Tuesday, 22 May 2018

May day at Upton Warren

The amazing weather continued on my return from Dorset so I headed over for a morning at Upton Warren. There can't be many better places to spend a morning.

A Great Crested Grebe had a chick on it's back on the sailing pool before I headed down to the Flashes.  A Wren posed brilliantly singing his heart out whilst there were Sedge & Reed Warblers both singing too.

The first two Avocet broods had been born taking their first steps closely guarded by their parents. It was fantastic to see three Little Ringed Plover chicks also, their parents were working very hard to ensure their new born did not attract any undue attention. 

Over at the Moors a Common Tern was on the raft but the best views were of a family of Oystercatchers below the hide. 

As always plenty of friendly chat with the locals and we did amuse ourselves by reviewing a certain Twitter account of a midlands area attracting some amazing rare birds on a daily basis. Poor Dave Jackson almost fell off the hide bench laughing. 

Balloons, Cuckoo & new arrivals

Passage waders !
Air Festival over the patch
Whitethroat keeping an eye on me
Oystercatcher family
Cygnets take to water for first time

After a few days away it was back to birding on the patch. The weekend started well when I picked up a Hobby flying towards Dunnington and five Swifts were soaring above the Broom Tavern as we left.

On both mornings the patch roads were full of hot air balloon festival watchers. Thankfully all the balloons stayed clear of the water areas. The balloons were a lovely back drop to the fantastic weekend weather. 

The bird of the weekend was definitely the Cuckoo with five different birds observed in the areas between Cookhill and Biford-upon-Avon. A pair were copulating on the edge of the main pit and both birds were observed through until Monday.

We had a number of exciting new arrivals joining the three Mallard broods already out in the open. First brood to reveal themselves were the Oystercatchers that emerged on the main spit whilst in the reed bed corner there was ten Shelduck duckings. 

Sundays WeBS count included 2 Ringed Plover, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Shoveler, 111 Mallard, 99 Tufted Duck, 12 Gadwall, 10 Greylag, 58 Coot, 8 Canada Geese, 3 Mute Swan, 8 Moorhen, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Lapwing. Raptors included a Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard and a Red Kite.

On Monday I headed down again and I had a hunch of a tern could be possible given local movement. This proved correct as 2 Common Terns were present before heading towards Abbots Salford. There was also a count of 57 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 

Spring break - Nightjars on Trinity Hill

I made two visits to the local Trinity Hill Nature reserve whilst in Dorset. The first visit was with Justin and we had two churring Nightjars exactly thirty minutes after sunset but no flight views. A Tawny Owl was calling throughout our visit.

The following night I returned later and stayed longer. The churring was more prolonged and I did observe some wing clapping and a close fly by. Not quite Forest of Dean standards but it was perhaps a little early. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Spring break (Day 5) - Aylesbeare Common & Bowling Green Marsh

Dartford Warbler Video
Dartford Warbler
Red Kite
Dartford Warbler
Saints centre forward
Donkey Santuary
My next destination would be Aylesbeare Common, a heathland reserve managed by the RSPB. My local sources told me not to go too early as my target species the illusive Dartford Warblers are best seen when the insects feel the warmth of the sun. 

I got onto the reserve about 9am to find two separate birders who had been there since dawn and not seen anything ! Also warning me the winter snow may have killed them off. This could be more difficult than last year. 

Yellowhammers and Linnets were very vocal in a number of locations then I picked up the scratchy call of a Dartford. Promising……I set myself up in a shaded spot on the main patch & just waited. Within 10 minutes I was treated to some fantastic views of the species. 

There looked to be two pairs with the one male occasionally crossing the border into the other pairs territory creating much havoc for the resident pair. The birds showed well for around thirty minutes before slowly drifting back into heavy cover.

Just near the trig point a pair of showy Stonechat amused me as six Red Kites past over head part of two day passage of Kites over Cornwall & Devon.

Bowling Green Marsh was pretty quiet but there were a pair of Ruff's of which the male was displaying on the main spit with the Bar-tailed Godwits. The only additional sighting of note were 4 Bar-tailed Godwits in the estuary.

I spent most of the afternoon at the fantastic donkey sanctuary near Seaton. This brilliant charity do some amazing work and it's a great place to spend a few relaxing hours.

Spring break (Day 4) - Black Hole Marsh & Lodmoor

Common Terns
Barn Swallow
Black-tailed Godwits
Sedge Warbler
Day 4, first stop the fantastic Black Hole Marsh at Seaton for high tide. With passage waders very rare it was always going to be hard work. The reserve looked fantastic and the main marsh had 25 Shelducks, 3 Oystercatcher, 2 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, Little Egret & a Whimbrel. The Sedge & Reed Warblers were really cracking out a morning song so much so I didn't hear my phone go with messages saying "BLUETHROAT LODMOOR".

I'd landed at Lodmoor within an hour and marched down to the corner of the reserve (Marsh Harriers flying above) where the bird had been seen and photographed. Unfortunatley as the reserve got busier with joggers and dog walkers the bird had gone to ground. A lengthly steak-out began which was broken up with some good company from a Yeovil birder & a walk down to see the Common Tern's clearly ready for spring.

When we returned from watching the Terns both Richard @charmouthbirder & Justin @woodworser who I'd met at Lambert's Castle turned up and as if by magic the Red-spotted Bluethroat appeared on the fence line singing before going to the top of the closest scrub. I managed to grab a couple of shots but I wanted to really see the bird well. Now that was brilliant !

I added two Bearded Tits on the way back to the car to round off a fantastic mornings birding.  

Spring break (Day 3) - Lambert's Castle

Female Redstart
Male looking on from a safe distance
Singing actually above me
An area, another male 
Look I'm busy !
View towards Colmer's Hill
I was out very early to the National Trust owned Lambert's Castle on Sunday morning hoping to catch up with a few local Common Redstarts. Local birder Justin Tunstall marked my card that the birds were back in residence but they would just need a bit of finding.

It was a beautiful morning with the dawn chorus in full swing. I quickly established what looked to be the best areas and was rewarded with a male then a female Redstart landing right in front of me. The female posed beautifully teasing the male by flicking her tail. The male sat up about 40 yards away watching his potential mate.

After taking in the amazing views from the top of the iron age hill fort towards Colmer's Hill I carried on surveying the area to see what I could find. Yellowhammers were singing and a Sparrowhawk flew low through the orchard looking for any easy breakfast meal.

I then established two further male Redstart territories with the birds in full song enabling me to get some amazing footage. I must say this was the best I've seen this fantastic species. I was enjoying them so much I over looked taking a shot of a Spotted Flycatcher seen twice in favour of this colourful birds of the woodland. 

Spring break (Day 1) - RSPB Ham Wall

Ten days off work in May meant it was that time of year to head south to spend a few days with my parents using Lyme Regis as the usual base. Previous years I've gone direct to Portland so to mix things up I headed to RSPB Ham Wall.

At this time of year the reserve can be seen at its absolute best. Before leaving the car park Swifts were soaring overhead and a Cuckoo was calling high on some dead trees.

I saw and heard Garden Warblers in three seperate locations as I headed towards the Avalon hide. The hide was full of photographers so I had to wait a while to get a good viewing position. Two Bitterns emerged flying very high but struggled with it being so windy. As they beat their wings they just didn't make any progress, in the end they gave up and landed distantly. 

There were many sighting of Great White & Little Egrets but apparently the breeding Cattle Egrets had not been seen since the very cold weather.

As the weather warmed up a number of Hobby's emerged, a couple at first then I reached three within the same scope view. 

With the water levels very high I walked through to Shapwick Heath, where remarkably I found some passage waders. A Greenshank, 2 Ringed Plover & a Little Ringed Plover were all on the first lagoon. 

Satisfied with a good morning I headed out towards Glastonbury Tor on the way further south.

Spring break (Day 2) - Portland & Lyme Regis

Sandwich Tern

Little Terns
Great Black-backed Gulls
Little Terns
Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
My first full day in Dorset so I headed east towards Portland. First stop was Ferrybridge, where I found a sneaky early bird car parking bay that gives you great views of the Fleet and right opposite the Little Tern colony. The Terns were very active but I'd estimate there were around 50 Little Terns & 12 Sandwich Terns present. A Ringed Plover had also established territory so it could be a very exciting spring.

Down at the Bill sea watching was about quality rather then quantity. An Arctic Skua ( one of two seen) came really close to lighthouse chasing a gull and I also added two Great & Pomarines. Other passage included 100+ Manx Shearwaters, 30+ Common Scoter, a Great Northern Diver & 30 Gannets. Guillemot & a couple of Razorbills were on the sea and cliffs. On the deck it was much quieter than expected however I did see a Tree Sparrow in the observatory garden and also picked up a couple of Rock Pipits & a Wheatear. 

After a quick recharge I got the bike ready and did a very difficult lap of Lyme Regis. I was rather pleased the 11 regular Purple Sandpiper were still present and even in winter plumage. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Salford Priors GP latest

Time for a quick catch up with latest sightings. Arctic Tern found by the Squire on 27th April was a welcome year tick for the patch, the bird fed for around 20 minutes before heading north.

The Wheatear passage remains dreadful however I did find one midweek which was the second for the year at the pits and also my first on site.

On Saturday I thought I try and do as many of the habitats in depth to see if I could muster up a reasonable score in the West Midland All-dayer. To be honest it was very tough going but it was for all the West Midlands area. I didn't really bag anything out of the ordinary but due to the lack of movement  everywhere else my solo score of 77 looked very reasonable. Best birds were Cuckoo, Great Crested Grebe, Swift & Common Sandpiper. 

I didn't visit on Sunday opting for morning in the forest (see next blog) but Monday there did seem an influx of Common Whitethroats. 

The only other sighting to report was a Hobby seen by Paul Rhodes on the south of the pits by the A46 taking our year list to 115.

Sunday Double

Pied Flycatcher
Stunning morning
Frog ID please
Some off fella behind the bench
Pied Flycatcher
Black Tern
Black Tern
Black Tern
With very little movement being reported I headed to the Wyre Forest on Sunday to take advantage of the weather but also the cover available. I won't blog about every step of the morning as I've done that on a previous blog.

The star performers of the morning were definately the Pied Flycatchers. I didn't take a photo in the first hour of the walk but in one of the favoured spots a male bird perched superbly enabling me get take a few nice shots and also record a video clip. 

Word of warning if you are going, go early. The car park on Dry Mill Lane was at capacity as we left. We stopped in Bewdley for a spot of lunch as they had a food festival on before heading for home.

No sooner were we home when a Black Tern was reported for the second time at Earlswood Lakes. Earlswood is only fifteen minutes from home so I headed over to see this fantastic looking bird. The bird was reported on Engine Pool but thankfully it had relocated to Windmill pool. 

The bird sat perched on a buoy and only flew when flushed by one of the sailing boats. The Tern did not seem over fussed by the boats or the local rugby term that arrived for an afternoon swim ! Quite a sight.