Sunday, 27 September 2020

Draycote Water :: 26 September 2020

I set off from the car park at 7.45am and followed the shoreline around from the Visitor's Centre to the Sailing Club. The only bird of note was a single common sandpiper and critically no ruff. The sun hadn't started warming the air and the temperature was shown as 5°C on the car display - there was also a wind chill too.

I continued the clockwise circuit and added my first autum goosander before seeing a meeting of nine grey heron in a field to the the left of the path - I haven't seen that for a while.

At the inlet I met Callum Pudge (@PudgeysPictures) who was watching little egrets fish and had earlier seen a couple of kingfishers. A pair of grey wagtails dropped in; calling frequently as they moved up and down the channel, and as they departed. We chatted for a while awaiting the kingfishers but they didn't return and I eventually left him to his vigil.

There continued to be large numbers of little egret around the reservoir (dozens) plus groups of eight to eleven of little grebe (plus lots of singles and pairs). As I climbed the slope at the valve tower, I had eight house martin feed over the trees and along the shore.

In the trees around Biggin Bay I had a pair of jay moving around the treetops - their calls catching my attention. Always mobile, they continued to call and fed for a couple of minutes. I rarely see jays here, never mind two, so it was great to see them.

A few gulls were feeding on a fish on the shore at Toft, with four little egret and two grey heron watching on, and then a flyover from seven meadow pipits wrapped up my visit.

Sightings (35) included: black-headed gull, blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, canada goose, carrion crow, common sandpiper, coot, cormorant, dunnock, gadwall, goosander, great back-backed gull, great crested grebe, great tit, grey heron, grey wagtail, greylag goose, house martin, jay, lesser black-backed gull, little egret, little grebe, magpie, mallard, meadow pipit, moorhen, mute swan, pied wagtail, robin, rook, shag, teal, tufted duck and woodpigeon.

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.