Sunday, 30 March 2014

Ring Ouzels at Clee Hill

Ruins near car park
Ring Ouzel 
Gert looking rather arty
More ruins
Checking out his pursuers
Me on Ouzel scramble

My original plan for Saturday was to head to the south coast but given the lack of superstar migrants I headed to Titterstone Clee Hill with Upton buddy Gert who fancied the challenge of finding a Ring Ouzel.

Just as we left Bromsgrove at 7am we received a text that a Marsh Harrier was at the Upton Warren Flashes reserve. After a moment of deliberation it was a quick U-turn to try and record an Upton first for us both. After a good 30 minutes of searching I saw the bird almost take off and then change its mind. From that point you could see the bird through the reeds. 

We then made the 45 minute drive out to Clee Hill. There was plenty of mist around the 1,749 feet summit so we were thankful of our delayed arrival due to the Marsh Harrier. Clee Hill is one of the most prominent hills of rural England and is often driven through when heading to Wales.

On the drive up to the car park a Stonechat sat on a fence line whilst Meadow Pipits could be seen commonly. The derelict building, often reported as the best place to see the Ouzels, where limited to Wheatear, Carrion Crows and a single White Wagtail.

Given the report from the previous day that the Ouzels were seen near Trig Point we scrambled our way up and across the hillside through and over some tricky rocks. Our search was not going to plan so once we reached the top we thought we would try the other side which was out of the wind. Not to be deterred we scrabbled down and across giving his good views of the top of the hill. Hopes were raised when we saw a Ouzel shaped bird fly towards the summit. 

After a good hour and a quarter Gert spotted a male Ouzel and once we set the scopes up we had great views of actually two. For one moment we had views of two Ouzels and a Wheatear at the same time. You could easily see the large white chest crescent on the male. With us both battered from the wind and rather pleased with our find we headed back to car for coffee. Passing others birders it seemed we were the only ones to find the migrants. 

Superb morning in a great environment.

Wheatears arrive at Lutley Wedge

After a couple of failed visits to Lutley Wedge on the edge of Halesowen I had two successful visits with two Wheatears recorded on both visits. Lutley sits right on the border of Worcestershire and the West Midlands and attracts some great birds normally on passage. Regular sightings of this patch can be found here

The birds located in the harrowed field behind the main farm. Also present were some super singing Skylarks and Meadow pipits.  Well worth a visit to see these early migrants.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Newcomers at Arrow Valley & Morton Bagot

 Red-legged Partridge
 Little Ringed Plover
Morton Bagot

I headed to the north of the Arrow Valley Park on Saturday in the hope of seeing a Wheatear or two but sadly no arrivals. I did however catch a Red-legged Partridge on the edge of the field (quite difficult to see in the photo). With it being fairly quiet I opted to drive to the other side of Redditch to Morton Bagot.  A new arrival on the flash was the first Little Ringed Plover on the spring. The Green-winged Teal was still present but was keeping tucked up out of the chilling wind. 

On the walk back to the car along the hedgerows there were large number of Linnets and Yellowhammer calling. Despite my best efforts I couldn't get a good photo of the Yellowhammers as they seemed rather camera shy.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Red-necked Grebe at Pitsford Water

I always try and make a habit of looking at what birds have been reported locally before setting out on any days out. Mike Alibone from Northants birding kindly sent me a map of where a reported Red-necked Grebe had been located at Pitsford Water. Given it was only 20 minutes off route and how difficult these are to see I opted to stop off on my returning journey from Rutland Water.

The Grebe was exactly where described by Mike and the wind was blowing the Grebe to within 20 metres of the reservoir shore line. I'd only seen one of these Grebes before and it was a great addition to the year list as they are so difficult to find. 

Next migrants due will be Little Ringed Plover and Wheatears. Let us see what the weekend brings.

Ospreys return to Rutland

I couldn't resist a trip over to Rutland Water to watch the early Osprey return from their migration. Osprey 25, a Rutland Osprey fledged in 2010 was in the nest in Manton Bay. I managed to get a few images with the stately home in the back ground. It would have been nice for her to fish in front of the hide but she opted to head out to the deepest area of the lake.

Rutland Water is a huge reserve and you certainly need to be prepared to do some walking. Whilst the light was superb it was very windy which made it difficult to hold the camera on the scope.

I did a full circuit of the reserve and also a quiet spot which a local tipped me off about. This location once again produced a superb Red-breasted Meganser and a Long-tailed Duck whilst 300 Sand Martin made the most of the local insects. Other sighting of note were good numbers of Goldeneye and Wigeon, 5 Chiffchaff, Great Northern Diver, 2 Kestrel, 2 Oystercatchers, 6 Meadow Pipet, 11 Red Kite (flying in same area), 10 Buzzards, Shelducks, Redshank, Avocet, Litte Egret and Shoveller. 

Hopwood Strike in extended stay

I thought it was only right I dropped into Hopwood after work on Wednesday to catch up with the long staying Great Grey Shrike. It took me five minutes or so to find the bird but he was perched up in the bushes just behind the Oak in the centre of the field. 

It will be interesting how long he hangs around given the decent weather and he has been in residence since December. Great birds locally at the moment. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Firecrest lands at Earlswood

Local Earlswood Lakes king patch watcher Matt Griffiths kindly dropped me a text on Monday that a Firecrest had landed on his local patch. Unable to get there on Monday I set off early this morning on the hope of finding this gem. (Make sure you give Matt a follow as finds some real top class birds)

Within minutes of entering the undisclosed woodland area I found Matt who confirmed the bird was still present. You could pick up the birds call quickly but it was hard to see the bird at first until we had got some superb views right in front of us. The bird was moving around the area so patience was needed to get more views.

This was certainly an awesome way to start a working day ! 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Green-winged Teal at Morton Bagot

Despite a late drive back from London I still made it out to the north of the Arrow Valley Park by 6.30am and it certainly paid dividends as I located two Oystercatcher, a fly over by a Raven and a small flock of Linnet all patch firsts for the year. Lapwing were displaying in there usual place but numbers are lower than last year. I was hoping to find a Wheatear but I had to settle for a flock of 100+ Fieldfare which must be due to leave these shores very soon.

I has just started to add the sightings to Birdtrack when I checked Rare Bird Alert to see a Green-winged Teal at the near by Morton Bagot. I was in the car within five minutes and quickly arrived at the Church. The walk through Church Farm takes you to a great viewing position of the flashes and with a couple of birders already on site it had some good views of the Teal through the scope. Another gem of a find in this jewel in the crown. Three Green Sandpiper were feeding on the flash furthest away whilst a Common Buzzard sailed above the pools. On the way home I past a Red-legged Partridge which is always a nice bird to see locally. A great weekend.

Lords and Regents Park

 Egyptian Geese
Regents Park
Astwood Bank Cricket Club Under 11's

Saturday brought another day of stunning sunshine so I made the most of our hotel location to walk in Regents Park for an hour before breakfast.  During the hour walk I only saw three other people, very strange considering how packed it was the previous evening when we had called in for a short walk.

A Song Thrush was doing its best to out sing the squawking Parakeets as I headed towards the boating lake. I noticed two separate broods with young both Egyptian Geese. This park would be a genuine test for any mother given the range of natural predators. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were recorded in a number of places. The rest of the sightings were mainly as many other parks except for the collection of wildfowl which certainly was a surprise when I came across Mandarin, Harlequin and Smew.

It was then off to Lords where my County Championship winning team from last season battled against the best teams from around the county. We managed a very honourable third place and everyone had a superb day including having a full tour of Lords and seeing the Ashes.

London Wetland Centre

From Staines we made the short drive across to the river the London Wetland Centre. Leaving the Visitor Centre we were greeting by 4 Ring-necked Parakeets. From this point forward they could be seen throughout London, I must say I was quite taken by them however not sure what damage they could be doing to the native bird life. London Wetland Centre consists of 42 hectares of wetland and reed beds created by The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), a leading UK conservation organization saving wetlands for wildlife and people across the world. This wildlife reserve visitor attraction is considered to be one of the best and most important urban wildlife sites in Europe and has been created to attract thousands of wild birds from around the world.

From the Peacock Tower we had some great views of the whole site. Sadly the Bitterns that had been seen during the winter months had moved to their breeding grounds. Sightings include a migrant Willow Warbler (very early), Black Headed & Herring Gulls, Grey Herons, Greylag, Redshank, Lapwing among others.

I would certainly recommend a visit for any one in or around the capital looking for a great day out with wildlife.

Planes and Staines

Staines Reservoir (North basin)
 Location to Heathrow
Distant Goldeneyes
Google Image of location

During a trip down the M40 to London for a couple of days (to coach Astwood Bank CC) we opted to make the most of it and visited a couple of local hot spots on route. The fog was very thick as we left the Midlands but thankfully it lifted just before Stokenchurch to enable us to watch 17 Red Kites all within a couple of miles.

First stop was Staines Reservoir which looked rather glorious in the morning sunshine. The Reservoirs sit right next to the main runways at Heathrow Airport. Two Little Grebe were calling as we entered the causeway and a number of Pied Wagtail were feeding along the edge. Wintering Black-necked Grebe were the highlight but viewing was very distant. There was once again good numbers of Goldeneye and Wigeon whilst I spotted a local Fox sunbathing in the east side. Other sighting included Tufted Ducks, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canadian Geese, Herring Gulls, Mute Swans, Shoveller and Teal.

The planes just constantly flew from the different runways. It is really difficult to comprehend how many people where flying in and out of that one airport.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Spring work party at Upton Warren

 (Note the close cattle)

It was destination Upton Warren on Sunday for the final work party before the breeding birds return. Nine Avocet were flying over the Sailing Lake on arrival whilst the Great Crested Grebe were warming up for a spring campaign.

The work to be done was at the Flashes which is the furthest south part of this great Midlands reserve. Nineteen volunteers including my eldest lad took part in some great work which will really benefit the birds this spring and summer. First job was to help with the strimming and remove the phragmites along the shore line. Once cut we then had to transport on large canvas sheets through some heavily flooded ground as well as dodging the three new found cattle who were particularly inquisitive.  This work should encourage the cattle to feed on the fresh shoots, which will restrict its spread. 

After a welcome break which included a number of sumptuous cakes and cookies I helped Steve add some pea shingle ready for the returning Little Ringed Plover.

Our final jobs was to help with a derelict fence that needed stripping down and to support with some additional fox defences by the Sewage works.

Despite the weather turning particularly nasty it was a great team effort for a brilliant cause. Lets hope every ones hard graft gets rewards and some great migrants in the coming weeks and months.

Signs of spring at Slimbridge

Dunlin and Golden Plover
Little Stint & Sky Lark

Slimbridge was looking stunning on the first Saturday morning in March. First stop was the Rushy pen where just four Bewick swans remained. There were a few more on the reserve but they had also taken advantage of the weather to head back to their breeding grounds in Siberia. Shelduck numbers appeared to have increased.

The Tack Piece was quieter than my previous visit but there was still plenty to see including Black-Tailed Godwits, Pintail, Lapwing, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Teal, Curlew, Redshank, Stock Dove, 2 Avocet and a single Ruff. I tried to grab a few video clips given the great light.

From the Holden Tower a female Merlin hunted the Dumbles flying extremely low whilst the Dunlin scarpered for their lives. There was a single Bean and Dark-bellied Brent Goose among the 200+ flock of White-fronted Geese whilst the local Barnacle population were further down the river. A Little Stint was a nice addition to the year list which was feeding on the outsides of the scrape whilst a number of Sky Lark and two Oystercatchers were also in attendance.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Little Owl on divert

The journey home from work on Friday took me on an alternative route as the M5 was suffering from long delays. Given my location I headed down to check out the local Little Owl. It was good to see the Owl out on the tree stump in the middle of the field allowing great viewing. I managed a scoped image in the dying light.

My year list in UK400 is standing at a pleasing 163 whilst Birdtrack 162. I'd imagine with the start of migrants coming in it will be the last time I feature so highly. March targets will include Ringed Ouzel, Mandarin, Common Sandpiper, Woodcock, Little Ringed Plover,  Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Northern Wheatear, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, Bittern.