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.

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