Wednesday, 1 June 2016


Noun, plural hiatuses, hiatus.
a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
a missing part; gap or lacuna:
Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
any gap or opening.
Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.
Yep that's what it means and that's what I am doing for a few weeks. 
Summer officially begins today, all the species that are likely to return to breed have returned (with a few noticeable exceptions - Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler which appear to be giving us a miss this year) and many have already successfully produced young and some are even going for a second brood.
From a birding point of view this is the least exciting time of year and although the wild-card of unexpected rarities always has to be considered there is very little likelihood of any significant occurrences until return migration commences toward the end of the summer.
This being the case, I am standing-down from blogging for a few weeks to hide from the sunshine and expect the blog to recommence regular updates somewhere around the middle to end of July.
As promised, if anything of regional or national significance were to occur I may reactivate the site temporarily to keep you informed. For those desperate to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening, if you scroll back through the postings you will find '2016 - the year so far' and I will continue to update that with any news that I receive during this period.
I hope that Spring has pleased some of you and it only remains for me to thank you for supporting or just checking out the blog and I hope that you all have a really pleasant summer period.
See you in the Autumn? - Chaz 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

2016 The year so far

Jacksnipe - January 2016 photo: Kev Clements
 JanA visit on January 1st produced a good range of birds including16 Common and several Jack Snipe also, Water Rail, 10 Teal, female Shoveler, 3 Lesser Redpoll and Willow Tit. Female Goldeneye, 6 Goosander, drake Gadwall, 2 GC Grebe, Dabchick and 25 Great Black-backed Gull flew over. At he Sewage Works: two Willow Tit, Siskin flew over and Ben Dolan saw Woodcock fly over and heard Tawny Owl calling nearby. A visit on the 9th of January produced: Mallard - Shoveler (2M) - Teal (9) - Tufted Duck - Gadwall - Goldeneye (1F) - Pochard (20) - Wigeon (1 -!) - Goosander (4) - Little Grebe - Buzzard - Kestrel - Moorhen - Coot - [Water Rail Heard] - Snipe (19) - Jack Snipe - Herring Gull - Black Headed Gull - Lesser Black Backed Gull - Stock Dove - Woodpigeon - Raven - Jay - Magpie - Jackdaw - Carrion Crow - Starling - Pied Wagtail - Meadow Pipit - G.S. Woodpecker - [Green Woodpecker Heard] - Robin - Dunnock - Song Thrush - Blackbird - Redwing (10+) - Fieldfare (16) - Mistle Thrush - Chiffchaff (1) - Goldcrest - Wren - Blue Tit - Great Tit - Chaffinch - Goldfinch - Bullfinch - Siskin - Reed Bunting. Nuthatch and Tree Creeper were regularly seen in Coppice Woods and on the 12th the Pochard numbers (which had been steadily increasing) reached 29 specimens. On the sixteenth the Pochard count finally broke the magic 30 and amongst the passerines was at least three Redpoll, one of which at least was a Common Redpoll. On the 19th overnight frosts resulted in an increase in wildfowl numbers with a significant 31 Pochard being present and a Stonechat showing near the Pit Mound, the latter bird remaining in the area until the end of the month. A Kingfisher was present 0n 28/01 and the same day provided one birder with fleeting views of a white-tailed buzzard sized raptor which may well have been a Rough Legged Buzzard (R.F.)

Feb: The month began quietly with low duck numbers generally. On the 2nd a Short Eared Owl was reported and the first record of Oystercatchers occurred. The Stonechat was still present on the 5th. and a Peregrine Falcon paid a brief visit on the 7th. Also on the 7th there were a record count of 34 Common Pochard on the Mere and nine Snipe on the Marsh. The semi-regular Greylag was present on the 13th along with five Jack Snipe. Cold weather mid month caused an increase in wildfowl numbers and four Oystercatcher were present on the 16/02 as well as the wintering female Goldeneye. Six Raven over on the morning of the 22nd seemed noteworthy and at least one wintering Chiffchaff (possibly 2-3) was present. On the same date nesting activity appeared to have commenced on the island and wildfowl numbers had decreased significantly. Pochard numbers remained high throughout with 27 birds still being present on the 28th, the same day seeing a noticeable increase in Shoveler, contrasting with the general trend of reducing wildfowl numbers.

March: The month began with waves of alternating high and low pressure and significant numbers of nesting Black Headed Gull. Twelve of the wintering Pochard flock were still present on the first along with a small influx of Gadwall. three Stonechat (2M 1F) were seen on 03/03 (Glen) - at least one being a different bird to last weeks threesome. A Little Egret was present on 11/03 (R.F.) and an impressive 22 Goosander were seen on the same day. The female Goldeneye put in a return appearance on the 13th and the 15th produced a Greylag Goose and a big surprise in the form of a male Merlin. Three Curlew on the 19th were exceptional. sharing plaudits with an obliging Little Egret (which was still present on the 21st) and at least four Jacksnipe. The 20th saw a Shelduck on the Mere and the 21st had another singing Chiffchaff. On the 22nd a Little Ringed Plover was briefly seen on the Marsh and the following day a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was on the mere along with three Greylag Geese. The first Swallow appeared on the 26th and on the last day of the month the first fall of Chiffchaff occurred with at least six singing birds being present.

April: April started with a record of two Swallow seen flying across the main road towards the Marsh. at least four Chiffchaff and three singing Willow Warbler on the 2nd were joined by at least eight Sand Martin. Also present still was the male Gadwall and at least nine Teal. Two Siskin were also still active in the area. Probably a different Willow warbler was present on th 3rd along with ten to fifteen unseasonal Fieldfare, Kingfisher seven Goosander and a pair of Shoveler on the Mere. The 5th saw the first Blackcap of the year (a male) and a beautiful site first in the form of a second calendar year  Little Gull (R.F. et-al). Unbelievably the second new species for the site list occurred just three days later when an Osprey was watched for about two minutes apparently following the line of the Ford Brook (C.M.). A male Redstart was on the mineral line on the morning of the 10th and there were still two female Goosander present on that date. A national influx of Little Gull resulted on no less than thirteen birds being on the Mere mid-afternoon (twelve adult type and one 2CY bird). Overnight the Little Gull moved on but there was an impressive fall of Willow Warbler and the morning of the 12th found a nicely marked male Wheatear on the paddocks and another three on the farmland. The 17th saw the arrival of the first Common Whitethroat of the year and two Common Sandpiper late afternoon. All three hirundine were present together for the first time on the 18th and on the 19th the first Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and two Common Tern were present.
Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat were present on the20th and a Whinchat appeared on the farmland on the 22nd and the second Redstart of the season (a female) was seen and photographed on the 23rd.
A Reed Warbler was singing from various areas of Typha on the 24th as well as at least three singing Lesser Whitethroat and a surprising flock of 33 Common Teal which were flying around the same day.The 24th also saw the first site record of Swift (2) for the year (B.S.). A probable Arctic Tern was seen on the 25th (J.A.S.) but could not be confirmed. the first Cuckoo appeared on the 27th (R.F.). The 30th saw the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year, Yellow wagtail, Common sandpiper and an unusually unseasonal Lesser Redpoll.

May: Two Shelduck, five Whimbrel and some Swifts provided an early start to May, being present on the 2nd. At least two Grasshopper warbler were active through the week and a Garden Warbler was present on the 6th. The 7th saw a passage of waders with two Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover reported flying through early. An adult Black Tern was present on 09/05 and there were at least four singing Reed Warbler and five Greylags the same day. A Sedge Warbler was present on the 15th and the same day provided views of at least four Reed warbler including a bird carrying a fecal sack. Things went quiet mid-month but a Hobby was seen by multiple observers on 26/05. on the 27th successful breeding by the regular pair of Oystercatcher was confirmed with at least two chicks being seen. As the month came to an end there were at least three (possibly four) pairs of Reed Warbler breeding, lots of Gull chicks and at least three Common tern active but otherwise it was really quiet.

June: A quiet and overcast start to the month with the only reported bird of note being a Yellow Wagtail (R.F.) on 06/06/16. On the 6th there were 70+ young Bh Gull, 36 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Tern and 2 Great Crested Grebe on Mere, plus Water Rail calling (K.C.). The month remained slow with the 20th providing 230+ Bh Gull juvs, 2 female Gadwall on Marsh, 2 Common Tern, 13 Tufted Duck, 3 GC Grebe, 39 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan and 22 Coot (K.C.). Almost on our patch, a Ring Necked Parakett was heard and seen on the Maybrook Estate on 24/06/2016 (C.M.) flying across toward O'Gradys Pool and Clayhanger.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

2015 - Summary of the year

Egyptian Geese February 2nd. - Derek Lees
 January: The year began with our winter scarcity the Great Northern Diver still present on Ryders Mere until early February (with a brief break at Chasewater for a weekend). The Greylag was again with Canada Geese on the 4th (but by the 17th seemed to have left) and the same day saw possibly three different Treecreeper in the woods. A Chiffchaff was on Ryders Mere on the 6th and again on 13th with then two birds calling to each other on 17th and a single sighting again on 26/01. The Little Owl was showing on and off throughout January, being seen by C.M. - J.A.S. and R.F. at one particular site. An elusive Stonechat was also reported on and off throughout the month. A Kingfisher was active in the village during the month, occasionally venturing along the Ford Brook and onto the Marsh.

February: The month began with a persistent spell of cold weather that seemed to be keeping things where they were, the first though was milder. The Great Northern Diver was still present on the first and on the same day a Peregrine Falcon flew over the village and the set-aside. A flock of fourteen Egyptian Geese on the 2nd was an unexpected surprise, compensating a little for the apparent absence of the diver. The following day failed to produce the hoped for Egyptian Geese but a small compensation was the return of one of our wintering Greylags. Four female-type Pintail were discovered on 04/02 along with the Stonechat (K.C.), two Yellow Legged Gull and two Raven were also seen on the same day. The first Oystercatcher returned on 05/02 and on the same day three Raven and a Cormorant were seen (K.C.). The Great Northern Diver returned again on 06/02 after a few days away and was present until 08/02. the second Oystercatcher arrived to join its mate on 10/02. A difficult to count flock of Lapwing on 12/02 contained a minimum of 120 birds. After several days absence the Diver returned from Chasewater on the 14th but was back at Chasewater the following morning until flushed by water skiers. The fifteenth provided the first Goldeneye record for the mere this year with a male and two females present. A Barn Owl and probable Woodcock were seen on 17th (K.C.). The end of the month saw a gradual build up of Goosander and Teal and a decline in Wigeon. The Diver showed a preference for Chasewater but occasionally dropped into the Mere when disturbed from Norton pool by boats. The 27th saw frustrating views of a possible juvenile Merlin (C.M. -  R.F.) but the views were too fleeting for this to be confirmed. The Diver was again seen on the Mere on the 28th having been disturbed from Chasewater.

March: St David's Day was overcast and blustery with the usual wintering ducks and a handful of Fieldfare and Redwing to represent the winter. The first evidence of spring migration was on 03/03 when a Curlew was seen and photographed over the Mere (P.J.W.) and the local Red Kite put in one of its occasional visits (traditional at this time of the year) on the 6th (N.T.). A pair of Stonechat were present on the 8th collecting nest materials from the typha heads along with a male Reed Bunting which was doing the same.A Dunlin was an unexpected visitor on the 13th (R.F.). The first Sand Martin were seen on the 21st and the same day also provided a couple of scarcities in the form of Curlew and Little Egret (K.C.). On the 24th there was a female Garganey on the Marsh early evening.which was still present the following day when a passage male Wheatear had also dropped in and a female Marsh Harrier was seen high over the site (C.M. - C.C.M. - M.P.). A male Mandarin was on the marsh on 26/03 and for a while shared the pool with the still present Garganey (C.R. - A.H.). This pairing was then repeated on 28/03/15 with the Garganey still being present on 30/03..

April: The month began well with a good news that at least three Grey Partridge were still on site and there was a good range of duck still present including; Teal, Wigeon, Goosander, Shoveler and the female Garganey that had arrived a week earlier and was still present on 17/04. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported on 02/04 (N.T.). Two Greylag were seen on 03/04 (K.C.) and there were still a few Fieldfare around on 4th and 5th. The 5th also saw a strong movement of Meadow Pipit with one flock of 35 birds feeding on the set-aside field. A Redshank and two Swallows were recorded on 06/04 and a female Wheatear occurred on the 7th along with the Garganey, swallows and Sand Martin. The first Willow Warbler was singing on10/04 and the first Blackcaps were showing and singing on 12/04. Swift, Common Sandpiper all three hirundine and Redstart on 15th, two Tree Pipit on 16th. The 18th saw a pair of Little Egret, three Wheatear, several Common Tern and the first Whitethroat of the year. Sedge Warbler, reed Warbler and Garden warbler were all present on 19/04 along with Raven displaying, and a stunning male Redstart on the set-aside.
Two Arctic Tern arrived on 20/04 (C.M. - C.C.M. - S.L.). The first Lesser Whitethroat was on the usual territory on 23/04 (C.M.). The male Peregrine showed well on the 24th which coincidentally also provided the first report of a Hobby for the year (R.F.).A drake Garganey was discovered on 27/04 (J.A.S. - C.M.). A Little Ringed Plover flew over on 28/04 and the same day saw six Wheatear on site, one of which was still present the following day when a Yellow Wagtail was also seen briefly. On the 30th a White Wagtail was on site and the Garganey still present (J.A.S.)

May: A Whinchat and four Wheatear were found on the 4th and a party of six Common Sandpiper were on the Mere on the 5th. Male and female Cuckoo were seen on 9th and a singing Garden Warbler was found which was still present on 11/05.Two Pochard on the 14th were unseasonal (G.C.). The Oystercatcher hatched two young during the month and a pair of Gadwall on the marsh on 19th of May were unseasonal.

June: A cool start to the month with an influx of migrant waders into the Midlands. three Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover were present on 01/06, The plover and one Dunlin being present the following day. Two Cormorant were also present on the 2nd. and three Oystercatcher were seen.A Curlew on 08/06 was unseasonal and a Black Necked Grebe on 09/06 and 10/06 was unexpected but fitted in with a notable influx of this species during the period. What was probably the same bird did a surprise return on 15/06 (R.F. - K.C.). Breeding by Bullfinch and Tufted Duck was confirmed on 22/06 and a big surprise on the same date was a report of Red Legged partridge on the farmland (G.C.). Three hundred young Black Headed Gull were a sit record and Common Tern also manage to raise at least two young. A juvenile Yellow Wagtail on 30/06 (R.F.) had to make you wonder where this breeding had taken place. But that was about it for June, the first half of the year finished on a heatwave and more awful hot weather in the pipeline.

July: The 15th was the first day of note with Redshank, Peregrine several Common Tern an a site first in the form of four Common Scoter (G.C. - K.C. - R.F. - C.M. - J.A.S.). A Dunlin 0n the 19th was noteworthy and a Cormorant flew over the same day. A Teal on the 24th was noteworthy and Hobby showed again on the same day. There was a significant influx of Great Crested and Little Grebes mid month and the first returning Herring Gulls began to appear. By the last week of the Month the Mere had become remarkably quiet with the vast majority of the young Black Headed Gulls having  cleared out. Not much else occurring although a Yellow Wagtail was on the farmland on the 30th

August: Still the occasional Swift going through at the beginning of the month and the 2nd provided three Shoveler, the early returned Teal on the Mere, three Sand Martin, and two Common Tern still present. The Oystercatcher appear to have departed in the last few days. Still five Common Tern on the 7th and an unexpected Kingfisher there the same day. A Common Sandpiper was discovered on the 9th and an unseasonal party of Siskin were seen on the same day. Water Rail was also heard and a creche of Lapwing had returned on the tenth. The twelfth saw a good range of birds including Peregrine, Hobby, Kingfisher, Redstart and a frustratingly brief glimpse of a probable male Pied Flycatcher as well as a returning Grey Wagtail and several Swift. On the 16th there were three calling Water Rail, three Swift, three Reed warbler amongst a good passage of warblers which included Whitethroat and Blackcap. A Kingfisher was seen with at least three active in the area and the family party of Willow Tit continued to be active. A Tree Pipit and another Redstart were seen on the 17th (G.C.) and another Green Sandpiper was seen on the 18th. Kingfisher continued to put in regular appearances as the month progressed and a moulting Teal and a Greylag were recorded on the 20th.
A late Swift was seen on the 23rd and a female Teal was on the Marsh that date as well.The 24th saw a good range of birds including Garden Warbler, Redstart, three Yellow Wagtail and a very early Pochard. Male and female Tawny Owl were calling from the recreation ground on 25/08 and on the same day a pair of Shoveler and an early returning female Wigeon were seen. The 26th saw a Redstart and a continuing presence by Siskin and the 27th found a newly moulted Gadwall, Willow Tit, still three Reed Warbler and there was a Common Sandpiper and Cormorant on Ryders Mere. A very strong fall of migrants occurred on the 30th, with dozens of Phyloscopus Warblers, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and Redstart amongst the movement. Two Hobby were seen and a Curlew flew through northwards calling at about 13.15. There was also a male Wigeon and a Common Sandpiper on the Mere.

September: After a washed-out end to August, September began with a good range of birds including two Wheatear, male Redstart, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, Willow Tit, a passage movement of Siskin, Common Sandpiper and a juvenile Black Tailed Godwit. A Reed Warbler was still present and there was a fall of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. as well as all three hirundine. the fifth saw a huge range of birds found by K.C. and G.C. including a continuing influx of Siskin, Kingfisher, Little and Tawny Owls, Hobby, three Redstarts, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, all three Hirundine, Common and Green Sandpiper and Snipe. The Whinchat was still present on the 6th and a Sand Martin was amongst the hirundine over the Mere mid-morning. All three hirundine were still present on 13/09 along with Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler. A flock of 35 magpie on the pit mound was noteworthy. Another Whinchat was found on the 17th and was still present on the 18th along with another and two Stonechat. A female Wheatear was present on the pit mound and the Whinchat remained until the 20thwhen it was still keeping company with a male Stonechat. The 20th also provided a juvenile Hobby, and a good selection of warblers including Whitethroat, Blackcap and Reed Warbler. The first substantial influx of wintering Wigeon were present on the twentieth with twelve birds present on the Mere.A first winter yellow-Legged Gull was present on the 24th.

October: Two Swallow were seen on the 2nd and the same day saw the first Redwing of the season passing through.A Kingfisher was on the Marsh on the 8th and a probable Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was heard at Ryders Hayes on the same day. A pale morph juvenile Rough Legged Buzzard seen on 12/10 (G.C. - K.C.) was a first site record. Two Swallow and an unidentified acrocephalus Warbler were present on the 14th and Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still present on 16/10. The sixteenth also saw the first Fieldfare of the winter (3) along with 144 Redwing and good numbers of Siskin. A Goldeneye was found on the 17th. Things went quiet as the month progressed although Siskin, Skylark and Redwing numbers continued to be high. The first Goosander were discovered on the 28th and the same day saw an astonishing fall of Goldcrest on the set-aside and surrounding area.

November: A quiet start to the month with a slight increase in Wigeon numbers but overall very low numbers of wildfowl compared to numbers in previous years. A Woodcock was unexpectedly flushed from the set-aside on 03/11 (C.M.) and the same day saw a single Golden Plover over. A juvenile Shag was at Chasewater mid-month and was seen to fly around the Mere on the afternoon of the 18th (J.A.S.), on the 20th a Great Grey Shrike was located on the Farmland (Glen - C.M.). On the 24th the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen and on the following day a Barnacle Goose was on the Mere along with a male Goldeneye and (for a while) six females. On the same day a Little Egret also flew into the Marsh (C.M. - R.F.). On the 29th an exceptional four Jacksnipe were found amongst the locally wintering Snipe.

December: After several days of wind and rain, December began quietly with above average temperatures. The first saw the drake Goldeneye favouring the Mere but nothing else of note. A Chiffchaff was calling from the fringes of the Mere on the 6th and on the same day a Jacksnipe was flushed from around the main swag. An adult winter Med Gull was a surprise on 20/12 and 14 Pochard on the same date was a good count. A female Goldeneye was on the Mere on Boxing Day and over the Marsh on the same day were two pairs of displaying Buzzard. Unseasonally mild weather may have been responsible for the arrival of seven Common Shelduck on the mere on the 29th? (J.A.S.)

Friday, 6 December 2013

2014 - Summary of the year

Photo: Derek Lees
January: Despite a series of horrendous weather fronts, on the Marsh and Mere it was very quiet with little change from December. Things continued to be slow throughout the month due to it being a mild but very wet month. In the first week the only birds of note were an over-flying Raven and the semi-resident Greylag amongst the Canada Goose flock. The first real bird of interest was an apparent leucistic Goldfinch amongst a flock of 35-40 Redpoll on the fringes of the Mere on 04/01.
A single Snipe was flushed from a frozen Marsh on 14/01 and a Raven again flew over calling the same day.On the 19th a count of 31 Pochard (R.F.) must constitute a site record. The local Glossy Ibis was active in Engine Lane through most of the month and occasionally appeared to make forays south toward the Marsh but actual appearances on site could not be verified. On the 22nd I received news (N.T.) that for two days a Lesser SpottedWoodpecker had been showing at the edge of the site. A possible Mealy Redpoll was reported by R.F. and an unexpected Kingfisher made a brief appearance at the months end (31/01)

February: Still good numbers of Fieldfare about during the first week of the month and a wintering Chiffchaff was found amongst the Long Tailed Tit flock on 10/02 (R.F.). Otherwise this was the most uneventful period that I can remember with the only records relating to fluctuating duck numbers. It is quite probable that some of the more interesting gulls from the Chasewater roost may have put in an appearance but the weather and site conditions were so bad it is not surprising that nobody was there to see them!

March: A month that once again started quietly with high pressure moving in during the second week. Still Redwing and Fieldfare about on the eighth and a couple of Lesser Redpoll cleaving to the Goldfinch flock. Teal and Wigeon numbers started to drop slowly and Black Headed Gulls began to take up breeding sites on the Mere. The Oystercatchers seem to be favouring the western island and Yellowhammer began to show an increased presence with three seen on 08/03 which included a singing bird at Grange Farm. The first noteworthy bird was a Stonechat around the pit mounds on 10/03 (C.W. - G.W.). The first migrant Chiffchaff arrived on the 14th by which time duck numbers had fallen drastically. Chiffchaff continued to build up numbers over the following couple of weeks and the first Redshank of the year was heard calling on 24/03 (K.McC). By the 27th Chiffchaff were well into double figures but no other migrants had been reported although an exceptional record on the same day was a Tern SP. (Most likely a Common Tern) seen flying over the road at High Bridges from a birder heading east (J.J.H.). A further incursion of migrants took place on 29/03 with two Wheatear present on the paddocks near the Ford Brook. The first Sand Martin of the year (3) finally arrived on the last evening of the month (K.C.).
April: A Wheatear was present on the first, three Curlew and a Ruddy Duck (which did not linger) on the second and Blackcaps were on site on the 4th. Also on the 4th Raven over-flew and a Shelduck was present on the Mere (K.C.). Two Greylag and a Cormorant flew through on the 05/04 and my first two Swallows of the year were performing the same day. also of note on the fifth were four Lapwing and the remaining female Goosander. The first Blackcap and Willow Warbler records for the site were on 10/04 while a Goldcrest on the 12th was noteworthy this year. The 15th saw the arrival of the first Whitethroat and House Martin, and the 19th saw the first record of Common Sandpiper for the year. On the 21st a Lesser Whitethroat was heard and the following day several Common Tern and five Arctic Tern were seen on the Mere, a Redshank turned up on the island, a Cuckoo was distantly heard and  Reed Warbler was singing from Pelsall Road (K.C.). The Cuckoo was still present on the 23rd and Whitethroat arrived overnight on the 24th with a Sedge and two Reed Warbler also present that morning. On the 27th there were at least two Cuckoo in the area and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled briefly early morning. On the same date there were an unseasonal couple of Gadwall (both males) on the Mere. The 29th produced a Curlew and the Cuckoo was till calling but proving elusive. On the last day of the month a splendid Yellow Wagtail appeared on the farmland.
May: Low pressure forced down the first Swift of the year and the Cuckoo was still present until at least the fifteenth. The 5th had a report of singing Grasshopper Warbler from the set-aside and a Gadwall (Male) was an unseasonal visitor on the 10th. Swifts had returned to Clayhanger Village by the 13th and at least six Common Tern appeared to be holding territory on the Mere on the 15th. The remainder of the month was quiet with nothing of note encountered. Warblers continued to display and declare territory to the months end and several broods of Canada Geese were hatched.
June: The second of June saw successful breeding confirmed by the Oystercatchers with two chicks on show (R.F.) and the Cuckoo was still calling on the morning of 03/06. On the fifth a Little Grebe was seen with recently fledged chicks and Great Crested Grebe were nesting. By the twelfth there were recently fledged Goldfinch, a juvenile Grey Heron and several clutches of Mallard chicks. On the Mere the Black Headed Gulls had produced at least thirteen chicks. The big news on the twelfth was the first record of Willow Tit for the year. Up to this point it had been assumed that the species was now locally extinct but the tentative call of the bird heard sounded like a young/juvenile specimen rather than an adult so perhaps covert breeding had occurred? Interestingly another Willow Tit was heard a few days later on Clayhanger Common, so hopefully the species is still hanging on (Just!)
July: High pressure at the beginning of the month gave some warm conditions for a change. A Grasshopper Warbler was reported singing from the Set-aside on 03/07 (A.S.) and an Oystercatcher was noisily flying around on the eighth. A Green Sandpiper was flushed by Ray Fellows (Date unspecified - W/C 07/07), Little Egret was present on the 14th (R.F.) and on the 17th there were still Swift passing over the site, displaying Reed Warbler and good numbers of recently fledged birds including Common Tern and Tufted Ducks. A Willow Tit was also heard on this date but remained elusive. Amongst the large number of Small Skippers was a good proportion of Essex Skipper butterflies and the first Roesell's Bush Crickets were heard on the 17th. On the nineteenth there were still at least eleven Common Tern present and a Hobby was seen (R.F.). By the beginning of the fourth week of July most of the breeding Swift had left the local area and during the final week the few breeding Common Tern seem to have cleared out from the Mere.
August: The first of august was still quite hot but more overcast than had been July. Ryders Mere was eerily quiet with no Terns and only a handful of Black Headed Gulls remaining (including three or four fledged juveniles). Swift were becoming very elusive although at least one passed over the village and south-west across the set-aside during the morning. The afternoon saw plenty of raptor activity with Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hobby present, the latter giving excellent views as it tore apart an unfortunate dragonfly over the set-aside. The Hobby was seen again on 09/08 hunting a House Martin over the Recreation ground while other raptors that day included three Buzzard and a male Sparrowhawk. Also on the ninth a female Shoveler was seen on the swag, a Water Rail was heard calling and a recently fledged group of Moorhen chicks suggested a second brood. Amongst the migrant Warblers was a juvenile/female Blackcap. On Ryders Mere it was apparent that the Great crested grebes had raised three young. The 16th of August saw a significant amount of migration movement with good numbers of calling warblers, all three hirundines, several Swift and a juvenile Redstart in the bushes below the pit-mound. Star bird on this occasion however, was a juvenile Common Cuckoo which was in small trees at the north end of the main swag. This birds behaviour was consistent with a recently fledged locally bred bird, perhaps originating from one of our breeding Reed Warbler nests? By the24th the migration movement seemed to have increased with all three hirundine and a significant component of young Willow Warblers, many of which were feeding amongst a large mixed flock which included Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Long Tailed Tits. A Whitethroat was also seen and a Yellow Wagtail overflew calling. The following week saw the first evidence of the winter to come with ten Teal and four Shoveler present on the Marsh on 28/08. A flock of around three hundred Canada Geese on Ryders Mere also included our semi-resident Greylag Goose for the first time since the spring. Summer birds were still moving through however and an unprecedented two Spotted Flycatcher on the trees around the pit mound were undoubtedly star birds of the day. Apart from these Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and all three hirundine were seen and the Hobby was still disputing the air space over the set aside with the local kestrel. during the afternoon two Whinchat were also found (J.A.S.). The following day two Redstart and a Whitethroat were in the bushes near the pit mound and a very welcome Lesser Whitethroat (only my second site record this year) was seen in bushes near the Ford Brook (29/08).
September: The first began with exciting views of a hunting Hobby over the village, following and flying below a large flock of House Martin before pursuing one unfortunate bird across the roof tops. The fourth of September found the marsh much quieter than of late with less apparent migration although another survey of the isolated bushes south of the pit mound revealed two juvenile Whitethroat, two juvenile Blackcap and another two Whinchat. On the Swag there were at least five Teal and a single Gadwall. A surprise on Ryders Mere on the fourth were the first Wigeon of the season, three obvious passage birds that had flown out by 09.10. Two Gadwall were also present and the semi-regular Greylag flew in like squadron leader ahead of a large flock of Canada geese coming in from the farm land. On the 5th another Spotted Flycatcher was found (R.F.) the Hobby was reported to be hunting and at least two Snipe were on the Mere. A Snipe was also seen on the marsh on September 9th and the same day also produced a calling Water Rail and the first views of Grey Wagtail since the Spring. Migrants seen included Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Swallow and House Martin and a Blackcap was tacking from the bushes on the northern perimeter. The Goldfinch flock also contained a number of Linnet including juvenile birds. On the Mere, the Greylag was again present with the Canada Goose flock. On the 15th a Stonechat was reported from Ryders Mere and on the 17th Ray Fellows found; Hobby, Willow Warbler, and Blackcap still passing through. On the nineteenth at least four Snipe were seen around the Mere along with an unidentified sandpiper-type wader (R.F.).Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were still active on site on the 21st and little Grebe numbers on the mere seemed to be on the increase with five birds present. a solitary Swallow went through on the same day. There were still a few House Martins over the village on the 29th bringing an end to the first tird of Autumn
October: After the warmest September since records began, October heralded a gentle shift toward proper autumn weather and some long overdue rainfall. Chiffchaff could still be heard singing on the 2nd around the recreation Ground and a family party of three Stonechat turned up the following day (R.F.) near the Sewage Farm. Several House Martin and a couple of Swallow were over the village during the afternoon of the fifth. The first proper arctic visitors arrived on 13/10 in the form of three Whooper Swan (R.F. - J.A.S.) but only remained until mid-afternoon. On the 14th a first-winter male Goldeneye was discovered on Ryders Mere and as the light was fading a Rock Pipit was seen briefly at the edge of the Mere before flying off toward the Marsh. A Jack Snipe was flushed on the16th (R.F.) as well as a number of Common Snipe (which seem to be coming in in better than average numbers this autumn). The 19th saw the arrival of the first Redwings and Siskin of the winter as well as an appearance by a Short-eared Owl (C.M. - D.P.). Two Water Rail were simultaneously calling, confirming multiple birds on site. A big influx of Redwing was occuring in the last few days of the month and a party of eight Pink Footed Geese flew low across the set-aside on the 29th being the second site record and the first since February/march 2005. A Raven flew over on the 30th and a Chiffchaff was present amongst the Long Tailed Tit flock.
November: the first Fieldfare of the winter flew over the set-aside on the second and two Greylag were again with the Canada flock on the same day. On the fourth there were five Goosander on the Marsh, a Water Rail was heard and a female Stonechat was on the Gorse behind Ryders mere. Following a week of Guy Fawkes disturbance, waterfowl numbers began to increase and on the 12/11 a juvenile female Goldeneye, the second of the autumn, was present on the Mere mid-afternoon. A Barn Owl was reported to have been seen perched on a fence post near Mountain Ash road, Clayhanger on the evening of 14/11. A male Tawny Owl was heard calling around the recreation ground at 23.30 on the 20th and our third Goldeneye of the Autumn appeared on the 21st (R.F.). A reliable report of the Merlin was made on the 23rd, the bird apparently is a male and was seen being harrased by a Magpie.
December: The month began with high pressure and the onset of the first cold-snap of the winter. Little change on the marsh altghough Gadwall numbers increased to reach a maximum for the year of twenty birds. The Greylag were again present with the Canada Goose flock and the 16th saw thw arrival of a new species for the site in the form of a Great Northern Diver that had relocated from Chasewater. The 16th also saw a remarkable eleven Great Crested Grebe on the Mere, one of the most significant counts ever recorded. The Diver remained into 2015 and attracted many admirers.
A pair of Stonechat were also relocated on 30/12.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 - Summary of the year

There are a lot better photos of the Glossy Ibis, but this record
captures the bird where it matters, over Clayhanger Marsh!
Photo: Kev Clements
January: After weeks of driving rain the first of January dawned bright and very sunny although the ground was sponge like and saturated from the aftermath of the wettest year in Britain on record! A three hour circuit of the marsh, mere, farmland and woods produced no less than fifty-five species (three of which were only heard) and a number of common species were not noted so potentially the active species as the year began probably numbered in excess of sixty:

Species List for January

Mute Swan - Whooper Swan (6 - G.C.) - Canada Goose - Greylag Goose - Wigeon - Mallard - Gadwall - Teal - Shoveler - Goosander - Goldeneye (1F - G.C.) - Tufted Duck - Coot - Moorhen - Grey Heron - Cormorant - Great Crested Grebe - Little Grebe - Black Headed Gull - Herring Gull - Lesser Black-Backed Gull - Greater Black-Backed Gull - Common Gull - Kingfisher - Sparrowhawk - Pheasant - Kestrel - Peregrine - Buzzard - Snipe - Jack Snipe - Feral Pigeon - Wood Pigeon - Stock Dove - Green Woodpecker - Starling - Blackbird - Mistle Thrush - Redwing - Fieldfare - Greater Spotted Woodpecker - Nuthatch - Treecreeper - Carrion Crow - Jackdaw - Magpie - Jay - Pied Wagtail - Grey Wagtail - Meadow Pipit - Skylark - Chiffchaff (G.C.) - Great Tit - Blue Tit - Long-Tailed Tit - Wren - Robin - House Sparrow - Chaffinch - Greenfinch - Siskin - Bullfinch - Goldfinch - Greenfinch - Yellowhammer - Reed Bunting.

February: The month began cold and unsettled with little movement to speak of. Pochard numbers remained surprisingly constant with up to twelve birds present on some days. Mallard seemed to make an early exodus and winter thrushes were few and far between. Snow at the first weekend made things difficult both for birds and visitors but one birder persevered and was rewarded with a site first in the form of an adult Kittewake flying through the Mere on 12/02 at 07.13 having presumably roosted at Chasewater and the same observer had Water Rail, three Mealy Redpoll and an Owl that he believed was most probably a Long Eared (G.C.)? Toward the end of the month (and the official end of the winter period) things seemed to slow as is traditional with only fluctuating duck numbers to report and nothing of any significance encountered by the regular users.

March: The coldest March since 1962 began quite mild. The first few days of March actually took on a spring-like feel with temperatures touching double figures during the day and a good balance of brightness and cloud cover with which to enjoy the site and the hoped for onset of visible migration. March the third was a mega-day for the site with corroborated records of both a first winter Glaucous Gull (C.M. - J,.A.S.) and a second winter Iceland Gull (C.M. - J.A.S. - P.J. - J.K.G.A.). The afternoon produced even more excitement with a reported Goshawk (G.C.) and Raven, Yellow Legged Gull and an increase in Oystercatchers to Three birds. A Peregrine was over the village on 14/03 and both juvenile Iceland and a Glaucous Gull were on the mere on the same day (G.C.). Exceptionally heavy snow resulted in a dearth of interesting activity through the latter part of the month until Good Friday (29/03) when a Red Kite was seen overflying the Finger Post at Pelsall before disappearing toward the Mere (K McC).

April: The month continued the recent trend and began exceptionally cold resulting in many anticipated migrants holding back on the European mainland.The weather improved by the end of the first week and the first singing Chiffchaff was heard on 06/04 (although several wintering birds had been reported from the area of the sewage works). Three Chiffchaff were present on the 7th heralding an overdue influx of migrants held back by the weather. The same day saw an over flying Raven, a Green Sandpiper and a Woodcock flushed from Grange Farm. A Short Eared Owl was reported in the first week on an unspecified date (Per. A.S.) and the first Little Ringed Plover was found on 09/04 (G.C.). The Water Rail was flushed from the edge of the main swag on 10/04 and the same day saw three singing Chiffchaff and the first Swallow and House Martins (two of each) for the year. All three hirundine, Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin were present on the 13th as well as the first really decent record for the spring, a Little Egret (K McC - CM - GC). Kevin also had an over-flying Redshank. A Greylag Goose was present on the 14/04, probably the bird from last winter which has been reported occasionally from the Pelsall area in the intervening period. The 15th provided some excitement with a fall of Willow Warbler and Blackcap, male and female Wheatear and a site scarcity in the form of two adult Shelduck and late in the day the Greylag returned. The 16th saw a significant increase in Warblers with three male Blackcap and also an influx of Wheater (6) including a party of five at the pit mound, the first Common Sandpiper was also seen. The first Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Redstarts (two Male) were found on 17/04 and the same day confirmed the presence of a Long Eared Owl. A Curlew was also heard over flying (G.C.). At least one of the Redstarts showed well on 18/04 but the influx of Warblers had apparently dissipated, three Wheatear were also present the same day. The busy period continued on the 19/04 with Wheatear, Little Egret, three Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and a male Ring Ouzel (GC - RF - CM - SH - AS). Three Common Sandpiper and two Redshank were also recorded.. The 20th saw another two Common Tern, three Shelduck (only present until 06.00) and the Ring Ouzel still present. A Yellow Wagtail was present later in the day (G.W.) The Ring Ouzel was still present and remained in the same area. It was showing again on 21st and sharing its field with both White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail. The first Swift also went through on 21/04 and there were an interesting group of three Shelduck and a Greylag on Ryders Mere. Two Greylag were present on 25/04 and the same day produced two Yellow Wagtail, a singing Reed Warbler, three Sedge Warbler and a Whinchat. Eight Greylags were seen over the Mere on 28/04 which is a site record and a probable Hobby was also seen (Y.M.)

May: The Month began fine and this allowed some movement by overdue migrants. Reed Warblers returned on 02/05 and a Garden Warbler was heard singing on the same day. Sedge Warbler numbers increased early in the month and Common Tern appeared to be regrouping for a breeding attempt. Two Dunlin of the race Alpina were present on 05/05 and a Cuckoo was calling several times on 06/05 and remained for several days (being joined by a second on 08/05). The first rarity of the year occurred on the 09/05 when a Spotted Crake was discovered on the pools at Pelsall Road being pursued by a Water Rail. the 12/05 saw Canada Geese with chicks both on the Marsh and Mere and the Oystercatchers were out and about suggesting possibly successful breeding? 13/05 was busy with two Little Ringed Plover, 22 Common Tern, 4 Oystercatcher and two possible Arctic Tern.
The 14th provided a good range of birds including Whimbrel, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Hobby and a couple of unseasonal Goosander (G.C. - K.C.). A major movement of migrants on 15/05 provided two firsts for the site, a Sanderling and a Turnstone also a record number of Dunlin and two Arctic Tern. The following day there were two Little Ringed Plover and the second (different) Turnstone for the site (K.C.). Three Cuckoo were on the set aside on 17/05 and a Black Tailed Godwit was on the Marsh on the same day (P.J.W.). The one that got away occurred the following day with two observers having brief views of a probable female Woodchat Shrike which defied all subsequent attempts to relocate it. The only other bird of note that day being a Yellow Wagtail. Sunday the 19th saw four Cuckoo still present and a resurgence of song from warblers including at least two Lesser Whitethroat and four Reed Warbler. Star bird though was a Rook which overflew the Mere being mobbed. A Peregrine on 22/05 was unseasonal. As the month came to an end, the best birds of the Spring arrived in the form of three Black Necked Grebe on the 28/05, a Mediterranean Gull and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 29th were a fitting record on which to end the spring.

June: The first produced little of note although it was possible to confirm successful breeding by Canada Goose, Coot, Mallard and Black Headed Gull. Things were pretty quiet throughout the first two weeks of the period however a Mediterranean Gull on 10/06 was noteworthy (G.C.) and a ringed Black Headed Gull was identified as having originated in Cheshire. Two good raptors on 1/06 were a female Honey Buzzard (G.C.) and a Red Kite (A.S.) which hung over my house before gliding north across the marsh. A Dunlin was present on the 14th and a Little Egret on the 16th. That day also saw confirmed breeding on site by Water Rail with an adult bird seen accompanied by chicks near Pelsall Road. The rest of the month was very quiet with little of note until a Kingfisher put in an appearance on 29th.

July: A Yellow Wagtail flew over on Independence Day and also a Raven. A Garden Warbler put in a brief appearance early in the month along with more appearances by the local Hobby.The 20th saw the two Oystercatcher still present and there were at least two recently fledged Common Tern active with six adults on the same day. A juvenile Little Grebe on the Marsh also evidenced successful breeding by that species. there were occasional records of Green Sandpiper throughout the month with two present on 27th along with a Kingfisher on the set aside and four Common Tern still present on the Mere. Insects at the months end included Roesell's Bush Crickets and several Essex Skipper amongst the Small Skippers present.

August: Still Swift, Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin and at least six Common Tern present on 04/08 and the same day produced Raven, Green Sandpiper and an unsubstantiated report of several Spotted Crake on farmland off Green Lane (Per-G.C.). While looking for these a Hobby was seen harassing the hirundine and a family party of Partridge were seen (S.H.). A Grasshopper Warbler was found on 05/08 and the unseasonal Teal was again on the swag. A cormorant also flew over on the 5th. The fifteenth found at least two Common Tern still present and two late Swift were also seen. The same day produced a male Redstart in bushes at the base of the pit mound that was starting to lose the shine on its breeding plumage. th 23rd produced some early winter wildfowl with two Teal, two Gadwall, a female Shoveler and the Greylag Goose back with the Canada Geese. Of more interest were the two Common Sandpiper keeping company with two Snipe on the edge of the Mere. A Common Sandpiper was heard on the 25th flying over the village toward the Marsh and the following day produced three Cormorant a young Buzzard with presumably its two parents, a Greylag with the 250+ Canada Goose flock and a surprising Late Swift (26th).with the Swallows and House Martins. A Barn Owl was reported at Ryders Hayes on the 29th. A female Wheatear and a juvenile Whitethroat were noteworthy on the 31st.

September: A visitor on 02/09 discovered the first Wigeon for the winter and it was noticeable that the local House Martins have apparently moved out in the last twenty four hours. Three Kingfisher, five Buzzard, three Grey Wagtail (1 Juvenile) and a Black Tailed Godwit on the Marsh on 03/09 made for a good day and was followed on 04/09 by a Ringed Plover (P.N.). The 8th provided a good summer/winter contrast with at least two Sand Martin present, a minimum of seven Chiffchaff and an obliging Sedge Warbler contrasting with a Wigeon, three Shoveler and four Teal. a Hobby was still present on the 12th. and another Black Tailed Godwit was present on the 22nd (J.A.S.) with possibly the same bird seen again on 26/09. The first wintering Pochard appeared on 27th and the same day saw at least two Chiffchaff showing characteristics of the race Abietinus. There was also a passage movement of Skylark and Meadow Pipit continuously and views of possibly an unseasonably late juvenile Honey Buzzard.

October: The first Redwing went over Clayhanger on the morning of the 11th with another 35 and a Fieldfare on the Marsh. Two Redpoll flying around the Mineral line were probably Lesser. A female Pintail on 19th was unusual and the same day also provided views of a late Chiffchaff on the mineral line and another calling bird at the edge of the mere. Waterfowl numbers were low but there was a influx of Gadwall and a smaller number of Shoveler towards the months end. Water Rail were occasionally hard during this period.

November: Strong winds an rain at the beginning of the month did not support much migration and the annual Bonfire Celebration's reduced the numbers of wildfowl on both Marsh an Mere. The influx of Gadwall continued but Mallard numbers reduced and on 03/11 only two Teal could be found. An interesting Chaffinch on the same day may have belonged to one of the European races? A mixed finch flock was around for much of the early part of the month and contained at least half a dozen Lesser Redpoll and a possible Common Redpoll seen on 10/11 (J.A.S.). Tony also had the first Goosander record of the winter on the same day with five females and one male present. Wigeon numbers were slow to recover from the traditional bonfire celebrations and duck species and numbers were fluctuating throughout the month. The 23rd produced a rare species this year in the form of a Cormorant and a surprise in the form of a wintering/late migrant Chiffchaff which was seen and heard at Ryders Mere. The Chasewater Canada Goose flock was grazing on the farmland throughout the month and by 23rd had reached a total of 318 plus two hybrids and two Greylag Geese.

December: A quiet start to the month with better than average temperatures. fluctuating duck numbers early in the month included varying numbers of Goosander and Pochard although a female Goldeneye was an unexpected bonus for one visitor (I.P.) who also had a possible but unconfirmed record of adult Caspian Gull on the same visit. The Goldeneye was still present 0n 14/12 and possible views of a Ruddy Duck on Clayhanger Marsh the same day could not be confirmed. A new species for the Marsh Glossy Ibis was going through the site from at least17th - 20th December (K.C. - G.C. - C.M. et-al) and spent the remainder of the day in the Goscote Valley. Residents at Goscote suggested that the bird may actually have been around for several days before this though

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 - Summary of the year

A County First at Clayhanger
Photo: Hughie King
 After the fierce conditions in 2010/11, 2012 began with strikingly mild weather systems. Despite this the large numbers of winter thrushes continued to be a feature until quite late into January. Large flocks of finches and Buntings continued to be encountered with striking numbers of the declining Yellowhammer being seen (seventeen reported on one occasion and twelve on another) this was mirrored by good numbers of the same species at Chasewater and excellent numbers of Bullfinch suggesting that 2011's breeding season was a particularly good one.

January: The traditional New Years Day visit produced around fifty species with a surprise in the form of a Woodcock along a field margin at Grange Farm. Unfortunately the probable Twite could not be relocated amongst the groups of Linnet which favoured both sites until mid-month. Equally as frustrating was a reliable but unconfirmed record of a Water Pipit on Ryders Mere on the third (YM.-PM.).

The discovery of a Brambling amongst a party of feeding Finches at Bullows Road (AS.) went unreported until another (or possibly the same?) specimen was located with a Chaffinch near Green Lane two days later (CM.). A wintering Chiffchaff was reported (JAS) on an unspecified date.

The 22nd saw the first of the now regular encounters with Raven as two birds flew south across the set-aside mid-morning, but more surprising was the arrival of a returning Oystercatcher to Ryders Mere on the same day (only five days outside of the all-time earliest record). Five days later saw an ephemeral encounter with the sites first Redshank of 2012, when a bird flew over in the pre-dawn, heading west just before 07.00 and calling four times. Finally on the 28th the probable Water Pipit was seen again (RF.) a nice if frustrating end to the month.


February: The first week was the hardest of the winter so far with minus temperatures and the marsh (and much of the Mere) frozen. More views of the putative Water Pipit were obtained briefly on the first but still nothing was noted to clinch the bird at description level.

A surprise on the third was the presence of two Dunlin (R.F. - J.A.S.), not a species that you would normally expect in February and certainly not in freezing conditions. More seasonal was a probable Jacksnipe flushed on the fifth (RF.) and two Mealy Redpoll seen on 09/02/12 by Tony Stackhouse.

Less unexpected but still rare was an adult Caspian Gull that stood on the frozen Mere preening for about ten minutes on 11/02/12 (C.M. - K.S. - T.S.). A brief appearance by an adult Yellow Legged Gull was the last bird of note in a better than average February.


March: St Davids Day provided the first traditional sign of spring in the form of a Green Sandpiper (J.A.S.) which remained in the area for two weeks and heralded a good run of passage waders for the site. A Chiffchaff was reported on 10/03 (CW - GW) and these observers also found a juvenile Black Tailed Godwit which was twitched by several regulars and remained until the evening of the following day. The same observers also reported an amazingly early Common Sandpiper on 10/03. A Redshank was keeping company with the Green Sandpiper on 15/03 and remained for several days while the first definite migrant (rather than possibly overwintering birds) arrived on the 16/03 when a Chiffchaff was discovered on the mineral line (R.F.). The run of good waders continued on 18/03 with an early morning Curlew calling as it passed through the site (C.M.). A warm spell at the end of the month brought through some early migration with a passage Willow Warbler singing along the Ford Brook on 27/03 a male Wheatear on the farmland on the same date and a female Wheatear on the marsh on 30/03 (R.F.). Finally, the Barn Owl was active around the recreation ground in the last half-hour of the month

The final Pochard of the winter were seen on 06/03 and the final Shoveler records were on the 10/03


April: The wettest April in over a hundred years (since records began)! Produced an initially slow migration this year with low pressure in the North Sea creating unfavourable conditions for migration movements. This resulted in later than average arrival by several species although the month as a whole was exceptionally busy as is normal for April. The last Wigeon was recorded on 10/04, (the highest count of the winter being 114 on 15/11), the last Goosander were present on 14/04 and the last wintering Teal on the 19/04.

A female Wheatear was on the Paddocks on the morning of the first and the Oystercatchers were later seen mating at the edge of a small pool. The first Willow Warbler to display arrived on 02/04 and was still singing the following weekend. The Green Sandpiper was still present until the7th at least with the same or another seen on 19/04. A Little Ringed Plover was on the Eastern island of the Mere on the 6th and remained until early afternoon of the following day (R.F.-C.M.-S.H.) when it was seen to fly toward Chasewater calling loudly. Despite this, it (or another?) returned to the Marsh two days later (09/04) and showed well on the shoreline (R.F.) being joined by a second bird and apparently showing an interest in breeding the following day.

The first Sand Martin (2) were found on the ninth of April and a Peregrine Falcon put in an appearance on the same day (R.F.). A singing Blackcap had taken up territory by the Sewage Farm (14/04) and the same day saw a small fall of five Wheatear at various points around the sites.Three of these Wheatear (or possibly a different three?) were present the following day (two males and a female) along with a full breeding plumage male Redstart and a first-summer Black-Tailed Godwit (K.S.-T.S.-C.M.) which was still in the area until the months end. In the late afternoon of the 15/04 distant views of a probable Osprey were obtained (C.M.) although this bird heading north was sadly too far distant to confirm (the flight behaviour of deep wing beats followed by prolonged glides was very distinctive).

At least eight Fieldfare were present on 16/04 with several still present on the following day while the first House Martins were also seen flying over on the sixteenth. The Mere hosted its first Common Sandpiper on the 18th. The following day saw the arrival of the most significant birds of the year, a pair of Black Winged Stilt which remained until the evening and which also constituted a first record for the West Midlands County! Later the same day birders looking for the Stilts discovered the first Common Terns of the year on Ryders Mere, one of which was still present the following day along with a Common Sandpiper. One fortunate birder (Neil Tipton) looking for the Stilts on 20/04 saw and photographed (Below) a Red Kite over the Mere. on the 21st three Greylag Geese were present (I.P.)

Red Kite over the Mere
The following week saw a movement of Common Tern and Common Sandpiper, but more noteworthy was an Arctic Tern on the Marsh on 27/04 (R.F.) which constituted a third site record. The month ended with Grasshopper Warbler - Yellow Wagtail (2) - Wheatear (8M 2F) and the first Swifts for the site while a drake Gadwall showed well on the swag pool (30/04). No sign of Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler though, species which should have arrived ten days ago - a worrying development probably arising from the prevailing weather conditions?


May: Not actually on the Marsh but torrential rain during the morning of the first produced a surprising record of a Lesser Whitethroat at the junction of Bridge Street and Church Street in Clayhanger Village, singing and showing well for a few seconds before flying to the local allotments. This may well have been the same bird present along the Ford Brook the following day?

The second saw the arrival of the first Common Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler on the Marsh and three Wheatear were also still present on the rough grazing between the Marsh and the Mere. Common Tern numbers increased to nineteen birds by the evening and at least five singing male Blackcap were on the site on the same day. Amazingly, the first summer Black Tailed Godwit was also relocated on the second, now favouring a subsidence swag in front of the pit mound and looking exceptionally fine.

The fourth of May provide a singing Lesser Whitethroat on Clayhanger Common and a second reeling Grasshopper Warbler on site while a call from Anita had me making a late evening dash to view my first on-site Barn Owl for nearly two years. this bird performed well for several nights with probably two birds carrying food on 06/05 and two seen again on 15/05 (K.McC).

A pair of  Common Teal on the eighth were unseasonal and a calling female Tawny Owl on the afternoon of 12/05 was certainly unusual. The same day saw the first Hobby of the year recorded (C and G.W.), an overflying Raven (C.M.) and a calling Cuckoo at Railswood. A Grasshopper Warbler was still reeling on the 14th and the Lesser Whitethroat was on territory between the set-aside and the recreation ground. The following day provided several excellent views of the hunting Hobby again and it became apparent that another Lesser Whitethroat was still in the village and displaying regularly from the allotment area (as well as another bird on Clayhanger Common). The Grasshopper Warbler was still present on the 16th and on the twentieth there was a Yellow Wagtail (R.F.). On the 21st a drake Garganey (C.M.) was present and showed well for several observers and on the evening of the 24th a Curlew flew in (A.S.). The Grasshopper Warbler was still singing on 28/05 and on the same evening a calling Quail was heard and seen briefly in flight (P.W.-A.S.-C.M.). This bird was still present two days later when it was observed briefly in flight (A.S.).


June: The Barn Owl continued to show regularly and seemed to be making serious inroads into its favourite food, Short Tailed Field Vole! Unfortunately, the young birds were not heard calling after the eighth and may have succumbed that weekend which had atrocious weather conditions. The Hobby also continued to put in appearances despite a very cool bank holiday weekend. The 04/06 produced a Redshank and the first Garden Warbler of the year, singing and showing well from the set-aside. In addition to this all of the regular warblers were in song again, including at least one Grasshopper Warbler and local breeding by Long Tailed Tit and Pied Wagtail was confirmed. The breeding island on Ryders Mere seemed to have a record number of Black Headed Gull chicks and both adult Oystercatcher were seen with two well advanced chicks. These subsequently fledged and there were four very active birds present mid month.

The thirteenth found three Little Ringed Plover on the Mere, possibly displaced by rising water levels at Chasewater? On the same evening the singing GrasshopperWarbler was seen in company with another, possibly female bird. The 17/06 saw two Grasshopper Warbler reeling and a return to song for the elusive Garden Warbler. The same day saw an unseasonable female Gadwall on the Marsh and keeping company with several Mallard, all of which appeared to be moulting into eclipse plumage. On the same evening the Barn Owl was again seen keeping company with a smaller Barn owl, suggesting that at least one of the locally bred young has survived? Unfortunately the following day the Police had to be notified that idiots with guns were seen near to the Sewage Farm! The 22/06 provided some surprising news with a report that the Quail was again heard calling (A.S.).


July: The month began quietly but with a strong showing of juvenile Black Headed Gulls once again. A Red Kite was seen over Pelsall on the fourth (G.C.) heading toward the Marsh and the following day was seen again, this time over the Marsh (L.R.M.) Most of the month was traditionally quiet. A Water Rail was reported from the pools at Pelsall Road on the 22nd and three Raven over on the 25th were noteworthy but Common Tern numbers declined quite early although there were still several birds present until the 28th.with Oystercatcher still present on the same day. Also on the 28th a Hobby was seen (K.C.) and a singing Lesser Whitethroat was something of a surprise. A returning creche of Lapwing numbered up to ninety birds (K.C.).


August: A very quiet start to the month with a small passage of Swift on the first, along with four Common Tern, at least two Reed Warbler and a few nearly fledged Black Headed Gull on the Mere. Swift were over the village on the evening of the 9th but more spectacular was the return of the Red Kite on the evening of the 10th (J.J.H.). On the same day there was a report of a record THREE Common Redstart in the hedge line near the Ford Brook (Lorna Hodgkins).

The first conspicuous returning wildfowl were two Shoveler on the 12/08 and the breeding Common Tern had apparently departed by this date although there were still at least three Reed Warbler present and a Cormorant flew through (scarce locally this year). The following day saw the arrival of the first Teal for the winter, accompanied by a more exotic visitor in the shape of a breeding plumage Little Egret (S.H. - C.M. - R.F.). On the same day one Reed Warbler was still present. There had also been a passage fall of Willow Warbler which had not been apparent the previous day. The Hobby showed well on the 20/08 and yet another Redstart was seen in flight on the same day.

The following day the Egret had gone but while looking for it, another Reed Warbler, a Sedge Warbler, A Common Tern and two Redstart (a female and a juvenile) were found (C.M.). The Little Grebe on the Mere had two chicks on the 18/08 and the following day there were three Cormorant present. Surprisingly there were still two Common tern active on the 21/08 and on the same day I received a report of an exotic escaped cage bird at Pelsall (a Java Sparrow) which had apparently taken up with the local House Sparrows?


September: A Hobby was reported several times on the first, hunting House Martins over the set- aside (A.S.). Warblers were passing through during the first ten days or so but nothing else of particular note on the bird front. The big news during this period was confirmation of the presence of Roesell's Bush Crickets with up to four being seen on several occasions. By the eleventh The Bush Crickets had been photographed and the birding was improving. Teal numbers were approaching double figures, a female Shoveler was present along with three Gadwall and the first returning Wigeon of the winter. The 15th saw the return of a Grey Wagtail and an increase in Wigeon to two! There was an Oystercatcher reported on the Mere on 16/09 (Y.M.) while the 18th produced a flurry of five Sand Martin and a Willow Warbler (R.F.). By the 25th Wigeon had increased to twenty. On the same day a drake Shoveler had arrived, Swallow, House Martin and Chiffchaff were still passing through  and a Kingfisher was again present. The end of the month also showed a notably significant increase in Mallard, presumably of Continental origin? Throughout this period the most noticeable birds were the 250 - 300 Canada  Geese that shared their time between the Mere, the farm land and Chasewater. The 28th saw a strong movement of Chiffchaff, a single Swallow, a Snipe and a juvenile Arctic Tern which hawked over the water mid afternoon (C.M. - R.F. - J.A.S.). The Tern was still present the following day (R.F.) and on the 30/09 (C.M. - J.A.S.). The last day of the month produced a couple of Chiffchaff, a strong passage of House Martin and a probable Sand Martin. More frustrating however were brief views of a wading bird in flight that was almost certainly a Ruff!


October: A quiet start to the month with a very slow build up of Wigeon and Teal. A probable Peregrine was seen flying off the Marsh at Speed and passing over the village on the 6th, two Rook on the seventh were notable on site and two Shoveler on the same date were also noteworthy. The first local Redwing of the winter overflew the village before heading west across the Marsh at 07.50 on 08/10 and three were on the mineral line on the 7th. The last House Martins were over the recreation ground on 10/10 and a Woodcock was reported flushed from near the Mineral Line on 11/10(L.H). The 13th confirmed the presence of a (albeit distant) Peregrine, three over flying Cormorant, four Shoveler, Kingfisher, Lesser Redpoll and Willow Tit (Willow Tit have become more frequent during the Autumn and Kingfisher has also been a regular if elusive visitor since September). There was also a consistent movement of Meadow Pipit and Skylark going over which seemed to continue for several days with a single-note Pipit being seen flying west on 15/10. This was probably a Rock Pipit but was very clean and white on the underparts preventing Water pipit from being eliminated. In the same week a possible Long Eared Owl was discovered on the set-aside, showing for fifteen minutes on the 20th. The first Fieldfare were reported on the 27th along with a Brambling (K McC) and the 28th produced a pair of Pochard, two Goosander and big numbers of wintering thrushes.

November: Good numbers of wintering thrushes by the beginning of November and a Greylag Goose was associated with the Canada Geese on 04/11 (C.M.) and again on the 10th (R.F.) and 25th (C.M.). A female Merlin was seen well for about thirty seconds on the 11/11 (C.M.) and two Brambling were reported on the same date (A.S.). A period of wet weather mid month reduced the number of winter Thrushes although a local scarcity turned up on the 25th in the form of a male Pintail (R.F.).

December: The Greylag Goose was again with the Canada Goose flock on 03/12 and things were quiet until the 08/12 when two observers managed to connect with a first for the site in the form of a Great White Egret (A.S. - ) which had been touring the Staffordshire wetland sites during the morning. An over-flying Rock Pipit on the 13th showed quite well in flight for a change and a Woodcock did an excellent fly-past on the same day. Toward the months end Gadwall numbers increased as did Goosander with 36 birds roosting on Christmas Eve and 20+ present most day to the months end. Also from mid-month the Greylag count increased by 100% with two birds occasionally present amongst a flock of up to 300 Canada Geese. at least one Greylag was with the Canada flock until the years end and two Raven were reported over on the 27th (A.S.).

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

2011 - summary of the year

JANUARY began well with an uncommon species on the first in the shape of a GOLDENEYE and an outright site rarity (albeit of questionable origin) on the second when a BARNACLE GOOSE was discovered on the frozen Mere (this bird was also recorded briefly at Stubbers Green). On the 19th the elusive MANDARIN which had occurred at the end of 2010 put in its final appearance (avoiding me on all of them) and on the 27th a wintering CHIFFCHAFF was being very noisy down by the Sewage Farm but resisting all attempts to be seen. The following day however was to provide what was to be most peoples 'Bird of the Year' when Ray Fellows Discovered a diver on Ryders Mere which turned out to be the first BLACK THROATED DIVER for the site, what a way to end the month?

FEBRUARY was a traditionally quiet month for new species, the main thing to note being the gradual reduction in wintering species and (in a good year) the arrival of the first spring migrants. 2011 was not however a good year and the only record of note was the arrival of our first breeding OYSTERCATCHER on February 6th.

MARCH saw the arrival of the first migrant CHIFFCHAFF on the 20th and the final departure of this winters POCHARD (24/03), with WIGEON, REDWING and FIELDFARE being recorded for the final time on 26/03.

APRIL began well when Chris and Graham Weston discovered a RING OUZEL on the third which remained for much of the day, attracting many admirers. The same day saw the arrival of our first WILLOW WARBLER, BLACKCAP and SAND MARTINS of the Spring and the last record of GOOSANDER for the winter period. A PEREGRINE put in a brief appearance on 07/04 along with the first HOUSE MARTIN and the first SWALLOW was not far behind, arriving on the 8th.

But it was the ninth which gave Ray Fellows his second site-first when he discovered three fabulous looking BLACK TERN feeding over the Mere during the evening. This resulted in mad dashes by myself and Hughie King, thankfully both of which were successful.The first COMMON SANDPIPER and WHITETHROAT appeared on the 14th and the last wintering GADWALL disappeared on the 15th. A WHEATEAR was discovered by Kev McCarthy on the 16th and a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER (the first of three singing males this spring) was discovered by myself on the 17th. A CURLEW was heard flying over on 21st, the first REED WARBLER arriving the same day and quite an early first SWIFT was discovered on 22/04 the last TEAL disappearing two days later. April is obviously the month to visit if you want day-to-day action!

MAY by comparison was quite quiet this year. May can often provide significant records of overshooting migrants and outright rarities but the highlights this year were GARDEN WARBLERS on the 13th, DUNLIN and WHIMBREL on the 15th and the first HOBBY record of the summer on 22/05.

JUNE is normally the wind-down of the spring migration with little of note but this year had ominous significance with (as far as I know) the only record of LESSER WHITETHROAT for the summer? This has always been a significant species for Clayhanger and I had hoped that we had managed to avoid the national decline of the species but it appears not!

JULY saw the years first LITTLE EGRET, discovered by Steve Hill on the 14th and remaining in the area until the 18th, the same day that our breeding Oystercatchers were seen for the last time apparently having failed to raise a young one, something that had never happened since the first year that they arrived. This is almost certainly because of the lack of any management on Ryders Mere which has resulted in the islands developing breeding habitat which better suits the BLACK HEADED GULLS than the COMMON TERNS or Oystercatchers.

AUGUST was frustrating for me when I discovered a calling SPOTTED CRAKE which lured in a number of hopeful observers but ultimately proved disappointing (as is often the way with this species). The first returning TEAL arrived on 17th

SEPTEMBER saw the first GADWALL arrival on 04/09 and the first multiple record of WHINCHAT for the site with one bird on the Marsh (Anita Scott) and one bird with a late WHEATEAR on the Mere (Dave Glover and myself). A very significant and under-rated record occurred on 07/09 with the sites second ever confirmed record of ARCTIC TERN, this time not just a fly-through but a bird that remained long enough to be twitched by several of the regulars. This date also saw the last records of COMMON SANDPIPER and SAND MARTIN for the summer. A comparatively late arrival date for WIGEON was 21/09 and the build-up of this species was also somewhat slower than normal perhaps indicating a change in migration strategy from this species - global warming a trigger or just an anomalous migration?

OCTOBER saw the arrival of REDWING on 13/10, the first wintering POCHARD on 22/10 the second GOLDENEYE of the year and the first SHELDUCK of the year on 25/10 and the first returning FIELDFARE on 27/10 heralding a bumper winter for these Scandinavian migrants.

NOVEMBER saw a phenomenal late record for the site with a SWALLOW flying through on 01/11 the same day which recorded the arrival of the first of our wintering GOOSANDER. A COMMON REDPOLL (that's Mealy Redpoll to older hands) showed well briefly on 15/11 and the first WATER RAIL record for the year was on 18/11 (what has become of this species locally?).

My personal highlight of the year occurred on 22/11 when at dusk a party of six GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE flew in to the Marsh for long enough to be enjoyed by Kev Clements, Kim, Trevor and myself (I have always been a sucker for wildfowl - especially wild geese).

DECEMBER was generally quite mild with little incentive for major incursions by northern species or local movements by established wintering wildfowl. The big news was the arrival of putative AZORIAN YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS at Chasewater and Stubbers Green, an exceptionally rare species in Britain and one which has yet to be accepted by the powers that be. It was therefore pleasing for our site to make a contribution to this debate with the presence of a sub-adult or adult specimen on at least two occasions during the month. This coincided with occasional visits by an often elusive species on the mere, adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL. Frustratingly I was able to point it out on both occasions to some local dog-walkers but the bird seemed reluctant to be observed by other site Lister's - never mind, another bird for another day! The 31st of December ended the year on a bit of a cliffhanger, a finch with a bright yellow bill briefly observed amongst the Linnet, will it be seen again and, if it wasn't a TWITE then what was it?

There we are then - 2011 in a nutshell, many thanks to everyone who participated. The site total (excluding species for which there is not enough detailed evidence) is 177 (three of which have been added this year) and I will be happy to send a detailed site list to anyone who requests one.

Here's to 2012! - Chaz