Sunday, 11 April 2021

Channel Wagtail & nervous nineties

                                               Channel Wagtail
                                           Curlew (Dennis Sinton)
                                                 Channel Wagtail
                                 Common Sandpiper & Yellow Wagtail
                                              Common Sandpiper
                                                Yellow Wagtail
Quite an interesting week at the pits despite the weather being far from ideal with a northerly wind blowing. There have been four new species observed which are House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Curlew & Common Sandpiper.

Curlews have been very difficult to observe due to the change of habitat so it was a treat that Rob, Dennis & Marion all got a midweek sighting. House Martin numbers are still low but there are good numbers of Sand Martin & Swallow now coming through. 

On Sunday I teamed up with Jon for a regular morning circuit. It was a very cold morning but we were quite hopeful. A Blackcap burst into song as we left the cars which was a promising start but in all honesty it was very quiet. The old workings had a female Wheatear & there was the first of our five LRP we recorded.  The white/albino Reed Bunting was in the reeds in the south lagoons & there were more Blackcaps.

The action didn't pick up until we got back to the main pit where the newly arrived Common Sandpiper was on the south edge feeding with four Yellow Wagtails. On closer inspection one of Wagtails was a Channel wagtail. Views were restricted as it was right of a willow but I tried to get a couple of record shots. The birds flew towards the northern end but we couldn't find the Channel Wagtail again. 

In northern France, there is an 'intergrade zone' where Blue-headed and Yellow Wagtails regularly interbreed. The offspring of such pairings are variable in appearance, but many individuals show a head pattern that resembles a washed-out Blue-headed, with a paler powder-blue head and often more extensive white in the supercilium, ear-coverts and throat. These intergrades are colloquially known as 'Channel Wagtail'. They are the commonest form of Blue-headed to occur in many northern areas of Britain. (BirdGuides)

This puts the site list on to a 97 species for the year.

White-throated Sparrow keeps yankie run going

 White-throated Sparrow
 What a stunner
                                                                  Super yank
                                                         Picnic table of dreams
                                                                      Barcombe Cross

After a very difficult week at work I was intrigued that a White-throated Sparrow was reported again in East Sussex. This bird was reported during the lock-down period at an undisclosed site so I'd presumed it was going to be one that had come & gone, there will always be another. Clicking on Twitter on Friday evening this North American Sparrow was showing well on an area of deck near some allotments in the village of Barcombe Cross. 

There was early positive news on Saturday so it was full steam ahead with the plan. The journey was very smooth however it was good to dodge a two lane closure on the M40. Safetly parked up in the village, the walk was only five minutes across the recreation grounds cricket pitch to the allotments. There was around a dozen birders present waiting for this mega yankee.

We stood socially distanced on a slope looking down towards a picnic table where the bird had been seen a regular intervals. The locals had put some seed down in this area hoping the draw the bird to feed. As we waited for the star attraction a Cuckoo starting calling whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming.  

After thirty minutes a very distintive & beautiful head appeared poking over a bracken pile to the right of the decking. Then this stunning individual jumped onto the decking to give some fantastic views. The bird showed fantastically well skipping around taking advantage of the seed. The pattern of the feathers of the birds back & wing were just stunning. We got two sessions of seeing the bird, with the first one being much the better before we headed home.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on spring walk

                                                        Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
                                         Alternative angle above us
                                              Diminutive beauty
                                                   Pure delight
                                           Stunning back pattern
                                                  Video footage

Sometimes you just get lucky.............With snow & wind forecast we decided to retreat to some local woodland for a good walk and hopefully see a few early migrants. Whilst the migrants were very difficult to find the above male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker gave us amazing views right above us. I have not seen this species as well as this for five years. 

Our only other bird of note was a immature Goshawk that flew over ahead of us. 

Rouzling around over Easter

                                                   Bredon Hill
                                 Common Redstart (Cleeve Common)
                                      Ring Ouzel (Cleeve Common)
                                          Ring Ouzel (Cleeve Common)
                                         A very elusive Ring Ouzel
                                 Common Redstart (Cleeve Common)
                     View of Cheltenham Racecourse from Cleeve Common
                                            Female Wheatear 
                                            Green Woodpecker
                                             Redshank (Grimley)
                                               Garganey (Grimley)
                                          Yellow Wagtail (Grimley)
                                              Lapwing (Grimley)
                                          White Wagtail (Grimley)
                                         Yellow Wagtail (Grimley)
                                                 Teal (Grimley)
                                             Black-necked Grebe
                                             Black-necked Grebe
                                              Birding in Oldbury

Easter holidays gave me extra time to get outside and undertake some quality birding.

I broke up on Thursday so I visited the pits very early where I recorded the sites first House Martin, a female Merlin (flushed on farm building) & 4 Little Ringed Plover. Rob Evans noted a valuable year tick when he picked up a Curlew flying through.

On Friday, Mrs D and I did a 3.8 mile circular romp around Bredon. The walk was actually better than the birding due to a cold north easterly wind blowing in our faces. We were hoping for an early Ring Ouzel but searching was difficult. We had to satisfy ourselves with a Common Redstart, 4 Red Kite, Meadow Pipits, Mistle Thrush and finally a singing Blackcap.

Blackcaps had arrived at the pits Saturday morning and there were three Willow Warblers in song. From there I met the Squire for a steep 4 mile walk up Cleeve Common near Cheltenham. As we headed up we passed many singing Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and a very showy male Common Redstart. When reaching the summit the walking wasn't over as we needed to do a great deal of searching for a Ring Ouzel. We did find a male but the bird was very elusive so we had to be satisfied with some distant views. 

After a quick recharge of batteries we headed to Grimley in the afternoon where the reported Chanel Wagtail had moved on to pastures new but there was an excellent cast of birds including a Cattle Egret, Yellow Wagtail, drake Garganey & Redshank.

Sundays count at the pits noted an increase of the LRP's to 5 and a female Wheatear was new. I managed to finally get a photograph of the Green Woodpecker that has teased me for weeks.

The weekend was wrapped up with a visit to the Chemical Pool close to my office near Tipton where a Black-necked Grebe has been found. The bird was in stunning summer plumage however viewing was very limited so I made a hasty retreat to the M5 & headed home.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Yankee doodle dandy

Northern Mockingbird
Perching high
Mockingbird preening

Finders original tweet 
Video from YouTube
American Herring Gull
Hoping for a cheap lunch
Rock Pipit
The beast in the harbour
Underwing shot
Posing nicely
AHG circled
YouTube video
The third lock-down seemed by far the longest & frustratingly we all had to stay local but it could have been far worse. It certainly didn’t help when the news broke that a Northern Mockingbird had been found in Exmouth on 6th February. (apparently first seen on 23rd January). It is well known that quite a number of birders twitched the bird from far afield but I was just not comfortable with that approach, I would have to wait until the restrictions were lifted. Every day I would see the bird appear on BirdGuides hoping it would have an extended stay.

I duly hatched a plan to book a day off and try and see the bird after the initial post-lockdown rush. Being in a residential area, I wasn’t keen to be involved in any fuss. I just wanted to see the bird safely and without any privacy issues. 

The Mockingbird was the 3rd record for the UK and the first since 1988. Let's not underestimate this was a must see bird. The journey down was trouble free and parking was very easy. There was only ever a maximum of eight birders on site at any one time all viewing safely and distanced. The bird came into view quickly in it's favoured holly tree before then flying around a number of different gardens. The white feathering looked stunning when the bird was preening and in flight. After getting a satisfactory view I duly departed as I'd decided Cornwall would be my next destination for a chance to see my second American bird of the day.

Traffic was light so the journey to Newlyn Harbour was very smooth. I could actually see the American Herring Gull from the roadside. The Gull seemed comfortable and was no doubt wondering why he was getting the attention from half a dozen birders. This first winter individual had been present since 23rd March and had been a species which I'd never had the opportunity to see before.

On the journey home I stopped at a couple of different locations to break the journey up highlights included Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ring-necked Duck, Scaup & a juvenile Iceland Gull. 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Pits scores in Garganey influx

                                                   Reed Bunting
                                             Little Ringed Plover
                                            Northern Wheatear
                                               Northern Wheatear

An excellent week at the pits with four new year ticks taking us to 93. Mark & the Squire recorded a Merlin midweek chasing the Skylarks and the first Wheatear was located on Friday (26/3). Their was an additional male Wheatear undertaking a circular feeding circuit. 

I was very happy with my first Sand Martins of the year on Saturday morning and the extra Wheatear. I had a nice catch up with John C before walking back to the car. As I reached the car, John called saying a drake Garganey was now on the main pit. I quickly headed back where we watched the stunning duck for an extended session. A Barn Swallow came through with a additional group of nine Sand Martin.

Sundays conditions were very cold and windy which made it very difficult to search for new migrants.