Monday 28th Feb 2011 - Kidderminster & Shenstone

Whilst walking my dog round the block this morning I was treated to the sight of a ♂ Peregrine flying right over my head. I continued to watch the bird as it flew and landed on the Weaver's Wharf chimney stack. Once I had walked the dog and got back in the house I grabbed my bins and from a upstairs window managed to locate the bird on the stack. I then decided to set up my scope and enjoy the views of the bird. I even managed a record shot through the double glazing. The bird remained perched for over an hour. What a great start to the day.

Peregrine - Weaver's Wharf, Kidderminster:

On the patch today there were 2 Grey Partridges seen along Witch Lane (MS).

Also, 32 Corn Buntings were still present in the Witch Lane area (TMH). 9 Yellowhammers and 5 Reed Buntings were at Back Lane and 10 Lapwing flew over. c.50 Linnet were along Stanklyn Lane. Kestrels were seen at both at Witch Lane and Heath Lane (TMH).

It was mid afternoon before I got to the patch today. On arriving at Witch Lane I failed to pick up either the Corn Buntings or Grey Partridges. All was not lost though because as I scanned across one of the winter wheat fields I picked up a ♀ Peregrine that was on the ground busily plucking away and feeding on its prey. This is only the third time I have recorded Peregrine around Shenstone so needless to say I was pleased. For myself the day was turning into a raptor day and over the stubble opposite the former grainestore I picked up a ♀ Sparrowhawk.

I then headed over to Heath Lane. The paddock area was, other than a load of Wood Pigeons pretty much birdless. The same couldn't be said for the model aircraft field where c.60 Fieldfare, C.200 Starling, 5 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch and a Pied Wagtail were all feedining on the plough or perched up on the hedgerow....that was until a Sparrowhawk came through and put everything up. A Common Buzzard was sat perched on a fence post at the rear of the field.

Saturday 27th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

3 Lesser Redpoll and c.50 Siskin were seen feeding underneath an Alder at Captains pool this morning (TS). The pair of Great Crested Grebes have now built a nest at the edge of the island.

A mixed flock of c.40 Yellowhammer/Corn Bunting was still present at Witch Lane. c.50 Filedfare and a Kestrel were also seen in the area.

Thursday 24th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

My pursuit of the Shenstone Grey Partridges continued today. I just hope they don't become my patch bogey bird this year.

I started my visit by putting some time in at Heath Lane model aircraft field. Needless to say I didn't connect with said Partridges. It was a nice day however with sunshine, blue skies and considerably milder temperatures. As a result of the good weather 5 Common Buzzards were up soaring over the lane and many Skylarks were chasing and singing. It almost felt like spring had arrived. Also seen in this area were 36 Fieldfare, a Goldcrest and a Pied Wagtail which flew over heading NW.

Heath Lane paddock held 2 Mistle Thrushes and 14 Redwings. A single Corn Bunting was singing from the telegraph wires and a flock of c.70 Linnet were in the adjacent stubble field.

The Stanklyn Lane area of the patch was a right off today due to the steady flow of traffic to and from Halls Agricultural Sale that takes place in the gallops field opposite the paddocks. Its kind of like an agricultural car boot sale...with farm yard machinery and horticultural equipment for sale... you get the picture.

My final stop today was Witch Lane where 30 Yellowhammers and 14 Corn Bunting were present. As with Heath Lane, there were many Skylarks singing and 2 Ravens were also in the area. Again I didn't manage to see any Grey Partridge but I did hear one calling from the winter wheat field...there's hope yet!

Other news from the patch: the 3 Shoveller (2♂) were still present on Captains Pool (TS) and the first Bumble Bee of the year was seen along Witch Lane (RE).

Wednesday 23rd Feb 2011 - Shenstone

Having heard that 2 Grey Partridge were again reported along Heath Lane yesterday, I returned this morning to put in another stint waiting and looking for them. Needless to say I didn't connect with them.

The model aircraft field held 9 Stock Dove and 6 Skylark (a couple of which were up singing). A Common Buzzard was on a fence post at the rear of the field and 2 cock Pheasants were also present. Further up the lane 3 Corn Buntings were perched up in separate locations singing. The paddock held c.60 Redwing, c.40 Fieldfare and c.40 Starling. 3 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch and a Chaffinch were also noted.

The mixed Bunting flock was still present along Witch Lane with c.30 Yellowhammers and c.20 Corn Buntings present. The number of Corn Buntings within this flock has certainly decreased but then around the patch individual birds are just starting to set up territories. Also, whilst at Witch Lane, a flock of 24 Lapwing flew over heading West.

Monday 21st Feb 2011 - Upper Bittell Reservoir & Shenstone

This morning, (TS) and I decided to pop 10 miles down the road to Upper Bittell reservoir to see the ♂ Red-breasted Merganser that had turned up the previous evening. On arrival it was showing between the dam and the sailing club allowing for pretty good views of this good looking sawbill. Unfortunately I only managed to get a handful of crappy record shots due to the poor lighting and the birds constant diving for food. Also seen at Upper Bittell were good numbers of both Goosander and Great Crested Greebe, and a single Grey Wagtail was along the waters edge at the dam.

We then popped across to Lower Bittell where we saw 3 ♀ Goldeneye, yet more Goosander, a few Teal, Shoveller and Tufted Duck. (TS) was lucky enough to see 2 Kingfishers but I was busy gassing with a fellow birder and missed them completely...ah well.

Red-breasted Merganser (drake) - Upper Bittell:

On the way back from Bittell we quickly popped to Witch Lane where 24 Corn Buntings were still present. A nice patch of Snow Drops were in bloom along the verge so it was out with the camera! On returning to Captains Pool, 3 Shoveller (2 drake) and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were of note. The 2 Great Crested Grebes were displaying and doing that funny head dance thing that is always nice to see.

Snow Drops - Witch Lane:

Sunday 20th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

This morning I heard the news that 3 Grey Partridge had been reported at Heath Lane, so OI quickly jumped in my motor and headed over there. I spent an hour and a half scanning the fields along Heath Lane but there was no sign. I only recorded a single Grey Partridge on my patch in 2010 yet previous years their had been a small breeding population, so I was disappointed not to connect with these birds.

All was not lost however as I did pick up 14 Corn Buntings on the wires next to Heath Lane paddock along with c.30 Linnet. 4 Redwings were on the deck in the paddock and a further 5 were in the adjacent trees.

Back at the model aircraft field there was still no sign of Grey Partridge but I did pick up 9 Golden Plover that flew over from Summerfield heading South. 2 Common Buzzards and a Raven were also present.

The only other bird of note today was a female Sparrowhawk that was perched in the dead tree at Butts Lane triangle.

In addition to my sightings, 2 Grey Partridge were seen in the Witch Lane area (Mike Southall) and 30+ Corn Buntings were still present (Mick Woodward)

Corn Bunting - Shenstone:

Friday 18th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

I decided to pay another visit to the patch again this morning. Once again it was a dull overcast day.

I started off by checking out the Heath Lane area. 2 Skylarks were up singing over the model aircraft field and a Corn Bunting was singing from the wires next to the paddock. Also seen on the wires were 42 Linnets. 8 Starlings and 2 Greenfinches were in the trees next to the paddock.

The real highlight of today's visit came at Witch Lane where a mixed Bunting flock was feeding in a stubble field. These birds were, when not on the ground, perching on the hedgerow and in the adjacent tall tree. In total I counted 42 Corn Buntings and 30 Yellowhammers. The Corn Bunting count being a new patch record for me. The flock was fairly mobile at times due to somebody shooting nearby. Also feeding on the stubble were 20 Linnets and 2 Sky Larks were up singing over the field opposite. A Common Buzzard was also present.

My final stop was Stanklyn Lane beet field where I recorded c.100 Linnets, 2 Pied Wagtails, 4 Long-Tailed Tits and a Buzzard.

This afternoon at 15:30 a ♂ Peregrine landed and perched on the electricity pylon opposite the beet field, Stanklyn Lane (TMH)

Thursday 17th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

6 Corn Buntings and 20 Linnets perched on a tree along Back Lane at 2pm. Also c.200 Linnets in Stanklyn Lane beet field (TMH).

Wednesday 16th Feb 2011 - Captains Pool

Today, I received a call off TS (owner & proprietor of Tony's Cafe & Cabs) informing me that there was a Barnacle Goose on Captains Pool. This is a patch first for me so I headed there as soon as I was able to. This is the third record for the patch with the previous sightings being on 25th May 2009 and in Spring 1996.

Migrant Barnacle Geese come from Svalbard in the Arctic and winter on the England/Scotland border on the Solway Firth. The Population from Greenland winters in the Hebrides and western Ireland. The birds that we tend to get in the Midlands are most likely part of the c.1,000 feral breeding population...around 150 are at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Still, they are smart looking birds all the same. This individual was un-ringed.

Also of note on Captains pool were 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 51 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Coot, 1 Mute swan and 12 Canada Geese.

Tuesday 15th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

Today I decided to brave the dull wet weather conditions and pay a long over due visit to my patch.

My first port of call was Witch Lane. 5 Stock Doves and 19 Linnets were in the stubble field opposite the old grainstore. In the fields further up the lane were 2 Lapwings, 2 Canada Geese, 4 Linnets and 1 Skylark.

I then moved on to the Butts Lane triangle where a mixed flock of buntings were feeding. In total I counted 7 Reed Buntings and 9 Yellowhammers. 23 Linnets were also present in this area.

A very quiet Heath Lane was my next stop off where the only birds of note were 12 Redwings in the trees next to the paddock and 2 Common Buzzards.

From Heath Lane I headed along Stanklyn Lane and did a walk around the fields at Summerfield. This was by far the most productive area with a flock of 300+ Linnets present! This is by far the largest single flock of Linnet I have ever recorded on my patch. Also present were c.80 Chaffinch and with them was the Brambling that I have recorded on/off since November. Also, 8 Meadow Pipits were feeding 'on the plough' and a Grey Heron flew over.

My final stop was stanklyn Lane paddocks which held a charm of c.60 Goldfinch, 3 Yellowhammers, 1 Mistle Thrush, 4 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, a Green Woodpecker and 2 cock Pheasants.

All in all a pleasing afternoon's birding and well worth braving the crappy weather for.

Monday 14th Feb 2011 - Captains Pool

A pair of Great Crested Grebes returned to Captains Pool today. 4 Coots were also new arrivals and the ♂ Tufted Duck that had arrived on the 10th Feb was still present (TS).

Saturday 12th Feb 2011 - Wyre Forest

Today, myself, the wife and her sister went for a walk in the Wyre Forest. It was a glorious day with clear blue sky and sunshine (a rarity of late).

The most productive part of the walk was along Dowles Brook where notable birds that we saw were 3 Mandarin Duck (2♂), 3 Brambling (2♂), 16 Siskin and 2 Marsh Tits. We didn't connect with any Dippers could say we dipped on dipper (bad pun I know!)

There was also no sign of Hawfinch at Lodge Hill Farm, although a single Brambling and 2 Bullfinch were showing by the footbridge. 2 Common Buzzards were up displaying and almost locked talons on a couple of occasions...but not quite. A Sparrowhawk was also present.

The walk back to Uncllys Farm was fairly uneventful with 2 Marsh Tits and a Raven flying over 'kronking' being the only real highlights. Still it was a nice day and a pleasant walk all the same.

Mandarin Ducks (drake - front):

Friday 11th Feb 2011 - Grimley & Holt

As things are pretty quiet this time of year around my patch I decided to pop 10 miles or so down the road to the gravel pits around Grimley & Holt.

I started my visit at Holt 'Sling Pool' where the only birds of note were 4 Tufted Duck, 1 Grey Heron and 2 Mute Swans. A ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker was on a nearby tree.

From Holt I headed to 'Top Barn Activity Pool' where 11 Tufted Duck, 2 Pochards (1♂) 2 Mute Swans and 37 Coots were present.

Next stop was the 'Island Pool' at the Grimley Old Workings. This pool was pretty quite with 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Mute Swans and a pair of Mallard noted.

From the old workings I popped to Wagon Wheel Lane pits. On arrival, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming on a nearby tree. 3 Goldeneye (2♂), 13 Tufted Ducks and 2 Mute Swans were on the pits. 2 Linnets were along the waters edge. The flooded field between the pits and the River Severn was also very productive and produced a Barnacle Goose with c.100 Canada Geese, 19 Wigeon, 13 Gadwall, 25 Tufted Ducks, 2 Teal (1♂), c.40 Lapwing and c.100 Starlings. 2 Common Buzzards & a Kestrel were also seen in the Wagon Wheel Lane area.

My final stop off was at the Camp Lane pits (formerly known as the New Workings). From the Causeway I recorded 9 Shoveller (7♂), 9 Gadwall (6♂), 4 Teal (all ♂), 18 Pochard, 22 Tufted Duck, 3 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Mute Swans and a single ♀ Wigeon. Whilst at this location the Canada Geese and accompanying Barnacle Goose dropped in.

As I didn't manage to get any decent photos of the Goldeneyes, I've cheated and attached a photo that I took a couple of years back. Ive also added a couple of photos of the Barnacle Goose which shows the size difference between it and the Canada Geese. I know living in the Midlands this bird is probably a feral breeder or escapee but its a nice looking bird all the same.

Barnacle Goose - 11th February 2011:

Goldeneye (drake):

Sunday 6th Feb 2011 - Shenstone

I managed to grab some time around the patch today on what was a very cold, windy afternoon.

I started my travels at Witch Lane, which was probably the most productive area today. Whilst down by the old grainstores, a huge flock of winter thrushes dropped into the adjacent stubble. The flock went up on a couple of occasions and dropped back to ground enabling me to obtain an estimated count. In total there were c.400 Fieldfare & c.200 Redwing. Also feeding in the stubble were c.100 Starlings. A Cormorant flew over heading NW and a Coal Tit was calling from the conifers next to the grainstore.

I then moved on to Heath Lane, where 7 Linnets were on the telegraph wires next to the paddock. A Skylark was up singing at the model aircraft field and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming on a tree next to the Islamic School playing fields. A Common Buzzard was also present.

Heath lane was followed by an uneventful walk from the Stanklyn Lane beet field to Summerfield. The only birds of note were 14 Chaffinch. Again, there was no sign of the Corn Buntings today.

I finished my tour at Stanklyn Lane paddocks which held 6 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, a Green Woodpecker and a Goldfinch.

Odds & Ends

I was just about to type up my latest blog entry for the patch when, on looking at my notebook, I noticed that I've got a few odds and ends that may be worth mentioning. So, I have decided to incorporate them all into this post.

Wednesday 2nd February - Brake Mill Pool, Hagley:
Today, 6 Goosander (all ♀), 10 Tufted Duck (5♂ & 5♀), 2 Mute Swans, 1 Little Grebe and 80+ Black-headed Gulls were on the pool. The usual Mallards, Canada Geese, Moorhens and Coots were also present.

Thursday 3rd February - Kidderminster:
2 Ravens were present again on Weaver's Wharf chimney stack at 10:15AM.

Saturday 5th February - Eymore Wood:

Today, my wife and I took the dog out for a walk at Eymore Woods near Trimpley. On reaching the clearing that allows you to view across the Arley estate we were greeted by the sight of a Goshawk that was up soaring on the breeze. Nearby, a Common Buzzard was also up, which allowed for a nice comparison in terms of size & shape. As the Goshawk came closer I could just make out the vermiculations on its uniformally light chest and even make out the dark eye stripe. I think that the bird was most likely female as it was only slightly smaller than the nearby Buzzard. All I can say is...I'm glad I decided to take my bins with me!

Friday 4th Feb 2011 - Whites Wood

This afternoon, I used TS cabs and travelled 11 miles or so up the road to Whites Wood in South Staffordshire. The wood is part of Baggeridge Country Park and I usually visit this time of year to get views of roosting Tawny Owls. There was only one owl present at the roost site today but on previous occasions I have seen two. I managed to get a few photos so I was quite pleased. Its always nice to see Tawny Owl in the daytime and I was lucky enough to see one on my patch in Dec 2009 but unfortunately I didn't have my camera that day (doh!)

Also of note during the walk around the woods were 8 Siskin (6♂), 2 Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and 2 Common Buzzards.

Tawny Owl - 4th February 2011:

Tuesday 1st Feb 2011 - Shenstone

After yesterday's 'away day' it was back on the patch today.

I started my visit at Witch Lane here I counted c.200 Gulls flying over from Hartlebury to the ploughed fields opposite Willow Marsh Fishery. This included a mix of Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. 14 Stock Doves were in the stubble opposite the old grain store and a Kestrel and Common Buzzard were also present. Further along the lane there were 21 Lapwings in one of the fields and a Cormorant flew over heading SE.

Next up was Butts Lane where the only birds of note were a ♂ Reed Bunting, a ♂ Yellowhammer and 2 Common Buzzards.

My final stop was Stanklyn Lane where walked the outside edges of the privately owned Stanklyn Wood. Here I recorded a Treecreeper, a Nuthatch, a Goldcrest and 2 Jays. 4 Long-tailed Tits were seen within a small Tit flock.

All in all, although nothing unusual, it was quite a nice mix of birds.

Elsewhere on the patch, a ♂ Siskin and a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker were in the trees at Captains Pool (TS).

Monday 31st Jan 2011 - Slimbridge WWT

Today, myself and TS went for an away day to Slimbridge WWT in Gloucestershire. The target bird was the female Lesser Scaup that has been there for knocking on two weeks now. Lesser Scaup is an North American diving duck and fairly rare vagrant to the UK. This bird is a lifer for me and although I'm not really an obsessive list chaser (although I do know a few), I thought It would be a good opportunity to see the bird and combine it with a days birding somewhere different.

Shortly after arriving at Slimbridge and paying the extortionate entry fees (I really must stop moaning...its a sign I'm getting older...a few more years and I will be a right curmudgeonly old so and so) we headed to the Rushy. The Lesser Scaup had been spending its time, along with 2♂ Greater Scaup (its more common European cousin) between this location and the South Lake. After a few minutes scanning I managed to pick up the ♀ Lesser Scaup - result!. Ive included a few photos showing the bird next to some Tufted Ducks. You can see the difference in colouration and the difference in head shape. I do apologize for the quality of the photos though - taking them from behind glass of a bird over a certain distance isn't the best.

Also seen during the day of note were 200+ Bewicks Swans, 300+ White-fronted Geese, c.150 Barnacle Geese, 1 Pinkfooted Goose, 100+ Dunlin, 2 Common Snipe, a Great Black-backed Gull and a ♂ Siskin. Large numbers of Wigeon and Teal were present but Pintail numbers seemed much lower than on my last visit in December. Other duck species seen included Shelduck, Shoveller, Gadwall and Pochard. Believe it or not, even with much scanning, we didn't connect with the ♂ Greater Scaup...ah well.

Lesser Scaup (leftmost bird) with Tufted Ducks:

Lesser Scaup with Tufted Ducks (middle bird):

Lesser Scaup - 31 st January 2011: