Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Big Autumn needed to secure Europa league place in Patchwork Challenge

 Bee Orchid
 Litte Ringed Plover (Pophills)
 Red Kite
Turtle Dove
Bottom Lagoon
Patch Challenge Midland Table

As the May Midlands Patchwork table was issued our first Kingfisher of the year was recorded by Paul and I during our midweek visit. Another valuable point as we try and keep pace with local rivals Earlswood.Our cheeky 3 pointer Pectoral Sandpiper should hopefully help us on June totals.

Sunday saw the Green Sandpipers increase to six whilst there were a notable increase in House Martins. LRP's were still mobile around the site but I still haven't seen any young. The high number of predators is probably the reason for this rather than suitable habitat. 

One of the local Turtle Dove allowed some super views from a distance before taking flight and a Cuckoo was still present in the dead trees along the A46. Surprise of the morning was three Red Kite that were drifting towards Hilliers as I drove home. It looked like 2 adult birds and a juvenile. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Enjoyable morning at Salford Priors

Main Pit
Still no Quail
Mute Swan & with young brood
Breeding Little Grebe
Warwickshire looking superb
Grey Partridge
Turtle Dove

Despite feeling pretty tired from the previous days exploits I was back at the Gravel Pits on Sunday morning teaming up with Jon for our morning walk.

There was little chance on Pophills but it was great to see the brood of nine Shelduck doing well and enjoying themselves.

A juvenile Wigeon was found surprisingly on the main pit, a good June record whilst  a pair of Shoveller had joined the regular. Two Cuckoo were present on the other of the pits along the bypass.

Jon’s prediction of returning Green Sandpiper proved spot as we located three birds. Digiscoping was difficult but I managed to get a single shot through the reeds. This lagoon is looking very good for Autumn passage presuming it's left as it is by the quarry.

As we were watching the Green Sandpipers a Red Kite drifted over the Snipe Meadow and towards the calling Cuckoo. You have to wonder how close these birds are breeding to the pits.

Other sightings included 3 Lapwing, LRP's, Oystercatcher and Grey Wagtail.

A midweek visit to the pits turned into a special one when a Grey Partridge flew over mine and Paul's head and then showing nicely on a grass patch. This is the first Grey Partridge recorded for 2 years which gives us hope they they may be breeding some where in the locality. Whilst Turtle Dove are present I will not be making reference to them for obvious reasons. Thankfully the birds are well tucked away and difficult to find from the wrong type of people.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear at Acre Down

Black-eared Wheatear
The early arrivals
Black-eared Wheatear
 Raptor Viewpoint
 New Forest
Dartford Warbler

As we had arrived at the Yellowlegs a fellow midland birder told us possible Eastern Black-eared Wheatear had been reported at Acre Down scheduled to be our next destination ! We were all buzzing and after a quick pit stop for refeshments it was off to the forest.

Thankfully we landed whilst there was still car parking available. Once again an easy walk towards the raptor watch point took us directly to the superb striking Wheatear ! What a bird !

The bird, a dark throated stunning spring male, showed really well and we viewed from a couple of positions. The bird was favouring some dead branches where I manage to get a few digiscoped images.

As the Wheatear was showing off to his audience Rowland found his regular Goshawk perched up when then took flight allowing me to get the best views I’d ever had of this mighty bird of play, simply awesome.

As much as we tried we could find any Wood Larks or Honey Buzzard, the wind looked to have  put them out of sight but we did get some great views for four different Dartford Warblers including a pair just off the main path. Other sightings included a strange hovering Common Buzzard, endless Stonechats and Skylarks.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven

 Greater Yellowlegs
 Greater Yellowlegs
Posford Floods, Titchford Haven

Rowland’s quality navigation got us to Titchfield Haven floods in quick time and a 15 minute walk took us to the Greater Yellowlegs where we had superb views. I certainly wouldn’t have fancied viewing the bird from here when first found, it would have been madness with the crowds that had gathered. The bird did resemble a Greenshank but there was no mistaking the striking custard yellow legs.

The day had only just past 12 noon and we had seen two MEGA birds.

Church Norton Hudsonian Whimbrel

On any distance twitches I like to ensure I get a full days birding in so when a rare Hudsonian Whimbrel was reported in Church Norton, West Sussex close to where the Greater Yellowlegs had been reported in recent months the opportunity was to much to resist.

I was joined by Warwickshire birders Roland and Paul on the journey south which took around 2 ½ hours. Rolands local knowledge proved invaluable thoughout the day.

A very short walk took us to the coast line where the tide was coming in to reach it’s highest point. The Whimbrel had just taken flight to the bottom end of the harbour and it took us some time to relocate the bird. Thankfully we all got two flight views of the bird clearly showing the coloured rump which is different from a Whimbrel which have a white v on their rump and back.  It’s just the ninth record for Britain (and the fifth away from Shetland).

Like most twitches there was the normal quality knober to bore everyone senseless with their tales from the 80’s. The endless drap stories of the good old days proved to much for us so we headed out of the reserve having to be satisfied with our flight views.

Other birds recorded were 2 Little Tern, Common Tern, Curlew, Oystercatchers and a Cuckoo. Given the distance no photos were possible however I did find this great snippet of video by Sean Foote.

Marsh Lane Melodious Warbler

I was cycling around the Cotswolds on Thursday afternoon when a Melodious Warbler was reported close to Marsh Lane Nature Reserve near Hampton-in-Arden. With sports taxi duties to complete I had to try and get out of work early on Friday to make the twenty mile journey from the Black Country.

Parking up was easier than expected and the walk was probably about 1k. As I approached the small collection of birders I could hear the bird calling from a shrub close to the patch. Despite the bird being reported as difficult to locate it showed brilliantly.

The distinctive warbler had a very strong beak and a yellow buff breast. It sang from high up on the scrub & vegitation but occasionally dropped down to feed.

Just need to find one of these beauties at the gravel pits now. Great bird for a Friday afternoon and a lifer to boot !

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Pectoral Sandpiper flies in to pits to end May flourish

Pectoral Sandpiper (Digiscoped)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Digiscoped)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Digiscoped)
Quail next ?
Saturday morning selfie

Plenty of hours of birding at the gravel pits over the weekend resulted in some super finds. Starting off with a Friday evening shift which resulted with a single Curlew and my first site Little Egret flying along the A46 side of the reserve. A very useful two point bird for the patch challenge. There were tremendous numbers of House martins feeding on the open muddy area as well as 500+ Swifts swooping around my head.

My route on Saturday was slightly different starting at the top of the pits. Whitethroats were calling along the hedgerow and it looked like Stock Doves have displaced our pair of Little Owls. The Red-legged Partridges were coming out from every where whist a Green Woodpecker was on one of the dead trees. The best sighting was a Sparrowhawk chasing the Yellowhammers in the service road field.

On Sunday morning I met up with Jon as normal at Pophills. He had 
seen a juvenile Osprey down on the River Arrow just a couple of miles from the pits about 7.50am. We quickly flew down there hoping to re-loacte the bird but sadly we were out of luck. Pophills had the striking nice Shelduck chicks and the LRP's whilst the Cetti's Warbler was calling from the bunds. A Redshank past over us on the main pit and a Turtle Dove flew past us as we headed towards the farm. Four pairs of LRP's were recorded and as we turned back to Pophills a immature Peregrine was looking for an early lunch over the main pit. Two Raven were calling from the top fields whilst when we returned to Pophills we picked up a Yellow Wagtail and another Turtle Dove. Not a bad morning but the day was just beginning.

I headed home for lunch before a quick visit to Upton Warren for the Black Tern. I then spent the afternoon watching my eldest play cricket at Feckenham. Imagine my surprise when Brian Stretch kindly called to advise a Pectoral Sandpiper has been reported between Dunnington and Broom, could it be on your patch ? I instantly knew this was at Pophills so broke the sound barrier to fly back down to the pits. On arrival no one was there despite it being reported on Rare Bird Alert. At first glance, nothing ! Surely I hadn't missed this rare American wader. As Matt Wilmott arrived three LRP'd took flight from the shoreline below us but tucked away and with them was the Pectoral Sandpiper. Landing on the north shoreline the bird allowed us some great views. We scrambled to let the local contacts know the bird was still present and we were then joined by Paul Hands (who had jumped out of bath to see the bird).

The bird was a stonking and you could clearly see conspicuous white stripes and the longer primary than birds such as Dunlin. We were all ecstatic to say the very least.

After a bit of investigation I found out Mike Inskipp had found the bird and just stopped en-route to the Broom Tavern for a lunch time drink. He estimated it was around 1pm giving us an estimated time between 11am and 1pm that the bird must have come down in the rain.

I didn't return home until after 8.30pm, not a bad day though ! It was even better when I added the bird to my Patchwork Challenge spreadsheet - 3 points ! 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Black Tern at Upton Warren

Black Tern
Black Tern

After a morning of birding at Salford Priors which I will report on in my next article I made the short journey from Feckenham (where I was watching the 2nd round of the National Village Cricket Knockout) to Upton Warren to see a Black Tern on his spring passage.

Black Tern's are one of my favourite birds and I was relieved to see the bird flying around as soon as I drove on to the car park. The bird was feeding by picking insects from the top of the water. The bird didn't really fly close, keeping to central part of the sailing pool, so images taken were very limited. Watching through the scope allowed me to get some fantastic views.

Upton Warren Avocets & breeding birds

Black-tailed Godwit with two Avocets
Young Avocet
Young Avocet
Mom keeping a close eye on youngster
Lapwing Chick

The last day of the Whitsun holiday’s was supposed to be a day watching the cricket however heavy morning rain put pay to that so I made the most of the afternoon by heading to Upton Warren.

The Avocets were letting their young offspring have a gentle explore under close supervision. Therewere around 28 Avocets and about 23 chicks of various ages (the log book said there were 23). The downside of the Avocets on the Flashes is they are extremely aggressive to most other waders hence I didn't record any Sandpipers. A pair of Black-tailed Godwits had been recorded however only one remained during the duration of my visit. 

There looked to be two broods of Lapwing. The young chicks looked very exposed. I'm sure the mother was keeping a close eye on the 150+ Black-headed Gulls of which many had their own offspring.

A Little Ringed Plover looked to be settled on a nest under the protective cage however raising offspring in the presence of the gull colony is always very difficult. A pair of Shoveler had produced a young whilst other sightings include two Little Grebes, two Great-crested Grebes and a Common Tern fishing the Sailing Lake. As we walked back along the Flashes path (relaid by ourselves at last work party) a Cetti's Warblers gave us a very loud burst of song.