Saturday, 27 August 2016

Just walking in the rain!

Mrs Chaz put her foot down today and said we were going out for the day. The canal event at Pelsall is always popular in our house, Mrs Chaz likes the stalls and I like the beer tent (great selection this year, beers from Backyard, Derby and Lymestone - all in good form too).

I said fair enough, but she would have to escort me over the Marsh first so I could count the 'usual suspects' for you lot!

A definite winter-duck theme is developing, with two Teal, Two Gadwall and six Shoveler on the Marsh and a Teal and two Gadwall amongst the numerous ducks on the Mere. Summer was represented by a few calling Chiffchaff and a few House Martin but apart from that nothing of particular interest. There seems to be a good show of passage waders elsewhere in the region though, so I may well pay one or two visits over the next few days - just in case! - Chaz

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The shape of things to come

At last some real evidence of the approaching change of season with what I consider to be my first encounter with the first of this years wintering wildfowl. There may still officially be ten days left of summer but the female Shoveler and pair of Gadwall that were on the Swag early morning did not seem too worried by that.

Also some notable activity around the pit-mound area with Chiffchaff, Blackcaps and several Whitethroat active, as well as Linnet and a Yellowhammer there.  On the Mere there was not anything of great significance although a significant increase in Mallard and Canada Goose numbers could not be ignored. The most interesting bird on the Mere was an aberrant Black Headed Gull with black-tipped white primaries! Star bird of the day was a very low flying Raven that put on a good show, calling as it flew through.

Butterfly numbers have crashed since last week, all I saw today was a single Meadow Brown and two Gatekeepers.

The area in front of the pit mound has become very rank and is desperately in need of grazing. Sedges have made a huge advance from the edge of the swag toward the mound this year and the grass is so long it is heavy-going to walk through, it must be shading out a lot of the more interesting vegetation.

Anyway, things seem to be on the up from a migration point of view so hopefully we will get some interesting passage movements over the next few weeks?

Have a good week all - Chaz

Monday, 15 August 2016

A welcome visitor notes the continuing decline of the site

My old mate Ian Phillips who normally works the Smestow Valley returned for a visit today. Unfortunately the range of species did not justify his journey:

Not much to report, two fleeting views of Hobby on the mineral line, a juvenile Great Crested Grebe (is this a second brood)? Lots of House Martin but only a single Swallow, two Willow Warbler, one Common Whitethroat and four Linnet.
As you have said and as at Smestow Valley, very disappointing for butterflies: two Gatekeeper, one Ringlet and one Small Skipper. Only Meadow Brown in any numbers and equally poor for dragonflies!

Best spot was 3 small pools which look much healthier than the mere.

Ian's question about the Grebe actually backs up Ray Fellows who suggested some weeks ago that the Grebes were second brooding this year. I can also agree totally with the observation on Swallows as I think that this year has been the worst on record for the species! One or two more are passing through in the last few days but otherwise it is indeed mostly House Martin.

Anyway, I was unable to meet up with Ian today but I will be getting over the Marsh in the next few days, by which time hopefully there will be a bit more to report.

A big thank you to Ian, good to see one of the old regulars back on the patch - Chaz

Saturday, 13 August 2016

AT LAST! - Something to write about

Now I am well known for being quiet and reserved so you may not be surprised to hear that my last visit to the Marsh and Mere was so quiet, I couldn't even be bothered to try and write something constructive. Apart from an increase in the number of ducks on the Mere (almost all Tufted Duck - probably this years young-uns starting to fill-out a bit?) and a few butterflies - that was it!

My first impression this morning was - 'More of the same' and for the most-part that was right. Nothing happening on the Marsh, none of the hoped for activity around the pit-mound and nothing exciting on the Mere. But then I started home along the edge of the buffer-zone and at last some signs of change.

Nothing spectacular, a couple of Chiffchaff, a couple of Willow Warbler, a pair of Whitethroat (including a very dapper recently moulted male) and the most obliging Willow Tit I have seen for a long while (it looked so glossy it could have been varnished)!

Now I appreciate that some of you will feel that there is no particular reason to interpret this as evidence of migration, but trust me, my last few visits have not provided views of any such warbler activity and the way in which these birds were foraging strongly indicated to me that they were passage birds (possibly brought down by this mornings early showers)?

Whatever you think, I am treating it as a good omen and a promise of some good birding to come.

The Biggest thing I have seen over the Marsh.

I know that at least a couple of my regular followers are 'closet aviation enthusiasts' and lets face it, most blokes appreciate an impressive piece of machinery! Well do I have some news to share.

I was in the garden yesterday afternoon when I became of something very large in the sky above the Marsh, heading south east - and the photo below should give you some idea of why I was impressed.

It was quite high but with the binoculars you could make out the writing on the side of it. Apparently its called a "Beluga" (after the whale presumably?) and there are only FIVE in the whole world, so I feel really privileged to have seen one so close to home. According to the inter-web, they carry large aircraft parts from north Wales to France and the one I was watching was certainly heading in that direction.

There we are then, one for the lads to go ooh and aah about methinks?

Anyway, today's birds give a bit of incentive for more regular visits. The early part of the week seems not to be promising (high temperatures and bloody sunshine again!) but hopefully it may be more promising on Wednesday or Thursday.

Have a good week all - only eighteen days to the official start of Autumn and we can all start thinking about Christmas (Hoorah)! - Chaz

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Early morning shenanigans!

It must be that time of the year again, the local Tawny Owls are becoming a bit active, with the male calling from the set-aside and recreation ground on several mornings this week, usually around 04.30 (if you are a birder it is hard to go back to sleep when you have chance to listen to Tawny Owl hooting at the bottom of your garden). The only other birds of note were another visiting Cormorant on Monday and two Raven over yesterday.

For those who are interested I have now paid two visits to the brightly coloured aircraft hanger (the new Oak Park Leisure Centre) Plenty of room for swimming as long as they don't put the Zeppelin back in!

Actually I am being a bit mean, the new pool is wonderful and very strangely shaped (the deepest part is half way along to accommodate divers) and the most impressive thing from my point of view is the taste of the water. The new Ultra-Violet system means that the water no-longer tastes of chlorine (it actually tastes like tap-water) so those with sensitive eyes may even get away without goggles?

Photo Copyright Express and Star
The saddest thing is that so far the pathetic  local imbeciles have put pellets through FIVE of the windows, hopefully the new security cameras will have caught those responsible and they will get what they deserve. There are too many bleeding heart liberals in this country so I expect that they will be treated with kid gloves, if I was the Judge they would be stapled to the wall with a nail-gun (through the most sensitive parts of their bodies to protect the gene pool)!

Anyway, the new place is very bright and cheerful but very busy as you might expect, it does get very warm in the changing rooms although I suspect that they will struggle to keep the floors clean.

Enjoy the rest of your week all - Chaz

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A lovely day - but still too quiet!

I could have almost written the blog this morning without leaving the house (and getting bitten by Cleggs - again!). The star bird was an Oystercatcher which called from the Marsh and Mere at about 09.00 (there were two active yesterday). This may not seem very significant but in a local context it could be as our breeding birds usually desert us  in mid-July so if these are our breeding pair this could constitute a latest record.

The only other birds of note was a single Swallow amongst the House Martins (don't laugh - they have been really scarce around here this year) and a couple of Swift passing through early afternoon!

The only other news is that there appears to have been a second emergence of Small Copper Butterfly, another species which has gone from being predictable in occurrence to one which is now sporadic and unpredictable.

Advice for Dog walkers - there appears to be a serious bloom of Blue-Green Algae on the Mere so I would strongly suggest that you keep them out of the water for the time being (Seriously - that stuff can kill a dog in an amazingly short period of time).

Advice for people like me - sensitive to insect bites, stay away from the Mineral Line, the Horse Flys are abundant (I got off light today, just two bites)!

That's it, might have a walk up Chasewater tomorrow for a change of scene although I suspect it will be no more inspiring?

Enjoy your weekend all - Chaz

Sunday, 31 July 2016

The silence is stunning!

Well I suspected that it would not be a productive visit and I was not wrong! The main feature of the day was the near total silence this morning. Although there are still a few gull chicks left on the island, the sites were devoid of the call of nesting gulls for the first time since early spring. The Oystercatchers also appear to have gone and I haven't seen a local Swift for five consecutive days. Tells you something I suspect?

The Tufted Duck were parading their young about on the Mere and the first Little Grebe I have seen for a good few weeks was present but apart from that, nothing of note on the bird front.

If you are into wild flowers, butterflies or dragonflies though, pay a visit, the place is looking beautiful at the moment.

Have a good week all - Chaz