Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Tuesday August 30

The mist which accompanied me to Netherstead dissipated within five minutes of my getting out of the car leaving a sunny day with a very light breeze.

The best bird today was a Reed Warbler which showed occasionally along a hedge before posing briefly on top.

Reed Warbler
While I was waiting for the warbler to reappear, a Whinchat flew from the same hedge. Later on I found another Reed Warbler near the small pond 200 metres away, and another Whinchat in the Chat field. A Peregrine flew from a pylon and headed for Bannams Wood.

The watery areas were very poor, just 22 Teal, 21 Lapwings, one Green Sandpiper,  one Common Sandpiper, and eight Snipe.

A Painted Lady showed well in the weedy field.

Painted Lady
Finally, back at the Dragonfly Ponds I got good views of two Migrant Hawkers, my first this year.

Migrant Hawker

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Sunday August 28

A morning which was mostly cloudy with a few sunny intervals. Quite warm with a light southerly breeze.

I was joined by Dave as usual and we had a good start as a Hobby flew over the dragonfly pools. A little further on we discovered my last 'easy' year tick in the form of the first Grey Wagtail of the autumn. Typically the bird was seen only in flight after its distinctive call was heard.

A little further on we discovered a Whinchat, and I probably heard a Tree Pipit, but Dave didn't hear it and as it was rather faint I decided not to count it on the day list.

At the Flash field the watchword was quantity rather than quality. Lapwing numbers have increased to 51, Teal to 62, Snipe to 29, and Green Sandpipers to 14. The Common Sandpiper was still present, and so was the Garganey.

Garganey with two Teal
It doesn't appear to have the white flank spot I noticed last Thursday, so maybe it is a different bird. A millisecond after the above photo was taken, it flew to the furthest Flash, and a few minutes later it flew away to the west.

Despite our best efforts we failed to add significantly to the birds seen this morning before we reached our cars.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thursday August 25

I had a bit of a late start this morning due to a doctor's appointment. So I arrived at 10.00 to start birding under lead grey skies, the temperature being warm and the wind negligible. It had rained overnight. In short, these were the conditions you dream of for the end of August.

It was at once apparent that there were birds everywhere. Admittedly most were Goldfinches and Linnets, and it made for slow progress as I gradually accumulated Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs, also seeing a mint condition Lesser Whitethroat. It didn't take long for the first unusual migrants to announce themselves, as a thin "ssseee" call had me looking up to see two Tree Pipits heading west.

Having got Tree Pipit in the bag I made my way to the Chat Field which, true to its name, contained three Whinchats.

The only downside with this weather is that it makes getting crisp bird shots difficult at the sort of distances I invariably photograph from.

The main pool now has a substantial amount of mud, but enough water to still support a few Coots and a Little Grebe. Much more interesting to me was the presence of the year's second Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper
At this point a stockman appeared in the field and started calling to his cattle (I don't know why either). This had two effects: the cattle became on edge, and all the birds, mainly Teal and Mallard, flew off the pool. Fortunately they headed towards the Flash field.

Here I quickly established that there were two juvenile Black-tailed Godwits on the nearest flash along with nine Green Sandpipers, and small numbers of Teal and Snipe.

Black-tailed Godwits
I then turned my attention to the furthest flash. There were more Lapwings, Snipe, and Teal on it, and sitting on the bank among the latter was a Garganey. I believe it was the bird I saw last Friday as it seemed to have the same aberrant white spot on the rear flanks. Fine through a scope, but too distant for a photograph.

I meandered back without adding much else, and paused to text a number of interested parties. Subsequently, Dave, Mike, and Neil Duggan (at least) twitched the birds this afternoon, and inevitably they found some more stuff. I gather the Black-tailed Godwits were present for Dave, but then flew off. He and Mike struggled to find the Garganey, but were eventually successful. They added a very brief Greenshank, a Wheatear (much scarcer in autumn here than in spring), and a Hobby. Dave also thinks he may have heard the escaped Yellow Bishop which we saw about a month ago.

It's days like this that make it all worth while.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sunday August 21

Cloudy with sunny intervals and a light south-westerly breeze.

Dave joined me for this morning's circuit, and things began steadily enough. The first decent migrant was spotted by Dave as it flew through his binocular view, a Redstart. Eventually we caught up with it just past the pool.

Female/immature Redstart
 Shortly before I got the opportunity to get a record shot of the Redstart, we found that the main pool contained a juvenile Greenshank.

Juvenile Greenshank
After these successes we were quite optimistic that the flash pools would add something good, but in the event we could only find 43 Lapwings, 14 Snipe, 35 Teal, 10 Green Sandpipers, two juvenile Shelducks, and about 50 Greylag Geese. The Garganey seemed to have gone.

At this point Dave got the dreaded Marsh Lane call. From his agonised expression I could tell it was something good, and indeed it turned out that a Gannet was sitting in the middle of Car Park Pool. There was no way Dave was going to be able to amble round with me when there was the prospect of a once in a lifetime bird at his other patch, so he made a beeline for his car leaving me to continue alone.

I spent a little time sifting through the flycatching warblers in the hedge before concluding they were all (at least five) Chiffchaffs. Then I spotted a rather long-necked duck flying from the direction of Bannams Wood. I was considering whether it could be a Pintail, or just a Mallard, but as it came closer its true identity was revealed. A female Goosander. Thirty years ago such a record would have been truly extraordinary as you never saw Goosanders in the Midlands before the end of October. But their status has gradually changed and they are now breeding in tiny numbers on rivers in Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and perhaps even Warwickshire. So though very unusual, particularly at Morton Bagot where a pair in April was only the second record, it was not quite as jaw-dropping as it would once have been. Oh, my camera was in my bag and the bird had headed off west before I could even think of a record shot.

I soon started looking at insects, finding a Common Wasp's nest, and several Dark Bush Crickets before I noticed a Hornet flying around. I had often hoped to photograph one here, but they never seem to land. However, this one did. It seemed to be scraping the bark of a small Ash, and I concluded it was chewing it up for later deposition in a hole somewhere as part of a communal nest-building process.

They are absolutely stunning insects (as long as you don't get too close). Actually I believe they are pretty docile despite their ferocious reputation.

Heading on, I spotted a Lesser Whitethroat and several Blackcaps, and ended up back at the dragonfly pools, where a grasshopper took my attention.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
This species expanded its range in the 1990s and is now quite common in the Midlands. However this was the first I have seen here.

I had almost reached the car when I got a text from Dave saying he had seen the Gannet. Phew. I had one more bird up my sleeve. On a distant post sat another Redstart, this time an immature male. By the time I got closer it had disappeared, pretty typical of a Redstart.

All in all a pretty decent morning.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday 19 August

The dire weather forecast today suggested it might be time for a cunning plan. It was due to rain from 07.30 to 16.00 and I didn't fancy getting wet. However, once the rain had stopped, perhaps it will have left its mark in terms of dropping something in.

So at around 15.45 I was pulling off the drive when I got a text from Mike: Five Greenshank at Middle Spernal.  This is barely a mile from Morton Bagot and the first multiple occurrence there. Surely a sign.

As I walked towards the pool, I got another text: Now six Greenshank there. So as I finally surveyed the pool it was with some optimism. Nine Teal and a Green Sandpiper. Never mind there was still the Flash to come.

I started to scan. Five Green Sandpipers, seven Snipe, and 24 Teal. Mike phoned. What a day he was having, a large flock of Common Terns and Black Terns at Salford Prior GP, plus a Greenshank there. How was I doing? I toyed with the idea of saying there had been an influx of Teal, but settled for admitting it was just the same old stuff.

Fifteen minutes later, another sweep of the nearest flash produced the goods. A Garganey waddled out from behind the juncus on the near side of the the flash. This was the fourth record for the site and the first since a drake in June 2012.


It was rather surprising to see it walking around on the mud, and although it did spend a little time on the wetter mud, it seemed to prefer the drier area. This unfortunately meant that it went missing for long periods because it was screened from view by long vegetation.

The small white patch between the rear flanks and the tail was puzzling, but I cannot find any evidence that any of the small ducks should show it, so I regard it as an example of slightly aberrant plumage.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Sunday August 14

We are starting to reach the business end of August when European passerines join juvenile Arctic waders as they head for tropical climes. The hope is that some of these migrants will pause in the UK as they head south, and just maybe something noteworthy will arrive at Morton Bagot.

Not today though. Despite encouraging conditions; cloudy with very little wind, and quite warm, Dave and I saw pretty much the same birds as I saw on Friday. In fact, the drier flashes and pool  contained only three Green Sandpipers, and the juvenile Dunlin has moved on.

On the plus side at least three Snipe were present on the margin of the nearest flash, and there are now seven Teal despite the reduced amount of water. The highlight was an adult male Redstart in the hedge beyond the flash, and the continuing presence of two Whinchats, a Lesser Whitethroat, one or two Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatchers, three Blackcaps, and 14 Whitethroats.

None of these migrants came close enough, or posed for sufficiently long, for a photograph, but a hunting Sparrowhawk did oblige at Netherstead.

It created havoc among the House Martins, Swallows, Goldfinches, and Pied Wagtails in particular.

A posse of Pied Wagtails
The cloudy conditions were detrimental to my chances of seeing many insects, but a Holly Blue did show well.

Holly Blue

Friday, 12 August 2016

Friday August 12

A warm, sunny morning with a moderate to fresh westerly breeze.

The walk to the pool produced three Whinchats in the Chat Field, but the pool itself was quiet and continues to lose water through evaporation. The Flash contained the juvenile Dunlin again, three Green Sandpipers, 35 Lapwings, the two juvenile Shelducks, and 59 Greylag Geese.

Things picked up on the return journey. The family party of Spotted Flycatchers had moved along the hedge from where they were last week, and were now definitely in camera range. The area was also busy with Chiffchaffs and Tits.

Adult Spotted Flycatcher
Juvenile Spotted Flycatcher
I was spoilt for choice when deciding which photos to show, but the opposite scenario played out a little further along the hedge when I realised that a Kingfisher was perched on the pool beyond. I got a shot through a gap in the hedge, but realising it wasn't focussed on the bird I edged to a position where I thought I could get it and tried again. The result was even worse, but two careful steps to the right would do it. As I completed the second step the Kingfisher decided enough was enough and silently flew off. Doh! This is all I can show you.

Interestingly the bill appears to be all black, which means its an adult male. I had always assumed the birds we got here were dispersing juveniles.

The remainder of this post is devoted to insects. Earlier on I had had a great opportunity to photograph a male Common Blue butterfly.

Common Blue
However, further along from the Kingfisher spot I came across a small group of the closely related butterfly, Brown Argus. These tiny insects chased each other around but eventually one settled long enough for a shot.

Brown Argus
I was almost as thrilled to see a Peacock butterfly as they have been extremely scarce this year.

Finally, the warm weather was good for dragonflies. The usual Emperors and Brown Hawkers at the Dragonfly Pools were joined by lots of coupled Common Darters, the males swinging the females  downwards repeatedly, as each time she laid an egg. I also saw a single Ruddy Darter and photographed what I believe is a female Ruddy Darter.

Female Ruddy Darter

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Sunday August 7

A morning of sunny intervals and a strong westerly breeze, but it was pretty warm. I generally don't rate windy days here, but this was definitely one of the better ones.

To begin with I was joined by Dave, back from his holidays. Things proceeded quietly until we reached the flash field. Here, the most obvious new arrival was a juvenile Shelduck, and we later noticed a second bird hiding in the long grass at the edge of the nearest flash.

While I was trying to get a shot of it, Dave noticed a small wader lying on a muddy ridge in the flash. A quick look through the scope confirmed it was a Dunlin, the first since three in March.

We counted eight Green Sandpipers, 40 Lapwings, four Teal, and 130 Greylag Geese before Dave distinguished himself again by spotting that there were a number of Spotted Flycatchers in the bushes and trees behind the flash. Unfortunately they were too distant to be worth a photograph, but included adults and juveniles and totalled at least five birds. Clearly a family party.

Finally, I discovered that the juvenile Ringed Plover was still present, now in the grass with Lapwings at the right hand side of the nearest flash.

Ringed Plover
The remainder of the visit produced about 50 Starlings, 40 Goldfinches, and a Kingfisher which we only managed to hear.

One or two insects were worth looking at.

Southern Hawker
Holly Blue
The Holly Blue was nice to see, as they are only moderately plentiful here. We also saw a couple of Common Blues and a Small Heath. Still no Peacocks!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Friday August 5

A sunny morning and an early start. The temperature rapidly warmed so I was able to see plenty of insects as well as good numbers of birds.

The area behind the pool produced a Whinchat, about 90 Goldfinches, and about 15 Linnets. The pool itself harbouring two juvenile Little Grebes despite the falling water level. At the flash field I quickly noticed that there were two Little Owls on show, and one one of them was clearly a juvenile.

Juvenile (on left) and adult Little Owl
The nearest flash contained 56 Lapwings, six Green Sandpipers, three Teal, and a juvenile Ringed Plover. This was quite a fillip, being a species which averages one occurrence every two years. The bird remained at the back of the flash, so I'm afraid the photos aren't up to much.

Juvenile Ringed Plover
I was hoping to add some passerine migrants, and although there was nothing new, diligent logging produced a record accumulation of 17 Common Whitethroats, as well as three Blackcaps, and a Sedge Warbler.

Regarding insects, I finally managed to photograph some of the Brown Hawkers, and also Red Admiral, and several tiny grass moths of two species. I'm unfortunately not yet sure which species they were though.

Brown Hawker
Red Admiral
Common Darter
Agriphila tristella - Common Grass Veneer

Agriphilla sp (possibly straminella) - Straw Grass Veneer

Finally, a bit of a postscript. Lyn and I went to Hillers Garden Centre in the lee of Ragley Hall woods where I spotted a large Fritillary. Frustratingly it only landed very briefly before I lost it, so I was able to rule out Comma. I am pretty certain it was a Silver-washed Fritillary, but I probably didn't quite nail it.