Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sunday January 14

I managed to get down a little earlier this morning and with a backdrop of leaden skies and barely any wind I set about hoovering up the easy year-ticks I had inexplicably missed on my previous visit.

The first was a pair of Collared Doves which I noticed from the car as I drove passed Church Farm. They were sitting in their usual place on the telephone wires. At Netherstead a Weasel dashed across the path, and I counted 18 Lesser Redpolls before scoping a single Redwing. The ludicrousness of not seeing any Redwings on my last visit was laid bare by a flock at least 75 of the blighters in the field at High Field Farm.

As Dave arrived disaster (in birding terms) struck. He had just emerged from his car and I was walking towards him. "What are those?" Over my shoulder two swans were heading north towards Bannams Wood. They flew silently, no wing noise and no calls. We both considered that they were not Mutes, so they were either Whoopers or Bewicks. I made a futile attempt to get my scope up, but with Dave was calling out directions such as "they're about to disappear behind the wood" I didn't even see them again. Whichever species they were they would have been the second record for Morton Bagot, but with no positive identification they have to remain as a frustrating near miss.

We decided to take the road past Bannams Wood as most of the species I was missing were woodland birds. First to fall was Marsh Tit, as there was one on the feeders at the barn conversions. The walk along the road added three Goldcrests, and we ended up seeing at least 28 Long-tailed Tits. From within Bannams Wood came the sound of a singing Mistle Thrush, and a calling Treecreeper.

The walk back down through the fields took in the Tawny Owl in its usual spot, and we found that the Linnet flock had swelled to 200. They were being marauded by a female Sparrowhawk.

We were always going to walk through the marsh today, so we jumped the gate and soon added a couple of Meadow Pipits before we got to the really gloopy bit. A total of 24 Common Snipe flew out of the sedge, and eventually so did our main target, a single Jack Snipe.

We finally got to the flash field where at least 47 Teal were keeping company with 26 Black-headed Gulls, two Stonechats, and a Lapwing.

On the return journey we could see about 20 Greylag Geese and two Mute Swans behind a hedgerow, and counted 10 Siskins as they flew over.

I finally got my camera out.

The last year tick was on the dragonfly ponds. A Coot.

So that was thirteen year ticks in the bag, and one which went begging. The day's list of mammals was good too: Roe Deer, Muntjac, Brown Hare, Grey Squirrel, Weasel, and vole/mouse sp (there were several sightings in the pool field whilst scanning for Jack Snipes.)

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Sunday January 7

A cold and frosty morning for my first visit of the year. I was late again, Dave having seen among other things, a Marsh Tit.

It is of course the start of a new year list, and my first birds were a flock of 38 Lesser Redpolls feeding on Fat Hen.

Lesser Redpoll
We strolled back down the access road before heading towards the pool. We hadn't got too for before Dave got a text. A Whooper Swan was at Marsh Lane GP (his other patch). It would be a good year tick, and after a short period of deliberation he was off. In a further twist he then rang me to say it had been upgraded to Bewick's Swan, which would be a locality tick.

So with Dave elsewhere, I approached the flash field noticing two swans in the field behind it. They were Mute Swans. Oh well, they all count. Also on that field was a big herd of geese, but annoyingly they all took off and disappeared. Later, I saw them again and counted 117 Greylag Geese, and estimated a similar number of Canadas.

Some of the Greylags
While searching for the geese I found the bird of the day, a Common Gull. A tricky species here. It accompanied at least 46 Black-headed Gulls, but was too distant for a photograph. Another good bird was a Little Egret. Just a couple of years ago this would have been a very handy find, but last year they were regular and I have no reason to think that will change.

A few Lapwings flew over, my only waders today, while no ducks, other than Mallard, were present. The flock of corvids contained at least 75 Rooks and 100 Jackdaws. A pair of Ravens flew over.

I decided to head back to the flash field in case the Common Gull had flown in. Before I got there I noticed that the Tawny Owl had decided to bask in the sunshine.

Tawny Owl
With nothing new on the flash field I headed back to my car. Here I saw an absolute belter.

Feral Pigeon
Patchwork Challenge says I can tick it! It's not ringed so at least its not a racing pigeon.

My final total for the day was 51 species (plus the Feral Pigeon). Not a bad start.

PS Dave saw the Bewick's Swan. I didn't see a Marsh Tit.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Sunday December 31

I was a bit late for the last morning of the year. Dave was more prompt and reported seeing a few large gulls flying over. By the end of the morning we had counted 23 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, eight Herring Gulls, and a few Black-headed Gulls overhead, and another hundred or so Black-headed Gulls in the distance over Studley.

There were signs that there may have been a recent shoot, no ducks on the pool, and eighty odd ducks flying from the flash field before we reached the hedge we normally watch from. One that did return was a drake Shelduck, the first since the spring.

The field also contained two Green Sandpipers, 16 Pied Wagtails, and five Meadow Pipits. A single Little Egret stood in the field beyond the flash field.

The Linnet flock has reached 120 birds, and there were also 47 Lesser Redpolls in residence. It will be interesting to see if their numbers continue to grow.

So, I guess its time for a quick reflection on the year. The species total was 115 (116 if you include Feral Pigeon). This is a couple fewer than my personal best of 117. I managed to miss the only Common Sandpiper of the year in the spring and a Merlin in November, so I perhaps should have done a little better. The first part of the year was pretty quiet, but things picked up in August when Mark Islip was able to show me the second Great White Egret for the patch. Firsts for Morton Bagot followed in September and October, with a fly-over Osprey, and several Hawfinches. Another second for the site was a Black Redstart in October.

So not a bad year at all, even better if you include the Flecked General soldier fly (second for Warwickshire).

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Wednesday December 27

After a night of heavy rain which readily turned to snow I splashed my way to the patch. The pool was the most flooded I had ever seen it, and the fields to the west were also somewhat saturated.

All this meant that there were an awful lot of birds to see. The variety was nothing special, two Peregrines and a Stonechat were still present, while a Mute Swan and a Wigeon were new arrivals. About 30 Redpolls were reasonably visible.

Lesser Redpoll
The flash field contained a Green Sandpiper, a Lapwing, and 14 Teal. More unexpected were 13 Pied Wagtails and 20 Meadow Pipits.

Meanwhile 103 Stock Doves remain in the area and at least three well stocked feeders at Netherstead were a hive of Blue Tit activity (25+) with smaller numbers of other tits and Goldfinches.

The field to the west of Stapenhill Wood was full of Jackdaws and other corvids, at least 613 of the former being counted. The pools in the field had attracted about 30 Black-headed Gulls and 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

These picture give some idea of the spectacle, and you need to bear in mind I took nine shots all containing different parts of the flock.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Sunday December 24

In the run up to Christmas its been all hands to the pump in our household, and so a couple of hours on the patch this morning came as a welcome relief.

It was cloudy and mild, and I didn't see all that much. The highlights were the continued presence of a Peregrine, at least one Stonechat, and a minimum of 88 Linnets which perched up nicely allowing me to eliminate any thoughts that there could be a Twite among them. One day maybe.

One thing that had changed was the water level. I just don't understand water tables and how they affect the patch. Within the course of a fortnight almost every pool has filled up, the only exception being the westernmost dragonfly pool which relies on the overflow of the one above it. This change has come about in spite of a dull grey fortnight with no more than a few nights of light drizzle.

Admittedly the whole area was under a foot of snow, and I can only think that that is the cause.

A smattering of Mallard on the main pool
A flock of 63 Mallard have taken up residence on the pool, while 22 Teal, and 18 Greylag Geese shared the flash field with a Green Sandpiper, and about 20 Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits.

I'll be back here after the 25th, so Merry Christmas to everyone in the meantime.

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.

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.