Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Mark Clarke joins team Salford Priors

Local photographer Matt Clarke has been a welcome new addition to the team this year at the pits who has a great eye for photography. Matt's kindly offered to forward a few of his shots from Salford Priors for use on the blog. If you are into Flickr then give him a follow on this link

Still about the patch…..for now

Sandwell Valley Bullfinch
Oystercatcher near the river at Sandwell Valley
Bullfinches paired up
Red Kite over Dunnington
Chiffchaff in plantation
Green Sandpiper
Kestrel watching closely
Upton Avocet

Black-headed Gulls ready for a busy few months

Another cold spring week (that certainly put off those planned early migrants) lead to me doing all my birding close to home. On Tuesday I visited RSPB Sandwell Valley for an early morning walk before work. Eight Wigeon remained from the previous week although they were on the river not the marsh. There was only one Goosander as the others have left for their breeding grounds. The bird of the morning was most definitely the Bullfinch, as many as eight were all in one bush looking splendid in the sunshine. I recorded two Chiffchaffs in different parts of the reserve whilst the only other birds of note were three Oystercatchers.

With the sports taxi covering basketball in Coventry & local football Sunday it kind of suited me being around so I could see all the action and get some more patch time under my belt. I teamed up with the Squire on Saturday morning and we did the pits, Abbots Salford & a small piece of land that’s always worth a mooch. There really wasn’t many changes, Abbots Salford had 24 Sand Martin above the lake whilst our additional walk found good numbers of Chaffinches, a new Chiffchaff & a late flock of Fieldfare.

On Sunday I started early trying to cover as many areas as possible. An additional Little Ringed Plover has joined the first pair which could seen on Pophills and the main pit along with 5 Green Sandpipers. That’s a pretty good count compared to other local reserves. The successful pair of Sparrowhawks from last year were displaying giving encouraging signs and there were two new Chiffchaffs in the plantation singing loudly. The regular pair of Shelducks looks to have chased out the competition from last week. I picked up the regular Red Kite  at 8am flying over Dunnington & later again on the way home near Weethley Church. The duck numbers have fallen considerably within a week but Shoveler bucked the trend with seven recorded.

A winter male Wheatear was seen late morning by Jon but couldn’t be located late afternoon by anyone else. Water Rails were recorded on the main pit and were calling from the Reed Lagoon.  

The wind had really picked up by the time I reached Abbots Salford where the Sand Martin flock has increased to 40, whilst other birds of note were a pair of Pochard, 3 Chiffchaffs, female Peregrine & the heronry was busy with birds building nests.

After watching Dusty clinch a last gasp 2-1 win for his football team we headed over to Upton Warren for an hour in afternoon. 30 Avocets were present but no Green Sandpipers or LRP's. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Migrants start to trickle in & a surprise patch visitor

At last…….Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Egptian Goose
Pophills (Saturday)
Fallow Deer
Reed Lagoon
Three of the Shelduck
Fallow deer on Sunday
Reed Bunting
I was full of hope that Saturday may be the day of the first genuine migrant to land at the pits however as much as I searched, including the railway line it was just the usual suspects. Sunday brought new hope with over night rain and misty conditions. The first discovery was a new car parked in Jon's spot near the plantation. After we initially thought some one may be ahead of us on count day those worries subsided when the driver of the vehicle was in the driving seat fast asleep ! Most odd……….

Jon joined me as I approached Pophills and were were both pleased to find two Little Ringed Plovers on the island. The first of two Green Sandpipers was present and plenty of wildfowl but no Garganeys ! As we reached the main pit seven Wigeon took flight trying to avoid the WeBS count and a Water Rail was feeding on the far side. A different Great Crested Grebe was present to add a bit of variety. One of only two Snipes recorded flew from the marsh behind the bund which appears to get smaller every week.

Find of the day was an Egyptian Goose that had joined up with our resident Greylags on the meadow. The light wasn't great so I took a few shots at a distance as I didn't want to flush the flock knowing a few of the regulars would be down later in the morning. 

The Reed Buntings (around 20) are now very condensed in one area due to the ongoing restoration, lets hope the reeds remain untouched for this breeding season. Five Shelduck have now returned and are fighting over each other for territories. They kept appearing all over the site as we did our walk. 

The first two singing Chiffchaff were by the reed lagoon fly catching towards the top of the hedgerow. Close to the same area there were four male Meadow Pipits displaying (there were 40 passing through on Saturday). As we headed back to the main pit we past the Squire & Mark who had called in to patch tick the goose. We had a final check of the main pit & Pophiils before retiring. Other sightings included :- 11 Little Grebe, 15 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 4 Mute Swan, 167 Greylags, 3 hybrid geese, 73 Canada Geese, 24 Gadwall, 58 Teal, 75 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 143 Tufted Duck, 10 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 7 Moorhens, 99 Coot, 2 Oystercatcher, 4 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, , 115 Carrion Crow, 90 Jackdaw and a Siskin.

Patch Barnie

About the best as it gets with the camera
Chris on patrol

Myself and Chris Lane headed down to the pits midweek to undertake some spring owling. Mr & Mrs Squire were already at the watch point as we headed down the road. We hadn't even parked up when the male Barn Owl flew straight across in front of us and perched not far from the Squire. After quickly recharging its energy the Barn Owl then hunted in close proximity of us and we all got great views of it catching a vole. The only disadvantage of where the bird is hunting is its very close to the road increasing the risk of an accident which none of us would want. 

The light made it very difficult to get any decent photos however I took a rough hand held record shot for the purpose of the blog.Views through the binoculars were superb and really makes you appreciate the quality of Swarovski I purchased last year from the Birder Store. The previous evening a Tawny Owl had been seen in the same area where it roosts, although the exact spot eludes us. 

Chris & I then had a slow drive round the lane and checked out another previously good area but no further signs. We will keep persisting. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Grimley Garganey on basketball diversion

Stunning Drake Garganey
Drake Garaganeys
Garganey with Wigeon & Little Grebe
Team Garganey
Firsy Little Ringed Plover of the year
Worcester legends on the causeway
Tip off
After finishing off the patch, a text alert came through that there were three Garganey on Camp Lane Pits at Grimley. Knowing I needed to pass through Grimley on the way to Worcester for the afternoon sports taxi duty I elected to hold fire & takes my chances on route. With Mrs D & Fraser for company we noticed the Garganey had moved from the Church Lane Pits where there were only a flock of Wigeon & a few Gadwall. 

Walking round to the causeway on the Camp Lane pits we were greeted by Dave Twitcher & Butterfly Dave. It was good to see Butterfly Dave back in the field after a couple of rough months with his health. They had been lucky to see the Garganey before they had flown & Dave got a handful of great shot which is kindly shared above. We had to be content we fairly distant views of the ducks among the willows on the north side. The drakes were stunning looking birds and were among a number that were reported across the country on Saturday. 

The basketball matched ended with a comfortable 58-33 win for Gussy's Worcester Wolves. Not a bad day….

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Grimley's American Wigeon is weekend highlight

 American Wigeon
 American Wigeon
 American Wigeon
 Great Crested Grebe
 Red Kite
Loving couple

With no new lifers reaching the UK this week I opted for a weekend of local birding which started over at Grimley where I improved on my only one previous siting of an American Wigeon. It seems this bird was probably blown in by Storm Doris midweek. The bird attracted quite a decent crowd who had timed their arrival better than my own. I'd spent the previous hour searching through the flock of Wigeon on the pits before reaching news the American Wigeon was on the north pit again.

With the first few Sand Martins passing through the midlands I was hoping for an early record but a grim & wet Sunday morning put paid to those chances. The wintering Green Sandpiper was still present on Pophills rotating between the north & south shores. A Great Crested Grebe was a surprise find who seemed pretty comfortable with being watched & photographed. Three Buzzards were displaying over Ennister Wood as the rain briefly abetted as I headed over to the main pit. The wind was really getting up making it very unpleasant to make an accurate counts however there were a flock of 50+ Tufted Ducks, two Pochard, two Shelducks (three on Sunday) & 80+ Teal. The normal flocks of Canada & Greylag Geese were on the rough ground on the edge of the pit.

I did record a patch year tick as I picked up a Red Kite hunting on the east side of the pits over Dunnington. I saw the bird again as I drove home and watched it well around the Cock Bevington turning. 

In late news, the Squire flushed a Great White Egret from the dead tree at Abbots Salford late afternoon. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Great Barford Little Bunting

Little Bunting - look closely
Little Bunting
 Twitch hot spot

 Great Barford
Brave swimmers on the Ouse
  Red-crested Pochard
  Red-crested Pochard
 Red-crested Pochard
Summer Leys NR

With very little movement of birds I opted to headed south east on Sunday to the village of Great Barford to try and add to my life list with a Little Bunting. Reports from Saturday on social media looked encouraging so I set out early and was pleased to find there was very little traffic on the roads. A road diversion cost me ten minutes at the end of the journey but I was quickly parked up by the church. Fully prepared with a flask & sandwiches expecting a steak-out I headed along the picturesque river patch to a patch of crop where seed was being put down for winter birds. Four birders on the scene reported early good views so I rubbed my hands in anticipations. There were up to around 50 birds containing Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings, Robins, two Red-legged Partridges and a single Brambling all feeding well and on occasions all diving for cover when any possible predator was picked up.

I was a little surprised when a fellow birder picked up the smart Little Bunting sat up fairly high allowing great views. As I worked through my own ID checklist the bird took off and didn’t return for about twenty minutes when this time it was feeding among the flock. Getting any sort of record shot was difficult and the scope views were very good indeed. The bird is a Iong way from it’s breeding grounds in the coniferous forests of the Taiga headed back down the river very pleased only to pass some brave individuals swimming in the river……brrrrrr.

Having time on my side I headed a different way home stopping at Summer Leys Nature Reserve where two drake Red-Crested Pochards were the local attraction. They are not a species I see very often so I spent some time watching them closely feeding on the weed below the water. The local Mute Swans occasionally pushed them further away from the bank when they manoeuvred themselves back to the area they were feeding after a short period. Other species recorded were a Great White Egret, 3 Little Egret, Wigeon, Cetis Warbler (my first of year) and two Red Kites which were hunting over the meadows.

A good morning jolly out and back early afternoon ready for the League Cup Final in which the Saints sadly got beat 3-2 despite being the better team over ninety minutes.