Sunday, 31 May 2015

Pectoral Sandpiper - Salford Priors GP

Sitting at home, about to eat my lunch. The phone rings. It's Mike. He has found a Pectoral Sandpiper at Salford Prior GP near Alcester. Sharp exit.

I arrived at 13.50 to find no-one there. The locality is actually a rectangular pool scraped from a former gravel pit beside the road from Dunnington to Broome. Mike had said it was on an island, and there was only one island in the corner of the pool.

Sure enough, it was still present. Phew.

Pectoral Sandpiper
I took a few photos before Jim Winsper turned up with his wife. I didn't get too close as I didn't want to be responsible for a sudden disappearance. A pretty typical Pec. The legs were rather dull green, rather than the bright yellow they usually are, but most of the ones I have seen have been juveniles in autumn.

Ringed Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper
Compared to a Ringed Plover, it was surprisingly slightly smaller. Perhaps a female.

Other birds present included two Little Ringed Plovers, a pair of Shelducks with eight ducklings, a pair of Gadwall, and about 50 Swifts.

An easy twitch. Mike and Jean returned from the pub, and John Yardley also arrived before I left. Not exactly a crowd.

Sunday May 31

The weather was back to wet and windy this morning, though actually not too wet, and not too windy.
Dave and I were tempted back to the patch, where I noticed a Mistle Thrush on telegraph wires at Netherstead.

We decided to head for the pool and flashes, and almost got our timing right, but not quite. As we walked passed the pool the first distant scan of the flash field produced birds of interest. Two medium sized waders appeared in flight from behind one of the oak trees. To use a cricketing analogy, you have to hold your catches, and I am afraid we fumbled this one. My mistake was to decide these non-descript waders would fly off and to spend several seconds faffing about trying to get my scope off my back and set up. Dave, meanwhile, stayed on the birds and reported they had turned back and were dropping, eventually stating that they must have dropped onto the nearest flash.

Dave was sure they would turn out to be Ruff, and I had seen nothing to doubt he was right. We were certain we would find them on the flash, but depressingly all we could see was a pair of Redshank and a Little Ringed Plover. A third Redshank dropped in before flying off showing obvious white secondaries and white rump. Surely if the birds had been Redshanks we would have noticed these features.

We clung to the hope they may have landed somewhere else, but there was no sign. Could we count them? If you are not 100% sure, you have let them go, so that's what we did.

We needed to see something good to cheer us up. Two Snipe were showing at the edge of the main pool and a Little Owl flew past. Quite good. A damselfly showed well, a Banded Demoiselle.

Banded Demoiselle

Proper compensation came from the tiny dragonfly pools where Dave pulled up and shouted "Little Egret!" As he did so the bird flew up, and happily did a brief fly-by before heading off to the north.

Little Egret
A silver lining.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Red Kite - Sat May 30

Not birding today, but nevertheless Lyn and I spotted a Red Kite from the A34 between Bearley and Pathlow as we headed to Stratford on a shopping trip.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Upton Warren Friday May 29

The forecast for this morning was pretty dire, and so a wet weather contingency plan was called for. Apart from twitching the Red-necked Grebe last month it has been years since I went to my old patch, Upton Warren, so I was keen to see how it looked.

I started at the flashes, and it was fantastic. Having got used to watching Springwatch this week, I discovered that Upton Warren is now a mini-Minsmere. A sturdy fence all around it keeps out the ground predators, and the birds have responded in spades.

The hide now has a bottom tier, which opens up the possibility of taking Lyn on future visits. In front of the hide, everything is nesting.

Eight-legged Avocet
Avocet with bigger chicks
The rain was initially fairly light, but even so, all the Avocets which had chicks were spending much of their time protecting them from the elements. I counted 28 Avocets and at least 17 chicks (the log book said there were 23). Avocets are fantastic birds, but there is a downside to having them breeding here. They are extremely aggressive to any migrant waders which might consider visiting. Fortunately the pair of Black-tailed Godwits which have been around for a few days were sufficiently settled to remain.

Black-tailed Godwits
The sheer number of breeding birds was staggering. Black-headed Gulls totalled at least 170 adults and 95 chicks, and kept up a Minsmere-like cacophony the whole time. There were only eight Lapwings present, but two of them had broods of young.

Another breeding wader was Little Ringed Plover, and I could see two incubating birds. A quick look at the log-book told me that a pair of Shoveler had hatched a brood of ducklings for the second successive year after a 67 year absence. I scanned the third flash and was just in time to see the pair, with at least two tiny ducklings, before they swam out of view. Another adult male was much closer to the hide.

drake Shoveler
Another prominent duck species was Shelduck. At least six adults were present, and I wasn't too surprised to find that they too had ducklings.

A brood of Shelducklings
At about 09.30 the rain intensified, with predictable effects.

Many of the birds, particularly the Black-headed Gull chicks started pointing their bills skywards to reduce the dampening of their plumage/down. Suddenly some passage waders arrived.

Ringed Plovers
Four Ringed Plovers had dropped in at 09.40. Within five minutes they were looking uncomfortable (Avocet pressure), and they were off, heading north for the tundra.

A Cuckoo had been calling when I arrived but the rain shut it up. When the rain eased off I decided to head back. The gravel pit was now hosting over 100 House Martins, 30 Sand Martins, and 30 Swallows plus a few Swifts.

I drove to the Moors Pool to find it too was covered in birds, but a different cast. Two pairs of Oystercatchers had young.

Oystercatcher and chick
The sun was out, and it was as though the rain had never happened. I added to my count of Tufted Ducks to come up with a total count of 64 on the reserve. Also two Little Grebes, two pairs of Great-crested Grebes with chicks, and about two pairs of sitting Common Terns.

Cetti's Warblers sang, but evaded my lens. I had to settle for a Dunnock with a crane-fly all ready to be stuffed in its offspring's gape.

Better than Morton Bagot? Just a bit!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sunday May 24

With rain forecast for the morning, Dave decided to go to Marsh lane GP, while I sat it out at home until about 11.00am when the rain stopped.

So when I finally got out I trudged round under cloudy skies which occasionally parted to allow a little sunshine. Bird-wise it was pretty unexciting. I confirmed the colour-ring number of the female Mute Swan (which Dave had correctly read last week despite having to work it out while the leg remained submerged). I'll post an update when I know where it was ringed.

The Redshanks were getting frisky again at the flashes, and a Little Ringed Plover was still present. A pair of Greylag Geese in the far field has at least two goslings, while five Ravens flying around included adults and recently fledged juveniles. The highlight came at the very end of the visit as a Hobby shot over Netherstead pursued by alarmed hirundines.

Luckily there were a few insects to look at. These included an attractive beetle called Oedemera nobilis. The swollen back legs indicate that it is a male.

Oedemera nobilis
Also a moth called Silver-ground Carpet, which is apparently common. I haven't identified one before though.

Silver-ground Carpet
By the time I was back at the car the clouds were heavier again and it was starting to drizzle. Time to go home.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday May 22

I arrived at the same time as a drizzly shower, but once it had passed the conditions were ok for some surveying at the south end. This produced, rather irritatingly, a singing Willow Warbler audible from the road. Why irritating? Well on the bird race day I didn't bother to check out the south end because it never gets anything! We didn't record a Willow Warbler that day, and I think it very likely that it was present.

Back at the car I chucked the coat as it was showing signs of warming up. Still no Reed Warblers in residence, but I noticed that the Coot eggs have started to hatch on the little pond opposite the dragonfly pools.

Looks that only a mother could love
I had brought the sketch book this morning and was planning to target the Coot's near relative, Moorhen. After briefly seeing one at another pond, I connected at the flashes.

I found them quite tricky subjects as they were always on the move. I soon got tired of them and noticed that there was nothing new sharing the flash, just a pair of Redshanks, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, and a few Lapwings and Coots.

With the weather now quite warm I noticed that about 30 corvids were jinking about, high in the sky, presumably catching insects in the same way Starlings do on warm summer afternoons. There were large numbers of flies at my level too, and it didn't take me too long to belatedly break my dragonfly duck.

Beautiful Demoiselle
A pretty good dragonfly (actually a damselfly) to get off the mark with. The Beautiful Demoiselle favours wooded streams, and there is one small part of brook which seems just right. I later saw another species of damselfly, but as it was a female type I wasn't able to identify it.

The final photo opportunity was provided by a Harlequin Ladybird.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Wednesday May 20

Lyn and I decided to get a takeaway when I got home from work, so I ended up making a very late arrival (19.45) at the patch. I planned to stay until well after dusk in the hope of nocturnal birds.

The low sunshine allowed me to take a shot of a backlit Brown Hare on the way to the pools.

I was pleased to see that the pair of Canada Geese have successfully bred, producing four goslings.

Other waterfowl remaining included Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, and perhaps most intriguingly a drake Teal. My hunt for nocturnal species began well, with a Little Owl in a completely different part of the patch from its usual haunt. By 21.00 the sun had dipped below the horizon, and I heard a final burst of song from a Whitethroat near the bridlepath. A bird flew out and I casually picked it out with my bins. Thank goodness I did, because I found it was not the Whitethroat, but instead my first ever spring Spotted Flycatcher at Morton Bagot. Result!

Actually they did breed at Netherstead when I first visited the patch in 2007, but it was early August before I actually saw them, and they had disappeared by the following year. The only other breeding record was from three years ago, but on that occasion I didn't find the birds until early July.

As I walked back to the road a Tawny Owl called in the distance. Now the challenge was on, Little and Tawny under the belt. Back at the road I scanned the valley, and bingo, a Barn Owl was hunting distantly in the ridge field. All three Owls in one visit, although admittedly the Tawny Owl was just a hoot.

What a hoot!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunday May 17

A beautiful sunny morning gradually became a cloudy one with a chilly westerly breeze. Dave and I set out as usual, and soon noticed that the Cuckoo was calling after an apparent week long absence.

By the time we met Jon on the walk down to the pool we had seen little of any consequence. Jon on the other hand was doing rather well. He reported a female Whinchat and a pair of Shelducks, and also showed off his new bridge camera with which he had evidently photographed a Large Red Damselfly this morning. I am yet to get off the mark as far as odonata are concerned this year.

Our only riposte was that I had at least managed to photograph a Small Heath butterfly, my first this year.

Small Heath
Jon had to get home, so we carried on, and soon saw the female Whinchat. It unfortunately did a disappearing trick shortly afterwards. The pool contained eight Tufted Ducks, two Little Grebes, and the second brood of Mallards this year, while around its fringes were at least five male Reed Buntings.

At the flashes the pair of Shelducks were still present and were therefore added to my year-list. Also in residence was an adult Black-headed Gull, two Little Ringed Plovers, and the pair of Teal.


On the pool behind the hedge there was initially no sign of the sitting Mute Swan, but the reason why soon became apparent when we found the pair tending four cygnets. This is the first successful breeding record for the patch at least since I started watching it, in 2007.

We resumed the circuit, but by the time we got to the dragonfly pools the cloud cover had scuppered my chances of any dragonflies. Never mind, there was still time to confirm another successful hatching as the Pied Wagtails which had been nesting in the barn were now feeding two fledglings.

Fledgling Pied Wagtail begging to be fed
The pools themselves have a muddy edge, much to the delight of the local House Martins and Swallows which were busy collecting mud for their nests.

So it feels as though all the likely spring migrants have arrived, and summer is just around the corner. Expect an increase in insect photos.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Friday May 15

A cloudy, and rather chilly start, but by midday the sun had won its battle with the clouds and it had become tolerably warm. I had arranged to take a couple of friends, Jan and Richard, around the patch to show them the delights on offer.

Typically no unexpected species were found, although a singing Lesser Whitethroat was new for them. Missing from the list were any Owls, Cuckoo, and Reed Warbler. Predictably the Ringed Plover had gone, but a pair of Little Ringed Plovers remained. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the drake Teal was also still present.

I did manage to take a few nice photos though.

Common Whitethroat

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Wednesday May 13

A perfectly still evening tempted me back to the patch. I arrived later than usual, thinking that maybe some crepuscular species might make themselves known before it got dark.

In the event it was diurnal migrants which stole the show. To start with, a single female Wheatear was a little less shy than they usually are.

A female Wheatear
It has been an odd spring for Wheatears, generally rather poor in April, but with more birds lingering in May. Most of the usual warblers sang, including two Sedge Warblers, but no Reed Warblers. A Roebuck stalked the hedge-line on the far side of the pool.

The pool itself contained seven Tufted Ducks, and three Coots, but there was no sign of the Little Grebes.

So to the flashes where the star bird was waiting to be found. Two plovers were feeding on the mud of the nearest flash. Was one bigger than the other? It certainly was.

Ringed and Little Ringed Plover
The Ringed Plover was the fourth record for the patch, and the first since 2013. It wasn't an especially striking one, probably a female, and none of my photos do it justice. I have picked the one which shows a size comparison with the LRP (on the right). There were actually two Little Ringed Plovers as well as the Ringed Plover, and I also noticed that the drake Teal was still present.

I headed back as the sun dipped below the horizon, and sadly saw no Owls at all.

PS I have now had further feedback from Eddie Bird. He also ringed the adult male of the pair now attempting to breed here. As I had suspected, it is an older bird than the Mute Swan which was at the dragonfly pools. It had been ringed as a young adult at Arrow Valley Lake on 1 Nov 2005, so is a real local boy, and has been seen at Morton Bagot previously on 24 June 2011, and 24 March 2013 (presumably by me), and finally at Arrow Valley Lake again on 14 Jan 2014 when it was paired to 5 SJ. It will be interesting to see if the female is that bird when she finally gets off her nest.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Big day round up

There was almost as much activity after the bird race as during it, as teams worked out what they could and couldn't count, and several "final" totals yo-yoed, not just ours.

Anyway the result is that 105 species were recorded by the teams, and a number of good birds, like Garganey and Whimbrel, were seen by non-participants.

The final result published on the Earlswood Bird blog is as follows:

1. Ladywalk/Coton/Shustoke superpatch  84
2. Brandon Marsh                                      77
3. Morton Bagot/Haselor/Middle Spernal 76
4. Salford Priors                                         75
5. Charlecote                                              71
6. Earlswood                                              65
7. Draycote Water                                      64
8. Farnborough                                          58
9. The Dump                                              53

I guess the two teams with the most diverse habitat were understandably victorious, so well done to them. I was surprised at how poorly Draycote faired, but seeing their list afterwards its clear they had an unlucky day, with Little Gull possibly their best bird.

The prize for the best find goes, in my view, to Salford Priors, who had a Marsh Harrier to light up their morning.

Finally, some non bird race news. Two of the Mute Swans at Morton Bagot are colour-ringed, and although I have yet to discover where the male from the breeding pair was ringed, I now know that one of the pair at the dragonfly pools was ringed as a young adult (2 - 3 yrs old) on the River Avon at Evesham on 21 Oct 2014. Many thanks to Eddie Bird for the info.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The results are in and there's a steward's enquiry

It's the following morning, and as promised I am preparing to post the results. But what's this, I see the results are already posted elsewhere, see Matt Griffiths blog Birds of Earlswood, and we are apparently second equal with 76 species. This is a great score, but one short of what I thought we had, so either I have tallied it up incorrectly (every chance), or we are not allowed to count Feral Pigeon (which would be fair enough). So here goes.

Morton Bagot:

1. Mute Swan 2. Greylag Goose 3. Canada Goose 4. Teal 5. Mallard 6. Tufted Duck 7. Red-legged Partridge 8. Pheasant 9. Grey Heron 10. Little Grebe 11. Sparrowhawk 12. Buzzard 13. Kestrel 14. Coot 15. Moorhen 16. Lapwing 17. Little Ringed Plover 18. Dunlin 19. Redshank 20. Black-headed Gull 21. Lesser Black-backed Gull 22. Herring Gull 23. Stock Dove 24. Woodpigeon 25. Collared Dove 26. Cuckoo 27. Little Owl 28. Tawny Owl 29. Swift 30. Green Woodpecker 31. Great Spotted Woodpecker 32. Magpie 33. Jay 34. Jackdaw 35. Rook 36. Carrion Crow 37. Raven 38. Goldcrest 39. Blue Tit 40. Great Tit 41. Coal Tit 42. Marsh Tit 43. Skylark 44. Sand Martin 45. House Martin 46. Swallow 47. Long-tailed Tit 48. Chiffchaff 49. Blackcap 50. Garden Warbler 51. Lesser Whitethroat 52. Whitethroat 53. Sedge Warbler 54. Treecreeper 55. Wren 56. Starling 57. Blackbird 58. Song Thrush 59. Mistle Thrush 60. Robin 61. Wheatear 62. Dunnock 63. House Sparrow 64. Yellow Wagtail 65. Pied Wagtail 66. Chaffinch 67. Bullfinch 68. Greenfinch 69. Linnet 70. Goldfinch 71. Yellowhammer 72. Reed Bunting

Middle Spernal additions

73. Goosander 74. Reed Warbler

Haselor additions

75. Shelduck 76. Feral Pigeon Grey Wagtail

So its official. I can't count! The correct figure is 76 species. Congratulations to Brandon, who won with 78 species.

Birds we failed to see included Nuthatch (definitely breeding there), Cormorant, Snipe, and Whinchat (all were a possibility) and we failed to see any decent raptors. On the plus side it was great fun and I think we may already be up for it if there is another competition next year.

Post script: Thanks to Sue for the comment. A Barn Owl at Netherstead during the early evening. Should have kept going to the bitter end. I wonder what the rules are for belatedly adding a team member?

PPS Please see a further amendment due to the fact that 1. Feral Pigeon is now deemed uncountable, and 2. I forgot to include a Grey Wagtail found on his patch by John. So the numbers are the same, but the birds are different!

Saturday May 9

OK, the big day. We had a great day. Our "patch" was actually three patches lumped into one. Mostly, Dave and I covered Morton Bagot, Jon & Mike covered Middle Spernal Pools, and Haselor, while John covered Haselor and a pond next to a dovecote, the name of which escapes me in my currently befuddled state.

Importantly we all met up at the pub at lunchtime to compare notes.

The dream team! From the left, Dave, John, Mike, Jon, and me
Time to rewind back to the start. I was the first into the field, arriving at Morton Bagot at 04.28. As it got light, the morning revealed itself to be cloudy and cold, with a moderate to fresh westerly. My first bird was a singing Robin, but within a minute my early start was vindicated by the hooting of numerous Tawny Owls. I did a full circuit as the light came up, seeing useful species such as a pair of Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, and hearing no less than three Garden Warblers, an unprecedented influx for the patch. Other tricky species bagged included Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Grey Heron.

After a short break for breakfast I was back at Netherstead on 54 species waiting for Dave to arrive. By the time he did so I had added Rook and Sparrowhawk. At this point we thought we had better see how Mike and Jon were getting on. They revealed they had started at 05.30 and had already seen what was probably the find of the day, a pair of Goosanders. Also on their list of birds they had recorded which we hadn't were Cuckoo, Marsh Tit, and Reed Warbler.

Dave and I tried for the latter at the small reed-bed. It certainly contained a Sedge Warbler, but with the wind increasing in strength nothing was singing, and we eventually gave up (while suspecting that some of the calls we had heard could have been made by a grumpy Reed Warbler.)

We chose to walk along the road, and at the corner of Bannams Wood got a really valuable bird. a Mistle Thrush flew out of the wood and away. I hadn't recorded one on the patch since the winter, and had concluded that there were none to be had.

Our next bit of luck came as we approached the pool. In the ploughed field beyond, the four Wheatears I had seen on Thursday were still present. Next came another tricky species for us, as three Starlings flew over (I later learnt that John at Haselor had seen lots and couldn't understand what all the fuss was about) but they are hard to find at Morton Bagot in spring.

We finally got to the Flash field where we saw the pair of Redshanks (Jon and Mike had seen one at Haselor by this time), and more importantly, Dave spotted the Little Owl.

Things then got even better. My visit on Thursday had led me to believe that the Teal had gone, but no, Dave spotted one on the back flash. Looking through the scope I confirmed there were actually a pair which swam into view from the surrounding vegetation. I then spotted a small plover, which gradually revealed itself to be one of the pair of Little Ringed Plovers. We had previously seen several LBB Gulls going over, but Dave next spotted two immature Herring Gulls, and shortly afterwards I located the team's only Yellow Wagtail of the day flying off, and two Sand Martins with a swirl of distant hirundines and Swifts.

We realised this was making us late for the pub, so arrangements were made for a slightly later reunion. On our way, after briefly seeing one of the Garden Warblers, we spotted a silent Cuckoo as it flew over us. Shortly afterwards we located it in a hedge.

It was slightly gingery around the neck and remained silent. Perhaps a female.

So to the pub. Jon and Mike had added a Shelduck at Haselor, and a Jay at the pub (part of the recording area?), while John revealed he had seen several Feral Pigeons and a Grey Wagtail on his patch. We counted up and concluded we were on 73 species.

After lunch we resumed our searches for any missing species. Dave and I saw a Jay on the road in front of Bannams Wood. Jon and Dave went looking for Nuthatch and various missing Tit species in Bannams Wood, without success as it turned out. On my return I thought I would scope the back flash from the road. It's very distant but at least you can seen all of it because of the extra elevation. This produced a patch year tick in the form of a Dunlin. Chuffed is not the word. I rang Dave and Jon, who had split up by then. Dave joined me and quickly got onto the Dunlin. Then he added another bird to the day list, two Black-headed Gulls were heading north. They disappeared behind the wood before I could get on them, but luckily reappeared shortly afterwards.

We rang Mike, but by the time he got there the Dunlin had disappeared. Fortunately Jon had relocated it from the fence down at the flashes, so we headed down to get a closer look. By the time we arrived it was back on the back flash, but we eventually scoped it, and I even got a record shot when it flew.

By now I had been in the field for 12 hours, and the others were trooping off home one by one. I was left to make a final circuit on my own. This added a personal day tick, Marsh Tit, and the last team tick of the day, a calling Coal Tit.

Our final score was 77 76 species, and my personal total for Morton Bagot was a new patch day list record for me of 72 species.

I will post the full list tomorrow, and hopefully will find out how we compared to the other nine teams.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday May 7

It may be tempting fate, but two days before the big list day I went to the patch to see what was there. It was sunny at first, but then big clouds rolled in and I just about completed a circuit before the rain started.

I tend to think of May as a month when passage waders are a possibility, but all the passerines will have gone through, so I was pleased to start with a passerine year-tick in the form of an unseen singing Reed Warbler. Strangely it was singing from the hedgerow, the nearby reedbed being hogged by a showy Sedge Warbler.

At this point I noticed that engineers were preparing to plant a new telegraph pole, and I groaned inwardly at the prospect. So when one of them walked up to apologise for the disruption and to offer to go away and do it another day, I had a golden opportunity to confirm I would like them to desist. So I said "no its fine, you carry right on" Doh!

Actually they weren't really affecting my day, and I walked on towards the pool where I was very pleased to see that a Little Grebe was back. Potentially good for the big day, and also on my list of birds I want to sketch.

That done, I moved on. The next passerine surprise was a female Whinchat in the ploughed field. I got a record shot before it seemingly disappeared.

The flashes were to prove a disappointment, particularly because the Teal seem to have gone. Just the standard Redshank and Little Ringed Plover were present. However, passerines were to save the day, so read on.

A Sand Martin joined Swallows over the pool, and a few Swifts flew by. Then I reached the far end of the ploughed field and was surprised to discover four Wheatears, two males and two females.

A female Wheatear
So Wheatears are still moving then. Finally as I reached the brow of the hill overlooking Stapenhill Wood the day's star bird burst into song. A Garden Warbler, only my third record for the patch was singing from the thicket. I didn't expect to see it, but as I scanned through the chicken wire of the Pheasant enclosure a movement caught my eye, and there it was.

Garden Warbler
I don't know why we don't get more of these, the thicket at Stapenhill Wood looks ideal, but so far they remain a scarce passage migrant here.

I just hope I haven't blown all my luck ahead of Saturday.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tuesday May 5

A day of heavy showers encouraged me to give the patch a chance this evening. The weather was absolutely horrendous at times, the wind increasing to storm force when the showers powered through. Surely something would have been dropped in.

Nope. Well technically yes, but after confirming the Redshank and Teal were still present, I then located two small plovers, which turned out to be Little Ringed Plovers. Then as I headed back past the pool, which never gets waders, I found another Little Ringed Plover there. Cue photo opportunity.

Little Ringed Plover
The only other birds to catch my eye were at least 15 Swallows and a Swift which flew past during the worst of the showers.

When the rain had gone I was left to photograph clouds.

cloud sp (doughnut?)
The birding is pretty desperate when you resort to this sort of thing.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Haselor Scrape

Technically not birding today, but Lyn and I went to Coughton Court this afternoon, and had a quick look at Haselor Scrape on the way back.

As you can look at the nearest scrape without getting out of the car it gives a chance of taking some relatively close photos, unlike at Morton Bagot.

Thus we saw:

Little Ringed Plover
A female Yellow Wagtail
A female "alba" Wagtail
One pair of Lapwings has produced chicks. I will remain noncommittal on the alba Wagtail. Superficially like a White Wagtail, but I could not see the rump properly.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sunday May 3

A rain-bearing front which passed through during the early morning promised the possibility of some grounded migrants, so as soon as the rain eased I was ready to start searching for them.

I have a suspicion that the passage of rain gives the avian chorus a fresh impetus, and it certainly felt that the volume had been turned up as I made my way through the village. The temperature was up too, and I was optimistic.

A new Lesser Whitethroat was singing at Netherstead copse, but by the time I reached the pool I had really only recorded the usual birds. However, as I got onto two Snipe as they flew into the marsh, beyond them a distant Common Swift headed north. A new Sedge Warbler was singing there, and I had the opportunity to photograph a close Skylark.

As I approached the flash field I noticed three white birds flying in the distance. I must admit that my first thought was Mute Swan, but when I looked through the bins I immediately realised they were actually Little Egrets, and that they were coming in to land. I say Little Egrets, this was actually a bit of an assumption, and small Egrets would be more accurate. I hurried to the hedge to look for them, but there was no sign at all. They must have landed beyond the back fence line.

After scanning the nearest flash, the mud now partially replaced by a shallow film of water, I found it contained a pair of Teal, two Redshanks and a Little Ringed Plover. The furthest flash hosted only Mallard and Coots. I considered my options and had just decided I would need to walk up the hill to Church Farm to gain sufficient height to see beyond the fence, when the bullocks in the field did me a favour and flushed the Egrets to the middle of the furthest field. I could at least confirm that they were not Cattle Egrets.

I decided to head back to the car where I had left my scope and tripod. When I returned 30 minutes later the three Egrets had transferred to the furthest flash, close enough for a record shot, but I had also decided to try some field sketches now that I had my scope.

Little Egrets
I found it difficult to convey the beauty of these birds which had plumes of aigrettes coming from their mantle and their feathers, particularly striking when the wind caught them.

The drama was not quite over. As I headed back to my car I caught sight of a fast moving falcon just above the ridge, and was able to confirm that it was the first Hobby of the year.

All in all a terrific visit.