Thursday, 28 February 2013

Patch MEGA!

Having birded the north of Worcestershire the day before, i was keen to get out on patch to have a look around. As i have said many times previously, winter is a great time for patch birding along the river.

A single Marsh Tit was showing in its regular location, and small flocks of Redpoll and Siskin were dotted around to the north of Lickhill. And away from that it seemed fairly quiet, so i walked north to the small pool at Blackstone, which occasionally gets something good in winter. Walking along the east side, i saw a bird swimming away from me on the near bank, heading for some exposed roots/Branches. Before i had raised by Bins, i knew i was watching a WATER RAIL, a very long overdue patch tick! The bird then proceeded to perch for about 20 seconds around 15 foot away, before flying, and then swimming to the opposite bank to be amongst the willows. I have had previous 'possibles' of small birds running for the closest area of vegetation before, but i've never had a  definite bird, but trust me, its been one that has been overdue for years! You would have thought with so much suitable habitat it would have been quicker coming, but i'm not going to complain!

The regularly roosting drake Goosander was located on the river between Blackstone and Lickhill.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Another Big Worcs day.

An early morning visit onto the patch revealed that the drake Goosander was still roosting on floods, sleeping on one of the small islands.
Moving onwards, we moved to Eyemore Wood, looking for a certain species, and they didn't prove too hard to see. I was quite surprised however to find the entire flock of CROSSBILL completely silently feeding on larch seeds adjacent to the road. Usually, you can hear the 'Glip' call while trying to locate them. A few local birders appeared soon after. Of the 12 Crossbill that were present, there was at least 3 stunning red males.
The males birds in particular are absolutely gorgeous birds, i mean just look at them!

Saying that however, the bright green females are great aswell!

Not wanting to spend to long here we then headed to Grimley Pits, to have another look at the female Smew, which had been joined by a 1st winter drake!

We arrived at the north end to be greeted with largely silhouetted views of the hundreds of waterbirds. I scanned the middle section, and after some scanning i picked up the female SMEW, only briefly however, and after getting my dad a look at it through my scope, it duly disappeared! In the time being though, we were treated to views of a female Goldeneye. There was also small flocks of Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler, with larger numbers of both Pochard and Tufted Duck.
Following this, we then moved to the south end of Camp lane pits, in the hope of picking out the Smew's in better light, and after a while scanning, i picked out the female bird as it swam and dived further to the north. Very soon after, the bird was joined by the 1st winter drake SMEW. Both birds then sailed around the pool, and we were treated to decent, if fairly distant views! From this new viewpoint, i also clocked onto 3 Goldeneye (2 adult fem, 1 juv).

Infact, the birds were so distant i couldn't even be bothered to get any video footage, combined with the fact that the wind was buffeting my scope like crazy! It really was windy!

So we moved onward.
I haven't had Jack snipe this year, so we headed to Upton Warren Moors pool in search of the long staying, occasionally 'showing well' bird. The lake itself was fairly quiet, so much concentration went onto scanning the edges of Amy's marsh and the track to the left of the hide. This was rewarded fairly quickly when a Water Rail strode into view.

A second bird joined soon after, and they had a brief fight before moving away from each other. With the light now rapidly dropping, and having only seen 20c Common Snipe, i went back into Snipe mode, and on my final scan of the evening, there it was! A JACK SNIPE perched in the shallow water on the 'boat peninsular' opposite the hide. I quickly got my scope onto the bird, and pulled out the camera. While doing so, the bird began to bathe in the shallows, and i was able to get footage of the interesting behavior!

Once the Jack had moved back into the Reeds, it wasn't long until we decided to end the day and head home.

All in all a good days birding, Crossbills, Smews, Goldeneyes and Jack Snipe, as well as fairly decent views of Water rail! Not a bad way to spend a early February day in Worcestershire!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Still looking for White-wingers

So there i was again, Fens Pool. Very few Gulls were down on the pool, consisting of pritty much only BHG. However, i was pleasently suprised to count 47 Tufted Duck on middle pool alone, with a further 20 or thirty birds on both Fens and Grove Pool.
This being as urban a location it is, most of the flock were as tame as you would ever see. Some of the flock was showing down to 20ft!

When you have a look at them, Tufted Duck's are stunning birds!

Not to go too far off topic though. this brute of a 2w LBBG.

Fens Pools- Looking for white wingers.

A Glaucous Gull had been seen at Fens Pools the previous week, and the bird did a re-appearing act at nearby Stallings Lane Tip, so, with the Gornal Birder, we decided to head down to the Pools in the hope that this white beast would drop in. So there we were, standing on the Causeway between Middle and Grove Pools scanning the fairly small amount of Gulls. And that proved very uneventuful, with nothing more than a few Herring and LBBG.
However, our luck changed at 2:20 when i heard the distinctive high pitched trilling of WAXWINGS heading towards us, and to my delight, a decent sized flock of WAXWINGS flew in from a northish direction, heading directly over the pool at resonably close quarters against a southerly wind, meaning we were treated to long views as they slowly made their way along. The wind proved too much for the birds, and they dropped down on the ariels of Fens Pool Avenue, just giving me enough time to count a number of 32 before they again flew off south into the estate.
Occasionally we saw the birds duck down behind the houses, and then would fly up, so i would expect that the birds would have landed somewhere nearby!

Later in the evening, we were treated to views of a Peregrine with a feral pigeon in its tallons, before dropping down onto the grass bank to briefly pluck the bird before being flushed. A steady stream of walkers ment that the Peg could no longer drop onto its catch, and after about 30 mins, the bird had enough, and flew off SW.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Goosanders on Patch

A early morning visit onto the patch was fairly rewarding with awesome views of a flock of 10 Goosander (7 drake) on the river. Despite being bitterly cold, i was able to sit on the bank opposite them for about 30 minuites as they went about their buisness. They are stunning looking ducks, and one of my most anticipated winter visitors on patch.

As expected, the birds were flushed by a dog walker, and flew off low north.
A stomp around the dryer parts of the patch gave me very good numbers of winter thrushes, c30 Redwing and 100c Fieldfare were showing in a single flock on the riverside fields.

However, this little gem gave superb views on the ground. As regular readers will know, Goldcrest is only off my all time favorite birds, no matter how many i see, i always still have to stop and have a quick look. Gladly, this bird was showing well, and even posed for a Digi-binned shot.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Duck movements


Late January often see's the start to abit of duck movement around the region, and combined with some icy weather, you often get some surprises in odd locations.
The icy conditions had increased duck numbers at Sheepwash Urban Park, highlighted by a awesome flock of 16 Shoveler! This is by far the most i have ever seen here, having only previously seen a maximum of 2! Two thirds of the flock were feeding close to the bank, giving excellent views as the 'swirled' with a flock of Mallard

2 Teal were feeding on the bank below us before moving over to the muddy 'spit', however, these are a wintering pair, and not part of a cold weather influx.
40c Pochard were roosting on the edges of the 'Dunlin' Island. A check of both the Chemical Pool and the Mound were uneventfull, as was the marshy pools. However, on crossing the Tame bridge, i looked down and staring right back at me was a COMMON SNIPE stood motionless in the mud on the edge of the river. With the bird being no more than 20ft from where i was standing, i was treated to some awesome views.

A nice little winter visit. A nice flock of Shoveler, Pochard, as well as Teal and a Snipe equal a decent visit to the park!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

At the forefront of a 'Purple' patch!

I am a dumb-ass!
After trying (and ultimately failing) to photograph Marsh Tits with my bridge camera the day before, i forgot to switch the SD card back into my compact Nikon. That i hear you yell is not a problem..
The problem emerged when i arrived at Grimley to twitch the GREY PLOVER that had been found in the morning. Turing on my camera i saw the disastrous message 'Internal memory' and i found out that i hadn't got the memory card in, and it only got worse.
With only 8 pictures to play about with i kept having to go back to delete photos to take new ones, and with the weather being nothing better than shite, with sleet, snow and heavy rain, the prospects never looked good. Anyone (and as it seems, most sensible birders within Worc's) would avoid this weather, but, for the reasons set out in the last post, i love this weather, despite it being very hard to bird in.

They GREY PLOVER gave decent views feeding on the flooded Causeway.
Sadly, that's about all i'm going to write about it, i really lack any inspiration to try and make a Grey Plover in winter plumage sound exiting. Yes, its a good county bird, and I've only ever seen a few, but it is a bit dreary and the only thing to say about it is that it does show what cold weather can do to displace birds.

 As you can see from the photo's, the snow was getting fairly thick, preventing anything decent. Similarly showing around the Causeway was a pair of Goldeneye. The cold weather had brought a huge flock of Wigeon (252+) which is easily the largest  i have seen in Worcs, and among the grazers were a similarly good number of Dabbling ducks, 50c Gadwall, 20+ Shoveler, 30+ Teal among many hundreds of Mallard and Coot. Scanning along the few un-frozen edges revealed 2 winter plumaged Dunlin and at least 7 Common Snipe.

After everyone bar me and SMW had left, the snow eased slightly, allowing us to scan the distant ducks on the flooded middle section in the hope of finding the Pintail. And it was only a couple of minutes into this that Steve called out that a Smew had just popped up among the Coots. Soon after, i was onto a superb looking female SMEW as it dived almost incessantly. I had infact only a day previous said that this weather was bound to 'dump' some of these gorgeous small ducks in the country, and then hopefully the county. The views were far from great to say the least, but they were good enough to secure an early year tick!
Again (in my 8 photo memory space) i tried for some distant, snowy crapographs.

(Hey, you can see what it is!)

It was around this point that i picked up a 'pale' wader feeding on the ice on the far edge of the pools. Was that what i thought it was?
The Grey Plover came slightly closer (see, i did my best to mention it again!),

However, it was again quickly forgotten when my 'pale' wader dropped in closer, showing prominent wingbars similar to Common sand, very pale white underparts and pale grey upperparts ! A SANDERLING! We were treated to great views as it fed along the near shore, showing through tall weeds, a wire fence, falling snow, and fogged and wet optics!

So there we go, 3 for the price of one, and testament that when bad weather hits you should be out there birding! If you don't come back with drenched optics, soaked hair, a snifly nose and a bright red nose, your not doing it right. Get out there birding when its like this, you don't know what your missing!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Patch mega!

I relish 'poor' weather for patch birding! I look intently for very cold, and therefore very frozen conditions, hopefully combined with large amounts of snowfall, and that is when the patch needs to be blitzed daily!
Just in the last few years, cold winters have led to some amazing patch birds, Smew, Whooper Swan, Dipper, Goldeneye etc, so this is defiantly the time to be out there birding the river due to it being one of the last places to freeze over.
As winter approaches  i am practically begging for some seriously bad weather, as it leads to perfect weather for some serious patch watching!

Today, i was out and about early, mostly counting vismig due to cold weather movements. Quickly a flock of 50c Lapwing flew over, and constant streams of Fieldfare were going south, with around 150 going over in less than an hour. 2 Marsh Tit had joined one of the Tit flocks along the riverbank and were showing fairly well in the willows.
Moving onto the Lickhill estates with the intention to check out the Cotoniaster tree for a flock of punk Scandinavian visitors. It was clear that had failed once i reached the road, with only 3 Blackbird being present in a berry laden tree. It was while slogging my way back out of the very frozen and snowy road though that i picked up a fast flying duck fairly high up. Its typical wader like flight already had me identifying it before i had my bins on it. But once i had, i was treated to great views of a stunning drake TEAL!
Yes, i have seen many thousands of Teal over the years, but the patch is almost devoid of records of them, with only 3 previous records (all of small flocks), so it always makes a good bird to catch up with, and it is weather like this that certainly provides opportunity for more records!

Back in the garden the feeders were sadly slow, with only a single male Siskin, a single male Lesser Redpoll, a small flock of 20c Goldfinch and 5 Chaffinch.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Glauc and Ice, Gulls, Gulls, Gulls

Gulls are very high on the agenda in January, and because of this, we decided to 'hit' one of the biggest roosts in the region, at Chasewater. However, we headed out early, so that we would be able to check a few of the local sites earlier. As luck would have it, both Martyn Y and Kay D had the same idea (Be sure to check out both of their blogs after reading this), and were checking through the Gulls there when the came up trumps with a superb Glauc!

Our journey from Kidderminster to Cannock was quite tedious, but we made it there! We decided to drop into the West Mids Gull capital of Stubbers Green for a quick check and go. And we were in luck, as just as we had pulled up, the assembled birders had already clocked a YELLOW LEGGED GULL. A nice well marked 2w bird, and, as usual with Stubbers, we were getting fairly good views!
I cant claim to have extensive knowledge regarding this age, so it was nice to be able to study one. It was nice to have the bird adjacent to all GBBG, LBBG and Herring Gull for comparison  and this bird fits in nicely between Herring and Lesser.

As winter is 'THE' time for White-wingers (and with news emerging of both Glauc and Iceland) we decided to shoot off there before the Gulls switched over to Chasewater to roost. We pulled up at Kingswood soon after, and after a scan of the small amount of Gulls viewable from where we were parked, we were told that both the 'white wingers' were perched up together on the roof viewable from the other side!
As you would expect, we quickly shot around there, joined the birders, grabbed a look through one of the scopes and bam! GLAUCOUS and ICELAND GULL sitting adjacent to each other on the factory roof! Can Gulling really be much better than that?

While setting up my scope however, the call went up that the Glauc was flying, and coming straight for us, ditching my scope, i put my camera to my bins, aimed at the twisting and turning Glauc as it flew directly over our heads! Getting around 10 pictures in the time. Once the bird dropped below the bank, i picked up the camera. All but three of the photos has only sky in them. One of the three a translucent wingtip, picture two a out of focus Glauc, and Pic 3. This one!

A 2nd winter GLAUCOUS GULL.

A digi-binned flight shot of a Glauc!

Moving my attention back to the Gulls atop the roof, i had a look at the adult ICELAND GULL, which was a very neat looking bird. Infact, it was my first adult type bird, as i dipped the bird when it was present last winter! Unlike the Yellow leg though, there is less to'study' on adult white wingers, so i just chose to enjoy the views of the bird. After a while, it also took flight back over to the tip for a pre roost feed. 

 Can you see it?

What about with this slightly cropped version?

Following this, it was onward to the Roost, which mopped up the rest of the 'scarce large gulls'. Luckilly, the Gulls had chosen to land fairly close to the south shore, giving awesome views! Not long after we had arrived, i picked out  a stunning adult CASPIAN GULL, and after guiding people onto it, people seemed to agree about its identity. Following this, i picked out the GLAUCOUS as it swam about in the throngs. A wait ensured before the ICELAND was picked out, and eventually news filtered to the other end of the crowd, and i was able to spot it. I was quite struck by this particular bird, as it seemed to have a very 'attenuated' rear end. I know this is a common feature with iceland, but i found it particularly obvious in this bird. Its small size was also very evident, it was miniscule! However, it always remained fairly far away, so therefore, i could only take some pictures of the Glauc. However i'm not complaining! Look at that beast!

To finish off, i also picked out 2 further YELLOW LEGGED GULL's

Always an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in January!