Additional Pages

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I attended a talk by Chris Packham yesterday, and most entertaining it was. He showed some great photographs he had taken down in the Antarctic region, including some great Albatross shots. The Albatross  falls into the category of  ' one of my most favourite bird's I will  probably never see'.  These birds are so designed to fly, and do so with so little energy input. They often live 60 years.Some have a wingspan over 3 metres.Unfortunately the species is largely being systematically wiped out by humans. The introduction of rats and other predators onto it's breeding grounds, the pollution of the sea's with plastics that are regurgitated into it's young, and worse of all line fishing , wiping out tens of  thousands, that's right, tens of thousands of this species every year. For a bird that hardly reproduces for the first 10 years of its life, is painfully slow to fledge, and is reliant on the the ever plundered food sources of the Southern Oceans, it could easily vanish in our lifetimes.Predation by introduced species  to it's breeding grounds may be addressed to some extent. The industrial scale fishing for species, such as Squid, by the likes of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, using lines up to 8 km long is very difficult for 'us' to challenge. What can be done? I guess that's up to each of us as individuals, depending on how these things touch us. All I could do today was write this in my lunchbreak.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Slimbridge Away Day 28th January

At this time of year, with birding limited to weekends, it is easy to get a little stale with what is about on the immediate doorstep, so a little trip 50 or miles down the M5 to Slimbridge would hopefully provide a little more variety, and bolster the old year list.
First though, I made a detour to pick up fellow birder and Albion supporter Jason K, Shenstone Birder, finding him at his preferred winter Pitch.
First port of call was the Rushy Hide. Bewick Swans ( allways a pleasure), including the juveniles were present in good number's and the were plenty of stunningly smart male Pintails to admire. A Redshank was present to, completing a trio of year ticks in quick succession. We enjoyed the bird fest for 30 minutes or so, which included Shelduck, Teal and Pochard at close quarter.

Drake Pintail

One of the days highlights came next,  getting decent views of Golden Plover, which I had never really managed, and seeing them go up, twisting and turning in their hundreds was very special. The Martin Smith Hide also gave up Wigeon, White Fronted Goose and Dunlin to the year list, the latter of which, like the Plover, was well represented.

Drake Wigeon
At the next hide, Jase picked up on a pair of tree dwelling Peregrines, an unexpected raptor bonus.
My least favourite hide is the Holden Tower. From here, of note were a dozen or so o Great Black Backed Gulls, Barnacle Geese and an Oystercatcher.
Whilst watching Black Tailed Godwitts at the Zeiss Hide, the Bittern emerged, providing another highlight, as it had been over a year (8th Jan 2011) since I had last seen one at Upton. After enjoying the bird we extricated ourselves from the minor scrum to see it, and headed for the South Lake Hide, where Gadwall was added to my year list.
 We were unable to connect with the Lesser Scaup, or any Grey Plover, so no lifers today, but with 13 year additions, and some quality views I was well satisfied with the return from my visit.
Bewick Swan, Marvellous !!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

It Only Takes One !! Sunday 22nd Jan... Eymore and Trimpley

Having not really troubled the scorers with the previous days birding, I was desperate for a 'good bird' to cheer up what had so far, for many reasons, been a bit of a rubbish weekend. Some medicine , in the shape of a Crossbill, administered optically, was my prescription.
 So I headed down the road to Eymore Wood, where birds had been seen both yesterday, and indeed earlier that morning, making the possibility of a dip....well lets not go there !
I had yet to see Crossbill in my home county, and had only seen the species once before, a few miles over the border in Shropshire, just after Christmas.
On arrival, I started scanning the canopies for birds. Walking up the road I discovered a large Siskin and Goldfinch flock, as well as another local birder John C. The flock was skittish, but the c70 or so birds invariably circled back to the same few trees. I noted Coal Tit , Greenfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker amongst the flock as well.
After about the fourth shuffle of the pack, the birds settled again and BINGO ! a single stunning male Crossbill showed..redemption, 'cock-a' was hooped !
After enjoying the bird for 15 minutes or so, I headed off down to the water of Trimpley to see if I could bag a Mandarin for the year list too.On the way, a couple of Ravens kronked overhead.
On reaching the small reservoir I immediately spotted 6 Goosander including 2 males,nice. 30 or so Tufted Ducks dropped in as I made my way towards the main reservoir, but lurking along the edge of the Junior 'Rezza' were 3 Mandarin, 1 female. Always nice to see, the year list nudged on again.
On the main body of water, it was windy and quiet. Great Crested Grebe's, a few Coots and a Cormorant all that was present.
On the way home I interloped Shenstone Birders patch for a quick Skylark year addition too. That Crossbill though had 'made' the weekend for me, and will keep me going til next week.
Male Crossbill..Get In !!

Saturday 21st Jan 2012 Moors,Upton Warren.

I had limited time to bird Saturday morning, and with the weather dull and winds gusting it was probably going to be a bit duff. I decided to head to the Moors at Upton Warren, there  had been a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker  there earlier in the week, and in the likely event of not seeing that, there would be at least something avian on or over the water or feeders.
I headed for the west hide, hoping to get to have a little play with my camera, although light was poor. There were good numbers of Greenfinch,Reedbunting and Bullfinches showing in the bushes around the feeders.

Male Bullfinch
Blue,Great and Long Tailed tits flicked about, and  Great Spotted Woodpecker dropped in for a his elevenses.
 Around the pool were Grey Heron, CurlewLapwing ,Cormorant and Canada Geese. On it, Mute Swan, Pochard,Tufted Duck,Teal, Shoveler and Great Crested Grebe made up the usual suspects, along with Coot and Moorhen.However, a single Little Grebe popped up in the channel in front of the hide, which made a nice spectacle, and was an Upton year tick.Gull representation was mainly Black Headed with the odd Lesser Black.
Little Grebe
With rain threatening I decided to walk the area where the Lesser Pecker had been seen earlier in the week. However, neither I, or for that matter several more experienced birders managed to connect with the little fella that day.

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Morning on the Patch Sunday 16th January

Another crisp morning. I had all but drawn a blank progressing the year list yesterday, except for adding Red Legged Partridge as I drove back from the Wyre.Hopefully today I could at least advance the patch list, maybe the year list ? I headed for the Barnet Brook area.

Luckily for the canines of the area, but unfortunately for me, the dog walkers were out en masse and I  rapidly realised I needed to abort and move on. However not before I had craftily added Lesser Black Backed Gull to the patch list as it glided over. I also spent a while admiring a single Redwing calling high in a tree for a while and a couple of Siskin passed through the canopy.

I decided Ladies Pool, although closer, could wait til last,as it was likely to be busy, and headed to the north side of my patch,an area encompassed by the Lanes called Churchill, Stakenbridge and Waggon, and a bridle path. This area has Arable and Pastoral land, including the pastoral hillock that climbs up to 156m.

As I parked up I noted one of the small populations of House Sparrow on the patch was still present. I hadn't done this side of the patch for quite a while. On my way to ascending the hillock, there were good numbers and Greenfinch and Goldfinch around the mews style cottages. I certainly 'felt the burn' making the steep climb to the top of the hill, and once there surveyed the fields...not a single in bird for miles ! Not to be put off I crossed the pasture heading for the footpath and bridle path that bisects what currently were stubble fields. This area is usually good for Linnet flocks this time of year, but as I progressed towards Waggon Lane there was nothing but a few Magpies and Carrion Crows. Reflecting on an interesting but not exactly diverse Saturday, and now experiencing a birding desert, I was , to say the least , feeling like this weekend could be pretty duff.
However, as I approached the end of the bridle path, I noticed a flock of birds at along the hedge line at the far end of a sheep field. c100 Linnets...result, year tick to boot. Scanning back towards me the head of what I thought was Mistle Thrush popped from above some long grass, then it tuned and move away from me revealing itself as a patch tick in the form of bonanza...I decided to double back rather than do a circuit, as the rest of the walk would be country lane, as  I was now cooking on gas, who knew what else I might grab. Retracing my steps a Pheasant flushed from the cereal crop ( patch tick).
Well, when you are hot you are hot, and as I walked a bird flew across my field of view and put down on the telegraph wires, settling for around 30 seconds. It was a Meadow Pipit, a bird I had never  connected with on  patch making it a patch lifer and a year tick..I was on fire !! I all but floated back to the car, finally  grabbing my one and only House Sparrow picture as I did (see below).
So it was onto the final port of call, Ladies Pool.A group of c70 Jackdaws put down into the trees along Forge Pool as I arrived. On Ladie's itself were 7 Tufted Ducks and a female Goosander, another year tick. So once again, for the second weekend, the patch outshone the established birding locations for me.

Better than  Spannish Sparrow !

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Mega at Cold Comfort Farm...? Wyre Forest 14th January 2012

A damned hard frost had descended overnight, and it was -4°C when I cranked up the motor to head the 10 miles or so down to the Wyre Forest. The light was looking good, my only worry was if there was fog lurking down in that there river valley that is Dowles Brook. I seem to be filled with completely unfounded optimism.

Fog free but freezing I headed down the path towards Lodge Hill Farm, hoping for something decent like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch or at least a Brambling. It was cold. It's well accepted this neck of the woods can be very hit or miss. As I made my way I noted the expected sightings of Blue,Great and Long Tailed Tit, as well as hearing Nuthatch.It was bloody cold.

The orchard area around the farm house was not exactly chuffin with birds. Save for the addition of a Song Thrush singing ( see video) , a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, and a passing Sparrowhawk I was struggling. However the frost had a pleasing effect on the surrounding, and I was happy snapping the scenery and the odd bird. Unfortunately I discovered later that my lens had steamed for a couple of my best shots  ! Grrr!

A finchlike bird in the tree canopy caught my eye, feeding alone, it had a white head ..Unusual...could only think of Snow Bunting with such an appearance, unless it was a rare yanky vagrant !

Know what it is yet ?

The bird was fairly settled,feeding high in the tallest tree. I edged closer gradually somewhat thrown initially as to what I was looking at. Eventually I came to the conclusion I thought I knew what it was, and got a few record shots as best as possible from distance. I rarely get a phone signal down that neck of the woods, so it was just as well I was reasonably happy I had not fell upon a Mega.Having to work without gloves, frostbite was now setting in, and I abandoned my original plan to do the circular route encompassing Dowles Brook, instead I scout marched for the car, the heater and a flask of coffee.

Anyway, back to that bird. it's a pigmentally challenged Chaffinch. It has distinct white areas in it's plumage, is generally paler, and has a pale pinky bill, but a black eye. I'm not going into the issues of Leucism and Albinism, the more you read about it in birding the more you realise it is not a black and white area !

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Blogger's Beano... Sunday 8th January

Today I joined forces with fellow local birder,nature lover, and  blogger, Jason K..aka..Shenstone Birder. The object of this mornings exercise was to visit a Tundra Bean Goose frequenting a corner of South Staffordshire, view a showy Tawny Owl, and get back in time for lunch to maintain domestic harmony. As the target locations are on my doorstep, timing was not an anticipated problem

However, not wishing to neglect my local patch, I  first scooted over to Ladies Pool around 10am for 10 minutes, enjoying a Pair of Coal Tits outside my house on the way . Of note on this very brief sojourn, were Nuthatch, calling in the adjacent wood, a Litlle Grebe and 5 Tufted Ducks on the pool.

Right on cue the sunshine vanished as Mr K arrived with our transport ( thankfully he had brought the car, the horse getting it's rest on the Sabbath). We headed for the Highgate Common area where the Goose had been in residence with some Greylags. Unfortunately, on reaching the location, it had decamped, as had the Greylags, and the area was fairly birdless, save for a Lesser Black Backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, and a Blue Tit. We scouted the fields on adjacent lanes, finding a large Fieldfare (Year tick) and Redwing flock, but our Goose had gone. You have to take these knocks on the chin in birding, and we moved on to another location.

On the way to our next planned stop, I ticked off Kestrel for the yearlist. Would the Tawny Owl be showing, or would I luck out ..?
Thankfully, the Tawny Owl showed well for 10 minutes, I was chuffed and privileged to get such corking views. After a while he dropped down into the tree ( see Video, quite comical), obviously bored with the admiration we were both laying on him. Whilst in the area I firmed up my year list with a Nuthatch sighting, and a nice couple of Coal Tits showed well.

With time in the bank, we stopped off finally at Brakemill Pool, to check the area for Corn Bunting and the Pool for anything interesting that may have dropped in. What we did see, was Sparrowhawk, a couple of hundred BHG's, LBBG, Gold Crest and Song Thrush (year tick).

 Having only head Tawny Owl previously, today was a red letter day for me. The addition of 3 other year ticks rounded off an enjoyable couple of hours in company of Jase. Thanks go to him.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Saturday 7th Jan 2012..A Surprise on the patch !

Eager to cover a bit of ground today I headed off firstly to Upton for just after sunrise, hoping to collect a few more year tick crumbs. Green Woodpecker was duly added, but the path down to the still unfinished new hide yielded little. As I rounded the sailing Pool I noted 18 Greylags had separated from the Canada's in the field and taken to the water. Said field contained 3 Pheasant's which was an Upton year tick, as was a pair of Collard Doves on the Farm buildings ( an elusive bird on the reserve actually).A large Lapwing flock way to the South, was gradually approaching.Greater Spotted Woodpecker put in an appearance for a final flashes derived tick.

From here I headed to the Moor's, the Sun appeared but the wind was cold. A squadron of Cormorants arrived, pushing the number present up to 43. A  Shelduck ( pic below) was probably the 'highlight', and finally I bagged a couple of raptor's in the shape of Buzzard (of which there were a handful) and a Sparrowhawk. Feeling the Cold by 11am, and with things fairly static, the assembled regulars and myself headed for the exit.

Allowing the heater to work it's magic' I took a leisurely drive back to my local patch, deciding to pick up where I had been forced to leave off a few days earlier, down at Barnet Brook. As I left the car it all seemed a bit quiet, but along the footpath I latched onto a bit of finch activity. Chaffinch, then Goldfinch, Greenfinch, then 2 stunningly bright Yellowhammers, at the top of a tree. A Buzzard broke cover further down the treeline, as did a Jay.The Buzzard was mobbed by several Carrion Crows.
Edging past the finch flock, I then encountered a Tit flock. This stretch was positively bristling with birds ! Blue Tit, Great Tit,Long Tailed Tit, Chiffchaff..CHIFFCHAFF !! I did a double take, I was aware they overwintered, or some of the Northern variants come south, but it was odd to see non the least, a new experience for me in me winter ! A Coal tit, the Goldcrest showed to complete the best tit flock ever tit flock I think I have seen.The activity was frenetic and hard to capture, I managed a LTT (below) All these birds with a couple of hundred yards. On the way back to the car, I added Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redwing, and 2 Ravens kronked over.

From here, the final stop was Ladies Pool. A large mixed Corvid flock was over as I parked, I picked out 2 Rooks from the Carrions and Jackdaws. With a flock of 6 Magpies a little later, I had seen all the Corvids represented in this neck of the woods on my patch that Morning.
Around 2 dozen Redwings occupied the Paddock area, and Greenfinches lurked in the Hedge. 3 Teal, 1 female, were skulking about and calling on Forge pool, visible through the branches just (see pic), along with a couple of Moorhen.
The Pool was occupied  by 52 Canada Geese, and not a lot else of note. A nice male Bullfinch was the highlight of the small finch flock on the bridle path, and both greater spotted and Green Woodpecker were clocked.
All in all a good selection of species, with the local patch trumping The Warren for unexpected variety and excitement today.My year list is 58, according to my Bird Journal software, but I've yet to pick the bones out of the respective location numbers yet.Here is an article on wintering Chiffchaffs in Worcestershire

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Good Patch Start 2/1/2012

Final day off before the return to the daily grind. A strange fiery ball was rising in a an unfamiliar blue sky. So today a chance to boost the year list, and see what my local patch had to offer. The Redwings that had been prominent of late were nowhere to be seen, but one of the local populations of House Sparrow greeted me as I headed towards Forge Pool, where I was able to clock a Teal pootling about through the branches that hide much of it.
Then, a immediate result, 5 Lesser Redpoll (see pic)  feeding along the side of the Green, a patch tick !!
Anyone who regularly covers an unremarkable local patch will appreciate how pleasing it is to add a new species to a small patch list. I was dead chuffed to add Little Grebe a week earlier ,my fist addition to the patch since August, these things are hard to get. I Spent a while trying to get some sort of decent record of this historic event.
Ladies Pool was Goosanderless,but as well as the usual BHG's, Coots, Mallards and Moorhen, the Little Grebe was present. I bumped into a fellow local Birder, Glen, who I had probably seen around Upton but never spoken too. It's always good to share a bit of local info, knowledge is power afterall.
Onwards and the trees along the pool were hosting numerous Chaffinch, Goldfinch and 3 very smart Siskins. A Song Thrush was singing and a pair of Blue Tits were flirting with each other, obviously getting a bit ahead of themselves. My first raptor of the year was a very healthy looking Buzzard which drifted over the stubble field. Finally a Redwing showed on the way home, and with a handful of species seen not overlapping the previous days sightings my year list nudged up to 45, with those patch Redpolls almost putting me in a good mood to go back to work. Almost.
Lesser Redpoll on Patch by WoodwolfUW

New Year, new list 1/1/2012

Funny how a simple advancement of the calender by a day creates that frisson of excitement unique to birders !

 I headed to 'The Warren', as good a place as any to start a new year list, alongside my Upton Warren Year list, which had ended on a high  with a lifer and a reserve tick not 24 hours previously. However, for me, it was really about being out and birding. I was not going to sweat on trying to assemble 50 ticks in the hour or so I had decided to bird. For one, I'm simply not that accomplished, I admire the ability of  more experienced birders to hoover up those commoner species, seemingly able to smell an approaching Mipit or Grey Wag, ID it, point to it, and write it down while I am still removing the rain caps from my bins.Pace myself, concentrate on improving my skills, god knows they need it.Resolution, to find more myself.

So I mooched around the Moors side for an hour, trying to see every bird properly, as if for the first time..Ok, I was a bit tired from the New Year celebrations, so I scoped the feeder's on the far side to tick off  Reed Bunting and Green crime in that though is there ?

And what should I spot flying in and plopping itself down on the main pool around 12.10 for 5 minutes ? Only a Great Black Backed Gull, a really fresh looking brute,  the white feathers looking Persil washed.I go a year not seeing one there, then I start tripping over them !

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Late late Upton Double 31/12/2011

I decided to pop over to Upton Warren for a last stab at adding to my Upton Warren year list. As a relatively inexperienced birder ( life list <200 and only 18 months back in the saddle since a teen) I was chuffed to reach the lofty figure of 128 there this year. Oddly I have discovered some common species can be quite tricky to get at 'The Warren', and I was missing Coal Tit, Nuthatch, House Sparrow, as well as Great Back Backed Gull (how odd when you have seen a Bluethroat there !)  However despite lingering on the East track for around 40 minutes ( a good place for Coal Tit and Nuthatch allegedly) and spending a while scanning the Moors for a GBBG, I 'struck out' . On returning to the car a nice group of Lesser Redpolls showed, and I attempted a  picture ( see below). These are tricky birds to photograph, fidgety, often in silhouette, and the light was awful, so there, I have my excuses in first.

 I left at lunchtime, slightly disappointed not to have just notched one of those target species.So 128 it was,or so I thought........

At just after 2pm my phone beeped, I ignored it, trying to find a picture of a Redpoll that was in focus, or correctly exposed, or had a Redpoll in it. It beeped again, picking it up there was a couple of messages  saying 'Brent Goose, Flashes, Upton Warren !!' ( The Flashes is part of the reserve, the Goose was not behaving inappropriately)

Minutes later I was heading back  too from where I had just returned..Brent Goose..hmm, had I seen one at Slimbridge ? wasn't sure, could I visualise a Brent Goose..mental blank.. even non grey geese are are a bit of a grey area for me,oh well, was sure this was a rarity at The Warren, and a potential lifer !

Jumping out the car, one of the regular stalwarts was gathering his gear ''been waiting a long time for one of these'' he said.Allready nervy of dipping, I lost the plot slightly and dashed off for the tick, leaving my car door wide open.

Anyway, I bagged it, Brent Goose, really smart bird, dark bellied series apparently( and it was a lifer ), also, in my haste I had forgotten to remove memory card from laptop, so no picture, oh well, 129 !! Or so I thought.....

Whilst enjoying the 'Goose afterglow' with fellow birders, 3  large gulls drifted over, Lesser Backs , hang on the middle one was Brute, very dark upper wings, the call  'Great Black Backed Gull' went up..result .. Year list 130 !! ( and an Upton tick to boot)

What a great end to 2011 ! Hope you will pop back in 2012 for the occasional update

Lesser Redpoll by WoodwolfUW