Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Local photographer gets a large bill !

And bills don't came any larger than that of a Curlew. Phil Ward was over today hoping to photograph Goosander and for his troubles managed to photograph a site scarcity - Curlew. It circled a couple of times and then apparently flew off west toward Goscote Valley at 13.28.

How can I be so accurate about the time you may ask? Because Phil managed to blast off a couple of photos before it disappeared from sight  and that was the time index on his camera. I have asked Phil for one of the photos but I'm not sure that I will get one as they are not up to his usually excellent standards so he's threatened to send me a better one that he took somewhere else (but what the heck - its a record shot on our site so that bird is worth ten Curlews somewhere else and that's all we are bothered about).

Phil also managed to record an excellent count of Wigeon after Ray and I had given up on the Curlew and gone home. At lunchtime there were four birds on site but Phil recorded a flock of 46 that dropped in at around 15.30, so it looks like either our birds are flying out to feed or (more likely) this was a passage movement of birds dropping in to roost en-route back to their eastern European breeding grounds (we haven't had that many Wigeon about for several weeks).

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (50) - Teal (2) - Shoveler (3M 1F) - Gadwall (1) - Goosander (15) - Oystercatcher (2) - Curlew (1) - Raven (2).

On the farmland there were a minimum of eight Stock Dove, a Lapwing apparently setting up territory, a couple of Redwing and amongst the Jackdaw flock at least five Rooks.

Good sign Curlew, things are starting to move - I think it may be spring! - Chaz

Sunday, 1 March 2015

First day of Spring? I wish someone would tell the birds


Happy St Davids Day to any of you Gallic-wotsits with Welsh heritage, have a Leek if you need one (and we all need a Leek occasionally eh)? I went over today expecting to see the sky full of Swallows, two Ring Ouzel chasing Wheatears across the paddocks and a Little Gull pattering tern-like across the Mere - did I see them (did I eck as like)!

What I did see, was the same bloody ducks I have been counting for the last few weeks while bracing myself against a blustery winter wind. Still, Spring is a state of mind and I nearly have one of those.

As of tomorrow we will be closer to the beginning of next autumn than last, we are already a sixth of the way to Christmas and all I have to do is survive the horrible sunny bit in the middle. Seriously I expect that the next week will see the first few migrants turning up down south but I would expect it to be mid-month before there is any noticeable passage this far north and April before the flood gates open so I suspect that today's counts wont take anyone by surprise:

Clayhanger Marsh
Teal (32) - Wigeon (5) - Gadwall (1M)

Ryders Mere
Teal (8) - Wigeon (2) - Gadwall (1M) - Shoveler (4M) - Goosander (10M 8F) - Oystercatcher (2) - Fieldfare (4) - Redwing (3)

Duck numbers seem to be in flux at the moment with a sudden build up of  Goosander, Shoveler and Teal and a notable decline in Wigeon which probably represents the beginning of the return migration. I also noticed a large number of Black Headed Gull loafing off the island today that makes me suspect that nest building will begin shortly (bad news for the hopes of our breeding tern I'm afraid)!

Anyway - stuff to do on the computer this afternoon so I suspect I might go birding in Texas after lunch (really sad eh)? Have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Idle Day


Busy in the house today and if I am honest I'm not that enthused after yesterdays visit (fatal - you watch something rare turn up today!). I will start the Spring Updates tomorrow...

WHEN ITS SPRING!

One or two people have asked me about the bird table webcam, just google Sabal Palm Sanctuary and click on the live webcam option. There is no charge and the only nuisance is the occasional advert that pops up and which you cant skip (unless you sign up to something called U-Stream - and I haven't)!

Usual stuff on there today although since late last night a Mourning Dove has been joining the White-tipped Doves on the table. This is a Common bird in the U.S.A. but unusual on this bird table (see photo).

Have a good Saturday, I will probably do a proper update tomorrow - Chaz

Friday, 27 February 2015

...And something good from Texas

Northern Mockingbird

Yes I know its sad but! This Northern Mockingbird was sharing time on the Sable Palms Bird table with a Clay Coloured Robin this afternoon. Brilliant views were obtained that the photo does not do justice! I also had brief views of a Grey Catbird in the pool (I once twitched and dipped one of those in Wales) and brief views of a Western Tanager in the far background!

Come on - its more exciting than watching telly and if you are a birder, you are learning something! - Chaz
Catbird on the table

Was it or wasn't it?

I did a circuit today and all was quiet. Twenty-one Goosander, four Shoveler, three Pochard, five Teal and two very mobile Oystercatcher on the Mere and five Wigeon, thirteen Teal, a Snipe and an audible Water Rail on the Marsh.

I bumped into Ray Fellows and Monty on the way back and while we were talking, a small raptor went through really fast on the east side of the marsh. I was doing my return-leg 'Wombling' and had both hands full of bottles and tins and could not raise my binoculars in time so only saw the bird with the naked eye. It was going so fast that Ray only got a brief view before it disappeared from sight, obscured by the vegetation along the mineral line.

I did not see it well enough to call it but my gut-feeling was that we were looking at a juvenile male Merlin. The bird was small with blue/grey upper wings and (I think) a hint of brown on the outer primaries. The tail looked proportionately too short to be Sparrowhawk and the flight action, (hunting probably only a foot above the ground) was distinctly Merlin (although Sparrowhawk can hunt in a similar way along hedge lines).

Although I have seen many Merlin over the years I have seen substantially more Sparrowhawk as you would expect, so just based on my familiarity with the common species, this bird did not look 'right'. A Merlin was reported on the farmland back in Autumn and this species can be notoriously difficult to pin-down so it is possible for it to have remained local and perhaps gone unobserved?

Apologies to Ray, I am sure that he was as frustrated by the brevity of the unsatisfactory views as I was. I think I will blame the lack of resolution for my part on those imbeciles who think that it is acceptable to drop their bottles and cans wherever they want, if I was not doing my 'good-deed' I might have got my bins on the bird! - Chaz

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Antipodean interloper!


Well, me and my old mate John went to Whitmore Hay today in the hope of connecting with Corn Bunting, Grey Partridge or something for the year. We even put some time in going through the wintering Mute Swans in case the Whoopers had come back.

But this is all we found - at least we both needed it for the year! (for what its worth) - Chaz

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

One that got away (for most of us)



Sue and Tim Briggs of Pelsall have been kind enough to share this photograph of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on their garden feeder during the winter of 2013. Unfortunately the news of this bird has only just come to light but it is almost certainly the same bird that was found by Gareth Clements later that year along the railway line and in all probability the same bird that was found by Neil Tipton along the same stretch of railway line during 2014?

Who knows - it may still be about as they are easily missed if you are not looking for them.

Many thanks to Sue and Tim and also to Tony Stackhouse who acted as intermediary and passed the news on. - Chaz