Thursday 29th November 2012 - Hartlebury

This afternoon I decided to pop back to Hartlebury to take another look at the Waxwings that I had found on Monday.  The size of the flock had been variable over the previous two days with up to 30 birds present.

On arrival there was a handful of Togs and Birders present but unfortunately no sign of the Waxwings that had disappeared an hour or two before.  Still, I stuck around for a while and enjoyed a good natter with a few familiar faces (Bob H and Stuart A) and a few folk I hadn't spoken with before. 

I must put my hand up though and apologise for my language at times as I did "F & Jeff" a bit when I was told that the Worcestershire ringing group were going to try and catch and ring them in the morning.  Now don't get me wrong I am not anti-ringing and I do believe it has its merits with certain species or if their is good scientific basis for doing so. But to me, disrupting this small flock of Waxwings that has come across from Scandinavia to feed up on our berries because the continental crop failed just seems plain wrong.  Most of the questions regarding this species have already been answered so to me this seems a futile and needless exercise.

Anyway, after being there for about 25 minutes the Waxwings did indeed drop back in. Although only a flock of 12 birds this time.  They perched up in the top of the Rowan tree with the red berries but were actually dropping down onto the adjacent Rowan to feed on the orange berries.  The birds gave us all cracking views and I even managed to real off some video footage this time so it was a more than worthwhile visit.

So there you have it stunning birds and good company...I have had worse birding days!

Waxwings - Hartlebury, 29th November 2012

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge video

A quick chunter....

I have been birding for many years now and one thing I can tell you is that birders can be a funny bunch.  There are armchair birders, bird finders, bird listers, local patch birders, twitchers and everything in between.  One thing I do know that is applicable to many of them is that they can be proper gossips....I'm sure the term fishwife would be applicable to some I know.  Why am I bringing this up I hear you ask, let me explain.

On occasions when I have gone 'off patch' over recent months I have had birders I know saying one of two things: 

Question a)  Where you been Jase? your not doing much birding anymore!
Question b)  Have you and Tony fell out?  You don't seem to go out birding together very often!

Primarily it is the Black Country birders I know who have been firing off these questions too me (or to people who know me) but a handful of Staffordshire and Worcestershire ones also have.  So with the fact I am getting tired of this I thought I would set the record straight addressing these 2 questions.

Answer a)  Firstly yes I am still alive and birding as regular readers to this blog can testify.  This year I have stayed more locally mainly due to the cost of fuel and my current lack of employment.  So it's pretty much been Shenstone only with occasional visits to Clee, Grimley and Wyre Forest .  Also with each passing year I get less and less pleasure from twitching birds and would rather go out locally and see what I can find.  At the end of the day someone has to find the birds for people to twitch so it's a good job there are still folks out there who do cover areas as local patch.

Another point I would like to make is that this year has been a poor birding year in the Midlands anyway and there hasn't been as many good birds to find on the patch (so news has been a bit lacking to put out).  Although, that said star Shenstone birds this year have included a Spring ♂ Ring Ouzel and a Short-eared Owl.  Other 2012 finds that I have made include Tundra Bean Goose at Chelmarsh and the recent Waxwings at Hartlebury.

Answer b)  Well, me and Tony aren't joined to the hip you know.  He is a good mate and yes I still see him (twice this week...perish the thought!) but we are also very different kinds of birders.  Tony has been concentrating on his 2012 year list and will also go twitching national rarities now and again.  Where as I am happy tootling around the local patch.  That said Tony also enjoys a bit of bread and butter birding so we catch up now and again and do either the patch or some other local area.

So there you have it.  I'm not so much having a go as setting the record straight.  So all my local birding friends and acquaintances spread the word I'm not bl**dy dead and I certainly haven't packed in birding!

Anyway here is a rather apt song by The Young Knives called "Here Comes the Rumour Mill"

Monday 26th November 2012 - Hartlebury and Shenstone

Today I decided start off by paying a visit to the nearby Hartlebury Trading Estate to have a look for Waxwings.  I have been checking out this location pretty much every other day for the last three weeks as it is one of the few places left where the Rowans  still have berries on.  The previous day their had been a small flock of Waxwings a few miles up the road at Chaddesley Corbett so their was every chance that I could pick up some here.

As I was driving down one of the avenues at the estate I picked up a flock of Starling sized birds flying over towards the said area.  I headed over there and there was no sign at the Rowans.  Then, suddenly I heard the unmistakable high pitch trilling call of one from the opposite side of the road.  I looked across and saw a flock of 14 Waxwings perched in the top of one of the trees at the back of a kitchen company car park.  I nipped back to my car and grabbed some record shots before the birds flew towards the rear of the kitchen company building. 

I had held out from seeing the Chaddesley Waxwings as I really like to try and self-find some if I can during invasion years.  I wouldn't knock anyone for going to twitch some...they really are stunning birds and I recommend that everyone should try and see some at some point.  But me, well I get more of a buzz from finding birds (and not necessarily the rare ones) and I felt that today's flock was reward for the time I had put in at this site previously.

From Hartlebury I headed back via the patch.  At Witch Lane there was a Common Buzzard, a ♂ Kestrel and a flock of 12 Long-tailed Tits present.  A single Cormorant flew over heading WSW.

Along Stanklyn Lane there was still a flock of 21 Corn Buntings present.  16 Redwings, 3 Mistle Thrush and 3 Jays were also noted
Late afternoon I received a call from Tony informing me that a Goosander had dropped in on Captains Pool.  Goosander are a scarce winter visitor on the patch so I quickly headed over.  The light was starting to go when I arrived but I still managed a record shot (only just though as the bird was continually diving).  After about 20 minutes it decided it had spent long enough on Captains pool and took flight going high in a NE direction. 

After the Goosander had flown it was into Tony's Cafe for a quick brew.  What a great way to round of a good day.

Waxwings - Hartlebury Trading Estate, 26th Nov 2012

Goosander - Captains Pool, 26th Nov 2012

Sunday 25th November 2012 - Shenstone

I literally only had time for an hour's whistle stop visit to the patch today and I decided to spend my time at Heath Lane as this is where the largest numbers of birds were present.

In the sown field next to the paddock there were c.60 Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush and 2 Redwings feeding on the deck.  Also feeding here were a flock of c.40 Chaffinch, c.30 Linnet and a single Pied Wagtail

A Common Buzzard and a ♀ Kestrel were also noted.

Fieldfare - Heath Lane

Friday 23rd November 2012 - Chelmarsh Reservoir

Today I met up with my old mate and sometime social irritant Tony S.  Harsh words I hear you say?  not really, TS is a bit like Marmite, people either love him or hate him.   Luckily I fall into the former group!  Anyway, enough of this daftness...on with the post.

We had started doing a local walk when a message came through informing us of a Great Northern Diver and a Black-necked Grebe at Chelmarsh Reservoir in Shropshire.  Chelmarsh is near Bridgnorth and, although in a different county, not all that far away.  So we decided to head over and have a look.

We arrived at the sailing club end and asked a couple of their members who were working outside if it was OK to stand there and look for the birds (access isn't generally allowed in this area).  They were very amenable and even suggested going further down the track to view by the point, where the bird had last been seen. 

On a arriving at the spot we bumped into wildlife photographer and fellow blogger Jim Almond (  He informed us that the bird had just dived and disappeared from view but we soon managed to relocate it. 

What a cracking looking bird this juvenile Great Northern Diver was.  After a while it worked it's way a lot closer affording us some very good scope views at times.

After a while I managed to pick up the Black-necked Grebe amongst the Tufted Ducks.  They are not so attractive in winter plumage as in summer but they are still nice birds especially when you catch glimpse of it's blood red eyes.

We spent a bit of time enjoying both birds and I even managed a couple of record shots.  Although to be quite honest the light was pants!  After a while we decided to leave and shortly after returning to the car it started raining.  Fortuitous timing indeed!

Great Northern Diver (juvenile)

Black-necked Grebe

Tuesday 20th November 2012 - Shenstone

This morning I decided to spend some time working the patch.  My first port of call was Witch Lane and within minutes of scanning the freshly sown field I picked up the undoubted highlight of the day, a ♀/imm.  Merlin that flew low across the field heading SSW and eventually out of sight.  This was most pleasing as it is the first Merlin that I have recorded at Shenstone this Autumn/Winter. 

Its not surprising that the Merlin had flew low through this area as there was plenty of food for the diminutive falcon in the form of c.100 Chaffinch and c.40 Linnet.  Also noted in the Witch Lane area were a ♂ Kestrel and a Common Buzzard.

At Heath Lane it was an altogether different picture and with a single Redwing near the Granary Hotel being the only bird of note I quickly made my way down to Stanklyn Lane.

At the 'beet field' there were still 31 Corn Buntings present and in the hedgerows there I noted 12 Redwings and 3 Jays.  In the 'carrot field' (which incidentally hasn't had carrots in for the last 3 years) there were 3 Yellowhammers, c.60 Chaffinch and c.30 Starling.

Further down the lane the small stand of Hawthorns near the horse paddocks was chuffing with winter thrushes with 36 Redwing, 5 Fieldfare and 6 Scandinavian type Blackbirds noted in this small area.  On the deck in the paddocks were 2 Pied Wagtails.  A single Meadow Pipit flew over heading SSE.

My final stop was the Barrs/Butts Lane area.  Here there was a small flock of 6 Corn Buntings were present perched up in one of the trees along the lane.  In the triangle field there were good numbers of birds present with c80 Fieldfare, c.40 Redwing and c.70 Linnet observed.

No patch Brambling as yet this Autumn/Winter but I'm sure it won't be long now that the finches are starting to flock together.

Redwing - Stanklyn Lane

A quick message....

Hello folks. 

Just another quick bit of PR for the guys who are currently exhibiting at WWT Slimbridge. 

If you get five minutes go and check out the blogs of  Wildlife Artists Dave Powner and Phil Mumby at the below links.  There work really is top drawer and I think it is important to support local talent.

Dave Powner:

Phil Mumby:


Sunday 18th November 2012 - A Patch Scarcity

Earlier this evening, around 5:30 pm, I was driving back home when I had a whim and decided to drive through Shenstone.  It was now dark but previous nocturnal visits have afforded me views of Tawny Owl and you never know.

On turning down one of the lanes (which will remain un-named for the purpose of this post) I was greeted in the glow of my headlights by the sight of a stunning Barn Owl that flew across the lane and over the hedgerow, disappearing into the darkness.  Result!!!

This is the first sighting I have had of Barn Owl on the patch since the Summer of  2008.  This bird was observed by myself and a fellow local birder on successive nights but then disappeared.  Unfortunately around the same time a Barn Owl was found dead just up the road near Mustow Green roundabout and was quite possibly the same individual.

Still this new sighting is heartening and has encouraged me to do a few more evening visits over coming weeks.  The majority of nocturnal visits I have done have been during the summer months, after spending time  listening for calling Quails.

Barn Owl  (archive photo)

Tuesday 13th November 2012 - Shenstone

Today I decided to put some long overdue leg work in around my local patch.  The prime reason for my visit was to undertake one of my walks for the BTO Winter Thrush Survey.  The weather was dull and overcast but at least it remained dry.

I began my walk at the junction of Stanklyn Lane and Heath Lane early pm.  Scanning the paddocks I noted 6 Blackbirds, 1 ♂ Yellowhammer, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Robin and a Greenfinch in 'redstart hedge'.  on the ground nearby there were 2 Green Woodpeckers feeding. I also noted 2 Cormorants that flew over;  an adult heading W and an immature heading SE.

Walking along the lane towards the enterance of the 'gallops field' I recorded 14 Blackbirds all feeding within the Hawthorn bushes along the roadside.  The gallops was fairly quite although I did observe 4 more Blackbirds and a single Jay.

At 'carrot field' I hit a pocket of finch activity with c.40 Goldfinch, 27 Linnet, 6 Greenfinch & a ♀ Chaffinch recorded.  Also present at this location was a flock of 18 House Sparrows and a further 4 Blackbirds.  A single Fieldfare and a Cormorant  flew over heading W.

Walking the top footpath across the 'beet field' proved to be birdless but viewing across the fields at Summerfield more than made up for this.  A flock of 14 Skylarks were flushed by a dog walker and whilst I stopped and scanned I had 3 separate flocks of Redwing (45, 26 and 27) flew over all heading NW.

Walking the bottom path along the bottom of the 'beet field' I noted 12 Blackbirds, 1 Mistle Thrush and a Robin in the trees between the field and the Lane.  6 Skylark flew over heading W and a Cormorant was over heading SE.

Just as I walked a bit further I picked up a flock of 44 Corn Buntings that were feeding amongst the stubble and occasionally flying up to sit in the top of a nearby mature tree.  This was the undoubted highlight of the walk as it was the first time I had encountered the winter flock this Autumn/Winter.

Just before completing my circuit I arrived at the stand of Holy bushes opposite the junction of Heath/Stanklyn.  Feeding here were 16 Redwing, 5 Blackbirds, 1 Mistle Thrush and a Jay.

I don't normally mention every species encountered on every patch visit as I'm sure it would soon get tiresome hearing about every Blue Tit, Pigeon or Corvid that I see but just the once for completion's sake I will list the other species encountered on this walk.  They were Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, WrenStarling, Carrion Crow, Rook,  Jackdaw, Magpie and Woodpigeon.

So there you have it, all in all it was an enjoyable and productive patch walk. 

Corn Bunting - Shenstone

Exhibition featuring local wildlife artists...

I don't usually do the PR thing but I feel that in this case I would like to.  A mate of mine and follower of this blog, wildlife artist Dave Powner is going to be exhibiting some of his artwork at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre from 18th November 2012 to the 7th January 2013.  Work by fellow local wildlife artist Phil Mumby will also be on display.

So if you are planning a trip to Slimbridge during the next couple of months to see the Bewicks Swans, White-fronted Geese or the Bittern please do visit the gallery and lend these talented local guys your support.

For more information about the exhibition please click on the following link:

Below are a some examples of Dave's work:

(Click on images to enlarge)

Friday 9th Nov 2012 - Grimley & Shenstone

With having my motor back I had already pencilled in a trip to either Clee or Grimley with Tony (well I am going to have to repay the hospitality extended to me by some of my birding mates over recent weeks).  That morning I had received a text off another birding contact informing me that a Sanderling and Spotted Redshank had been reported at Grimley Gravel Pits, so our choice of destination was made for us.

We headed straight to Wagon Wheel Lane pits where the aforementioned birds had been reported only to be greeted by a Common Redshank and a winter plumage Dunlin, the only 2 waders present at the pits.  It's not for me to say if these were the birds that were mis-identified.  Perhaps there had been a Spotted Redshank and a Sanderling there a couple of hours earlier that had since moved out and been replaced by these birds.  I guess I will never know but either way I was disappointed!

Feeling a bit down beat we headed over to Camp Lane pits where the most notable bird was a Little Egret.  Usually this species is seen at this site late summer/early autumn and it is uncommon to see one here in the winter months. 

Numbers of wintering ducks are building up at the site with the following species noted: Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck and Wigeon.  Good numbers of Little Grebe were noted at Camp Lane, as was a  ♂ Kestrel.

Our final stop around the Grimley area was Sling Pool at Holt.  Good numbers of wildfowl were again present here and whilst scanning we were treated to brief views of a Kingfisher zipping past.

On the way back home we had a whistle-stop visit too the patch.  At Heath Lane paddock there was a single Mistle Thrush and at least 8 Blackbirds present.  Other than those there was little else of note.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks there were still good numbers of Blackbirds present feeding on the Hawthorn berries and to my surprise a single Fieldfare was feeding on the ground.  This is fairly unusual this time of year as they don't normally start feeding on the deck until after all the berries/fruit has been exhausted.

Also of note at the paddocks was a Common Buzzard, a Green Woodpecker and  a single Jay.

All in all it had been a bit of a mixed day. Although disappointing at times it was still great to get out the house, even if I did have to listen to Tony telling me how Gary Sinise had solved the crime again in CSI (don't ask!)

Dunlin - Wagon Wheel Lane Pits

Redshank - Wagon Wheel Lane Pits

Thurs 8th November 2012 - Habberley Valley NR

With my car now back and  I could start getting out and about again to get my nature fix.  This morning I decided not to do the patch but to head to the local reserve of Habberley Valley, in the hope of catching a some more of the autumn's fungi before the season is over.

On walking the reserve,  t soon became apparent that many of the fungi I had encountered on my previous visit had gone over with only a handful of rather tatty old specimens of Cep, Ochre Brittlegill and Earthball noted.

The most productive area was the wooded slopes on the western side of the reserve.  Here I noted a few interesting species of fungi including Hairy Curtain Crust, Peniophora quercina, Purple Jellydisc and Stagshorn.

After spending a while mooching about in the leaf litter I decided to take a walk onto Ridgestone Rock, the highpoint at the North end of the reserve, to take in the views.  I took the fairly steep track up along the western edge and after a short walk along the lane dropped back onto the summit of the rock.   The views and the autumn colour were rather spectacular.

For the descent I walked down the zig-zag series of steps known locally as Jacob's Ladder (or as my mate Tony once called it Jehovah's Staircase!).  On the decent I connected with a Tit flock and was rather pleased to see a Marsh Tit amongst them.  Other birds of interest during the walk included 2 Common Buzzards, a ♀ Great-Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Jays and a ♀ Sparrowhawk.

The walk back to the car was rather uneventful, although I did hear a Nuthatch calling. Still it was a pleasant walk around a pleasant reserve and a far better way of spending a couple of hours than watching day time TV!

Autumn Colour at Habberley Valley

Peniophora quercina

Purple Jellydisc (Ascocoryne sarcoides)

Wed 7th November 2012 - Devils Spittleful/Rifle Range NR

This morning I did a walk around Devil's Spittleful/Rifle Range reserve with a none birding mate, Sparky the Goff.  Spark had come over the evening before and as we had consumed copious amounts of ale it seemed a good idea to go for a walk to blow away the cobwebs.

We parked up at Blackstone car park (where there is a rather useful snack van that does cracking crusty doorstop cooked sandwiches...ideal for the morning after the night before!

The walk between Blackstone and The Spittleful was absolutely chuffing with birds.  Large numbers of Meadow Pipits were present, as were smaller numbers of Skylark.  In one of the fields there was a flock of c.100 Chaffinch feeding and with them was a rather stunning looking ♂ Brambling.  Along the hedgerow between two of the fields there were 30+ Scandinavian Blackbirds present and alongside them were a handful of Fieldfares and Redwings.

I was hoping that there would be a few fungi about on the reserve itself but most of the fungi had seemed to have gone over.  The only fungi of note were Birch PolyporeDecieverHairy Curtain Crust and Meadow Waxcap.  

Bird species noted on the reserve were Green Woodpecker, Jay and Long-tailed Tit

Not the most productive of walks but it still blew the cobwebs away and helped me on the road to recovery.

Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutu)

Click on image to enlarge

Saturday 3rd November 2012 - Titterstone Clee Hill

With the prospect of no car I had sent a text out to some of my birding buddies to see if they were out and about and if there was any chance of doubling up with them.  Mark P (Door Stop Birding) had said that he could help me out (again) and after chatting it was decided that we would pop up Titterstone Clee Hill in Shropshire. 

This time of year there is a lot of potential at this Shropshire high point with some good passage species such  Black Redstart, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Ring Ouzel, Short-eared Owl and Snow Bunting all possible.  In fact it was at this site in November last year that i found the ♀ Desert Wheatear.  So it is always an exciting place to visit in terms of potential.

On arriving at the summit we were greeted by low level cloud and drifting mist which gradually cleared as the morning drew on.  As the skies cleared the Ravens got up and started performing.  At one point I counted an incredible 49 Ravens in the sky above the summit.  Also of interest in the summit area were 2 adult Stonechats (1♂ & 1♀) that were present near the radar station.  2 Common Buzzards and many Meadow Pipits were also noted.

We also bumped into and had a good natter with fellow local birder and superb bird photographer, Dave Barnes.  You can view some of his excellent photos at the following link:

Although present in good numbers the fungi was a little disappointing with only 3 easily identifiable species recorded.  There were Meadow Waxcaps seemingly everywhere, with smaller numbers of Snowy Waxcap and Yellow Stagshorn also present.

We then headed down from the summit and across to the area next to the working quarry.  walking the track to the viewpoint it seemed desperately quiet when suddenly I flushed a large black thrush from a nearby gorse bush.  As it flew away I caught a glimpse of its silvery grey frosted wings just before it dropped behind another bush.  I said to Mark...I think we may have a Ring Ouzel up here.  We walked across the grassy are towards the bushes.  Two birds flew and went different directions, one was a ♂ Blackbird and the other was the possible Ouzel.  That had flew towards the cliff near the pool. We walked across and started scanning when bingo Mark picked up the bird on a ledge.  It was a ♂ Ring Ouzel, yet again the flighty beggar flew before I could get a good look at it. 

We walked around the immediate area scanning, there was no sign when suddenly I saw the bird fly back across and land on another cliff ledge.  This time I managed to get the bird in the scope and we both got decent views of it before it flew again.  This time we didn't manage to relocate it this time and a photo opportunity hadn't presented itself but still...autumn passage Ring Ouzel, even on the local high points, are not easy to come by so it made it a satisfying and worthwhile visit.

Snowy Waxcap (Hygrocybe virginea)

Meadow Waxcap (Hygrocybe pratensis)

Thursday 1st November...Garden Birding

Well it's now been well over a week since my car woes started and I was due to have it back Wednesday when I got a call from the mechanic saying that he had found another problem whilst working on the car.  I went round to have a look and could clearly see what he had found, 2 of the 3 pins on the one engine mount had sheered of on the one side it was just being held by the one pin.  So I told him he may as well order the part and get it done.  Unfortunately its a main dealer part and is currently out of stock in the UK.  Being a Fiat it had to be ordered from Italy and wouldn't be here to next Wednesday at the earliest.  Great yet another week with no wheels.

On the Thursday I was in a more positive mood and spent the time doing a bit of garden birding.  I'm glad I did as I actually recorded 2 Coal Tits.  Two Coal Tits? I hear you say.   Well in my humble terraced house garden we only started getting a Coal Tit on the feeders this year (9 years after moving in and starting to feed the birds).  To get 2 in the garden was a red letter day!

Also visiting the garden was our regular flock of c.40 Starlings and c.30 House Sparrows that battle over Bev's homemade fat cakes.  3 Blue Tits, 2 Great Tits, a Collared Dove and a single Robin were also noted.

In the afternoon I spent some time, from the comfort of the house, watching Kidderminster's very own urban Peregrine whilst it was sat on it's favoured perch of the old mill chimney stack at Weaver's Wharf retail park.  Even attempted some rather poor distant record shots of it through the double glazed window...see below.  Well it was worth a try.

♂ Peregrine - Weaver's Wharf 
(through the window record shot)

Tuesday 30th October 2012 - Shenstone

As I was still car less I was all set for another day stuck in doing chores or yet another walk down the town when the phone rang.  It was my old mate Tony who was feeling rather sympathetic towards my current predicament and offered to pick me up so we could do a tour of the patch.  With the fact that he is a fellow Baggies supporter I felt a lot better about taking him up on his offer!

We started down on Stanklyn Lane where the paddocks were a hive of activity.  Redstart hedge was absolutely chuffing with Blackbirds, 18 in total (all of which appeared to be 1st winter Scandanavian birds with dark bills).  Also noted at the paddocks were 2  Common Buzzards (light morph), 1 Jay and 1 Green Woodpecker.  Along the lane a Mistle Thrush was in the large Oak at the entrance to the beet field.  A single Raven flew over heading West

Heath Lane was relatively quite except for good numbers of Skylark that were drifting through.  Every few minutes another one could be heard calling as it flew over.

At Witch Lane we hit another pocket of bird activity.  In the now bare bean fields there were c.60 Lapwing, c.80 Starling and c.30 Linnets present.  We also observed 2 Kestrels (1♂ & 1♀) at different parts of the lane.  A single Common Buzzard (dark morph) was also recorded.

The final area we checked out was Butts Lane.  It was fairly disappointing here although we did note 3 Meadow Pipits flying ESE, 2 Pied Wagtails heading North and a Common Buzzard (dark morph).

Still, it was great to get out for a couple of hours and catch up for a natter with my curmudgeonly old mate Tony.  Hopefully my car will be back by my next post and I can resume my travels and maybe even do a bit of ferrying around for some of my birding buddies!

Kestrel - Witch Lane (archive shot)