Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A hint of migration

Tree Sparrow
 A rare opportunity to spend a weekday morning out birding was not to be spurned. The weather was rather grey and misty, but there was virually no wind. I began at Netherstead Farm, getting good views of the local Tree Sparrows. This is a rather special species. Although still reasonably widespread in Warwickshire, they are now very scarce in Worcestershire, so Morton Bagot just a few miles from the Worcs border represents something of a westerly outpost. The numbers are reasonably stable here and the seven I saw this morning is about three-quarters of the breeding season population on the farm.  As I continued over the ridge a small party of Golden Plovers swirled into view. I had the impression that they may have got up from a field, but they showed no signs of wanting to land again and they headed off south-west. This is a species I encounter occasionally during the winter, but these were my first this year. My largest count here to date was 36 in November 2010, but I believe that John Coombes reported about 100 earlier in the winter. There seems to be a small wintering flock near Studley and I think these birds occasionally stray here. Moving on, the flashes were a little quiet, but there was a flock of at least 70 Fieldfares and 100 Starlings in a hedgerow nearby. As I moved closer to them a faint "hweet" call from the hedgerow behind me grabbed my attention and after a quick backtrack I was soon watching my first spring migrant Chiffchaff darting about the hawthorn trying to catch the few small flies available. Although they do winter in the UK, this was undoubtedly a newly arrived migrant, probably from Spain or North Africa. The patch year-list struggles on to a modest 71 species.

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