Sunday, 31 January 2010

'What the Foxes Hat' !

Fox, Fisher's Mill

Fox Fisher's Mill



Sunday 31st January 2010

Went back to the Tame valley yesterday after a quick look at Alvecote. There were a pair of Shelduck on Mill pool and that was about it. At Fishers Mill there was no sign of the Glaucous gull and with a report that a 2w was back at Albert village yesterday it may be safe to assume that the bird had returned to its more regular haunts in South Derbys. I also missed out on the drake Pintail which has been moving between various pools. On the other hand a drake Smew seems to have settled for the southern Drayton Bassett pool. Had an encounter with a very photogenic Fox which seemed to be pondering where its next meal was coming from. Very few birds around Coton, a Kingfisher was good to see on the river and a single Common Snipe was in front of the hide but not surprisingly very few Duck or Grebes.

PS The title is pinched from a popular beer from the Church End Brewery.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Warwickshire Birds in 2010

Saturday 30th January

Quite a quiet week in Warwickshire with no new birds at Draycote or Brandon but The Tame valley produced 4 new birds in the form of White fronted Goose, Mealy Redpoll (treated here as a separate species), Grey Plover and Glaucous Gull. I managed to see the Redpolls and Glaucous gull and also added Peregrine during the week to bring my total number of species seen in the County to 109. With the addition of other birds reported in Warwickshire numbering 13,

the total number of species reported in Warwickshire during January is 122

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Glaucous Gull at Middleton Lakes

Glaucous Gull, Fisher's Mill

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull 2w

Glaucous Gull 2w

Thursday 28th January 2010
It had been a fairly regulation visit, a check of most of the likely large wheat fields round Bodymoor Heath looking for Geese and then a walk round the Water Park ending up at Fishers Mill. A couple of Little Egrets, a few Jays and a few small flocks of Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinch were the highlights. I met Geoff Williams at Fisher's Mill and he passed on the news that John Mallinson had just spotted a 2nd or 3rd winter Glaucous Gull from his vantage point on one of the Dosthill mounds. It didnt take Geoff and myself long to pick out the Glaucous gull on the more northerly Fisher's Mill pool in company with a few other large gulls. White winged gulls have been few and far between in the Midlands so far this winter so this one was a real treat.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

No go areas in theTame valley

Blackcap, Ladywalk Nature Reserve


Whose watching who?


Wednesday 27th January 2010

Felt I'd neglected the Tame valley so it was overdue a visit. I started at Kingsbury Water Park. Not because I expected to see any birds but it was somewhere handy to park. Met Chris Cooke and we checked out Richards meadow for a reported Stonechat before going our separate ways. I carried on up to Fisher's Mill, there were alot of Gulls on the next pool north, including a Yellow legged Gull. The walk back proved equally fruitless. I moved on to Coton, at least that was the plan. There was a pick up parked at the entrance to the Car park in an unusual position but I didn't give it alot of thought as I gathered my gear together to give the pool a quick scan. As I approached the pick up a bloke jumped out to bar my path. 'Its closed' he said. 'We're shooting, um culling', should'nt be long now.' I was a bit stunned. 'Not many ducks on there' I said. Bit of an understatement if they'd been blasting away all morning. You sometimes say stupid things when you're taken by surprise. No good argueing, he'd have played the old 'elf and safety card I suppose. I might have got away with it wearing a luminous jacket and a hard hat but orange really isnt my colour.
So my visit to the Cedars cafe was somewhat earlier than I'd planned. Next stop was Ladywalk, as I pulled into the car park the Blackcap was feeding on an apple so I stopped to take a few shots. A phone call from Steve Cawthray had me on the move again. 5 probable White fronted Geese had been seen in flight heading north. So it was a question of searching fields around Bodymoor Heath towards Middleton and Drayton Bassett. After an unsuccessful tour round I met up with Steve at the Drayton Bassett pits. He'd seen some small geese flying this way but there was no sign of them now. There were a good number of other birds to be seen though, including Shelduck 17, Green Sandpiper 4, Redshank 2, Little Egret and two drake Pintail.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bitterns at Brandon Marsh

Bittern, East Marsh - Brandon Marsh





Tuesday 26th January 2010

Spent a very enjoyable day at Brandon Marsh. Almost straight away a Bittern was seen 3 times in flight from Teal hide and then again what was probably a different bird flew into the East Marsh reedbed. The birds seemed quite active, whether it was the high water levels or a touch of sun in the afternoon I dont know but they gave some excellent views, much appreciated by those gathered in East Marsh hide. There was no sign of the Green winged Teal or a reported Black necked Grebe but I had a close encounter with a Peregrine Falcon as it flew overhead after making an unsuccessful attempt at taking a Lapwing from the flock on East Marsh. A large mixed flock of Siskin and Lesser Redpolls moved restlessly from one group of Alders to another but apart from Nuthatch, Jay, Greater spotted Woodpecker and noisy Water Rails I didnt see much else.
Having commented that the last time I had a coffee at Brandon it was nearly cold, I specifically asked for a hot coffee and the charming young lady duly obliged. It was very welcome as the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees since yesterday. I moved on to Grandborough Fields in the hope of seeing an Owl. Nothing doing. I struggled to find any suitable habitat for either Barn or Short eared Owls as most of the land was pasture for sheep. The odd corner had been left as rough grassland but I couldn't find any decent areas of set aside.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A little bit of Yellow and a lot of Grey

Monday 25th January
'What a grey day', that not very famous mis-quote from the nearest thing to a Celeb Nuneaton can boast - Larry Grayson, was never truer than today. It was gloomy. The only bright spot, quite literally, was a single male Yellowhammer. It was in fact a County year tick, my 108th species of the year. If I can remember I'll try to keep a running total of species reported in Warks over the year, based on birds I've seen plus those that are reported on blogs, websites and paging services. I'm not going to validate reports or make judgements just apply a bit of common sense here and there. I shall have to make a few assumptions about 'sensitive' records.

So, if we start with 108, I know I've missed Peregrine, Little Owl, Pintail, Red breasted Merganser, Brent goose, Short eared Owl, Med gull, and Bar tailed Godwit. So we're looking at 116 species reported in Warks as we approach the end of January.

The Yellowhammer was seen near Burton Hastings, other birds seen on a walk across to the A5 and back: Linnet c30, Chaffinch 24, Jay, Woodpigeon c500, Fieldfare c40, Common Buzzard 3, Kestrel, and Starling c200.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Possible Mealy Redpoll at Bodymoor Heath

Possible Common Redpoll near Kingsbury Water Park

Possible 'Mealy' Redpoll

Possible Mealy Redpoll

Possible 'Mealy' Redpoll

Possible Mealy Redpoll

Possible Mealy Redpoll

Sunday January 2010

Early start to check out Pete Softley's Mealy/ Common Redpoll at Bodymoor Heath. Beautiful morning and I was surprised their weren't more birders about. A short walk down the canal towpath brought me to the first group of Alders. There were a few Redpoll and Goldfinch in the first few trees but the main flock was further down. It was quite hard work going through the flock, mainly because the bright sunlight bleached out a lot of colour and made the Lessers look pale. The group was flighty for no apparent reason but usually came back to the same trees. I worked my way down past the lock but there were no obvious candidates. When I walked back to the start to try again it was clear the flock was now much bigger, in excess of 30 birds. A group of 5 Redpolls feeding low down in a small tree caught my attention. It was the thick white 'braces' down the backs of two of the birds which stood out, but they also displayed a broad white wing bar. Other features which looked good for Mealy included a broad white supercilium and a general white ground colouration. I've included a few shots which illustrate some of these features.
I only had enough time for a quick look around the Nature reserve pools at Kingsbury but the best bird was a Kingfisher on the canal. On the walk back it was noticable that the main flock of Redpolls had dispersed with only a few birds remaining in the Alders. There was time for a 'drop in' visit to Coton where I saw my first Little Egret of the year and 4 Common Snipe.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

No sign of Ring billed Gull in Leicestershire

Nuthatch, Nr Brinklow


Marsh tit

Marsh tit

Marsh tit

Long tailed Tit

Long tailed tit


Saturday 23rd January 2010
Started the day at Shawell with some hard core Leicestershire birders looking at a birdless expanse of water. We could see large numbers of Gulls over the tip in the distance but those which drifted our way totally ignored the pool we were looking at and flew on over our heads. Having lost all feeling in my toes I decided to leave, but met Bob Hazel back at the car. Bob said there were alot of larger gulls on flooded fields just the other side of Newton. I followed Bob to the site where there was indeed alot of gulls to look at. We found a Yellow legged Gull but could not locate the Ring billed Gull. It would have been amazing if we had found it as only a fraction of the number of gulls which visit the tip could be seen, but we had to give it a go.
I left Bob and drove back to Bricklow on the way home. Just outside the village is a little feeding station which had produced Marsh tit in the past. Despite a shoot which was going on nearby there were good numbers of Tits on the feeders, but no finches. A Marsh tit visited every now and then as did Nuthatch. In the surrounding trees were seen Great spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Jay.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Stop the Killing fields

Friday January 2010

Hi Everyone, havent done much in the last few days due to the weather. Like to bring this link to your attention We bemoan the dwindling numbers of migrants in our countryside, well, taking a few minutes to sign this petition may just bring enough pressure to bare to give migrating birds a chance. Thanks.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Will I ever learn?

Wednesday 20th January 2010

Having not learnt a great deal from various Gull books, I resorted to Alan Dean's website for the definitive comparison between Yellow legged Gull and Caspian Gull. Certainly the Brandon bird did show some features of Caspian but having looked at other features highlighted by Alan such as posture, brightness of the bill, stocky appearance, and 'robust' head, I'm more certain that the gull is indeed a Yellow legged Gull. If I struggle to nail adult birds then I know I'm never going to come to terms with younger birds but I aint going to worry too much about that. Lets win one battle at a time. Which reminds me, only 15 minutes to kick off, 'bout time the claret and blues achieved something.
Dismal sort of day for Birding so a bit of hide work was called for around Ladywalk, Lea Marston, and Whitacre Heath managed 1 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Willow tit, Blackcap, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Greater spotted Woodpeckers and that was about it. Should have stayed at home and done my homework on ' The identification of the larger Gulls'.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ducks and Gulls

Red crested Pochard, Canal pool - Kingsbury W.P.

Green winged Teal, Brandon Marsh

Gull species
Gull species

19th January 2010

The day started slowly around Shustoke looking for Little Owl but with no success. I moved on to Coton where I met Alan Emery from South Derbys.who was eager to see the Smew. We went to the back pool and found one Redhead. Coton seemed a popular venue for local birders and we met Karl Sargeant amongst others who said hed just come from Kingsbury Water Park where he'd seen a pair of Red crested Pochard on Canal pool. Alan and I were soon on our way and it wasnt long before the pochards were in the bag. I was relieved to have caught up with them at last after the recent influx into the Midlands.
A message that there was a Green winged Teal at Brandon Marsh meant a quick farewell and a dash across to Coventry. I met up with Steve Cawthray and we made our to the Wright hide where the American Teal could be seen. Also of interest was a large gull which had been identified as a Yellow legged Gull. I tried to recall the comparison of the Yellow legged and Caspian I'd seen recently at Coton. Several features looked good for Caspian on the photos; bill shape, leg colour, small beady eye but I hadn't seen the bird in the scope and my images were distant and inconclusive. Feel free to offer your opinions.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Divers in the mist.

Great northern Diver in the mist, Draycote Water


Smew in the Sun

Monday 18th January 2010

There are times I wished I lived a bit closer to Draycote Water than I do. Sometimes info on birds comes out in the late afternoon when there just isnt time to get across. The Brent geese were a case in point, they were never going to stay till the next day so you've got to get over straight away to be in with a chance. I seem to have missed a good few birds there already for a variety of reasons. Today I had an opportunity to spend some time there. Trouble was I hadn't reckoned on the fog which got worse as I walked round. It was possible to make out the outline of a Great northern Diver close inshore in Toft and a few ducks but that was about it. There was a nice flock of 30 or so Siskin in Biggin bay but it wasnt until approaching the Valve tower that the fog really lifted. The drake Smew showed well but there was no sign of the Common Scoter, and only 3 Goosander were seen. On returning to Toft both Great Northern divers were on view but generally it was very quiet.
Stopped at Morrison's Supermarket on the way home - interesting. I went to an automated check out. I dont particularly like using them because I prefer the personal touch and they're putting people out of work. Anyway despite the machine telling me to take things out of the bag I got through the encounter with only getting assistance about 4 times which was pretty good considering I'd only got 3 items. Finally I got to the part where you pay. Not much can go wrong here - WRONG. The machine wanted to know my age for some reason. If I'd got a trolley full of Stella fair enough but the nearest thing I'd got to intoxicating substances were egg custard tarts. I waited for a few seconds, nobody appeared. That was it, I carried my bag of goodies to a real person. I half expected to be stopped in my tracks by a Cyborg. I hoped I'd confused the machine. I wondered about where this was all going to end, but then when the check out girl barely raised a smile or any acknowledgement of my existence I decided that perhaps machines were the way ahead.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Lesser spotted Woodpecker at Coombe Abbey

Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Coombe Abbey

Lesser spotted Woodpecker

Grey Partridge

Lesser spotted Woodpecker

Lesser spotted Woodpecker
Sunday 17th January 2010

I thought it might be worth checking any flooded fields for wild swans or Geese but a quick check of the flooded river Anker near the B5000 at Grendon produced only gulls. Nearby though a group of 6 Grey Partridge in the winter wheat were the first of the year. At Grendon Common there was no sign of Redpolls or much else. Moving on to Coombe Abbey the main drive was very busy with folk taking advantage of a sunny Sunday. I wasn't too optimistic about my chances of seeing the Lesser spotted Woodpecker during the early afternoon but I certainly wasnt going to see it sitting at home so it was worth a go. I was joined by Gary Briddick and friend who had just got back from the Black throated Thrush at Whitby. He found the female Lesser spotted Woodpecker almost immediately and we had good views for over 20 minutes.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A visit to the East

Berwick's Swan, Church Lawford, Warks.

Berwick's Swan

Berwick Swan

Grandborough Valley

Red legged Partridge, Lawford Heath

Meadow Pipit, Lawford Heath

Corn Bunting
Thursday 14th January 2010

Fog permitting I was going to base the day around Draycote without actually going to Draycote Water. So when the fog lifted a little I decided to give it a go. Lawford Heath was the first site and I soon had Tree sparrow, Corn Bunting, Meadow pipit and Red legged Partridge. It was then on to the Grandborough valley. I was prepared to give it some time to find a Merlin. As I waited a Raven flew over and then a male Merlin shot through the Linnet flock and perched in a tree. I was joined by Steve Cawthray who was eager to look for the Great grey Shrike even though it hadn't been reported for a couple of days. We had good views of the Merlin through the scope. It was interesting that there were also two male Sparrowhawk in the area but there was no interplay between them and the Merlin. What was also interesting was that a Sparrowhawk took a Field vole despite the huge number of finches around. While all this was going on Steve continued to search for the Shrike. His efforts were rewarded when it suddenly appeared on a distant pole. No sooner had we admired it through the scope and it was gone again, so its apparently become more elusive but still in the same area. I thought it was time for a well earned handy pocket sized Pork pie but as I started to salivate walking back to the car a message came through that there were still 5 Berwick Swans near Church Lawford. The pie would have to wait. I alerted Steve and we set off for the Swans a short distance away. In fact there were 6 Swans when we got there with a large group of Mute Swans.