Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Comings & goings

 Stunning Jay
 Looking for final Reed Warblers
 Main pit
 House Martins passage
 The redundant old workings
 Main pit bund disappearing by the day
 Wigeon on main pit
Main bunds showing how much soil is contained within them

Heavy overnight rain gave Jon and I hope of finding a few wader on Sunday however there were no new additions to the Greenshank, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Common Sandpipers and three Lapwing. A few more Snipe are starting to show them selves along the water line with 6 being noted.

Eight Wigeon, two Pochard, ten Gadwall, 100 Mallard, 45 Tufted and approx. 85 Teal were  the wildfowl numbers but there appears to be a significant absence of Geese at the moment.

We will have around 20 Chiffchaffs on the site along with a couple of Willow Warblers & Blackcaps however it looks like all the Reed Warblers have finally migrated south.

As we walked through the old workings there was a sudden pick up of migrants passing all around us.  Around 370 House Martins & 200 Swallows came through many feeding low to the ground before moving on. There was also a good fall of Meadow Pipits, around 80 were on the exposed mud feeding.

The species of the morning was most definitely the Jay. Jays are not a species I record that often but on Sunday nine were recorded in various areas. The colour patterns and plumage shades of the Eurasian jay can vary considerably in different geographic ranges with over 30 recorded. It is definitely something that interests me and I'm going to try and take some different images this winter. Jays tend to be overlooked as they can be quite aggressive and their call is a loud "aaaack-aaaack". I'd be interested to read any studies that have been compiled about the species.

Raptors sightings were limited to a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel & Buzzard, oh well always next week.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Upton Warren scores again with a Sabine's Gull

When you get a text alert from the King of Upton Warren "John Belsey" you know something good has landed. The level of the good news is dependant where you are and can you get there. On Wednesday lunchtime a juvenile Sabine's Gull had been discovered and was moving between the sailing lake & the Moors. 

I squeezed out of work a little earlier than normal and after a battle with the M5 roadworks duly arrived to find the King licking his lips after devouring a piece of bread and butter pudding and purring after bagging Great White Egret, Bairds Sandpiper & now a Sabine's Gull on the patch challenge, all within two weeks.

Sabine's Gulls breed in north America, Greenland and Siberia but do often appear on the coast in autumn on migration. Whilst certainly not as stunning as the bird I saw in Manchester last year the Gull was quite distinctive and the photo show how diminutive a bird compared to a Black-headed Gull.

This was the third record at Upton Warren & the eighth in Worcestershire. How it made its way to Upton in this calm period of weather we will never know but it was a great bird to see so close to home and on the way back from work.

Weekends away are costly

Distant shot in poor light of some of the Wigeon

Whilst I away enjoying the great weather in the south west, Jon reported a Pale morph first-winter Pomarine Skua had flown south low over Pophills at 7.45am, a patch first.  Then imagine my surprise when Richard Harbird recorded a Honey-buzzard at Morton Bagot.  The Honey Buzzard was then recorded again at the back of Coughton Court by Robert Evans. Two fantastic sightings.

Upon my return on Monday I did call in for a brief visit where the highlight were two Pintail and 17 Wigeon on the main pit. The Greenshank on Pophills has now been present for 24 days. Other birds of note were two Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

South west birding (Part 5) - Return to Steart


Little Egret
Grey Plover
Distant Little Stint
Spot the Kingfisher

The lads were heading into Taunton to take on a high ropes courses so I opted for a return to Steart. I almost didn't make it as I luckily avoided a head on smash on the lanes when a Volvo flew round a corner at speed before slamming it's breaks on to avoid me by millimetres. Nutter ! 

The waders were quite distant when I reached the view point however I worked my way through the marsh trying to find and observe what ever possible. The best find were two Little Stints shuffling through the mud with a flock of Ringed Plovers. Plenty of Dunlin & Redshank on show with two Greenshank & a distant Kingfisher landed on the marsh gate. 

A local female birder joined me from Taunton who appeared informed on local sightings however there were a genuine lack of birders around the reserve considering it was just after high tide. 

A Wheatear popped up just in front of me which gave me the chance to take some reasonable images before heading across the reserve to watch the wildfowl containing Teal, Shelduck & Pintail. On the way back to the car I noted a Stonechat & a Whinchat. A very relaxed morning. 

South west birding (Part 4) - Mill Meadow

It would be wrong not to acknowledge Mill Meadow Luxury Eco Homes where we stayed for this three day amazing break. 

Situated in Kingston St Mary, ten minutes from Taunton, and at the foot of the Quantock Hills, Mill Meadow offer a brilliant alternative holiday break solution. All the lodges are made from Finish pine & spruce and are of contempory design. With a select eight lodges on the site you feel like you have totally escaped and you rarely see anyone else during your visit. Our Woodpecker lodge had a fantastic sauna & hot tub included. During the evenings we heard the local Tawny Owl calling from the nearby trees. 

The team that run the complex are really friendly and do everything they can to make you feel welcome. On our arrival we had essentials left in the fridge & gorgeous home made flapjacks that went down perfectly with a cup of tea. On Sunday afternoon the team also left an extra gift which was very much appreciated.

On Sunday morning, Mrs D & I followed one of the recommended walks in the helpful folder that took us around the village and through the local fields where we recorded 34 species with the highlights being a family of Mistle Thrushes, Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap & Chiffchaff. 

The local pub, The Swan, is highly recommended and is very much a real british pub & great evening atmosphere. The pub is very popular with local cricketers and England wicket keeper Josh Butler is a regular.

So if you do fancy a break with a difference then why not look the team up. 30 minutes to Steart and 40 minutes to RSPB Bowling Green Marsh, it's an ideal location.

South west birding (Part 3) - Steart Spoonbill

Grey Plovers, Dunlin & Ringed Plovers
Evidence of scope carrying
Winter duck heavan
Distant Wheatear
View from the hide

Our weekend residence was just thirty minutes from Steart Marshes so the plan was to try and visit a couple of times around high tide. I've written about Steart previously so I'll keep the blogs brief. Mrs D kept me company on Saturday morning where a Spoonbill was the start attraction. The bird was apparently ringed in the Netherlands. The Spoonbill was a fairly distance however other waders were easier to watch which included 9 Grey Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits. 

Further down the reserve we noted a Greenshank, Shelduck, Teal, Little Egret, two Whinchat, Buzzard, Kestrel, Wheatear and my first Pintails of the Autumn.

Monday, 19 September 2016

South west birding (Part 2) - Fremington Lesser Yellowlegs

Just as I reached the Slimbridge car park the phone buzzed with a message "Lesser Yellowlegs North Devon". I quickly pondered the journey as it was only an hour from our Somerset weekend base. It was certainly a species I was keen to see but I've never been around to see one locally. The village of Fremington was duly punched into the Sat Nav and off I went. 

The journey whizzed past as the traffic flowed well for a Friday afternoon and I then pondered where the Quay was, would it be easy to find and the normal variables. No such worries were needed as the turning was signposted and at the first parking bay I noticed another birder….Bingo. Quickly grabbing the optics and camera the Lesser Yellowlegs was just 30 metres from the road feeding well with a group of Redshank. 

The only trouble was the single track road was very busy so I was unable to set my scope up properly with having to take it down every couple of minutes so I tried to take a few hand held shots as best as I could.

This North American wader are pretty much an annual visitor to the UK but it's a case of seeing one when you can. There was one in Essex for a couple of weeks but sightings reported were very distant, personally I'd rather wait for views like this. 

Just another three hundred yards up the road there was a Glossy Ibis showing well and the session finished with a Spotted Redshank on the way back the car. Needless to add the Coldplay playlist was on in the car to celebrate my 21st new species of the year. Top day.

South west birding (Part 1) - Slimbridge

Curlew Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Crane

With a few spare days of annual leave to take before the end of September we took up our photography prize won last summer of a long weekend at Mill Meadow Eco lodges in Somerset. With the lads being in school on the Friday I travelled ahead of the family to get a bit of birding in on the way. 

With chances of a rarity being slim I started at Slimbridge for a few hours. The weather was glorious and made the light perfect for photographs. The session started well as I found two Curlew Sandpipers in the Rushy pen. They were joined by a dozen glorious Ruff, Green &  Common Sandpipers, Snipe and plenty of recently arrived Teal.

I saw nine Common Crane around the reserve, it's shame all their rings as so big as it makes them appear very cumbersome. There were two distant Garganey on view from the Ziess hide but it was fairly quiet in terms of birds and visitors. 

I did check in on the South Lake but the species on show were just the same as elsewhere. The restaurant appears to be having a make over so I opted to head further down the M5 towards Somerset.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Down with the bunds

Greenshank visiting main pit
 Bund removal
Ringed Plover

I made a number of visits last week with mixed success, Autumn passage seems to be on hold generally with continued warm weather.Wader highlights were 2 Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, 4 Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper, 5 Snipe and 20 Lapwing. Jon also picked up a Golden Plover on his Sunday visit.

Wildfowl continues to increase with Teal numbers now to 73. Other counts include  49 Little Grebe,  15 Mute Swan, 1 Shelduck, 5 Gadwall, 73 Teal, 200 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 39 Tufted Duck, 19 Moorhen and 158 Coot.

The dead tree on the south lagoons saw a rise in Cormorants to 25 on Saturday whilst the two Hobbys now seem regular visitors along with 2 Kingfishers.

After the overnight rain on Saturday there were 180 Swallows and 230 Meadow Pipits moving south, a total of 4 Tree Pipits through, 1 Rock Pipit circling main pit calling (equalling previous early date), 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Whinchat, 1 Sedge Warbler, 12 Reed Warbler, 4 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Common Whitethroat, 1 Garden Warbler (in elder by main bund), 6 Blackcap, 33 Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Raven and 80 Goldfinch.  Thanks to Jon for forwarding his sightings which I’ve combined into the above.

On a very gloomy note the restoration of the site by CEMEX has dramatically increased and we saw the start of the removal of the bunds.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Worcestershire MEGA - Baird's Sandpiper at Upton Warren

   Video & stills from lower hide at the Flashes

News broke on Friday evening that a Baird's Sandpiper had been discovered at Upton Warren. By an amazing coincidence I'd been considering twitching the same species in Hatfield and it was only because the birds appearance had been very sketchy I'd held back. But would the American wader stick over night. Heavy rain throughout the night definitely increased the chances. 

Chief Warden John Belsey issued clear instructions for everyone to follow and I managed to get the final space on the car park before heading down to the Flashes at 6.10am. Negative news greeted me as I past John however as I dived into the ground floor of the hide Mike Wakeman declared positive news and the bird was feeding well on the far side of the flash. The light and weather were still poor so I made the decision to return on Sunday afternoon if the bird stayed, hence only the images taken on Sunday are shown above)

It was very interesting to note how the body did appeared flattened or squashed and the bird was smaller than I expected. It was interesting to get a size comparison with a Green Sandpiper that chased it a couple of times.

This was the fourth record for the West Midlands, previous records were all in Staffordshire, making it a first for Worcestershire. Just rewards for John & all the team at Upton Warren who work so hard at the reserve.

The organisation on the day made it a very enjoyable morning and it was certainly appreciated by all the visitors.  I must add I find Worcestershire birders are the most friendliest and welcoming, very different to some of the snobbish attitudes of birders living in a slightly different location.