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Saturday, 3 June 2017

Mid-Summer Break begins

The Blog is currently Inactive for the Summer period. Postings will recommence with the return Autumn migration (probably Mid to late July).

However, should anything noteworthy occur in the intervening period I may temporarily reactivate the blog. To ensure you are aware of this I would suggest that you register your e-mail in the bar provided (below the blog header). This will immediately send you a notification and a link should any postings appear.

The Monthly activity updates will continue throughout, recording any interesting or significant occurrences that are reported (scroll back through the postings to 2017 The year so far).

Otherwise, I hope you all have a pleasant summer and lots of good birding! - Chaz

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Staffordshire's Biggest Blockers - An Introduction

Staffordshires last twitchable Night Heron - Photo Chaz Mason (Honest)!
Warning: This one is an epic and is something for more serious birders, so be prepared to 'give up the will to live' if you are only casually interested in birds and birdwatching.

If you are still with me - lets begin...

As I am 'getting-on' a bit these days I am tending to lose the plot with a lot of things. Once upon a time if I heard a bird call or song I would pretty much know what it was immediately (and if I didn't know what it was, I knew that too - which was a lot more exciting). These days the information is still downloaded, it just takes a few more seconds for the software to access it than it used to. Which is very frustrating!

I find that I am also getting a lot more nostalgic about things that I was once quite pragmatic about and that includes birding. There are some things about the hobby that I miss and one of them is the special language that birders used to use which has gone out of fashion these days. I must have been doing the blog for about ten years now (?) and over that period I have introduced you to a fair few of those terms, so you should all know about; twitching, gripping-off, stringing (Don't do it!), padders, and dudes. Even this week I have exposed you to a 'Crippler' but I cant remember if we have ever talked about 'Blockers'?

A blocker is a bird that is difficult to put on a particular list, whether its a life-list, local patch list, garden list, county list etc (if you don't know by now, being an anally retentive lister is a prerequisite of serious bird watching). It is usually a bird which for some reason is rare or infrequent in occurrence or in a worst case an out and out unexpected rarity (A good example of this would be the Belted Kingfisher at Shugborough - a species so unlikely to occur in Staffordshire that it could easily be a hundred or even two or three hundred years before there is another). It must be noted that birds that have never previously occurred in a particular area are not blockers. If that were not the case then you could say that flightless Steamer Duck would be a Blocker in Staffs. No, the bird has to have occurred in a particular area at least once for it to be deemed a blocker (literally something you have been blocked from putting on your list by it failure to occur with any frequency).

These days my most important lists are my Staffordshire List and my Chasewater List. I was born in Staffordshire, in Walsall! Yes younger readers, Walsall used to be in Staffordshire! Until 1974 in fact when we were all forcibly deported into an artificial administrative area called the West Midlands County. Some people deported into 'new' counties such as Humberside and Avon have been allowed to go home but it is now doubtful that Walsall and its citizens will be allowed back (after nearly fifty years I suspect such a decision would be as divisive as brexit these days). At first sight this may not seem to be a relevant issue but it has caused a dichotomy of opinion about what constitutes Staffordshire for some birders.

When the county boundaries were changed, the body responsible for recording the counties birdlife (The West Midland Bird Club) had to make a decision. Do we opt for using the new counties or do we stick to the old vice-counties that had traditionally been used to define where wildlife occurred. They made a decision (wrong in my opinion) to go with the new counties which meant that records of species from some parts of historic Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire suddenly found themselves transferred to a county that previously didn't exist and all subsequent species records for those transferred areas were now attributed to the West Midlands.

I try to be a good lad and still use the WMBC guidelines as a yardstick to run my list by so my Staffordshire list only features birds that have been accepted as having occurred in a wild state in the county as defined in 1974. This even means that there are a number of birds that I have seen in Staffordshire which are not on my official county list because the administrative body does not accept that they were genuinely wild.

I believe that if you decide to have a framework for doing something then you work within that structure and not pick the bits you like and ignore the bits that aren't comfortable (some religions should look at that approach perhaps)? However, some renegade birders refuse to accept this level of control and run their list on their own opinions and on the basis of the pre 1974 boundary so what is a blocker for one Staffs birder is not necessarily a blocker for another.

The photo at the top of the posting was a juvenile Night Heron at Rollaston on Dove, just within the Staffordshire County boundary (31/03/2000) and (as far as I know) the last twitchable Staffordshire Bird according to the WMBC. If I were an 'Old Staffs' lister, I would now have seen at least three of these in the county because I once saw an adult at Hayhead Wood (16/04/1990) and another juvenile at Sheepwash Urban Park (08/08/2004), both places previously having been in Staffordshire (Good grief -birders seem to do everything in as complicated a way as possible don't they - what next, standing up in a hammock)?

Anyway - you should now have a good idea of what a birder means when he says that something is a blocker. When a bird that has previously been a blocker finally turns up it is deemed to have been unblocked - at last something straightforward and logical. 

Staffordshires Most Blocked?

So what are Staffordshires biggest blockers. On a personal level for me it is Honey Buzzard, the commonest species that I need for the county but this is actually a regular passage bird through the county and one that could turn up in a couple of weeks for someone fortunate enough to be there at the right time. So its not a Blocker in the true sense of the term.

No - what are the REAL blockers that effect all Staffordshire listers and not just me?

My opinion is there are just thirteen super-Blockers (originally twelve but Gareth Clements made a good case for Nutcracker to be included) most of which are unlikely to ever occur again and another four which may remain Blockers for some time but which could conceivably be pulled back. These latter birds are Marsh Sandpiper (last recorded in the county in 1974), Kentish Plover (last accepted county record 1995), Guillemot (last recorded in the county in 1920) and Two Barred Crossbill (a species that wintered on Cannock Chase in 1979/80 but which has been claimed in the county as recently as 2014).

There is no real reason why Marsh Sandpiper has not occurred in recent years, it is still a more or less annual vagrant to the U.K. and statistically it is only a matter of time before one turns up again. Kentish Plover has declined in occurrence nationally and is now more uncommon at inland counties throughout Britain than it previously was. As to the potential for Guillemot, that's a different matter. Despite pelagic birds occasionally finding their way to inland counties, the most common auk species Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin are always single figure occurrences on the lists for those counties as they depend on specific and unusual weather conditions at the right time of year in order to be significantly displaced, and those two factors only seem to come together one or twice a century.

So what are the Staffordshire Super-Blockers?

These are the species that in my opinion, you as an individual reading this today will be damn lucky to put onto your county list should you be that way inclined. I have listed the species that I deem to be the 'Super Blockers' in alphabetical order rather than to try and justify which is more or less likely to occur than another (such an approach would be subjective and very open to disagreement so why bother)?

Belted Kingfisher 2005
This was always my dream bird for Britain and when a Belted Kingfisher turned up in my favoured county on April First I took some persuading to go for it. It is still (I believe) a single figure species on the British List so the chances of a second bird finding its way to such an inland county has to be very small. Not impossible but then very little in birding ever is! However, I suspect that you would get very good odds from Ladbrookes on there being another one in our lifetimes?

Belted Kingfisher - Photo Copyright: Audobon
Cirl Bunting 1951
I don't think that this was ever an established species in Staffordshire? I know they reportedly bred on Hartlebury Common (Worcestershire) within recent history (1960/1970s ?) but I am not sure if the Staffordshire record relates to a genuine extra-limital occurrence by a British specimen or possibly a vagrant bird from Europe? Either way the decline of this species has resulted in a successful reintroduction scheme in Cornwall and I suspect that it would require an extension of such a scheme into more northern counties for this species to get on to any contemporary Staffordshire birders list?

Cory's Shearwater 1971
Chasewaters rarest ever bird? This rates alongside Auks as unlikely to occur at an inland site and again would seem to require a very infrequent set of circumstances in order to penetrate so far inland. The bird in question was picked up exhausted and nursed back to health before sadly being killed on release. Not impossible but put it this way, I have seen probably approaching a thousand Cory's Shearwaters abroad but still need to see one for my British list, and that's in coastal waters. So statistically what would you rate the chances of another one occurring on a lake or reservoir in Staffordshire?

Golden Eagle N/K
No longer breeding anywhere in England and suffering continuing persecution in Scotland. I don't know anything about this record. It is certainly not impossible for a vagrant bird from Scotland or even Europe to occur but it is still highly unlikely. Having said that this is one that could eventually unblock for some lucky birder.

Great Snipe 1954
To the delight of 'Old Staffs' listers this one is on their lists thanks to a highly unlikely but well watched bird at Sandwell Valley a few years ago (22/08/1995). This one could get onto the Staffordshire lists if more birders were prepared to learn the species and apply what they have learned to the large numbers of wintering Snipe that occur in Britain. I suspect that Great Snipe is a much under-recorded vagrant but how many of you reading this would be prepared to put their reputations on the block and claim one if you believed you have found one. That's the destructive effect of competitive birding for you!

Gyr Falcon 1844
HA! I wish! Unless you are affluent enough to go to the Scottish Islands or are in a position to twitch the odd coastal vagrant that sometimes occurs, this is a very difficult bird to get on your list. Any legitimate bird occurring in Staffordshire these days would have to run the gauntlet of the rarities committees to decide if it was genuine or a falconers escape or even a hybrid? Good luck with getting this one on your staffs list.

Little Bittern 1906
Please, please, please!  This is my personal Bogey Bird, if you have one of these anywhere come and get me - I genuinely am coming to believe that I will never see one of these, I have even missed seeing them at sites abroad (the little buggers keep dodging me)! From a county point of view though, this does have some potential for breaking the block. Little Bittern may not have occurred for over a hundred years in the county but in recent years there have been a number of breeding records in Britain. If this trend continues there has to be hope of a Little Bittern eventually crossing into Staffordshire airspace (if one does, COME AND GET ME - PLEASE)!

Little Bustard 1891
Never going to happen. Despite being highly migratory, this species has undergone such a dramatic decline in its favoured breeding areas the potential for vagrancy to such an inland county in the UK has to be very small verging on impossible in my opinion. When the next one turns up on the south coast go and chase it, I suspect that's the closest that this species will ever get to Staffordshire again!

A Little Bustard. Never again? photo copyright: Animalia
Nutcracker 1991
A species that historicaly has undergone eruptive movements from Siberia into western Europe - but not recently. The only Staffordshire Record was a very popular specimen at Cocknage Woods that was ridiculously obliging and which remained in the area for several weeks. Since this bird was recorded though, there have been only a handful of specimens claimed nationally so it is currently not just a tough bird to get on your Staffs list but also onto your U.K. list. This could all change with any future winter movements, but at present it does look unlikely to happen and until it does, I suspect that this species is worthy of 'Super-Blocker' status.

Pallas's Sandgrouse 1908
For what is now such a rare species, it is hardly possible to believe that it was once a regular irruptive migrant with huge falls of birds being recorded in the 19th century. These days such things must be consigned to history and even if this bird were to occur, it is far more likely to be on a distant Scottish island rather than anywhere in Staffordshire. This is one of the few species on my 'dream list' so I would like to hope, but I don't really think its ever likely to happen again, do you?

Sooty Tern 1852
Its not very often that a legend is totally true but the story of the Staffordshire Sooty Tern is! The bird was seen on the River Trent near Burton and a local landowner paid a local boy with a catapult to bring the bird down - which he did with one shot! The bird was subsequently collected, stuffed and then put on Display (Does Yoxall Hall sound right?) where its existence was a matter of record for many years. Unfortunately at some point the specimen was lost but there is no doubt of its existence and the story is recounted in a very rare book called; "The Birds of Staffordshire" (McAldowie 1893).

Fortunately if you are interested in knowing more, a copy of this fascinating book is in possession of the Local Studies Room at Essex Street in Walsall. Not sure how accessible it is these days but I once sat and read it cover to cover one afternoon.

White Tailed Eagle 1905
What do I need to say about this species. The successful return of this magnificent birds to British Skies is a matter of common knowledge. Surely at some point one of these reintroduced birds or even perhaps a genuine vagrant from Norway must one day grace the sky over Staffordshire. However this would probably have been much more likely had the proposal to reintroduce White Tailed Eagle to East Anglia been allowed to go ahead. Sadly not to be though, so its a case of wait, hope and twitch!

Photo copyright: Alan Saunders
White throated Needletail 1991
A much envied bird from within my lifetime, and a totally unexpected vagrant to the UK let alone Staffordshire! The possibility of one of these occurring anywhere must be quite small and I suspect it is a bird that the current and future generations of Staffordshire listers will have to continue to envy those lucky enough to have found it? - Likelihood of another? In my opinion astronomical!

There you are then - something for you to ponder on. It is now three hours since I started to write this and I haven't had my breakfast yet. Sorry for those who may have found it boring but sometimes I want to write stuff that interests me and which I hope will be of interest to like-minded birders.

I am sure that not everyone will agree with my analysis and that's fine, I have told you before opinion's are like Ar**holes (everybody has one) but as I do this blog and presumably you choose to read it, you have to put up with mine. If anyone wants to give any relevant feedback or alternative opinions I will be happy to report them. Its much easier to make up your mind about something if you have more than one viewpoint to consider, so if your views differ to mine let me know - it would be interesting!

If you made it this far - thanks for persevering, I hope you found it worthwhile - Chaz


Sunday, 4 September 2016

2017 - The year so far

January: A visit on the seventh started the year list with a number of birds including; Greylag Goose (1) - Canada Goose - Wigeon (77) - Teal (6) - Mallard - Shoveler (3M) - Pochard (12) - Tufted Duck - Goosander (2M 1F) - Grey Heron - Moorhen - Water Rail - Coot - Jacksnipe (1) - Snipe (2) - Lesser Black Backed Gull - Herring Gull - Great Black-Backed Gull - Wood Pigeon - Great Spotted Woodpecker - Magpie - Jay - Jackdaw - Carrion Crow - Goldcrest - Blue Tit - Great Tit - Long Tailed Tit - Wren - Starling - Blackbird - Mistle Thrush - Robin - Grey Wagtail - Pied Wagtail - Chaffinch - Goldfinch - Bullfinch - Yellowhammer - Reed Bunting.

Off the site eleven Waxwing were at Silvercourt Brownhills on the 11th with some of the birds having apparently been there for four days. At least five birds were still present on 13/01/2017but by the following day numbers had increased to around sixty. Also on the 13th, a Little Egret on the eastern island of Ryders Mere was an unexpected surprise and the first significant species for the site this year.On the 24th a Chiffchaff was seen on the Mineral Line (R.F.). A period of alternating wet and frosty weather ended the month with very little activity and comparatively low duck numbers.

February: On the third a brief  burst of Chiffchaff song was heard and duck numbers had started to rise. There was also a resurgence of Redwing with a flock of over sixty birds seen. the Oystercatchers were back on the afternoon of the 5th (R.F.). A calling Nuthatch and Treecreeper were in Grange Farm Woods on 07/02 and the same day saw a Little Egret and the two Oystercatcher on Ryders Mere (K.C.). Two Linnet were confirmed amongst the Goldfinch flock on 13/02 and a single Redwing remained on the same day. The Barn Owl was heard on the night of the 17th and several Redpoll were seen on Ryders Mere the following day. On the 19th a Raven was seen on the set-aside before flying off north west. A Chiffchaff was calling regularly on the Mineral Line on the 20th. Several Redwing were still present on the 26th and Gadwall and Shoveler numbers also increased toward the months end. A Little Egret and two Grey Wagtails were present on the 28th.

March: Three Oystercatcher were present on the 7th and the same day saw the Cetti's Warbler relocated (K.C.). The first spring migrants arrived on the 12th with four singing Chiffchaff along the main railway line. The same day also saw  a good show of 23 Goosander although the Pochard and Wigeon had apparently departed. A Little Egret flew into the Marsh and both Treecreeper and Nuthatch were active in the Woods. The Little Egret was again present on the 16th and there were four singing Chiffchaff that day. The first Blackcap arrived on the 25th and the same day saw five Greylag Geese on Ryders Mere and two Little Egret on the Ford Brook (J.A.S.) with one still being present the following day. Fog on the 28th forced down at least seventeen Sand Martin and there was also still a Goosander and three Shoveler on the Mere. On the 29th a Red Kite flew across Clayhanger Common and high over the village before heading toward Walsall Wood.

April: A Little Egret was present on the 2nd and there were two active Snipe present the same day. the only significant migrants being Chiffchaff and a couple of Sand Martin. The fifth saw the first Swallow, a singing Blackcap and by contrast, two Goosander and a male Wigeon on Ryders Mere. The Little Egret was also still present with possibly two birds seen on the 6th. Two Shelduck also flew over on the 6th. The first fall of Willow Warblers was on the 08/04 with at least four singing Blackcap the same day. The 10th produced the first House Martins of the year and also a singing male Redstart. A Juvenile  Peregrine was also seen flying through (K.C.). The 15th produced a count of c900 Black headed Gull (K.C.) and the following day there were two swallow around the Mere along with a couple of Greylag Geese. On the 21st there was a fall of at least four Common Whitethroat and a singing Grasshopper Warbler. The Grasshopper Warbler was still present on the 22nd and the first Lesser Whitethroat arrived the same day. On the evening of the 22nd the Grasshopper Warbler showed well and it becam apparent that there were two singing males on site.
The following morning (23rd) a male Wheatear was present on the paddocks and a fall of Acrocephalus Warblers included a minimum of Three Reed Warbler and one Sedge Warbler on the main swag pool (C.M.) and a Common Sandpiper was on the Mere during the afternoon (R.F.). On the 24th the run of migrants continued with a very flighty drake Garganey that was keeping company with two lingering Common Teal and at least one of the Grasshopper Warblers was briefly heard (R.F.). Five Snipe, a Jacksnipe and all three hirundine were present on 25/04 (K.C.). the first Common Tern and another Common Sandpiper were present on the 28th and Grasshopper Warbler were still present. A Common Sandpiper was present on the 29th and 30th and a Black Tern was showing well on the afternoon of the 30th.

May: Two male Gadwall on the 2nd were unusual for the time of year. A passage Whimbrel was heard on the 6th (K.C.) and a Hobby was found on the 10th (K.C.). The first week of may also saw several interesting ducks includin two lingering Teal and up to three Gadwall present on the Marsh. Two Black Tern were present on the 12th (R.F.) along with a movement of Common Ten culminating with seven birds by the evening (R.F. - K.C.). The 13th featured a fly-through by a Common redshank (C.M.) and the two Greylag were once again on the Mere. The first confirmed breeding by Greylag Geese was confirmed on the 22nd with the pair  and six chicks being seen. Two pair of Common Tern were also at the nest but succesful breeding could not be confirmed. Two male Gadwall were still present on the 24th and a Reed warbler was still singing.

June: The month started quietly but by the 11/06 three recently fledged Reed Warbler were on show and the same day produced an unseasonal male Pochard on the Mere where two Common Tern were apparently carrying food to the island. By the 19th of June there were over 150 Juvenile Black Headed Gulls, two Common Tern,Great Crested and Little Grebe and the unseasonal drake Pochard was still present (K.C.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

2016 - Summary of the year

Jacksnipe - January 2016 photo: Kev Clements
JanA visit on January 1st produced a good range of birds including16 Common and several Jack Snipe also, Water Rail, 10 Teal, female Shoveler, 3 Lesser Redpoll and Willow Tit. Female Goldeneye, 6 Goosander, drake Gadwall, 2 GC Grebe, Dabchick and 25 Great Black-backed Gull flew over. At the Sewage Works: two Willow Tit, Siskin flew over and Ben Dolan saw Woodcock fly over and heard Tawny Owl calling nearby. A visit on the 9th of January produced: Mallard - Shoveler (2M) - Teal (9) - Tufted Duck - Gadwall - Goldeneye (1F) - Pochard (20) - Wigeon (1 -!) - Goosander (4) - Little Grebe - Buzzard - Kestrel - Moorhen - Coot - [Water Rail Heard] - Snipe (19) - Jack Snipe - Herring Gull - Black Headed Gull - Lesser Black Backed Gull - Stock Dove - Woodpigeon - Raven - Jay - Magpie - Jackdaw - Carrion Crow - Starling - Pied Wagtail - Meadow Pipit - G.S. Woodpecker - [Green Woodpecker Heard] - Robin - Dunnock - Song Thrush - Blackbird - Redwing (10+) - Fieldfare (16) - Mistle Thrush - Chiffchaff (1) - Goldcrest - Wren - Blue Tit - Great Tit - Chaffinch - Goldfinch - Bullfinch - Siskin - Reed Bunting. Nuthatch and Tree Creeper were regularly seen in Coppice Woods and on the 12th the Pochard numbers (which had been steadily increasing) reached 29 specimens. On the sixteenth the Pochard count finally broke the magic 30 and amongst the passerines was at least three Redpoll, one of which at least was a Common Redpoll. On the 19th overnight frosts resulted in an increase in wildfowl numbers with a significant 31 Pochard being present and a Stonechat showing near the Pit Mound, the latter bird remaining in the area until the end of the month. A Kingfisher was present 0n 28/01 and the same day provided one birder with fleeting views of a white-tailed buzzard sized raptor which may well have been a Rough Legged Buzzard (R.F.)

Feb: The month began quietly with low duck numbers generally. On the 2nd a Short Eared Owl was reported and the first record of Oystercatchers occurred. The Stonechat was still present on the 5th. and a Peregrine Falcon paid a brief visit on the 7th. Also on the 7th there were a record count of 34 Common Pochard on the Mere and nine Snipe on the Marsh. The semi-regular Greylag was present on the 13th along with five Jack Snipe. Cold weather mid-month caused an increase in wildfowl numbers and four Oystercatcher were present on the 16/02 as well as the wintering female Goldeneye. Six Raven over on the morning of the 22nd seemed noteworthy and at least one wintering Chiffchaff (possibly 2-3) was present. On the same date nesting activity appeared to have commenced on the island and wildfowl numbers had decreased significantly. Pochard numbers remained high throughout with 27 birds still being present on the 28th, the same day seeing a noticeable increase in Shoveler, contrasting with the general trend of reducing wildfowl numbers.

March: The month began with waves of alternating high and low pressure and significant numbers of nesting Black Headed Gull. Twelve of the wintering Pochard flock were still present on the first along with a small influx of Gadwall. three Stonechat (2M 1F) were seen on 03/03 (Glen) - at least one being a different bird to last week’s threesome. A Little Egret was present on 11/03 (R.F.) and an impressive 22 Goosander were seen on the same day. The female Goldeneye put in a return appearance on the 13th and the 15th produced a Greylag Goose and a big surprise in the form of a male Merlin. Three Curlew on the 19th were exceptional. sharing plaudits with an obliging Little Egret (which was still present on the 21st) and at least four Jacksnipe. The 20th saw a Shelduck on the Mere and the 21st had another singing Chiffchaff. On the 22nd a Little Ringed Plover was briefly seen on the Marsh and the following day a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was on the mere along with three Greylag Geese. The first Swallow appeared on the 26th and on the last day of the month the first fall of Chiffchaff occurred with at least six singing birds being present.

April: April started with a record of two Swallow seen flying across the main road towards the Marsh. at least four Chiffchaff and three singing Willow Warbler on the 2nd were joined by at least eight Sand Martin. Also present still was the male Gadwall and at least nine Teal. Two Siskin were also still active in the area. Probably a different Willow warbler was present on the 3rd along with ten to fifteen unseasonal Fieldfare, Kingfisher seven Goosander and a pair of Shoveler on the Mere. The 5th saw the first Blackcap of the year (a male) and a beautiful site first in the form of a second calendar year  Little Gull (R.F. et-al). Unbelievably the second new species for the site list occurred just three days later when an Osprey was watched for about two minutes apparently following the line of the Ford Brook (C.M.). A male Redstart was on the mineral line on the morning of the 10th and there were still two female Goosander present on that date. A national influx of Little Gull resulted on no less than thirteen birds being on the Mere mid-afternoon (twelve adult type and one 2CY bird). Overnight the Little Gull moved on but there was an impressive fall of Willow Warbler and the morning of the 12th found a nicely marked male Wheatear on the paddocks and another three on the farmland. The 17th saw the arrival of the first Common Whitethroat of the year and two Common Sandpiper late afternoon. All three hirundine were present together for the first time on the 18th and on the 19th the first Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and two Common Tern were present.
Wheatear and Lesser Whitethroat were present on the20th and a Whinchat appeared on the farmland on the 22nd and the second Redstart of the season (a female) was seen and photographed on the 23rd.
A Reed Warbler was singing from various areas of Typha on the 24th as well as at least three singing Lesser Whitethroat and a surprising flock of 33 Common Teal which were flying around the same day. The 24th also saw the first site record of Swift (2) for the year (B.S.). A probable Arctic Tern was seen on the 25th (J.A.S.) but could not be confirmed. the first Cuckoo appeared on the 27th (R.F.). The 30th saw the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year, Yellow wagtail, Common sandpiper and an unusually unseasonal Lesser Redpoll.

May: Two Shelduck, five Whimbrel and some Swifts provided an early start to May, being present on the 2nd. At least two Grasshopper warbler were active through the week and a Garden Warbler was present on the 6th. The 7th saw a passage of waders with two Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover reported flying through early. An adult Black Tern was present on 09/05 and there were at least four singing Reed Warbler and five Greylags the same day. A Sedge Warbler was present on the 15th and the same day provided views of at least four Reed warbler including a bird carrying a fecal sack. Things went quiet mid-month but a Hobby was seen by multiple observers on 26/05. on the 27th successful breeding by the regular pair of Oystercatcher was confirmed with at least two chicks being seen. As the month came to an end there were at least three (possibly four) pairs of Reed Warbler breeding, lots of Gull chicks and at least three Common tern active but otherwise it was really quiet.

June: A quiet and overcast start to the month with the only reported bird of note being a Yellow Wagtail (R.F.) on 06/06/16. On the 6th there were 70+ young Bh Gull, 36 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Tern and 2 Great Crested Grebe on Mere, plus Water Rail calling (K.C.). The month remained slow with the 20th providing 230+ Bh Gull juvs, 2 female Gadwall on Marsh, 2 Common Tern, 13 Tufted Duck, 3 GC Grebe, 39 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan and 22 Coot (K.C.). Almost on our patch, a Ring Necked Parakeet was heard and seen on the Maybrook Estate on 24/06/2016 (C.M.) flying across toward O'Gradys Pool and Clayhanger.

July: A Hobby was active early in the month and the Common Tern appeared to raise at least one young one successfully. Green Woodpecker also appear to have bred successfully on site. Three Ring Necked Parakeet were present in the gardens adjacent to the recreation ground on the evening of 11/07/2016, constituting a second site record (C.M. - L.R.M.). There was an anecdotal report of the Parakeets in the same tree briefly on the 12th and that evening saw the Hobby hunting over the village. The Hobby was again over the village on the following evening and the 17th saw a Cormorant, a Sand Martin, two Reed Warbler and several Oystercatcher still present. The 18th saw an increase in activity from the local Little Owls and the Oystercatchers were still noisily announcing their continued presence. A Cormorant flew over on the 22nd and another on the 24th. The Oystercatchers were still present on the 23rd and a Swallow was present on the 24th (although no Swift that morning). There were at least three calling/singing Reed warbler active that day. The month ended on a quiet note with evidence of successful breeding by Linnet, Goldfinch, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe. A Little Grebe was seen on the 31st.

August: A Juvenile Cormorant on the 4th was the first note-worthy bird for August. An Oystercatcher flew across the village toward the Mere where it was apparently joined by another on the 5th with one bird still being present the following day. A juvenile Cormorant was present on the 8th and two Raven were over the site on the 10th. The thirteenth provided a small passage movement of Chiffchaff, Willow warbler and Whitethroat and there was also a recently moulted and very glossy Willow Tit to be seen. A Hobby was again active on the 15th. The 21st saw the firstlate summer wildfowl arriving with a female Shoveler and two Gadwall on the Marsh. The same day saw a small movement of Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaffs around the pit mound area. The end of the month saw activity by the Barn Owl on the 29th and the return of two Greylag Geese amongst the Canada geese on the Mere on the 31st.

September: A very poor migration seems to be the state of things with only a few Chiffchaff, Blackcap and House Martin present at the beginning of the month. Wintering duck continue to appear with several Gadwall and Shoveler present on the 4th. By the 16th a couple of Pochard had returned as well as a single Snipe, Little Grebe, six Great Crested Grebe and a very grey-toned juvenile Cormorant. From around the 20th of September, an increase in Tawny Owl activity was noticable most days with males calling from various points around the village. The first Wigeon was on the island on the 24th and the same day saw at least one Chiffchaff and seven House Martin present. Gadwall numbers had increased and there were at least two Shoveler present.

October: The 2nd saw a significant increase in the number of Meadow Pipit and Skylark in the area, a female Stonechat near the Pit Mound and a Water rail calling on the Marsh. One Chiffchaff was still present and a flock of 39 lapwing were active. Redwing were flying over the site on the evening of 06/10 and by the 12th there were at least thirty active on site. The 12th also saw nine Wigeon, a female Shoveler and at least three Snipe on the Mere, twenty Teal, two Gadwall, two Siskin and a Water Rail on the Marsh. At least five Fieldfare were with the Redwings on the 16th and the same day saw an increas in duck numbers, particularly Gadwall (14) and Pochard (3) as well as at least three Goldcrest and some late hirundine (1 Swallow - 2 House Martin). Three female Goosander were present on 17th (R.F.). On the 19th a thirty year prediction was finally put to rest when a Cetti's Warbler commenced singing (and showing briefly) along the mineral line. The Cetti'swas still present until at least the 30th. Also on the 19th there were still at least three singing Water Rail, Willow Tit and a good number of Redwing and Fieldfare. By the afternoon a record sixteen Whooper Swan had dropped in. On the 21st the Cetti's was still present and the Kingfisher had returned to the Mere. The Willow Tit was vocal and there was a definite influx of Goldcrests.
At the end of the month Fieldfare Numbers had increased and there had been several falls of Goldcrest across the site. On the 30th the Cetti's was calling regularly, there was an influx of Shoveler (9) and a female Pintail was on the Mere and on the last day of the month a Little Egret was found (R.F.).

November: As usual Bonfire night seemed to clear out many of the wildfowl although there were still sixteen gadwall and four Shoveler amongst the mallard and teal on the 6th. An influx of Snipe was also evident around the site and there was a good initial showing by winter Thrushes. The traditional bonfire night celebrations caused the usuall decline in duck numbers but they quickly started to recover with the arrival of Goosander for the winter (8 on 11th). The same day also provided brief views of an Aythya duck which showed significant white around the lores before taking flight, subsequently confirmed as an unusual Tufted Duck. By mid month duck numbers were increasing with at least thirteen Pochard present on tne 23rd and a similar increase in passerin activity, particularly wintering thrushes. A possible Marsh Tit was heard calling twice from the Ford Brook on the 23rd. The female Pintail was again seen on 26th and the same day saw a fly-over by a Great White Egret, presumably the bird reported over Walsall the previous day? The month ended on a quiet note following several days of hard frost.

December:Calm weather and high pressure dominated the beginning of the month but that did not stop the surprise appearance of a Little Egret on 04/12 (A.S. - C.M. - J.A.S.) as well as confirmation that the Cetti's Warbler was still present (along with a wintering Chiffchaff). Four Jacksnipe accompanied a flock of fifteen Common Snipe on the 12th (G.C.).

Sunday, 7 December 2014

2015 - Summary of the year

Egyptian Geese February 2nd. - Derek Lees
 January: The year began with our winter scarcity the Great Northern Diver still present on Ryders Mere until early February (with a brief break at Chasewater for a weekend). The Greylag was again with Canada Geese on the 4th (but by the 17th seemed to have left) and the same day saw possibly three different Treecreeper in the woods. A Chiffchaff was on Ryders Mere on the 6th and again on 13th with then two birds calling to each other on 17th and a single sighting again on 26/01. The Little Owl was showing on and off throughout January, being seen by C.M. - J.A.S. and R.F. at one particular site. An elusive Stonechat was also reported on and off throughout the month. A Kingfisher was active in the village during the month, occasionally venturing along the Ford Brook and onto the Marsh.

February: The month began with a persistent spell of cold weather that seemed to be keeping things where they were, the first though was milder. The Great Northern Diver was still present on the first and on the same day a Peregrine Falcon flew over the village and the set-aside. A flock of fourteen Egyptian Geese on the 2nd was an unexpected surprise, compensating a little for the apparent absence of the diver. The following day failed to produce the hoped for Egyptian Geese but a small compensation was the return of one of our wintering Greylags. Four female-type Pintail were discovered on 04/02 along with the Stonechat (K.C.), two Yellow Legged Gull and two Raven were also seen on the same day. The first Oystercatcher returned on 05/02 and on the same day three Raven and a Cormorant were seen (K.C.). The Great Northern Diver returned again on 06/02 after a few days away and was present until 08/02. the second Oystercatcher arrived to join its mate on 10/02. A difficult to count flock of Lapwing on 12/02 contained a minimum of 120 birds. After several days absence the Diver returned from Chasewater on the 14th but was back at Chasewater the following morning until flushed by water skiers. The fifteenth provided the first Goldeneye record for the mere this year with a male and two females present. A Barn Owl and probable Woodcock were seen on 17th (K.C.). The end of the month saw a gradual build up of Goosander and Teal and a decline in Wigeon. The Diver showed a preference for Chasewater but occasionally dropped into the Mere when disturbed from Norton pool by boats. The 27th saw frustrating views of a possible juvenile Merlin (C.M. -  R.F.) but the views were too fleeting for this to be confirmed. The Diver was again seen on the Mere on the 28th having been disturbed from Chasewater.

March: St David's Day was overcast and blustery with the usual wintering ducks and a handful of Fieldfare and Redwing to represent the winter. The first evidence of spring migration was on 03/03 when a Curlew was seen and photographed over the Mere (P.J.W.) and the local Red Kite put in one of its occasional visits (traditional at this time of the year) on the 6th (N.T.). A pair of Stonechat were present on the 8th collecting nest materials from the typha heads along with a male Reed Bunting which was doing the same.A Dunlin was an unexpected visitor on the 13th (R.F.). The first Sand Martin were seen on the 21st and the same day also provided a couple of scarcities in the form of Curlew and Little Egret (K.C.). On the 24th there was a female Garganey on the Marsh early evening.which was still present the following day when a passage male Wheatear had also dropped in and a female Marsh Harrier was seen high over the site (C.M. - C.C.M. - M.P.). A male Mandarin was on the marsh on 26/03 and for a while shared the pool with the still present Garganey (C.R. - A.H.). This pairing was then repeated on 28/03/15 with the Garganey still being present on 30/03..

April: The month began well with a good news that at least three Grey Partridge were still on site and there was a good range of duck still present including; Teal, Wigeon, Goosander, Shoveler and the female Garganey that had arrived a week earlier and was still present on 17/04. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was reported on 02/04 (N.T.). Two Greylag were seen on 03/04 (K.C.) and there were still a few Fieldfare around on 4th and 5th. The 5th also saw a strong movement of Meadow Pipit with one flock of 35 birds feeding on the set-aside field. A Redshank and two Swallows were recorded on 06/04 and a female Wheatear occurred on the 7th along with the Garganey, swallows and Sand Martin. The first Willow Warbler was singing on10/04 and the first Blackcaps were showing and singing on 12/04. Swift, Common Sandpiper all three hirundine and Redstart on 15th, two Tree Pipit on 16th. The 18th saw a pair of Little Egret, three Wheatear, several Common Tern and the first Whitethroat of the year. Sedge Warbler, reed Warbler and Garden warbler were all present on 19/04 along with Raven displaying, and a stunning male Redstart on the set-aside.
Two Arctic Tern arrived on 20/04 (C.M. - C.C.M. - S.L.). The first Lesser Whitethroat was on the usual territory on 23/04 (C.M.). The male Peregrine showed well on the 24th which coincidentally also provided the first report of a Hobby for the year (R.F.).A drake Garganey was discovered on 27/04 (J.A.S. - C.M.). A Little Ringed Plover flew over on 28/04 and the same day saw six Wheatear on site, one of which was still present the following day when a Yellow Wagtail was also seen briefly. On the 30th a White Wagtail was on site and the Garganey still present (J.A.S.)

May: A Whinchat and four Wheatear were found on the 4th and a party of six Common Sandpiper were on the Mere on the 5th. Male and female Cuckoo were seen on 9th and a singing Garden Warbler was found which was still present on 11/05.Two Pochard on the 14th were unseasonal (G.C.). The Oystercatcher hatched two young during the month and a pair of Gadwall on the marsh on 19th of May were unseasonal.

June: A cool start to the month with an influx of migrant waders into the Midlands. three Dunlin and a Little Ringed Plover were present on 01/06, The plover and one Dunlin being present the following day. Two Cormorant were also present on the 2nd. and three Oystercatcher were seen.A Curlew on 08/06 was unseasonal and a Black Necked Grebe on 09/06 and 10/06 was unexpected but fitted in with a notable influx of this species during the period. What was probably the same bird did a surprise return on 15/06 (R.F. - K.C.). Breeding by Bullfinch and Tufted Duck was confirmed on 22/06 and a big surprise on the same date was a report of Red Legged partridge on the farmland (G.C.). Three hundred young Black Headed Gull were a sit record and Common Tern also manage to raise at least two young. A juvenile Yellow Wagtail on 30/06 (R.F.) had to make you wonder where this breeding had taken place. But that was about it for June, the first half of the year finished on a heatwave and more awful hot weather in the pipeline.

July: The 15th was the first day of note with Redshank, Peregrine several Common Tern an a site first in the form of four Common Scoter (G.C. - K.C. - R.F. - C.M. - J.A.S.). A Dunlin 0n the 19th was noteworthy and a Cormorant flew over the same day. A Teal on the 24th was noteworthy and Hobby showed again on the same day. There was a significant influx of Great Crested and Little Grebes mid month and the first returning Herring Gulls began to appear. By the last week of the Month the Mere had become remarkably quiet with the vast majority of the young Black Headed Gulls having  cleared out. Not much else occurring although a Yellow Wagtail was on the farmland on the 30th

August: Still the occasional Swift going through at the beginning of the month and the 2nd provided three Shoveler, the early returned Teal on the Mere, three Sand Martin, and two Common Tern still present. The Oystercatcher appear to have departed in the last few days. Still five Common Tern on the 7th and an unexpected Kingfisher there the same day. A Common Sandpiper was discovered on the 9th and an unseasonal party of Siskin were seen on the same day. Water Rail was also heard and a creche of Lapwing had returned on the tenth. The twelfth saw a good range of birds including Peregrine, Hobby, Kingfisher, Redstart and a frustratingly brief glimpse of a probable male Pied Flycatcher as well as a returning Grey Wagtail and several Swift. On the 16th there were three calling Water Rail, three Swift, three Reed warbler amongst a good passage of warblers which included Whitethroat and Blackcap. A Kingfisher was seen with at least three active in the area and the family party of Willow Tit continued to be active. A Tree Pipit and another Redstart were seen on the 17th (G.C.) and another Green Sandpiper was seen on the 18th. Kingfisher continued to put in regular appearances as the month progressed and a moulting Teal and a Greylag were recorded on the 20th.
A late Swift was seen on the 23rd and a female Teal was on the Marsh that date as well.The 24th saw a good range of birds including Garden Warbler, Redstart, three Yellow Wagtail and a very early Pochard. Male and female Tawny Owl were calling from the recreation ground on 25/08 and on the same day a pair of Shoveler and an early returning female Wigeon were seen. The 26th saw a Redstart and a continuing presence by Siskin and the 27th found a newly moulted Gadwall, Willow Tit, still three Reed Warbler and there was a Common Sandpiper and Cormorant on Ryders Mere. A very strong fall of migrants occurred on the 30th, with dozens of Phyloscopus Warblers, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat and Redstart amongst the movement. Two Hobby were seen and a Curlew flew through northwards calling at about 13.15. There was also a male Wigeon and a Common Sandpiper on the Mere.

September: After a washed-out end to August, September began with a good range of birds including two Wheatear, male Redstart, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, Willow Tit, a passage movement of Siskin, Common Sandpiper and a juvenile Black Tailed Godwit. A Reed Warbler was still present and there was a fall of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. as well as all three hirundine. the fifth saw a huge range of birds found by K.C. and G.C. including a continuing influx of Siskin, Kingfisher, Little and Tawny Owls, Hobby, three Redstarts, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, all three Hirundine, Common and Green Sandpiper and Snipe. The Whinchat was still present on the 6th and a Sand Martin was amongst the hirundine over the Mere mid-morning. All three hirundine were still present on 13/09 along with Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler. A flock of 35 magpie on the pit mound was noteworthy. Another Whinchat was found on the 17th and was still present on the 18th along with another and two Stonechat. A female Wheatear was present on the pit mound and the Whinchat remained until the 20thwhen it was still keeping company with a male Stonechat. The 20th also provided a juvenile Hobby, and a good selection of warblers including Whitethroat, Blackcap and Reed Warbler. The first substantial influx of wintering Wigeon were present on the twentieth with twelve birds present on the Mere.A first winter yellow-Legged Gull was present on the 24th.

October: Two Swallow were seen on the 2nd and the same day saw the first Redwing of the season passing through.A Kingfisher was on the Marsh on the 8th and a probable Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was heard at Ryders Hayes on the same day. A pale morph juvenile Rough Legged Buzzard seen on 12/10 (G.C. - K.C.) was a first site record. Two Swallow and an unidentified acrocephalus Warbler were present on the 14th and Chiffchaff and Blackcap were still present on 16/10. The sixteenth also saw the first Fieldfare of the winter (3) along with 144 Redwing and good numbers of Siskin. A Goldeneye was found on the 17th. Things went quiet as the month progressed although Siskin, Skylark and Redwing numbers continued to be high. The first Goosander were discovered on the 28th and the same day saw an astonishing fall of Goldcrest on the set-aside and surrounding area.

November: A quiet start to the month with a slight increase in Wigeon numbers but overall very low numbers of wildfowl compared to numbers in previous years. A Woodcock was unexpectedly flushed from the set-aside on 03/11 (C.M.) and the same day saw a single Golden Plover over. A juvenile Shag was at Chasewater mid-month and was seen to fly around the Mere on the afternoon of the 18th (J.A.S.), on the 20th a Great Grey Shrike was located on the Farmland (Glen - C.M.). On the 24th the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was seen and on the following day a Barnacle Goose was on the Mere along with a male Goldeneye and (for a while) six females. On the same day a Little Egret also flew into the Marsh (C.M. - R.F.). On the 29th an exceptional four Jacksnipe were found amongst the locally wintering Snipe.

December: After several days of wind and rain, December began quietly with above average temperatures. The first saw the drake Goldeneye favouring the Mere but nothing else of note. A Chiffchaff was calling from the fringes of the Mere on the 6th and on the same day a Jacksnipe was flushed from around the main swag. An adult winter Med Gull was a surprise on 20/12 and 14 Pochard on the same date was a good count. A female Goldeneye was on the Mere on Boxing Day and over the Marsh on the same day were two pairs of displaying Buzzard. Unseasonally mild weather may have been responsible for the arrival of seven Common Shelduck on the mere on the 29th? (J.A.S.)

Friday, 6 December 2013

2014 - Summary of the year

Photo: Derek Lees
January: Despite a series of horrendous weather fronts, on the Marsh and Mere it was very quiet with little change from December. Things continued to be slow throughout the month due to it being a mild but very wet month. In the first week the only birds of note were an over-flying Raven and the semi-resident Greylag amongst the Canada Goose flock. The first real bird of interest was an apparent leucistic Goldfinch amongst a flock of 35-40 Redpoll on the fringes of the Mere on 04/01.
A single Snipe was flushed from a frozen Marsh on 14/01 and a Raven again flew over calling the same day.On the 19th a count of 31 Pochard (R.F.) must constitute a site record. The local Glossy Ibis was active in Engine Lane through most of the month and occasionally appeared to make forays south toward the Marsh but actual appearances on site could not be verified. On the 22nd I received news (N.T.) that for two days a Lesser SpottedWoodpecker had been showing at the edge of the site. A possible Mealy Redpoll was reported by R.F. and an unexpected Kingfisher made a brief appearance at the months end (31/01)

February: Still good numbers of Fieldfare about during the first week of the month and a wintering Chiffchaff was found amongst the Long Tailed Tit flock on 10/02 (R.F.). Otherwise this was the most uneventful period that I can remember with the only records relating to fluctuating duck numbers. It is quite probable that some of the more interesting gulls from the Chasewater roost may have put in an appearance but the weather and site conditions were so bad it is not surprising that nobody was there to see them!

March: A month that once again started quietly with high pressure moving in during the second week. Still Redwing and Fieldfare about on the eighth and a couple of Lesser Redpoll cleaving to the Goldfinch flock. Teal and Wigeon numbers started to drop slowly and Black Headed Gulls began to take up breeding sites on the Mere. The Oystercatchers seem to be favouring the western island and Yellowhammer began to show an increased presence with three seen on 08/03 which included a singing bird at Grange Farm. The first noteworthy bird was a Stonechat around the pit mounds on 10/03 (C.W. - G.W.). The first migrant Chiffchaff arrived on the 14th by which time duck numbers had fallen drastically. Chiffchaff continued to build up numbers over the following couple of weeks and the first Redshank of the year was heard calling on 24/03 (K.McC). By the 27th Chiffchaff were well into double figures but no other migrants had been reported although an exceptional record on the same day was a Tern SP. (Most likely a Common Tern) seen flying over the road at High Bridges from a birder heading east (J.J.H.). A further incursion of migrants took place on 29/03 with two Wheatear present on the paddocks near the Ford Brook. The first Sand Martin of the year (3) finally arrived on the last evening of the month (K.C.).
April: A Wheatear was present on the first, three Curlew and a Ruddy Duck (which did not linger) on the second and Blackcaps were on site on the 4th. Also on the 4th Raven over-flew and a Shelduck was present on the Mere (K.C.). Two Greylag and a Cormorant flew through on the 05/04 and my first two Swallows of the year were performing the same day. also of note on the fifth were four Lapwing and the remaining female Goosander. The first Blackcap and Willow Warbler records for the site were on 10/04 while a Goldcrest on the 12th was noteworthy this year. The 15th saw the arrival of the first Whitethroat and House Martin, and the 19th saw the first record of Common Sandpiper for the year. On the 21st a Lesser Whitethroat was heard and the following day several Common Tern and five Arctic Tern were seen on the Mere, a Redshank turned up on the island, a Cuckoo was distantly heard and  Reed Warbler was singing from Pelsall Road (K.C.). The Cuckoo was still present on the 23rd and Whitethroat arrived overnight on the 24th with a Sedge and two Reed Warbler also present that morning. On the 27th there were at least two Cuckoo in the area and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled briefly early morning. On the same date there were an unseasonal couple of Gadwall (both males) on the Mere. The 29th produced a Curlew and the Cuckoo was till calling but proving elusive. On the last day of the month a splendid Yellow Wagtail appeared on the farmland.
May: Low pressure forced down the first Swift of the year and the Cuckoo was still present until at least the fifteenth. The 5th had a report of singing Grasshopper Warbler from the set-aside and a Gadwall (Male) was an unseasonal visitor on the 10th. Swifts had returned to Clayhanger Village by the 13th and at least six Common Tern appeared to be holding territory on the Mere on the 15th. The remainder of the month was quiet with nothing of note encountered. Warblers continued to display and declare territory to the months end and several broods of Canada Geese were hatched.
June: The second of June saw successful breeding confirmed by the Oystercatchers with two chicks on show (R.F.) and the Cuckoo was still calling on the morning of 03/06. On the fifth a Little Grebe was seen with recently fledged chicks and Great Crested Grebe were nesting. By the twelfth there were recently fledged Goldfinch, a juvenile Grey Heron and several clutches of Mallard chicks. On the Mere the Black Headed Gulls had produced at least thirteen chicks. The big news on the twelfth was the first record of Willow Tit for the year. Up to this point it had been assumed that the species was now locally extinct but the tentative call of the bird heard sounded like a young/juvenile specimen rather than an adult so perhaps covert breeding had occurred? Interestingly another Willow Tit was heard a few days later on Clayhanger Common, so hopefully the species is still hanging on (Just!)
July: High pressure at the beginning of the month gave some warm conditions for a change. A Grasshopper Warbler was reported singing from the Set-aside on 03/07 (A.S.) and an Oystercatcher was noisily flying around on the eighth. A Green Sandpiper was flushed by Ray Fellows (Date unspecified - W/C 07/07), Little Egret was present on the 14th (R.F.) and on the 17th there were still Swift passing over the site, displaying Reed Warbler and good numbers of recently fledged birds including Common Tern and Tufted Ducks. A Willow Tit was also heard on this date but remained elusive. Amongst the large number of Small Skippers was a good proportion of Essex Skipper butterflies and the first Roesell's Bush Crickets were heard on the 17th. On the nineteenth there were still at least eleven Common Tern present and a Hobby was seen (R.F.). By the beginning of the fourth week of July most of the breeding Swift had left the local area and during the final week the few breeding Common Tern seem to have cleared out from the Mere.
August: The first of august was still quite hot but more overcast than had been July. Ryders Mere was eerily quiet with no Terns and only a handful of Black Headed Gulls remaining (including three or four fledged juveniles). Swift were becoming very elusive although at least one passed over the village and south-west across the set-aside during the morning. The afternoon saw plenty of raptor activity with Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Hobby present, the latter giving excellent views as it tore apart an unfortunate dragonfly over the set-aside. The Hobby was seen again on 09/08 hunting a House Martin over the Recreation ground while other raptors that day included three Buzzard and a male Sparrowhawk. Also on the ninth a female Shoveler was seen on the swag, a Water Rail was heard calling and a recently fledged group of Moorhen chicks suggested a second brood. Amongst the migrant Warblers was a juvenile/female Blackcap. On Ryders Mere it was apparent that the Great crested grebes had raised three young. The 16th of August saw a significant amount of migration movement with good numbers of calling warblers, all three hirundines, several Swift and a juvenile Redstart in the bushes below the pit-mound. Star bird on this occasion however, was a juvenile Common Cuckoo which was in small trees at the north end of the main swag. This birds behaviour was consistent with a recently fledged locally bred bird, perhaps originating from one of our breeding Reed Warbler nests? By the24th the migration movement seemed to have increased with all three hirundine and a significant component of young Willow Warblers, many of which were feeding amongst a large mixed flock which included Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Long Tailed Tits. A Whitethroat was also seen and a Yellow Wagtail overflew calling. The following week saw the first evidence of the winter to come with ten Teal and four Shoveler present on the Marsh on 28/08. A flock of around three hundred Canada Geese on Ryders Mere also included our semi-resident Greylag Goose for the first time since the spring. Summer birds were still moving through however and an unprecedented two Spotted Flycatcher on the trees around the pit mound were undoubtedly star birds of the day. Apart from these Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and all three hirundine were seen and the Hobby was still disputing the air space over the set aside with the local kestrel. during the afternoon two Whinchat were also found (J.A.S.). The following day two Redstart and a Whitethroat were in the bushes near the pit mound and a very welcome Lesser Whitethroat (only my second site record this year) was seen in bushes near the Ford Brook (29/08).
September: The first began with exciting views of a hunting Hobby over the village, following and flying below a large flock of House Martin before pursuing one unfortunate bird across the roof tops. The fourth of September found the marsh much quieter than of late with less apparent migration although another survey of the isolated bushes south of the pit mound revealed two juvenile Whitethroat, two juvenile Blackcap and another two Whinchat. On the Swag there were at least five Teal and a single Gadwall. A surprise on Ryders Mere on the fourth were the first Wigeon of the season, three obvious passage birds that had flown out by 09.10. Two Gadwall were also present and the semi-regular Greylag flew in like squadron leader ahead of a large flock of Canada geese coming in from the farm land. On the 5th another Spotted Flycatcher was found (R.F.) the Hobby was reported to be hunting and at least two Snipe were on the Mere. A Snipe was also seen on the marsh on September 9th and the same day also produced a calling Water Rail and the first views of Grey Wagtail since the Spring. Migrants seen included Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Swallow and House Martin and a Blackcap was tacking from the bushes on the northern perimeter. The Goldfinch flock also contained a number of Linnet including juvenile birds. On the Mere, the Greylag was again present with the Canada Goose flock. On the 15th a Stonechat was reported from Ryders Mere and on the 17th Ray Fellows found; Hobby, Willow Warbler, and Blackcap still passing through. On the nineteenth at least four Snipe were seen around the Mere along with an unidentified sandpiper-type wader (R.F.).Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were still active on site on the 21st and little Grebe numbers on the mere seemed to be on the increase with five birds present. a solitary Swallow went through on the same day. There were still a few House Martins over the village on the 29th bringing an end to the first tird of Autumn
October: After the warmest September since records began, October heralded a gentle shift toward proper autumn weather and some long overdue rainfall. Chiffchaff could still be heard singing on the 2nd around the recreation Ground and a family party of three Stonechat turned up the following day (R.F.) near the Sewage Farm. Several House Martin and a couple of Swallow were over the village during the afternoon of the fifth. The first proper arctic visitors arrived on 13/10 in the form of three Whooper Swan (R.F. - J.A.S.) but only remained until mid-afternoon. On the 14th a first-winter male Goldeneye was discovered on Ryders Mere and as the light was fading a Rock Pipit was seen briefly at the edge of the Mere before flying off toward the Marsh. A Jack Snipe was flushed on the16th (R.F.) as well as a number of Common Snipe (which seem to be coming in in better than average numbers this autumn). The 19th saw the arrival of the first Redwings and Siskin of the winter as well as an appearance by a Short-eared Owl (C.M. - D.P.). Two Water Rail were simultaneously calling, confirming multiple birds on site. A big influx of Redwing was occuring in the last few days of the month and a party of eight Pink Footed Geese flew low across the set-aside on the 29th being the second site record and the first since February/march 2005. A Raven flew over on the 30th and a Chiffchaff was present amongst the Long Tailed Tit flock.
November: the first Fieldfare of the winter flew over the set-aside on the second and two Greylag were again with the Canada flock on the same day. On the fourth there were five Goosander on the Marsh, a Water Rail was heard and a female Stonechat was on the Gorse behind Ryders mere. Following a week of Guy Fawkes disturbance, waterfowl numbers began to increase and on the 12/11 a juvenile female Goldeneye, the second of the autumn, was present on the Mere mid-afternoon. A Barn Owl was reported to have been seen perched on a fence post near Mountain Ash road, Clayhanger on the evening of 14/11. A male Tawny Owl was heard calling around the recreation ground at 23.30 on the 20th and our third Goldeneye of the Autumn appeared on the 21st (R.F.). A reliable report of the Merlin was made on the 23rd, the bird apparently is a male and was seen being harrased by a Magpie.
December: The month began with high pressure and the onset of the first cold-snap of the winter. Little change on the marsh altghough Gadwall numbers increased to reach a maximum for the year of twenty birds. The Greylag were again present with the Canada Goose flock and the 16th saw thw arrival of a new species for the site in the form of a Great Northern Diver that had relocated from Chasewater. The 16th also saw a remarkable eleven Great Crested Grebe on the Mere, one of the most significant counts ever recorded. The Diver remained into 2015 and attracted many admirers.
A pair of Stonechat were also relocated on 30/12.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 - Summary of the year

There are a lot better photos of the Glossy Ibis, but this record
captures the bird where it matters, over Clayhanger Marsh!
Photo: Kev Clements
January: After weeks of driving rain the first of January dawned bright and very sunny although the ground was sponge like and saturated from the aftermath of the wettest year in Britain on record! A three hour circuit of the marsh, mere, farmland and woods produced no less than fifty-five species (three of which were only heard) and a number of common species were not noted so potentially the active species as the year began probably numbered in excess of sixty:

Species List for January

Mute Swan - Whooper Swan (6 - G.C.) - Canada Goose - Greylag Goose - Wigeon - Mallard - Gadwall - Teal - Shoveler - Goosander - Goldeneye (1F - G.C.) - Tufted Duck - Coot - Moorhen - Grey Heron - Cormorant - Great Crested Grebe - Little Grebe - Black Headed Gull - Herring Gull - Lesser Black-Backed Gull - Greater Black-Backed Gull - Common Gull - Kingfisher - Sparrowhawk - Pheasant - Kestrel - Peregrine - Buzzard - Snipe - Jack Snipe - Feral Pigeon - Wood Pigeon - Stock Dove - Green Woodpecker - Starling - Blackbird - Mistle Thrush - Redwing - Fieldfare - Greater Spotted Woodpecker - Nuthatch - Treecreeper - Carrion Crow - Jackdaw - Magpie - Jay - Pied Wagtail - Grey Wagtail - Meadow Pipit - Skylark - Chiffchaff (G.C.) - Great Tit - Blue Tit - Long-Tailed Tit - Wren - Robin - House Sparrow - Chaffinch - Greenfinch - Siskin - Bullfinch - Goldfinch - Greenfinch - Yellowhammer - Reed Bunting.

February: The month began cold and unsettled with little movement to speak of. Pochard numbers remained surprisingly constant with up to twelve birds present on some days. Mallard seemed to make an early exodus and winter thrushes were few and far between. Snow at the first weekend made things difficult both for birds and visitors but one birder persevered and was rewarded with a site first in the form of an adult Kittewake flying through the Mere on 12/02 at 07.13 having presumably roosted at Chasewater and the same observer had Water Rail, three Mealy Redpoll and an Owl that he believed was most probably a Long Eared (G.C.)? Toward the end of the month (and the official end of the winter period) things seemed to slow as is traditional with only fluctuating duck numbers to report and nothing of any significance encountered by the regular users.

March: The coldest March since 1962 began quite mild. The first few days of March actually took on a spring-like feel with temperatures touching double figures during the day and a good balance of brightness and cloud cover with which to enjoy the site and the hoped for onset of visible migration. March the third was a mega-day for the site with corroborated records of both a first winter Glaucous Gull (C.M. - J,.A.S.) and a second winter Iceland Gull (C.M. - J.A.S. - P.J. - J.K.G.A.). The afternoon produced even more excitement with a reported Goshawk (G.C.) and Raven, Yellow Legged Gull and an increase in Oystercatchers to Three birds. A Peregrine was over the village on 14/03 and both juvenile Iceland and a Glaucous Gull were on the mere on the same day (G.C.). Exceptionally heavy snow resulted in a dearth of interesting activity through the latter part of the month until Good Friday (29/03) when a Red Kite was seen overflying the Finger Post at Pelsall before disappearing toward the Mere (K McC).

April: The month continued the recent trend and began exceptionally cold resulting in many anticipated migrants holding back on the European mainland.The weather improved by the end of the first week and the first singing Chiffchaff was heard on 06/04 (although several wintering birds had been reported from the area of the sewage works). Three Chiffchaff were present on the 7th heralding an overdue influx of migrants held back by the weather. The same day saw an over flying Raven, a Green Sandpiper and a Woodcock flushed from Grange Farm. A Short Eared Owl was reported in the first week on an unspecified date (Per. A.S.) and the first Little Ringed Plover was found on 09/04 (G.C.). The Water Rail was flushed from the edge of the main swag on 10/04 and the same day saw three singing Chiffchaff and the first Swallow and House Martins (two of each) for the year. All three hirundine, Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin were present on the 13th as well as the first really decent record for the spring, a Little Egret (K McC - CM - GC). Kevin also had an over-flying Redshank. A Greylag Goose was present on the 14/04, probably the bird from last winter which has been reported occasionally from the Pelsall area in the intervening period. The 15th provided some excitement with a fall of Willow Warbler and Blackcap, male and female Wheatear and a site scarcity in the form of two adult Shelduck and late in the day the Greylag returned. The 16th saw a significant increase in Warblers with three male Blackcap and also an influx of Wheater (6) including a party of five at the pit mound, the first Common Sandpiper was also seen. The first Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Redstarts (two Male) were found on 17/04 and the same day confirmed the presence of a Long Eared Owl. A Curlew was also heard over flying (G.C.). At least one of the Redstarts showed well on 18/04 but the influx of Warblers had apparently dissipated, three Wheatear were also present the same day. The busy period continued on the 19/04 with Wheatear, Little Egret, three Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and a male Ring Ouzel (GC - RF - CM - SH - AS). Three Common Sandpiper and two Redshank were also recorded.. The 20th saw another two Common Tern, three Shelduck (only present until 06.00) and the Ring Ouzel still present. A Yellow Wagtail was present later in the day (G.W.) The Ring Ouzel was still present and remained in the same area. It was showing again on 21st and sharing its field with both White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail. The first Swift also went through on 21/04 and there were an interesting group of three Shelduck and a Greylag on Ryders Mere. Two Greylag were present on 25/04 and the same day produced two Yellow Wagtail, a singing Reed Warbler, three Sedge Warbler and a Whinchat. Eight Greylags were seen over the Mere on 28/04 which is a site record and a probable Hobby was also seen (Y.M.)

May: The Month began fine and this allowed some movement by overdue migrants. Reed Warblers returned on 02/05 and a Garden Warbler was heard singing on the same day. Sedge Warbler numbers increased early in the month and Common Tern appeared to be regrouping for a breeding attempt. Two Dunlin of the race Alpina were present on 05/05 and a Cuckoo was calling several times on 06/05 and remained for several days (being joined by a second on 08/05). The first rarity of the year occurred on the 09/05 when a Spotted Crake was discovered on the pools at Pelsall Road being pursued by a Water Rail. the 12/05 saw Canada Geese with chicks both on the Marsh and Mere and the Oystercatchers were out and about suggesting possibly successful breeding? 13/05 was busy with two Little Ringed Plover, 22 Common Tern, 4 Oystercatcher and two possible Arctic Tern.
The 14th provided a good range of birds including Whimbrel, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Hobby and a couple of unseasonal Goosander (G.C. - K.C.). A major movement of migrants on 15/05 provided two firsts for the site, a Sanderling and a Turnstone also a record number of Dunlin and two Arctic Tern. The following day there were two Little Ringed Plover and the second (different) Turnstone for the site (K.C.). Three Cuckoo were on the set aside on 17/05 and a Black Tailed Godwit was on the Marsh on the same day (P.J.W.). The one that got away occurred the following day with two observers having brief views of a probable female Woodchat Shrike which defied all subsequent attempts to relocate it. The only other bird of note that day being a Yellow Wagtail. Sunday the 19th saw four Cuckoo still present and a resurgence of song from warblers including at least two Lesser Whitethroat and four Reed Warbler. Star bird though was a Rook which overflew the Mere being mobbed. A Peregrine on 22/05 was unseasonal. As the month came to an end, the best birds of the Spring arrived in the form of three Black Necked Grebe on the 28/05, a Mediterranean Gull and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 29th were a fitting record on which to end the spring.

June: The first produced little of note although it was possible to confirm successful breeding by Canada Goose, Coot, Mallard and Black Headed Gull. Things were pretty quiet throughout the first two weeks of the period however a Mediterranean Gull on 10/06 was noteworthy (G.C.) and a ringed Black Headed Gull was identified as having originated in Cheshire. Two good raptors on 1/06 were a female Honey Buzzard (G.C.) and a Red Kite (A.S.) which hung over my house before gliding north across the marsh. A Dunlin was present on the 14th and a Little Egret on the 16th. That day also saw confirmed breeding on site by Water Rail with an adult bird seen accompanied by chicks near Pelsall Road. The rest of the month was very quiet with little of note until a Kingfisher put in an appearance on 29th.

July: A Yellow Wagtail flew over on Independence Day and also a Raven. A Garden Warbler put in a brief appearance early in the month along with more appearances by the local Hobby.The 20th saw the two Oystercatcher still present and there were at least two recently fledged Common Tern active with six adults on the same day. A juvenile Little Grebe on the Marsh also evidenced successful breeding by that species. there were occasional records of Green Sandpiper throughout the month with two present on 27th along with a Kingfisher on the set aside and four Common Tern still present on the Mere. Insects at the months end included Roesell's Bush Crickets and several Essex Skipper amongst the Small Skippers present.

August: Still Swift, Sand Martin, Swallow and House Martin and at least six Common Tern present on 04/08 and the same day produced Raven, Green Sandpiper and an unsubstantiated report of several Spotted Crake on farmland off Green Lane (Per-G.C.). While looking for these a Hobby was seen harassing the hirundine and a family party of Partridge were seen (S.H.). A Grasshopper Warbler was found on 05/08 and the unseasonal Teal was again on the swag. A cormorant also flew over on the 5th. The fifteenth found at least two Common Tern still present and two late Swift were also seen. The same day produced a male Redstart in bushes at the base of the pit mound that was starting to lose the shine on its breeding plumage. th 23rd produced some early winter wildfowl with two Teal, two Gadwall, a female Shoveler and the Greylag Goose back with the Canada Geese. Of more interest were the two Common Sandpiper keeping company with two Snipe on the edge of the Mere. A Common Sandpiper was heard on the 25th flying over the village toward the Marsh and the following day produced three Cormorant a young Buzzard with presumably its two parents, a Greylag with the 250+ Canada Goose flock and a surprising Late Swift (26th).with the Swallows and House Martins. A Barn Owl was reported at Ryders Hayes on the 29th. A female Wheatear and a juvenile Whitethroat were noteworthy on the 31st.

September: A visitor on 02/09 discovered the first Wigeon for the winter and it was noticeable that the local House Martins have apparently moved out in the last twenty four hours. Three Kingfisher, five Buzzard, three Grey Wagtail (1 Juvenile) and a Black Tailed Godwit on the Marsh on 03/09 made for a good day and was followed on 04/09 by a Ringed Plover (P.N.). The 8th provided a good summer/winter contrast with at least two Sand Martin present, a minimum of seven Chiffchaff and an obliging Sedge Warbler contrasting with a Wigeon, three Shoveler and four Teal. a Hobby was still present on the 12th. and another Black Tailed Godwit was present on the 22nd (J.A.S.) with possibly the same bird seen again on 26/09. The first wintering Pochard appeared on 27th and the same day saw at least two Chiffchaff showing characteristics of the race Abietinus. There was also a passage movement of Skylark and Meadow Pipit continuously and views of possibly an unseasonably late juvenile Honey Buzzard.

October: The first Redwing went over Clayhanger on the morning of the 11th with another 35 and a Fieldfare on the Marsh. Two Redpoll flying around the Mineral line were probably Lesser. A female Pintail on 19th was unusual and the same day also provided views of a late Chiffchaff on the mineral line and another calling bird at the edge of the mere. Waterfowl numbers were low but there was a influx of Gadwall and a smaller number of Shoveler towards the months end. Water Rail were occasionally hard during this period.

November: Strong winds an rain at the beginning of the month did not support much migration and the annual Bonfire Celebration's reduced the numbers of wildfowl on both Marsh an Mere. The influx of Gadwall continued but Mallard numbers reduced and on 03/11 only two Teal could be found. An interesting Chaffinch on the same day may have belonged to one of the European races? A mixed finch flock was around for much of the early part of the month and contained at least half a dozen Lesser Redpoll and a possible Common Redpoll seen on 10/11 (J.A.S.). Tony also had the first Goosander record of the winter on the same day with five females and one male present. Wigeon numbers were slow to recover from the traditional bonfire celebrations and duck species and numbers were fluctuating throughout the month. The 23rd produced a rare species this year in the form of a Cormorant and a surprise in the form of a wintering/late migrant Chiffchaff which was seen and heard at Ryders Mere. The Chasewater Canada Goose flock was grazing on the farmland throughout the month and by 23rd had reached a total of 318 plus two hybrids and two Greylag Geese.

December: A quiet start to the month with better than average temperatures. fluctuating duck numbers early in the month included varying numbers of Goosander and Pochard although a female Goldeneye was an unexpected bonus for one visitor (I.P.) who also had a possible but unconfirmed record of adult Caspian Gull on the same visit. The Goldeneye was still present 0n 14/12 and possible views of a Ruddy Duck on Clayhanger Marsh the same day could not be confirmed. A new species for the Marsh Glossy Ibis was going through the site from at least17th - 20th December (K.C. - G.C. - C.M. et-al) and spent the remainder of the day in the Goscote Valley. Residents at Goscote suggested that the bird may actually have been around for several days before this though