Monday, 30 June 2014

Migration in Worcestershire! Black Terns and waders.

With the weather looking as superb as it did for dropping some passage migrants, (that being Waders and Terns) the fairly easy decision to get out and bird was taken, and it was down to Grimley pits, as being suitably underwatched there was always the potential to find something!
On arrival, we joined up with another local birder and went about scanning from the viewpoint.  Other than 2 Common Sandpiper, we failed to find any passage waders from here, but a nice number of Yellow Wagtails and 2 White Wagtails were showing on the Causeway and mud, so we walked down the track to get a better view.
We were just reaching the corner of the path when a dark wading bird took off from a hidden area behind the causeway.
Luckily, the bird didn't want to go anywhere, and dropped straight onto the shoreline of the east bank, and spent the remainder of its time here feeding. It could often disappear among the long grass however, and combined with the distance this meant I didn't really attempt to get any better photos than when it first landed.
A large flock of Hirundines were hawking over the pools, and these were joined by two Swifts, my first of the year, which sped around the pools briefly before heading off north.
No doubt attracted by these, a small Falcon speeding low in from the north proved to be my 2nd HOBBY of the year, which gave a great view as it flew low directly over our heads before continuing on south.
I went down to check to south end of the pools, but while doing so received news that the bird I had predicted would turn up had, but at Upton Warren. So, following a 15 minute car journey I was pulling into the Moors Pool car park, and soon after enjoying the sight of 3 stunning summer plumaged BLACK TERNS!
I miss the summer plumaged birds most years as they seem to always show up when I am away, so I was very grateful to have these birds thoughtfully drop in while I was birding just down the road.
Even more thoughtfully of them, they chose to land a few times on the sticks and platform adjacent to the west track, giving great views, and allowing me to get a few snaps of this 'plumage tick' for me.

They flew around the pool regularly though, and spent much of the time calling to each other, no doubt still feeling a huge migratory and breeding urge. A couple of times they all flew up fairly high, but each time they dropped back down to again resume feeding over the pool.
I even managed to get all 3 Black Terns in a picture.
After a while the Terns were forced off their perched by a pair of Mallard, and at that point we chose to head off as a 'quick drop into Grimley' turned out to a whole afternoons birding.


Right, this blog is far too far behind to hope for a recovery of every days birding since late April.
It is due to this I have taken a decision to omit some of the 'less interesting' days and instead focus on the more bird filled trips, at least until I am much more up to date.
That doesn't mean I haven't been doing the usual patch slogging, or traipsing around local area's, just I don't have enough time, or for that matter willingness to recount every birdless day. Some of the more acute of you may have noticed I have already been omitting certain days out, and readers of my Facebook or Twitter may be aware of these days, but rather than dwelling on those and wasting some of the little enthusiasm I have to write currently, focusing on certain days (which there are still many of may I add) will be time much better spent.
Bear with me folks!

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.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Dorset and Hampshire! Yellowlegs steals the show!


It was while preparing to head home to Dudley that I received a message from Mike W, saying that he was going down south tomorrow, and wondered if I wanted to join him in a long haul trawl across multiple sites!

Needless to say, it didn't take much convincing, and my plans about going home were quickly changed and I stayed over in Stourport for another night.

After an early pickup, it was an uneventful drive down to our first port of call, that 8 mile long peninsular that is Portland. 
As we drove through Chesil Cove, we quickly spied a Sandwich Tern as it flew across the 'Fleet' right next to the road! Certainly a good omen considering we hadn't even reached our destination yet!

Once we had reached the famous red and white striped lighthouse, we were informed that we had missed a 'fall' day, and there was little about landbird wise, so we headed over to the sea to look for moving seabirds!

I was quickly struck by how easy the seawatchers have it at Portland, as everything was passing close offshore, rather that the distant flapping dots I am used to! Needless to say, it made looking far easier, and many times it was much easier to just use my bins. A few small parties of Sandwich Tern passed, as did larger numbers of Common Scoter and Kittiwake. However, there were many more birds to look at, a couple of Puffin's were flying around, and one sat on the water briefly just off the bill among large numbers of both the two common Auks. 2 Red Throated Diver were moving close inshore to the  west of the bill also and a single Shelduck moved east. 2 early Whimbrel flew past, giving great views as they moved low east.
Large numbers of Hirundines were moving 'in off', which was stunning to see, some coming very low over our heads as they rose over the cliff.
What was more surprising however, was the 2 raptors which flew 'in off'. While watching Sandwich Terns passing, I picked up a small raptor low over the water flying directly towards us, and it was motoring it!

Very quickly, it was adjacent to us over the sea to the west, and that small brown raptor revealed itself to be a stunning female MERLIN!
Who could believe that! A female Merlin 'in off' the English channel!
Migration is amazing!

But that was not all!
Soon after I picked up another small raptor, just one more distant, and higher up in the sky, but still slowly making its way 'in off' from the south. With the sun shining, I could see glowing red 'trousers' on the bird, it was a HOBBY!
How amazing is that! Two migrant raptors, both arriving off the sea following a flight across the channel! 

Seeing so many bird arriving on our shores for the first time this year was simply stunning, and it is really one of the reasons why I know birding is such an amazing hobby (excuse the pun), what an awesome experience!

We then had a quick wonder around some suitable looking habitat on the Bill, but, as we had been told earlier, failed to find anything spectacular, a couple of Wheatear, a Stonechat and one each of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

With half the morning gone, it was time to move onwards to Arne RSPB. We duly asked one of the volunteers about where to go to find Dartford Warbler, and she was very obliging and told us where we had a decent chance.
Sadly, following a couple of hours slog around the site, I was left very underwhelmed. The area we had been guided to seemed completely the wrong habitat for Dartfords, with very little gorse, and there was very little birdwise to keep us occupied. Obviously the cold and severe winter had had a profound impact on the Dartford population at the site, seemingly to the point where there are non!

It wasn't a hard decision to start heading back to the car, and it was while doing so that a male Stonechat perched on an area of Gorse. Knowing of a habitual trait of Dartford Warbler to follow Stonechats, we moved our position in a last ditch attempt to look for our target. A short while after, and a small, dark bird flitted up in the shadows of the lower branches of a bare Gorse bush. A little bit distant, I pointed my scope, and that dark shape morphed into a stunning long tailed female DARTFORD WARBLER!
How about that for luck!

As quickly as it appeared however, it dropped back down into the low gorse, but we both left happy.

Now we were moving further east still, crossing the county boundary to do some twitching. A Lesser Yellowlegs  has wintered at a small country park right on the coast at Lepe country park.
With the satnav plugged in, we got to our location easily, and having parked at the end of the car park, we quickly dodged our way down the path to the marshy pools, avoiding the numerous beach go'ers, dog walkers and French students!
We scanned the first pool, which looked an awesome bit of habitat, and soon after, the bright yellow legs of a  LESSER YELLOWLEGS could be seen through an area of Tussocks! Slowly, the bird made its way from its roosting area out into open water, where we had great views of this stunning transatlantic wader!

Coming into summer plumage, the mix of pale silvery grey head, neck and upperparts contrasted with white and black flecking, much better than some streaky juvenile! A real stunner!


As well as 'The Yank', this pool, held a single Ringed Plover, 6 Turnstone and many Redshanks.

Having had our fix of this stunning yellow legged 'beaut', it was time to move onwards to our last location of the day, Keyhaven Marshes, where another Yank wader had been wintering, but had been a lot more elusive.

A few (Islandica) Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and showing well in the small harbour, as were numerous Redshank, Turnstone and 3 Dark Bellied Brent Goose, a good start considering we had only walked a short distance from the car!

The pools were much more lively, the first of which we were treated to a stunning partial summer plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK fly in and start feeding towards the back of the pool. Having birded past many Redshank, we failed to find much else of interested on this pool, but upon reaching the 2nd lagoon it was obvious more birds were on here. Nothing was immediately obvious on the pool, so while scanning the estuary, a small Tern appeared distantly, and on getting the scope onto the bird, it revealed itself to be a rather smart Little Tern!
A few small parties of Mediterranean Gull flew over east, all of them rather stonking adults, all glowing in the evening sunshine and their obvious white wingtips standing out a mile, making them look akin to an Egret in flight.
A single Little Ringed Plover was running around on the island, and it was while looking over this, a small wader scurried out from behind some tussocks of grass. Obviously much smaller than the LRP, it was obvious we were watching a Stint, and a scope view revealed my 3rd LITTLE STINT of the year

The wind had picked up a huge amount by this time (hence the wind noise), and with the sun starting to drop, it was time to head back to the car,but a scan across the saltmarsh revealed a few Ringed Plover among larger numbers of Dunlin.

 While walking past the 1st lagoon again, the Spotted Redshank had moved much closer, and we had great views of it as it fed fairly close into the track!

With 110 species logged for the day between us, we both left very happy having had a great days birding.

However, one last surprise came as a Woodcock flew over the car in semi-darkness as we neared Oxford! A bird I was not expecting to find for the day!
How about that, 111 for the day!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Patch thrashing and Ouzels on Titterstone Clee

Today was just one of those days. I decided to get out early onto the patch, and within a few minutes of walking along the river I realised why I had done this. I saw a shape swimming down the opposite side of the river, and soon after, having swam level with me, I realised I was watching a stunning female OTTER! Only my 2nd I have recorded on patch!

For the next 40 minutes, i was treated to stunning views as it crossed the river onto the near bank, and even sat out on a fallen tree for a while between fishing trips! I was absolutely gob-smacked!
Sadly, my viewing was cut short as the first rowing boat of the morning moved through, and as that disappeared up the river, so did the Otter!

A little further upriver, a call I had not heard for many months rang out, and a Common Sandpiper flew its way upriver, my first of the year!

After this point, it was all about the ducks, and I managed to count 9 Goosander and 12 Mandarin (of which only 1 was female!) dotted up the river. The Goosanders were particularly satisfying as they rarely stay in this kind of number this late in the year, raising brief hopes that a couple of pairs may attempt to breed. Sadly, they have now left, as they so often do as the river waterlevel starts to drop!

The Common Sandpiper flew past me once more, again moving northwards, and this was the last I saw of it!

After a great few hours on patch, I decided to take a punt and head up onto Titterstone Clee, mainly in the hope of finding some black and white Thrushes.

To cut the story short, after a significant effort, with a good few hours walking, searching and scanning, a brief flight view of a female RING OUZEL had us moving very quickly back towards the old quarry as it flew in that direction.

Sadly, once getting around there, it had again disappeared, and another significant time searching failed to find anything.
Rather reluctantly, it was back to the car, and while doing so, I saw a dark bird fly briefly from rocks where a few screaming children had just ran through, straight into a dense clump of gorse.

Again, another significant wait followed, but it was completely worth it! A stunning male RING OUZEL, rather slowly and nervously emerged from the gorse, before eventually dropping back down to feed where it had been previously  near the rocks at the bottom of the hill, giving great scope views!

Other than the 2 Ouzels, another highlight was the outstanding number of Wheatear present across the summit and quarry's, with at very least 20 present! They were everywhere!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Sheepwash Mega!

With news of a made rare duck at Sheepwash emerging, I just had to rush off over there!

After 2 buses, and a brisk walk down to the main pool, it was within a single quick scan that i managed to pick up the female type GOLDENEYE as it swam, and dived along the far bank of the pool. After some time, the bird moved slightly closer to the raised path, and I managed some nice views of this new bird for me at the 'wash'.

As it moved closer, I noticed the bird lacked a pale patch on the bill, presumably indicating a 1st winter, or juvenile male bird. As it flapped it also seemed to have more white on the upperwing than i would expect for a female, and therefore I am inclined to the latter suggestion

A flock of 4 female Goosander were still hanging on, but being very elusive, hiding behind the islands for long periods.