Monday, 21 January 2013

12th & 13th Jan 2013

Saturday 12th January

At Stubbers Green early doors, an adult Caspian Gull didn't disappoint, despite the gathering of gulls being very small on this occasion. A classic specimen of Caspo, no question. No Iceland though and we didn't hang around.

Also here, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls and 1 Common Gull, 5 Goosander and the omnipresent flyover Lesser Redpoll.

Next, a return to one of the local haunts; Croxall Lakes. 6 Redshank clung to the river scrapes, whilst 2 Little Egrets were on the main lake with 13 Goldeneye and around 60 Pochard.

Things were looking up when a drake Scaup dropped in...

Dodgy Aythya Hybridy Thingumy - Images courtesy Martyn Yapp

Unfortunately upon closer inspection it became apparent that this 'Scaup' was not the full shilling. Not only was it rather small, lacking robust Scaup-type jizz, it also lacked a small black nail on its bill, in fact having a very extensive but poorly defined black bill tip. There was also some dark streaking to its white flanks. 

Presumably Tufty x Scaup hybrid? It was displaying to some of the female Tuftys, so perhaps more Aythya ID headaches cometh...

35 Golden plover were in the field opposite the Alrewas war memorial.

Little Egret - Image by Martyn Yapp

Next the fields at Whitemore Haye where we were lucky enough to have a female Merlin, although views were a little fleeting... Little Owl was present and around 10 Yellowhammer, 4 Tree Sparrow, 1 Reed Bunting and the Golden Plover flock that was now 500+ strong.

Elsewhere in the Trent Valley we had 3 Jack Snipe.

Sunday 13th January

Martyn and I spent most of the day at Ladywalk, hoping to better get to grips with the Tristis Chiffchaff that we located on New Year's Day along with Ian. Now the tick-happy days of early January had been exhausted, quite a crowd gathered along the path  at Ladywalk. The Siberian Chiffchaff had been seen and heard again in recent days.

Unfortunately the bird was elusive today and I only had a brief view and alas this was in strong sunlight, therefore not allowing for observation of the plumage tones. The bird called very occasionally, but generally wasn't playing ball.

However since then it has been confirmed that there are actually 2 Tristis Chiffchaff present and they have been much more obliging at times! Here are some images by Dave Hutton...

Tristis Chiffchaff - Image Courtesy of Dave Hutton

The 2 Tristis together - image courtesy Dave Hutton

Also 1 or 2 regular Colybita Chiffys were noted and many Goldcrest were around the reserve. A single Waxwing commuted from the area behind the car park to berries in the Sainsburys depot. 3 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Reed Bunting, GS Woody, 2 Siskin, Buzzard and Grey Wagtail were all noted.

At the outflow at Edison Road 6+ Chiffchaffs showed well, however none of the Siberian variety. Firecrest was also absent here, however we did have a Green Sandpiper.

Chiffchaff - Image courtesy Martyn Yapp

Later in the day, Lea Marston & Coton. A Long-tailed Duck was still viewable from the road bridge and in the gull roost we had an adult Med Gull. Other notable species included Shelduck, Water Rail (h), Sparrowhawk and Goldeneye.

Monday, 7 January 2013

5th Janvier

It was back into the old work thing a bit sharpish this year and Day 5 of 2013 was only Day 2 of birding. Sadly, no Waxwings around North Solihull and the only thing I had was a year tick of a Sparrowhawk to keep me going. Harsh times.

Saturday was mainly spent around Cannock way with Martyn & Ian and we began at Coven Heath. Coven Heath may sound like the setting of a Thomas Hardy novel, but it is actually an area with a small sewage works and some nice stubble fields, lined with hawthorn scrub etc. It is a place that warrants further exploration. On this occasion we noted c200 Chaffinch, 9 Yellowhammer, Skylark, Grey Wagtail, Stock Dove, Lesser Redpoll and Buzzard.

Next on to Gailey, where the regular adult Med Gull was on the water with the Black-headed Gull flock, which numbered over 300 birds. Bit of a stunner the Med.

Med Gull - Image courtesy Martyn Yapp

Sadly it soon flew and all the other birds were flushed when boating activities began on the water, so like them we decided to move along.

Our next stop was the area around Kingswood Tip, where we had a feeling that the Glaucous Gull might be poking about. The second-winter Glauc that had come into Chasewater on recent evenings was as yet unaccounted for in the day times. Immense numbers of gulls using this area to feed; it was odds on it would be here somewhere, but with the main part of the tip not viewable and 1000's of highly mobile gulls, finding it might be a different matter.

Of the thousands of gulls in the air, we could pick out no white-wingers, so we relocated slightly down the road to the area opposite Kingswood Pool. No gulls at all on the water, but quite a gathering on the corrugated roof of the factory opposite.

How lucky can you get? The second-winter Glaucous Gull was sat on the roof, right at the front! Gullmazing! Now if you don't get excited by a big, fat, dirty, smelly white-winger, why are you in birding? I was and it proper made my day.

Glauc! Image courtesy Martyn Yapp

This certainly didn't appear to be the largest Glauc I'd ever seen, but still a brute in appearance we watched it for a while until it wandered into the melee of gulls.

2 Goosander were on the small pool.

Next to the Chase, where the Great Grey Shrike was eezy peasy at Upper Longdon. This bird is currently quite reliable in the usual clearfell spot.

Great Grey Shrike at Upper Longdon - Image courtesy Dave Hutton

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around various areas of Cannock Chase. Highlights included a fine pair of Stonechat atop the heather, 2 Green Woodpecker, 1 Great-Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Raven and  a Treecreeper.

Only two days spent in the field so far and there's been some outstanding birds to see locally. Let's hope it continues for a good birding year in  the West Midlands region....

Sunday, 6 January 2013

2013 - Happy New Birding Year

Doing my 2012 round-up, I realised there was a fair bit of very good birding that I didn't get around to blogging and I often didn't post quickly enough. As with any birding year I start with a pile of resolutions and one is to keep the blog more current and comprehensive.

Welcome to birding in 2013.

Tuesday 1st January

A big day in the calender, it's easy to get caught up in the year-listing madness and indeed there was a fair bit of dashing around, but also some cracking birds seen. The day was spent mainly around the Tame Valley area of Warwickshire with Martyn Yapp (new blog here) and Ian Whitehouse.

Shustoke Reservoir, 9.00am

Decent scope views of the 2 Great Northern Divers here, with both birds still present at the time of writing. Also here a low flyover cronking Raven, c10 Goosander and Goldeneye.

Lea Marston & Coton, 9.45am

Moving very swiftly on, it was Coton next. a specific target bird here: Long-tailed duck. The bird was not immediately obvious, but a lot of the water can be hidden here so some patience is needed. Eventually the female immature Long-tailed Duck drifted back into view and showed quite well. 

Also a surprise here, a female Scaup which was picked up by Martyn. This is a robust,  classic female, although these lakes also hold a few dodgy 'scaup-faces' so beware.

There were also 2 wintering Chiffchaff near the hide.

Hams Hall, 10.40am

The Edison Road river culvert area SP199914 attracts a lot of insects and therefore insect-eaters such as wintering Chiffy and also Crests, with the site holding a couple of Firecrest a few years back. Therefore is always worth a look in winter if you are passing.

Clearly we weren't the only ones to have this idea; bumping into a few familiar faces here.

There were 6+ Chiffchaff feeding in the outflow, probably many more and the odd Goldcrest. A Green Sandpiper and a few Grey Wagtails were on the river and Green Woodpecker calling.

All very nice but then Dave Hutton came running back down the track shouting FIRECREST!! as he made a dash for his camera.

We were soon watching this little gem. Well done Dave!

Firecrest at Edison Road - Image by Dave Hutton

Ladywalk NR

Very nearby, this is another site that attracts wintering insect eaters. Indeed on a visit in November whilst looking for 2 Firecrests that we failed to see, we had 3 Chiffy and a pair of Blackcap along the main path from the car park.

It was along this path that we encountered a very grey looking, pale Chiffchaff. As we walked back up the path after visiting the hides, we heard a call which Martyn and Ian instantly recognised as Tristis - Siberian Chiffchaff. I have to confess here, that personally I had no previous experience with Sibe Chiffchaff and my knowledge was extremely limited. However, this bird was calling for a time and it was nothing like any Chiffchaff I have ever heard before. It sounded reminiscent of a subdued Bullfinch type call.

Martyn has got a few images of the bird and whilst I hasten to add again that this is more of a 'learning bird' for me, I believe the bird shows some pro-Tristis features. I probably don't know enough about it to comment at length and I am glad that Martyn and Ian both had previous experience with this sub-species; in my case it's given me some reading/research to do.

Probable Tristis Chiffchaff - I have cropped this image, but not altered it in any other way

More images and Martyn's account of this bird can be found here.

Also at Ladywalk we noted 1 Willow Tit, 1 Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and more than 20 Goosander.

Chasewater, 2.45pm

In the final move of the day, we switched counties to Staffs for the Chasewater Gull roost. This was largely in the hope of catching the 2nd-winter Glaucous Gull that had come in the evening before, for the first time this winter I believe. That was a roost which also held Caspo, Med and Iceland so our hopes were high.

Unfortunately we didn't do so well, although the roost was completely massive, it was impossible to scan each bird. The best we could do was 3 Yellow-legged Gull. The Glaucous did not come in and the Iceland came in very late, just after we had gone in fact.

Despite some disappointment at the gull roost it was a very enjoyable day. The first day total was 59, a good innings as they say, but more importantly quality over quantity with some cracking birds seen.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2012....The Year That Was Part 2


Summer birding is hard work for me, I'm not one for the heat really. Nonetheless the month provided a few gems in the form of a long-overdue Honey Buzzard at Welbeck Watchpoint in Notts. A good morning of raptoring which also included Osprey and Red Kite.

On 29th June a smashing Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Frodsham Marsh was the star bird of this wader-filled day in Cheshire.


Some new regional ticks in August. On the 5th, the long staying Great White Egret at Grimley Gravel Pits in Worcs and also Pectoral Sandpiper at Marsh Lane. Also on the 12th 2 Sandwich Terns at Blithfield Reservoir, a very scarce sight inland.

Great White Egret at Grimely - seen on 9th & 19th - Image by Martyn Yapp

Sarnie at Blithers! Image courtesy Martyn Yapp

An influx of Black Terns occured on the weekend 18th/19th August, which included 20+ at Blithfield on the 18th.


On 15th September I boarded the Yorkshire Belle with Martyn. Highlights were Bonxie x 4, Arctic Skua x 5, Sooty Shearwater x 1, Manx Shearwater x 4, Red-throated Diver x 2, Puffin x 8, plus all the other stuff you would expect to see in the way of Auks, Shag, 1000’s Gannets, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Scoter etc. 

Bonxxieee!!! Image by Martyn Yapp

On the 16th, a twitch with Richard and Martyn down to Dorset for Short-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor. A Brucie Bonus on the return journey was a White-rumped Sandpiper at Steart Point, Somerset, accompanied by a Curlew Sandpiper.

Short-billed Dowitcher - Image by Richard Powell

White-rumped Sandpiper by Richard Powell

The 23rd September was the best seawatch of the year, from Spurn Point with Martyn. We had not set off with this intention, but a clearout of migrants and a turn in the weather meant the sea was far more fruitful than bush-bashing (although the day included 3 Yellow-browed Warblers). Sightings included adult Sabine's Gull x 1, Little Auk x 1, Sooty Shearwater x 5, Manx x 1, Arctic Skua x 7, Bonxie x 4, Velvet Scoter x 1, Red-throated Diver x 30.


October was of course the month of my first ever Scilly Autumn! I won't go into that again as I've already written 'War & Peace' on it here, here and here.

6th Oct a Yorkshire day out with Martyn - Another enjoyable seabird cruise at Bempton, hotly followed by my 300th British Bird later that day- a stonking female Pallid Harrier at Firsby in South Yorkshire! The bird frustratingly sat distantly in a field for well over an hour, but when she eventually began to quarter the fields, stupendous views were had by all. Some images of this bird on this blog, A.W.Birder.... One of the most memorable twitches of the year, for good and bad reasons (dissed as female birder for spotting the harrier before others) but the good outweighed the bad by far, with a milestone bird enjoyed with a good friend.

The 29th October was a particularly memorable local Staffs day. Firstly, the discovery that the Great Grey Shrike had returned to Upper Longdon for the winter.

Great Grey Shrike at Upper Longdon - Image by Martyn Yapp

Secondly, immense; being one of three people (the others Martyn Yapp and Julian Allen) to see a first for Blithfield Reservoir. Incredible find Jules! Also a female Common Scoter present.

Velvet Scoters - Blithers first! image by Martyn Yapp


A Slavonian Grebe was seen at Shustoke on 3rd, this was present for about 5 days, always a very nice bird to see locally.

Slavonian Grebe - Image courtsey Dave Hutton

On 11th October, a visit to Conway with a fine drake Surf Scoter and 1000's of Common Scoter at Llandulas and 5 Velvets.

Also the first Waxwings of a bumper winter for them. Around 200 for starters at MFI in Llandudno.

Waxwing at Llandudno

On the 17th Oct a significant regional tick - White-rumped Sandpiper at Middleton. Something of a second coming after the dip at Grimley in the Summer.

WRS - digiscoped by Richard Powell

It seems a more than reasonable year for Great Northern Diver in the region. The first one for me at Chasewater on 24th November.

Great Northern Diver - Image by Martyn Yapp

On 25th a pretty classic Caspian Gull was in the Tad Bay roost at Blithfield.


A much quieter month, mainly because of the thing called Christmas that took place and its associated festivities.

There was a lot of rain, there were floods. There were a lot of Waxwings....with a couple of self finds, which is always nice.

On 22nd December, a final twitch of the year. American Buff-bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire.

Buff-bellied Pipit

On 23rd December the Iceland Gull was in at Stubber's Green, now a full adult.

Adult Iceland Gull - Image courtesy Hughie King

And so the year came to a close.

My new year's resolutions: to keep this blog up to date and to post more often. That starts tomorrow, better late than never....