I'm delighted to report my pre- Christmas blues didn't last very long. I'm keeping away the crowds as much as possible. My queue phobia meant I had to make 3 attempts to collect a pre ordered Turkey from the Butchers. Traffic has also been a nightmare. Anyway time has generally been split between a bit of local birding and being i/c purchasing essential provisions : drink, pickles and Pork products plus a few Samosas for good measure. As far as the birding is concerned Bird of the week, by some distance, has been a Woodcock seen at close quarters in some local woodland.
I've just been looking at some Blogs of the past. I know its better to look forward than back but on a miserable evening in early December its interesting to see what you were up to last year and whether your mood was less sombre. I keep telling myself there will be a Hawk Owl or a Eye browed Thrush found but I don't really believe it. Be nice though. Last year's Blogs around this time talked about the usual winter visitors, the usual Great northern Diver at Draycote the odd Redwing in the garden and a bit of banter about Beer. All good stuff.
I've been delving into the Archives as well digging out some old note books going back to 1986. My interest in birds goes back well beyond that though. I was bought my first Bird book, the Observers Book of Birds in 1955 and started ticking.
I was very limited to some very local birding last week but I'd noticed a decent flock of finches flying over a Corn stubble field within a short walk from home. I presumed the birds were Linnets but needed to see them in less gloomy light and not driving a car, to confirm. They were indeed Linnets, a good flock of 60 or so birds. Shame that the field they and several other species were using to feed may well be lost to housing development in the not too distant future.
Took the opportunity to visit Draycote after a present exchange in Coventry, had reasonable views of the G N Diver, 2 of the 3 Scaup and 4 Dunlin. I stopped off at Brandon on the way back saw Kingfisher and a couple of Goldeneye but nothing else of note. Did the 'Mancetter walk' yesterday. another Kingfisher and the resident Grey wags, were along the river.
On the adjacent fields were flocks of winter thrushes and Yellowhammers but no sign of any Tree Sparrows in the hedges or Chiffchaffs in thr riverside bushes.
Today I visited Alvecote pools and saw yet another Kingfisher, 2 Great white Egrets (both on Mill pool), 10 Little Egrets and 2 Stonechats (both male).
The lure of a Midlands tick and seeing another 'eastern' rarity was too strong. After a difficult journey in the fog and with a couple of changes of route because of accidents and heavy traffic I arrived at the village of Beeley in Derbyshire. Birders were strolling around the village which wasn't a good sign. I decided to join a group at THE orchard. There had been no sign of the Dusky Thrush for some time. I waited and waited, no sign. The best thing was an enterprising young lady selling punets of chips to very grateful Birders who had been waiting a good deal longer than I had. Eventually the call of nature and a need for a Coffee forced a retreat to the car. On the way back I joined another group on the playing field. To my amazement the people I was standing next to were actually 'on the bird' I'm sure other people just a few yards away had no idea the Dusky thrush was on view in the Hawthorns. I'm sure the info filtered through eventually and most people got on the bird.
Monday 5th December 2916
Travelled to South Wales today with Tony Shepard and Dave Abbott. Uneventful journey apart from seeing a couple of Red Kites overhead. We arrived at the village of Camrose and almost immediately were alerted to the Wagtail on the road by a concerned motorist. The bird continued to give excellent views both on the roofs of the houses and on the road where these photos were taken.
Not much to report being preoccupied with domestic issues, but did get out for a walk around the fields near Mancetter. At the Woodford Lane sewage outfall there were 14 Teal, but apart from the usual pair of Grey wagtails and a flock of some 20 Yellowhammers on the stubble fields not much else. No sign of any Tree sparrows or Chiffchaffs in the riverside bushes yet.
Sunday saw a bit of Garden action with a small flock of 17 Redwings in neighbouring gardens with a couple taking a few Siberian Crabapples from my garden. Before a male Sparrowhawk arrived keeping tabs on the flock,
The coldest spell of the year coincided with my Boiler playing up so in trying to get it sorted there hasnt been much time for birding this week, apart from a couple of visits to Bentley wood, near Atherstone. Today I had a walk round the Mancetter circuit. 50+ Redwings and a couple of Ravens were seen. I extended the walk by following the canal towpath south. There used to be a feeding station by the moorings which attracted Tree Sparrows in previous winters but no sign today. Further on the canal runs quite close to a small lake, part of which can be viewed from the towpath. As I scanned the bit of the lake I could see a few Mallards came into view followed by a drake Mandarin which in turn was followed by another male and a female Mandarin.
After a bit of shopping I carried on to Alvecote pools. As I drove to the Pretty pigs lake a Great white Egret flew over the road towards Mill pool. In all I saw 2 Great white Egrets, 4 Little Egrets, 2 Snipe, 94 Mute Swans, Black Swan, 2 Shelduck, and 9 Meadow pipits.
A round up of the past few days including a rare out of County trip. Having failed to connect with the Napton Res.6 on my first attempt, I had another go last Friday. This time I and managed to see 2 of the little gems.
Popped into Draycote Water on the way back. Be rude not to really. With the sun shining the Great northern Diver showed well. Also seen were a Slavonian grebe, Scaup and a couple of Dunlin. A couple of visits to Bentley woods were unproductive. In desperation I opted for an out of County experience on Saturday. I hoped to see Hawfinch on the edge of Cannock Chase,Staffs., and luckily they we on show as I arrived on site. I saw 5 birds, there were 7 in total apparently. Also in the area near Upper Longdon were Crossbill, Brambling and flocks of Siskin.
Untidy week really, bit of birding, bit of this and that. Highlights were probably a couple of visits to Ladywalk N.R. where the newly arrived Bittern showed well, if somewhat distantly. Also a Green Sandpiper there. Visited the Caldecote 'patch' near Hartshill. Lots of Skylarks still on the stubble, the remaining grain attracting plenty of Woodpigeon which in turn attracted a couple of shooters. A small flock of Canada geese were also attracted to the grain one of which fell victim to the guns.
The Mancetter walk was also very quiet as was Alvecote pools apart from the odd Great White Egret, 4 Meadow Pipit and resident pair of Stonechat. The Mancetter walk and a walk round Shustoke Res. provided excercise but little excitement.
Monitoring local Rowans continues. The local area has proved very attractive to Waxwings in previous 'invasion'years. Even appearing in my own garden in November 2010. Not the best photos but a memorable day.
News that a Water pipit had been found at Draycote Water by John Judge and Bob Hazel brought about a rapid change of plans.I headed off to Draycote. One or two birders were checking through the numerous Meadow pipits along Farborough bank but none had seen the bird since the initial sighting. I was joined by JJ. We scanned the shore line but with no luck. 12 Whooper swan flew through and John picked up a Knot at the elbow. I carried on towards Toft before I got a call from John saying that Bob H had refound the Water pipit near the Wind surfing area. By the time I got round there they had lost sight of it again. There was no sign as I joined in the search again.
After a coffee and a P, I decided to check out Farborough bank again, by now the light was going but the bird had to be somewhere. Should I check out the 'windsurfing shore' one more time? Bingo, there it was, pretty much were it had last been seen. A satisfying conclusion to a good few hours Birding.
My local walks have been getting even more local recently. Instead of visiting several sites in North Warks I've focussed on a couple of more local sites on an almost daily basis in the past week. To some extent its paid off, with a Whinchat at Mancetter on Sunday and Stonechats in the Anker valley near Caldecote. Also interesting to see the build up of wintering species Skylarks, Meadow pipits and thrushes in particular but also a good number of Reed Buntings in one hedge. Numbers of finches though seem low at the moment. Today's stroll produced zilch. The sheep fields couldn't even host a Snow Bunting or a Richard's pipit. Try again tomorrow.
Seem to be spending half my time tidying up my garden and the rest of the day birding or the other way round. I was doing a bit of serious pruning on Thursday I think it was, when a Raven flew over calling. Not a Garden tick but quite an unusual event although they are regular now on both the Caldecote and Mancetter walks. Friday saw me doing the Mancetter walk, not much on the hill, a few Redwings flying about,but near the farm there was a mixed Finch flock which included a Brambling. There was also a Tree sparrow tagging along. The first I'd seen in area for some time. Visits to Alvecote produced a G W Egret (apparently there had been 4 a day or so earlier) and a pair of Stonechats.
Today I made a belated visit to Shustoke Res. to see the pair of Red breasted Mergansers which had been there for a couple of day before returning to the tree pruning.
Great white Egret with Grey Heron, Mill pool, Alvecote
After the trip to the east coast and a local walk to a local hill in the morning I was feeling a bit weary. A message from Steve Haynes though quickly re-energised me and stirred me to action. John Harris had reported a Yellow browed Warbler at Ridge Lane near Atherstone. I met Steve at the Church End Brewery and we travelled the short distance to the site. The bird had been seen and heard in the willows around a small pond on the former Golf course. The search began. It was some time before the bird was located but eventually it was seen in company with a blue tit. It was not possible to see the whole bird at first but a view of the wing bar was enough and eventually the bird showed on the outer branches yellow 'brow' and all.
With a large influx of Yellow browed warblers in the country there was always a chance one or two would find their way into Warwickshire.The difficulty bit would be finding them, so on this occasion a big Well done to John Harris working his patch.
The Yellow browed was a bit of a personal milestone. It was my 250th species seen within the current Warwickshire boundary.
Over the past two weeks I've been very fortunate to see some great birds. The strong Easterly winds have brought a bonanza of rare and eagerly awaited species to Britain. The reactions of the birding fraternity has been as interesting as the birds. Below is a record of observations over the past fortnight in order:
1. A broad grin Brown Shrike - Shetland
2. Gasp of disbelief Lanceolated warbler Shetland
3. Firm handshake Siberian Accentor Easington
4. Pat on the back Yellow browed Warbler Warwickshire
Friday 14th October 2016
Much of my introduction to birding was at Spurn/Kilnsea. My wife would spend the day with her parents in Beverley and I would spend the day at either Flamborough, Filey or Spurn, having phoned Birdline to see what was about. I can remember classic 'fall' days with 'ticks coming in 3s in those early days of listing.
Friday brought those memories back, checking out Sammy's point, the Crown and Anchor car park various churchyards and so on.Flocks of common migrants, Geese, Thrushes, Goldcrests, Robins etc, less common migrants Ring Ouzel, Dusky warbler, Yellow browed warblers, Firecrest, Brambling, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Woodcock. I also missed a few such as Olive backed pipit and Great grey Shrike but I'm not complaining. Oh, and of course don't forget the Siberian Accentor. Having missed the Shetlands bird by a day, for one to turn up in Easington a few days later was truely amazing.
O K so there I was standing in this field when folks start shouting and jumping up and down. The only word I could hear clearly was Whites. The bird in question flew away but appeared to drop into some gardens at the edge of the field. As we closed in, it became clear that the bird in question was thought to be a Siberian Thrush not a White's thrush as previously suggested. The small group of birders kept a reasonable distance from the garden and waited until other birders on Unst could get there. The bird did fly round once but thankfully returned to the bushes of the same garden. More birders arrived as we waited patiently.
Eventually the Siberian Thrush flew out giving excellent flight views as it banked away.We left it there and hurried back to catch our ferry. It had been a great week with ridiculous views of Lanceolated warbler and memorable views of a pod of Orcas but little did we know that we would be denied the greatest prize as news broke of the Siberian Accentor on our return to the Midlands.
Another great week on Shetland. Didn't manage to photograph the rarer species ( they were too close),but got a few shots of some of the more regular Shetland birds.
Sunset from our accommodation
Rose coloured Starling
Yellow browed Warbler, Quendale
Brambling, Norwick, Unst
A week of good days and very good days, On the good days it was generally windy with few new birds found and involved a good deal of driving around. On the very good days there were plenty of new birds to be found and the weather was excellent. On our first very good day we had an extremely close encounter with a confiding Lanceolated warbler and saw 4 Killer whales to make a memorable day. We also had a very good day on Unst. Having seen most of our targets; Little Bunting, Bluethroat, Red breasted Flycatcher and Lapland Bunting we met another team checking out a field next to a small wood. We were spreading out to cover the field when an excited shout went up...........
Started the day at Brandon Marsh, which was very quiet with all the hides deserted. The only birds of note were a pair of Stonechat viewed distantly from the Ted Jury hide. Moving on to Draycote Water I walked towards Toft, a young Yellow wagtail was seen briefly on the rocks and the group of Ringed plovers were at the 'entrance' to Toft Bay. I had no intention to walk round the pond so made my way back along the dam. There was a large flock of B H Gulls on the freshly harrowed fields. The birds suddenly 'got up' and flew round with a single Ruff among them. It could not be relocated on the ground when the gulls settled. Approaching the cafe another bird caught my attention, smaller than the gulls it landed on a pontoon used by the fishermen. With better views as I got closer it was clearly a Sandwich Tern. The priority was to try and get a couple of photos for the record and to notify other birders. It got a bit complicated due to the fact that I'd left my mobile at home. With the cooperation of the blokes in the fishing lodge and the manageress of the Cafe I managed to achieve both goals.
Did the Mancetter walk but the only birds on the hill were Chiffchaffs today and also quiet around Caldecote, although I didn't complete the full circuit. There were a flock of Meadow pipits on the track leading to the riding stables, I reckon about 25 but apart from Cormorants flying along the river and the odd Buzzard not much else.
A rather poor shot of just a small part of the Meadow pipit flock on the track in Caldecote.There are 9 birds in this shot.
Hi,I've lived and worked in Warwickshire all my life, now retired my lifelong interest in wildlife is now my main hobby. Birding in particular both local, national and in the Western Palearctic region is a major interest. I am very happily married to Jan and have two great kids Rachel and Paul,and 2 beautiful grandchildren
Birding lists(All BOU),
Old Warks 255,
Western Palearctic 733.(Netfugal)