Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Swans and Geese, not.

Tuesday 4th December 2018

Not a lot to write home about, let alone Blog. I could comment on the apparent increase in the numbers of Thrushes, Robins, Starlings, Meadow pipits etc, etc on local walks but its similar to last year and the year before that. Not that its not good to see these birds but something a little different now and again would be much appreciated. Having said that, when a pair of Russian Whitefronts turn up at Alvecote I did contrive to avoid them despite numerous visits. I did, however,see the Smew today AND 3 Great white Egrets. I also enjoyed the Swan fest. at Brandon  Marsh yesterday.

Whooper and Berwick Swans at Brandon Marsh

Berwick Swan

Whooper Swan

Berwick Swan

Sunday, 4 November 2018

October 2018

October provided a rather mixed bag of Birding experience as it  so often does. The end of September into early October had seen a good number of migrants particularly Redstarts on the local patch-walk. My first 'twitch' took me to Hornsea Mere, E.Yorks in the early hours. A White rumped Swift had shown well over the Mere the previous day but unfortunately there was no sign the following day. Despite the need for sleep when the chance came for a lift to Cornwall I was up for it. A Catbird had turned up at Lands End, and thanks to John Holtham we were on our way. We had to wait some time before the bird appeared but our patience was rewarded as we got stunning views later on. The third twitch of the month took me to Salthouse N.Norfolk to see a very showy 'eastern Stonechat' the exact identity of the bird has yet to be determined but it was/is an interesting bird non the less. Thanks go to Tony Shep. for the lift. So after a burst of frenzied activity producing one 'tick' its back to the local walks. Not much to report though.A barn Owl was a nice surprise near Alvecote.Stonechats at their usual winter sites and incoming Thrushes, Larks, Starlings over 'the hill'.

Stonechat 1w

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Shetland Isles. Oct.2018

I should start by thanking the various members of our group who contributed in making this year's trip so enjoyable and rewarding The fact that I got on the right planes at the right airports at the right times is in no small way due to Pete and Joy Forbes to whom I am very grateful.
It was in many ways a typical Shetland trip with a mixture of weather and a variety of migrating birds. Although the overall numbers of birds coming in was probably down on previous years there was a fair sprinkling of scarce and rare birds to keep birders interested. Day 1 on the islands produced Pied billed Grebe and a delightful Marsh warbler. This is by no means a comprehensive account of all the birds seen just some of the more memorable scarcities. On day 2 we took a ferry to Bressay where we failed to see an American Golden Plover but did connect with a very showy Citrine wagtail. The next day saw us visiting a number of sites on South Mainland highlights were a Pied Flycatcher and a Common Rosefinch. Another Rosefinch was found the following day. Other 'good' birds included Red breasted Flycatcher and Yellow browed warbler.
The next day saw us heading for Fetlar for one of the highlights of the week, a Snowy Owl. An impressive sight as the bird flew over the hillside in front of us. We also had good views of Barred warbler before returning to Yell where we eventually saw a Swainson's Thrush.
Our final days saw a few more rarities: Pallas's warbler, Ring necked Duck and Booted warbler to wrap up a very enjoyable week.

 Citrine Wagtail

R.B. Flycatcher
R. B. Flycatcher
Common Rosefinch

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Grey Phalarope on a Grey day

Thursday    September 2018

With the weather obviously closing in I made the decision to make a rare visit to Napton Reservoir to see the Grey Phalarope. The weather certainly deteriorated after an initial look at the bird and after a taking a few photos in the drizzle the heavens opened and it was time to retreat.

Grey Phalarope, Napton

Grey Phalarope

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Unexpected treat at Alvecote pools

Tuesday 18th September 2018

Highlight of the week was undoubtedly a visit to Mill pool, Alvecote on the 10th when a Barn Owl got up from an area of long grass and flew at head height before dropping down into the bottom of a  hedge. A Greenshank, 2 Whinchat and Swift were also seen on this visit. There have been several sightings of Hobby both at Alvecote and Caldecote. The last sighting of Redstart at Mancetter was the 9th, ending a great run of records of the species at this sight.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Plenty of local interest

11th Sept 2018

With a short break visiting friends in Somerset, walks to include Mancetter Hill and Alvecote pools have been almost daily. Sightings of Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat have been particularly good so far but warbler sightings have been few and far between. The first sighting of Wheatear  was on 4th of September with a pair on'the hill' .A bigger surprise at Alvecote yesterday came in the form of a Barn Owl flushed from long grass near the path. Greenshank, 2 Whinchat and a Swift were also seen there.
Wheatear, Mancetter



Thursday, 30 August 2018

Movement of outgoing migrants continues

Thursday 30th August 2018

No more sightings of Whinchats this week but numbers of Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers moving through have been impressive with daily sightings, and maximums of 4 Spot. Flies at the Anchor bushes, Hartshill and 3 Redstarts at Alvecote. In contrast, sightings of warbler species have been few and far between so far.

Redstart, Mancetter

Spotted Flycatcher, Alvecote

Redstart, juv. Alvecote

Spotted Flycatcher, Hartshill

Monday, 20 August 2018

Migrant watch

Monday 20th August 2018

Checking local sites regularly has produced a number of outgoing migrants. Nothing particularly rare or unusual but always good to see on local 'patches'. Over the past few days Whinchats ( 2) continue to  be seen on the 'docklands' at Caldecote. Redstarts have been at Alvecote (1) and Mancetter (2). Today I saw my first Warwickshire Spotted Flycatcher of the year near the Anchor pub, Hartshill. In fact 4 birds were at this site with Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Garden warbler for good measure. Several Ravens were also seen (and heard) in the area.

Spotted Flycatcher, Nr. Hartshill

Spotted Flycatcher

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Whinchats at Caldecote

Wednesday 15th August 2018

Another local site which regularly turns up migrants is along the river Anker at Caldecote. Whinchat and later Wheatear use to the dead Dock stems as look-out posts along the river. Today there were a pair of Whinchat along with good numbers of House Martin.

Whinchat, Caldecote

Monday, 13 August 2018

Starting to start

13th August 2018

The first signs of return migration : Swifts disappearing, Wood Sandpipers and other waders appearing at local lakes and the first few Redstarts and Whinchats turning up at traditional local hotspots. Regular visits to these sites usually pays dividends through the coming months. One such 'spot' I've been visiting for a few years, the Mancetter hills near Atherstone has a good record as a migrant stop-over. Yesterday  migrants heading south included 3 Redstarts and a Whinchat. Today there were still 2 Redstarts on 'the hill' but no sign of the Whinchat.

Redstart, Mancetter



Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Menorca, August 2018

My wife, Jan's birthday was the excuse for a family holiday in Menorca, Spain. Our holiday coincided with a heatwave throughout Iberia. With temperatures of 36 + even the 1/2 mile walk to the beach was an effort. The 30 yard walk to the pool was more realistic and with the opportunity of playing with my Grandchildren that was the preferred option most of the time, it was also great fun, for a short time anyway. So little opportunity for serious Birding but various birds were seen. A pair of Egyptian Vultures, a Booted Eagle, Red Kite were seen over the rocky outcrops  overlooking the hotel and several Audouins Gulls were seen patrolling the beach. It was also good to see Turtle doves and Spotted Flycatchers in good numbers, two birds now rarely seen in North Warwickshire.

Audouin's Gulls

Audouin's Gull

Mediterranean Spotted Flycatcher

Turtle Dove

Monday, 16 July 2018

Still very quiet

Saturday 14th July 2018

Lethergy rules. I'm not coping with the continuing high temperatures very well to be honest. Horse flies, stinging nettles etc. have put me off some of my regular walks. A Great spotted Woodpecker was a welcome visitor to the garden and Swift numbers (max. 12) have increased in recent days. A notable lack of small birds though, probably due to Magpies, Jackdaws and Grey Squirrels.
           But then, through the gloom, Brandon Marsh, as it has many times in the past, comes up with some welcome relief in the form of a Pectoral Sandpiper. A welcome Trans-Atlantic visitor.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Brandon Marsh

Monday, 2 July 2018

Night of the Owls

Saturday 30th June 2018

Extraordinary events this evening. Ok the World Cup produced a couple of good games but it was after that as the orange glow faded from the sky, that the real excitement started. I'm very fortunate in being surrounded by bungalows allowing  uninterrupted views to the north from my bedroom.
    Last night I was lucky enough to watch  a couple of Bats briefly fly around a large Ash tree in a neigbouring garden, first bats I'd seen this year. As I waited for them to reappear a Tawny Owl flew low across the garden, a garden first. OK, as if that wasnt enough excitement it seemed to flush a Little Owl from another large Ash in an adjacent garden. I wasn't dreaming and I hadn't been drinking well, only a couple anyway. You don't see an Owl of any description for a year and then 2 turn up in your garden.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Dolomites - Northern Italy

Sunday 24th June 2018

Hardly time to unpack before jetting off again on a very different trip. No birding involved this time although I thought it would be rude not to take my bins. Malcesine was the base for this  Italian adventure with Jan my trusty companion and tour organiser and wife. Nice Hotel with views of Lake Garda from our room's balcony. Even with non birding status for the week it was impossible not to notice the Black Kites on their leisurely patrols round the Lake. It was also impossible not to notice the family groups of Red crested Pochards around the lake as we took our daily walk into the centre of Malcesine. We did some usual touristy things: cafes, castles and Churches but also did a bit of walking above the tree line after an enjoyable Cable car ride to the summit of Mount Baldo. Apart from amazing views in the perfect conditions there was para gliding to watch, coffee to drink and away from the madding crowd there were Marmots to watch and a few Alpine birds: Ring Ouzels, Tree pipits, Black Redstarts, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift and Fieldfare with Crag Martins at lower levels.
The Dolomites - Northern Italy

Monday, 11 June 2018

Kazakhstan - June 2018

Monday 11th June 2018

After a relatively quiet spell of local birding. I was lucky to have the opportunty to find some more unusual species, including a new bird for me, on an adventure organised by Birdfinders to Northwest Kazakhstan on the very edge of the Western Paleartic.
The group led by Vaughan and Svetlana Ashby travelled to Atyrau in Kazakhstan via Moscow. We visited a number of sites around Atyrau some involving water courses and the Ural river itself and some involving tortuous treks into the Steppes, vast areas of flat dry grassland.Subtle changes in this habitat produced the 'special' birds we were after :Larks, Plovers and Cranes in particular places. Our 4 x 4 were tested on tracks through the Steppe terrain. On one occasion a loud bang was heard as we hit another hole causing a wheel to fall off. The wheel nuts were located back up the road and the driver did a great job in getting us going again.
Raptors were seen regularly in the skies with White tailed and Steppe Eagle the most impressive but  Black Kite, Marsh, Pallid, Montagu's Harriers and Long legged Buzzard were also seen. For me though the star birds of day 1 were Caspian Plover and Demoiselle Crane.
The Steppes also provide  a Habitat for Larks including White winged Lark a species not found elsewhere in the Western Paleartic. Other Larks included : Calandra Lark, Short toed and Lesser short toed Larks, Skylark and Black Larks.

Demoiselle  Crane

Distant Caspian plover

Black Lark

Calandra Lark

Calandra Lark

White winged Lark

Warblers were few and far between although several Sykes warblers were noted and Eastern  Olivaceous and Booted warblers were also seen. Isabelline Wheatear were by far the most common Wheatear of the Steppe with Pied Wheatear often seen around farms and towns. Red headed Buntings and Shrikes favoured areas with a few trees and bushes.
Small colonies of Red footed Falcons were seen at various sites, while along the river and on larger lakes Caspian and Pallas's Gulls were frequent with groups of Terns moving through: Black, White winged Black and Whiskered.

Pallas's Gull

Red headed Bunting

Another bird of the muddy river edges were Black bellied Sandgrouse coming in in small numbers to drink and soak their feathers.

Black bellied Sandgrouse
Lesser grey Shrikes were the most abundant Shrike species greatly outnumbering Red backed Shrikes

Lesser grey Shrike

Hoopoe with Lesser grey Shrike
This is by no means a comprehensive account but gives a flavour of the birds of the area
Altogether a most memorable tour, and my thanks go to the organisers and to my colleages for making it so enjoyable.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

A few sites in N.Warks

Tuesday 1st May 2018

Started the day with the short walk 'up the hill' at Mancetter but saw nothing of particular interest. Made a rare visit to  Middleton Lakes RSPB today, stopping off at Coton pool on the way where I picked up my first Garden warbler of the year. I hadn't been to Middleton for some time and thought there was a good chance of seeing 'Gropper' there. In fact it was very quiet warbler wise but I was treated to a wonderful Aerial display by 2 Hobbies as they chased down a tiring Swift.I didnt see the outcome but I didnt rate the chances of the Swift to survive for too long. Popped in to Shustoke Res. but apart from a single Common Sandpiper there was little else. After a coffee and sandwich stop at Atherstone it was on to Caldecote. A few yellow wags were seen distantly and several Buzzards were following the plough, but again nothing of any note.

Buzzard, Caldecote

Avocet, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Friday, 27 April 2018

Whinchat at Alvecote

Friday 27th April 2018

A few images of a Whinchat at Alvecote pools in the rain this morning.

Whinchat, Alvecote pools



More Garganey images from Alvecote

Thursday 26th April 2018
Garganey, Alvecote Pools


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Good movement of incoming Migrants

Sunday 22nd April 2018

The pace has clearly picked up with the improvement in the weather. A Curlew flew over Mancetter Quarry and Sedge warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were seen at Alvecote pools. In fact I'd seen several Lesser Whitethroats well before my first Whitethroat and I still haven't seen or heard a Willow warbler. Just not trying hard enough !
Did manage to see the well watched Ring Ouzel at Little Packington and Brandon Marsh held a drake Garganey today. Just up the road at Baginton Airfield was a cracking male Whinchat as well as another Wheatear.
Gargany, Brandon Marsh N.R.
Ring Ouzel, Little Packington
Wheatear, Baginton