Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sunday December 27

Another grey, mild morning. Very quiet at the patch.

A time of the year for reflection perhaps. I started this process as I lay in bed last night. This was a mistake. After starting off considering what birding means to me, I drifted into related subjects and eventually awoke from a largely sleepless night to announce that I had concluded I was a self-obsessed generalist with limited birding skills. Lyn considered my argument and reassured me that I was self-absorbed, not self-obsessed. So that's all right then.

I will spare you the full analysis, but the thrust of my argument is as follows: Birding can be considered as a science, as an art form, as an obsession, and as a sport. To me it is all four, but in each case I fall short.

The science bit concerns the counting and recording of species, reporting my records to the BTO on Birdtrack, and at the end of the year to the county recorder for permanent archive. It's a shame that this year I have discovered I can't count past 50 without getting confused.

As for art; my photographs can best be described as adequate and my sketching variable in quality. I do not have the patience or the technical ability to develop either.

I used to think I was obsessed with birds, but there are people who contribute 800 lists per year to Birdtrack. That's over two lists of birds seen per day for every day of the year. It makes me look like a part-timer.

Finally, we come to birding as a sport. This relates to the keeping of lists, something I have always done. Ignoring life-lists, the real competition comes from year-lists, and in recent year the emergence of Patch year-lists. These have been formalised by a site called Patchwork Challenge. There are rules, and points systems, all pandering to my competitive streak. I have been doing it for three years, and despite being massively enthusiastic I find that this year I am lying 12th out of 15 in the Midlands comparative league. This is relegation form. The rules are somewhat complicated, but ingenious. I could go through them, but you will be asleep before I get to the end. The ironic thing is that it has occurred to me that my best strategy now is to see next to nothing for the remainder of December in order to get a more favourable "target" for 2016.

So in that respect today's visit was a triumph.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sunday December 20

A bright sunny morning. I haven't said that for a while. I arrived a tad late and it therefore probably served me right that Dave and I were well short of the pool when all the wildfowl got up because an earlier bird was trying to catch the worm. The earlier bird was Jan and her lurcher, but as far as we could see the worm was just a pile of Mallards and Greylag Geese. Jan confirmed she hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary and joined us on our circuit.

At the flash field I gazed wistfully at the four Grey Herons. The Upton Warren Great White Egret is still refusing to join them. Instead we counted three Green Sandpipers, while high above us a flock of 72 Lapwings wheeled around.

The walk back was somewhat uninspiring. A dozen Siskins flew by, and a handful of Lesser Redpolls were feeding in the usual place.

Lesser Redpoll
Jan headed off, and Dave and I returned to our cars without troubling the scorers further.

Post-script: After lunch Lyn and I were discussing how to spend the afternoon. We could go to Webbs Garden Centre, she suggested. Webbs at Upton Warren? I replied innocently.

You've probably rumbled me by now.

Just a stone's throw from Webbs
It was too far away for me to start lobbing rocks at it, but what's Upton got that Morton Bagot hasn't? Only lots of water, reedbeds, fish.... Coots, and a Great White Egret.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Friday December 18

The weather remains ridiculously mild. A light south-westerly wind and non-threatening cloud cover left me wondering when the next good bird will turn up. Not today.

I was left to look out for signs of confused nature, as reported in the news, but could only come up with White Dead-nettle in flower, and both Honey Bee and Buff-tailed Bumblebee on the wing (although the latter flew over our front garden).

Bird-wise things remain in a rut. The regular visitors have all settled into their winter territories and with no cold weather on the horizon, they show no inclination to move anywhere.

One negative factor today was the shooting fraternity. A constant barrage assailed my ears from the wood in the direction of Studley, and the complete lack of wildfowl was explained by the presence of two duck decoys on the nearest flash. I had hoped there would be no duck shooting there this year, but it seems it was a false hope.

Despite all this, I was able to estimate over 400 Linnets again, the Lesser Redpoll flock was counted at 39, and there were still about 100 winter thrushes evenly split between Redwings and Fieldfares.

Still looking good for surviving into the new year were a male Stonechat, five Meadow Pipits, and two Green Sandpipers.

A tree full of Fieldfares (plus a few Redwings and a Starling)

Lesser Redpolls

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Sunday December 13

I decided to try to dodge the rain by delaying my visit until after lunch. This did indeed keep me dry, but the weather remained grey and dreary, a bit like the birding.

There were still plenty of Linnets on show, I logged 600 using a combination of photographing one flock on the wires and estimating a smaller group which flew over. The pool contained 90 Mallard, one Snipe, and one male Stonechat.

The flash field produced 27 Teal, one Lapwing, and 40 Canada Geese, while the return journey was enlivened by a flock of 15 Siskins.

Pretty quiet.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Friday December 11

Another morning of cloud and pulses of drizzle followed by an afternoon of sunshine. Unfortunately I was there during the morning. The wind was quite light and westerly. Rather cool.

This was quite an interesting visit. To begin with I picked up a distant pair of ducks heading north, the male being a Shoveler. I later found the drake Shoveler with the Mallard flock on the pool, but it flew off with them before I was able to get a satisfactory photograph. This was only the second one this year, the last being in April.

Another bit of good fortune was the discovery that at least one Brambling is still present with the finch flock.

The Brambling
Also still present was a Stonechat at the pool, and two Green Sandpipers at the flash field.

I have always suspected that my ability to estimate the numbers of birds seen in flight becomes distinctly ropey when the flock exceeds a couple of hundred. Another problem area concerns birds which continually fly from hedgerows only to reappear in nearby hedges. The latter issue affects estimates of winter thrushes, and today was typical, with my "counts" of 150 Redwings and 70 Fieldfares probably representing an underestimate of the numbers present.

Linnets were the big story today. A Sparrowhawk flushed a load during the morning, and I jotted down "about 200" in my notebook. Later I drove to the south end where there seemed to be a few more than that. A Pheasant shoot across the road led to regular disturbance causing clouds of finches to rise before pitching back into the crop of linseed (I think). Looking through the birds in the crop I counted 13 Lesser Redpolls with them, but I was dreading coming up with any figures for the Linnets. Then I remembered my camera. Take a photograph of the flock then go home and count the dots, I thought.

How many do you think?
There were far more than I thought. Assuming at least 13 of them were Redpolls, this photo contains 875 Linnets. This is the best count for several years, and even this may be an under-count as it seems more than likely that some Linnets remained out of sight or out of frame.

Pretty impressive. It's not always about rare birds.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sunday December 6

If you didn't catch it, buy the box set. What am I talking about? It's my favourite TV series, The Detectorists, which came to a close this week after a fantastic second series. This funny, moving series about metal-detectorists may seem to have no relevance to birding at Morton Bagot, but I would beg to differ.

The reason I love it, is that you could easily substitute metal-detectorists for patch birders. Lance and Andy cover their local fields looking for gold, but find only metal ring-pulls and silver paper. They go to poorly attended bird detectorist club meetings, and have their own insider language.

Patch birding is just like this. Dave and I are Andy and Lance. Today was definitely a ring-pull day. It was cloudy, mild, and drizzle set in by 11.00am. The highlights were a distant Peregrine, 40 Lesser Redpolls, 85 Lapwings heading east, and a Tufted Duck.

One day we'll strike gold though!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Friday December 4

Well here we go then, my least favourite birding month began with mild sunny weather and a light south-westerly breeze.

I hobbled round on my one good leg, seeing pretty much the usual stuff. The adult Peregrine made another brief appearance, and there was an impressive flock of at least 40 Lesser Redpolls at Stapenhill Wood.

The pools are now all full of water after weeks of regular rain, and a single drake Wigeon took its opportunity to join the Mallard flock.

The Wigeon hiding among the Mallard
There was a lot of shooting going on by the wood immediately west of the patch, and this may have been why I only counted five Teal in the Flash field, and precious little else.

The sunshine was at least good for photography. Although the birds tended to want to stay out of sight.



Lesser Redpoll

Greenfinch (female)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sunday November 29

Cloudy with a strong westerly wind. Mild. The forecast rain held off, so while on Thursday I got wet and saw nothing, today I stayed dry and saw nothing. Well nearly nothing, a distant Peregrine was a minor highlight.

I had taken note that Upton Warren hosted a Great White Egret yesterday, but was not entirely surprised to find just three Grey Herons as the only occupants of the flash field. There is little evidence of any ornithological link between Morton Bagot and Upton Warren despite the sites being a little over ten miles apart as the egret doesn't fly. The reason is probably that Upton sits on the Salwarpe, which drains into the Severn, while we are in the Arrow Valley where all the streams flow into the Avon.

Strong winds also fail to bring any ornithological goodies to Morton Bagot (it's small water area is probably the issue here) but it does usually produce an increase in large gulls, and today was no exception. I counted 42 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and two Herring Gulls heading east during the morning.

The pool contained 65 Teal and about 100 Mallard, which stayed only while I lurked behind the hedge. As soon as they realised I was there they were off.

Teal on the main pool
And so was I.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thursday November 26

The less said about this morning's effort the better. Another grey start, with waves of drizzle of increasing frequency and strength throughout the morning did not make me a happy bunny.

I trudged round, seeing pretty much the same mix of birds as on my last visit. The Redwings were hard to count, but I estimated 150 or so, and a flock of 200 Starlings was also present.

The pool and flash contained 86 Teal and about 150 Mallard, plus two Green Sandpipers.

To add to my general disgruntlement a recent update to my computer is causing me headaches when saving photographs.

More Redwings

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tuesday November 24

Following overnight rain the morning dawned cloudy and gloomy, and stayed that way. A light south-westerly wind failed to raise the temperature to more than the seasonal average.

This was to be a visit measured by quantity rather than quality. I tried to get an idea of the number of thrushes which seemed to flush from every hedge, and came up with counts of 120 Redwings, 60 Fieldfares, 20 Blackbirds, eight Song thrushes and a Mistle Thrush.

As I chose to walk along the road initially, I encountered good numbers of tits, and in particular Long-tailed Tits. Four groups of these little birds brought me a site record count of 24 individuals.

Finches were numerous as usual, but I failed to get close to a flock of well over a hundred, mostly Linnets, as I headed for the flash field. Beyond the field a flock of about 200 Starling wheeled around, but my attention was then taken by a big party of Mallard and Teal on the pool. Unfortunately they all flew off, leaving me guessing at 150 Mallard and a similar number of Teal. Fortunately the latter only went as far as the nearest flash and I was able to confirm that there were 147 present, the best count for a year or two, plus a Green Sandpiper, five visible Snipe, and 51 Greylag Geese.

On the return journey I had the opportunity to photograph a tame Lesser Redpoll as it fed on birch seeds.

Lesser Redpoll
Not much else to report, although I did take the chance to count the tree rings on some of the logs piled up following extraction from Bannams Wood.

I reckon this tree was about 56 (the same age as me) when it was cut down.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Sunday November 22

The weather was a great deal more benign than on my last visit, although temperatures were sub-zero when I arrived.

Dave and I completed a circuit in the sunshine almost without troubling the scorers. Highlights were a flock of 89 Teal on the main pool, which unfortunately flew off to the south when we inadvertently flushed them, a Green Sandpiper which flew from the stream across the flash field to the furthest scrape, at least 16 Lesser Redpolls, seven Bullfinches, and an obliging Marsh Tit which was too  intent on hacking its way into a plant stem to worry about us watching it.

Marsh Tit
The day's best bird came on the return journey as we latched onto a low-flying adult Peregrine before it disappeared behind the ridge.

Finally, some encouraging numbers of large gulls flew west. We counted 40 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Herring Gull, but none showed the slightest inclination to land.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thursday November 19

My timing was pretty hopeless today. After failing to leave the house during a cloudy and dry early part of the morning, I finally arrived at Netherstead at 10.00 just as rain appeared from the west.

I tried sheltering beneath the overhang of the barns there, and was joined by an over-affectionate black cat who clearly recognised me from previous visits.

Don't you know I'm allergic to you?
A lucky black cat? Nope. After thirty minutes I concluded I was just going to have to get wet, so I left the cat (who didn't fancy it) and headed for the flashes.

I got soaked and saw two Stonechats, three Snipe, and two Green Sandpipers. A large flock of ducks on the pool turned out to be 200 Mallard, plus two Wigeon.

Various thrushes, at least one Siskin and the odd Redpoll flew out of the hedgerows but I was in no mood to really look at them.

There will be better days.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Sunday November 15

A slightly late start. The forecast rain held off, although there was a strong south-westerly wind which made the birding a bit tricky.

There was no sign of the Black Redstart, so it has probably gone. I struggled to find anything particularly exciting today. The flash field contained only 18 Teal and 51 Greylag Geese.

The one that got away was an interesting large raptor but although I had an idea of what it might be, it  was miles away and receding into the distance all the time. Best left unidentified.

I ended up back at Netherstead scanning the skies in the hope it might reappear, which at least brought me the day's highlight as a very distant flock of at least 30 Golden Plovers flew south.

The camera didn't see much action, so just a couple of token shots for you.

Green Woodpecker
Back to normal.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thursday November 12 - RED LETTER DAY

This morning began quietly in mild sunny weather with a light southerly breeze. It was to build into something of a crescendo.

I wandered around Netherstead, little knowing that I was walking past a first for Morton Bagot, seeing the usual finches and thrushes in the hedgerows. A pair of Stonechats was still present, but I didn't see much else. I continued to the pool, which now actually contains a decent amount of water, and on to the flashes where I counted three Green Sandpipers, 31 Snipe, and 46 Teal.

A goose was present on the nearest flash, but I could only see its back which I thought was rather pale. The penny failed to drop, and it was some minutes later before I looked at it again, and realised it was one of these.

In case you are still scratching your head, it is a Bar-headed Goose. Although a patch first, it is also unequivocally an escape from captivity (they breed in Tibet). Having slogged round on Sunday desperately trying to add day ticks, it was slightly galling that I also recorded 18 Lapwings flying over, and heard a Kingfisher. Where were they last week!

The mild sunny weather was encouraging several bees into the air, and also a late Red Admiral.

Returning to Netherstead, I noticed that the wind was picking up and the clouds were rolling in. Another thing I noticed, thank goodness, was a small grey bird which flew onto a coloured fence pole at Netherstead stable. I hurriedly got my scope off my back and into action. It couldn't be, could it?

It was. A Black Redstart was perching in full view. The first for the patch in exactly the place that Dave and I would often air the mantra "this looks good for a Black Redstart". Speaking of Dave, I thought I had better text him. He soon rang me back and said he would be on his way.

Black Redstart
I spent the next few minutes playing hide and seek with the bird, a female/immature, while also texting or calling various potentially interested parties. Sue arrived from the barn conversions just as I was leaving to get Lyn. I showed the bird to Sue and headed off. This was something that Lyn would be able to see.

By the time we returned, Mike had arrived and was dejectedly wandering around looking for it. He needn't have worried as I quickly relocated it on the sheltered side of the stable complex.

As we all chatted, celebrating a good bird and hoping it would reappear for Lyn to see, another species grabbed our attention. A Red Kite appeared above us before spending the next ten minutes circling over Netherstead Hall.

Red Kite
This was a second year tick for me. Not quite as momentous as the Black Redstart, but one I had given up on after not seeing one in spring.

Dave arrived just in time to see the Kite before it headed off over Bannams Wood, and he and Lyn were soon enjoying views of the Black Redstart.

You can't beat patch birding on days like this.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sunday November 8

An early start to a long day in response to the Patchwork Challenge website choosing this weekend to hold its first Patch Day competition. Naturally the competitor in me found it impossible to resist.

The weather was a bit iffy. It started to rain as soon as I got there, and showers were frequent during the first hour. Fortunately, as reinforcements (Dave) arrived, the weather turned calmer for the next hour, after which the southerly wind increased in strength.

The trick to a successful day list is to look out for birds you might miss. I gradually ticked off these missable birds; three Collared Doves, a Kestrel, three Herring Gulls, Green Woodpecker, three Marsh Tits, two Coal Tits, Nuthatch, three Stonechats, a Cormorant, and with Dave's assistance a female Brambling.

We decided to head along the road because I knew a pair of Mistle Thrushes had been present in the hamlet. Sadly there was no sign of them, although we did see at least a dozen Lesser Redpolls. Also absent was the Tawny Owl (I should have gone before dawn).

We reached the pool where the recent rain has doubled the surface area, and in response a flock of Canada and Greylag Geese now jostled with Mallard, Teal, and Wigeon for space. Fantastic. They all flew off before I could get the camera out, but during the day I saw them several more times and came up with counts of 112 Canada Geese, 95 Greylag Geese, 35 Teal, 50 Mallard, and five Wigeon.

By now we were up to 55 species and still had the Flash field to look at. This was to prove a disappointment, with just 22 Snipe, and no Green Sandpipers.

We reached 57 species and started walking back along a hedge containing a hundred thrushes (Fieldfares and Redwings) and at least 30 Siskins. Among them we spotted a single Mistle Thrush. A little later on we spotted some very distant Black-headed Gulls, while our last tick of the morning was also our best, as four Golden Plovers flew over Bannams Wood, only my second record of the year.

I headed home for lunch thinking I was on 62 (I was actually on 61 species.)

At 3.30pm, shopping done, I returned in drizzly condition to try to add to the list. The light was terrible, but after a couple of hours I had seen a Green Sandpiper at the pool, and heard a Treecreeper in Stapenhill Wood.

My final total was 63 species, better than I thought. Missing from the list was Grey Wagtail, Lapwing, and any species of Owl. You never see everything.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Thursday November 5

Another mild cloudy morning with a threat of rain. A light southerly breeze.

My circuit this morning took in the usual finch hot spots, finding the male Brambling in a tree containing 100 Linnets and a few other finch species. The area was frequently crossed by small parties of Redwings and Fieldfares which kept me scanning the skies.

One of these scans picked up two gulls heading south, but they did not look like the usual sort we get here. They were in fact a pair of adult Common Gulls, not common at all in these parts.

Common Gulls
Not the most exciting year-tick, but they all count.

The puddle is starting to expand, and may yet become transformed into the pool. In the meantime it did at least attract a pair of Wigeons among a small group of Teal and Mallard.

male Wigeon
At the flash field the Teal and Snipe had further increased their numbers, now 31 Teal and 66 Snipe, along with two Green Sandpipers. At this point the rain arrived, and I headed back in heavy drizzle (not ideal for the spectacle wearing birdwatcher).

Fortunately it abated after twenty minutes, but I could find any birds to set my pulse racing, and had to settle for photographing a couple of yellow field cap toadstools.

My Collins guide suggests they may be Conocybe tenera, a species which is fairly widespread and occurs in fields.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sunday November 1

The forecast fog was dispersing as I arrived, and by the time Dave appeared we were faced with the prospect of a bright morning and a very light southerly breeze.

We quickly located a pair of Stonechats at Netherstead, unusually one was quite vocal. There seemed to be a lot of finches about, in particular at the south end. We therefore drove down the track and scanned the Linnets and Redpolls on the wires and in the hedges. Among them we found a year tick, a female Brambling. Hallelujah.

It was difficult to estimate the numbers of each finch species present because the flock was mixed and  mobile, but I would say there were about 200 Linnets, at least 25 Redpolls, about a dozen Greenfinches, about 20 Chaffinches and a similar number of Goldfinches. We later discovered a second Brambling, this time a male.

Later in the morning a bank of fog rolled in, and by the time we got to the Flash field, its occupants were ghostly apparitions in the mist. We nevertheless counted 61 Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, eight Teal, and five Lapwings.

After failing to kick up any unusual species from the strip field we ended back at Netherstead were the female Stonechat was still present.

Arguably the most remarkable aspect of the day was the fact that we didn't see a single raptor, the lack of Kestrels being particularly surprising.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Friday October 30

A cloudy morning with periods of light drizzle. Very mild with a light southerly breeze.

I chose to walk along the road from Netherstead to Church Farm, hoping to find something exciting like a Black Redstart on one of the buildings. As usual the plan failed, and the best I could muster was a Grey Wagtail and two Mistle Thrushes.

Cutting down to the pool and flash field, the searching produced a Stonechat, 57 Snipe, two Green Sandpipers and 29 Teal. Then the rain really pepped up and I got absolutely soaked walking back.

Ironically, as I made my soggy way across the strip field I flushed the only decent bird of the day, a Jack Snipe.

I ended by driving to the south end, where 167 Linnets on the wires were frequently disturbed by nearby gunfire.

What a wash out.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Sunday October 25

Perfect weather conditions, calm with high cloud and good visibility.

Dave and I had a good look round, and there were encouraging signs, most notably a flock of 350 Linnets with at least 35 Lesser Redpolls in the crop at the south end.

The woodland areas produced at least six Goldcrests, and four Blackcaps.

Most of these birds were seen in the first hour, and thereafter things became quieter. There was no evidence of any arrivals at the Flash field, with 42 Snipe, 10 Teal, and two Green Sandpipers present. Although there is no duck shooting on the patch this year, it is still taking place locally so there seems little prospect of improvement until the end of January.

Rather frustrating.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Thursday October 22

With a slightly restricted morning in prospect, I split the visit into two sections. From Netherstead I ambled around, seeing a Grey Wagtail, a Stonechat, and 60 Linnets. I then drove the Church Farm and did a circuit of the northern end.

The weather was coming from the west, and was cloudy and a little breezy. There wasn't very much passage going on, but I did see 47 Starlings heading west. I also finally got a photographic monkey off my back as I at last managed a photograph of a Goldcrest.

These tiny, zippy little birds have defied my attempts to focus on them with my bridge camera for over a year. If I ever find a Firecrest here, there's not much danger it will be proved with a photograph.

Thrush passage was much less dramatic than last week, but many are now feeding in the hedgerows. I logged 61 Fieldfares and 85 Redwings.

A few Lesser Redpolls and Siskins flew over, while the flash field produced five Green Sandpipers, 26 Snipe, 10 Teal, 45 Greylag Geese, and six Lapwings.

Yellowhammers vary quite a lot from bright males to dull first-winter females. This is about as un-yellow as they get.

Unless its a Pine Bunting of course!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sunday October 18

Cloudy with a light northerly breeze. This was a memorable visit despite no year-ticks being unearthed, and only 48 species being seen. The saving grace was the quantity of birds on offer.

For a change, Dave and I decided on a clockwise circuit. This meant more time being devoted to the fields, and none at all to the woodland margins. We began at the south end where we found the first of at least 29 Lesser Redpolls (a record), and the first of seven Stonechats (another record).

I have a love hate relationship with Redpolls. They are great little birds, but they do your head in because you have to check every one to rule out the continental species, Mealy Redpoll. Added to this is the difficulty of identifying what used to be races of one species, Lesser Redpolls varying from one individual to another according to age and sex.

Although there did seem to be a large one among the birds we saw, we never got to grips with it and we ended up identifying all the ones we saw well as Lesser. This one caused us a few problems though.

Lesser Redpoll
Same bird

Rather grey around the head, but thought to be too brown mantled, and the wing-bars had too much brown in them for a Mealy. There is a new article coming out soon in the Frontiers of Bird Identification series which I understand will include a chapter on Redpolls. I'll certainly be buying it.

The Stonechats were a pair in the ridge field, two pairs around Netherstead, and one male at the south end. Here is one of the females at Netherstead.

The other two species to break records were thrushes. We saw over a thousand Fieldfares and Redwings flying over, all going north-west, the break down being 576 Redwings and 437 Fieldfares. There were also a couple of flocks which were too distant to fully identify.

It was one of those days when there was never a dull moment. Other counts included 65 Goldfinches, 14 Chaffinches, 22 Snipe, four Green Sandpipers, 15 Yellowhammers, at least 10 Reed Buntings, five Siskins, two Blackcaps, a Grey Wagtail, and 15 Teal.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Thursday October 15

Cloudy with a light north-easterly breeze. I made a late start due to acute laziness, and didn't get to the patch until 09.30. It wasn't long before I was chatting to Maggie, who was walking her dog. She quite reasonably asked me what I was hoping to see today. Although I was tempted to reel off a long list of potential rarities, reality kicked in and I settled for Redwings.

What do they look like and how many have you seen so far? They look a bit like Starlings, and I've seen two, came my answer. I felt she wasn't impressed. Within ten minutes I had seen a party of 40 heading north-west, but throughout the majority of the rest of the morning no more flew over.

That was all to change at around 11.45am. A group of nine, and then another 55. The birds kept on coming, and by 12.15pm, I had amassed a grand total of 361, all heading north-west, none calling, and none looking like stopping. I searched each flock for Fieldfares, but saw none, although one distant flock of 40 thrushes did look a bit too big to be Redwings, so I didn't count them as anything.

A party of 60 Redwings
So you have to remember that this is not just happening at Morton Bagot. Across the country similar flocks will have been doing just the same, as Scandinavia gradually sheds its entire population. The scale is eye-watering.

The rest of the morning was dominated by another northern species, but in this case they will just have come from northern Britain. Small numbers of Lesser Redpolls were feeding on willow herb seeds along the hedge at Netherstead, and I found a larger flock near the Pheasant pens, giving me a creditable total of 24.

Lesser Redpoll
Other passerines seen included 30 Skylarks, five Siskins, a Chiffchaff, and a pair of Stonechats.

The male Stonechat
Thank goodness for the perching birds, because the watery areas were absolutely desperate. The grand total of waterbirds was three Green Sandpipers, three Teal, two Snipe, 30 Mallard, a Greylag Goose, and a Kingfisher which saw me first and as a consequence was heard and not seen.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sunday October 11

I'll begin this post by looking back to last Sunday. Dave was able to give me the full story of his Marsh Harrier sighting. After seeing it as soon as he arrived, he then relocated it over an hour later as he approached the flash field. It ended up over the nearest flash where it circled and then landed, apparently attracted by the corpse of a goose sp which had been shot the previous day. It then stood around for about 15 minutes while Dave tried to establish whether he could contact anyone with a camera. Eventually Mike set out from home, but before he got half way the bird took off and headed north. It must have been present at the patch for about an hour and a half in total.

Although I wasn't there, Dave's vivid description makes me wonder whether in ten years time I will think that I saw it! Dave also counted 75 Snipe and a Stonechat.

So back to this Sunday. Our most notable sighting occurred shortly after arriving, as nine late Swallows headed south. After that we decided to target tit flocks in the hope that this autumn's massive influx of Yellow-browed Warblers might be reflected here. It is a bit like looking for a needle in a thousand haystacks, and all we saw was a dozen Long-tailed Tits, two Marsh Tits, a Treecreeper, two Chiffchaffs, and four Goldcrests. Up to five Siskins, and three Lesser Redpolls were also present.

The flash field contained 56 Snipe, six Teal, four Green Sandpipers, and the dead goose. Considering I saw seven over Redditch as I headed for the paper shop this morning, I was surprised that not a single Redwing flew over all morning.

Here's a mystery raptor photograph for you.

The bird had careered across the ridge field before landing and allowing me to sneak up on it. Not too difficult, but give yourself a point if you said...


The final notable bird of the morning was a female Stonechat, which we discovered back at Netherstead.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Thursday October 8

Our last full day dawned sunny for once. A light westerly, but I still decided to spend my last morning exploring the fields around the cottage.

Two hours later I was somewhat regretting the decision as very little noteworthy had come to my attention. In fact the best sighting was made as Lyn and I prepared to head for Scarborough for the non-birding part of the day, when a flock of 60 Pink-footed Geese flew noisily south.

Earlier I did at least manage to finally nail a photograph of one of the many Tree Sparrows which inhabit the hedgerows around here.

Tree Sparrow (if only it was at Morton Bagot)
Other than that the bright sunshine was at least good for photography, and I was quite pleased with one of the local Robin singing in the garden.

My next post should be from back at Morton Bagot.

I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Wednesday October 7

Unsure as to when the rain would start, but quite certain the fog/mist was sticking around, I headed back to Hawsker Bottoms. Here, I was pleased to discover that the ringer, John McEachen, was catching birds at the sewage works.

I greeted him with the news that I had seen a Yellow-browed Warbler and Ring Ouzels on Monday. He told me he had been coming every day, except Monday. Oh dear. I noticed that two or three Blackcaps were still present, and also a few Song Thrushes.

The fog seemed to lift a bit so I headed for the coastal path. The only bird of note was a fly-over Curlew, and after 15 minutes I returned to the sewage works. At this point I realised I could hear a Yellow-browed, but after a dozen minutes there was no sign of it. I headed for John to tell him the bird was still here, only to discover he had been playing a tape of Yellow-browed!

However, it was still present. John had seen it, and a few minutes later I had too. The view was typically brief, so I headed further up the hill to search for more migrants. John headed for his nets, and a few minutes later he was giving me the thumbs up. He had caught it.

The Yellow-browed Warbler
It was the first he had ever caught here, although I think it was only quite recently that he had started ringing here.

I wandered back to the coast to seawatch, just as the mist rolled back in.

The sea is down there somewhere
There was nothing for it but to return to the sewage works. John now had tapes blasting out birdsong to the extent that I had to stop listening for birds and just assume everything was tape. Just before I left, John had one more surprise up his sleeve (or to be more accurate in a little canvas bag), a Treecreeper.

An excellent sight.

The rain duly set in at lunchtime, and birding ended for the day.