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.