Saturday, 27 January 2018

Friday 26th January


South Stack RSPB

We were up early and drove to South Stack in search of Chough. Last year was the first in ages that I failed to see the species. On arrival the sun was out although it was a little cold it was a fine day. There were several Fulmar on the cliffs whilst on the sea there were a few Red-throated Diver moving north and a small party of five Common Scoter going the same direction.

A Stonechat was seen and it was whilst watching this species that a couple of Chough flew past then perched up on a telegraph post which allowed me the opportunity to photograph the species. We had a few auks on the sea and a fly past Raven, not unsurprisingly being so early in the year the cliffs were rather quiet.
Chough, South Stack RSPB

Holyhead Harbour

We stopped at Holyhead harbour where there were several Black Guillemot on offer and a distant Great Northern Diver was feeding actively the whole time we were there. A flock of 20 Oystercatcher flew past and a single Shag was also seen.

Penrhos Country Park

We spent 20 minutes here where we saw c.50 Pale-bellied Brent Geese plus a lot of waders with c.250 Dunlin, c.40 Grey Plover, as well as Curlew, Turnstone plus there was a Slavonian Grebe in the channel.

Anglesea Lakes

I had heard about this Black-throated Diver via RBA and a birder that I met told me where to go. As it wasn’t too far out of our way we went and had good views of the bird as it fed on the larger of the two lakes.

Black-throated Diver, Anglesea

The rest of the day was spent at a variety of sites along the north coast where we saw lots of Common Scoter but most of the birds were over a mile out and difficult to few. Other species of note were Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and lots of gulls minus the Glaucous Gull we were searching for.

Thursday 25th January

Had intended to go to North Wales today but the weather forecast resulted in us postponing for a day. We did visit Swanhurst Park, Moseley again and the Iceland Gull did not disappoint.
Iceland Gull, Swanhurst Park

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Monday 22 January

Whitemore Haye
Whooper Swan, Whitemore Haye

Took a short trip into Staffs today to spend the morning birding Whitemore Haye area, with the targets Tree Sparrow, Peregrine, poss Corn Bunting, Red-legged Partridge and the wintering Whopper Swans. On arrival I was shocked to see the state of the place. Birders lost the main lake to an activity centre years ago which was fair enough, at least its something different.

Now the area around the microlight field is being utilised for gravel extraction for HS2 and is in the process of being excavated. Whilst this should provide habitat for waders its not going to be much help for Tree Sparrows and any Corn Bunting that might still be lingering.

I walked the lane seeing only a couple of Yellowhammer, its difficult to view as the spoil for the extraction has been banked up against the road. I gave up and returned to the car. I searched through a flock of c.50 Mute Swan but apart from c.150 Lapwing there were no Whopper. I then walked down towards the farm but the lie of the land made viewing difficult. I could see a herd of Swan in the distance so I drove down and found the Whopper quite close.

I had been there less than five minutes when a car pulled up and Roger Broadbent emerged. I have known Roger a long-time back to my Valley days and bump into him occasionally when out birding. I had recently spoken at length with him on the phone, so it was nice to continue our conversion face-to-face.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Friday 19th January

Took my car in for a service this morning in Nuneaton, so rather than wait Joy and I walked into town for breakfast eventually choosing the Felix Holt pub one of the Wetherspoons range. Felix Holt I found out is a character created by George Eliot who was born in Nuneaton. Anyway if I want a pint at 10.30am in the morning I know where to go now – as does everyone else considering the pub was packed to the rafters.

The breakfast was good and afterwards as we were half way there we drove to Draycote Water more for a walk than anything else. We checked out the country park for the Hawfinch that have been around for a while, but didn't really know where there hang outs were but we sat down and there were a lot of finches and thrushes feeding on the ground plus a Green Woodpecker that didn’t move for the half hour we were there.

On the reservoir itself there were a lack of birds compared to how I remember it and the water levels seem a little on the low side. We saw several Goldeneye on our way to the feeders to search for Tree Sparrow of which there were none. The fields at the back held c.20 Skylark with large flocks of Corvides and c.150 Stock Dove.

Eventually the gulls started to appear and I stayed till dusk with Theo but we saw nothing of note.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Wednesday 17 January

This morning I went to Middleton Lakes RSPB in search of the Firecrest which has eluded me at two sites this year. I realised when I arrived it would be tough as it was cold, bright and windy. Hall Lake had eight Shelduck, Teal and a calling Water Rail.

The feeding station had double figures of Brown Rat and there were Grey Squirrel everywhere, it would be nice if they were Red Squirrel but I only ever see them now in Scotland, but even there the Greys are spreading rapidly.

It was the usual species on offer and the only unusual bird  was Common Gull. I searched in vain for the Firecrest, and didn't‘t even manage to find the Long-tailed Tit flock.

Tuesday 16th January

A morning walk took me to Shustoke where I managed two Snipe in the meadow but little else. There were two Ravens showing interest in each other, it must be that time of year again!

Wildfowl numbers were 27 Pochard, c.360 Tufted Duck, c.150 Coot, 8 Gadwall.

Other birds added to the year list included Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker and two Common Gull which flew through.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Friday 12 January

Sandwell Valley

My son expressed an interest in going to the football on Saturday so Joy and I went over and purchased a couple of tickets, afterwards we popped into the Sandwell Valley seeing upto 12 Ring-necked Parakeets around the feeders plus a fine Brambling. We walked from here to hilltop in search of the Firecrest we saw before Xmas, but saw nothing.

Middleton Lakes RSPB

Had a quick look for the Hawfinch at Lea Marston without success then drove straight to Middleton Lakes RSPB

The area around the feeders held a lot of water so the expected Water Rail didn’t materialise, birds here were in short supply although the rats look well fed. The walk through the woods yielded a flock of c.60 mixed finches with Redpoll and Siskin prominent. At Fishers Mill there was a distinct lack of wildfowl, whilst on Jubilee wetlands a mobile flock of c.350 Lapwing eventually settled. It was whilst estimating the size of this flock that I picked up a Redshank, found out later that there was also a Dunlin but I hadn't carted my scope with me so I didn’t see it.

The bird we were looking for was the Firecrest that has been present a week or so. We searched the bushes along the river seeing plenty of Long-tailed Tit, Redpoll, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Blue and Great Tit plus a couple of Treecreeper. Joy thought she saw the Firecrest briefly on the other side of the river but couldn’t be certain.

There were around four Little and two Great Egret and I counted eight Shelduck, there may well have been more. A Kingfisher flew past and there were two Egyptian Geese on the pool on the other side of the river.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wednesday 10th January

Shustoke Reservoir

I made my first visit of the year to the Reservoir and like yesterday I had the place to myself. I got off the beaten track a little and was rewarded with a couple of Snipe in the wet meadow. Then bizarrely I could hear the theme tune to the 60’s TV programme Batman in the distance with that a Little Egret flew across landing at the far end of the Reservoir.

Along the river a flock of c.70 Siskin was seen several times, I assume it was the same flock. I also saw several Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. On the lake there was in excess of 240 Tufted Duck other numbers were c.20 Gt Crested Grebe with slightly more Little Grebe. There were also nine Gadwall and five Pochard.

The Little Egret relocated to the small pool where the four Fulvous Whistling Duck were still present, unfortunately the Wigeon appear to have departed.

Back on the Reservoir five Goosander appeared along with nine Mute Swan and 68 Canada Geese, all in all it wasn’t a bad day and a good start to the year.

Lea Marston

I had visited the churchyard a couple of times in search of the reported Hawfinch without success, I had popped in first thing this morning and it proved fruitless. On my way home I tried again, this time  a bird flew overhead as I got out of the car and it gave good views as it perched out in the larger trees calling continuously. Seems like churchyards and Juniper trees is the formula to follow.


This has proved to be a productive area of late with the fields around Blind Pit Lane especially good. However, today proved otherwise, I have noticed a drop off in bird numbers and today apart from 6 Skylark, 4 Reed Bunting and a single Meadow Pipit it was quiet. The outskirts of Minworth on the other hand was much better with 30 each of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Tuesday 9th January

This morning was spent at Ladywalk where I had the place to myself, they warden and his volunteers have done a fine job at this reserve and it looks very promising.

I walked in from Coleshill station finding a couple of Green Sandpiper on the river, there were very few passerines on view, probably due to the dank weather. There were a smattering of wildfowl on the river but I saw no Chiffchaff which is unusual as I have ticked Chiffchaff in this area for the last 20 years.

In the car park there were two Willow Tits on the feeders and the rest of the trip the usual suspects were seen. Unusually for this reserve there was a Squirrel on the feeders – most unwelcome! I finished off my walk seeing Marsh Tit near the end of my circuit. At home thawing out!

Monday 8th January

After a almost a week of poor weather I forced myself to have a walk around the fields at Wishaw. There had been reports of Corn Bunting and I fancied checking them out. The field in question is massive and I walked around the perimeter but without luck as far as the Corn Bunting were concerned.

Last week there were a lot of birds but I think a lot have moved off with the cold weather. But I had an enjoyable time seeing c.50 Skylark, 30 Meadow Pipit, c.20 Linnet, 15 Goldfinch, 17 Golden Plover and two Snipe. The birds are very had to view in the stubble, flight views are the norm, but at least a Sparrowhawk making a couple of passes made counting the birds a little easier.

Nearby a fine Little Owl was an addition to the year list and in the same area early last week there were two Stonechat plus numerous Skylark, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Skylark, Linnet and an assortment of finches.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2017 A year to forget

Now that 2017 is finished and behind us, I can reflect on what was a very poor year for Shustoke Reservoir. I finished with 96 species for the year and I don’t think there was very much else recorded that I am aware of. It wasn’t through want of trying – I made in excess of 100 site visits. Its difficult to put my finger on what the problem is, although the sites popularity with dog walkers has no doubt contributed to the dearth of waders in particular.

The removal of the pond weed during July/August from the main pool probably doesn’t help as it must remove a lot of cover for small fry and the like. I will however, continue to visit again this year to see if there is an upturn in fortunes it surely cannot be any worse.

The only good bird that I saw in 2017 was a fly over Whimbrel! Tern passage was very poor and the numbers of the only regular passage wader Common Sandpiper was very disappointing. Even the wintering bird of the previous two years didn’t return.