Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Tuesday December 30

Today was a good day. It began very cold (sub-zero) with a thick layer of frost, all water-courses frozen, and a layer of cloud which meant the temperature would only rise slowly.

A Chaffinch on a frosty branch sets the scene well.

I wasn't sure whether Dave would be joining me so I decided to head through the village and along the road below Bannams Wood. By the time I reached the wood it was clear I would be on my own today, and I soon found a co-operative party of small birds. These included a Treecreeper, and a Coal Tit which I managed to add as my last photo year-tick.

101. Coal Tit
Also in the party were at least six Long-tailed Tits, a Marsh Tit, and a Goldcrest. Sadly the latter just wouldn't play ball and remained as the one that got away as far as a photograph is concerned.

At the end of the wood I turned to head towards the frozen pools. A familiar shape was perched on the pylon above me.

 The adult Peregrine was my first bird of prey today, and it was not to be my last. At the bottom of the slope I checked the Owl tree and sure enough it was back in residence.

Tawny Owl
I reached the gap and scanned for the Stonechats. There was no sign of them, but instead I found something a lot better.

Barn Owl
The Barn Owl was sitting in an ivy-clad pollarded willow on the far side of the field. I cranked the camera up to maximum magnification to take some shots. I could have got closer, but at some point I would have flushed it and I prefer not to do that. It stretched its wing and looked around, but seemed pretty content. Only my second sighting here this year.

A little further on I could hear a Kestrel calling. I could feel a theme coming on. Raptor day.

There were actually two, which is no doubt why one of them was calling. The flashes contained not only ice, but also a ramshackle canvas shooting hide, several decoy ducks, and one or two ex-Mallards. Obviously yesterday had been the day to avoid.

About 30 Skylarks swarmed across the field ridge, and I chose to walk through the little wood. This added nothing to the day, but back at the dragonfly pools corvid calls led me to the pale Buzzard which had alighted on a hedge.

Common Buzzard
It suddenly looked round and appeared anxious...and then there were two.

Shortly afterwards the sun came out and I was tempted to stroll to the little pond to see if I could add anything more. About 30 Yellowhammers and a few Chaffinches were feeding on the track, and as I left the area half a dozen Lesser Redpolls appeared.

Lesser Redpoll
I felt it was about time I had a good day here. Looking back, the year has been a game of two halves. The first four months producing rarities like a flock of Bewick's Swans, a Green-winged Teal and a pair of Avocets before the middle of April. Then the going got tougher, a Grasshopper Warbler sang but remained largely unseen for several weeks, a couple of sightings of juvenile Ruffs in August, and after a Yellow-crowned Weaver gave us the runaround in September, a Marsh Harrier flew through while I sat at home researching the weaver. It was to be one of those autumns, a real slog with few highlights.

But 2015 will be another year. Let the fun begin.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sunday December 28

A beautiful frosty morning with hardly a breathe of wind. Dave was there comfortably before me, but hadn't seen much of note.

Indeed our walk around today confirmed only that the usual suspects were largely still present, though ominously we couldn't find the Stonechats. We reckoned there were at least 40 Yellowhammers present, a single Coot was new on the pool, and the shed contained some fresh Barn Owl pellets.

It was great for photography though.

The highlight came when we returned to the cars. A little flock of seven Lesser Redpolls appeared in the birches and a couple showed well enough for photos.

Lesser Redpoll

The only gull we saw was a single immature Herring Gull which flew over, and the only ducks apart from Mallard were three Teal.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Friday December 26

A year-tick at last, and almost as soon as I had stepped out of the car. In fact I was changing into my wellies when a little group of seven large Gulls flew by, and four of them were Great Black-backed Gulls. Rather conveniently one was an adult (the others first-winters) and they were with Herring Gulls, a useful size comparison. Less helpfully my camera was in a bag in the boot, and I judged I would not have time to get it out and get a shot away. These were my first Greater Black-backs here since Nov 2012.

The photo-list then had another near miss as I chased a Goldcrest along a hedge by the car. I managed several shots but each just shows bits of Goldcrest. If I could piece them together I might have a whole bird!

Never mind, the grey still morning was rather frosty, and I was pleased to find no evidence of sportsmen, so I had the place to myself. The pair of Stonechats was still present, the pool was largely unfrozen but only contained five Teal among the usual Mallard, Canada Geese, and two Mute Swans.

The field behind the pool was covered in frost and contained a little flock of Skylarks.


I counted 28 in the field and later flushed more giving a total of 48. Pretty typical numbers. I decided to return along the road, and this allowed me to see a Treecreeper, a couple of Marsh Tits, and a Nuthatch hammering away at the bark of a tree. I suspected it had wedged a nut or acorn in there.


So the addition of Great Black-backed Gull brings my personal total up to a paltry 110 species for the year, seven or eight short of my usual score.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday December 21

The shortest day began cloudy and gloomy with a moderate south-westerly breeze. My camera has been restored to me so I was keen to use it. Dave joined me and we wandered around with realistic expectations given how rubbish its been lately.

From that standpoint we had an ok morning. The pair of Stonechats was still present, and a Redpoll called as it flew over. The flashes remained poor, just 12 Teal, while 70 Lapwings were circling high overhead. Things picked up as we walked along the back hedge. It was clear that there was a decent sized thrush flock, and we estimated 100 Redwings, 60 Fieldfares, a Mistle Thrush, and about 10 Starlings.

The one that got away was a possible Chiffchaff we heard calling somewhere along the hedge. We eventually saw a Goldcrest, but were unable to confirm our suspicions. As well as the thrushes there were a lot of finches here, feeding on the dead heads of flowering crops. We estimated 50 Goldfinches and 30 Chaffinches, and then the bird of the day, a female Siskin, which called before landing in an ash. I went for the camera but the bird flew before I could add it to the photo year-list. This was only my second record this autumn.

The remainder of the walk was pretty quiet apart from another sighting of the Peregrine, and a pterodactyl which flew over.

Well ok, it was a Grey Heron.

Saturday, 20 December 2014


We have changed our Internet provider and are having teething troubles. This is just to see if its still working.

I am half expecting everything to go Tits up (the only bird reference in this posting) so if Morton Bagot Birder disappears unexpectedly, I can only say I will try to reincarnate myself at some stage.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sunday December 14

Oh dear, I'm afraid the birding remains stuck in a Morton Bagot-shaped rut, or possibly a trench.

Dave and I completed a pretty quick circuit, mainly because there wasn't much to look at. Our highlights were the Peregrine (for the third weekend running) circling near Bannams Wood, and 180 Linnets with 40 Chaffinches in game cover.

Other than that all I can say is that the flashes produced nothing at all, although the pool behind the flash hedge did contain 15 nervous Teal. The water courses are now ice-free, as well as bird-free, and the most notable species on our return journey was a Mistle Thrush.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Saturday December 13

A crisp frosty morning tempted me out for a Saturday stroll along the road which borders the patch. I could see that the flashes were frozen solid so I concentrated on the area between Church Farm and Bannams Wood.

It was a bit quiet if I'm honest. The highlights were nine Ravens which flew over Church Farm, and a good total of Meadow Pipits in the adjacent pasture, with at least 17 eventually taking flight.

I did have designs on sketching the little birds in the wood, particularly Goldcrests, but they were not playing ball and I only managed three brief and distant views of the latter in the treetops, not really enough to produce anything worth while on paper.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sunday December 7

On Monday my camera was sent away to be fixed, so today I was birding without it. The photo-list ended on 100, but I had a vague idea to break out the old sketch book and continue the project in field sketches.

This is why I found myself back under Bannams Wood staring at Tit flocks as the early morning rain abated. I saw a Goldcrest high in the trees just as Dave drove around the corner and asked what I was up to. He parked up, but the pressure was now on and instead of a Goldcrest I located a Coal Tit, another little blighter that had eluded the camera.

I had a couple of opportunities to jot something down. After a year of drawing nothing I am a bit rusty, but anyway here are the fruits of my labours.

The actual field sketches are the two little ones, and the colour version based on the upper one was done when I got home. I didn't want to subject Dave to an hour of chasing a Coal Tit round so we drove to our usual starting point and began birding from Netherstead.

We felt there were more Redwings about, perhaps because of the colder weather earlier in the week, and also saw that the male Stonechat was still present. Another bird which was unusually prominent was Raven, and we saw at least seven by the time we got to the flash. A possible explanation for their presence was the sight of several dead bodies (birds) floating in the first flash. Also present were 50 live Teal, about 60 Mallard, a pair of Wigeon, and 40 or so Lapwings.

At this point we were suddenly surrounded by dogs and a polite shooter ambled up to apologise for the disturbance he and his mates were about to cause as they sent the dogs to "pick" the corpses. We watched as the dogs flushed everything including about five Snipe we had not seen. The corpses were mostly Mallard, but included a Teal and a Greylag Goose. Dave had the presence of mind to ask when the shooting season would end, and we were told Feb 1.

The return journey was enlivened by distant views of a Peregrine in a dog fight with a Crow over Bannams Wood.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunday November 30

I arrived shortly after 09.10 to find Dave trying to keep his spirits up in the thick fog. We decided to walk through the village as the visibility was better in the lee of Bannams Wood.

The sun soon started appearing and after 30 minutes the fog suddenly lifted. I pursued a few Goldcrests unsuccessfully but finally reached the ton with a photo of a Treecreeper.

100. Treecreeper
 It won't be winning any awards but it'll do.

We headed down the hill across bright sunlit fields, noting about 50 Yellowhammers and 20 Reed Buntings behind the pool. The flashes were covered in birds, mostly Lapwings. We estimated 250 Lapwings plus 17 Black-headed Gulls, 36 Teal, 80 Mallard, 14 Snipe and two Green Sandpipers. Behind the furthest flash sat a single Kingfisher.

The return journey provided us with two Sparrowhawks, about 30 Skylarks, a fly-over Redpoll, and the best bird of the day, an adult Peregrine on the pylons.

This species has been scarce here this year, and this was the first since two juveniles on Aug 24.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday November 23

The predicted rain duly arrived, but it wasn't too heavy and gradually died out during the morning. Dave and I  strolled around trying to winkle out something different from the usual suspects.

The passerine numbers were encouragingly high, and we estimated 80 Chaffinches, and 120 Linnets in various strips of game cover. There are still plenty of Redwings around, maybe 50 or so, and a smaller number of Fieldfares. Starlings are now here in strength. I counted 176 in a tree, and estimated another 100 in the flash field.

The flash itself contained 20 Teal and about 90 Mallard, while at least 10 Snipe flew from the marsh as we walked past. The pair of Stonechats were present again along the hedge leading away from the bridle path, and we found another one at the dragonfly pools.

A female Stonechat
 The nearest we came to finding anything new was Dave's discovery of a fresh Barn Owl pellet in the tin shed.

Dave left at 11.00am while I resumed my fruitless attempt to add to my photo list below Bannams Wood. Instead I added a new birder to my Morton Bagot list in the form of Jan, who told me she had seen the Ring Ouzel at Middle Spernal with Mike. Respect.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thursday November 20

A slightly late start on a morning that began sunny, but became cloudy. A very light south-easterly breeze.

I had the bit between my teeth regarding this flippin' photo-year list. Currently on 99 species I decided to concentrate on the road and village because most of the "easy" species I am missing are small woodland passerines.

Target 1 was Goldcrest. I saw about six today, and yes I did photograph one, but the image was sufficiently blurred that it failed even my relaxed attitude to quality control.

Target 2 was Treecreeper. I saw two, but neither came close to getting photographed.

Target 3 was Coal Tit. I didn't even hear one.

That was about it I'm afraid. I saw plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares, and when I did venture into more traditional patch areas, one Stonechat, 18 Teal, and two Green Sandpipers.

The forecast for the weekend is more rain and no year-ticks.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunday November 16

A cloudy, mild day with hardly any breeze. After a quick look around Netherstead had produced 250 Greylag Geese heading south having been flushed from a distant field by a farmer in a 4 X 4, Dave and I headed through the village for a change and this proved to be a pretty reasonable plan.

We noticed several Redpolls flying over, and then six Bullfinches in the top of a tree tucking into its seeds. I forgot to consider what species of tree it was. Being mindful of the slow progress of the photo-year list I was very pleased when a single Lesser Redpoll flew in and perched in another tree.

99. Lesser Redpoll
We continued along the bottom of Bannams Wood without recording anything better than a few Marsh Tits and Long-tailed Tits, and then headed back down the hedge to the pool. At the bridle path the pair of Stonechats showed well, but after that things went distinctly down hill.

A 4 X 4 slithered along the muddy field boundary behind the pool and disappeared over the rise. 120 Lapwings flew over, and then Mallards were scattering. We feared the worst, and sure enough the occupants of the vehicle were rediscovered messing about with decoy ducks behind the nearest flash. A cacophony of Chaffinch and Yellowhammer calls from the hedge up to Church Farm suggested the presence of an owl so we diverted and eventually I had a poor view of a Little Owl as it flew from the other side of the hedge.

Back at the flashes the three lads were still wandering about, and eventually they fired a gun at something. It is the first time I can remember witnessing anyone shooting on a Sunday at Morton Bagot, and it signalled the end of our chances of seeing anything more today.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Sunday November 9

A beautiful sunny morning after a misty start. Hardly a breath of wind, and sadly no birds of note.

Actually it wasn't that bad. About 40 Fieldfares flew over, and there were more gulls than usual, about 25 Lesser Black-backs, two Herring, and 18 Black-headed. The flashes had reverted to the typical fare, two Green Sandpipers, two Wigeon, 15 Teal and 20 Lapwings.

A fly-over Redpoll was arguably the highlight, except for the unexpected rediscovery of the Yellow-crowned Weaver, still surviving with the Yellowhammer flock.

So I leave you with a misty scene of some Pheasants taken when I first arrived.

Thank goodness I came here yesterday.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Saturday November 8

A rare opportunity to nip out on Saturday following torrential rain until lunchtime.

I took full advantage, parking at the church and heading straight to the flash which, for the first time in ages was full of ducks. I counted 303 Mallard, 49 Teal, five Wigeon and 42 Lapwings. Among the latter a pale bird stood out.

A leucistic Lapwing
Also present were two Green Sandpipers. I strolled away and had just reached the pool when a sharp call stopped me in my tracks. A Dunlin, the first this year. I scanned around and then heard it call again, much further away. Shortly afterwards it returned and I got a view as it circled the pool before continuing south.

The walk back produced about 30 Yellowhammers and a dozen Reed Buntings, and then a pair of Stonechats.

The male was particularly showy. Back at the car I noticed a Mistle Thrush. They have been scarce again this summer, so it was worth a shot.

A very enjoyable little visit.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunday November 2

A morning which started and ended with frequent showers, but in between, despite lead grey skies, the conditions were pretty good for birding. The very light south-westerly was particularly helpful for finding passerines.

Dave was back, and we gave it our best shot. The initial signs were encouraging as there was plenty of southerly passage.The main feature of this was the arrival, at last, of good numbers of Fieldfares. I logged 153 flying south, along with 220 Woodpigeons, 75 Starlings, and 100 Redwings.

Other small birds were well in evidence, and we counted 60 Skylarks, 80 Linnets, 50 Chaffinches, and 20 Goldfinches. Other notables were a male Stonechat and a very brief Kingfisher.

Once again the watery areas of the patch let us down. There were, admittedly, a lot of Mallard (maybe 150) on the main pool, but other than that we saw two Tufted Ducks, 17 Lapwings, two Green Sandpipers, a Cormorant, and 53 Canada Geese.

Back at the car I recalled I had only got the camera out once (a failed attempt to photograph a large female Sparrowhawk which was as thrilled as we were to see so many small birds). So as Dave drove home I decided to try to boost my photo-year list by targeting some of the small stuff I am still missing. I intend to get to 100 before I send my camera off for repair. This meant stalking along the road at the base of Bannams Wood.

Sadly the weather closed in and all I managed was a Goldcrest whose head was completely obscured by a branch. I briefly saw/heard Treecreeper and Coal Tit but no shot was attempted. So I am jettisoning the Goldcrest photo, and remain on 98.

What am I going to put into the blog? Well I did notice that the local Pheasants are behaving more strangely than usual, like sitting in trees, and in the following example on top of woodpiles.

Cannon fodder
 Stupid birds.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunday October 26

Cloudy with a fresh south-westerly breeze. Birding alone today.

It soon became apparent that there was no overhead migration taking place, and that the brisk breeze was limiting my chances of finding many passerines.

This left the bigger land birds to catch the eye. There were about 60 Jackdaws, about 20 Carrion Crows, a few Rooks, and five Magpies at Netherstead. The recently scraped field contains lots of pigeons, most of them Stock Doves, and I estimated at least 100.

Mostly Stock Doves
At the flashes the hunting pressure is continuing to take its toll, and I counted just eight Teal. The small pool beyond the hedge did at least have something a little bit new, as a juvenile Little Grebe skulking by the island was the first since August.

Little Grebe 
The one highlight came when I decided to see if I could catch sight of any Jack Snipe before they saw me. The answer was no (so no photos), but I did flush at least five, plus 11 Common Snipe.

I trudged on and ended up at the edge of Bannams Wood where a dull day actually got worse. Somewhere along the route I must have bashed my camera and it appears that the viewing screen is now cracked.

At least it will still take photographs, as this Hawthorn Shieldbug proves.

Hawthorn Shieldbug
All in all, a pretty rubbish day.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Another scarcity misses Morton Bagot

Morton Bagot has been going through a bit of a dip in form lately. I have had just one year-tick since late August, and when good birds have turned up (the Marsh Harrier) I haven't been there to see them.

The sense of missing out has been heightened by the recent stunning success of Matt Griffiths, who found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Earlswood (about 10 miles to the north), and now my mate Mike has gone and found a Ring Ouzel at Middle Spernal Pools (two miles to the south).

Envious? Moi? You betcha.

Grumpy of Redditch.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday October 19

A sunny morning with a strong south-westerly wind. Unusually mild, almost warm. Not ideal.

Dave and I did our best, but today could best be described as quiet. The highlight came a few minutes after we had started, when two Redpolls (the first of the autumn) flew south west. There was a trickle of Redwings (60 in total), and a handful of Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches heading south-west.

A Chiffchaff sang, and the Stonechat was still present. We later found another one, this time an adult male.

We chose to walk along the road for a change, and this tactic allowed us to find several Goldcrests and three Nuthatches. Back in the fields though, it was all a bit similar to previous visits. The pool and flash were virtually birdless.

The warm weather produced a few insects on the wing, including a Small Tortoiseshell, a Hornet, and three Common Darters.
Common Darter
Back at the Netherstead dragonfly ponds we flushed a Green Sandpiper, but that was about it.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Saturday October 18

This morning has been designated as European Vizmig Day according to the Patchwork Challenge chaps. This involves co-ordinated counts of migrating birds across Europe. The requirement is to stand for at least two hours, recording migrating birds in one hour periods.

I love the idea of birders contributing to a grand scheme like this, not just at coastal headlands, but also at unassuming inland farmland patches like mine.

So I arrived just before dawn and started counting at 7.44am. An obvious problem soon arose. It is a rather subjective assessment of what is migrating and what is just moving from one field to the next. I decided to "count" only birds which were high up or were moving in a consistent direction.

The results are as follows:

First hour: 42 Redwings south-west, 14 Meadow Pipits south-west, 11 Chaffinches south-west, 13 Goldfinches east, and the star bird was one Brambling south.

Second hour: 97 Redwings south-west, 3 Meadow Pipits south, 11 Chaffinches south, two Goldfinches south.

Now for the grey areas. I also recorded 22 Woodpigeons, 55 Stock Doves, 16 Starlings, three Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Cormorant, 6 Pied Wagtails, 19 Linnets, eight Greenfinches, and 11 Yellowhammers all potentially migrating, and while I stood there a Chiffchaff, and a Goldcrest appeared briefly in the hedge. Later on, a male Stonechat appeared out of nowhere and then hunted flies from the top of the hedge I was stood next to.

The Stonechat
The force 4 south-westerly was not ideal for encouraging visible migration and I certainly think that thursday was much better, but I guess it will be the same for everyone, so it will be interesting to see the results when they are published on the Trektellen website.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thursday October 16

The theme of today's visit was set by the first birds I saw as I got out of my car. Redwings. At last. A flock of 17 heading south was a precursor to an eventual total of 380 between 8.30 and 11.15, all heading south-west.

A flock of Redwings (mostly)
This was the typical view, but where calls were heard they were almost exclusively of Redwings. I say almost because I did also record two Fieldfares with one flock. Another new bird for the autumn was a Siskin, which I only heard. It looks like being another poor winter for that species.

The hedgerows did harbour a few Redwings, which were far too easy to flush, along with five Song Thrushes, and eight Blackbirds. Two more Stonechats were seen, and although the pool was pretty birdless, the flashes contained 37 Teal, six Wigeon, seven Lapwings, and two Green Sandpipers.

Back at Netherstead I was about to try photographing some Meadow Pipits in the paddocks when a distinctly different pipit call caused me to look up in time to see a Rock Pipit heading west. It looked dark and largeish, and the call was typical of Rock Pipit, but I could only watch as it receded into the distance. Only the second to have occurred here, the last was in 2010. The habitat at Morton Bagot is unlikely to ever encourage a Rock Pipit to land. After a bit of a year-tick drought, it was very welcome nonetheless.

Also occurring in increased numbers were Linnet (130), Stock Dove (103), and Reed Bunting (31).

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sunday October 12

The forecast fog did not form, and instead the day dawned sunny and still. A couple of messages on my phone from yesterday told me that John Chidwick had seen a Little Egret yesterday afternoon, but it had flown off, while Mike had located three Stonechats at Middle Spernal Pools, one of which was sporting a metal ring.

All to play for then. Dave was on site before me and I told him we needed to look out for Egrets.

This was the closest we got, one of three Grey Herons present today. A search of the area around Netherstead produced plenty of birds, but nothing unusual.

This Grey Wagtail pitched in and seemed to regard the stony edge of the track as a surrogate river-bed. As with last weekend there were plenty of Blackbirds (at least 15) and several Song Thrushes, but no Redwings yet. The summer visitors have just about gone, we managed a single singing Chiffchaff. There were fewer Meadow Pipits about, but they were replaced by an influx of 151 Starlings and 90 Linnets.

At the pool, about 50 Greylag Geese flew off, and only a pair of Mute Swans and a few Mallard appeared to be present. We decided to see how many Snipe we could kick out. The answer was 41 plus the first three Jack Snipe of the autumn. As usual my attempt to see any Jack Snipe on the ground before they were flushed was unsuccessful, and as I suspect this state of affairs will persist on any future flushes I am including a dreadful attempt at a photo of a flying bird to get the species onto my photo-year list.

98. Jack Snipe
This photograph fails the first rule I have imposed on myself, that the bird should be identifiable from the photograph. But what the hell.

The Flash was a big disappointment again, containing six Teal (which we had flushed from the pool), one Lapwing and two Green Sandpipers. We also heard (in my case) a very brief Kingfisher calling from the pools beyond the western hedge.

Back at the car the Starlings were lined up on telephone wires, hence the accurate count, and I finished with a picture of some of them in their smart winter plumage.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sunday October 5

Following the passage of a cold front overnight, the morning was bright and sunny with hardly any wind. The autumn is still holding its breath, and there was little obvious sign of change since last week.

The only birds of note around Netherstead were wagtails, the few Pieds being joined by at least two Grey Wagtails.

Grey Wagtail
Dave arrived and we set off. There was one period of about 15 minutes when we thought the day might prove special. Amongst the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flying above the ridge field I spotted a Green Sandpiper flying towards us, as he searched for it Dave picked out a single Swallow heading south, and as I looked for that I got onto four Golden Plovers going east. I fumbled for my camera and missed the fact there were actually six. I clicked at sky and discovered I had got the tiny image of three of the Plovers heading off.

97. Golden Plovers
Not my finest effort, but a photo-tick I may not replicate by the end of the year. They were a patch year-tick for Dave. This little moment of optimism continued as thrushes flew from the hedgerows. We counted six Song Thrushes and eight Blackbirds (none of which had the decency to go "chack"). Too early for Redwings and not the ever-hoped-for Ring Ouzel, but we decided it was a sign.

There was an ominous lack of birds at the flashes, just two Teal. The inference was that the shooting season may have started. Dave suggested we check out the south end, and although this confirmed our impression that there will be no big Linnet flock this year, we did count 120 Meadow Pipits in the fields, a patch record for me, and also found two new male Stonechats.

How did we know they were new? Well the one at Netherstead looked like this.

While the one at the south end looked like this:

If you haven't figured it out yet, Netherstead Stonechat has no tail. Strictly speaking the south end bird could be one from earlier in the autumn, but I reckon it is part of a turn over of Stonechat passing through.

Lets hope something new turns up next week.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday September 28

An unseasonably warm, still day. Dave and I arrived at about the same time, and the first 25 minutes was quite encouraging.

At least 25 Reed Buntings joined small numbers of Chaffinches and Greenfinches to feast on seeds in game cover at Netherstead. Also present in the area were two Stonechats.

A Mistle Thrush, which flew over, was the first since last winter. At least six Swallows and a House Martin were hangers on from the summer, and a few Chiffchaffs were still around. Technically I got a shot of a Treecreeper for the year list, but its pretty poor so I am going to gamble that I'll get a better opportunity before the year is out.

At this point we should probably have got in our cars and gone home. The remainder of the morning produced 25 Teal at the flash, three Snipe at the pool, a Green Sandpiper back at Netherstead, and a couple of Ravens.

The warm weather was good for insects, and we recorded Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, and a Hornet.

 Not particularly memorable.

Mike on the other hand is in the middle of a purple patch. Not content with finding a Short-eared Owl a week ago, he returned from his hols and headed straight for his patch where he recorded a bird not yet on the Morton Bagot list. A Water Rail. Having seen the habitat there, I did fancy his chances of getting one.

For my patch, the wait goes on.