Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sunday 27 October

I arrived a bit late this morning to find that Dave had seen the Snow Goose flying over. As we chatted a Chiffchaff called from the copse by Netherstead Farm. However, near gale force westerly winds meant it was going to be a tough morning for seeing passerines. One or two Redpolls and Siskin called overhead, and a flock over 30 Fieldfares flew south, but we decided to head for the water bodies.

The main pool contained 171 Mallards, five Tufted Ducks, two Mute Swans and the Little Grebe. The flashes contained mostly Geese.

I counted 334 Greylag Geese, easily a record for the site (for me), and the single Snow Goose. By now the wind was very strong indeed so attempts to photograph it were hampered by camera shake.

The remaining wildfowl on the flashes were just the usual mix so we decided to try kicking up Skylarks in the hope of something more exciting among them.

We failed, and Dave, whose back was playing up, decided to throw in the towel. I went back to the flashes and managed better numbers of most things; 44 Teal, 210 Lapwings, 21 Snipe, five Wigeon, and two Green Sandpipers. But nothing new.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Oct 20

Cloudy but mild, with a fresh southerly breeze. I was joined by Dave, and we were initially quite optimistic as there seemed to be increased numbers of Blackbirds, Reed Buntings, and Yellowhammers about, and at least 34 Skylarks.

A calling Grey Partridge in the ridge field was a year-tick for Dave. A Stonechat showed well in the regenerating hedge beside the pool, while earlier a Green Sandpiper had flown from the dragonfly pools to the flashes. All the pools have filled up with water during the week as a testament to the amount of rain we've been getting.

However, the wildfowl numbers were a bit disappointing; just 17 Teal, five Wigeon, and 13 Common Snipe. A flock of 146 Lapwings settled in the flash field.

Visible migration had been restricted to eight Redwings and 50 thrush spp (possibly Fieldfares), until our walk back along the stream-line produced first a Brambling call, and then a flock of 60 Fieldfares overhead. Dave reckoned he saw two Bramblings, but I only heard the call. Three Redpolls and three Siskins also flew over during the morning.

Back at the car I realised I still hadn't tried to photograph anything, so as Dave went home, I went to All Saints church at Morton Bagot determined secure something for the blog.

The church dates back to 1282, although it was added to in the late 14th Century, and renovated in the 19th century. Thank you Wikipedia.

As it stands on the highest ground overlooking the patch, my main hope for it is that one day the roof may play host to a Black Redstart.

Not today though. Just a couple of Pied Wagtails.

Autumn is the time for fungi, a subject about which I know nothing.

These interestingly shaped examples were clustered on a piece of sloping lawn adjacent to the church. I think I need to ask Santa for a fungus identification book.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

City Centre birding

My first week at my new employer has come to a close. Pretty traumatic, but I suppose that's the joys of adapting to new systems and routines.

The birdlife of Birmingham city centre seems likely to be somewhat limited, but I still managed a couple of blog-worthy birds.

On Thursday I found, on the pavement of Colmore Row, a perfect (but dead) Song Thrush. There is no way it lived there, so clearly this was a migrant, which probably struck a building. The next morning was foggy, and I could hear the calls of Redwings migrating over Victoria Square.

Thank goodness you can birdwatch anywhere. Just step out of your house or look out of the window and you are there.

Monday, 14 October 2013

More thoughts about the Swans

I think I might have messed up here.

Still no Bewick's at Slimbridge, or anywhere in the country, and my doubts have won the day.

When I first picked them up they did look big, and I wouldn't have been too surprised if they had turned out to be Mutes. But once I realised they had yellow bases to their bills the identification was allowed to rest solely on my perception of the shape of the yellow bill patches. But they were still distant and the yellow was obvious. Could I really have seen if the yellow reached a sharp point? My thoughts about neck length relies on a very subjective analysis and probably shouldn't carry much weight.

On balance I now think they were probably Whoopers, but I'll have to submit them as wild Swans spp.

Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bad weather birding and wild Swans

The problem with the weather forecast nowadays is that it's so flippin' accurate. This morning I stayed dry for about 30 minutes before the rain duly arrived and intensified.

Dave had elected to head for Flamborough to bird with our old friend Craig, and a call from him last night confirmed what a fantastic time he was having. Rustic Bunting, Leach's Petrels, and a variety of other good seabirds. He even had two Gannets flying inland, as he stared from the train on his way up, somewhere near the Humber Estuary.

Gannets. Jon Yardley texted me on Friday night. He had seen a juvenile Gannet flying over his house in Studley late on Friday afternoon. It had headed vaguely in the direction of Morton Bagot, about two miles away as the Gannet flies.

This morning there were no Gannets on offer (although another juvenile has been seen over Upton Warren this morning), and in the half hour of dry I recorded a couple of Chiffchaffs and six Redwings.

As the rain set in I scanned across flash and pool, sifting through rafts of Mallard, about 40 Teal and 10 Wigeon in the hope of seeing something different. The Little Grebe was still present, but there was nothing new.

The soggy trudge back did produce new arrivals though. I heard a Brambling calling as it flew over unseen, then found two new Stonechats. If you have ever wondered what a Stonechat looks like through a rain splattered, misty telescope, wonder no more.

Finally, another new autumn bird flew over. Actually there were two of them, adult Common Gulls.

OK, I'll admit it, Flamborough has the edge on Morton Bagot.

However, by 3.00pm the rain was clearing and I decided to venture out again. The flashes now contained 127 Teal and 13 Wigeon. I suspect they may have been there earlier, but they were now on the nearest flash where they could at least be seen without grass etc in the way.

I met John Chidwick and we exchanged phone numbers. A thrash across the field produced 25 Meadow Pipits and 50 Goldfinches. I saw John heading off, and could find no sign of this morning's Stonechats.

Eventually I reached the road, and the sun was finally shining. As I walked along I saw three Swans flying high, heading north-west. A quick look threw the bins through me into panic mode. Wild Swans, surely Whoopers. I managed to get the scope off my back and onto my tripod, and to my relief found that the birds had turned and were heading back south-east. I got onto them, and concluded that the yellow at the base of the bills was blunt and quite restricted. Another look through the bins and I felt their necks weren't all that long. They disappeared over Bannams Wood, and I decided that they were Bewick's. They were two adults and an immature.

Since then I have started to worry about them. The date is rather early for Bewick's. There are none at Slimbridge yet. Whatever they were it's a first for Morton Bagot. I suppose I should be influenced by what I saw and thought at the time, and not by the date. But I'll feel a lot better if some Bewick's turn up at Slimbridge tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

First Redwings

The first colder weather of the year today, and right on queue the first two Redwings of the autumn flew over our house as I returned from the paper shop.

With the days now too short to allow midweek birding, and with a new job about to start in Birmingham city centre, my opportunities to see birds away from the weekend are now restricted to chance encounters like this.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday Oct 6

I arrived at Netherstead Farm to find the whole area under a blanket of fog. Despite this, a small passerine on top of the the hedge near where I had parked proved to be the first Stonechat of the year. Initial views were of a silhouette, but later in the day, with the sun out, it could be seen properly and I took some shots of it.

Back in the fog first thing however, I lost the bird before I was totally certain of my identification. So when Dave joined me, we edged along the hedge hoping to relocate it. In the process a call alerted us to an arguably more extraordinary sight, as a Kingfisher shot past us and away into the fog. Presumably it was completely lost and looking for a water course. After nailing the Stonechat we decided to stick to the footpaths in case we upset any potential dog-trainers.

As the mist started to clear, the heavy dew was giving away the positions of a myriad cobwebs, and I couldn't resist recording the effect on a five-bar gate.

Once the sun was out the day rapidly warmed up. There were plenty of Meadow Pipits in the grass and on the hedges, but no real overhead migration. The warmth was giving the local insects a last hurrah, and as well as several Hornets, and a few late butterflies, we saw several Common Darter dragonflies, and I was able to photograph two species of Hawker.

Migrant Hawker
Southern Hawker
The pool still contained the Little Grebe, and 13 immature Tufted Ducks, while the furthest flash was swamped with wildfowl. Most were recently released Mallard, but there were also at least 43 Teal, 10 Wigeon, and 108 Greylag Geese. The only waders we could see were 18 Common Snipe, although 57 Lapwings had been flying around.

The only summer migrant we recorded was a singing Chiffchaff, while autumn was represented by a couple of fly-over Siskins and a Redpoll.

I have learnt of a few notable Morton Bagot birds this week. John Yardley had 100 Teal and a Peregrine on Thursday, Mike saw a Hobby and the Snow Goose yesterday, while John Chidwick reported that the Whinchat was also still present yesterday.