Sunday, 17 December 2017

Sunday December 17

Last Sunday was a washout (snowout?) It snowed all day and I decided against visiting the patch. I was tempted to visit in the week, but a combination of icy roads and cricket (on Thursday morning England seemed to be doing all right!) kept me away.

Even this morning I overslept, but the delay proved surprisingly fortuitous. It was a very dull, cloudy morning, and rain was forecast for late morning. However the late start meant that Dave and I were in exactly the right place when a flock of eight Hawfinches flew high overhead from the direction of the hamlet of Morton Bagot heading west towards Studley. We nearly missed them though. We could hear a couple of strange "seep" calls and looked about, only spotting them and realising they were Hawfinches after the had gone over us and were heading away. Considering Dave has seen 23 and I have seen 12 (including this flock) this autumn, we probably should have been a bit sharper at picking them up.

There was good and bad news as we approached the pool and flash field. The good news was that the water level appears to have risen substantially, the bad news was that apart from one small patch, it was all ice. Seven Mallard rose from the one bit that was ice free.

The flash field did at least contain a pair of Stonechats, presumably the pair that has been wintering in the area which are clearly ranging over quite a wide area as we haven't seen them for weeks. Its good to see that they have survived the freeze.

The walk back produced about a dozen Siskins. With the light getting even worse I hadn't been tempted to get my camera out until this little chap appeared.

Grey Squirrels are extremely unpopular with the gamekeeper, the landowner, and even I think they shouldn't really be here. They are undeniably cute though.

By the time we got back to our cars it was pelting down. A flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls flew into the hedge, but I was too soggy to investigate further.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Friday December 8

Heavy snow showers from just before dawn caused a late start. The forecast for Sunday is even worse. By 10.00am they were largely over and I was greeted by bright sunshine, blue skies, and snow underfoot.

The car makes an excellent hide, and a flock of Linnets and Redpolls appeared in the birches along with a couple of Fieldfares.

When I finally got going I found a decent flock of 110 Linnets, and 36 Fieldfares as I made my way to the flash field. The flashes were largely unfrozen due to the fact that the weather only turned cold last night, and contained a modest 19 Teal, 37 Mallard, three Wigeon, five Black-headed Gulls, two Lapwings, and a Snipe.

At this point the weather deteriorated as more snow showers powered in from the north-west. A flock of 119 Stock Doves sat hunched on wires as the wind and snow hammered into them.

Some of the Stock Doves
More Stock Doves
I trudged back through the snow. I had forgotten how cold snow makes your feet feel. We have been spoilt by a succession of mild winters in recent years.

I suppose the rarest bird(s) saved there appearance for my drive back. A disturbance among the Woodpigeons over Clowse Wood caused me to stop and have a quick look through the windscreen. I saw a Peregrine towering above them. Then just as I reached the northern corner of Bannams Wood a Woodpigeon appeared with another Peregrine in hot pursuit.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday December 3

Cloudy and mild with a few sunny intervals by late morning.

We are now entering my least favourite birding month, and today's visit was entirely typical. Very few noteworthy birds and poor light affecting my chances of getting any decent photos.

On a positive note, Redpoll numbers remain pretty decent, with about 28 on view this morning. At least 15 Siskins were prising the seeds from alders along the stream at the western edge of the site.

The milder weather had encouraged many winter gnats into the air, and as a consequence several Blue Tits and Chaffinches were fly-catching from the treetops. Marsh Tits were more obvious than they usually are, four being seen. A few large gulls flew over during the morning, all but one of them Herring Gulls, but still only six in total.

The flash field was very quiet, just 10 Teal, 20 Mallard, and two Grey Herons. The farmer has finally put his cows out to graze, so it will be interesting to see if that has any impact on the habitat.

The bird of the day was probably a Sparrowhawk which made a brief appearance at Netherstead.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Second for Warwickshire identified from photograph at Morton Bagot

Although I am very experienced at bird, dragonfly, and butterfly identification, I am a total novice when it comes to other groups.

However, I do input my photographs into the irecord website where they can be peer reviewed by experts.

On the 4 June 2017 I submitted a photograph of a soldier fly which I had thought was Oxyura rara. Yesterday I received news that it was in fact a photograph of a different soldier fly called Flecked General Stratiomys singularior.

Stratiomys singularior
Excitingly, Martin Harvey of the soldier flies and their allies recording scheme says it is only the second record for Warwickshire, the last being in 1986. Apparently its long antennae show that the genus is Stratiomys, and the markings show it is singularior.

Given that this insect was found by complete accident, it makes you wonder how many other special insects occur here.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sunday November 26

Morton Bagot demonstrated a bit of bounce-backability after the desperately dull visit on Thursday.

It was another sunny morning, but crucially the wind had dropped to nothing. Initially it seemed as though it was going to be a bit quiet again, but the immature Peregrine did its best to entertain.

The chat field contained quite a few Linnets and a few Chaffinches and Goldfinches. There was also a reasonable number of Redwings and Fieldfare. Some of the Linnets perched in a sapling reminding me of baubles on a christmas tree.

Heavy frost along the bridleway hinted that all the pools would be frozen. We had a brief view of a female Stonechat on our way to the flash field.

The frozen bridleway
This was indeed the case, and we counted just three Teal, three Mallard, and a female Wigeon. Things picked up dramatically on the return journey. We had reached what we laughingly call the migration watchpoint, a higher piece of ground next the Stapenhill Wood. We generally pause to scan around, but it rarely favours us with any bird migration. Today, however, I spotted a Hawfinch flying in from the east. Better still, it suddenly lost height and landed in trees, close enough for a record shot.

Adult male Hawfinch
Unlike the birds I have been seeing in Redditch this autumn, it was an adult male. I got three shots away before it took off, but only appeared to drop into the wood. Dave went to investigate, while I remained on the rise. After a fruitless 15 minutes Dave returned, but shortly afterwards he saw it fly out of the wood and away towards the flash field. I got onto it, and we watched it swing round and start to return. It also lost height, and we were soon unable to see it.

We had to leave, but I suspect it was still in the vicinity. I'm so pleased that I have managed to get a record shot of this species at Morton Bagot.

No doubt the next challenge will be to add it to the 2018 year list.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thursday November 23

Sunny and cold with a fresh south-westerly wind.

This was not a visit that will live long in my memory. The year often draws to an end quietly, and today was certainly that.

The Chaffinch and Linnet flocks remain, and two Bramblings put in a brief appearance. Stock Doves are currently outnumbering Woodpigeons, which is a bit strange.

The Flash field still contains six Wigeons and two Shovelers, but I only counted 21 Teal, one Snipe, and a Lapwing.

The Wigeon flock
Half way round I got a text from Chris Lane saying that there were two Hawfinches in trees by St Mary's Church in Studley. I'm glad someone was having a good day anyway.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sunday November 19

No companions today, a fine sunny morning with hardly a breathe of wind.

I decided to follow the usual circuit, but soon deviated to check out the cause of a cacophony of alarm calls coming from the hedge behind Netherstead Hall. Eventually I flushed a sleepy Tawny Owl from its hiding place.

Back on track, the pylons produced a young Peregrine which flew before I could get a shot of the whole bird (you were nearly treated to a headless image, a steel girder obscuring it's noggin). Fortunately the bird found itself being mobbed by crows and returned to the pylon where I had another go.

Immature Peregrine
An adult Mute Swan flew by before I reached the flash field. Here I counted seven Snipe, 25 Teal, five Wigeon, and two Shovelers.

On my return I spent a long time trying to photograph a Marsh Tit which had found a source of grubs in some moss on one of the ash trees.

Marsh Tit
A short distance away I found a small party of Siskins extracting seeds from alders.

Finally, there were a few Lesser Redpolls in the field by Stapenhill Wood, where two Bramblings landed briefly before disappearing.

Lesser Redpoll