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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Storming Start to a Stormy Weekend

Around 1pm Friday my phone made the noise I dread to hear at work, the one telling me it's a message from  Birding Today. Checking it, my worst fears were confirmed, a SEO was at Upton Warren !

The Afternoon dragged by, with updates suggesting the bird was hanging around. When the bell sounded I was out and in the car faster than a rat up a drainpipe and didn't spare the horses arriving at Upton 30 minutess later.
Although not an easy gig, I eventually got a sighting of the Short Eared Owl doing it's best not to be seen and avoid the biting wind that had sent my fingers numb. A lifer ! In the last 12 months I have managed now to see Little, Long Eared, Barn and Short Eared Owl locally.

 The forecast for Sunday was high winds and heavy rain, so Saturday the plan was to go after another doorstep lifer, The Curlew Sandpiper at Grimley. On arriving just after 10am, it was apparent it had decided to try and escape our crappy spring weather by continuing it's journey to the far North. Oh well.

But all was not lost, as within a few minutes a bird swooped over the water, I was following it in my bins thinking ''thats a bloody big Swift, my first of the year'', when it dawned on me it was Hobby !! I pointed it out to a fellow regular at the site who was happy to agree with the ID.  A few people pitched up and we enjoyed the Waders and Yellow Wagtails, if a little distant from the top end.

Moving to the other end of the water, I set up camp to see what I could eek out of the bitterly cold day. A Peregrine swooped over and headed into the woods, and a Kestrel hovered. Sedge Warbler song could be heard but initially I couldn't get onto the blighter.

Moving to a more sheltered spot, I enjoyed good views of a Willow Warbler, and a female Blackcap, and then the Sedge Warbler showed allowing me to add it as a years tick. Sand Martin, House Martins and the odd Swallow came really close as they crossed the causeway.  Little Grebes dived close to the deepening shore line. At this point a fellow local birder pulled up on his bike. As we chewed the fat what we thought was another Sedge flitted in the reeds close by. Eventually I got a glimpse,  Reed Warbler, which was confirmed when it popped up higher in the reeds, showing really well for a minute or so, and even giving a bit of song. I was well chuffed to get such quality views of Reed and Sedge Warbler so early in the year.
A Yellow Wag flitted across, and then something I will never forget.... between 15 and 20 Yellow Wagtails descended onto the narrow causeway in front of us. You know this is something special when a seasoned birder like the guy who had joined me is getting excited, and not able to recall such an event, the causeway was turning yellow ! There was the odd female and even a Grey Wagtail in the group of vivid yellow birds. They continued to come and go on the causeway at various bits, in smaller numbers for 20 minutes. I got a couple of snaps a some video during which my first Swift of the year swooped over !

A Few of the Yellow Wagtails

Monday, 23 April 2012

Good birds and showers

 A couple of sightings from in the the week. On Monday 16th a male Ring Ouzel was found at Shenstone by JK, and thankfully it hung around until I could pay an after work visit to secure the species onto my county list. Although views gradually became more distant, it was a great bird to see a few minutes from home.

On Wednesday 18th  Interlopus Shenstonus Tescosus found some Wheatears on my patch, and I was grateful to be able to add them to my patch year list when I swung by post work. It was 2 days earlier than an almost identical sighting I had had last year.

So to the weekend. On Saturday with the weather being as it was, ie cold and heavy showers, I took the dry option of a couple of hours hide squatting at Upton. Unfortunately the birding was a bit dull, save for a single Common Tern which was a year first. On the way back for lunch I stopped by the patch where 3 Green Woodpeckers were the highlight and 3 species of  Lady Bird, 7 Spot and 2 Spot as well as a Harlequin were noted. I also saw my first patch Orange-tip, a male.

Pesky, thankfully only a couple,  and loads of 7 Spot

In the afternoon, just as I was losing my birding  mojo, I got a call from a local birder who had a Grey Partridge in view in a field down the road. As I had repeatedly failed to connect with this species I dashed over to secure a look at the bird, a lifer for me.My thanks go to him,but being that time of year, I'll say no more about location.

Sunday, I headed to the Wyre. On leaving the car a Male Blackcap showed well, and within a few yards Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, and Willow Warbler had all been heard. Next up a Raven kronked then circled over showing it's diamond tail. A Couple of early rising Buzzards glided over as I progressed down to the farm.I was on the look out  ( or more likely hear out ) for Tree pipit, Wood Warbler and Cuckoo but by the time I reached the farm I was 0 for 3. However I lingered here on the lookout for Redstart and after 20 minutes I heard a repeated 'tuck' type alarm call located to a stunning male Redstart perched at the top of a dead tree. He only showed for 30 seconds or so, but a real beauty and I was well satisfied with my patience.
The dark clouds were gathering so I decided not to walk the stream, but returning to the car lingered for a couple of Willow Warbler pics and a Video of one singing it's distinctive song. I was nearly back at the Car when I stopped in my tracks, hearing the tell tale 'spinning coin ' call of Wood Warbler ! As I scanned the woods it was evident 2 were calling in the area, and eventually I got onto the lovely green plumage and watched the bird do his little shiver as he called and flitted from branch to branch.

Willow Warbler. Wyre

It was starting to rain , so I called it a day there and headed back to my own patch. I settled in a spot and  spent a happy half hour allowing the birds to come to me. A pair of Linnets showed well, with nesting material in their mouths. My first patch Blackcap,  tackked and made a welcome appearance. Throughout the period, a Chiffchaff flitted about, huiting and occasionally giving his more trademark song,  at times coming within a few feet of me.
Chiffchaff amongst the buds..Barnet brook

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Friday 13th April..lucky for me

A split day out and about today. I plumped for a trip to the Wyre in the morning, hoping to catch up with the odd early migrant ( Tree Pipit, Wood Warbler, Cuckoo ... all possible, as well as another Redstart), The elusive Lesser Spot could show it's face if it wanted . I Started at Uncllys where the best I could manage was seeing my first singing Willow Warbler  of the year for a dirty tick.

Willow Warbler Wyre Forest

Walking down to Lodge Hill I saw my second deer of the week bounce by, a young female Fallow Deer, whilst I chatted to the charming Adder lady Sylvia Sheldon.
The Wyre can be oddly quiet sometimes, and for me it was, save for the odd Greater Spot and Nuthatch. Not even a Butterfly about, and the weather was warming up, I decided to return to Upton Warren to nail a picture of those pesky Orange- tips, what I got was something quite unexpected !!

Around 2pm, I set about finding an Orange- tip to photograph, and picking one up on the wing I stalked it towards the point I saw it settle. Checking it with my bins before I moved a little closer, I  picked up an 'eye' in my field of view. It took a few seconds to realise I was staring at the head of a Grass Snake out basking in the sunshine ! It was a lovely Snake, over a metre long, quite thin really, my first. With my 35x zoom I was able to get some pics and video without having to disturb it, thoughts of Orange tips were on hold !
I couldn't help wander if some of Sylvia's snake savvy had rubbed off on me !

Grass Snake

Having gotten a few snaps I left it in peace. The sunshine had bought out some butterfly year firsts, with Large White and Small White and 2 Holly Blues being seen before I left. I also saw my second Brimstone  of the year.Eventually I managed a reasonable Orange -tip record shot, leaving feeling it was mission accomplished ..and some !

Male Orange-tip

Saturday, 14 April 2012

11th & 12th April..Spring edges into Doorstepshire

On Wednesday I tootled for no particular reason to Grimley Camp Lane. I enjoyed a hour or so on the causeway observing nothing outstanding, save for a male Wheatear which was occupying a dung heap on the westerly field.My attention turned to the increase of invertebrates on the wing, with a good emergence of St Marks Flies ( St Marks day is April 25th) and quite a few Alderflies.

From there I scooped up JK for a reconnaissance of the Shropshire side of the Wyre,  and a likely butterfly patch. The weather was closing in, and I was thankful to spot my first Speckled Wood of the year, as well as a Green Tiger Beetle

Green Tiger Beetle

With the weather continuing to be showery I decided to return for a spot of migration watching at Upton on Thursday. Unfortunately only the Hirundines seemed to taking it seriously, but after being pinned down in the east hide by rain, the sun came out and I decided to do a bit of butterfly spotting. I was chuffed to see my second Brimstone of the year, and the Orange Tips refused to allow me a decent pic, which was begining to annoy me as I had never photographed this species.
There had been a Redstart reported in Shenstone by JK earlier in the day. I had no expectation it would still be about but thought I would have a cheeky look as it was on the way home. I jumped out the car at the location I guessed it would be, and immediately saw a distant but wonderfully coloured male Redstart. Fortunately I had my scope so I set up and enjoyed the bird flitting up and down from the hedge into the paddock. What a bird for the year tick ! As it was over a hundred yards away the record shot is what it is, a record shot,you had to be there.
Male Redstart Fantastic colour !

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Tuesday 10th April

Monday was typical bank holiday, with play abandoned before a ball was delivered, we should get given  another day later in the year to replace it, although I appreciate rain was much needed.
Mindful of the showery weather I decided it was best to be in or near a hide, so headed for The Warren around midday for a few hours, who knew, maybe I would see an Osprey, everyone else seemed to be.
As I drove along the track to the car park a Roe Deer bounded from my left, in front of the car and through the adjacent field to my right, a lovely unexpected sighting.
The Moors pool was fairly dreary, save for some hirundine movement, a speculative Sparrowhawk, and a nesting Tree creeper. After watching not very much for quite a while, a Common Sandpiper showed on one of the islands which was at least a year tick.It was too cold for butterflies so no Orange tips could be photographed. I decided to relocate to the flashes.
Hear at least there was a bit of banter and good company, but it actually turned into a solid birding session, mainly because what was around showed really well up close to the hide. The Avocets periodically fed in the closest channel, giving as good a view as I have had of them over the last 18 months. Then a Common Gull showed up on the far side giving me my second year tick of the day. After an almighty shower, a Green Sandpiper also frequented the near channel, as did the Little Ringed Plovers, providing me with plenty of opportunity to play with my camera. Although not my first Green Sand sighting of the year, seeing the bird so close does show what a beautifully marked bird it actually is, something I think I get blaze too by late summer, and with conditions settling and the light quality good, it was a joy just to sit and enjoy the bird activity.

Green Sandpiper Upton Warren

On the way home I stopped off at Barnet Brook to find a pair of Swallows back in residence at their usual haunt, which was a  1st on my own local patch for the year ...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Sunday Doorstep

Easter Sunday, always difficult to know how to celebrate the birth of the Easter bunny, but I decided to do a bit of birding, with a little circumnavigation of the Doorstep.
Deansford Lane was quiet, but fresh plough is being created so watch this space. The only excitement came when leaning on my boot scanning for birds I noticed the car was trying to push me out the way, luckily I managed to avoid a crisis ( must remember to engage a gear before exiting car in future)
Anyway, on to Tanwood where I delighted to see a Swallow perched on the telegraph wire,all on his tod but settling in nicely. I wandered if it was the same bird I had photographed there last August ?

My 1st non flying Swallow, looking to settle in

As one species arrives,  c150 of another in the shape of Fieldfare, were having a good leaving feed in the top field, as a Woodpecker drummed frantically in the distance.
I moved on to Shenstone for more plough, and maybe a first Worcestershire Wheatear or two. Arriving on Back  Lane, I actually found three, 2 male's and lovely dusky female.

Male and Female Wheatear

 I spent a good hour there, also observing 8 meadow Pipits drop in and fly out, and a Female Kestrel snack on a mouse. At one point there were four kestrels over the field, getting a bit territorial and feisty, quite a sight.

Eating a mouse, looked great in my Scope !
Having filled my boots I swung by Shenstone farm where I happened upon a solitary male Wheatear as well. This field was rich with Linnets and Skylarks . It started to rain so I headed back to the car, well pleased with my mornings haul.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Doorstep Smörgåsbord

Over the Weekend I managed to see my first hirundines of the year, some Sand Martins over the Moors pool  Upton Warren during an hours visit Saturday. I also managed to catch up with a bird I classify as a lifer , although I did see one in my younger birdwatching days many moons ago, a male Ring Ouzel over the border in Shropshire.

Male Ring Ouzel

I enjoyed walking some parts of my local patch that are a little quieter and provide some habitat that could yield something interesting in the coming months ( I was 90% sure I had distant views of a 'goody' on Sunday, but need to revisit and get better views first, so watch this space !). Chiffchaff numbers on the patch increased and one or two have obliged for a quick pic.


The warm weather has provided an opportunity for a few more butterfly shots, especially the obliging Peacocks, but the butterfly highlight for me so far this year was a fly-by male Brimstone that got me all excited as it flew past me along a woodland ride. I've also connected with a couple of male Orange Tips, but they were viewed through my bins, busily charging around and refusing to come near enough  for photo's.

  Finally this week some Bluebells appeared on the patch, and now we are told to expect snow !!
Bluebell's on the patch

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Moth News..

Well, further to my posting last week about Orange Underwing, I'm happy to confirm my sighting of Light Orange Underwing also at Chaddesley has been confirmed by those that know their moths.
Light Orange Underwing

On the home front the Moth trap had a Clouded Drab in the week, and Friday night didn't trouble the scorers. Last night I decided to park it out the front of the house and this morning I had 4 occupants ! My second Hebrew Character was lurking along with 3 new species. A slightly worn Chestnut, and a couple of beauties..Common Quaker and Twin Spotted Quaker, taking my garden / March  list to 7.

Twin Spotted Quaker

All my trap species are kept in my Flickr set here