Friday, 29 November 2013

Patch News

With the weekend approaching I received some encouraging, though slightly gripping, news from Matt Willmott.

The highlight today was two male Crossbills in the rather incongruous setting of a willow tree by the pool. Although he said they were lingering, I doubt that the habitat available there will encourage them to remain.

My Saturday is loaded with non-birding stuff relating to my car etc etc, so I doubt I'll get time to have a look until Sunday.

The supporting cast wasn't too bad either; two Jack Snipe, 200 Linnets, and 1000 winter thrushes headed the line-up.

Its a bit more exciting than a fly-over Redpoll and some Redwings which is the best I have managed on my way in to work this week.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunday November 24

A cold grey morning. It definitely feels like winter now. A couple of fly over Herring Gulls were the first for a while, and a Grey Wagtail also flew past, possibly landing out of sight.

Dave and I tramped around seeing a Brambling with over 150 Chaffinches, about 140 Linnets, over 20 Reed Buntings. At least 180 Redwings were flying around with about 150 Fieldfares. A few Meadow Pipits were scattered among the finches, and one was reasonably photogenic.

We decided we would have to take action to try to bolster the species list, so we splashed across the marsh, disturbing 16 Common Snipe and the first two Jack Snipe of the autumn. They have probably been present for some time, and were enjoying the peace and quiet we normally afford them.

The flashes produced 11 Wigeon, 131 Lapwings, and 21 Teal plus a few more Snipe. Most of the finch flock was concentrated on the raised ground east of Stapenhill Wood. In addition to the species already mentioned we added 40 Greenfinches, 12 Yellowhammers, 10 Goldfinches, a Siskin and two Lesser Redpolls.

Finally, after crossing the stubble field, flushing about 30 Skylarks in the process, we ended with a call-only Chiffchaff somewhere near, or in, the little reedbed near Netherstead Farm.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday Nov 17

Dave summed up today's visit quite succinctly when he said it was as though last weekend we were Premier League and now we're back in the Vauxhall Conference.

Actually it wasn't that bad, it was just that the emphasis had switched from quality to quantity. There were far more Fieldfares (c300) and Redwings (c150) around. The Skylark flock was at least 60 strong, and 245 Lapwings circled the flashes.

We found a new Stonechat at Netherstead Farm. It showed well, as did a Brambling, but I chose not to photograph them because I did them last weekend! Probably a mistake because although there were plenty of birds after that, they were annoyingly flighty. 17 Wigeon took off from the flashes before we even got settled there, eight Long-tailed Tits shot past, and none of the four or five Bullfinches we encountered stayed around for long enough.

Other flocks we briefly encountered were 100 Woodpigeons, 23 Stock Doves, 80 Linnets, and 80 Starlings. Eventually desperation dictated I snap this out of focus Reed Bunting,

one of at least 20 we found at the south end, and these Chaffinches;

we probably encountered about 40 around the area.

Hopefully next weekend will be more memorable.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Great Grey Shrike

A beautiful sunny morning. Dave arrived shortly after I did, and we stood chatting near the horse sheds at Netherstead Farm where the farmer kindly lets us park.

Dave was scanning the hedge at the end of the "car-park" and I heard him say "Is this a bird?" I looked where he was looking and saw what he meant. If it wasn't a bundle of pale rags in the hedge it was took off, and I spluttered "Shrike". It landed on some posts and we confirmed it was a Great Grey Shrike. I went into panic mode and managed  a shot of an empty post, then a shot of the gravel at my feet, and then a blurred shot of the shrike.

Eventually the bird relocated to wires and a few more measured record shots were achieved.

We rang Mike and Jon, then I phoned the farmer, Paul Harvey, to see if he was OK with us putting the news out. He rang back to say it was no problem. Mike arrived and saw the bird, but it then disappeared.

We decided it must have gone over the ridge, so set off in that direction. I noticed a large raptor with flat wing profile come out of Bannams Wood. Goshawk! I got Dave and Mike on it and got it in the scope as it flapped on slower steadier wing beats than a Sparrowhawk would ever manage. It was an adult, maybe a male. After we lost it we were suddenly surrounded by panicking Jackdaws which had obviously made the same identification.

A female Brambling perched long enough for a shot to be taken.

We rounded the corner and refound the Shrike. It was much closer but my shots of it are so bleached that I am embarrassed to show them. It perched up down the hedge, and then we spotted another birder. This turned out to be Paul from Alcester who had found the Ruff there in September. I joined him and found that the Shrike was now a distant speck on wires across the ridge field.

More birders started to arrive, but we had lost it. I took a shot of a Stonechat which still remains here.

Dave and Nick headed back to the farm where they flushed a Little Owl. I continued to the flash where I counted 116 Black-headed Gulls, 139 Lapwings, a Gadwall, 14 Teal, and a Wigeon plus a couple of Snipe. The Greylag Geese flew in with the Snow Goose still in tow.

Rejoining the others it became apparent that they had had no luck. A Green Sandpiper flew over, and I noticed a late Common Darter dragonfly.

By 12.30 we had to leave, but I hadn't got far before Jon was on the phone. He had relocated the Shrike to the south of Netherstead Farm. Although Nick had had to leave, I understand John Sirrett got to see it, and also a guy from Kenilworth who we saw briefly near the church.

Exciting stuff.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Compton Verney

After another week of work and darkness I was keen to take any birding I could from this weekend.

Today's opportunity came from a visit with Lyn and our friend Mal to a textile exhibition at Compton Verney near Wellesbourne in central Warwickshire.

Last year a similar jaunt paid dividends with an unexpected Hawfinch in the grounds. Lightning failed to strike twice however, and I was left with just common birds to see. Redpoll and Siskin flew over, and several Common Gulls floated overhead.

The Yew trees were yielding a crop of berries which several Greenfinches found irresistible.

The small lake in the grounds contained a few Mallard and a solitary Great Crested Grebe.

A Grey Wagtail lurked near the sluice, where I also heard a Kingfisher.

Its a very nice place to visit. The arboretum is truly spectacular, and I'm sure regular watching would turn up a few scarcities.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A patch first (and second)

Sunday November 3rd began brightly, both in terms of the weather and the birds. Dave and I were birding the track past Netherstead Farm when we noticed that some Redpolls had landed in the top of a tree near the farm. As this was the first opportunity to really look at them this autumn I got the scope out and was immediately struck by the second bird I looked at. Its pale grey head made it stand out from the rest. Dave had a look and agreed with me that it looked good for a Mealy Redpoll, a patch first.

The Redpolls took off several times and landed in other trees, but each time it was quite easy to pick out the paler bird. We were taking turns to look through my scope, and on one occasion Dave got a quick look at its mantle, which also looked pale and frosty. We had no opportunity to see its rump, and they were always too distant to try for a photo, so I'm afraid it will have to be illustrated with a drawing.

Mealy Redpoll
The bird was accompanied by several pink chested males and given that Mealies vary in appearance according to age and sex I cannot rule out the possibility that some of them may have been the same species, but none were as striking as the one illustrated. Eventually they all flew off south, nine birds in all, but I suspect that they will remain in the area.

Pleased with our start we continued our usual circuit. A Brambling was heard, and also Siskin and more Redpolls. The pool contained 235 Mallard and a few Geese, while the flashes produced 13 Wigeon and a female Gadwall plus a few Teal and a couple of Lapwings.

The return journey contained further surprises. A Grey Partridge, a late Brimstone and several Hornets still on the wing. Then I picked up a high flying Swan. By the time I got the scope up it had disappeared behind Bannams Wood and even though it eventually reappeared it was miles away and we could do nothing with it.

Scanning in that direction I got onto a Buzzard and another probable Buzzard flying towards us. I heard Dave comment on a large raptor so I stayed on it. Dave seemed to be get increasingly interested but I couldn't see what he was going on about as it was increasingly obvious that it was just a Buzzard. Then I looked at him and realised he was looking in a different direction. The bird he was on was a large Accipiter. He had seen it emerge from Bannam's Wood and couldn't understand my lack of interest. By the time I got onto the right bird it was more distant, but still looked large and the tail shape appeared slightly rounded. It eventually disappeared into Clouse Wood. Dave was certain it was close to Buzzard size and we decided it had to be a Goshawk, the second record for the patch. Our previous one, which we had had better views of, had been in November 2011.

Another feature of the day was a steady passage of south bound Woodpigeons, usually in flocks of over a hundred strong. We were a bit lax in recording them and so my eventual tally of 530, though a site record, is certainly an under-estimate. Two Golden Plovers also flew south, and we flushed four Partridges which we suspected were additional Grey Partridges.

A pretty lively visit.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dusky twitch

News of a Dusky Warbler found at Marsh Lane GP yesterday by Glen Giles forced a rapid plan change for this morning. I had a small window of opportunity and so was there for  8.15am to be greeted by news that the bird was present, but not showing.

An hour later and my window was about to close. The Dusky had called occasionally but no one had seen it. I gloomily announced I had to go and took a picture of the hedge it was believed to be in.

I packed up my scope and turned to leave. Just then a chap behind me mentioned that something had "flicked up". I swung round and there it was in the gap between the two right hand trunks of the pollarded willow shown.

It briefly appeared three more times in the next five minutes allowing almost everyone to get a glimpse.

Not a massive twitch, but good by West Midlands standards.

Other birds seen while we stood around were 6 Golden Plovers, several Siskins, and a couple of Redpolls over.

The unremarkable habitat is further proof that rarities can turn up anywhere. What's missing is the birders to find them.