Friday, 18 September 2020

Sutton Park - Redstart

It seemed like a good idea but Dave Chapman and I picked the wrong day to have another go for the Red-backed Shrike! An overnight clear-out seemed to have included it sadly, despite walking extensively around the hotspots with one or two others on site as well!

The only consolation was an obliging female Common Redstart, catching what few flies were around and favouring the same area as the Shrike so we spent a few minutes there!


Generally using the lower branches to wait for prey...


And giving a flash of that bright red tail:


Another fly bit the dust!




Just one opportunity for a totally uncluttered background on a more distant branch!


Job done...


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Catherton Common - Bog Bush Crickets

My quest to see and photograph all the resident Shropshire Orthoptera had gone really well over the past two months but I still needed one more 'Cricket'  - Bog Bush Cricket. The two hotspots likely to produce them were Catherton Common in the south or Whixall Moss and I opted for the former site with Cramer Gutter the most likely spot...

Five minutes into the hunt, I disturbed my first one, a striking all grey female...




Dorsal view...


Crawling through the gense spines of a gorse bush, the next was the first of three green forms, nicely marked on the upper parts...




Cricket number three showed really well albeit very briefly and I managed just a single decent image...


And finally, number four gave clear views of the head / wings...


Just one more species to go and my quest will be complete - Lesser Marsh Grasshopper, potentially the most difficult? Watch this space...

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Venus Pool - WestMidsAllDayer

It's that time of year again! The Autumn #WestMidsAllDayer and I must admit having had a couple of recce visits the previous week, prospects did not look good! Especially as there was no access to the hides making viewing of the pool quite difficult! I hadn't banked on a good showing of lady luck plus a brilliant team of birders, working to a plan...

This is just a summary of the collective efforts and no pics (of birds) as with a dodgy chest muscle I couldn't carry camera gear! With an early start, there was the usual stampede of ticks and by 9.00 we had just reached the 50 mark. The stand out bird was a Ringed Plover with early Redstart, Kingfisher, Egyptian Goose, Little Egret and Grey Wagtail. The next hour saw a couple of waders emerge from cover, Green and Common Sandpiper plus a noisy Cettis Warbler, all viewed from the causeway. Eyes to the skies picked out Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk and with some help from call, Siskin, Meadow Pipit and Yellow Wagtail

The Cound Stank end produced House Sparrow and Collared Dove, always difficult at VP when you need one plus a single Dipper on the brook viewable from the bank in the last field. A Hobby put in a first  appearance, seen now and then throughout the day. We had seen numerous Chiffchaff but other warblers were thin on the ground, a few Blackcap but at 11.00, a Lesser Whitethroat showed briefly by the car park bringing the total up to 73. The next hour delivered Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and an unexpected Stonechat plus the bogey bird we completely dipped in May - Rook!

The birds routinely take an afternoon siesta during 'Big Days' but a continuous trickle kept our enthusiasm going. A Goosander flew a circuit high over the pool, Sand Martin joined Swallow and House Martin in the hirundine count and Mistle / Song Thrushes finally gave themselves up! By 2.00 we still hadn't seen a Bullfinch but that all changed with one along from the Fen hide. There was no shortage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 100's of them were feeding on a nearby ploughed field and flying in / out plus a few Herring and single Common Gull.

We started the evening shift on 83, resigning ourselves that it was likely to be the final tally? You never ever give up!  A drake Gadwall was spotted on the pool from the causeway and the only Yellowhammer of the day flew out of the hedge near the entrance to the arable field. The star bird of the day then picked the moment to appear - an OSPREY which glided over the pool being harrassed by gulls! It drifted to the river but was then seen in flight again over the 'Oak Tree' in the arable field.

It was now gone 7.00 and our main hope was to put another VP bogey on the list? Starling are ten a penny in Cross Houses but like Hen's Teeth at VP in a bird race! An amazing murmuration of two birds were spotted from the far side of the pool, closely followed by a noisy Water Rail and as dusk was rolling in, a Tawny Owl brought proceedings to a close! We had finished on 89, eclipsing the previous highest total of 80!

My conclusion! Forget the hides in future, having to bird on the hoof rather that sitting on a comfy bench made us visit everwhere and yes all the birds on the pool were hard work but I'd like to think we never missed anything dropping in! We could have had more? Peregrine was notably absent and Sedge / Reed Warbler usually remain but where was a Skylark? An early Pochard or Pintail would have been nice, maybe a Dunlin, Curlew... but that's all for another (BIG) day...

A big thank you and 'well done' to everyone who helped on the day! You know who you are :-) 

The final tally, together with a summary including all the other Midland sites / reserves will be posted soon...I'll post the link via twitter...  Meanwhile, here's our list from an amazing #WestMidsAllDayer (Sept 5th 2020)





 


Venus Pool - Big day insects

In addition to the birds, plenty of insects were still on show in the arable field! We were lucky to have two female Speckled Bush Crickets on show! Here's the first...






Plus the second one, easy to distinguish as she had a complete set of legs!


Roesel's Bush Cricket were all over the reserve but never easy to get them in the open!


Migrant Hawker perched up first thing...


Small Copper showing a bit of wear...


An unidentified as yet Digger Wasp species?


And at the end of the day, this lonesome Ivy Bee...






What a day!