Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Ash Brownies! Butterfly watching

Usually when I go looking for Butterflies I like the solitary aspect, and I spent many hours this year walking around and stalking these dainty beauties.

However, I was approached by a friend from Hereford saying there was an open day at Grafton Wood and wondered if I wanted to go.
As a site I have never previously visited, a guided walk seemed the more sensible option.

Grafton is considered to be one of the the main strongholds for one of the UK's slightly more scarce butterflies, the Brown Hairstreak. It wasn't a very hard decision, and plans were made to join the group in the Church carpark at Grafton Flyford in the morning.

A large crowd had developed, and lots of familiar faces started to emerge from the crowd!

Following a walk around the entire south end of this rather appealing woodland, but having seen very little, 2 Purple Hairstreak being the obvious standout highlight, we heard news that the group at the north end had found a couple of Brown Hairstreaks!

A walk to the opposite end of the wood followed, and soon after a rather stunning female BROWN HAIRSTREAK was showing rather beautifully on trackside vegetation, moving between bouts of sunning and egg laying!

A 2nd 'Ash Brownie' was flying about but they were part of only a few Hairstreaks seen by the entire group during the open day. It had been a poor year!
We managed to find a few birds on our jaunter too, and a male Redstart was flitting about in the hedgerows outside the main woodland, as was a male Yellowhammer. A Yellow Wagtail flew over calling.
However, a short walk away, 2 Spotted Flycatchers were feeding on a fenceline, and were showing superbly as the adult would fly in to feed its speckled juvenile.

A nice mixed flock were also moving through the adjacent willows, a Lesser Whitethroat and 2 rather stunning juvenile Willow Warblers showed well as they moved past among the usual Blue and Great Tits.
Having completed the task for the day, I dropped into Grimley CLP on the way home, which was rather quiet, however there were some very nice birds around, 8 Little Egrets were still on show, and a large Wagtail flock included 5 Yellow Wagtails.
A adult Hobby was showing nicely but the highlight of the visit was my first Whinchat which was perched very distantly on fencelines far to the south.
A check of Waggon Wheel pits was needed but again it was rather quiet.. 
However, a Whinchat showing superbly on the eastern side of the pools certainly made a good highlight. I always enjoy seeing (and moreso finding!) these rather smart birds, and it is always a pleasure to do so!


Thursday, 23 October 2014

The night that everything was happening!


With the weather conditions looking favourable for the day, with rainshowers following a good northerly airflow, it looked good for a few birds to be moving, and hopefully, dropping in!

The Moors was the first destination, and the first bird I panned onto was a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull, which was perching on the 'Gull rails' in front of the hide. A matter of 30 seconds later, and it was flying off north to feed with other Gulls on recently plowed fields.
2 Little Egrets were flying about the Moors Pool, and the usual array of ducks were knocking around, but with the light falling, it wasn't a hard decision to head to the flashes,

With the sky growing more and more stormy, it was with relief we got to the hide, and it wasn't long until it started raining! No, not water, BIRDS!

First in were a party of 3 female RUFF, which dropped in just as the rain started. But they were extremely cautious to land, and spent around 15 minutes circling the flashes repeatedly. They just wouldn't land.

They did eventually, and luckily, they were directly in front of the hide!

After some time preening, and no doubt acclimatizing to their new surroundings, they flew off into the shallow water at the back of the flash, and fed for the rest of the night among the increasing numbers of Gulls!
A mere 20 minutes after, and I picked up another flock of waders dropping out of the sky and flying low across the surface of the 1st flash. These small Caladris dropped straight onto the first island they came across, showing themselves to be a flock of 4 Dunlin, joining the 3 already present to make a decent total of 7 birds!

As the light dropped, the Gulls continued to arrive, and with the thronging masses were two juv- 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls, sitting side by side on one of the gravel islands out in the middle of the flash. They continued to sit and snooze side by side, Presumably the same two that I had the previous weekend that had arrived together!

Not a bad couple of hours considering!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Amazing patch birding. Non stop migrants!

 August 2014 must surely go down as one of the best birding months I have ever had on patch. Despite there being no rare birds, I left each visit feeling happy with a superb variety of species, both migrants and residents, and a fair number of surprises.
Foremost what must be mentioned was the superb showing of REDSTARTS throughout the month. As regulars will know, they in previous years have been hard to come by, so I was overjoyed with a single female on the 9th, but the next couple of weeks proved to be extremely productive, and on 16th I found 2 more Redstarts, including a stonking male but then it went crazy!
17th saw a mass arrival of these stunning blue and red jewels as I found an unprecedented 5 Redstarts in various points around the Lickhill meadows section of the patch (3m, 2 fem/juv). This included 2 birds which were feeding on fence posts adjacent to one of the permissive roads that runs through the fields. Luckily I have access, and was treated to stonking views!

As well as the pair of Redstart, the same section of fenceline was often also the perch of a migrant Lesser Whitethroat, enjoying the suns rays.

The arrival of these birds coincidentally coincided with a planned week thrashing the patch and I spent nearly all of the daylight hours out thrashing the bushes and vismigging. The 18th had 4 Redstarts and the 19th 3. Both the 20th and 21st then had one each and then they were gone!
No doubt this week will end up being known as Redstart week for me in future years!
It seems crazy to think I mentioned Redstarts before a patch first, but their sustained presence was wholly unexpected, but the arrival of my first patch WHEATEAR (A female) which was present in some horse paddocks early on 21st was gratefully received non the less. However it could not be relocated later in the day. A Wheatear has been long coming, so I wasn't hugely surprised to pan onto this bird!
This was followed by a male bird on the 25th and 3 present on the last day of the month (31st). So much for a patch mega!
But wait!! I have another patch mega!
And another first for patch infact, as a LITTLE EGRET flew over south during drizzle on the 25th! No doubt the bird I had seen earlier in the month feeding on the river at Bewdley, but it was certainly very welcomed to have seen it within the patch boundaries!
Semi- regular Yellow Wagtails were also found, with birds being found on 6 dates, with a maximum of 3, but most of the records related to multiple birds. A female and a juvenile perched on a fenceline in the Meadows, and despite having a broken camera (broken screen) and not being able to see what I was photographing, I got lucky and got this one pic which showed one of the Yellow Wagtails.
2 Tree Pipits flew over, one on both the 16th and the 24th, and numbers of general vismig species, such as Pied and Grey Wagtails, and the first few Meadow Pipits of the autumn increased as the month passed.
This increase was also juxtaposed with an increase in Hirundine numbers, and triple figure counts of all 3 common species were regular! And with the large concentrations of these brought very regular interest from at least 3 HOBBY, which were present most days!

All the 'regular' warbler species were present, with the only real disappointment being a real lack of Willow Warblers, but a few sulphur yellow juveniles added a massive dose of colour! Particularly impressive though was a sustained presence of Lesser Whitethroats, with 4 present for most of the month, and often showing very nicely! Certainly one of my favourite warblers, and they never fail to give me a thrill as one flicks onto the edge of their favoured hedgerows!

Not to shabby for an area of meadows, paddocks and hedgerows tucked up in NW Worcestershire!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sandpipers and Gulls!

It's not very often I respond quickly to news of a scarce bird appearing, thats just not my style. So after a morning thrashing the patch finding nothing out of the ordinary, the decision was taken to head over to Upton Warren on the way back to my Dudley home. Only a small diversion.

The reason being a juvenile Wood Sandpiper had been found, and it didn't take long before this  stunning wader was feeding and showing well in the delta not far from the hide. It spent much of it's time out of view on the back of the channels but when it did come out, its speckled white mantle and flight feathers  gleamed in the evening sunshine. Bliss.

An added bonus was the appearance of two juvenile Mediterranean Gull's which spent the evening side by side feeding and preening on one of the islands on the flashes. It was great to see them strutting their stuff in the same scope view which allowed for plumage differences to be scrutinized, and it became obvious that one of the birds was metal ringed. Sadly not a Darvec and therefore it was impossible to read it from that distance, meaning we will never know where it came from.

12 Green Sandpipers remained, as did 3 Common Sandpipers and small numbers of Curlew and Snipe were dotted around the flashes.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Great patch birding and some more Gulling!

It's early August, for me the official start of 'vismig' season, and it really didn't take much effort to drag myself from the warm confines of my bed to the cold, breezy paddocks on the patch.

Large numbers of Hirundines had started to gather in the insect rich aerospace above  the open fields and paddocks, totaling around 300 birds. These were slowly dispersing south, and a single Swift barreled through.
My first Meadow Pipit of the autumn flew over calling as I picked up a 'hawk' powering low south over the paddocks along the river valley. My bins went up, and that hawk transformed into a juvenile Cuckoo as it continued to fly very quickly across the fields. Following on from a singing male back in the spring, I couldn't help but wonder if it may have been locally bred?

The bird however had no inclination to land, and was watched flying a considerable distance to the south before flying across a line of trees and out of sight!


I did say it was the 'start' of vismig season didn't I, so no doubt it wouldn't reap huge numbers and variety of birds!
However, what the air lacked was certainly made up for on the ground, and a decent number of migrant passerines were dotted around the hedgerows. 2 Garden Warbler, 9 Blackcap, 6 Whitethroat, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Willow Warbler and 10 Chiffchaff were not at all a bad haul.

A lone elderberry bush stands in the middle of the paddocks, and it was nice to see a male Blackcap and a female Whitethroat feeding from it, and it was while watching this nice duo a flash of red caught my eye as a mouse brown female REDSTART flicked out onto the edge of the bush!

Redstart for a good number of years has been a very rare/ overlooked bird on the patch so it was great to finally see another. Needless to say, to see 3 migrant passerines feeding together in a small lone bush only reminds me why I do love Bird migration, and truly anything can turn up anywhere!

The evening was spent at my usual Saturday evening location of Upton Warren, and again, the best bird took until the last shreds of light to show up, but when it did a stunning adult Mediterranean Gull dropped in among the roosting BHG, of which numbers had built up to around 1200.

Adult Med Gulls aren't the most common of ages at Upton Warren and therefore I was quite happy to have pick out this stunning Gull. Just check out those white primarys!

The bird walked around with an obvious limp, but it was more preoccupied with roosting than anything else. It's very delicate proportions, and rather 'thin' primarys indicated that the bird was probably a female.

The flashes also held a total of 16 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpiper and 7 migrant Snipe.