Sunday, 25 April 2010

Shropshire bird race - April Marathon!

With the London marathon taking place today, I was about to embark upon a Shropshire marathon with Yvonne – the monthly bird race amid classic April showers….

A longer day meant more hours birding and with the laid back approach, the emphasis was once again on a fun day’s birding! Venus Pool was the start off point and once again a good opening hour with just over 40 species - numbers slightly down on recent months! No big surprises here and with Wildfowl doing a disappearing act, a lone female Pochard was a good example of a species that would not be seen elsewhere!
Atcham turned up Goosander and RL Partridge. Winter thrushes have now departed and Mistle/Song Thrushes were the only representatives in the Upton Magna area, a Lesser Whitethroat was a welcome bird on the approach road to CJ’s though! The Allscot and Isombridge lane area produced the goods (with the exception of Grey Partridge!) a group of six Common Swift (year tick!) Green sandpiper, Corn Bunting, Yellow wagtail and Curlew plus most of the common Warblers!

Andy L had texted welcome news of Wheatear (we counted 17!) and Whinchat (cracking male) at Nedge Hill with a bonus Jay at Apley en-route. So far so good, with the count up to 66 but then things started to go downhill as we ventured uphill on the Wrekin and copped one of those t-shirt clad showers…… We managed Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Nuthatch and Treecreeper but the spent too much time searching for Lesser Pecker and Wood Warbler, both conspicuous by their silence!

The afternoon picked up after lunch and this is where it’s make or break time for the tally! Goshawk (a real bonus) and Sparrowhawk were picked up in flight east of Telford and our only Goldcrests at Shirlett. A check list is useful to reveal easy birds which have eluded capture and astonishingly Long tailed Tit remained unticked! We then saw plenty in the Bridgnorth area of course and another ‘not to be taken for granted tick’ at this time of year – House Martin! Peregrine, Raven and a flyover Lesser Black backed Gull took us into the 80’s……

Two birds were added shortly after: Little Grebe, Pink footed Goose, then a really important brace of daytime Little Owl and Tawny Owl!

We finally got our Green Woodpecker (nearly a bogey bird!) and a Dipper took us to 86.

Daylight was burning, it was now 5.00 and apart from a couple of certainties, most birds were going to be hard going? Time was against a North / South end to the day – it was one or the other! We opted for the North, via Venus Pool where two Dunlin had dropped in and we got ‘em! Needing some nutrition, it was 10 out 10 to Macdonalds for the fastest food service ever – no time lost there and I’m still alive! The Mere finally produced, erm, a Heron for the day and we then got Common / Herring Gull from Wood Lane!

Into the 90’s then and with a Whixall Moss finale we really needed it to produce like never before (it didn’t!) The floods turned up the long sought after Shoveler (conspicuous by their absence on all other stretches of water!!) No waders or Med Gull, just one more bird was added here – Cuckoo with two calling as the sun set on what we thought was the final tally (93).

One last bit of drama was to come on the drive back to Shrewsbury in the form of a Barn Owl across the road approaching Preston Brockhurst!

94 speciesthen and by far the best count for the year so far! Nearly 15 hours of travelling / birding within the confines of Shropshire had taken their toll though - totally knackered! Some great birds, one or two regrets on tactics or time spent ‘searching’ and the odd ‘how did we miss that! Overall though, a great total and day out! If we can rekindle the enthusiasm/energy for another stab in May – another good tally is possible?? We shall see…….