Sunday, 8 December 2019

Sunday December 8

A cloudy and rather breezy morning, south-westerly, produced very little of note.

The shooting has had no affect on the Mallard numbers, which actually increased to 124. On the other hand there were no Teal or any other ducks. Four Grey herons was a little more than normal.

We spotted a flock of Starlings in pasture a couple of fields from the patch and went over to count them. Dave estimated 280 to 300, but my camera counts could only muster 221.

Some of the Starlings
There were still about 85 Redwings and 40 Fieldfares, mainly in the paddocks. Our only wader was a Snipe which flushed from the strip field.

All pretty grim really.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Tuesday December 3

Light cloud at first, but then sunny. Most of the pools contained some ice. A very light southerly breeze.

The area around Netherstead was quite productive, with about 100 Fieldfares, 130 Redwings, at least nine Meadow Pipits, a pair of Stonechats, and 24 Linnets around the paddocks. It wasn't just me watching them. A Sparrowhawk appeared twice during the morning.

I continued on my usual route, sidestepping a photographer who seemed intent on getting shots of a second pair of Stonechats. Further down the same hedge a couple of Song Thrushes paused briefly.

Song Thrushes
The pool looked peculiar as ice which had formed overnight was left high and dry as the water has continued to flow away through the pipe.

The nearest I came to an unexpected sighting was a drake Wigeon which had joined the 12 Teal and numerous Mallard.

Later on I spotted three Mallard corpses lying on the ice, so clearly some duck shooting took place yesterday.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Sunday December 1

I'll begin this post by referring to a year-tick I got the day before, from the car, on my way into Birmingham. Half a mile south of the M42 junction I noticed a flock of about 30 Golden Plovers wheeling around over a large cultivated field. Yes, its true, that really was a year tick. They haven't occurred at Morton Bagot this year, so I hadn't seen any.

This morning was bright and sunny with a very light north-easterly. No amount of staring at the horizon would induce any Golden Plovers to fly by, so we had to make do with what was available on site. The paddocks which in April had provided a stop-over for two Ring Ouzels was now covered in rather less unexpected thrushes. We counted 195 Redwings, 90 Fieldfares, and a few Starlings along with one or two Song Thrushes and Blackbirds.

The rest of the morning was even quieter. Just two Stonechats remain, a couple of Snipe, about five Teal, 53 Mallard, and a lot of geese.

Greylag Geese
We counted 140 Greylag Geese and had estimated 50 Canada Geese before the latter disappeared.

In a last ditch attempt to see something more interesting we stumbled around in Stapenhill Wood. Our only success here was rescuing a Song Thrush which had become caught in the fold of an old Pheasant pen fence.

My only other decent bird today was a Peregrine, not at Morton Bagot, but seen from a car while I was heading out of Redditch to collect my Mum.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Wednesday November 27

I arrived just as the weather took a turn for the worse, the intense drizzle keeping me in my car for about 30 minutes. A Sparrowhawk was the only bird worth seeing. Fortunately it stopped and I was able to start birding.

It was still pretty mild, although colder weather is forecast, and the six Stonechats I saw were all chasing gnats when they weren't chasing each other. Colder weather will be bad news for them.

There were still plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings about, maybe 150 in total. I often wonder how many you might have to look at before you see a rare thrush, a lifetime's worth probably. The flash field contained the usual Teal and Mallard, plus a drake Shoveler and a Common Snipe.

On the return journey I found myself contemplating whether to pick my way through the brambles and rotting wood of Stapenhill Wood in the hope of flushing a Woodcock. I decided not to bother, but at the last minute went in anyway. I flushed a Woodcock. This is the first time I've seen one in this apparently ideal habitat, and only my third on the patch. They do occur in the surrounding woods in winter, and should probably be regarded as a very elusive winter resident. There was no chance of a photograph, and to be fair I only just saw it at all as it flew through the trees.

The wood also served up a mystery in the form of an animal skull which imagined would be easy to identify.

Badger skull - thanks to the twitter community

It was about four and a half inches long, and not in very good condition. Maybe a Grey Squirrel skull, but it didn't really fit anything I could find on the Internet. (ps I'm told it is a Badger skull).

Returning to birds, there weren't many finches around; nine Lesser Redpolls, 25 Linnets, a dozen Goldfinches, and a single Siskin. An adult Peregrine was haunting the pylons as usual, and seemed to sense I was trying to photograph it, flying off before I could press the shutter. A second Sparrowhawk, a very small male, landed above me in the wood and also didn't hang around.

The Woodcock has taken me to 119 species for the year, extending the record closer to the magic 120. Can it be done?

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Sunday November 24

A dull misty morning with drizzle at first. A very light south-easterly.

Quiet again. The Peregrine, two Stonechats, and at least eight Lesser Redpolls were seen on HOEF land, and we also heard a Tawny Owl hoot as we sheltered from the rain.

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpolls
There were actually quite a lot of small birds in the hedgerows, including at least 30 Blue Tits, three Marsh Tits, 100 Redwings, 127 Fieldfares, and a Yellowhammer.

The flash field produced 20 Teal, 113 Mallard, and five Snipe.

Some might say another day of dross, but I wouldn't be so rude.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Wednesday November 20

Mostly sunny, with a light south-easterly.

It was pretty quiet today. I don't think I saw anything which was new for the week, let alone the year. The most notable birds were the Linnets, a flock of 154 was confirmed by photographing the flock in flight and counting the dots later. This method always proves that I underestimate the number of flying birds once I get past about 30. I would have said there were about 100 until my camera told me otherwise.

Some of the Linnets

Other than that, the adult Peregrine was on a pylon, three Stonechats, 12 Lesser Redpolls, and at least 101 Redwings were present.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Sunday November 17

A grey damp morning with no breeze, in other words a proper birders morning.

There is something about this sort of weather which seems to squeeze birds into existence, and with autumn migration probably not quite over we were quite optimistic for a change. Sure enough the plantation at Netherstead was alive with birds. Redwings poured out of the tree tops and below them the understory was full of tits and Goldfinches.

Eventually our diligence was rewarded with a decent bird. Blackcaps are rarely seen here after the middle of October, so the presence of a male in the bushes on the far side of the main road was a cause of minor celebration. Three Siskins tried to crash the party, but flew on after landing very briefly.

We then headed for the pool, and were distracted by a gathering of very noisy Magpies and Jackdaws in a distant hedge. Suspecting an owl, we headed that way but found only silence and an absence of any cause. We did see a couple of Stonechats though, and since we were there anyway decided to walk through the sedge in front of the pool. This produced 32 Snipe and six Jack Snipe, an improvement on the singleton of the latter I kicked up at the end of last month.

We reached the flash field which was pretty full of water, and also contained 123 Mallard, a female Wigeon, a pair of Shovelers, five Teal, and 19 Lapwings.

The walk back was also lively. Dave glimpsed an egret, and on further exploration we confirmed it was as expected a Little Egret.

Little Egret
Finally we turned up a flock of at least 14 Lesser Redpolls, and back at Netherstead 25 Meadow Pipits enjoyed the mud and gloop turned over by the horses. Our final tally was 62 species of birds without really trying for a big list.