Sunday, 24 September 2017

Sunday September 24

A little pulse of warm south-easterlies gave us a pleasant sunny morning.

There were plenty of insects about which is no doubt the reason we recorded a record-breaking 18 Chiffchaffs. Another species to turn up in good numbers was Stonechat. Seven of them were dashing about the appropriately named Chat Field. This figure equalled the previous record. Two Blackcaps were also seen.

Male Stonechat
I have recently started a new project. This involves inputting all my old records, which stretch back to 1979, onto Birdtrack. The BTO website is excellent for logging current records, but they are apparently pleased to receive historical records. What I get out of it is the nostalgic enjoyment of rereading notebooks written when I was in my early twenties. I am very struck by how enthusiastic I was. Technically studying for a degree at Swansea University, I hardly let a day go by without doing some birding. I occasionally counted very diligently, for example recording 53 Blue Tits in a wood near Swansea one cold January day.

Frankly I felt inspired to count tits this morning. In the three hours we were here I logged 26 Blue Tits, eight Long-tailed Tits, four Great Tits and a Coal Tit. That was without going anywhere near Bannams Wood. There's life in the old dog yet.

Coal Tit
When not logging tits, Dave  and I managed to look up and count overhead passage. It is clear that hirundines are now on the move; a minimum of 25 Swallows and five House Martins flew south. The Meadow Pipit count was 31.

The flash field contained the first Wigeon of the autumn, along with 17 Teal, 96 Greylag Geese, about 10 Mallard, a Green Sandpiper, and two Greenshank.

The only other bird worthy of note, was a Little Egret which appeared in the tree at the pool long after we had left that part of the patch. It was visible through the telescope, but my poor old back was playing up too much for us the give in to any thoughts of going back for a closer look.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Friday September 22

A sunny morning with some warmth to it. A very light southerly breeze.

This was one of those quiet late September visits which leaves me wondering what to blog about. The Greenshank was still present, but I only saw 11 Snipe, two Green Sandpipers, and 18 Teal in the flash field.

The sunshine brought out several Red Admirals and a couple of Green-veined Whites.

Red Admiral
Green-veined White
One thing that did strike me as interesting was the unexpected increase in certain residents which have been conspicuously absent over the last few months. I counted seven Blackbirds, and eight Chaffinches this morning. Are these migrants? More likely its just the local birds, newly moulted, and  no longer preoccupied with hiding away.

The brightness of the morning probably masked the true nature of overhead Meadow Pipit passage, just 15 birds being located heading south against the azure sky. There are still plenty of hirundines about, approximately 50 Swallows and 30 House Martins high in the sky. I counted 14 Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps in the hedgerows. Clearly these species are in no hurry to move on.

None of the migrants mentioned thus far allowed me the opportunity for a photograph, so I have stuck a Kestrel into the post to show that I was trying.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday September 17

A late start was made this morning due to reasons I am not at liberty to divulge at this point.

So we started birding at the patch at 10-45. It was cloudy and a little chilly with a very light northerly breeze.

The rarest thing we saw was another birder, Terry, who was leaving as we were arriving. Terry had seen seven Snipe on the nearest flash and the Greenshank on the main pool. We went on to see exactly the same birds, but also saw six Green Sandpipers, 20 Teal, and two Shovelers.

The single Stonechat I saw on Friday was still present, but was showing a lot better.

The autumnal flavour was confirmed by the presence of at least three Blackcaps, about four Chiffchaffs, and about eight Skylarks flying from the stubble field. About 100 hirundines flew around, and we guesstimated about 50 were Swallows and 50 House Martins.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Friday September 15

A prearranged list with Richard B began at Netherstead in cloudy weather with a very light westerly breeze. We were caught by one drizzly shower, but that was all.

The horse paddocks at Netherstead contained at least 35 Meadow Pipits and plenty of Blue Tits, and Reed Buntings with smaller numbers of Chiffchaffs, Pied Wagtails, and other common passerines.

Meadow Pipits
After that we followed the usual circuit. A Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper were on the pool, while the first Stonechat of the autumn was in the sedges just beyond. Nine Magpies was a good count for the site.

The furthest flash contained about 90 Greylag Geese and about 20 Teal. Also still present was the eclipse male Shoveler. We heard a Little Owl calling, and witnessed a Kingfisher flashing past.

The Shoveler is in the water just beyond the Greylags. A true record shot!
The nearest flash was completely devoid of birds, but fortunately a Little Egret was perched on the top of the hawthorn hedge behind it.

Little Egret
Other than a handful of Chiffchaffs the only summer migrants seen were about 30 hirundines, almost all of them Swallows.

We ended up, at Richard's suggestion, picking blackberries.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Thursday September 14

I hadn't intended to go birding today, but with Phalaropes all over the place in the West Midlands I couldn't resist.

Naturally my first thought was not to twitch any of them, much too easy. Far better to nip to the patch in search of small black and white birds.

Not a Phalarope
It was sunny and bright when I arrived at the church. An initial scan of the furthest flash from the barns by the road was not encouraging. One bird that was present in numbers was Chiffchaff, my limited circuit producing 11 in the hedgerows.

Down at the flash field it quickly became clear there had been a mass clear out since Monday. The only waders in evidence were a Lapwing, a Greenshank, and a single Green Sandpiper. A Grey Wagtail flew over.

Roe Deer
Meadow Pipits trickled overhead, but as the sky was blue I didn't start logging them. They are much easier to see against a grey sky. Still plenty of Swallows and House Martins, but the only other passerine migrant was an unidentified tacker, probably Blackcap.

Back at the road I noticed a few more Teal on the furthest flash, so set up my scope to count them. Among them was a year tick. Oh yes. 23 Teal and a Shoveler.

Sorry about the anticlimax.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Monday September 11

I very rarely visit the patch two days running, because you tend to see the same birds as the day before. But after sitting at home all day waiting for a dealership in Bromsgrove to return our car (I had foolishly scratched the bodywork last winter in a wholly avoidable episode involving our car, our garage, and a frosted windscreen) it was agreed I deserved a treat.

So at 16-30 I parked at All Saints church in bright sunshine and headed for the flash field. Remembering that I needed to find new arrivals, I photographed one in no time at all.

The flash pools had, as expected, a familiar feel. 77 Greylag Geese, eight Canada Geese, eight Teal, 25 Mallard, a Little Egret, two Grey Herons, the Black-tailed Godwit, the two Ruff, and the Greenshank. There had been an increase in Green Sandpipers and Snipe, 12 and 11 respectively. So it was probably worth coming.

At this point an alarmingly dark cloud, which stretched beyond the horizon, reached me. Torrential rain followed. An hour later it showed signs of abating and I started to head back. A Tufted Duck flew in, and I disturbed a Spotted Flycatcher from the hedgerow.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sunday September 10 - red letter day

A cloudy morning with a light south-westerly breeze.

Things began enjoyably enough as I started logging Meadow Pipits heading south, eventually reaching a total of 35. Swallows and House Martins also seemed to be on the move, at least 29 Swallows and 10 House Martins were thought to be moving, although 50 or so were considered to be just feeding.

Dave arrived and we headed for the pool. There is now far less evidence of warbler activity, apart from Chiffchaffs, and we saw just one Whitethroat and heard a couple of tackers.

All this predictability was to change as we approached the pool. A large bird was flying towards us from the north-west, and on raising binoculars I realised it was an OSPREY. This being the first record for the site I scrabbled for my camera, barely registering that Dave called out Greenshank, in response to a call he heard. We watched the Osprey flap steadily south-east, and I managed to get a few record shots.

Osprey disappearing over the south end of Bannams Wood
Like many birders, I suspect, I have a list of ambition birds for the patch. Many are probably unattainable, but Osprey was definitely on that list and always seemed a possibility. A reality at last.

I could have quite happily gone home without seeing anything else, but within a few further steps Dave drew my attention to the fact there was a small flock of Little Egrets on the pool. The total was a record six, so naturally I tried to take a photo which got them all in shot.

Little Egret flock
We continued towards the flash field. 80 Canada Geese and 70 Greylag Geese were immediately obvious, but our attention was firmly focussed on the nearest flash.

The flash in all its glory
This year it seems to consist entirely of soft gloopy mud. This has proved a great draw for waders and today's total was one Lapwing, four Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Ruffs, and nine Green Sandpipers. Strangely, Teal seem to be less keen, and we could only see about half a dozen. Numerous hirundines, including five Sand Martins, were feeding in the lee of the bordering hedgerow, along with five or six Chiffchaffs.

Back at Netherstead we counted 73 Stock Doves with a handful of Woodpigeons feeding on pasture.

We returned to our cars and headed home. But the fun wasn't over. A Red Kite with an entourage of mobbing Jackdaws drifted south past the plantation.

Red Kite
And finally, as I drove towards All Saints Church, I found I was in an episode of Countryfile.

It seems that September isn't so dull here after all.

Post Script: During the afternoon I was returning from my parents' house when I spotted a Common Swift over King's Heath. This will surely be my last of the year.