Saturday, 14 January 2017

Colemere - Scaup threesome!

I was on my way to the Mere gull roost, stopped off at Colemere and with the 3 Scaup right out in the middle of the mere, decided to check out the wood? A few Redpoll and a Treecreeper were the only worthwhile birds seen and with the clock ticking away, I retraced my steps... only to find the Scaup had now paddled within camera range!!!

I literally gave them 5 minutes but still managed to get some half decent record shots in the gathering gloom!

Ladies first - first winter that is...

And the first winter male showing off his developing plumage!

The adult male always an irritating distance behind the youngster, impossible to get them both in focus!

But just about managed all three as they drifted away....

The Mere roost beckoned, only a few minutes lost!

The Mere roost - Gulls galore

I hadn't missed much at the Mere and was soon joined by Rob Dowley and Anthony Griffiths, all of us hoping for a repeat show from the first winter Glaucous Gull?

It was not to be but we stuck it out until the bitter end! Amongst the estimated 3,000 Gulls, majority Black-headed (and not a Med in sight), Common were certainly Common, a scattering of Herring, and Lesser Black-backed plus this 4th winter Great Black backed Gull....

If there was a highlight, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls, one smallish probable female and here's the bigger of the two...

Mike Stokes and I had scoped the drake Mandarin, way across the mere some 600m away three days previously- it was a tad closer this evening, hiding behind a bush! Just this single 'clear' shot!

The January/Shropshire list rolls on to 83 with Treecreeper, Great Black-backed Gull and Yellow-legged Gull from today :-)

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Green-winged Teal is back at VP!!!

Too late for Swans today but as I approached the hide at 8.30 this morning, a refreshing piece of news - the Green-winged Teal is back! And it IS the original bird I found back on the 24th November, that 'in your face' dayglo white stripe is as stunning as they come...

He's got attitude as well... absence has given him a taste for the laydeez and right from the word go he was strutting his stuff...

First weigh up the opposition?

Hmmm the guy at the back looks handy but this lot stand no chance!

The object of his desire...

You wanna dance?

Maybe we could go over to that nice quiet corner and I'll show you a good time??


Ok, just watch me move...

Head poppin.-

Body rocking..

And THIS is what you call a DISPLAY!!

Just wingin it!

Hey, wait for me...

Bloody show off yanks! Give me an English gentleman any day...

Oh well, she's not my type and... at least if he's left on the shelf we wont have to contend with a local influx of hybrid creations!!

Green-winged Teal - the entertainer with attitude!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Venus Pool - Bewick's Swans in the gloom!

After my 'day off' yesterday, from Pine Bunting duty that is... Back to business as usual with a daybreak start at Venus Pool. There were a handful of early comers, most oblivious (or with another priority) to a groups of four Bewick's Swans on the pool. Helen Griffiths found and alerted me to them, so with an imminent departure likely, I legged it for my camera!

Given the gloom and mist, strictly for the record, Bewick's  are 'mega' in Shropshire, in fact, I think it's been three years since I've seen any in the County!!

So forgive the grey backdrop - with the Pine Bunting not on show, these were the bird(s) of the day!

Three adults and a juvenile...

Becoming quite mobile and heading for take off?

You could sense what was imminent!


This was not ideal conditions for flight but I never say never and gloomy or not, atmospheric moments as they disappeared into the mist!

I then stared at a hedge with like minded birders for a few hours before going on a Bean Goose chase with Ian Grant (great idea and thanks for the update Reevesy!) And as for the Pine Bunting? Who knows... With no sightings today the management group took the decision this evening to lift the temporary closure of the arable field margin where it had been clearly feeding over the new year. This will be in effect from Sunday morning - please bear in mind the crop remains a no-go area and everyone must keep to the margins. If considering a visit,  all should bear in mind that members and visitors will be entitled to walk the area previously roped off and as ever the birds in the hedgerow will move about. If the Pine Bunting is refound (wherever) restrictive access measures may be reinstated.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Venus Pool - early morning Whoopers

Another early start and as I started the car to defrost the windscreen it was -7'C, pretty balmy on arrival at VP where it was -6'C... The collection bucket was placed on the fence to welcome Pine Bunt hopefuls and I cast an eye down to the pool - could see a couple of Whooper Swans!

It would have been rude to have ignored them?  Difficult as it was barely light but I had a pressing appointment in the arable field. The welcome mat was not exactly rolled out...

But after getting in a bit of a flap, the Mutes wisely left them in peace :-)

There were actually three of them! The newcomer was pretty much given the cold shoulder!

A nice start to the day then and it was downhill all the way for the Pine Bunting hopefuls? Other than than a few "I'm not sure's" or "something that could have been" it was a much reduced number of Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings, 4 Corn Buntings and a single female Brambling on show!

Other than a decent showing at 8.30 the previous day (Wed) I don't know of any definite reports and it may have relocated elsewhere? It could still be on the reserve, there's plenty of habitat or somewhere else?

An update from the VP management team: To give visiting birders the best chance of seeing the Pine Bunting, the closure of the track from Car park to oak tree will remain in place until Saturday evening and if the bird is still not seen, the track will be re-opened. Birders are asked NOT to enter the crop other than the ride through it...

Monday, 2 January 2017

Venus Pool - Pine Bunting twitch day 2

The first full day after news.... A manic day but having twitched many birds and witnessed the hard work of local birders elsewhere, time for Shropshire to offer a welcome and manage parking / access / viewing. It was a great day, great bird (showing well for a while) and a great atmosphere!

When I got a chance to break from parking duties etc, I even managed excellent scope views of the Pine Bunting perched up on the kale. Decent images were still out of the question as it was so distant / contrasty light.

Here's an update for anyone visiting or keeping locals up to speed (also on bird forum)

A busy day with an estimated 500 birders through today and the vast majority saw the Pine Bunting which gave some prolonged views on the crop after c 9.30 - 10.15. It wasn't so obliging as the day went on and yes - if the bird is in view, make those around you aware - this worked well in the morning.

Despite the big crowd and initial problems coping with demand for parking, very few issues on site and everyone conducted themselves impeccably, thank you!

Tomorrow - The track leading to the area where the bird was feeding will once gain be roped off to give the best chance of prolonged views. Volunteers will strive to get everyone parked safely and onto the viewing area but there aren't many of us and it cannot be sustained. If it's busy again, anyone can spare some time to help after seeing the bird, this will be appreciated :-) This will be reviewed on a daily basis...

There is a collection for two local charities (Cuan House wildlife rescue and Shrewsbury Hospice) please note the bucket near to the entrance to the field.

One serious issue offsite - we became aware the police were cruising the narrow access road where many cars were left on the road. I don't know if anyone got stickered and we were lucky today (bank holiday) but be aware the road is used by Farm vehicles / HGV deliveries / refuse lorries so please use only the limited verges available and do not obstruct the road...

Thanks to all the volunteers and the birders who came today a great friendly atmosphere!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Venus Pool - Pine Bunting!!!

Wow, what a turn up!! A New Years Day treat was in store for a few local and Midland birders after Simon Davies found a female Pine Bunting at Venus Pool this morning. It wasn't going to give itself up again easily and it was 2.45pm when Ian Grant refound it in the top field. Even then, it was a good 100m distant!  Great views were possible through scopes and this was a moment for the digiscopers!!

Here's a few record shots in the late afternoon murk, it sat still in the distant hedgerow for a good 20 minutes - just as well, 90% of the shots got deleted!!

The striking feature was the overall'greyness' of the bunting and absolutely no yellow present at all. The submoustachial stripe was prominent too, whiter than these images can convey! White underparts too with fine streaking. Pale eye-ring obvious through a scope.


 The brown supercilium / ear spot look spot on too...

An obliging wing flap to show off the rufous rump, 'gleaming' white underwing coverts and axillaries. (RIP Martin Garner, you are still an inspiration and mine of information to us all!)

This is likely to be a very popular bird for a day or two and the SOS committee will aim to manage access / viewing and would ask that visiting birders follow all on site instructions.

The very limited on site parking will not be able to accommodate more than 20 cars and everyone is asked to car share where possible. Do NOT park in the disabled spaces by the public hide. There is no parking  available on the narrow access lane so please do not leave cars in passing spaces, gateways or house entrances. There is limited parking in nearby Cross Houses (e.g. Village Hall) which may be the only option if it gets too busy but please take care walking down the busy A458 / lane which has no footpath!

I'll post any relevant news here and