Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Farmoor Reservoir :: 20 September 2020

We arrived mid-morning to find that parking fees were still not active and that there must be some event as there were a lot of cars and vans. It turned out that there were many seniors there and perhaps some sort of competition - a couple of the sailing boats sported GBR on the sails.

We strode out and set off across the causeway. Initially it didn't look good until a turnstone landed on the F1 side ahead of us. I noticed a young chap ahead who'd presumably been watching it ahead. It fortunately stayed put an I took a few shots. The chap headed down to us and watched (Thomas Miller - @temiller17) as the turnstone fed around the waters edge. Thomas said he'd just seen a ruff fly off across F1 and that there were a couple of ringed plover and a dunlin about.


We moved on and soon came across one of the ringed plover, accompanied by a dunlin. The dunlin initially fed but then decided on a bit of shut eye, leaving the ringed plover to stand guard. We spotted the other ringed plover behind us on the causeway but didn't head back.

Ringed plover and dunlin

We opted to drop down onto the river and made our way along, seeing little of interest. We did see some interaction between male brown and migrant hawker dragonflies, and a few other species I didn't immediately ID.

In the trees by the turn away from the river we came across a vocal cetti's warbler - I stopped to see if I could get a photo but each time I saw it perch, it moved on before I got the camera on it.

We went back up onto the reservoir and continued round F1 in the hope of locating the ruff, but of course we didn't.

Sightings for today (33) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, carrion crow, cetti's warbler, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, dunlin, dunnock, great crested grebe, great tit, greenfinch, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, red kite, ringed plover, robin, rook, swallow, tufted duck, turnstone, willow warbler, woodpigeon and wren.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Sutton Park, West Midlands :: 12 September 2020

Today was the day I was booked to transport my youngest daughter to her University digs, in prepartion for what is likely to be a strange final year. With one of her French friends already resident (isolating there for the last few weeks), it was time for the rest of them to return and prepare.

Having executed my duties, it was time to return home and join the caravan down the M6. I'd hoped to get away at a sensible hour and fortunately I did. By 4.45pm I was pulling up in the car park at Sutton Park. In my favour I had talked with @old_caley the night before, as he had visited at the end of August - he had given me a pointer as where to target: "Enter via Boldmere Gate next to Powell’s Pool. Park at the Flying Field car park and alk north west across grassy field aiming for grass tracks between scrub. Between Crown Plantation and Hurst Hill on map. RBS is in the area of scrub and crab apple trees".

I did as instructed and bumped into another birder with similar directions. When we reached the target area there was no one else to be seen and so we headed our seperate ways, searching for the bird. After a short time I noticed a guy with a camera walking the other way - he indicated the bird was quite a bit further on now but pretty vague about where he'd been - very odd. I looked for the chap I'd been talking to but he was nowhere to be seen.

I set off and after about 10 minutes of searching I spotted a chap with a scope on the other side of some gorse - I reached him and shortly after was on the bird. After a few photos I spotted the chap I'd met earlier and went to wave him up to where we were.

Red-backed shrike

The bird was very obliging and I spent a while with it - a life tick for me after all!

Red-backed shrike

My next challenge was how to explain on the 'phone that I would be leaving for home AFTER the time when I said I'd already be there ...

Red-backed shrikeRed-backed shrike

Monday, 7 September 2020

Grimsbury Reservoir, Tysoe and Balscote Quarry :: 06 September 2020

I'd seen reports of osprey and various flyover flocks in the early morning and thought I'd amble down to Grimsbury Reservoir for a walk. As I arrived Sandra Bletchley messaged the Birding WhatsApp group to say the Resevoir was alive with fisherman and boats - it might have put me off but I'd just stepped out the car and was walking through the gate. Who should I meet coming the other way but Sandra - she hadn't really enjoyed the visit due to the disturbance and said she understood why others had visited early.

I made my way round and didn't see anything until I reached the path to the canal. Just to the right was a whitethroat - in the light I initially mistook it for a lesser whitethroat but it eventually showed as common. Whitethroat

I walked through the wood and down onto the canal towpath without seeing anything unusual. It wasn't until I came back to the reservoir, up the path to where I'd found the whitethroat, that I spotted some siskin in the tree canopy. Initially I counted at least five but then could see there were at least eight.


I continued round and spotted chiffchaff, grey wagtail and 107 Canada geese. However, Sandra was right that there was too much disturbance to find anything on or around the water and so I headed home for lunch.

At lunch I was reading the WhatsApp group posts and saw that a few people had posted photos and sightings of a wheatear at he Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve near Tysoe. We have friend that lives in the village and so we called to say we'd drop in for a socially distanced coffee, after a visit to the reserve. Having never been there before it took us a while to work out where we were to look but eventually located the wheatear. The weather and walk we really nice, and so was the coffee and company.


We packed up to head home but decided to drop into Balscote Quarry on the way. There had been mention of yellow wags and I can't buy a sighting at the moment. I scanned the floor of the bowl but couldn't pick one out - there were sand martin and swallows, plus a kestrel. I lowered my bins and saw a bird cruising away from me and realised it was a marsh harrier. It dropped down on the far side of the water and had a drink - a juvenile. It was mobbed by a couple of crowns but wasn't for moving. Almost straight away a mixed flock of about twenty swallows and house martin dropped in and hunted across the bowl. In a couple of minutes the marsh harrier was up and flying away across the Stratford Road - as quickly as they'd arrived, the house martin and swallows also departed. Wow, what a lucky visit! - even managed to get a few photos from circa 150m and not too out of focus.

Marsh harrier

Marsh harrier

Sightings for the day included: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, cormorant, great tit, grey wagtail, house martin, kestrel, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, rook, sand martin, siskin, swallow, tree sparrow, wheatear, whitethroat, woodpigeon and wren.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Bucknell Wood :: 02 September 2020

We'd arranged to meet a friend and go for a walk in Bucknell Woods. I carried my camera although I wasn't likely to do much actual birding. We'd originally planned to meet in the afternoon but work plans had required a late rearrangement - in the end this worked out for us as it rained after lunch.

I spotted chiffchaff and great spotted woodpecker as we started out, and later was glad to find a flock of at least 15 crossbills in the same place I'd seen them before.

Common crossbill

The crossbills were quite mobile, overhead crossing the path from tree to tree but eventually congregating together.

I didn't pick out anything particularly unusual, but didn't really hunt as I might have done if I'd been on my own; then again that wasn't the point today.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Napton Reservoir :: 01 September 2020

I'd got plans in the afternoon, including a call for work, so decided to stay local and try a bit of morning birding. I decided on a visit to Napton Reservoir as I hadn't been for a while. It turned out to be a sunnier morning than I'd expected - when I got out the car I could see a few fisherman already in situ. A number of hirundines cut through the air - it is always good to have sand martin on any day out.

I made my way around, anti-clockwise. In the trees to my right I saw some movement and through my bins picked out a willow warbler. It was mobile and disappeared back in to the foliage, but soon appeared to land on the perimeter fence - the fence is relatively new and I think is to protect the reservoir (and fishing club) from otters. I moved left to get a clearer view and realised it was in fact a female common redstart; almost immediately the willow warler took to the wing and flew far left.

Common redstart

The redstart stayed just a minute then flew away into the distant hedge. I could hear calls from the opposite side of the field and spotted the male feeding.

I then found a reed warbler in the far reed bed just before another birder appeared from the gate into the righthand fields. He commented how quiet it was on the site but I pointed him to where I'd just seen the redstart. I then waited by the narrow channel to see if I could spot any warblers. I didn't see any more but movement drew my attention to a water rail skulking in the edge of the reeds. I think this is my first for the year!

I had to get home but stopped to talk with one of the fisherman. I remember talking to him last time I was there and that he worked at JLR Solihull, although he is currently on furlough. I enjoyed the chat and ended up late leaving.

Sightings (21) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, coot, great crested grebe, house martin, kestrel, magpie, mallard, moorhen, redstart, reed bunting, reed warbler, robin, sand martin, swallow, water rail, willow warbler and woodpigeon.

Monday, 31 August 2020

RSPB Otmoor :: 30 August 2020

We didn't rush out so arrived at the reserve at about 10.30am. We planned to skip down the Roman Road to Saunder's Field to catch up a male restart that has been showing very well - @old_caley had posted some nice photos the night before. As we entered the car park, we came across Dan and Trish Miller who told us that there was a cattle egret on Greenaways; for the avoidance of doubt (ID), it was hanging about with the cattle. In addition, they mentioned that they'd seen two cranes drop into the reed bed beyond. A quick change of plan.

We made it to the bridleway and fortunately the egret was showing and Cattle egretfollowing a cow as it fed. Eventually the cow lay down and the egret dropped down into a hollow. It showed briefly but not as well as when we'd arrived. No sign of the cranes but a jay could be seen working it's way along the far hedge line. We all waited and hoped that the egret would hop onto the back of one of the cattle, but no such luck.

We decided to go back to our original plan and headed for Saunder's Field - amazing that we've never been there before - perhaps we will need to plan for a full circuit someday.

We'd been given instructions as to where we'd find the bird, but as we arrived another birder was marking the spot. As he left, he appeared to be rather pleased with is encounter - ours was to be just as good. What a showy fella'. Although he came and went, he visited frequently and often gave clear views - not at all like the redstart I'd seen in Long Meadow recently.




We noticed a kestrel hunting along the hedge and out into the field, dropping on prey in the mown grass. At one point we saw it leaving the top of the hedge again (or so we thought), and as we watched it danced around in the air - it became obvious that there was small bird wheeling around. It didn't manage to evade capture and when we got the camera and bins on it, it turned out to be a different bird - a hobby.

We made our way along the hedge with both red kite and kestrel dropping to the ground to our right and came across a number of chiffchaff.


Time was getting on and we had planned to have lunch with the girls at home, so turned back. We reached the end of the Roman Road and could see that the cattle had relocated to this end of Greenaways, and so had the cattle egret. We decided not to take the fast route back in the hope of spotting the cranes. Nothing as we made our way along the bridleway, but as we stood by the cattle pens we managed to pick them out.

Sightings (28) included: blue tit, carrion crow, cattle egret, cetti's warbler, chaffinch, chiffchaff, crane, goldfinch, great tit, grey heron, greylag goose, hobby, house martin, jay, kestrel, linnet, magpie, mallard, marsh harrier, moorhen, pheasant, red kite, redstart, swallow, swift, woodpigeon and wren.

Draycote Water :: 29 August 2020

An early morning post on Twitter suggested that the ruff and turnstone from the previous day were still present; in addition an osprey had passed through, although by the time I got there it would likely have departed. With 20 shags blown off course and present for a few days, it was worth a visit.

The main car park was full already and the overflow was filling up too - not the greatest sign, but I suppose it was a bank holiday Saturday. I decided on a clockwise circuit and it was to prove a costly mistake. No sign of the turnstone or ruff in the most likely spot, and I bumped into a birder who asked if I'd seen the osprey. Apparently it had been back and had gone down the other end about 10 minutes before. I trained by binoculars and could just pick it out, and not too far from shore - bugger, if only I'd gone the other way (which I almost always do).

I reached the inlet and found two cyclists who were excitedly watching some birds. I joined them in watching a family group of four kingfishers, feeding from the railings and concrete walls. They were in no hurry to leave. A few people stopped and I shared my binoculars with an older couple. A joy to spend time with these birds rather than just seeing them cutting across the water.



I eventually moved on and came across a mixed group of shag, cormorant and Canada geese. CormorantI was taking a few shots of the shag when the was a commotion out in the water. A cormorant was making for shore but was being mobbed by another cormorant. The lead cormorant had obviously caught a fish but was unable to swallow it down and the other was looking for a bit of the action. Eventually they reached shore and it was obvious that it was struggling to deal with such a large fish - too much is never enough! Eventually it returned to the water and swam off - I wonder if it suceeded in getting it down.

I met a young guy, coming from the other direction, who said he'd done exactly the opposite to me. He'd been on the far bank as the osprey passed by and had some good shots - I hope he tags the photos so I can see them later ...

Coming through the trees at Toft shallows, I came across a mixed tit flock which also appeared to contain chiffchaff and goldcrest. As I watched, a couple of spotted flycatchers hunted high in the trees behind.

Much larger groups of fishing little grebe than I've seen of late, with groups of up to eight all around the water.

Sightings (37) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, canada goose, carrion crow, chiffchaff, coot, cormorant, goldcrest, goldfinch, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house martin, kingfisher, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, long-tailed tit, magpie, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, osprey, pied wagtail, rock dove / feral pigeon, sand martin, shag, spotted flycatcher, swallow, swift, tufted duck, woodpigeon and wren.