Thursday 31 December 2015

2015 - Looking back

31st December 2015
Looking back over the year just passed has produced a variety of great Birding memories and quite a few disappointments. Luckily the blog is there to remind me of an eventful year. I've travelled to a few far away places but one, if not the, best bird of the year was a Grey Phalarope in full summer plummage just down the road at Brandon Marsh Nature reserve.
Grey Phalarope, Brandon Marsh, Warks.

Other localish birds included:
Melodious Warbler
White winged Black Tern
Red footed Falcon, Tunstall,Staffs well as the Crag Martin at Chesterfield.
Nationally it was very much a mixed year. Notable 'misses' were the Great Blue Heron and the Citril Finch but 'new' birds came in the form of Cretzschmar's Bunting, Hudsonian Godwit and Chestnut Bunting.
Chestnut Bunting, Papa Westray, Orkney

          Other highlights included the recent influx of local Short eared Owls in North Warwickshire and the invasion of Yellow browed warblers on the Shetland Isles.
Yellow browed Warbler, a garden bird in Lerwick, Shetland Isles

          I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to do some Western Palearctic birding with trips to Cyprus, Tenerife, Estonia and Georgia. All were great adventures in their own way but the trip to Georgia provided a good many new and very interesting birds. Great Rosefinch and Wallcreeper were particularly Photogenic

Great Rosefinch, Georgia

Wallcreeper, Georgia

Scops Owl, Cyprus

White backed Woodpecker, Estonia

Lesser short toed Lark, Tenerife

Purple Heron, Cyprus

So just a sample of the species I've been privileged to see over a year's Birding. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank and wish Happy New Year to all those friends and fellow Birders that I've met over the year, particularly those who have offered me lifts to the far flung corners of the U.K.and those whose good humour and knowledge has been much appreciated, even the Clams!

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Mud mud not so glorious mud.

Monday 21st December 2015

A messy few days in more ways than one: fiddling about doing things, not doing things.The non highlights indicate a distinct lack of birding Highlights being: A hearse doing 60+ along Brandon Lane, a Transit van stuck in a ditch along LeatherMill Lane and Doing a one wellie dance in the mud off Woodford Lane, Now the wellie dance was different. I was walking the Anker river bank towards Mancetter when in one particularly vicious bit of mud my wellie got stuck and was slowly being sucked under. In an effort to pull myself from the mire I became physically unstable and started to rotate. As I hopped on my free leg my other foot twisted in the boot so that my body was now facing in the opposite direction to my foot. At this point knowing something had to give I decided that getting dirty was better than getting broke so with my wellie refusing to budge I hit the mud. All in a days birding. I continued the walk but had little reward: a single Chiffchaff again, the usual Grey Wagtail a pair of Treecreepers, Mallard, Fieldfare 60, and several Wrens.

Grey Wagtail, Woodford Lane

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Staying local, mostly

Wednesday 16th December 2015

Nearly time for the annual end of year report when I reminisce the highlights and lowlights of my Birding year, home and abroad, and pick out the Top ten photos of the year. This year isn't quite done with yet and there might still be a surprise in store although I rather doubt it. Still fancy a Yellow browed hiding out somewhere in the County though.
Birding this week has been limited to Alvecote, walks around the Caldecote circuit and Mancetter with visits to Brandon Marsh and Draycote today. Not much to write about though but nice views of the unfortunate Great northern Diver ensnared by fishing line and the drake Smew. The Fieldfare flock in fields near Caldecote Hall is now over 200 birds but the number of Siskin along the Anker at Woodford Lane has gone down.

Smew, Draycote Water


Great northern Diver

Thursday 10 December 2015

Nothing special

Wednesday 9th December 2015

A quiet day, even the wind calmed down. I had a leisurely stroll around some of the Alvecote pools but no sign of any Egrets of any size. The regular pair of Stonechat showed well, as they say, and a pale Common Buzzard drifted over. A couple of Shelduck flew over but that was about it.
Later I did one of my regular walks from Woodford Lane river bridge to Witherley/ Mancetter and back. The first wintering Chiffchaff I'd seen was near the bridge and further along the river Anker, Kingfisher, Grey wagtail and a small group of Siskin were found. 30 or so Fieldfare with one or two Redwings were in the adjacent Hawthorns. On the return journey more Redwings were in the stubble with some 25 Yellowhammers and a few Linnets. There was no sign of any Tree Sparrows, however,which can usually be found in small numbers somewhere along the route.

Female Stonechat, Mill pool, Alvecote

Common Buzzard

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Short eared Owls

Tuesday 8th December 2015

A few images of the Blyth Mill Short eared Owls

Short eared Owl, Blyth valley, Coleshill

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Friday 4 December 2015

A bit of rare sunshine

Friday 4th December 2015

A few images from today's visits to Coombe Abbey and Draycote Water. Much the same as my previous visit but with sunshine, and I managed to do the complete circuit. Most of the 'action' was still on the southern shoreline however. Only one of the great northern Divers was seen on this occasion but the Scaup showed well near the pontoons. Another police vehicle check was encountered and no mince pie freebies at Morrisons today. In fact my visit to said supermarket was a bit disappointing as the coffee machine had a malfunction. The Cappuccino it produced was frothless fortunately there was not a queue as several attempts were made by the staff. I mean a Cappuccino without froth is like a ................... In the end I did get my coffee.

Tawny Owl

Great Northern Diver


Tuesday 1 December 2015

Birds and Pies.

1st December 2015

After a couple of non birding days I took myself off to Brandon Marsh and Draycote Water. There had been reports of good Otter sightings earlier at Brandon but I saw little of interest while I was there. Can I rephrase that? Of course all birds are interesting to some extent and it was good to see Stonechat, Water Rail and the flock of C200 Lapwing but nothing of particular interest. I moved on to Draycote Water, I walked clockwise and soon found the first of the 2 Great northern Divers around Rainbow corner. A Scaup was near the bank just past the inlet but I failed to identify either of the two Pintail reported in the area. Tree Sparrows around the feeding stations had increased in since my last visit but difficult to give an exact number with other species in the now sizeable flock.

Great northern Diver, Draycote Water



My day was complete when, as is my custom I pulled into Morrison's in Coventry for some light refreshments on the way home. I picked up my usual sandwich and a Coffee and prepared to pay when I was asked 'Are you an OAP ?' yeees I replied, only just but definitely yes. Then said the lady on the till 'for one day only you can have the coffee and a Mince pie, which she produced from under the counter, on us. Now wasn't that nice.

Friday 27 November 2015

Tales of the River Bank

27th November 2015

A short walk along the River Anker today. Checked out the docks and bushes either side of Woodford Lane but no sign of any Chiffchaffs yet. On one of the fields along the A5 approaching Woodford Lane the Golden plover flock had built up C50 birds. While on the field next to the river were C40 Fieldfare with a Starling flock. About 100m along the river from the road bridge was a flock of perhaps 20 Siskin many coming down to the river presumably to drink from the small pools left by flattened Reed stems. A Kingfisher flashed past while a Grey Wagtail flew by at a more leisurely pace.The only birds seen in the overhanging riverside bushes was a single Goldcrest.

Thursday 26 November 2015


Thursday 26th November 2015

After a week of typical November weather, I've seen a few good birds and missed a few good birds. Highlight has got to be the 3 Short eared Owls hunting in close proximity at Coleshill Quarry followed by a pair of Great Northern Divers at Draycote Water. Birds I've 'missed' included Bittern, Scaup and Common Scoter. Stonechat continue to be found on patches of waste rough ground with the necessary Dock stems. Again no images worth publishing - OK I can just hear one or two saying, 'it hasn't stopped you in the past'.Incidentally,went through not one but two mobile speed traps today at regular spots on the way to Draycote.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Short eared Owls

Sunday 22nd November 2015

Put in a few hours at various sites trying to see one of the Short eared Owls that have arrived in Warwickshire recently. Yesterday I got my first sighting in the failing light at Coleshill Quarry with a Barn Owl in same area.Up to three SEOs had been reported earlier. So today I set out again, it was a long wait with no Stonechat to keep me amused. Raven was seen and there was Green Sandpiper and Grey wagtail on the Whitacre Severn Trent site. Eventually though patience was rewarded with an excellent display from 2 Short eared Owls and a Barn Owl. Well worth waiting for. Not the best image you'll see but better than nothing, just.

Short eared Owl, Coleshill Quarry

Friday 20 November 2015

Study of a Kestrel

Friday 20th November 2015

A few images of a Kestrel at Whitacre Heath Nature Reserve






Spent the day touring a number of sites between Shustoke Res. and Middleton Lakes looking for Short eared Owls, but to no avail. Found another site with a pair of Stonechat and there were a pair of Goldeneye on Hemlingford Water at Kingsbury but that was as good as it got. The Kestrel was good though. Amazing how the head is kept so still even though everything else is going ten to the dozen.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Exploring North Warwickshire's Docklands

Thursday 19th November 2015

I've been unavailable for Birding due to injury the last couple of days but I pronounced myself fit for some light Birding today and thought I'd have a look at some of Warwickshire's little known Docklands. Dock, as in dead plant stems, much loved by wintering Stonechats and passage Whinchats as perches. Patches of Docks occur on rough ground along the flood valley of the river Anker between Nuneaton and Alvecote. Today I started at Mill pool, Alvecote where a pair of Stonechat were in the 'Dock field'. There was also a light phase juv.Common Buzzard trying for all the world to look like a Rough legged Buzzard, particularly with a striking dark terminal tail band. I also checked out the Canada goose flock but could only find 4 Greylags.....but hang on. Walking back past Teal pool there were the 2 Pink footed geese.Still in residence but keeping themselves to themselves.
In the afternoon I checked the Dock fields along the river at Caldecote but there was nothing of note  and no finches to be seen on Leathermill lane.

Common Buzzard, Alvecote pools

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Caldecote Walk

Wednesday 11th November 2015

Braved the strong winds to check the local walk around Caldecote Hall. The wind was obviously keeping a lot of small birds down but the Corvids and Raptors seemed to be very active. First up was a Peregrine followed by Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard (4) and Kestrel. Fieldfare numbers had increased, the birds (c40) were perched up high in the various bits of woodland along my route. A small number of Redwing were seen amongst them. It was also good to see a couple of Stonechats, both male, along the flood meadow struggling to stay perched on the swaying Dock stems. It was difficult to judge whether the Chaffinch flock had increased as they were largely staying on the ground and I only saw a couple of Meadow pipits but there could well have been more.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Crag Martin - Chesterfield

Tuesday 10th November 2015

Tore myself away from the muddy tracks of North Warks. to go and have a gander at the Crag Martin at Chesterfield yesterday, and jolly glad I did to. Quite a unique experience in many ways. When the bird did show it showed very well, circling the famous crooked spire of the church. I suppose I should have at least attempted to get some photos but in the gloom and persistant drizzle I contented myself with just admiring the acrobatics of this little unexpected visitor to the Midlands. So no illustrations in this blog I'm afraid. The only downside to the whole event was the hospitality I experienced in this area of Derbyshire. Perhaps its a local custom but when I ask for a Cappucino I expect most of it to be served in the cup and not in the saucer (BHS Cafe) and the Prawn and Mayo sandwich I got from Tesco's in Alfreton was the worst sarnie I've had in any Supermarket, Cafe, Bistro or Restaurant anywhere in the world. I know I shouldnt expect too much from Supermarket catering but I could have sanded down my floorboards with the bread. Anyway it all made for an interesting day.Warwickshire may not have any rarities (at the moment) but at least I know where I can get a decent sandwich.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Local Birding

Wednesday 4th November 2015

 A bit of local birding today again with the faint hope of finding a lingering migrant. Certainly judging from the intense insect life around the River Anker today such a bird would have no problems surviving. The only outgoing migrant I did see was a single Chiffchaff but there were plenty of new comers with Chaffinches being particularly well represented but no sign of any Brambling amongst them yet. The Stonechats at Caldecote had moved on but the fields of winter Wheat and areas of rough ground along the River had plenty of birdlife. Small groups of Redwing, Fieldfare, Reed Bunting, Meadow pipit, Skylark 20+, Linnet, Goldfinch Heron 4, Cormorant 3, Single, Kestrel, Siskin, and Song Thrush. Following the river Anker from Leathermill Lane north towards Mancetter the usual Grey Wagtails were soon in evidence but despite the insects and overhanging bushes there were few birds on show in this area with no sign of any Tree sparrows.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Bearded Tits - Brandon Marsh

Sunday 1st November 2015

Yesterday in an attempt to gain some much needed Brownie points I took Jan to Leamington. A 20 minute crawl through the Toll Bar End junction caused a bit of cursing and muttering but we eventually got to our destination. I popped in to Brandon Marsh on the way back. It was quiet.I started with a quick look at Teal pool. Just Teal, as you might expect but then a movement in a patch of dead Reed stems to the right of the hide caught my attention. The movement was quite violent so I expected quite a large bird but was surprised when a cracking male Bearded Tit appeared in the bins followed my a female. Wow.Great views but all too soon the pair flew off right. I went into East Marsh hide and told the few folk in there what I had seen and to keep 'em peeled. I then went to check out the main reedbed. I heard a single Ting and the briefest view of pale birds flying low above the reeds but that was it. Having managed to avoid seeing Bearded tits at various locations the previous week this was payback time. I hadn't expected to see anything at Brandon so finding the tits was a particular pleasure. Pleasure slightly tinged with frustration though when I went back to East Marsh to learn that no less than 4 Bearded tits had been seen pretty well in front of the hide and one chap had even taken a decent photo. Despite a further search around there was no more sign.

Friday 30 October 2015

' Who Dares Wins'

Friday 39th October 2015

Missed a lot of good birds this year for one reason or another. So when John Holtham rang suggesting a Charter flight to the Orkney Isles, after a moments hesitation I went for it. It was a routine I'd experienced before: Drive to Yorkshire first thing and wait for news that the bird in question, a Chestnut Bunting was still on Papa Westray. It wasn't till I saw the size of the plane, a four seater Piper Cherokee I think, and discussed the deteriorating weather conditions up north that I and my fellow passengers began to have doubts. Serious doubts. A weather front was moving in and both visability and wind speed would be marginal in the afternoon. The pilot gathered as much info as could on the weather and explained the difficulty would be landing the plane on Papa Westray with strong crosswinds. To say we were concerned was an understatement. Having put in the effort to get to North Yorkshire and for many it was now or never to see the bird it was a tricky decision. We knew we couldn't compromise on safety but the pilot was prepared to give it a go. As we pondered, news that the Chestnut Bunting was still there came through. It was then that someone said 'Who Dares Wins'. We went for it on news that the visability was ok and the wind was within limits but it would be bumpy. I do not like bumpy.
With a strong tail wind we made good progress and eventually made a text book landing in the field that was the airport.
Papa Westray 'airport'

 We made the relatively short walk along the farm track to the bird's favoured area. It was feeding on the track in front of the small group already there. A little cracker.
The site
The twitch

The bird - 1w Chestnut Bunting

1w Chestnut Bunting
After getting excellent views of the smart little bird and even a couple of snaps it was soon time to retreat, conscious that the weather would soon be worsening.
A bit fresh

Tuesday 27 October 2015

More Stonechats

Tuesday 27th October 2015

Another busy week of not seeing much. Not for the want of trying though. Anythings better than raking leaves in the garden. Done my local sites a few times + Alvecote, Middleton Lakes and Napton Reservoir. Looked at countless trees/bushes etc. all to no avail and even inspected a few patches of Reeds but with no luck.
In fact I've been particularly busy at not seeing Bearded Tits. There's been something of an influx into Warwickshire recently but Ive managed to avoid them. Its been close, I watched people watch the birds yesterday at Middleton but didnt make the effort to walk the 150 yards to join them. So no sympathy there then. Today I did make a little more effort and searched both sides of the river but never a peep was heard.
So apologies for yet another image of a Stonechat but I promise it will be the last this year.

Stonechat, Middleton Lakes RSPB

I think that's clear enough
or Birding on the edge

Saturday 17 October 2015

Staying local

Friday 16th October 2015

With easterly winds throughout the week I went out with the faint hope of finding something more unusual in the little patches of suitable habitat around and about. On Friday I did the Caldecote bit of the Anker valley. The winter wheat fields along the track had 4 Fieldfares, 19+ Skylarks, a handful of Meadow pipits and a large flock of mixed Corvids. 9 Redwings flew over near the Hall and the usual couple of Cormorants flew along the river but no sign of any Tree Sparrows.
Moving on to Alvecote I started a leisurely stroll around Mill pool only to find a Stonechat on top of a small bush next to the path. I went back for my camera and met Roy and his pack of dogs who had just arrived, what chance of a decent photo now? Roy said there had been 3 Stonechats around the spit for several days and sure enough they were still around.

Female Stonechat

Male Stonechat

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Mainly local

4th - 13th October 2015

Since returning from the Shetland Isles the Birding focus has been on the local area, particularly the Anker valley between Caldecote and Mancetter with the odd 'day out' to Middleton RSPB and Draycote Water. At Middleton there was a Ruff and a couple of Redwing, at Draycote a Ruff, a Common Sandpiper and a Rock pipit. The Mancetter 'hills' and nearby canal walks have been equally unrewarding in terms of migrants but good to see small parties of Tree sparrows, in 'new' hedges along the A5 - Anker corridor.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Shetland Isles 2015 Part 3

Wednesday 7th October 2015

After the positive comments on the Bluethroat images, thought I'd post a couple more:

Bluethroat, Quendale