Friday, 7 February 2014

Excellent Midlands birding!

Remember how in the last post i said i saw some pale looking Redpoll's with a Goldfinch flock on the Golf Course at Lineholt?

Well it turns out that an hour or so after we left, a local birder went on to find a stunning flock of Mealy Redpoll!

I wonder!

Anyway, i returned the next day, and i was treated to decent views of them as they fed in the tops of birch tree's along the southern edge of the Golf course. It was hard to estimate numbers in some very dense tree's, but while i was there a flock of 25 Redpoll were present, including at least 18 MEALY REDPOLL!

Most were of the 'greyish' kind, but there were also around 5 really stunning pale birds (Check out the 2nd bird in the video!).

Looking into the setting sun made it hard to get anything other than silhouetted or 'darker than real life' photos, but as usual i tried!

My first visit to Sheepwash this year was rewarded with a good flock of 35 Goosander. More impressive though in my opinion was the 29 Tufted Duck, one of my highest counts from the site! 2 Shoveler and 16 Pochard completed the list of 'highlights'.

I was shocked by the lack of Pochard on the lake, as usually by this time of year the flock is nearing 40! Sadly, as shown by the recent WeBS survey, it seems as if numbers of this red-headed diving duck have declined hugely in the UK. Reasons for this are fairly clear, and perhaps more-so this winter. Mild winter temperatures throughout Europe means that many of our winter species don't have to travel as far to reach a reasonable winter climate, and many of 'our' birds are now regularly wintering on the continent.

With the year list off to a flying start, Neil Duggan again offered a morning out birding in Staffordshire and north Birmingham. Our reasoning?

A seaduck that continues to elude me, as well as a whole host of excellent species!

Aqualate mere was playing host to a good number of ducks, so arriving at dawn we took the relativly easy tack towards the hide. While walking down the fenceline however it became clear we were quickly going to regret our decision, the boardwalk was under 2 ft of water!
Reluctantly we continued walking, we had come to far not to search! And within a short distance, both of us and our boots were inundated with water. Even my wellies were not enough to keep my toes from getting wet!

Our suffering was rewarded along the boardwalk when 2 WILLOW TIT were feeding along the hedgeline feeding and calling. After a few seconds watching, we continued on. 

The Mere was very full of water, but our task had become even harder than thought!
Every one of the ducks were on the very far side of the lake, and because of that were very hard to view. For an hour we scanned, in which Neil expertly picked out a drake Pintail (which i couldn't pick up until much later), but neither of our target species were showing!

With time passing on, and with us both needing to be in Dudley by 2, we took the decision to move on, and we were soon pulling off onto the backroad at Gailey. Again our confidence was taken from us when we were told out main target had flown out half and hour or so before! Not only that, a seriously heavy rainstorm then hit, and as well as being birdless, we were now soaked from head to toe!

Luckily, the GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER was showing as we scanned and sheltered from the sailing buildings. The weather was truly awful by now, and here is a photo of the Diver to give you the idea!

We chose that as our time to leave. Not much longer after that, we were pulling into Engine lane, just outside Brownhills where the GLOSSY IBIS from had reappeared from the previous year was currently residing!

The bird wasn't too hard to locate, and was showing very well in the 2nd paddock, feeding around the feet of the horses and in the deep mud!

It was somewhat surreal to think that the bird, originating from somewhere on the Iberian Peninsular had somehow found its way to rainy, and somewhat dreary Brownhills, and then chose to spent the winter there!

I can tell you, if i had wings, Brownhills would certainly not be my first choice of Winter home!

With Stubbers Green being on the way home, it would have been rude not to have a look. And a few minutes after, we were pulling up adjacent to the pools. Worryingly, there were very few gulls present throughout our visit, with no more than 80 large gulls at a time. A adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL dropped in briefly for a wash, but it was soon off out again to feed on the tip. Just after mid-day however, the visit was somewhat enlightened by the appearance of one of my favorite winter birds!


The great thing about Stubbers though, is as well as having great Gulls like this, you get really stonking views of them. Personally, these were probably the best views of an Iceland as i have had.

As well as being a very 'crisp' looking adult, what makes this bird more interesting is its life history! Every winter since it was in juvenile plumage, this bird has returned to North Birmingham, and i have managed to catch up with it in 2nd winter, 3rd winter, 4th winter and adult plumage's! It is great to think that this bird has found something it likes with the area. Maybe its the prominence of Landfill in the area? Or maybe its proximity to Chasewater to roost? Or even possibly the fact it just likes Walsall!  Whatever it may be, i'm very glad we have this bird returning year after year!



Gordon said...

Great shots of the Iceland Gull, its a while since my last one.
All the best Gordon.

midlands birder said...

Cheers Gordon. Iceland Gull is a stunning species! Hope you catch up with another soon!