Tuesday 29 November 2011

Bittern Naturally

Bittern, Ladywalk N.R.
Water Rail

Water Rail

Thursday 1st December 2011

I had neglected Ladywalk recently, so decided to give it a go today. The bushes on the walk down to the hides seemed to hold good flocks of winter thrushes, with Bullfinchs and Great spotted Woodpeckers also showing. A grey wagtail was also seen on the puddles formally known as the fishing pools. From Hide B I only had to wait a matter of a few minutes before the Bittern was seen creeping through the reeds. Although it was never out in the open it was still a treat to see such a magnificent bird. It flew further along the reed bed and showed briefly before disappearing completely for the rest of the afternoon. A Water rail was seen moving restlessly in the reeds and a Sparrowhawk was seen at close quarters. Other birds seen on the reserve included roosting Tawny Owl, and Goosander with Cetti's warbler heard at the North end.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Desert Wheatear in the Midlands

Desert Wheatear, female, Clee Hill, Shropshire
Desert Wheatear
Saturday 26th November 2011

I travelled to Clee Hill near Ludlow in the depths of Shropshire with Steve Haynes to see a female Desert Wheatear. Steve was familiar with this probably underwatched area. It was certainly new to me though. The Wheatear had been in an area of derelict buildings just below the car park near the summit of the hill. The bird was in view as we parked up, appearing briefly on the top of a grassy bank before disappearing over the other side. There were also a good many familiar faces from the West Mids birding fraternity many with cameras. There was alot of movement as birders attempted to get better views which in turn made the bird mobile although thankfully it stayed in the same general area. Eventually the bird settled in a mossy hollow and gave everyone excellent views. The bird found some relief from the strong westerly wind in the hollow while the birders made their own arrangements to avoid the cold blast on the more exposed slopes as the wind continued to strengthen. On the way back we checked out a site for Dipper but only managed a Kingfisher. Despite the heavy cloud cover the views across the miles of unspoilt countryside were outstanding. An area I would certainly like to visit again.

Friday 25 November 2011

First Bittern of the Winter

Bittern, Brandon Marsh N.R., Warks.


24th November 2011

Visited various sites in the Tame valley today but didnt see much. Drew a blank at Shustoke. When I say blank I mean I didnt see anything that I wont see every time I go over during the next 4 months. Had Common Snipe and Cettis warbler at Coton but again nothing at Kingsbury Water Park, Dosthill or Fishers Mill. Four Dunlin were seen in flight with the Lapwing flock and 4 Goosander flew down the river at Middleton Lakes RSPB. A Sparrowhawk nearly took my head off as it flashed across the canal but that was about it.

25th November 2011

Brandon Marsh was the venue for a few hours birding today. The East Marsh hide proved to be the most productive as it provided my first Bittern of the winter, although they've been around for a while. The bird was seen to fly in and showed well, if distantly for 10 minutes or so.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Humming bird? I dont think so.

Stonechat, Middleton Lakes, RSPB. Staffs


Tuesday 22nd November 2011

More like 'the old days' today at Middleton Lakes RSPB with the hardcore regulars outnumbering the visitors. The birdlife too was pretty regulation. Numbers of winter thrushes had increased to several hundred and numbers of Wigeon and Golden plovers had increased since my previous visit. There were still a few Dunlin about according to Geoff Williams, and a single Common Snipe was feeding with Lapwing on the 'New Reedbed' pool. At least 4 Little Egrets were seen dotted about but no sign of any SE Owls. A 1st winter Stonechat popped up near the track at the North end of the reserve and did a very good impression of a humming bird but that was as exciting as it got.

Monday 21 November 2011

Great grey Shrike on Cannock Chase

Great grey Shrike, Cannock Chase, Staffs.
Great grey Shrike

Great grey Shrike

Great grey Shrike

Monday 21st November 2011

A few images of the wintering Great grey Shrike around the shooting butts area of Cannock Chase. Again chose the perfect day for photography, heavy mist and drizzle but managed to get a few images when I eventually found the bird nearly a mile away from its favoured Holly bush.

Saturday 19 November 2011

White fronted Geese and Flying Weasels

White fronted Geese, Adult and Juvenile, Draycote Water


Flying Weasel

White fronted Geese

White fronted Geese

White fronted Geese

19th November 2011

It was destined to be another gloomy day at Draycote Water. As I drove past Coventry it became quite foggy and prospects of seeing anything at Draycote didnt look good. However, when I got there it was possible to make out the 10 White fronted geese although they were distant. Fortunately on a later visit to Toft they were seen in flight and then much closer in the field next to the service road. A Weasel provided some entertainment as it ran over the rocks near the visitors centre until confronted by workmen. It then retraced its steps, again at high speed. Meanwhile, other birds seen included female Common Scoter, 3 Dunlin, Adult Yellow legged Gull, and Grey Wagtail. Minor irritation was caused by a small dog called Mollie with a liking for Denim. I fantasised about a large eagle species swooping down and carrying the dear little thing off. I also had to content with gangs of cyclists in yellow passing, silently at Mach speed, but apart from that it was a pleasant enough walk round.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Other 'Eastern' birds

Eastern Yellow wagtail, Sumburgh Farm, Shetland
Eastern Yellow wagtail
Eastern Yellow wagtail

Eastern Yellow wagtail

Eastern Yellow wagtail

Thursday 17th November 2011

There seems to be a debate developing on the status of eastern forms of a number of species familiar in the U.K. fuelled by the late influx of 'eastern' birds recently. I can offer no insight into the status of such species or sub-species, I'll leave that to the 'experts' but I can offer some images of what was suggested was an eastern Yellow wagtail taken on the Shetland Isles this autumn.

Monday 14 November 2011

Comparison of sub-species of Black Redstart

Black Redstart, Margate, Kent
Black Redstart

Black Redstart, Eastern Turkey, June 2009

Black Redstart, Morocco, 02.10

Black Redstart, Coleshill, Warks.,02.09

Black Redstart, Coleshill, Warks.

Monday14th November 2011
Travelled down to Kent today with Tony Shepherd to see perhaps one of the rarest birds to visit our shores this year- an interesting Eastern sub species of Black Redstart. We set off at mid day on a dismal day which got gloomier as we crossed the Thames. With speed restrictions on the M25 and the fog getting thicker we began to wonder if we would make it in time. We did, and were rewarded with excellent views as the bird fed on the sand and mud at the end of a concrete ramp with Turnstone and Rock pipit.

Have included a number of other images of Black Redstart encountered on my travels for comparison.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Bewick swans arrive in Warwickshire

Bewick Swans, part of a group of 9 at Mill pool, Alvecote,Warks.
Bewick Swans

Bewick swan

Bewick swan, adult and juvenile

Putative 1w Scaup

13th November 2011

A significant movement of winter migrants occured through North Warks over the past couple of days with sightings of small groups of Whooper and Bewick Swans, White fronted and Brent geese. Only the party of Bewick swans (7 adults and 2 juvs.) on Mill pool, Alvecote stayed for any length of time but with easterly winds forecast for next week there is a good chance other wintering species may be found in the county. A putative 1w Scaup caused a bit of head scratching showing features of both Tufted and Scaup so hybrid cannot be ruled out. Unfortunately the photos are probably too distant to be a great help.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Dreary days


Tuesdsay 8th November 2011

This week has been dedicated as putting in a new kitchen week. Not by my good self you understand. No, by people who do know one end of a Screwdriver from the other. There have been sacrifices Microwave meals and not much birding spring to mind although a few meals out have been pleasant. Today I did manage to get out and do a local patch round Caldecote. It was a typical November morning, damp, grey with rain in the air. Nothing unusual in the bird line but a definite increase in numbers of Skylarks, Meadow pipits, Linnets and Reed Bunting. The Linnet flock was c100 birds with perhaps 30 Skylarks and slightly fewer Meadow pipits. I think I'll have to take a scope to check out the flocks more thoroughly. Very little else though apart from a Fieldfare/Redwing flock, Grey Heron and couple of Kestrels. I stopped to chat to a couple of fellas ferreting, who were having quite a successful day. They commented that the Rabbits were in excellent condition. I presume that was prior to them being dispatched after being netted.

Wednesday 9th 2011

Its official Dead Fish are more important than Living Birds. Thats according to the people running the fishing at Draycote Water. I suspected this during the summer after witnessing some brainless individual trying to run 3 Cormorants out of town by chasing them around for nearly an hour in a inflatable. Not much success with the Cormorants but did manage to disturb the rest of the wildlife using the Reservoir. Then today it was reported to me that the same people felt no responsibility towards protecting the wildlife on the reservoir or cooperating with the birders in anyway. OK, the fishery is a business, people may have invested their life savings into it and expect a financial return but in taking on a business so dependant on the natural environment they take on a certain responsibility for that environment in the same way any landowner would? Climbing off high horse there was bit of birding to be done. It must have been a while since I went to Draycote last because the water level was an all time low at least since the 90s anyway. Unfortunately I missed seeing both the Purple Sandpiper and the fly over Brent geese.

A rock pipit was seen briefly and there was a small flock of 13 Dunlin and a single Redshank at the overflow. Meanwhile back at the mansion its time to make the kitchen fitters another cup of tea.

Saturday 5 November 2011

Short eared Owls at Dosthill Lakes, Warks.

Short eared Owl, Dosthill Lakes, Warks.
Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl with prey

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Saturday 5th November 2011

Two Short eared Owls were seen both on the ground and hunting over the bunds at the Water skiing centre at Dosthill lakes. The Owls were active just after midday despite persistent drizzle but 'disappeared' when the rain stopped and people, including birders, walked on top of the bunds. Other species seen included Little Egret, Green Woodpecker, Meadow pipit, Kestrel and Common Snipe. There was also a large flock c50 Goldfinch on Rush Lane, Dosthill.