Sunday, 17 December 2017

Sunday December 17

Last Sunday was a washout (snowout?) It snowed all day and I decided against visiting the patch. I was tempted to visit in the week, but a combination of icy roads and cricket (on Thursday morning England seemed to be doing all right!) kept me away.

Even this morning I overslept, but the delay proved surprisingly fortuitous. It was a very dull, cloudy morning, and rain was forecast for late morning. However the late start meant that Dave and I were in exactly the right place when a flock of eight Hawfinches flew high overhead from the direction of the hamlet of Morton Bagot heading west towards Studley. We nearly missed them though. We could hear a couple of strange "seep" calls and looked about, only spotting them and realising they were Hawfinches after the had gone over us and were heading away. Considering Dave has seen 23 and I have seen 12 (including this flock) this autumn, we probably should have been a bit sharper at picking them up.

There was good and bad news as we approached the pool and flash field. The good news was that the water level appears to have risen substantially, the bad news was that apart from one small patch, it was all ice. Seven Mallard rose from the one bit that was ice free.

The flash field did at least contain a pair of Stonechats, presumably the pair that has been wintering in the area which are clearly ranging over quite a wide area as we haven't seen them for weeks. Its good to see that they have survived the freeze.

The walk back produced about a dozen Siskins. With the light getting even worse I hadn't been tempted to get my camera out until this little chap appeared.


Grey Squirrels are extremely unpopular with the gamekeeper, the landowner, and even I think they shouldn't really be here. They are undeniably cute though.

By the time we got back to our cars it was pelting down. A flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls flew into the hedge, but I was too soggy to investigate further.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Friday December 8

Heavy snow showers from just before dawn caused a late start. The forecast for Sunday is even worse. By 10.00am they were largely over and I was greeted by bright sunshine, blue skies, and snow underfoot.


The car makes an excellent hide, and a flock of Linnets and Redpolls appeared in the birches along with a couple of Fieldfares.

Linnet
Fieldfare
When I finally got going I found a decent flock of 110 Linnets, and 36 Fieldfares as I made my way to the flash field. The flashes were largely unfrozen due to the fact that the weather only turned cold last night, and contained a modest 19 Teal, 37 Mallard, three Wigeon, five Black-headed Gulls, two Lapwings, and a Snipe.

At this point the weather deteriorated as more snow showers powered in from the north-west. A flock of 119 Stock Doves sat hunched on wires as the wind and snow hammered into them.

Some of the Stock Doves
More Stock Doves
I trudged back through the snow. I had forgotten how cold snow makes your feet feel. We have been spoilt by a succession of mild winters in recent years.


I suppose the rarest bird(s) saved there appearance for my drive back. A disturbance among the Woodpigeons over Clowse Wood caused me to stop and have a quick look through the windscreen. I saw a Peregrine towering above them. Then just as I reached the northern corner of Bannams Wood a Woodpigeon appeared with another Peregrine in hot pursuit.


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday December 3

Cloudy and mild with a few sunny intervals by late morning.

We are now entering my least favourite birding month, and today's visit was entirely typical. Very few noteworthy birds and poor light affecting my chances of getting any decent photos.

On a positive note, Redpoll numbers remain pretty decent, with about 28 on view this morning. At least 15 Siskins were prising the seeds from alders along the stream at the western edge of the site.

Siskin
The milder weather had encouraged many winter gnats into the air, and as a consequence several Blue Tits and Chaffinches were fly-catching from the treetops. Marsh Tits were more obvious than they usually are, four being seen. A few large gulls flew over during the morning, all but one of them Herring Gulls, but still only six in total.

The flash field was very quiet, just 10 Teal, 20 Mallard, and two Grey Herons. The farmer has finally put his cows out to graze, so it will be interesting to see if that has any impact on the habitat.

The bird of the day was probably a Sparrowhawk which made a brief appearance at Netherstead.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Second for Warwickshire identified from photograph at Morton Bagot

Although I am very experienced at bird, dragonfly, and butterfly identification, I am a total novice when it comes to other groups.

However, I do input my photographs into the irecord website https://www.brc.ac.uk where they can be peer reviewed by experts.

On the 4 June 2017 I submitted a photograph of a soldier fly which I had thought was Oxyura rara. Yesterday I received news that it was in fact a photograph of a different soldier fly called Flecked General Stratiomys singularior.


Stratiomys singularior
Excitingly, Martin Harvey of the soldier flies and their allies recording scheme says it is only the second record for Warwickshire, the last being in 1986. Apparently its long antennae show that the genus is Stratiomys, and the markings show it is singularior.

Given that this insect was found by complete accident, it makes you wonder how many other special insects occur here.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sunday November 26

Morton Bagot demonstrated a bit of bounce-backability after the desperately dull visit on Thursday.

It was another sunny morning, but crucially the wind had dropped to nothing. Initially it seemed as though it was going to be a bit quiet again, but the immature Peregrine did its best to entertain.

Peregrine
The chat field contained quite a few Linnets and a few Chaffinches and Goldfinches. There was also a reasonable number of Redwings and Fieldfare. Some of the Linnets perched in a sapling reminding me of baubles on a christmas tree.

Linnets
Heavy frost along the bridleway hinted that all the pools would be frozen. We had a brief view of a female Stonechat on our way to the flash field.

The frozen bridleway
This was indeed the case, and we counted just three Teal, three Mallard, and a female Wigeon. Things picked up dramatically on the return journey. We had reached what we laughingly call the migration watchpoint, a higher piece of ground next the Stapenhill Wood. We generally pause to scan around, but it rarely favours us with any bird migration. Today, however, I spotted a Hawfinch flying in from the east. Better still, it suddenly lost height and landed in trees, close enough for a record shot.

Adult male Hawfinch
Unlike the birds I have been seeing in Redditch this autumn, it was an adult male. I got three shots away before it took off, but only appeared to drop into the wood. Dave went to investigate, while I remained on the rise. After a fruitless 15 minutes Dave returned, but shortly afterwards he saw it fly out of the wood and away towards the flash field. I got onto it, and we watched it swing round and start to return. It also lost height, and we were soon unable to see it.

We had to leave, but I suspect it was still in the vicinity. I'm so pleased that I have managed to get a record shot of this species at Morton Bagot.

No doubt the next challenge will be to add it to the 2018 year list.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thursday November 23

Sunny and cold with a fresh south-westerly wind.

This was not a visit that will live long in my memory. The year often draws to an end quietly, and today was certainly that.

Chaffinches
The Chaffinch and Linnet flocks remain, and two Bramblings put in a brief appearance. Stock Doves are currently outnumbering Woodpigeons, which is a bit strange.

The Flash field still contains six Wigeons and two Shovelers, but I only counted 21 Teal, one Snipe, and a Lapwing.


The Wigeon flock
Half way round I got a text from Chris Lane saying that there were two Hawfinches in trees by St Mary's Church in Studley. I'm glad someone was having a good day anyway.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sunday November 19

No companions today, a fine sunny morning with hardly a breathe of wind.

I decided to follow the usual circuit, but soon deviated to check out the cause of a cacophony of alarm calls coming from the hedge behind Netherstead Hall. Eventually I flushed a sleepy Tawny Owl from its hiding place.

Back on track, the pylons produced a young Peregrine which flew before I could get a shot of the whole bird (you were nearly treated to a headless image, a steel girder obscuring it's noggin). Fortunately the bird found itself being mobbed by crows and returned to the pylon where I had another go.

Immature Peregrine
An adult Mute Swan flew by before I reached the flash field. Here I counted seven Snipe, 25 Teal, five Wigeon, and two Shovelers.

On my return I spent a long time trying to photograph a Marsh Tit which had found a source of grubs in some moss on one of the ash trees.

Marsh Tit
A short distance away I found a small party of Siskins extracting seeds from alders.

Siskin
Finally, there were a few Lesser Redpolls in the field by Stapenhill Wood, where two Bramblings landed briefly before disappearing.

Lesser Redpoll



Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday November 17

This morning, a cold but sunny one, I took Richard B round the patch.

Having assured him we would see a Brambling, I found that the finch flock was rather sparse and contained no Bramblings.

We saw plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares, one of the latter posing quite nicely.

Fieldfare
The flash field contained a few Teal, five Wigeon, two Shovelers, a Green Sandpiper and a few Snipe. The only birds to come close to taking me by surprise were a flying Mute Swan (the first since the juvenile disappeared in the summer), and the pair of Stonechats, which I had thought had gone.

You just can't rely on birds to appear to order.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Wednesday November 15

Cloudy with virtually no wind. Mild. Ideal conditions for a walk around the patch. With no shooting going on, the sound of silence was wonderful.

I was a bit late starting due to finding a Hawfinch about 200 metres from our house! It had gone by the time I returned with binoculars and camera.

For a change I decided to lug my scope and tripod around, and this allowed me to spot two Bramblings in a flock of 107 Linnets. The female posed quite well, but the brighter male was too hard to photograph.

Brambling (on the left)
My real goal was to find the Merlin I missed on Sunday. There was plenty of Merlin food around; Linnets, Chaffinches, Redpolls and the like. But the main event failed to show. The hedgerows were full of Redwings, while several flocks of Fieldfares headed west. There was a great late autumn feel about the day.


Redwing and Bullfinch
The flash field and pool were reasonably productive, hosting a Green Sandpiper, 14 Teal, six Wigeon, two Shovelers, 18 Greylag Geese, and 12 Snipe. At the edge of the pool behind the flash I found a female Kingfisher which tolerated my presence surprisingly well.


Finally, I couldn't resist photographing a Lesser Redpoll perched on wires above the scrubby part of Stapenhill Wood.

Lesser Redpoll

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Sunday November 12

Cloudy at first, then sunny, with a freshening northerly breeze. Cold.

There is a word for days like this, but I won't use it. Another word is frustrating.

Dave arrived shortly before I did and had recorded several flocks of Fieldfare leaving us with a combined total for the morning of at least 75. I joined him, and the first minor calamity occurred when I got onto a distant finch, which I thought might be a Hawfinch. My directions were inadequate and Dave could not get on it. I wasn't 100 percent, so had to let it go.

Worse was to follow (for me anyway).

At the pond a flock of 80 Linnets and numerous thrushes was swirling about and I commented there could be a raptor about. At this point a young lady from Church Farm appeared with two dogs, passing us with a cheery "not disturbing anything am I". I had to admit that although she was, she did live there so I could hardly complain. Further along the hedge Dave announced, "WHAT'S THIS?" As I whirled round he added "Merlin !" I could see nothing. The bird had evidently been flying on the opposite side of the hedge we were following allowing Dave a brief, but excellent, view of it. By the time I was trying to see it, it must have been passing me at speed on the other side of the hedge.

This was the first Merlin here since December 2013. They rarely give you a second chance so I wasn't surprised that we didn't see it again.

At the flash field a reasonably good number and variety of wildfowl was present, including five Shoveler, two Wigeon, 30 Teal, and seven Snipe.

Fieldfare
Three of the Shovelers (the full complement included a female and another imm male)
The walk back did not add much apart from a distant raptor which I am certain was a Peregrine, while Dave preferred not to commit.

Just one of those days.


Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday November 10

A sunny day with an annoyingly brisk westerly breeze. Although there was no shooting on site, the surrounding farmland soon echoed to the sound of sporting folk blasting away at Pheasants and partridges.

Ironically, his probably helped me because it had the effect of corralling the local ducks onto the nearest flash. I counted 48 Mallard, 37 Teal, three Wigeon and a Shoveler before my presence unnerved them sufficiently to encourage them to fly elsewhere.

Drake Wigeon
Female Shoveler
The only waders were a little group of Snipe huddled in the sedge. I suspect that if it had been possible to walk through the flash field, a lot more would have made themselves known.

Snipe
Passerine-wise it was pretty quiet. A handful of Fieldfares have joined the 35 Redwings stripping the hedgerows, and there are encouraging numbers of Redpolls although it is difficult to be sure how many are here.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sunday November 5

Non-birding commitments have been frustrating me this week. I had intended coming here on Wednesday, but had dropped the plan in favour of taking my parents to a hospital appointment. The following day I was committed to visiting friends in Yorkshire and, virtually as I was getting in the car, I got a call from Dave indicating that there was a Lesser Yellowlegs (a rare yankee wader) at a private site in Warwickshire. I couldn't do anything about it.

Over the weekend I have fallen foul of a cold, but this morning I was determined to get to the patch anyway. The news of the Yellowlegs, courtesy of Dave, suggests that the site is no longer accessible and the bird may have gone anyway.

It was a sunny morning, and rather cold as a light north-westerly has set in. I quickly missed two photo opportunities as a Kingfisher landed in a willow sprouting out of one of the dragonfly ponds for not quite long enough for me to get a shot off, and then an adult Peregrine flew over Netherstead.

The remainder of the visit featured flocks totalling 90 Fieldfares and 58 Starlings heading south and west respectively, and a Little Egret which flew from the pool (still a puddle) to the furthest flash. The flash field was again disappointing, containing just eight Teal, two visible Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, and three Lapwings.

"Alba" Wagtail
An alba Wagtail was probably just a female or immature Pied. There seemed to be slightly fewer finches around, but we still managed 60 Linnets, 12 Chaffinches, 15 Siskins, and single figure counts of the other usual suspects.

The most unexpected sighting was a Fallow Deer which bolted over the hill in the ridge field.

Hopefully I'll have a bit more energy, and luck, next week.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Sunday October 29

The clocks went back last night, or at least mine did. Dave's remained firmly in BST so I arrived to find him walking along the road through the hamlet. His highlights had been 72 Fieldfares heading west, and a probable Brambling which called just once. He wasn't counting it though.

I picked him up and drove him back to Netherstead, from where we began our traditional circuit. There were one or two parties of Redwings going west, a total of 63 being logged. Also on the move were Woodpigeons, I counted 220 in all, but Dave had seen several flocks before I joined him.

Finches were well in evidence, in particular 125 Linnets, and 30 Redpolls. We spent a lot of time trying to locate a thrush sp which gave an odd call from a thick hedge, we had Ring Ouzel in mind (although it wasn't the familiar "chack" call). Whatever the bird was we never saw it, or heard it again.

The flashes were absolutely hopeless, producing just 11 Teal, four Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper. Fortunately though we saved the morning's highlight to the return journey as a definite Brambling flew west, calling twice before we saw it.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Redpoll
The Redpoll flock were feeding on willowherb seeds, like the one in the photo.

I managed to lose the winding mechanism on my tripod during the morning, the latest problem to afflict that unfortunate implement.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday October 27

It has been a difficult week. On Wednesday I was hard at work in Birmingham city centre unaware that the first live Razorbill in the West Midlands since 1917 was swimming around Draycote Water. I should have checked the Internet at lunchtime but didn't get around to it, so the first I knew of it was from a phone call from Mike during the evening.

Thursday dawned, and the news was initially "no sign of it", later firmed up as "Razorbill found dead". Meanwhile we were hosting a young man from Virgin who was converting us to their bundle of products. The internet and television went fine, and he told us he had switched the land line from BT but that the phone wouldn't work for a few hours. I signed his piece of paper, but then as he was leaving he said "don't forget to plug it in". Strange. "Where do I do that? ""Oh you can't until you get a  telephone micro-filter" he said. "You can buy them in Tescos". He left at speed. I headed for Tescos and bought an ASD filter, which the electrics expert there thought the engineer probably meant.

24 hours later the land line still doesn't work. Don't bother trying to phone me.

So this morning I felt I needed some birding to soothe my frazzled nerves. I headed for Morton Bagot on a fine and sunny morning. I took my time, looking in every bush and tree, but could only find the usual stuff. A pair of Stonechats posed rather well.

Male Stonechat
Female Stonechat
The Flash field contained three Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, 18 Teal, and a Black-headed Gull. Very few birds were moving and until I saw a distant party of 20 or so presumed Redwings, I was finding there were more Song Thrushes than Redwings in the hedgerows.

At this point I got a phone call from Mike. Chis Lane had found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Broom, just ten miles away. I abandoned the Flash field and headed straight for Broom, where I found Mike and Jean conversing with Chris. The news was not encouraging. After seeing the bird twice Chris had lost it while sending texts. It hadn't reappeared. After about 15 minutes I had seen a Kingfisher and a party of tits which briefly raised the optimism levels, but failed to contain any warblers. Mike and Jean decided to go to the pub, but I declined their invitation to join them.

Two hours passed, during which time I received a text from Matt W saying that he had seen a Barn Owl over the flash field at Morton Bagot about an hour after I had left. Chris and I managed to see a Goldcrest.

Like I said, it's not been a good week.

Post-script: Shortly after posting the above tale I thought I would nip back for an hour on the patch this evening. Slightly to my surprise this was completely successful as I flushed the Barn Owl out of trees bordering the flash field, and was then able to get a distant record shot.

Barn Owl
The rest of the stroll round added a Kingfisher and a Marsh Tit to this morning's tally. I also took a photo of a white-chested Buzzard as dusk approached.


If you are thinking it looks a bit long-tailed, the thought had occurred to me too. Unfortunately it disappeared shortly after this shot. Also, I think I have seen this individual before this autumn, and if so, it is just a Common Buzzard.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Sunday October 22

Sunny intervals and cooler, with a fresh westerly breeze.

Breezy conditions are rarely productive at Morton Bagot, but I could forgive myself a little boost of optimism when within a minute of stepping from my car I looked up to see a Swallow heading south. This juvenile may have been my latest Morton Bagot record.

After that, things went a little steady. I decided to start along the road for a change, a plan which delivered a Mistle Thrush and not much else. One group of birds which do turn up in breezy westerlies, though I have no idea why, are gulls. This morning I counted 20 Lesser black-backed Gulls, a Herring Gull, six Black-headed Gulls, and an adult Common Gull heading into the wind. The latter was the first since February.

The sunshine encouraged one or two Red Admirals into the air, and was also quite good for photography.

Kestrel
Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting
Away from the road I found two Stonechats in the Chat Field, but the flashes were suffering from post-shoot malaise and only offered two Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, four Teal, and a Mallard.

About seven Redpolls and a Siskin were flying around, but I only saw six Redwings. The wires over the Ridge Field hosted 40 Linnets.

Pretty quiet.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday October 15

Morton Bagot never seems to get involved in National birding events, by which I mean unusual numbers of particular species appearing across the UK. Waxwing invasions, Yellow-browed Warbler falls, seabird wrecks, they all seem to happen elsewhere. It doesn't stop you from dreaming though.

Yesterday evening it became apparent that this autumn's event could be an influx of Hawfinches. Dave was obviously thinking the same thing as he greeted me with the comment we should look out for Hawfinches. We never really believed we would actually see one though.

But then, at 10.20am, we were strolling past the pool when I heard a Redwing-like "swee" to my left. I looked round, and up, and there it was "Hawfinch" I bellowed. Dave got on it at once, and we watched in amazement as the chunky finch bounced its way southwards, flashing white in its primaries and secondaries with each flap of its wings.

I fumbled for the camera but it was hopeless. My bridge camera autofocus just can't cope with flying passerines. I got several shots of sky before giving up. You'll just have to make do with an artists impression drawn a little while after it had headed off towards the direction of Bannams Wood.

Hawfinch
Hawfinches have two calls. One is a Robin-like tick which may be a contact call used in woodland, but the other is the Redwing-like call which we heard.

Needless to say this was a first for the patch.

In fact the grey and murky morning had been quite entertaining before the Hawfinch added a substantial dollop of cream. Several flocks of Redwings had slipped their way south-west, the total count being 57. Also on the move were 26 Redpolls, three Siskins, 14 Chaffinches, 13 Skylarks, 60 Starlings, and just five Meadow Pipits. Two probable Golden Plovers also headed south before my view was obscured by a large oak tree.

We also counted 12 Bullfinches, 15 Goldfinches, a Chiffchaff, three Goldcrests, and four Marsh Tits in the hedgerows.

The shooting season is now in full swing, and this may have been responsible for slightly disappointing waterfowl numbers, with just 29 Teal, six Snipe, 74 Greylag Geese, and a Green Sandpiper present.

I think that two good birds in two visits constitutes a Morton Bagot purple patch.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sunday October 8

Dave and I arrived promptly and started birding down the access road to Netherstead farm. A sunny morning which became quite warm. A very light westerly breeze.

The first sign that we were going to have a good day came when a flock of 35 Redwings hurried over the plantation, heading south-west. We later saw another four. The plantation and hedges were full of tits and Dunnocks, but as we wandered back I noticed that a grey bird perched distantly on the roof of the stables was perched rather perkily and did an extravagant dip of its body. It wasn't a Dunnock, and I said I think that's a Black Redstart, at which point it flew revealing an orange tail. We hurried over, and had excellent views of it fly-catching from the roof.

Black Redstart
This is the second record for the patch, the first being on the same building in Nov 2015. We texted everyone we thought might be interested, and in the event Mike Inskip twitched it successfully on his way to his own patch (where a Kingfisher was to be a patch-tick for him).

We continued towards the flash field, counting five Stonechats in the Chat Field, and another two behind the pool. A Golden Plover, the first of the autumn, flew west.

The flashes contained 85 Greylag Geese, the immature Mute Swan, 27 Teal, a female Shoveler, two Cormorants, a Green Sandpiper, at least seven Snipe, and 17 Lapwings. We heard our only Chiffchaff of the day in the hedges.

Shoveler
The warm weather was bringing out the insects, and we recorded four species of butterfly; Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, and Comma, and also several Common Darters, and a small gathering of Hornets.

Comma
Hornet
All in all, an excellent visit.




Monday, 2 October 2017

Monday October 2

Mostly cloudy with sunny intervals. A fresh westerly breeze.

The breeze left me wondering what to do as I left the car at Netherstead. However, my mind was quickly made up by a steady stream of Meadow Pipits heading south. I logged them, and anything else which was obviously moving, and got a final tally of 75 Meadow Pipits, three Swallows, five Redpolls, and two Siskins.

In the chat field I counted at least seven Stonechats again, but had the feeling there might be one or two more than that. A single male Blackcap showed briefly in the hedgerow there, while Chiffchaffs eventually totalled six.

Stonechat
The pool offered nothing at all, but most of the birds in the flash field were on the nearest scrape. I counted 178 Greylag Geese, 61 Teal, 16 Mallard, three Grey Herons, five Snipe, and the Greenshank (which I only heard).

Most of the Greylag Goose flock
As usual the late morning added little, although I did flush a Green Sandpiper from the dragonfly pond.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Sunday October 1

Steady overnight drizzle continued through the early part of the morning. Having been to a wedding reception the night before, and with guests staying over, I had more or less decided to give today a miss.

However, a text from Neil stated that a Pectoral Sandpiper at Salford Prior G P had flown off at 10.15am so birders needed to keep their eyes open. That was all the incentive I needed, and at midday our friends had gone and the rain had stopped. Time to check it out.

The pool has lots of mud, but hardly any water, while the flashes contain lots of water but no muddy edge. So I wasn't too surprised to find no American waders present, but was pleased to see that the Greenshank was still present having been missed on Friday.

A couple of Little Egrets took cover in front of the hedge behind the nearest flash.

Little Egrets
The first day of October is unfortunately the first day of the shooting season. Normally you are pretty safe on a Sunday, but I suppose that having waited all year for the this date some "sportsmen" were unable to contain their enthusiasm. A volley of shots rang out from the direction of Clowse Wood, and within seconds the two egrets joined all the other wildfowl on the flash field in panic-stricken flight.

Trying to put a positive spin on this, it did at least allow me to realise that there were at least 50 Teal present (I could probably have counted about 20 if they hadn't all taken off) and also a single Snipe.

The first Siskin of the autumn called as it flew over, while there are still several Chiffchaffs, and two Swallows present.

I plan to return tomorrow for a more thorough visit.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday September 29

A slightly delayed start due to the weather still saw me birding in steady, occasionally heavy, rain for the first 40 minutes. However, the rain abruptly stopped and eventually the sun appeared. A light southerly breeze meant it was very mild.

The new dawn which occurred when the rain past meant a big increase in passerine activity as hungry birds rushed to snap up as many newly flying insects as they could. I enjoyed watching several Chiffchaffs, Swallows, a House Martin, and numerous Blue Tits feeding in a frenzy in the lee of the hedge which runs from the village to the small pond south of Netherstead.

I had decided to count some of the commoner garden birds, and came up with totals of 16 Robins, 12 Dunnocks, 10 Wrens, seven Blackbirds, and five Song Thrushes.

Robin
A few Swallows headed south during the morning, and my final tally was 14. There was just one brief pulse of 10 Meadow Pipits going south. Warblers present were nine Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps. The first Redpoll of the autumn flew south.

The Flash field managed to support two Green Sandpipers, two visible Snipe, 120 Greylag Geese, 36 Teal, and a Wigeon.

Wigeon
There are not many finches on site this autumn, 25 Goldfinches being the best count. It doesn't bode well for the chances of a Merlin being attracted this winter. A single Kingfisher was a vocal presence, while a flock of 50 Carrion Crows was an unusually high count.

The sunshine brought out several Red Admirals and Commas, and also small numbers of Common Darters.

All a bit quiet.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Time travel - Sunday Sep 17 - Salford Priors GP

Astute observers may have noticed my cryptic comment at the start of my post a week last Sunday. As you may have guessed I had been to see a bird at a sensitive site. I have been impatiently twiddling my thumbs ever since waiting for it to depart so that I could tell the story.

The previous evening I had taken a call from Neil explaining that a Red-necked Phalarope which had been widely reported from Salford Prior Gravel Pit several days earlier, had not departed as I had assumed, but was still present. I mentioned this to Dave when he arrived at Morton Bagot on Sunday morning, and we decided to go and look at it.

Red-necked Phalarope
What a corker it was. Full details of the discovery and eventual identification can be found on Neil's blog out4aduck.blogspot.com/ .

I have great sympathy (mixed with envy) for Neil and the group of birders who watch Salford Priors Gravel Pit. The owners, Cemex, are currently "restoring the site". They are bulldozing most of it to return it to agriculture, but have been kind enough to leave a couple of pits for the birds and birders to enjoy. The work is close to completion. Like many gravel pit owners they are not keen to see the general public wandering over a working site due to, I suppose, health and safety concerns. This puts any birders who are tolerated in a difficult position. If they find a rarity, they are obliged to suppress it. Naturally this creates bad feeling among the birding community, but equally the broadcast of a rarity risks any tacit permission for access being placed in jeopardy.

This is why I don't generally go to Salford Priors GP any more.