Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Wednesday November 15

Cloudy with virtually no wind. Mild. Ideal conditions for a walk around the patch. With no shooting going on, the sound of silence was wonderful.

I was a bit late starting due to finding a Hawfinch about 200 metres from our house! It had gone by the time I returned with binoculars and camera.

For a change I decided to lug my scope and tripod around, and this allowed me to spot two Bramblings in a flock of 107 Linnets. The female posed quite well, but the brighter male was too hard to photograph.

Brambling (on the left)
My real goal was to find the Merlin I missed on Sunday. There was plenty of Merlin food around; Linnets, Chaffinches, Redpolls and the like. But the main event failed to show. The hedgerows were full of Redwings, while several flocks of Fieldfares headed west. There was a great late autumn feel about the day.

Redwing and Bullfinch
The flash field and pool were reasonably productive, hosting a Green Sandpiper, 14 Teal, six Wigeon, two Shovelers, 18 Greylag Geese, and 12 Snipe. At the edge of the pool behind the flash I found a female Kingfisher which tolerated my presence surprisingly well.

Finally, I couldn't resist photographing a Lesser Redpoll perched on wires above the scrubby part of Stapenhill Wood.

Lesser Redpoll

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Sunday November 12

Cloudy at first, then sunny, with a freshening northerly breeze. Cold.

There is a word for days like this, but I won't use it. Another word is frustrating.

Dave arrived shortly before I did and had recorded several flocks of Fieldfare leaving us with a combined total for the morning of at least 75. I joined him, and the first minor calamity occurred when I got onto a distant finch, which I thought might be a Hawfinch. My directions were inadequate and Dave could not get on it. I wasn't 100 percent, so had to let it go.

Worse was to follow (for me anyway).

At the pond a flock of 80 Linnets and numerous thrushes was swirling about and I commented there could be a raptor about. At this point a young lady from Church Farm appeared with two dogs, passing us with a cheery "not disturbing anything am I". I had to admit that although she was, she did live there so I could hardly complain. Further along the hedge Dave announced, "WHAT'S THIS?" As I whirled round he added "Merlin !" I could see nothing. The bird had evidently been flying on the opposite side of the hedge we were following allowing Dave a brief, but excellent, view of it. By the time I was trying to see it, it must have been passing me at speed on the other side of the hedge.

This was the first Merlin here since December 2013. They rarely give you a second chance so I wasn't surprised that we didn't see it again.

At the flash field a reasonably good number and variety of wildfowl was present, including five Shoveler, two Wigeon, 30 Teal, and seven Snipe.

Three of the Shovelers (the full complement included a female and another imm male)
The walk back did not add much apart from a distant raptor which I am certain was a Peregrine, while Dave preferred not to commit.

Just one of those days.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday November 10

A sunny day with an annoyingly brisk westerly breeze. Although there was no shooting on site, the surrounding farmland soon echoed to the sound of sporting folk blasting away at Pheasants and partridges.

Ironically, his probably helped me because it had the effect of corralling the local ducks onto the nearest flash. I counted 48 Mallard, 37 Teal, three Wigeon and a Shoveler before my presence unnerved them sufficiently to encourage them to fly elsewhere.

Drake Wigeon
Female Shoveler
The only waders were a little group of Snipe huddled in the sedge. I suspect that if it had been possible to walk through the flash field, a lot more would have made themselves known.

Passerine-wise it was pretty quiet. A handful of Fieldfares have joined the 35 Redwings stripping the hedgerows, and there are encouraging numbers of Redpolls although it is difficult to be sure how many are here.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sunday November 5

Non-birding commitments have been frustrating me this week. I had intended coming here on Wednesday, but had dropped the plan in favour of taking my parents to a hospital appointment. The following day I was committed to visiting friends in Yorkshire and, virtually as I was getting in the car, I got a call from Dave indicating that there was a Lesser Yellowlegs (a rare yankee wader) at a private site in Warwickshire. I couldn't do anything about it.

Over the weekend I have fallen foul of a cold, but this morning I was determined to get to the patch anyway. The news of the Yellowlegs, courtesy of Dave, suggests that the site is no longer accessible and the bird may have gone anyway.

It was a sunny morning, and rather cold as a light north-westerly has set in. I quickly missed two photo opportunities as a Kingfisher landed in a willow sprouting out of one of the dragonfly ponds for not quite long enough for me to get a shot off, and then an adult Peregrine flew over Netherstead.

The remainder of the visit featured flocks totalling 90 Fieldfares and 58 Starlings heading south and west respectively, and a Little Egret which flew from the pool (still a puddle) to the furthest flash. The flash field was again disappointing, containing just eight Teal, two visible Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, and three Lapwings.

"Alba" Wagtail
An alba Wagtail was probably just a female or immature Pied. There seemed to be slightly fewer finches around, but we still managed 60 Linnets, 12 Chaffinches, 15 Siskins, and single figure counts of the other usual suspects.

The most unexpected sighting was a Fallow Deer which bolted over the hill in the ridge field.

Hopefully I'll have a bit more energy, and luck, next week.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Sunday October 29

The clocks went back last night, or at least mine did. Dave's remained firmly in BST so I arrived to find him walking along the road through the hamlet. His highlights had been 72 Fieldfares heading west, and a probable Brambling which called just once. He wasn't counting it though.

I picked him up and drove him back to Netherstead, from where we began our traditional circuit. There were one or two parties of Redwings going west, a total of 63 being logged. Also on the move were Woodpigeons, I counted 220 in all, but Dave had seen several flocks before I joined him.

Finches were well in evidence, in particular 125 Linnets, and 30 Redpolls. We spent a lot of time trying to locate a thrush sp which gave an odd call from a thick hedge, we had Ring Ouzel in mind (although it wasn't the familiar "chack" call). Whatever the bird was we never saw it, or heard it again.

The flashes were absolutely hopeless, producing just 11 Teal, four Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper. Fortunately though we saved the morning's highlight to the return journey as a definite Brambling flew west, calling twice before we saw it.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Redpoll
The Redpoll flock were feeding on willowherb seeds, like the one in the photo.

I managed to lose the winding mechanism on my tripod during the morning, the latest problem to afflict that unfortunate implement.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday October 27

It has been a difficult week. On Wednesday I was hard at work in Birmingham city centre unaware that the first live Razorbill in the West Midlands since 1917 was swimming around Draycote Water. I should have checked the Internet at lunchtime but didn't get around to it, so the first I knew of it was from a phone call from Mike during the evening.

Thursday dawned, and the news was initially "no sign of it", later firmed up as "Razorbill found dead". Meanwhile we were hosting a young man from Virgin who was converting us to their bundle of products. The internet and television went fine, and he told us he had switched the land line from BT but that the phone wouldn't work for a few hours. I signed his piece of paper, but then as he was leaving he said "don't forget to plug it in". Strange. "Where do I do that? ""Oh you can't until you get a  telephone micro-filter" he said. "You can buy them in Tescos". He left at speed. I headed for Tescos and bought an ASD filter, which the electrics expert there thought the engineer probably meant.

24 hours later the land line still doesn't work. Don't bother trying to phone me.

So this morning I felt I needed some birding to soothe my frazzled nerves. I headed for Morton Bagot on a fine and sunny morning. I took my time, looking in every bush and tree, but could only find the usual stuff. A pair of Stonechats posed rather well.

Male Stonechat
Female Stonechat
The Flash field contained three Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, 18 Teal, and a Black-headed Gull. Very few birds were moving and until I saw a distant party of 20 or so presumed Redwings, I was finding there were more Song Thrushes than Redwings in the hedgerows.

At this point I got a phone call from Mike. Chis Lane had found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Broom, just ten miles away. I abandoned the Flash field and headed straight for Broom, where I found Mike and Jean conversing with Chris. The news was not encouraging. After seeing the bird twice Chris had lost it while sending texts. It hadn't reappeared. After about 15 minutes I had seen a Kingfisher and a party of tits which briefly raised the optimism levels, but failed to contain any warblers. Mike and Jean decided to go to the pub, but I declined their invitation to join them.

Two hours passed, during which time I received a text from Matt W saying that he had seen a Barn Owl over the flash field at Morton Bagot about an hour after I had left. Chris and I managed to see a Goldcrest.

Like I said, it's not been a good week.

Post-script: Shortly after posting the above tale I thought I would nip back for an hour on the patch this evening. Slightly to my surprise this was completely successful as I flushed the Barn Owl out of trees bordering the flash field, and was then able to get a distant record shot.

Barn Owl
The rest of the stroll round added a Kingfisher and a Marsh Tit to this morning's tally. I also took a photo of a white-chested Buzzard as dusk approached.

If you are thinking it looks a bit long-tailed, the thought had occurred to me too. Unfortunately it disappeared shortly after this shot. Also, I think I have seen this individual before this autumn, and if so, it is just a Common Buzzard.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Sunday October 22

Sunny intervals and cooler, with a fresh westerly breeze.

Breezy conditions are rarely productive at Morton Bagot, but I could forgive myself a little boost of optimism when within a minute of stepping from my car I looked up to see a Swallow heading south. This juvenile may have been my latest Morton Bagot record.

After that, things went a little steady. I decided to start along the road for a change, a plan which delivered a Mistle Thrush and not much else. One group of birds which do turn up in breezy westerlies, though I have no idea why, are gulls. This morning I counted 20 Lesser black-backed Gulls, a Herring Gull, six Black-headed Gulls, and an adult Common Gull heading into the wind. The latter was the first since February.

The sunshine encouraged one or two Red Admirals into the air, and was also quite good for photography.

Reed Bunting
Away from the road I found two Stonechats in the Chat Field, but the flashes were suffering from post-shoot malaise and only offered two Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, four Teal, and a Mallard.

About seven Redpolls and a Siskin were flying around, but I only saw six Redwings. The wires over the Ridge Field hosted 40 Linnets.

Pretty quiet.