Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The catch up- January 2015

Yes yes, I know. Here we go again, 5 weeks without a post.
The usual excuses are again exercised, Uni work, and to busy with actual fieldwork to update here. So here we are, another catch up post!
It's better than nothing!
After a night partying into the new year, I found myself stumbling through the city centre early the next afternoon after waking at a friends flat. It was straight down to West Park, where I managed to grab a few 'new year' ticks. Nothing special, but highlighted by the wintering Pochard and Shoveler.
 Throughout January I was visiting West Park with regularity, so I wont be commenting on every visit, as the details from which are very monotonous and 'samey'.
The next birding adventure was pursuing one of my winter pastimes.
Bartley had an Iceland Gull visiting, so it didn't take much coercing to get my ass over there. With most of the Gulls at the west end, I moved around to view through the fence and here I met all the usual assemblage of Gullers. Nothing interesting had come in yet.
With the sailing boats having retreated back to dry land for the night, the gulls started drifting out, and so did most of the birders to the usual viewpoint off Scotland Lane.
A matter of minutes after, and I picked up the regular 2w Caspian Gull nice and close in. Needless to say, a few decent views (gull roost standards) were had, and soon after the guys up on Scotland lane picked it up also.

Again not much longer after, a return call came, the Iceland just dropped in!

We rushed around the corner, but the bird had flown. Having already set my tripod up, I chose to run the 100 or so metres to the high ground, and a little bit of scanning and BINGO!

3rd winter Iceland Gull!

Very distant, but shining like a beacon among the throng of white, grey and black.

I even managed a couple of record shots (literally!) showing the bird.

Iceland Gull (Red) and Mediterranean Gull (Black)
A Med Gull was called from near the bird, but no-one other than the finder managed to see it. That was until I reviewed my photos 2 months later and found the bird in question in a matter of 10 seconds. Ah, how easy is this Gulling lark when you don't have to contend with field conditions and  freezing shanking hands! Needless to say. I'm not counting it, but a great reminder about how birds can so easily go 'under the radar'.
Patch birding followed, which boosted the year list significantly, gathering a couple of decent patch birds in the process in the form of a Snipe and a flyover Yellowhammer. The Lapwing flock in the quarry had levelled out to 54.
With the Great-Northern Diver still being in residence at Ryders Mere, it would have been wrong to not visit right?
So I found myself on a muddy shoreline getting cracking views of the juvenile bird as I made my way to Chasewater for the roost. A really nice supporting cast of birds here also, which shows just how top quality this site is, particularly so being within an urban area!

Moving onto Chasewater, it actually turned into a very productive visit. Highlighted by a 2nd winter GLAUCOUS GULL which arrived quite late in the roost. White wingers have been particularly scarce in this area this winter in comparison to the last few years, so to get both within the first week of the year was good going! Add to this, 2 Caspian Gulls and 2 Yellow-Legged Gulls. A very good if very cold visit!

Following a session in West Park, I moved around to Parkes Hall, where a flock of 15 Goosanders (4 drk) greeted m. The Mute Swan remained (the first site record!) and a good flock of 28 Moorhen remained.

A little bit of dirty twitching, or actually, lets rephrase that...  I dropped into Worcester Cathedral to pay homage to the long staying, and often elusive Black Redstart. It was actually the first time I have visited the Cathedral to look for a 'Black Red', which are present most winters. I have heard tales of peope  dipping this birds regularly, but within 15 minutes, up popped the bird, quivering tail and all, out in the sun above the Stonemasons Garden. Cracking scope views were had as it flicked, flycatched and shimmied along the ledges. Always a real treat!

Having just brought a digiscoping adaptor from the Birders Store down the road, this bird was my first 'subject', and it chose to be very obliging.

(Literally the first photo I took with the new adaptor in 'field conditions;)
I spent all the time I possibly could with the bird before the time ran out on the parking meter, during which she preformed admirably!

Wanting to try out the apaptor further, we moved around the Upton Warren, where, as luck would have it, a 1st winter drake Pintail had dropped in for the day! Not a bird I see at Upton regularly, so very chuffed with that stroke of luck! A Little Egret was also still around.

I tried my luck with birds on the feeders, and this stunning mossy male Greenfinch probably turned out the best.


Another day, another visit to the mecca (Upton Warren that is). The first work party of the year, and with the allure of Jack Snipe, who could resist. Prior to work, we undertook the usual Snipe count/flush, which proved very productive, with 15 Jack Snipe, and 40+ Commons!

Now before I get rolling eyes and 'that look', it must be said that these counts are an intrinsic part of our management regime, and without them, we would never know if the habitat management is working. And as anyone can see from these results, it really is!

Birding was limited throughout the work party, but a Great-Black backed Gull flew over, a very scarce yearly visitor to the Warren, so a great tick to get under the belt so early.

The usual after work birding party moved to the Moors to finish the day, where our luck was in! At very last light, a BITTERN clambered its way to the tops of the reeds. Having had a Bittern found dead only a few days before we were very relieved to still have a bird on site. Infact, it was my first at the Warren in almost 2 years! A great way to end what is always an enjoyable, if hard day!

Another visit to West Park called, and I finally connected with the 2 Ring-necked Parakeets that had been hanging around for a while. Somehow they had managed to elude me for two weeks, but eventually nice views were had of them sqwarking on the island.

Moving onto Stubbers Green, it was very uneventful bird wise, so the less I talk the better. Hitching a ride with a friend and his companion, we then moved around to Ryders Mere, where I took a 3rd helping of Great-northern Diver. Still present and accounted for...


Having just arrived, we walked to the nearest birder, who informed us that he thought he had a Caspian Gull. Guiding me onto the bird and I was faced by an absolute cracker of an adult bird! A real classic. 'Daz white' head, small beady eye, long parallel edged bill and best of all, a huge dollop of white of p10, with that classic white tip. Stunner!

Our main target though had been eluding us, so with only 5 or so minutes of usable light remaining, we rushed around for another viewpoint on the western shoreline.
Plonking the scope down, 3 seconds worth of scanning....


Everyone was on the bird, but the reason I had came up again was to get some video. (It had been showing well for a number of days). Unfortunately it wasn't too close, and annoyingly, wherever it had been foraging it had picked up some dirt on one of its right primarys, and given how dark it was, this was only exaggerated. Not the footage I had hoped, but it gives me something to improve on!


Visited Chasewater again in the hope of finding the two headlining Gulls for Mike. Unfortunatly the Glauc was a no show, but Mike picked up the adult Caspian from a couple of nights before. After a winter of trying, I also managed to see the 'White winged' Herring Gull, which was pottering about near the powerboat club.

A rather uninspiring afternoon wardening at the Warren. The usual array of birds were present, but this Blue Tit beside the hide was looking stunning.

What January would be complete without a visit to Slimbridge WWT. With the weather not being particularly cold (despite my hands still telling me it was!) the numbers of birds around the reserve had not reached their usual peaks, with many having short stopped on the continent.
Even though not of the usual size, many of the flocks were still of huge size so certainly gave me something to scan through throughout the day! A flock of Little Stints had been hanging around with the Dunlin flock for much of the winter, and I managed to locate one fairly quickly, rather obligingly pottering about in the long grass pretty close to the hide.


The Goose and Swan flocks have been particularly low. Only around 100 White-fronted Geese were on site, add to this only 80 Bewick's Swans and you can see what I meant with my earlier statement. A single Pink-footed Goose was found however, lumbering about at the back of one of the pools on site.

3 Avocets were the first to return to the site this year, and while watching 2 GCP Common Cranes from the Sloane Tower, a distant Barn Owl started hunting the reedbeds around the Zeiss Hide, rather confusingly, at around 12:30 in the middle of the day!
A Kestrel was showing very well from one of the hides, but unfortunately the crowds in the hide meant the floor was shaking like crazy!
A walk down to West Park was livened up when this stunning Gull decided to drop onto the pool! A stunning Mediterranean Gull. A great bird for such a site, and luckily it hung around well into the winter so all could come and admire it. Funnily enough, just before I scanned the Black-headed Gulls I remember saying "Wouldn't it be funny if there was a Med Gull in that lot".... A matter of 15 seconds later and I was calling out there actually was a Med Gull in there! Amazing!

Having noticed the Med Gull was ringed as it flew off, I returned the following day in the hope it would visit again, and luckily, on my very first scan, there it was, perched out on ice revealing its leg-ring code to be PNU9.The midlands seen to have a track records with these 'PNU' birds. I have previously seen PNU4, and PNU5 has been seen a number of times, so this bird made the 3rd PNU bird to be seen in the midlands within only a few years. These Polish Med Gulls certainly do like the midlands!

The bird was seen throughout January, and continued to visit until at least the 17/02.
While trying to find the Med Gull for a friend, we were caught in a heavy snowstorm. This Shoveler looked about as happy as I was to be in such weather. (Grim)

The last afternoon of the month was spent at Upton Warren, looking at the Gular pouch angle on Cormorants. Such a glamorous life.
This Cormorant however, was looking absolutely fabulous!