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Thursday, 19 January 2017

schadenfreude anyone?

An empty bird table - redolent eh!
I am not a big fan of revelling in other peoples misfortune (I have spent too much time being the other Person) but I will share an e-mail with you that I received tonight from one of my blog regulars. I have removed his name to spare his blushes (some of the language!) and will just refer to him as 'S'. Needless to say, the e-mail will strike a chord with anyone who is serious about their birding:

Hi Chaz,
I’m feeling a bit sick after a conversation with my next door neighbour this afternoon. Apparently they saw some birds on the suet pellet tray in my back garden on Tuesday morning that they didn’t recognise, “Didn’t even look British” they said. 
I knew before I showed them  my Collins guide that they were going to pick out Waxwings, and they did. Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, one for each bird that was here! 

I tried to console him with assurances that you can't call yourself a proper birder until you have at least one 'you should have been here thirty seconds ago' story but I doubt that it was much in the way of consolation.

While I am sharing this I would also like to thank Steven Bailey for getting in touch to tell me that a recent R.S.P.B. walk in the Aldridge area produced a covey of seven Grey Partridge. Once upon a time such news would not have merited a mention but these days its serious good news that a few birds are still managing to hang on in the local area! About time for a captive breeding ands release programme if you ask me, to compensate for the havoc that they have suffered in recent years from changes to farming techniques.

Anyway thanks to both for getting in touch - Chaz

As A.A. Milne would have said...

Now we are six!

Steve Hill visited Park Lime Pits today to see if he could find the Ring Necked Parakeets that Ray Fellows has been reporting. Not only did he quickly locate the two birds reported, he then found another four!!

There can be no doubt that our area is undergoing a subtle colonisation by this exotic species. According to one of the locals that Steve spoke to, the birds have been around for several months so its not impossible to suggest that breeding may already have occurred?

It certainly gives another clue to where the birds recorded from my neighbouring gardens during the summer originated as well as the bird that I found near the Maybrook Estate (and perhaps the Chasewater Bird too)?

No news on the Waxwings so far today although John Holian let me know that there was still a substantial number present yesterday.

Finally, my new blogging pal Sheila from the Isle of Man got in touch to let me know that the new gadget is working well so just to remind you, if you are fed-up of logging onto the site only to find that I have been too busy/idle to do an update, you can enter you're e-mail address on the bar beneath the blog heading and you will be sent a link every time that I get my finger out and do a new posting.

Give it a go and let me know if it works for you or not. - Chaz

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Some interesting facts about one of our special visitors

If you follow the blog regularly you will be aware of the increased significance of our wintering Pochard over the last few years including their recently acquired Red Data Book classification. So I thought I would share some interesting information with you from this weeks Birguides update. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have been doing some important research into this ongoing decline and the results are very interesting:

The number of Common Pochard migrating to Britain for winter has decreased by 60 per cent since the 1980s, despite the number that breed here doubling over the same period. This decrease reflects the widespread declines in breeding numbers recorded elsewhere across Europe, of which little has been understood until now.

The paper — by 29 researchers from across Europe — describes the changes that have most likely affected the ducks. A decline in gull numbers is particularly relevant, as colonies of nesting Black Headed Gulls provide perfect cover from predators for other nesting birds, and their widespread disappearance is known to have affected the breeding success of Pochards. Other causes include the presence of more nutrients in wetlands, as they wash off farmland prompting explosions of plants and algae in water, preventing the ducks and other birds diving for food.

More predators are also a big problem. Escaped American Mink, which were introduced to Europe for fur along with fellow invasive aliens such as Raccoons and Raccoon Dogs, have become major wetland predators, killing the Pochards and other creatures in great numbers across their Continental breeding range.*

There you are then, next time you see one of our wintering Pochard I hope that this will give it a bit more significance for you? - Chaz

*Article copyright Birdguides 2017

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Triple Figures and a friendly blogger!

Whats this got to do with anything? read on to find out.
Well the presumption that we might break double figures of Waxwing was correct and the eminent Coot-counter Kev Clements managed to count an amazing 109 birds yesterday! However, In keeping with next Fridays event across the pond - Mr Clements, you have been well and truly TRUMPED!

Kim and Trevor went to see our massed congregation and photographed them and Kim says that she can definitely see 129 Waxwings in her photo - so there! However my praise for Kim and Trevors achievement has to be tempered with a hint of criticism as Kim decided to send me her photographs to prove the point - But sent them to my Phone!! My phone is steam powered with a Latin keyboard, the only illustrations my phone has ever had a chance of displaying are ancient Egyptian pictogram's!

KIM! This is me we are talking about! I have a nice row of little white squares below your text and that's as close as I am likely to get to seeing your photographs i'm afraid.

On a totally different matter, I received a lovely e-mail today from a fellow blogger on the Isle of Man ( Sheila Norris is an ex-patriot 'Brownhillsian' who grew up near Shire Oak and now runs the blog for a new Nature Reserve on the island and picked up a link to my blog from that international man of mystery Brownhills Bob (bloody hell Bob - is there anywhere on Earth you dont have followers)?

Sheila came up with a really useful bit of advice regarding my guilty conscience. You may recall that I confessed to feeling guilty when I am away that people check out the blog and find that the AWOL Chaz hasn't done an update? Well Sheila suggested I add a gadget to my blog that will prevent the need for this happening, and you know me, I am always willing to learn from those who know more than I do (which is most people these days) and I have added the gadget below the banner on the top of the blog. Sheila explains how it works far better than I could:

"People who fill in their email in this will be notified each time a new post is added to your Blog. This saves them logging on unnecessarily and finding Old Mother Hubbard, as you say!  In fact, if they have a gmail address the entire new post including photos will go to their inbox."

There you are then - an innovation to the blog that you can all use (if you really want to know when I have rambled on about something)?

A big thank you to everyone who has kept me up to speed with Waxwing news and especially to Sheila who I hope to keep in contact with. 

I have a real soft spot for the Isle of Man as it was the place I did much of the research for my degree (as well as Clayhanger). I have also had a lovely holiday there with Mrs Chaz and also wasted a day of my life wandering through woods at Ballaugh looking in vain for the introduced Red Winged Laughing Thrush (See Photo). As I left a suspicious resident asked if he could help me. When I told him what I was doing he said "we have those on the lawn sometimes" before disappearing into the house and returning with a photograph to prove the point! (I'm sure he meant well but it didn't make me feel any better)! - Chaz

Monday, 16 January 2017

Anyone for triple figures?

If you see one like this, dont phone, COME AND GET ME!
Kim and Trevor got in touch this afternoon to let me know that there were approxamately ninety Waxwing up on Brownhills High Street today! I hope that they checked all of the undertail coverts?
(for those that don't know, that white area under the tail should be redish toned! The bird in this photo is a north American Cedar Waxwing) - Chaz

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Happy Sunday (For Ducks)

"Why ain't I in Africa?" - Photo: Courtesy of Keith Whitehouse
My plan for today was to scour the woods at Grange Farm for Treecreeper and Nuthatch and take some photos of the clearance that has been done to show those of you who don't visit what has been going on.
But I'm not!

Its blooming miserable out there and that plan will keep for a nicer and dryer day.

So, looks like a boring Sunday bereft of bird life and catching up with the 'Little God' in the corner of the living room.

To be fair, this is actually pretty well what has been predicted for the U.K. Weather as a result of global warming. Cooler summers and wetter but milder winters and lets face it, that's what we had in 2015/16 and the same again (so far) in 2016/17.

The effect on bird life will be interesting to observe though, and I suspect that I will be glad to have kept records for the last thirty years or so (if for no other reason than it will give me something to talk to you lot about).

One effect is certainly the change in behaviour by our summer visitors. For those new to birding the presence of wintering Chiffchaff, Blackcap and (to a lesser extent - if you will pardon the pun?) Lesser Whitethroat in increasing numbers will probably seem quite normal but us old gits will certainly tell you that it was something regarded with almost disbelief when this trend commenced thirty or so years ago.

Our response was probably similar to that of the lucky bird watcher who saw a Swallow last Friday at Ferrybridge in Weymouth (Honestly)! This is another strange but increasing trend, for some of these most insectivorous of birds to survive the winter along the south coast. At the moment the records each winter are still in single figures but who knows what the situation will be in another thirty years?

It is certainly an interesting time to be a birder, but I would remind you that one of the strongest of curses in ancient China was...

"May you live in interesting times"! 

Have a good week all and keep dry too - Chaz

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Come and join the party!

Well, having told you lot to get off your butts and go see the pretty birds, I thought it appropriate to practise what I preach and drag Mrs Chaz up to Silver Court to see the Waxwings. And do you know what? I'm really glad I did!

Waxwings always do this once they turn up en-mass, they create a party atmosphere and that's exactly what was happening at Silver Court this afternoon. Obviously there was a good number of birders coming and going and battalions of photographers all carrying their 5000 mil. manhood compensator's and pointing them up at the trees to see who would get the best shots of our rare visitors. More importantly though, there were lots of locals stopping to ask what all the fuss was about and seeing these beautiful birds for the first time. There was a lot of telescope sharing going on as well as the loaning of binoculars to make sure that all comers had a good view of our Max-Factor designed visitors.

It is great when our enthusiasm can be passed on to someone else and I think that everyone I spoke to for whom this was a new experience, went away feeling that they had experienced something special.

The flock this afternoon was around sixty birds. The highest counts were debatably 58/59 although try as I might I could not get past 57 (I suspect that there were one or two lone-wolf birds flying around apart from the main flock)?

What a spectacle and there are still plenty of berries left to keep the birds interested. So if you couldn't get up there today, there is a very good chance you will be able to make up for it tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend all! - Chaz