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October 2023 highlights

For once the ornithological highlights did not centre around county rarities during October, instead three county record counts take pride of place. Firstly, on 9th October RAF counted 48,060 Redwings moving over Ramsley smashing the previous best of 41,600 set back on 27th October 2006. Meanwhile in the south of the county Willington GP saw Cattle Egrets increase by one almost daily to reach a peak of 11 on 17th-18th, the previous best being three at Trent Meadows (2019), Willington GP (2021) and Carr Vale DWT NR (2021). Not to be outdone, Great White Egrets set new highs of 8 on the 15th, 9 on the 17th and 12 on the 21st. That's not to say that there were no county rarities, and rating very highly must surely be the juvenile Red-throated Diver that graced Butterley Reservoir for three days (23rd 25th) until apparently being flushed by a fisherman's bait boat, some super photos will ensure acceptance by the rarity committee of what is the first in the county since 2020. It makes a change for a decent county bird to be available for all comers; unfortunately, a juvenile Gannet between Carsington and Brassington, a Great Northern Diver just south of Chatsworth Park and a Hoopoe at Fritchly on the 17th reverted to form and remained single observer records. Late in the month four Shags appeared at Foremark Reservoir with another briefly at Carsington Water.

Whooper Swans started to appear from the 12th with records in single figures from 12 sites and higher counts of 21 from Willington GP on the 15th and Ogston Reservoir 57 (plus four in the evening) on the 12th. The long run of south westerlies ensured a light passage of Pink-footed Geese with quite a few flocks going NW, but the 25th saw a big push with 2,590 ESE over Totley Moss, 1,950 ESE over Carr Vale DWT NR (surely a lot of duplication here) and 1,495 SE over Highoredish. Late Garganey were seen at Willington GP on the 2nd and Ogston Reservoir on the 9th. Up to five Common Scoters appeared at three sites including an unusual record of one on floodwater at Darley Dale and Goldeneye were seen at eight sites from the 10th when one was at Carr Vale DWT NR with an unusual record from Middleton Moor from the 28th. Two interesting hybrid ducks appeared with a female Teal x Pintail at Drakelow DWT NR and a male Pochard x Tufted Duck at Carr Vale DWT NR.

Two Bitterns were seen at Willington GP and Carr Vale held one also. Away from Willington GP, the only other places to host Cattle Egrets was nearby Clay Mills and Repton, both with six birds and High Bridge GP, where four were seen (no doubt all relate to Willington birds). Up to 26 Little Egrets were at 29 sites and away from Willington GP up to 4 Great White Egrets were logged at 25 sites.

Up to nine Red Kites were logged at 30 sites, Marsh Harriers were seen at Willington GP (up to two seen here) and a "cream crown" went through Woodhead Reservoir, whilst away from Moorland sites a Hen Harrier SE over Carsington Water was also seen going SE over Highoredish on the 22nd, and a late Osprey was reported flying over Tesco in Clay Cross on the 28th.

Scarce waders were just that (only 14 species reported) with just two Grey Plover SW over Carr Vale DWT and a Spotted Redshank being the only notable records whilst the first Jack Snipe was seen at Carr Vale DWT on the 9th followed by others at Willington GP (two) and Big Moor. Likewise with gulls for apart from records of Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls from mainly regular sites, the only rarer gulls were a Little Gull at Woodhead Reservoir on the 21st and a Mediterranean Gull at Willington on the 10th whilst late Arctic (two) and Common Terns (one) were at Ogston Reservoir on the 21st. A Short-eared Owl was seen at Willington GP on three dates early in the month, another flew over the observer's house at Breaston on the 25th and one was at Carr Vale DWT NR on the 31st (with one other moorland record noted).

Amongst the passerines there was late news of a Black Redstart from Great Hucklow on the 30th September, still present on 1st, six Rock Pipits flew over four sites, several migrant Hawfinches were seen at five sites and two Twite flew over Highoredish. October is one of the best months for visible migration and viz miggers produced some great counts from a number of sites with, in addition to the Ramsley count, seven sites producing counts of 1,000+ although the highest count for Fieldfare was only 870 over Carr Vale DWT NR. Finches also dominated the watches with a good passage of Bramblings (highest count 113 from Highoredish), Redpolls (highest count 130 from Carr Vale; a record day count) and Crossbills (particularly at Highoredish, although the highest count was 51

Mark Beevers