15th February, 2017
So it was decided to return to the Idle Valley for a spot more bird watching, as we’d previously only covered the southern half which found us heading north from the visitor centre, along the River Idles course, as far as the village of Tiln. All previous recorded bird sightings (Notts. Birders) all stated that the ‘interesting stuff’ was all spotted to the north of where we last visited.
12 souls on board the minibus, with varying birding experience, left Brackenhurst at 11am amidst cloudy skies along with the threat of heavy rains moving into the area from the SE around 1400. About an hour later we arrived at Torworth, turned right off the A638 and headed past Daneshill Nature Reserve and towards the village of Lound and through an industrial area to the east. Aggregates have been quarried from this area in the past, leaving a varied mixture of habitat including pits, ponds, and scrapes amongst immature birch woodland, all of which are characteristic in this type of post-industrial landscape.
We passed through the industrial area, for about a mile, to a raised area just over the River Idle that over looked the flood plain, stretching for about a mile to the north, south and the east, between Chainbridge Scrape and Chainbridge Pit. Initial sightings, spotted through binoculars and scopes, included wigeon, lapwing, shelduck, mute and whooper swan, various species of geese including two of our ‘targeted’ species for the day, bean goose and white fronted goose, located about 500 metres to the south of us. We then walked back along the track, viewing the Chainbridge Pit to the south. After 300 metres we found another raised viewing position, heavily brambled, which looked northwards over the Chainbridge Scrape, usual waterfowl species were present but also gadwall and pintail were spotted along with large numbers of lapwing. A debate then ensued after a small raptor was spotted in a tree, but not close enough for a positive identification through the scopes, was it a merlin or was it a kestrel? It turned out that it was just a kestrel.
Hungry bellies and cold ConSoc members called for a drive to Retford to buy lunch, then it was suggested we drive up to the Idle washlands to the east of Bawtry, along the A614 towards the village of Newington. A turn off to the right,onto Hagg Lane, found us in an area of the River Idle flood plains and were actually flooded, once again the usual species were present with the addition of little grebe, AKA dabchick, a short walk followed with nothing out of the ordinary being sighted, only the village of Misson, about a mile and a half in the distance.
After a short drive to search for a new viewing area, which proved fruitless, it was then decided amongst the group, as dusk was approaching , that we should return to our initial position, located at Chainbridge Pit and Scrape, to once again overlook the floodplain and to give us the best opportunity for viewing short eared owl and hen harrier, our other targeted species for the day, both of which had been reported on the Notts. Birders website in previous weeks. Another reason to return here was that the week before we had witnessed flocks of starlings heading to that area, so there was the possible added bonus of a starling murmuration. After about 5 minutes of our arrival, a fellow ‘enthusiast’ pointed out to the group that a short eared owl was sat about 600 metres to the north east of us, at the top of a ditch. This was observed for about twenty minutes and it was then brought to our attention that another ‘shortie’ had been spotted flying in from the Chainbridge scrape direction, visible for about 30 seconds, before returning in the direction it came from. Other raptors included a buzzard and kestrel in the distance.
On looking to the south west a starling murmuration was noticed, about half a mile away. A decision was made for a brief return to the raised viewing position we visited earlier, to give us a better view. By the time we arrived the murmuration had grown to what was estimated to be about 4000 birds, all the time increasing in size to an estimated 6 to 8000 birds.
Spitting rain brought the day to a close around 1700, with other areas to the north to be visited at a later date…. Idle Valley3 perhaps?