I returned to the patch after missing last weekend. Dave and I slogged round to no great effect, seeing two Small Heath butterflies, the Tawny Owl in its shed roost site, two Teal and six Tufted Ducks. Fortunately for us John Yardley was having more success, and he rang to say he had found a Dunlin. We headed back to the flash and eventually located his summer plumaged Dunlin on the furthest flash. Mike turned up and also saw it. I then noticed that four Green Sandpipers had appeared in the corner of the nearest flash. Presumably they had been in the long grass earlier on. Autumn passage has begun.
This is the first Dunlin I have seen here in June. On balance we felt it was probably returning south rather than still heading north. Perhaps it was just too late on the breeding grounds to find a mate.
A nice day for a stroll, but the birds at least were in short supply. I wasn't surprised that the Garganey had gone, but the apparent absence of the Little Grebe was disappointing. Dave and I also found the dismembered remains of a juvenile Kestrel under this year's nest site. I would imagine it had been taken by a Fox after leaving the nest too soon.
It wasn't all bad news though. The Cuckoo was still calling, and Dave counted four Reed Warblers shortly before I got there. We also saw a fledged juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, noted that the brood of four Lapwing chicks was still intact, and saw plenty of Goldfinches feeding recently fledged young. Finally, the Tawny Owl was again roosting in the shed.
This was one of the few warm sunny days I have spent on the patch this year, so we paid more attention to the insects than to the birds. Butterflies recorded including Red Admiral, a female Common Blue, and Peacock, while I finally saw some proper dragonflies (Four Spotted Chasers), and several damselflies, Common Blue, Azure, Large Red, and Banded Demoiselles. Day-flying moths included Mother Shipton and Silver Y, plus several others I couldn't identify. I must start taking my moth guide into the field.
Speaking of moths, Craig Round has identified the mystery moths I saw in the week as lekking Ghost Moths. The You-tube link he suggested left no room for doubt. Thanks Craig.
I received an e-mail, via Lyn, from Mike Lane stating that he had found a drake Garganey on the main pool at 10.00am. I managed to leave work pretty sharpish and tried to let other regulars know about the bird before hurrying to the site by about 6.00pm. Initially the signs were worrying. The bird was not present on the main pool. However, as the sun briefly came out, I located it on the left hand flash.
I had left the house in such a rush that I forgot my camera, so I was obliged to sketch it as it initially dabbled on the far side of the flash before apparently becoming alarmed and swimming across the water towards me. It then settled down and started preening.
Thus far, only Matt Wilmott has managed to twitch it, the inclement weather detering Mike and Dave, while John is on holiday in Cornwall.
There have been two previous records at the site, both eclipse drakes, in July 2007 and August 2008 respectively, but this is the first adult drake to be found. A slightly atypical date, I always imagined a spring bird would be more likely to be found in April. Congratulations and thanks go to Mike Lane for finding it.
This evening I decided to start late and stay well after dusk. As I walked down to the main pool a familiar trill told me that a Little Grebe had taken up residence for the first time this year.
This species formerly bred each year, but has not done so since the water level in the pool had dropped. Hopefully it may attract a mate as it may not be too late for another attempt. Further surprises came in the form of a juvenile Cormorant roosting in the dead tree at the end of the pool, and a Peregrine roosting on one of the masts. As the light faded both Tawny and Little Owls were seen, and Roe Deer barked from Bannams Wood. The night was warm enough to encourage moths to fly, and in particular a curious large white moth, many of which danced above the long grass like little kites on a line of thread. They wouldn't settle and I have no idea what species they were. The peace of the evening was slightly spoilt by the sound system of an open air concert, the noise of which drifted over from Studley or Redditch, but it was still a wonderful place to be.
Today finally gave me the opportunity to post this lovely photograph of a Tawny Owl taken by Mike Lane. The bird in the photograph showed well during the early spring, but the one I saw today was a different bird as I will explain. There is a small open-fronted shed on the farm which has on two occasions over the last five years held a Barn Owl. However, it is checked almost daily by myself and others, and it has become a standing joke that there is never anything in it. The Tawny Owl which flew out this morning therefore came as quite a surprise.
Tawny Owl photographed by Mike Lane
The thing about blogging is that you can, if you wish, relate stories of near misses and could have beens which are the birding equivalent of the fisherman's tall stories. Most of mine seem to involve Falcons, so here goes with the latest. Shortly after 09.30 I picked up a distant Kestrel, but something about the underparts colour reminded me slightly of female Red-footed Falcon, enough to hurriedly get my scope erected. I scanned around and after about a minute picked up a probable Hobby circling higher and further to my left than the "Kestrel" had been. I managed to get it in the scope and confirmed some black and white contrast on the head, while the bird looked generally dark due to the fact I was looking south and some silhouetting was coming into play. It then started motoring west, picking up speed before eventually diving down to disappear behind a low hill. For a second before its final stoop I had the impression of brown in its plumage. I never saw it again. No doubt the first sighting was a Kestrel and the second a Hobby, but I am left in the annoying position of feeling unable to year-tick Hobby because Red-footed Falcon had not been satisfactorily eliminated.
Having got that off my chest, I can report that the rest of the morning was spent pleasantly enough counting singing birds and checking for evidence of breeding. Reed Buntings seem particularly well represented this year, and I counted at least six singing males. The distant Cuckoo was audible again, and I glimpsed a Lapwing chick in the long grass of the flash field. The water level has risen after yesterday's rain, but I still saw a Redshank and two Shelducks. There is still at least one Reed Warbler singing, and I also had two Sedge Warblers and three singing Lesser Whitethroats.