Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Around Kingsbury

Tuesday 31st March 2009

The images of the Cetti's and the Wren were taken at Brandon yesterday. Just as well I've included them 'cos there wasn't much doing today. Anyway about yesterday,I rather let myself down getting so excited about a Teal. The 'Blurred Birder' (very good West Mids Blog) was almost scathing, 'only a Common Teal, It'll be lumped, were all doomed '. Actually what ever you call it it was a cracking bird although it was difficult to see well yesterday as it stayed amongst the Willows, easier today apparently. Yesterdays photos showed the beautiful and subtle differences in the plummage of the Western Pal. and Nearctic versions.

Today started slowly and continued that way. The reason it started slowly was that I explored an area of reclaimed slag heaps that I'd not been to before not far from Kingsbury. Hang on, can I still say 'slag' I dont want to be politically incorrect. I'd better call them spoil heaps. Anyway bit of climbing but some great views and good migrant habitat, thought I'd at least get a Wheatear but had to content myself with Meadow pipits and Skylarks, displaying, Green Woodpeckers, Mistle Thrush, Common Snipe and Raven plus a new Moth for me an Orange Underwing in the Silver Birches.

After a coffee at the Lemon tree cafe, Kingsbury it was on to the Water Park. A quick look over the southern lakes produced nothing of interest. At Broomey Croft a pair of Swallows flew around the buildings and on Cliff pool apart from hoardes of Black headed Gulls were Little ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Little Egret and Green Sandpiper. On the meadow a couple were blissfully unaware of the array of expensive optical aids which could have detected their every movement. I havent a clue what they were up to but they walked right round the edge of Cliff pool to do it. Flushing everything as they went! There was quite alot going on inside the hide too with notables Ron Thomas, Brian Kington and Steve Cawthray it was like the Brain's Trust the amount of local knowledge between them is remarkable.

I ended the day with a quick visit to Middleton and Fishers Mill. Quite a lot of RSPB activity at Fisher's Mill still so few birds except Gulls but the first Blackcap (128) of the spring was singing in the wood.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Green winged Teal

Monday 30th March 2009

The day started normally enough, didn't see the Lesser spotted Woodpecker at Brandon Marsh N.R. , nothing unusual there. Did see my first Little ringed Plover (126) of the year on East Marsh along with 2 Ringed Plovers, and got some decent views of a Cetti's warbler. A few Sand Martins and several Swallows passed through. A small group of Lesser Redpoll fed on the ground near the path overlooking Newlands and Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Jay, Wheatear, Great spotted and Green Woodpecker were also seen. I met up with Max who very kindly bought me a Coffee but that was when the fun began...I'd just taken my first sip and was pondering with Max how Paul Doherty got such fantastic footage of Owls when I happened to glance at my pager. Green winged Teal - Draycote Water. A serious Senior moment followed - my coffee was too hot so the nice lady put some cold milk in it, but I still had to drink it, time was slipping by. What a performance - Max was beginning to have doubts about my sanity. Apologies.

At Draycote I headed for Toft bay. There was no information on the pager about location but Toft seemed the logical place to start. Daisy May was already looking from the hide but it wasnt until he checked the banks near the new boardwalk that the bird was located amongst the willows. Although close in the Green winged Teal (127) was very elusive. It was only my second in Warwickshire.
Other species seen at Draycote : Sand Martin, Swallow, Wheatear, Meadow pipit, Red necked Grebe

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Raptor Watch

Sunday 29th March 2009
Didn't want to venture too far today but it was such a great day I had to do a bit. Started off just up the road near Higham on the Hill, Leicestershire I know, but hey. Lots of Common Buzzard activity with a few Yellowhammer brightening up the hedges and Chiffchaff singing. Moved back to higher ground near Merevale Hall which gives outstanding views to the east. You can just see Skegness if youve had too many pints of 'Rest in Peace'. Again Common Buzzards everywhere but also saw 4 Ravens, 2 Sparrowhawks and a Peregrine.
On to Warton and a walk over towards the M42 plenty of Common Buzzards but precious little else, a few pairs of Reed Buntings, a couple of Yellowhammer and a few Skylarks were on show, a single Swallow seemed out of place but was a welcome sight nonetheless.

Next stop was the Farm shop at Grendon for supplies and then on to Alvecote pools. Mill pool had 5 Shelduck and a few Lapwing. I followed the hedge to look for waders on Teal pool but turned at the end of the hedge to see an Osprey (125) flying away from me over Mill pool. It was quite high but eventually turned to circle over the North end of the pool. I fired off a few record shots hoping the bird would fly back towards me but it drifted on over the Pretty Pigs pool and continued on its way north. I phoned Archie Archer who managed to get a distant view of the bird from near his house. I know Ospreys are being seen fairly regularly in the Midlands now but it still gives me a thrill to see one in the local area.

After all that excitment it was back to the car for some refreshment. I have recorded the final tragic moments in the life of an Ascot Pork pie (see photo) its fate sealed as only seconds later it is devoured by yours truely. Theres no room for sentiment, Pork pies are created to be eated and enjoyed.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Answers to Quiz

Friday 27th March 2009
Just on the off chance anyone is in the slightest bit interested here are the answers to last weeks little Quiz.

Grasshopper warbler Brandon
Lesser Whitethroat Sumburgh Head
Twite Sumburgh Head
Tree pipit Cyprus
Ortolan Cyprus
Nightingale Lesbos
Woodchat Cyprus
Cetti's warbler Lesbos
Rock sparrow(minus tail) Cyprus
Blue rock Thrush Cyprus
Sub-alpine warbler Cyprus
Blyth's Reed warbler Shetland

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Quite white

Wednesday 25th March 2009

Didn't try too hard today I must admit. Such a grey day I felt distinctly grey myself. Thought I'd picked up a White wagtail at Broomey Croft but it was just an intermediate 1st winter / 1st summer Pied - see photo.

Father Christmas was still doing his Aerobics sessions on Canal pool and despite struggling to hold his erection in the gale force wind was proving successful in deterring the Black headed Gulls who have moved en masse to Cliff pool. Other birds seen on Cliff today : Common Snipe, Shelduck and Oystercatcher

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Basic instincts

Tuesday 24th March 2009

The venue for todays Birding adventure was based on the old tried and tested methods combining the latest technology and instinct based on years of experience. An holistic approach whatever that means. So I looks at me pager, thats the technoloy bit. Kittiwakes at Rutland Water. A-Ha ! Now the instinct bit, me hair is all over the place, must be very windy. If its windy then must be a chance of seabirds at Draycote Water. Fine, decision made. However the whole thing falls apart if things change.
Firstly the technology is only as good as the data fed into it. So the 3 Kittiwakes at Rutland becomes 1 Kittiwake and no longer constitutes an influx. Cant they count up to 3 in Leicestershire, perhaps they all wear gloves being that bit closer to Siberia. Now at this point I feel I should include a disclaimer as I know, having lived there, that most people in Leicestershire have got a bloody good sense of humour probably something to do with the football team or making ladies tights, I dont know. Anyway no offence intended.

OK so the other part of the equation, the instinct bit, let me down as when I got to Draycote the wind had been downgraded to a strong breeze. No self respecting sea bird would be diverted from its true course in such conditions. So with no prospects of finding anything vaguely Paleagic it was more photos of Grebes and Divers with a nice Wheatear thrown in.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Up the Villa

Monday 23rd March 2009
If you support a Football team, the second thing you think about on a Sunday or in this case a Monday morning is how you're team did the previous day. It'll give you a lift, a bit of a buzz or if you're team was stuffed by Liverpool you need something to distract you asap. For me the perfect tonic is a day's Birding - you can make you're own arrangements.
So to the Hams Hall distribution Park to wander round any bits of waste ground I can find. Almost immediately a Ringed Plover(122) flies over calling and then on some waste ground two Wheatear (123) are located. Despite a strong wind its a good start to the day even though theres no sign of the Black Redstart which was reported yesterday. Moving on to the Sailing lake at Kingsbury Water Park the rain begins but theres time to check for Hirundines before the heavens open, at least 20 Sand Martins are feeding over the water.

As the rains continue its time for lunch, a Gales pastie - a tasty alternative to Pork pie and very local. However, difficult to eat in a confined space, a bit dry and crumbly so you need some sort of plate or container but half a pastie is very filling.
Next stop Broomey Croft and Moan of the day: Why do people put bird food on the benches? Not one bench but every single bench in the place had seeds, nuts and who knows what rotting away. Benches are for people, fortunately I dont need to sit down every 5 minutes but some people do. So its a bit stupid to use benches as bird tables. Some people seem to want to turn wildlife into pets....

Birds seen on the Water Park: Chiffchaff, Lesser Redpoll, Oystercatcher, Common Snipe, Redshank, Goldeneye.
At Coton a single Swallow (124) battles against the wind while a Green Woodpecker clings to the large oak near the hide.

Back at Hams hall I meet up with Steve Cawthray. We both scan the waste ground and soon relocate the Wheatears and also the Black Redstart and a couple of Red legged Partridge.
A good days birding and I hadn't given the Villa a second thought.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Love is in the air

Saturday 21st March 2009
Isn't March shooting past? After the initial arrival of early migrants signs of migration seems to have slowed a bit although a few more Chiffchaff were singing at Brandon Marsh today and several Sand Martin were over East Marsh. It was such pleasant weather I couldn't stay in all day. There was plenty of activity at Brandon most of it quite noisey as the fishermen prepared for their season by clearing trees from various fishing ponds. On East marsh the Oystercatchers were particularly active in their initial attempts at mating and there were encouraging numbers of Common Snipe. A Coot did its best to take the Micky out of the Photographers in the Carlton hide by wearing its own camouflage. So nothing spectacular just nice to be out.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Testing times 2

Friday 20th March 2009
Time for another little test, not all these shots were taken in the UK but are potential Spring migrants with a couple of exceptions. I think they get progressively more difficult from the top down. See what you think.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Goats remembered

Thursday 19th March 2009

Unable to get out and about for a couple of days due to having my 6 pack repaired. Rather inconvenient cos I'm missing out on a Tame valley birders Curry night and a pint with the Church End Thursday night Club. Still important to get fit for the deluge of Mediterranean overshoots that descend on the Midlands in the next couple of months.

The next bit comes courtesy of Max Silverman who felt I'd achieved 'old goat' status. Cheers Max. There are still a few characteristics of goats that I haven't yet acquired. My experience of goats particularly in Cyprus, Lesbos and Fuerteventura is that as well as being picturesque on a distant hill, up close they're are not so endearing. Their digestive systems produce considerable quantities of Methane gas, which is emitted at regular intervals. The reason Goats have bells is not to produce an evocative soundtrack to a walk through aromatic hillsides of Mediterranean islands but rather to drown the sounds of the incessant farting of these wandering ruminants. Anyway it got me thinking about Goats and Birds, as you do, and I remember some goat farms on my travels that have attracted some good birds.

On Fuerteventura, at Los Molinos the area around the goat farm had Egyptian Vultures at close quarters, with Barbary Falcon, Plain and Pallid Swift also seen there. The area around the Goat farm, at Anarita Park, near Paphos, Cyprus was notable for wintering Finsch's Wheatear, Lesser Kestrel and Rock Thrush while the Goat farm at the start of the track up the Potamia valley on Lesbos regularly held Sombre tit, Middle spotted Woodpecker with Olive tree warbler a little further up the valley.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Red Kite Day

17th March 2009
Had to go over to Wellesbourne this morning so took the opportunity of taking a walk around Wasperton. The main aim was to locate Corn Bunting at this formerly reliable site but it was such a pleasant day it was nice to walk over to Charlecote across the flood meadows. Still plenty of Fieldfares about, c100 on the meadows plus a small number of Redwing. Also plenty of Skylark but no Corn Bunting. I had a chat with a local farmer who explained he had turned over several fields to growing trees rather than cereal crops, perhaps a reason for the apparent decline in Corn Bunting numbers in the area. Other species seen Treecreeper, Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Yellowhammer.

With a good deal of the day left I moved on to Draycote water. Inspired decision as it turned out. As I started to walk towards Toft a large raptor flying low disappeared behind trees around the old dinghy park. I ran up the steps of the ex cafe to get some height (being a short arse can be a disadvantage some times). Even though the bird continued to fly away there was no mistaking the profile of a Red Kite. Only my second in Warwickshire, the first being at Brandon Marsh last year. I managed to get some distant record shots and some very distant record shots as the Kite gained height and circled over the Grandborough valley. According to Richard Mays Draycote is enjoying a good run of Raptor sightings, with records of Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier as well as Red Kite in the past few days.
Other species seen during the afternoon: Chiffchaff, Great northern Diver, Goosander, Grey Wagtail and Meadow pipit