Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sunday February 26

A largely cloudy morning with a moderate south-westerly breeze.

A reasonable start with a flock of 50 Linnets and about 20 buntings,with slightly more Reed Buntings than Yellowhammers in the stubble field. Two Redpolls flew over, quite a contrast from this time last year. The pool contained a pair of Tufted Ducks, always nice to get an easy year-tick.

Tufted Ducks
We continued to the flash pool where we counted two Wigeon, 42 Teal, 43 Lapwings, 17 Black-headed Gulls, eight Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a Green Sandpiper. I then suggested we went back to the pool to see whether the marsh contained any Jack Snipe.

As we waded across we were soon flushing Common Snipe. Then Dave called me over to say he had found a Jack Snipe on the ground, a rare opportunity to see one well.

Jack Snipe
We sneaked past it, leaving it frozen in tail up mode. Bitterns freeze bill pointing skywards, while Jack Snipe do the exact opposite. We eventually flushed five Jack Snipe (so six including the one we left) and 23 Common Snipe.

As we approached the flash field for a second time we recorded a much more unexpected year-tick. A Kingfisher called loudly from the brook before departing without either of us seeing it. This is the first time I have recorded one here in the first six months of the year, although the species is pretty much guaranteed between July and October.

The pool beyond the flash field contained a pair of Mute Swans, one of which was flashing a colour ring.

55J on an orange ring
This is a new bird, so I will get the details of where it was ringed in due course.

A flock of 84 Lapwings flew in from the north as we headed away, and the final noteworthy bird was a Stonechat in the Dragonfly Pool field.

We are indeed spoilt at Morton Bagot.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday February 19

Another cloudy morning. Mild with a very light south-westerly breeze.

This was not one of our more memorable visits, although it got off to a reasonable start with a very distant female Goosander followed by an even more distant flock of Golden Plovers. Later on we saw about 200 Goldies flying north somewhere beyond Studley but just visible from the patch. Continuing with the theme of distant views, a pair of Peregrines were circling and chasing one another, briefly locking talons before going their separate ways.

There were a few encouraging signs suggesting the commencement of spring, with small parties of Fieldfares going over, 28 in total, and three new Stonechats. These were a dark female in the ridge field, and a male and peachy looking female in the chat field.

Any thoughts of Siberian Stonechat were dispelled when it flew, revealing no sign of a pale rump. Ah well, one day perhaps.

The pool was almost devoid of birds, while the flashes contained at least 93 Lapwings and two Green Sandpipers. Several Teal lurked in the long grass, and Dave spotted a Wigeon which briefly took flight before returning to the puddles in the damp field where it resumed invisibility.

The walk back got us brief views of a pair of Siskins and a Sparrowhawk, while a Mistle Thrush sang from Netherstead.


Better luck next time.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday February 12

With a dodgy forecast and overcast skies I was't too surprised to hear from Dave that he was going to try his luck at Marsh Lane Gravel Pits.

In fact, although there was some light drizzle and a bitingly cold easterly breeze, it wasn't too bad. I decided to head off along the road, but I hadn't gone too far when I managed to see my target species, a Marsh Tit.

With that under my belt I returned to Netherstead and headed out across the fields. At the hedge by the pool I counted 57 Yellowhammers emerging from the stubble field, while the pool hosted a not entirely unexpected first Mute Swan of the year,

At around the same time there was a huge cacophony of sound as approximately 500 Jackdaws and maybe 50 Rooks exploded into the air to the west of the patch. I scanned to see if I could see the cause, and instead picked up a number of gulls heading north, including an adult Common Gull. I typically only get one sighting of these per year.

The field also contained 140 Linnets, but with no wires for them to perch on they remained largely out of view. I pressed on to the flash field and was pleased to see it contained 130 Black-headed Gulls and the Common Gull.

The adult Common Gull
This is the one time of the year when it is possible to see substantial numbers of gulls here, and a prerequisite seems to be the presence of poor weather and lots of standing water.

The Black-headed Gull flock
Also present were nine Wigeon, two Lapwings, and at least 25 Teal, although most of the latter were in the wetter parts of the field and so were largely obscured by grass stems.

There was one more year-tick to be had, but I cannot be too specific about where it was because the edifice involved is strictly off limits. Suffice to say I was very pleased to get a shot of a Barn Owl cowering at the back of a barn without the bird being aware I was looking at it.

A Barn Owl sleeps in the gloom
A very satisfactory morning.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday February 5

A morning of high cloud and low expectations. We decided to follow the road as far as Bannams Wood because I have yet to see a Marsh Tit this year. One of their favourite places has been grubbed out and replaced by a water feature comprising a small pool and concrete waterfall, so it was disappointing, but not surprising, that we didn't find any. I hope they are not going to be added to the depressing list of former breeders which no longer occur; namely Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

The route did at least facilitate a record equalling tally of six Coal Tits, while a Goldcrest played hide and seek along the hedgerow. Earlier we had counted 22 Meadow Pipits in the grassy field behind Netherstead copse.

Things got a bit livelier as we headed down the track from the road. Approximately 90 Lapwings swirling in the distance contained one bird with white plumage in one of its wings, and while we were trying to locate it we noticed several flocks (a grand total of 62) of Golden Plovers heading east.

Down at the pool we found the first of two pairs of Coots which have arrived to take advantage of the higher water levels following last week's deluges.

Not the most exciting year-tick, but they all count. By this time we were getting somewhat irritated by constant gunshots coming from somewhere beyond Morton springs, we guessed it could be a clay-pigeon shoot. On the flash field flocks of 50 Black-headed Gulls, 48 Teal, and three Wigeon awaited us but they spooked very quickly, we think in part through being unnerved by the gunshots.

Our second year-tick was a Sparrowhawk which powered across a field and away. After this we were unable to see a great deal of interest before we reached our cars.

Pretty quiet.