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.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Thursday September 25

A day off in the week. Blimey. The omens looked good. An extremely light westerly breeze and partial cloud cover. Upon entering last weekend's bird records onto BTO's Birdtrack I was rather startled to discover I had recorded 64 species without making any sort of special effort. Bearing in mind I bust a gut in August to do a Big Day and got to 65, perhaps I'm picking the wrong month. My 64 contained nothing particularly unusual.

Could I do it again? The answer, unfortunately, was emphatically no. I logged everything I saw, resulting in higher than usual counts of things like Blue Tits  (23), Robins (11), and Carrion Crows (18). But my final species count was a below average 47.

What was missing was the variety. No chats, no unexpected ducks, no Lapwings or Coots. There were a few minor highlights, nine Ravens was just one short of my site record, 26 Snipe flew out of the marsh, an eventual tally of 12 Swallows hurried south, while 48 Meadow Pipits, and three Grey Wagtails were also early autumn migrants. The Weaver is still here.

I returned to the car and realised that with all that counting I hadn't bothered to get my camera out. So I wandered about until something chose to play ball.

Common Buzzard
For every quiet day a good one is just around the corner, so watch this space.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunday September 21

After a week of murk and easterlies when I was unable to go birding, my first available day dawned clear with a very light northerly breeze.

Other than a report of a Crane flying west over Stratford on Thursday afternoon, I have not heard of anything which could potentially have arrived during the week. Needless to say there was no sign of a Crane, and no hint of the exciting rarities dripping from every branch on the east coast.

It's a funny time of year here, a sort of in-between time. Most of the summer visitors have gone, but none of the winter visitors have arrived.

What you do get is stacks of Meadow Pipits, and sure enough there was hardly a time when their calls were not reaching my ears. I started off logging them, but so many are invisible, high in the blue sky, that my eventual count of 74 must represent the tip of the iceberg.

Meadow Pipit
Some of them landed, and the ridge field was a good place to see them. Another couple of birds which I associate with late September are Chiffchaff and Blackcaps. The former are particularly prevalent, and I had logged nine Chiffs and four Blackcaps by the end of the morning.

Other signs of summer were 27 Swallows, two House Martins (I'd had 52 over our house yesterday), and three Whinchats.

I could only find one Stonechat today, the Yellow-crowned Weaver was still present, and four Mute Swans have turned up on the pool. Scanning through the rafts of released Mallards there I came across a couple of newly arrived ducks. A drake Gadwall, the first since the female in spring, and a female Shoveler.

While the Gadwall remained on the pool, the Shoveler relocated to the flash. There it joined 41 Teal, 11 Lapwings, three Green Sandpipers, 14 Snipe, and three Wigeon.

By late morning the sunshine was encouraging plenty of insects to enjoy their last few days. These included a Comma, several Speckled Woods, a Southern Hawker, and lots of egg-laying Common Darters.

So a day of bits and bobs, but no heart-stopping moments.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sunday September 14

Following the resolution of the mystery bird issue yesterday, this morning was back to the usual routine. It was mostly cloudy, but with prolonged periods of sunshine and a light easterly breeze.

Dave and I quickly found that there were lots of birds to see. The paddocks around Netherstead played host to numerous chats.

We began by trumping yesterday's report of one Stonechat with three together at Netherstead paddocks, plus one, which only Dave saw, by the pool. Back at the paddocks the Stonechats had been joined by three Whinchats.

Two of the Whinchats
We later discovered another three by the pools resulting in a site record count of six. Meanwhile, the chats were mixed in with numerous Meadow Pipits, at least 38 in the stubble field plus a dozen or so heading south. A great mass of 70 hirundines, mainly House Martins, appeared. The hedgerows contained the last few Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, plus one or two Blackcaps and at least 10 Chiffchaffs. Many of them came through in a big Tit flock which also contained at least 13 Long-tailed Tits.

It is fair to say we were not bored, and really we didn't know which way to look, there were so many birds buzzing about. 

Eventually we made our way to the pool. Dave wanted to see the Yellow-crowned Weaver, and it actually took us a while to find it. The party of a dozen or so Yellowhammers it was with has merged into a much bigger flock of at least 90 Goldfinches and a few Linnets. But eventually it was spotted, and actually showed much better than yesterday morning.

I could have chosen several shots, but I like this one because it shows its breast well, and also contains a nice Yellowhammer.

The late morning was a little quieter. Four Grey Wagtails flew over, one at the pool and three at Netherstead. The flashes contained 29 Teal, 37 Lapwings, a Green Sandpiper (which I missed), and four Snipe. At least one, probably two, Hobbies appeared from time to time, to spice up the day.

We were just missing the show-stopper. Maybe next week.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Mystery bird

I got a call at work yesterday from Chris Lane. He had found a small passerine at Morton Bagot and couldn't identify it. He had concluded it was probably an escape, but was feeling a bit uneasy about whether he could rule out Bobolink or Yellow-breasted Bunting. It sounded too small for those, only Whinchat-sized, but I was intrigued enough to go there this morning.

I reached the pool and noticed some Yellowhammers in the hedge. As I approached them, a Whinchat-like bird popped up. Then it turned its head to reveal a seed-eaters bill. This must be it. I took some shots.

Whatever it is, it looked in a clean plumage. The white wing bar reminded me of Yellow-breasted Bunting, but it really was Whinchat-sized.

You can get an idea of its size by this comparison with a Greenfinch. In flight, its tail was ridiculously short, like a Fan-tailed Warbler's tail, and it gave a sharp "zick" call in flight. It flew off with the Yellowhammer flock, so I texted Chris and Jon that it was still here, and still a mystery.

A quick look at the flash produced a record count of 185 Canada Geese, plus 90 Greylag Geese, 28 Teal, six Snipe, and three Green Sandpipers.

The bushes contained Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, two Blackcaps, and five Chiffchaffs, so summer is still hanging on.

Chris arrived, and after a while we saw the bird again, but my brief view through his scope only confrmed that the breast was unstreaked. It then flew off again before Jon arrived and I had to leave.

If anybody has any idea of what this bird is, I'll be pleased to hear from them.

Too late: We think we've sussed it. After ploughing through pages and pages of Internet pictures I came across a good match. The bird is a Yellow-crowned Weaver (aka Yellow-crowned Bishop). It's flown all the way from Africa a cage in Redditch.

Whilst I was researching it, Jon and Chris were joined by Matt Griffiths, and a series of texts reached me through the late morning. Two Hobbies showing well. Nice. A Stonechat, first of the autumn, very nice. A cream crown Marsh Harrier over at 1.00pm. Oh good grief. I made a pathetic dash back (in case it returned), and stood around until Jon and Chris left, and it was therefore safe for me to go home!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A great find for Mike

This evening Mike rang me with news of the best bird he has found on his patch this year. A Short-eared Owl. I gather he flushed it from the south end of Middle Spernal, and had good views at dusk. He also had a second Owlish tick as a Tawny Owl was hooting.

Clearly Mike doesn't normally go in for dusk visits.

My self imposed abstention from mid-week patch visits means that the only news from Morton Bagot came from Matt Willmott on Tuesday. He had a good count of 92 Teal, plus nine Snipe and two Green Sandpipers.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sunday September 7

A good date and good weather for birding, what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot as it turned out.

The background whinge is that my bad back, which I usually manage to walk off, plagued me all morning. Dave and I were joined by John Yardley, and we soon spotted lots of passerines on seed-heads and in the hedgerow bordering the old ridge field (now full of saplings). These were mostly Goldfinches and Yellowhammers, but in amongst them were three Whinchats, both Lesser and Common Whitethroats, two Wheatears, and a dozen or so Meadow Pipits.

Nothing came close enough to try for a photograph, a theme which would continue all day.

The thing which really put a damper on things occurred while we were in this field. Dave had moved about 50 yards from John and me, and after a while I heard him shout. I looked in his direction, and scanned the skies beyond him. A large bird was circling on drooping wings. If that's what he is shouting about he must be thinking Osprey, I thought. My scope was already up, but I struggled to get on it. Eventually I did find a large bird circling on drooping wings. An immature large gull miles away. We joined Dave and found that he had indeed been looking at the "original" large bird and was quite keen on it. But after turning to shout to us a couple of times he had lost it. I am not certain that the gull I eventually got on was the same as the bird we had independently first seen. We scanned and scanned but whatever it was was now history.

We decided it must have been the gull, but I think we both had that sickening feeling in the pits of our stomachs known as a nagging doubt.

The flash proved disappointing. Teal numbers were back to the usual 30 - 40, Green Sandpipers numbered just three, and we could only see one Snipe (John had seen more earlier this morning).

That was about it. In the absence of any bird photo opportunities I took one of a distinctive looking fungus.

Needless to say I don't know what it is, but my Collins Fungi Guide points in the direction of a group known as the Scalycaps, and the best match seemed to be Golden Scalycap.

Just one of those days.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Wednesday September 3

A cloudy, reasonably still evening. I had a rather heavy heart as I trudged round for what will probably be my last midweek evening visit of the year. I reckon I need an hour for a meaningful visit, and the earliest I can get here is about 7.00pm.

What I needed was something different to lift my spirits. The waders were a bit of a dead loss, although the Common Sandpiper was still present along with five Green Sandpipers and a Snipe. However, the wildfowl was doing its best.

A pair of Mute Swans has turned up, and with all the usual Mallard on the pool I spotted three Wigeon, the first of the autumn. I blew the photo opportunity by taking a step too far. They were off in a trice and all I could get was a distant flight shot.

Down at the flash there seemed to be a lot of birds. The Wigeon relocated to the furthest flash, and it turned out there were four of them. The big story of the evening was the massive influx of Teal. There are now 118 present, and along with 85 Lapwings, 100 or so Mallard, 50 Canada Geese and 52 Greylag Geese, the left hand flash was positively crowded.

I headed back, serenaded by hooting Tawny Owls, and noting various creatures of the night as Dracula might say; i.e. a Bat sp, a Badger, a Roe Deer, and a potential Mink (although the dark streak which ran across the path could have been anything).

Finally, I'm sorry to read that Shenstone Birder/Wild and Wandering is calling it a day. I like reading local blogs, and his was an inspiration to us all. I hope Jason refinds his Mojo in 2015.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Monday September 1

Having taken the day off work for non-birding reasons, I nevertheless found time for a quick dash to the patch in mid afternoon.

I don't know why I bothered. There was a small increase in Teal (51), Canada Geese (84), and Lapwings (104), and not much else. I could only find five Green Sandpipers, and saw no interesting passerines. I wasn't the only one interested in the birds on the flash though.

Now, how do I get from here without them seeing me?
 Other than the Fox, the only other oddity was an extremely pale Teal-type duck. I have tried to work out its parentage, but I can't come up with anything.

Very pale Teal ?
The visit ended as I stalked around the churchyard thinking what a good place it looked for a Wryneck. Nothing doing of course, apart from a juvenile Green Woodpecker.