Saturday, 13 January 2018

Saturday January 13

Our garden mammal list stood at three species seen in the garden, plus two seen from the house. They were: Grey Squirrel, Wood Mouse, and Hedgehog plus Fox and Bat sp.

This morning a fourth species made it onto the garden list.

Brown Rat
I had been checking the bird feeders and noticed that the peanuts had gone mouldy. Fearing for the health of our local birds I emptied its contents onto the patio and swept most of them up before placing them in the bin like the good tidy householder I tell my wife I am.

Clearly I missed a few, and for Rattus norvegicus christmas had come at last. Normally I would be thrilled to add a new species to the garden list, but this one could be problematical. Think of the neighbours etc.

I suspect I will come under pressure to take action, but for now I will simply rely on the mouldy peanuts finishing it off. It already has a scabby tail.

A scabby, disease ridden rat, great.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Friday January 12

It's been a brilliant week on this patch.

Things began slowly as a dusk walk around Ipsley Alders added only a Goldcrest to my year list. I had a sneaky tramp around the marshy bits but flushed nothing. It is still the case that the only Snipe I have seen there is a painting of one on the noticeboard advising people of what to expect to see !

The following day things picked up when I glimpsed the Fieldfare which had taken ownership of the apples in our garden before Christmas, as it flew out of a tree in the close. The following day Lyn reported seeing it back in the garden while I was at work.

On Thursday a daylight walk to the paper shop produced a mini Eureka moment when I saw first one, and then another two Hawfinches in Costers Lane. Having had no sightings since Dec 27, I had virtually reconciled myself to the thought that they had moved on. Later in the day I added a Pied Wagtail to the list.

Now we come to the really good day. I dragged myself out of bed early so that I was at Arrow Valley Lake not too long after it got light. A Stock Dove was peering at me from trees in the carpark. My plan had been to get to the reedbed where I had heard a Water Rail and had seen a substantial Reed Bunting roost back in 2006. A single Reed Bunting popped out, but that was it.

However, I hadn't gone far around the lake when a Little Egret flew into a tree right next to the path. The light was terrible but I couldn't resist getting the camera out.

Little Egret
A quick scan of the lake revealed two patch ticks. A Wigeon and a Barnacle Goose. I could also see seven Shovelers, a similar number of Great Crested Grebes, and 32 Mallard.

I hurried to a spot where I might get a couple of record shots.

Barnacle Goose
The goose is obviously feral, and was with a small party of Canada Geese, but the Wigeon was a proper wild visitor from the north. I later saw it fly off, and also failed to relocate the goose flock. Satisfied with my haul, I put my camera away. The light remained terrible. A Treecreeper then sang from the trees bordering the lake, and I continued my circuit.

Things were about to get even better.

I had got about half way along the east side of the lake, when a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew silently onto the back of a sapling by the path. OMG, this was the first one I'd seen anywhere for over a decade. I scrabbled to get the camera out of my bag, and watched helplessly as the tiny woodpecker flew back into the tangle of branches beyond. I could still see it though and I managed a couple of absolutely terrible record shots.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (centre of shot)

L S Woody -left of centre between two clumps of dead leaves
I'm really sorry about the crap photos, but the bird kept flipping from place to place. At around this point I gained another year-tick as a Water Rail squealed from the reedbed. Then, to my horror, the woodpecker, which had been coming closer again, suddenly took off and flew north over the trees and out of sight.

I spent a fruitless 30 minutes trying to relocate it, seeing 21 Siskins in the process. But as the woodpecker had not called at all during the whole period of observation, I reluctantly gave up and continued my walk.

Little else was seen by the time I had returned to the car-park, but this was probably my most memorable visit to Arrow Valley Lake since I twitched an Eider in the 1990s.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Thursday January 4

I decided to spend a couple of hours at Arrow Valley Lake to try to add some species to my year list. It was a bit cloudy for photography, but as I have decided to submit photographs to the Patchwork Challenge site, I took some anyway.

The first new bird for the year was a species I didn't record last year (despite seeing a bird which probably was one, but which looked so strange that I decided it might have been a hybrid with Mallard rather than just a very late moulting immature male Shoveler). There was no doubt about the five Shovelers present today.

A male Shoveler
There were three drakes and two ducks.

The water level is very high and this included the little brook running along the eastern side of the lake. It was here I saw a Grey Wagtail, but unfortunately it disappeared quite promptly.

A scan of the lake revealed the usual species, including 13 Cormorants, 14 Great Crested Grebes, and 11 Coots. The next year-ticks were a wheezing Greenfinch, a screeching Jay, and a piping Bullfinch. I failed to actually see the first two, but I did track down four Bullfinches, and photographed the male.

Although not a year-tick, two loudly calling Nuthatches were irresistible.

Having completed a circuit of the pool I decided to head for the field beyond the car-park where a large flock of Black-headed Gulls had gathered. Unfortunately they were quickly flushed by dog-walkers, but I had the compensation of finding a pair of Mistle Thrushes, and about half a dozen Redwings.

My final year-tick was a Common Buzzard which flew from trees near where I had parked.

No doubt 2018 will prove as difficult to see good species of birds on this patch as 2017 was. I am nevertheless up for the challenge.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Monday January 1

For the first time in several years I was not away from my patches on New Year's Day. I decided to carry on with for another year, and therefore made the decision to start with the area covered by this blog (East Redditch) as it meant I could start listing birds from the house. Any potential late change of mind was rendered out of the question when we invited some friends over for a walk around Arrow Valley Lake followed by a late lunch.

I was as keen to get going as a seven year old waiting for Santa. After a slightly embarrassing false start when I realised the Tawny Owl I could hear was actually a noise made by my sleeping wife, the first bird of the day was a Robin singing well before dawn. The garden list soon boasted a reasonably long list which included a Chaffinch, and fly-over Rooks, Canada Geese, and Greylag Geese.

The walk to the paper shop added a Sparrowhawk, and some Siskins. There was disappointment too. The Fieldfare which had been claiming the garden for his own has disappeared, and much more of a worry was that my star bird of 2017, the Hawfinch, may have eaten all the Field Maple seeds in Costers Lane and is now absent without leave.

By late morning it was raining steadily, and the walk around Arrow Valley Lake seemed in jeopardy. Happily, as our friends arrived, so did the sun and the walk was on. 

As usual the place was packed with people, and lacked anything that might be called a scarce bird. Nevertheless we duly located a Kingfisher, and watched a Great Crested Grebe in partial summer plumage displaying to one in almost full winter plumage.

Photographic opportunities were plentiful.

Mute Swan
Herring Gull
The pair just following the display
I had intended to put more photos into the Patchwork Challenge gallery (New Year's Resolution and all that), but the site is currently undergoing an upgrade and I was foiled by the change.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Tuesday December 26

Just a quick update.

All birding recently has been incidental to my daily routine, but it has contained birds worthy of note. Firstly, at least one Hawfinch has reappeared in the field maples along Coster's Lane. I saw it on 16th, 23rd, and again earlier today. The significance of this morning's sighting was that it was close enough to our house to be visible from our front bedroom. Surprisingly this is not a garden tick, because I managed to see one from the house in March 2006.

Another surprise came on 24th. I was on a shopping errand on the way back from Morton Bagot which took me along the road which encircles Winyates Green. As I approached the Peugeot garage I noticed a Little Egret standing in the bushes at the edge of Ipsley Alders.

The fact that the presence of three Greenfinches in the Costers Lane field maples is worth mentioning is a sign of the times as this species is now Red Listed as declining in the UK. They certainly used to be very common around here.

One disappointing absentee is Blackcap. I struggled to see many winterers last year, and have drawn a complete blank this winter.

The only question remaining is whether the Hawfinches will still be around in January, as they seem to be working their way through all the field maple seeds in Costers Lane.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sunday December 10

A few hours before dawn this morning it started snowing. There had been a little bit on Friday morning, which had not thawed, but this morning's was on a different scale. It is still snowing now, at 11.30am, and I popped out with my ruler to take some measurements. On our wooden garden table it is 15cms deep, and on the patio slabs, 10cms.

The Hawfinches seem to have disappeared, my last sighting being one which flew over our driveway on 3 December.

However, the bird feeding regime has been pretty successful, with 17 species in the garden yesterday including 10 Blackbirds, three Redwings, and three Chaffinches. A Wren hopped around the flower pots under the back window for a short while yesterday afternoon.

So this morning the garden looked like this:

I duly waded out and cleared patches of snow, put out more apples, sprinkled more seed, and retreated to see if anything new would turn up.

Song Thrush
So, pretty much just the same birds. I could also see no evidence of a hard weather movement, but as the snow is largely confined to the Midlands and Wales, this isn't too surprising.

The neighbours have been busy though.

Update: One species which is surprisingly unusual in our garden is the Starling. But one found the fatballs at lunchtime.

An hour later I went into the kitchen to find that the apple tree was full of Fieldfares. At least 15 were peering down and they were soon getting stuck in, fighting with the local Blackbirds for supremacy.

A fantastic spectacle.

Finally, as the light faded, a Pied Wagtail appeared on the front garden feeder. Another unusual bird for the garden.

Pied Wagtail
The light was too poor for anything but a rather fuzzy record shot.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Saturday November 25

No dedicated birding done for the second day running, except that two trips to the paper shop produced three Hawfinches.

Yesterday's was slightly unsatisfactory. I saw what I suspected was a Hawfinch flying across the road into a tree, photographed the tree and found the head of a Hawfinch peering out at me. It quickly disappeared only to fly over my head and land in another tree before disappearing again.

This morning I had one flying away, before finding one in a tree above the paper shop. The sun was against me, but I got a satisfactory shot.

I then edged around the tree and looked back with the sun behind me, but it had gone. However, five minutes later what I presume was the same bird flew over giving the classic "tick.....tick" call. Ironically this is the first one this autumn I have heard making that call.

During the late morning I wandered around without seeing any, and also spent time in the garden pruning the buddleia. The only bird of note to fly over was a Grey Wagtail.

With more than a decade since the last influx, and perhaps 30 years further back to the one before, I am determined to enjoy this one to the full.