Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Wednesday November 15

Cloudy with virtually no wind. Mild. Ideal conditions for a walk around the patch. With no shooting going on, the sound of silence was wonderful.

I was a bit late starting due to finding a Hawfinch about 200 metres from our house! It had gone by the time I returned with binoculars and camera.

For a change I decided to lug my scope and tripod around, and this allowed me to spot two Bramblings in a flock of 107 Linnets. The female posed quite well, but the brighter male was too hard to photograph.

Brambling (on the left)
My real goal was to find the Merlin I missed on Sunday. There was plenty of Merlin food around; Linnets, Chaffinches, Redpolls and the like. But the main event failed to show. The hedgerows were full of Redwings, while several flocks of Fieldfares headed west. There was a great late autumn feel about the day.

Redwing and Bullfinch
The flash field and pool were reasonably productive, hosting a Green Sandpiper, 14 Teal, six Wigeon, two Shovelers, 18 Greylag Geese, and 12 Snipe. At the edge of the pool behind the flash I found a female Kingfisher which tolerated my presence surprisingly well.

Finally, I couldn't resist photographing a Lesser Redpoll perched on wires above the scrubby part of Stapenhill Wood.

Lesser Redpoll

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Sunday November 12

Cloudy at first, then sunny, with a freshening northerly breeze. Cold.

There is a word for days like this, but I won't use it. Another word is frustrating.

Dave arrived shortly before I did and had recorded several flocks of Fieldfare leaving us with a combined total for the morning of at least 75. I joined him, and the first minor calamity occurred when I got onto a distant finch, which I thought might be a Hawfinch. My directions were inadequate and Dave could not get on it. I wasn't 100 percent, so had to let it go.

Worse was to follow (for me anyway).

At the pond a flock of 80 Linnets and numerous thrushes was swirling about and I commented there could be a raptor about. At this point a young lady from Church Farm appeared with two dogs, passing us with a cheery "not disturbing anything am I". I had to admit that although she was, she did live there so I could hardly complain. Further along the hedge Dave announced, "WHAT'S THIS?" As I whirled round he added "Merlin !" I could see nothing. The bird had evidently been flying on the opposite side of the hedge we were following allowing Dave a brief, but excellent, view of it. By the time I was trying to see it, it must have been passing me at speed on the other side of the hedge.

This was the first Merlin here since December 2013. They rarely give you a second chance so I wasn't surprised that we didn't see it again.

At the flash field a reasonably good number and variety of wildfowl was present, including five Shoveler, two Wigeon, 30 Teal, and seven Snipe.

Three of the Shovelers (the full complement included a female and another imm male)
The walk back did not add much apart from a distant raptor which I am certain was a Peregrine, while Dave preferred not to commit.

Just one of those days.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Friday November 10

A sunny day with an annoyingly brisk westerly breeze. Although there was no shooting on site, the surrounding farmland soon echoed to the sound of sporting folk blasting away at Pheasants and partridges.

Ironically, his probably helped me because it had the effect of corralling the local ducks onto the nearest flash. I counted 48 Mallard, 37 Teal, three Wigeon and a Shoveler before my presence unnerved them sufficiently to encourage them to fly elsewhere.

Drake Wigeon
Female Shoveler
The only waders were a little group of Snipe huddled in the sedge. I suspect that if it had been possible to walk through the flash field, a lot more would have made themselves known.

Passerine-wise it was pretty quiet. A handful of Fieldfares have joined the 35 Redwings stripping the hedgerows, and there are encouraging numbers of Redpolls although it is difficult to be sure how many are here.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sunday November 5

Non-birding commitments have been frustrating me this week. I had intended coming here on Wednesday, but had dropped the plan in favour of taking my parents to a hospital appointment. The following day I was committed to visiting friends in Yorkshire and, virtually as I was getting in the car, I got a call from Dave indicating that there was a Lesser Yellowlegs (a rare yankee wader) at a private site in Warwickshire. I couldn't do anything about it.

Over the weekend I have fallen foul of a cold, but this morning I was determined to get to the patch anyway. The news of the Yellowlegs, courtesy of Dave, suggests that the site is no longer accessible and the bird may have gone anyway.

It was a sunny morning, and rather cold as a light north-westerly has set in. I quickly missed two photo opportunities as a Kingfisher landed in a willow sprouting out of one of the dragonfly ponds for not quite long enough for me to get a shot off, and then an adult Peregrine flew over Netherstead.

The remainder of the visit featured flocks totalling 90 Fieldfares and 58 Starlings heading south and west respectively, and a Little Egret which flew from the pool (still a puddle) to the furthest flash. The flash field was again disappointing, containing just eight Teal, two visible Snipe, a Green Sandpiper, and three Lapwings.

"Alba" Wagtail
An alba Wagtail was probably just a female or immature Pied. There seemed to be slightly fewer finches around, but we still managed 60 Linnets, 12 Chaffinches, 15 Siskins, and single figure counts of the other usual suspects.

The most unexpected sighting was a Fallow Deer which bolted over the hill in the ridge field.

Hopefully I'll have a bit more energy, and luck, next week.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Sunday October 29

The clocks went back last night, or at least mine did. Dave's remained firmly in BST so I arrived to find him walking along the road through the hamlet. His highlights had been 72 Fieldfares heading west, and a probable Brambling which called just once. He wasn't counting it though.

I picked him up and drove him back to Netherstead, from where we began our traditional circuit. There were one or two parties of Redwings going west, a total of 63 being logged. Also on the move were Woodpigeons, I counted 220 in all, but Dave had seen several flocks before I joined him.

Finches were well in evidence, in particular 125 Linnets, and 30 Redpolls. We spent a lot of time trying to locate a thrush sp which gave an odd call from a thick hedge, we had Ring Ouzel in mind (although it wasn't the familiar "chack" call). Whatever the bird was we never saw it, or heard it again.

The flashes were absolutely hopeless, producing just 11 Teal, four Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper. Fortunately though we saved the morning's highlight to the return journey as a definite Brambling flew west, calling twice before we saw it.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Redpoll
The Redpoll flock were feeding on willowherb seeds, like the one in the photo.

I managed to lose the winding mechanism on my tripod during the morning, the latest problem to afflict that unfortunate implement.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Friday October 27

It has been a difficult week. On Wednesday I was hard at work in Birmingham city centre unaware that the first live Razorbill in the West Midlands since 1917 was swimming around Draycote Water. I should have checked the Internet at lunchtime but didn't get around to it, so the first I knew of it was from a phone call from Mike during the evening.

Thursday dawned, and the news was initially "no sign of it", later firmed up as "Razorbill found dead". Meanwhile we were hosting a young man from Virgin who was converting us to their bundle of products. The internet and television went fine, and he told us he had switched the land line from BT but that the phone wouldn't work for a few hours. I signed his piece of paper, but then as he was leaving he said "don't forget to plug it in". Strange. "Where do I do that? ""Oh you can't until you get a  telephone micro-filter" he said. "You can buy them in Tescos". He left at speed. I headed for Tescos and bought an ASD filter, which the electrics expert there thought the engineer probably meant.

24 hours later the land line still doesn't work. Don't bother trying to phone me.

So this morning I felt I needed some birding to soothe my frazzled nerves. I headed for Morton Bagot on a fine and sunny morning. I took my time, looking in every bush and tree, but could only find the usual stuff. A pair of Stonechats posed rather well.

Male Stonechat
Female Stonechat
The Flash field contained three Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, 18 Teal, and a Black-headed Gull. Very few birds were moving and until I saw a distant party of 20 or so presumed Redwings, I was finding there were more Song Thrushes than Redwings in the hedgerows.

At this point I got a phone call from Mike. Chis Lane had found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Broom, just ten miles away. I abandoned the Flash field and headed straight for Broom, where I found Mike and Jean conversing with Chris. The news was not encouraging. After seeing the bird twice Chris had lost it while sending texts. It hadn't reappeared. After about 15 minutes I had seen a Kingfisher and a party of tits which briefly raised the optimism levels, but failed to contain any warblers. Mike and Jean decided to go to the pub, but I declined their invitation to join them.

Two hours passed, during which time I received a text from Matt W saying that he had seen a Barn Owl over the flash field at Morton Bagot about an hour after I had left. Chris and I managed to see a Goldcrest.

Like I said, it's not been a good week.

Post-script: Shortly after posting the above tale I thought I would nip back for an hour on the patch this evening. Slightly to my surprise this was completely successful as I flushed the Barn Owl out of trees bordering the flash field, and was then able to get a distant record shot.

Barn Owl
The rest of the stroll round added a Kingfisher and a Marsh Tit to this morning's tally. I also took a photo of a white-chested Buzzard as dusk approached.

If you are thinking it looks a bit long-tailed, the thought had occurred to me too. Unfortunately it disappeared shortly after this shot. Also, I think I have seen this individual before this autumn, and if so, it is just a Common Buzzard.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Sunday October 22

Sunny intervals and cooler, with a fresh westerly breeze.

Breezy conditions are rarely productive at Morton Bagot, but I could forgive myself a little boost of optimism when within a minute of stepping from my car I looked up to see a Swallow heading south. This juvenile may have been my latest Morton Bagot record.

After that, things went a little steady. I decided to start along the road for a change, a plan which delivered a Mistle Thrush and not much else. One group of birds which do turn up in breezy westerlies, though I have no idea why, are gulls. This morning I counted 20 Lesser black-backed Gulls, a Herring Gull, six Black-headed Gulls, and an adult Common Gull heading into the wind. The latter was the first since February.

The sunshine encouraged one or two Red Admirals into the air, and was also quite good for photography.

Reed Bunting
Away from the road I found two Stonechats in the Chat Field, but the flashes were suffering from post-shoot malaise and only offered two Green Sandpipers, five Snipe, four Teal, and a Mallard.

About seven Redpolls and a Siskin were flying around, but I only saw six Redwings. The wires over the Ridge Field hosted 40 Linnets.

Pretty quiet.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday October 15

Morton Bagot never seems to get involved in National birding events, by which I mean unusual numbers of particular species appearing across the UK. Waxwing invasions, Yellow-browed Warbler falls, seabird wrecks, they all seem to happen elsewhere. It doesn't stop you from dreaming though.

Yesterday evening it became apparent that this autumn's event could be an influx of Hawfinches. Dave was obviously thinking the same thing as he greeted me with the comment we should look out for Hawfinches. We never really believed we would actually see one though.

But then, at 10.20am, we were strolling past the pool when I heard a Redwing-like "swee" to my left. I looked round, and up, and there it was "Hawfinch" I bellowed. Dave got on it at once, and we watched in amazement as the chunky finch bounced its way southwards, flashing white in its primaries and secondaries with each flap of its wings.

I fumbled for the camera but it was hopeless. My bridge camera autofocus just can't cope with flying passerines. I got several shots of sky before giving up. You'll just have to make do with an artists impression drawn a little while after it had headed off towards the direction of Bannams Wood.

Hawfinches have two calls. One is a Robin-like tick which may be a contact call used in woodland, but the other is the Redwing-like call which we heard.

Needless to say this was a first for the patch.

In fact the grey and murky morning had been quite entertaining before the Hawfinch added a substantial dollop of cream. Several flocks of Redwings had slipped their way south-west, the total count being 57. Also on the move were 26 Redpolls, three Siskins, 14 Chaffinches, 13 Skylarks, 60 Starlings, and just five Meadow Pipits. Two probable Golden Plovers also headed south before my view was obscured by a large oak tree.

We also counted 12 Bullfinches, 15 Goldfinches, a Chiffchaff, three Goldcrests, and four Marsh Tits in the hedgerows.

The shooting season is now in full swing, and this may have been responsible for slightly disappointing waterfowl numbers, with just 29 Teal, six Snipe, 74 Greylag Geese, and a Green Sandpiper present.

I think that two good birds in two visits constitutes a Morton Bagot purple patch.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sunday October 8

Dave and I arrived promptly and started birding down the access road to Netherstead farm. A sunny morning which became quite warm. A very light westerly breeze.

The first sign that we were going to have a good day came when a flock of 35 Redwings hurried over the plantation, heading south-west. We later saw another four. The plantation and hedges were full of tits and Dunnocks, but as we wandered back I noticed that a grey bird perched distantly on the roof of the stables was perched rather perkily and did an extravagant dip of its body. It wasn't a Dunnock, and I said I think that's a Black Redstart, at which point it flew revealing an orange tail. We hurried over, and had excellent views of it fly-catching from the roof.

Black Redstart
This is the second record for the patch, the first being on the same building in Nov 2015. We texted everyone we thought might be interested, and in the event Mike Inskip twitched it successfully on his way to his own patch (where a Kingfisher was to be a patch-tick for him).

We continued towards the flash field, counting five Stonechats in the Chat Field, and another two behind the pool. A Golden Plover, the first of the autumn, flew west.

The flashes contained 85 Greylag Geese, the immature Mute Swan, 27 Teal, a female Shoveler, two Cormorants, a Green Sandpiper, at least seven Snipe, and 17 Lapwings. We heard our only Chiffchaff of the day in the hedges.

The warm weather was bringing out the insects, and we recorded four species of butterfly; Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, and Comma, and also several Common Darters, and a small gathering of Hornets.

All in all, an excellent visit.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Monday October 2

Mostly cloudy with sunny intervals. A fresh westerly breeze.

The breeze left me wondering what to do as I left the car at Netherstead. However, my mind was quickly made up by a steady stream of Meadow Pipits heading south. I logged them, and anything else which was obviously moving, and got a final tally of 75 Meadow Pipits, three Swallows, five Redpolls, and two Siskins.

In the chat field I counted at least seven Stonechats again, but had the feeling there might be one or two more than that. A single male Blackcap showed briefly in the hedgerow there, while Chiffchaffs eventually totalled six.

The pool offered nothing at all, but most of the birds in the flash field were on the nearest scrape. I counted 178 Greylag Geese, 61 Teal, 16 Mallard, three Grey Herons, five Snipe, and the Greenshank (which I only heard).

Most of the Greylag Goose flock
As usual the late morning added little, although I did flush a Green Sandpiper from the dragonfly pond.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Sunday October 1

Steady overnight drizzle continued through the early part of the morning. Having been to a wedding reception the night before, and with guests staying over, I had more or less decided to give today a miss.

However, a text from Neil stated that a Pectoral Sandpiper at Salford Prior G P had flown off at 10.15am so birders needed to keep their eyes open. That was all the incentive I needed, and at midday our friends had gone and the rain had stopped. Time to check it out.

The pool has lots of mud, but hardly any water, while the flashes contain lots of water but no muddy edge. So I wasn't too surprised to find no American waders present, but was pleased to see that the Greenshank was still present having been missed on Friday.

A couple of Little Egrets took cover in front of the hedge behind the nearest flash.

Little Egrets
The first day of October is unfortunately the first day of the shooting season. Normally you are pretty safe on a Sunday, but I suppose that having waited all year for the this date some "sportsmen" were unable to contain their enthusiasm. A volley of shots rang out from the direction of Clowse Wood, and within seconds the two egrets joined all the other wildfowl on the flash field in panic-stricken flight.

Trying to put a positive spin on this, it did at least allow me to realise that there were at least 50 Teal present (I could probably have counted about 20 if they hadn't all taken off) and also a single Snipe.

The first Siskin of the autumn called as it flew over, while there are still several Chiffchaffs, and two Swallows present.

I plan to return tomorrow for a more thorough visit.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday September 29

A slightly delayed start due to the weather still saw me birding in steady, occasionally heavy, rain for the first 40 minutes. However, the rain abruptly stopped and eventually the sun appeared. A light southerly breeze meant it was very mild.

The new dawn which occurred when the rain past meant a big increase in passerine activity as hungry birds rushed to snap up as many newly flying insects as they could. I enjoyed watching several Chiffchaffs, Swallows, a House Martin, and numerous Blue Tits feeding in a frenzy in the lee of the hedge which runs from the village to the small pond south of Netherstead.

I had decided to count some of the commoner garden birds, and came up with totals of 16 Robins, 12 Dunnocks, 10 Wrens, seven Blackbirds, and five Song Thrushes.

A few Swallows headed south during the morning, and my final tally was 14. There was just one brief pulse of 10 Meadow Pipits going south. Warblers present were nine Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps. The first Redpoll of the autumn flew south.

The Flash field managed to support two Green Sandpipers, two visible Snipe, 120 Greylag Geese, 36 Teal, and a Wigeon.

There are not many finches on site this autumn, 25 Goldfinches being the best count. It doesn't bode well for the chances of a Merlin being attracted this winter. A single Kingfisher was a vocal presence, while a flock of 50 Carrion Crows was an unusually high count.

The sunshine brought out several Red Admirals and Commas, and also small numbers of Common Darters.

All a bit quiet.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Time travel - Sunday Sep 17 - Salford Priors GP

Astute observers may have noticed my cryptic comment at the start of my post a week last Sunday. As you may have guessed I had been to see a bird at a sensitive site. I have been impatiently twiddling my thumbs ever since waiting for it to depart so that I could tell the story.

The previous evening I had taken a call from Neil explaining that a Red-necked Phalarope which had been widely reported from Salford Prior Gravel Pit several days earlier, had not departed as I had assumed, but was still present. I mentioned this to Dave when he arrived at Morton Bagot on Sunday morning, and we decided to go and look at it.

Red-necked Phalarope
What a corker it was. Full details of the discovery and eventual identification can be found on Neil's blog .

I have great sympathy (mixed with envy) for Neil and the group of birders who watch Salford Priors Gravel Pit. The owners, Cemex, are currently "restoring the site". They are bulldozing most of it to return it to agriculture, but have been kind enough to leave a couple of pits for the birds and birders to enjoy. The work is close to completion. Like many gravel pit owners they are not keen to see the general public wandering over a working site due to, I suppose, health and safety concerns. This puts any birders who are tolerated in a difficult position. If they find a rarity, they are obliged to suppress it. Naturally this creates bad feeling among the birding community, but equally the broadcast of a rarity risks any tacit permission for access being placed in jeopardy.

This is why I don't generally go to Salford Priors GP any more.

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.