Sunday, 25 September 2016

Wood Lane - Pec at last

How times change, I checked back and I'd seen five Pectoral Sandpipers in Shropshire between 2004 and 2008. Nowadays, it's become a bit of a mega locally and it was a question of third time lucky this morning! I wasn't even meant to be birding, a talk on the Wirral had scuppered that but I thought I'd have a few minutes at Wood Lane, once I'd adjusted the normal route?

I'm glad I did as well....  when I was half way there, a couple of texts indicated it was on view!!

But it was never going to be close!

Generally feeding in the vegetation but.... once in a while at the waters edge.....

Showing off the nicely pointed breast streaking!

And the prominent scapular 'vees' typical of a juvenile.....

And just like the Bairds at Upton warren, local Lapwings the world over just hate (and chase) an alien wader!

One half decent record shot to save the day?

And then off on my journey to entertain folks with 'Nature in Focus'......

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Willow Tit survey in Shropshire

Willow Tits are in trouble! BTO data shows they have declined by 92% in the last 25 years. They are  'around' in Shropshire at a variety of sites and a species recovery project has been organised by the BTO but first.... we need to know where they are!

There are a number of sites in Shropshire where they are either known to breed, suspected to breed or have bred in the past. If you feel you can help with some surveying work in 2017, please contact

More details on the survey itself can be found here.

Here's some images, taken back in May this year at Haughmond Hill, one of the sites successfully surveyed.....

Busy collecting food and observed from a sensible distance!

Plenty of small mouths to feed!

This pair were successful in raising young.... How many more are?

The original post is here

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Upton Warren - Baird's Sandpiper

September usually turns up a decent bird or two in the Midlands and Upton Warren once again scored with a Baird's Sandpiper found on Friday evening. A talk on Saturday afternoon scuppered any chance of going but with all my Sunday morning PC chores done, I set off.....

The reserve was looking amazing in the afternoon light!

I'd not wished to join the early 'scrum' and there was a bit of an exodus in progress as I arrived early afternoon - and NOT because the bird had gone! It was showing really well - in a birding sense, it was always going to be record shots given the location and size of the bird!

Having spent much of the previous two days on the far side, it spent virtually all the time I was there on the near bank. Clearly showing the typical Baird's long primary projection and scaly plumage pattern characteristic of a juvenile.

Let sleeping Lapwings lie?

Or this happens!

But it gives a great opportunity for flight shots :-)

A lovely view of that dark centred rump and uppertail....

Returning to feed once/twice more.....

An occasional preen.

And some images from the closest approach.....

Looking superb in the early evening light......

'Almost' a reflection!

This was my third Baird's Sandpiper, the other two were both seen in 2009. They were seen at  Traeth Dulas (Anglesey) plus an amazing experience with the really showy Marazion bird

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Book Review - A sky full of Birds

Matt Merritt, a familiar name on the birding scene is editor of Bird Watching magazine. Not surprisingly his main passion is birds but he is an award winning poet with an obvious love of history too. Setting the scene for the book, he delves into the roots of his inspiration as a youngster and you come to realise that this is a book about birding excess, but Matt is not a 'twitcher', it's not high mileage for the sake of a 'tick', he simply loves 'watching birds'. The excess refers to the exceptional avian gatherings which can occur throughout the British Isles.

There is a lot of travelling as the journey takes us down motorways, along country roads, into cites, countryside and some the best reserves or natural areas Britain has to offer. There are already plenty of books about twitchers, this is first and foremost about the birds and one man's mission to see a hell of a lot of them, starting in January and covering a calendar year.

There are no pictures, other than line drawings used to break up the text. You don't need pictures, the scene is usually set in your mind, from the first page or two of each chapter, as Matt delivers his highly readable prose into the next birding feast. It's not all about large gatherings either as plenty of individual species, including the not so common birds like Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike turn up along the pages. It's literally peppered with lots of fascinating facts too!

The throng holds centre stage; whether it's a dawn chorus, the three species of Swans summed up in a 'blizzard of wings' or Pink-footed Geese in their thousands. From Ravens in Anglesey,  raptors on the Wirral, Kent Nightingales and Scottish Capercaillies it is a truly complete UK tour. Less popular crowd pullers are included, for instance the Rook, plus settlers to these isles like Ring-necked Parakeet or Mandarin and the here today gone tomorrow flocks of Waxwings. For some of the gatherings, timing and choice of season is critical but I'm not going to give them all away...  there's many more species and many more spectacles to behold!

Matt writes in a style that makes it difficult to put the book down and takes you to places, often contrasting the present to the past, it truly is 'by turns poetic, informative and entertaining'. I've already personally witnessed most of the spectacles and well remember walking along the Newcastle Quayside to the unexpected late night din of... 'k-wake, k-wake, Kitt-i-waake'... I was immediately transported back by the chapter and could almost taste the food and wine of Sabatini's et al!

This is a book for everyone with an interest in birds, I really enjoyed it - bringing back memories from the past plus temptation for the future. It would make an excellent gift / stocking filler. If you haven't particpated in the spectacles contained within the book, there's going to be some amazing days, weekends or longer trips away pending! Or why not enjoy them all as Matt did and in the process have an amazing birding year spent 'bird watching'? You will save a lot of the angst inherent in twitching a yearlist - the vast majority of these birds are guaranteed...

Available in hardback (£12.99), paperback (£8.99) or Kindle (£9.49)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Venus Pool - Blackwits feeding up

Back on the 6th June 2006, an amazing group of 68 Black-tailed Godwits dropped in at VP! I remember it well - a sight not likely to be repeated - ever?? But at least today's small group of six was an improvement on the singles normally coming through.....

Feeding up like there would be no tomorrow!

Followed by a spot of bathing......

And wingflaps.....

I sort of knew what was coming next.... and they did, heading south behind the island, soon lost to view......