Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday October 23

With Dave choosing to return to Flamborough to try to find rarities on the latest batch of north-easterlies, I was left to attempt to turn something up at Morton Bagot.

The morning was cloudy and cool throughout, with a north-easterly gradually increasing in strength resulting in birds accumulating in the lee of south-west facing hedges.

The first hour was especially lively, with finches all over the place, and regular flocks of winter thrushes heading west. A party of 20 Redpolls flew around, and then a great surge of pigeons and Jackdaws heralded the appearance of an immature Peregrine.

So, overhead passage comprised 245 Fieldfares, 134 Redwings, and 80 Starlings. There was a big increase in finches, with 250 Linnets, and 70 Goldfinches in the ridge field. A few Siskins flew over, and when I did managed to see Redpolls perching up, they were all thought to be Lesser Redpolls.

Lesser Redpoll
Pigeon totals reached a minimum of 70 Stock Doves and 120 Woodpigeons. At least three Stonechats perched on hedges and fences, and a Grey Wagtail was still around.

Moving on to the pool, I was surprised to see that the Little Grebe had returned, apparently undeterred by the fact it was diving in little more than a large puddle. The flash field contained two Green Sandpipers, three Snipe, 33 Teal, and 50 Greylag Geese.

So quite entertaining, but not quite Flamborough.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Thursday October 20

A mostly cloudy morning, although the sun did come out for 30 minutes late morning. A light northerly breeze.

Today's visit was not one that will linger in the memory for long. I chose to walk along the road for a change, though experience should tell me that this is never a very productive route. Ironically it did provide the day's only, very minor, highlight as 15 Fieldfares flew west, my first of the autumn.

After that the tit flocks revealed only tits and at least six Goldcrests, although hearing them is one thing, seeing them while the hedgerows remain in leaf is extremely difficult. A Marsh Tit was the only other notable bird recorded.

I logged 19 Redwings, 10 Chaffinches, 28 Goldfinches, 18 Skylarks, 15 Long-tailed Tits, a handful of Siskins and Redpolls, 70 Linnets, and 70 Stock Doves. Well you've got to do something to keep awake.

The pool has resumed its decline towards a puddle, while the flash field produced 47 Teal, two Green Sandpipers, and a Snipe.

I'll leave you with a couple of token birds to prove I had my camera with me.

Reed Bunting
Common Buzzard

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Sunday October 16

I'm back, after an essentially non-birding holiday in east Cornwall when all the birding action was on the east coast of Britain! I took my bins of course, and managed a few Firecrests and a couple of Med Gulls during the week. We certainly had great weather.

But this morning it was good to be back on the patch, albeit after waiting for the rain to clear through. Dave joined me, and professed to being a bit down in the dumps after choosing not to return to Flamborough this weekend and still managing to miss some Bearded Tits at Marsh Lane. He then went and found two at Napton Reservoir, so every cloud etc.

Anyway, the initial signs were good as the copse at Netherstead was teaming with birds. Most were Blue Tits, we reckoned about 30, but we did winkle out a Chiffchaff. Two Redpolls and two Grey Wagtails flew over before we dragged ourselves away to look at the rest of the area.

The good signs continued, with 14 Redwings south, about 15 Song Thrushes and seven Blackbirds in the hedgerows, 16 unusually photogenic Starlings, and a Stonechat.

We carefully sifted through the Reed Buntings without finding anything better. Totals of 46 Teal, 70 Greylag Geese, and 22 Lapwings were seen, mostly as they flew over, while the flash contained a couple of Green Sandpipers and a Snipe. A single Siskin flew over.

Back at Netherstead we were just in time to see a Swallow flying south, just one day short of my latest here, which was in 2010, and a distant Peregrine.

So that was it, nothing spectacularly unusual, but plenty to see. Normal service has been resumed.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Thursday October 6

A sunny morning with a light easterly breeze. These are the conditions birders pray for in October, but the question is; would Morton Bagot see the benefit?

Well the first thing I noticed was a complete absence of hirundines. Migration was represented by a few Meadow Pipits, and the first of four Chiffchaffs. A Mistle Thrush posed in the copse.

Mistle Thrush
Indeed, thrushes started to play their part as the morning progressed. At least five Song Thrushes and four Blackbirds were much more obvious than they have been of late, perhaps hinting that some or all may be newly arrived migrants. Definitely a migrant was the first Redwing of the autumn which called high above me, but remained unseen.

Six Snipe did an unexpected fly around at Netherstead, while the day's highlight was just a hundred yards away at the little pond. I scanned the bushes, noting three Lesser Redpolls as they flew off, and then caught a movement at the base of the reedmace. It was not, as I had expected, the local Moorhen. Instead, I was just in time to see a Water Rail stalking into cover. BOOM, as they say. This was a first for Morton Bagot, and not before time. Its taken ten years to get one on the list, and frankly I was beginning to give up hope.

I waited for it to reappear, and waited, and waited. A movement turned out to be this.

A Muntjac coming down to drink
Further waiting produced only a Moorhen. Eventually I decided it was time to give up and continue walking round. A pair of Stonechats were in the chat field, I flushed a Green Sandpiper off the pool, and found another three at the flash field along with 46 Greylag Geese, a Snipe, and 18 Teal.

On the return journey I decided to give the pond one more go. Sneaking in to position I discovered that the Green Sandpiper was on the pool. This was a little bittersweet because although it gave me the chance for a really close photograph, I also knew that as soon as I moved it would be away, calling loudly, and alerting the Water Rail that I was back. And that is exactly what happened.

Green Sandpiper
I waited a few more minutes before deciding enough was enough.

So no Yellow-browed Warblers (there are currently thousands of these tiny Siberian migrants in the country, but only a handful have been located in the Midlands) but a Morton Bagot tick.

I'll settle for that any day.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sunday October 2

A quiet morning, in every sense. After yesterday's heavy rain, this morning was sunny and pretty calm, with just a very light north-westerly developing.

It is too early for the Scandinavian migrants to turn up, which just left a few British migrants to search for. So we saw five Swallows heading away (two of them were going north!), and counted four Blackcaps and six Chiffchaffs in the hedgerows. Although both of these species winter in the UK, they almost never do so at Morton Bagot, so it is safe to call them departing summer migrants.

There was an increase, to five, in the numbers of Stonechats, one or two Redpolls and Siskins were heard, and at least 27 Meadow Pipits flew south. About 50 Linnets in the ridge field now outnumber the Goldfinches, some of which may also have headed for the coast.

Despite the pheasant shoot which I assume took place yesterday, wildfowl numbers at the flash field were holding up well, with 36 Teal, eight Snipe, and five Green Sandpipers still present. There was even a new wader in the form of a single Lapwing, the first for nearly a month.

The resident species included at least eight Magpies (surprisingly close to the very modest site record), a Song Thrush put in an appearance, and two Mistle Thrushes flew south.

The last of the summer's dragonflies are the Common Darters, now looking drained of colour and a bit sad as they desperately search for sunny spots to prolong their lives. Our only butterfly however was a beautifully fresh Red Admiral, not yet ready to start hibernating.

Common Darter
Red Admiral
In a couple of weeks I expect to see the first of the true winter migrants arriving, adding new zest to the birding year.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Friday September 30

A largely sunny morning with a light to moderate south-westerly breeze.

This being the last day of September, it is the calm before the storm of the shooting season, which starts here tomorrow. On the plus side the gamekeeper was telling me that the Pheasant shoots and dog-training are to be restricted to October this year, and the days to avoid are Saturdays, with some shooting on adjacent land on Fridays. It could be a lot worse.

The story of the morning was the steady trickle of Meadow Pipits, a few of which paused on their migration. The final tally was a respectable 91. There are also still plenty of hirundines around, with at least 14 House Martins and 20 Swallows taking the chance to snack on insects before they head south.

Meadow Pipits
Also around Netherstead was a single Stonechat, six alba Wagtails (two of which were definitely Pieds, and the remainder may well have been), a Blackcap, and three Chiffchaffs.

Over at the pool and flash field I counted 11 Green Sandpipers, 10 Snipe, 42 Teal, and a Little Grebe. No doubt they'll make themselves scarce when the shooting disturbance starts.

A couple of indications that autumn is here were a single Redpoll over Netherstead, and seven Siskins over Stapenhill Wood.

There were noticeably high numbers of Hornets buzzing about, and dragonflies consisted of several Common Darters and a Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker
Finally, I have to report that the Woodpigeon seems to have come to his senses, and is no longer trying to incubate a stone in the car-park.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sunday September 25

Overnight rain was followed by a largely sunny morning with a moderate southerly breeze. Dave and I arrived at just before 09.00 am and within 30 minutes were staring at a bird in a quite remarkable plumage.

As you may have guessed from the habitat, it was a Reed Bunting. On the face of it a pure albino, but some darker feathers in the secondaries and tail suggested it may have been exhibiting an extreme symptom of leucism. Fortunately it behaved and sounded like a Reed Bunting. Within a few minutes it took off and headed south. It is proof that even apparently resident species actually migrate to some degree, since I suspect we might have noticed it if it had been around all summer.

The rest of the morning passed pleasantly enough. We recorded the first four Stonechats of the autumn, had a distant view of a late Whitethroat, and scanned through the hordes of House Martins still milling about (at least 44), until I eventually spotted a single Swallow.

The pool has very little water in it, but still enough to support a single Little Grebe. The flash field was much busier than on my last visit. We counted nine Green Sandpipers, 17 Snipe, 28 Teal, and 26 Greylag Geese.

Little Grebe
The return journey had very little extra of interest, although a Painted Lady butterfly flew passed us at  Netherstead. The Woodpigeon is continuing to sit on its nest despite the fact that the stone has been moved out of the nest cup. So it has not been psychologically damaged by the stone's removal, perhaps by the bird itself, although it is obviously in need of psychiatric care in any case.