Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sunday October 14

Back at the patch after our Cornish break.

Its feeling properly autumnal now. For a start a slow moving cold front deposited a deluge of rain from just before dawn until early afternoon. Dave bailed out, and so did I. The thought of a soul-destroying morning slog in pouring rain was more than I could cope with. Instead, I waited until 14.15 when the rain was showing signs of abating before setting foot out of the house. The temperature was down to a chilly 10 degrees.

Autumn fungi
The signs of autumn were everywhere, from fungi like those shown (I have long since given up on trying to identify toadstools) to newly arrived autumn migrants.

The weedy field and hedge behind the pool (still a puddle) played host to 25 buntings, including ten Yellowhammers, and also 70 Goldfinches and 15 Linnets. A couple of Chiffchaffs are still hanging on, and I also heard a tacker which was bound to be a Blackcap.

A big flock of Greylag Geese announced my arrival by flying noisily from the flash field. The disturbance caused the dabbling ducks to take flight, but they all returned, revealing the first Wigeon of the autumn and a decent count of 52 Teal.

Of course you know autumn has really arrived when the winter thrushes turn up, so I was pleased to accumulate ten Redwings, typically silhouetted as they flew around. I also heard my first Redpoll of the autumn. Its normal to get the first Redwings a week or two before the first Fieldfare, so I was very pleased and surprised to discover a single Fieldfare on wires accompanied by a single Meadow Pipit.

Fieldfare and Meadow Pipit
I flushed five Roe Deer from the weedy field, a good count for this species. Several Brown Hares were also seen.

The final bird to report was a single Peregrine, presumably the one seen three weeks ago.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Thursday October 11

Yesterday's post ended with the prophecy that ropey weather would put paid to any further wildlife watching action.

This morning there was a southerly gale and driving rain. But at 11.00 am I glanced out at the rain-splattered patio as I headed to make us a cup of tea, and blow me there's a Black Redstart sheltering under the garden furniture.

Black Redstart
It didn't stay long, and I just managed a couple of poor shots before it hopped through a gap in the fence into the neighbours garden, and from there disappeared into the farm. The rain stopped an hour later, but I couldn't relocate it. There was another (or the same) Feathered Ranunculus in the porch though, and even more unexpectedly a Hummingbird Hawkmoth did a brief tour of the garden before being blown northwards.

In the afternoon the sun came out and the wind dropped. We headed to Tate St Ives to look around the  gallery at the 20th Century art housed within. Not everybody's cup of tea, but the views of St Ives were stunning.

On the way back we stopped for an all too brief look at the Hayle estuary. The tide had not come in yet, but there were plenty of trip ticks standing around. I don't get the chance to see many Mediterranean Gulls nowadays, so I was quite happy to settle for them. Arguably the Whimbrel on the RSPB reserve was a scarcer bird these days.

Adult and 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls
So the weather really is supposed to be bad tomorrow. No chance of anything there?

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Wednesday October 10

Guess what. I'm on holiday. We are staying in a very nice holiday property in the middle of Cornwall, i.e. not where the birds are. The locality is Vose Farm near Tregony.

We came here in 2016, and I have to admit that part of the attraction was my determination to visit Dodman Point, a headland which juts out into the English Channel but which is rarely featured even on the Cornish Birds website. Surely an under-watched gem.

This time I managed to negotiate the narrow, high-banked roads to get to the National Trust car-park at its stem. It was largely cloudy on Monday but I spent a pleasant couple of hours there looking for migrants. The final tally was two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, and a Wheatear. Oh well, at least I've been.

Meanwhile, Vose Farm has had its moments. The day after we arrived was a cold Sunday morning, and I found about 40 Swallows and a House Martin perched on wires, while a couple of Stonechats were visible just beyond the end of the garden. They evidently all migrated during the day, because not a single one has been seen since.

I couldn't fit the moth-trap into the car, so my only chance of moths came from the porch, which had an outside light. And as it turned out the single moth present on Monday morning was a Feathered Ranunculus, a coastal species which is virtually unknown in the Midlands (just two Warwickshire records).

Feathered Ranunculus
I should probably own up to the fact that I didn't know what it was, and tentatively identified it as a Brindled Green, only to be corrected by a couple of members of the Warwickshire Moth Facebook Group.

The following night I found five micros which were new to me; Eudonia angustea, but I am aware that they are quite common, even in the Midlands.

Yesterday Lyn and I went to west Cornwall to visit galleries. This included a stop at Mousehole where we witnessed a highly entertaining drama which involved a young chap being transported across to a rocky outcrop where he had lost a newly purchased £1.5k drone with which he had been filming seabirds when one of them took exception to it and brought it down.

The recovery mission in full swing
We had to leave before we found out what happened, but I have since discovered that he did find it and that it still works. While we were watching the drama, we saw a Peregrine making an unsuccessful swoop at a Turnstone.

Today, a trip to Trelissick Gardens was very pleasant. More importantly I had spotted that the venue was only ten miles from Devoran Quay which has held a Lesser Yellowlegs for about three weeks. So I arrived at 16.45 to find the tide rising rapidly. Fortunately the second group of Redshank I looked at were accompanied by the Lesser Yellowlegs. Less fortunately they were on the opposite side of the creek, so I was only able to snatch a few distant shots (the sun was against me too).

Lesser Yellowlegs (with Black-tailed Godwits in the foreground)
All the waders were then flushed by a man on the far bank and flew downstream, but they chose to land even further away so no better shots were possible. I think this is only the third Lesser Yellowlegs I have seen in the UK.

Its nice to end with a rarity. The forecast for the next couple of days is pretty ropey, so I doubt I'll be seeing anything else before we head home.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Sunday September 30

Cloudy with a very light north-westerly.

Dave joined me for a visit which can best be described as quiet....again. The middle period of autumn between the departures and the arrivals. No longer present were the hirundines, while still hanging on was the odd Blackcap and at least four Chiffchaffs.

The only sign of winter was a single Siskin, which flew over. There are still plenty of Meadow Pipits around, we estimated about 60. The Flash field remains disappointing, no Green Sandpipers, seven Snipe, about 30 Teal, 202 Greylag Geese, and 45 Canada Geese.

Common Snipe
I need a holiday.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Friday September 21 & Sunday September 23

During a pretty stormy weekend I was unable to resist taking a quick look at the Flashes on Friday in case it had been the beneficiary of a Grey Phalarope visit (there being five at three sites in Warwickshire as a result of the storms). It hadn't.

Instead I was left to count 51 Teal, a Shoveler, five Green Sandpipers, and two Snipe.

This morning the rain again intervened, causing a later start and messing up Dave's plans for his first visit in three weeks. As the rain abated just after 10.00 am I arrived to find a new dawn effect as numerous small passerines hunted the insects now emerging into the drying canopy of the Netherstead Plantation. To be fair most were Blue Tits (about 30), but there were several Chiffchaffs and best of all a Spotted Flycatcher. The first two Siskins of the autumn flew south calling.

In many ways it was a typical late September day, characterised by frequent views of Jays, hundreds of other corvids (mainly Jackdaws), 100 Stock Doves, 80 Woodpigeons, 120 House Martins, a few Swallows, and 110 Meadow Pipits. The latter appeared in a large loose flock over the grassy field south of Stapenhill Wood. I decided to investigate the field and flushed the cause of the panic, a juvenile Peregrine clutching something small, presumably a Meadow Pipit, in its talons.

The hunter
The hunter with victim
The prey
The trans-African migrant warblers have now gone, but some of the shorter-distance migrants still remain, and I counted six Chiffchaffs and four Blackcaps as I walked around.

Meanwhile the Flash field contained the same species as on Friday, but fewer of them. The only one bucking the trend was Greylag Goose. The flock now numbers at least 240.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sunday September 16

Cloudy but mild with a light south-westerly.

I'm afraid this was a pretty abysmal visit. There were no real highlights. The Flash field produced 212 Greylag Geese, 13 Teal, 25 Mallard, six Green Sandpipers, nine Snipe, and a heard-only Kingfisher.

A large tit flock at Netherstead was accompanied by a couple of Chiffchaffs, but I saw no other species of warbler all morning.

At least 20 Meadow Pipits were in the area, but they didn't seem to be moving, and with the exception of a single Swallow heading purposefully south, the 60 or so hirundines were just feeding on any insects they could find.

Speaking of insects, it was left to a single Common Darter to provide me with my one and only photographic opportunity.

Common Darter
Hopefully next weekend will be better.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Friday September 14

A cloudy morning with a light westerly breeze.

A wander around with the Richards, armed with several plastic boxes for blackberry picking, turned out to be quite productive (for berries and birds). As usual we made very slow progress, and there was ample time for a fully grown Common Toad to crawl out of the way.

There was some evidence of bird migration as a handful of Meadow Pipits and Swallows were heading south. A large tit flock was carrying one or two Chiffchaffs, while several tackers tacked unseen.

The flock of Greylag Geese has reached 210, and the flashes also contained the usual thirty or so Teal, four Green Sandpipers, and half a dozen Snipe. As we arrived at the watchpoint I spotted a small, rather long-tailed duck flying over and just had time to get the bins on it to confirm my suspicions that it was a female type Mandarin. It headed south-east before the lads could see it.

We wandered back, looking at crickets, butterflies, and the like before I heard the unmistakable call of a Kingfisher. My luckless companions were a few yards away and didn't notice the call.

Among other insects I spotted a small moth which turned out to be a rather late-flying Bramble-shoot Moth.

Bramble-shoot Moth
It might seem as though I was hogging all the wildlife, but I'm pleased to say that enough was seen by all of us to make it a successful visit.

A visit to the Miller & Carter at Matchborough for lunch produced another Kingfisher on the Arrow, and this time we all saw it.