Friday 30 July 2010

Good Day

Song Thrush - garden

- a contradition in terms ?

Dunlin, Mill pool - Alvecote

Juvenile Common Tern, Alvecote

Red crested Pochard, Middleton Lake

30th July 2010

The day started well with a garden rarity, a Song Thrush. Not exactly going to set the pulse racing but a very infrequent visitor to my garden unfortunately.
I stopped at the tip at Grendon on route to Alvecote, one of the signs caught my eye, the waste disposal operative and re-cycling consultant stood open mouthed as I took a photo. At Mill pool, Alvecote I found an adult Dunlin (157) in almost full breeding plummage, Yipee. Doesn't take much to get me excited these days. I also counted 12 Common terns, adults and juveniles. Had a quick look at Swan Lake, Coton before moving on to the Cedars cafe for lunch. Its not a posh place. You can read The Sun while your eating your meal. Which is what most people do judging from the Baked bean juice dripping from the corners of the papers. I did notice though that according to Sun sources Harry Rednapp was willing to swap the entire Spurs first team for Ashley Young. I may have got that slightly wrong because I dont take my glasses with me on Birding trips.
After a hearty Turkey and salad sandwich Middleton Lake was the next port of call. The long staying 5 Green Sandpipers were still there but there was a surprise in the form of a pair of female Red crested Pochard. There wasn't much at Fishers Mill or KWP.
The total No of species reported in Warwickshire so far this year now stands at - 181

Thursday 29 July 2010

Hop Gun saves the day

Young Garden warbler : one of the highlights of a walk around Coton pools yesterday.

Garden warbler



All the images above were taken around Coton pools.

Being a Birder in Warwickshire can often be a lonely vigil. Seeking out the less common species from every scrap of habitat it is easy to slip into a fantasy world of rarities and exotic locations. Even Kingsbury Water Park can seem like the upper reaches of the Orinoko or the Everglades. It is only the almost total lack of birds that brings you crashing back to reality. An Oystercatcher was the best Cliff pool had to offer and with the constant threat of rain there were few Dragonflys or Butterflys on show.
I visited Sutton Park in the hope that there might be a few migrants on the move but again there was little of great interest although a flock of 20+ Greenfinches, mainly Juveniles, was noteworthy.
So when all else fails Thursdays can provide the frustrated birder with the solace of a decent pint at the Church end Brewery. Tonight one of my favourite beers; Hop Gun was on offer and with the coversation ranging from such weighty topics as the Severn Valley Railway, old light bulbs, the cast of Are you being Served reality asserted itself once more.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

False Start - Part 2

Common Sandpiper, Draycote Water, Warks.

Yellow legged Gull

Tuesday 27th July

Late in the afternoon I got a pager message about a Sanderling at Draycote but no further details. Having been primed for action earlier I decided to give it a go even though the chances of it still being near the entrance were very slim. As I arrived the odds got slimmer as I greeted by the excited shouting of what sounded like hoards of children. They turned out to be a group canoeing in the small bay near the pontoons where the Sanderling had been. I had some walking to do to check as much of the shoreline as I could without walking all the way round. Apart from a single Yellow legged Gull on the boats and a Common Sandpiper I didnt see a great deal of interest but it was worth hanging around for a bit in case somebody picked up the Sabine's gull in the evening roost. The somebody being John Judge and Richard Mays. They did pick up an exceptional total of 20 Yellow legged Gulls but no Sabine's gull.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

False Start

Tuesday 27th July 2010
Got a bit excited when I recieved news from Tom Perrins and Dave Hutton that there was an adult Sabine's Gull at Draycote Water. I'd just completed my tasks for the morning in town when the news came through so I just had to pick up the camera and off we set. The gull had been found by Richard Mays and Bob Hazel, regular Draycote birders who have found a good number of A list birds over the years. I'd reached the end of our road when the dreaded second message came through saying the bird had flown. So the excitement was short lived but at least I hadn't travelled to find out it had gone. Thanks to whoever for getting the news out so quickly of the birds arrival and departure. Saved quite a few gallons. Sabines gulls are very paleagic and inland records usually associated with Autumn gales. This was an exceptional record for Warwickshire, just a pity its visit was so brief.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Franklin's gull returns to Chasewater

Sunday 25th July 2010

When the highlight of the weeks Birding is meeting Julian Allen and Steve Richards to share a moment looking at a handful of Lesser Black backed Gulls at Chasewater you know its been a quiet week. Its 'always a pleasure' meeting said gents but theres really nothing moving inland yet. A few Green Sandpipers here and there and the odd Black tailed Godwit and thats about it at the moment. Of course it will liven up but I'm just impatient to see my first Dunlin of the year in Shakespeare's county. When I arrived at Chasewater there was a solitary birder scanning the groups of gulls. The Franklins was amongst a group of Lesser black backs. The view was still fairly distant but with no heat haze it was a slightly better view than last week. The bird hadnt been seen for several days and was presumed to have 'moved on' so news of its reappearance came as a bit of a surprise. The gull was now starting to moult out of breeding plummage. I was chatting to Steve Richards when the Franklin's 'disappeared'. One second it was there the next it had gone, which was unfortunate as other birders were beginning to arrive. Perhaps it will become a regular visitor again, perhaps.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Drama at Brandon Marsh

Green Sandpiper, Brandon Marsh N.R.

Little Egret


Stoat with young Rabbit

Little Egret

Tuesday 20th July 2010

It all started so peacefully, family groups of birds: Moorhens, Grebes, Common tern, Kingfishers all feeding fully fledged young at Brandon Marsh Nature reserve. Green and Common Sandpipers and Little ringed Plovers fed easily on the muddy pools. Birders ambled from hide to hide and a Little Egret drifted over. An idyllic scene, but a prelude to what Dramas were to unfold came as a Sparrowhawk flew through carrying a small bird of some description.
I was walking to Steetley hide when a shreech came from the Nettles a few yards ahead, there was some movement in the undergrowth and clearly some kind of violent struggle was taking place as more screams were heard. There was no visability in the dense vegetation just the movement of the plants and dead twigs. I moved a little closer to get a partial view of a young Rabbit lying on its side being attacked by a Stoat. The Stoat was trying to drag the badly injured Rabbit away but the Rabbit was still able to kick out and wasnt giving in easily. I'm not sentimental about Nature but I wanted the Stoat to finish the Rabbit off quickly.

Monday 19 July 2010

Little Owls

Little Owl, Nr. Warton. North Warks.

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl
Monday 19th July 2010

It was one of those days today when I just couldn't wait to take my trousers off. It was OK early on, checking out the Little Owls near Warton but by the time I'd strolled around Alvecote pools it was time to get them off. The strength of the sun had taken me by surprise and it would have been nice to put some shorts on if I'd got any with me. It was a lovely day whatever I was or wasn't wearing. The Little Owl was certainly enjoying the sun and there were a good variety of Butterflies about with most of the commoner species seen during the day with the exception of Small Heath and Holly Blue. Brown Hawkers were the most numerous Dragons. Birds were generally few and far between with just the 3 Common terns still and a Lesser Whitethroat seen at Mill pool.
Coton was little better and a Kingfisher was the best bird on the Water Park. The walk up to Fishers Mill was pleasant enough though unrewarding in birding terms and by the time I got back to the car it was definitely time to get them off. I was desperate for an ice-cold FRIJJ which is the one thing that does it for me when I'm feeling the heat, but it must be Banana flavour.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Another day another Franklin's

Franklin's Gull in flight over Chasewater reservoir, Staffs.

Franklins Gull

Chasewater reservoir, Staffs.

Sunday 18th July 2010

As the Franklin's gull at Chasewater was picked up alot earlier than on Thursday or Friday I popped over to have a look yesterday. I thought there might have been more people there than was the case but there were a few familar faces about. The bird was distant and in the heat haze difficult to see well. It also spent most of its time asleep again which didnt help. Eventually a few of us moved round to 'the balcony'. It wasnt any closer but the sun was more behind us so we got much more satisfactory views with the bird side on. I've included a couple of images to illustrate the sort of view most people got. Apparently the bird came on to the small pool near the car park but unfortunately I was long gone by then. There were also up to 5 Yellow legged gulls amongst the Lesser black backs and a single Common Sandpiper on the shoreline.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Franklin's Gull v Goats Milk

Saturday 17th July 2010
I was tempted, I have to say I was tempted. I was nearly seduced. I dare say if it was going to be the first time I would probably have given in to my instincts and gone. Theres something comfortable though about the old routine, so it would have to be something special to pull me away. Quite Frankly a Franklin's Gull in Staffs just wasnt special enough. Great bird for the West Mids. dont get me wrong, and if news had come out an hour earlier I'd have been there like a shot, but at 6.30pm on a Thursday I'm halfway through my first pint of Goat's Milk at the Church End Brewery enjoying the banter of the Thursday club. A motley crue but like minded citizens who enjoy a good pint and wide ranging conversation. Actually it should be called the Thursday and most Fridays club cos the same thing happened on Friday. Inconsiderate these gulls going to roost in the early evening.

Wednesday 14 July 2010


Wednesday 14th July 2010

Found myself at Mill pool, Alvecote having a bit of a gander. A small herd of young cows stood guard at the fence but there was no problem walking through them quietly. I walked on in an 'I'm cool', sort of a way. Should have been a vet really. Anyway as I walked on I became aware I wasnt alone. The whole bloody flock/herd were following. I turned and gave them a bog off sort of look but I wasn't getting through. In fact as the beasts at the back pushed through to see what was going on they continued to get closer. I tried to ignore them and scan the muddy edges of Teal pool. A juvenile Little ringed Plover stood stationary, as I watched I felt a little nudge in my back I turned again and looked at the culprit. Luckily the young Bullock lowered its head and backed off but I'd had enough. I moved to the other side of the hedge. Out of sight they quickly lost interest and I continued my stroll. A Hobby flew over at hedge height and 3 Common terns flew lazily over the water. A flock of Sand Martin appeared out of nowhere and disappeared again after a few seconds and that was it.
Moving on to an area just outside Warton on the Austrey road an adult Little Owl flew in front of me and landed in an adjacent tree. Nice to see them still in the area as I hadn't seen them for over a year in what had been a reliable site. Several Yellowhammers brightened the walk alongside Wheat and Rape fields but the only other birds of note were Stock Dove, Common Buzzard, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch and another Little Owl this time a juvenile.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Birding - the healthy option !

Monday 12th July 2010

Today I ventured into Staffs. - more for the exercise than anything else I took the long walk to Drayton Bassett. Just as well cos there wasn't much to see birdwise and it rained. As the yards turned to miles, well nearly a mile, I got to thinking about healthy birding as distinct from unhealthy 'twitching'.
We need some definitions; to me Birding involves a bit of everything involving birds, looking for birds in areas, which involves a bit of walking, checking a local patch often involving a bit of walking on a regular basis, familiarisation with other local wildlife, visiting other areas with interesting birds not found in local area and (this is optional) going to see rare birds. Birding can also involve record keeping rather than just listing.
Twitching on the other hand is travelling, often considerable distances to see rare species to add to a list. Of course twitching can also give the opportunity for general birding but the primary aim is to get a tick, to see a new species in the UK.
Ok, the health bit.
Birding = low itensity regular exercise based on walking. Benefits : some cardio-vascular benefit if pace brisk and sustained, (avoid spending too much time in hides if its not raining), weight control, achieved as fat is preferred energy source during sustained aerobic exercise. Mental agility and relaxation arising from awareness and appreciation of natural surroundings and challenges of identification.

Twitching = inactivity during long car journeys in cramped conditions should be avoided, take regular breaks to stimulate increased circulation.
Running to see bird should not be contemplated after a long period of inactivity unless very fit.
Standing for long periods on a twitch for an elusive bird can result in varicose veins.
Twitchers are mad we know that, but stress and anxiety must be managed to reduce high blood pressure.
And finally diet, luckily megas dont turn up every day so that, feel good 'full English or full Scottish' after a successful twitch following an overnight journey can be enjoyed to the full once in a while. The same goes for a Birder's lunch of Pork pie and crisps, an acceptable alternative could be a Samosa or a Scotch egg.

Monday 12 July 2010


Monday 12th July 2010

Had a few things to sort out in Sutton but found time to pop in to Kingsbury W.P. It was almost quiet with most of the Black headed gulls having dispersed. A couple of Common Terns were floating about over the pools but little else. There were 2 Common Sandpipers at the back of Cliff pools and a Kingfisher flew across the back of the pool. As I walked to Sita hide 3 Little Egrets flew over towards Middleton but there was no sign of them at Middleton Lake shortly afterwards, although there were 3 Green Sandpipers feeding on the exposed mud. On the way back from Sutton I had a mouch around Blind pit Lane near Wishaw. There had been a report of a Quail singing but I heard nothing, although with a blustery wind, conditions weren't ideal. I did see 4 juvenile Yellow Wagtails, a Grey Partridge and a few Skylark though.

On a different tack I read with interest the simmering debate on the Surfbirds Forum on the annual occurence of Siberian 'tristris' Chiffchaffs in the UK. I have been surprised that contributers have not mentioned differences in calls. I was brought up to believe that this was the only reliable criteria for identification in the field. Either this has been discredited or we have become solely reliant on photographs these days. Just a thought.

Saturday 10 July 2010

White tailed Plover in Gloucestershire

White tailed Plover, from Zeiss hide - Slimbridge, Gloucs.

White tailed Plover

View from Zeiss hide

Saturday 10th July 2010

My main motivation in going down to Slimbridge yesterday was to add another species to my 'Midlands list' and to hopefully get a closer look at this delightful bird than I got at Caelaverock. I hadnt picked up the message till early afternoon so I'd anticipated a bit of a wait at the Zeiss hide. I'd also been mislead by 'showing well' and went for camera rather than 'scope. Big mistake. I should have realised that at Slimbridge anything that can be seen and is closer than Wales is 'showing well'. In the event I needn't have worried about viewing from the hide there was was plenty of room and I got excellent views of the plover thanks to a couple of guys who let me use their scopes.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Its a Boy

Tuesday 6th July 2010

Mother and Grandson doing well, just knackered.

Monday 5 July 2010


Cheer-up, if the locals shoot as well as England footballers you've got no worries.

Clouded Border

Marsh Helleborine


Speckled Wood


Meadow Brown
Monday 5th July 2010

I'm all for new experiences. Seeing new Birds, new Moths, new Butterflies is great but the experience of being an expectant Grandad is something quite different. I'm not at all sure how I'm coping. I did manage to get out though. Starting at Bentley Woods it was good to see a number of juveniles feeding independantly in the trees; Treecreepers, Nuthatches and Coal tits seemed to be about in good numbers. At Mill pool, Alvecote there were 3 Common Tern and a Hobby. Another Hobby was again over the Car park at Ladywalk N.R., while on the main scrape there was a Curlew and a Green Sandpiper. Again I've collected a number of images from various sites during the day.

Sunday 4 July 2010

On yer Bike!

Common Tern, Marsh Lane N.R.
Mandarin Duck, Cliff pool Kingsbury

Little Egret, Marsh Lane N.R.

Southern Marsh Orchid, Ladywalk N.R.

Common spotted Orchid, Marsh Lane

Banded Demoiselle, Caldecote

Banded Demoiselle, Caldecote

Sunday 4th July 2010

Spent the morning at Marsh Lane. Nice to see good numbers of Common Tern. Other birds seen included Little Egret, Redshank, Little ringed plover and Green Woodpecker. Tried, unsuccessfully to photograph an Emporer Dragonfly before heading home for a mug of Tea and a bit of Germany v Argentina. Germany had just taken the lead when the phone rings - its Julian Allen 'World cup? what World cup Allen? the female Mandarin (156) was back on Cliff pool. Normally such news might be met with total indifference especially as the football was starting to look a bit tasty, but this was the year of the County list so off I went. It was a while before I connected with the drab little duck, which can be very elusive, often feeds amongst the dense vegetation on one of the islands. On the way home I experienced another first, even more of a surprise than a Marmora's warbler turning up in Wales. I had stopped at the Church End brewery, as you do, for a pint. There I was, minding my own business when Steve Haynes arrives - RIDING A BIKE. What ever next?

Friday 2 July 2010

Ladywalk N.R.

Reed warbler


Blue tit

Thursday 1st July 2010

Made a brief visit to Ladywalk, not a soul about. Large number of Ringlet Butterflies on the wing and a single Hobby over the river. Two Green Sandpipers and 40 odd Lapwing were on the main scrape.

Total number of bird species reported in Warwickshire so far this year has now reached 180