Monday, 23 July 2012

Highlights- Hobby, Mandarins and Siskins

Throughout the summer, we have been having regular (daily) visits from at least 3 SISKIN, a pair f which has obviously bred in nearby pines to the garden for the 2nd year running, and a juvenile has been visiting regularly too in the latter part of the 'summer'.
The numbers have gradually increased, and we are often getting 7 around the garden, including this ringed female (Possibly the bird that was regular in the winter?)

At Earlwood we have done little birding, although i did have a family flock of NUTHATCH in the garden, showing well on the willow.

Patch birding has been rather scarce though, as rain has introuded on many 'to be' patch days. However, i got out on the 6/07/12
Straight from the onset, i was glad i had chosen to wear my waterproofs, The first track i walk along at blackstone was completly flooded out, and i had to wade through ancle deep water for much of the track.
Looking down.

The track while standing about halfway along the flood.

The birdlife, was rather quiet, apart from two standout birds. I again came across the female MANDARIN DUCK with chick, but i was immensly suprised when i saw her with 2 chicks! Regular readers will know, 2 weeks earlier she certainly only had one chick, so where did this 2nd bird come from?
(One of the chicks with the adult)

But highlight must go to yet another patch sighting of a HOBBY, which chased a Swallow (Unsuccesfully) for abit across the riverside fields, before flying in the direction of Burlish.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


28th had come with the pritty shit news that a major storm had completly flooded Upton warren. Reports show that water levels at the Moors pool rose by 4 ft, and simliarly, the flashes was completly flooded out. And this proved devistating for its breeding birds, and other wildlife. 2 LRP nests were lost, and a very young chick was also drowned. All remaining nests were drowned out, in what was another shame for breeding.
3 years of extreme summers cant be great for breeding birds now, and its a shame, putting increased pressure on birds which are already struggling with habitat loss.

Anyway, morning broke on Friday 29th, and i recieved news that a birder had seen 5 adult Med Gulls at Upton. I already knew that was an upton record, but it got me wondering where they had come from? Obviously flooded out from nest sites, but where is there were there are 3 pairs of breeding Med Gull nearby?
I know of a couple of sites where they are breeding in small numbers, but would these numbers equel the amount that had been found. But anyway, i was busy, i had to practise for my ESB exam the next Monday!
Upon return home however and checking Birding Today, i was shocked to see that over the coarse of the day, birders had found more birds, and now there was a large flock hanging around (at this point about 7 or 9, or something)

As regular readers will know, or anybody that follows me on my Facebook page, or anyone who knows me in general, you would know i have abit of a 'thing' for Mediterranean Gull. A sexy gull to say the least. And one which i spend hours looking for in the Upton Roosts later in the year.
I sneakily brought up the birds to my dad, and amazingly, we headed straight there!
The birds had been reported from the flashes, so we first headed there. However, i was quite suprised, and saddened to find that there were no 'med's' there, whcih was a shame, because the BHG flock was very close to the hide, being pushed closer due to very high water levels.
It was quite shocking to see the damage after the floods around the flashes, and (as you would expect) many birds had completly deserted the site. The LRP nests which had been here were gone, and nesting cages were well underwater, and the birds had abandoned the site
One of the Avocet chicks had surcomed, with only 7 remaining.
Lapwing numbers, however, were up. the drake Teal from the previous weekend was still here.

Being pushed for time, we then headed to the Moors Pool, where our luck was better, and, looking from the West hide, i was soon watching a flock of MEDITERRANEAN GULL!
Initially, there was 4 adults on the shingle island, and they spent alot of time posturing to each other and calling. I tried some long range photo's. And i got these two of the Meds doing just that!

The birds gave great views all round, On the deck, In the water, and in the Air. I was reminded how distinctivly 'white' they are in flight aswell, and it was great to see such numbers at a site where usually you get one or two.
I only manadged one video before i filled the memory card.

A couple of the adult birds flew off to the north, presumably to feed in fields, But that was where the fun began. So the total now stands at 4 birds.

As time went past, more birds piled in and out, and we kept picked up new Med Gulls. A 2nd summer revealved itself, and soon, we were watching 3 different 2nd summers at the same time, two standing right next to each other, the other sitting in shallow water.  7 now.

The other birder in the hide clocked a 1st winter in Amys Marsh and i found a second 1st winter that had just stood up on the island, This making a total of 9 birds!

How Many Med Gulls in this photo? Answers on a postcard (Or a comment :P) (P.s. This isnt very hard)

One of the 1st winter birds had very distinctive black mask, while the other bird had a very faded mask, the second of which was very advanced, with basicly 2nd year plumage, However, its 1st year wing pattern gave it away.

Two adults and a 1st winter. The very distinctivly dark bird. bird

The previous county record stood at 4 birds together at once, so this record would have been well and truily smashed with this flock alone, however, watching throughout the day, and subsequent photo analysis has revealed that a minimum total for the day to be 11 birds. Who knows how many more there could have been?
This number also sets a new regional record, which again, was well and truily smashed!
Get in there Upton Warren!

I dont believe in carma or anything, but its a coincidence that such an influx could happen the day after such disasterous flooding. Such is the highs and lows with nature watching.

Highlights, Patch Birding and Upton Warren

An evening walk on the patch revealed little, however, it was great to see that the female MANDARIN still had one chick in attencence, sadly having lost 3 chicks in the 20 days since i last saw her. The bird is incredibally elusive this year, and can be very hard to pin down.

Upton Warren revealed my first returning GREEN SANDPIPER'S and indeed my first of the year! A flock of 3 birds were feeding close to the hide throughout the evening. A poor passage at the start of the year and no winterers ment i hadent caught up with one, but it was nice to have these back again, hopefully for a few months yet.
Also 'new in' was a drake TEAL, a failed breeder or one thats left the partner to do all the work?
The Avocet had now well grown young, 10 adults and 7 young were around the flashes.

Again patch birding, a rare opporotunity of sun led me to venture south on the patch, walking to the 'gadwall' lake from Lickhill,  Butterflys had yet to emerge on Moorhall field and similarly, Moorhall Marsh was completly dead for dragonflies, only a few Banded aned Beautiful Demoiselles.

The Gadwall lake was completly dead, and very overgrown, a few Reed Warblers chattering away. While walking back north, on approaching the Baisins, 2 COMMON TERN circled above me for a good few minuites before flying off towards Wilden pool.
I had gotten into the habit of checking the baisins now, and today it had a reward, and on the riverside basin, the drake MANDARIN was moulting, and showing very welll, down to a few feet!

Continuing north, while again reaching Moorhall Marsh, i saw a raptor circling and drop behind a tree. Waiting for it to re-appear, fully expecting it to be a Kestrel, i was supprised when a stunning adult HOBBY re-emmerged. My 4th sighting this year of this normally rare patch falcon. I was allowed some great views in good sunlight, allowing me to savour such a wonderful falcon, One of my favorite summer visitors.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Sheepwash- Birding doldrums

To say midsummer birding doldrums were upon us was an understatement. 2 Common Tern over the main lake were the only avian interest.

The insect life however, was (luckily) more interesting!
Highlight must go to a female BLACK-TAILED SKIMMER we had around the small marshy pools, a stunning dragonfly!

We also spent lots of time looking throught the large numbers of both Common Blue, Blue Tailed and Azure Damselflies and eventually found something different.
A 'Blue-tailed' Damselfly with big red eyes. My first ever RED-TAILED DAMSELFLIES. In total, 3 Red eyes were around the lilly pads in the fishing pool, and believe it or not, they stopped still long enought for me to digiscope!!! one!

(Is this potentially the first digiscoped Red eyed Damselfly? :P)

Butterflys were almost no-existant in the nasty weather, with only a single female Brimstone.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sanderling- Upton Warren


I recieved news that a Sanderling has been seen on the flashes, and with the shocking weather outside, i was quite sure it would stick around the day.
By the time we were able to get onto site however, the bird had somehow dissapeared, and hadent been seen for about an hour. Anyhow, we still went down for a look, and its a good job we did!
Sanderling is one of those species that pass through the county in small numbers, most of the time only staying a day, so therefore, it is often a hit or miss species on a year to year basis within the midlands.

We sat down, but could see a small wader running the edges of the mud anywhere, and after about an hour, everyone in the hide was coming to the conclusion that the bird had flown.
2 drake TEAL were new in, and my first of the 'autumn'.

We were just about to leave and head to my girlfriends house when i had a last scan, and while scanning the end of the 'peninsular' in front of the hide, i was drawn to a movement just behind the now overgrown island. Immidiatly, i knew that this was what we were all waiting too see.
"There it is, the SANDERLING is here" was the shout, and a flurry of directions were given, and soon everyone was watching the bird.
 Soon after, the bird appeared fully from behind the vegitation, and immidiatly became extremly mobile around the flashes, moving from one island to another in quick succesion. Occasionally however, it settled long enought for us all to get a decent view, and with a brief glimmer of sunshine, i was able to take a picture that wasnt grey.

Looking remarkably Little stint like with its red neck, i wsa shocked, as earlier the bird had been described to me as 'quite pale', which i presumed ment it was in winter (type) plumage, or at least a pale colour, but when it emerged i saw a spring plumaged adult, a very nice looking bird!

(Sorry about the odd effect within the video's when panning, Youtube has changed the video somehow and messed it up, will be back to normal next post)

The bird mainly spent longer periods on the mud type islands, as could be expected from an esturine wader, and it was when on the mud that i was able to get some videos.

It was far more restless on shingle islands however, as shown here.

After some time watching the bird (a year tick), we decided to head off, already late for visiting the girlfriend.


While driving past the Kingfisher hotel in Kingswinford, a moulting adult RED KITE flew low over the top of the car, flying east. My 2nd kite within half a mile of here in two years!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Patch- OTTER!

Having just arrived back from Wales, after a short period of shopping i was back on the patch, and the highlight was showing very soon after arrival, i walked through the gap in the limestone following the riverside footpath, and as the view opened up over the river i saw something in the water. With just its heas showing, i immidiatly recognised it as a OTTER! The first wild Otter ive ever seen!!
The size alone showed that this individual was a dog Otter, and i was treated to superb views of it in the water on the opposite bank, about 50ft away, It just sat in the water, with its head showing. then would suddenly dive to resurface a few seconds after! What a way to get a lifer!
After a minuite or two however. It disapeared under some overhanging trees, and didnt re-appear.

The remainder of the walk back home was rather un-eventful, and i didnt really see much, but that didnt matter, i saw a dog OTTER on the patch!

Wales 2012

9/06/12And thats was that!
Another week in Pembrokeshire had been and gone, with only two days birding! The rather atrocious weather leaving much of the rest of the weekend useless for that purpose, although lots of time was spent with my girlfriend, Out and about with her, and with family, so the weather didnt affect things too much!

The usual RED KITE count taken place on the way back was in better weather, with it being sunny most of the way! (Sods law!) but we were left shocked at the MASSIVE floods around the river adjacent to the road coming into Llandovery, Massive area's had been covered by flood water and looked amazing. If only we had stopped for a scan :(

The c20 mile radious of Llandovery agian was the hotspot. And we reached a total of 27+, Which was nearing the highest total iver ever had!

We paused in Llandovery where i got a few photo's of the Kites as they soared over chimneytops in the town centre!
I also had a very nice ham salad baguette from the cafe opposite the 'castle car park'.
I returned home about 3, and i was only the patch soon after!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Stackpole Head- PUFFIN'S!


Stackpole head has always been a favorite area in Pembrokeshire, a nice mix of birds, nice beaches and stunning sea cliffs. It always makes for a decent couple of hours, even if theres not many birds about!
Over the last few years, there has been a seeming decline in numbers of everything here, so my hopes wernt exactly too high. However, all the 'usual' suspects are still around, just in less numbers!

The weather everyday since the Sunday had been rather atrocious, and therefore all birding time was pritty much canceled! We did witness the Lifeboat docking at it's station on the Wednesday, and a quick walk along the beach in Tenby during howling wind and driving rain lead to a suspected sighting on a Skua sp. However, the views were ever so brief as it ducked in behind a wave, with no bins, and when using one of the telescopes on the seafront (which were terrible btw!) i couldnt relocate it. Which is a shame, because ive only ever seen one skua previously!

On the thursday morning however, there was a gap in the weather, and i had a PAINTED LADY buttefly on the plants outside the window.

Later in the day, moving to Stackpole head, it was similarly sunny, but with a very gusty wind. It didnt takes long before we started picking up the birds, Skylarks were (as usual) everywhere! And Meadow Pipit were 'seeping' all around us.

A couple of WHEATEAR also joined us on the cliff top, and after abit of time, a female approached us, and gave stunning views!
Soon after, we were also joined by the male bird. Presumably a 1st summer because of the brown tinged wing feathers.

What a stunner!

However, the main reason for visiting these cliffs was to try and see one of the Icons of coastal birding in Wales. The CHOUGH.
We soon picked up a flock of these birds calling from the other side of the head, and we soon located then on the cliff edge.
We were treated to views of an immature bird. A plumage which previously i have never seen, which was now fully indipendant from its parents.

And talk of the devil, Here are the two stunning corvids! Glossy black with blood red bills and legs.

And just flying out to mob one of the ever present Herring Gulls.

The birding here is not just confined to the cliff tops. Clinging on to the vertical rock face below is a bustling colony of seabirds, with both the 'common' Auks well represented. And, as we were a week later than most years, most of the colony were in attendance, and we were treated to large numbers on hte cliff faces, and forming rafts below us on the swell.
And it was while scanning these rafts that i picked out a few white faces. Even at the extreme range we were from the bird (1/2- 1 mile) i could easilly tell that i was watching a PUFFIN on the water! Great stuff!
I knew they were here from previous sightings, however, i had never seen one actually perched/swimming, so it was great to get views of them in the water.
We moved along the cliff, closer to where the birds were, and soon realised that there was infact more than one bird here. And i soon counted 6 birds swimming about, including these two birds, which swam on the sea not too far away.

A SHAG was near the top of the cliffs at its nest.

However, i was soon distracted by the numbers of ROCK PIPIT which had decided they wanted to show well, and i was soon in the presence of a showy male bird, which casually stroled around about 30ft away, often pausing to sing or preen.

A couple of times. the bird was knocked off ballence by the strong winds, which made for some odd poses!

We were also treated to amazing views of this bird, whch showed a very ragged tail.

All in all, a very good visit, and it was nice to see Stackpole 'back on form'.Decent birds, ok weather, what more could you ask for?