Saturday, 31 August 2013

Saturday August 31

I haven't been birding today, but this morning I had an idea ! Gosh.

For many decades before I started writing this blog I kept regular notes of all my birding visits. These were intended as an annual reference for when I submitted records at the end of the year, and now I'm a bit older I am rather fond of them.

So this is probably very self-indulgent but I have created a new page called "Down memory lane" in which I plan to scan pages of particularly interesting (to me at least) diary records.

The first consists of two entries:

My first Midland twitch, 4th January 1980, to see a very rare bird indeed, and
My first ever diary entry, 16th July 1979, just because it is the earliest record of any visit.

I will try to make them interesting.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wednesday 28 August

A quick evening visit in still, fairly sunny conditions. It was pretty quiet on the flashes, just three Green Sandpipers, two Snipe, 29 Teal and a Lapwing. The walk back was more fun as a few passerines showed quite well.

First was this juvenile Sedge Warbler, possibly the one Dave saw on Sunday.

Up to six Whitethroats flitted about, and I also saw at least three Whinchats. Perhaps I overlooked their continuing presence on Monday.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Monday August 26

A late change of plan gave me the opportunity to get to the patch for the second day running. I initially began at Church Farm, but after my car filled up with wasps from a skip next to the church and I was then joined by one of the farm dogs I decided to give up and start at Netherstead Farm instead.

Inevitably I saw a few birds I missed yesterday, but in general I found the patch a little quieter. No Whinchats for example. I saw a photographer with a massive lens photographing one of the Tufted Duck broods, but our paths never crossed.

There were two significant additions from yesterday. A juvenile Shelduck flew in and started feeding on the left hand flash.

Shortly afterwards a flurry of wings announced the arrival of a decent flock of Teal. I counted 33, which was more like the sort of counts I should be getting. A couple of Grey Herons stalked around at the back of the flash, so I decided to snap one of them.

Butterflies started to show well as the day warmed up, and I saw Small Heath, Small Copper, and Common Blue in addition to the whites, Peacocks, and Small Tortoiseshells.

Back home, an afternoon of gardening with Lyn was reasonably productive, while our buddleia sported Large and Small Whites, six Small Tortoiseshells, Peacock, Comma, and a splendid Red Admiral.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sunday Aug 25

I was a little later starting than I intended, but by about 9.00 am I was joined by Dave for the first time in several weeks. He quickly earned his spurs by finding the first notable birds of the day as two rather distant Swifts drifted from over Bannam's Wood with about 160 hirundines which were too distant for certain identification. Around Netherstead Farm a flock of about 150 other hirundines, maybe 60:40 in favour of House Martins over Swallows, swooped repeatedly around the little copse.

We strolled to the flash where we were very pleased to see that the two juvenile Black-tailed Godwits were still present.

They remained until 1030 when they transferred to the back flash, and five minutes later flew off strongly to the north. We considered ourselves particularly jammy because we had dawdled on route due to the presence of several passerines in the hedge and weedy field adjacent to the main pool. These included at least nine Common Whitethroats, and four Whinchats.

A distant Whinchat

The latter were originally in the hedge-line, but soon took to the middle of the field where they were really just dots perching on the vegetation. Back at the flash we saw a couple of Green Sandpipers, 10 Teal and a Snipe as supporting cast to the Godwits.

The return walk produced my 110th year tick when we found a Spotted Flycatcher among the willows and ashes beside the brook. Unfortunately I couldn't get a shot of it and eventually we lost it altogether. Meanwhile the day was warming up and a quick sweep of the weedy field produced a count of at least 220 Small White butterflies making the field seem alive with movement. Four Sand Martins flew west, and several more Whitethroats appeared. We decided to return to the flash, but the only new bird was a Sedge Warbler for Dave which disappeared before I could get onto it.

All in all a very successful bank holiday visit.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Twitching the patch

I am writing this blog on Wednesday evening after successfully twitching a couple of Black-tailed Godwits found by John and Pat Yardley this evening. The Godwits were a year-tick and Pat was a lifer. Work commitments had caused me to arrive home at about 18.45 and without my car or tripod (in the boot of my car). It's a long boring story, which I will spare you. So I didn't take my camera.

Yesterday evening was rather more typical. The birding wasn't too bad, although I was plagued by flying ants crawling all over me every time I stood still. The ants were themselves were having a tough time as I counted five Whitethroats, a Redstart, and a Whinchat all fly-catching enthusiastically.

The flashes and pool produced four Green Sandpipers and a Snipe, and there was nothing close enough to attempt to photograph. So instead, and in desperation, I took a shot of this plant.

Frankly, I don't know what it is. There are small clumps of it here and there in the weedy borders of the fields. I thought it was Fumitory before I checked the books. They suggested it was not. Perhaps its a vetch of some sort. I have yet to reach any conclusion.

Probably best to stick to birds.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunday August 18

I was a bit pushed for time this morning as we had arranged to go to see a friend in Abergavenny in time for lunch. The sunny morning was perfect for sifting through migrants, and the bushes were full of them.

By the time I left, John and I had accumulated 15 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Sedge Warbler, five Willow Warblers, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a fine first-winter male Redstart. John also found the first Whinchat of the autumn, but it disappeared before I could see it.

With all this activity in the hedgerows it might have been reasonable to hope that last night's torrential showers would have produced some waders. Sadly, all we could see was a single Green Sandpiper.

I didn't take any pictures apart from an rear-end view of a bird which I know to be a Willow Warbler. I was tempted start a mystery bird competition, but I'm afraid most of my shots would qualify, so here instead is Fred the tortoise reunited with its relieved owner.

Down in Abergavenny Lyn and I spent an enjoyable afternoon sitting in the the garden of Dr Geoff Brown, an indefatigable 90 year old, watching the Swallows and Martins perching on wires just beyond his garden. Among them was a Sand Martin, miles from the nearest water course as far as I know. A few miles short of Geoff's house we drove under a Red Kite hunting in the shadow of the Skirrid Hill.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tortoise break-out

After a long and stressful day at work I found my opportunity to go birding delayed by news, from my neighbour, that a child had been going door to door asking if anyone had lost a tortoise. A quick check of the back garden produced no sign of Fred, and a tortoise-shaped hole in a lower fence panel by the shed. I began a search and soon picked up the trail from other neighbours. This led to a house about 200 yards away where our tortoise had been discovered on a doorstep by 10 year-old twin girls. Their mother told me I was five minutes too late as Fred had been taken away to a local rescue centre. At least we know where he is.

It was 19.00 before I went birding and the patch proved to be extremely quiet. A couple of Grey Herons stood on the flash with a Green Sandpiper, 16 Lapwings and six Teal.

It's a while since I put a drawing in, so the quiet night gives me the excuse. In fact the best birds, two Yellow Wagtails, flew over as  I made my way back to Morton Bagot church.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Spernal Middle Farm Pool

Despite the title of this post I actually started as normal at Netherstead Farm, Morton Bagot. Shortly after arriving I got a phone message from John. He had seen the Marsh Harrier. I rang him back, and evidently he had had great views over the same field as I first saw it. We loitered with intent for about an hour but with no success.

However, John spent the time finding butterflies, most notably several Brown Argus. This butterfly occurs in small numbers here, as do Common Blues which are the main confusion species. Ironically Common Blues have been scarce this year. While on the subject of insects, I also saw a Broad-bodied Chaser which I think is rather belatedly my first this year.

The flashes were even quieter than yesterday, just three Green Sandpipers. Mike appeared, and we added a Lesser Whitethroat and three passing Swifts to the bird list.

I had arranged to meet Mike so that he could take me to the place he calls Spernal Middle Farm Pool, a couple of miles south of Morton Bagot, which was where he had seen the Lesser Emperor. Unfortunately our arrival coincided, initially, with a period of heavy cloud cover, and insect watching looked likely to be unsatisfactory.

The site is possibly private, although the owner appears to be tolerant of low level disturbance and has certainly given some photographers permission to visit. I was very impressed by the site, particularly when we discovered this Greenshank standing on the shoreline.

It did eventually wake up, and appeared to be one-legged as it hopped awkwardly around. Also present were a Common Sandpiper, four Green Sandpipers, and three Ravens which flew over. It began to warm up as the sun peaked through. We saw several dragonflies including Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmers and Common Darters, but there was no sign of the Lesser Emperor.

Walking back through fields of Ragwort I was very impressed by the amount of insect activity. Grasshoppers were everywhere, and we saw several Common Blue, and Small Heath butterflies like this one.

A final post-script to the day was that during the afternoon Mike returned to Morton Bagot and he too saw the Marsh Harrier. It's obviously hanging around.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Marsh Harrier

Saturday August 10. This post is going to be a bit brief as I have to go to a wedding shortly. But the important part is that after spending an hour of seeing nothing at the patch this morning, at 9.30 am all that changed when a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier appeared.

It was flying over the field that had been ear-marked for Lapwings to breed but is now full of arable weeds. The crown was actually orange and the rest of the plumage very dark brown, so it was probably a juvenile.

My camera was in my bag and my scope folded away so all I had time to do was take some images with the standard lens increased in magnification as high as it would go (not very high) and click and hope.

This was my best shot. The Marsh Harrier is on the left being mobbed by two corvids. Unfortunately all my shots were just silhouettes.

I texted a few people after I had lost it and carried on back to the car. However, as I approached Netherstead I saw it again, this time above the ridge field. John and Mike were on their way, but I fear they may be too late because I did not see it again after this last look.

After missing the one in spring this was a great pull-back.

Post-script: One thing I forgot to mention in my rush to get the post completed was that there are now two more broods of Tufted Ducks, both on the dragonfly pools. I had no idea there was a female sitting on either of them. It's incredible that they can hide themselves away so effectively.

Also, Mike and John had no luck with the Marsh Harrier, but they did see huge numbers of butterflies including about 200 Peacocks, a Small Copper, a Small Heath, and a Painted Lady, which John has kindly sent me a photo of.

A great picture.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wednesday August 7

Pretty much ideal weather tonight. Still, warmish, not too sunny. I started at around 18.30 when there were still plenty of Whitethroats commuting between the crops and the hedgerows. The bird of the evening, a female Redstart, was in the hedge on the east side of the pool.

For a change there were a couple of waders on the main pool, a Green Sandpiper and this Snipe.

The Flashes produced another seven Green Sandpipers, six Teal, and a calling Little Owl. Strangely, the Tufted Duck brood seems to have split. Six of them are now on the main pool with an extra female, and one remains on the original pool. The walk back produced this singing Yellowhammer in the regenerating hedge on the west side of the pool.

If I was wondering what to do at the weekend, a phone call from Mike pointed the way. He had seen a Clouded Yellow butterfly and a possible Lesser Emperor dragonfly at the weekend on pools near Spernal. Today he had relocated the dragonfly and had shown it to Peter Reeve the Warwickshire dragonfly recorder, who had concurred with his identification. Amazingly Mike has now found the only two records of this southern species to have occurred in Warwickshire.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Tuesday August 6

I love this sort of thing. I was walking to the paper shop this morning and heard a whoosh sound overhead. On looking up I saw a small flock of racing pigeons and behind them, in hot pursuit, a Peregrine. After a few swift changes in direction the Pigeons comfortably shook off their pursuer, which I thought was an immature bird.

This evening a few Swifts were still on view over the garden.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunday August 4

A cloudy start, with the weather due to deteriorate by late morning. No Dave today, but I knew John Yardley was on site, and we eventually met up at the flashes. Neither of us had seen a lot, but things were due to improve.

The high water-levels meant that there appeared to be few waders present. We eventually counted three Green Sandpipers, and also a pair of Shelducks and several juvenile Black-headed Gulls. However, among the 104 Greylag Geese, Snow Goose, and 25 Canada Geese I noticed two small ducks swimming into view on the back flash. They appeared to be Mandarins, although they remained very distant. This record shot does them no justice at all.

Rather more impressive was one of two Little Owls, which perched up nicely.

Finally, as we ambled along the hedge, John spotted a cricket, and got a shot of it on my hand.

After checking through books and references on the internet, I have concluded that it is a female Dark Bush Cricket. An impressive beast.

A few Swifts were moving, I counted 13, but it was too windy to detect many migrant passerines, a Lesser Whitethroat was probably the best we could find. The rain started falling by 10.30, but I did manage to spot an adult Peregrine on one of the pylons before I left for home.