Sunday, 24 March 2019

Sunday March 24

This is more like it, a beautiful sunny morning albeit with a light north-westerly breeze.

Dave and I strolled around the patch counting about five Chiffchaffs, none of which showed well, before reaching the drying pool where four Little Ringed Plovers remained in situ.

The furthest flash then came up trumps as it held a pair of Redshanks. A welcome return after an almost complete blank last year.

The pair
Inevitably the views were very distant, but the species was identifiable. The nearer flash contained a pair of Shelducks, four Teal, 14 Coot, 17 Lapwings and a Snipe. A single Little Owl was visible in the usual tree.

As the temperature rose we started seeing insects. Several types of bee buzzed around the blackthorn blossom, and a single Dark-edged Bee Fly showed well.

Dark-edged Bee Fly
As for butterflies, we probably saw about 10 Brimstones, but the only other species was a single Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Tortoiseshell
Typically, the day after I took Richard B around (he was keen to see some mammals), we clocked four Roe Deers and several Brown Hares without any effort at all.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Friday March 22

A cloudy morning with a light south-westerly and a few sunny intervals. It was a rather delayed start because Richard B who was coming with me had brought a mysterious and brightly coloured insect he had found when transferring his shopping in his kitchen in Walsall. By the time we left for the patch we had still not identified it.

The walk around the patch involved a lot of chatting and some birding. I had noticed an arrival of singing Chiffchaffs here in Redditch over the last couple of days so I was not surprised that we found three singing birds at Morton Bagot.

However, the highlight came when we reached the former pool. Here there was sufficient surface water to make the mud a bit damp. These conditions were ideal for three Little Ringed Plovers to take up residence. We went on to find a fourth on the furthest flash.

Little Ringed Plovers
The flash field added a pair of Shelducks, a Green Sandpiper, a few Teal and at least eight Lapwings to the mix.

Given my success rate in recent visits I was confident of showing Richard at least one Brown Hare, but not a single mammal came into view. Instead, I was pleased to find my first Red Admiral butterfly of the year, a rather battered individual just out of hibernation.

Red Admiral
Back at Netherstead we found a dead Coot under the power lines which are likely to have killed it as it migrated at night.

Back at base we finally came up with a name for the bug, actually a beetle. The Ant Beetle.

Ant Beetle
They apparently awake in spring and hang around tree trunks waiting for another species, the Bark Beetle, to come in range. They then immobilise them by biting their legs off and consume them at leisure. Nice!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Sunday March 17

Another visit that won't live long in the memory I'm afraid. Distinctly chilly despite there being plenty of sunshine and wind technically from the south-west.

Still present were a Little Egret, a Peregrine, 11 Teal, a Shelduck, 14 Lapwings, and a Little Owl. The sky was full of Buzzards, well ok maybe only about four pairs, but they were well in evidence. Rather a lot of gulls rested on the fields north of the flash field and for a while on the furthest flash. We counted 40 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Herring Gull, and 10 Black-headed Gulls.

At the south end the flock of Linnets numbered about 80, with about 20 Chaffinches, 11 Pied Wagtails, and 10 or so Meadow Pipits.

Meadow Pipit
It was too cold for insects except for a couple of bumblebees and a solitary mining bee sp.

Luckily, things are bound to improve in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Thursday March 14

After waiting for a horrendous shower to pass I set out in bright sunshine hoping for some good luck. The gale force westerly should have reminded me to be realistic.

The heavy rain did at least give the pool the impression of actually being a pool. But no doubt it will all drain away again.

I walked the entire length of the patch before completing the circle by 1pm. Such effort deserved reward, but birding in wind is hard work and the best I could manage was a Little Egret, 10 Teal, 70 Redwings, eight Fieldfares, a Barn Owl (usual place), and a singing Chiffchaff (which I couldn't see).

In fact, not seeing birds was something of a theme. I still need some record shots for my photo-year-list including Green Woodpecker (two heard yaffling in the distance), the aforementioned Chiffchaff, Jay (heard only), Sparrowhawk (seen circling about half a mile away), Yellowhammer (heard only), not to mention Nuthatch, Treecreeper, and Siskin (all not recorded at all today).

I have been considering splashing out on a new camera. A chance meeting with Mike Lane helped me make up my mind. He has an Olympus something or other which he absolutely loves. He also described it has the most complicated camera he has ever owned. As I would struggle with the technology if I was somehow transported into the Bronze Age, there is no way I am going to spend three grand on a camera I cannot use. So I'll stick with the easy peasy bridge camera I currently own.

The only insect species on view was the odd Buff-tailed Bumblebee, so that just left mammal watching.

Brown Hare
boxing hares
Muntjacs are usually seen singly, so two together was worth a shot.

Terry kindly rang me at about 12.45 to ask if I knew about the Ring-necked Duck. Of course I didn't. It was at Westwood near Droitwich and access had been arranged until 1pm. That's a shame. Plan A was to go to Hillers with Lyn.

I stuck with it, and a pair of displaying (or jousting male) Red Kites would have been full compensation if I had bothered to take the binoculars. Oh well.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Sunday March 10

The morning started cloudy and fairly calm, but after the first hour showers swept in and the wind increased to a strong north-westerly. At least there were some sunny spells.

Dave joined me and we headed for the flash field where I was not altogether surprised to find that the Oystercatcher had gone. In its place were eight Lapwings, one Shelduck, and two Little Egrets. Something spooked the wildfowl and in an instant the Teal numbers doubled to reached 32 birds.

Little Egrets
We eventually had to conclude that nothing else would turn up, although a singing Marsh Tit and its accompanying Great Tit in the hedge provided some distraction.

Fortunately we decided it would be worth heading to the south end. The hedge bordering the new horse paddocks sheltered a Kestrel which was keeping its eye on a flock of 27 Pied Wagtails, a few Meadow Pipits, and numerous thrushes feeding around the grazing horses.

Pied Wagtails
The thrushes were a mix of Redwings and Fieldfares, one of which (a Redwing) was singing. A large flock of finches was also sheltering from the wind, and we estimated 200 Linnets, 12 Chaffinches, a Lesser Redpoll, and a few Reed Buntings.

So, typical of early March, it felt as though winter was fighting back.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Friday March 8

Watery sunshine when I arrived soon disappeared as the cloud became increasingly heavy through the morning. A very light westerly, but rather chilly. So pretty much a typical early March day.

For the first time this year I recorded a bird which is not annual here, my last being in 2016. In the grass close to the furthest flash stood an Oystercatcher. OK not the most exciting rarity, and it had probably just wandered from Arrow Valley Lake where they do seem to be regular, but a clear sign that Spring is just around the corner.

I had hardly had time to celebrate my good fortune when another spring migrant made itself known. A regular "hweet" call indicated the presence of a Chiffchaff. It seemed to be on the far side of the hedge but it took me ages to see it, and there was no chance of a photo. Unfortunately it did not burst into song, but the species does not occur here in winter, so I can be pretty sure it was a genuine migrant.

The flash field also hosted the usual pair of Shelducks, and about 10 or so Teal, Coots, and Lapwings.  A Little Egret stood by the furthest flash, and three Cormorants were in their favoured tree. The sedge is increasingly extensive which allows all of the above to disappear when they want to, and makes accurate counting very tricky.

Black-headed Gull
A summer plumaged Black-headed Gull dropped in, bucking the trend by showing very well indeed.

The walk back produced a mammal year-tick as two Rabbits skipped across the slope above Stapenhill Wood. Strangely, this species is usually harder to find here than Brown Hare.

When I got back to the Netherstead area I discovered that a Mistle Thrush was singing lustily, and that the pair of Tufted Ducks have relocated to the dragonfly pond.

Tufted Ducks
Things are looking up.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Sunday March 3

Steady drizzle set in shortly after I got up and after studying the forecast I decided that it couldn't be relied upon to clear until late afternoon.

So at 15.00 I arrived at Church Farm, it was still raining, and set out to see what I could find. In fact I got my reward as soon as I reached the pool field. A pair of Tufted Ducks were occupying the small top pool.

Tufted Ducks
I arrived at the flash field to find a good spread of Lapwings and Starlings in the grass, and at least two Green Sandpipers on the nearest flash. The rain was finally abating and I realised I had left my scope in the car, so I opted to go and get it. On the walk back a Yellowhammer flew over calling. It's rather sad that this year the species is so scarce that this sighting was worth mentioning.

Back at the flash, scope now available, I discovered that a flock of large gulls had dropped in to bathe. They totalled at least 35 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and four Herring Gulls. They didn't stay long and I was left to see what else was present.  Joining the Green Sandpipers and 27 Lapwings, were 33 Mallard, 32 Teal, a drake Shoveler, three Snipe, and the pair of Shelducks.

As I headed home the dusk gatherings of 175 Jackdaws, and 58 Redwings were something of a novelty as I am rarely here this late in the day.