Friday, 28 February 2014

Middle Spernall Farm scores

News from Mike today. He has seen a male Stonechat at Middle Spernall Farm, and tells me that the site still holds a Jack Snipe and a Marsh Tit. Meanwhile, the Shelducks evidently disappeared promptly from Haselor, although the Shoveler still remains.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

News from Haselor scrape

Mike has phoned this evening to let me know that a pair of Shelduck has returned to Haselor scrape.

This may be the same pair which was present there last year and which made a few brief visits to Morton Bagot. I suspect that they were also the pair that bred at Morton Bagot in 2011 before being thwarted by low water-levels in 2012.

It will be interesting to see if they return now that the pool is full of water once more.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Signs of spring

A couple of hours just after mid day was just what I needed. The stormy weather of yesterday has been replaced by sunny, springlike conditions.

I parked at Church Farm and it wasn't long before I saw my first butterfly of the year, as a Brimstone fluttered distantly along the hedge-line beyond the pool. My attention soon returned to birds as the first migrant of spring appeared.

male Stonechat

Although a female type Stonechat did attempt to winter, it has not been seen since early January. This lovely male was surely a migrant heading back to the uplands having perhaps wintered on the south coast. It's a classic time of year for migrant Stonechats to appear.

Slightly less convincing evidence for early spring migration was available at the flashes, where the Green Sandpiper numbers have swelled to three individuals.

three Green Sandpipers
So what birds was I going to add to my photo list on this fine sunny day? Well I'm starting to run out of easy ones, but these two were on offer.

50. Magpie
51. Grey Heron
The Magpies around here are not like the cocky suburban beasts I am used to. Too smart to allow close approach, our local birds are used to men with guns and keep their distance.

Finally as I headed back to the car, a Peregrine flew away over Bannams Wood before reappearing and gliding back and forth, well out of camera range.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday February 23

Cloudy with occasional showers and a strong southerly wind. Not ideal.

I was joined by Dave as usual, and the plan was to approach the patch by wandering along the road in the hope of adding some easy year-ticks by peering into the canopy of Bannams Wood.

As usual I had the sub-plot of trying to add species to my photo year list. The Stock Doves have been both conspicuous in their numbers and also shy of close approach this year. Today was no exception so I began by cranking the camera up to maximum magnification (ignoring the poor light) to try to finally get a shot of the species.

47. Stock Dove
The result can certainly be classed as a record shot. But Stock Doves were also to feature in the records in another way. After estimating 40 at the south end, we saw a large flock in flight behind the pool. We thought about 100, but by counting dots in the resulting photograph I got 129 (and there were certainly some out of shot). This gives a record busting count of at least 169.

The Stock Dove flock.
Also at the south end, the corvid flock comprised at least 200 Jackdaws, 50 Rooks, and 20 Carrion Crows. We had views of three Lesser Redpolls in the hedgerows. Reaching Morton Bagot hamlet we noticed a male Great Spotted Woodpecker attending a feeder at Sherwoods optics.

48. Great Spotted Woodpecker
Further on, the Yellowhammer flock was still present. We could see at least 35, but didn't feel inclined to tramp around the field to try to get a full count. Lazy, I know. At Bannams Wood a Marsh Tit showed briefly, and then we found a little flock of Tits etc which included two Goldcrests, two Coal Tits, a Treecreeper, and a Nuthatch. So that was our three target species under the belt.

Heading down towards the pool we estimated about 35 birds in a flock of mostly Greenfinches and Chaffinches. The wind was by now very strong and each bird that flew was jet-propelled back over our heads to the top of the field.

The pool contained no surprises, but the flashes, at least, were full of birds. A pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls stayed in the water long enough to get onto the photo-list.

49. Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Also present were about 70 Mallards, 54 Teal, three Wigeon, 12 Lapwings, and a Green Sandpiper. More Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls flew over, but there were almost no small Gulls.

It has been pointed out to me (by Mrs Morton Bagot birder) that the blogs have lately become a bit dull. Just lists she says. Well yes, that's what I do. I love listing. However, to anyone reading this who agrees with Lyn, I promise not to do the photo list next year (it is getting to be a bit of a millstone if I'm honest).

In the meantime the listing will continue. Hurrah.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday February 16

Sunny with light winds.

As I waited for Dave to arrive I busied myself trying to add something to the photo-list. This was reasonably successful as I finally got a shot of a Wren.

43. Wren
There were also lots of Yellowhammers on offer, and about 300 corvids, but I settled for a male Blackbird.

male Blackbird
As Dave arrived we spotted some Herring Gulls going over. It is unlikely that I will get a chance to photograph this species on the ground here, so they were duly photo-ticked.

44. Herring Gull
Birding then started in earnest, and it wasn't long before we found a year-tick, albeit a soft one, in the form of a Long-tailed Tit.  We reached the pool and diverted to see if the Tawny Owl was in residence. It wasn't. Then, rather than wade back along the bridle path we took a short-cut across the pool field. This inevitably led us to see if there were any Jack Snipes we could flush, and the answer was yes, three.

Arriving at the flashes I saw that a Green Sandpiper was wading in the middle of the near flash, and as I doubt we'll see any close at hand, I took some photos.

45. Green Sandpiper
The rather blurred and small image does not bode well for potentially producing evidence of small waders as the year progresses. Assuming we get any.

I noticed that the Chaffinches in the hedge were unusually vocal, and soon found the cause of their displeasure. A Little Owl. Another year tick.

46. Little Owl
Shortly afterwards a Siskin called as it flew, unseen, overhead. They have been notably scarce this winter and I had almost resigned myself to waiting until next autumn for one.

We followed our usual route back, and one more year-tick appeared over the horizon, as two Cormorants flew west. Back at our cars we dithered about whether to go home or keep birding. In the end we just ambled up to the farm and back, seeing a single Lesser Redpoll for our trouble.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Friday February 14

It feels almost inevitable that, having booked today off work some time ago, the day would dawn grey and promise incessant rain and strong winds.

I went birding anyway.

The morning was actually not too bad, just drizzle and a blustery wind. I restricted myself to the flashes, and spotted 20 Pied Wagtails and 56 Black-headed Gulls in the flash field as I walked down. A good sign.

Interestingly, despite all the rain, the furthest flash was mostly just mud, so the water must be continuing to drain back into the nearest flash. That contained 22 Teal and 13 Common Snipe, so I finally cracked and photographed some of the latter for the photo year list.

40. Common Snipe
I had intended waiting until I saw one a bit closer, but they are very set in their ways and my patience ran out.

Moving on to the pool, I found that it contained a pair of Tufted Ducks, and a tiny Sparrowhawk flew to the Tawny Owl tree.

41. Tufted Duck
There were still about 80 Stock Doves in the area, but with the weather worsening I headed back towards Bannams Wood. Loads of corvids, including over 200 Jackdaws and a few Rooks sat in one tree, frequently exploding into the air with great excitement and chattering. Some of the Jackdaws are shown here.

Further on, I found I was pushing Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Reed Buntings up the hedge. I just like Reed Buntings, particularly when they pose well.

female Reed Bunting
Finally, I decided to head for Netherstead to birdwatch from the car. At least 35 Yellowhammers were present in the hedgerows, and I found a couple of Red-legged Partridges sheltering from the rain.

42. Red-legged Partridge

So no surprises today, but still plenty of birds to see.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Monday February 10

Some news from Mike. He has been to his patch today where he noticed a sharp increase in duck numbers, 75 Teal for example following the cessation of shooting. While at Haselor scrape he found a Shoveler (a bird which managed to avoid Morton Bagot last year).

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday February 9

A blustery grey start, becoming generally brighter by midday. Dave and I decided to vary our route by heading along the road towards Bannams Wood.

Before we got there we came across the Yellowhammer field again, and counting revealed at least 75. Later on we came across another 52 birds a field away, but we couldn't be sure that they were different birds so we opted to stick to the first count, itself another site record for us.

Dave gained two year-ticks, Mistle Thrush and Marsh Tit, and we finally got a year tick we both needed, Treecreeper, in the woodland edge. Turning to head back down to the pool we counted at least 50 Chaffinches and  Brambling in the hedgerow along with our seventh Bullfinch of the day.

The pool and flashes were all well flooded, and after noticing a couple of Coot on the former, we were surprised by three Tufted Ducks which flew up with Mallards. The flashes looked busy. About 100 Mallard obviously knew that the shooting season had ended, and with them we spotted three Wigeon, one an adult male, and nine Teal.

38. Teal
drake Wigeon
Another year-tick was available, although we almost forgot that we hadn't seen one here yet this year. A pair of Canada Geese were standing at the back of the flash near a well hidden Green Sandpiper and five Snipe.
39. Canada Goose
A large flock of Jackdaws, about 200, and a similar number of Starlings made the whole area look full of birds. A Peregrine then flew past, but only Dave spotted it. He shouted, but I had been fiddling with the camera and failed to get onto it.

So I ended the day with a year-list of 63 (two behind Dave). Actually, the day wasn't quite over because we then noticed a large flock of Stock Doves flying out of the wood. We agreed a count of 100, which is another site record.

Finally, I thought I'd put in a photograph of a fungus we saw at the roadside below Bannams Wood.

Until I find out what its actually called I am naming it Burnt Bun Fungus, (I won't say what Lyn decided to name it in case anyone of a delicate disposition is reading this blog).

PS After a bit of Internet research I've come up with a possible identification. If correct, then my made up name was actually not a bad one. Its actual name is King Alfred's Cakes, latin name Daldinia concentrica.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Sunday February 2

At last the rain has abated and the sun has come out. Even before I got to where I park I noticed a bird which would become part of today's story. At least 50 buntings, all Yellowhammers as far as I could see, flew from the hedgerow between Bannams Wood and Morton Bagot hamlet.

Once Dave arrived we relocated them in the hedgerows around the paddocks, and eventually counted 67 (a new record count here for me) along with about 20 Reed Buntings. I suspect there were actually more Yellowhammers than we actually logged.

There seemed to be a lot of birds around generally, and we hadn't gone too far before I added a photo-tick, as a male Bullfinch showed well.

35. Bullfinch
As we approached the flashes we counted 159 Black-headed Gulls and 135 Lapwings flying about. Dave was a little ahead of me, and saw a Green Sandpiper there, but it had disappeared by the time I caught him up.

Just past the flash I looked across at the channel behind the hedge and located our only year tick of the day. Two Wigeon were swimming with the Mallards. Still no Teal though.

36. Wigeon
The views weren't great and the birds were partially obscured by the hedge, but they were worth a record shot.

Further on we saw one of 50 Linnets perched nicely on a tree above us, and Dave gripped me off again by seeing a Brambling which I missed out on.

Later on, I drove to the south end and noticed a whole row of Linnets on the wires. This gave me an idea. Normally counting these Linnets involves counts like; 96, 97, 98, oh they all fly off. So why not photograph them all, and count them later.

A flock of 176 Linnets
I'm really loving this camera.

Dave had gone by now, but I was not quite finished. Time to add another easy photo tick.

37. Jackdaw
They all count.