Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sunday March 30

I arrived a little later than usual to find that Dave was on site and had already had three Morton Bagot year ticks. He had firstly been to check out the Tawny Owl and had found it in residence, and then had heard a singing Blackcap and about four singing Chiffchaffs along the road from the church to Bannams Wood.

It was therefore with a sense of anticipation that we set out, noting the light south-easterly breeze which would surely bring success.

A couple more Chiffchaffs were logged around Netherstead Farm, but as we approached the pool the sparsely cropped field adjacent to it failed to produce the hoped-for Wheatear. I did at least finally get a shot of a singing Skylark for the photo-year list.

62. Skylark
Meanwhile Dave was scanning the pool, at the back of which he spotted the Green-winged Teal on the bank. Pool tick!

There were no other ducks on the pool, and soon there was no Green-winged Teal either as it took off and headed for the flashes.

Once we got there a quick scan revealed that the three Green Sandpipers had been joined by a Redshank, the first of the year.

63. Redshank (being photo-bombed by the Green-winged Teal)
A quick count of the rest of the flash revealed 28 Teal, four Common Snipe, and about 10 Lapwings. No sign of the Little Ringed Plovers, annoyingly for Dave.

We headed back without much of a plan. On the way I finally got the chance to add Green Woodpecker to the photo-list.

64. Green Woodpecker
Hopefully I will get a chance to take a better photograph than this as the year progresses. I also snapped some blossom, which I think is Blackthorn.

Whatever it was, it's pretty.

Back at the cars we decided to drive to the church to try to get me a Blackcap for my year-list, and then head back to the flash to give Dave another chance at Little Ringed Plover.

The second part of this plan worked well, as an LRP was now present. We also noted a fourth Green Sandpiper. As we stood watching I heard Dave say, "what's this?", and then "Curlew!"
As I scanned hurriedly in the general direction, he unexpectedly ran back into the field. Evidently the Curlew had flown behind an Oak Tree and Dave expected it to reappear on our side of the hedge, which it did...apparently. Could I get on it? No chance. It started to drop, and then went out of sight. I know its just a Curlew, but this species, which used to breed here, is now quite tricky to see each year. The only realistic chance is March or April, and I may just have missed my opportunity. Bugger!

Back at the the car the Blackcap finally piped up, and I took some shots of Chiffchaff, of which this is the best.

The ups and downs of patch watching.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Saturday March 29

Jon Yardley kept me informed about birds on the patch today, or at least to the extent of confirming that The Green-winged Teal is still present.

I visited Compton Verney with Lyn, Jane, and Bill. A very nice place and an impressive exhibition of works by Rodin and Henry Moore.

A Cedar
A Moore
A Rodin
A Jackdaw
Crows are intelligent birds, and this one is clearly trying to indicate the wind direction.

Its a sign.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

News update

Matt Wilmott has texted with confirmation that the Green-winged Teal is still present today. He also saw 44 Teal, six Green Sandpipers, two LRPs, a Jack Snipe, and 21 Snipe.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dress rehearsal

This weekend the clocks go back forward, and despite my longer working day I should be able to get out birding in the evening.

Today I had the opportunity to see how that might pan out. I had taken the day off for the very sad reason of attending the funeral of Dave, a friend and former work colleague of Lyn's. The humanist ceremony took place in Shrewsbury and we returned home by late afternoon. There was just time to get to the patch for the last hour before it was too dark to see anything.

The light wasn't great. Heavy cloud and a chilly easterly wind suggested little would be seen. With no news at all since Sunday I had assumed that the Green-winged Teal had gone. Not so.

Still here
It was literally the first bird I looked at when I got to the flash. Another photo in the bag. After that it became apparent that there was actually very little change from Sunday. I counted 48 Teal, 39 Mallard, 22 Greylag Geese, nine Canada Geese, three Green Sandpipers, and two Little Ringed Plovers. I also spotted a female Gadwall, which is presumably the bird present earlier this month.

A Chiffchaff called, and on my way out the Tawny Owl was visible in its tree.

Next week might not be too bad after all.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Early spring promise

A bright sunny morning. It was not to last though, and soon heavy and prolonged showers started arriving, while the temperature remained distinctly chilly.

I began at Netherstead, and couldn't resist taking a shot of a Song Thrush. My previous effort this year was back-on, so at least you can see its spots this time.

The blue sky in the above shot soon gave way to grey as shower after shower swept through with barely a break. Consequently I arrived at the flash having spent most of the last hour rushing from sheltered bush to sheltered bush. Indeed,  after a quick peep to see if the Green-winged Teal was still there, encouragingly it was  now on the nearest flash, I managed two year-ticks whilst not really birding. First a Chiffchaff called and flew over my head and along the hedge, then I heard a Golden Plover calling and looked up to see it circling. The rain was too heavy to get my camera out.

Finally, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Time to take some more Green-winged Teal shots.

I did a quick count, and got 30 Teal, a drake Wigeon, and about six visible Snipe. Then I finally found the Little Ringed Plovers which have been here since midweek.

60. Little Ringed Plover
There appeared to be a pair of them. A Pied Wagtail appeared, and then a White Wagtail, an early one, presumably heading for Iceland. It seemed to be in first-summer plumage. This continental race of Pied Wagtail is a good bird for Morton Bagot. I have seen them here before, but only two or three times and always in April. I tried to take some record shots, but they are pretty awful. After some deliberation I decided this picture  was the best of the dross.

White Wagtail
Shortly afterwards Steve Roberts arrived. The wagtail seemed to have gone and I was starting to suffer mild hypothermia, so I left him watching the Teal and headed along the hedge.

A little later I was back at the flashes, and found a small group of birders twitching the Teal. They had found that there were now three Little Ringed Plovers, and I saw that there were also three Green Sandpipers. As I finally headed away I started seeing more Chiffchaffs, and counted four altogether, including this one for the photo-list.

61. Chiffchaff
The return journey produced no more migrants, and with few insects braving the cold I decided to end with a shot of a Brown Hare.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Friday 21 March

With the weekend approaching, the Green-winged Teal has lasted the week. Today Matt Willmott found that it was showing well on the near flash.

It wasn't alone. Green Sandpiper numbers have increased still further to nine birds, easily a record for spring passage here. The two Little Ringed Plovers remain, and a Chiffchaff has finally turned up. No Red Kite though.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Gripped off

I knew this would happen. With the Green-winged Teal stubbornly refusing to leave, visiting birders are starting to find stuff.

Today it was a Red Kite which was seen by Mike and also Matt Griffiths and A N Other as it spent at least five minutes flying in the air space over Bannam's Wood. I have since heard a report that there might have been two Red Kites, but I'm not sure of the details.

I gather there are now two Little Ringed Plovers in residence.

Meanwhile, some good news and bad news for Mike. He added Sand Martin to his patch list, with birds over both Haselor and Lower Spernal Farm Pool, but then heard from a householder at Spernal that a Red Kite had been seen there on Tuesday.

With any luck the Kite(s) will still be in the area at the weekend.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Wednesday March 19

After some late news from Matt Griffiths from yesterday. Fresh from finding a Firecrest on his rival Patchwork Challenge patch, Earlswood Lakes, he popped down to Morton Bagot to see the Green-winged Teal and record six Green Sandpipers.

Today the situation is rather more confused. Matt Willmott began by reporting that there was no sign of the Green-winged Teal this morning although he did find the first Little Ringed Plover of the year plus the six Green Sandpipers, two Jack Snipes, and 33 Common Snipe.

He then sent me a text asking who put the Green-winged Teal onto Birdguides for the morning because he didn't see either the bird or any birders.

The plot thickened this afternoon when Jon Yardley texted me about the LRP and added that Chris Lane had texted him to say that the Green-winged Teal was present in the afternoon.

So I guess it is now moving around. The Teal flock does sometimes disappear to Spernal and then reappear later. Perhaps that is what has happened.

My own birding highlight was confined to hearing two Blackcaps still in full voice on my way to the paper shop this morning, and then getting home after work to find it just about light enough to see the last Blackbird going to roost.

Ho hum.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Tuesday March 18

Its still there. Interest in the Green-winged Teal may be waning though, the only news came from a report on the pager suggesting it was back on the furthest flash at lunchtime and had become "elusive".

Meanwhile at Haselor scrape the signs of spring are undeniable. John Coombes found a Little Ringed Plover and a Sand Martin there this morning, and Mike successfully twitched the former to move his year list for his patch ever nearer to mine for Morton Bagot.

Monday, 17 March 2014

G W Teal update

News from Mike Inskip and Trevor Jones confirmed that the Green-winged Teal was still present. In fact I understand it was spending time on the nearer flash. Mike also told me that he had counted five Green Sandpipers and believes he saw the female Gadwall, which had been absent recently. He didn't think the Shoveler was still present though.

I feel I ought to give the Green-winged Teal a bit of context. It is of course an American species, and I believe the Morton Bagot bird is the ninth Warwickshire record, and the 20th for the West Midland Bird Club region. Most records have been from the larger reservoirs like Blithfield and Draycote, while Brandon Marsh has also played host on several occasions. However, small places have also turned them up in the past, most notably one at Lighthorne Quarry in central Warwickshire on December 20 2000.

One or two big hitters are yet to record the species, for example Upton Warren, Chasewater, and Marsh Lane Gravel Pit.

No doubt their time will come.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


Right, no messing about, lets get straight to THE BIRD.

Dave and I had just reached the slight ridge by the pool from where you can see the furthest flash. Dave drew my attention to a brown lump in the grass. Is it a bird? I thought it could potentially be a Curlew so I got the scope up. It was a lump of mud. Oh well, might as well scan the distant flash now the scope is up. Teal, Teal, Mallard, Teal, ****** (Gosh), a white vertical stripe. I rapidly took a few steps to my left so that I could see without bits of tree in the way. Green-winged Teal! Dave had a quick look and concurred.

I quickly went into panic mode and took a record shot. We then went down the slope to our usual spot and I took some more pics. This flash is bloody miles away so don't expect too much, but these are my best efforts.

G W Teal posing with Teal and a Wigeon
G W Teal with a Teal
The furthest flash
While we  waited for others to arrive we scanned the flashes to count 40 Teal, a Shoveler, two Wigeon, and four Green Sandpipers. Mark Islip got there first, then Matt Willmott. We had to leave, but Mike soon rang to say he had got there and seen it.

Earlier on, I had decided to check out the Tawny Owl tree at 8.00am, and this paid off because it was in residence. So that was my first year tick of the day, Tawny Owl. It also got added to the photo-list.

57. Tawny Owl
I then drove the Netherstead to wait for Dave. He understandably also wanted to see the Tawny Owl, so we headed straight for it. Unfortunately, we were too late, it had retreated into its hole. Dave actually probably saw it pop back up after we were heading away, but by the time we returned it had vanished again.

On the edge of the pool another photo-tick opportunity came, and I just about got an acceptable shot of a Long-tailed Tit.

58. Long-tailed Tit
We flushed a Shoveler from the pool. It was relocated to the furthest flash, which I am now tempted to rename the Green-winged Teal flash.

Some more good news. Matt Willmott with the full weight of English Nature behind him has had a successful meeting with Felix Dennis (the land-owner) and he has agreed not to plant trees on the field bordering the pool. Well done to all concerned from me and about a dozen pairs of Skylarks.

Mike is still making ground, having added Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, and Chiffchaff to his list at Spernal pools this morning. There must have been a Chiffchaff at Morton Bagot today, but we failed to find it if it was there.

I'm now going for a lie down.

Friday, 14 March 2014

More success for Mike

After a week of getting up to fog, and coming home in the dark, I am continuing to birdwatch by proxy.

Mike has texted some more success from his patch. He began by seeing the Dunlin at Haselor, and finally seeing, ahem, Greenfinch. He then marched straight to Spernal Farm Pools where a decision to check out a pool he normally ignores produced five Mandarin, at least one a drake. The whole party took off immediately and headed south.

Its all to play for.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Waders trickle in

Whilst I remain workbound, others have been out and about.

On Monday, Mike recorded his first Green Sandpiper of the year at Lower Spernal Pools, and today John Coombes has seen a Dunlin at Haselor scrape.

I haven't heard of any proper summer migrants in this area yet, but the weekend will surely provide.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Sunday March 9

A beautiful spring day and I was out in the field at last. Jon Y got there before me, and as I whiled away the time waiting for Dave to arrive I got a significant text from Jon. Shoveler on the flash. Abandoning the car park I decided to head straight for the flash. 15 minutes later I was watching a drake Shoveler, phew! The first since 2012 (although it was rather surprising that there wasn't one last year).

55. Shoveler
 While we waited for Dave to join us I learned that the Shoveler was found yesterday by John Chidwick. Also present on the flash were 44 Teal, two Wigeon, and  a few Snipe. En route I had seen four Jays chasing each other from a distant oak tree. There was still time to add another soft photo-tick.

56. Moorhen
 Dave arrived and the Shoveler went into hiding. At this point the parties split up, Dave and I headed back past the pool while Jon continued on his preferred route. Not long afterwards Dave drew my attention to a wader which over us. Rather unexpectedly it turned out to be a Jack Snipe. I tried for a record shot, but the image is too small and blurry to be identifiable as anything. The bird itself seemed to come down over the ridge.

We again failed to see the Tawny Owl, perhaps the hole is no longer suitable, and ended up returning to the flash. The Shoveler was now showing properly, and we also saw three Green Sandpipers.

As the day warmed up we started to notice insects, in particular Brimstones. We probably counted at least six, none of which landed for even a second. So its Brimstone flight shot time.
The yellow blob is a flying Brimstone
I also took some pictures of a ladybird, some Hazel catkins, and finally a Small Tortoiseshell on a Dandelion.

We also saw a Peacock butterfly, and scanned for raptors, seeing about three displaying Sparrowhawks and half a dozen Buzzards.

All in all a very nice morning.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Pochard disappears

Sadly, Mike was out of luck. With no sign of the Pochard at Middle Spernall he checked Haselor and Morton Bagot, all to no avail.

There is still a Jack Snipe and 14 Common Snipe at Middle Spernall, while Morton Bagot produced the three Wigeon and two Green Sandpipers still present.

My own birding is still restricted to walking to the paper shop each morning, and I did hear two of the wintering Blackcaps in full song.

Monday, 3 March 2014

So near, and yet so far

A text today from John Coombes. Patch gold on Mike's patch. A POCHARD at Middle Spernall Pool. John found it during the early afternoon.

Sadly, this bird neatly bisected our two patches, it would have been a patch first for John, whose patch is the area around Alcester and includes Haselor Scrape, and also for me at Morton Bagot.

By the time I saw John's message darkness had fallen, so the big question is will Mike see it tomorrow.

The wonders of patch watching. This Pochard has no idea he is so rare!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunday March 2

A cloudy start, but it looked like we would get some birding done before the rain arrived. The first event to get our attention was a distant flock of Cormorants, and then a few more, resulting in a record count of 22.

Meanwhile about eight House Sparrows were playing hide and seek with me in the dense hedgerow, but I eventually got an image which was good enough (to me anyway) to get added to the photo list.

52. House Sparrow
We actually recorded eight of them, which is the most seen so far this year. A little further along the access road we heard, and then saw, a Grey Wagtail flying over. The second this year, a species which has probably benefited from the mild winter.

Another overdue photo-tick appeared at the main pool where a pair of Greylag Geese pitched in.

53. Greylag Goose
We reached the flash, and saw immediately that work carried out by Steve Green had repaired the problem on the furthest flash as it was flooded once more. The closest flash contained one nice surprise, a female Gadwall, plus three Wigeon, 48 Teal, two Green Sandpipers, four Common Snipe, and about eight Lapwings spread across the field looking as though they were staking out this year's territories.

54. Gadwall
The rain duly arrived and we headed back. As we did so a massive flock of corvids took to the air, and we eventually spotted a large female Sparrowhawk flying towards us. A quick estimate of the corvid numbers suggested a potential record count of Jackdaws. Later on we flushed about half as many and I took some photos to count the dots. This gave a surprisingly high count of 432, so I reckon the full count was something like 750 corvids with the proportions being 600 Jackdaws, 100 Rooks, and 50 Carrion Crows. Estimating corvid numbers is very tough.

Finally I thought I would put in a Reed Bunting shot from this morning,

and comment on some confusion which seems to have emerged following the publication of the 2011 WMBC Bird Report. I got an apologetic text from Steve Haynes which initially confused me completely as I have not seen the Bird Report (forgot to pay my membership subs). Evidently a Harrier I saw in April 2011 has gone into the report as a "ring-tail Marsh Harrier" to general mirth by all accounts (to anyone reading this who doesn't get the joke, there is of course no such thing). Steve was not sure what I had submitted , having deleted the data after starting on the 2012 report. Had I seen a Hen Harrier or a Marsh Harrier?

The bird in question was actually a male Marsh Harrier.

Now, where's that membership application form?

Post Script: At about 4.00pm Mark Islip paid a visit and found two Shelducks on the furthest flash.