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.