Sunday, 4 December 2016

An Update - with better news.

After my last posting I received an e-mail from Chris and Graham Weston who paid the site a visit this morning:

Hi Chaz,
We went over Clayhanger this morning for 1.5 hours and here are the more unusual sightings.
Sparrowhawk, 3 Jay by pit mounds, 3 Buzzards, 5 Goosander (3M, 2F), Little Egret on East edge of Mere, 3 Snipe, 2 Male Goldeneye, Redwing, Fieldfare, Grey Wagtail and Chiffchaff on SW side of mere. Cetti's Warbler in reeds on opposite side of track to Pelsall Rd Pool (heard by Chris)

I had really given up hope but it appears that we still have our guest of honour! The Cettis has only moved a few hundred yards and is still on site. This is often the way with birds. If they move from the place where they are frequently seen, birders (myself included) often assume that they have gone. 

This is always a quandary when looking for rare birds, do you stay where they have regularly been seen or do you take the initiative and go and check around other possible areas? Most birders stand their ground and hope that the birds will be creatures of habit but a few braver ones will 'roll the dice' and sometimes get rewarded (and at other times get punished).

Good news for Tony Stackhouse though, he was saying today that he regretted not being able to connect with the Cetti's (apart from hearing it) so it seems he and everyone else may yet have a second chance?

Big thanks to Chris and Graham for their records - Chaz

Great White - Elephant!

Why is it always when I am half way through a meal that someone contacts me with interesting bird news - a certain law must surely apply?

So it was that at lunchtime today I received a text from Anita to say that there was an Egret on the island in the Mere. As we have only had one Little Egret on the site since March (October R.F.), it surely had to be the elusive Great White Egret that has been touring the local area didn't it?

I reluctantly withdrew my face from the trough, made myself presentable (well as presentable as I am ever likely to get), and acting on information received, called the usual suspects (who are awaiting another shot at this elusive rarity) and set off for the Marsh.

I got to the tin bridge and there, flying toward me across the Marsh was an Egret, but surely too small to be a Great White, its feet were glinting in the sunlight but as it got closer there could be no further doubt, yellow feet - it was a Little Egret.

Its hard to be scathing of such a nice bird, lets face it a December record is noteworthy and there have been surprisingly few records this year, but I have to confess to a little bit of disappointment.

Ryders Mere

Wigeon (21) - Cormorant (1) - Goosander (1)

Clayhanger Marsh

Teal (30) - Gadwall (8) - Water Rail (1A) - Snipe (1)

Well done Anita, its not your fault that I got my hopes up and Little Egret is still a good sighting at any time of the year. For those interested it was last seen heading toward Grange Farm (presumably to the Ford Brook) at about 14.45.

Have a good week all - Chaz

Friday, 2 December 2016

Twitching by bus - again!

Photo (C) Jonathan Woodcock
After having to turn down a lift on Wednesday and not having heard any news today, I decided to roll the dice and see if I could locate the female Velvet Scoter that has been at Chasewater since Tuesday.

It was a nightmare! It took me at least two minutes to find it! Today it seemed to be quite fond of the area in front of fly-bay although on one occasion it did have a little cruise down toward the dam. The pale patch on the face is quite apparent and the white wing bar could usually be discerned. It even sat up in the water and flapped for me on one occasion, giving excellent views of the bright white wing panels.

The only decent shot of the bird I could find was by Jonathan Woodcock, I hope he won't mind that I have borrowed his photo to illustrate the blog? There are lots of excellent shots of various female Velvet Scoter photos out there but its always better to show you the actual bird whenever possible, as I know that some of you might not be totally sure of what to look for if you decide to go for it (any problems Jonathan, let me know and I will be happy to remove it).

Not a lot else to speak of, a Buzzard, my first Goldeneye of this winter and at least twelve Cormorant. The Merganser may have been there but I didn't really have time or daylight to go and look for it this afternoon.

One bird seen briefly off the powerboat club caught my attention. Amongst the Tufted Duck was a contender for female Scaup, very prominent white patches around the lore's, a nicely rounded head and it seemed a bit more robust than the Tufted Duck present. The bird dived and could not be relocated (particularly in fading light) so I can't call it for definite, particularly as there is at least one aberrant Tufted Duck about (as I discovered recently on the Mere) so I will wait for someone else to perhaps get better views. Heres hoping. - Chaz

Get your tour souvenirs here!

It’s a sign that the Great White Egret is on tour and not only putting itself about a bit, but is also conspicuous enough to catch the attention of non-birders.

A friend from swimming who lives at Shire Oak stopped me today to say that my blog had helped him to identify a big white heron that was perched on a rooftop at Walsall Wood on the morning of the day that I saw it at Ryders Mere (26th. November). Nick not only saw it himself but also drew it to the attention of his wife who also saw it.

That must add Shire Oak nature reserve and Jockey Meadows to the list of possible sites for this bird to hang out at?

It is hard to believe that such a large and striking bird can be so elusive, but assuming that it is still in the local area, it must surely be pinned down soon? - Chaz

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mid-Week update

Wigeon numbers increase as smaller pools freeze
Just the usual suspects on the Marsh and Mere and one or two of the usual suspects on the shore. A pleasant sunny afternoon chatting to Tony Stackhouse an Jim and Sue Miles, hoping that a power boat might displace the Merganser or today's Velvet Scoter from Chasewater (to no avail).

A couple of nights of hard frost seemed to have cleared the Marsh out, although a hardy (and noisy) Water Rail was still present, along with the juvenile Buzzard that insists on still calling for food from its parents (both of which are long gone).

Still a good range of wildfowl on the marsh with a noticeable increase in Wigeon numbers over my last few visits.

Clayhanger Marsh

Water Rail (1) - Linnet (1) - Redwing (7) - Fieldfare (3)

Ryders Mere

Teal (10) - Gadwall (3M) - Shoveler (2) - Pochard (2) - Goosander (10) - Wigeon (36) -
Common Gull (1) - Lapwing (1) - Snipe (1) - Stock Dove (1) - Sparrowhawk (1 M Juv.)

I have also received a second-hand report that a large white bird was seen over Pelsall yesterday heading in the general direction of Bloxwich. Given the absence of any Little Egrets locally, this was almost certainly the same Great White Egret that I saw on Saturday. But where is it going during the day? There can not be too many potential sites suitable for this species and it is a conspicuous bird. Perhaps someone should check out the wet areas toward Wyrley or possibly even Park Lime Pits? It should be possible to pin this bird down with a bit of effort and enthusiasm.

I might try to get up to Chasewater tomorrow if the Velvet Scoter is still about. Marsh update at the weekend - official Winter commences tomorrow folks! - Chaz

Monday, 28 November 2016

A good sign, now lets see some action

A big thank you to one of the marsh regulars, Debbie Moseley for letting me know about something I had missed:

Hi Chaz,

Not sure if you were aware that this notice has been pinned to the gate post at the entrance to the SSSI at Bullows Road. Don't suppose it will stay there for long! But it's good to know that the area is now on the police radar. As I live overlooking the site, it's useful to have a specific contact to report any unusual activity to.

As you can see the relevant contact details are now available so if you are a regular, perhaps put these in your phone and then report any illicit or illegal activities that threaten the site.

Good luck to PC Collins, I hope that this is a sign of a period of improvement for the welfare of the sites? Now all we need is Natural England to get its finger out and do something about the grazing and the increasing amount of illegal activities on site please - Chaz

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Purple Patch continues

A good size comparison - Photo: Phil Ward
I must have done something good somewhere if my current run of good luck is anything to go by. My old mate Dave Glover had arranged to come over today and although we were playing it a bit by ear, we did set out with a three bird agenda and...came home with a full bag for a change.

Photo courtesy Phil Ward

After negative news this morning we were about to set off to check Chasewater for ourselves when a phone call from Ray Fellows confirmed that it was a wise move as the Red Breasted Merganser (the one that I was looking for on the Mere yesterday) was showing well off the Dam. We rolled up to find Phil Ward baby-sitting the bird for us and the bird performed admirably. Not an uncommon species at the coast, RB Merg is always a good find at any inland site and a lingering bird like this one is particularly unusual. Phil has been kind enough to share some of his photographs with me and the one (above) has been chosen for those of you familiar with Goosander but perhaps not so familiar with Red Breasted Merganser. Hopefully if one turns up on the Marsh you will be able to sort it out?

After this good start to the day we set off to Upper Longdon, in hope rather than expectation of seeing the Hawfinches and Crossbills that have been performing for several days. Several people had told me how difficult they can be so I counselled Dave not to get his hopes up. On arrival though, we got out the car to find a group of birders discussing how obliging they were being, believe it or not, half a minutes walk from the car park.

With a bit of support from friendly scope wielding birders, within a couple of minutes of pulling to a stop we were enjoying Hawfinches showing brilliantly in the Beech Trees at the end of the path. After a few minutes we carefully moved down the track to get binocular views of at least five birds, all of which seemed reluctant to fly for any significant distance (they were still performing in the same area when we returned to the car an hour or so later).

The Crossbills had been regularly reported near Trout Lodge - flying from the Larches around an area of clear-fell. As we made our way down the track things did not look good as a couple of birders told us that they had been seen but the flock of fifteen or twenty birds had now flown across the clear-fell to the Larches on the far side, some distance away.

As we had made the effort we decided to persevere and after a few minutes of searching the trees I managed to find what appeared to be a single female feeding with Siskin. Another couple of birders joined us and set up there scopes. I then took a look through the scope to see what was obviously a stunning burnt-orange toned male bird and it became apparent that we had found a pair, possibly already 'an item' (Crossbill are very early breeders, often having fledged young by March) which had separated from the bulk of the flock.

Excellent day, particularly as both Hawfinch and Crossbill at this site had developed a reputation for being difficult to see.

Big thank you to Dave for a lovely late Autumn morning out, and to Ray, Phil as well as the on-site birders who were once again doing the job right, making sure that all comers, birders and non-birders were getting the chance to see these fabulous visitors. Good company and great birding all round.

Have a good week all, Winter begins on Thursday - Chaz