Sunday, 24 September 2017

Sunday September 24

A little pulse of warm south-easterlies gave us a pleasant sunny morning.

There were plenty of insects about which is no doubt the reason we recorded a record-breaking 18 Chiffchaffs. Another species to turn up in good numbers was Stonechat. Seven of them were dashing about the appropriately named Chat Field. This figure equalled the previous record. Two Blackcaps were also seen.

Male Stonechat
I have recently started a new project. This involves inputting all my old records, which stretch back to 1979, onto Birdtrack. The BTO website is excellent for logging current records, but they are apparently pleased to receive historical records. What I get out of it is the nostalgic enjoyment of rereading notebooks written when I was in my early twenties. I am very struck by how enthusiastic I was. Technically studying for a degree at Swansea University, I hardly let a day go by without doing some birding. I occasionally counted very diligently, for example recording 53 Blue Tits in a wood near Swansea one cold January day.

Frankly I felt inspired to count tits this morning. In the three hours we were here I logged 26 Blue Tits, eight Long-tailed Tits, four Great Tits and a Coal Tit. That was without going anywhere near Bannams Wood. There's life in the old dog yet.

Coal Tit
When not logging tits, Dave  and I managed to look up and count overhead passage. It is clear that hirundines are now on the move; a minimum of 25 Swallows and five House Martins flew south. The Meadow Pipit count was 31.

The flash field contained the first Wigeon of the autumn, along with 17 Teal, 96 Greylag Geese, about 10 Mallard, a Green Sandpiper, and two Greenshank.

The only other bird worthy of note, was a Little Egret which appeared in the tree at the pool long after we had left that part of the patch. It was visible through the telescope, but my poor old back was playing up too much for us the give in to any thoughts of going back for a closer look.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Friday September 22

A sunny morning with some warmth to it. A very light southerly breeze.

This was one of those quiet late September visits which leaves me wondering what to blog about. The Greenshank was still present, but I only saw 11 Snipe, two Green Sandpipers, and 18 Teal in the flash field.

The sunshine brought out several Red Admirals and a couple of Green-veined Whites.

Red Admiral
Green-veined White
One thing that did strike me as interesting was the unexpected increase in certain residents which have been conspicuously absent over the last few months. I counted seven Blackbirds, and eight Chaffinches this morning. Are these migrants? More likely its just the local birds, newly moulted, and  no longer preoccupied with hiding away.

The brightness of the morning probably masked the true nature of overhead Meadow Pipit passage, just 15 birds being located heading south against the azure sky. There are still plenty of hirundines about, approximately 50 Swallows and 30 House Martins high in the sky. I counted 14 Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps in the hedgerows. Clearly these species are in no hurry to move on.

None of the migrants mentioned thus far allowed me the opportunity for a photograph, so I have stuck a Kestrel into the post to show that I was trying.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday September 17

A late start was made this morning due to reasons I am not at liberty to divulge at this point.

So we started birding at the patch at 10-45. It was cloudy and a little chilly with a very light northerly breeze.

The rarest thing we saw was another birder, Terry, who was leaving as we were arriving. Terry had seen seven Snipe on the nearest flash and the Greenshank on the main pool. We went on to see exactly the same birds, but also saw six Green Sandpipers, 20 Teal, and two Shovelers.

The single Stonechat I saw on Friday was still present, but was showing a lot better.

The autumnal flavour was confirmed by the presence of at least three Blackcaps, about four Chiffchaffs, and about eight Skylarks flying from the stubble field. About 100 hirundines flew around, and we guesstimated about 50 were Swallows and 50 House Martins.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Friday September 15

A prearranged list with Richard B began at Netherstead in cloudy weather with a very light westerly breeze. We were caught by one drizzly shower, but that was all.

The horse paddocks at Netherstead contained at least 35 Meadow Pipits and plenty of Blue Tits, and Reed Buntings with smaller numbers of Chiffchaffs, Pied Wagtails, and other common passerines.

Meadow Pipits
After that we followed the usual circuit. A Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper were on the pool, while the first Stonechat of the autumn was in the sedges just beyond. Nine Magpies was a good count for the site.

The furthest flash contained about 90 Greylag Geese and about 20 Teal. Also still present was the eclipse male Shoveler. We heard a Little Owl calling, and witnessed a Kingfisher flashing past.

The Shoveler is in the water just beyond the Greylags. A true record shot!
The nearest flash was completely devoid of birds, but fortunately a Little Egret was perched on the top of the hawthorn hedge behind it.

Little Egret
Other than a handful of Chiffchaffs the only summer migrants seen were about 30 hirundines, almost all of them Swallows.

We ended up, at Richard's suggestion, picking blackberries.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Thursday September 14

I hadn't intended to go birding today, but with Phalaropes all over the place in the West Midlands I couldn't resist.

Naturally my first thought was not to twitch any of them, much too easy. Far better to nip to the patch in search of small black and white birds.

Not a Phalarope
It was sunny and bright when I arrived at the church. An initial scan of the furthest flash from the barns by the road was not encouraging. One bird that was present in numbers was Chiffchaff, my limited circuit producing 11 in the hedgerows.

Down at the flash field it quickly became clear there had been a mass clear out since Monday. The only waders in evidence were a Lapwing, a Greenshank, and a single Green Sandpiper. A Grey Wagtail flew over.

Roe Deer
Meadow Pipits trickled overhead, but as the sky was blue I didn't start logging them. They are much easier to see against a grey sky. Still plenty of Swallows and House Martins, but the only other passerine migrant was an unidentified tacker, probably Blackcap.

Back at the road I noticed a few more Teal on the furthest flash, so set up my scope to count them. Among them was a year tick. Oh yes. 23 Teal and a Shoveler.

Sorry about the anticlimax.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Monday September 11

I very rarely visit the patch two days running, because you tend to see the same birds as the day before. But after sitting at home all day waiting for a dealership in Bromsgrove to return our car (I had foolishly scratched the bodywork last winter in a wholly avoidable episode involving our car, our garage, and a frosted windscreen) it was agreed I deserved a treat.

So at 16-30 I parked at All Saints church in bright sunshine and headed for the flash field. Remembering that I needed to find new arrivals, I photographed one in no time at all.

The flash pools had, as expected, a familiar feel. 77 Greylag Geese, eight Canada Geese, eight Teal, 25 Mallard, a Little Egret, two Grey Herons, the Black-tailed Godwit, the two Ruff, and the Greenshank. There had been an increase in Green Sandpipers and Snipe, 12 and 11 respectively. So it was probably worth coming.

At this point an alarmingly dark cloud, which stretched beyond the horizon, reached me. Torrential rain followed. An hour later it showed signs of abating and I started to head back. A Tufted Duck flew in, and I disturbed a Spotted Flycatcher from the hedgerow.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sunday September 10 - red letter day

A cloudy morning with a light south-westerly breeze.

Things began enjoyably enough as I started logging Meadow Pipits heading south, eventually reaching a total of 35. Swallows and House Martins also seemed to be on the move, at least 29 Swallows and 10 House Martins were thought to be moving, although 50 or so were considered to be just feeding.

Dave arrived and we headed for the pool. There is now far less evidence of warbler activity, apart from Chiffchaffs, and we saw just one Whitethroat and heard a couple of tackers.

All this predictability was to change as we approached the pool. A large bird was flying towards us from the north-west, and on raising binoculars I realised it was an OSPREY. This being the first record for the site I scrabbled for my camera, barely registering that Dave called out Greenshank, in response to a call he heard. We watched the Osprey flap steadily south-east, and I managed to get a few record shots.

Osprey disappearing over the south end of Bannams Wood
Like many birders, I suspect, I have a list of ambition birds for the patch. Many are probably unattainable, but Osprey was definitely on that list and always seemed a possibility. A reality at last.

I could have quite happily gone home without seeing anything else, but within a few further steps Dave drew my attention to the fact there was a small flock of Little Egrets on the pool. The total was a record six, so naturally I tried to take a photo which got them all in shot.

Little Egret flock
We continued towards the flash field. 80 Canada Geese and 70 Greylag Geese were immediately obvious, but our attention was firmly focussed on the nearest flash.

The flash in all its glory
This year it seems to consist entirely of soft gloopy mud. This has proved a great draw for waders and today's total was one Lapwing, four Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Ruffs, and nine Green Sandpipers. Strangely, Teal seem to be less keen, and we could only see about half a dozen. Numerous hirundines, including five Sand Martins, were feeding in the lee of the bordering hedgerow, along with five or six Chiffchaffs.

Back at Netherstead we counted 73 Stock Doves with a handful of Woodpigeons feeding on pasture.

We returned to our cars and headed home. But the fun wasn't over. A Red Kite with an entourage of mobbing Jackdaws drifted south past the plantation.

Red Kite
And finally, as I drove towards All Saints Church, I found I was in an episode of Countryfile.

It seems that September isn't so dull here after all.

Post Script: During the afternoon I was returning from my parents' house when I spotted a Common Swift over King's Heath. This will surely be my last of the year.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Thursday September 7

A calm sunny start, although it quickly clouded over. A light westerly breeze.

The early signs were encouraging. Lots of hirundines, 12 Chiffchaffs, three Whitethroats, a Blackcap, and a Spotted Flycatcher. A trickle of Meadow Pipits reached a modest total of 15.

The hedgerow alongside the pool contained 90 Goldfinches, and 30 Greenfinches. About five Reed Buntings and two Yellowhammers was a slight improvement on the last few weeks.

The flashes produced the goods this morning. Two juvenile Ruffs were my first since 2014, while the Greenshank has been joined by a second bird. Six Green Sandpipers, two Snipe, a Starling, and eight Teal were also present.

The size difference between the two birds was extreme, quite clearly a male and female.

Finally, I saw a couple of birds I haven't seen for several weeks. A Treecreeper, and a Chaffinch. The lack of the latter species lately has been extraordinary. It is partly a time of year thing, certain species disappearing into the undergrowth during their annual moult. However, they are in a steep decline here this year. I only hope they will bounce back.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sunday September 3

As forecast, the day dawned cloudy with a very light south-easterly breeze. However it went off-script mid-morning as the rain, just a light drizzle, arrived early.

The result of all this was a slight suppression of passerine migrant numbers, but we still managed three Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Willow Warbler, and about six Chiffchaffs. Best of all was an immature Yellow Wagtail with the Pied Wagtails at the pool.

Yellow Wagtail
Also present on the puddle pool, were the Black-tailed Godwit and the Greenshank. They stood together for quite some time, but trying to get them to line up properly for their photograph was like posing naughty school children. One would stand still while the other preened, once it stopped doing that, the other one would be blinking or preening. These were my best efforts:

Pretty soon the Godwit flew to another pool and we carried on to the flash field.

The furthest flash was smothered in Greylag Geese (at least 86), while the nearest flash contained seven Green Sandpipers, 10 Common Snipe, and 16 Teal. Both the Black-tailed Godwit and the Greenshank put in brief appearances.

I'll say this about the flash pools, they may not attract a great turnover of waders, but the few that do find it during the autumn clearly value it because they stay for weeks.

The pseudo-woodland/hedge under which we sheltered to watch the waders also produced an owl. Dave flushed it as we approached and thought it may have been a Tawny. I was directly behind him and couldn't see past the cone of his umbrella, and so didn't see it at all.

About 50 Canada Geese landed on the newly created stubble field, while at least 70 House Martins and 30 Swallows hunted insects low over the fields.

There was no sign of the Great White Egret, which I am mentioning because Jim Winsper saw it along the River Alne near Wootton Wawen on Friday. So it's still in the area.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Friday September 1

I can't decide if I like September or not. If I lived anywhere on the coast, or was a regular at a large inland reservoir I would definitely like it. Migration is in full swing and there is the promise of rarities from all points of the compass.

But I birdwatch here. On a little patch of farmland in the middle of the country with a few drying pools. Experience suggests that I may struggle.

This morning was warm and sunny, with just the faintest whiff of a south-westerly breeze. A couple of Meadow Pipits headed south and I spent an enjoyable half hour watching a large tit flock in Netherstead plantation. The flock included several Chiffchaffs, a couple of Willow Warblers, a couple of Whitethroats and a Blackcap.

Willow Warbler
The House Martins and Swallows gave alarm calls to alert me to the presence of a Hobby, which made a successful kill at the edge of the plantation canopy. A little later on, a Peregrine was also getting mobbed by hirundines.

I moved on to the flash field, where things were pretty much the same as last week, 16 (possibly 17) Green Sandpipers, a Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Teal, four Snipe, and half a dozen Lapwings.

And that was about it. The jury is still out as far as September is concerned.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sunday August 27

A hot sunny morning with hardly any breeze, what there was was westerly. I was joined by Dave and we began by checking the copse by Netherstead which contained a nice Willow Warbler and a few Chiffchaffs. Down at the road we managed to see a Blackcap, the first of two positively identified plus another five or six "tackers" which remained out of sight. A pair of Grey Wagtails flew over.

We continued to the pool, briefly diverted by a small Toad, which crawled through the grass. Shortly afterwards we spotted a Whinchat and a Wheatear keeping company at the edge of the sparsely weedy field. Further interest was added by a calling Yellow Wagtail which disappeared before we could see it.

Whinchat (left) and Wheatear
The pool and flashes contained the Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, four Snipe, and at least eight Green Sandpipers. In other words no change.

With the day being so warm there were inevitably plenty of insects to see. A very dark Darter was considered to be just a Common Darter. We also saw plenty of "normal" Common Darters, a few Ruddy Darters, a Southern Hawker, several Brown and Migrant Hawkers, an Emerald Damselfly, and numerous blue damselfly species.

Common Darter
Migrant Hawker
We struggled to find many more migrant warblers, recording just three Whitethroats. However, two (probably four) Spotted Flycatchers showed very well indeed.

Spotted Flycatcher
A very pale moth was some kind of Wainscot. Unfortunately I don't know enough about them to reach a positive identification.

Wainscot sp
Back at Netherstead we heard the first Meadow Pipit of the autumn and I counted at least 10 Common Buzzards.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Thursday August 25

Earlier this week the grey muggy conditions looked ideal for producing birds. I was stuck at work, and a text from Matt W on Monday revealed that I was indeed missing stuff. He had recorded a big fall of passerines including a Redstart, 17 Chiffchaffs, 11 Willow Warblers, and five Lesser Whitethroats, while waders included a Curlew (not previously recorded here in August).

This morning the weather was a little fresher and sunnier, with a light south-westerly breeze. Its still the prime migration period though, so I was reasonably optimistic. Starting at Netherstead I began counting Chiffchaffs (and ended up with a total of 13 for the morning), but could only find the occasional Lesser Whitethroat and Whitethroat. However, when I reached the gate before the beehives, I looked to my right to find three passerines sitting on the telephone wires. A mystery bird photo coming up.

As a further clue, each was gently pumping its tail. I was pretty sure I knew what they were, but in order to confirm my suspicions I had to climb the gate and edge through the long grass in the field to get the sun behind me.

This achieved, I was delighted to find that they were indeed Tree Pipits. Not guaranteed to be seen every year, and often just as a fly over. These birds remained scrupulously silent throughout the period of observation, which is actually another helpful identification aid, as Meadow Pipits are nearly always pretty vocal.

So much easier with the sun behind you
Although I photographed all three birds they were too far apart for a group shot. One by one they flew off as I tried to get closer, but I don't think they went far.

I resumed by normal circuit, and as I approached the main pool heard, and then saw, a Yellow Wagtail as it undulated away into the distance. Almost as scarce here as Tree Pipit. The pool itself was hopeless, but the flashes produced one surprise. This was that the Black-tailed Godwit, which I had thought had gone, was still here. Also still present was the Greenshank, 14 Green Sandpipers, and four Snipe.

On the return journey I found four Spotted Flycatcher, including two juveniles, and at least one Hobby.

Turning to insects, I got a decent view of a perched Migrant Hawker, but it was disturbed by a Brown Hawker before I could get the camera out. The cloud was increasing as the morning wore on, so other than a Small Tortoiseshell (sadly now quite scarce) I didn't see too much.

Yellow Shell
I did disturb an attractive little moth, which I decided was a Yellow Shell.

Finally, when I got to the end of the dragonfly pool field I looked back to see another pipit on wires in the furthest corner. I scoped it and headed back, suspecting another Tree Pipit, but it disappeared before I could get close enough to be 100% sure.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sunday August 20

Sunny intervals with a light north-westerly breeze.

I was joined by Dave this morning, and the early signs were quite promising with plenty of common warblers around Netherstead and an unusually large party of 34 Black-headed Gulls circling in the distance, possibly catching flying ants. They seemed to descend towards the flash field, but had disappeared when we finally got there.

The pool contained the Greenshank again, but there was no sign of the godwit. Instead, the flash field continues to hold 13 Green Sandpipers, 11 Lapwings, a Snipe, a Little Ringed Plover, and just half a dozen Teal.

It was left to the return journey to produce the birds of the day. These were a distant Wheatear (my first in autumn for a couple of years), and a single Spotted Flycatcher which showed quite well in a flock of warblers and tits at Stapenhill Wood. A single Willow Warbler was also present in this flock.

Spotted Flycatcher
Good numbers of hirundines continue to hawk insects high in the sky, but our estimate of 100 House Martins and 30 Swallows was likely to be just a ballpark figure because they were so distant.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Thursday August 17

Cloudy with sunny intervals and a few showers. A light to moderate south-westerly breeze.

There was nothing much of interest around Netherstead, but things improved when I reached the pool. A Little Egret, the juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, and Green Sandpiper were all present. The dry end supported the first Whinchat of the autumn and 10 Pied Wagtails.

The main event though, was the presence of a Stoat which was being mobbed by three Magpies, a Moorhen and later on, the three waders.

Stoat and Magpies
I see the odd Stoat here most years, but they typically disappear in a flash. This one, because it was being tormented by its avian fan club, kept dashing into the longer vegetation, only to reappear seconds later. I therefore had ample opportunity to photograph the species for the first time.

Black-tailed Godwit
Inevitably all the waders ended up on the nearest flash, where I spent a pleasant thirty minutes counting and recounting. My back has been playing up, so I had abandoned the scope in the car. The flashes are where you miss it. My final tallies were 21 Teal, 12 Green Sandpipers, the Black-tailed Godwit, the Greenshank, a Little Ringed Plover, four Snipe, and 32 Greylag Geese.

The return journey was enlivened by several small parties of warblers, which included a Willow Warbler and four Blackcaps. Back at the car about 70 or so hirundines were mainly House Martins, but included a single Sand Martin.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday August 13

A warm sunny morning with a very light south-westerly breeze.

A stroll around the Netherstead Farm end produced in flight views of Grey Wagtail and Little Egret.

Little Egret
A short way along the track away from Netherstead I spotted my first Brown Argus of the year.

Brown Argus
Although I believe they do sometimes emerge in spring, I always record them from about mid-August. This year, there are also good numbers of Small Heaths about, and today's list included a rather worn Small Copper, and a Painted Lady.

However, I am starting to get far more interested in birds as autumn approaches, and the pool was to supply me with a juvenile Greenshank to boost my optimism.

I was unable to get past it without flushing it, but it only went as far as the nearest flash. As I approached I could see four snow white blobs, which were of course four Little Egrets. Even if I assume the one over Netherstead was one of these, it is still a record count for the site.

Three of the Little Egrets
I set my scope up to search for the Black-tailed Godwit which Matt W had seen on Friday. Sure enough, it was present. Unfortunately the day was warming up and the heat haze and distance resulted in some pretty ropey (even for me) record shots.

Black-tailed Godwit - juvenile
A scan of the rest of the flash produced just nine Green Sandpipers, five Teal, two Snipe, and six Lapwings. I spent quite a while there, and eventually noticed some birds fly-catching in the hedge behind the flash. Most were phylloscs (probably Chiffchaffs), but one was a year-tick: a Spotted Flycatcher. I think I have never failed to see Spotted Flycatcher here in the autumn, but in a poor year they can appear on one date only, so it was a bit of a relief. Too distant for a photo attempt though.

I started the return journey. Three vocal Kestrels behind the flash field were clearly newly fledged, and so another three in the ridge field meant a record six on site. This is a bit of a soft record and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the numbers on site are now in double figures. Also on the wing were numerous Buzzards, at least two Sparrowhawks, and a single Hobby.

I reached the dragonfly pools where all the expected species were available. These included what was either a Southern or a Migrant Hawker (I suspected it was the latter but it just wouldn't land). However, I did at last get the chance to photograph a Brown Hawker as a female was ovipositing, almost the only time they stop flying.

Brown Hawker
A pair of Ruddy Darters were mating, and were therefore also available for the camera.

Ruddy Darters
Back to birds. Numerous hirundines were flying around, and these included a Sand Martin. It eluded the camera as usual. This is the one regularly occurring species I just can't get a shot of here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Thursday August 10

Sunny with a light westerly breeze. I decided on a shortened visit this morning parking at Church Farm and walking down to the flash field from there.

The wildfowl totals are on the rise, with five Teal, 35 Mallard, and 100 Greylag Geese, while 16 Green Sandpipers was my highest count this year and matched a total Mike counted on August 1. Sadly, my faint hopes that the Great White Egret might still be around were dashed, although I did see an adult Little Egret.

In fact the surprise highlight was a new record count, without trying too hard, of 21 House Sparrows. They were almost all around the hedgerow and new iron clad farm buildings below Church Farm.

House Sparrows
It comes to something when a good count of House Sparrows is the main talking point of the visit though.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Sunday August 6

A sunny morning with cloud increasing by lunchtime. A light westerly breeze. I set out with great optimism but as the morning wore on it became more and more like after the Lord Mayor's show.

The main disappointment was that I could find no sign of the Great White Egret. It was still present by late morning yesterday, but Matt had given me the impression it was still flying around a lot. He was trying to relocate it when he rang. Later, came news that the Great White Egret which had been at Walton Hall until Thursday, had reappeared over Compton Verney. Although these localities are about 20 miles away, the obvious inference is that this could be the Morton Bagot bird.

Unfortunately I was not able to find any other birds of particular note. Two Cormorants flew over, the first since the spring, while the wader tally was 12 Green Sandpipers, nine Lapwings, and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover. A Teal was now present on the nearest flash. Five Swifts flying south was the only sign of passage.

Dragonflies were also pretty run of the mill, so it was left to the butterflies to raise my spirits. A couple of male Common Blues were nice to see, and I later saw a Holly Blue, the breeze forcing it to keeps its wings partially open giving an unusual opportunity to see its upper parts.

Common Blue
Common Blue
Holly Blue
Other butterflies seen included numerous Speckled Woods, and a few Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. A single Painted Lady, and Brimstone were slightly unexpected, while a particularly nice one was the first Small Copper of the year.

Small Copper