Sunday 27th November 2011 - Shenstone

After all the excitement of the Desert Wheatear...I decided it was time to get back to the important business of birding the patch.

I arrived at Stanklyn Lane mid-afternoon and started scanning the paddocks.  The paddock to the right of 'redstart hedge' was alive with birds.  I counted 38 Redwing, 5 Fieldfare and 2 Green Woodpeckers all feeding on the short grass.  In the hedge itself was a flock of 13 Corn Buntings, but they were fairly mobile and flew over the lane towards the rear of the 'gallops field'.  This was the first sign this Autumn that the local breeding population of Corn Buntings were starting to flock together. 

I then headed up to Heath Lane which was unusually quiet.  The only bird of note was a single Mistle Thrush perched on the fence at the paddocks.

At Witch Lane I noted 19 Fieldfares, 3 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Common Buzzards, 1 Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.  Whilst walking the lane 3 Cormorants flew over heading West.  2 Jays were noted in the trees next to the public footpath.

All in all it was really enjoyable catching a couple of hours...although still no sign of that patch Short-earded Owl I was hoping for...ah well one can dream!

Desert Wheatear update and photos

It actually transpires that the Desert Wheatear that I found on Friday at Titterstone Clee Hill is the first county record for Shropshire.

To view some fantastic photos of this bird please check out the Shropshire gallery of Dave Barnes's excellent photography website at the below link:

More excellent photos can be seen at at Jim Almond's Shropshire Birder blog at:

Some more great pictures by Chris Cook can be seen on Birding Today at the following link:

Desert Wheater

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Friday 25th Nov 2011 - Titterstone Clee Hill .......Rarity Find!!!

Today, after undertaking my voluntary work for the Dog Rescue, I decided to pop up to Titterstone Clee Hill.  I volunteer at Far Forest, so I was already half way there and my way of thinking was that there could possibly be a Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl or perhaps some Snow Buntings around at this Shropshire high point.

I arrived at the summit car park mid-afternoon and waited for the rain to abate before starting my walk.  The place was birdless but for the 3 Ravens that were kronking about and half a dozen Carrion Crows.  The wind was strong and felt icy cold...perhaps I had made the wrong choice of destination. Then I noticed the multitudes of fungi around me especially Waxcaps...I  started snapping away. The visit wouldn't be a complete waste.

As I was walking back towards the car park I noticed a small chat perch on a ridge above the disused quarry buildings.  The bird was slightly silhouetted but it gave a grey appearance and was constantly flicking its tail in a Redstart like fashion.  It the flew down to the ground by the derelict buildings and I caught a flash of white on its rump...straight away I knew it was a Wheatear.  This wasn't one of our normal Northern Wheatears and I could see it was a fairly small bird with a generally grey appearance, a black tail and white in its wing panel.  Some scalloping could be seen near the wings and the ear coverts were noticeably darker.  I knew I had found something good.

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to get a better view of the bird and decide upon its i.d.  I knew it was a vagrant Wheatear...I was tending  towards female Pied but couldn't rule out Black-eared or even Desert...having never seen any of these species it was difficult...your Collins birdguide can only take you so far...especially when the bird was constantly flitting , perching for only a few seconds and then off again...and there are so many dips and ridges where the bird would disappear out of site for a while.  The bird's lack of  settling in one spot and the gale force winds meant that all my digiscoped photos were a blur.  I spoke to a couple of fellow birders on the phone at just gone 3pm and decided to put the news out as a possible Pied Wheatear at 3.20 pm and tried again to get more the dog walkers were pulling up and the bird was even more unsettled.  At 4pm the light was starting to go and I watched the bid drop into one of the ruined buildings...possibly to roost.  I called it a day and hoped that it would be there  in the morning so it could be confirmed.

Forward to the next day...the bird was indeed present and it was confirmed by a number of birders as being a female Desert Wheatear (not Pied as I had initially thought).  Phew...a lifer for me and a great self-found bird.  I'm so glad I made the effort to go up Clee after all!

Desert Wheatear (the crappiest of record shots!)

Titterstone Clee Hill - 25th Nov 2011

Scarlet Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea)

Meadow Waxcap (Hygrocybe pratensis)

Yellow Stag's Horn (Calocera viscosa) 

Tuesday 22nd November 2011 - Shenstone

After my recent spell of Autumnal away days I decided to spend some time around the patch today.  The weather was dull, grey and oppressive (as you can tell by the lighting or lack of on my photos!), yet it was a very rewarding visit for the sheer variety and numbers of birds.

I started my visit at Stanklyn Lane paddocks where on arrival I picked up 7 Yellowhammers and 2 Skylarks that flew up from the weedy paddock that contains two gnarly old Ewes.  A bit further up the lane, 'redstart hedge' was absolutely chuffing with birds including a further 2 Yellowhammers, 1 Corn Bunting, 21 Redwing, 3 Fieldfare, 11 Blackbirds, 1 Goldcrest, a single Linnet and a ♀ Green Woodpecker. 4 Chaffinch and a Robin were also noted in the trees along this stretch of the lane

I then popped up to Heath Lane.  The model aircraft field was a right off as half a dozen people were in there flying planes, so I decided to head straight up to the paddock.  The trees between the Islamic college and the paddock were chuffing with birds.  The large mixed finch flock that I had encountered on my previous visit here was still present with c.200 Linnet, c.100 Greenfinch and 23 Goldfinch noted.  On the adjacent telegraph wires there were 5 Corn Buntings perched and whilst scanning the area I had a ♂ Peregrine over heading North East.

Next up was Witch Lane.  Here I decided to walk the footpath that runs towards the Droitwich Road as it is the most productive in terms of fungi.  It didn't disappoint, with Common Funnel, Field Mushroom, Honey Fungus and Wood Blewit identified and noted.  The walk also produced more birds with 81 Lapwing flying over heading West.  A single Jay and 27 Fieldfare were also recorded.

Further down the lane I picked up a covey of 17 Red-legged Partridge and 2 cock Pheasants in the large winter wheat field.  9 Cormorants were perched in the trees behind Willow Marsh Fishery.  2 Mistle Thrush and a Meadow Pipit were also noted.

My final stop was the Barrs Lane/Butts Lane area.  Here 15 Skylarks were seen over the stubble field and a flock of 60+ Linnets were perched in the Larches at the back of the Stone Manor grounds.

All in all a very enjoyable visit.  The funny thing is next time will probably be the opposite and I will hardly see any birds...but then that's part the fun of local patch birding, you just never know what you may see.

Green Woodpecker

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Corn Bunting

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Monday 21st Nov 2011 - River Severn, Bewdley

This morning I decided to pop and see the adult Red-throated Diver that had been discovered locally late yesterday afternoon.  As it was a Worcestershire lifer for me and the first one in the county since 1997 it was to good an opportunity to pass up on.

On arriving at the River Severn, I walked the public footpath that runs behind Bewdley High School and soon bumped into a handful of familiar faces who were watching the bird.  I couldn't believe how close it was and how unfazed it seemed by the people gathered nearby.

The diver was an adult in winter plumage and I spent quite a while enjoying it as it was treading water against the flow of the river.  Occasionally it would dive and resurface some distance away.  

It was a real privilege to see one so close up and only 3 miles or so from where I live.  My usual experiences of this species has been off the coast in autumn/winter bobbing up and down way out to see.  Even when they turn up inland it tends to be at the larger reservoirs...something Worcestershire is sadly lacking.

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)

Thursday 17th November 2011 - Wyre Forest

Today I decided to pop for a walk around the Wyre with my old mate 'The Goth'.  He has got a first name but it as long since been lost in the annals of time and clouds of dry ice.  The goth was staying over for a few days and, although not a birder, he shares an enjoyment of the great we decided to do a good walk to justify the copious amounts of ale that would undoubtedly be consumed on the evening.

For the second time in just under a week the sun was shinning and the skies were blue.  Along Dowles brook we had cracking views of a Dipper and very little else although 2 Grey Wagtails were seen briefly.

The Lodge Hill Farm area was heaving with bird activity and whilst on the stone bridge we had great views of 11 Lesser Redpoll, 14 Goldfinch & 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker (1♂ & 1♀).  3 Common Buzzards were up soaring and a Raven went over 'kronking'.

I was hoping to see a wide variety of fungi during the walk but only managed to see a small number including Birch Brittlegill, False Chanterelle, Glistening Inkcap, Stag's Horn and White Saddle.

Still, it was a pleasant walk and we did indeed consume much ale that evening...well they sold Batham's Bitter at the pub so it was rude not too!

Lilac Bonnet (Mycena pura)

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False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca)

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White Saddle (Helvella crispa)

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Batham's Bitter (Quaffus maximus)

Tuesday 15th November - Shenstone

I started my visit around the patch today at Captains Pool.  This time of year it pays to check out even small bodies of water.  There were no fishermen on the pool today and it showed.  Whilst scanning from the dam I saw a small duck sat at the edge of the water on the right hand was a drake Teal.  This is a patch lifer for me...result!  Teal, I here you cry...a patch lifer!!!!  Well, Captains Pool is little more than a park pond that is wooded on on side and regularly fished.  When there are no fisherman there then it can pay dividends.  The last Teal recorded there was some 4 years ago by Tony they are not thick on the ground here.
I then headed over to the lanes.

Stanklyn was desperately quiet but Heath Lane paid dividends.  The buntings and finches were starting to flock together here and there was a large mixed flock just past the paddock.  This flock included 5 Reed Bunting (3), c.100 Greenfinch, c.100 Linnet, 11 Goldfinch and 4 Chaffinch.

My final stop was Witch Lane. I decided to walk the public footpath towards the Droitwitch load and photographed an array of fungi...although so far I have only confidently identified Scaly Wood Mushroom (Agaricus langei).  During this walk a Little Owl was heard calling, a Common Buzzard was up soaring and 2 Cormorants flew over heading East towards Willow Marsh Fishery.

Teal - Captains Pool

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Monday 14th November 2011 - Eymore Wood and Trimpley

Today I ventured out with fellow local birder (and supporter of inferior Black Country football teams) Mark P.  Late morning, we headed out a few miles up the road to Eymore Wood.

As with our last visit there was no sign of any Crossbills but & ♀  Bullfinch, Goldcrests, Coal Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper were all noted.  We even heard a Tawny Owl calling at one stage.

The reservoirs were fairly quiet, although there was a flock of c. 30 Siskin feeding in the Alders at the edge of the lower reservoir.  40 Tufted Duck and a single Great-crested Grebe were noted on the reservoir its self.  The larger upper reservoir was even quieter with the only note worthy birds being a Kingfisher that zipped across and 2 Cormorants.

The walk along the adjacent stretch of the River Severn proved productive though as there were 26 Mandarin Duck here.  Some of the males were even getting frisky, chasing females and displaying.  OK so I know these are a fairly recent edition to the British list since breeding colonies have established in the wild but I think they are a joy to see!

As you would imagine, the fungi was out in good numbers with Black Bulgar, False Chanterelle, Hairy Curtain Crust, Honey Waxcap and Slippery Jack all noted.

All in all an enjoyable few hours out.

Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum)

Honey Waxcap (Hygrocybe reidii)

Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)

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Sunday 13th Nov 2011 - Devil's Spittleful & Rifle Range

Today, as the sun was shinning and there were clear blue skies (I haven't seen one of those for a while!), me and Bev decided to do a fungi walk around the 'Devil's Spittleful & Rifle Range' nature reserve which is just a couple of miles from where we live.

The reserve, between Kidderminster and Bewdley, is jointly managed by the Trust (which owns the Devil’s Spittleful), and Wyre Forest District Council (which owns the Rifle Range), both of which have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest.  The site is one of the few extensive areas of lowland heath remaining in Worcestershire.  In fact there are two more areas nearby at Burlish Top and Hartlebury Common.

We undertook our foray and had a really interesting array of fungi...although I am yet to name about 50% of them.  Ones I did identify included Common Puffball, Fly Agaric, Slippery Jack, Sulphur Tuft, Turkey Tail and Velvet Shank.

There were good numbers of woodland birds flitting around the trees near the Spittleful - a sand stone outcrop named after a local legend in which the Devil dumped a spade full (spittleful) of rock there.  These birds included Coal Tits, Goldcrests, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

All in all it was a very enjoyable afternoon out with the better half...and those blue skies really do lift the spirit!

For more info on the reserve please click on the below link:

Rifle Range NR

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Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus)

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Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

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Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

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Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)

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Magazine cover....

I was dead chuffed recently when I found out that one of my photos had been chosen as the cover for the latest edition of West Midlands Butterfly Conservation's magazine - 'The Comma'.

The photo was one I had taken of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary in the Wyre Forest back in 2010 and was being used to celebrate the recent successful re-introduction of this species into Grafton Wood. 

The magazine can be viewed in pdf form by clicking on the below link:

I have been a member of Butterfly Conservation for about 4 years now and West Midlands branch covers Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and part of the West Midlands county.  They jointly manage, with the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, a number of local reserves such as Grafton Wood, Monk Wood and Trench Wood...ensuring the protection and survival of colonies of the county's scarce butterflies such as Brown Hairstreak, Wood White and Pearl-bordered Fritillary.  If you are not already a member of butterfly conservation please do consider joining as it is important we protect these beautiful creatures.

For further information about Butterfly Conservation click on the following links:

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

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Thursday 10th November 2011 - Upper Bittell

Those of you who know me will know that I don't bother going around the country to tick rarities...twitching just leaves me feeling a bit cold to be honest.  I'm not knocking twitchers...its a case of each to their own...some people do get a lot of pleasure from it.  I do occasionally though venture off patch to see a scarce or unusual bird if it is within the locality or a certain radius of here.  Today was one such example.

After I had taken the dog to the vets this morning I decided to pop to Upper Bittell Reservoir (about 15 miles from Shenstone)  to see the Tundra Bean Goose that had been found the previous day by Pete & Majo Lewis (nice one guys!).  Bean Goose, of any race, is a county lifer for me and its been a long time since one had been in I headed there to have a butchers.  

On arrival I bumped into a couple of birders I knew that informed me that it had flown with the Canadas a couple of fields over.  Myself and another birder walked the public footpath across towards the bottom of said field to try and obtain a view.  We did and soon managed to pick up this diminutive goose with its orange legs and small band around its bill feeding in amongst the Canadas.  Although it was murky and overcast I did manage a little video footage which is at the end of this post.

I then decided to walk across to the Reservoir to spend an hour viewing from the Damn.  Initially it seemed that all that was out there was 1000+ Black-headed Gulls and a handful of Lesser Black-backed.  But within a short while I picked up a cracking adult Yellow-legged Gull....probably one of the 2 that were recorded by TMH on the previous day.  Also of note were 32 Wigeon, 5 Shoveller and c.80 Lapwing

I then scanned the trees behind the dam and sailing club to see if I could pick up the Hawfinch that has been showing on/off for the past week.  I had no joy on that front but I did pick up 7 Siskin. There were also many Fieldfare & Redwing present.

All in all it was an enjoyable away day but I do wonder what I may have missed on my patch...ah well.

Double click on the YouTube logo to enlarge

Wednesday 9th November 2011 - Shenstone

I decided to pop around Shenstone for an hour this afternoon with Tony.  Earlier that morning Tony had seen 9 Golden Plover fly over the A448 towards Butts Lane although there was no sign of the birds on the patch this afternoon.

We started our visit at Stanklyn Lane.  The 'redstart hedge' was absolutely chocker with birds busy feeding on the Hawthorn Berries.  There were c.50 Fieldfare, 11 Redwing, 2 Corn Bunting and a  Yellowhammer.  In the surrounding paddocks and on the electricity pylon opposite were c.200 Starling.  There were 22 Skylark were seen over the gallops field after being put up by a dog walker.  Also seen along the lane were a Common Buzzard  and 14 Long-tailed Tits

Next up was Witch Lane.  Walking the public footpath to view the fields provided us with a flock of 40 Fieldfare and a flyover Great Black-backed Gull.  This was only my 2nd ever patch record of Great I was more than pleased!.  Two Meadow Pipits and a flyover Cormorant was also noted.

The final stop was Butts Lane, which was deathly quiet but for a small flock of 18 Linnet that was wheeling around over the brassicas.

All in all not a bad little tour of the patch even if it was pretty dull and overcast the whole time!

Redwing - Stanklyn Lane

Herring Gull - 'omissus' type

In my post for Sunday 9th of October 2011, I reported what I thought was a Yellow-legged Gull on the fresh plough along Witch Lane.  Although the bird had mustard yellow legs and a slightly darker mantle than the Herring Gulls it was didn't seem quite right....there was not enough black in the wing tips and the white spots on the primaries were just too large.  There bird also had a bit too much grey on its head for this time of year for a Yellow-legged.

I decided to consult fellow Shenstone birder and local gull guru Terry Hinett.  Terry is one of those hardcore birders who spends day after day wading through tens of thousands of Gulls at the roost at a local Reservoir during autumn and winter.  I sent him my photos and some video footage of the bird and after studying it in detail he gave me his verdict.  It was a (yellow-legged) Herring Gull.  I had never heard of such a thing but I took his word for it as he had seen a number of them over the years.

In the UK we get two races of Herring Gull occur, the standard British one Larus argentatus argenteus and the less common, slightly bulkier nominate form Larus argentatus.  Larus argentatus breeds in Scandinavia and north-west Russia and is often known as a 'Baltic' Herring Gull.  Within the Argentatus nominate race a variation called Omissus can occur where the bird will have yellow legs instead of the usual pink. It appears that the bird at Shenstone on the 9th October was one of these Omissus birds or to give it its full title...Herring Gull (Larus argentatus var. 'omissus')

Phew! I'm glad that's off my's a right load of old argentatus if you ask me!

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus var. 'omissus')

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For comparison I have attached a photo of an adult Yellow-Legged Gull that I took at Stubbers Green in 2010.  Note the almost non-exsitant white spots on the bird's primaries

Yellow-legged Gull

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A number of other photos of adult omissus Herring Gulls can be seen by clicking on the below link:

Friday 4th November 2011 - Shenstone

Today I was feeling a lot brighter after my recent bout of the I decided to grab a couple of hour's fresh air and visit the patch.

I started my visit at Stanklyn Lane where I was greeted by 2 Mistle Thrushes in the paddocks.  Whilst scanning the beet field, a flock of 35 Lapwing flew over heading South East.  Also of note were 22 Skylarks that were wheeling about over the usually dead field opposite.

Heath Lane was painfully quiet with only a single Meadow Pipit and 2 Greenfinch of note, so  I decided to head over to Witch Lane.

I didn't fare any better birdwise at this location with a single Cormorant flying South being the only note worthy individual.  

I then decided to walk the tree lined public footpath to scan the back fields...still no birds but it proved fruitful all the same.  The recent damp wet weather had helped a number of fungi to shoot up.  Along this stretch I encountered six different species fungi, so far I have only managed to i.d. three:  Wood Blewit, Verdigris agaric and White Milking Bonnet.  So this little walk was quite just shows that it pays some times to go off the beaten track and take the mycenic route (I know, poor pun!) 

Wood Blewit (Lepista Nuda)

White Milking Bonnet (Mycena galopus var. candida)

Public service announcement....

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Still out of action...

After the previous week's woes & worries with the dog...I was looking forward to getting out birding more the latter half of this week.  Unfortunately, I have now come down with the gastric bug that's doing the the patch will have to wait a little longer.

Please do check back as I will definitely be updating the blog in the near future.