Thursday, 30 January 2020

Iceland Gull surprise at Bartley Reservoir


If I ever get a call from Terry Hinnet late afternoon it's always good news. Just as I was wrapping up my shift today Terry called to inform me he had just found an Iceland Gull at Bartley Reservoir. Thankfully the traffic was very kind allowing me to reach Scotland Lane inside twenty minutes. The bird showed extremely well from the picnic tables before relocating into the huge flock. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Shelduck pair return

Common Buzzard
Plenty of deer around on all three days
 Quite a following
Reed Bunting
Just a few gulls to start the session before light dropped

Three days of patch birding over the weekend thrown in with a bit of gulling. Mike Inskip had recorded a pair of Goosander on the river then five on main pit on Tuesday but there were none noted over the weekend.

Both of our Shelducks have now returned but they were doing their best to avoid being seen by hanging around on bottom lagoons that most people don't check. There was a flock of 160 Linnets just off the railway line which made for some pleasant viewing after I tried all along this area hoping for a Woodcock or Chiffchaff. There were some big flocks of Redwing mixed with Fieldfare all long this area.

Waterfowl numbers remain very low despite the high water levels. 13 Shoveler was a reasonable count on Sunday but I didn't see a Wigeon over three days never mind something more interesting like a Goldeneye.

Plenty of raptors with my first sighting of the Peregrine this year, 9 Buzzards (many displaying), 2 Sparrowhawk & a Kestrel were also recorded. Other sightings of note included a Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Raven, 360 Greylag, 4 Brown Hare and 15 Roe Deer.

My only birding off patch was a drive to north Warwickshire for a couple of hours late on Saturday. Sightings included an adult Glaucous Gull, first winter Caspain, Yellow-legged, LBBG, GBBG,, Common & BH Gull, in additional to a Great Northern Diver, 8 Goldleneye 2 Scaup & a Goosander.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Round about birding

Tawny Owl
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Tree Sparrow
Corn Buntings
Corn Buntings

Ladywalk Nature Reserve as fog lifts
Trouble in the reeds
Water Rail
Stunning drawing of the pits
With no sports on the agenda (except watching England in South Africa on TV) I was keen to get out as early as possible at the weekend taking into account we had been out the previous evening celebrating Mrs D's birthday at the Moat House, Alcester.

My first stop was Morton Bagot where my target birds were Tawny Owl & Redpoll which we recorded with ease. The Tawny was sat in his favourite spot enjoying the winter sunshine. The Little Owl teased me with a glancing look before disappearing whilst the Flash was pretty quiet except for some Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Greylag. A Greater Spotted Spotted Woodpecker looked stunning on a tree top as I headed back to the car. It was good to see so many Reed Buntings along the path with the Goldfinches but I didn't record any Yellowhammers.

The pits was my next stop but it appeared there had been some early disturbance as it was very quiet. Myself and @1stbirdoftheday noted a Jack & Common Snipe whilst one of the regular Ravens flew over.

After a quick lunch stop and picking up Mrs D we headed over to Charlecote Park. We stopped twice en route, first for some Tree Sparrows at a burial site and then at a private site for Corn Bunting. It was good is see local birder Gus as we don't often see him. He keeps a close eye on this local population. In our short stop, I counted nine birds with a couple in good voice. I need to go back here when I have more time to record some video as it's a great little spot.

We wrapped up the day by visiting Charlecote Park where we had a nice walk, recording two Little Egret & many Fallow deer, and a good brew.

Finally, if you are on Instagram please drop a follow on the account recording_the_countryside, Jenny the artist is a regular visitor to pits who records her sightings on a fantastic journal.  

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Hawling Owlfest

Action shot (Mark Clarke Nature Photography)
A proper winters story (Mark Clarke Nature Photography)
 Cotswold scenes

On Sunday I made the late decision to make the last hour of sunlight count with a drive into the Cotswolds. Pit photographer, Mark Clarke, was duly positioned as I landed and we didn't have to wait long for some fantastic views of at least three Short-eared Owls. Late in the session two Barn Owls came out hunting whilst there was a supurb scrap between a Shortie & Sparrowhawk over a mole with the Sparrowhawk taking the honours. Other sightings included a Stonechat and huge numbers of corvids.

Please sure you drop Mark a follow on Twitter & Instagram, he really does take some amazing images.

January count at the pits

An enjoyable morning around the patch with Jon and probably our last one together as he is off for two weeks to Equador in South America. The two best birds of the morning was the adult Yellow-legged Gull that circled the main pit before carrying on south & a Jack Snipe that was on the bank at Pophills before flying into the island reeds.

9 Little Grebe, 8 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Mute Swan, 10 Greylag, 5 Canada Geese, 1 Shelduck, 2 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 2 teal, 295 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 9 Pochard, 65 Tufted Duck, 6 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel,87 Coot, 8 Moorhen, 1 Lapwing, 1 Jack Snipe, 2 Common Snipe, 1 adult yellow-legged Gull, 1 Herring Gull, 300 Wood Pigeon, 40 Skylark, 30 Meadow Pipit, pair of Stonechat, 1 Jay, 500 Rook, 300 Jackdaw, 4 Raven, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Yellowhammer.

5 Fallow, Roe Deer & 4 Brown Hare.

Female Merlin by Arrow Mill then headed into Ragley Park estate.

Midweek Chris Lane recorded a Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Common Gull & 3rd winter Yellow legged Gull. Other counts included 2 Stonechat, 6 Lapwing, 15 Pochard, 3 Wigeon, 7 teal, 4 Shoveler & 3 Gadwall.

Review of the year 2019

Salford Priors Gravel Pits summary

A strange year at the pits with some extremes of weather in which we have seen the highest & lowest water levels. Breeding successes include Turtle Dove after a two year absence and Oystercatcher.  Northern Wheatear would have bred except for some disturbance by dog walkers.

We recorded 137 species down from 143. Highlights included Arctic & Black Tern, Avocet, Black-necked Grebe, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Wood Sandpiper and Woodcock. The biggest difference was the lack of passage waders.  

Many thanks to all those who contributed throughout the year and special recognition to Jon who continues to undertake monthly counts and offers much needed encouragement.

I observed 10 new species in the year on my life list which had some genuine variation. Citrine Wagtail & Black-throated Thrush were two I was particularly see whilst Caspian Tern, Long-tailed Skua & Icterine Warbler remain on my most wanted list. Many thanks to Roland, Chris, the Captain & the Silver Fox for their company & banter through out the year.

1) Citrine Wagtail (Gloucestershire) April
2) Alpine Swift (Somerset) April
3) Baikal Teal (Cambridgshire) May
4) Black-headed Bunting (Yorkshire) June
5) Lesser Grey Shrike (Norfolk) June
6) Little Bustard (Gloucestershire) June
7) Brown Booby (Cornwall) September
8) Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Hampshire) September
9) Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Suffolk) November
10) Black-throated Thrush (Befordshire) December 

My favourite ten birds of the years based on the experience & location are the following. 

1) Brown Booby - A fantastic jolly to Cornwall to see this amazing species in a wonderful location.
2) Black-throated Thrush - Very pleased to see this showy individual and was a real winter treat. I'd dipped this species twice previously so highly satisfying.
 3) Little Bustard - This cracker came up as an alert on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully I was only a few junctions away on the M5 although I had to kidnap the wife to get there as soon as I did.
4) Alpine Swift - I saw this species at Ham Wall after recording a Citrine Wagtail only an hour before. Twitching any Swift is high risk thankfully this gamble paid off.
5) Lesser Grey Shrike - A lovely day to Norfolk to observe this cracking indivual close to the coast followed by seeing my first Swallow-tailed Butterfly on the way home. A top day.

6) Black-headed Bunting - One species I would never have guessed at the start of the year. Long time to Yorkshire paid dividends on enjoyable trip with Rolly & Foxy.
7) Citrine Wagtail - Part of my west country double with the Alpine Swift. Went to see one and there was actually two !
8) Buff-breasted Sandpiper - Amazing views of this stunning wader on the way from seeing the Brown Booby.
9) Lapland Bunting - By no means a rarity but loved watching this bird at close quarters when in Scilly.
 10) Great Skua - Perhaps a surprise addition but this monster was just brilliant to watch locally.

Winter birding at Slimbridge

Cattle Egret
 Coffee stop
 Bewicks Swans
 Not the Norfolk Lesser White-fronted Goose
 Ruff with Redshanks
 2 ringed Cranes
Distant White-fronted Geese flock
 Mrs D in the new tower hide

The forecast wasn't great on Saturday so Mrs D & I headed to Slimbridge where at least we could get some cover in the hides if needed. As it tuned on it was light drizzle and windy but it certainly didn't stop us enjoying the morning.

Rarity of our a visit was a Cattle Egret on the south lake where there was also a single Oystercatcher which was nice. There was also a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the far end.

It was far to windy to see the Bittern but we recorded a wide range of species including 2000 Golden Plover, 300 Dunlin, Wigeon, Bewick's Swans, White-fronted Geese, Wigeon, Pintail, Shelduck, Ruff, Redshank & 4 Cranes that flew in late morning (1 unringed).

The coffee was excellent but service on the tea cakes was very slow.

All the grebes kinda a day in Rutland

 Juvenile Goldeneye
 Greenfinch on the feeders
 Superb winters day
 Black-necked Grebes
 Drake Smew
  Red-necked Grebe
Great White Egret
 Marsh Tit
Egyptain Goose - a local speciality
 Stunning views all around
One of many flocks of Wigeon

I took advantage of an extra day off on Friday for a bit of winter birding around Rutland, well I had been in work for 4 days !

First stop was a quick tour of @1stbirdoftheday's local patch in Warwick. Keep your eye on his feed and blog and I reckon there might just be a good bird or two there in the coming months.

Next stop was Eyebrook Reservoir where after a bit of scoping from a couple of different stops we found three over wintering Smew, 2 drakes and 1 red head.

As my regular followers will know I'm a regular at Rutland and know my way round quite well. Often the same species are in the certain arms of water. The problem for any Rutland novice is you can't find where to park and access the birds. Thankfully my previous knowledge was put to good use as we found 2 Black-necked & a Slavionan Grebe quickly. 

The Red-necked Grebe had been reported off Old Hall but we didn't have any luck so I suggested to try in the opposite direction to where I found it last year. Rolly picked out a good suspect for it and we used my Swaro 85 ATX to zoom on to confirm it's ID. 3 Grebes in a day......

We headed back to the North Arm where we added two Scaup, Little & Great White Egret. Our final stop was on the other side of the water where we added a Marsh Tit & Greenfich to our day list and had some fantstic views of Goldeneye from the Teal hide.