Thursday, 26 April 2018

Cuckoo chimes

Weekend opening chimes
Fallow Deer
Red Kite
Chiloe Wigeon

After a week of crazy birding I put some solid birding in at the pits in over the weekend with pretty good result picking up five patch year ticks. 

The first bird in this category was a Cuckoo calling from the oak by the main pit. The bird sat there for 15 minutes as I did my counting. The rest of the morning was business as usual. I returned late afternoon on the hope the forecast showers would appear, they didn't but I did find my first Reed Warbler of the year in the north east corner of the main pit.

Jon & I were very hopeful of a good morning with some wader movement but yet again there was none at all. This didn't stop us having a good morning though. A Swift over the main pit at 8am was a good start quickly followed up with the return of the Chiloe Wigeon. 

A lengthly scan of the open ground continued our run without any Wheatear, we had recorded a dozen by the same time last year. Near the central lagoon it was brilliant to hear a pair of Water Rails and another Reed Warbler. This was the first record of Water Rail since the restoration of the Reed Bed lagoon. Thankfully they have found a new home. 

The hedgerows held two Lesser & one Common Whitethroat whilst there was two broods of twelve Mallard.  The most beautiful bird of the morning was a singing Yellow Wagtail on the Old Works lagoon.

Other highlights included 2 Sand Martin, 3 Lapwing, 5 Common Buzzard & 2 Red Kite.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

American Bittern at Carlton Marshes

American Bittern Credit @Andy3278
 American Bittern Credit @Andy3278
American Bittern Credit @BOBeducation
American Bittern Credit @BOBeducation
American Bittern Credit @BOBeducation
Carlton Marshes
On the lookout
Team photo
Grasshopper Warbler
Yellow Wagtail
As the WarwickRCBirder announced "now for the main event"! The drive from Minsmere to Carlton Marshes took about an hour including a garden centre stop for a delicious apple slice and a refreshing cold drink. 

Parked up in the well arranged over-flow car park we followed the advice of a couple of helpful returning birders on the 25 minute walk across the fantastic reserve. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled away in a reed bed in close proximity to the path. I'd estimate there were about 70 birders present of which a good few were returning having either come for a better view or had dipped it previously.

We took up a position where we knew it had been seen earlier in the morning. The  warden on site was really friendly and keen to offer any helpful hints. On the other side of the path was a large lagoon where there were some nice species present. They included 2 Redshank, 8 Shoveler, a Dunlin, Kestrel, 3 Avocet and 1 Egyptian Goose. 

A Kestrel and 5 Marsh Harriers continued to be busy over the reeds beds. From the other direction our first Cuckoo flew east calling whilst 3 Yellow Wagtails fed in the meadow.

The American Bittern would be a test of patience as we waited and waited. A possible sighting was dismissed at the other end so we returned to our original spot. The American Bittern was originally discovered when a photograph posted a photo on social media that was taken at a wedding walk of two local marsh supporters, it was identified by local naturalist Rob Holmes.  This led to one of the biggest twitches in Suffolks history with the marsh receiving an endless supply of visitors. All the team made a donation to the reserves appeal as they try and raise enough funding to extend the reserve. Fingers crossed they beat their target with ease. 

As the temperature dropped we were all feeling the cold air. The minutes just kept passing by and we all knew the journey home at a very steady 50 mph would be even more painful without seeing the American Bittern. Fifteen minutes past our scheduled departure time the WarwickRCBirder shouted up "coming straight at us" and there in front us was the illusive American Bittern flying down the ditch toward us four and about five other birders. A corvid instantly tried to mob the bird forcing it higher and round some willows before landing in the deep reeds. It was a case of hand shakes all round as we packed up our scopes and marched across the reserve with a spring in our step. 

We couldn't quite believe we saw the bird at all given we were in the last minute of injury time. Lady luck was certainly on our side on this occasion. Many thanks to all the team at Suffolk Wildlife Trust for their fantastic organisation. 

The Squire was asleep before leaving the car park - it was all too much for him. He did wake after his 2 hour power nap to treat us to tone dead singing with his headphones in - video will be released in due course ! In all seriousness, we all had a super day and the doubling up with Minsmere made it even the more enjoyable. Thanks to all the lads for their company & banter (& yes……..for driving)

Many thanks to Lindsey (Butterflies of Britain & Andy Hale for use of Bittern images)

Minsmere & beyond

Marsh Harrier
Minsmere Scrape
Black-headed Gulls
Mediterrian Gull
Sedge Warbler
Marsh Harrier
Sand Martin
Minsmere reed beds

A plan was hatched to go and try & see the reported American Bittern in Suffolk. With midweek fog and sightings being very sporadic we switched our attempt to Friday which would give us the weekend to recover from what would be a very long day. The travel party would consist WarwickRCBirder, Chris Lane, the Squire & myself. The Squire arrived late, rallying his car round the final corner on two wheels before parking. 

With a dip highly likely we opted to visit Minsmere first, a rare RSPB reserve that I hadn't visited. Over the car park a Sparrowhawk hunted high and once inside we visited the impressive Sand Martin bank before trying to find a Stone Curlew. Sadly the Stone Curlews had not returned as yet but we did pick up a couple of Wheatear as Mediterranean Gulls flew over head.

On the way to the Mere Hide we recorded many Blackcaps in good voice and a calling Tawny Owl on the Adder Trail. From the hide the reported Savi's Warbler was picked up calling at long distance but was never seen which was frustrating as it would have been a lifer for the Squire. I did pick up a year tick with a Bearded Tit in flight before diving deep down in the reeds. A Eurasian Bittern was seen once during our session in the hide with at least four Marsh Harriers. 

It was grim listening to the warden who reported a huge loss of the Cett's Warbler population over the winter. Lets hope for a speedy recovery. 

On the walk to the scape a Sedge Warbler rose out of the reeds, from the hide there was plenty of activity. Sightings included 14 Sandwich Tern,  6 Common Tern, a Turnstone, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, Meditarrean Gulls and two Oycestercatchers.

As we left the reserve we tried a local spot hoping for a Dartford Warbler but it seems everyone in area was struggling to see them but we did hear two Wood Larks and a Nightingale. Now for the American Bittern……………..see next blog for full details.

Monday, 23 April 2018

More Worcestershire magic - Nightingales & Wheatears

Now that's a song
Looking out over the escapement
Ring Ouzel
Distant Redstart
Wonderful Wheatears

My favourite photo of the week
A great way to finish
Day four of my week off for spring migration started with a trip to south Worcestershire to a private site  to try and see a Nightingale. This private site is very managed for the species.  We managed to locate three singing males during our visit and one of those three birds we saw perched & flying. This was the best views I'd ever got of the species.

These insect eating birds appear to be doing very well locally with 7 males being recorded in peak season last year. Slightly larger than a Robin, the birds are very secretive but have one of the most amazing songs.

From there, Chris & I headed to Bredon Hill to improve my previous weeks sightings. The very warm weather made the steep climb tougher than normal however this also encouraged the birds to be out and singing. 

The Ring Ouzels were much easier to find with 8+ all being around the same location. It was great to finally see my first Wheatear of the year on the plateau, with six birds being present. The Redstart were pretty hard work, five singing but all quite distant. Other sightings included 2 Marsh Tit, 5 Buzzard, 5 Willow Warbler, 2 Yellowhammer, 7 Blackcaps  & 2 Tree Pipits. 

After reaching the car Chris and I were parched so we thought it only right we treated ourselves to a cheeky pint in Elmley Castle.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Upton on fire !!

 Sandwich Tern
 Sandwich Tern
 Common Sandpiper
 Glossy Ibis still present
Sometimes bird texts come at the best times. Just as we were heading back from the forest Mike Inskip text saying Sandwich Tern & Whimbrel on the Flashes at Upton Warren. That place is attracting some great birds this spring.

We couldn't have been in a better spot to head there cutting through lanes onto a packed car park, snapping up the last space. 

Sandwich Tern's don't tend to hang around so we were both chuffed to bag an Upton tick. The Tern was sitting on the larger island recharging its energy levels before continuing its migration north. 

Right in front on the hide was the Whimbrel that looked stunning in the afternoon sunlight. The hide was packed with birders really enjoying the two uncommon visitors and the Glossy Ibis that was still present.

Whatever next at Upton ? A real biggie perhaps. 

Wyre Forest spring delights

Wood Warbler 
 Tree Pipit
 Female Pied Flycatcher
 Male Pied Flycatcher
 Male Pied Flycatcher
 Wood Warbler 
Wood Warbler in great voice
With the reports of the American Bittern being sketchy and wind direction not great our planned trip was postponed so instead I headed to the Wyre Forest with Chris Lane knowing we would get cover from any wind. 

Parking at Dry Mill Lane we were quickly rewarded when 20 Redpoll flew over the car. Edging along the old railway line we quickly recorded the regular species before adding Willow Warbler & Blackcaps. It did cross our minds that we were a little early for some migrants including Wood Warbler but this worry disappeared quickly as we picked up 12 singing males some very close to the path enabling us to get some amazing views.

The regular spot of Tree Pipit was closed off so we had to walk further along until we got some improved views of the Pipits displaying, on the ground and then one landed knee height enabling me to get a few shots which I've failed to do previously.

In the same area we found our first pair of Pied Flycatchers investigating two different boxes and giving the local Blue Tits a good chasing off when they showed interest. The views we were getting were just fantastic and it's easy to take for granted this amazing location is just 30 minutes from home. 

A family of Raven past over followed by a calling Tawny Owl as we headed down to the Dowles Brook where a Grey Wagtail was feeding. We recorded Brimstone, Comma & Peacock butterflies along the brook. We had to work extra hard to find our only Dipper which was much further down than on previous visits. 

Our full counts were as follows :- 12 Wood Warbler, 10 Pied Flycatcher, 8 Tree Pipits, Tawny Owl, 2 Marsh Tit, 20 Redpol & a Dipper. We didn't count Willow Warbler, Blackcap & other species.