Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Easter Migfest

Bredon Hill
First sighting of a Redstart this year
Pesky Wheatear
 Common Redstart in the Wyre
Best shot of Wood Warbler possible
 Dowles Brook
Hearty breakfast at the George pub
 Common Tern at Earlswood
 Stretching out
Common Tern close up

With no spring rarities tempting me to venture out of the county I've been concentrating on the migrants moving through the local area over the Easter break. 

First destination was Bredon Hill which is just 20 miles south from home. As we headed up the sharp accent the thought did pass what are we doing as it was cold & miserable. Thankfully the weather past through allowing some great views as always and the sighting of our first Ring Ouzel which was a male flying across the north escapement. Four Common Redstarts were an additional year tick, there were also four Wheatear on the lower slopes.

Bank Holiday Monday is now a traditional to head to the Wyre Forest for a good walk & hearty breakfast. Two Marsh Tit were calling by the bench before we turned left to record our only Tree Pipit in the company of a big fall of Willow Warblers. Entering Knowles Coppice I heard what a I thought was an early Wood Warbler. This seemed a little early however this was the first of two that showed very well but trying to get a photograph was very difficult.  Three Pied Flycatchers were keeping their distance in their usual spot so we moved through to the orchard where I found a male Redstart, a bonus. Cuckoo was the next bird added to the year list as we headed down to Dowles Brook. We didn't have any luck with Dippers but we did get two Grey Wagtails.

After a morning visit to the pits I headed over to Earlswood for a mooch around where I found my first two Commmon Terns of the year. Earlswood is a great place for watching terns as they fly so close to you and there is always chance of getting a passing Arctic, Black or Sandwich, all of which I've seen previously there. Additional sightings were a Common Sandpiper, a brood of Mallard, Great Crested Grebes,  30 + Sand Martin, 5 Swallows and a strange sight of a Lapwing flying low over Engine pool.

Wheatears at last

Superb Male Wheatear
Romance on the rock
Female close up
Keeping a close eye on me
 Saturday saw the start of the cricket season
 Brown Hare
 Hybrid Goose
 Common Sandpiper
 Like this shot as shows environment
 Attention !
Swallows return
 How many Wheatear can you get on a rock ?
Never get tired of them

With an extended Easter break I've been visiting daily and sometimes going back for a double helping. With the Blackcaps & Willow Warblers now in good voice, an additional Reed Warbler has come in with five Whitethroats.  A Common Sandpiper was another pleasing arrival and looks pretty settled on the main pit.

By far the best entertainment was watching our Wheatear mini flock which has varied in size from three to a maximum of six. If you scan from the main pit sometimes they are impossible to see yet on other visits they have been comfortable going about their business around me taking no notice what so ever. 

Additional sightings of note were a pair of Pochard on the middle lagoon, a Red Kite, a drake Mandarin (found by Chris Lane), 3 Little Ringed Plovers,  6 Shelduck, White Wagtail and a frustrating female Greater Scaup that took off as I was setting my camera  up on the tripod.

From my records we have recorded 107 species at the pits to date up to and including Monday 17th April.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Ruffing around in t-shirt

Ruff & Green Sandpiper
Red Kite
Mistle Thrush
Orange-tip Butterfly
White Wagtail
Barmy weather
Goosander pair
Reed Bunting
Small Tortiseshell
The Hawthorns

Southerly winds & clear skies certainly helped migration pick up a gear this weekend with a variety of tern species moving north & the first Cuckoo, Turtle Doves & Redstarts reported.

Our find of the weekend was a Ruff on the pit which didn’t hang around long. It was roosting with a Green Sandpiper however when I posted the photo on social media there was a debate of whether it could be a Wood Sandpiper. I do know that there was a Green Sandpiper on the main pit as later on in the morning it took off from close by calling. The bird photographed certainly has characteristics of a Wood Sandpiper but by no means all of them. The Ruff was a good addition to the patch year list and was only my second record at site.

The first Reed Warbler had arrived in the reed lagoon and was very vocal. Three Red Kite were hunting very close to the north edge of the pits again whilst other sightings included Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, two Swallow, five Sand Martin, three Little Ringed Plover, three White Wagtail, two Oystercatcher & two Goosander.

Finally for the second time this week two pairs of Corn Buntings were discovered. I’ll try to post an update later in the year on if they manage to breed as they used to be abundant.

On Saturday I witnessed a Peregrine hunting the stadium pigeons during a visit to support the Saints against West Bromwich Albion. The Peregrine landed inside the stadium at one stage before flying right over the pitch & then over the stand.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Round the shires type of weekend

 Upton Warren - Grey Plover
Upton Warren - Little Ringed Plover 
Bredon Hill 
Mediterranean Gull 
Dancing Cranes 
Spoonbill - My best pic of the year
Best view when on south lake 
A busy few days of birding started with a late Thursday afternoon visit to Upton Warren where a Grey Plover was spending a few days on its migration. A Mediterranean Gull & Little Ringed Plover were nice additions as were the four Sand Martins over the Sailing Lake. 

On Friday I headed down to Slimbridge as I'd not been there for what seemed like an age. My first stop was the South Lake where a Spoonbill was on the edge of the lake however it spent most of the time asleep. My first Blackcaps & Willow Warblers were singing down in the Holden walkway and the Cranes were showing well in front of the hides. There really wasn't much variation from the Tower to the regulars until two Little Ringed Plovers landed by the flashes.

A pair of Kingfishers were preparing the nest for the season ahead before I headed back down to South Lake where I watched the Spoonbill having a preen before it took off towards the Holden Tower. I thought it was worth another try to see if I could re-find the bird. The gamble was rewarded with the best views of the species I'd ever seen. Sweeping the water from side to side & catching small fish which I managed to capture.

On the way home I met the Squire at Bredon Hill in the hope of finding a early Ring Ouzel but we had to settle for just great views of the wonderful countryside. 

Weekend birding at the pits was very average for the time of year and the southerly winds. Saturday saw me registering my first two Swallows of the year & 14 Sand Martin. By the south pits there were 5 Blackcaps & 3 Willow Warblers. Sunday's only change was a White Wagtail but the LRP's were on the main spit and it now looks like we have three pairs of Shelducks.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Patch MEGA: Red-necked Grebe at Salford Priors Gravel Pits

A weekend of patch birding started on Saturday full of hope of finding an early Wheatear, Blackcap or even a passing Osprey, yet despite searching the only new arrivals were more Chiffchaffs.

Sunday started well, which I'll write an additional blog about. After checking Pophills & the plantation & finding a couple of Chiffchaff I started scanning the main pit. My main intention was to spend most of my time looking for Wheatear but a strange sleeping Grebe caught my eye. Its size was like a Red-necked Grebe but surely not here at Salford Priors. I sprinted to the car for my scope before double checking my original thoughts which were confirmed when the bird woke up and started to feed. 

To find a Red-necked Grebe, a first record for the site, was brilliant but to find one displaying summer plumage was just unbelievable. These grebes winter in western & southern Europe and it did strike my mind it could be the bird from Draycote Water relocating. However another Warwickshire birder confirmed that bird was still present. Most of the regulars made the trip down to see the stunning species and there were a few twitchers in the afternoon. 

I managed to take a few records shots and a bit of video for the site records before heading home. Paul was present into the evening when the bird was still there however there was no sign on Monday, not unexpected. 

Other sightings included 6 Green Sandpiper, 7 Sand Martin, 2 Oystercatcher, 3 Little Ringed Plover.