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Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012, Year of the Dragonfly (and happy blog birthday)

Doorstep Birding is a year old today, and it seems fitting this is the 100th and final  post of 2012. It's been a year of rain, poor for bird passage,and  Lepidoptera . I am grateful for what I have seen and had a good few birding, moth and butterfly highlights. Thankfully too, another species group has really made my nature year.
 I set out this year with an increasing interest in Odonata, and my first goal was to see as many of the species that occurred locally to me.
This turned out to be a most enjoyable quest and mini challenge to which I couldn't help notch it up a peg by trying to photograph every species I saw also, especially all the Worcestershire (VC37) species..
It started on a parky Bank Holiday Saturday in the Wyre on the 5th May, with the Zygoptera (damselflies) , a Large Red Damselfly, and continued over that weekend with Beautiful Demoiselle next day at Upton Warren, and Banded Demoiselle there on the 12th.

Having been well and truly bitten by the Dragonfly 'bug' (they don't actually bite or sting ) I had arranged to visit a specialist site in Staffordshire on the 26th May, Chartley Moss. Emergence was a bit behind now, but fortunately the target species, White-faced Darter was seen, though they were still a bit teneral. I also saw my first Four- spotted Chaser ever and added Broad-bodied Chaser to the year list. I only managed to photograph one of these species, but thankfully it was the Darter, the others could wait and made up my VC37 challenge.

June was 'the' month in retrospect ! The biggy 'target' at the start of the month was Common Club-tail, not as common or particularly easy as it's name may suggest. However, towards the end of my second attempt, on what turned out to be a magnificent Bank Holiday Monday, I spied upon my one and only of the year, down on the slippery banks of the River Severn. During my search, I had also come across Common Blue, Blue-tailed and White-legged DamselfliesAzure Damselfly was the one highlight of an Upton outing two day's previously  so despite the poor weather, I was motoring on nicely at the end  Bank Holiday Monday morning.

 However things went from superb to brilliant when responding to a text from a local birder, I went to try and twitch a sighting of a dragonfly vagrant that warm sunny afternoon. Down at Grimley, I had my first of a few encounters with Red-veined Darter, a pretty rare beast in Worcs.

The following Saturday, it was relatively warm and rain free, and I found myself mooching down in the Wyre, ostensibly trying to catch up on the poor Fritillary Butterflies that had been so rain affected and hard to come by. It was here I had one of my most satisfying and rewarding encounters of the year, when I spotted a large determined looking dragonfly enter the clearing and settle. Tracking it down I was awestruck to see a stunning Golden-ringed Dragonfly obligingly resting up, a female.

Scarce Chasers were a surprise package of the year, turning up well away from their usual stronghold, with a population found by JK ,saving me much fuel having to go hunting them down. Along with them, Large Re-eyed Damselfly was seen for the first time by me on the same day, a very good day in which I also observed Black-tailed Skimmers at a separate site.

At this point I went off to America for a few days, but even in the heart of the New York metropolis, I managed to see  two species, one remains to be identified during the coming winter nights, but I have managed to ID, I think, the tiny Eastern Amberwing seen at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Back to Blighty and June held two more species for the year, Common Darter was always a given, but Emperor was most pleasing, with a record shot to keep the challenge alive.
The next worry was Emerald Damselfly.I believe they had been scarce locally the previous year, and the pools I was hoping to nab them at were dried out the previous year. They overwinter as and egg, and conveniently can withstand desiccation  Anyway, this year they appeared, and I was pipped to the post by an hour or two by fellow nature nerd JK one Saturday who phoned to advise me he had seen them, just as I was approaching the site !
The following day, 8th July at Upton I had a unexpected surprise, stumbling upon a perched up fresh Brown Hawker. It was nice and settled, and with this in the bag, there were only two species I was worried I may not see, Small Red-eyed Damselfly and Common Hawker, but it was too early to worry about the" tricky 2" they probably hadn't emerged yet ! In the meantime I added Southern Hawker on the 21st, and enjoyed what was about, studying the jizz and getting better pictures where possible of what was about.
By the 10th August I had seen and photographed Ruddy Darter and Migrant Hawker. I had all the Worcs species now bar the " tricky 2", and it suited me I had seen them all withing the ethos of the 'doorstep'  as well, my sort of 20 mile radius of home. I wasn't even sure if Common Hawker had been seen, it's not at all common, infact I think it has only been sighted in 1 10 km in Worcs during the current survey. Anyway, I did one slightly off doorstep trip to Croome Park for a gratuitous tick of Small Red-eyed Damselfly, it was a place worth a once over, and I picked up Brown Argus and Common Blues which had been so rare this year.

So that was it for Worcestershire Dragonflies and me, 23 species seen and photographed, plus the White- faced Darter in Staffs, I was more than pleased.
I was even more pleased, when on the 15th September, whilst at Titterstone Clee birding, I saw and recorded Common Darter !

 A couple of days away in Seville and a visit to the Alcazar, I was hoping I might see something there, and  I saw a couple of stunners, Orange-winged Dropwing, and Violet Dropwing
It's been a great Dragonfly year, I hope to do it all again in 2013, and possibly add a couple of  species if conditions prevail. I also hope to study more of the life cycle of this fascinating group of invertebrates. Thank you for reading... Happy New Year !

Friday, 28 December 2012

Hawfinch, Merlin and more lift the post Xmas gloom

The rainy weather is getting beyond a joke, and with the effects of Christmas indulgence abating a little, and the rain likewise, I jumped in the car determined to get a couple of hours fresh air, exercise and birding under my increasingly tightening belt.
The birding got off to a good start at least today when I spotted  female/immature Merlin over the fields near the A456. The bird flew across the road right in front of me, continuing it's low passage over the field to the left. It's not my first of the year, but it's the first sighting I have reported on the blog.
  With my mood boosted, I came over all "goodwill to all men", and befitting that festive time, when it's more about giving than receiving, I even extend that to some baggies. So on a whim, I phoned JK to see if he was coming out to play, and with the answer in the affirmative, I collected him on the way to the Wyre.
It was another dismal day, with little light and the constant threat of rain. As we left the car we met a couple of Birders who reported it was "pretty dead" ( as The Wyre can be at times ), however we pushed on, ever the optimists.
Within a few minutes walking we had picked up on Nuthatch and a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpecker's, the first of quite a few.  The next notable sighting was 4 flyover calling Lesser Redpolls, a species I had not even seen this winter, seemingly low in numbers in my part of the county.Thankfully 2 were seen later on perched up, much more satisfying. Then at last, a 2012 Wyre Marsh Tit  ! all sightings are gratefully received of this locally diminishing species.
So, finally, the highlight of the foray, a stunning male Hawfinch showed after a patient couple of hours. The bird showed well for a few minutes, and we later connected very briefly with 2 other birds. But the first bird was a show stopper, despite the poor light it showed up much better in the optics that the camera. Been nearly 2 years since I had last seen one, but well worth the wait. The video is the best that could be managed, given the lack of light and relative angle to the sky, but it acted as a more satisfying record that a grainy picture.A very enjoyable late December bit of birding

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Simple patch pleasures

With Saturday being a washout, I was keen to get a bit of fresh air Sunday. I packed my scope and headed to the local lake to see what had stepped off the Ark.
I was literally just set up, and focusing on some gulls, when a Kingfisher zoomed across my field of view. I was able to pan and follow it quite a way...this was so pleasing, I had gone all year without connecting with one on the patch, and had specifically set out to try and nab one for the patch year list over Christmas, a result !
With the exception of a Cormorant  there was little else of note, no Tufted Ducks or Goosanders today. I moved across to the stubble field, which initially seemed barren, but after a while things began to appear. At the border, Song Thrush,Mistle Thrushes, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard and Nuthatch. Down on the field were a dozen Chaffinch,and half a dozen Blackbirds and Goldfinches but even with the scope I couldn't string a Brambling.
Back home I did a bit of garden birding, with a good range of species either in or just beyond the garden in the trees behind the house. Pick of the bunch was a Treecreeper in the large Horse Chestnut. The Greenfinches obviously didn't like my presence, but the Dunnock didn't mind. It's been great to see an influx of Coal Tits of late, and I have observed 4 or 5 at a time flitting around the garden. I decided to try and capture some video.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Grimley hits the spot

When JK text on Saturday morning suggesting a cheeky trip over to Grimley, I knew what he was thinking and took up his offer of a ride. I was thinking the same myself, Top Barn does great bacon and I wanted to stock up for Christmas, and their hot sausage rolls make a welcome birding snack !
There was also the possibility the recent meteorological events had produced a bit of bird movement so with a list full of incentives we headed over.
The first site we dropped in on produced immediate results. Usually it's a bit of a speculative stop off, but today, the Sling Pool floods were heaving with birds !
Over 100 Lapwing and dozens of Fieldfare were in the fields. On the water we noted Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Little Grebe and Tufted Ducks. Snipe were strolling around brazenly in very good numbers. However the highlight was getting onto a couple of Black-tailed Godwits that JK picked up in the scope on the far right side. I had only seen them at Slimbridge and Norfolk this year so it was a nice county year tick and a good record overall. Showing well in the scope, I didn't even bother trying for a pic, winter conditions negated that. A Green Sandpiper showed a couple of times too but remained in an area hidden to us.
From there we headed on to the other usual sites, where it was all a bit quite by comparison, save for the female Goldeneye at the New Workings. This was another county 'rareity' for me, not having seen any within Worcs since late 2010.
Before checking the Old Workings, we visited Top Barn Farm shop to raid the fridge of Bacon. A large sausage roll was also partaken of and eagerly dispatched while checking over the Old Workings ( which was pretty quiet ). However, the Sling Pool site alone was worth the trip, and the addition of any pork/pastry product can only enhance the experience.
Goldeneye ( record shot from 2012 )

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

New for Xmas, a video on YouTube

Just a quick update, I will be uploading some nature video soon onto my YouTube channel, from this last year, and hopefully more new footage next year.
As a starter for 10, and as it's the time of year everyone releases a video, I've had a stab at cobbling together some of the years highlights, it's only 3 minutes and suitable for all ages !
Click on the YouTube logo to view all videos and check for updates


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Goosander Record !.. and Winter Thrushes

On Sunday I was dusting off the cobwebs trying to get myself motivated for a patch walk when I had a text from fellow local birder Glenn H.
He had beat me to the local pool and relayed that there were 16 Goosander present. The "early bird" and all that ! Anyway, I scout marched across to take in this record breaking fall of Goosander. Glenn had nipped home for his camera, and just before he returned I managed to dig out another Female taking the count up to 17 Goosander (6 Males)
Thats' a damn fine count !
 The Tufted Duck numbers had increased to 8, and there were 2 Cormorant also present.
I walked with Glenn back to his car, we were bemoaning the lack of winter thrushes on the patch. As I left him and headed up to the paddocks I came across a flock of 35 Fieldfares ( the first on the deck I had seen), bit of a coincidence, and ironically, when I walked back later, they were all in the field next to where he had been parked.
The final pleasing bit of the walk was right outside my house, where there was a lot of Blackbird activity on the berries. I picked up on my first Redwings in the street this winter, and despite the failing light as the rain started, I managed a quick picture taken from my drive.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Long Tailed Duck and Things

Their has been a long staying Long Tailed Duck a few miles up the road. Although only about 9 miles as the quacker flies, it's a site I rarely visit. Given it's birder unfriendliness, lack of parking and high level of vehicle crime I can't think why I don't spend more time there.
Anyway, I think initially there was just a female, but the prospect of seeing the male was the tipping point as after all they are pretty rare around Worcs.
So Saturday morning I set up scope on the friendly confines of the Resa, and scanned around. There was decent numbers of Goosander of both sexes. After 5 minutes I picked up on the Male Long Tailed Duck , diving frequently in the NE corner.It was smartly marked. Thanks to someone over that side with a long lens, the bird was gradually being pushed further from the far shore, and eventually they managed to put the bird up which allowed me to see the long median black stripe down it's back as it sought a bit of peace..
So that was it , a lifer.
I decided to swing by the large Waxwing flock at Webbs on the way back. However, when I drove through the entrance and saw how close some of the cameras were set up in relation to the berries I changed my mind. To my mind some folks were just too close, not giving the birds anywhere near enough space.There is an ethical line in the sand and anyone who can't get a decent image from a few yards further back with a big lens and several grands worth of kit should take a leaf  out the book of proper photographers who can, without compromising the wellbeing of the subject.Anyway, I don't know who they were and doubt they read this anyway, but it's something that does cause bad feeling with most birders I know.
Anyway, just round the corner on Swan Lane there were c15 Waxwings flitting around catching insects, who obviously didn't fancy having a lens poked up their jacksie.
On Sunday I did my local patch. Tufted Ducks were back on the Pool, 3 males and a female, the first since May. The was not much else to rave about, but on ending the walk I stopped to observe the small House Sparrow population. It frequents an unremarkable part of the patch, around the gardens of 3-4 houses and adjoining land. I had them at another site on the patch but have not seen them there for a while, I hope they have not gone for good. They sit up in the bare bush and chirp at you as you walk past.
 Once so commonplace when I was a kid, they seem to heading in the same direction as the Tree Sparrow.