Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Autumn on the Horizon (Honest)!

"Was a hot afternoon, the last day of 
June and the sun was a demon"
Bobby Goldsboro - 1973

Says it all really. Quite a naughty song in its day, banned by the BBC (but then again, what wasn't?).

Pretty tame by today's standards I'm happy to say.

Not much current news for you although Ray Fellows did find a juvenile Yellow Wagtail on the Mere today. Despite this awful bloody weather (and Wimbledon to add to the misery) it may be hard to believe that Autumn is already under way - if only in first gear. By the end of June more than half of Britain's Cuckoos will already be south and heading across Europe along with a good percentage of breeding Nightingales, and is it only me who thinks that Swift numbers have dropped drastically in the last week or so?

Anyway, this is just a preamble. as I write these words the Arctic breeding waders will be rushing to get their chicks fledged and some of them will already be heading south towards Britain by mid-month. We will start looking for Stints and Wood Sandpipers and also some of our resident species as they drop into the bushes around the Marsh and Mere to roost.

All to play for folks, this disruptive spell of abysmal weather will soon be behind us and we can return to sensible grey sky's and drizzle - Makes you proud to be British! - Chaz

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Against overwhelming odds!

Surprise news from Kev Clements today as he manages to confirm successful breeding by a pair of Common Tern on the mere. Eight adults and two juveniles were seen as well as an astonishing (and apparently record breaking) count of no less than three hundred juvenile Black Headed Gull!

We also still have at least one surviving Oystercatcher Chick too - good news in itself as the two chicks that were hatched disappeared for quite a while.

Heat wave coming, so not looking forward to the next week but at least we are now closer to next Christmas than last, (got to look on the bright side I suppose) - Chaz

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fledged at last!

Photo Courtesy Becky Davies
For any doubters who were not convinced by the very bushy photograph of the Clayhanger Cuckoo, someone obviously brought it a pair of shears and it managed to cut its way our of the very dense bush that it was nesting in as here it is - a resplendent young Cuckoo in all its glory!

That's the easy bit over.  

All it has to do now is learn to fly (without being caught by that most ferocious of species - the Clayhanger Cat), make its way south to the channel coast, fly across the channel, fly south through France and Spain (or perhaps the delta of the River Po in Italy?), fly across the Mediterranean, across north Africa, across some of the most desolate desert in the world and with a bit of luck it will be eating its Christmas dinner in the Congo Basin (that's where many young Cuckoos end up apparently).

I am sure that if you are the kind of individual who takes the trouble to read my inane ramblings then you will share my hopes that this little bird will do better than many of its cousins and not only make it safely there but also perhaps fly back next year to wake me up at five 'o'clock every bloody morning! (only kidding - love it really).

All that remains is to say a BIG BIG thank you to Becky Davies for being kind enough to keep me in the loop about Her VIP chick and to allow me to share her Photographs with you lot.

(shame she didn't send a film - it would have been a real Chick-Flic)! - "I'll get me coat..."!

Thanks Becky x - Chaz

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Have I been walking around asleep or is something going on locally?

Photo courtesy of Andy Dennis
What IS going on ? 

Following my appeal for information about the local partridge situation, Anita Scott has been in touch to say that she knows where the Partridge are on the marsh. she recently saw six, some of which appeared to be chicks. Unfortunately Anita has only seen the birds going away from her so can't confirm species, but either way, its good news (up until yesterday I would have said that they would definitely be Grey Partridge - but not necessarily it seems)?

And then this evening, I received an e-mail from Andy Dennis with a picture of a Red Legged Partridge that he Photographed on Brownhills Common on March 25th. As he says:

"I was not aware that the Red Legged Partridge was so rare locally, so when I saw this one on Brownhills Common, near the drive to the old Midland Station I just thought it was odd for that location."

I totally agree with the sentiment - IT IS ODD! I have not seen a local Red-Leg (if memory serves) anywhere near Brownhills for about fifteen years. They used to be quite common behind the old Pig Marsh at Chasewater and as I said in my previous e-mail, until the early nineties they were not uncommon on our sites, but Brownhills Common hardly seems to provide appropriate habitat for this species and I know that Paul the local farmer had also given up hope for the Partridge population at Grange Farm.

Have they just been dodging me (understandable I suppose) Or is there something else going on?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Locally scarce species returns? - But from where?

Grey Partridge have become a scarce species on the local farmland and it was surprise to get news that there were still at least three birds being seen occasionally on the edge of the site. But what about its introduced cousin, the Red Legged (or French) Partridge?

In the 1970s and early 1980s the Red Legged Partridge was a reasonably frequent species, particular when more of the site was being regularly farmed. However the rules against deliberately breeding and releasing these birds for the shooting community started to have an effect on the number of birds that could be encountered and it became a scarce and eventually extinct species locally. The last visual record that I am aware of was in 1997 and the very last contact was a bird heard distantly 'Chugging' in 1999 (by myself as it happens).

Over the following years I am aware of two reported encounters with this species,  but both of these were eventually withdrawn by the observers on discovering the status of the bird in the area (nothing untoward, in fact the opposite. Both observers had seen the birds distantly in flight and given the well recorded scarcity of Grey Partridge locally, had assumed that they were Red-legs. - Honesty worthy of respect)!

I had given up hope of RLP ever being seen again locally, so it was with some surprise that I received a text from Gareth Clements today, to say that he had encountered Red Legged Partridge on the farmland and that they may have had young? A brilliant record, but where the heck had they come from? I am not aware of any records anywhere locally in the last ten years. Have they been keeping a low profile and just getting on with living a quiet life somewhere like 'Jockey Meadows' or is someone still releasing them? If anyone knows anything, please let me know.

Gareth was also able to confirm successful breeding by at least one pair of local Bullfinch, "so what" you may say, well, I have never been able to confirm successful breeding and this year was the first year that I had ever noted them with nest materials locally so that's yet another good site record.

Anyway marsh Lister's - you now have another crack at Red Legged Partridge if you missed your shot in the last century, so what are you waiting for - Chaz

Friday, 19 June 2015

Out of Hibernation again (I suppose I might as well get up)?

Photo: Beckie Davis

But some things are worth getting out of the cave for. 

What do you make of the Photo (Above) any idea what it is?
(Yes I know its a baby bird - it was a rhetorical question)

Well, its something that I have only seen once before, but this one was showing in a neighbours garden this evening. Unbelievably a Cuckoo has laid an egg in a Dunnock's nest in a Clayhanger Garden. The nest is in a very prickly bush so its amazing that the adult bird was able to access the nest in the first place (goodness knows how the young one will get out when it has fledged)?

The bird is still calling for food and was fed by its surrogate parents while I was there but it is actually quite advanced and clearly shows the early stages of its characteristic 'Stripy Weskit'

My neighbour Roy believes that he actually saw the egg laying but at the time believed (quite reasonably) that he was watching a Sparrowhawk struggling to get at the Dunnocks.

What a garden breeding record to have, possibly a unique event in the village for a bird that you normally associate with heathland and open country.

A Clayhanger Adult Bird from a previous year

Many thanks to Roy for inviting me (and 'er-indoors') into his garden and for Beckie for taking the photograph which, given the circumstances and position of the nest, was quite an achievement - believe me!

Apart from this you haven't missed much. The Black Necked Grebe came back for a day and was relocated by Ray Fellows but apart from showing distantly for one or two observers was gone the following day.

Midsummer day on Sunday - the countdown to Autumn migration has begun.

Have a good weekend all - Chaz

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Another Great Shot

Craig Reed has also shared one of his images of today's Black Necked Grebe for you all to enjoy.