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Friday, 2 December 2011

2010 - Summary of the year

By any ones yardstick, this has to be the star bird of the year!
Probably the most significant bird of this month was the most elusive! After photographs of a Red Kite were taken over Pelsall I finally received at least two visuals on site from experienced birders, unfortunately neither with a specific date but both in the last ten days of the month. The ninth was a day for interesting species with a Little Egret present on the Ford Brook (CM), a male Goldeneye on Ryders Mere (CM) and an adult Yellow-Legged Gull on Ryders Mere (which was seen again on 17/01). The 21st saw probably the rarest bird of the month when a ring-tailed female Hen Harrier was seen in flight carrying a large rodent across the western fields at Grange Farm (SD-MD) heading towards High Heath. Finally on the last day of the month the first record for this year of an increasingly regular species, when two Raven overflew the site.

As is normally the case, probably the quietest month of the year, highlights being the return of our first breeding Oystercatcher on the 8th and a male Stonechat on the 27th (a species which had been notable by its absence this winter!).

Spring was not to come particularly early in 2010, certainly as far as migrants were concerned. Some compensation was found however when the local Barn Owl was found to be favouring a particular roost site (CW.-GW.) it then continued to favour this site on most days until at least 18/04. The last wintering Pochard disappeared on 13/03 and the first migrants arrived on 25/03 when both Chiffchaff and Sand Martin were recorded. The same day also saw the arrival of a Redshank on Clayhanger Marsh.

On the 2nd the departure of the last Fieldfare of the winter was balanced by the arrival of Swallow and Wheatear. The last Goosander of the winter departed on the 3rd and a Peregrine was seen hunting on the 5th.

The tenth was a good day for arriving migrants with Willow Warbler, House Martin and Yellow Wagtail being seen and the following day was to see the arrival of a Green Sandpiper which remained faithful to the marsh until the 18th.

Continuing the balanced approach, the 14th saw the departure of the last Wigeon and Redwing countered by the arrival of Blackcap and a male Garganey. Another Raven was seen on 17/04 and the 18th saw the welcome return of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler on the Marsh and an (always noteworthy) Greylag Goose on the Mere. The 19th gave one observer the welcome sight of two Shelduck on the Mere (JAS.) and the 20th saw the departure of the last Teal and another visit by the Redshank.

The 24th was another bumper migrant date with the simultaneous arrival of; Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Swift. The following day finished the regular line-up when Lesser Whitethroat arrived. The 28th saw two Redshank present but any thoughts that Spring migration was over, ended on the 29th when I received a text from Anita Scott to say that she had found a Hoopoe perched on wires at the south end of the site!

Confirmation of the presence of this southern European vagrant was made and Clayhanger Marsh was to be the focus of intense birding activity until the bird was last seen on 9th (sic.). Local birders were supplemented by visitors from every part of Britain, many on their way to or returning from seeing a major rarity in Devon. I personally escorted visitors from as far away as Yorkshire and my wife found a party from Scotland wandering around Clayhanger Common on the assumption that this was the correct site. The presence of a large number of observers was to add a couple of good species to the year list and is evidence of what may be missed in an average year.

The first of the month saw the arrival of a Common Sandpiper and birders looking for the Hoopoe picked up a Pied Flycatcher and on the following day, a female Marsh Harrier flying over the site on 02/05. The seventh saw another Raven and the 9th another Greylag Goose. The last wintering Gadwall (although by now almost a summering Gadwall) departed on 22nd.

Unseasonal birds are always exciting,but I cant explain the presence of an immaculate drake Wigeon on the first of June! The bird was present for much of the day and was seen by a number of observers. It had gone the following day however and as far as I am aware was not recorded anywhere else. A very late migrant or an escaped collection bird - it is certainly at the extreme end of feasible migration? The twelfth saw yet another Greylag Goose in what was turning into a good year for seeing this species and the 20th not only saw the arrival of the first Hobby of the year but also the presence of two Black-tailed Godwit on Ryders Mere.

A typically quiet month with the last Oystercatcher on the 11th sharing the Mere with a juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

A very early return date for Teal, with two birds present on the first of the month. Six juvenile Pintail were present on the morning of the 15th (CM.) staying just long enough to be twitched by two other site regulars and a male Redstart was a very welcome sight on the 22nd. The 27th saw the most bizarre twitch of my life when a phone call from Paul Jeynes told me that an adult Gannet was flying toward the Marsh from Stubbers Green! I bolted upstairs and within two minutes had remarkably picked up the bird as it flew across the south paddocks. It soared over the site and gave good views until it banked and apparently reversed its course, last being seen powering away across the south paddocks towards Shelfield. Finally, to round of an excellent month another site rarity, a Spotted Flycatcher showed well on the 30th.

A steady flow of returning migrants was supplemented by the odd highlight including a Stonechat on the 12th, an unseasonal Rock Pipit on the 18th and a Black-tailed Godwit on the 25th which shared the day with the first returning Gadwall.

This month was solely about returning winter species with Wigeon on the 2nd, Redwing on the 8th, Fieldfare on the 17th and both Pochard and Goosander on the 27th.

Another male Goldeneye, the second in a year and very noteworthy, was present on the 7th and the 13th provided brief but good views of a Common Redpoll perched high on the perimeter hedge line. The 21st provided another Little Egret. Probably the most remarkable record of the period was a party of possibly fifteen Corn Bunting on farmland near Green Lane on the 27th which unfortunately could not be relocated the following day.

It is unusual to get a new record for the site so late in the year but the drake Mandarin which had been favouring Chasewater put in an appearance at Ryders Mere on the 4th and 12th (being photographed on the latter occasion). The last Greylag of the year was present on the 31st when remarkably a Kingfisher defied the freezing conditions to fly along the Ford Brook, the first for the year on the very last day!

A perfect end to an excellent year - Chaz