Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sunday March 26

Sunny with a light easterly breeze. Cool.

Dave joined me today, but it turned out to be one of those days where you feel that no matter how much time or effort you invest you just won't find anything new.

The highlight was the continued presence of the Black-tailed Godwit. The flash field also contained two Redshank, three Green Sandpipers, two Shelducks, and 33 Teal.

Black-tailed Godwit
The only summer visitor present was Chiffchaff, the tally slowly rising to five singing males. Winter was represented by 13 Fieldfares, 20 Starlings, and a Redwing.

Redwing
The return journey was brightened by a somewhat distant Peregrine, which appeared from photographs to be an immature bird, and therefore different from the adult seen earlier in the year.

Peregrine
We need the wind direction to change.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday March 19

As I crossed my patch boundary I noticed 14 Magpies in a tree, a record count. This was to prove somewhat ironic as I noticed a couple of gamekeeper vehicles, and as I approached the pool was greeted by Will with the news that they were shooting corvids today.

It was a morning of sunny intervals and a brisk south-westerly breeze, and my mood nosedived on receiving the news. I was already on a shortened visit due to a family party. Still, might as well check out the flash.

Oh boy, how things were to change. The first bird I noticed was an egret hunkered down in the corner of the nearest flash pool. It turned out to be a Little Egret. I only saw one here during the whole of last year.

Little Egret
I then scanned across the rest of the flash noting six Green Sandpipers, 39 Teal, a Snipe, and in full view a Water Rail. Just the second record for the site. I scrambled to get a photograph, but the bird had disappeared into the vegetation. After about thirty minutes it reappeared a couple of times and I managed a shocking, but identifiable shot of it.

A headless Water Rail
I then scanned the pool and noticed a Black-tailed Godwit. Had it been there all the time?

Black-tailed Godwit
Blooming heck, this was turning into a great visit. A loud gunshot spooked everything and beyond the furthest flash the farmer was tazzing about on his quad bike. The resultant pincer movement left all the waders on the nearest flash. I added two Redshank to the list. Then a pair of Shelducks flew in.


I decided I had seen everything there was, and so moved along the hedgerow to try to get a better view of the Little Egret. I only succeeded in flushing it fifty yards, so I returned to have another go. This time it flew off completely, and shortly afterwards a small wader flew up and did a circuit before landing. This turned out to be the first Little Ringed Plover of the spring.

Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing
I wandered back feeling pretty pleased with my lot, but then came across a corpse of a Barn Owl, which rather spoilt the morning.

A sad end to a fine bird
The cadaver presents something of a mystery. It wasn't there on Friday, but appeared not to be fresh. I assume a fox had partly eaten it, but the cause of death is unclear. I suppose it could have been killed by a vehicle and then transported a mile by a fox. On the other hand it could have met its death by some other means, perhaps overnight, close to the spot where I found it.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

News from Middle Spernall

I had a text from Mike Inskip yesterday afternoon (which I only saw today). He saw a Red Kite and 23 Buzzards at his patch, presumably the same Kite which Richard B and I saw at Morton Bagot.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Friday March 17

An extra day's birding at Morton Bagot today due to an arrangement to take Richard B around the patch. After a few sunny intervals it was cloudy with a rather chilly westerly breeze.

We began by chatting to gamekeeper Will, who was anxious to tell us that various Larsson traps had been set up to reduce the number of crows, and to remind us of the illegality of removing the captors from them. There were apparently various camera traps set up because there has been an upsurge of local wildlife crime involving gangs of men with lurchers arriving at night for hare coursing and deer shooting. We nodded sagely and agreed it all sounded very unsavoury.

We skipped the Netherstead copse because of the lawnmower noise of the hired gardeners, and headed straight for the pool where I was pleased to find the first pair of Shelduck of the year.

Shelduck
About 20 Teal headed were flushed towards the flash field, and the Shelducks also slipped away without either of us noticing.

At the flashes all the waders were on the nearest flash, and comprised six Green Sandpipers, a pair of Redshank, a Snipe, and 14 Lapwings. At least 26 Teal were also present.

Redshank and Teal
A Chiffchaff sang briefly, but the cool weather and breeze was generally discouraging the small birds from singing. A flock of 50 Fieldfares and a few Redwings reminded us that winter is not far behind us.

On the walk back regular scanning for birds of prey paid off when I spotted a Red Kite drifting north. I manage to scope it, but it was too distant to get a photograph before we lost it behind the brow of the field. Other raptors seen were about 10 Common Buzzards. a Sparrowhawk, and a Kestrel.

A very satisfactory visit.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sunday March 12

A cloudy start with a few spots of rain, but gradually improving by late morning. A very light south-westerly breeze. Dave joined me this morning and we headed on our usual circuit.

A couple of Lesser Redpolls were present in trees by where we parked, and the walk towards the pool was enlivened by several flocks of Starlings, totalling 145, heading north-east. The Little Grebe was still present on the pool.

In the flash field were six Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Herring Gull along with four Black-headed Gulls. Closer inspection of the two flash pools revealed two Redshanks, three Green Sandpipers, a Wigeon, 48 Teal, and four Snipe.

With one year-tick in the bag a second announced its presence. A singing Chiffchaff is a true sign of spring here.

Chiffchaff
The journey back produced a tree containing 20 Fieldfares and one or two Redwings, and another pair of Redpolls. This winter has been boringly uncontroversial regarding Redpolls, mainly because there are hardly any here. To redress the balance, compare the (pretty rubbish) photograph of one of the first pair with three photos of one of the second.

Lesser Redpoll


Its interesting how much greyer the second bird looks. I just wish the rump had been paler. I suppose its just another example of variability within Lesser Redpolls.

Other than a female Stonechat, no more interesting birds were seen, but we did flush four Roe Deer.

Roe Deer



Monday, 6 March 2017

Monday March 6

It's been a difficult week. My wings have been clipped by a tummy bug, and latterly by Lyn spraining her thumb. It has left me tied to the house more than would normally be the case. However, this morning I was able to sneak off to the patch for an hour or so.

A lovely sunny morning with a very light north-westerly breeze. I opted to park at the church and do a shortened circuit.

On the pool I found a few geese, a couple of Tufted Ducks, and the first Little Grebe of the year.

Little Grebe
The other feature of the morning was corvids, lots of them.

Corvid willow
Most were Jackdaws, but there were significant numbers of Rooks and Carrion Crows. I headed for the flash field which contained 25 Lapwings, a Green Sandpiper, three Wigeon, 25 Teal, 50 Black-headed Gulls, and a Common Gull.

Common Gull
The Common Gull was in second-summer plumage and so was not the adult seen here in early February.

Finally, an update on the colour-ringed Mute Swan. It had been ringed at Arrow Valley Lake in January 2014. So not an especially riveting recovery, a movement of about five miles in three years.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sunday February 26

A largely cloudy morning with a moderate south-westerly breeze.

A reasonable start with a flock of 50 Linnets and about 20 buntings,with slightly more Reed Buntings than Yellowhammers in the stubble field. Two Redpolls flew over, quite a contrast from this time last year. The pool contained a pair of Tufted Ducks, always nice to get an easy year-tick.

Tufted Ducks
We continued to the flash pool where we counted two Wigeon, 42 Teal, 43 Lapwings, 17 Black-headed Gulls, eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a Green Sandpiper. I then suggested we went back to the pool to see whether the marsh contained any Jack Snipe.

As we waded across we were soon flushing Common Snipe. Then Dave called me over to say he had found a Jack Snipe on the ground, a rare opportunity to see one well.

Jack Snipe
We sneaked past it, leaving it frozen in tail up mode. Bitterns freeze bill pointing skywards, while Jack Snipe do the exact opposite. We eventually flushed five Jack Snipe (so six including the one we left) and 23 Common Snipe.

As we approached the flash field for a second time we recorded a much more unexpected year-tick. A Kingfisher called loudly from the brook before departing without either of us seeing it. This is the first time I have recorded one here in the first six months of the year, although the species is pretty much guaranteed between July and October.

The pool beyond the flash field contained a pair of Mute Swans, one of which was flashing a colour ring.

55J on an orange ring
This is a new bird, so I will get the details of where it was ringed in due course.

A flock of 84 Lapwings flew in from the north as we headed away, and the final noteworthy bird was a Stonechat in the Dragonfly Pool field.

Stonechat
We are indeed spoilt at Morton Bagot.