Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sunday May 25

A cloudy and rather damp morning. The rain overnight and yesterday had created plenty of puddles and raised the water levels in all the water courses.

I started at Netherstead, and soon confirmed that the two Reed Warblers were still singing and remaining hidden from view. Some crow alarm calls caused me to look up in time the see a Raven out-distancing its pursuers. An opportunity to get a flight shot.

It was too cool for insects to be on the wing so today was always going to be devoted to birds. As I reached the main pool I found that my first Little Grebes of the year were in residence. As is generally the case they weren't keen to be photographed, diving and eventually re-emerging in the pool-side vegetation whenever I got too close. But I managed some record shots.

80. Little Grebe (two)

The field behind the pool contained several singing Skylarks, and I finally got a shot of one of them on the ground.

I reached the flash, and found that the wet weather had not produced any waders. However, within a few minutes two Redshanks did turn up.

One of the Redshanks
The remainder of the visit produced a silent Cuckoo (perhaps a female) with a male still singing in the distance, and a series of other common birds which I couldn't resist snapping.

Reed Bunting
Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Bunting
And a dot shot for the photo-year list

81. Swift
I had a frustrating near miss on the way home when I found a Jay hopping around in the road, while my camera was in the boot. I managed to retrieve the camera while the bird remained, only to have it flushed by a passing car.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Wednesday May 21

A still sunny evening. I arrived later than usual with a cunning plan up my sleeve. Initially it was all pleasant enough. A Reed Warbler was singing invisibly from the hedge bordering eastern edge of the pool field, rather odd. A party of Canada Geese and two Redshanks on the Flash.

Behind me a Lapwing was calling anxiously from the tilled field. I think she may have chicks.

A Sedge Warbler was singing from the straggly hedge-line at the west side of the pool. I couldn't see it, but as I looked up the hill towards Bannams Wood I realised the cunning plan had paid off. A Barn Owl was hunting over the field in front of the wood.

I would obviously like to show you some marvelous shots at this stage, and goodness knows I tried. But the light was too poor, and my camera was not up to the job (neither was its operator), so after discarding loads of fuzzy white blobs, this is the best I could come up with.

79. Barn Owl
At least you can tell it is one. The bird itself performed wonderfully off and on for about 30 minutes from 21.00. I also heard the Grey Partridge again while I was watching the Owl.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Scarce raptors

Another beautiful sunny day, with just a light southerly breeze. A call from Dave as I was on my way alerted me to his car having been discovered to have a puncture. He would be late. I had in any case planned to survey the breeding birds around Netherstead Farm, so his delay simply gained me some extra time

I spent an hour or so mooching about, counting the local House Sparrows etc, noting a couple of Starlings (not seen here since early April), and hearing a Cuckoo. I also had an interesting chat with Yad (Jad?) originally from Sweden, who told me about various impending comings and goings (mostly goings unfortunately) of certain residents of the hamlet.

Dave arrived and we started birding. Almost immediately he spotted a raptor heading from the south. A Kite. We dashed to a place where we could get a better view as the bird, a Red Kite, which slowly approached and eventually circled away to the east.

78. Red Kite (approaching)
The fly past
Heading away
I managed to get a series of shots of it (plus a lot of shots of blue sky) before it was lost from view. The second here this year, and a nice pull back after I was not around to see the one in March. It didn't appear to be wing tagged, but I imagine that is not as significant as it used to be.

Feeling pretty chuffed we headed towards the pool. On reaching the half-way pond Dave pulled another one out of the bag, as he spotted a pair of Hobbies circling. They came closer and eventually flew over, but they were too high and quick for me to get a shot of them.

Being a sunny day, we were always on the look out for interesting insects. Thus I was pleased when we found several Small Heath butterflies.

Small Heath
These diddy little creatures always settle with their wings up. In flight the upper surface appears all orangy brown, but unless you are looking at a dead specimen, you will never see that properly.

At the pool I was pleased to see that the Canada Geese have bred successfully, and five goslings were counted.

The flashes by contrast were pretty poor. The near flash is about 50% dry, and contained only a few Mallards, Lapwings, and a Pied Wagtail. On the way back we found another new butterfly for the year.

Small Copper
The Small Copper is about the same size as the Small Heath, but is generally commoner, and certainly prettier.

Finally we reached the dragonfly pools where, at long last, I saw some dragonflies (well actually damselflies).

Azure Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly
Blue-tailed Damselfly
The feel good factor is definitely back.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Wednesday May 14

After a fine sunny day, my evening's birding was not without incident. To begin with Jon was contacting me pretty regularly to let me know how well he was doing at Haselor scrape, where he tells me he is going every night. Tonight's offerings were two Oystercatchers and a close Yellow Wagtail.

Morton Bagot, by contrast, has been going through a "quiet period" for about a month!  But maybe there were some encouraging signs tonight. To begin with there was a wader on the flash. OK it was just a Little Ringed Plover, but its been a couple of weeks.

With news of the stuff at Haselor, I felt determined to get something. And suddenly something turned up. Another wader, this time a Redshank. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this was only the second this year.

Not too bad. I strolled back past a singing Sedge Warbler and several pairs of Tufted Ducks. A male of the latter was caught in the act of doing its head nodding display.

Onwards and upwards. Near Bannams Wood I paused to take in a quite impressive sunset.

Just then a slightly familiar call, "krriak" stopped me in my tracks. It was coming from the other side of the hedge. It called again. A Grey Partridge. This species has the extraordinary ability to remain invisible for most of the year, but must surely be resident. I got through the hedge, and hung around. The habitat it was in consisted of long grass blanketing a field with Felix's saplings in it. There was no chance of a view of the bird, and it also stopped calling.

Perhaps, at least in the short term, the lack of agricultural chemicals on Felix's land will prove beneficial for this species.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sunday May 11

Another cloudy, windy morning. After I had done a quick tour of the south end, Dave joined me for a walk around the rest of the patch.

It proved to be pretty uneventful. The pair of Shelducks was still present, and we eventually saw a couple of Swifts going over. The current chick situation is that one brood of Lapwings has hatched, one brood of Mallard, and so far two broods each of Moorhens and Coots.

Coot chicks at the dragonfly pools
Dissatisfied with our efforts we decided to drive to Haselor to see if there was anything there. This plan proved useful insofar as the single Shelduck was still present, proving that the Morton Bagot birds were different. We also saw a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, a Redshank, and a Lapwing chick.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Saturday May 10

This was a visit that nearly didn't happen. I had prearranged to take our friends, Richard and Jan, around the patch. The Tawny Owl chicks being a particular target. The forecast by Thursday was so bad I nearly cancelled, but we held our nerve and it paid off.

The overnight rain stopped by 7.00am and the sun broke through. Heavy shower clouds scudded overhead and the rain held off until we were safely back home.

We parked at the church and headed straight for the Tawny Owl tree.

Mission accomplished
It was great to share this sighting, so although the wind was gaining in strength I felt that the morning had been a success regardless of whether events nosedived.

I needn't have worried though. We battled into the gale, past singing Whitethroats and Yellowhammers until we reached the flash. Through the trees it was immediately apparent that Shelduck was finally getting onto my year list. There were actually a pair present, the first since the pair I missed in March.

77. Shelduck
I scanned the remaining flash, but there were still no waders. Well the young Lapwing was still present, along with a number of grown-ups. Above us several Swifts appeared and defied my attempts to get a worthwhile photograph. I suspect this could become a theme this summer. Then a call, and another, definitely Yellow Wagtail. It called once more but I couldn't see it. Another year tick.

The field behind us produced a male and female Wheatear, and also this Brown Hare.

I led my companions along my usual route. The strong wind made it tough to get sustained views of passerines, but we saw a Whitethroat well, and heard Bullfinches, Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs, and a Cuckoo before we returned to the car.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Thursday May 8

After a day of sometimes torrential rain I thought a visit to the patch would surely produce the goods. Think again. Not a single wader on the flash, again, and no migrant passerines to speak of.

Oh well. Sharing the disappointment was Redditch birder Neil Duggan. He at least was a tick. I showed him where the Tawny Owls were, and we both photographed the one bird we located in the canopy.

The pool filled up with a dozen Tufted Ducks, and on the walk back the singing Lesser Whitethroat popped out for just long enough to allow a hastily taken shot.

More wet weather is forecast for the weekend so I guess I'll be trying my luck again.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

City centre quality

On the way in to work this morning I heard a Black Redstart singing near the cathedral in Colmore Row.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The big day - at last

Well I couldn't put it off any longer. The forecast was good and so I was on the patch for 04.45 determined to try to get a big day list in spite of a rather unpromising week leading up to the event.

In fact my start was almost too late, the May date nearly catching me out. My first bird was a Blackbird in the car headlights, but as soon as I opened the car door I was greeted by a singing Lesser Whitethroat, so the dawn chorus had pretty much started without me.

I still got some impression of the early start though as the young Tawny Owls were squeaking, and an adult was hooting not far from them. My first visit to the flash failed to produce the Little Owl, and sadly this was one species which I failed to find all day. One or two of the singing Blackcaps tantalised me with varied song phrases full of mimicry, but I failed to convince myself that any of them were, for example, Garden Warblers.

The first decent find was a raptor sitting on pylons. I suspected a Peregrine, and fortunately this was confirmed when I finally got close enough. The bird was actually in first-summer plumage and showed pretty well in the end. A photo tick no less.

75. Peregrine
This was my first here since a distant silhouette in February. A good start.

I had parked under Bannams Wood, so my first circuit brought me along the road beneath the wood where I added two potentially tricky species, Treecreeper and Coal Tit. So I went home for breakfast on 53 species and could reflect on a reasonable start.

I met Dave at around 09.00am with a list of birds I still needed committed to memory. The first to fall was one I didn't think we would see, as a distant immature Herring Gull flew south and onto the list. We followed the road after Dave picked up Cuckoo and Reed Warbler for his year list, and also saw the Peregrine which was obligingly still present. By the time we reached the flash we had gained Jay, Nuthatch, and Yellowhammer. The flash produced two Black-headed Gulls, but nothing else.

Shortly afterwards a Sparrowhawk cruised over Bannams Wood, and then Dave picked up a female Wheatear, which I later photographed.

I was really pleased to get the Wheatear because it was a sign that some passage was still taking place. As we neared the cars Dave pointed out a Cuckoo heading towards us. This was the first one I had actually seen, as opposed to heard, this year. My camera was in my bag, turned off, and with the lens cap on, so I am pretty pleased to be able to say that I still got a shot away before it disappeared.

76. Cuckoo
That's what I call quick on the draw. I may well not see another Cuckoo here this year so I am adding it to the photo-year list even though it is only just identifiable - I think - from the picture. With the score on 60 we both went home for lunch.

By 14.30 I was back at the flash again. Still no waders, and no Little Owl of course. After hanging around for about forty minutes I decided to head towards Bannams Wood where there were still a couple of potential day ticks to look for. On the way I noticed a small party of Lesser Black-backed Gulls circling on thermals over the wood. With them were two Swifts my only year tick today. Shortly afterwards, another five appeared. The wood delivered Goldcrest, which called twice but remained unseen, and my last bird, a Marsh Tit. Final score 63 species and an aching back.

The full list is as follows:

1. Greylag Goose 2. Canada Goose 3. Mallard 4. Tufted Duck 5. Red-legged Partridge 6. Pheasant 7. Grey Heron 8. Sparrowhawk 9. Buzzard 10. Kestrel 11. Peregrine 12. Moorhen 13. Coot 14. Lapwing 15. Black-headed Gull 16. Lesser Black-backed Gull 17. Herring Gull 18. Stock Dove 19. Woodpigeon 20. Collared Dove 21. Cuckoo 22. Tawny Owl 23. Swift 24. Green Woodpecker 25. Great Spotted Woodpecker 26. Magpie 27. Jay 28. Jackdaw 29. Raven 30. Carrion Crow 31. Rook 32. Goldcrest 33. Blue Tit 34. Great Tit 35. Marsh Tit 36. Coal Tit 37. Skylark 38. Swallow 39. House Martin 40. Long-tailed Tit  41.Chiffchaff  42. Blackcap 43. Lesser Whitethroat 44. Whitethroat 45. Sedge Warbler 46. Reed Warbler 47. Nuthatch 48. Treecreeper 49. Wren 50. Blackbird 51. Song Thrush 52. Robin 53. Wheatear 54. Dunnock 55. House Sparrow 56. Pied Wagtail 57. Chaffinch 58. Bullfinch 59. Greenfinch 60. Linnet 61. Goldfinch 62. Yellowhammer 63. Reed Bunting

 I think I got all the birds resident on the patch apart from Little Owl. It's a shame there wasn't a little more passage or quality birds, but on the whole I am pleased with the day.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Friday May 2

A cloudy, rather cool morning. Another slog around the patch with little to distinguish it from the rest. Too cool for insects so I had to rely on the birds to lift the day.

Three fly-over Sand Martins were the most unexpected of a pretty predictable crop. I attempted a photo, but as they failed rule 1 (not identifiable from the snap as being a Sand Martin, or indeed a bird) I deleted them pretty quickly.

The female Gadwall was still present on the furthest flash, and a Little Owl was visible for the first time this week.

Four other species occurred which I still haven't photographed, but neither the two Reed Warblers, Coal Tit,  Jays, nor Cuckoo even showed themselves so they remained "heard only" records.

So that just left flowers. I have added some more, the ones I managed to identify to my satisfaction, to the flower page of this blog.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Owls of delight

Sorry about the pun. Today dawned grey, gloomy and damp. However, the rain was intermittent and not heavy., and I had owls to see.

I went straight to the Tawny Owl tree and there they were. Four of them. One, arguably more advanced than the others, was sitting alone and was posing perfectly.

Trying to look intelligent
The other three were huddled together at the top of the tree, and it was impossible to get a clear view of all three.

Two in view, the third mostly obscured on the right
Well that was easy. Had the murky weather dropped anything into the flashes? No.

However, walking back passed the pool I counted five male Reed Buntings. This species has transformed its status since I first started coming, taking advantage of the extra habitat created under the Stewardship scheme.

To my surprise I also saw a Pipit, possibly two, flying about. Eventually it called to reveal itself to be "just" a Meadow Pipit. A late migrant or a potential new breeding species for the site? Time will tell.