The patch starts to produce.....

Despite the bitter cold conditions, things have been rather interesting on the patch the past few days.  Ok so there still isn't any sign of any Spring migrants arriving as yet but winter migrants were certainly on the move.
Tuesday 26th March:
I received a call from Tony this morning informing me that 2 Tufted Duck (1♂ & 1♀) were on Captains Pool.  This was great news as there hadn't been a single Tufted Duck on the pool all winter (which is most unusual).  As my car was in for repair TS very kindly picked me up and we popped to Captains. Luckily for me the Tufted Ducks were still present. At the pool the pair of Great Crested Grebes were seen starting to display and a handful of Siskin were present in the adjacent Alders.
After partaking in a quick beverage at Tony's café we headed off to check the North side of Shenstone.  First stop was Stanklyn Lane paddocks where 29 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing and a Song Thrush were busy feeding.  In the gallops field a Stock Dove was present and a single Raven flew over kronking away like a good un!
More birds were present in the stubble at the former beet field with c.80 Meadow Pipit, 4 Yellowhammer, 2 Mistle Thrush and 12 Redwing of note. 

Heath lane was desperately quiet but for a single ♂ Kestrel and Butts lane wasn't much better but there were 4 Stock Doves feeding on the plough.
By far the biggest highlight of the day was seeing a rather well hidden Little Owl back on patch.  I was getting concerned as I hadn't seen any sign for such a long time.
Little Owl - 26th March
Wednesday 27th March:
Again the weather was very cold and the skies were overcast on my arrival to the patch this afternoon but the previous day had filled me with renewed enthusiasm.

Much to my delight the Little Owl was again present and showing fairly well until being mobbed by 2 Magpies.

The stubble field at Stanklyn was again very productive with c.40 Meadow Pipits and 8 Redwings present.  The paddocks were quiet however with only a single Song Thrush of note.

Notables at Heath Lane were 18 Fieldfare, 12 Chaffinch and 1 ♂ KestrelButts lane was quite with only a  single Jay and a flyover Cormorant (heading South) of note.

I decided to head over the south side of the patch which turned out to be far more productive.  At Witch Lane an incredible c.120 Meadow Pipits were busy feeding in one of the fields.  Nearby at Willow Marsh Fishery, the 2 Tufted Ducks (from Captains Pool the previous day) had re-located.

The day's highlight came at Back Lane where huge numbers of birds were present in the large grazing field.  These included c.400 Starling, c.200 Fieldfare, 1 Raven,  20 Lapwing and 8 Golden Plover (Get in!).  After a few minutes watching this mass of birds everything went up as a large ♀ Peregrine went through.  Most of the birds returned to ground further but the Golden Plovers flew off heading NE.  The Lapwings also didn't return.

What a great visit.  Year patch ticks in the form of Golden Plover and Peregrine and nice views of my old mate the Little Owl.  Just need the weather to turn milder so the Spring migrants can start moving through!

Tufted Ducks - 26th March

Back on patch

Refreshed after a break away in Norfolk I returned to Shenstone optimistic that Spring was just around the corner and the sound of the first singing patch Chiffchaff of the year would only be days away.  As it happened Spring seems to have stalled in these parts and there is no sign of any  incoming Spring migrants yet.  Still I have started increasing my patch visits and below is a summary of what was (or wasn't) happening....

Saturday 16th March:
Stanklyn Lane was very quite but for a single Canada Goose sat in the middle of the field next to the Gallops.  Also present was 1 Mistle Thrush.

Heath Lane was far more interesting with 166 Fieldfare feeding in the large field opposite the Islamic School.  Amongst them were 2 Redwings and c.80 Starling.  At the paddock a ♂ Kestrel was present.  A Song Thrush and a Common Buzzard were noted in the adjacent  field.

A 2nd ♂ Kestrel was present at Witch Lane and 2 Common Buzzards were seen in a field grubbing out worms.

Monday 18th March:
The weather was actually quite mild for a change and on my arrival late morning the sunshine had brought 2 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies out on the wing along Stanklyn Lane.

At mid-day a flock of 43 Meadow Pipits flew in from the SE and landed in the gallops field.  26 Chaffinch were seen in an adjacent hedgerow and many of which were flitting out fly catching. A single Corn Bunting was heard singing along the lane.

Along Heath Lane there 2 Carrion Crows were seen gathering nest material.  2 Ravens and 3 Common Buzzards were up over the model aircraft field. A ♂ Kestrel was present at the paddock.

At Butts Lane there were 2 Common Buzzards displaying over Stone Manor.  2 Meadow Pipits flew over heading North and 2 Skylarks were seen on the fresh plough. Also of note here was a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) that was on the wing.

I then popped over to Tony's café to re-acquaint myself with his fine beverages and check out Captains Pool.  A 2nd Great Crested Grebe had arrived on 17th March (TS) and the pair had been displaying on/off.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard regularly drumming from the surrounding woodland.

With Tony in tow I headed off to check out the south side of the patch.  By now the weather had turned colder and the sky had gone back to it's continuing greyness.  Needless to say no more bees or butterflies were seen.  At Witch Lane there was a Grey Heron sat in one of the fields and 2 Cormorants were noted flying south.  Back Lane was equally as quite with the only bird of note being another Grey Heron that was sat perched on a wooden fence post.

Thursday 21st March:
The temperature seamed to have dropped further still and the gloomy looking sky was ever-present.  There was however some movement of winter thrushes with c.80 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing, 1 Song Thrush and 2 Mistle Thrush present in Stanklyn paddocks.  They all flew off in a NE direction when disturbed by the landowner.  Also noted were 4 Goldfinch and 8 Chaffinch.

Heath Lane was quiet with a single Common Buzzard being the only bird of note. 

At Barrs Lane there were 2 Stock Doves present on the plough.

Fieldfare - Shenstone

11th to 15th March 2013 - Norfolk

Hi all, as it's been a wee while since I last posted I thought I would kick start the blog with a post on mine and Bev's trip to Norfolk last week. 

I'm sure many of the birders out there will be familiar with the appeal of the Norfolk coast...but some of you may not, so why Norfolk?  Norfolk is a great place for birds...the place is  full of them throughout the year.  In winter months huge numbers of wildfowl and waders over winter there drawn to the rich food source of the mudflats and salt marsh of The Wash.  During migration periods it is often first landfall for many a rarity and in the summer it holds it's own breeding specialities.  To be honest there is always something to see at Norfolk and the sheer volume of birds compared to the landlocked Midlands is a joy to behold! 

Anyway, enough of that prattle...on with the post!

Monday 11th March - Old Hunstanton
Having been stuck in traffic on the M6 due to a serious collision near the junction with the A14, followed by driving through 2 blizzards, it was a relief to arrive at where we were stopping at Old Hunstanton and pop down for a walk along the beach below the cliffs.  The wind chill and speed was horrendous but we did see good numbers of waders along the shoreline including Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Turnstone.  But after an hour of walking along with the wind blown sand hitting our faces like shards of glass we decided to call it day and retire to the hotel.  The lingering thought was...what on earth are we doing here in this weather!

A wind swept Old Hunstanton

Bar-tailed Godwit - Old Hunstanton

Ringed Plover - Old Hunstanton

Tuesday 12th March - Holkham
Thankfully the weather was much more pleasant on the Tuesday and was sunny for large parts of the day.  The change in weather was particularly highlighted by the increased activity of Barn Owls that were busy hunting and feeding up.  We actually saw our first Barn Owl of the day quartering along the roadside at 9:30 am near Burnham Deepdale.

The walk around Holkham was superb...the beach, with its back drop of pines and dunes, is one of the finest in the UK and has been used as a location for a number of blockbuster movies.  We didn't connect with any of the specialities such as Twite or Snow Bunting at Holkham Gap but it was a pleasant walk all the same...a real spirit lifter after the previous days weather!

The after cutting through the dunes at the edge of the pines we headed over to view and walk the marsh side path.  This proved to be very worthwhile as we were treated to cracking views of 2 Marsh Harriers and 4 Barn Owls.  One of the latter landed on a fence post less than 20ft away and checked us out for 30 seconds or so before continuing to quarter the was that close it was too big for binocular views...superb!

A visit to the slightly off the beaten track Joe Jordan hide also paid dividends with a small group of Eurasian White-fronted Geese still present (they depart for their breeding grounds in March).  We were also treated to views of a Bittern flying over the reed bed and a Muntjac Deer just outside the hide.  Curlews, Gypo's (sorry Egyptian Geese), Grey Partridges and good numbers of Lapwings were also very much in evidence on the marsh

View from the dunes at Holkham


Photo by Bev K

Tuesday 12th March - Titchwell Marsh
Mid-afternoon we decided to drop in at the RSPB's Titchwell Marsh reserve for a couple of hours.  The highlight of this visit was seeing 2 rather showy Spotted Redshanks that were in close to the main footpath.  Other waders of note included Avocets, Common Snipe, Golden Plover and Ruff.  

On the first lagoon there was large numbers of gulls present on the lagoon including 3 rather stunning adult Mediterranean Gulls,  c.1000 Common Gull,  thousands of Black-headed Gulls,  many Herring Gulls and small numbers of Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Many Brent Geese were present at Titchwell and plenty of other wildfowl were also well represented with Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, PochardShelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck and Wigeon all noted.  A ♀ Long-tailed Duck was also present apparently but it was out of view sleeping behind one of the islands...ah well.

A Kingfisher was seen flying over the reed bed and a Cetti's Warbler was heard calling. Before leaving we stopped for a hot drink from the visitor's centre and sat watching the feeding station.  A ♀ Brambling was present amongst the mixed finches that were present. This will most likely be the last one I see until next winter! 

Spotted Redshank - Titchwell

Mediterranean Gulls - Titchwell

Wednesday 13th March - Holme Dunes
Wednesday was a day of sunshine and snow showers and we decided to undertake a walk around Holme Dunes.  The beach at Holme was actually fairly quiet on the wader front but we did manage to see a flock of 6 Sanderling flying along the shoreline.

The dunes were equally quite without a sniff of an incoming migrant such as a Chiffchaff or a Northern Wheatear.  I guess the aforementioned species had been held back a bit by the recent colder spell. Of interest to myself though was noticing a tiny puffball type of fungus that was numerous along the vegetated side of the dunes.  These were Winter Stalkball, a speciality of this habitat and a species I hadn't seen before.

The marshes proved a little more fruitful with 2 Marsh Harriers seen and a single Shag sat preening on a fence post.

Winter Stalkball (Tulostoma brumale)

Photo by Bev K

Wednesday 13th March - Old Hunstanton
On arriving back at Old Hunstanton we decided to check the shore line/sea to see if anything was about.  Sure enough there was a huge flock of thousands of Knot wheeling about over The Wash in a Starling like murmuration. A truly stunning sight as they turn en-masse with a flash of silvery white!

Thursday 14th March - Cley next the Sea
Our final day was spent undertaking a walk around Cley Marshes NR in the sunshine, but prior to arriving we stopped off at the reed beds near Cley windmill to try and pick up a Bearded TIt.  This place has been a banker for us in the past but not this time.  That said we had really good close views of 2 Marsh Harriers so it was a worthwhile visit.

At Cley we decided to visit the hides first and on the way along the boardwalk we stopped to view the cracking adult Spoonbill that was present on the Cricket Marsh.  From the hides we were treated to decent views of a group of 6 Black-tailed Godwits (one of which was coming into its lovely orange summer plumage).

From the hides we walked the beach road up to the shingle spit and across to view the Eye Pool and Eye field where a Purple Sandpiper was showing well.  Unfortunately though the light and the heat haze was awful and as a result so were my photos!

The walk back provided us with good views of 2 more Marsh Harriers and a flock of Dunlin.   Also of note was a Brown Hare that was lying down in the sun outside of the Cley Spey shop.

Cley Windmill

Spoonbill - Cley
(crappy distant record shot)

Thursday 14th March - Old Hunstanton
On returning to Old Hunstanton, Bev and I decided to spend an hour on the beach checking out what was about.  There was a flock of c.100 Sanderling flying about that landed along the shore line and proceeded to scurry around like small clockwork toys.  Also of note was a flock of c.500 Knot that were swirling around over the ocean.

I decided to spend some time sea watching but had no joy picking up any rafts of Scoter. In fact to start with all my scanning gave me were 4 Wigeon and a Great Crested Grebe out there until I picked up on a cracking drake Red Breasted Merganser that was swimming very close in to the shore line...lovely bird and one I didn't think I would see this week in all honesty.  Slowly, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of pints and a nice meal to round off what had been a great short break!

Red-breasted Merganser - Old Hunstanton
(record shot)

A quick note

Hi  folks

Just a quickie to let you all know, I haven't given up wildlife blogging but I have been taking a short break from it until Spring kicks off properly. At which point regular posting will resume.

So please check back periodically as the arrival of Spring migrants at Shenstone is imminent and the butterflies should start being seen in good numbers too!

Speak to you soon