Sunday, 26 September 2010

MEGA ALERT: The ALDER FLYCATCHER in Norfolk

With the amazing news of an Empidonax Flycatcher species filtering through from Norfolk on Saturday afternoon, there was no way that I would reach the tip of Blakeney Point with enough daylight left.  I therefore took consolation in watching my dearest Tamworth FC.... lose 3-1 to York City.  Could my day get any worse?  Yes it could!  Whilst at the match Steve Richards called me to say that the mystery bird was now thought to be a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, a potential first for the whole of Europe.  As everyone knows though, there is always some poor soul out there more unfortunate than yourself.  My good mate Loyd Berry had spent the previous week slogging away on the remote Scottish Isle of Tiree.  During the whole seven days, the best he managed were a couple of Lapland Buntings and a single Ruff.  As his ferry docked back at Oban, disaster struck as he received the heart-breaking news that a NORTHERN PARULA had just been found on the island.  Birding can be so cruel at times.

Blakeney Point, Norfolk.
Photo by Adam Archer

As the hours passed by and the bird was discussed on the internet, the identification then reverted back towards it being either a WILLOW FLYCATCHER or an ALDER FLYCATCHER.  Whatever it was I needed to see it.  After a pretty restless Saturday evening, Jules Allen, Steve Richards and I decided to head over to Norfolk on Sunday morning.  We would take a slow route east in hope that the American rarity would be grounded by the foul weather overnight.  Initially there was no news but as we trundled along the A14 in Northamptonshire, positive news came through on the pager.  Superb!  

It was not too long before we found ourselves trudging along the 'Shingle of Pain' at Blakeney Point.  At this stage the weather was not too bad at all.  The high winds did not prove a problem for a trio of weathered birders like us.  The traipse was made even more tolerable as a pair of Long-tailed Skuas (279) flew past us just offshore.  Every now and then a Great Skua or an Arctic Skua would also pass by.  As we slowly plodded along we passed many 'early birders' heading towards us.  Familiar faces included a posse of Staffordshire 'Stokies' and a pack of 'Bumbling Bears' from Warwickshire.  After around a hour and twenty minutes we eventually reached 'The Plantation', a small assortment of stunted trees and shrubs clinging onto life in one of the most inhospitable parts of England.  

A short time later I was watching my first ever 'TRAILL'S FLYCATCHER' in Britain.  As the bird continued to show on and off, the weather took a sudden turn for the worse.  With no shelter on The Point we had no alternative but to stand huddled in the torrential rain as the bird struggled to find insects to eat in amongst the sparse vegetation.  Despite the frustration of my optical equipment steaming up and the fact that I could feel cold rainwater running down my back there was something tremendously satisfying about the whole experience.  The adverse conditions seemed to add to the excitement.  I also felt a huge amount of pride for all my fellow birders, twitchers and photographers who had made the effort that day, especially some of the more senior folk amongst us.

'Traill's Flycatcher' - Blakeney Point, Norfolk.
Photo kindly provided by Penny Clarke
Please click HERE for some more of Penny's photographs.

Taking shelter on The Point..... what's the point?


'The Point of Death'
Fortunately there were no birder related deaths in the stormy conditions but it did take its toll on various other local wildlife.  Above is an wrecked Northern Gannet whilst below is a stranded Grey Seal.


After a few hours of watching the bird we decided to brave the elements and hike back to the car.  As earlier in the day we were extremely lucky when another Long-tailed Skua flew through at point blank range.  There were also more Arctic Skuas and Great Skuas passing by.  In addition there was also a good passage of Northern Gannets and Common Gulls interspersed with the odd Kittiwake

We arrived back at the car park on Cley Beach soaked to the skin and exhausted.  All three layers I had been wearing were wet through.  To add to the discomfort, a section of skin had completely worn away from both of my achilles heels.  Both my beloved bins and scope were rendered useless and even my iPhone had stopped working in the damp conditions.  Despite all of the above I had enjoyed one of the most memorable few hours of birding ever.  I would do it all over again tomorrow if I needed to.
  
Despite hypothermia setting in, we then made the short journey across to Kelling where we finished the day watching a Grey Phalarope and a Red-necked Phalarope feeding together in unison.  Yet another pretty unusual treat that birding rewards you with every now and then.

An excellent article by Kevin Du Rose making a case for the above bird being an ALDER FLYCATCHER can be found HERE.

MEGA UPDATE: Following an announcement made on the 10th September 2014, after a four year wait, the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) finally accepted ALDER FLYCATCHER onto Category A of the British List. There are therefore just two accepted records of this species for Britain as follows:

2010 - Norfolk - Blakeney Point - First-winter from 25th to 27th September.
2008 - Cornwall - Nanjizal - First-winter from 9th to 10th October.

The ALDER FLYCATCHER (first-winter) in Norfolk

Saturday, 25 September 2010

LAPLAND BUNTINGS in Worcestershire

On the afternoon of Monday 20th September, an impressive group of five Lapland Buntings were located around North Hill on the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. Having never seen this species in the West Midlands Region before, it was time to brush the dust off my walking boots and limber up for an high altitude hike. Unfortunately by the time I managed to get over to 'The Malverns' just a single bird remained, with the other birds no doubt continuing their migration southwards.


The beautiful Malvern Hills looking southwards from the North Hill area.
Photo by Adam Archer

After a slow, steady climb I eventually reached the North Hill area during late morning. As there were no other birders to be seen, it was up to me to locate the elusive rarity. It can be pretty daunting searching for a single passerine in such a wide ranging location but I do love a bird related challenge. It was time to knuckle down and methodically scrutinise every small bird that took flight.

As usual there were plenty of pesky Meadow Pipits around along with the odd Northern Wheatear to brighten up the morning. There was also a Common Kestrel patrolling the area that would helpfully flush the pipit flocks from the long grassy areas on the more sheltered areas of the hills. It was during one of these raptor fly-overs that a single bird arose and flew away from me at a great height. I could tell immediately from the distinctive flight call that I had located a Lapland Bunting (277). I was thrilled but I craved better views, preferably of the bird on the deck. Despite tracking the bird carefully from one place to another several times, it remained elusive. To add to my frustration it was way too easily flushed. I failed to get anywhere near it at all.

As the bird once more flew away from me for the final time, I heard another Lapland Bunting call nearby. As I looked up I was delighted to see another two birds fly through and land amongst an area of low growing gorse further down the valley. Hopefully this pair would be more obliging than the initial bird. After some careful stalking, I soon relocated both birds feeding in an area enclosed with an electric fence. I then enjoyed stunning views as they fed amongst the grasses no more than six feet away at times.


Lapland Bunting - Malvern Hills, Worcestershire - September 2010
Photo by Adam Archer

After getting mardy and throwing my digiscoping kit to the ground in frustration, I eventually managed to get this photograph by lying in the grass and waiting for a bird to hop by. This record shot is taken with a handheld Nikon Coolpix 4500 with just a 4 x optical zoom.

Lapland Bunting in the West Midlands Region

The Lapland Buntings that grace Britain in autumn and winter originate from two distinct areas. The nominate race lapponicus breeds in the tundra zone of Eurasia whilst the race subcalcaratus breeds in Greenland and northern Canada. It is therefore fair to suggest that the visitors to the British Isles are either from Scandinavian or Greenland populations. The differences between the races are slight, however subcalcaratus is a touch bulkier than the nominate race. It also has a slightly longer bill that is heavier and deeper at the base. The wing length is slightly longer too on average.

The first ever record of this species in the West Midlands Region was on the 21st October 1904 when a male was caught in a clap net at Acock's Green in Birmingham, West Midlands. Since this time there have been a further 20 records involving just 35 birds. Interestingly the majority of sightings have been in Staffordshire (12) followed by the West Midlands (4), Warwickshire (2) and Worcestershire (2). The first record for the County of Worcestershire was as recently as 2007 when a bird was heard at Grimley on the 7th and 8th October. These recent Lapland Buntings are therefore the first ever to be seen in the County and are well worth a visit.

GLOSSY IBIS in Somerset

With news of a GLOSSY IBIS (278) reaching Somerset I knew that I had to take action in order to finally add the species to my 2010 List. Maybe one would stray closer to the West Midlands or then again perhaps it would not. I decided not to take any chances and to embark on a quick blast down to the depressing, hell hole that is Avonmouth near Bristol. Any feelings of despair regarding the surroundings were soon banished though as I caught my first glimpse of this scarce visitor from southern Europe. It was completely unconcerned about me admiring it from just a few feet away as it busily fed in a ditch on the edge of the industrial estate. If only all birdin' was this easy!


GLOSSY IBIS - Avonmouth, Somerset - September 2010
Photos (above & below) by Adam Archer



This Somerset bird carries a white coloured ring on its left leg with the black lettering R9T on it. On its right leg it also carries metal ring engraved with the number 713171. Apparently this bird is at least three years old and it was originally 'blinged up' in southern Spain during 2007. This bird was initially part of an influx of 20 GLOSSY IBISES that turned up at Budleigh Salterton in Devon on the 7th September. Six of these birds were colour ringed in Spain. The flock remained in the area until the 12th September but on the 13th September only a pair of birds remained in Devon. Later that same day a flock of 16 GLOSSY IBISES were located 225 miles to the east of Budleigh Salterton at Dungeness RSPB. This group remained in the area until the 15th September.


GLOSSY IBIS - Avonmouth, Somerset - September 2010
Photo by Adam Archer

Just to prove how tame this particular GLOSSY IBIS was, I took the above photograph with a handheld Nikon Coolpix 4500 with just an 4x optical zoom.

GLOSSY IBIS - The Movie.... a really bad movie!

This dodgy footage was taken with the pathetic video facility on my iPhone. Please note that as AppleMac are a bunch of losers there is no zoom option to play around with.

video

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Black Tern at Kingsbury Water Park

juvenile Black Tern - Kingsbury Water Park, Warwickshire - September 2010
Photo kindly provided by Bob 'The Birder' Duckhouse

A casual stroll around the Broomey Croft section of Kingsbury Water Park today was very enjoyable indeed. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and there was hardly anyone else milling around.... perfect. On Cliff Pool there were at least 6 Little Egrets feeding towards the channel end of the pool. In addition there was an impressive total of 112 moulting Northern Shoveler as well as a noisy Common Kingfisher and a single Greenshank. As I made my way up to the Skan Hide a juvenile Black Tern flew over the footpath.... superb. This bird then continued to show very well feeding around Cliff Pool for a while before heading off to check out other areas of the Tame Valley. The only passerine species of note were a couple of Willow Tits calling along the canal.

White trailer park trash! This is me outside the WMBC head-quarters at Kingsbury Water Park.

I then called in at Middleton Hall but I failed to get as far as Middleton Lakes RSPB. The nice new picnic benches in the meadow proved far to comfortable to ignore and so I just sat around watching Common Buzzards, Jays, Jackdaws, Rooks and Common Ravens going about their business.

Check out this dead oak and the strange attachments at the end of the twisted branches. Is the RSPB resorting to witchcraft in order to attract new members these days? Maybe the new picnic benches double up as sacrificial altars where young virgins are offered to Anzu the Raven God!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Yellow-legged Gull at Alvecote Pools SSSI

A quick visit to the neglected patch this afternoon failed to through up much in the way of excitement. We do however seem to attract a bit of a pre-Gull roost at this time of year so it is always worth checking through them all before they depart. Amongst the usual throngs of Black-headed Gulls around Mill Pool there were at least 265 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a very good total for Alvecote. It was amongst these that I picked up a single adult Yellow-legged Gull as well as an adult and 2 juvenile Herring Gulls.

Also present were 25 Eurasian Wigeon, 45 Gadwall, 26 Common Teal, 32 Northern Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe and 3 Common Snipe. On the passerine front there were good numbers of Common Chiffchaff in the hedgerows with smaller numbers of Willow Warbler.

Friday, 17 September 2010

INDIAN HOUSE CROW in Eire

I love corvidae me. I think my passion for them began at an early age when I first saw the Walt Disney classic Dumbo. Can you remember those jive talking 'jazz crows' and that 'I've Never Seen An Elephant Fly' song? I reckon the scene where they ruthlessly ridiculed that pathetic, big-lugged pachyderm actually inspired me to become a life-long piss-taker. Corvids cropped up again later in my childhood, this time advertising Kia-Ora orange squash. Despite my allergy to aspartime and sodium hexametaphosphate I loved that commercial and the way the product made me wheeze, reminiscent of a northern birder traipsing his way up to Blakeney Point.

Anyway, despite my obsession for anything feathery, black and glossy there is still no way that I would travel all the way to the Emerald Isle to admire a ship-assisted INDIAN HOUSE CROW. There are however a number of British birders that have made the trip to County Cork in order to add it to their 'Britain & Ireland Lists' One of these eccentric Englishmen happens to be Sussex based twitcher extraordinaire and impending birding, television celebrity Garry Bagnell. This dedicated fellow travelled all the way over to Ireland in order to reach his monumental target of 500 bird 'species' ..... under UK400 Club rulings. As you will see from the photographs below he did actually connect with the subcontinental refugee and he celebrated accordingly.

The IRISH HOUSE CROW at Cobh, County Cork cleverly utilises an old lollipop stick in order to dislodge old bits of chewing gum from the cobbled streets.... allegedly.

'Bagnell of the Boyne' celebrates in style. Wearing an 'orange' T-shirt in Ireland with the word 'Britain' emblazoned across it is nearly as brave as twitching a rarity at Seaforth Docks whilst bedecked in a Manchester United shirt. All that is missing from Gary's attire is a bowler hat, a pair of white gloves and a tangerine sash. It's a good job our Gaelic brothers and sisters over there have a good sense of humour.

For a full report on Gary's trip over the water please click HERE!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

LEACH'S PETREL in North Warwickshire

After a busy day at work attempting to boost Britain's faltering economy, I received a Tame Valley text alert from Tom Perrins. Dedicated Warwickshire birder, Bob Duckhouse had found a LEACH'S PETREL just a ten minute car journey from where I live. Decent numbers of this species have been passing the north-west coasts of England, Wales and Scotland over the past few days so it was inevitable that one would turn up in an inland location eventually. Fortunately for me this particular individual decided to choose the furthest point away from the ocean in Britain that it could.... but could I get away from work in time?

After lengthy negotiations with my stubborn Yorkshireman of a boss, he eventually released me from my duties at 3.00pm. At this stage there had been no sign of the diminutive seabird for over half an hour. Just twenty minutes later I arrived at Coton Lakes and was told that the wrecked waif had just been relocated. Amazingly it had been found loafing amongst some willows at the edge of the lake. Just as I got into a decent viewing position the bird emerged from the vegetation, a magnificent LEACH'S PETREL (276) gliding around a balancing lake in deepest North Warwickshire, an amazing sight indeed. After a few minutes the bird gained height suddenly and disappeared high over the trees in a east north easterly direction, never to be seen again. I had arrived in the nick of time.


Leach's Petrel - Coton Lakes, Warwickshire - 15th September 2010
Photo by Bob Duckhouse
Read Bob's 'finders account' and see some extra photos HERE

LEACH'S PETREL in Warwickshire

To see this species in my home County is a real treat. It is not quite as rare in Warwickshire as you would imagine though. A major wreck of LEACH'S PETRELS occurred during 1952. Due to violent storms around the western coasts of Britain on the 25th and 26th October, hundreds of birds were forced inland with at least 56 birds being located in the West Midland recording area alone. There was another much smaller influx involving five birds during December 1989 but only one of these oceanic waifs graced Warwickshire. The latest wreck came during December 2006 when four birds turned up in Warwickshire in a two day period from the 7th and 8th December. An additional seven birds turned up elsewhere in the West Midlands area during this time. Unusual occurrences included a bird roaming around Tescos car park in Redditch, Worcestershire on the 8th December and another found recently dead inside the porch of a house in Bournville, Birmingham on the 7th December.

Since 1980 we have been fortunate enough to receive the following records for Warwickshire:
  1. 1983 - Draycote Water - 3rd September - 2 birds
  2. 1987 - Draycote Water - 20th September
  3. 1989 - Draycote Water - 10th September
  4. 1989 - Shustoke Reservoir - 25th December
  5. 1997 - Shustoke Reservoir - 11th September
  6. 2000 - Coton Lakes - 16th October
  7. 2003 - Draycote Water - 24th September
  8. 2005 - Draycote Water - 18th September
  9. 2005 - Shustoke Reservoir - 3rd October
  10. 2006 - Shustoke Reservoir - 7th December
  11. 2006 - Draycote Water - 7th December (eaten by a Herring Gull)
  12. 2006 - Draycote Water - 8th December - 2 birds
  13. 2007 - Draycote Water - 19th October
  14. 2010 - Coton Lakes - 15th September

Sunday, 12 September 2010

WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER in East Yorkshire

In anticipation of having to head over to East Yorkshire once again, I took the decision last night to remain up north instead of heading back down to the West Midlands. The trouble was I didn't have a change of clothes. There was no way that I was going to face the indignity of borrowing a pair of Stevie Dunn's briefs or Mike Feely's socks so I had no choice but to twitch like a tramp if required. I've been spending so much time in Yorkshire just lately that I'm not only starting to look like Zak Dingle from Emmerdale, I'm also doing my best to smell like him too.

Low and behold, as the sun came up I received an early text from Mike Stokes who was already on site. The WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER was still present at Bempton Cliffs RSPB and it had been showing well just after 6.00am. I quickly awoke the the Mansfield duo of drunkards who had polished off no less than four bottles of wine the night before. It would have been easier to resurrect the tideline corpse of a Brunnich's Guillemot. Whilst waiting for them to get ready I had time for a spot of birding at Old Moor RSPB first. An impressive selection of fourteen different wader species were quickly bagged including Northern Lapwing (85), European Golden Plover (26), Ringed Plover (2), Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit (2), Common Snipe(10), Common Redshank (2), Spotted Redshank, Greenshank (3), Ruff (2), Curlew Sandpiper (4), Dunlin, Green Sandpiper (3) and Common Sandpiper.

Western Bonelli's Warbler - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - September 2010
Another work of art by John Harwood

We finally arrived at a jam-packed Bempton Cliifs RSPB and our luck was in. The bird had not been seen by anyone for nearly three hours but just as we headed into the overflow car park the elusive Phyllosc' had been relocated a short distance away. Within a few minutes I caught a brief glimpse of a gorgeous WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER (274) glimmering away like a precious gem in the early afternoon sunshine. It then continued to show well every now and then but could prove elusive at times, especially during cloudy spells. After missing out on this species quite a few times over the years, it was nice to finally connect with one on the mainland. My previous sightings have been on the Isles of Scilly in the autumns of 2005 and 2006 and on Shetland during September 2008.

The only other species of note were the 3 Common Raven overhead, a healthy population of Tree Sparrows and a single Common Redstart.

The Western Bonelli's Warbler twitch at Bempton RSPB, East Yorkshire.
Photo by Stevie Dunn

WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER in Yorkshire

Between 1970 and 1989 there were five records of Bonelli's Warbler in the County, however none of these have been assigned to either the Eastern or the Western species. The accepted records of WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER for Yorkshire are as follows:
  1. 1991 - Spurn, East Yorkshire - 24th October - first winter - trapped
  2. 1992 - Filey, North Yorkshire - 19th September & 27th to 28th September
  3. 1993 - Scarborough, North Yorkshire - 17th August
  4. 1999 - Spurn, East Yorkshire - 2nd June - first summer - trapped
  5. 2003 - Kilnsea, East Yorkshire - 30th September (I dipped this bird on the 1st October)
  6. 2004 - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - 30th to 31st August (I dipped this one too)
  7. 2010 - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - 11th to 12th September (finally scored)
After a brief stop off at Flamborough Head for a nap and stuff, we then made our way down to South Landing whilst we waited for the excellent, local chippy to open. It was here that I experienced the frustration of a highly mobile group of Long-tailed Tits. I've alway thought that autumn Tit flocks should be banned due to the bad influence they have on rarities that latch onto them. Amongst this particular group were a couple of Common Chiffchaffs and another more elusive Phylloscopus species. Unfortunately I failed to get enough on the bird but I am pretty positive that it was either an Arctic Warbler or a Greenish Warbler. Typically the mystery bird followed the rest of the flock onto private land towards the top of the ravine and was never spotted again. I was pretty gutted to say the least.

On the way back home we paid a brief visit to the excellent North Cave Wetlands YWT, west of Hull. This newly created reserve looks very good indeed and is well worth a visit if you happen to be passing by. From the Turret Hide I eventually managed to pick up a juvenile Red-necked Grebe (275) as it roosted on the edge of the reeds.

This is me trying to 'keep my head' whilst looking for a Red-necked Grebe at North Cave Wetland YWT.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

ARCTIC WARBLER in Norfolk

I was all set for a relaxing spot of birding around the neglected local patch this morning. This was to be followed up by watching my beloved Lambs at home to Grimsby Town. These plans were scuppered however upon hearing the disconcerting news that a sneaky, year-listing rival had ventured east to add a few more species to his 2010 list. I phoned Stevie Dunn to see what he was up to and after a bit of wavering back and forth we decided to belt it over to Norfolk too. There was no way that Mikipedia Feely was going to catch up with us.

The beautiful beach at Holme NWT, Norfolk - September 2010.

We arrived at Holme NWT sometime during early afternoon to find a surprising amount of birders staking out the pines near the sea-watching hide. Luckily, within minutes I caught a glimpse of an elusive ARCTIC WARBLER (273) thanks to directions provided by Mark Payne & Dan Pointon. We then spent the next hour or so catching the odd glimpse of the bird as it quickly hopped from from tree to tree. Also on site were a couple of far more showy Spotted Flycatchers.

ARCTIC WARBLER - Holme NWT, Norfolk - September 2010
Photos kindly provided by Penny Clarke
Please see Penny's Hot Birding & Life blog for further images


Whilst heading over to Norfolk news came through of a WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER in East Yorkshire. There was no way that we'd make it up there today but we were already busy planning a trip for the following day. This year-listing nonsense was beginning to get me down again. I doubted whether I'd be able to stand the pace of a stressful British, birding autumn.

ARCTIC WARBLER in Norfolk

After a bit of geeky research I discovered that this species is not as regular in Norfolk as you might imagine. The first record for the County and also for Britain was on the 4th September 1922 when a bird was shot on Blakeney Point by the infamous E.C. Arnold. At this time the species was known as Eversmann's Warbler. The corpse of this unfortunate individual can still be found on display at the Castle Museum in Norwich. If accepted this latest bird will be just the 16th ever record for Norfolk.

Stevie Dunn jumps for joy (reminiscent of Alan Carr at an all night rave) upon clinching Arctic Warbler for his British List.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The New ASBO Autumn Collection!

After enjoying brunch with my good pal Gok Wan the other day, he came up with an idea for a whole new ASBO Birderz fashion range. Well after one too many white wine spritzers I finally agreed for him to design a few items of clothing for me. The full collection is currently under wraps awaiting an official launch at London Fashion Week, however I have been allowed to let my beloved readers have a sneak preview of a few of the items that are about to take the birding world by storm.


The Limited Edition 'Bee-Kay on Fool's Day' T-Shirt by ASBO Birderz


The Limited Edition 'Plover Lover' T-Shirt from ASBO Birderz


The Official ASBO Birderz heavyweight T-Shirt!
Available in all the colours of the rainbow and in various sizes from 'Ian Moore - extra skinny' to 'Tom Perrins - jumbo sausage'


Contact me at bigbadadd2001@yahoo.com to place your order!

No Sign of Woodchat Shrike in Staffordshire

An early start was required this morning after news of a juvenile Woodchat Shrike filtered through late last night. I arrived at Whitemoor Haye at around 6.20am to find a small selection of the most dedicated St*ffordshire County listers milling around. Despite hanging around on site until 7.20am, this West Midlands MEGA failed to show in the emerging sun. For the lucky few that connected yesterday evening this a species that could well remain a County blocker for some time based on past records in the region. On a positive note it was great to see at least 14 Grey Partridge amongst the set-aside fields. This a species that seems to be in real trouble in the West Midlands as well as in numerous other parts of England unfortunately. Other sightings during my brief stop over included Yellow Wagtail, Common Whitethroat and Tree Sparrow.

A scene of sheer misery.... a covey of heart-broken St*ffordshire birders ponder over what might have been.

For any St*ffordshire County Listers that may have been affected by this blog please call.....

The Samaritans on 01782 213555

Woodchat Shrike in the West Midlands Region

If accepted this will be only the fourth ever record of Woodchat Shrike for the West Midlands region, with the latest sighting being the first for Staffordshire. This would constitute only the first ever Autumn record too. The previous records are as follows:
  1. 1893 - Weatheroak Hill, Worcestershire - 14th May - a pair (dodgy perhaps?)
  2. 1999 - Longmoor Valley, Sutton Park, West Midlands (old Warwickshire) - 1st to 14th June male
  3. 2009 - Brandon Marsh, Warwickshire - 29th May - adult
  4. 2010 - Whitemoor Haye, Staffordshire - 8th September - juvenile

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE in Warwickshire

I don't really know why I wasted my time heading all the way over to Draycote this evening. I didn't even need Red-necked Phalarope for the year.... I must be crazy. Mind you, I have only seen this species in Shakespeare's County once before. Back in 2000 a moulting male turned up at Kingsbury Water Park on the 24th April. I saw the same bird again the day after when it moved across to Fisher's Mill Pit, now part of the Middleton Lakes RSPB complex.

I arrived on site to find just one other local birder on site. Dog Doherty quickly got me onto the bird as it bobbed around in the middle of the vast reservoir. With it being just a speck in the distance my attention was quickly drawn to half a dozen Black Tern (272) instead. These birds showed way better, down to just a few yards at times. After a brief shower of rain, a juvenile Little Gull then dropped in to join the terns feeding around the perimeter of Biggin Bay and down towards the sailing club. I then relocated the phalarope once more but due to constant harassment from the roosting gulls it became very flighty. Frustratingly I lost the bird again as it dropped into the middle of a distant gull flock.

Red-necked Phalarope (juvenile) - Draycote Water, Warwickshire - September 2010
Photograph by Warwickshire's finest - Dave Hutton

At this time Pezza Perrins appeared and soon afterwards I received a call from Stevie Dunn. He enquired whether I had any contacts at Draycote Water. I told him yes, me and it so happened that I was on site. A while later both Stevie and Mike Feely appeared, pacing towards us. They had travelled over seventy miles from Nottinghamshire for a precious year tick. The trouble was none of us had seen the phalarope for over thirty minutes. I could see the panic and pain in their contorted little faces as the sun began to fall in the western skies. With time running out, I finally picked up the bird in flight again and luckily both of my year-listing brethren managed to get on to it. Once again the phalarope was extremely distant. If it's still present in the morning I'd be very surprised. I predict that it'll become a tasty midnight snack for some hungry Laridae.

Other species of note included 6 Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 2 Northern Wheatear and a fewYellow Wagtails.

Red sky at night, Red-necked Phalarope delight!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A dippin' & a twitchin' in the East Midlands

Willington Pits, Derbyshire

With no confirmed sightings of yesterday's GREAT SNIPE at Spurn, I decided to stay relatively local today and attempt a few additional year species. The first trip of the day was up into Derbyshire where a Spotted Crake had been present for the past few days. As I sat on the platform waiting for the bird to appear I was relayed some disconcerting tales of nine hour waits and three second views. I gave it two hours but without even a twitch amongst the reeds or a small shadow being cast upon the shoreline I decided to quit. Consolation species included aGarganey, a Hobby (see below) and a single Greenshank.

A stunning Hobby surveys Willington Pits from a hawthorn.

Great Glen, Leicestershire

The last time I visited this area was to see a first winter Common Crane back in January 2003, where have the past seven years gone? After a long walk down the farm track I eventually stumbled upon a small group of birders. The good news was they all appeared to be engrossed, which is always a good sign. Just in front of them a superb Wryneck (271) showed well feeding along the edge of a set-aside field. If only all birding was this easy. The Wryneck continued to perform well, totally unconcerned about the various farm machinery being utilised nearby. Its patience was finally pushed to the limit however as an over eager photographer insisted on trying to get within a few feet of it. Needless to say the bird eventually flew a short distance away to resume feeding along a different edge of the field. It's always a privilege to connect with such a charismatic bird especially when it is less than a hours drive from home.

Wryneck - Great Glen, Leicestershire - September 2010
Photograph kindly provided by Carl Baggott