Monday, 25 July 2016

Little Ringed Plover breeding success

Little Ringed Plover
 Lapwing on Pophills
 Young Roe Deer
 Green Sandpipers
 Green Sandpiper
 First Tufted brood
Gulls on main pit
Off to the pits
 Painted Lady

Another weekend of patch plodding with limited variation for myself and Jon. The highlight of the weekend was confirmation of successful breeding for our Little Ringed Plovers again. The area in which they have bred will hopefully remain after the restoration and will continue in the Autumn giving us future hope.

There were plenty of gulls around on Sunday as they were feeding on the local ploughed fields, nothing other than Black-heads and Herrings though. The first Teal returned on Pophills but sadly no Garganey which was present this time last year. The reed lagoon’s exposed mud attracted the most interest with eight Green Sandpipers (one behaving differently & a slightly longer beak), three showing Water Rails and a Little Ringed Plover. The Shelduck ducklings were still hiding under cover of the reeds but could be heard.

The Lapwings seem to be edging back week by week and we counted 55 on Sunday above the main pit whilst six Common Sandpipers were present around the site. Mike Inskip reported a Little Egret midweek but there was no sign on Saturday or Sunday.

Best of the butterflies seen were three Painted Ladies and a Brimstone.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Day of the Water Rail

A couple of hours on Saturday resulted in a Little Egret flyover being the highlight whilst the Sparrowhawk chicks were jumping & taking small flights around the top of the plantation.

On Sunday Jon & I did a comprehensive survey of the pits to try and establish any wader movement of new broods. Pophills remains very quiet despite the water levels starting to improve.

Over at the main pit a Yellow Wagtail passed over the bunds twice whilst on the main pit the Coot count reached 205. Sadly still no Tufted broods among the count of 48. A single Common Sandpiper was on the main island. Other sightings included a Raven, Kestrel and three Herring Gulls.

On the reed lagoon there was more breeding success when we observed five Water Rail chicks. That was the first time we have seen chicks on this lagoon but have always heard adult birds there. There were eight Green Sandpipers  & another Common Sandpiper  around this area and there was good news regarding the Shelduck chicks as all six were seen doing well but keeping under the reeds.

Butterfly sightings included an Essex Skipper, Marbled White, Tortoise, Small Skipper, Ringlet and Gatekeeper whilst we also found a number of Cinnamon Moth Caterpillars that looked cool in their Wolverhampton Wanderers colours.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

National breeding news


The latest Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report, published today [7 July 2016], has revealed that Turtle Dove numbers have hit a new low, declining by 93 per cent since 1994. This trend is mirrored across Europe, with a decline of 78 per cent between 1980 and 2013.

Turtle Doves spend the winter in West Africa, arriving back to the UK in April to breed. Once in the UK, they prefer areas of bare ground with open water and mature scrub areas in which to nest, with a plentiful supply of seed to feed their young. Before the BBS began in 1994, changes in land management had already impacted the population greatly and the species has continued to decline to this day. The highest remaining breeding densities occur in eastern and southern England, and they have now disappeared from large areas of the country.

One cause for this decline is thought to be the lack of seed from arable plants, which historically formed the bulk of Turtle Dove diet during the breeding season, resulting in a much shorter breeding season with fewer nesting attempts. The trichomonosis parasite, better known for driving Greenfinch declines, has also been recorded in a high proportion of Turtle Doves in recent years and may be having an impact.

Hunting pressures during the Turtle Dove's migration through southern Europe is thought to impact on the population, although assessing the scale of this effect is difficult because the relevant data on the number of birds being killed is hard to come by. Further pressures in their wintering grounds of West Africa are also thought to be potential factors behind the decline, with changes in both climate and land-use reducing over-winter food availability.

Sarah Harris, BBS Organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said: "As a child, Turtle Dove used to nest at my local patch, Rye Meads, in Hertfordshire but the last singing male was recorded there in 2008. Structured volunteer surveys, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, rely completely on the generosity and dedication of thousands of volunteers across the UK to turn general observations like this into facts and figures that help us keep an eye on birds such as Turtle Dove. Our thanks go out to each and every BBS volunteer."

Anna Robinson, Monitoring Ecologist at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, added: "The evocative call of the Turtle Dove was once a more common addition to our summer soundscape. The BBS has been a valuable tool in showing the extent of decline, and has triggered conservation efforts. 'Operation Turtle Dove' ( is carrying out a range of targeted actions including promoting Turtle Dove-friendly land management to farmers through agri-environment schemes. Let's hope the BBS will detect a positive impact from this effort in the future."

Dr Mark Eaton, RSPB Principal Conservation Scientist, RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, said: "The Turtle Dove is the UK's fastest declining bird and, given the matching decline across Europe, is now considered at risk of global extinction. If we are to prevent it going the way of the Dodo, we need urgent coordinated conservation action, with farmers and conservationists working together to create the best conditions for them on our farmland. The efforts of farmers helping Operation Turtle Dove offers this iconic species a lifeline."

Comment - I do find it somewhat strange how people report Turtle Doves in south Warwickshire given personally I have never seen another else recording the species in the area ever and take the information second or third hand. I will do a blog on the local situation at the end of the summer.

RSBB South West

Somerset conservation success continues as bittern numbers boom! Somerset has retained its position as Britain’s bittern stronghold, as the population of the mysterious and elusive wetland bird keeps on booming. 

Forty-seven males – identified by their distinctive and mournful boom-like call – have been recorded this year, mostly on RSPB, Natural England and Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserves in the Avalon Marshes, near Glastonbury.

The figure continues the steady increase in the number of breeding bitterns on Somerset’s wetlands; the first record this century, at the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve, was in 2008.
Only 11 males were in the UK when the bird’s population reached its modern nadir in 1997, mostly in East Anglia and Lancashire. One pair could be found at Chew Valley, north of the Mendips, for a time in the 1990s.

The bittern’s renaissance is one of the UK’s great conservation successes of recent years.
Steve Hughes, site manager of the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve, said 45 males had been recorded on the Avalon Marshes complex of reserves (of which Ham Wall forms part), with another two on the RSPB’s Greylake reserve, near Othery. 

He said: “This is the result of 20-odd years of work, an enormous amount of effort, and an enormous amount of hard graft, but we are seeing what we always wanted to see and that‘s fantastic. We’ve got a real conservation success on our hands.”

Huge reed beds have been created on old peat workings and arable fields – the Avalon Marshes embrace the RSPB’s Ham Wall, Natural England's Shapwick Heath, and Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Catcott and Westhay Moor reserves – creating ideal nesting and feeding habitat for bittern, and for many other species. 

The work was based on detailed research, which found bitterns thrive in large wetlands, where reed beds are kept wet, attract plenty of fish, including eels, and also attract other bitterns.
Because the bittern, one of our shyest birds, is so difficult to see recording booming males, which breed with more than one female, is used to count numbers.
Counting females is not easy, although feeding flights to collect food in the vicinity of nests is a good indicator. Nest counting for this year is continuing.
Mark Blake, the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s senior reserves manager, said: “This fantastic result means that 2016 is likely to be a very successful year for female bittern raising chicks – the West Country’s next generation of boomers.” 

Simon Clarke, senior reserves manager of Natural England’s Shapwick Heath national nature reserve, added: “Bitterns don’t care about boundaries between nature reserves. This is a great example of what you can do by working together using a landscape and partnership approach to nature conservation here in the UK, and beyond.”

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Collared Pratincole delights crowds at Ham Wall

 Collared Pratincole (Griffin Wildlife)
 Distant Bitter
 Great White Egret
 Platform two
 The lookout from the platform
 Marsh Harrier

How are good birds found on a Sunday night ? When a Collared Pratincole was reported at Ham Wall (Somerset) time was always against a late evening visit. After being reported on Monday myself & Roland decided to take a half day on Tuesday and head down after lunch (Roland had to ensure the fish was in the fridge before leaving home apparently). A smooth journey listening to bell ringing stories & the band British Sea Power set us up for walk to the second viewing platform.

Crossing the canal we recorded our first two (of a possible nine) Great White Egrets. Any visitor to this stunning reserve would do well to miss this species now. The Pratincole had been reported showing very well however we had to wait a good hour to get a flight view before it disappeared again behind the reeds.

The bird is well worth a visit as they are a rely seen this side of the country. The bird clearly showed it was a very agile and fluent flier whilst it's tern like shape catches the eye but clearly with longer wings & legs. Chris Griffin of Griffin Wildlife kindly send me the above photo to use where you can see the birds features in more detail. This species was only the second recorded in Somerset, the last being in 1858

As we were waiting there were a selection of other birders to keep us amused including camo-man (a tog who went in and out of focus with his super camafluged clothing), suit-man (clearly the best dressed birder in Somerset) and nice man (who joined in our bantering observations).

Other sightings included a Hobby that hawked above us and three flying Bittern and two Glossy Ibis’s.

Many thanks to Chris Griffin of Griffin Wildlife for his fantastic image. 

Relaxed birding with a Little Ringed Plover

Common Sandpiper
Growing brood
Coot chicks
Always one
Grey Heron
Green Sandpiper
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Green Woodpecker
Common Terns
Photo-bomb by Common Sandpiper

The weekend patch birding was a chilled affair over both days. Saturday started well when a female Ruff took flight from behind the island on Pophills as I arrived. A Common Sandpiper was feeding on the island whilst a Hare was thinking he was camouflaged on one of the banks.

There are more Coot broods being born every day and a new nest looked to be doing well on the main pit. I’ve still been unable to locate any Tufted broods and the Gadwall appear to have thinned out in numbers. It’s look like our Oystercatcher pair finally gave up their own breeding attempts despite trying at three different locations.

A species that continues to do well is Green Woodpecker. A young family were exploring the tops of the old Little Owl Tree and the parents were continually flying backwards and forwards bringing food. Linnets, Goldfinches, Stock Doves were the only birds seen in the old workings as I had to shelter from a heavy shower. Raptors were once again restricted to Buzzards and Kestrels.

Both adult Shelducks were present however I didn’t see any ducklings. I hoping the presence of both adults signifies that the duckings were just taking cover. A bit worrying……

My best hirundinidae counts were 40 Swifts, 6 House Martin, 10 Swallow and a single Sand Martin.

As per last weekend two Common tern came in at around 11.00am and stayed for around 15 minutes before flying east.

Finally, a couple of shallow pools appeared which I sat down by to be rewarded by some fantastic views of one of the site Little Ringed Plover.

June Patchwork challenge & weekend butterflies

June updated table
 Large White
 Gatekeeper (Male)
Small Skipper
Marbled White

Thought I'd undertake a bit of umpiring to help out my two lads teams at the weekend. I'd not recorded any umpire sightings for a while but Saturdays efforts resulted in a family of Mistle Thrush, 12 Swallows, Buzzard and a Chaffinch whilst Sunday I added Kestrel, Raven and Pied Wagtail to the weekend list.

Whilst walking around the pits on Sunday I took a few photographs of the butterflies I came across for a bit of added interest. I have added an additional page to the blog which records which species have been seen there historically by Jon. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Common Rosefinch down the Stow

Common Rosefinch
Slightly different angle
First view
Happy audience
 Local underpass street art
Favoured Willow
Walthamstow Marshes
Short Video Clip taken hand held at distance

I didn't need a second invitation from Stourport twitcher Dave J  & Tony to join them on a twitch to Wathamstow Marshes to see a reported male Common Rosefinch. The plan was to wait for news and then set off.  The reports were a little on and off however I estimated it was worth the risk of a 2 1/2 hour journey. The bird had been found by patch birder Jamie Partridge, a mega in terms of patch birding.

After initially going the wrong way we found the path in question heading north west from Lea Valley Riding Centre (free parking) to the railway bridge. However on arrival the birders present had only witnessed flight views and nothing for over an hour.

After a frustrating ninety minutes we heard the bird was seen further towards the canal so we all duly marched east and the gamble paid off as we heard the Rosefinch singing in its sweet voice behind us and then flew straight over us into a large willow tree.  As if by magic instead of hiding in the foliage the bird showed really well singing its heart out. Twice it flew to the reed bed where in perched on a stem before returning to the willow. 

I'd never seen a Rosefinch before - it was Bullfinch size, had a hefty bill and extremely beautiful red head. Suggestion seemed to indication it is a first summer bird as the red tones are not extensive & the median coverts were white tipped rather than pinky red.

A few birders had only just arrived at the site and got fantastic views within minutes of arrival. After pleasing the increasing crowd the Rosefinch took flight towards the pub & local housing where it had been seen on a feeder.

All chuffed we headed back up through the urban London jungle to increase our Red Kite count on the M40 to eighteen birds.