Sunday, 27 November 2016

Bearded Tits in winter sunshine

Male Bearded Tit
Reed Bunting
Male Bearded Tit
 A welcome sign after a number of road closures
Common Buzzard on way home

A chance to visit Westhay Moor was taken up recently on the Somerset levels. The levels were already flooded in places despite there only being one sicfifiant down pour. There were plenty of Starlings feeding on any areas of grass that was not flooded however the main attraction was ahead at the reserve.

Unfortunately the weather was too windy however as I waited for the star performers a Bittern took flight over our heads, always a great sight. Despite hearing a number of Bearded Tits they were just teasing us until a single male came into view on the boardwalk. Up to 24 have been seen together in this location however I can to settle for just three sightings in total all very brief. I managed to snap a Reed Bunting that was taking advantage of the seed, thankfully Brian Thompson kindly forwarded a couple of amazing images for use on the blog.

Bewick's Swans visit Salford Priors

After a couple of mundane visits with very little change, Chris Lane discovered 3 Bewick's Swans on the main pit at around 11.30am on Thursday. Thankfully I managed to get down to take some record shots of the birds.

Originally we thought they may have been on their way to Slimbridge however I checked this with Slimbridge Research Assistant, Steve Heaven, who confirmed he didn't recognise any of the three birds. 

Bewick's Swans populations show to be in a huge decline.Those from arctic Russia have seen their population fall to just 18,000 from 29,000 between 1995 and 2010. Slimbridge are undertaking a research project to try and discover why this species are struggling so much. Part of this project is "Flight of the Swans" during which a member of the team is flying the same migration path as the Bewick's. You can follow the updates on this link.

The birds flew south after becoming unsettled by the flock of Greylags & Canada Geese who were themselves jumpy from the local shoot. The Bewick's became our 141st species of 2016 & only the second record at the site.

Other midweek sighting highlights included 2 Green Sandpipers, Adult Yellow-legged Gull, 10 Common Gull, 29 Lapwing and 5 Wigeon.

I visited twice over the weekend. On Saturday I met a photographer from Stratford called Mark Clarke who was visiting the site for the first time. A few flash pool has emerged close to the main bund, it will be interesting to see whether this becomes permenant or just caused by the midweek heavy rain.

There were huge numbers of Redwings & Fieldfares moving through on both days. The best bird was a Jack Snipe that was in the marshy area by the main pit bund. Other weekend counts included 17 Mute Swan, 18 Shoveler, 37 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 49 Tufties, 85 Teal, 69 Lapwing, 3 Green Sandpiper, Green Woodpecker, 465 Canada geese, 220 Greylag, 18 Cormorant, 2 Raven, Kestrel, Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk 15 Goldcrest, 30 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Coal Tit and a Treecreeper, seen on both days. 

Many thanks to Jon & Chris for their sightings. 

Sunset at Draycote Water

Sunset at Draycote
Great Northern Diver
Grey Wagtail
Gulls in pre-roost
Plenty of gulls in early winter roost

Just a very short blog from Draycote Water. Still needing to keep to hard paths for walking, my wife and I visited Draycote for a late afternoon walk on Saturday. Only armed with binoculars the visit was more about walking than the birding.

The sunset was a real treat but did make any photographs of the birds difficult. Sightings included a Great Northern Diver (observed in very fading light), 6 Goosander, 7 Tree Sparrow, a good selection of wildfowl including Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail, 2 Dunlin, 2 Bullfinches, Sparrowhawk, Great Crested & Little Grebes.  

Thousands of gulls were pouring in to roost as we left however hunting through gulls with a fine tooth comb will need to wait for few week.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Shore Lark on Garway Hill

The Alcester Squire, aka Paul Hands, offered to come and pick me up on Saturday morning for what I initially thought would be an hour or two at Ladywalk NR however he was very keen to try and see a Shore Lark which had been reported in Herefordshire.

A friendly, comedy type character kindly directed us for the last part of the journey to Garway Hill which is common land looking out to the Black Mountains. The bouncy grass made the walking very easy despite the rise up towards the trig point. Paul caught sight of the Lark at a distance and his sighting proved correct as the bird was shuffling round the trig point & world war two bunker. 

The bird then flew back down the slope towards the drinking pond where we all got some amazing views as it fed on the edge of the pool on small insects.  Whilst the light wasn't ideal it was a superb way to spend a hour. It's amazing how a single bird could land in such a remote spot but they may be more common than people think as it was only a couple of weeks ago that one was found on Bredon Hill near Evesham.

The Shore Lark was a lifer for Paul and a great addition, who would of thought we would have seen one in Herefordshire. Well done to the finder !

Snow Buntings return to Worcestershire Beacon

As we returned to the car after a good hour with the Garway Shore Lark we headed to Malvern to make an annual pilgrimage to the returning Snow Buntings on the Worcestershire Beacon. The walk was very slow and Paul was very patient with my lack of pace as we plodded trying to keep out of the wind as best as possible.

A Stonechat chat on the fence whilst two Ravens and a Buzzard past over head. As we headed towards the top I picked up a call but we couldn't see them until thy appeared out of the long grass for a quick moment before being flushed by a couple of walkers. Once sighted we just had to be patient and wait for some better views as the birds picked their way through the long grass. 

I could have quite easily stayed all afternoon watching two beauties however with a pot of tea calling and very cold hands we made our way back the hill to the car. After completing BirdTrack I noticed the Buntings were my 246th species of the year. 

Winter surprise at Upton Warren

Distant Goldeneye
Secret hiding spot
Little Egret

Upton Warren had a surprise visitor last week in the form of a male Goldeneye. I can't ever remember seeing one at Upton before, strange as you would have thought the Moors pool would be ideal in terms of depth, perhaps it's not wide enough. Bartley & Draycote are always the best local places to see them. 

Over 27,000 Goldeneyes winter in the UK however there is only 140 breeding pairs. It is encouraging to read that this number is increasing as the ducks are using nest boxes as excavated holes in trees are less available. It is thought less birds now travel to the UK each winter due to mixed winter in Europe.

I had to be content with a distant shot due to the suns position. In front of the hide a Kingfisher was looking for a late breakfast. It was great to see the bird move round the area trying his luck from different positions. It's a bird I never tire of seeing.

Other highlights included 8 Curlews taking advantage of the great work the work party has completed, a Little Egret, 105 Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Green Woodpecker, Grey & Pied Wagtail, 12 Pochard, 6 Shoveler and 80 Teal. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Low water levels at pits

Little Grebe
Drake Pintail
Pintail among Wigeon
October Patchwork Challenge

It was pretty much business as usual at Salford Priors this week however there were no records from Sunday due to Jon visiting another Warwickshire site and I was unable to make it down after perhaps over doing it on Saturday.

Best bird of the week was a 3rd winter Yellow-legged Gull which was picked out by myself and Chris Lane through the scope. There is also a Common Gull pretty regular on Pophills among the Black-heads. The drake Pintail remained on the main pit until the latter part of the week in the company of up to 5 Wigeon whilst the Teal count was 85 but suspect more were about on the site. Other wildfowl included 13 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler and 3 Pochard.

A quick call in on Thursday saw a mixed flock of over 600 Greylags and Canada Geese land on the main pit. A Sparrowhawk showed very well as it hunted the hedgerows around the main pit. A Chiffchaff caught my attention also among a big flock of Long-tailed Tits & Goldcrests.

Waders taking advantage of the low water levels were limited to a single Green Sandpiper and 24 Lapwing. The only other sighting of note was a Merlin by Andy Woodhouse in neighbouring Iron Cross and two Little Egrets were noted by Paul Hands on Pophills.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Worcester Cathedral Black Redstart on passing visit

A home game for my eldest lad on Saturday in Worcester gave me the opportunity to make a flying visit to Worcester Cathedral to see the newly arrived immature Black Redstart.

I quickly located the bird on the south east corner flitting around the apex feeding on what insects were available. When we moved round the south side we did get a couple more views before it looked like the bird went into one of the spires. Sadly the bird was not see again after this and I noted the time was 2.50pm. Perhaps being such a dull and dark day the bird went to roost early.

A brief but good encounter all the same before we headed across to the University for the late afternoon match.