The tables were turned today with the Whinchats remaining distant whilst the group of three Stonechats (male and two 1st winters) showed really well!
Sunday, 27 September 2020
Saturday, 26 September 2020
Quite a bit of movement going on at Venus Pool recently but thankfully the Whinchats (2) and Stonechats (at least 4) were not going anywhere else in a hurry!
Never close, I had to settle for medium range efforts!
I'm glad I didn't rush off after the Chats fizzled away in the distance as a dark winged raptor soon grabbed my attention! I was initially getting broken views as it quartered on the skyline! It had to be a Marsh Harrier, even at distance, typical flight pattern and very long tail...
Shame about the white sky!! At this point I thought it was disappearing
Sunday, 20 September 2020
Fourteen species of Orthoptera (not including escapes) are resident in Shropshire and after a fair bit of effort in recent weeks I was currently on 13 species with just one to go! Lesser Marsh Grasshopper has only recently (since 2013) been found in Shropshire but has settled down in a few sites in Telford, also Dudmaston and Albrighton. Given the totally wild, largely untrod area of Horsehay I was visiting, I was glad to have County Recorder David Williams as my guide!
The sun was shining and once we had fought our way through dense heather and bracken we arrived (no legs broken) at a grassy area, known to hold them. It didn't take long to find our first one, a female green morph.
A big thank you to David for his help! I've had a great time sorting these little chaps out and like Odonata, there is the chance of a new species from adjacent counties heading out way one day? Whatever, I'll certainly be looking and listening next summer for more of the same... Maybe a male Lesser Marsh?
Friday, 18 September 2020
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!
Tuesday, 15 September 2020
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...
Saturday, 5 September 2020
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)
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...