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

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The flow of migrants increases

Thursday19th April 2018

Having been held back by a cold, wet early April the arrival rate of Migrant birds is picking up. Having said that there are still a great many species I have yet to see. Probably due to inertia on my part rather than any natural phenomena, and rather than try to remember those birds I have seen and the dates I saw them on just list a few of the more memorable sightings. The walk up the Quarry Lane hill has been unproductive until this morning when I finally saw my first Wheatear.
A trip to Brandon Marsh N.R. was good for the lingering Osprey while at Draycote there was an Arctic tern, and a couple of Common Tern while at Alvecote there were 2 Common Sandpiper and a Redstart.

Wheatear, Mancetter


Great white Egret

Osprey, Brandon Marsh N.R. (Don't worry the snaps get worse)

Redstart, Alvecote ( told you)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Migration update

Monday 9th April 2018

Largely uneventful week.Several sightings of Swallows back on local breeding sites plus first House Martin today over Mill pool, Alvecote. Bit of sun brought out this Fly spp to the garden.

Unidentified Fly/wasp/Bee

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Still waiting for signs of Migration !

Monday 26th March 2018

Generally quiet week. Local 'highlights' : Brambling on Caldecote walk, Green Sandpiper on River Anker at Leather Mill Lane  on same walk. Also Green Sand. at Brandon Marsh N.R. with Great white Egret. Small flocks of Fieldfare still around at various sites including Warton and at Dordon with a few Tree sparrows.  No luck with early migrants yet.

Tuesday 27th March 2018

Another visit to Brandon Marsh this morning ( I'm trying to avoid the hill, while my Hip is playing up.) Highlights being LRP ,Water Rail, and a Brambling at the Cafe feeding Station almost in summer plummage.

Brambling, Brandon Marsh N.R. Photo courtesy of Chris Matthews

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Taming of the Shrew

21st March 2018

Quiet day today, the most exciting thing I did was taking my wellies off. Visited 3 local N.Warks sites found Tree Sparrow in two of them which was encouraging. Still a few Fieldfare. Focussed on Owls for some reason, didn't find any of course but did find an owl pellet. At least I think it was from an Owl. Diet made up of Small rodents anyway. Also found in in tact Common Shrew which must have fallen victim to the harsh weather or the floods which followed. ( I have since learnt that the Common Shrew is actually not a rodent at all )

                                        Common Shrew                                            

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Woodlark in North Warwickshire

Sunday 18th March 2018

When the weather is bad - get out there. Haven't been too adventurous but quickly moving weather systems often bring in some unexpected birds with some more regular visitors in early spring.
A summer plummaged Black necked Grebe was good to see at Draycote Water.

Black necked Grebe, Draycote Water

A visit to Shustoke Res. looking for an early Sand Martin or even a Kittiwake was fruitless, but a stop at nearby Hurley did produce a decent flock of 108 Golden Plover. Other local sites: Caldecote, Mancetter and Legion Wood saw the usual Skylarks, Raven and Siskin respectively.On today's walk at Mancetter, however, there was something different. I had almost completed my usual circuit when I noticed a lark feeding along the edge of the track leading to Rothern's farm and some small holdings. Skylark? Most likely but a bit small and with a broad supercilium. I tried to get a few photographs, it was only when I enlarged the images that I was able to confirm my suspicions. A Woodlark. Bit of a rarity in Warwickshire. Wrong time, Wrong place, Wrong habitat - the joy of Birding.

 Woodlark, Nr Mancetter, N. Warks.





Thursday, 8 March 2018

Not much to report

Thursday 8th March 2018

The on going search for local birds of interest continues. Not particularly successfully I might add. At a site near Grendon there were up to 20 + Yellowhammer and 3 Tree sparrows, while the Webs count at a part flooded Alvecote pools today produced 3 Pintail (2 males) although apart from Tufted duck, Canada goose and Coot, Wildfowl numbers were low.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Some you win........

Tuesday 6th March 2018

After a few days of nothing much happening Warwickshire birding burst into life. Draycote Water led the way with 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Black tailed Godwit.

Red - breasted Merganser, Draycote Water

3 Red-breasted Mergansers

Another good County bird turned up the following day just outside Bretford, in the form of a Berwick's Swan with the resident winter flock/herd of Mute Swans. Unfortunately I dipped on the Curlew which had dropped in at Brandon Marsh as it dropped out just before I got to the East Marsh hide. A Dunlin was little compensation.

Berwick's Swan, Nr Bretford

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Snow Patrol

Saturday 4th March 2018

Couple of short local walks today starting with a stroll along the River Anker from Woodford Lane. No sign of the Firecrest and only a couple of Chiffchaff but interesting concentrations of some species such as Moorhen,(20) and Snipe (11) also Water Rail. At Caldecote there was a Stonechat, 2 Sparrowhawks one of which was seen to take a small bird, 11 Linnets and 10 or so Song Thrushes as well as the scattering of Redwing and Fieldfare.

Sunday 5th March 2018

Just a short walk in the slush today at Mancetter Quarry. Again there were a few Song thrushes on the hill where the snow had disappeared and there were also 2 Meadow pipits which I hadn't seen for some time.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Birding in the snow

Wednesday 28th February 2018

Walks in the 'white stuff' have not yet produced the sought after Nutcracker, in fact they have not produced many birds at all. There has been an increase in the numbers of Song thrush seen on the Mancetter walk but little else apart from the regular Raven. A visit to Ladywalk Reserve did produce good views of Cetti's warbler but its been a week for not hanging about anywhere too long.
     Thursday saw an up turn in fortunes, the snow hadn't abated but a visit to Mill pool, Alvecote did produce a pair of Pintail (always a pleasure to see) and a solitary Dunlin which seemed to find a few square inches of sand in Warwickshire preferable to the miles of beach along the east coast.

Dunlin, Alvecote pools


Today, Friday, I managed to get in a walk near Mancetter Quarry before the snow came in. Sad to see birds struggling in the wind and sub- zero temperatures. Thrushes in particularly seemed to be badly affected. Several Redwing were seen on the roads and kerbs trying to find whatever food they could and narrowly avoiding traffic.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Reservoir Birds.

Monday 19th February 2018

Blogs are rather more irregular than I would like but I'll try to catch up with the more interesting bits but not necessarily in the right order. A visit to Draycote Water was rewarding with fairly distant views of the Red necked Grebe ( thanks to Dennis Woodward) and my first encounter with the Draycote Hawfinch. Further visits to the river Anker have proved fruitless in terms of Firecrest but there are several Chiffchaff and a few Siskin. A walk up the hill at Mancetter was interesting as I managed the circular tour for the first , up the hill, shirt round the 'Hayes' and back along the canal towpath. The only unusual bird action was a stand-off between 3 R L Partridges in a close huddle and a Buzzard standing just 3 metres away. A case of safety in numbers. Ravens are becoming more active with their characteristic rolling flights.
An out of County visit to Albert village Lake produced good views (but not good photos) of the over-wintering juv. Black throated Diver.

Black throated Diver, Albert village Lake, Leics.

A couple of visits to Draycote Water for the Gull roost were very enjoyable. First time up I viewed from the Dam, not the ideal spot apparently so found myself all alone. Nevertheless still found a juvenile Glaucous Gull which I was chuffed with. Having spoken to John Judge I learned that the windsurfing shore was the favoured viewing area. The following day I positioned myself early and sure enough was joined by Theo and Martin, two Draycote regulars. It wasn't long before they picked out 2 Mediterranean Gulls, one in full breeding plummage. Two Iceland Gulls were also found as well as the juv. Glaucous Gull again. With Arctic conditions forecast for the next week further visits to Draycote may be interesting.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

More winter birding in Warwickshire

Tuesday 6th February 2018

Despite several visits to the Hartshill Sewage outfall site there have been no further sightings of the Firecrest by yours truely. Numbers of other species namely Chiffchaff, Wren, Goldcrest, Robin and Grey Wagtail have remained largely constant. The Green Sandpiper, is still present and a Water Rail today was a first for me at this site.
     The Caldecote Hall walk produced a pair of Stonechats on the flood meadow. Meadow pipit and Skylark were more evident than of late.
Yesterday, I felt the need for a change of scene and duly took myself off to South Warwickshire: to near Shipston on Stour to be more exact. I had been told there was a sizeable roost of Red Kites at a wood in the area. Sure enough the birds started to assemble in the late afternoon. It was a magnificent sight as small groups arrived from every direction and circled over a small wood. I counted 28 birds before the icey wind got the better of me. Apparently over twice that number had been recorded recently, but I thoroughly enjoyed the birds I did see.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Horned Lark - Staines

Sunday 28th January 2018

Couple of shots of the Horned Lark at its winter Residence at Staines Reservoirs. Also seen : 1 Red Kite -Staines, 49 En route, Peregrine 'jousting' with Wood Pigeon and Black necked grebe and loads of A380 aircraft.
Many thanks to John H. for driving and to Steve N.and John B. for the in-car entertainment !

Horned Lark, Staines

Horned Lark

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Firecrest - a winter gem

20th January 2018

The year continues on the slow side. Main focus of attention for me has been the usual local walks and the River Anker at Woodford Lane. The overhanging bushes, fallen trees and frost free river produces blooms of insects which in turn encourage a host of small birds during freezing conditions, including Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Grey Wagtail, Wrens and after several years of looking - a Firecrest. After the initial sighting, the bird proved extremely elusive and it wasn't until my eighth or so visit that the bird showed really well. Now we start to look for another Dipper !!

Firecrest, Hartshill S.W.




Friday, 12 January 2018

Review of 2017 - Part 2, Warwickshire mainly

Friday 5th January 2018

A quietish year for Western P. Birding and Twitching with only 1 species, Amur Falcon, added to my National list and a holiday in Madeira producing a couple of new birds for the Western P. list.
A great year locally though, despite missing out on Richards Pipit only a few miles from Home.
 I've spent an increasing amount of time on local sites which has proved rewarding and quite satisfying.
         Despite having a poor year for waders at Draycote and the Tame valley my total number of species seen within the current Warwickshire boundary is still the 5th best County total recorded since I started County listing in the year 2000. The highlight was undoubtedly the Lesser Yellowlegs but the Draycote Razorbill wasn't far behind with Dartford Warbler and the Tundra Bean goose making a quartet of 'ticks'.
The final total for the year was 157. Well short of my record year of 2010 when 182 species were seen in the County,which represented 88 %  of the species recorded in the Warwickshire that year.

A few 'good'  Warks, birds not included in part 1 of the review.

Waxwing, Rugby

Bean Goose, Nuneaton

Whitefronted Goose, Middleton

Distant Merlin, Warton

Hawfinch, N.Warks

Red necked Grebe, Draycote Water