Tuesday, 19 June 2018

June WeBS Count Week

Black-tailed Godwit (Main Pit)
Black-tailed Godwit (Main Pit)
Brown Hare (Old workings)
Yellow Wagtail (Mark Clarke)
Little Ringed Plover (Mark Clarke)
Song Thrush
The breakaway
Tour of Britain
Red Kite
Dunlin on main pit
Cuckoo on south lagoons
Mike Inskip with Pyramidal Orchid 
Pyramidal Orchid 

The Womens Tour of Britain came through gravel pit country on Saturday afternoon in-between Pophills and the main pit. 

The bird of the week was a Black-tailed Godwit discovered by Mike Inskip on Thursday (still present on Sunday). A Great Crested Grebe was also present.

Saturdays only change saw a Redshank arrive on the main pit with 250-300 Swifts feeding above.

Sunday was the WeBS count, so myself and Jon did every part of the site hoping to find something new. A Dunlin was with one of the four adult Little Ringed Plovers whilst a Red Kite headed south towards the village. 

Counts also included :- 14 Little Grebe, 3 Grey Heron, 11 Mute Swan + 7 young, 6 Greylag, 50 Canada Geese + 21 young, 33 Gadwall + 2 young, a female Teal (Male had been present on Friday & Saturday), 182 Mallard + 14 Broods so far, 48 Tufted Duck, 12 Moorhen, 128 Coot + broods, 4 Oystercatcher, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 14 Lapwing, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Black-headed Gull, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 35 Stock Dove, 2 Cuckoo, 240 Swift, 3 Sand Martin, 40 House Martin, singing Yellow Wagtail, 16 Reed Warbler territories, 1 Jay, 9 Reed Bunting territories,

Butterflies recorded were a Painted Lady & 11 Ringlet whilst Francis Peplow counted 46 spikes of Bee Orchid & a Pyramidal Orchid was also in flower.

The morning concluded with our two regular Common Terns coming in from Ragley.

Clifton Red-necked Phalaropes

Red-necked Phalaropes
Red-necked Phalaropes

Distant video clip
A cracking weekend of birding was wrapped up with a visit to Clifton to the east of Worcester. I'd been twice previously and was surprised the site had developed from a working gravel pit to an excellent open water area with three separate pools of various sizes. 

The Phalaropes were fairly mobile, observed at the east end but mainly central. I can't remember a pair being reported perviously so it was well worth the drive. The birds were very active picking insects from the top of the water. It was the first Red-necks I'd seen in breeding plumage. 

Keen to make the most of the afternoon I did a full lap of the main pool which had a nice selection of birds of which the highlights were the Great Crested Grebes & two Egyptian Geese. 

A family of Yellow Wagtails were feeding on the waters edge but were far to quick for me & the camera. 

I sat on the far side under the large oak and just watched the Phalaropes through my scope. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Brakes end spring migration

Oystercatcher (Mark Clarke)
Common Terns & Dunlin
Stunning colours around the pits
Bee Orchids
Morning in Straford
Reed Warbler 
Another Canada brood
Common Terns
After a brilliant two weeks at the pits it was a case of the business as usual over the weekend. I managed to get four visits in due to some extended leave from work.

On Friday we recorded our second Curlew of the year (Mark Clarke) whilst a pair of Teal emerged or returned to their regular haunt on the west side of the main pit. Other records were 40 Swift, 3 Sand Martin & 10 House Martin.

Saturday saw an impressive count of 120 Swifts over the main pit whilst a good number of Bee Orchids could be seen along the east bank. 5 Lapwings were the only other notable sighting.

Two Dunlin were feeding on the main spit on Sunday with the regular Common Terns also present. 70 Swifts were low over Pophills that continues to be quiet due to high water levels. Matt Griffiths completed a Little Grebe survey & recorded 12 grebes but no chicks. He did however see a Green Sandpiper on the old works lagoon. After my own checks I headed to Stratford where I did see 2 Eagle & a Tawny Owl. All of them at Warwickshire Bird of Prey Rescue stall trying to raise funds for future projects. 

Final day of the long weekend saw the mother Sparrowhawk start the session well with her literarly flying straight through the large oak for an early breakfast. The Terns were present this year again as were the Teal. More broods are emerging of wildfowl on every visit, our first two Gadwall duckings were out enjoying the water.

The best news of the weekend was a Lapwing chick that I scoped. There may be more than one as the chick was not emerging from cover very often.

I have updated the pits year list, now 120 for the year. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Operation Moltoni's

Heavily cropped Moltoni's Warbler
Operation Moltoni's
Spot the Moltoni's
Oystercatcher waiting on the sign for us
View of the reserve
Sandwich Tern colony
Relaxed seals on the point
Spotted Flycatcher
Meadow Pipit
Blakeney Harbour
Great to see the legendary Cliff Smith 
Snapped in action
All aboard
What happens when you get a Rosefinch in your garden
Marsh Harrier causing bedlam above the gull colony
Mediterranean Gull

Fantastic selection of Godwits in different plumages

With continued favourable winds an east coast mega beckoned. After doing the patch and a spot of coffee & cake news emerged on a possible Moltoni's Warbler in Norfolk. 

With access via a 2.75 mile shingle walk and the chances of the birds departure over night we didn't fancy our chances. But our hopes were raised when we noticed thick fog on the Norfolk coast which starting us to hatch a plan together.

Leaving Redditch at 6.10am we were an hour into our journey when news broke that the bird was still present, quickly followed news that access to Blakeney Point by boat could be possible. Roland floored it for next two hours, we even reached 60 mph once. Where to park in the huge car park wasted more valuable minutes but it's great to go through the routine. 

Quickly down to the quayside the potential boat was full until another stroke of luck happened when the Temple boats received two cancellations for the Seal trip. As long as we were happy to see the seals they would drop us on the point. Deal ! £12 but money well spent.

We were off chugging through the stunning harbour with Sandwich Terns over head. At the end of the point there were good numbers of Sandwich Tern, a nice number of Little Tern & Common Tern, a single Arctic Tern, Ringed Plovers & of not forgetting the Common & Grey Seals.

Once landed on the point we were quickly marching towards a group of 30 or so birders who then suddenly split up…….happy they had seen it well, quite the opposite the bird had taken off and disappeared in the minutes it took us to walk over. After five minutes of head scratching we started scouring likely hotspots. Then suddenly we saw three birder running quickly towards the lifeboat sheds ! The Moltoni's was back and showing nicely flitting over the sheds and working it's way towards the assembled crowd of around 60 birders. There was some relieved faces including our own. To read the finders report click here

In all honesty it looks like a Subalpine Warbler, there is fantastic paper published online which makes an interesting read. Hats off to those who identified this bird, it certainly made a lot of birders happy who didn't travel to Scotland to see the same species there.

After getting our target bird sorted we retreated away from the crowd to sit by the famous plantation to eat our lunches. It looked bird less then suddenly a Spotted Flycatcher flew in giving us and the legend that is Cliff Smith, some excellent views.

Roland then produced a master stroke of negotiating us back to the quay on a different boat. I still don't know how he pulled this off but the time saved would open up the rest of the day for us to enjoy the coast.

We headed up to Salthouse where a Rosefinch was calling constantly but just not showing. Given we had seen the species before we headed into Cley visitor centre for a spot of afternoon tea and cake, just had to be done.

Our final destination would be Titchwell where we added Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Little Gull, Avocet, Bar & Black-tailed Godwits, Mediterranean Gulls and a Bearded Tit to the day list. 

We were not kidding ourselves that everything had dropped perfectly into place for us, well worth remembering when we are not so lucky in future. A top day's birding and faith restored in Norfork (slightly). 

End of May update from the pits

Short-eared owl (Mark Clarke)
 Little Owl
 Red Kite
 Oystercatcher chicks growing well
Common Tern
 Day roost of Gulls
Common Terns

Our purple patch continued last week when Mark Clarke discovered a Short-eared Owl on the main pit.  This is an unusual sighting given the time of year. The bird sat on the east bank with some cover from the willows. Most of the regulars all managed to get down to see the bird with the last sighting at 2pm. Sadly I was working late on a new programme so missed the action but I did find a Little Owl sat on a telegraph pole above the road on the way.

A Dunlin & 2 Ringed Plover were the only migrants through the pits. Jon was back from his migration holiday in north america and had an interesting morning on Sunday. A Little Owl was heard calling from an old haunt which brings new hope of a return whilst other counts included 17 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 3 Grey herons, 4 Mute Swan (plus brood), 26 Greylag, 70 Canada geese (plus 3 broods & nest), pair of Shelduck and nine ducklings, 22 gadwall, 115 Mallard (plus 8 broods), 44 Tufted Duck, 14 Buzzard, 1 immature peregrine, 4 Oystercatcher with two young, three Little Ringed Plovers, 2 lapwing, a Redshank, 4 Common tern, 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 5 herring Gulls, four Cuckoo, 25 Swift, a Sand Martin, Meadw Pipit, male Yellow Wagtail, 15 male Reed Warblers, 4 male Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Common Whitethroat, 2 Ravens, calling young Sparrowhawks and three broods of Long-taile Tits.

Also of note was the second Common Club-tail dragonfly for the pits and the first for Warwickshire for several years. 15-20 Bee Orchids are also by the main pit.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Passage & breeding birds at Pits

Marsh Harrier (Mark Clarke)
Marsh Harrier (Mark Clarke)
 Female Ruff
 Stunning Goldfinch
 Mute Swan family doing well
 Tawny Owl
Tawny Owlet

It's been a very busy last ten days at the pits with some quality waders passing through and our resident breeding birds generally doing well. Going down most evenings when not working hasn't given me much chance to update the blog

Passage picked up last Thursday when two Dunlin & a Ringed Plover came through. On the same day a pair of Common Tern were seen at the main pit but also Abbots Salford (AW).  A juvenile Tawny Owl was calling from the east side of the pits.

A Sanderling was a nice find on Friday morning which was linked to some inland migration across the county. The Ringed Plover was still present whilst there were 50 Swifts and 200 House Martin's feeding low.

On Saturday I was very hopeful of finally recording our first Black Tern of year but no luck on either of my visits. The Sanderling surprisingly stuck over night whilst there were also 60 Swallow, 5 Sand Martin, & 12 Swift but no Black Tern. A Red Kite was hunting on east of main pit late afternoon whilst a Cuckoo was calling on the south pit border.

Our second Ruff of the year was waiting for me on Sunday whilst a Great Crested Gebe was also on the main pit. 

Bank Holiday Monday didn't start well when Mark and I discovered a Tawny Owlet in the road. Very sad, it looked like the owlet had tried to fly from its breeding tree to the mothers roosting spot. Later in the evening we did find the parent bird sat back in the roost tree. Down at the main pit 3 Sanderling's all in slightly different plumages were feeding. The Common Terns were copulating increasing the chances they may bred again locally.

Very positive evening with a new Tawny Owlet in the roost tree which was really pleasing for myself and Mark who have put in a lot of time in trying to find the pair of local Tawnys. No real chang
e on the main except 4 Sand Martin whilst two Great Crested Grebes were on the central lagoon.

On Wednesday I was stuck working late delivering a running project to 170 people when the Squire text me as he had found a Marsh Harrier roosting on Wheatear Hill by the main pit. Wow, what a brilliant record and our 118th species of the year. The session was made even better when he recored the Terns, Cuckoo & a Redshank.