Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sunday Visit

After a day besieged by the wild weather it was nice to get out for a few hours today with John and Sharron Holian. The wind was keeping a lot of stuff down but we did have a star bird in the form of a Peregrine Falcon which flew in across Ryders Hayes mid-morning before soaring over the North west of the Mere. Perhaps this was one of the birds from Walsall Town Centre which as far as I know have not yet returned to their breeding site so far this year.

Nine Snipe were recorded on the Marsh but no sign of any Jacksnipe. It is time to come clean and confess that I have been suppressing some interesting news as we have had a record number of Jack Snipe on site this winter with a minimum count of seven birds on two occasions and quite possibly double figures present (an exceptional number for what is normally only an occasional scarcity).

Had I put the news out that there were so many Jack Snipe sheltering on the marsh there would possibly have been a lot of interest and a genuine danger of these birds being repeatedly flushed by interested birders and photographers. So I apologise if this causes disappointment but as I have said before, the welfare of the bird must always come first.

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (5) - Pochard (34) - Goosander (9) - Peregrine (1) - Redpoll Sp (1)

Have a good week all - Chaz

Friday, 5 February 2016

Autumn - Month Five

Well lets be honest, we haven't had a winter have we? The number of days the temperature has touched zero can probably just be counted in double figures and the flurries of snow we have had (twice if I remember correctly?) were hardly worth talking about and had disappeared within an hour. To be fair this is pretty much what the meteorologists have predicted for our winters as Global Warming starts to make itself felt. Perhaps the winter of 2015-16 will be looked on as the prototype for the shape of things to come?

The effects on wildlife have also been noticeable, I won't recount them all here as you have probably heard all about them on the news or Winter Watch but in my opinion, the biggest effect locally has been a serious decline in the overall numbers of wintering wildfowl.

Today was a case in point with just Ten Goosander, six Wigeon and a Shoveler to be found amongst the usual Mallard and Tufted Ducks on the Mere. My main reason for going was to get the duty done before the predicted weekend weather arrives but I also wanted to say my first hello to the returning Oystercatchers.

Initially the Oystercatchers were stood at the end of the Island looking quite sorry for themselves and wishing they were back at the coast perhaps but by the time I left they were foraging in the paddocks on the south side of the mineral line.

Additional birds included two Teal on the Marsh,  a flock of twenty-six Lapwing over and a few returning winter thrushes amongst the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes (Six Redwing and a Fieldfare). Star bird was once again the Stonechat, today perching on the sedges near to its favoured bush.

I suspect I will be busy keeping dry tomorrow but there is a chance of a break in the weather on Sunday so I may pay another visit then. Have a good weekend all - Chaz

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Oystercatchers back and a bonus bird too!

Have not had chance to do the Marsh today however I had an interesting e-mail from Richard Collins who was over yesterday and seems to have clinched the first record for our returning Oystercatchers for 2016 and as a bonus apparently had a Short Eared Owl too. With so many about this winter we were due at least one record if you ask me - Chaz

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Absent Friends

I had cause today to check through a report from an organisation that some of you may not be familiar with, the  GB non-native species secretariat

This is the organisation that proudly boasts the success of the almost total annihilation of the Ruddy Duck in Great Britain. I quote:

Following several years of research, a ruddy duck eradication programme began in 2005, jointly funded by the UK Government and the EU LIFE - Nature programme.Since then control of the species has taken place at more than 140 sites across the UK and numbers have fallen from almost 6,000 to an estimated 30 individuals in 2015. 

Many of you will happily remember when this was a common breeding species at Clayhanger and one that was essentially inert as a component of the U.K. Avifauna. Despite a significant body of evidence that birds from Britain rarely made substantial movements the above decision was made to protect a tiny population of White Headed Duck that at the time were regularly being slaughtered on their Turkish wintering grounds without any level of protection.

However a much greater threat was seen to be the alleged and essentially unproven movement of birds from the UK. I have long protested that this was totally a political decision made to show that Britain was keeping its house in order and the recent report seems to back this assertion up without any doubt at all.

Of particular note is the almost completed eradication of ruddy duck, an international exemplar … and demonstration of GB’s commitment to safeguard biodiversity at a European and international level.

6000 birds dead to prove a political point and politicians don't know why the majority of the British people think that they are all a shower of total B******S.

It makes me so angry I feel physically sick! - Chaz

Dog Walkers Beware!

Following my posting about a suspected poisoning of a local dog (23/01/2016) Gareth was kind enough to alert me to a posting by Brownhills Bob regarding a possible incident this morning. I hope Bob won't mind but I am including the content of the letter which Bob received from one of his followers so that all interested parties are in the picture about what seems to be going on:

Hi Bob

Reading your recent post about the poor dog which was poisoned on the common, today whilst out walking my dog I discovered some cooked sausages left on the ground. The where tucked away in the hedge by the entrance to the nature reserve by the Methodist Church on Clayhanger Lane.
It could be completely innocent but they where on a paper plate tucked in the hedge, I only noticed them by chance and immediately thought of your earlier posting. I couldn’t remove them immediately as having my own dog with me but I took her home then went and removed them just in case.

I contacted the vets where the poisoned dog was taken they advised me to call the police who advised me to call the rspca, none of which seemed interested but have logged my concern.

Could you please ask people to be very vigilant and report anything. If there is someone out there laying poison lets get them caught no animal wether dog, cat, fox or whatever should be made to suffer like the ladies poor dog. Thank you

I have already expressed my feelings about the sick and twisted individuals who will do this kind of thing so wont say any more than please be alert to this issue and keep your dog close when there is any chance of it encountering bait such as this - Chaz

Early Spring in February

It may still be a month until Spring but the birds seem to have unilaterally decided to go ahead anyway. Loads of singing this morning including a substantial increase in Skylark activity on the farm. Duck numbers also seem lower than usual despite this being a generally poor winter for wildfowl locally and a surprise was a passage movement of Meadow Pipit including one flock of fifteen birds (something more normal in March)!

Clayhanger Marsh

Teal (6) - Grey Wagtail (1)

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (9) - Pochard (6) - Goldeneye (1F) - Goosander (4) - Gadwall (1M)

I would normally try to cheer you up at this point in the year by saying that it's only four weeks until the first migrants come back, but as there have already been reports of Swallow, Ring Ouzel and Sandwich Tern in Britain and I have personally encountered four different Chiffchaff in January it hardly seems worth bothering. - Chaz

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Finishing January on a Golden High!

O.K. its just about afternoon on Sunday and I am more or less fully recovered from yesterdays exertions. I do love Norfolk but everywhere seems to be such a good walk to get to and these days it takes its toll. I expect that some of you 'in the know' expect that we were there twitching the various rarities that are present at the moment and you would actually be wrong.

Although we did spend forty minutes at the Pallid Harrier site that's all we did and our stop at the Rough Legged Buzzard's site was about ten minutes as where the bird had been showing earlier would have required the Hubble Telescope to get good views.

No, the day was always about year listing and although there was some flexibility in our agenda, we did stick pretty well to our intended schedule, fortunately picking up bonus birds as we went around including immature male Merlin, two Barn Owls and good numbers of Brambling. We were also suprised that a pair of Egyptian Geese at Holkolm Park already had a recently hatched brood of seven goslings (Its still January remember)!

Not the actual bird but an almost identical specimen
On the morning we had attended at the notorious Wolferton Triangles in the hope of connecting with the Golden Pheasant that had been showing with unusual frequency recently. We were in the eastern road at 08.39 when the bird was showing in the western road at 08.39 so the day started with a little disappointment missing what is a notoriously difficult species to see.

Undeterred, we decided to try again late afternoon as on Friday the bird had shown briefly at15.50. We arrived in the western road (making the most of the local intelligence that we had picked up) at 15.45 and Martyn parked his car alongside the verge about half way along the road. Ten minutes of nothing happening until a little golden head carefully emerged from the Rhododendron no more than ten feet in front of the car. Slowly the rest of the bird emerged, only to be frightened back into cover by a speeding motorist.

That could have been it and compared to my previous experience (more than forty trips around the triangles during which I had connected with goldy just twice) we had already been amazingly fortunate. However after five minutes had passed, the beautiful little head emerged again and the pheasant slowly emerged. Suddenly it became aware of the car and us inside it and it stood on one leg for fifteen or twenty seconds before deciding that we were not a threat. It slowly proceeded across the road until another approaching vehicle forced it into running across the remaining distance to the verge.Those who are superstitious think that thirteen is an unlucky number, but this was my thirteenth Golden Pheasant and probably one of the most memorable encounters I have had with the species. Many thanks to Martyn and Joseph (our resident communications expert) for a great day out.

I am confident that most of you are bored to tears with my year list so as this is the end of January I will shut up about it after today however for those interested I commence February on a spectacular 125 species for 2016 - a figure that I have not reached or exceeded for many years. Don't get competitive though, there is not much common stuff left for me to see so I expect to be putting my feet up now until spring migration in a few weeks time.

Have a good week all and welcome to February! - Chaz