Sunday, 10 March 2019

Closing days of February & March at pits

We have moved on to 87 species at the pits with three additions in the last fortnight which have included an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Red Kite & our first Chiffchaff.

We witnessed some very territorial behaviour from one of our pair of Oystercatchers. Whilst I witnessed aggressive behaviour many times but this was quite extraordinary so much so it led the death of one of the birds.

Site counts have included :- 14 Wigeon, 4 Shelduck, 18 Gadwall, 70 Teal, 31 Shoveler, 35 Tufted Duck, 20 Pochard, 5 Goosander, 1 Red Kite, 3 Raven, 59 Lapwing, 51 Cormorant, 2 Snipe,  4 Oystercatcher, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 1000 Black-headed Gulls, 21 Common Buzzard & a Chiffchaff. 

(This weekend 3 pairs of Oystercatcher were recorded at the pits for the first time on Sunday, 2 Chiffchaff were singing by the bottom lagoons and our first Water Rail was recorded in marsh area by the central lagoon) 

Ripple & Rutland

Glossy Ibis
Birding in North Arm
Red Kite
Birding from Old Hall

A couple of trips away from the pits over the last fortnight have included Ripple Pits & Rutland Water. 

The views of the Ripple Pit Glossy Ibis were a little distant before it disappeared. It seems to be coming and going so lets hope its located again within the county border as these birds make interesting viewing at close quarters. There were large number of ducks on the south lake including Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and a single female Red-crested Pochard. Also recorded in the visit were 5 Oystercatcher, a Little Egret and a flock of Herring & Lesser Blacked Gulls. 

This Saturday I called in at Rutland Water after attending a Sport Memorabilia auction in Leicester. Rutland is one of the most reliable places to see all the grebes species. I concentrated birding two areas, Old Hall & the North Arm. From Old Hall, I managed to find the Red-necked Grebe after a lot of scanning & six distant Scaup. Viewing the North Arm, one of my favourite places, included 3 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Black-necked Grebes, many Great Crested Grebe, Common Gulls, Goldeneye, two Scaup, & two Red Kite. 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

First signs of spring at the pits

 Goosander (Main Pit)
 Oystercatcher (Main Pit)
 Great Crested Grebe (main pit)
Lapwing on flash flood
Whist we haven't recorded any superstars at the pits the last couple of weeks has certainly given us more interest. 15 Goosander started February well whilst our first Oystercatcher returned on Monday 4th. Sunday 10th was a good morning with an adult Caspain & Greater Black-backed Gull both being recorded on the main pit. Our first Green Sandpiper was also noted on Pophills but there has been no sign since. 

The gull roosts are very unpredictable with as many as 400 gulls there on one night whilst the following  night there can be none. A male Tawny Owl was picked up by Mark on one of these evenings.

This Saturday I managed to add two new birds to our patch year list with a Kingfisher on the far lagoons and a Great Crested Grebe on the main pit. Other sighting from Saturday included 6 Little Grebe, 7 Cormorant, 9 Mute Swans, 364 Greylag, 74 Canada Geese, 3 Shelduck, 4 Gadwall, 95 Teal, 420 Mallard, 14 Shoveler, 10 Pochard (14 Sunday), 71 Tufted Duck, 135 Coot, 4 Moorhen, 3 Oystercatcher (including a pair copulating), 4 Lapwing, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe, 2 LBBG, 2 Herring Gull, 600 Woodpigeon, 20 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 20 Redwing, 200 Jackdaw, 2 Raven, 3 Reed Bunting and 4 Bullfinch. 

I wrapped up the weekend by walking around the Wyre Forest with Mrs D where we had a fly past from a Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, 5 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Jay and Crossbills mostly in flight. 

Studley Castle Black Redstart

(M. Clarke)

Chris Lane always finds us a goodie close to home during the winter months and this year is no exception. This week he found a female Black Redstart close to Studley Castle which is just a couple of miles from home. 

This little stunner looks to have taken up a temporary residence at the nursery and can be seen around the polly tunnels and roof tops. Well worth calling in to see the bird if you are local.

The human residents are very friendly however the chap on the photo (captured by Mark) wasn't quite the same. 

Also present around the Castle were a Grey & 2 Pied Wagtail, 12 Yellowhammer, 10 Siskin, 2 Greater Spotted Woodpecker & 2 Raven.

Cotswold Harriers & Owls

Shortie as dusk
Ring-tailed Hen Harrier
Short-eared Owl
Golden Plover
Team Axe
Championship winner (did not feel like it the next morning and then some) !
Alternative birding
First snow drops of spring

Last weekend I was recovering from a very random night out axe throwing in Birmingham on the Friday. I didn’t actually feel back to normal until Monday. I started off by doing my first Willow Tit survey at Hewell Grange Prison. As expected the return was zero but I did record a female Goosander, 4 Greater Spotted & a Green Woodpecker, a Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 9 Tufties, 2 Shoveler, 2 LBBG, 3 Grey Heron & 100 Canada Geese.

In the afternoon, the Squire and I, headed to north Cotswold for a bit of owling. The weekends weather had been bleak, wet and windy so I fancied our chances given the calm conditions. We were surprised not to see any Red Kites on our journey which was a shame but as soon as we parked up a Short-eared owl was hunting the field in front of us. No matter how many times as you see them, they are so stunning to watch as they swoop & dive to feed in the long grass. We recorded three Shorties in the air at the same time whilst a local informed us there were actually four in residence. Whilst we were counting the Shorties I picked up a ring-tailed Hen Harrier come straight across the field and then started quartering looking for a kill. Seeing a Hen Harrier at any time is a special moment and one that I personally cherish. To watch the Harrier in the air with the Shorties in the stunning light was certainly making the most of the day off. All we needed next was for the local Barn Owl to appear, and as if on cue, the owl appeared and showed beautifully for the next hour. After taking a short walk for a different angle a second ring tail swooped in from behind us, a much lighter bird, and hunted the field with the longer habitat in front of us. Additional sightings included Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, 6 Golden Plover & 2 Stonechat.

Slimbridge & back

Crane party
Wigeon flock
Bewicks Swans
Bewicks Swans

Been lacking a bit of inspiration like everyone else during these cold winter months. Knowing I’m slightly behind where I normally am I’ll do a few short blogs to catch up.

Slimbridge proved to be the usual stunning morning expected when going there. The early access via the members gate is a great way to make the most of the morning and you get to view the Rushy pen where large number of the Bewicks Swans and wildfowl roost over-night. As I edged towards the Holden Tower the birds started to leave the Rushy to land right in front of the other hides on the Tack Piece. No idea why but I love the White-fronted Geese and they were much closer than normal allowing for some spectacular scope views. The Pintails looked pristine and it was almost like they knew it.

Other sightings included huge flocks of Wigeon huddled together, 10 Common Cranes, 40 Dunlin, Curlew, Barnacles Geese, Lapwing, Shoveler, Snipe, Shelduck, Redshank & good numbers of Skylark from the Holden Tower.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Smew at Kemerton Lakes Nature Reserve

This week I have visited Kemerton Lakes Nature Reserve which is managed by Kemerton Conservation Trust. The 46.5 acre wetland reserve lies at the foot of Bredon Hill and was designed out of a formal gravel pit. The main lake is quite similar to the main pit at Salford Priors and shows what can be done with genuine conservation work. As well as the main lake there is a woodland, reedbed and fields so the chance of anything. 

The reason for my visit was to try to see the drake Smew which had relocated from Holt Fleet but now in striking plumage. You can only really view the water from one of the provided hides. This looked very new with a boardwalk. 

The Smew was around 100 metres from the hide feeding well but on occasions went in-between the reeds beds which explains why on occasions visitors had not seen the bird. It's hard to believe it's the same scruffy red head I saw back in 2018.

Other sightings included 7 Wigeon, 8 Shoveler, 10 Little Grebe, 3 Cormorant, Sparrowhawk & a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. 

A very classy reserve and I will be returning very soon.