Friday 30 October 2009

The price of Fame

Just be patient

Nearly there

Stonechat, Middleton lakes

Friday 30th October 2009

Found myself in a bit of a traffic jam at Bodymoor Heath this morning. Shame really cos these people wanted my autograph which I thought was a little odd even odder that they seemed to want their shirts written on as well. But they were quite patient as the mega vehicles with somebody called Ashley Young and Nigel Reo-coker got out of the way. I must say I found the whole experience quite humbling. I hadn't realised birders had achieved Celebrity status, well not in Warwickshire, although I gather there are several in Staffs who have been seen on the inside cover of Hello magazine or was it the Sun. Can you we wont go there!

After that birding in the Tame valley was a bit, well Tame. At Drayton Bassett, a Stonechat posed nicely.
I retired to Kingsbury Water Park to hear a very illuminating lecture held jointly by Ron Thomas and John Harris on 'The history of Warwickshire - the vice County, and its birds'.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Lesser black backed Gull

Juvenile Lesser black backed Gull

Thursday 29th October 2009
Many thanks to Alan Dean for the comprehensive explanation of why yesterdays Gull sp was indeed a Lesser black backed Gull. If you had seen the gull in the middle of a roost you wouldn't think twice about calling it a Lesser black backed but a individual gull that you can see every detail of is more likely to get you thinking.

It’s a juvenile Lesser Black-back. It still has entirely juvenile feathers – no moult at all yet to first-winter scapulars and mantle, and hence their ‘simple’ pattern. This itself is indicative of LBB in a late October bird (some Herring may not have any 1W feathering by late October but others do, while in rarer species such as YLG and Caspian, being earlier breeders, the young have obvious grey-based 1W feathering to mantle and scapulars by September or even late August). Other LBB characters include the solidly dark tertials with just white fringe terminally, the long wing-projection, and the dusky head. The bill looks quite long but there is individual variation – it’s probably a male.

Regards, Alan

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Gull sp

Wednesday 28th October 2009

Well I was going to prattle on about the highlight of my day being the large flocks of Fieldfare flying over the biggest of which being about 300 birds near Maxstoke - but you dont want to know that. No, you want to test your Gull identification skills. So have a look at this. I'd assumed it was a juvenile Lesser Black backed Gull but I'm not 100%. Bill looks long, head looks small. I dont know. The photo was taken at Shustoke reservoir this morning.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Harlequin invaders from Asia

Harlequin or Asian Ladybird - Harmonica axyridis, Fishers Mill

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

Red crested Pochard, Alvecote pools

Red crested Pochard

Red crested Pochard

Tuesday 27th October 2009
Started by having a look round Coton lakes. There were 3 Ruddy duck among the regular Wildfowl but apart from a few Redwing nothing else was noted. At Kingsbury Water Park it was a similar story with a single female Goldeneye the only new bird on show. The walk along the canal to Fishers Mill was strangely quiet no walkers, no cyclists, no birders and no canal boats. It seemed strange for a half term day. At Fishers mill I met Geoff Williams there was a small flock of Golden plover, a Common Sandpiper and a Dunlin at the north end of Middleton Lakes but I didnt venture due to not being shod for heavy mud. I became intrigued by the Ladybirds particularly around the Ash tree next to the entrance to Fishers Mill as they seemed to be increasing in numbers as I watched. The new fencing at the entrance also attracted the insects and I attempted to take a few shots. They seemed large and came in a variety of colours and patterns quite different from the Ladybirds you usually see. The Harlequin Ladybird invasion had reached North Warwickshire.
Archie Archer turned up, he confirmed that there was a female Red crested Pochard on Mill pool, Alvecote. Probably the same bird that Geoff had seen on Dosthill Nature reserve the previous day.
There was no sign of the Pochard on Mill pool when I got there. A couple of Little Egrets but very few ducks. A walk round to Teal pool resulted in another Little Egret but no R.C.Pochard. On the way back to the lay by the first visible migration of the day with 29 Fieldfares, my first of the winter flying east to west. A further scan of Mill pool showed a large number of Tufted duck had dropped and amongst them the Red crested Pochard (171)

Monday 26 October 2009

Much ado....again

' Up, up, and away in my beautiful Balloon'

Jack and Jill (John)

Birds eye view

Monday 26th October 2009

You can tell Ive had a pretty ordinary day when all I can offer are shots of sunsets, people, Long tailed Tits and Hot-air Balloons. Garden watch produced a small flock of Greenfinch, which was nice. Fishers Mill had a Garganey and alot of people. Bassett pools had a Ringed plover, alot of Lapwing and no people. ASDA had alot of people but the coffee is cheap.
I then tried to find Branston gravel pits and didn't even get close. Just as I was giving it up as a bad job a pager message told me the Black throated Diver hadn't been seen anyway.

Sunday 25 October 2009

The weekend after.....

25th October 2009
After the excitement in the week the weekend has been somewhat subdued. In fact I haven't been out at all really. Priority was of course adding 1 to all my lists which took most of Saturday. It took me far less time to process all the photos I'd taken up north. So I've been reduced to a Garden watch while I attempted to tidy up the garden. And whats more at precisely 10.30am on Saturday the wind direction changed from easterly to westerly and then South westerly and becoming almost cyclonic on Sunday. The significance of this meteorological info is that my neighbours leaves are now falling in his garden where they belong and not mine.
Anyway, a pair of Skylarks flew over the garden calling this morning and my first local flock, C100 of Golden plover were seen over fields next to the A5 halfway between The Longshoot and the Royal Red Gate. Also an aberrant Kestrel looking like a miniture male Hen Harrier in general colouration was seen next to A5 near MIRA.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Friday 23rd October 2009

It had been a normal Thursday evening; a couple of pints of Vicar's ruin with the Thursday club at the Church End Brewery, a curry with Jan and the tail end of Coronation Street. I looked at the pager, something about an Eastern crowned warbler in County Durham. Despite the glass of wine with the curry I was aware enough to know that I needed to react. I was trained for this situation. I knew what to do. I phoned Tony Shepherd, he had also had a bit of a night out so a bit of sorting out had to be done. He rang back, I needed to pick Neil up and be at his place in the early hours. A few calculations old me I would be OK to drive by then.
When we got to the suggested parking area at South Shields it was deserted, which puzzled us, even though it was still dark we expected to see a few people around for a 'first for Britain'.
We tried to sleep in the car. Tony made some comment about the proximity of my feet to his head. I had clean socks on what was the problem and anyway I assured him he wouldnt smell them when my digestive system had got to work on last nights curry!
By the time the skies started to lighten there were about 30 or so birders around and we walked the short distance to the old quarry. Another 20 birders arrived from the opposite direction and we waiting for the light to come up. The bird had been seen in bushes at the base of a rocky edge. Time moved slowly as the expectant crowd tried to look for any movement amongst the leaves. Finally the bird was seen in the small Sycamore trees. As the light steadily improved the bird showed on and off always moving restlessly through the foliage. It was a question of being patient. I gave up trying to find the bird in the scope until I'd had a decent view in the bins but each time the bird appeared I got slightly better views. The light was now good and I tried with the scope again, at last a decent scope view - what a little cracker, I could relax now. Apologies to all those people I know who I had the briefest of words with but you know what it like on a twitch before you see the bird well.
The Eastern crowned warbler shared the bushes with a couple of Blackcaps and then a Yellow browed warbler flew, presumably in off the sea, over our heads and into the bushes. By the time we left there were approaching 300 birders at the site. A final memory worthy of note was the sight of Neil tripping over a guide dog in the car park. I'll say no more. A hearty breakfast at the nearby ASDA and then home with thanks to Neil and Tony for driving.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Much ado

Birder's Lunch - high Masterchef rating for presentation ?

Meadow pipit - Draycote Water

Meadow pipit

Meadow pipit
Wednesday 21st October 2009
We can't complain, we've had some good birds locally and one or three goodies nationally if you count Scotland and beyond. On the other hand when its been quiet this Autumn its been very quiet. Wader passage has been spasmodic to none existent in Warwickshire. I went to Draycote Water in the vain hope of seeing a Sanderling but the pager message was less than helpful and not very encouraging, but when you are desperate for County year ticks you'll clutch at any straw. I dont mind Draycote in mid week though. Despite what I've said about its management, at the end of the day it is one of the best birding venues in Warks. So there was the chance of something 'dropping in'. In the event it didnt but I got a bit of excercise and worked up an apetite for my Pork pie lunch. The only new birds in were 4 Goldeneye, and the recently harrowed fields near the inlet had a variety of flocks of Meadow pipits, Skylarks with a few Yellowhammer and Chaffinch mixed in. Only becoming apparent when flushed by a Sparrowhawk.
Next venue was Brandon Marsh. I needed some info for a Blog project for next year and I must say the ladies at reception were most helpful. I looked in the hides briefly. There was no sign of the reported Jack Snipe but plenty of Common Snipe dotted about and a single Green Sandpiper.
The final venue for the day was Shustoke Res. for the gull roost. A possible Franklin's Gull had been in the roost the previous two nights. With very poor light the few observers had been unable to clinch the ID so with good light and a gathering flock of birders hopes were high that the ID could be sorted out if the bird turned up again. It didn't.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

A day without birds is like........

Tuesday 20th October 2009

A domestic sort of day, and not before time I hear you say. Well I wimped out of the early morning shift at Shustoke, and then wimped out of everything else as the clouds darkened and the rains fell. I did manage to pick up a few more leaves though before the rain descended. As birders we love a good easterly blow in autumn but there is a down side. It means that all the leaves from my neighbours Ash tree fall in my garden and not his. Work ,work, work. And another thing - if your not careful with Ash leaves you end up picking 5 leaves instead of one?
The day started badly really as I was all psyched up for a quick early morning pre rain twitch to Cossington meadows, Leics. Pork pie chilled in the fridge, Hula hoops packed and ready to go, camera batteries charged, Sat Nav tuned all it needed was the Go, go, go from the pager but the Little Bittern couldn't wait, just like the Stilt Sandpiper at Rutland Water which couldn't wait another 20 minutes. Leicestershire birds are so impatient.

Monday 19 October 2009

Deja vu

Glossy Ibis, Fishers Mill

Wigeon - part of a flock of c100 flying over Kingsbury

Painted Lady, one of 3 at Dosthill

Stonechat - Dosthill

Little Egrets, Fishers Mill

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Monday 18th October 2009

I've lived this moment before. Same place, same species, same weather only the names of the people have been changed to protect the innocent. It was thought Sunday's Glossy Ibis had a different number / letters to the bird seen on Saturday and today's Ibis had no ring at all so definitely 2 birds involved and possibly 3. Just like corporation buses you wait for years and then 3 turn up one after the other. What is extraordinary is that the 2 or 3 birds should choose exactly the same feeding areas and move from one to the other in exactly the same way. I cannot believe there is not very similar habitat throughout the Middleton lakes site. On the other hand if you think about it, different waders very often chose the same patch of shoreline ignoring other areas which look just as good. Perhaps birds can sense optimum feeding conditions, and not waste valuable feeding time on trial and error. Perhaps.

Other birds seen at Fishers Mill include Peregrine, Garganey, 4 Little Egret and Goldeneye. Visible migration was apparent in the form of Redwing and c100 Wigeon flying south. Steve Haynes also saw large numbers of Chaffinches and several groups of Brambling near Hartshill Hayes. As it got increasingly black over Bill's mothers I retired to ASDA at Tamworth for coffee and to stock up on Hula Hoops.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Glossy Ibis - a new Warwickshire bird

The twitch

Glossy Ibis - Fishers Mill, Warks/Staffs

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis - showing colour ring

17th October 2009

I was having having a rest day from the rigours of Birding. Mowing the lawn that sort of thing, when I recieved a call from Tom Perrins saying Geoff Williams had found a Glossy Ibis on Fisher's Mill pool. This was right on the Warks/Staffs border so with the prospect of a new bird on my Warks list I was soon on the move. The bird had apparently flown from Fishers Mill towards the Dosthill Nature reserve so the plan was to walk down from the Malt House pub to the north end of the water ski lakes which would give me some height to view the whole area if the bird flew. After scanning the edges of the reeds on the eastern side of the river John Harris received a call to say the bird was back at Fishers Mill. I broke into an occasional jog to get over the bridge and round to the Fishers Mill bridge where several of the Great and Good of North Warks birding were already assembled. The Glossy Ibis (170) was feeding at some distance at the northern and western end of the pool. There was considerable debate as to whether the bird was in fact in Warwickshire or Staffordshire or whether it mattered anyway if we were standing in Warwickshire. I must say I do prefer the bird to be in the County.
Anyway the bird flew a few hundred yards to the back of the pool and it was generally agreed this was definitely Warwickshire. All in all an interesting conclusion to the day.
The following day the Ibis was reported in the same area. 20 or so Birders arrived but were disappointed to find the bird was nowhere to be seen. A message that a Glossy Ibis had been seen circling over Willington gravel pits in Derbyshire may well have been the same bird. There were a few other birds about. A Garganey was on the pool, A Stonechat on the long mound, Kingfisher on the river, Raven calling but not seen and a Little Egret. Also a small flock of Redwing in bushes at Coton for the third day.

Arctic tern at Kingsbury Water Park

Juvenile Arctic Tern - Canal pool, Kingbury Water Park

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

Arctic tern

Friday 16th October 2009

The 2 drake Common Scoter seen at Shustoke reservoir the previous day had been replaced by a female, so after a quick look at the newcomer it was off to Coton and environs, nothing much to report except an increase in the numbers of Wigeon. After a Coffee at the Cedars it was time for a stroll round the Water Park. Cliff Pool had a Green Sandpiper and a few Common Snipe but on the way back I noticed an Arctic Tern on Canal pool. It was interesting that the bird was diving presumably for fish rather than taking insects off the surface as the Shustoke birds had done. I spent an enjoyable hour or so chatting to the Carp fishermen and trying to take a few snaps of the Tern.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Brown Shrike in Surrey

Brown Shrike

Wednesday 14th October 2009

Had a phone call last night. It was the one I'd been hoping for from Tom. I was being called up off the subs bench as a late replacement for Julian Allen who was unavailable for this particular twitch. It was the chance I'd been waiting for to make the A team. My boots were immaculate but the rest of my kit was pretty shoddy if Im honest but in Tom's car he probably wouldn't notice. On the M40 we played the usual game of count the Red Kites with a slight adjustment of also counting Jays flying across the motorway. The difference wasnt as great as you might think. Anyway the human Sat Nav got us to our destination where we were met with 'its flown south but its still around'. The moor was in fact a large area of rough cattle pasture with scattered Hawthorn bushes. The Brown Shrike was almost as far away as it was possible to be. Birders started to edge closer, at least you could now tell it was a Shrike. The Shrike then gradually moved from bush to bush towards the assembled throng giving some excellent views through the scope.
Hunger pangs were troubling Tom and he muttered something about Services as he edged back towards the track back to the car. I'd come prepared with Pork pie and Hula hoops as I wasnt sure if Pork pies were obtainable this far South, being regarded as Northern Fodder like Black pudding and scratchings. I'm sure they are available in specialist dellies but I wasn't sure.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Footpaths !

Which way ?

Coventry canal

Coventry canal

Coventry canal a bit further along



Common Buzzard

Tuesday 13th October 2009

Again it seemed very quiet birdwise. I walked for 2 hours this morning and saw very little. Starting at Caldicote I followed the footpath across the stubble field to a bridge over the railway. There were one or two Skylarks flying over, a few Meadow pipits and Reed Buntings and 4 Common Snipe along the edges of the field. The only other bird of note was a pale Common Buzzard. The path came out on the Coventry canal towpath which I followed until I reached the Marina where I picked up a Bridle path back to Caldecote. The most interesting fauna on the way back was several fish in the river Anker. I think they were Chub but I stand to be corrected on that one.
Something that caught my eye on my walk was the signage( I hate that word) on a telegraph pole - see picture. How many paths were involved here: Correct, just one. I just wonder how many man hours were involved here. No wonder the country is bankrupt. Clearly there are a number of agencies at work at County, Borough council and District levels all with their various Heritage, Recreation and Environmental departments. The poor old telegraph pole was full up and looked more like a Boy scout's sleeve, so a shiny new post had to be erected to share the burden. We've come along way (no pun intended) since footpaths were created for countryfolk to get from one village to another. Now they're Heritage trails or Quarrymens walks or somesuch, a simple path will no longer suffice.
In the afternoon I took my Dad to Ilam in Derbyshire. Nice day.