Monday, 31 August 2015

Bank Holiday Monday Double

Black Tern (Centre of image, trust me)
Poster boys of Salford Priors
Best I could get in flight
A bit wet underfoot
Scope view - spot the Whinchat
Paul on the look out

With a shocking forecast and wind direction looking good for Autumn I met up with Paul at 8.45am on Bank Holiday Monday, both accepting we were going to get soaked to the skin. 

On arrival at the main pit I picked up two juvenile Black Terns, a brilliant start to the day. The birds looked to be moving on as they climbed high and headed south however five minutes later they were back feeding on the main pit. These birds must have had endless stamina and only one bird landed (for just two seconds) in the full hour we watched them making any photos practically impossible given the driving rain and wind.

We then headed across the site to the bunds where our short cut proved more of a long cut due to all the growing willows and we ended up walking three times the distance we needed to reach the top of the bunds. 

Swallows and House Martins were soaring past our heads as we battled through the wet grass. Suddenly Paul picked up our target bird, a Whinchat, perched well on some gorse. You beauty, another patch first for us this year. The bird went to ground for ten minutes or so before we re-located it on the south west end of the bunds. This time the Whinchat was good enough for us both to get a record. 

August has been very kind to us and the many hours put in had certainly paid dividends with seven new species for the year, recording 11 species for the patch challenge. Roll on September !

Spotted Redshank continues purple patch

Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank
Salford Priors Peregrine
Two Turnstones
Northern Wheatear
Ringed Plover & Dunlin
Nice sunset on way home
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit

There were three new visitors to Salford Priors on Sunday upon arrival. One was a Spotted Redshank and the other two were Noel & Ann Hand from Bidford who had found my blog and given our recent good run of birds thought they would call in and take a look for themselves. Hope they both become regulars and help our regular coverage of the site.

The Spotted Redshank was fairly smart in it's appearance and is the first Autumn record for the species at site. The bird fed on Pophills before taking flight over to the main pit. I put the news out early to West Midland birding so it was good to see all the regulars and a few twitchers taking advantage of the latest arrival. 

A large flock of birds came through the willows which included 40 Long-tailed Tits, 30+ Chiffchaff, Great Tits, 15 Black Caps and 3 Sedge Warbler. 

Moving across the site I watched a Peregrine chase a Black-tailed Godwit above the middle lagoon. The Godwit kept rising in height to frustrate the Peregrine who eventually gave up and went off hunting easier prey.

Other Sunday sightings included 40 Little Grebe, 8 Green Sandpipers, 4 Common Sandpipers, 3 Green Woodpecker, 3 Shoveler, 65 Tufted Ducks, 16 Cormorant and a Kingfisher which seems to have moved into the old workings lagoon.

In other visits this week a second Turnstone arrived with 5 Dunlin & 9 Ringed Plover. Whilst a Northern Wheatear was present on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Finally a………….Wryneck

Wryneck is a species I've never had any luck in catching up with. With being a Midland based birder opportunities are rare without a three hour drive to the east coast. So after grabbing a snack after my morning patch walk around the gravel pits and check of Rare Bird Alert a Wryneck had been spotted at RSPB Otmoor. I didn't need to consider the option to go for more than a minute given its only a 75 minute drive.

Walking up to the reported areas the news wasn't good and when reaching the path where the bird had been last seen I found around 15 frustrated birders and photographers. I did get a two second view as the bird crossed the patch in flight but patience was waning among the audience of which most decided to go leaving just three of us. 

Another thirty minutes of patience was rewarded with the bird showing really well on the path. The views were brief but as you can see I did manage to get a few digiscoped images that I was really pleased with.

The birds plumage was stunning with the mottling effect really catching the eye. For those who don't know these are part of the Woodpecker family and are migrants and just passing through the UK from their breeding grounds. The birds are around 16.5 cm in height and get their name from the ability to turn their head.  

It was great to meet fellow Twitterarti members RSPB's Kirsty Brannan and Gareth Blockley.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Midlands Patchwork Challenge

A two place rise in the Midlands league has now put Salford Priors well clear of Earlswood & Morton Bagot. Both will need very big Autumns to close the gap now. The hours spent on site has certainly reaped dividends in August so far so perhaps we may be able to close another space.

Waderific at pits

 Little Ringed Plover
 Arty Goldfinch
 Hatrick of waders
 Who's watching who
 Little Stint
Little Stint & Ringed Plover

It was good to get back home after a couple of great days away in Rutland. The forecast rain hadn’t arrived sadly so less chance of a goodie landing at the gravel pits. Paul joined me and Jon giving us three pairs of eyes to scan every where. We started at Pophills where the Garganey were still in residence. We thought this may be a separate bird to the first one reported.

It seems that two broods of Little Ringed Plover have been successful with fours chicks fledging.

Four Swifts heading south past us over head at around 10am just after a Ringed Plover circiled the old workings. Other movement included good numbers of House Martin and four Yellow Wagtails. Other sightings included 14 Teal, 4 Green Sandpiper, 8 Common Sandpiper, 2 Buzzards, Kestrel and a Kingfisher.

After a quick lunch I returned to the pits following a note from Jon that a juvenile Turnstone was on the main pit. The rain was hammering down at this time and I was relieved to locate the bird on Oystercatcher island before it flew closer. It was flying with another bird and once settled it was great see it was our second Little Stint of the year. Just as Paul and I were patting ourselves on the back our Black-tailed Godwits flew across the pit, oh my days, another patch tick for us both. We hung around for another hour getting some great views of the waders.

Tour de Birdfair

Normanton Church, Rutland Water
Tour de Rutland
Mrs looks sporty as always
Barndale Hall Hotel
View from Hotel
                                                    Hotel House Martins
Hotel House Martins
Chris Packham
Birdfair pursuits
Henry the Hen Harrier
Manton Bay
Juvinile Osprey
Juvinile Osprey
Wall of Concern
Mary Avery
David Lindo
Mother Osprey
Plenty of reading

After a busy summer I booked the wife and I a two day break to take in the annual Birdfair at Rutland Water.

After checking in at our hotel, Barnstable Hall Hotel, we set off on the bikes doing a full perimeter covering the 27 kilometres. As we reached Manton Bay we could see two Ospreys - most definatley one for bike list. A cracking ride with some super views of the various bays with a few tricky inclines in various habitat.

On Saturday (despite the initial forecast) the weather was beautiful with not a cloud in the sky as we watched the hundreds of House Martin dive in and out of their nest above the hotel reception. A short drive down to the Birdfair reserve was no trouble at all and the volunteer staff made all the visitors welcome.

Being a Birdfair virgin it was interesting to see the amount of stall holders from all round the world. Birding tourism in truly alive and doing very well. I had some very interesting chats with representatives from Iceland & Spain (and many many leaflets).

I completed a card for the Birders against Wildlife stall and bought a pin badge in support of their great work. Lets hope the profile will make a difference to all the crimes that birds of prey are subjected to.

I picked up two new books to read “Behind the Binoculars" by Mark Avery &”Tales from the Concrete Jungle" by David Lindo. I did manage to grab a photo with both Mark & David. Both major conservationists doing a great job for us all. 

After lunch we left as the afternoon heat was intense and we retreated to Manton Bay to watch a juvenile Osprey and mother. I also picked up 3 Ruff, 5 Green Sandpiper and 4 Egyptian Geese (year tick).