Thursday, 30 December 2010

Colour ringed Belgium Gull.

The Black Headed Gull that has been frequenting my garden was rung at Lommel in Belgium on the 23rd May 2010. It was a chick and was colour ringed as part of a Belgium ringing project. See their website at for all the details. They have some great maps that show that some of their gulls have taken the slightly more pleasant option of over wintering near Madrid! EAAR was first reported at Thornton on 15th November. As you can see from the photos the letters are black on a yellow colour ring. Other sightings recently include a Water Rail and Snipe. 43 Redwing were in my garden on 26th Dec.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Great Coot Migration!

The Coot Migration!

On the 19th December there were only two areas of open water on the res. as I carried out my Webs count. I thought it would be easy, but I had not considered the Great Coot migration. I had just finished counting the Coot in one open area and was walking around to the next area, when I noticed that all the Coot were on the move. It was like something out of the Masai Mara as they all decamped and headed off to the next watering hole. On the 22nd a female Brambling was in the garden. Water Rails have been seen both at the Stanton inflow and down the main outflow stream below the dam. Today there were 104 Teal which is by far the highest number I have ever recorded. There has also been a colour ringed Black Headed Gull in my garden ,which was rung in Belgium. More details to follow. Six Siskins were at the top end.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

In the bleak mid winter!

It has been difficult over the last 2 weeks to have enough day light to report much local avian activity. The ice has come and gone, but now looks like it will return as we head towards Christmas. On the 3rd there were 35 Mute Swans occupying the small area of open water. A male Blackcap was feeding from apples that I had stuck in the garden hedge on the 11th. Teal numbers rose to a maximum of 51 on the 12th. This is the highest count that I have had at Thornton and may indicate frozen waters elsewhere.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Winter returns.

A wintery scene at Thornton.
Tough conditions for this Heron.

The two inflow ends of the reservoir are frozen and wildfowl numbers are increasing. Species today included Little Owl, Water Rail, 4 Goosander (1 male,3 female) and 2 Ravens. On the 28th. November there were 36 Teal, a very good count for Thornton. There was also this Black headed gull that had not noticed the change in the season!

Common Gull?

On the 13th. Nov. I noticed this first winter Common gull that seemed rather diminutive. It wasn,t until recently that I remembered last years Mew gull debate. I am no expert, but this bird does seem to have a short bill and ,well it grabbed my attention enough to snap off a shot.

Monday, 15 November 2010

One Year on!

Hawthorn berries, Browns Wood.
More rounded tail feathers of an adult Lesser Redpoll.

Adult Lesser Redpoll showing more red on the breast feathers.

Adult male Bullfinch.

I started my blog exactly one year ago. I suppose the Rosefinch was the spark. My aim is to report the species seen at Thornton and perhaps encourage others to report on their local sites. Recent sightings have included a mixed flock of about 20 Siskins , 10 Lesser Redpoll and afew Goldfinch. Two female Goldeneye were brief visitors. The gull roost is also increasing with up to 400 B.H. Gulls and afew Common Gulls. Recently I trapped this fine adult male Bullfinch and also an adult male Lesser Redpoll. Note the more rounded tail feathers of this bird. The Hawthorn berries at Browns Wood are also impressive this year and will hopefully get many birds through the winter.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Signs of Winter.

As the wind direction turned to a cold easterly some winter species made their appearance. On Saturday a Brambling was a welcome addition to the year list. On Sunday a fly over Goosander, 5 Goldeneye and 10 Wigeon all heralded the approaching season. Dispite all this a single Comma and a Red Admiral enjoyed the warm mid day sunshine. A second hand report of a probable Waxwing on the 30th October had me checking all the local berry baring shrubs. Finally, up to 23 Lapwing are roosting on the dam, where I am optimistically hoping for a Snow Bunting!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Grey Wagtail.

A smart Grey Wagtail was at the outflow recently. It was probably the bird that I had rung earlier in the year. Grey Wagtails are classed as uncommon resident breeders and winter visitors in the county. They regularly breed at Thornton and recently I had a count of 6 birds at the dam. They are definitely one of my favourite birds.

Visitors from the East!!

Two rare migrants were on T.R.W.P. recently in the form of an adult winter plumage Head of the Hungarian ringing scheme and an adult, slightly younger , Head of the Hungarian Great Bustard project. Check the tee shirt. Both migrated back east to their breeding grounds in central Hungary.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Lesser Redpolls.

Small groups of Lesser Redpolls have been around the church aswell as afew Siskins. A single juvenile Ruddy duck was present on 11th. Other birds of note include Little Owl, Peregrine, Kingfisher, 9 Wigeon and a Shoveler. The warm sunshine on the 17th had a Small Copper and a Comma butterfly on the wing. Finally, 4 Ravens flew over at 10 am. on the 22nd.

The photo shows a first winter male Lesser Redpoll that I trapped and rung. Males have pink breasts in the spring ,but this bird has only the odd pink feather.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


I counted at least 800 Redwings heading south over Thornton in about one hour this morning. 8 Skylarks and 5 Swallows were also moving through. The only new year tick was a single Golden Plover. A first winter Stonechat was by the poney field at 1630.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

More W.W.B.Tern photos. Thanks Dave.

No sign of any terns on Monday. All had departed over night.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Thornton W.W.B.T.

Braving the foul weather I walked down to the dam hoping for a storm driven migrant. As I scanned the central area of the lake I immediately saw 3 Black Terns. This was good, but not a year tick. As I watched the terns I noted that one bird seemed to have a darker mantle and paler wings. This encouraged me to move to the centre of the dam and get closer views. I was also then able to see that the bird had a white rump and that it seemed slightly smaller than the 2 Black Terns. I realised that it was now worth returning home to check the Collins guide. I did this and also contacted R.M. Returning to the lake we now checked to see if the bird lacked a dark breast patch. Again it seemed to fit all the requirements . I decided to contact S.L. and by 11.20 he had seen and confirmed the bird as a juvenile White Winged Black Tern. A county, Thornton and year tick for me and a lifer for some of the 30 or so birders who came to enjoy some very close views. The right hand image shows the W.W.B. as the closer bird and a Black Tern behind. The lack of a dark breast patch is clear in both photos. My poor quality photos were taken with a hand held Panasonic DMC-TZ10, cropped and zoomed, so you get some idea of how close the bird was.

A third Black Tern joined the group later. While watching them at about 17.15 in the company of A.F. a Peregrine spooked the terns and they flew off high. At first we thought they were leaving , but they returned and were still present when I left at 18.00.

My second Thornton tick for the day was a Grey Plover. A.F. identified it on call and we both had clear views of the black armpit patches as it flew over and disappeared to the east.

Friday, 1 October 2010

More year ticks.

Dispite my ringing effort on Sunday there was no repeat of the Rosefinch weekend. Never mind. Compensation was in the form a juvenile Arctic tern late on Sunday and on 30th a first winter Mediterranean gull was near to the outflow.(Main car park) This brings my site year total to 115. Wildfowl numbers are building up with a count of 492 Canada geese on the 28th.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Mustela vision.

A very confiding Mink was watched as it hunted along the dam this evening. It is such a pity that this alien has caused so much damage to our native wildlife. When I first came to Thornton 24 years ago there were always Water Voles, Arvicola terrestris, at both inflows, but they have disappeared, easy prey for Mink. Dispite the bad press it was still a great animal to watch. Also at the dam were 6 Grey Wagtails. I cannot end this blog without mentioning that Sunday is the anniversary of the Thornton Rosefinch twitch. Ever the optimist , I shall erect a net in Rosefinch ride on Sunday at 9am and you never know!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Webs Count begins.

On the 19th September I completed my first Wetlands Bird survey of a new season. There were no great surprises, although 17 Little Grebe and 40 Great Creasted were notable. 335 Canada Geese, 190 Mallard and 45 Tufted duck were also counted. Also recorded were 1 Gadwall, 1 Shoveler, 1 Kingfisher and 2 Cormorants.
Other recent sightings have included 5 Grey Wagtails on the 4th and 1 Black Tern from the 7th to 9th September. Today(20th), 2 Ravens flew low over the church at 1730.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

More from TRWP!

At last a rare sunny day on the 30th and I was again on TRWP duty. A single Swift, Hobby, 3 Buzzards, Kestrel and a Curlew were seen. A Nuthatch was calling and visiting the neighbours feeders. A more unusual visitor to the garden was a single Linnet.
I cannot sign off without mentioning the sad demise of the Thornton Moth Mans blog. It was this site that encouraged me to start my own. It is great to hear about what people are seeing locally, especially areas of Natural History that I know little about. So come on Russ ,don,t abandon your followers.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


T.R.W.P is Thornton Raptor Watch Point, or in reality my decking over looking the reservoir. It was productive today, 22nd. August, with 7 thermaling Common Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk , 2 Ravens and a Swift. At 1610 an Osprey flew in from the east, circled the reservoir and then flew off west. Finally at dusk a single Hobby was hunting low near to the church.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Kingfishers galore!

A family group of 5 Kingfishers were at the top end of the res. on 17th July, 2 adults and 3 juvs. Other sightings recently have included 2 Ravens, 2 Common Terns, 2 broods of Tufted duck and a single Peregrine. The House Martins are busy repairing the nest as it was damaged when the first brood left. Hopefully they will have a second brood. Ringing locally has been successful with Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Golfinches and a single juvenile Grey Wagtail being caught.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Breeding success.

On the 11th June 2 young House martins were seen in the artificial nest. Swifts have also been inspecting the area and it has made me want to put in boxes for them. The only problem is that it does involve knocking through the gable end of the house which requires some careful consideration first! A single Green Sandpiper was found by DW on 8/7 on the mud at the top end of the reservoir. Other breeding success included a brood of Tufted ducks, an infrequent breeder on the res. Also 3 Kestrel pullus were rung on the 1st July. D.W. also found Red Eyed Damselflies at the fishing ponds in the Bagworth heath area. There were also good numbers of Ringlet and Small heath. Finally, Common Terns have been visiting the reservoir and on carnival day just as I was helping to put away tables, a Peregrine flew over.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The occupied nest.

The occupied nest is second from the right. It and the small one were made from card board that had been soaked for several days in water, with added fabric softener. I then shaped this around a ball to create the nest .I fitted some gauze into the nest to help in fixing the nest to the shelf. It was then left to harden. I painted the shelf with a light colour, they prefer white eaves. As you can see the 2 purchased nests,(£14 each!!!), look great, only problem is they have never been used. My tatty ones have now been used 3 times. They have been damaged by sparrows, but the male just carries out some DIY and you can just make out the mud he has added.Oh, and one fell off, but not when it was being used thankfully! Hope this is of some help, but if you need any more info. on making nesting sites then there is a very good book on the subject, published by the BTO.

House Martins in residence.

This shows the shelf onto which I attached the 2 bought nests and between are the 2 home made nests.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Summer visitors all in.

I eventually caught up with a Spotted Flycatcher on 27th May. It was rewarding to stroll along the sculpture trail in Thornton wood, thinking ,this is a good place for a Spotted Flycatcher, Oh there is one! On the same evening a Badger was seen out hunting for worms at about 2030. It is also great to have a pair of House Martins in the nests I made for them. It is a mystery why they have never used the two expensive ones I purchased at the Bird Fair. A Curlew flew over calling on 6th May.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Summer on its way.

At last the temperatures seem to be rising after the cool north winds of early May. The only bird sightings of note were 3 Common Sandpipers on the 5th and 8 Yellow Wagtails and 3 Sedge Warblers on the 6th May. A Grasshopper Warbler was still reeling at Bagworth heath on the 18th and a pair of Lesser Whitethroat were seen.

Monday, 3 May 2010


The final migrants have been arriving with 4 Swifts and a Sedge warbler on the 26th April and a Garden warbler on May 1st. Highlight was a probable female Marsh Harrier that flew north at 1900 on 27th April. A Grasshopper warbler was reeling below the dam on 28th. Today, a second hand report of what sounded like a Common Crane at about 9am got my pulse racing. The observer said that he heard the bird before he saw it and that it was like a "Heron on steroids!!" It flew away to the north. D.W. and I checked fields between Thornton and Stanton, but it was not until I checked Birdguides that I realised that I might have dipped a Thornton first. A Common Crane was at Ogston res. at 11.11, and I am sure a crane could easily make the 70 miles in two hours.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Ton Up!

The migrants have been arriving thick and fast over the last week. A Hobby was hunting over the reservoir on the 19th and a Redshank was on the dam on the 21st. Up to 2 Cuckoo were at Bagworth heath and two also at Browns wood. Barn and Tawny Owl were seen. Common Whitethroat and a smart Lesser Whitethroat were also at Browns wood. A Tree Pipit was a new site species and probably a passage bird, although the habitat it frequented was a potential breeding area. Finally, today a pair of Linnet below the dam took me to 105 species for the local patch and all before May.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Spring passage and summer arrivals.

With some excellent spring weather migrants are now arriving in good numbers. The male Redstart was around until at least Friday, and D.W. found perhaps a different bird at Brown,s wood today. Up to 3 Yellow Wagtails were present with a male Wheatear and a brief Ring Ouzel below the dam was a treat for D.W. Two Common Sandpipers were on the dam and a pair of Shoveler were year ticks on the 16th. A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was back at Bagworth heath where a Cuckoo was also seen.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Redstart hedge!

A smart male Redstart was added to the site year list on Saturday 10th. It was frequenting the same hedge that hosted one two years ago. This hedge was known as Little Owl hedge, but we might have to rename it! The Redstart was still present at 6pm on Sunday. R.M. also had 3 Ravens over the reservoir at 11am. and D.W. had presumably the same birds over Bagworth heath.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Migration in full swing.

No sign of the R.N.Grebe today, that has presumably continued its journey east. An early walk produced three new birds for the site list. A Willow Warbler was bravely singing from a Blackthorn dispite the chill N.W. wind. A single Oyster Catcher did two circuits of the reservoir before heading back, I guess to Brascote, and the first Common Sandpiper of the year was resting on the weir at the Stanton inflow end. The walk to Bagworth heath produced a single Raven that looked massive compared to the Carrion Crow that was mobbing it. A small flock of Lesser Redpoll were also on the heath. The final treat of the day was in the form of a dapper male Yellow Wagtail that was associating with the White Wagtail in the grass fields beside Stoney bank.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Red-Necked Grebe.

It has been several years since I have seen one of the rarer grebes on Thornton, so it was very pleasing to find a Summer plumaged Red-Necked Grebe at about 9.30 this morning. The grebe was frequenting the central area of the reservoir, with a small group of Great Crested Grebes. It was still present at about 1800 when it was closer to Stoney bank, the eastern side of the reservoir. This bird has probably wintered off our coast and is now heading back east towards Central Europe. Earlier this morning a short ringing session produced a male and female Blackcap and one Chiffchaff. The Chiffchaff was a returning bird that I had previously rung last July. It is very satisfying when birds return to a site, an indication that it fits their requirements. The hirundine numbers increased again today and there were one or two more House Martins. The White Wagtail was again in the field off Stoney Bank and a Treecreeper was seen carrying nesting material.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Barnacles, feral or Svalbard bound?

Up to 50 hirundines have been feeding over the res. mainly Swallows and Sand martins, with one House Martin on the 30th. On the 31st D.W. located 17 Barnacle geese that stayed until late in the day. At times they flew around the reservoir and favoured the N.E. direction, but I was not around to see in which direction they eventually departed. Their appearance was enough to get me looking in the new Avifauna. The entry made interesting reading concerning Barnacles and Thornton , where one was shot during the first week of April, 1891 and 7 were present during the last week of March 1981, when there was an influx of wild birds. There had been 31 at Eyebrook and one of these birds had a Svalbard ring. About 5 of the birds seemed to be adults with yellow faces. They were nervous and kept in a tight group. They did approach the car park area , but this may have been due to the feral Barnacle that is associating with the group of hybrid Snow geese. My feeling is that they were genuine wild birds that have probably moved further S.W. this year due to the hard winter. It would have been good if they had moved on to fields and we could have checked for rings. Other recent sightings included a male Blackcap, a White Wagtail, and a Common Tern, all on the 2nd April. The Tern is an early bird being 3 days ahead of the ten year average.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Hirundines at last.

D.W. had a Swallow on the 26th, and today there were 2 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins. They tended to drop in when rain threatened and soon disappeared. There are also several Chiffchaff around the reservoir and they are now calling. Seven Buzzards were joined by a Peregrine this morning. There was also a report of a male Blackcap singing in Thornton wood. A walk over to Bagworth heath produced 2 more site ticks, a brace of Red Legged Partridge and a small flock of Meadow pipit mixed in with Skylarks.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Talon grappling Buzzards.

I have seen Buzzards talon grappling before, but today two birds were seen to fall for what must have been at least one hundred feet, before they released. No sign of any hirundines at Thornton yet. Three Chiffchaffs were seen feeding , but not calling. A Water Rail is showing well at the Markfield inflow end.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The First Migrants.

As the first migrants start to trickle into the county there is always excitement and expectation. On the 16th nine Song Thrush were feeding in the fields near to the church , no doubt passage birds, heading north. A Song Thrush was also seen carrying nesting material. A walk to Bagworth heath on the 17th, resulted in a close encounter with a Woodcock that was flushed. I have also managed to put up a home made Little Owl box in a known territory. Today I finally managed to tick my first warbler of the year, a Chiffchaff. It was busily feeding along a hedge and not calling ,despite the warm weather. It was also quite pale and I did wonder whether it was the northern race abietinus. Other signs of spring today included two Brimstone butterflies and a wonderful chorus of croaking from a frog filled pond.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Lesser Redpolls.

There have been very few large flocks of passerines around locally ,so it was nice to find a flock of approximately 200 Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches feeding on the Alders at Bagworth heath on 13th March. Three Curlews were over the reservoir on 12th. A Willow Tit was my 81 species on my Thornton year list and the colour ringed Black headed gull , 2Y74, is still loyal to the ressy car park. With the milder weather now in command the excitement is rising as we await the Spring migration.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Signs of Spring.

Dispite the weather still being on the cool side there are at last some signs that spring is ready to burst out. On the 26th Feb. the first frogs were seen in the pond and Great crested Grebes were displaying. Pairs of birds were in evidence and this included a pair of Peregrine over the reservoir on the 26th, two Shelduck on the 2nd March, a pair of Little Owls on the 3rd and 2 Curlew today. At Bagworth heath a pair of Stonechat were brief visitors.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Ice Returns.

With winters icy grip still dominating spring seems a long way off. The recent bird sightings have also had a winter feel, with two Lesser Redpoll, Raven and a flock of 25 Wigeon. A smart male Yellowhammer in the garden was also admired against the snow. When temperatures do start to rise spring will burst out and we are promised a spectacular display. I think we shall all enjoy it after the hardest winter for thirty years. I remember last easter being in Finland , where they go from two metres of snow and temperatures of -20, to long warm sunny days, sometimes within a week or two. The Finnish birders we spoke to wanted a long drawn out spring so that migrants would linger on their journey north and give them more chance of adding them to their year lists. At Thornton it is always worth birding when the weather is bad as migrants are attracted to the insect hatches off the reservoir. Lets hope for a good spring migration to dispell those winter blues.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

First hint of Spring!

With the increasing daylight at last there is a hint of spring. A fine male Mistle thrush was singing from the church yard today. Three new species were added to the year list , taking me to 76. Two Great black backed gulls flew over in the company of a a mob of Herring gulls. A yomp up Brown,s wood produced a smart Marsh tit and two hours ringing on the rough resulted in a Lesser Redpoll trapped and rung. A group of 75+ Lapwing wheeled over the res. this morning and 2 Common Buzzards and a Kingfisher were also seen.

First hint of Spring!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Waiting for the spring!

As the cold weather persists there has been little to report . The only tick has been a group of 4 Greylag geese flying over on the 7th. Feb. Other species have included Water Rail near the wooden bridge, Teal and Green Woodpecker. The colour ringed Black headed gull has been frequenting the car park. It has a white ring with the code 2Y74 and is the same bird that was seen earlier in the year.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Collins Bird Guide, 2nd edition.

There has been very little to report at Thornton for the last ten days. However, to relieve the tedium I have treated myself to the new Collins guide. It is amazing how our growing knowledge demands that bird guides are constantly having to keep up to date. The very useful page of Caspian Gull images is a case in point. Others include American Herring Gull, Brown and Taiga Flycatcher and soemmerringii Jackdaw to name but afew. It is all so useful as a reference and so informative. Meanwhile at the res. I have only added one site year tick, a Tawny Owl. Other species have included Kingfisher, Teal and now 7 dodgy Snow x greylag with the Barnacle goose. Three Snipe were at Browns Wood and a large tit flock in Thornton wood included over 15 Long Tailed tits, two Treecreepers and the more common tit species ,but no sign of the hoped for Marsh or Willow. I have recently added up my ringing totals for Thornton for 2009. I managed to ring 490 new birds of 31 species. This is only just short of my best year, 2005 when I did 531. It gives me a target for this year. I have also been busy putting up three Barn Owl boxes and one Tawny box, both at Thornton and at Charnwood lodge. My next project is to make some Little Owl boxes , using the new design from the latest edition of BTO News.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Thawing Thornton.

Not much to report over the last few days and certainly no Hen Harrier! The Harris hawk is however still loafing around the Markfield inflow. New species to add to the Thornton year list have included Nuthatch, Woodcock and a small passage of Skylarks going north on Sunday. The wonderful mild weather on Sunday had the Mallard displaying. They might get a shock on wednesday if the snow returns.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Big Freeze.

There are now only two small areas of open water on the res. Today there was a very sad looking group of Coot hunkered down on the ice. The Wigeon have taken to grazing on the bank and are quite confiding. New birds today included a Peregrine and a Jack Snipe, that flew up from the out flow. Eight Teal were in the area of open water in the company of Gadwall, Tufted and Pochard, but no sign of the juv. Scaup. The BTO Blog has some great photos of a badminton playing owl! Its worth a look.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Conclusion on the dodgy duck!

I managed to get good views of the hybrid Tufty on Sunday and it seems to be a classic male Tufty x female Pochard. The vermiculation is indistinct, and appears plain grey and I even managed to notice purple gloss, (it says violet on page 379 of Collins) on the head. Never mind, but at least I was able to console myself with 3 more site year ticks in the form of 1 Yellowhammer, a Goldeneye and a fly over group of 4 Ravens.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Lesser Scaup?

I managed to film the hybrid Tufty x Pochard today.(2/1/2010) There were certain features that made me get quite excited ,but then there were also features that had the opposite affect. The shape of the crown and the mantle resembled Lesser Scaup, but the bill tip had too much black, although not as much as the illustration of the hybrid on page 59 of Collins. The bird flew off before I was able to scope the mantle to judge the vermiculation. As it took off my film shows a clear white wing bar on the secondaries ,but it is not obvious how far this extends. I did not notice any gloss on the head. The bird flew off at about 10.30 and could not be relocated in the afternoon. My conclusion is that it is probably a hybrid, but would be easy to confuse as a Lesser Scaup.

New Years Day.

The annual Big Day birding around Thornton produced a very respectable 62 species. Best birds were a Water Rail again by the fishing lodge and the dependable juv. Scaup. Although not included on the list the Harris hawk is still frequenting the top end of the res. Most interesting however, is the Tufted x Pochard hybrid ,or is it a male Lesser Scaup!