Saturday 28 February 2009

Always a pleasure

Saturday 28th February 2009

I met up with John (The Drunkbirder) Hague and his mate Skev from Leicester on Edison road, Hams hall to show them some of the delights of Warwickshire birding, if not Warwickshire scenery. . First to the Sewage outfall to look for Firecrest. I could see they were impressed with my skills as a guide as the bird failed to put in an appearance after an hour but they were too polite to say anything. We moved on to Forge Mill, Coleshill, surely the Black Redstart wouldn't let me down. It didnt, in fact it put on an excellent show for my friends from Pork pie land. Tom Perrins showed briefly but became surprisingly elusive.
I've taken a shot of the paparazzi attracted by the Black Redstart. Although it appears the bird is being crowded I can say that the photographers in no way interferred with the birds normal behaviour pattern. I know this is not always the case with rarer species but on this occasion the bird's well being was never compromised.
We had another go for the Firecrest but again no show. John left and I moved on to Broomey Croft for a coffee and then to Middleton. An RSPB work party were busy putting gravel on the islands at Fishers Mill so I carried on to the Drayton Bassett pools. Not very much to see just Little Egret, Kingfisher, Treecreeper, Redshank and the usual assortment of Gulls and Ducks. A Raven flew over calling on the walk back.

Cannock Chase

Friday 27th February 2009
My second venture into Staffs. in a week was rather disappointing. Entirely my own fault, I didn't do it justice - arriving late in the day and not giving it enough time. I did see 11 Common Crossbill at some distance near the Camp and another quite close, but failed with the Woodlark and Waxwings. The Hawfinch at Brocton Coppice also proved elusive. The only other birds of note were Great spotted, and Green Woodpecker, a single Raven was also seen..The day ended well though with a thoroughly entertaining Rugby international on the box. Everything that makes Rugby such a great Sport was in it. I enjoy a good Soccer match but the intensity and total commitment of this game beat anything I've seen on a Soccer pitch for quite a while.

Friday 27 February 2009

King Eider - Flamborough

Thursday 26th February 2009

Thursday began well with breakfast entertainment provided by an aboreal mouse, a Grey squirrel and 3 pheasants. The breakfast room of our B and B looked out on a garden feeding station. A mouse climbs the tree to get at the fat balls, gets chased around the tree by the squirrel, falls on to the ground, gets thrown into the air by a Pheasant then climbs up the tree again. Totally amazing. Also find a Pale brindled Beauty on the wall of the B and B.

Confirmation that a King Eider located yesterday at North landing Flamborough is still present has me in a bit of a flap so our farewells to our host are cut short and arrangements for the day are modified. Luckily Flamborough is just a stones throw up the road so its not long before I'm scrambling down the grassy bank near North landing to get out of the strong wind. 3 birders are 'on the bird' but as its the only bird on the water its not too difficult to locate the 1st winter drake King Eider with its distinctive yellow/orange bill and 2 tone breast. A few Guillemots and Gannets fly past and one Fulmar glides by before an immature Peregrine attacks the feral Rock doves on the cliffs.

On the way back I thought it would be nice to see what Bridlington looked like when you could see it. I was surprised that at low tide there were so many birds around the habour. Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and Sanderling fed among the exposed rocks at the base of the habour wall.

Sparrow central

Wednesday 25th February 2009
The North Cave Wetlands reserve run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is a suberb example of how a former quarry can be designed for the benefit of birds and birdwatchers. I'd never been there before but I thoroughly enjoyed my couple of hours at the site. The hides are full of up to date information and well positioned.
I was lured by the report of a Green winged Teal but despite a thorough inspection of the 200+ Common Teal their American counterpart could not be found. The wetland is just at the end of the M62 and worth the slight detour on route to the more illustrious birding sites further east such as Spurn or Filey. What made my day was the sheer number of Tree Sparrows at a feeding station, I would estimate in excess of 60 birds. I also had great views of Red Kite which I understand is doing really well in this part of Yorkshire. Other birds seen were Mealy Redpoll, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and all the commoner Duck species.
The other feature of this reserve was the hospitality, there was no attempt to make money out of the visitors, you got the impression they liked to share their reserve with newcomers, something that is not always the case in Warwickshire. The refreshment van in the Car park was a gem, homemade cakes and sensible prices. Its worth going just for the homemade Bakewell tart let alone the birds.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Ay it were grand

Tuesday 24th February
Jan and I travelled up to the East Yorkshire for a couple days to see Jan's Mum. Its an area I've always had a fondness for, and the coastline from Filey to Spurn has produced some great birding memories. Although this wasnt a birding trip as such I did have the opportunity to visit one or two local sites. Bridlington like many seaside towns is not at its best during winter. The shuttered amusement arcades and dormant cafes create a sombre atmosphere heightened by an errie fog which rolled in from a motionless sea. There was some activity in the habour where crab boats were unloading their catch of Lobster and Crab attracting the attention of a few Gulls and Turnstones. Through the fog a flock of Purple Sandpiper flew to their high tide roost but were soon lost again in the fog.

Monday 23 February 2009

Curry with Corrie

Monday 23rd February 2009
Started out at my favourite railway bridge near Whitacre Heath. I needed Curlew for my County yearlist and 4 had been reported there over the weekend. I was, however, surprised to see 8 Curlew (116) there, as well as 2 Oystercatchers (117) and the regular Little Egret. The canal walk from Broomey Croft produced 2 Little Egrets at Fishers Mill with yet 2 more at Drayton Bassett. Yes, I had strayed over the County boundary into Staffs. but by the time I realised, it was too late. Only time will tell what fiendish fate awaits. Anyway, the upshot was 3 Redshanks and 2 Ringed Plover. I met the everpresent John Harris but just as we started to look at the Gulls some delinquent on a toy motor bike came hurtling into view and put everything up. John waited for the Gulls to settle but I'd had enough of Staffs birding for one day and headed back. I paused for an hour or so at Richards meadow. No Owls but I was joined by Wally who kindly showed me some of the slides he'd taken in the C19 rephotographed on his new digital camera - too dam clever for me.

The wind got up and I was feeling distinctly cold. I took my leave and with the prospect of Curry and double Corrie to look foward to made my way home.

Saturday 21 February 2009

A day with the Ducks

Saturday 21st February 2009
Jan suggested a day out at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge, and so it was. We hadn't been there for many years although I'd visited on several 'twitches'-Lapland Bunting, Little Crake and Glossy Ibis more recently.
It was busy, but on a gloriously sunny and warm Saturday in February it was always going to be busy.
The view from the Holden tower was impressive with good numbers of White fronted and Barnacle geese on the Dumbles. There were also 6 Bean geese and a single Brent goose which we did not see.
Tack piece was alive with activity Berwick's Swans, Shelduck, Pintail, Wigeon, Curlew, Dunlin, Curlew and Ruff seemed constantly on the move all watched by a Peregrine high up on a distant tree. It was a good day.

Friday 20 February 2009

Its not all about Birds

Thursday 19th February 2009

Quite a Spring like day with many birds in full song. A look at the banks of the Tame and the Whitacre Heath meadows from the railway bridge produced one Little Egret and a Trainspotter/photographer. Like me he was hoping something a bit different would turn up. We were both disappointed. I moved on to Hams Lane but apart from Common Buzzards didn't see much else. I moved on to Broomy Croft-it was more like Alton towers than a Nature reserve as a tractor train rumbled past me full of happy holiday makers.

Birds of note included 6 Shelduck, a few Goldeneye and a couple of Common Snipe on the pool and no less than 10 Common Buzzard circling overhead. If I hadn't been at Alton Towers I would have thought I was in Arizona.
Time for a reality check-the walk up the canal was pleasant, the cyclists on the tow path thanked me for stepping aside, things were looking up. It would have been nice to lean on the fence at Fishers Mill bridge and see what came my way but busy busy I had an appointment back in Nuneaton so it was just a quick scan and a walk back.

But the day was not done. It was the occasion of the Church End Brewery Thursday Club A.G.M. that evening. Pies to be eaten, Batches/Cobs/Baps/Barms to be consumed. Ale to be quaffed, decisions to be made and awards to be presented. Thursday's images reflect the dignity and good natured Brotherhood of the event as well as the immaculate Bar mat work of Head Barman Captain Les Hall.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Moths in the Mist

Wednesday 18th February 2009

Lured by the prospect of Red crested Pochard today's destination was Draycote water. As I approached it was obvious it would be difficullt viewing, the whole valley was shrouded in mist. I set off on my 5 mile yomp hoping it would clear but it didnt. It was flat calm, the edges showed evidence the gull population was undergoing a major moult with a fringe of white feathers covering the waters edge. The stillness was only shattered by the penetrating screams from a distant shore, of children realising that their shiny new bikes needed physical effort to make them go. Im going off on a Victor Meldrew. Back to nature, the Red necked Grebe showed well as did one of the 3 Great northern Divers seen, a drake Smew flew out of the mist and a few Goosander floated about. A weasel hurried about its business and the air was heavy with the scent of fox in the copses.
Back at the ex-cafe were 2 new moths for me - Pale brindled Beauty and Dotted Border.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Black Redstart

Tuesday 17th February 2009

I had planned a 'quiet' day, do a few (well one) job(s) about the house, go in to town to sort something out at the bank etc. So when Tom(underrated birder) Perrins texted me that Pete Forbes had found a Black Redstart on Coleshill Industrial Estate I was thrown into confusion. Regular devotees of this Blog will know I'm not the coolest birder in town when it comes to decision making - sorry got to put the pasta on back in a bit. So there we are, appointment at 11.30 can I get to Gorsey Lane and back in time. I start out, where is Gorsey Lane anyway. I phone Pete, phone runs out I turn back.

So its the afternoon before I set off again, this time armed with a vague idea of where Im going.
After driving up and down Gorsey Lane a couple of times I pull in and park up. Even before getting out of the car I can see the Black Redstart(115) on the verge. Very confiding little beauty.
I was surprised that there were no other birders around but as I found out most people had been quicker off the mark than me. After taking a few snaps its off to Hams Hall as I get to 'the bridge' Lee Johnson is watching and photographing the Firecrest high up in the trees. The bird duly disappears but reappears at regular intervals in the trees giving the opportunty to take some more snaps. Not quite in the Dave Hutton class but I was quite pleased with the days 'work.'

Monday 16 February 2009

Driven mad

Monday 16th February 2009

Didnt feel like going too far a field so I headed for the most northerly point of Shakespeare's County around the villages of Austry, Newton Regis and Warton. Somebody, I cant recall who, had told me that Corn Bunting were now extinct in this area. Having seen them just outside Warton a few years ago I thought I'd challenge the statement, although clearly my chances of locating them will be better in the spring. I found some good footpaths and some good habitat but little to encourage my search for the Corn Bunting, no yellowhammers or Reed Buntings only a single Skylark a few Chaffinch, 4 Stock doves and a small flock of Linnet.

On the vast open fields below Orton on the hill one of 4 Buzzards on the ground looked odd, very upright and and leggy in stance. In flight the wings looked quite narrow and tapered and the breast and underwing predominantly white with dark belly patches. There was no dark terminal band to the tail and the head and upperparts were typical Common Buzzard but it was still distinctly odd and worth having a second look at.

And finally: Black shiny Range Rovers take up quite alot of a country lane. So why is it always me who has to take to the verge to make room. I thought the whole idea of a 4x4 was that they could drive off road. I suppose they can but the drivers seem somewhat limited, cant all be down to arrogance.

Sunday 15th February 2009

Spent a non-birding weekend in the deep south of Warwickshire with some great friends Phil and Carol. Did have a brief look at Wolford woods but very little birdlife at mid morning. Nice to see Roe deer though and did hear Raven, Common Buzzard and Treecreeper. I make no comment on the images from the weekend!

Friday 13 February 2009

Roll on the Spring

Friday 13th February 2009

Not particularly lucky or unlucky really. Didnt manage to connect with the Hams Lane Corn Buntings again, didnt see the Firecrest at Hams hall or any Owls at Richards meadow but met some nice people here and there, had a decent walk and did get a couple of snaps of Goldcrest to put on the old Blog.
As my old pal Tom would say 'who needs luck when you've got fieldcraft.'
I must say that Fisher's Mill is looking interesting. Im sure it will attract a host of passage waders this spring to boost my Warks total, and more importantly provide some great habitat for breeding and passage birds. Nice to be optimistic about habitat in Warks a complete contrast to Draycote Water which seems to be going backwards in terms of habitat and wildlife conservation.
The Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Long tailed Tit were photographed at Hams Hall. The Lesser Redpoll was part of a flock of c12 along the canal near Fishers Mill.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Kestrel steals the show

12th February 2009
Ponder this : When do voles sleep?
If Kestrels prey on them by day and Owls pray on them by night, when do the poor little buggers get to sleep?

Birds seen today:
Lawford Heath - large flocks of Starlings, Corvids, Thrushes and Lapwings on newly manured fields. Also large concentrations of Gulls on fields but no white winged Gulls seen.
Draycote Water - Shag, Great northern Diver x2, Red necked Grebe, Golden Plover 9, Common Snipe 19, Goosander

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Close to home

Wednesday 11th February 2009

It may look like Finland but no this is Hartshill Hayes an area of largely coniferous woodland just north of Nuneaton. During a walk of nearly 2 hours birdlife was minimal, limited to to small flocks of tits (including a Blue tit carrying nest material), Nuthatch, Tawny Owl and Great spotted Woodpecker.