Saturday, 17 June 2017

Catch Up

The week in Scotland went well but we only managed to climb one Corbett near Aviemore named Meall a’ Bhuachaille as it destroyed my legs for the rest of the week. We saw in excess of 100 species in the week with Great White Egret the only rare bird. I saw Golden Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and I caught up with the common auks on a day out with Stuart Green.

At the summit of Meall a’ Bhuachaille

Meall a’ Bhuachaille
Great White Egret, Backwater Reservoir, Angus

Joy and I also spent a long weekend in Norfolk where it was rather quiet at an exciting time of year. Staying at Thornham we didn’t travel far birding most of the time at Titchwell and Holme where the best birds were Spoonbill, Turtle Dove and Nightjar.
Turtle Dove, Titchwell

Sedge Warbler, Titchwell

I have been over to Shustoke but there has been little around although locally there was a Corncrake at Alvecote and a Red-necked Phalarope at Middleton Lakes.

Joy and I had our first twitch of the year travelling down to Church Norton in Sussex for the Elegant Tern which we eventually saw.

Distant shot of Red-necked Phalarope, Middleton Lakes RSPB


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday 10 May

Off to Scotland tomorrow climbing and birding for a week, looking forward to it.



Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday 8th May

Dropped Joy off at work and headed to the Reservoir. It was the Big Bird Race at the weekend but due to circumstances I sat this one out. Maybe next year I will cover Shustoke but I will need a handicap.  Middleton RSPB won this year with a total number of species topping 100 which is pretty good going.

On arrival there were in excess of 1,000 mixed hirundines mainly Swallow and Sand Martin but there were still c.50 House Martin. There had also been an arrival of Swift with c.300 during the morning. There were also 14 Common Tern and six Gadwall as well as several broods of Mallard the chicks of which are making the Lesser Black-backed Gulls lazy as well as fat!

I was half way around when I picked up a Whimbrel it flew in from the west, had a look and continued on its way, I think it is my first for several years. Again, it was rather cold and there was very little singing. Warblers were represented by 4 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat and 4 Chiffchaff. I haven’t had sniff of anything else, there are usually at least one Lesser Whitethroat around.

Around the back of the fishing club I thought I could hear a distant Cuckoo, I stopped but could hear nothing I had just started to walk back when I heard it again. I headed under the railway towards the sheep paddocks and it got louder, then I picked it up in the top of an Oak singing away. I was pleased as I had failed to see one last year.

On the way back there were two pairs of Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Red-legged Partridge but not a lot else.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wednesday 3rd May

It appears that parking charges have been introduced at the Reservoir, I wasn’t aware as the only machine is in the main car park. I always park by the entrance – Oh well!

There was a good north-easterly blowing today and the water was quite choppy. There were at least 34 Common Tern present at one point the all came together and circled the Reservoir, I thought they were going to depart but they settled down and carried on feeding.

The bird of the day was a Dunlin my first for at least two years, I doubt it stayed long after I left as two ladies past me with two dogs complete with ball throwing apparatus, still I enjoyed it. Two Shelduck flew past as I was changing my footwear but I didn't relocate them.

I was hoping to perform an assessment of singing birds but there was little activity, although there were two Whitethroat but they were difficult and staying low in the wind.

I had my first Grass Snake of the year, first Dragonfly and a few species of Butterfly including Brimstone.

I received an email from Paul Reay who early afternoon saw two Dunlin, a male goo sander and c.30 Swift.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Wednesday 26th April

Spent the morning at Shustoke where from the car park I could see there were c.30 Common Tern, there were c.600s hirundines with the majority Swallows, before I finished for the day I upped the estimate to closer to 1000.

I hadn’t walked far before I came across my first White Wagtail at Shustoke for a few years, bizarrely it was with a Meadow Pipit. I continued round but it was quiet with very few birds singing, but it was rather cold which was probably a contributing factor.

I decided to check out farmland on the other side of the railway and a recently ploughed field yielded two fine Wheatear and a Stoat came dancing along the road towards me apparently unaware of my presence before heading into the undergrowth.

I have a new site on the outskirts of Curdworth which looks promising it is the footpath that runs towards Water Orton through the old Sewage beds, it is very overgrown but is good for warblers and I would imagine it will be good in the Autumn. It is a large area, but unfortunately access is limited to the footpath so you are only going to see a fraction of what is available but so far I have heard/seen 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 5 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap and 1 Garden Warbler. The best bird so far was a rather brief Cuckoo which disappeared from sight over the bank never to be seen again.

Yesterday in a brief visit to Wishaw I saw a further 2 Wheatear but was driven back by the rain.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tuesday 25 April –A busy few weeks

Firstly, on a personal note, Joy and I have finally moved from our house in Shustoke, in a way I will miss it, but it was way too large for us. With the kids having both left home we really were rattling around. Also the garden was a full time job with nearly an acre of garden to look after. Whilst I can copeat the moment, in a few years time it may have been a different story.

I saw a total of 96 different species in our 15 years, with highlights being, in no particular order: Woodcock, Osprey, Goshawk, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, 3 Whinchat, 6 Stonechat, Wheatear not to mention breeding Spotted Flycatcher and annual Hobby.

Anyway back to birding, Shustoke (I still intend to cover it) has had nothing unusual, over the last month there have been steady passage of Sand Martin with, in recent weeks more and more Swallow and during the last few days a scattering of House Martin and yesterday a few Swift.

Warblers have been slow with Blackcap appearing at the beginning of April with several singing birds now present. Chiffchaff, an earlier arrival peaking at six singing birds. Whilst yesterday saw my first Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Normally there would be several Common Sandpiper but the water levels are the highest I can ever remember with very little open shoreline to attract waders. A CS was reported over the weekend and I saw one yesterday on top of one of the green floats by the car park.

RSPB Middleton has been good and over the past month there have been good birds on offer with nearly 100 Black-tailed Godwit in the past week. There have been showy Grasshopper Warblers and a good showing generally of warblers. But the bird of the year so far for North Warwickshire was a male Green-winged Teal which I missed despite spending the morning on-site – I did have a Osprey over. When news broke I returned in the evening and eventually the bird showed quite well if distantly.

I used to bird down Castle Lane but as the years moved on it became a bit of a rat run and I never felt save walking along the lane. Now I have Wishaw on my doorstep with a network of paths and quiet lanes I am looking forward to exploring this site further. These fields are well known by birders, mainly for two species that appear to be no longer present or at best very difficult Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge.

On Sunday Joy and I walked along Blindpit Lane and saw both Whinchat and Wheatear.  I returned yesterday afternoon but there was no sign of the Whincat. I walked through the field towards the Cock Inn and in a vast field with stubble had seven Wheatear on it. There could have been any number as I only had my binoculars. There were 100s of mixed corvids and 40+ Stock Dove. I carried on walking to return via Hempit Lane, it was rather windy so I didn’t find any warblers but a Peregrine went over and as I got back to the main road there were a further 5 Wheatear and 3 Yellow Wagtail.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Monday 3rd April

After two Egyptian Geese on Sunday, this morning saw four fly through, they thought about landing but in the end headed off in a southerly direction.

Other good birds today included my first Oystercatcher of the year, again it flew through and my first Common Tern, which, you’ve guessed flew through.

Other species of note were eight singing Chiffchaff and two Blackcap as well as a Kingfisher on the river.

This evening saw a flock of c100 Sand Martin accompanied by a single Swallow.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday 2nd April

Got around relatively early and it looked quiet on the birds front, the reservoir was busy with a “Boot Camp” training session going on, I haven’t seen that much stretched Lycra in my life!

There were c.30 Sand Martin but most of the flocks move straight through at this time of year, especially if the weather is good. As I was making my way round two Shelduck flew past but didn’t land, then I picked up a new species for me at Shustoke, I can’t remember if it has been recorded before at Shustoke I suspect it has, but anyway two Egyptian Geese were new for me, my first new species for a couple of years. Unfortunately, like the Shelduck they went straight through headed east.

I had another singing Blackcap between the two pools but as it was dull there wasn’t an awful lot of birds singing.

The locals give their opinion on the introduction of parking charges.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Saturday 1st April

Most of the week as seen a steady trickle of Sand Martin with my first Swallow seen on Wednesday which also had a Blackcap singing from the Car Park. Tuesday saw a single adult Little Gull which had morphed into upto six by the next day.

The best bird of the week was a Great White Egret, which unfortunately was seen flying over Blythe Bridge not at the Reservoir.

I went over this morning in the drizzle and there were c100 Sand Martin and several Swallow, there was also another Blackcap.

I look forward to the forthcoming week as things start to hot up. Hopefully we should have a few Warblers coming through and maybe a few Terns.

Keith Barnsley emailed to say he had seen c.26 Sand Martin and a distant Peregrine in the direction of Hams Hall. Plus the Skylark in the lane were still in full song.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Monday 27th March

At Long Last, a little to get excited about, Sunday saw two Shelduck and Lesser Spot with at least 6 singing Chiffchaff.

Today was even better, I was surprised to see the two Shelduck still present, but they didn’t stay long and departed in the direction of Ladywalk. At the far end there were c.60 Sand Martin wheeling around but try as I might I couldn’t find a swallow.

Back at home I was washing up when a bird in the recently ploughed field caught my eye, I got my bins which confirmed a female Wheatear, something I was expecting.

This evening Joy and I took went around the Reservoir again and we were rewarded with a Little Ringed Plover 150 yards from the car park. But the best was yet to come when I picked up a Little Gull resting on the water, it was an adult moulting into summer plumage, it was soon up and flying around. There were still c.30 Sand Martin late on, with the good news being that at last things are starting to happen.

The traffic this evening has been carnage, good luck trying to get to Shustoke.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Tuesday 21st March

Despite an early arrival, I wasn’t early enough, it was bitterly cold and rather windy so I didn’t linger. The best I managed was a couple of Sand Martin.

Monday was a lot better with two pairs of Nuthatch on-site. A small flock of a dozen Fieldfare went over heading north with a couple of Snipe and a few Meadow Pipits in the usual place. There was still a single Pochard and Kingfisher was also seen.

The Alders behind the Fishing Club held a mixed flock of Siskin, Redpoll and Goldfinch. There were still several singing Chiffchaff but its still early for good numbers of Migrants. On a personal note the field behind my house has just been plowed and is attracting really good numbers of Gulls and looks promising for Wheatear in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

18 March

With some fine Spring weather I just had to find time for a little birding. The changing of the guard started with the wintering Pochard flock departing during the week, dropping from 30+ to just one bird by Thursday. The Wigeon flock which has been steady at five birds all winter departed on Wednesday. Wildfowl have been incredibly low this winter with no Shoveler, Goldeneye and just a single Teal so far this year.

Wednesday was a stunning day and I recorded 53 species during the morning which was the best I have managed so far this year. Whilst I saw nothing special there was just a lot more around, with a birds preparing for the breeding season. I had an enjoyable ten minutes watching a pair of Treecreeper doing the human equivalent of "Can I buy you a drink", There were a few singing Song Thrush and an obvious fall of Chiffchaff with several seen.

The weather returned to normal towards the end of the week being overcast and colder. A flock of 30+ Fieldfare flew over and I also located a flock of 8 Redpoll. On Tuesday four Siskin were seen. It has been an unusually poor winter for these two species as they usually occur in good numbers making the most of the food available in the riverside Alders.

Finally, on Friday during my second visit I came across three Sand Martin, which for me heralds the start of Spring. My earliest Swallow was on the 17 March so I will be trying hard next week to see another early arrival!

Elsewhere, at Whitacre Heath NR I saw my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for two years and that took six visits! Whilst a brief visit to Middleton RSPB saw a smattering of waders with Oystercatcher, Redshank and my first LRP for the year seen.

Finally, Severn Trent are introducing parking charges for the Reservoir, I wish they would introduce charges for people walking their dogs off the leads. I have noticed that over the years the car park has also become popular with Camper Vans and Mobile Homes as an overnight stop, I suppose it is cheaper than using the official Camping & Caravan Club sites which seem to be springing up all over the place!

Friday, 10 March 2017

10 March

It has been a very disappointing winter generally in the Midlands, but Shustoke itself has been the quietest I can remember in all my years birding here. I have been over quite a few times but there has been very little to write about.

Passerines have been practically non-existent, with no flocks of Redpoll or Siskin apart from around a dozen of the later around the turn of the year. Wildfowl numbers have fared little better, although there was a good flock of 150 Pochard during February. The Wigeon flock peaked at five and they were still present on the small pool yesterday. The roosting Goosanders have struggled to reach double figures this year as well!

I have seen just one Jack Snipe and up to six Common Snipe, but the main wetland area has been partly reclaimed and I have had no Snipe there at all.

In my garden I have had few birds this winter with a single male Blackcap for half an hour the highlight. I have also had up to three House Sparrow in the last month, in 15 years I have only recorded the species twice.

As most of you will now I will be moving out of the area soon, but I will not be too far away and intent to continue birding the Reservoir and hopefully, after being rather pre-occupied selling my property I should be able to keep the blog a little bit more up to date.

Waxwing, Castle Vale

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wednesday 11th January

Made a quick visit today as I was pushed for time. Again no Great Crested Grebe, strange as this time last year there were in excess of 30. However, there was a male Goosander and c.40 Tufted Duck on the main pool and a single Pochard. Most of the wildfowl this winter have been on the small pool.

I checked an area of wet grassland where I saw four Snipe the other day, this time just a single Jack Snipe was seen with c.12 Meadow Pipit, there was also a Raven crocking away from the top of a tree.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Monday 9th January

Ventured out into the murk today and again the Reservoir was devoid of life, with nearly all the wildfowl on the small pool. And, just for SH the totals were as follows:

  1 Great Crested Grebe (year first)
14 Little Grebe
  1 Teal
  1 Mute Swan
12 Canada Geese
  1 Goosander
47 Pochard
91 Tufted Duck
  5 Wigeon

In addition I saw 4 Snipe and 11 Meadow Pipit. There was a Kingfisher on the river, whilst there were around a dozen Siskin in with the Goldfinch feeding on the riverside Alders.

The paddocks held 30+Redwing, c.20 Blackbird and 2 Song Thrush.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

AWOL - Guilty as Charged

My life has been very busy recently with my youngest son moving out of the family home three days before Xmas day. He got his own house but decided it needed a rewire, plastered top to bottom, redecorated and carpeted, new doors etc, etc., Guess who ended up doing most of the work.

I managed a couple of trips out, seeing Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire and a Blue Rock Thrush in Gloucestershire. Pre the New Year I spent two afternoons searching for Waxwings at Hams Hall without success.

Made my first visit to Shustoke Reservoir in nearly two months and it was quiet, very quiet. In fact for the first time ever I failed to see Great Crested Grebe!

Wildfowl wise c.80 Pochard, 5 Wigeon, c.60 Tufted Duck, 16 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan and c.12 Little Grebe.

Met a really helpful employee of Severn Trent today who was interested in what I was looking at if he gets in touch I may be able to get access to the pool on Watery Lane, which would be nice as I don’t think it gets covered at all at the moment.

Lastly, may I wish all my readers a Happy New Year that is bird filled 12 months to come.