Monday 30 August 2010

Bank holiday Birding

Sanderling, Draycote Water



Juvenile Ringed Plover

Monday 30th August 2010

Only managed a quick look at Mill pool, Alvecote yesterday in between the showers. Apologies to Dave Gray for not going to see his Kentish plover at Eyebrook Res. but had a few commitments or I would have done. Not much doing at Alvecote except a decent flock of House Martin and 6 Common Swift.
Today with a bit more time available Jan and I went for a walk round Draycote Water before the crowds, or so we thought. There was at least 1 Little Egret in Toft and at least 4 Common Sandpiper. The flock of Hirundines seems to be building up with at least 3 Swifts with them. Around the back on the hilly bit either side of Biggin Bay we were hit by a wave of cyclists. Not actually hit but there were a few near misses. Most cyclists are sensible but you also get some prats who think they're in an Olympic final. There will be a nasty accident one of these days, mark my words. Anyway we survived around to Hensborough bank where there were a few waders attracting a bit of a crowd: Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, and 2 Turnstone. As we left the reservoir there was a queue of car waiting to come in. Most with bikes attached so gawd knows what it would be like later on. Best get to a pub.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Redstart near Caldecote

Common Restart, Caldecote bushes
Lesser Whitethroat

Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Sunday 29th August 2010

Just a few record shots of the Caldecote Common Redstart taken yesterday there was also a Lesser Whitethroat but no sign of any other Migrant species.

Friday 27 August 2010

Waders at Draycote Water

Knot, Draycote Water



Black tailed Godwit with Redshank

Common tern on parade

Northern Wheatear

Whimbrel, one of two over the reservoir

Little Egret

Ringed Plover

Friday 27th August 2010
Went to Draycote Water on an impulse today which is the way most of my decision making works. I just thought that the Tame valley could well be flooded so opted to head east. It worked out well. About 100 House Martins were flying over the Country Park as I arrived. I walked round in an anticlockwise direction but Farborough and Toft banks had nothing except Pied Wagtails and 3 Little Egrets in the Gray's Barn area. There had been a juv. Turnstone and a couple of Dunlin earlier but no sign now. I met Francoise round the back, so to speak, who told me there was a Black tailed Godwit with some Redshank in Biggin Bay and sure enough when I got to Biggin Bay there they were. At the valve tower were 8 Common terns who posed for photos on the walkway. As walked up Draycote Bank I could see a group of what looked like birders in the distance, a fairly scruffy looking lot so chances were they were birders. As I approached they were obviously focussing their attention on something on the shoreline close to the Dam wall. I recognised Bob Hazel and was met with the words, no, not the usual greeting but, 'It's a Knot'. You beauty. Having just missed the previous bird at Draycote this Knot (164)was a very welcome addition to my County year list.

On Barn bank a single Wheatear was very confiding. As I rounded Rainbow corner I could hear the distinctive call of a Whimbrel, looking up a pair of Whimbrel were flying overhead calling continuously. They did a couple of circuits of Rainbow before disappearing in the direction of Toft bay. I waved furiously to Bob and his friend who were some way off but luckily they saw me and were able to get onto the birds. It was turning out to be quite a good day for waders but I wasn't quite finished. In the pools along Hensborough Bank Dave Hutton was watching a Ringed Plover and three juvenile Little ringed Plover. If you added the three Common Sandpipers dotted around the place it had been good wader day. I had another look along Farborough bank and saw 8 Yellow wagtails this time but again no sign of the Turnstone. So back to the car for a delicious, if belated lunch of Scotch egg, Crisps and plum.

A rainy day

26th August 2010

With strong winds and persistant rain conditions seemed perfect for a bit of training for a forthcoming visit to the Shetland Isles. So with wellies, waterproof, flat 'at and misted up bins I set off to walk a section of the Coventry Canal between Nuneaton and Atherstone. On route I checked out the Common Redstart site, a single juvenile was still there but apart from a few Swallows flying at grass height no other migrant species were seen. The only other birdlife of note were two 50+ mixed finch flocks, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Linnet in canalside fields and a single Tree Sparrow.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

The Caldecote Walk

The Bushes - a likely spot for migrant birds next to the Coventry canal.

Chiffchaff, one of several migrants in the Bushes.

Common Buzzard, a familiar sight throughout Warwickshire

Leafy North Warwickshire

Caldecote, from the Coventry canal

Wednesday 25th August 2010

Spurred on by an innate drive to find more local birds and the fact that Jan was 'doing lunch' with her fitness friends at home I decided I had to go out. Somewhere, anywhere. Actually Jan's friends are all very nice and excellent company but...
Anyway I set off to do Coleshill and Shustoke but only got as far as Caldecote ( I think flexibility is important in Birding). The walk I usually do was good for Spring migrants so hopefully it would be equally good in the fall (I slipped that in for our American cousins). There are 5 areas along the walk.

The Sheep fields and Flood meadows: Swallows and House Martins gathering overhead with 2 Swift and a few Linnets at ground level.
The Bean fields: 12 Yellow Wagtails, Skylark
The Bushes - an area of short grass with scattered Hawthorn bushes. At last, one of the birds I'd always hoped to find here, a Common Redstart. ( I'll keep looking for the Wryneck) There were also a handful of Chiffchaff, a single Willow warbler and a juv. Whitethroat.
The Canal, nothing of note
The Stables, ditto

Having recieved a text from Steve Haynes saying that he had recently seen a variety of Migrants on the hills near Austrey on the Leicestershire border, I thought it might be worth a quick look before the persistant rain, forecast for the afternoon, arrived. In the event I only saw a Hobby but I really needed to give it more time. Again like Grendon it would be a spot worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

The search continues

Fresh Badger print, Brandon Marsh

Parasol Mushroom, Alvecote

Parasol Mushroom

Green Sandpiper, Brandon Marsh

Green Sandpiper

East Marsh pool, Brandon - an illustration of the lack of feeding habitat for many waders. Oh, and there is a Ruff in there somewhere.

Tuesday 24th August 2010

Despite the heavy overnight rain there was no evidence of any Migrant activity, in either the Grendon or Alvecote pools areas of North Warwickshire yesterday. There were a few Common Swift over Mill pool, Alvecote and Common tern were still feeding young. The wet and humid conditions of the past couple of days had brought out a number of species of Fungi though, including large Parasol mushrooms in the cow pastures to the south of Mill pool.

The continuing heavy showers as well as making the harvesting of cereal crops difficult is raising water levels at many wader sites in Warwickshire, reducing the amount of exposed mud and shingle, the preferred feeding grounds of many waders. The pools at Brandon Marsh are typical with only a thin fringe of shoreline round the edges of the pools and islands. Teal pool was completely flooded. A Ruff did drop in while I was there this morning but didnt stay long. A Hobby put in a brief appearance, leaving only a single Green Sandpiper in front of the Charlton hide to amuse the photographers.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Migrant Watch

Sunday 22nd August 2010
Did an earlyish walk around Waste Hill, Legion wood and Grendon Common this morning.
I interupt this account with a blood curdling scream having just heard the final score from St James Park (Aston Villa were 'playing' Newcastle United) - what is going on. Sorry but it'll take me a while to get over a 6-0 stuffing.
Ok, I've composed myself. Birds of the day were undoubtedly a couple of Spotted Flycatchers near the car parking spot next to Legion wood, near Grendon. Not too many other birds though except the resident Nuthatch and Green Woodpeckers. Saw my first Painted Lady of the year and a few Migrant Dragonflies.
Covered the same ground again early evening one Spot Fly was still about but much further in and associating with a mixed flock of tits and Willow/Chaffs. There was no sign of the Redstart and Whinchat seen earlier in the week but the area is well worth keeping an eye on over the next few weeks as the partly wooded ridge clearly has some attraction for migrating birds.

Friday 20 August 2010

Birdfair - 2010

Osprey, one of 5 at Manton bridge Rutland Water

Friday 20th August 2010

Its Birdfair time again, the annual jamboree of all things Birding at Rutland Water. I've been going for years. Why? I'm not really sure. It doesnt seem to change a great deal. Just an excuse for a day out when theres not a huge number of birds to see. The best part is undoubtedly the folks you meet. Friends from just down the road you rarely see and people you've met on expeditions to far away places. Birders have good memories and make good friends even if you dont see them from one Birdfair to the next.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Sutton Park N.N.R.

Wednesday 18th August 2010

I visited Sutton Park for a couple of hours today. It is an area of great natural beauty on the edge of the urban sprawl of Birmingham. The park is a mixture of woodland and Heath with the potential to support a wide variety of species of wildlife. The park is well used by the local population for walking, cycling and excercising dogs but there are still quieter areas where a number of migrants species can be found at this time of the year.
The walk around started well with a male Whinchat near the car parking area. Moving on 2 Spotted Flycatchers,the first of 6 in the area, were very active. A pair of Raven flew over and a Sparrowhawk was also seen. It took me some time to track down a single juv/female Common Redstart. There seemed to be relatively low numbers of Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs with only the odd Blackcap and Whitethroat. Finches too seemed to be more scarce than usual. I met Chris Cook with his go anywhere, fold-away bicycle who was also on migrant watch, but obviously aiming to cover alot more ground than I was.

Monday 16 August 2010

Pork pies to Newcastle

Druridge Bay
Monday 16th August 2010

Just when you think its OK to plan a days shopping at Marks and Spencers, or repaper the landing or lay a patio in the garden something crops up to spoil it. In this case a Sykes' warbler in Northumberland. As it happened I found out too late on Sunday to do much about it, so Marks and Spencers was still a possibility until Neil Howes phoned me up early Monday morning to see if I was interested in going up straight away. ' just give me time to put some socks on and I'll be right with you' says I. Of course in all the excitement I'd forgotten about shopping, wallpapering and the various mindless pursuits I might have designated Monday 16th August for. Food, you cant go on an LDT unless youve got adequate supplies. I raided the emergency rations of Pork pie in the fridge. There was one left. I was glad I hadnt succumbed to the urge for a Sunday night Match of the Day supper special. So with the addition of a health supplement in the form of an Apple I was organised.
It was a regulation Twitch. Few hours drive north, short wait for decent views, couple of hours wait for better views which never came. Cup of coffee on route back, consume Pork pie and home for Tea. Job done.
Actually it was an enjoyable and satisfying day and we did get good vews of Syke's warbler albeit briefly, big thankyou to Neil for the phone call and the driving.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Turnstone at Draycote Water

Turnstone, Draycote Water



Egyptian Goose



Little ringed Plover

15th August 2010

Draycote Water is a funny place, not in a 'have you heard the one about the birder and the landlady' sort of way but some times birds stay when you least expect them to and others move on for no apparent reason. I really thought there was little chance of catching up with the Knot and Turnstone on a sunny Sunday afternoon but I had to give it a go. As I feared the place was heaving, people down on the shoreline, walking on the dam walls, everywhere. I checked Farborough and Toft banks. The resident Eygptian goose was in Toft and a single Little Egret was on the far side but no sign of any waders at all. Up to 4 Common terns were flying about. I walked back and around to the overflow to find the Turnstone (163) on the bit of shore just beyond the overflow there was also a Dunlin and juvenile Little ringed Plover in the vicinity. At the inlet 2 more Little ringed plovers and a Common Sandpiper were seen. The walk to the Valve tower was unproductive but as the afternoon wore on the numbers of visitors deminished and it was very pleasant in the sun.
Total no. of species reported in Warwickshire so far this year = 184

Thursday 12 August 2010

A movement of Boobies ?

12th August 2010

I like Lee Evans, Ok, he can be a bit eccentric. He can be your best friend one minute and totally blank you the next, but he's done me a few favours over the years. However, I must take issue with his latest cause, 'Save the Ruddy Duck'. Its a complexed issue and I dont want to go into the great debate about preserving the integrity of a Western Palearctic species, the White headed Duck and the methods of exterminating the percieved threat posed by the Ruddy Duck.
The point I would take issue with is the use of emotive language such as 'petrified'. Using human emotions to describe the reactions of birds to situations is incorrect. Birds react to stimuli they come across in their enviroment. Whether its a gunshot, a predator, a car backfiring, a photographer who gets too close birds are genetically adapted to react to the potential threat. The nature of the reaction, the 'panic' mode - get as far away as fast as you can, or the controlled keeping a safe distance mode will depend on a number of triggers: the proximity, strength(loudness) and surprise of the stimulus.
I'm not saying I support the actions of DEFRA. I've seen them in action at Lea Marston and Coton and its quite disturbing, the chaos that is created but I think its important to take a broad view of many countryside issues and look at the long term effects on nature rather than making judgements based purely on emotion.

Here endeth the serious bit.

On topic of Boobies or the sighting thereof. I refer you to the possible sighting of a Masked Booby off the Norfolk coast early this morning. The chances of it being a Masked Booby is somewhat remote I would have thought. Tanned Booby otherwise known as Brown Booby is much more likely on the east coast. Coverage is scant on much of the Norfolk coastline which is more suitable for Tanned rather than Masked Boobies, although the poor weather in East Anglia has reduced the number of acceptable sightings. There are specific beaches where, with vigilance Boobies can be observed distantly in practically all weathers but information on exact locations is generally suppressed.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Private places

11th August 2010

Took my Dad for a bit of a walk around Canwell Hall near Sutton Coldfield today. I used to go there regularly for the Canwell show but it looked completely different with the Marquees and showing rings removed. Just parkland with some magnificent trees. Oaks, Sweet Chestnut and Beech in particular. Parkland often surrounding Stately homes is the best place to see trees. The trees can grow to their full potential being deliberately spaced out unlike most trees growing in woods or the remnants of woodland. Anyway we both enjoyed it and we didnt see another living sole. As for birdlife, Raven and Hobby were the most interesting species. On the way home had a quick look in at Kingsbury and saw a Peregrine over Cliff pool but no sign of the Mandarin there.

Folklore for Birders: Rule 7
Never pick Blackberries from below the height a dog can cock its leg !

Monday 9 August 2010


Tuesday 10th August 2010

Bit of local birding around Merevale, Holly Lane, Grendon this morning in case any migrants were around after the overnight rain and then some BTO survey work around Nuneaton in the afternoon. Fair bit of walking involved but the purpose of doing the BTO stuff around where I live was that I didnt have to use the car at all. Which is fine but surveying urban areas and adjacent farmland doesn't produce a great variety of species. In fact I did log a single Tree Sparrow near Weddington which was good for the area but not a lot else. The most interesting creature found in the morning was a Toadlet in the middle of a Wheat field !

And then there's Football:

Gutted, not a term I use readily but on this occasion it perfectly describes how I and doubtless thousands of others Villa supporters feel about the resignation of Martin O'Neill. It was a shock, although there have been indications that he was not prepared to totally commit himself to the club. I was born to be a Villa supporter, a family tradition and it was the local team but I have to say I havent been to a match at Villa Park for years but as a kid I went as regularly as I could until I started playing club Rugby for Sutton Coldfield R.F.C. I think Martin O'Neill is a good man as well as a good manager, he was loyal to his players, perhaps, some would say, too loyal and he expected loyalty in return. Perhaps thats too much to expect in the present climate of over inflated wages and over inflated egos. The other problem is that managers are expected to be ambitious, managerial skills will take you so far but then you have to have the financial support to get the next level. In Villa's case, the top. If you have to sell your best players to the top clubs you have to be able to replace them. It appears that in this case the cash from the sale of James Milner was not going to be made available. The Villa will survive but I fear that having got so close so to achieving major success in the last 4 years they may take a few steps back.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Our industrial legacy

Greenshank, Fishers Mill, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Saturday 7th August 2010

Thanks to Geoff Williams I managed to find a Greenshank (162) at Fishers Mill today. There has been 1or 2 in the area for the past few days but despite the efforts of friends I'd missed out up until now. I know there will be other opportunities to see this species before the autumn passage is over but 'Its in the bag' now anyway. No sign of yesterdays Ruff though. As usual plenty of habitat photos, which is good, 1. because I don't do Stunning and 2. because my blog has such an international appeal that I think its good that folks from far away places have an appreciation of the local environment that we in the West Midlands very often take for granted. The sand and gravel workings of the Tame valley, for example, have evolved over many years providing outstanding habitat for migrating waders in particular to rest and feed. Some of the best Nature reserves in the Midlands have arisen from former industrial sites, such as Coal mines and Quarries. Much of the more recently worked areas between Kingsbury and Tamworth have been taken over by the RSPB and will be known as Middleton lakes.
Popped in to Fishers Mill again briefly late Sunday afternoon and although there was no sign of any waders was lucky to watch a female/juv. Marsh Harrier. Jan and I watched the Harrier fly over the large mound next to the Water Ski place and then follow the course of the river North.

Friday 6 August 2010

A bit of Ruff

Young Sparrowhawk, Brandon Marsh Nature reserve



6th August 2010

With the prospect of a full days Birding for a change a decision was needed - the Tame valley or Brandon Marsh with an option on Draycote Water if necessary. I opted for Brandon for no other reason than because I hadn't been there for a while. I was surprised that I had the place to myself as I wandered from hide to hide. At the Carlton Hide I had a bit of luck when a young Sparrowhawk landed on the 'Kingfisher pole' next to the hide. The Moorhen chicks disappeared but the single Green Sandpiper, a matter of a few metres away, froze and remained motionless for some time after the hawk had flown off. A Kingfisher did land on a post briefly sometime later. As I tried to take a couple of obligatory snaps the phone goes. Steve Cawthray had seen the Greenshank again between Fishers Mill and Middleton Hall. I still havent seen Greenshank in the County this year but I wasn't going to panic. Anyway I needed food so The Greenshank would have to wait. No Pork pies today though, a Morrison's Sandwich would have to suffice. There was no sign of the Greenshank at Fishers Mill when I did get there. I walked alongside the river with Geoff Williams after a good chat Geoff walked off in the direction of Staffordshire, while I stayed to focus on the Fishers Mill pools. As we went our separate ways we both heard the call of a Greenshank and 3 medium sized waders flew in and, after several attempts to land, dropped down not Greenshank though, Ruff (161).

Thursday 5 August 2010

Redstart in Warwickshire

Redstart, near Alvecote pools

3rd August 2010

Brief look around on the way to and from. Alvecote - Mill pool - Common Tern 6, Lesser Whitethroat. At Laundry Lane the Common Redstart was still present in hedge running parallel to the Lane, viewable from metal gate at end of Lane. Also Whitethroat, Mistle thrush, Treecreeper, and Green Woodpecker. At Middleton there were 6 Green Sandpipers round the lake and a Turtle Dove was heard in the wood opposite the new viewing point overlooking the silt pool. On Fishers Mill a Little Egret and Hobby flew over. Near Nuneaton another Hobby was seen along the A5 near the Higham on the Hill roundabout.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Curry Night

Tuesday 3rd August 2010

Spent a very pleasant evening with some D list celebs from the glamorous world of West Mids. Birding at a Curry house in Coleshill last night. Julian Allen a fast rising star of the local Blog scene with guest appearances and photocalls on such renowned blogs as Archies blog and Blurred Birding. In an exclusive interview held last night I can reveal he has had offers but he is happy to keep his amateur status at this time and is reluctant to say anything further as he considers his options. In an interesting twist, major concern was raised that further publicity might raise the interest of the paprazzi at a time when numbers of camouflaged cameras poking out of bushes at certain Midland reservoirs has already reached alarming proportions.
Tom Perrins, Bon viveur, extraordinaire. A man who knows a good curry when he eats one. What can I say that he hasn't already said. Tom, AKA 'The Voice of the Tame'- a quiet, unassuming young man yet one who has often flirted with controversy with his uncompromising opinions. It is rumoured that an award for services to Tame Valley Birding might be forthcoming in the future and certainly there has been support from others involved in BIS WORK (Birding Information Services) including the world famous LGRE.
And then theres Steve Cawthray, Mr Ladywalk. Recently released from the shackles what he losely called work to spend even more time maintaining and improving the Ladywalk reserve for the benefit of birds and birders alike. Yes a very pleasant evening indeed.

Tuesday 3 August 2010


Marsh Harrier, distant, but clearly in Warks.
3rd August 2010

One of the problems of Blogging is that once its published its there in black and white for the whole world and TP to find fault with. Much of this Blog is a mixture of slightly tongue in cheek comment and fact based accounts. Picking out which is which is the hard bit - for some. I can take critisism, scepticism, sarcasm and ridicule (in small doses) but I draw the line at having my coordinates queried. I don't mean what the must have Birder is wearing this season. I mean in a geographical sense. If you've ever had your coordinates queried you'll know its not a very pleasant experience.

I feel at this point a word of explanation is called for. I stated in the previous post that the Marsh Harrier and Parakeet were seen at Orton on the Hill as originally reported which is in Leicestershire. When I got to the viewing point below the village, which was a stream on the Warks / Leics border the Harrier had moved across into Warks and the Parakeet flew from Warks over our heads into Leics. there, I hope that will satisfy anyone who is vaguely still interested at this point.
I spend a good deal of my life these days not knowing where the hell I am. That comes from Birding on the edge - the edge of Staffs., the edge of the West Mids., the edge of Leics. Most of North Warwickshire is within stringing distance of another County. One false step and life gets complicated.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Signs of Migration

Sanderling, Draycote Water



Common Tern, Draycote Water, Warks.

1st August 2010

After completing duties a timely message from Draycote got the day moving. Not always confident about seeing birds at Draycote particularly at the weekend because of the level of disturbance but as the Sanderling had stayed all day Saturday and was clearly quite confiding judging from Dave Hutton's suberb images it was well worth a go. Draycote was busy, with a large number of Sailing Dinghies on the water. No other birders about so a bit of searching was required before The Sanderling (158) was located in the company of 2 Common Sandpipers in Toft bay, it was quite mobile often flying to the other side of the bay with the Sandpipers.
The afternoon was spent visiting but another timely message on the way back had me searching the hedges around Laundry Lane, Alvecote for a Common Redstart. I extended the search into Staffs. I met Malc who had seen the bird (or another) the previous day north of 'the orchard' but there was no sign. In a call from Steve Haynes about a Marsh Harrier, it emerged that it was Steve and John Alton who had found the Redstart a couple of hours earlier. With more specific info. the Redstart (159) was soon located.

So what about the Marsh Harrier. Orton -the-Hill was literally just up the road from where I was so it wasnt long before I joined Steve and John scanning the prairie-like expanse of corn below the village. We didnt have to wait too long before the juv/fem Marsh Harrier began quartering the fields quite distantly. As we watched John picked up a call and then Steve picked up a Parakeet high overhead. John and I agreed on Ring necked Parakeet(160). The fact that the bird was heading directly towards Twycross Zoo was purely coincidental !