Wednesday 28 January 2009

A dull January day

Wednesday 28th January

Looks like Emile Heskey might be an inspired aquisition for the Villa, but time will tell. For those who dont like football not much to report. I'm trying hard to see all the regular resident breeding birds in Warwickshire by the end of the month. At the moment I reckon I'm 3 short : Cetti's warbler(although I have heard one), Corn Bunting and Long eared Owl. I'm not sure about Curlew and Crossbill.

Anyway, in daylight little better than the light from those Save the Planet lightbulbs we're forced to use, the search for birds continued. I thought I might find some winter flocks around Eathorpe and Wappenbury. Birds seen, excluding 'garden' species : Great spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Fieldfare c80, Redwing c15, Bullfinch, Greenfinch c20, Yellowhammer, Common Snipe 3, Common Buzzard, Meadow Pipit (110)

The images of foxes at Brandon were taken yesterday, included to brighten up a very dull day.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Once Bittern

Tuesday 27th January 2009

You spend hours in hides hoping for opportunities like this, you dont know whether to grab your bins or your camera so I grabbed the camera and managed to get a few shots of this wonderful bird.

Monday 26 January 2009

A normal day in the Tame valley.

Monday 26th January 2009
After the exertions of yesterday it was necessary to potter about at a more sedate pace today. I scanned Coton but saw nothing particularly interesting, had a chat to the bailiff about the colour of the water in the river, pollution, Cormorants, sewage, over-population and moved on to Lea Marston balancing lakes where I was delighted to find a couple of Scaup, a 1st winter male and a female. There was also a single Ruddy duck.(109)
At Hams Hall apart from Bullfinch there seemed to be fewer birds around 'the bridge'. The two Firecrests had been seen earlier in the morning but there was no sign now. Two Chiffchaffs and two Grey Wagtails were there as well a couple of Green Woodpecker. A Raven was heard not far away and a white headed Common Buzzard made use of the lamposts in the station car park. A Green Sandpiper was viewable from the river bridge. Polly was calling so I went for quick one. At 70p a large cup you can't complain but I felt a bit conspicuous as everyone else was wearing high visability jackets- conspicuous being inconspicuous. Never mind.
I visited 21 Oaks on the way home to look for any finch flocks in the cover crops of maize but nothing doing.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Search for the Great White Egret

Sunday 25th January 2009

Tame valley birders were on high alert when the news emerged that a Great White Egret had been seen late on Saturday in the vicinity of Kingsbury Water Park. On Sunday with no further news I decided to check the Bodymoor heath pools and those at the southern end of the water park. No joy there but there had been a sighting of the bird heading towards Middleton so I headed that way, again nothing on the main lake but luckily I met Steve Cawthray who had a few ideas where the bird might be. To be continued when Ive had my tea.
O.K. Where was I. After checking the pool behind the farm and finding only Little Egrets we split up I headed back towards the Hall and Steve carried on to higher ground. It wasn't long before he rang to say he was watching the Great White in the pool I'd just left. I switched to twitch mode and accelerated to something between a brisk walking pace and Warp speed. I got back to the pool just in time to see a large white thing disappear over the trees. Steve, from his elevated viewpoint confirmed the bird had been spooked by a Grey Heron and flown to the field behind the canal. Dear me I sighed, but it was no time for self pity. By approaching the fields from behind the farm I would have an excellent view of the whole area. My trusty wellies served me well as I approached a point where I could see the whole field but no sign of the Egret. I turned to walk back but as I did so the Great White Egret erupted from the ditch beside me. The bird flew back over the pool towards Fishers Mill bridge. I phoned Steve but he was watching the bird flying over his head.

Saturday 24 January 2009

'You'll have to go on the train'.

Saturday 24th January 2009

My day began at Birchmoor. I was determined to add a couple of species to my year list and as everyone had told me there were thousands of Golden plover at Birchmoor and you couldn't miss them I thought I'd better prove them right. There weren't thousands though just 19 but that was good enough. Skylarks were a plenty with a few Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. I also saw Grey Partridge thanks to Chris Cook. Hams Hall was the next site I tried for the Common Sandpiper but to no avail. There had been no sign of the Firecrest either but the 3 Green Sandpiper were still there. Highlight of the visit though was the aerial display of 2 Ravens and a Peregrine over one of the massive warehouses next to the river. I grabbed a couple of shots before my card was full. Why had I wasted all those shots of Sandpipers half a mile away that you know when you take them are going to be rubbish.

It was now well into the afternoon and things were getting serious. I hadn't eaten for several hours, I even tried the nearby railway station - sandwich, no chance they hadnt even got a toilet. They're on the train I was told - strangely I didnt fancy going to Peterborough just for a P. . s.

They've got a toilet at Shustoke reservoir I'll go there, nice place Shustoke, toilets, picnic tables British rail could learn alot from Severn Trent.
The fields around Shustoke, on the Maxstoke road proved very rewarding, a cover crop of maize for game birds also attracted a large flock of finches mainly Yellowhammers and Chaffinch but there was also 2 Tree Sparrow which can be a difficult bird to find in North Warwickshire. To round off the day a Little Owl posed in a large Oak near Maxstoke.

Friday 23 January 2009

Crestfallen - not

Friday 23rd January 2009

After a couple of quiet days spent largely walking through bird friendly habitat with no birds, save a pair of Red legged Partridges at Shustoke, it was a relief to hear that Steve Haynes had found a Firecrest at Hams hall. Steve had already excelled himself by providing most acceptable locally sourced Pork pie for the regular Thursday evening soiree at the Church End brewery.

The Firecrest eventually gave itself up briefly, disappearing for 30 -40 minutes before putting in another appearance. However, there were other attractions with Grey Wagtails, 4 / 5 Chiffchaff, numerous Goldcrests 4 Green Sandpipers and one Common Sandpiper which I didn't see.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

A Three Falcon Day

20th January 2009

I couldn't resist another look at the Great White Egret even if it was in Leicestershire. Actually I have a great affection for Leicestershire having lived in the County during my indisciplined post College 'fun years'. A Pintail and 2 Kingfishers were also seen. Having gorged myself on the Egret A whim took me to Birchmoor via Warton. I dont know why I keep going to Warton but I did see a Little Owl there more than once and there used to be Corn Bunting in the area but not today.
Birchmoor though proved an inspired decision. Merlin, yes, terrifying a large flock of Skylark flew 360 degrees around me, wow. I also saw a Stonechat and a few Reed Buntings.
Kingsbury Water Park and the surrounding area is good value if you're prepared to put in the time. Broomey Croft car park had a Greater spotted Woodpecker briefly and another Kingfisher was on the canal. It was the area between the water park and Dosthill which produced some good birds today. Early afternoon saw a Peregrine falcon, 2 Raven, and Little Egret, later in the afternoon the 1st winter male Hen Harrier was seen as well as 2 Pink footed Geese which flew along the river from the water park to join the Canada goose flock at Dosthill Water Ski Centre. You said 3 falcons I hear you cry, sorry I forgot the Kestrels I saw frequenting the mound at Dosthill.
Footnote: I'm fairly convinced there are indeed 2 Hen Harriers in the Tame valley. Photographs can play tricks but there is clearly a 1st winter male, and I believe from shots I took today a female.

Monday 19 January 2009

A Four Heron Day

Monday 19th January 2009

One of those days when things fit into place. Having missed out on Bittern last year I was going to give it a good go this year so I headed off to Brandon Marsh near Coventry. Luckily the weather had improved by the time a got to East marsh, the wind was variable and now and again the wind eased to allow a chance to look for tell tale twitches in the reed stems. I had the hide to myself but I was aware a party was gathering and was heading my way.The reeds twitched and there was the Bittern at least its back, but it was heading my way. Part of the bill and an eye was now visible but I could hear the sound of squelching wellies. The hide door opened walking sticks tapped on the floor of the hide the bird moved back into the reeds.

I missed seeing the Great White Egret at Sheepy parva last year but caught up with it at Caldecot and then Hartshill. It shows well in the far corner of the fishing pond before flying off to the river something it has been doing for several days apparently.

I had planned to spend the late afternoon at Kingsbury but the idea of seeing 4 species of Heron in one day appealed to me so I headed off to Ladywalk where Little Egrets sometimes come in to roost. As I waited in Riverwalk hide I was joined by Pete Sofley he was doing a duck count, in the course of which he picked up 3 Pintails including 2 magnificent drakes. He also spotted a Little Egret flying in. Cheers Pete.

Sunday 18 January 2009


Sunday 18th January 2009

Actually it was a remarkable day in that the sun shone from dawn till dusk. Also remarkable because I spent the entire day with Jan, and very pleasant it was to. Our morning stroll was slightly birdy we went to Middleton hall and as we were in the vicinity popped in to Fishers Mill where a single Redshank was our reward. The Tame was in full flood but hadnt breached its banks so the water level on the scrape was OK. After walking up and down the canal abit it was time for a slap up sandwich at ASDA in Tamworth before going on to Sutton.

Saturday 17 January 2009

Saturday 17th January 2009
Warton Linnet
Alvecote Common Snipe x8, Jack Snipe x2, Water Rail
Dosthill Canada Geese x200
Fisher's Mill Dunlin, Raven

Nice cup of Coffee at newly refurbished Malt House, Dosthill £1.50

Warks year list = 89

Friday 16 January 2009

Unfinished Business

Friday 16th January

News that the White fronted Goose had been seen again at Brandon either just before or just after my first visit had me chasing back to Brandon Marsh next morning. I'd seen a small flock of Greylags fly in to East Marsh but there clearly had to be more Greylags around, so an early morning more thorough search was needed. Using considerable field craft, finely honed from years of birding with Tom Perrins I found the main flock and the White fronted Goose near the Golf course and after sharing a coffee with the dulcet tones of Paul Doherty it was a dash back for an appointment at the dentist and out again to the Tame valley for a couple of hours late afternoon birding.

Wild Goose ? Chase

Thursday 15th January 2009

'I'm on the road again' Who sang that? Anyway, today I shall be looking for geese, so its Draycote Water via Brandon Marsh. No joy at Brandon so on to Draycote where the Pink footed Goose is more obliging in Toft, but not too obliging as it leads its gang of Canadas out onto the centre of the reservoir. There seems to be a number of 'stray' geese around the Midlands at the moment, which may indicate that flocks of wintering geese fragment as they move to new feeding grounds around the country. The fact that such geese 'attach' themselves to feral flocks and adopt their behaviour patterns should not condemn them as plastic.
Other species seen: Shag, Great Northern Diver, Red necked Grebe and Smew. Plus Mottled Umber on the ex cafe.

Later that evening: I disgraced myself at the Brewery Quiz night. I got a question on Moths wrong. Capital of Albania no problem but the largest moth in Europe I choked. I can only blame it on a lack of alcohol due to the fact I had to drive home.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Garden news

Wednesday 14th January 2009

Fog in the morning, car wouldn't start in the afternoon and a Pink footed goose at Draycote, great! So its garden news today : the Goldfinch roost in next door's holly tree is up to 50 and we had a visit from a Sparrowhawk. Ta rah.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Tame valley Owls

Tuesday 13th January 2009

Set off for the Tame valley mid-morning with vague plans to try and pick up a few Warwickshire year ticks. Scaup was a definite target though, having failed to connect on a previous visit. Some rough ground near the Kingsbury oil Terminal looked worth a gander on the way but saw nothing. So on to Lea Marston where luckily all three Scaup could be picked out relatively quickly. I wasnt in any particular hurry but it was good to see a decent bird early on. On to Whitacre Heath Nature reserve and a chance to take a few snaps. A few regular species were on show at the feeding station so I amused myself trying to photograph Nuthatches and Willow tit. You can only take so many photos of Nuthatch so it was soon time to move on. After stopping for a coffee at Hams hall I found myself at Curdworth, the aim was to look for Corn Bunting but I was way off as I followed the perimeter fence of a major up grading programme for the Minworth sewage treatment plant. Nice. Only birds seen were Bullfinch and Grey wagtail. Up until now I'd resisted the temptation to cross the border into Staffs. but with the rain beginning to fall I popped in to Debbie's boatyard to check out the wildfowl. Not many there early afternoon but the Pink footed Goose was there with an immature drake Pintail.

The rain fizzled out so time for the canal walk. Timing is everything in birding as with comedy. I cant tell a joke to save my life but I sometimes get lucky with the birds. The Short eared Owl was showing well on the Water Park and as it moved off to pastures new the Barn Owl took up the search for food in Richards meadow, but the best was yet to come. As I walked back along the canal in the fast fading light I picked out the silhouette of a Tawny Owl against the orange sky, magic.