Bird Sightings

As many are aware we have some birdwatchers who are social members and come and watch from the corner, or watch the bird feeders they have put up beyond the Flying 15 area. We have asked John one of the regulars to let us know what they see. The Terns are nesting on the raft so please give that a good berth (they will let you know if you get to close!). If you want to know more stop and ask.

JULY 2020: Generally a quiet month although there were one or two notable sightings. The regular Red Kite was seen on several occasions and there were several reports of Hobbies, a small falcon that is a summer visitor to the UK. Wading birds were represented by a Black-tailed Godwit which remained from the 24th-27th along with records of Common Sandpipers which reached a maximum of nine birds on the 6th. Mid-summer is usually the best time to see Yellow-legged Gulls which come to Britain from Europe and a single bird was noted on the 14th and 16th. A Redstart, a species which is less than annual around the complex was recorded on the 24th and three Yellow wagtails were seen on the 30th. Some disappointing news concerned the tern raft. In early April it broke away from its anchor point and drifted on to the bank, just before the Common Terns were due to arrive back on site for the summer. Fortunately club members acted swiftly and it was quickly taken back out in to the bay and secured to a buoy. Approximately seven pairs of terns took up residence and were soon sitting on nests. Some young birds were seen and all appeared to be going well. Unfortunately in early July the birds deserted the raft and no young birds reached the flying stage. We are not sure why this happened but a spell of very unseasonal cold wet weather may well have been to blame.

FEBRUARY 2020: I think the least said about February the better. With water as far as the eye could see, streams, lakes and fields all in to one, it really was a very forgettable month on the birding front. The two Black-necked Grebes remained during the early part of the month and the Great White Egret was noted on a few occasions. A Red Kite performed on the 3rd and a Brambling, a species of finch which is a winter visitor to the UK from Scandinavia, was seen on the 12th. Other than that it was all rather repetitive with sightings of Peregrine Falcon, Stonechat, Shelduck, Green Sandpiper, Raven and Redshank.

JANUARY 2020: Several of the best birds seen in December remained in to January. The two Black-necked Grebes and the two Stonechats were noted almost daily throughout the month. The Great White Egret (photo) could often be seen sitting around the sailing lake shore. A flock of 60 Pink-footed Geese flew north-east on the 15th. Several species of wading birds were observed although the number of individuals was small and included Common Snipe (3), Jack Snipe (1), Redshank (2), Green Sandpiper (3) and Oystercatcher (1). A flock of up to 60 Golden Plovers were noted on several occasions, usually over the ridge on the opposite side of the river. Two Ravens were recorded and a Peregrine Falcon also put in an appearance.


DECEMBER: Another relatively quiet month to end the year. A Red Kite was seen on a couple of occasions and a flock of 120 Golden Plovers was noted on the 3rd. Reduced numbers of gulls have been using the Sailing Lake to roost but a Mediterranean Gull was identified on the 16th amongst many hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. The Great White Egret appeared again and despite it being big and white it could be very elusive. A flock of nine adult Whooper Swans were present on the 24th but didn’t stay for too long. A Single Black-necked Grebe appeared on the 23rd and was joined by a second individual with both birds remaining until the end of the month and in to the New Year (photo). Two Stonechats were seen on a number of dates throughout the month. Other species of interest included Peregrine Falcon, Green Sandpiper, Caspian Gull, Redshank, Common Snipe and Goosander. Approximately 138 different species were observed around the general vicinity of the Sailing Lake, a good number and very similar to last year’s total.  

NOVEMBER: Another relatively quiet month. The exceptionally high water levels made getting around rather difficult at times. With so much water around in the Trent Valley the birds were spread far and wide and didn’t have to rely on lakes and ponds. The female Common Scoter which arrived in October remained and was joined by two more birds on the 8th. The Golden Plover flock peaked at 70 birds and other wading birds recorded included Green Sandpiper, Dunlin and Redshank. A large movement of migrating Pink-footed Geese occurred on the 13th when a total of 460 birds flew high over the Sailing Lake to the north-east. It is fairly usual to see one or two Red Kites in the area but a record of three birds on the 13th was exceptional. Also noted on the 13th was a Great White Egret whilst it’s smaller cousin, the Little Egret, reached a maximum count of nine birds. A pair of Stonechats remained throughout the month. Chiffchaff, a species of warbler, is a summer visitor to the UK. However, they are hardy little birds and some remain with us throughout the winter and a bird was seen around the Annexe Pit on the 18th.

OCTOBER: It is amazing to think where some of the birds we see around the Sailing Lake have originated from. Two flocks of Pink-footed Geese were noted migrating high over the lake during the month, 200 on the 16th and 40 on the 29th. These birds would have begun their journey in Greenland or Iceland and were almost certainly heading for the Norfolk coast where they will spend the winter. A party of 12 Whooper Swans, eight adults and four young birds, flew low over the lake on the morning of the 29th. Tired, following a long flight, again from Iceland, they landed on the flooded field adjacent to the main track and rested for a short time before continuing on their journey. The early part of the month saw two Rock Pipits from Scandinavia appear on the 7th. These were followed by a Woodlark on the 9th and two Stonechats which were seen on a number of occasions. Birds of prey were represented by single Marsh harriers observed on the 23rd, 28th and 29th. There were also sightings of Red Kite, Peregrine Falcon, Common Buzzard and Kestrel. A Ringed Plover and two Green Sandpipers were reported on the 15th. Little Egrets were seen on most days whilst their larger relative the Great White Egret was noted on the 25th. A female Common Scoter was present on the 31st. The last House Martin was seen on the 11th and the final Swallows on the 16th. A late Reed Warbler was recorded on the 9th. The Grey Partridge was once a familiar sight in our countryside. However, it is now a species of high national conservation concern. It was therefore wonderful to see a covey (the name for a group of partridges) of 13 birds feeding on a number of dates in fields beside the main track. One day they even posed to have their photograph taken!

SEPTEMBER: Several summer visitors departed for a warmer climate this month and some of the latest dates were Swift, 13th, Yellow Wagtail 23rd, Reed Warbler 25th and Common Whitethroat 25th. A few of us did a day list on the 13th. A day list is to try and record as many species as possible in a single day. The weather was fine and dry and we managed to see 83 different species around the complex which is an excellent total. Best on the day was a Marsh Harrier, the first record of the year. Also noted were a Whinchat, two Wheatears, Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Raven and Peregrine Falcon. A family of Grey Partridge comprising of the two adults and 11 young were seen on several occasions around the horse paddock or adjacent field. Other records were a Cetti’s Warbler, the first after an absence of two years, Pintail on the 16th, two Hobbies on the 23rd and several sightings of Red Kites.

AUGUST 2019: Once again a relatively quiet month but signs that the autumn migration is starting to gain momentum. Two drake Common Scoters were noted on the 1stwhilst the Great White Egret, which hadn’t been seen since the spring, made a welcome return on the 5th. A magnificent Osprey flew low over the lake on the 13th, the bird was flying in a south-westerly direction and was no doubt on migration to its wintering grounds, probably West Africa. An odd looking leucistic Sand Martin was observed on the morning of the 16th. The bird was almost pure white and certainly stood out amongst the large flock of other martins. A Whinchat was a good record on the 19thand was only the second on site this year. A few wading birds were seen including Dunlin and Common Sandpiper although the most notable were three Ruff. The 28thwas a notable day when an evening visit produced eight Black Terns, a Garganey and an excellent count of 28 Yellow Wagtails, a species that unfortunately isn’t as common now as in years gone by. Other records for the month included Shelduck, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon and Caspian Gull.

JULY 2019: Generally quiet but there were signs towards the end of the month that the autumn migration was gaining momentum. A Black-necked Grebe noted on the 3rdwas the first record of the year. Several species of wading bird appeared and best of all were Greenshank on the 3rd, Whimbrel on the 28thand Grey Plover on the 30th. A movement of Common Scoters, a type of sea duck, occurred on various lakes and reservoirs in the midlands and Hoveringham scored with ten birds on the 28thand a further three on the 31st. The last day of the month saw a significant passage of Arctic Terns, due in part to the poor weather conditions, and a minimum of twelve birds passed through the Sailing Lake during the morning. In addition to the above, Red Kite, Hobby, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Sandpiper and Redshank were all observed on several dates.

JUNE 2019: As expected a very quiet month. There was a notable count of Little Egrets on the 15thwhen 21 birds were counted. Red Kites are always a pleasure to see and one or two birds were seen on a few occasions. Excellent news relating to the tern raft where we think at least six or seven pairs are nesting with two pairs already feeding young so it is a little bit crowded out there! The raft has been a real success and numbers have risen from one pair in 2017 and then three pairs last year.

May 2019: It is always an exciting month although generally fewer birds are moving than they were during April. We always look forward to the arrival of one particular species, the remarkable Arctic Tern. These birds undertake what is by far the longest migration known in the animal kingdom. They breed around the Arctic Circle, although a good number also breed around the coast line of Britain. They then go all the way down to the Antarctic for the summer there (our winter) Depending on the route they take an individual bird can travel over 50,000 miles a year. Approximately 40 birds were around the Sailing Lake on the 3rd; 24 on the 9thand 6 on the 10th. Associated with them were several splendid Black Terns with over 20 birds noted between the 7thand 10th.  Wading birds also used the lake as a stop off rest and feed with the best of all being two Knot on the 10thalong with two Whimbrel the same day.  Also noted were Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper. Cuckoos are not as common now as in years gone by so it was nice to hear one calling on the 13th. Birds of prey were represented by up to 4 hobbies catching flying insects on some of the warmer days and several sightings of Red Kites. The Common Terns have again taken up residence on the raft with three, possibly four pairs present. The five young Egyptian Geese are now almost as big as their parents

The knot in full plumage

APRIL 2019 Lots of birds are migrating in April so it is always an exciting time to be out bird watching. The majority of summer visitors arrived having made the long journey from their wintering grounds. Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers all settled in to their breeding territories. Swallows and House Martins found plenty of flying insects to feed on and the first Swift was seen on the 29th. We also welcomed back our Common Terns and it wasn’t long before they were showing an interest in the raft. An Osprey was noted on the 4th and a Mandarin Duck was seen on the 5th. The rarest bird of the month was a Pale-bellied Brent Goose watched feeding around the lake on the 11th. This was only the 5th occurrence in Nottinghamshire. Although it is probably best described as ‘a little brown job’ a Rock Pipit was a good find on the 12th. A Short-eared Owl was observed on the 18th and a Whinchat (another little brown job) was seen on the 22nd. Five Ravens watched flying over also on the 22nd were probably a family party, indicating that they may have bred locally. Other sightings of interest included two Whimbrel, a Curlew, a Great White Egret, two Wheatears and a Red Kite. I am sure many members have noticed the Egyptian Goose family which can often be seen on the grass around the club house. All five youngsters are doing well thanks to their very protective parents. 

MARCH 2019

It actually proved to be quite a disappointing month and there were few highlights. Best of all were two tired Whooper Swans which spent the majority of the day on the lake on the 19th, a welcome rest on their long journey back to their breeding grounds in Iceland. The Great White Egret continued to be seen on a regular basis along with up to five Little Egrets. Summer visitors which made their first appearance of the year included several singing Chiffchaffs, a Blackcap and a Little Ringed Plover. Other interesting species included Shelduck, Red Kite, Raven, Pink-footed Goose, Redshank, Golden Plover, Goosander and Green Sandpiper. The tern raft was made ready for the arrival of the breeding Common Terns which we hope to welcome back towards the end of April.


Feb 2019
Whilst it was a relatively quiet month there were still some interesting sightings. Numbers of birds using the gull roost were not as large as in previous winters but it still produced a rare Iceland Gull on the evenings of the 14th/15th. This species breeds in Greenland so it was quite a journey for this young bird to make all the way to then Sailing Lake. A beautiful Barn Owl was seen hunting in fields to the rear of the Annexe Pit on a number of occasions, often coming out well before dark. A Stonechat was a surprise visitor on the 14thfrequenting the reed bed area between the barrier and the tree. They are not common on site and no birds were seen at all last year. The Great White Egret continued to be reported, usually in the company of a Little Egret. The unseasonal warm weather produced some early summer migrants in the UK but it was quite remarkable to see a Sand Martin feeding over the Sailing Lake on the 28th. This represents the equal earliest arrival date ever in Nottinghamshire for the species. Other species of note included Green Sandpiper, Red Kite, Pink-footed Goose, Redshank, Golden Plover, Shelduck and Raven.

Great white Egret on the lake – Photo John Hopper

January 2019.The month produced a nice assortment of birds. Best of all were the ducks, three species in particular. A drake Common Scoter, a sea duck, appeared on the 4thbut unfortunately was not present the following day. Two Smew were seen on the 20thand were probably different from the bird which has been noted up at the Railway Pit on a number of occasions. The drake Scaup finally departed from the Annexe Pit where it had been present for several weeks. Long staying birds included the Great White Egret and up to five Pink-footed Geese in with the large mixed goose flock. The gull roost provided interest although numbers of birds were down on previous winters. A Mediterranean Gull was observed on the 8thand there were several sightings of both Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls. Three Whooper Swans flew through west on the 18th. Two Ruddy Shelducks were exotic visitors on the 28thbut in all probability they were escaped feral birds rather than genuine wild vagrants. Other notable sightings included three Ravens, two Red Kites, Jack Snipe, Peregrine Falcon, two Shelduck, two Oystercatchers, Marsh Tit, 40 Golden Plovers and two Redshanks.

December 2018 was a relatively quiet month but there were still some interesting sightings. Best bird of all was a Slavonian Grebe which frequented the Sailing Lake from the 6thto 17th. This was the first on site since 2005. The first-winter Greater Scaup continues to reside on the Annex Pit where it remained until the end of the month in the company of the Tufted Duck flock. Several Little Egrets remain around the complex and their larger relative the Great White Egret was also observed on a number of occasions. A flock of 12 Whooper Swans flew through south-east on the 14thand a Marsh Harrier was a rather unseasonal visitor on the 12th. The numbers of roosting gulls increased during the month and at least three difficult to identify Caspian Gulls were picked out amongst them. Other birds of note included three Pink-footed Geese, Raven, Common Snipe, Peregrine Falcon, Goosander, Redshank and Tree Sparrow.

During the year approximately 140 different species of bird were seen around the immediate vicinity of the Sailing Lake which is an excellent total.

November 2018 produced some interesting sightings, assisted with the spell of cold easterly winds. The Merlin was noted again on the 1st. I mentioned last month that a Great White Egret, the larger cousin of the regular Little Egrets had been seen. This month it was joined by a second individual, the first time that two birds have been seen together on site. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful Short-eared Owl grace the site for two days on the 15thand 16th. This species of owl is not strictly nocturnal and this bird was flying around between the barrier and the tree during the late afternoon.

Short Eared owl at club 

A Scaup, which is primarily a sea-duck, appeared on the Annexe Pit on the 23rdand was still present at the end of the month although it is quite difficult to pick out from the resident flock of Tufted Ducks. Another rarity was a flock of three Red-breasted Mergansers which were present only briefly on the Sailing Lake during the morning of the 27thTwo Whooper Swans were observed on the 19thand a flock of 25 Pink-footed Geese flew over on the 25th.  Common Buzzards are a daily occurrence, in fact it is almost impossible not to see one if the weather conditions are favourable. Red Kites are more unusual, so it was nice to see two birds enjoying the bright and breezy conditions on the 30th. Other sightings in the month included Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Green Sandpiper, Redshank and Red-crested Pochard.

John Hopper



John Hopper




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