12th to 16th May - Rutland

This week Bev and I had decided to go for a short break away to Rutland.  Rutland is the England's smallest county and at it's heart is the large Reservoir and associated nature reserves of Rutland Water.  We have visited Rutland a number of times in the past to visit the British Birdwatching fair but had never been outside of the event weekend so the prospect of visiting the reserves at a quieter time was rather appealing.  Anyway enough of my prattle, hear is how things panned out...
Sunday 12th May - Ketton Quarry NR:
On the day of our arrival we decided to visit a small Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust reserve called Ketton Quarry.  The reserve lies just a few miles south of Stamford and is a former quarried area that has regenerated and is managed as a nature reserve.  It is a known site for a good mix of butterflies and moths and also holds a population of Adders. 
On our arrival to the quarry we were greeted by the unmistakable sound of a singing Nightingale, something I wasn't expecting at this site but I have since found out that they do indeed occur there.  Warblers were present and singing in numbers with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler all noted.  A cracking Red Kite was also seen as it circled low over the wooded area.
We didn't fair as well we had hoped to with the butterflies and moths as the weather turned whilst we were there and the heavens opened up.  Still we managed a single Common Carpet moth and 1 perched Grizzled Skipper which was found by the only other person mad enough to be out there in such dire conditions.  Still it was an interesting reserve with some good habitat, so I pencilled in a return visit.
Grizzled Skipper
Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata)
Monday 13th May - Rutland Water:
We spent a large part of the day time today at the Egleton Reserve at Rutland Water.  Here a fantastic network of lagoons have been created with numerous hides to view the wide variety of bird life present.
Waders were present in good numbers with the following species observed:  Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling.
There were huge numbers of hirrundines present over the lagoons with House Martins, Sand Martins and Swallows present over the water.  They were also joined in number by  many of the similar looking yet non related Swifts.

Warblers were again everywhere and today we enjoyed good views of both Reed and Sedge Warbler. The Lesser Whitethroat that was continually singing near the Harrier hide was less obliging though and we were unable to get a decent view of the little skulker!

The undoubted highlight for me though was seeing 2 Hobbys hawking over Lagoon 3 amongst the Swifts.  These summer visiting raptors are one of my favourite birds and I never tire of watching their displays of aerial agility.  Also of note were many Common Terns, a Little Egret and a Yellow Wagtail.
Common Tern

Wednesday 15th May - Rutland Water:
This morning we started our day by visiting Rutland Water's other main reserve, The Lyndon  Reserve.  On arrival we decided to walk down to the Shallow Water hide to view the nesting Ospreys.  On the way down we were treated to cracking views of a Brown Hare in the adjacent field.  At the hide we were treated to great views of 2 Ospreys. The female was on the nest and the male spent most of his time sat on the grass bank opposite.  Occasionally flying up to see off the odd gull.  Unfortunately I forgot my compact camera so was unable to digiscope any Osprey shots

Also of interest here was a Great Crested Grebe that was nesting near the hide, with it's mate never too far away bringing various twigs/vegetation to please it's other half.  Also showing well were a pair of Egyptian Geese. A number of hirrundines which would occasionally perch up on the part submerged fence line. 

Back at the Lyndon Reserve visitor centre we were treated to seeing 4 Tree Sparrows on the feeding station.

From Lyndon we headed back over to Egleton for a couple of hours.  Highlights this time included seeing a stunning summer plumage adult Ruff and a drake Greater Scaup.

Egyptian Goose

Great Crested Grebe

Sand Martins & Swallow

♂ Greater Scaup

Thursday 16th May - Ketton Quarry NR:
This was the last day of our short break and as it was sunny we decided to pay a return visit to Ketton Quarry, it didn't disappoint.  Day flying moths were everywhere with Red Twin-spot CarpetCommon Carpet and Common Heath all being recorded. 

A number of butterflies were also on the wing but we only saw one very flighty Grizzled Skipper.  That said ♂ Brimstone, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood were also observed.

The undoubted highlight though was seeing two Adders on one of the banks.  Initially I observed the small rather gorgeous blue/grey male Adder cross a clearing only to disappear under the vegetation.  Some time later whilst scanning the same area I picked up the larger olive brown female Adder slithering towards the clearing.  On clocking me and Bev it stopped for a while just watching us. We remained still and eventually she came out to bask.  What a great way to end a great holiday!

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria)

Red Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe spadicearia)

♀ Adder

3rd to 5th May 2013 - Shropshire

This weekend Bev and I were away for a wedding at Shrewsbury.  We decided to stay a couple of nights at the venue to make a short break of it and do a bit of birding whilst in Shropshire.
Friday 3rd May - Venus Pool NR:
Today we decided to visit the Shropshire Ornithological Society's Venus Pool reserve near Shrewsbury.  I am a member of the SOS, as living just 4 or 5 miles over the county border in Worcestershire it is an area that I tend to bird a number of times throughout the year.  That said I had never visited the society's own Venus Pool before and can honestly say it is a cracking little reserve.
During our visit their were no rarities/scarcities present but to be honest it didn't matter, it is such a peaceful reserve in a stunning location.  We happily sat in the hides watching the comings and goings of it's inhabitants, including 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers and 2 Shelduck.  The highlight of the visit was when 2 Yellow Wagtails (1♂, 1♀) dropped in on one of the islands for about 20 minutes before flying off South East.  The male spent a good few minutes washing and preening himself in the water at the edge of the island...gorgeous birds!
The hedges near the car park were chuffing with warblers with Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff all busy singing away.
For more information about the Shropshire Ornithological Society click on the below link:
Oystercatcher - Venus Pool

Sunday 5th May - Albright Hussey Manor Hotel:
It was the "morning after the night before" and on returning to the room, after a restorative cooked breakfast, I decided to spend some time looking out over the adjacent farm yard and sheep field watching the many Swallows that were hawking insects there.
Whilst enjoying this spectacle  I suddenly caught, in the corner of my eye, a bird flick down from the farm yard fence and onto the grass.  What caught my attention was it's bright red tail.  Great I thought, a Redstart....I wasn't expecting to see one of those this weekend. I went and grabbed my binoculars (which I had taken out of the car incase of any break ins).  Suddenly the bird flicked back up onto the fence, I raised my bins and was surprised (and chuffed) to see that it was in fact a Black Redstart...result!
This ♀ Black Redstart continued to show well between 9:50 am and 10:20 am on fences of farm yard and nearby rubble piles and on one occasion even  perched up on the boundary fence of hotel car park.
I hadn't got my bridge camera or my digiscoping set up with me so Bev and I decided to try and get some record shots with our compact digital cameras fully zoomed up.  The resulting photos, which are heavily cropped and not great, are shown below.  After all any sort of record shot is better than none!

Black Redstart - Albright Hussey Manor

Click on images to enlarge

Wednesday 1st May - Shenstone

Earlier today there were 4 Northern Wheatear (3♂, 1♀) and a single Garden Warbler present in the Barrs Lane area (TMH) and these were still present on my arrival mid afternoon.

The good weather had also livened up things on the invertebrate front in the Barrs Lane area with Buff-tailed BumblebeeCommon Carder Bee and Small Tortoiseshell all noted. 

Of greater interest at Barrs Lane though was seeing a Gooden's Nomad Bee, the first I have recorded on the patch.  This is a species of solitary cuckoo bee that parasitizes the nest of various species of mining bee.  The female Gooden's Nomad Bee waits until a female Mining Bee has excavated a nest tunnel and has provisioned a nest cell with pollen for her larva. When the mining bee is away on one of it's many pollen gathering trips the Gooden's Nomad female visit the cell and lay her own egg there. The Gooden's Nomad larvae then consumes the pollen provision of the host bee.  It's truly fascinating stuff!

My next stop was at Heath Lane where I recorded another Garden Warbler singing from the scrub at the edge of the Islamic School sports field.  At one point 8 Common Buzzards were up soaring over the model aircraft field and a 9th Common Buzzard was sat perched on a hedgerow at the paddock. 

Things were fairly good insect wise here too with the first patch Orange Tip butterfly of the year flitting around.  Also noted were 1 Peacock, 4 Small Tortoiseshells and a Common Carder Bee.

My final port of call was Curslow Lane where 5 Northern Wheatear and 3 Pied Wagtails were present on the rolled seed bed.

Orange Tip (♂) - 1st May 2013

Gooden's Nomad Bee (Nomada goodeniana)

Northern Wheatear - 1st May 2013

Saturday 27th April - Shenstone

Today I visited the patch early afternoon.  The weather during visit had started off bright and sunny but the heavens opened for a while and I decided to sit it out in the car, waiting for the rain to pass in case it put down some passage migrants.  This tactic paid off and in total I recorded 12 Northern Wheatears from various locations around the patch:

Also of note during the visit was a single Yellow Wagtail that was present along Curslow Lane. T

he number of singing Common Whitethroats on territory around the patch had also increased considerably.

The only species of butterfly noted was Small Tortoiseshell.

Shenstone - 19th to 24th April

Right, time to dust off the blog and start catching up with a few posts!!!

Friday 19th April:
I started this evening's patch visit at Stanklyn Lane where the ♂ Common Redstart was still present.  Opposite, on the gallops, a single ♂ Northern Wheatear was also present.  it was also good to hear singing Blackcap, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer in this area.

At Heath Lane a flock of 6 Corn Buntings were perched up on one of the hedgerows.  A Common Buzzard was also present.

Elsewhere, the Little Owl was showing well perched in it's favoured tree.

The undoubted highlight though was seeing a stunning Red Fox trotting across the lawn at the rear of Stone Manor, it's rufous coat looking wonderful in the glow of the evening sun.

Saturday 20th April:
Today I arrived at the patch around mid-day to be greeted by the sight of a cracking ♂ Brimstone butterfly flying along Stanklyn Lane, my first patch sighting of this species for 2013.  The year firsts didn't stop there when I noticed a Common Whitethroat flitting about and singing near the junction with Heath Lane.

At Stanklyn Wood a Nuthatch was calling and both Blackcap and Chiffchaff  heard singing

At Heath Lane another Chiffchaff and a ♂ Blackcap were seen singing.  The only butterfly noted here was a single Small Tortoiseshell.

At Butts Lane I was treated to a bit of nature porn when the pair of Kestrels started mating on the grass bank.  They don't half kick up a racket whilst at it!

My final stop was Witch Lane where a single Yellow Wagtail flew over heading WSW.  This area was the most productive for invertebrates with 1 Peacock, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 1 ♂ Nursery Web Spider, 1 Pied Shieldbug and an Early Mining Bee noted here.

Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)

♂ Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

Thursday 23rd April:
Today there were 2♂ Northern Wheatear and a ♂ Common Redstart present at Stanklyn Lane (TMH).

I only had time to whistle-stop through Shenstone today and managed to find another 3 Northern Wheatear on the rolled seedbed along Curslow Lane. 

At Butts Lane a pair of Swallows were present around Eastfields Farm and a Willow Warbler was singing nearby.

Friday 24th April:
Again, I only had time for a quick patch visit but was pleased to see that there were now 5 Northern Wheatears (4♂, 1♀) in the gallops field. 

The Witch Lane area was again the place to go for the insects with a queen Buff-tailed Bumble Bee, a Common Carder Bee and a Small Tortoiseshell noted there

Northern Wheatear (♂)

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)