Friday, 31 December 2010

On Reflection

Lanceolated warbler, Shetland Isles - bird of the year, but not photo of the year!

31st December 2010

I think for me 2010 has been a great birding year. So many memorable moments that I've forgotten some of them already. Some great twitches: the American Bittern, Mamora's and Syke's Warblers. The most satisfying tick though, was Lanceolated warbler on Shetland. By no means the rarest bird of the year but a bird I'd never got near since dipping a bird in the dark at Rimac, Lincs. sometime in the last century.
The most disappointing 'dip' though was undoubtedly missing out on the Brown Flycatcher at Buckton, East Yorks.

Enjoyed a lot of local birding this year with one or two good 'finds'. The County year list kept me on my toes. I ended up with 182 species not including a couple of noteworthy sub species. This was a couple of species better than the previous best. I must thank all those who have fed me with information from all corners of the county.
Six Waxwings have just landed in the garden again, reminding me of an unforgetable moment I'd forgotten when I woke to find 20 outside the bedroom window.
I was also lucky to have enjoyed a few very successful trips to some of the more far flung parts of the Western Palearctic region, saw some wonderful birds and met alot of really nice people.

So to Friends and Birders everywhere have a great New Year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Big flocks

Waxwings, a small portion of the flock building up on Coventry road, Hinckley, Leics.
A Mistle Thrush desparately tries to resist the invading hoards of Waxwing.

Thursday 30th December 2010

Restricted to Garden birding for much of the day as I had to stay in for a delivery which didn't arrive till the afternoon. Did manage to get to Hinckley though to see the flock of Waxwings that is building up there. I counted 91 birds initially but there were considerably more than that by the time I left, maybe a couple of hundred. It was quite foggy and also raining so I sat in the car near the Rowans they were feeding on. When they came down it was chaos with a Mistle Thrush desperately trying to keep them away. The birds were also easily flushed by a steady stream of passers-by. At one point the birds were trying to grab berries virtually in flight and a hail of berries rained down on the car roof. I wouldn't mind but its had its annual wash already!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

White fronted Geese near Kingsbury

White fronted Geese, part of a flock of 55 birds with Canada geese in fields along Bodymoor Heath Lane, Kingsbury, North Warks.

White fronted Geese

Pink footed Goose with Canadas

White fronted Geese

Tuesday 28th December 2010

A dull, damp, windless day but much milder than of late. My family had dispersed so in theory it was birding time again BUT there were still things needing to be done so as the fog closed in mid afternoon I was resigned to not doing any birding for another day. That was until Jan alerted me to the fact that my redundant mobile was ringing somewhere in the house. I located the phone but missed the call. When I realised it was none other than TP himself I was spurred into action. There were 55 White fronted geese with the Berwicks swans at Bodymoor Heath, Kingsbury. Did I have enough time before dusk? Well, we'd just have to see wouldnt we. Paul Hyde who found the White fronts, and Steves, Haynes and Cawthray were on site when I got there. Excellent, nice to see a flock of White fronted geese (184) like that in the County along with the Bewicks and a single Pink footed Goose. I'm indebted to Tom Perrins for taking the trouble to phone to check I'd picked up the original message which I hadn't. Cheers Tom I owe you one.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Thanks

Christmas Eve
After some last minute shopping for like 10 gallons of milk etc. I managed to get to Coton for a much needed White fronted Goose. By the time I got there there it was a beautiful day but unfortunately no sign of the goose. Did get to see the red head Smew though and great views of the Bittern so it was well worth the trip.

Anyway many thanks to all those who have shown interest in the blog and particularly to those 'followers' and others who have been so supportive with their positive comments over the year, and in conclusion:

'May I wish a Happy and Peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New year to you all' - Queens speech 2010

Woodcock in the Snow


Tell tale signs of Woodcock activity, this 3 hole pattern was repeated at regular intervals as the Woodcock probed the grass and leaf litter below the snow.

Thursday 23rd December 2010

Having checked out the Rowans in Grendon and found that instead of the 2 Waxwings there yesterday, there were now 21, I moved on to some woodland. I was delighted to find 3 Woodcock. The first one was flushed but the other 2 were watched for some time probing the snow out in the open. Quite a treat.
I'd picked up a pager message earlier in the day about a Mediterranean Gull at Long Lawford near Rugby. I still needed Med. for my County year list but after dithering had decided to stay local. When the message was repeated in the afternoon I decided I had to go for it although the light was starting to fade. I eventually got to Long Lawford and started to look for gulls, even when I found the right road there were few gulls and I feared I'd missed the boat. I then spotted Helen waving at me and JJ and I took up a vantage point where John had seen the gull throughout the day. It wasnt too long before the Mediterranean Gull (183) showed well, flying around with a couple of Black headed gulls at roof top height. It had been an eventful dead the only down side was finding a Tawny Owl dead on the road on the way to the Brewery.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

4 Thrushes, 8 Swans, c20 Waxwings and Several thousand Wood Pigeon

Four species of Thrush in the garden early this morning although none of them stayed long and the Mistle Thrush was a fly over. Garden birds have been few and far between despite the harsh weather but there has been a small flock of Long tailed tits and a few Goldfinch today as well as the regular Coal tits and Chaffinches and common garden species. I haven't seen a Wren or a Greenfinch in the garden for months.

Song Thrush

Swan flock, including 4 adult and 4 juvenile Bewick Swans off Bodymoor Heath lane, Kingsbury

Wednesday 22nd December 2010 later:

Managed to get out for a short but quite eventful couple of hours in the afternoon. On the way up the A5 to Kingsbury a few Waxwings flew over the dual carriageway at Atherstone and landing in trees next to the Industrial estate. Further on I popped in to Grendon to find 2 Waxwings on 'my' Rowans but they didnt stay long due to the attentions of a very hostile Mistle Thrush. Near the junction of the A5 and the M42 the vast expanse of white towards Birchmoor was punctuated with black dots. There must have been several thousand Wood pigeon on the ground.
Arrived at Bodymoor Heath lane to find Graham Mant and Dave Hutton viewing the flock of swans at the back of the field, one with scope and one with camera. The Bewick's were quite distant and out of range for my camera. Dave and I drove back to Mancetter but there was no sign of any Waxwings in the area they were reported yesterday. However, I had to drive up the A5 again later and again a flock of over 20 Waxwing flew over the A5 into the industrial estate.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Waxwings in Leicestershire

Waxwing, Burbage, Leics.


Song Thrush, the tongues of many birds contains 5 bones which accounts for the 'jointed' appearance shown here which allows the thrush to manipulate the berry.


Waxwing, showing off with two berries


Sunday 9th December 2010

Getting preoccupied with Waxwings I'm afraid. They seems to becoming as much a part of the British winter bird scene as a Robin perched on an old garden spade. The big advantage of Waxwings is they come to you or at least a Rowan tree near you. Which with the driving conditions we have across the country at the moment is no bad thing. So as my nearest Waxwing location was at Burbage, Leicestershire I decided to have another go having drawn a blank yesterday. Again no Waxwings but my disappointment was tempered by meeting up with localish birder Carl Baggott. No substitute for a tree full of Waxwings but nice to meet up with an old friend. Apparently a flock of 45 or so had been seen that morning but had been flushed by a Sparrowhawk and so were unlikely to return for some time. I went home to take Jan into town to find we had both forgotten a date for coffee with some friends. Oops and apologies. After our belated visit I went back to Burbage. This time there were Waxwings about I counted 23 although numbers fluctuated.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Urban birding

Waxwing, Tomkinson Road, Nuneaton



Mistle Thrush



Friday 17th December 2010

I'd intented to go over to Burbage near Hinckley in Leicestershire to look for the flock of 50+ Waxwings seen yesterday but when Dave Hutton found a group of Waxwings near his home I was spoilt for choice. Burbage would have been nearer but its nice to see Waxwings in your own town. I joined Dave after the last heavy snow shower of the morning and we commuted between the groups of Rowans the birds had been feeding on. No sign. After a warming coffee at Dave's place we had one more look around before it was time to move on. As I drove back towards town 2 Waxwings flew across the road. As I parked up a number of Waxwings flew round and attempted to land on a couple of Rowans before flying off again and disappearing over the houses. I phoned Dave and waited to see if the birds would return to the Rowan tree in a small park opposite the Cherry tree pub. Two of them obliged before being pushed off by the local Mistle Thrush. Frustrating for the Waxwings who needed to feed but also for the photographer who just wanted a couple of record shots for his blog, the Waxwings were never allowed to settle. The Mistle thrushes didnt seem to mind the Redwings or Blackbirds raiding their stash but took great exception to the Waxwings everytime they got anywhere near the berries. The sun was now quite bright during the afternoon and luckily I was able to grab a couple of shots.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Making the effort

Thursday 16th December

The weather forecast was spot on; rain, followed by sleet followed by snow. I stuck out the rain bit in the hide at Coton. It was drier than trapesing round Dosthill but only just. I heard a Cetti's, saw a Willow tit and a pair of Goosander and that was it. I checked out the Gulls from the relative comfort of my car at the Water Ski centre but no sign of the recent Glaucous gull. I pondered as I scanned through the flocks I could see for the n'th time whether the improved car access to the centre was such a good thing. Sure it was very useful for lazy birders like me to do a bit in lousy weather but it must surely increase the number of dogs being walked and allowed to roam over the mounds. Just a thought.
By the time the rain had changed to sleet and snow I was back home getting Christmas decorations out of the loft and doing a bit of baby sitting, preparing the evening curry and looking foward to watching the highlights of the Test match. I just wish it wasn't on quite so late but you've got to make the effort. I might even fit in a pint at the Church End Brewery if the weather isnt too bad.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

To list or not to list.

Tuesday 14th December 2010

Well, where to start? Theres not much point in telling you good folk what I haven't seen or what I haven't managed to get a stunning image of, but blogging is not just for Christmas its a lifelong commitment or until I get fed up of doing it. No I'll have to find something to prattle on about. I have been after certain 'target' species in the last week, for my list you understand, and seen precisely zilch. I've looked at miles of hedges, loads of fields full of gulls even managed an hour checking the gull roost at Draycote and come up with absolutely nothing. When your bird of the day is a Curlew closely followed by a Goldcrest is there any point in telling the world about it? Raven, dont forget to tell them about the Raven at Lawford Heath. No, the trouble is when you focus on seeing particular species a) you get disappointed if you dont see them and b) you miss out on seeing what else is about on your local patch.
So tomorrow I shall be mostly doing birding of a general nature. That is if it dont rain or hail or snow or flood too much.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bittern at Dosthill N.R.

Bittern, Dosthill N.R., Staffs.




Thursday 9th December 2010

Had such a nice time in the Tame valley the other day I decided to go again. Started at Coton before moving on to Lea Marston. A single Little Egret flew through Coton but little else of note apart from a good number of Common gulls, almost outnumbering the Black headed gulls.

At Dosthill I was greeted by a couple of Curlew but there were no passerines on the mounds only a small flock of Chaffinch on the river bank so I carried on Dosthill N.R. where I met John Harris who was looking at the large number of gulls on the ice. He picked out a Yellow legged gull before I carried on in my search for anything with wings. Sparrowhawks seemed to be everywhere and a single Kestrel was seen. On the way back a Bittern posed at the front of the reedbed, probably my first in the Fisher's Mill/Dosthill area certainly the first of the winter.
Total No. of species reported in Warwickshire in 2010 is now : 204

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Draycote Water emerges from the fog.

Draycote Water






Redpoll sp

Draycote Water



Tuesday 7th December 2010

Draycote Water was today's destination but again as I arrived the whole valley was shrouded in mist. Oh well, having travelled from afar it was worth having a bit of a walk and checking the edges which were visible. By the time a got to Rainbow corner the mist had begun to lift and by the time I got to the Valve tower it was a glorious day. The freezing mist had coated the vegetation making the shoreline bushes look like coral. It was breathtaking as more of the views became bathed in Sunshine. At Rainbow corner a solitary Redpoll sp fed in the birches. Along Draycote Bank were a large number of Goosander and 3 Dunlin flew past. I walked back and round to Toft. The Drake Smew showed well but there was no sign of the Sanderling which had been seen the previous day. At Toft a large gull looked interesting; leggy, pink legs, dark wing coverts, sloping forehead etc. I need to look in the book. Watch this space.

Monday, 6 December 2010


Monday 6th December 2010

It was a lovely day when I left home, seemed a good idea to see if I could find any birds in the Tame valley. Wrong, by the time I'd got past Atherstone it was 'orrible. After checking the Rowans in Grendon I carried on in the hope visibility would improve, it didnt. I sat in the hide at Coton with Paul Hyde and looked out at grey, just grey. The water, what you could see of it was grey, it merged into the fog/mist which was also grey. Occasionally we lifted our bins as a dark shape drifted by - Coot. 4 Bullfiches and a Robin did their best to brighten the scene but they were fighting a losing battle. I left Paul to give Shustoke a try, I needed the walk. You could just about make out the edge of the ice so there was the chance of seeing a wagtail or a wader. In fact there were both. First a Redshank, then a solitary Dunlin and then a Grey Wagtail. Joy.
As my route back took me close to Hurley I saw a group of smallish geese flying away.Unfortunately they kept going and so did I. By the time I got to Bentley Woods it was a beautiful day again. The trees looked fantastic covered in frost and I enjoyed the walk although there were very few birds to be seen.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Dunlin on ice

3 of the six Curlew over Shustoke res.

Dunlin, Shustoke Res.



Friday 3rd December 2010

Having wandered about in the snow at Dosthill in the morning it was time for a coffee and sausage and egg sandwich at the Cedars before moving on to Coton. Not many wildfowl considering it offered the biggest area of ice free water in the area. 3 male Goosander flew over and a pair of Kingfishers flew up and down the river but no sign of the pair of drake Smew which had been reported earlier. They may well have been on the back pool but I didn't feel inclined to look and decided to go to Shustoke instead. The morning sun had gone and the temperature was falling as I began the walk round. A pair of Knot reported earlier were worth looking for but by the time I was nearly half way round they had become a pair of Dunlin. The birds were on the very edge of the ice searching the cracks in the concrete for any food item they could find. As I walked back I noticed 6 Partridges in an adjacent field and 6 Curlew flew over. It was cold but great to be out again.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Tales from the river bank.

The River Tame on the Warks. / Staffs. border

Water Rail on the banks of the River Tame

Water Rail

Water Rail

Grey Heron

Northern Lapwing

Grey Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

Meadow pipit

Part of a flock of over 30 Goldeneye on the river Tame near Fisher's Mill

Siberian landscape

Friday 3rd December 2010

With most of Middleton lakes frozen over avian activity was restricted to the River Tame and the small pockets of open water which remained. Here are a few images from along the river today