Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Devon Bird Atlas: Round 3

On Saturday & Monday we headed up to the Blackdown Hills for round 3 of our Devon Bird Atlas surveys.

On both days it was really quiet, with one tetrad only producing 10 species, although it was quite nice that the 10th was a Nuthatch, found in the last few seconds of the hour. We did have a couple of very large House Martin flocks, particularly over fields of grass that had just been cu, & 3 Buzzards on adjoining telegraph poles.

Some nice flowery lanes
some nice views

and  some Helmeted Guineafowl, a bit of a coincidence after seeing one beside the canal recently

A tree at the top of Culmstock Church
One more round to go in Nov/Dec

Sunday, 29 July 2012

You just never know......

We've actually made it back to Exmouth now, so this is a bit of a round-up of the end of the trip. 

Cruising through the middle of Burton-on-Trent on the Trent & Mersey Canal I was surprised by a Helmeted Guineafowl hanging out with a couple of manky ducks. It's the second time I've seen one, the first one being a few years ago, again somewhere along the Trent & Mersey Canal, although at least that time it was out in the countryside. Presumably there's a farmer somewhere nearby who's losing a few.

Helmeted Guineafowl 
I visited the Willington Gravel Pits again, although I couldn't get in at first, and when I did I didn't find many birds anyway.

That's the entrance road not a river! I had no chance without wellies....
....and the water levels had obviously been much higher
We stayed in Willington for 4 days waiting for the rivers to go down to normal levels, then on Tuesday we decided everything was virtually back to normal & headed for home. As we cruised up the River Trent  approaching the junction with the River Soar, as usual, I was standing on the back with my bins whilst Captain Simon drove, after all you just never know what you might find....

We were turning right down the River Soar in front of the trees
There are some small ponds & a boggy area on the right, and as I scanned them I suddenly dropped the bins & grabbed the camera as I went into hyper-excited mode. I really wasn't expecting to see one of these....

A  Grey Heron & a Sacred Ibis!
A heavily cropped Sacred Ibis
They're an African bird, but there are apparently feral populations in France & Italy. So where did this one come from? Probably an escapee, but who knows! I sent the details to Birdguides & it went on the map as an 'unclassified' bird. I guess I can't count it on my Year List, which is a bit of a shame, but it was still great to find it. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

A bit of Warwickshire & Staffs re-visited....

Since I last blogged I've only been off on two birding expeditions. Last Thursday I explored the Alvecote Pools Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which is on the Warwickshire/Staffordshire borders. It consists of about 129 hectares spread over several reserves & other areas. I found a useful map from a link on Archie's British Birding Blogz (Surfbirds Archive)....here's the link.


We'd moored on the Coventry Canal beside Pooley Fields, a 26 hectare site managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (it's not labelled on the map, but it's the area that includes the Canal Pool). It has several pools, formed due to coal mining subsidence, along with some woodland (wet & dry), marsh, grassland & a huge spoil heap. The sun was actually out so I had a pleasant wander, even though I didn't find much, the best being a Garden Warbler alongside the canal. There was also a fairly happy Jay, feeding on a large pile of bread & posing for the camera.

A Jay ....
....not worried about his waist-line
The view from the top of the spoil heap, along with its rather odd monument.
Next I visited Alvecote Meadows, 11.5 hectares owned by the Warks. Wildlife Trust & consisting of more mining related pools, marsh, grassland & a bit of scrub. It was much more open than Pooley Fields, but I didn't get to see much of it as the recent heavy rains had made it impossible to cross without wellies, which I wasn't wearing! I'll try again next time we pass, if it's not monsoon season again.

Alvecote Meadows.....a bit too wet
Next stop was Shuttington Bridge, where there was plenty of evidence of the recent floods & Laundry Lane, which is apparently good for Willow Tits although I didn't manage to find any. Beside Laundry Lane is Knob Flashes (yes, apparently so!) which is often flooded & visited by waders. Amazingly enough, although everywhere else is sodden, this was actually pretty dry with no birds in sight!

Knob Flashes from Laundry Lane.....a bit too dry!
I'll explore some of the other bits that I missed next time.

My second outing was a re-visit to Whitemoor Haye in Staffs on Saturday. I ended up walking there from Fradley Junction again, so it was a 7 mile round trip. Last time I was chuffed at finding Tree Sparrows & a Little Owl, but dipped on Grey Partridge & Corn Bunting. I started off well, finding another colony of Tree Sparrows, including lots of juveniles. Then I inspected the Little Owl tree & was pleasantly surprised....

And then there were two! Play 'Spot the Little Owl'!
I kept my ears peeled for the distinctive song of the Corn Bunting & crept along the lanes and across the footpaths peering along the edges of fields in search of a Grey Partridge. I was having no luck so I walked up towards the lake at the adventure centre, which it turns out is the only water that you can see. Apparently the land owner of the new quarry pits is anti-birder so there's no access. As I walked up the road there was a very loud Skylark overhead & a couple of persistent Reed Buntings singing in the fields. Then I thought I heard it....that odd clicky-rattle of a Corn Bunting. For once I wished the Skylark would shut up! I waited for a while, then maybe heard it again.....& finally the Skylark disappeared & there was no doubt that I was listening to my first Corn Bunting of the year. Finding it was another matter.

The Corn Bunting was singing in the middle of the field ....somewhere!
I found a distant blob & took some photos, which when much cropped revealed that it was probably source of the singing.
A very enlarged Corn Bunting
Feeling happy, I continued up to the lake. I stood on the armco at the entrance to the quarry to look across the water & saw a Common Tern, a Shelduck & 2 very distant waders. They were across the other side of the pool nearer to the entrance to the adventure centre, so I decided to walk along the road & just pop my head inside the gates to see if I could get a better view.

The waders were on the far side by the entrance (near the buildings)

Just as I walked up to the gates I was startled by 2 birds that suddenly dashed out of the hedge and along the gravelly bank towards the vegetation. I was all of as fluster trying to  get to my bins & then trying to get a shot as they vanished. Phew! I not only managed to ID them, but even got a record shot of my first Grey Partridges of the year!

A Grey Partridge doing the 10 yard dash!
Two Year List birds certainly made it worth the long walk & the intermittent soakings!

Year List now on 196 + 2 sub-species