Monday, 28 February 2011

Local stuff

Lesser Redpoll, Whitacre Heath N.R.

Monday 28th February 2011

So that was February, relatively mild but rather damp. Not a great birding month, OK two interesting twitches but not much to shout about otherwise. Draycote can usually come up with one of the rarer Grebes or a Diver of some description but the reservoirs of the Midlands have had a lean spell even duck numbers have been low with few records of the scarcer species, presumably wintering much further south as a result of the freeze up in December.

Anyway, another short walk in the rain today, starting at Weddington, Nuneaton across to Caldecote and back. I reckoned on about 30 Yellowhammer in the field beyond the old railway, 20 Skylark, 10 Reed Buntings, a pair of Grey Partridge and a single Meadow pipit. The flood meadows at Caldecote were very quiet except for the usual Corvids, a couple of pairs of Stock Dove and 27 Fieldfare. Back at the Church in Weddington a flock of at least 50 Goldfinches congregated (sorry) in the Churchyard Birches.

Tuesday 1st March 2011

Another dull day, not very Spring like at all but several species were in song including Cettis warbler. Ventured into the Tame valley, but only managed the Southern end and not much of that. Evidence of Copper theft at Coton similar to evidence left in fields near the railway at Hartshill.
At Cliff pool, Kingsbury there were 3 Shelduck, 100 + Shoveler, a pair of Goldeneye and 2 Little Egrets.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

They're still around

Sunday 27th February 2011

No, not Waxwings, Chinese Lanterns. On a couple of local walks around Caldecote and Burton Hastings there seemed to be more than ever adorning the hedges and trees. I saw them for sale in Atherstone recently while I was doing a restock from Gales' pie shop ( I really do recommend their Pasties and Apple pies). The advertising claimed the Lanterns were 100% degradable. Fine, so why are they still decorating the countryside? Nuclear waste is degradable if you wait long enough, its the damage it does in the meantime thats the problem! I'm sorry if this blog sounds like the grumblings of a 60 something but we all have our off days. Yesterday was one of them: the weather, getting mown down by a mountain biker etc. and not too many birds. The high spot of the day, apart from England beating France at Twickenham and the Villa having a confidence boosting win, was an encounter with a Stoat. I was checking out game bird feeders for Buntings etc. When a Stoat appeared, the encounter went on for sometime as the inquisitive creature got closer and closer, frequently running back to cover but coming back to within a few feet and standing upright on its back legs. If only I'd had a camera. How many times have you heard that?
Birdwise generally quiet in the hedgerows but it was good to see so many Skylarks getting up and singing. I also had 5 Golden Plover fly over and small flocks of Redwing and Linnet feeding on the ground. So perhaps it wasn't such a bad day after all.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Guardians of the Environment

Clear enough?

The notice most dog owners choose not to notice.

What part of 'keep you dog on a lead' don't you understand?

Thursday 24th February 2011
Guardians of the environment is how Severn Trent Water would like to be percieved and certainly they do have a huge responsibility, not only in terms of public needs for a reliable water supply, sewage and even leisure, but also to wildlife. It is difficult to estimate the importance of Severn Trent reservoirs and land in the Midlands to Birdlife in particular. Annual records show the diversity of species that benefit from Severn Trent sites for breeding, wintering grounds and vital resting and feeding grounds during migration. Severn Trent is aware of this but is also aware of pressure from the public for recreation and leisure activites. The increased demand for such activities causes friction between various user groups and the needs for genuine conservation. Nowhere illustrates these problems more than Draycote Water near Rugby where visitor numbers have escalated over the past few years to unmanagable levels.
However, my main concern is what is happening more locally at Shustoke reservoir near Coleshill. An insignificant pond compared to reservoirs like Draycote but a vital link in survival strategy of birds overflying the North Warwickshire/South Birmingham area. I visited Shustoke today. The signage is clear enough requesting the cooperation of those privileged to use the site. As far as I am aware there is no public footpath around the perimeter. However, during the period from 11.00 am till noon no less than 8 dogs were allowed to roam wherever they liked and only 1 was taken round on a lead as requested by the signs. Seems to me people pretty well do as they please these days and show precious little regard or respect for anyone else. In this case it is the majority who are spoiling it for the minority and only a total ban would solve the problem, but then that deprives local, responsible dog owners, walkers and birdwatchers alike. A limited permit scheme might be the answer but there would be costs involved there. Perhaps its a job for the big society.
.....and the birds; a couple of Raven flew over making a half hearted attempt at display, a few Goosander floated about and two Oystercatcher landed on the only undisturbed area of shoreline near the Sailing club.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rufous turtle Dove and other Garden birds

Rufous turtle Dove, The Leys, Chipping Norton, Oxon.

Rufous turtle Dove

Rufous turtle Dove

Rufous turtle Dove

Rufous turtle Dove

Brambling, The Leys, Chipping Norton

Sparrowhawk, Shipston on Stour, Warks



Rufous Turtle Dove, Chipping Norton, Oxon.

Tuesday 22nd February 2011

After all the reported nonsense at the weekend it was good to see the return of good manners and dignity to birding today. Ok I know most birders have to work for a living and time is precious at the weekend and viewing was often tricky but everyone suffers when the mob instinct takes over. I was lucky today, very lucky, as the bird showed well for a considerable time in the garden and the atmosphere was excellent as everyone made sure everyone else got a good view. A guy even lent me his bins as mine were so steamed up. As well as the Rufous turtle Dove there were other more familiar species such as Siskin, Bullfinch, Brambling and Blackcap, some garden!
On the way back I popped in to see an old friend at Shipston on Stour. Garden birding was far from finished as a flock of 20 or so Yellowhammer came down to feed on his lawn.Some garden!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Gull too far

Sunday 20th February 2011

Report of a probable American Herring Gull at Hoylake was met with an almost contemptuous indiffrerence. Having gone for a couple previously at Chew valley and Dorset I wanted a bit more than probable. Initially my attitude didnt change when John Terry asked me if I wanted to go up, but with additional info from the Bird forum I decided it was worth a try, even if it was a long shot.
We got there in just 2 hours to find the highest tide of the year according to the locals.There was no beach at High tide but the gulls were best viewed on the ebbing tide so we had plenty of time. As the tide began to ebb and more sand was exposed the gulls came in together with small flocks of various waders. Thousands of Gulls began to cover the shore line and the search began. There were very few birders about which could have told us something but a slim chance is better than no chance. Which is what you get sitting at home playing on your computer. Anyway there was no sign of the probable AHG. We did have a pleasant if cold couple of hours though looking at 2 adult Med gulls, Peregrine and flocks of Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Shelduck and Bar tailed Godwit.
After connecting with the Slaty backed the AHG was a gull too far.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Slaty-backed Gull Twitch

Thursday 17th February 2011

Well its been quite a week with two potential ticks in the bag. Unlike Monday's little escapade yesterday's trip to Rainham Marshes to see the Slaty backed Gull which has reappeared there, this was very much a regulation twitch. Tony Shepherd phoned up on Wednesday to discuss the options of going down. He'd considered going on Wednesday afternoon but sensibly decided to wait until Thursday. Looking at the road works on the M25 he would never have made it. So, we set off at a reasonable time arriving at Rainham Marshes RSPB at midday. We decided to have a coffee before the long trudge to the tip. I was just paying for the coffee when Tony tells me the Gull is showing now on Wennington Marsh. Great! So there we are making haste down the track trying to drink coffee as we go. Fortunately there was a bit of discussion amongst fellow birders as to the route to take which gives me a chance to enjoy the rest of the coffee. Theres even a passing lady who is happy to take the empty cup back to the cafe for me. You see the art of twitching is in the detailed planning. Anyway Tony calls on his vast experience to take charge and get the route sorted out. There were already 50 or so birders viewing when we got to Serin mound. The gulls were quite distant but it wasn't too long before the Slaty-backed was nailed. Easy. A steady stream of birders continued to arrive and were put on to the bird by us experienced Slaty backed gull watchers who had been there for at least 10 minutes. Hum.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Fur flies in the Tame valley

Little Owl, near Shustoke

Willow Tit, Kingsbury Water Park

Beer for Birders

Wednesday 16th February 2011

Not a pair of West Mids birders throwing a wobbly at Kingsbury Water Park but a couple of Hares having a boxing match at Fishers Mill between the north and south pools. I was amazed at how long they could stay up on their hind legs, the fur really was flying - a sign of spring approaching. Birdwise there wasn't alot doing, a couple of Redshank on Fishers Mill north, a couple of Little Egret towards Drayton Bassett. A young Peregrine was keeping the large flock of Lapwing on their toes with odd Lesser Redpoll here and there. In the hedges around the Pheasant feeders were a flock of some 60 birds, mainly Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. Near Shustoke a Little Owl was taking advantage of the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

All aboard the....

Tuesday 15th February 2011

The day after RTDove day. Long after the Red Roses have wilted and the card and chocolate box recycled there will still be a little tick in my little book. Ticks are forever! and alot cheaper than diamonds, at least this one was. I'm not so sure about the Orkney bird.

Rather more local today. After an e'mail from John Harris I walked from the Old Eds. Rugby club at Weddington to Caldecote and back along a stretch of the river Anker. Nothing particularly interesting until I got to the cultivated fields beyond the old railway line. There was a mixed flock of Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting in the bushes on the Railway embankment but also a flock of over 50 Skylarks in the field.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Never too old to Twitch

Monday 14th February 2011

I'd just taken my Dad to the optician and was on the way back up the A5 when the Mega alert sounded on the pager. Rufous Turtle Dove refound at Chipping Norton. What the hell do I do now? Go for it says Dad, aged 95. Like a true twitcher. We fuelled up in Coventry and I struggled with pager messages, Sat navs and phone to get the info I needed before we set off, but we eventually made it. There were surprisingly few people there and I found myself next in line to go into the house but unfortunately the bird hadn't been seen in the garden for some time. I was concerned about leaving my Dad in the car but also about losing my place at the head of the small queue. I ran back to the car park and reparked the car a lot closer. When I got back to the house the bird was showing in an Ash tree viewable between the houses. At first the Rufous Turtle Dove was just a shape near to a couple of Wood pigeons but it turned and in better light showed well albeit briefly. As people left the house it was my turn to go in, I made my way to the kitchen window. I was surprised by the number of people there. Apparently the bird had showed on the grass just outside the window in the morning and there were plenty of amazing photos to prove it.
Unfortunately the bird failed to show in the garden again, but I was happy with the views I'd had and Dad had enjoyed his day on the edge of the Cotswolds.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

BTO Survey

Thursday 10th February 2011
No sign of any Bewick's with the Mute Swans around Bodymoor Heath yesterday but did see a small flock of Golden plover the other side of the Belfry Golf course, and there were also 12 Common Snipe in front of the hide at Coton

Its my last chance to collect data for the area I'm covering for the BTO Atlas so I spent the day checking 3 of the four Tetrads I'm doing around where I live. I have to say its not the most exciting area for birdlife. Most of the time I spent counting Woodpigeons and Rooks. Still big flocks of Fieldfare in the area and I did see a couple of Yellowhammers where I hadnt seen them before. Apart from that the most 'interesting' experience was finding a sheep tangled in wire under a hedge in a very distressed state, I managed to get to a farm where the old fella was able to phone the owner of the sheep who said he'd come out straight away. So that was my good deed for the day taken care of.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Now you see it, now you dont.

Tuesday 8th February 2011

Looks like our ration is one beautiful day a week and today was it. So it was a question of getting out there to see what you could find. Anything would be a change. Worked my way slowly towards the Tame valley starting at Bentley Woods near Atherstone. With no wind and a warming sun you could actually hear birds singing. The usual woodland species were about but no sign of Redpolls of any description. I headed towards Shustoke via the back lanes looking for any finch flocks in suitable habitat but couldn't even find any suitable habitat. Drove into Shustoke Res. to find the car park pretty near full so drove straight out again. By contrast I had Coton pools to myself. A pair of Shelduck were the most noteworthy birds. After a coffee at the Cedars it was on to Broomey Croft for lunch and then up the canal to Fisher's Mill and Dosthill via Sita hide where there was no sign of any Smew but I did see my first Kingfisher of the year. What have you been doing I hear you cry.
There were a few large gulls on Fisher's Mill north pool including a very good candidate for a first or 2nd winter Glaucous gull. Trouble was I was the wrong side of the river looking into the sun with only my bins and as I started to get to grips with the bird everything went up and dispersed. Apart from all that though I had a stunning view ! Not. I just take my hat off to those guys who can pick out a Slaty backed Gull amongst hundreds of foraging Lesser black Backs on a tip.
On the Dosthill Nature reserve was the first Oystercatcher of the year but no further sign of 'the Glauc' on the Dosthill lakes.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A funny thing happened.....

Monday 7th February 2011
Decided to start exploring more of the countryside within a few miles of home with a walk round the outskirts of Nuneaton Golf Club towards Attleborough fields, Nuneaton. It wasn't much fun, the wind was even stronger than on Friday. There were few birds to be seen but I continued the recognisance. There was no-one else about, or so I thought, until I noticed someone waving their arms about, a couple of fields away. Funny I thought in a Dudley Moore sort of way, Funny. I tried to mind my own business and continue on my merry way but a glance back showed the waving was continuing and it was clearly a woman towing a small dog. Why, I considered? What does a lady and her small dog want with me in the middle of nowhere and the middle of the afternoon?
The persistant waving of a damsel in distress could no longer be ignored. But what was behind the frantic gesticulations? Perhaps her husband had collapsed further back along the path, perhaps she had come across a body in a ditch. I walked towards her regardless of my own safety. There are times in a birder's life when birds have to take to take second place, as long as they're not lifers.
'Where am I', was the greeting. 'Well I'm a stranger to these parts myself' was the reply, but in an attempt to reassure her, added I think we need to follow this path. The poor lady had become was completely lost and looked as if she had got stuck in some bog along the way. We chatted, as I called upon all my previous Duke of Edinburgh's Award training to navigate our route to safety. By the time we were back to the place she was to meet her husband it emerged I knew her son and had played Rugby with her husband for a couple of seasons at Nuneaton R.F.C. back in the good old days. Small world aint it.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Around and about

Friday 4th February 2011

Defied the gales to have a walk round the fields between Nuneaton and Burton Hastings. There are several well marked paths and I havent yet explored all this area. In the strong winds most of the bird activity was confined to the dense hedges near the village with Tits, Redwing and Bullfinch and a couple of Linnet flocks, probably involving over 100 birds, in the stubble fields. Apart from large numbers of Corvids and Wood Pigeon that was it. I've walked around this route for several years and I ve been critical of the way rough land has been cleared to maximise cultivation, hedges removed and the use of the 'conservation strip' around the fields for steeple chasing. I had a chat to the landowner /Farm manager planting bushes and saplings on one of the rough patches which has recently been 'tidied up'. I got a completely different impression of what was going on from our conversation. He was trying to develop conservation areas and pointed out several areas where planting and management had created habitat in which seed eating species could winter. When I asked about access he said there was no problem and that there were footpaths which gave good access. I certainly know of one path which takes you directly to the Lime Kilns pub on the A5 which still sells good Marston's Ale! I shall certainly continue to check out the area. To date my best birds have been Merlin, Stonechat, Little Owl, Peregrine and Kingfisher but I think the area has the potential for other goodies.

PS. The remnants of 6 Chinese Lanterns in as many miles today !

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Bitterns in the Sun

Bittern, Brandon Marsh N.R.



Thursday 3rd February 2011
A few images of the East Marsh Bittern at Brandon Marsh N.R. today. Another bird flew over towards Newlands so there are at least 2 on site at the moment.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

To the Woods

Wednesday 2nd February 2011

Not really back into the swing of local birding again yet. A few short walks round Caldecote and Draycote Water have produced very little in the way of birds. In fact the best bit of wildlife I've seen in the past week has been a dog fox in my dad's garden at Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield. I need to re acclimatise and get my eye in again. Having said that it was difficult today, even in Bentley Woods a strong wind was pushing the leaves about making it tricky to detect tell tale movements of birds on the ground. Did see 3 presumed Mealy Redpolls in the thicket next to the pond though. They showed briefly on some Birches before flying deeper into the thicket. Unusually the 3 white/grey Redpolls were on there own, although there was a mixed Tit flock 40yards away. I saw them again in flight briefly as they moved through the wood, but that was it. Plenty of noisy Nuthatches and Common Buzzards, a few Treecreepers and Goldcrests and a single Raven summed up the rest of the sightings.