Sunday, 9 December 2018

Sunday December 9

Showers quickly cleared away to reveal largely sunny skies and a cool westerly breeze.

Just when we had given up on 2018, we go and get a year tick. Unfortunately no photographs were taken because it was a fly over and we wasted valuable seconds agreeing that we were indeed looking at a first-winter Great Black-backed Gull. This was the first here since December 2014, and was therefore pretty noteworthy despite being a gull which any coastal, or even reservoir, birder would barely give a second glance. It was flying with two adult Herring Gulls and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls so the large size was quite apparent.

The gull was the highlight of an enjoyable walk round. The Stonechats were still present, there were still about 120 thrushes (mainly Redwings) stripping the hawthorns, and the Flash field sported three Gadwall, six Teal, and at least 17 Mallard.

Alarm calls from a Blackbird led us to disturb a roosting Tawny Owl from the plantation next to Stapenhill Wood.

Roll on the new year.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Sunday December 2

This morning was very mild with a light south-westerly. The early sun shone brightly beneath a bank of heavy cloud which eventually obscured it. Before that the contrast between light and dark encouraged me to take a landscape photograph.

The morning was also characterised by the presence of people and dogs. Three adults and a toddler, all wearing bright red coats, and three dogs, none of which were on a leash. One of them appeared to be lost and was dashing around the pool field no doubt providing an explanation for the lack of birds there.

Anyone lost a dog?
Speaking of mammals, we did see one creature I have never seen before; a Muntjac foal. It's back was spotted, and it was extra tiny. Unfortunately it disappeared under a tangle of brambles before I could get a shot of it.

As for birds, well there weren't many of them. There are still about 50 - 80 thrushes (Redwings and Fieldfares) in the area, the pair of Stonechats was still present, and a visit to the flash field was more productive than last weekend. It contained six Teal, five Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, six Wigeon, and top of the bill three Gadwall.

December eh !

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Sunday November 25

Hazy sunshine and a very light easterly.

As predicted in my last posting, the Barn Owl was not present in the shed today. In fact for much of this morning Dave and I walked around gloomily reminiscing on winter days in the past when there were lots of finches and buntings here.

A large thrush approaching from the direction of Church Farm proved to be a Mistle Thrush, the scarcest of the regularly occurring thrushes here. In fact there had been a drop in the number of Redwings and Fieldfares since Friday.

Mistle Thrush
The Flash field contained five Wigeon, five Teal, three Snipe, and a Lapwing.

Happily, the visit was rescued at the very last second as we were climbing into our respective cars. Dave looked up and shouted "goldies". Sure enough eight Golden Plovers were heading east, high overhead. These were the first of the year, the last of the "bankers" and quite likely the last year-tick I shall get in 2018.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Friday November 23

A stroll around with Richard B in grey, slightly misty, conditions and a cold easterly breeze proved pleasantly productive.

A Peregrine was seen heading off into the mist at Netherstead, and a few minutes later it, or another, was seen on a pylon.

About 80 Redwings and 20 Fieldfares kept us entertained until we reached the Flash field where several Wigeon could be seen with Teal hiding behind clumps of rush. They were soon in flight, and we counted 13 birds as they kept reappearing, impatient for us to move on.

All but one of the Wigeon
The walk back took in a pair of Marsh Tits, they have been scarce lately and it were a tick for Richard. The highlight came as we walked past the shed Stapenhill Wood. Our chatting was loud enough to awaken and flush a Barn Owl which had been roosting therein. Good views, but it was gone before I could even think of using the camera. It hasn't been roosting in there all year, so I had not approached the shed with sufficient wariness.

I'll bet you it'll be absent on Sunday.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Sunday November 18

A sunny crisp autumn morning with a light easterly breeze.

Such conditions are good for photographing birds, and a Carrion Crow was an ideal subject.

Carrion Crow
I rarely try to photograph these because they are normally too jumpy, and you need good light to see the bird to best effect. Also present in the field at Netherstead was a Stonechat, much scarcer than the crow but much featured in this blog because they never hide.

As with last week there were lots of thrushes about, maybe 80 Fieldfares and 50 Redwings, and several parties of Linnets, Goldfinches, and Redpolls. Meanwhile a large Peregrine was dashing around over woodland to the south-west of the patch.

Lesser Redpoll
As we approached the flash field we heard a Little Owl calling. And the usual tree appeared to produce the bird in question. But look closely at the next photograph.

Just above the obvious Little Owl, peering through the dead oak leaves, is a beady eye. Unseen by us, but spotted by the camera, was a second Little Owl.

The nearest flash produced a nice surprise; a line of eight Wigeon. The first here for over a month.

Other than that it contained five Teal, two Moorhens, and five Snipe.

A better return than last weekend's nadir.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Sunday November 11

Sunny intervals and a fresh southerly.

It was back to earth with a bump today. Our walk round produced good numbers of thrushes; 140 Redwings and 80 Fieldfares, the pair of Stonechats appeared at Netherstead, a distant immature gull flying east which was probably a Common Gull, five Lapwings going south (the first for a while) and 100 Linnets.

The Flash field could only manage 13 Teal, four Snipe, and eight Moorhens.

Pretty dire.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Sunday November 4 - a good bird at last

Cloudy with a few light drizzly showers, but mild with a light southerly.

The first hour of this visit was very pedestrian, and I had resorted to counting the small parties of Stock Doves heading east (the total was 80 in you're interested). A Stonechat was still present. We were surprised, and a little depressed, to see that the puddle at the pool had reduced considerably in volume.

Never fear, things started to pick up when we reached the flash field. On the right hand edge of the furthest flash I could just make out a wader with a small group of Teal. To our surprise it was the first Redshank of the year. A scope would have helped, but I'd left it in the car to spare my back.

Redshank (honest)
The fact that Redshanks failed to turn up this spring was unusual, but not as much as seeing a November Redshank here. Normally its March to July, and that's your lot.

We continued down the hedge and reached the spot where you are closest to the nearest flash. From here we established that the Redshank had disappeared. While trying to relocate it we counted 27 Teal, and three Snipe.

Then I noticed a small grey bird pottering about on the shore of the nearest part of the flash. At first I thought it was a wader, but quickly realised it was a Pipit. The strong white wing-bars and pale flanks suggested one species in particular. A Water Pipit. I called to Dave, and he got onto the bird and noticed a second bird was present. That was also a Water Pipit. With no scope available, my bridge camera proved its worth, and despite the poor light I got several confirmatory photographs.

Water Pipit

Truly terrible shot showing both birds

After peering into the back of the camera at the shots we looked up to find that the birds had disappeared. A few minutes later Dave saw two Pipits fly off before he lost them almost immediately behind the foliage we were standing under.

We backtracked to the puddle in case they had gone there, but could only find half a dozen Meadow Pipits. More thrushes had arrived, and we estimated 100 Redwings, 80 Fieldfares, and 200 Starlings. I also got a shot of the Stonechat as it was a lot more obliging than the Water Pipits.

I thought I was going to go through the whole year without a category A bird at Morton Bagot, so the Water Pipits have rescued the year from total ignominy.

Some later news came from Mike I. He was unfortunately unsuccessful in his attempt to see the Water Pipits, but did see a first-winter Common Gull (the first here since last winter) and also managed to flush two Jack Snipes from the sedge in front of the main pool (puddle). Again, these are the first of the autumn, in this case because I thought the area would be too dry so I haven't tried for them.