Sunday, 27 November 2016

Sunday November 27

A rather cold, cloudy day with a very light north-easterly breeze.

We initially spent quite a long time checking the hedgerows around Netherstead because there were a lot of passerines to look through. Most were thrushes, and we ended up with an estimate of 300 Redwings and 250 Fieldfares in the whole area. These figures were the best we could manage given that birds seemed to be arriving and departing all the time as they took advantage of the berry harvest. We may well have underestimated the true number.

Today was really all about numbers and not really species variety. We estimated 100 Woodpigeons, 150 Jackdaws, and 30 Rooks. Smaller birds included 60 Linnets, 30 Chaffinches, and about 20 buntings, with Reed Buntings slightly outnumbering Yellowhammers.

The flash field was a bit disappointing, containing only 45 nervy Teal and a Lapwing. At least 56 Greylag Geese were just visible on the ridge behind the furthest flash. An additional flock of Lapwings seen distantly as they flew over fields towards Studley was estimated at 136 by Dave, although my later photo-count came up with a figure of 108.

A pair of Stonechats is still present, and we also saw eight Lesser Redpolls, a Siskin, and a Grey Wagtail.

Grey Wagtail
I nearly forgot. The reason for the nervousness of the Teal, Woodpigeons, and thrushes was probably the continued presence of the adult Peregrine.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thursday November 24

A cloudy morning with a moderate north-easterly breeze. There has been a lot of rain since my last visit, so I was expecting a rise in water-levels. I was nevertheless taken aback by the change in the pool. It has gone from a muddy scrape with a puddle of water at one end to, well, looking like a pool again.

Before I reached it I managed to miss an opportunity to photograph a female Siskin which flew into the hedge in front of the Netherstead barns before briefly dropping into the vegetation by the small pool to have a quick drink. All too quick for me unfortunately. It has been a very poor autumn again for this species.

Moving on to the pool again, the hedgerow from where the photo was taken contained lots of buntings; 20 Yellowhammers and 12 Reed Buntings, plus a pair of Stonechats. One of the Yellowhammers was noticeably colourless, and I managed one rubbish photo before it flew off. Probably just a very dull female Yellowhammer, but I wouldn't mind a better look.

Spot the birds competition (two normal Yellowhammers and a grey one)
The higher water-levels proved their worth at the flash field. Although the Teal count was back to 60 birds, they had been joined by five Shovelers and a Wigeon. These were the first Shovelers this autumn, and the second-largest party ever.

The only shot with all five Shovelers
Two males and a female (the other two were imm males)
The walk back incorporated a walk across the stubble, where I counted 150 Woodpigeons, 120 Jackdaws, 11 Skylarks, and a Snipe.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sunday November 20

Having seen a weather forecast on Friday night which implied Sunday would largely be a wash-out, Dave had resigned himself to sitting in the hides at Marsh Lane GP, while I had decided on a lie-in with a possibility of some late afternoon birding.

It therefore came as a bit of a shock to the system to be awakened by a phone call from an alarmingly chipper Dave at 08.20 this morning, and to be informed it was not raining and he would be setting out in ten minutes.

I managed to get us up and breakfasted in record time, but it was still  09.45 before I joined Dave at the patch. The early signs were promising, with lots of small birds around. At the chat field I spotted an adult Peregrine sitting on a pylon, the first for several weeks.

Moving on we then spotted a flock of at least 120 Black-headed Gulls flying low westwards just beyond the hedge bordering the flash field. Our optimism for the day received a major surge because this was way above the numbers we normally see here, and was probably the largest flock of the year.  They also represented an opportunity to check for other Gulls (frankly any other small gull species would be a good find here), so we hurried towards the flash. On our way at least 30 Yellowhammers flew from the hedge bordering the pool, but we didn't take the time to look carefully at them.

It therefore came as a crushing disappointment that not a single gull had lingered. It wasn't all doom and gloom though, because Teal numbers had almost doubled from the the previous highest count this autumn. At least 191 were present, (this evening I have discovered that this is just six short of the highest ever count here) along with five Wigeon and about 25 Mallard.

Some of the Teal
The Teal were noticeably jumpy, and the reason for this became clear as the adult Peregrine powered across the nearest flash causing panic among the ducks.

We eventually returned to our cars, noting a Grey Wagtail, and about 100 winter thrushes before we got there. Dave headed off, while I decided to try to take some photos from the car despite the poor light.

Song Thrush
I drove off, but stopped in the village to photograph a Nuthatch perched on telephone wires.

A final stop came at the last bend before the crossroads. The hill towards Bannams Wood looks the sort of place you could imagine seeing a Ring Ouzel (we never have), and today I decided it also had potential for a Great Grey Shrike. None were present of course, but it did produce a good record as I spotted about 100 Golden Plovers flying far in the distance between Morton Bagot and Wootton Wawen. A truly enigmatic species. There must be fields they favour somewhere in the area but they almost never land in, for example, the flash field. I guess Morton Bagot's fields are just too small to tempt them.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Friday November 18

A lovely sunny morning was ideal for a walk around the patch with the two Richards. They both enjoyed it, and so did I despite a slightly disappointing list of birds seen.

The highlight was definitely going into Holy Trinity church, which dates back to the 13th century, although it seems there was a substantial rebuild in the nineteenth century. All the rectors back to Ralph Bagot in 1282 are listed in a framed parchment on the wall, and the pews each had crocheted cushions with bird and animal designs on them, a nice touch. I particularly liked the Golden Oriole design !

We counted 57 Teal, two Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper at the flash field.

The pale Buzzard
A particularly pale Common Buzzard provided the best photo opportunity.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sunday November 13

Sunny intervals with a very light south-westerly breeze. Very pleasant conditions for birding in, but benign conditions tend to produce little change, and so it proved today.

The first hour produced lots of birds. These included a Grey Wagtail, 196 Linnets counted on the wires over the ridge field, over 100 thrushes were mostly Fieldares and Redwings but included about eight Blackbirds, six Song Thrushes, plus 57 Skylarks, while at least 170 Starlings flew west during the morning.

The usual three Stonechats were still present, while there were 86 Teal, six Wigeon, five Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper in the vicinity of the flash and pool fields. As a largely gull-free zone this was quite a good day as we saw three Black-headed Gulls, 19 Lesser black-backed Gulls, and four Herring Gulls, mostly flying west.

It was at least good for photography.

Meadow Pipit
Lesser Redpoll

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Thursday November 10

A bit of a false start this morning when I suddenly realised I was supposed to be attending a doctor's appointment. So it was 11.00am before I finally started birding. Sunny intervals, showers, and a light westerly breeze.

The most notable unusual birds seen were a very distant flock of 62 Golden Plovers heading south over Studley. Redpolls were present with the other finches, but it was hard to get good views. Once again the ones I saw well seemed to be Lessers. The hedgerows also sheltered about 100 Redwings and 60 Fieldfares.

One encouraging sign came at the flash field, which contained plenty of water and an impressive 103 Teal, 36 Mallard, five Wigeon, two Lapwings, and a Green Sandpiper. Actually all the pools showed signs that water-levels are recovering.

Pigeons were well in evidence with about 200 Woodpigeons and 50 Stock Doves flying out of the stubble field. At least one Stonechat was present at Netherstead.

Reed Bunting
So as far as my year-list goes, I remain stuck on 117 (118 with Feral Pigeon), which is equal to my three best previous years. Something of a glass ceiling which I seem unable to break through.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sunday November 6

A cold sunny morning with a moderate north-westerly breeze.

The patch seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut, birdwise, lately. This morning was typical as Dave and I trudged round seeing the same old birds as on most recent visits.

The only differences were a few gulls over; six Lesser Black-backed, two Herring, and two Black-headed. We did reasonably well at the flash field despite, or possibly because of, the farmer completing a circuit on his quad-bike. He flushed 41 Teal, 20 Mallard, three Wigeon, 70 Greylag Geese, five Snipe, and two Green Sandpipers into view. Interestingly both flashes now contain water, although the nearest was largely frozen. I am guessing that Steve, the farmer, has done something to enable the spring-fed furthest flash to drain into the nearest, whilst both retain their water. A neat trick.

Teal & Wigeon coping with the ice
Continuing along the public footpath we came across the strange sight of an ordnance survey map in a plastic wallet hanging from the hedge.

We guessed that someone had found it and had left it hanging in case the owner was retracing his steps looking for it. A few minutes later we bumped into a man who looked the part, so told him about the map. However, he seemed unaware of its presence. Strangely when we looked back after he had gone on, the map had disappeared. So if you've lost your map a sixty something ironman sporting an orange top and shorts! may be holding it in safe-keeping.

We went on to see a flock of 100 Woodpigeons, about seven Lesser Redpolls, about 130 Linnets, five Bullfinches, and about 50 Fieldfares.

A windswept Bullfinch
I hesitate to say this, but we need a lot of rain to get the water levels back up. No doubt I will regret this sentiment on a future soggy Sunday.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Friday November 4

Cloudy at first after some overnight rain, but most of the morning was sunny with a light westerly breeze.

The walk around Netherstead's hedgerows revealed that there were plenty of Blackbirds and Redwings taking advantage of the berry harvest, along with moderate numbers of finches and buntings.

The three Stonechats were still present, and the pool hosted a Black-headed Gull, the first here for three visits. Moving on to the flash field I quickly saw that there were now three Wigeon, plus 35 Teal and three Snipe.

The group of Wigeon
I headed back, noting that a shoot was taking place at Spernal, until I reached the edge of Stapenhill Wood. I hadn't seen many Redpolls, but two or three appeared in the trees at the back of the wood. One looked pale through the bins, and with my scope tucked away on my back, my only option was a distant shot followed by a scrabble to get my scope up.

Its the lower bird I was looking at. Needless to say by the time I had got my scope up they had vanished.

Its going to be a long winter.