Thursday, 29 November 2012

Thursday November 28

Well, it was a nice sunny morning.

I walked around for a couple of hours without any great success. 50 Fieldfares occupied the hedge bordering the stubble field, and about 150 Starlings lifted off from a distant pasture field. The Flash contained 150 Greylag Geese, 21 Lapwings and two Snipe. I sketched the Lapwings and may do something with them at some stage.

I didn't visit the south end, so very few Finches were recorded.

All in all, a little bit dull.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


After a night of heavy rain I was anticipating having difficulty getting to the patch as the undulating roads readily capture run-off from the fields. I decided to go in from the little church on the Henley road as I thought the water might be less deep. Wrong. Well actually it wasn't too bad, but unfortunately someone had got into difficulty overnight and had abandoned their car in the floodwater, blocking the road entirely.

I decided to walk in, and then got a call from Dave saying he was unable to get along the main Henley road due to a deep sheet of water, and was turning back. Fortunately, he then managed to find a way in via Wootton Wawen, and picked me up for the last stretch.

After all this effort it would be nice to report that the floodwaters on the fields had produced a deluge of birds. Sadly not, just lots of water.

Water running through a gate on the Public Footpath
The main pool and flash produced just 2 Teal, 70 Mallard, and 131 Greylag Geese. We arrived back at the car having seen very little of interest, 15 Siskins perhaps the best record. We then set off for the south end. As we approached, we heard a strange trumpeting call. It was repeated several times and we were perplexed. What was it? Perhaps a Whooper Swan, or a Crane. It sounded more like the latter but we couldn't see anything, and the calls became less frequent and more distant. Whatever it was it was, we bitterly concluded it was a big bird, and probably something really good. We probably should have been able to name it, but we had to let it go.

Anyway, we finally found some Finches, with at least six Bramblings in amongst 50 Chaffinches and about 25 Linnets. Then we heard Golden Plover calls and looked up to see 40 heading rapidly east. More Greylags flew north in several small skeins totalling about 60 birds, and finally a really big flock of Golden Plovers, 120 strong, headed west to round off an eventful visit.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sunday November 18

A sunny and rather frosty morning. Dave and I had a good thrash round and I eventually added a rather soft year-tick, number 117 equalling last year's effort, in the form of an adult Great Black-backed Gull flying with four Lessers far in the distance over Redditch.

Apart from this it was pretty quiet. We counted at least 46 Skylarks over the stubble field, there were 115 Greylag Geese on the flash, there were still around 100 or so Fieldfares and Redwings in evidence, plus 40 Starlings which seem to be exploiting the stubble field containing the Skylarks.

Lesser Redpoll
 It was slightly better for finches, particularly at the south end, and we estimated 50 Linnets, 80 Goldfinches, 80 Chaffinches, 10 Siskins and at least eight Lesser Redpolls. The latter seemed particularly attracted to the seeds of Travellers Joy in the hedgerow at the southern extreme of the patch.

In general, however, the autumn continues to be a little disappointing for both the diversity and the numbers of species on offer.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sunday November 11

It was back to the patch this morning, where I was joined by Dave. We headed to the south end and soon located at least four Bramblings. Sadly, my attempts to secure a decent photograph were laughably inept. There are still disturbingly few Finches about, just seven Linnets and about a dozen Chaffinches. Back at the copse by the farm we had good views of a pair of Marsh Tits, but from this somewhat underwhelming start the morning actually got worse.

We failed to flush any Snipe in front of the main pool where the only birds in residence were a handful of Mallard and the pair of Mute Swans.

We met up with John Yardley, and the reason for the lack of wildfowl soon became clear as he gloomily explained that three youngsters had been careering around on a quadbike from when he arrived. He had seen flocks of Geese and Ducks heading away as fast as they could manage.

This visit was just about as bad as it gets.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Compton Verney

Today I found myself being "encouraged" to attend a textile fair with Lyn and her friend Pam. The sweetener was the venue, the splendid Compton Verney, near Wellesbourne, with its equally splendid arboretum and lake. Lyn doesn't really do early, so we arrived at about 11am and having got the girls into the building I made a beeline for the grounds.

I had decided to spend my time trying to improve my field sketching, and so began with the two Great Crested Grebes on the lake, spent a while trying to capture hyper-active Goldcrests, and then some time strolling around the arboretum putting my currently dodgey neck through its paces by scanning the treetops for birds. The trees there are seriously high, a mixture of massive redwood type conifers and a variety of stately deciduous. There were many Redwings in there, but they were incredibly flighty. I ended up sitting on a bench near the ice house and started to sketch a Redwing which was sitting in a slightly less tall Sweet Chestnut. A number of Greenfinches joined it, and then a Chaffinch. I looked up to find that the Redwing had gone, drat. But there, a few feet to the the right of where it had been, sat a HAWFINCH. Gosh.


I stared at it for about 10 seconds trying to memorise what I could, then I looked at my sketch book to start an outline, looked back. It had gone. I didn't see it fly and I didn't hear it call. Just a pure fluke. Hawfinches have been recorded here before, although I have never been lucky. There was one in February 2009, and a few earlier records scattered through recent decades. Breeding probably occured in Wellesbourne Woods in 1995, so it is possible that these records are wanderers from a tiny local population rather than being continental immigrants.

It was time to head to the restaurant for lunch. When I re-emerged after a frankly excellent meal, the sun was low in the sky and time was at a premium. I could find no sign of the Hawfinch, or indeed any finches other than a fly-over Redpoll. About 30 Tufted Ducks flew around at dusk, and I noticed that about a dozen Pied Wagtails were pitching into the narrow fringe of reeds at the pool's edge to roost. Finally, about 60 Redwings headed away on their way to their communal roost somewhere.

Not bad for my non-birding day.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Monday November 5

A day off in the week coincided with bright sunny weather in stark contrast to yesterday. I began at Netherstead Farm and soon started seeing decent birds. Three Common Gulls flew north, and then I located a Chiffchaff in the small copse by the farm. For a change I headed to the south end of the patch. There was a rather small number of finches here, but they included seven Bramblings.

It is starting to look like its going to be a good winter for this species. I understand that the beechmast crop has failed in Scandinavia, so this may produce better numbers. Looking beyond the finches I noticed several parties of large Gulls moving north. These totalled 32 Herring Gulls and 13 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Presumably coming here in the week increases the chances of seeing large Gulls commuting between roost sites and tips which are not open for much of the weekend.

My luck was to change when I reached the pool. I could see Mike Lane photographing the two Mute Swans, and we met to compare notes. It turned out he had seen a Swallow ten minutes earlier. I scanned around as it had evidently been flying about for several minutes, but there was no further sign. A November Swallow is a rare thing in the Midlands. I went to check the flash; eight Common Snipe and 132 Greylag Geese, before returning to the pool where Mike joined me in an attempt to find Matt's party of Jack Snipe.
Not a sausage.

The walk back to the car failed to add much of note, although I noticed that the local Ravens seemed more obvious and vocal than of late. They will be breeding by February, so maybe this is already on their minds.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Sunday November 4. A dreary wet morning birding alone on the patch as a cold front arrived just as I did, and departed by early afternoon. The pool was undisturbed, but apart from 120 Mallard and 24 Canada Geese, it contained just a single male Wigeon. The Flash produced 13 Common Snipe. There were still plenty of Thrushes about, I estimated 250 Fieldfare and 100 Redwings, but with my enthusiasm for birding dripping away in the rain I decided to take some photos of fungi.

Beef Steak Fungus

Common Funnel
 I have no idea what species either of these fungi is. Nor indeed of this one:

Hairy Curtain Crust
Perhaps some kind soul reading this can come up with some suggestions before I do some internet research and arrive at the wrong conclusion.

PS Jason K has kindly supplied identifications for the three fungi shown above, and I have amended the captions accordingly.

Many thanks to Jason.