Thursday, 14 January 2016

Wednesday 13th January

In the morning I walked around Shustoke, the Great Northern Diver was still present but surprisingly elusive, again there was no sign of the Red-crested Pochard. The wildfowl numbers were pretty static with the same two Wigeon on the small pool still.

I walked down the river where there were good numbers of Siskin and Goldfinch in the riverside larch. There were at least half a dozen Lesser Redpoll amongst them. I checked out my field near the Sheep paddocks but there were only a few Bunting with numbers well down on last years totals.

My search for Woodcock took me off the paths and I was surprised to find in some of the more sheltered areas that some of the Hawthorn were in leaf! It was certainly cooler today and I can’t help but think these plants will get caught out with a cold snap.

The afternoon saw me making another attempt at the Ladywalk Bittern. It seems if I go in the morning the bird shows in the afternoon, if I go in the afternoon it shows in the morning. So I found myself heading straight to Riverwalk hide determined not to leave until I had connected. Signs weren’t good the bird had been seen briefly twice earlier, and the hide was full of disappointed punters, bemoaning their luck. After about 90 minutes and a bit of banter, I was being painted as the villain of the peace! Twice I heard “It’s his fifth trip – its down to him”.

A late arrival announced that birds usually showed just as he tucked into his sandwiches! After two hours continually scanning the reeds I was getting a little bored. I looked at my watch 3.30pm, it was looking like another blank. I heard the sandwich box opening and started another sweep, I detected a bit of moment in the left hand channel, straining my eyes I concentrated on the spot and then there was another movement and the Bittern walked into view I shouted out but the bird carried on walking into the dense cover. All I could hear was the guy next to me’s camera shutter clicking away and someone choking on a sandwich! At that point another couple came into the hide literally 30 seconds too late! I continued to scan the area and again picked up moment as the bird rearranged its feathers and with that it started to walk back along the entrance to the channel, it proceeded to jump across the gap and walk straight into the main reed bed. All in all it was on show for less than 30 seconds but I left the hide a happy and relieved man. No doubt I will now see Bittern several times and will be tripping over them – I wish!

One final note in the car park at Ladywalk there were two Brown Rats feeding on the bird table, I have an annual battle each Autumn with rats in my garden so far I’m 14 - 0 up. But this year I’m only just on top, they are persistent little buggers. Anyway, I digress I walked right up to these two and was that close that I peered through the cage at them, and they took no notice of me! I could have touched them if I had chose too. If any of the people that run the Reserve want the problem solving I have the experience and the firepower, you know who to call!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Tuesday 12 January


The Great Northern Diver was still present today, yesterdays Red-crested Pochard apparently flew off late morning, I had a good search this afternoon but to no avail.

There were still in the region on 80 Pochard with an increase of Gadwall which were into double figures – just. Interestingly there were two Wigeon on the small pool which were feeding on the grassy bank, a bit of a throwback to when we used to had a good number wintering. If nothing else it is an increase on last years high of one!

I had a search for Snipe but only turned up one Common Snipe I did however put up a flock of eleven Meadow Pipit.

When I was about as far away from the car as I could get, the sky darkened and I got absolutely drenched.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sunday 10th January

My eldest rescued me today when he phoned to see if the wife wanted to go shopping – RESULT! Anyway, Joy dropped me at Wishaw and I had a pleasant few hours walking the lanes looking for a few year ticks. I managed three with Little Owl (please don’t asked I am sworn to secrecy) there were around 30 Golden Plover where I normally see them but further in the distance there were around 150+ up in the air at one time.

I made my way to the church then around Blind Pit Lane where there was an impressive 200+ Rook and a little further up the lane I saw my first Grey Partridge of the year. Also seen were a good number of Skylark on the stubble in the vicinity of the Bee Hives. All in all not a bad day with the youngest son and his partner cooking Sunday lunch it was a pleasant Sunday.

The Gt Northern Diver was still present and the Scaup turned out to be a hybrid when it came closer. I have to say it did look small even at a distance. I would not be surprised in one half of its parentage turned out to be Lesser Scaup.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Wednesday 6th January

Spent the morning planting bulbs! Not my choice!

Received a message to say that a Great Northern Diver had appeared at the Reservoir. I packed everything away and headed over. The bird was ridiculously close and showed really well before disappearing briefly. Also present was a Scaup which was rather distant.

I then went to the Gravel Pits where I met Bobby D for the 2nd time in the day a roosting Barn Owl performed well but I had to wait until dusk for the Short-eared Owl to appear. Whilst we were there a Little Egret flew past.

Great Northern Diver, Shustoke Reservoir

Great Northern Diver, Shustoke Reservoir

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Tuesday 5th January

Firstly, yesterday I spent the morning at Ladywalk NR, where I managed to miss a Bittern even though I was sat next to the person who saw it (Dave Hutton). I heard the shout, just didn’t pick it up as it flew a few yards before doing what Bittern do best! There was a good selection of birds but my day was cut short by a phone call summonsing me for some emergency dog walking!

Today I made my first visit to Shustoke of the year, and bearing in mind that I only saw 111 species there last year I thought 53 species in a day wasn’t bad,  I also missed a couple of Dollies into the bargain. Highlights today, in no particular order included: Snipe, Golden Plover, Goosander, Siskin, Treecreeper, Yellowhammer and Raven. The Golden Plover were in the air over the Botts Green area but I’m counting them.

After missing the Bittern yesterday I thought I would have another go this afternoon. I walked to the reserve and went straight to Riverwalk hide, the car park was full, so I was rather surprised when I got into the hide to find it empty! I sat there for an hour and a half but no Bittern showed. I did see Water Rail and Kingfisher and as dusk approached I walked along the river to view Whiteacre Heath NR where there had been Short-eared Owl, the phrase HAD BEEN explains all you need to know. Looks like Coleshill GPs tomorrow night.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Happy New Year

Finished the year off quietly I had to make a few trips to Scotland towards the end of the year and birding was difficult although I did manage to catch up with American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal for the year. I actually finished on my best ever total for the UK with 247 species seen I haven’t decided yet wether to make a determined effort to beat that this year I will have to wait and see.

Shustoke last year was very disappointing with (off the top of my head) No Black Tern, Little Gull – very few waders and I didn’t even catch up with Spotted Flycatcher. There were no real highlights the Red-crested Pochard, Scaup and Common Sandpiper from 2014 stayed well into the new year. Apart from a Med Gull, three Whinchat and a couple of Black-tailed Godwit there was nothing to get excited about, lets hope this year is better – it could hardly be worse. For the record I ended up with 111 as a year total.

Scaup, Draycote Water

Smew, Draycote Water

On the 1st Joy and I walked around Draycote Water seeing everything that was on offer whilst in the afternoon we paid a brief visit in the rain to Middleton RSPB where we connected with a couple of Bewick Swan.
Bewick Swan, Middleton RSPB
The 2nd saw us make an effort at long last to see the Wall Heath Hoopoe which showed well. I dropped into my old haunt of the Sandwell Valley just as the rain started but Joy and I connected with a couple of Ring-neck Parakeets, the first Joy had seen since Sri Lanka!

Hoopoe, Wall Heath
Today, I have been waiting for the rain to relent but had given up with Joy back at work tomorrow I should have a bit of time to venture forth.

Amazingly on Boxing Day I saw a Bumble Bee flying around.  Whilst on Saturday I got out of the car on the drive to be head butted by a Wasp! Maybe the Winter has got a sting in the tail!

Also, in early December on Castle Lane there was a Bat flying around in broad daylight, the weather really has been rather mild.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year with lots of bird filled days. Roll on the Spring.


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Tuesday 8th December

Yesterday saw me doing my usual walk around the Reservoir and surrounding areas, it was, as it has been for most of the year, quiet.

However, I did flush a Woodcock, which was the first for the year. The Common Sandpiper was still present, strangely is was associating with a small flock of around a dozen Meadow Pipits. Apart from around eight Snipe it was quiet. I went around this afternoon seeing very little in addition to yesterday apart from a couple of Raven.

The approach road to Blythe Mill has been providing good views of both Short-eared and Barn Owl. Access isn’t easy as the footpath from Water Lane is probably the best, although parking might be a problem. Get as far as the bridge and scan the rough area back towards the Mill and the main road. I was there this afternoon and there was a Short-eared Owl although this was tempered by the sight of a Mute Swan flying into the pylon cables and plunging to its death! Put the mockers on a good day.