Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Dotterel, Partridges, Grouse, Flycatcatchers and a bit of Med.

It was late on the evening of 13th that news emerged that a large flock of some stunning passage waders had dropped onto a regular stop-off on the Long Mynd, and sensing my angst to get up there, Liz, Rob and Luke came to my rescue, and within an hour, plans were arranged for a dawn journey up onto the stunning Shropshire hills.
Unfortunately, I usually miss Dotterel passage, but this year the birds arrived on a day I was able to drop everything.
Following a bit of driving around, we soon located a suitable looking field up on one of the peaks of the Mynd, just down the road from Pole cottage, and even from a distance, a couple of birders could be seen.
We were soon informed that the entire flock of DOTTEREL were still present! All 12 of them!
Even though the light was poor, we had amazing views of the birds as they trotted around the sheep grazing field. Of the flock, 8 were males/ winter plumaged birds, but the remaining 4 were all stunning summer plumaged females, truly stunning birds,
 the mixture of slate grey contrasting strongly to that vivid orange belly and bright white face and breast markings!
Soon however, the sun started to come out, and the light improved, showing just how stunningly beautiful these high plateau breeding waders are!
Even from early on, it was clear the birds had migration on the mind, being very flighty, taking off and circling, sometimes up to a great height, calling , but always eventually dropping down, often giving binocular filling views as they flew past the ever growing crowd.
While watching the Dotterel flock, a few raspy clucking calls from behind us in the heather gave us prior warning to a short fly past of a pair of RED GROUSE before they dropped back down into the undergrowth, and no doubt then going off scuttling away along the ridge.

 With the crowd now growing  rapidly, we moved on to another site in the hills, where we managed to find a nice and early male PIED FLYCATCHER, singing his heart out from adjacent to his chosen patch of trees.

In the distance, a spiral of soaring Raptors guided us onto a loose 'flock' of 4 Red Kite, 2 Raven and 8 Buzzard, not at all a bad combination!
Our last check of the Shropshire hills led us onto the Stiperstones, where we managed to 'connect' with even more summer migrants, with both Tree Pipit and Redstart singing. The heather held a few Stonechats, and 2 Red Grouse gave stunning views as they flew past us and over the ridge and the adjacent valley proved superb hunting grounds for another 2 Red Kites.
Moving onwards again, we moved to Venus Pool, where a long staying Mediterrenean Gull was showing on the water, a rather poorly marked 1st winter bird, but it gave good views in both flight and on the water. A single Little ringed Plover was scuttling around one of the islands and a late male Pochard was on the water.
With the pool being generally quiet however, we decided to walk around, down to the river and back. In doing so, a male Yellow Wagtail flew over our head calling.
On our walk around some nearby fields, a pair of GREY PARTRIDGE flushed out of the set aside ahead of us, before flying off and landing on the set aside on the opposite side of the field. It was great to see this species in particular, as it is one I do not regularly see at all!
As it was on the way back, it would have been rude to not drop into Chelmarsh, and we were rewarded with a singing Lesser Whitethroat, which was showing in the hedge adjacent to the parked car. 2 Whitethroat were also showing here which added to the passerine interest of the day. The reservoir had low water levels, and 4 Common Sandpipers were wading the edges. A surprise female Goosander was also roosting on the water.
Following on from a great days birding, we split our ways, but we were all reunited as soon as a few hours later, when we turned up to Upton Warren to try to see the reported Savi's warbler.
A couple of hours later, a few singing Sedge, Reed and a single reeling Grasshopper Warbler was all we had to show, but the banter was brilliant and ended a great day perfectly.

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