Sunday, 31 January 2016

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Had to do my bit for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on Sunday. The survey is now reported to be the biggest wildlife survey with over half a million people taking part. 

I managed to record a booming 11 species in my hour time slot including a garden first which was a Male Blackcap. A Collared Dove started the count with a Coal Tit whilst there were regular visits throughout the hour from Blue Tit, two Dunnock, two Woodpigeon and four Starlings. Single visits were received from a Wren, two House Sparrow and a Magpie. Job done………...

The real Winterwatch

Golden Plover & Lapwing
Close up of flock
Corn Bunting ?
House Sparrow

After a week of the BBC Winterwatch team talking "Black Cock" it was back to real winter birding. Most birding is still being conducted from the car as stomach pain is still ongoing. Hoping next weeks brings some improvement at last.

I found all the feeders had been blown off the tree in the previous nights wind. The Greylag flock flew over which contained the single Pink-footed Goose found later in the  day by Chris Lane. Sightings were limited to two Shelduck, 31 Teal, 31 Lapwing, 30 Tufted Duck, two Little Grebe, Jack Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. Over at Pophills there were another four Green Sandpipers. 

The allotments on the Broom turn is an area always worth exploring and I was pleased to find a male wintering Blackcap in the hedgerows whilst there were large numbers of Fieldfare & Redwing. I couldn't resist snapping the cheeky House Sparrow shown above. 

A bird caught my eye high on the wires however the light wasn't great. With the wire getting in the way also ID wasn't easy. The heavy set beak indicated a Corn Bunting but it could well have been a immature Yellowhammer. 

Finally I caught up with the Lapwing flock that increased to 1,250 however I could only see 30 Golden Plover. That ends the month with 82 species and 85 points in the patch challenge (including Feral Pigeon).

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Redpoll anyone ?

Mealy anyone ?
Feeding in scrub

Fellow Warwickshire birder Richard Harbird recently discovered a flock of 150 Lesser Redpoll at Morton Bagot, so given its only a short walk I headed over to take a look. In the company of Paul Hands, we first saw the birds edging along the farm on the other side of the scrub field but they swirled up together to land on the wires. An amazing sight so close to home. 

Richard's blog indicated there could be a Mealy among the flock of Lessers. One bird clearly stood out as a possible contender however I couldn't get more than one photograph of the bird.

Whilst Common/Mealy is always the most likely candidate when faced with a large, pale-looking Redpoll. However, the suite of ID features that need to be evaluated include the 'base colour' of the mantle, the paleness and streakiness (or otherwise) of the rump and the extent of fringing on the wing feathers (white wing bars does not necessarily exclude Lesser). 

As these can't be seen in the photograph, it is not possible to go beyond 'redpoll sp.' for the individual in question. 

The ID features for Arctic Redpoll include the extent of white on the rump and the amount (if any!) of streaking on the vent and undertail coverts. Unfortunately, neither of these two features were visible in my pictures either.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Golden delights on patch

 Golden Plover
  Golden Plover
 Distance shot
  Golden Plover
Lapwing flock (Plover flock in top left corner)
Lapwing flock
Common Buzzard
Green Sandpiper

I'm still struggling with the stomach & fitness so patch visiting is limited to short walks and scoping from the car. Milder air moved in over the weekend so the Wigeon and Pintail had moved on. 

In the fields close to the A46 I found a flock of 1150 Lapwing and 340 Golden Plover (two fields to the north). The birds caught my eye flying high in the sky when looking north from the bridge at Abbots Salford. The Plover were being harassed by a Male Merlin high above Salford Priors church. I managed to get as close as possible to get some record shots.

Heading east from the Plover flock, I found a single Grey Partridge in one of the field furrows however views were limited as the ground dropped away whilst four Skylarks were singing. Close by I picked up a large flocks of 300-400 Linnets on the edge of one of the farms. Also at the same location there were two Redpolls, a very useful patch challenge tick.

Fieldfare are plentiful all around the patch. On Saturday morning there were 400 opposite the Broom racing stables. 

7 Green Sandpipers were feeding close to the island on Pophills as the water levels continues to rise. Over at the main pit sightings were limited to 50 Canada Geese, a Shelduck, 30 Lapwing and the normal wildfowl.

Patch challenges moves to 77 species (80 points) but Nuthatch and all owl species remain elusive.

Frozen out at Salford Priors

Drake Pintail on the ice

Week commencing 18th January saw a dramatic drop in temperatures with the main pit and Pophills being frozen. When there is a deep freeze you often get wildfowl displaced and this theory proved correct as I observed two Pintail fly in to the main pit to join three Wigeon. The first Siskin was recorded in the plantation (may have been two) whilst the feeding station is proving very popular with the Great, Blue and Coal Tits. Nothing different as yet………

Our local Kestrel kindly posed to enable me to get some nice shots whilst the Robin was very keen to show off at the same time.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Earlswood Caspian Gull

Given I can only take short & flat walks due to my hernia problem I made the short journey to Earlswood for my bit of daily air to find the third winter Caspian Gull on the Windmill Pool. The Gull was sitting on the buoy being watched by fellow pitter Paul Hands who kindly tipped me off. Whilst I have seen a good number before this was perhaps the best views I'd had of the species.

Penduline Tits - Horsbere Brook

View to the naked eye
Destination to look out for
 Fantastic views with a bit of patience
 Feeding time
 Stunning plumage
Happy audience
Both birds in this image

I couldn't resist a small drive down the M5 to see my second ever pair of Penduline Tits at Hosbere Brook on the edge of Gloucester. Horsbere Reserve was developed by the Environment Agency as part of the flood management scheme. It is now owned and managed by Gloucester City Council. The reserve is made up of a large wetland that diverts flood water away from properties and into the storage area at times of a flood, as well as being an important wildlife habitat.

A large lay-by was perfect for parking close to the lake. On arrival the birders on site informed me the birds had not been seen for over an hour however with 30 minutes of searching I found both birds low in the reeds in front of me.

The stunning birds showed very well for about 40 minutes and didn't seem at all bothered by the audience they were thrilled with their spectaular hanging on the bulrushes before flying to the other side of the small reserve. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Kempsey Short-eared Owls

Shortie in flight across the meadows
Amazing views
Afternoon light under Malverns
A different Short-eared Owl
Viewing spot from the church
Shortie sat up in the tree

You can't beat a winter afternoon looking for Owls so the wife and I opted to head over to Kempsey near Worcester to see if we could see any following a string of recent reports. Parking at the church (signposted) we went through the church yard where there was a patch looking over the river and flooded meadows. Instantly a Short-eared Owl passed in front of us and sat up perched in the field opposite the pumping station.

We then headed down the fields as we wanted a walk as we reached the bottom corner we found a Shortie sat up on a post. After taking a few record shots we watched four different owls fly all around us as they hunted for food. The view of the one flying over the flood fields was stunning. In addition there were at least another two Owls on the south side of the river than could be scoped from the church viewing point. The only other additional sighting was 18 Goosander on the river. If you are heading that way……take those wellies !