Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Great Grey Shrike in the Forest of Dean

It turned out that a day journeying to the next county below us in Worcestershire was a good move bird wise. Having seen 2 Penduline Tits during the morning we spent the rest of the say wandering around in the stunning Forest of Dean, looking for a couple of birds in particular. At least 2 Great Grey Shrikes had made the forest their winter home, and one bird in particular had been known to show fairly well on occasions.
With a vague location and a will, we searched, and soon we managed to find out location. Atop one of the scattered dead trees, a familiar white shape sat sentinel. What we had been looking for.

The bird continued to show well as we watched, watching from its high perch before it eventually dropped down to the ground, flying back up with a Mouse almost the size of the bird! With a quick flick of its head, the rodent was dispatched and the bird flew off to cache its food at its larder.

The real Butcher Bird!

In the hour we watched the bird, it then went onto catch a Wren, flying up into a nearby tree to impale it, and then devour it in front of us. An awesome sight and something I have never had the privilege to watch before!

Gloster Penduline Tits!

Having found a female Penduline Tit a couple of autumns previously I was in no real rush to travel across the country to see another. The bird our crew had found though, was a rather dowdy young bird, probably female, so if a male turned up it may tempt me out to see another in the UK.

Generally as a winter visitor to the UK most records relate to bird arriving in singles or small groups in the SE of the country, so it was a shock to find that not one, but 2 male had found themselves flicking about the bullrushes on a flood storage area just outside Gloster! What more can you ask for?

So early on a freezing January day (and I do really mean freezing!), I journeyed down with Rob to check out these stunning visitors. A large crowd had accumulated even before dawn, but due to the birds habit of flying off not too long after dawn, it was no surprise.

A while was spent staring into a seemingly empty patch of bullrushes which the birds frequented until the fingers were feeling numb and then a familiar call started to sound from within the rushes. 'Almost' Reed Bunting like, however not quite, and upon my attention being drawn, soon our targets were sighted and flicking about low down in the dense vegetation.

The sun had still yet to rise, but as it did, the birds became more visible, spending more time moving up the stems. With some patience, and the temperature rising slightly, excellent views were had of these two stunning birds. After 2 hours though, our fingers were about to drop off, and so we decided to head off.

Monday, 25 July 2016

The Hinksford Hoopoe!

The unexpected appearance of a stunning Hoopoe in late November 2015 was certainly a great way to liven up yet another dreary winters day in the midlands.
In fact, I first heard of the bird at around midnight when a post appeared on an unassuming group on Facebook. The poster simply posting a few photos of the Hoopoe they had found at Wall Heath, West Midlands! A couple of messages were sent to a friend who lives a mere few hundred meters from the location and I awaited dawn.
Soon, the bird was located, and I then quickly headed on down to see my first Hoopoe in the UK, a mere few miles from home!

I joined a growing crowd of appreciative observers and the bird preformed admirably, feeding in the short weeds and grasses on the site of the ex-quarry. Most local birders reacted quickly to the news (and rightly so!), however few of us imagined the bird would stay on to spend the entire winter with us, hanging around until well into March. Due to a mild winter, the bird survived well

The bird continued to draw in admirers throughout its stay, and often preformed superbly, although towards the end of its stay the bird could occasionally become elusive as it fed out of view among very dense weeds on the western side of the quarry.

Being only a few miles from home, and me passing through Wall Heath at least twice a week, I dropped in a number of times to admire this very out of place Mediterranean waif.