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

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Saturday August 5

Positive news from Morton Bagot this morning.

Mike and Matt have relocated the Great White Egret this morning, but it sounds as though it is just as flighty again.

It was last seen heading for Netherstead.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Friday August 4 - G W Egret panic

I was just about to head off to Aldi this afternoon when the phone rang. It was Mark Islip. Did I know there was a Great White Egret at Morton Bagot? Hell no!

I was out of the house in an instant and took ten minutes to arrive at Church Farm. I then raced across the fields to find no sign of Mark or egret at the Flash field viewing place. A quick call established that he was by the Kingfisher Pond.

Mark had seen it fly in from the north-east, and it had then ignored the flash field and landed at the edge of the tiny Kingfisher Pool where it had walked out of sight.

Mark had rung me and kindly awaited my arrival. We decided to edge along the back of the pool hoping to see it. Surely a bird that big would be obvious.

Sadly it spotted us and got up, but then landed again at the far end of the pool, again out of sight. I managed two shocking record shots.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret
We decided to circle round to try to see it from the other end. Eventually Mark, who is about 6'4", spotted it, while short-arse me couldn't see anything. It took off again and disappeared back up the other end of the pool before disappearing again. More shots were attempted, but they are even worse than the ones just shown.

We went back to where we'd started, but once again the egret spotted us before we saw it. This final shot was of it scraping over the hedge. Surely it would now be on the Flash, we thought.

Never to be seen again?
There was no further sign of it. Mike Inskip, and Matt Willmott arrived. Matt tried his charm on the farmer who owns the flash field, but to no avail. Access was denied.

A Red Kite appeared over Bannams Wood, while the Green Sandpiper count was 14, plus a juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

My gut feeling is that it is still there somewhere, but I'm tied up tomorrow, so I have to keep my fingers crossed for Sunday.