Monday, 24 September 2018

West Midlands record Grey Phalarope haul for Salford Priors

Fridays new arrival
Grey Phalarope - No.136 on the pits year list
Amazing detail on birds back

Poorly light on Saturday
Profile shot
After the Sunday storms
Sunday action shot
Meadow Pipit
Large flocks of Martins still passing through (M Clarke)
Peregrine (M Clarke)
Spot on Arctic wader here on Pophills
Common Sandpiper

With a number of Grey Phalarope being blown in with very strong westerlie winds I was hopeful that we might get one at the pits. With an extented weekend off work I headed down on Friday morning determined to find one. Starting at Kingley pool then working south I checked all lagoons before finally ending up at the main pit. 

There in front of me at the south end of the main pit was the expected juvenile Grey Phalarope, as I text the rest of the team I then picked out a second Pharalope. The birds were constantly feeding and appeared very comfortable in their new surroundings. There had only been one previous record at the pits in September 2010, so to record two was  unique.

With the light being excellent I managed to take some video and still images of the birds. With no contractors working it enabled many people to come down and see the birds over the weekend. Other Friday sightings included a Hobby, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Golden Plover, Great Crested Grebe, 15 Sand Martin, 12 Swallow, 40 House Martin, Raven, Pintail, 90 Meadow Pipits & 60 Skylark.

Knowing more people wanted to visit on Saturday I went very early on the hope the birds were still present. Starting at Pophills as I do normally, I wanted to check check the east shoreline for waders and after picking up the Common Sandpiper there was another Grey Phalarope. Surely it must be one of birds from the main pit, but no, the plumage looked more advanced. The Squire arrived and we were both agreed different bird but was the pair still on the main pit ? They were indeed making it a record count for the West Midlands region, thanks to Phil Andrews for this information. This seemed to generate more interest and we had a steady stream of visitors for the rest of the weekend all following the direction and behaving perfectly. Mike Wakeman text me on Friday as he wanted to head down but some how eneded on Pophills rather than the main pit and he observed a Pharalope early on Friday evening so this must have came in early afternoon.

These amazing tiny birds breed high up in the arctic ;north siberia, Canada, Siberia, Alaska & Greenland and are migrating south to South Africa. You will notice from the video the birds spin when feeding to stir up food, normally clockwise.

Further Saturday sightings included 2 Wheatear, 103 Meadow Pipits, 7 Wigeon, 90 Lapwing, a Swallow, 60 House Martin, 11 Golden Plover & 2 Great Crested Grebe.

So, on to Sunday where it was lashing down with rain for most of mine and Jon's normal session. Two Phalaropes were present on the main pit but no sign on Pophills. We both observed a wader twice that we both through was a Pectoral Sandpiper but with the rain and optics struggling with conditions we couldn't refind the bird despite our best efforts. Very frustrating.

Other Sunday highlights included a juvenile Peregrine hunting the wildfowl on main it, attempted repeated attempts before landing by the Little Owl tree, 21 Golden Plover, Green Sandpiper (Old Works lagoon), Kestrel, 150 Swallow, 18 Sand Martin, 130 House Martin, 6 Wigeon,  1 Pochard (central lagoon), 30 Siskin & 3 Reed Warbler. 

Monday update :- Both birds still present

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Hampshire bound for Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Portsdown Hill
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Waders scrape
Farlington Marsh

Since my interest widened to see rarer birds that visit the UK the opportunity to see an Ortolan Bunting has been minimal or none. It's propably no concidence that the population in Europe has dropped by 84% since 1980. It's reported 30,000 are trapped every Autumn when the species migrate from eastern europe over France to west Africa.

On Friday, news emerged that a bunting had settled on the downs above Portsmouth in Hampshire. I kept half an eye on the sightings and as day continued the sightings became even more regular. In all honestly I thought the bird would probably move on overnight but I was pleasantly surprised to see an earlt report on Twitter on Saturday morning with a photo. This was good enough for me to punch the postcode in the Satnav & head south.

The good thing about heading that way is that it's all motorway or dual carridgeway making it a very smooth drive. I opted away from the reported lane and walk the ten minutes back to Pigeon House Lane. I passed plenty of happy birders on the way down the lane despite the lack on reports on RBA.

As I set my scope up the locals were very friendly pointing out where the bird had been favouring. A very patient forty minutes was tough going with only a Buzzard, Chiffchaff, Blackcap & two House Martins to view.

The bunting was appartently feeding low in the stubble although it was doing a good job of staying that way. Then as per the locals forcast the Ortolan duly flew on top of the hawthorn bush that was full of berries making it a very pretty sight. The bird was larger than I expected but sat very still enabling me to scope it well to see the birds features. I even managed to take few nice shots that I was pleased with given the distance. 

From here I headed to nearby Farlington Marsh where I had not visited before. Plenty of waders including Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits & Dunlin on view in some stunning sunshine before I headed back to Feckenham for the last cricket game of the season that saw the Millers reach the Worcestershire Premier League next season.

Autumn movements at Salford Priors

Can't beat a Wheatear on your patch
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Greylag flock
Pophills early
Two visits to the pits at the weekend with first being when I returned from Hampshire. The best bird discovered was a female Ruff feeding on one of the central islands.

On Sunday John & I did a comprehensive check on the whole site. A Common Sandpiper was on Pophills before crossing over to the main pit. Whilst the Ruff has moved on a Dunlin had arrived and the wildfowl included a drake Pintail, 12 Wigeon & 23 Shoveler. Also recorded was 2 Snipe and a flock of 300 House Martin & a single Sand Martin. When we were on the south lagoons the first of two Golden Plover circled above and continued to do so. A true sign we have reached Autumn. 

Three Wheatear were showing very well in the Old Workings, a species I never tire of. Late morning a Greenshank went through high, another 80 House Martins, a Grey Wagtail, Peregrine & 80 Meadow Pipits.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Stop no access !

Welcome to Salford Priors
Exploring new areas
Barn Swallow
Sand Martin
Sunflowers in bloom
A moody looking Pophills
Looking towards main pit from Old workings
Main pit showing water levels
Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail

Chiffchaff movement 

Snipe (Mark Clarke)
Autumn has seemed very slow to get going at Salford Priors. The end of August finished with some good passage of Yellow Wagtails with 30+ recorded on one visit. Two Redstarts remained loyal to same hedges until end of the month. Wildfowl numbers have increased with 27 Teal present and a immature Garganey on 26th August. I recorded two drake Wigeon on the 29th whilst 75 Swallows were feeding low.

Passage waders have been very rare except Common & Green Sandpipers, a Ringed Plover went through ahead of the rain also on 26th. 

Chris Lane watched a early juvenile/female Merlin catch a Skylark at close quarter and also recorded 79 Lapwing & a Tawny Owl on his visit. 

There have been two year list additions in the last week with a Spotted Flycatcher on the railway line & a Whinchat on the back of Pophills.

Sadly three "No Access" signs appeared in the field where we get access to the main pit. As soon as these signs appeared all of us who visit regular stayed clear of the main pit whilst I tried to contact the Ragley Estate as this seemed very much out of the blue.

Head of farming on the estate duly investigated this for us and confirmed the signs had not been put up by the Ragley Estate or Cemex who currently manage the lease. We can only think the company / individuals who raise pheasants in the plantation have taken exception to us passing by for a reason unknown. All of the team stayed clear of this area when the pheasants are being reared to avoid any minor problems. 

From Sunday the team can carry on as previous but have just lost access to two areas and need to access the main pit via a longer route.

The new drainage in place has increased water levels and added to this the islands are overgrown (not to mentions hundreds of saplings planted) the future remains very unclear. Until the restoration is complete we are unable discuss possible lease options with the estate which is a shame but unfortunately there was not a lot of foresight in the planning stages. 

Sunday combined sightings from Jon, Paul and myself included 31 Little Grebe, 16 Cormorant, 3 Grey heron, 11 Mute Swan, 405 Greylag, 94 Canada Geese, 1 Hybrid (Canada x Barnacle), 6 Manadrin, 15 Wigeon, 14 Gadwall, 37 Teal, 278 Mallard, 1 Pintail, 11 Shoveler, 1 male Pochard, 71 Tufted Duck, male Sparrowhawk, a Hobby, 13 Moorhen, 243 Coot, 115 Lapwing, a Dunlin, Snipe, Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, 150 Black-headed Gulls, a first winter Common Common Gull, first winter Yellow-legged Gull, a Sand Martin, Tree Pipit, 50 Meadow Pipits through (no wagtails or chats), few Blackcaps, 18 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler & a Raven. 

Suited & definitely Booted in Lowerstoft

Booted Warbler
Booted Warbler teasing the crowd
Northern Wheatear
Fun on the sea front
Boy Band "Suited & Booted"
 A gloomy Breydon Water

It's been a pretty quiet year on the twitching front in 2018 despite some noteable additions. The Autumn always increases hope on new birds to see but it's quite often the case it will be a long journey east. My current car was sadly retired after Fridays journey after clocking up 149,000 miles, most of those miles were either birding or completing sports taxi journeys. 

With the car due it's handover I planned to get in a finals days birding in the old boy. The plan would be leave home at 6pm and start a jouney east. If the previous days Booted Warbler was reported early we would head there, if not we would try Norfolk or Spurn.  Thankfully for us positive news was released early so the satnav was directed to Lowestoft in Suffolk. The journey was pretty smooth until we reached our destination town when an apparent accident brought the town to gridlock. We opted to dump the car in a multi-storey and walk along the sea wall to where the bird was reported.

Around 40 birders were present all satisfied with good views and we didnt have to wait long to secure our next lifer. Chris had actually seen two previosly. The bird crept up the Tamarisk to show well and then edged north dipping in and out of view. Getting photographs was very difficult so had to settle with what I managed to get. 

The broad bill based & square tailed warbler was certianly smaller than I expected. This subtle warbler hails from Finland, Russia & Kazakhstan so is an impressive record given the unfavourable westerlie winds. 

A couple of Whinchats & Wheatear were present in close proximaitey but there was no movement out at sea so we opted to head to Breydon Water. In all honestly this was a tad disappointing, the best of what we could see in worsending conditions were 6 Ringed Plover, 100+ Redshank, 6 Dunlin, 8 Curlew, a Mediterian Gull and 2 Little Egret.