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 pics...now 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)