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Sunday, 30 April 2017

*** Scarce Species Alert ***

Why is it always when I'm eating? 
I have said this before and it happened again today. just got my face 'in the trough' for afternoon Tea when with a bleep, I have to drop everything and head for the Mere.

Gareth Clements with a very welcome text to say that there was a Black Tern on Ryders Mere. Within a minute my phone rang and this time it was Kev Clements with the same information. A ten minute yomp and there it is, performing beautifully between the islands. We always seem to get full breeding plumage birds here, always looking stunning. You tend to forget how good these birds look when you see a scruffy juvenile or a late summer bird. Today's specimen was grey above, jet black below with a well defined black trailing edge to the primaries.

A similar bird to today's specimen - but not so well marked : Photo Copyright All about birds
Also present today, a Common Sandpiper and two Greylag Geese on the Mere and a singing Lesser Whitethroat on the set-aside field (clearly audible from the recreation ground).

On another issue, after due consideration I have decided to go along with Gareth and add Nutcracker to the 'Biggest Blocker' list (see earlier posts). The only other feedback was from Martin (not sure which one - let me know and I will amend) who suggested that Two Barred Crossbill also deserves a place on the list?

In this case I am pretty sure how to call this as although there hasn't been another recorded Staffordshire bird since the one in 1979/80, there have been claims (as recently as 2014 if memory serves?) and this is a species that most probably has occurred in one of the Crossbill Invasion years that have occurred since. So unless there is a reasoned argument I am happy to compromise and add this to the 'maybe one day' part of the list with Marsh Sandpiper and Guillemot as there is no reason to believe that there wont be another twitchable one found sooner or later.

Anyway - that's it for April - Beltane begins at midnight tonight so if you are a pagan, have a good one. For the rest of you, have a good bank holiday Monday - Chaz

Friday, 28 April 2017

Friday evening update

Thanks to Kev Clements who visited this evening. For those of you wondering about what to do on  Saturday morning, this is what he saw:

Common Tern (2 - the first for the site this year), a Common Sandpiper, Tufted Duck (38) Reed Warbler (two on Marsh, one at Pelsall Road Pools)- and sixteen Coot!

Both Kev and Ray Fellows have heard Grasshopper Warbler on the set-aside today so good to know that they are still present.

I am off to check out a new pub from an Isle of Man brewery in Wolverhampton tomorrow so the next input from me will probably be on Sunday, so enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend all - Chaz

Friday Morning on the Chase

A nice walk around Seven Springs today with Steve Hill, loads of activity going on as you would expect at the time of year but nothing of huge significance.

We checked out some of the older sites on the Chase for Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler but nothing in at any of them yet. Star birds were probably an obliging Garden Warbler at Seven Springs and a good showing by singing Tree Pipits there.

Lots of common stuff about although I am concerned about Redstart Numbers. Normally that part of the Chase is alive with them but today we heard one, perhaps two birds but didn't see any.

Big thanks to Steve for a nice morning though, some days you get the birds and some days ... - Chaz

Biggest Blockers - First feedback

Well I am glad that someone is reading yesterdays introductory posting about Staffordshire blockers, but I have to confess that my first response has given me something of a quandary!

Late last night I received a one word text message from Gareth Clements:


No, he wasn't being abusive or discussing the height of the stiles on Ryders Mere, he was suggesting that perhaps this species would be an appropriate addition to the Staffs Blocker list. I really can understand where he is coming from with that.
The Staffs Nutcracker

In October 1991 a Nutcracker was discovered in a North Staffordshire Woodland and remained for several weeks being enjoyed on multiple occasions by myself and many other birders.

And perhaps this is the problem, the bird was so obliging and is from a species that is allegedly supposed to undergo large scale migrations to western Europe when conditions are right, so surely it has potential to occur in Staffs again?

On the other hand, although there have been a couple of claims of Nutcracker in the intervening years, none of them seem to have amounted to anything as far as I can remember so that means it has been over twenty-five years since a genuinely twitchable bird has occurred so how long before another one in Staffs?

I have to agree with Gareth that Nutcracker probably does deserve to be on the Staffs blocker list but the question is where? My initial feeling is that rather then increase the twelve to thirteen, Nutcracker possibly deserves to be with Marsh Sandpiper and Guillemot as a species that could occur in Staffs again eventually. On the other hand, I look at the recent occurrences of the bird and think, perhaps it will never happen again?

Anyone have an opinion? - Chaz

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Staffordshire's Biggest Blockers - An Introduction

Staffordshires last twitchable Night Heron - Photo Chaz Mason (Honest)!
Warning: This one is an epic and is something for more serious birders, so be prepared to 'give up the will to live' if you are only casually interested in birds and birdwatching.

If you are still with me - lets begin...

As I am 'getting-on' a bit these days I am tending to lose the plot with a lot of things. Once upon a time if I heard a bird call or song I would pretty much know what it was immediately (and if I didn't know what it was, I knew that too - which was a lot more exciting). These days the information is still downloaded, it just takes a few more seconds for the software to access it than it used to. Which is very frustrating!

I find that I am also getting a lot more nostalgic about things that I was once quite pragmatic about and that includes birding. There are some things about the hobby that I miss and one of them is the special language that birders used to use which has gone out of fashion these days. I must have been doing the blog for about ten years now (?) and over that period I have introduced you to a fair few of those terms, so you should all know about; twitching, gripping-off, stringing (Don't do it!), padders, and dudes. Even this week I have exposed you to a 'Crippler' but I cant remember if we have ever talked about 'Blockers'?

A blocker is a bird that is difficult to put on a particular list, whether its a life-list, local patch list, garden list, county list etc (if you don't know by now, being an anally retentive lister is a prerequisite of serious bird watching). It is usually a bird which for some reason is rare or infrequent in occurrence or in a worst case an out and out unexpected rarity (A good example of this would be the Belted Kingfisher at Shugborough - a species so unlikely to occur in Staffordshire that it could easily be a hundred or even two or three hundred years before there is another). It must be noted that birds that have never previously occurred in a particular area are not blockers. If that were not the case then you could say that flightless Steamer Duck would be a Blocker in Staffs. No, the bird has to have occurred in a particular area at least once for it to be deemed a blocker (literally something you have been blocked from putting on your list by it failure to occur with any frequency).

These days my most important lists are my Staffordshire List and my Chasewater List. I was born in Staffordshire, in Walsall! Yes younger readers, Walsall used to be in Staffordshire! Until 1974 in fact when we were all forcibly deported into an artificial administrative area called the West Midlands County. Some people deported into 'new' counties such as Humberside and Avon have been allowed to go home but it is now doubtful that Walsall and its citizens will be allowed back (after nearly fifty years I suspect such a decision would be as divisive as brexit these days). At first sight this may not seem to be a relevant issue but it has caused a dichotomy of opinion about what constitutes Staffordshire for some birders.

When the county boundaries were changed, the body responsible for recording the counties birdlife (The West Midland Bird Club) had to make a decision. Do we opt for using the new counties or do we stick to the old vice-counties that had traditionally been used to define where wildlife occurred. They made a decision (wrong in my opinion) to go with the new counties which meant that records of species from some parts of historic Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire suddenly found themselves transferred to a county that previously didn't exist and all subsequent species records for those transferred areas were now attributed to the West Midlands.

I try to be a good lad and still use the WMBC guidelines as a yardstick to run my list by so my Staffordshire list only features birds that have been accepted as having occurred in a wild state in the county as defined in 1974. This even means that there are a number of birds that I have seen in Staffordshire which are not on my official county list because the administrative body does not accept that they were genuinely wild.

I believe that if you decide to have a framework for doing something then you work within that structure and not pick the bits you like and ignore the bits that aren't comfortable (some religions should look at that approach perhaps)? However, some renegade birders refuse to accept this level of control and run their list on their own opinions and on the basis of the pre 1974 boundary so what is a blocker for one Staffs birder is not necessarily a blocker for another.

The photo at the top of the posting was a juvenile Night Heron at Rollaston on Dove, just within the Staffordshire County boundary (31/03/2000) and (as far as I know) the last twitchable Staffordshire Bird according to the WMBC. If I were an 'Old Staffs' lister, I would now have seen at least three of these in the county because I once saw an adult at Hayhead Wood (16/04/1990) and another juvenile at Sheepwash Urban Park (08/08/2004), both places previously having been in Staffordshire (Good grief -birders seem to do everything in as complicated a way as possible don't they - what next, standing up in a hammock)?

Anyway - you should now have a good idea of what a birder means when he says that something is a blocker. When a bird that has previously been a blocker finally turns up it is deemed to have been unblocked - at last something straightforward and logical. 

Staffordshires Most Blocked?

So what are Staffordshires biggest blockers. On a personal level for me it is Honey Buzzard, the commonest species that I need for the county but this is actually a regular passage bird through the county and one that could turn up in a couple of weeks for someone fortunate enough to be there at the right time. So its not a Blocker in the true sense of the term.

No - what are the REAL blockers that effect all Staffordshire listers and not just me?

My opinion is there are just thirteen super-Blockers (originally twelve but Gareth Clements made a good case for Nutcracker to be included) most of which are unlikely to ever occur again and another four which may remain Blockers for some time but which could conceivably be pulled back. These latter birds are Marsh Sandpiper (last recorded in the county in 1974), Kentish Plover (last accepted county record 1995), Guillemot (last recorded in the county in 1920) and Two Barred Crossbill (a species that wintered on Cannock Chase in 1979/80 but which has been claimed in the county as recently as 2014).

There is no real reason why Marsh Sandpiper has not occurred in recent years, it is still a more or less annual vagrant to the U.K. and statistically it is only a matter of time before one turns up again. Kentish Plover has declined in occurrence nationally and is now more uncommon at inland counties throughout Britain than it previously was. As to the potential for Guillemot, that's a different matter. Despite pelagic birds occasionally finding their way to inland counties, the most common auk species Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin are always single figure occurrences on the lists for those counties as they depend on specific and unusual weather conditions at the right time of year in order to be significantly displaced, and those two factors only seem to come together one or twice a century.

So what are the Staffordshire Super-Blockers?

These are the species that in my opinion, you as an individual reading this today will be damn lucky to put onto your county list should you be that way inclined. I have listed the species that I deem to be the 'Super Blockers' in alphabetical order rather than to try and justify which is more or less likely to occur than another (such an approach would be subjective and very open to disagreement so why bother)?

Belted Kingfisher 2005
This was always my dream bird for Britain and when a Belted Kingfisher turned up in my favoured county on April First I took some persuading to go for it. It is still (I believe) a single figure species on the British List so the chances of a second bird finding its way to such an inland county has to be very small. Not impossible but then very little in birding ever is! However, I suspect that you would get very good odds from Ladbrookes on there being another one in our lifetimes?

Belted Kingfisher - Photo Copyright: Audobon
Cirl Bunting 1951
I don't think that this was ever an established species in Staffordshire? I know they reportedly bred on Hartlebury Common (Worcestershire) within recent history (1960/1970s ?) but I am not sure if the Staffordshire record relates to a genuine extra-limital occurrence by a British specimen or possibly a vagrant bird from Europe? Either way the decline of this species has resulted in a successful reintroduction scheme in Cornwall and I suspect that it would require an extension of such a scheme into more northern counties for this species to get on to any contemporary Staffordshire birders list?

Cory's Shearwater 1971
Chasewaters rarest ever bird? This rates alongside Auks as unlikely to occur at an inland site and again would seem to require a very infrequent set of circumstances in order to penetrate so far inland. The bird in question was picked up exhausted and nursed back to health before sadly being killed on release. Not impossible but put it this way, I have seen probably approaching a thousand Cory's Shearwaters abroad but still need to see one for my British list, and that's in coastal waters. So statistically what would you rate the chances of another one occurring on a lake or reservoir in Staffordshire?

Golden Eagle N/K
No longer breeding anywhere in England and suffering continuing persecution in Scotland. I don't know anything about this record. It is certainly not impossible for a vagrant bird from Scotland or even Europe to occur but it is still highly unlikely. Having said that this is one that could eventually unblock for some lucky birder.

Great Snipe 1954
To the delight of 'Old Staffs' listers this one is on their lists thanks to a highly unlikely but well watched bird at Sandwell Valley a few years ago (22/08/1995). This one could get onto the Staffordshire lists if more birders were prepared to learn the species and apply what they have learned to the large numbers of wintering Snipe that occur in Britain. I suspect that Great Snipe is a much under-recorded vagrant but how many of you reading this would be prepared to put their reputations on the block and claim one if you believed you have found one. That's the destructive effect of competitive birding for you!

Gyr Falcon 1844
HA! I wish! Unless you are affluent enough to go to the Scottish Islands or are in a position to twitch the odd coastal vagrant that sometimes occurs, this is a very difficult bird to get on your list. Any legitimate bird occurring in Staffordshire these days would have to run the gauntlet of the rarities committees to decide if it was genuine or a falconers escape or even a hybrid? Good luck with getting this one on your staffs list.

Little Bittern 1906
Please, please, please!  This is my personal Bogey Bird, if you have one of these anywhere come and get me - I genuinely am coming to believe that I will never see one of these, I have even missed seeing them at sites abroad (the little buggers keep dodging me)! From a county point of view though, this does have some potential for breaking the block. Little Bittern may not have occurred for over a hundred years in the county but in recent years there have been a number of breeding records in Britain. If this trend continues there has to be hope of a Little Bittern eventually crossing into Staffordshire airspace (if one does, COME AND GET ME - PLEASE)!

Little Bustard 1891
Never going to happen. Despite being highly migratory, this species has undergone such a dramatic decline in its favoured breeding areas the potential for vagrancy to such an inland county in the UK has to be very small verging on impossible in my opinion. When the next one turns up on the south coast go and chase it, I suspect that's the closest that this species will ever get to Staffordshire again!

A Little Bustard. Never again? photo copyright: Animalia
Nutcracker 1991
A species that historicaly has undergone eruptive movements from Siberia into western Europe - but not recently. The only Staffordshire Record was a very popular specimen at Cocknage Woods that was ridiculously obliging and which remained in the area for several weeks. Since this bird was recorded though, there have been only a handful of specimens claimed nationally so it is currently not just a tough bird to get on your Staffs list but also onto your U.K. list. This could all change with any future winter movements, but at present it does look unlikely to happen and until it does, I suspect that this species is worthy of 'Super-Blocker' status.

Pallas's Sandgrouse 1908
For what is now such a rare species, it is hardly possible to believe that it was once a regular irruptive migrant with huge falls of birds being recorded in the 19th century. These days such things must be consigned to history and even if this bird were to occur, it is far more likely to be on a distant Scottish island rather than anywhere in Staffordshire. This is one of the few species on my 'dream list' so I would like to hope, but I don't really think its ever likely to happen again, do you?

Sooty Tern 1852
Its not very often that a legend is totally true but the story of the Staffordshire Sooty Tern is! The bird was seen on the River Trent near Burton and a local landowner paid a local boy with a catapult to bring the bird down - which he did with one shot! The bird was subsequently collected, stuffed and then put on Display (Does Yoxall Hall sound right?) where its existence was a matter of record for many years. Unfortunately at some point the specimen was lost but there is no doubt of its existence and the story is recounted in a very rare book called; "The Birds of Staffordshire" (McAldowie 1893).

Fortunately if you are interested in knowing more, a copy of this fascinating book is in possession of the Local Studies Room at Essex Street in Walsall. Not sure how accessible it is these days but I once sat and read it cover to cover one afternoon.

White Tailed Eagle 1905
What do I need to say about this species. The successful return of this magnificent birds to British Skies is a matter of common knowledge. Surely at some point one of these reintroduced birds or even perhaps a genuine vagrant from Norway must one day grace the sky over Staffordshire. However this would probably have been much more likely had the proposal to reintroduce White Tailed Eagle to East Anglia been allowed to go ahead. Sadly not to be though, so its a case of wait, hope and twitch!

Photo copyright: Alan Saunders
White throated Needletail 1991
A much envied bird from within my lifetime, and a totally unexpected vagrant to the UK let alone Staffordshire! The possibility of one of these occurring anywhere must be quite small and I suspect it is a bird that the current and future generations of Staffordshire listers will have to continue to envy those lucky enough to have found it? - Likelihood of another? In my opinion astronomical!

There you are then - something for you to ponder on. It is now three hours since I started to write this and I haven't had my breakfast yet. Sorry for those who may have found it boring but sometimes I want to write stuff that interests me and which I hope will be of interest to like-minded birders.

I am sure that not everyone will agree with my analysis and that's fine, I have told you before opinion's are like Ar**holes (everybody has one) but as I do this blog and presumably you choose to read it, you have to put up with mine. If anyone wants to give any relevant feedback or alternative opinions I will be happy to report them. Its much easier to make up your mind about something if you have more than one viewpoint to consider, so if your views differ to mine let me know - it would be interesting!

If you made it this far - thanks for persevering, I hope you found it worthwhile - Chaz


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tuesday Evening

Kev Clements was over late afternoon and was unable to locate the Garganey although he did find a Common Sandpiper on the edges of Ryders Mere. Kev also heard the Grasshopper Warbler singing on the set-aside field.

Chris and Susan were visiting tonight so at dusk we set out to find the Groppers for ourselves. Unfortunately the wind was quite sharp and I suspect that the majority of the territorial reeling had already been done before we arrived. We did hear one bird briefly on the set-aside field but more interestingly, I am convinced I also heard a very distant bird reeling somewhere in the region of the Sewage Farm (possibly within the actual compound).

The only other news today is that the House Martin appear to have returned to their favoured nesting areas in the village. One bird was hawking around the houses near the Coop this morning and late afternoon there were at least three birds over Church Street.

Right! Bring on the Swifts - Chaz

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

There is a well know saying often applied to Bird Watching.

"Absence of Evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence"

Having seen this bird at its most elusive yesterday, I secretly harboured hopes that Kev Clements not seeing it at lunchtime did not necessarily mean that the Garganey had definitely gone, but with my old mate Dave Glover making one of his occasional birding visits and with a pretty poor weather prognosis, instead of putting time in on the off-chance of relocating the Garganey, we decided instead to chase a fall of migrants at Chasewater.

A report from lunchtime indicated that there were five Common Swift, several Common Tern and a Black Tern up the pool but by late afternoon the Black Tern and Swift had apparently moved on. Three Common Tern were still present however and provided a year-tick for both Dave and myself.
The wind across Chasewater was particularly blustery and our original plan was to move on to Park Lime Pits to hopefully get Dave a view of the parakeets there but then I received a text.

Jim and Sue Miles had just got home from a visit to the marsh where they had managed to get views of the Garganey, still present on the main swag. I immediately texted Kev Clements with the good news. Kev himself was apparently not convinced that the bird had gone and already intended to pay another visit late afternoon to make sure, so the text confirmed both his plans and ours.

Kev, Dave and I must all have arrived on the Marsh around the same time,just in time in fact to shelter from a deluge of hail and sleet! We managed to meet up once this had passed over at the top of the mineral line.

Our outward walk from the Ford Brook provided no sign of the elusive duck but it did not take Kev very long to locate it this time, initially breaking cover to fly down to the east end of the swag (the duck that is, not Kev).

Despite being a gorgeously marked bird the Garganey is demonstrating an impressive ability to conceal itself in the emergent Marestail at the fringes of the swag pool. That was where I relocated it yesterday and where Kev relocated it today so perhaps a good place to start looking if you go in search of the bird tomorrow.

A final treat for Dave and I was a singing Grasshopper Warbler on the set aside which briefly showed itself as it flew from one clump of Bramble to another - an unexpected bonus for us both.

The only other birds of interest were a single Snipe which flew into cover and a single House Martin with Swallow on Ryders Mere.

If you want to see the Garganey, my money would be on it still being present tomorrow although clear sky's tonight could possibly scupper that. I have found that it never pays to make predictions in bird watching, so if you do go tomorrow and don't find it, its not my fault, OK? - Chaz

Tuesday Update

Juvenile Cormorant on Mere 23-04-2017 Photo: Sindy Weals
First the biggish one - regrettably no sign of the Garganey today. I suspect it may have flown out before the weather set-in last night but as the species goes it was a particularly flighty example.

Big thanks to Mr Clements who wins the award of being the first person (as far as I know) to have all three hirundine on site this year (50+ Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin). He did have a very late Jack Snipe along with five Common Snipe, two Little Grebe, and a Cormorant (the photo is last Sundays bird courtesy of Sindy).

I hope to be out birding later, in which case I may well do another update tonight - Chaz

More Garganey Photos

I don't know if it's still going to be present today? It was a clear night last night so it may have gone out but I did wake-up to SNOW on the lawn this morning and I am pretty sure if I was a migratory duck I would not want to fly through that so perhaps there is hope.

Regardless of this, Derek has sent me another couple of shots of yesterday's bird which was (in birding parlance) a 'Crippler'! So I thought that I had to share them with you. For the best effect I would suggest that you click on the photo and zoom-in. You will then get the benefit of all the vermiculation on the birds flanks - Beautiful! - Chaz


Monday, 24 April 2017

*** Scarce Species Alert ***

Today's gorgeous specimen! - Photo courtesy of Derek Lees
Ray Fellows was over this afternoon and at about 14.15 discovered a drake Garganey on the Marsh. Unusually this bird was apparently unpaired.

The bird was in a fabulous state of plumage and was still present at 16.20 being well photographed by Derek Lees and his friend Jud Foster. Unfortunately the bird is keeping company with two very nervous Common Teal which seem to take flight at the sight of  anyone on the mineral line, inevitably, closely followed by the equally nervous Garganey!

So far though the birds seem reluctant to leave the swag completely and given today's weather and the weather predicted for the next few days there has to be a chance that it will stay around to be enjoyed.

For the record, Ray also confirmed audibles of at least one of the Grasshopper Warblers on the set-aside field.

Big thank you to Derek for permission to use his brilliant photograph of an equally brilliant specimen of Garganey. Always a good 'Tick' and this one is particularly splendid and worth a go if you get the chance - Chaz

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Fall of the Acrocephalus ! (Updated)

WOW! What about that for an opening gambit eh? 'The Fall of the Acrocephalus
Bigging my act-up or what?

I had a hunch that today would be the day and for once I was right. I crossed the tin bridge and my eye was immediately caught by a stonking male Northern Wheatear feeding around the horse poo on the second paddock. This one really was 'The Mutt's Nuts' and in about the most pristine state of breeding plumage you could imagine, straight off the pages of a field guide.

Northern Wheatear - Not todays bird!
Being a person with a sharing nature I spent a few minutes enjoying the bird with one of the local dog walkers before attending to the business of the day proper.

Even as I walked back toward the mineral line I could hear my first Reed Warbler of the year and I used a bit of birding technique to get myself good views. There is a widely held belief that birds can't actually count, they don't seem to need the concept. This being the case, if three people walk towards a bird and two walk away, the theory is that the bird will assume they have all gone. Accurate or not it seems to work.

Today by chance a party of pony trekkers was coming across the wooden bridge so I walked just in front of them, stopped and let them carry on past. Now I don't know if it was proof of the theory or not, but within a couple of minutes I was standing enjoying full views of a Reed Warbler, clutching a stem and singing its heart out for me, as good as it gets.

I am watching and enjoying this bird when I suddenly become aware of a movement below it and unbelievably, there is the streakiest looking Sedge Warbler I have ever seen (if it had been autumn I would have got really excited), it was only on view for a couple of seconds, not really long enough to take in all the features but good enough to go on the year list.

No, not this one either but similar!
In the end I had confirmed a minimum of three Reed Warbler present, two singing male birds and a probable female that flew across from the north-east side to pay attention to a singing male (before flying back, obviously dissatisfied by his singing voice)?

I returned via the mineral line across the set-aside but no sound from the Grasshopper Warblers today.

Anyway, what a good Sunday morning. We are only awaiting a Garden Warbler now and all the summer suspects will have been recorded.

This afternoon Sindy Weals was over with her son and saw a Cormorant on the Mere and Ray Fellows reported a Common Sandpiper on the Mere as well ( A good record for this point in the season and a bird that was particularly scarce last summer locally, although some of you may have been to see the overwintering bird that has been at Belvide for some time)?

Have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Sometimes a little bit of effort reaps its reward.

You have probably gathered that I was determined to connect with the Grasshopper Warblers. Why? Because its a unique experience for bird watchers.

Only in late April and early May can you stand at Dawn or Dusk and listen to the continuous insect-like reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler. Its one of those memories that stays with you in October and November, on those cold days when all of our summer visitors are far away in Africa. Memories of days that were lengthening instead of shortening. Ah well, you will empathise with that or you wont. Someone once said that I spent too much time inside my own head, but that's how I feel about it anyway.

There was no way I was going to miss Doctor Who, but that fell in line with my plan anyway. As I said in my earlier posting, they are not really very active except at Dawn and Dusk. This being the case I arrived on site about 20.20 and was immediately greeted by the song I was hoping for. Despite sounding a long way away I knew that the species is ventriloquial (it song gets softer or louder depending on which way it is facing) so it was no surprise when the song suddenly intensified and increased in volume.

This time there was no problem, it took me just a couple of minutes to find the clump of Bramble it was singing from and after a bit of careful stalking, I was rewarded with some of the best views of the species that I have had for a long time. At one point it even left the Bramble and perched on a tree, reeling in full view for at least three minutes.

The biggest surprise though came as I was leaving the site as the calls of my bird were met with another singing male from a clump of Bramble a hundred yards away. This could mean only one thing, there were two singing males on site! Brilliant news and a totally unexpected turn of events.

Lets hope that they stay to breed this year and we can then look forward to hearing their charismatic song for a few weeks to come - Chaz

Two for the price of one! (well almost again)

Sitting at home working on the computer late morning, too nice to go over the Marsh, lets face it, high pressure does not bode well for drop-in migrants. Just after mid-day I received a text from Anita "Grasshopper Warbler in fields behind park" (The set-aside).

So it had stayed! The last two years our only 'Groppers' have been one day birds so I was not too excited about yesterdays find, but if it was to remain...?

Within ten minutes I was over the set-aside checking all of the previous breeding areas but to no avail. I knew it was the wrong time of day (Groppers are normally crepuscular) but with it having been singing less than half an hour before I thought there may have been a chance.

While I am working my way around the sites another sound caught my attention, yet another unmistakable Warbler Song, that of the Lesser Whitethroat - another favourite of mine. This one gave no trouble, perching on the edges of trees and showing its attractive grey plumage, so at least the visit was worthwhile.

I will keep you posted on the Grasshopper Warbler, weather depending it may be worth putting in an evening visit - Chaz

Friday, 21 April 2017

Two for the price of one! (Well, almost)

Common Whitethroat are not subtle migrants are they. Yesterday there were none this morning, 'Thump' - Whitethroats everywhere! I only did a partial circuit and found at least four birds just on the set aside. They don't mess about either, they were already displaying from song perches and one pair seems determined to evict one of our breeding pairs of Linnet.

More frustrating though was the 'Well Almost' bird. I had only just got onto the site and heard the unmistakable reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler. The bird was obviously distant and didn't sing again so I was unable to confirm its location although it was certainly singing from bramble along the Ford Brook. My feeling was that it was in the area between the Sewage farm and the Brook but by the time I got down there all I could find was..... a Whitethroat.

Still, at last stuff is arriving although the Whitethroats are two or three days later than their average arrival. I can't explain this as in some sites Whitethroat have been in early. Perhaps our birds take a different route or maybe the weather was just not right for that final push to the breeding sites?

Anyway - stuff happening so get over there! - Chaz