Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sunday August 21

Cloudy with sunny intervals and a light south-westerly breeze.

Dave joined me for this morning's circuit, and things began steadily enough. The first decent migrant was spotted by Dave as it flew through his binocular view, a Redstart. Eventually we caught up with it just past the pool.

Female/immature Redstart
 Shortly before I got the opportunity to get a record shot of the Redstart, we found that the main pool contained a juvenile Greenshank.

Juvenile Greenshank
After these successes we were quite optimistic that the flash pools would add something good, but in the event we could only find 43 Lapwings, 14 Snipe, 35 Teal, 10 Green Sandpipers, two juvenile Shelducks, and about 50 Greylag Geese. The Garganey seemed to have gone.

At this point Dave got the dreaded Marsh Lane call. From his agonised expression I could tell it was something good, and indeed it turned out that a Gannet was sitting in the middle of Car Park Pool. There was no way Dave was going to be able to amble round with me when there was the prospect of a once in a lifetime bird at his other patch, so he made a beeline for his car leaving me to continue alone.

I spent a little time sifting through the flycatching warblers in the hedge before concluding they were all (at least five) Chiffchaffs. Then I spotted a rather long-necked duck flying from the direction of Bannams Wood. I was considering whether it could be a Pintail, or just a Mallard, but as it came closer its true identity was revealed. A female Goosander. Thirty years ago such a record would have been truly extraordinary as you never saw Goosanders in the Midlands before the end of October. But their status has gradually changed and they are now breeding in tiny numbers on rivers in Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and perhaps even Warwickshire. So though very unusual, particularly at Morton Bagot where a pair in April was only the second record, it was not quite as jaw-dropping as it would once have been. Oh, my camera was in my bag and the bird had headed off west before I could even think of a record shot.

I soon started looking at insects, finding a Common Wasp's nest, and several Dark Bush Crickets before I noticed a Hornet flying around. I had often hoped to photograph one here, but they never seem to land. However, this one did. It seemed to be scraping the bark of a small Ash, and I concluded it was chewing it up for later deposition in a hole somewhere as part of a communal nest-building process.

They are absolutely stunning insects (as long as you don't get too close). Actually I believe they are pretty docile despite their ferocious reputation.

Heading on, I spotted a Lesser Whitethroat and several Blackcaps, and ended up back at the dragonfly pools, where a grasshopper took my attention.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
This species expanded its range in the 1990s and is now quite common in the Midlands. However this was the first I have seen here.

I had almost reached the car when I got a text from Dave saying he had seen the Gannet. Phew. I had one more bird up my sleeve. On a distant post sat another Redstart, this time an immature male. By the time I got closer it had disappeared, pretty typical of a Redstart.

All in all a pretty decent morning.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday 19 August

The dire weather forecast today suggested it might be time for a cunning plan. It was due to rain from 07.30 to 16.00 and I didn't fancy getting wet. However, once the rain had stopped, perhaps it will have left its mark in terms of dropping something in.

So at around 15.45 I was pulling off the drive when I got a text from Mike: Five Greenshank at Middle Spernal.  This is barely a mile from Morton Bagot and the first multiple occurrence there. Surely a sign.

As I walked towards the pool, I got another text: Now six Greenshank there. So as I finally surveyed the pool it was with some optimism. Nine Teal and a Green Sandpiper. Never mind there was still the Flash to come.

I started to scan. Five Green Sandpipers, seven Snipe, and 24 Teal. Mike phoned. What a day he was having, a large flock of Common Terns and Black Terns at Salford Prior GP, plus a Greenshank there. How was I doing? I toyed with the idea of saying there had been an influx of Teal, but settled for admitting it was just the same old stuff.

Fifteen minutes later, another sweep of the nearest flash produced the goods. A Garganey waddled out from behind the juncus on the near side of the the flash. This was the fourth record for the site and the first since a drake in June 2012.


It was rather surprising to see it walking around on the mud, and although it did spend a little time on the wetter mud, it seemed to prefer the drier area. This unfortunately meant that it went missing for long periods because it was screened from view by long vegetation.

The small white patch between the rear flanks and the tail was puzzling, but I cannot find any evidence that any of the small ducks should show it, so I regard it as an example of slightly aberrant plumage.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Sunday August 14

We are starting to reach the business end of August when European passerines join juvenile Arctic waders as they head for tropical climes. The hope is that some of these migrants will pause in the UK as they head south, and just maybe something noteworthy will arrive at Morton Bagot.

Not today though. Despite encouraging conditions; cloudy with very little wind, and quite warm, Dave and I saw pretty much the same birds as I saw on Friday. In fact, the drier flashes and pool  contained only three Green Sandpipers, and the juvenile Dunlin has moved on.

On the plus side at least three Snipe were present on the margin of the nearest flash, and there are now seven Teal despite the reduced amount of water. The highlight was an adult male Redstart in the hedge beyond the flash, and the continuing presence of two Whinchats, a Lesser Whitethroat, one or two Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers, three Blackcaps, and 14 Whitethroats.

None of these migrants came close enough, or posed for sufficiently long, for a photograph, but a hunting Sparrowhawk did oblige at Netherstead.

It created havoc among the House Martins, Swallows, Goldfinches, and Pied Wagtails in particular.

A posse of Pied Wagtails
The cloudy conditions were detrimental to my chances of seeing many insects, but a Holly Blue did show well.

Holly Blue

Friday, 12 August 2016

Friday August 12

A warm, sunny morning with a moderate to fresh westerly breeze.

The walk to the pool produced three Whinchats in the Chat Field, but the pool itself was quiet and continues to lose water through evaporation. The Flash contained the juvenile Dunlin again, three Green Sandpipers, 35 Lapwings, the two juvenile Shelducks, and 59 Greylag Geese.

Things picked up on the return journey. The family party of Spotted Flycatchers had moved along the hedge from where they were last week, and were now definitely in camera range. The area was also busy with Chiffchaffs and Tits.

Adult Spotted Flycatcher
Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher
I was spoilt for choice when deciding which photos to show, but the opposite scenario played out a little further along the hedge when I realised that a Kingfisher was perched on the pool beyond. I got a shot through a gap in the hedge, but realising it wasn't focussed on the bird I edged to a position where I thought I could get it and tried again. The result was even worse, but two careful steps to the right would do it. As I completed the second step the Kingfisher decided enough was enough and silently flew off. Doh! This is all I can show you.

Interestingly the bill appears to be all black, which means its an adult male. I had always assumed the birds we got here were dispersing juveniles.

The remainder of this post is devoted to insects. Earlier on I had had a great opportunity to photograph a male Common Blue butterfly.

Common Blue
However, further along from the Kingfisher spot I came across a small group of the closely related butterfly, Brown Argus. These tiny insects chased each other around but eventually one settled long enough for a shot.

Brown Argus
I was almost as thrilled to see a Peacock butterfly as they have been extremely scarce this year.

Finally, the warm weather was good for dragonflies. The usual Emperors and Brown Hawkers at the Dragonfly Pools were joined by lots of coupled Common Darters, the males swinging the females  downwards repeatedly, as each time she laid an egg. I also saw a single Ruddy Darter and photographed what I believe is a female Ruddy Darter.

Female Ruddy Darter

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sunday August 7

A morning of sunny intervals and a strong westerly breeze, but it was pretty warm. I generally don't rate windy days here, but this was definitely one of the better ones.

To begin with I was joined by Dave, back from his holidays. Things proceeded quietly until we reached the flash field. Here, the most obvious new arrival was a juvenile Shelduck, and we later noticed a second bird hiding in the long grass at the edge of the nearest flash.

While I was trying to get a shot of it, Dave noticed a small wader lying on a muddy ridge in the flash. A quick look through the scope confirmed it was a Dunlin, the first since three in March.

We counted eight Green Sandpipers, 40 Lapwings, four Teal, and 130 Greylag Geese before Dave distinguished himself again by spotting that there were a number of Spotted Flycatchers in the bushes and trees behind the flash. Unfortunately they were too distant to be worth a photograph, but included adults and juveniles and totalled at least five birds. Clearly a family party.

Finally, I discovered that the juvenile Ringed Plover was still present, now in the grass with Lapwings at the right hand side of the nearest flash.

Ringed Plover
The remainder of the visit produced about 50 Starlings, 40 Goldfinches, and a Kingfisher which we only managed to hear.

One or two insects were worth looking at.

Southern Hawker
Holly Blue
The Holly Blue was nice to see, as they are only moderately plentiful here. We also saw a couple of Common Blues and a Small Heath. Still no Peacocks!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Friday August 5

A sunny morning and an early start. The temperature rapidly warmed so I was able to see plenty of insects as well as good numbers of birds.

The area behind the pool produced a Whinchat, about 90 Goldfinches, and about 15 Linnets. The pool itself harbouring two juvenile Little Grebes despite the falling water level. At the flash field I quickly noticed that there were two Little Owls on show, and one one of them was clearly a juvenile.

Juvenile (on left) and adult Little Owl
The nearest flash contained 56 Lapwings, six Green Sandpipers, three Teal, and a juvenile Ringed Plover. This was quite a fillip, being a species which averages one occurrence every two years. The bird remained at the back of the flash, so I'm afraid the photos aren't up to much.

Juvenile Ringed Plover
I was hoping to add some passerine migrants, and although there was nothing new, diligent logging produced a record accumulation of 17 Common Whitethroats, as well as three Blackcaps, and a Sedge Warbler.

Regarding insects, I finally managed to photograph some of the Brown Hawkers, and also Red Admiral, and several tiny grass moths of two species. I'm unfortunately not yet sure which species they were though.

Brown Hawker
Red Admiral
Common Darter
Agriphila tristella - Common Grass Veneer

Agriphilla sp (possibly straminella) - Straw Grass Veneer

Finally, a bit of a postscript. Lyn and I went to Hillers Garden Centre in the lee of Ragley Hall woods where I spotted a large Fritillary. Frustratingly it only landed very briefly before I lost it, so I was able to rule out Comma. I am pretty certain it was a Silver-washed Fritillary, but I probably didn't quite nail it.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Sunday July 31

Cloudy and a little cooler this morning. A very light north-westerly breeze.

I decided to walk along the road through the village and back down to the pool. This route rarely seems to produce much of note, and today was no exception. In fact the whole site was pretty quiet for birds, the only noteworthy events being the presence of several small flocks heralding the onset of autumn; 40 Goldfinches, 50 Starlings, 43 Lapwings, 80 Jackdaws, and seven Green Sandpipers for example.

A juvenile Goldfinch
Most of the Goldfinches were juveniles, and there may actually have been two separate flocks of about 40 birds.

Fortunately, on quiet days other stuff comes to the rescue. The field behind the pool contains a spectacular bloom of yellow flowers which I believe are Prickly Sowthistles.

The field also contains stacks of Red-tailed Bumblebees, and is also a haven for Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Whitethroats, and Goldfinches. While I was searching for birds, a buck Roe Deer appeared and stuck its tongue out at me.

Shortly afterwards it barked its annoyance, and headed off over the ridge. A second buck then appeared and did the same thing.

The day was a little too cool for many dragonflies to be on the wing, but there were enough butterflies  to encourage me to do another 15 minute count. As luck would have it the period produced the two butterfly stars of the day, a Comma and a Small Copper.

Small Copper and Meadow Brown
I was particularly pleased to see the Small Copper as it was my first this year, and has been highlighted by Butterfly Conservation as a declining species. They have never been particularly obvious on the patch, but I expect to see one or two every year.

Finally, I took a photograph of a plant at the dragonfly pools in order to try to identify it. It grows quite readily there, and now seems to be coming into flower.

Not the most spectacular thing, but I have worked out that it is called Gypsywort and likes to grow near water. Which it does.