month for waders. With Eakring Flash being full to capacity throughout, lack of shoreline and suitable feeding areas, meant that the expected Greenshank and Green Sandpipers were absent. A Curlew moving south-east (21st) was the only wader record, but was new for the year. Curlew sightings during the first half of the year have become increasingly scarce in recent years. Post-breeding Lapwings, peaked at 97 birds at Eakring Field Farm on 29th.

There were no large gull counts, although 50 Black-headed Gulls west on 8th was quite noteworthy and coincided with large movements on the near Continent. Two Common Gull also going through west the same day, were the first of the Autumn. July 8th also saw large movements of Swifts. Again, much of this was observed across the North Sea. All coincided with an unusually deep Atlantic Low-pressure system, which swept across the UK, causing birds to move around the system's leading edge. At Eakring, 128 Swift moved south-east in two large groups (surprisingly high given the poor weather) and smaller movements were also noted during the first half of July. Included were; 44 west (1st) and 63 west (4th) In addition, the 60+ which were over Eakring Flash on the evening of the 13th, was the highest count of birds feeding low over the water. At dusk, all flew of north-west.

Other sightings during the month were Turtle Dove - four at Eakring Flash on 20th, the first migrant Yellow Wagtail of the Autumn which went south (29th) and the area's earliest returning Whinchat at southern-end of Eakring Flash on 21st. Eakring Flash continued to host at least four Grasshopper Warblers (including three males) throughout.

August picked up on a relatively quiet July. The number of visits to the area also increased when work commitments allowed. One highlight was the first successful hatching of three Little Grebe young at Eakring Flash. Hatching occurred a day prior to torrential rain, but one chick survived and continued to grow well. The first three Teal arrived back on Eakring Flash on the 4th, but had gone the next morning and were replaced by the first two Wigeon of the Autumn from 5-6th. Ruddy Duck sightings included a female and immature at Eakring Flash on 6th, with one still on site the next day. A Shoveler was at Eakring Flash (31st)

Bird of the month was the Red Kite on was in the area during the late morning and early afternoon of the 16th, from 11:55am-12:35pm. The bird was initially located circling over the north-east section of Lound Wood and nearby fields, then moved towards Leyfields farm. For a while it was lost from view as it circled low over Leyfields and appeared to be drifting off north, but reappeared a short while later over Lound Wood. It eventually headed off south-east and appeared to be losing height again. This was the sixth Red Kite for the area. Another breeding success was that of a pair of Common Buzzards - successfully raising two young in the area for the first time in many years (they were reputed to have bred at Lound Wood in the early 1990's) The family party were in the Hare Hill Wood/Park Farm at the end of the month. Other raptors seen included a juvenile Peregrine, present from 25-28th and sightings of Hobby on 6th and 11th.

A Whimbrel flew over Eakring Flash on the evening of 11th. Snipe returned with a single at Eakring Flash on 11th and then 14 at Eakring Meadows on 27th.

Visible migration picked up towards the end of the month (although still poor for August) 208 House Martins flew south-east on 25th and single Tree Pipits went over south and south-east on 19th and 26th. The first Meadow Pipits were noted going through on August 26th. Five Whinchats was a decent August total. Single birds were at Eakring Flash on 5th, 13-15th and again on the 19th. Two arrived overnight at Penny Pasture Common, Eakring Meadows on 25th, with one remaining till 26th. A Redstart at Eakring Meadows from 24-28th was the 30th such record here since 1998. Migrant Spotted Flycatchers included four in Eakring village (14th) and birds at Eakring Flash on a further two dates, where good numbers of Willow Warbler were present and moving through around 13th. Chiffchaff increased numbers at the same site from 14th. There were five Jay at Tug Bridge Farm on 14th, with another two in Eakring village the same morning. Grasshopper Warblers remained at Eakring Flash until at least the 14th.

Common Buzzards were again regular, with sightings of a single bird on the month's opening day, followed by two (2nd-5th) then five in the area on 8th. A Marsh Harrier was thermalling over Red Hill 4th, before it eventually drifted off high north-east. The immature Peregrine was again in the area on several dtaes. Initially it was at Lound Wood 5th-6th and then again at Eakring Flash on the 19th. The only Hobby seen, was at Eakring (8th)

The first passage Goldcrest was moving through hedgerows on 4th and whilst Chiffchaff continued to be seen regularly throughout September - three at Eakring Flash on 19th, was never bettered. A Spotted Flycatcher was at Eakring Flash on 19th. Other notable warbler sightings were a Willow Warbler at Eakring Flash on 1st, Blackcaps at the same site on both the 3rd and 10th (two birds) Lesser Whitethroats were at Eakring Meadows 4th-5th and later at Eakring Flash on the 8th (the same day as four Whitethroats were present. The only Sedge Warbler record was from the same site on the 10th.

Lapwing counts rose from 64 at Eakring Flash (2nd) to a much better 278 at Eakring Field Farm/Eakring Meadows by the 4th. There was an influx of Snipe through the area on September 5th, when a flock of 15 flew west and a group of 17 also passed through one Pennine site the same day. The previous day had seen large numbers at sites along the East Coast. Rarest wader record, was the Green Sandpiper through Eakring Flash south-east on 4th.

Chats were represented with singles of both Redstart and Whinchat at Penny Pasture Common 5th, followed by a Wheatear at Red Hill (11th) Odd migrants included four Turtle Dove south on the 5th and a Yellow Wagtail Eakring Flash on 1st. Hundreds of House Martins were heading south through the area on the 18th, despite the breezy conditions.

The only Pink-footed Geese noted, were 340 moving east on 18th. This was quite a poor showing in comparison to previous years. Raptors in the area during the month were a Peregrine from 17-24th and a Common Buzzard at Red Hill on 17th.

The month's two star birds were both found on October 17th, when Eakring Flash hosted both a Great Grey Shrike and Ring Ouzel along the old hedge there. Discovered by Robin Brace, the Great Grey Shrike at Eakring Flash on 17th, was present during the morning for approximately 15 min, from 08:30 to 08:45am. The bird showed well initially, but then flew off and was lost from view - later being relocated at 10:15am along Conservation Walk that starts from the Eakring to Wellow road, about 0.75 mile from Eakring. It was again mobile and flew off once across the large field that runs down the hill away from walk start point. The Eakring Flash bird, represented only the second Great Grey Shrike record from the area. The only other record concerned a bird at Eakring on November 2nd 1974. Presumably this being the bird which wintered the following two years at Kneesall.

A fruitless search for the Shrike, did result in the discovery of a Ring Ouzel at the same site and from several brief views, the bird was eventually identified as a female. It was feeding in Hawthorns along the old hedge at Eakring Flash at around 15:00pm and was associating with several Blackbirds. It was still present until dusk at least. This was the seventh area record, but (surprisingly) the first Autumn occurrence. It's record did not coincide with the large arrival of thrushes from the Continent a week previously, but may have been more expected when large numbers of Blackbirds arrived into the area around the 29th. Good numbers of Blackbirds were also reported elsewhere around the UK after one of the largest influxes of recent years. By the following day, large numbers were noted in Hawthorns at Red Hill and continued to be present until early November. There were also increased counts of both Fieldfare and Redwing at Red Hill and Eakring Flash on 30th. The first Redwing arrived in the area on 17th, when a group of ten were at Red Hill. The only real passage noted however, was the steady trickle of Redwings heading south (24th) when 50+ Fieldfare were also in the area. The arrival of the first Redwings, also coincided with a Stonechat at Red Hill on the 18th. Quite often Stonechats turn up at the same time as thrushes and this seemed no exception.

Good numbers of Sky Lark were in the area during October, including 70+ present on 24th and a further minimum count of 83 four days later on 28th. The first Brambling of the Autumn was at Red Hill on 24th. Visible migration counts were rather subdues on most days visits to the area took place. By far the best day occurred on 31st. Passage through the Eakring Flash area included 147 Fieldfare, 35 Redwing, 101 Starling and 18 Linnet all south and south-east. 457 Wood Pigeon flew south and south-west. Odd movers included two more Brambling, seven Yellowhammer and a single Song Thrush.

By the end of October, Herring Gulls also started moving through, with similar totals of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Although there were no outstanding counts, birds were noted heading south-west on numerous visits at this time. Other odd records were a single Lesser Redpoll at Eakring Flash (31st) two Swallow moving south on 2nd and an excellent area count of Grey Partridge, involving 13 near Eakring Flash on the 9th.

Regular shooting at Eakring Flash now means that most Teal are found at Eakring Meadows NR, where the small pool on Penny Pasture Common attracts good numbers for such a small area of water. Sightings during the month included three at the former mentioned site on 9th, with ten at Penny Pasture Common on 10th. However, largest count came on November 27th when 31 were present at the same site. Pink-footed Geese are always regular over the area and there were three sightings of numerous skiens passing through during the month. 32 went north-west on 10th, followed by 123 south-east (13th) before 328 went east the next day.

A fairly good month for raptors in the area. Single Common Buzzards were regular, but three were in the area (4) and four on 10th. The best sighting was the Goshawk near Penny Pasture Common (13th) Seen well by one experienced observer, this was the third-ever record of Goshawk in the area, following single birds at Lound Wood on December 26th 1998 and March 24th 2001. A Peregrine was seen on November 10th.

Two Water Rail (from 14th onwards) seemingly returned to Eakring Flash overnight, after regular searches since early October failed to produce any sightings or calls. Their arrival coincided with an increase in numbers from many sites around the county and UK. Other Continental migrants to arrive at the same time included two Jack Snipe at Eakring Meadows on 20th, with a Woodcock also at the same site. Woodcock have always been very uncommon here at this time of the year,with records totalling only a handful of birds since 1998. Golden Plover numbers built up from 46 mid-month, to 173 at Church Hill by 28th, but the flock was extremely mobile and was only noted on these two dates.

Typical November fare involved an increase in numbers of larger gulls and movement of Herring Gull peaked at 31 south-west on 14th, with the first Great Black-Backed Gulls (two) also being noted the same day.

There were no further influxes of thrushes and Fieldfare numbers were fairly ordinary. 140 were at Eakring Flash (4th) followed by a total of 250 in the area (10th) 200 at Red Hill (12th) and 122 on the 27th. Redwing numbers were barely in double-figures in comparison. Visible migration produced little, but counts of westerly moving Starling included 107 (9th) and 389 on 14th.

Large amounts of set-aside and stubble are beginning to attract large numbers of finches and buntings into the area over the past couple of Winters. Suitable feeding sites at Eakring Field Farm attracted a good mixed flock, containing at least 80 Yellowhammers with more commoner finches and buntings on 27th. Tree Sparrows are also continuing to appear in the area with regularity, and five were seen to come down from high altitude over Penny Pasture Common the same day. Small numbers were also at several other sites in the recording area during November. A Sky Lark population count on 28th, saw a minimum count of 83 birds present at three sites.

Rarity of a very quiet month, was the Barn Owl seen hunting roadside verges by one fortunate observer, just outside Wellow on the 30th. This was the only Barn Owl sighting of the year, but a welcome addition to the year list, which reached a final total of 122 species.

The only Goosander record was a male which flew north over Eakring Flash on 26th. A drake Mandarin was at Eakring Flash on 5th, again the only reported sighting during 2004 and only the second-ever at Eakring Flash. December saw continued low numbers of wildfowl at that site and on some days was completely deserted. Most Teal wintering in the area, continued to do so at nearby Eakring Meadows. The highest count achieved during the month, was a healthy 72 birds, but odd ones probably fell victim to the Peregrine that was seen to take one on December 26th. It is likely that this bird was accountable for most of the sightings over the latter months of 2004. Two regular Common Buzzards were in the area throughout, being noted on 5th, 8th, 12th, 19th, 25th and 26th.

Two Water Rail were at Eakring Flash until 5th, but not heard or seen after that date.

Fieldfare counts reached a maximum of 270 on one occasion in fields opposite Tug Bridge Farm, but the group split shortly afterwards and a similar count was never reached.

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