With a juvenile Iceland Gull currently roosting at Bartley, the decision was taken to rush down there to try and get one of these gorgeous white winged beauties from up north.
The usual scrum of local Gull roosters had assembled, and it wasn't long until the Gulls started to pile in. While panning the Gull flock as they settled in front of us, I was suddenly stuck by a small white headed bird towards the left hand end of the flock. Being larger than the surrounding Lesser Black-backed and Herring, and with its pale back it stood out like a beacon from the flock. It was only another CASPIAN GULL! And a stunning example of a 1st winter bird!
In my honest opinion, 1st winters are by far the best looking age of Caspian Gull, so to have self found one in the roost at Bartley (where I rarely manage to find many birds) was pretty awesome!
As I shouted this bird out to the next car along, occupied by Andrew, a return came, the juvenile ICELAND GULL, and soon after, I was watching this very crisp looking stunner!
As the Gull flock was very restless, they soon relocated, and most dropped in by the sailing club. We quickly adjusted our viewing position, where we had stunning views of the Iceland Gull, but I couldn't refind the Caspian. And then the phone call, Terry was watching it sitting on the pontoon from the dam!
With a quick powerwalk to the car, and an equally quick drive around to the dam, we arrived to the news that it had flown off!
Relentless scanning until the very last shreds of light revealed only one other brief view, as it again returned onto the water near the pontoon. But once again, the flock flushed and it was not seen again!
The next day was spent birding in the home county with fellow young birder and NGB Espen. Having trained it up from his home the main intention was trying to find him his first Casp, so, following a drop into Shenstone, it was up to the local tip and onto the beautiful location of Bartley Green!
It was great to exit the car at Shenstone to the sound of singing CORN BUNTINGS, and it took a ridiculous amount of effort to walk the entirety of 20ft to get a view of these. And not just a couple, a superb flock of at least 25 as they commuted between a hedgeline and the ploughed field. Unfortunately however, viewing was cut short when a local dogwalker walked along the hedgeline, flushing the vast majority of the Finch/bunting flock, which also consisted of a few gorgeous Yelowhammers!
Moving onto Wildmoor, it didn't add too much optimism when a local birder, who was just leaving and had been present all morning said that it was very quiet. Regardless, we headed up, and were soon scanning the amassed Gull flocks in the adjacent fields.
Which contained not a single bird of interest...
So, refocusing my attention, and the juvenile ICELAND GULL was picked up flying about over the tip, moving back and forth in the airspace between our location and the far side of the tip. However, it refused to land, and after some time circling with the gull flock, was seen to fly off west!
A single Green Sandpiper within the quarry was a first for the year, but one I had been trying to hold back for later in the year. In this instance, the bird found us!
Our last port of call was Bartley, via Hopwood, where we failed to find the Shrike!
Pulling up on Scotland lane revealed the presence of very few Gulls, and it remained that way until the very last available light, when masses of gulls piled in. Sadly, a little to late, and we soon gave up, the light was just unworkable by that point!
Another roost session at Bartley was again fairly uneventful, but the presence of 4 Goldeneye was something different, as I haven't seen too many of them at Bartley this winter!
It about time I gave the patch a good old thrash right?
So, at a relatively early time (please do remember I am a student after all!), I grabbed the scope and the bins and set off. It was great to see the Mandarins still haunting the river margins, with a minimum of 4 found (2 pairs). Also adding a splash of colour to the drab greys and browns of the riverside vegetation were a pair of resident Goosander, which were diving in their usual area as they have done all winter! Needless to say, they were as timid as always and soon scooted upriver.
What really made my patch visit though were the small numbers of 'farmland' birds present around the paddocks, a flock of 18 Lapwing fed in a flooded field, and a party of 7 Meadow Pipit were flitting around the area.
I couldn't help but think that spring was on its way, and I would soon be joined in these very fields by stacks of migrants!
On the return leg, I managed to find a singing Marsh Tit well away from the normal areas they visit! So I am also very hopeful that they may finally expand their range a little more on patch!
Later the same day, I couldn't resist another drop into Shenstone, and this is why!
Standing on the roadside I was completely surrounded by the flock of 30c CORN BUNTINGS, most of them singing that lovely jangly song that is so reminiscent of the English countryside! Its so sad to think that now that this exact sound is missing from most areas of the UK, fields that once were filled by the sound of birdsong now lies quiet and desolate.
It makes me feel somewhat glad I have a location such as Shenstone so close to home.