Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Quick Catch Up

In the two weeks since I returned from Majorca I have done a fair bit of birding – all local(ish).

Shustoke this year has been poor, in recent years the quality of birds has dropped but this year has seen a real slump in fortunes. Normally I see 105 to 120 species this years despite numerous visits I am stuck on 92 species! I can only hope it improves as I have purchased a parking pass.

Since I moved Joy and I have had to lower our expectations for our garden birds. The previous house had a tremendous garden and outlook, this house however, is nowhere near as grand. The garden is about 5% of what we had before. We join a horse paddock to the rear and on Saturday there was a Spotted Flycatcher on show which bodes well for the future. Sitting writing this there are still a few House Martins around.

In the four visit there have been no highlights at Shustoke, the Lapwing flock stands c.50 but there have been no other waders at all. There were good numbers of hirundines towards the end of last week but these have largely moved on. There were still a few Chiffs and the odd Blackcap and 18 Greylag (god I’m scraping the barrel).

Middleton RSPB has been a little better, although there is not much habitat for waders at the moment there have been two Great White Egrets and a Cattle Egret (which I missed). Last evening (Tuesday) Joy and I had a Bittern fly into Fisher Mill pool. There have also been Barn Owl on show and a scattering of warblers which are slowly petering out.

Today I travelled up the M6 to the Sandwell Valley, mainly to see Rose-ringed Parakeet for the year, but also to see a lingering Little Egret which is a patch tick (It used to be my patch). The reserve was quite good and I saw my targets straight away, so I decided to venture out. I walked to Swan Pool then over the M5 to Salters Lane and around Ice House Woods and back.

I was surprised how much cover there is, it was difficult to see the sky in places, I have to say there is loads of habitat but few birds. This was probably down to the time of year rather than an actual lack of birds. Although it won’t happen I would like a few more open areas just for variety. All the pools are surrounded by trees, with little in the way of shoreline.

Also I counted c.80 Magpies during my walk, which can’t be good, but don’t expect a cull soon, It will upset a Magpie lover somewhere on Twitter and we can’t have that! (Bloody Social Media – every idiot has an opinion – including me) More CULLS.

Oh and the football pitches my football team used back in the 80s are now a Bloody Caravan Park!


Sunday, 10 September 2017

A week in Majorca

We had a family holiday at the Porto Pollenca in the north of Majorca. It was never a birding holiday but I would manage to get a bit in most days. I decided not to hire a car as the Boquer Valley was a 20 minute walk and we were on the edge of some fields that looked promising. Also the Albefera Park National was easily accessed by public transport.

We flew on the Friday having booked the holiday through Jet2 who we went with last year. The hotel was adequate borderline good, the food was plentiful (buffet style) and the drink was free being an all inclusive, (dangerous).

I visited the Boquer Valley three times and although it was not the best of conditions we saw several Booted Eagle, Balearic Warbler, numerous Sardinian Warbler and a few small groups of Crag Martin, several Eleonora’s Falcons and four Redstart.

Another site lay on the edge of town and although it didn’t look promising the small orchard held c.12 Stone Curlew also in the general area I saw distant Griffon Vulture, Corn Bunting, Thekla’s Lark, Mediterranean Flycatcher (split from Spotted), Hoopoe, Tree Sparrow and a couple of Redstart.

We found we could visit the Albefera by catching a bus from near the hotel, so one afternoon we decided to go, we arrived at 4.45pm only to find out that the reserve closed at 6pm. It was a good mile to the visitor centre so by the time we got there it was nearly time to leave. We dived into the nearest hide where we saw Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Osprey, Wood Sandpiper, Shoveler, Teal and Western Purple Swamphen.

On Thursday we agreed to pay a visit earlier but a torrential rain storm early in the morning delayed our arrival. However, with more time we visited more areas and it was really good and if in Majorca it is well worth a visit. Highlights included good numbers of Kentish Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Swamhen, Cetti’s Warbler and the highlight seven Flamingo.

We visited the same hotel last year and walking down the front a gull flew past which I though was probably Audouin's Gull but I never connected again. So I wasn’t entirely surprised to find several resting on rocks that lay 400 yards off the beach. So on Tuesday when we had a day on the beach I decided to Swim out, much to my surprise they were completely unbothered. With just my head above water I sat amongst then at no more than a couple of yards distance, truly brilliant.

A Week in Scotland

Had a week in Scotland, on the Saturday Joy and I went to the Football and then on Sunday I had a day out birding on the Angus coast looking for Roseate Tern in the Carnoustie area. Unfortunately the birds didn’t appear although there was a good selection of birds on offer.

On Monday we climbed a Corbett just north of Braemar called Carn na Drochaide (818m). We parked in the Linn of Dee at Allanoquoich where the bridge over the river was washed away a few years ago. We managed to find a new footbridge further up the glen and from there it was a straight forward climb up to the summit cairn.

The summit of Carn na Drochaide with the Cairngorms behind.

Me in the same place

Carn na Drochaide from Braemar
Managed to fit in a little more birding during the rest of the week seeing little really, mostly because I didn’t fancy driving far. Short-eared Owl, Knot and Osprey were above the only birds of note.

Then on the Thursday we climb another hill, this one I had fancied for a while, it was long, close to Perth and its also the area of Scotland that my cousin traced our ancestry back too! It was beautiful but I wouldn't mind betting its cold in the winter.

We parked at Bridge of Tilt near Blair Atholl walking up the pleasant gorge over Gilberts Bridge after close on two hours we emerged from the trees onto the open hillside we crossed another old stone bridge which must have been used for cattle droving before after another mile or so crossing another stone bridge in the middle of nowhere with the hill Being Mheadhonach (901m) dominating the skyline behind it.

There was a faint path to follow which went straight to the summit. We could see the weather was deteriorating so we managed to get back to the bridge before a short sharp shower hit, where we managed to get a degree of shelter. Then in bright sunshine it was back to the car.

Summit of Being Mheadhonach

The view south from the summit of Being Mheadhonach

Down with the kids with a selfie

Being Mheadhonach with the aforementioned bridge.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tuesday 1st August

Popped over last night but on arrival it started to rain so I didn’t linger, however, there were six Common Sandpiper together just off the car park.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday 31st July

A couple of trips today with good numbers of the common warblers in family parties or mixed up with the roaming Tit flocks.

c.100 Swift were around in the morning with c.200 mixed hirundines enough to attract a Hobby which was unsuccessful in its attempt.

Kingfisher was seen twice and there was a single Common Sandpiper. Yesterday a family party of four Raven flew over.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Thursday 27th July

Have been over the Reservoir a few times since my return from holiday, but it has generally been quiet. On Tuesday, however, although there were not many birds it was interesting.

A man pushing a pram who seemed to spend most of the time on the phone had not one, neigh not even two or three but five Pit Bull type dogs which were running all over the place. They were harassing other dog walkers, they were in the water and generally causing a nuisance. Fortunately they appeared good natured but the one girl who had been pestered look quite shocked, god only knows what they result might have been had the dogs been aggressive.

Anyway, back to birds, this morning saw me connect with Hobby for the first time this year at the Reservoir, but generally it was quiet, although c.150 Swift dropped in ahead of the rain.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Thursday 20th July

Another day another walk, this time this was one I had been looking forward too as it was close to Perth and involved a good path straight to the col between the two hills.

This was a long way and the climb up the slopes of Creag Mac Ranaich was very steep, Joy was not a happy bunny. Fortunately there was an old fence which we followed and it had the semblance of a path besides it. There were three tops on the summit with the most northerly i.e. furthest away being the target. We decided to get the other hill out of the way before we stopped to eat so we made our way steeply down to the col.

The second hill was the highest of the two but it was much more straightforward and we were soon sitting at the cairn for lunch. Rather than cut the corner off and work our way through a mile of so of peat hag we retraced our steps back down to the path and arrived back at the car just before 5pm eight hours after we started. In total we did just over 40,000 steps during the course of the walk. Strangely it looked promising for birds but in actual fact apart from Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and a single Ring Ouzel we saw very little.

Meall an t-Seallaidh from the approach road

Creag Mac Ranaich from the approach road

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich
Meall an t-Seallaidh from Creag Mac Ranaich 


Creag Mac Ranaich from Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh with Loch Earn behind





Wednesday 19th July

Picked Stuart up from his house in Carnoustie and we headed up the road to Fishtown of Usan, one of the premier sea watching spots in Angus, it lies just north of Lunan Bay and juts out into the North Sea as much as anywhere along this part of the coast.

We were straight away into a steady flow of Manx Shearwater, most of which were close and all heading north. Added to this was a steady stream of common sea birds with Fulmar, Kittiwake and Gannet all in good numbers. Added to this were 5 Bonxie and a single Arctic Skua. There were also a couple of Whimbrel added to the mix.

Conditions were dry but it was very dull and visibility weren’t perfect but as I always do I enjoyed myself.

TATTIE HEID (in joke)

Monday 17th July

video

Panoramic from the summit of Culardoch.



Carn Liath (862m) & Culardoch (900m)

Today was one of those days where the birds were nearly as good as the hills. We were up at 7am and it was only about an hour drive to the Inverclaude Estate which lies around 6 miles east of Braemar. It was also unusual as the weather was stunning with hardly a cloud in the sky, fortunately there was a stiff breeze which help to cool us.

We parked up in the P&D car park at Keloch and within 100 yards had a couple of Scottish Crossbill there were numerous Spotted Flycatchers in the paddocks before the forest started, this wound its way uphill for a couple of miles before we emerged on the hillside. The track ahead of us was good and went up to the Beach Dearg which was the highpoint between the two hills.

We pretty soon saw a couple of Merlin which put on a show for us and enlivened the walk, after another mile or so we left the path and took a direct route towards the summit of Carn Liath and its other tops (all of a roughly similar height. We were at the summit in good time visiting the other tops and, more importantly for me we saw Dotterel and Ptarmigan.

Joy at the summit of Carn Liath
A selfie at the top of Carn Liath, must remember the position of the sun next time.

Me at the summit of Carn Liath
Culardoch from the summit of Carn Liath
The route to Culardoch was straightforward and the climb up was relatively easy and we were there in no time. There was a trig point which gave enough shelter for us to sit down and enjoy our lunch. The visibility was tremendous and we enjoyed really good views. All that was left was a good hike back out follow a good path. In total we walked nearly 38,000 steps by the end of the day!

Joy on Culardock

Carn Liath from Culardoch

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sunday 16th July

A DAY OUT WITH STUART

I’ve known Stuart for over ten years now and usually manage to get a days birding with him on my trips north, this week would prove no exception.

We arranged to meet at his home in Carnoustie at 10am where we went to check out the the shore line at East Haven on the edge of Carnoustie. There were around 20 Dunlin but few other waders around. There were a couple of distant Arctic Skua out in the Tay and a couple of stunning Little Gull. A Wheatear would prove to be the only passerine of note, but it wasn’t really the right time of year.

After a quick coffee back at his we decided to try Barry Buddon a Military training area that juts out into the Tay narrowing the channel between Angus and Fife creating quite a fierce current. In previous years we haven’t been able to go here as exercises have been taking place and the “Red Flag” has been flying.

As we were in his car and not mine I realised that I had left my hat behind. I am still suffering a week later (did I get sunburn or what). We saw a reasonable selection of birds considering the time of year with Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, 5 Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits and more Little Gull.

The best was an unusual bird which I picked up, I wasn’t too sure what it was at first as it was rather distant but it turned out to be an albino Sandwich Tern, it was a youngster and was begging for food from adults.

With the heat and the near six miles of walking I was knackered by the time we got back to the car and for the third night I a row I slept like a log!


Albino Sandwich Tern with two adult Little Gull

Friday 14th July

Beinn nan Imirean (849m)

Up at 4.30am and left home heading for the Highlands, we reached Glasgow by 9.30am and where caught up in a jam caused by a five car shunt. We eventually arrived at the start of our walk situated on the A84 near Auchessan. I have been here in the past whilst climbing the Munro Meall Glas and the route follow the same path for the first couple of miles. Our target was off to the west and at the top of the path as it passed a lower shoulder of Meall Glas we headed west across an area of peat hag and rough going, we eventually got to an outlier Meall Garbh from where Being nan Imirean rising in front of us.

By this stage we were both quite tired and although it looked steep it wasn’t far away and we were soon at the top which afforded good views of the surrounding Munro's most of which we had climbed a long time ago. As we had still to drive to Perth we didn’t hang around and made good time on the way down to pick up the path to the day’s starting point.

Bird wise we saw very little, I have had Golden Eagle here before but apart from a couple of Wheatear and the numerous Meadow Pipit the hill was bare.
Being nan Imirean from Meall Garbh

Joy at the summit

Me at the summit

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wednesday 13th July

It would appear that the parking charges at Shustoke Reservoir has had an effect of reducing the number of visitors, certainly visitors using the car park. I have noticed that rather than pay a whole POUND people are parking in the residents lay-by just outside the gates. Also (as I have been there early) it seems to be gathering a reputation for overnight stays by camper vans.

Conditions, though look good, the water level is dropping fast and there is a good growth of blanket weed, which should, if left provide a bit of habitat for waders over the coming months. Yesterday I had my first Yellow Wagtail of the year – a stunning male. Whilst, later on I saw another Common Sandpiper. The Lapwing flock is up at c.80 birds and I saw my first Sparrowhawk on-site for a while.

On the negative side, where have all the Common Tern gone, over the last few years we have seen upto 40 birds summering and feeding the young, this summer I have only seen the odd bird and they don’t stay. Also I am yet to connect with Hobby a bird that in previous years are relatively regular.

Anyway off to Scotland for a week, to drag my increasingly weary body up a few hills.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Monday 3rd June

A couple of walks today netted 50 species with the first Common Sandpiper of the Autumn. The post breeding Lapwing flock numbers c.50 and there was an Oystercatcher in the morning.

Although it is relatively quiet there are a few family parties with broods of Tits, long-tailed Tits and a brood of Goldcrest noted.

Kestrels have bred this year and the adults are feeding at least two young on the meadow by the railway line. There were a couple of young Green Woodpecker seen as well.

Butterflies were disappointing with only five species noted, the best of which was a couple of Comma Butterflies.

A few trips to Ryton Woods last week saw us see Marsh Tit, Sparrowhawk and Tawny Owl but we were really there for the Butterflies with Marbled White, White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Speckled Wood, Wood White and a few commoner species.

Saturday saw Joy, June and I travel the short distance to East Leake in Notts where there are around c.7 Bee-eaters summering at a local gravel pits. Although they were a little distant we got good scope views.

Two Bee-easters, East Leake, Nottinghamshire

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Catch Up

The week in Scotland went well but we only managed to climb one Corbett near Aviemore named Meall a’ Bhuachaille as it destroyed my legs for the rest of the week. We saw in excess of 100 species in the week with Great White Egret the only rare bird. I saw Golden Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and I caught up with the common auks on a day out with Stuart Green.

At the summit of Meall a’ Bhuachaille

Meall a’ Bhuachaille
Great White Egret, Backwater Reservoir, Angus

Joy and I also spent a long weekend in Norfolk where it was rather quiet at an exciting time of year. Staying at Thornham we didn’t travel far birding most of the time at Titchwell and Holme where the best birds were Spoonbill, Turtle Dove and Nightjar.
Turtle Dove, Titchwell

Sedge Warbler, Titchwell

I have been over to Shustoke but there has been little around although locally there was a Corncrake at Alvecote and a Red-necked Phalarope at Middleton Lakes.

Joy and I had our first twitch of the year travelling down to Church Norton in Sussex for the Elegant Tern which we eventually saw.

Distant shot of Red-necked Phalarope, Middleton Lakes RSPB


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday 10 May

Off to Scotland tomorrow climbing and birding for a week, looking forward to it.



Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday 8th May

Dropped Joy off at work and headed to the Reservoir. It was the Big Bird Race at the weekend but due to circumstances I sat this one out. Maybe next year I will cover Shustoke but I will need a handicap.  Middleton RSPB won this year with a total number of species topping 100 which is pretty good going.

On arrival there were in excess of 1,000 mixed hirundines mainly Swallow and Sand Martin but there were still c.50 House Martin. There had also been an arrival of Swift with c.300 during the morning. There were also 14 Common Tern and six Gadwall as well as several broods of Mallard the chicks of which are making the Lesser Black-backed Gulls lazy as well as fat!

I was half way around when I picked up a Whimbrel it flew in from the west, had a look and continued on its way, I think it is my first for several years. Again, it was rather cold and there was very little singing. Warblers were represented by 4 Blackcap, 3 Whitethroat and 4 Chiffchaff. I haven’t had sniff of anything else, there are usually at least one Lesser Whitethroat around.

Around the back of the fishing club I thought I could hear a distant Cuckoo, I stopped but could hear nothing I had just started to walk back when I heard it again. I headed under the railway towards the sheep paddocks and it got louder, then I picked it up in the top of an Oak singing away. I was pleased as I had failed to see one last year.

On the way back there were two pairs of Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Red-legged Partridge but not a lot else.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Wednesday 3rd May

It appears that parking charges have been introduced at the Reservoir, I wasn’t aware as the only machine is in the main car park. I always park by the entrance – Oh well!

There was a good north-easterly blowing today and the water was quite choppy. There were at least 34 Common Tern present at one point the all came together and circled the Reservoir, I thought they were going to depart but they settled down and carried on feeding.

The bird of the day was a Dunlin my first for at least two years, I doubt it stayed long after I left as two ladies past me with two dogs complete with ball throwing apparatus, still I enjoyed it. Two Shelduck flew past as I was changing my footwear but I didn't relocate them.

I was hoping to perform an assessment of singing birds but there was little activity, although there were two Whitethroat but they were difficult and staying low in the wind.

I had my first Grass Snake of the year, first Dragonfly and a few species of Butterfly including Brimstone.

I received an email from Paul Reay who early afternoon saw two Dunlin, a male goo sander and c.30 Swift.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Wednesday 26th April

Spent the morning at Shustoke where from the car park I could see there were c.30 Common Tern, there were c.600s hirundines with the majority Swallows, before I finished for the day I upped the estimate to closer to 1000.

I hadn’t walked far before I came across my first White Wagtail at Shustoke for a few years, bizarrely it was with a Meadow Pipit. I continued round but it was quiet with very few birds singing, but it was rather cold which was probably a contributing factor.

I decided to check out farmland on the other side of the railway and a recently ploughed field yielded two fine Wheatear and a Stoat came dancing along the road towards me apparently unaware of my presence before heading into the undergrowth.

I have a new site on the outskirts of Curdworth which looks promising it is the footpath that runs towards Water Orton through the old Sewage beds, it is very overgrown but is good for warblers and I would imagine it will be good in the Autumn. It is a large area, but unfortunately access is limited to the footpath so you are only going to see a fraction of what is available but so far I have heard/seen 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 5 Chiffchaff, 8 Blackcap and 1 Garden Warbler. The best bird so far was a rather brief Cuckoo which disappeared from sight over the bank never to be seen again.

Yesterday in a brief visit to Wishaw I saw a further 2 Wheatear but was driven back by the rain.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Tuesday 25 April –A busy few weeks

Firstly, on a personal note, Joy and I have finally moved from our house in Shustoke, in a way I will miss it, but it was way too large for us. With the kids having both left home we really were rattling around. Also the garden was a full time job with nearly an acre of garden to look after. Whilst I can copeat the moment, in a few years time it may have been a different story.

I saw a total of 96 different species in our 15 years, with highlights being, in no particular order: Woodcock, Osprey, Goshawk, Merlin, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, 3 Whinchat, 6 Stonechat, Wheatear not to mention breeding Spotted Flycatcher and annual Hobby.

Anyway back to birding, Shustoke (I still intend to cover it) has had nothing unusual, over the last month there have been steady passage of Sand Martin with, in recent weeks more and more Swallow and during the last few days a scattering of House Martin and yesterday a few Swift.

Warblers have been slow with Blackcap appearing at the beginning of April with several singing birds now present. Chiffchaff, an earlier arrival peaking at six singing birds. Whilst yesterday saw my first Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. Normally there would be several Common Sandpiper but the water levels are the highest I can ever remember with very little open shoreline to attract waders. A CS was reported over the weekend and I saw one yesterday on top of one of the green floats by the car park.

RSPB Middleton has been good and over the past month there have been good birds on offer with nearly 100 Black-tailed Godwit in the past week. There have been showy Grasshopper Warblers and a good showing generally of warblers. But the bird of the year so far for North Warwickshire was a male Green-winged Teal which I missed despite spending the morning on-site – I did have a Osprey over. When news broke I returned in the evening and eventually the bird showed quite well if distantly.

I used to bird down Castle Lane but as the years moved on it became a bit of a rat run and I never felt save walking along the lane. Now I have Wishaw on my doorstep with a network of paths and quiet lanes I am looking forward to exploring this site further. These fields are well known by birders, mainly for two species that appear to be no longer present or at best very difficult Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge.

On Sunday Joy and I walked along Blindpit Lane and saw both Whinchat and Wheatear.  I returned yesterday afternoon but there was no sign of the Whincat. I walked through the field towards the Cock Inn and in a vast field with stubble had seven Wheatear on it. There could have been any number as I only had my binoculars. There were 100s of mixed corvids and 40+ Stock Dove. I carried on walking to return via Hempit Lane, it was rather windy so I didn’t find any warblers but a Peregrine went over and as I got back to the main road there were a further 5 Wheatear and 3 Yellow Wagtail.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Monday 3rd April

After two Egyptian Geese on Sunday, this morning saw four fly through, they thought about landing but in the end headed off in a southerly direction.

Other good birds today included my first Oystercatcher of the year, again it flew through and my first Common Tern, which, you’ve guessed flew through.

Other species of note were eight singing Chiffchaff and two Blackcap as well as a Kingfisher on the river.

This evening saw a flock of c100 Sand Martin accompanied by a single Swallow.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday 2nd April

Got around relatively early and it looked quiet on the birds front, the reservoir was busy with a “Boot Camp” training session going on, I haven’t seen that much stretched Lycra in my life!

There were c.30 Sand Martin but most of the flocks move straight through at this time of year, especially if the weather is good. As I was making my way round two Shelduck flew past but didn’t land, then I picked up a new species for me at Shustoke, I can’t remember if it has been recorded before at Shustoke I suspect it has, but anyway two Egyptian Geese were new for me, my first new species for a couple of years. Unfortunately, like the Shelduck they went straight through headed east.

I had another singing Blackcap between the two pools but as it was dull there wasn’t an awful lot of birds singing.

The locals give their opinion on the introduction of parking charges.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Saturday 1st April

Most of the week as seen a steady trickle of Sand Martin with my first Swallow seen on Wednesday which also had a Blackcap singing from the Car Park. Tuesday saw a single adult Little Gull which had morphed into upto six by the next day.

The best bird of the week was a Great White Egret, which unfortunately was seen flying over Blythe Bridge not at the Reservoir.

I went over this morning in the drizzle and there were c100 Sand Martin and several Swallow, there was also another Blackcap.

I look forward to the forthcoming week as things start to hot up. Hopefully we should have a few Warblers coming through and maybe a few Terns.

Keith Barnsley emailed to say he had seen c.26 Sand Martin and a distant Peregrine in the direction of Hams Hall. Plus the Skylark in the lane were still in full song.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Monday 27th March

At Long Last, a little to get excited about, Sunday saw two Shelduck and Lesser Spot with at least 6 singing Chiffchaff.

Today was even better, I was surprised to see the two Shelduck still present, but they didn’t stay long and departed in the direction of Ladywalk. At the far end there were c.60 Sand Martin wheeling around but try as I might I couldn’t find a swallow.

Back at home I was washing up when a bird in the recently ploughed field caught my eye, I got my bins which confirmed a female Wheatear, something I was expecting.

This evening Joy and I took went around the Reservoir again and we were rewarded with a Little Ringed Plover 150 yards from the car park. But the best was yet to come when I picked up a Little Gull resting on the water, it was an adult moulting into summer plumage, it was soon up and flying around. There were still c.30 Sand Martin late on, with the good news being that at last things are starting to happen.

The traffic this evening has been carnage, good luck trying to get to Shustoke.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Tuesday 21st March

Despite an early arrival, I wasn’t early enough, it was bitterly cold and rather windy so I didn’t linger. The best I managed was a couple of Sand Martin.

Monday was a lot better with two pairs of Nuthatch on-site. A small flock of a dozen Fieldfare went over heading north with a couple of Snipe and a few Meadow Pipits in the usual place. There was still a single Pochard and Kingfisher was also seen.

The Alders behind the Fishing Club held a mixed flock of Siskin, Redpoll and Goldfinch. There were still several singing Chiffchaff but its still early for good numbers of Migrants. On a personal note the field behind my house has just been plowed and is attracting really good numbers of Gulls and looks promising for Wheatear in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

18 March

With some fine Spring weather I just had to find time for a little birding. The changing of the guard started with the wintering Pochard flock departing during the week, dropping from 30+ to just one bird by Thursday. The Wigeon flock which has been steady at five birds all winter departed on Wednesday. Wildfowl have been incredibly low this winter with no Shoveler, Goldeneye and just a single Teal so far this year.

Wednesday was a stunning day and I recorded 53 species during the morning which was the best I have managed so far this year. Whilst I saw nothing special there was just a lot more around, with a birds preparing for the breeding season. I had an enjoyable ten minutes watching a pair of Treecreeper doing the human equivalent of "Can I buy you a drink", There were a few singing Song Thrush and an obvious fall of Chiffchaff with several seen.

The weather returned to normal towards the end of the week being overcast and colder. A flock of 30+ Fieldfare flew over and I also located a flock of 8 Redpoll. On Tuesday four Siskin were seen. It has been an unusually poor winter for these two species as they usually occur in good numbers making the most of the food available in the riverside Alders.

Finally, on Friday during my second visit I came across three Sand Martin, which for me heralds the start of Spring. My earliest Swallow was on the 17 March so I will be trying hard next week to see another early arrival!

Elsewhere, at Whitacre Heath NR I saw my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for two years and that took six visits! Whilst a brief visit to Middleton RSPB saw a smattering of waders with Oystercatcher, Redshank and my first LRP for the year seen.

Finally, Severn Trent are introducing parking charges for the Reservoir, I wish they would introduce charges for people walking their dogs off the leads. I have noticed that over the years the car park has also become popular with Camper Vans and Mobile Homes as an overnight stop, I suppose it is cheaper than using the official Camping & Caravan Club sites which seem to be springing up all over the place!

Friday, 10 March 2017

10 March

It has been a very disappointing winter generally in the Midlands, but Shustoke itself has been the quietest I can remember in all my years birding here. I have been over quite a few times but there has been very little to write about.

Passerines have been practically non-existent, with no flocks of Redpoll or Siskin apart from around a dozen of the later around the turn of the year. Wildfowl numbers have fared little better, although there was a good flock of 150 Pochard during February. The Wigeon flock peaked at five and they were still present on the small pool yesterday. The roosting Goosanders have struggled to reach double figures this year as well!

I have seen just one Jack Snipe and up to six Common Snipe, but the main wetland area has been partly reclaimed and I have had no Snipe there at all.

In my garden I have had few birds this winter with a single male Blackcap for half an hour the highlight. I have also had up to three House Sparrow in the last month, in 15 years I have only recorded the species twice.

As most of you will now I will be moving out of the area soon, but I will not be too far away and intent to continue birding the Reservoir and hopefully, after being rather pre-occupied selling my property I should be able to keep the blog a little bit more up to date.

Waxwing, Castle Vale

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wednesday 11th January

Made a quick visit today as I was pushed for time. Again no Great Crested Grebe, strange as this time last year there were in excess of 30. However, there was a male Goosander and c.40 Tufted Duck on the main pool and a single Pochard. Most of the wildfowl this winter have been on the small pool.

I checked an area of wet grassland where I saw four Snipe the other day, this time just a single Jack Snipe was seen with c.12 Meadow Pipit, there was also a Raven crocking away from the top of a tree.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Monday 9th January

Ventured out into the murk today and again the Reservoir was devoid of life, with nearly all the wildfowl on the small pool. And, just for SH the totals were as follows:

  1 Great Crested Grebe (year first)
14 Little Grebe
  1 Teal
  1 Mute Swan
12 Canada Geese
  1 Goosander
47 Pochard
91 Tufted Duck
  5 Wigeon

In addition I saw 4 Snipe and 11 Meadow Pipit. There was a Kingfisher on the river, whilst there were around a dozen Siskin in with the Goldfinch feeding on the riverside Alders.

The paddocks held 30+Redwing, c.20 Blackbird and 2 Song Thrush.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

AWOL - Guilty as Charged

My life has been very busy recently with my youngest son moving out of the family home three days before Xmas day. He got his own house but decided it needed a rewire, plastered top to bottom, redecorated and carpeted, new doors etc, etc., Guess who ended up doing most of the work.

I managed a couple of trips out, seeing Dusky Thrush in Derbyshire and a Blue Rock Thrush in Gloucestershire. Pre the New Year I spent two afternoons searching for Waxwings at Hams Hall without success.

Made my first visit to Shustoke Reservoir in nearly two months and it was quiet, very quiet. In fact for the first time ever I failed to see Great Crested Grebe!

Wildfowl wise c.80 Pochard, 5 Wigeon, c.60 Tufted Duck, 16 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan and c.12 Little Grebe.

Met a really helpful employee of Severn Trent today who was interested in what I was looking at if he gets in touch I may be able to get access to the pool on Watery Lane, which would be nice as I don’t think it gets covered at all at the moment.

Lastly, may I wish all my readers a Happy New Year that is bird filled 12 months to come.