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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Two days left of summer - but first signs of winter arrive

Had a grand day out again, Dave Glover came down for the afternoon and we did a bit of local birding culminating with half a circuit of the Marsh. What a change a few days can make, everywhere was astonishingly quiet and although we eventually managed to connect with a few phyloscopus warblers (mostly Chiffchaff and several juvenile Willow Warbler), the last few days of fine weather appears to have cleared out many of our lingering summer visitors.

A good show of House Martin were feeding above the site and several Swallows provided a welcome accompaniment to them, but I suppose the star birds would have to be our first returning waterfowl in the form of two female/juvenile Common Teal on the Marsh. Also noted was a Grey Wagtail patrolling the edge of the Mere, again something more evident locally in the winter than during the breeding season (when they confine themselves to the Ford Brook).

A big thank you is appropriate to my old mate John Holian who provided information that really produced results for us. John was generous enough to share some sites where he had obtained good views of Hobby at the weekend and we were rewarded with some excellent views, we also managed to use John's information to locate a party of Spotted Flycatcher at a site in the Black Country although these birds were quite elusive and credit for finding them firmly belongs to the sharp eyes of Dave rather than to me. 
Spot Fly used to be a reasonably easy species to connect with and back in the nineties I used to see them every summer as I walked to work through St James's Church yard in Brownhills, but like many other once common species, Flycatchers have gone through a catastrophic decline in the last twenty years and it is not unusual for me to go a whole year without seeing one so even the brief views I had this afternoon were very welcome.

Anyway, a big thank you to Dave and to John for contributing to a splendid afternoon of local birding! A busy weekend ahead for me but I will attempt to update when I can.

Enjoy the rest of your short week all - Chaz

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Nice day for people, rubbish for watching wildlife

Out for a pleasant afternoon walk with low expectations of anything interesting and as usual - I wasn't disappointed.

High pressure always allows migrants to fly straight through without needing to drop in to feed so who can blame them for taking advantage of it? For those of us looking for something interesting to report its another matter though.

Not even a star bird today! Warblers included a few Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler calling and at least one Goldcrest on the mineral line. A few House Martin still in the area and a good showing of late summer butterflies including Gatekeeper and Small Copper. Most noticeable though were the Dragonflies with both Brown Hawker and a few Common Darters on the wing.

Highlight of the day for me was being mistaken for a sexual predator by two nice ladies from Pelsall who had somehow lost there way (what with my back)? Nice that someone thinks I still have that much energy!

On a more serious note, I have been asked to mention the escaped Macaw that has been lost in Pelsall. I had seen the posters but suspect that it has gone in a  different direction to our sites (I am pretty sure that a Macaw would attract enough attention for someone to let me know).

I understand that the owners have posted a significant reward for anyone who can bring it safely home but unfortunately I have been told that the owner is being forced to take down the posters for fear of prosecution. If anyone has seen the bird let me know and I will do my best to see that the owners get to hear about it.

Anyway, that will be it for me until the weekend I expect (although when I start doing regular visits, someone else usually goes over for the first time in ten years and finds a mega-rarity so you never know)?

Enjoy your Friday - Chaz

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Just a Swift one!

As some of you know, as a teenager I frequented that well known academic institution (renowned for turning out rocket scientists and their ilk) W.R. Wheway School, in Leamore. There were plenty of things during that period of my life that I was not very good at but pre-eminent amongst them was Maths. To this day I have to take my socks off to count above ten and my upper limit for counting is still twenty-one!

I was so enamoured with the subject that one day I became so distracted watching a Spider constructing its web on the window sill that I hadn't noticed how quiet the room at gone. I turned around to find the Maths teacher and everyone in the class watching me, watch the spider.

It would have not have been unusual for me to get 'The strap' for such an offence but on this occasion the teacher stood there, his head sadly moving from side to side as he said; "Little things and little minds Mason" - a succinct analysis that I was to occasionally be reminded of by my peers over the next few years.

Well it won't surprise you to know that very little has changed in the ensuing fifty years, so I am going to share an incident that has given me disproportionate pleasure today. At exactly 17.10 I was randomly going through a flock of House Martin over the village when at high speed, a Common Swift briefly joined them before flying off south-west.

I love Swifts and every one I see now is potentially the last until next April, so I hope you will excuse the (perhaps undiserved) level of pleasure that the sight of it gave me?


Goes to show though, it ain't over till the fat lady sings, migration continues - Chaz

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

And todays fall of migrants is:

Willow Warblers! Yep, a couple of Chiffchaff as well but first thing this morning there were Willow Warblers everywhere, some trying out their singing voice but most making that unusual 'Su-eeet' call that they tend to favour at this time of the year. There are still a good number of Common Whitethroat about too, scolding me from almost every bush along the mineral line. This must have been one of the best breeding seasons for that species in recent memory?

I couldn't sleep after a restless night so found myself on the Marsh by 06.45 despite the early morning mist that reduced visibility significantly. I also re-learnt a rule that I had forgotten, if you don't like Spiders, don't be the first person over the Marsh! I must have walked through fifty webs by the time I got to the tin bridge.

Can you see the Water Rail? - No, me neither!
Still no returning waterfowl but a Water Rail was once again calling from the edge of the main swag proving impossible to see as usual.

I came back across Clayhanger Common in the vain hope of encountering a Willow Tit but almost nine months into the year and still no sign of the species on the Spot or on the marsh. Locally extinct perhaps? I will have to have another go at finding the Chasewater birds, although two previous attempts have also proven fruitless.

Anyway - every day seems a bit different at the moment and it seems inevitable that one lucky observer will eventually connect with something out of the ordinary, I don't expect it to be me but I will keep trying anyway.- Chaz

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Marsh loses a 'Tick'

Celebrating its promotion perhaps - a Common Redpoll
It may not be scheduled to happen until January but one of the most important information sites for birdwatchers has already adopted the new version of the British List that brings the United Kingdom into line with some of its European partners. This means that Lesser Redpoll (the Redpoll that occurs most frequently on the Marsh and Mere - and in Britain as a whole) has now been relegated to sub-species status with the scarce and occasional Common (Mealy) Redpoll becoming the nominate species.

The changes don't seem to affect my list particularly as the removal of Lesser Redpoll is balanced by the acceptance of Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese as separate species but as neither of those has ever been recorded on our sites it does mean that the site list drops to (by my calculation) 191 recorded species.

For other list keeping anoraks like me, it is quite frustrating that the order of species has also changed once again with Geese now taking precedence over Swans at the top of the list. 'Gordon Bennet'! I wish they would make their minds up once and for all. It is a pain in the fundament having to revise species lists every six months.

One thing that caught my attention on the new list, Red Fox Sparrow? When did one of those turn up in Britain then? It passed under my radar - Chaz