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Withymoor - Amblecote, Stourbridge.....

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Old Thursday 30th April 2020, 05:23   #1451
rollingthunder
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Hi Ian -

Thank you very much for your kind comments

In these stressed times the line between constructive criticism, musing and banter can become blurred and reading between the lines must also be ‘exercised’

I look forward to a chat at some stage - hopefully ‘The Warren’ will reopen asap so that people can get a ‘fix’

Regards and good birding - wherever that is at present -

Laurie
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Old Saturday 2nd May 2020, 06:30   #1452
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After 3 days of unsettled conditions i ventured out for a coupla hours up to Fens Pools but still it rained, blew and was cold - i almost wished i hadn’t bothered. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Whitethroats were singing (2-4pm) and there was a small party of 20+ feeding House Martins with a handful of Swallows in the lee of the Dam. A solitary Swift was my year first, welcome but scant reward for the effort.....

Elsewhere Ian Whitehouse was gifted a WTE over at Sheepwash earlier in the day. This bird, along with 3 others, has been on a Grand Tour for a few weeks and could be encountered locally just about anywhere so it’s eyes to the skies

BBC Radio 4’s Open Country (6-6:30) this morning was a ‘lockdown’ nature diary from our very own Brett Westwood It covers about a month of ‘soundbites’ from his garden and around Stourbridge. I bump into Brett either out birding or in Waitrose when he is not ensconced in Bristol or away elsewhere. He is a quiet sort of bloke, does not do social media, and is a font of non-avian snippets as there isn’t much he is not interested in. Quite how he heard of the Great Northern Diver on the canal at Kidderminster a couple of months ago is something i shall buttonhole him about on our next meeting

Here is the link to this morning’s programme.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hpdg

The weather is finally settling again so i think i shall fettle a bike and be Grimmers bound mid-morning when the cool overnight air will have been warmed once Helios has dragged his chariot across the sky for a few hours.

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: blurry House Martin and B2-profiled Swift hawking over Fens Pools...
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 05:59   #1453
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Upto the West Hagley Fields for 8:30 on a gloriously sunny and quite warm start, it changed later on, the recently tilled fields now wet and dark which nicely contrasts with small pale passerines!

The best 3 fields are located down at the County Lane end and straddle the main sandy path upto the pumping station. A nice thick hedge runs between them with another at right angles about half way up. All 3 are in the West Midlands county but a field next door is Worcestershire and one at the lower junction of County Lane is Staffordshire - all 3 counties in a small sweep of the binoculars and within a coupla hundred yards walking. I often imagine finding a 'first' for the region and if it is highly mobile getting the 1st records for 3 counties - dream on.....

The main hedge seemed alive with Whitethroats with singing males deep in the cover and also birds song-flighting by the time i had reached the top of the track it was double figures - the local Yellowhammers must have wondered what had hit them! In addition a coupla Lesser Whitethroats and a Corn Bunting were heard elsewhere. The top field held 3 male Wheatears which stood out like the proverbial sore thumb

Back for tea and medals at 9:30 before Grimmers mid-morning.

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: Habitat panorama and Wheatears.
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Old Sunday 3rd May 2020, 06:23   #1454
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Grimmers notes - posted elsewhere.

It is noticeable just how the traffic has increased over the last 3 days and cycling today was no exception - i think i might have to start actually wearing a mask..........due to the sudden increase in Diesel particulates! Car parking at Grimmers is now at the end of the access lane as the Lord of Grimley has placed signs adjacent to his 'private' road with veiled threats of the Plods being called etc etc - they will have to go at some stage Noticeably more cars parked than last week - you can't beat a bit of local birding.....if you have a car of course.

I undertook a figure of 8 taking in both workings and some old quarry habitat. There isn't a great deal of Phragmites at Grimmers but every clump seemed to hold a Reed Warbler. In addition i picked up a Sedge over at the New Workings. A solitary Common Tern hawked and Marsh Frogs croaked. 2 passage Dunlin were noted and no less than 5, widely spaced, Cuckoos were calling - it's nice to see they are socially distancing during these stressfull times.....

Notable were about 100 Sand Martins hawking high above the Old Workings with Swallows way below along with a the odd House Martin. A single Swift was seen feeding over both pools. I took a slight detour around the White Hart Angling Club pool and was rewarded with a singing Cetti's Warbler which was both a surprise and a nice find.

Quite a few birders and walkers were out and about but despite the obvious sun and puffy White clouds is was not that warm. The clouds all had flat Grey bases which means a cold breeze at that height is shearing the base away and removing heat from reaching the ground making it noticeably chilly. All in all a pleasant couple of hours but no Hobbies as the birds i saw last week would have been recently arrived and were only feeding prior to moving on.

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached:

Lord of the Manor.

Oystercatcher and Hippo - fortunately i have seen Blacksmith and Egyptian Plovers on a real one on Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha...

Dunlin.

Male Gadwall.

Mistletoe - a Worcestershire speciality.
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Old Thursday 7th May 2020, 04:59   #1455
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A quiet 3 days with Sunday heavily overcast and Mon/Tue too windy and cold to do anything but walk the dog. Fortunately the rest of the week, certainly upto Saturday is forecast much gentler with corresponding rise in temperatures. Noticeably more people about, shops open and the downside of more road traffic.....

On Sunday i decided to spend a coupla hours checking Industrial Estates around Lye for both Black Redstart and breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls. None found and surprisingly not the latter but i shall venture further afield when the weather permits to check other areas.

Yesterday, despite not getting up until 0730, was a joy to be out and about. 8-11 saw me up at Fens Pools. I arrived on the causeway to a party of 20+ hawking Swifts including several 'screamers' the sound, for me, is the official sign that Summer has arrived although it is technically late-Spring. Both House Martins and Swallows were in the melee. Plenty of Whitethroats in the scrub and a couple of Lessers rattling away to themselves. No great shakes on the edges but finally a double wader day! An adult Little Ringed PLover was feeding on the Middle Pool and a solitary Common Sandpiper flitting here and there. Hopefully May promises more birds and more variety.

Back via Merry Hill to see the male Raven departing from the nest so all is well

Down the canal to Wordsley in the afternoon with the dog - plenty of Blackcaps with the odd Chiffchaff. An hour up at the Hagley Fields drew a blank apart from plenty of self-distancing walkers taking advantage of both the settled weather and possibly the last chance before it's nose to the grindstone.....

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached:

The former Caledonia sewage works in Lye. I used to peer in from the perimeter fence when i lived in Lye in the late 80's. I had a smart male Blue-headed Wagtail iirc. It has recently been demolished and is accessible so i will have a poke around at some stage.

Swifts, LRP and Common Sand at Fens Pools.
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Old Friday 8th May 2020, 14:09   #1456
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A lovely balmy day yesterday clouding and cooling mid-morning but returning to form mid-afternoon. VE Day promises more of the same and continues into Saturday. Sunday will see a change with widespread showers and cooling temperatures but this could bring a scattering of species at reservoirs and elsewhere...

Out at 7 and back at 1030. Noticeably less activity on the canal with correspondingly increased car use. More small shops open and lots of factory operations resuming altho a lot have ticked over or kept calm and carried on throughout the ChinaVirus siege. No repeat of the WaderFest at Fens Pools but plenty of warblers on show and in song notably Whitethroats with the odd Lesser. After a coupla hours and a cigar i moved on to the PearTree Lane area adjacent to Merry Hill. Transitting thru the Waterfront i noted both Ravens active so presumably they are both feeding young. I also noted several 'official looking' vehicles including some sort of traffic monitering and enforcment. These were being used for some sort of training exercise for what looked like a group of young Gurkhas!

PearTree Lane is an area of industrial units with plenty of rooves and valleys for breeding Gulls - there are always birds wheeling over the area so it figures that adults present at this time of year will be likely candidates for breeding. A quick scan yielded a number of alert birds and i decided to cycle down a likely access road which ended in a cul-de-sac and 2 adult Lesser Black-backed staring me down from a few hundred yards away. Despite the 'social distancing' i had put between us the agitated calls meant a nice nest was present. Perhaps these birds have taken a leaf out of so-called 'expert' Neil Ferguson's book and have decided that conjugal visits are not included and does not apply to them. What surprises me is how few nests there actually are, i saw only one there is possibly another but little signs of any more. A visit to the nearby lower slopes of Netherton Hill are in order as the elevated position affords excellent views over the Estate and a tripod/scope combo will reveal more if they are there.

Part of the area contains the newer Blackbrook Valley Trading Estate. I birded this area regularly in the 80's when it was an old sand and gravel pit, it often held watery flashes due to the ground water level being relatively high. Sadly the area is now long transformed and a gem of a habitat gone forevever. It was an excellent watering hole for migrants but it yielded more than that. For a 3 year period, 83-86/7 iirc, it held a superb range of breeding species. I recorded 2 pair of Stonechat, upto 3 pairs of Little Ringed Plover, a regular colony of Sand Martins and repeated breeding of a single pair of Wheatear. Species like Grasshopper Warbler and Whinchat were annual and Yellow Wagtail also bred once during that period. This was before the age of the Internet, pushy photographers and birders imbued with a sense of entitlement to information - i am glad i had the place more or less to myself apart from visitations from people like the late Eric Phillips and ian Whitethroat.

The cloud had lifted by 3 so i decided to cycle over to Bunkers Wood, bumped into another Stourbridge birder called Dave, and spent nearly 2 hours mooching about. Bunkers is a decent size and has a series of paths and tracks. The far end of the wood, about 25% of it is much wilder with broken Pines and plenty of understorey. Late afternoon can still be a good time for bird song particularly migrants that sing on an ad hoc basis at all times of the day whilst deciding whether to stay or go. A handful of Willow Warblers along with several other species were noted. 5 years ago a mate placed a dozen open-fronted nestboxes in the 'wilder'area and was rewarded with no less than 4 pairs of breeding Redstart in the first year! This shows that birds move thru but there is a shortage of nest sites not food. Ravens have prospected several times but i think it is just too regularly used by dog walkers but if they can overcome their natural waryness the World is their Oyster. It is also an eminently suitable site for colonising Goshawk as there are large numbers of excellent tall Scots Pine. Again if the species can handle the visitors i predict this a possible site away from its Wyre Forest stronghold. This wood, like many others in the area, were cut over extensively for strategic supplies of timber during WW2 this means there are a distinct lack of older trees containing suitable cavities. Some woods were managed by people like Harris Brushes which kept the Coppice with Standards management regime in situ and this provided 5-7 year regrowth which benefitted regional Nightingales but their presences seems just a memory now for whatever reason. At other local Woodland Trust sites there is active repetition of the Harris regime i.e. Uffmoor and Pepper Wood. I visited Pepper a few weeks ago and was pleased to see, finally, the implementation of a widespread nestbox scheme - i shall revisit next week and update accordingly.

I took in the Hagley Fields to finish at 6pm. The County Lane field held nothing which left the 2 large fields up the Sandy track. The lower one quickly revealed 5 standout loud Wheatears at the top end of it. I moved a couple of hundred yards up the track for some distant record shots and by the time i had reached the boundary hedge between the lower and upper field they, like ephemeral Mayflies, had departed literally for pastures new. A gaggle of buzzy Whitethroats were present in the main hedge with both Corn Bunting and LesserThroat for backup and that as they say was that.....

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached:

Female Raven, Ghurkas, 5 Wheatears, LBB on nest and my afternoon route yesterday with Bunkers on the extreme left of the ride...
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Old Saturday 9th May 2020, 16:07   #1457
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Another fine day and i decided a change of direction to 'Go West' and at 0800 set off for Hurcott. Instead of a scenic meandering route via Churchill i opted for the more direct route using the Stourbridge to Kidderminster road. At the top of the rise about 2 miles hence it opens to give a panoramic view to the Malverns and Clee. I stopped and scanned a series of tilled fields for passerine migrants before continuing on the main road. I do not use this route a lot as it is usually unproductive and is a busy fast road. Yesterday it was much quieter being a Bank Holiday - i was able to zip thru between 15 and 20 mph hitting 26.2 on the steep downward section - picking up 3 species of Sylvia on the way...

The Hurcott car park was full.....of people who never go there - take their car away and where would they be? The far end reedbed was simply buzzing with Reed Warblers, i estimated about 6 singing males minimum with other birds flitting and a couple of females 'wing shimmering' to be fed by attendant males. I exited the far end and took advantage of a locally grown vegetable that the larger % of which will just go to seed - so in a couple of hundred yards i had gone from Acrocephalus to Asparagus

Back for 1130 passing a number of veterans outside their houses and a few making their way to the Cenotaph for the 75th anniversary of VE Day - Friday should have been a day of overt National celebrating but because of the way people eat and what they eat thousands of miles away Europe has been deprived of paying homage to those that died to protect the freedom that we all take for granted. I hope people remember this when it comes to sourcing goods in the future - we have 2 things the Chinese will never have and that is Democracy and clean air...

I made the afternoon trip up to the West Hagley Fields and clicked with a male and a female Wheatear 1 on each of the right hand fields. Cycling back i was pleased to see lots of people indulging in 'street party' scenarios - all that was missing was Vera Lynn signing some autographed photos.

Today i shall be reinforcing the advice that Grant Shapps will be giving over the weekend to 'get out and exercise particularly walking and cycling' - for some of us with a modicum of common sense and an innate ability to read between the lines it is all we have been doing since the so-called experts told us to stop in..........whilst they were getting their oil changed. It has been a long gloomy Winter and peoples levels of Vitamin D will be low. The best source of the stuff is sunshine - i will rest my case. Today will be Fens Pools and back for tea and medals before making the weekly trek to Grimmers

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: Wheatears, fields, Columbine and Hettie...
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Old Saturday 9th May 2020, 19:27   #1458
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollingthunder View Post

Today i shall be reinforcing the advice that Grant Shapps will be giving over the weekend to 'get out and exercise particularly walking and cycling' - for some of us with a modicum of common sense and an innate ability to read between the lines it is all we have been doing since the so-called experts told us to stop in..........whilst they were getting their oil changed. I


Good birding -

Laurie

...
I see you are still self righteous, and everybody else is wrong. Even those with a miniscule modicum of sense abidded by the rules. Not you, after a month+ you have now got an excuse!!!
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Old Sunday 10th May 2020, 06:15   #1459
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I will more or less let these 2 images speak for themselves.....

‘Expert’ Professor Lockdown Neil Ferguson - if the bimbo has any sense she will drop him like untreated sewage.....then he will be an ‘ex-spurt’

Grant Shapp’s statement speaks for itself - he is advising something that those with the right sort of modicum i.e. common sense have been ‘advising’ since the ill-concieved lockdown measures were implemented. It would not surprise me if Shapp’s has been perusing this thread and based upon my daily updates, boosted by higher Vitamin D levels than the average birder, has decided to change Government policy incorporating my MO rather than follow Ferguson’s - meanwhile the birding sheeple have missed a half-decent Spring.

I would magnanimously suggest you dust off your old Raleigh, pedal about 20 miles South-West and get your wounds licked by your mates

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Tuesday 12th May 2020, 06:04   #1460
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It's not often that you get a day in May when it is difficult, unless it's wall to wall daylight rain, to actually get out in the field at all. Yesterday, for me, was one of those days. The chill wind that is blowing across the British Isles turned literal with a steady 15+mph gusting to double that at times and sustained. Add to that the NW direction and i opted for a day of cabin fever...

So here are Saturdays notes, a day of contrasting weather with up until mid-afternoon being sunny and warm shorts and sunglasses. The clouds started developing flat dark bottoms and turning noticeably cooler a portent of the next day.

I headed for Fens Pools as that really is the only game in town for migrants other than passerines. The female Raven at Merry Hill appeared to be refurbishing herself with plenty of wing flapping noted. Warblers were quiet at FP but half a dozen spp eventually 'fessed up with Whitethroat being the main culprit - again a couple of Lessers. Since my last visit a small kid had got himself stuck in the mud and had to be freed by the Fire Brigade - i am surprised that they still know how to do that these days, judging by the Stourbridge lot who frequent Aldi a lot they haven't done a lot of much physical for some time. Consequently the Canal and River Trust had placed about 30 signs around the 2 main pools about the dangers of.....mud - the same mud that has been on show for nearly 6 months The laminated signs are not only unsightly but unneccersary and of little practical use - ironically a bit like most CRT operatives that i bump into A pity they couldn't have done something useful and pick up some of the long discarded detritus that is now exposed but that is too much like hard work. Needless to say that within 24 hours most of the signs littered the shoreline so i dutifully picked them up and removed the others en route otherwise they too would meet a watery grave. I left the stakes in-situ as perches for the many Black Terns and Little Gulls that will use them as perches in the coming days

I clocked an adult Little Ringed Plover which got flushed by a local but instead of flying off it flew, called several times, then proceeded to carry out a 'butterfly' display flight over the area before returning to the same spot. I presume it is some sort of pre-nuptial activity before it actually breeds somewhere - i can assure you that it has no chance at that particular locale. I returned via the Ravens to see the male alighting with a full crop, he is in outer primary moult with a feather missing on each wing.

After breakfast and off to Grimmers at 10am.....

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: the CRT wasting boaters funds as only they know how to and the rather smart LRP...
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Old Tuesday 12th May 2020, 06:16   #1461
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Grimley notes - posted elsewhere...

Saturday's notes -

I put in 2.5 hours on a glorious day doing the usual figure of 8 taking in both workings and adjacent fishing pools bumping into 2 other birders over at the New Workings...

Grim-mers lived up to its name it was very quiet indeed. Waders consisted of the usual Oystercatcher, Lapwing and a solitary Redshank. A single Common Tern was present and duck numbers seemed to be down. Noticeable was an increase in Sedge Warblers with nearly as many singing as Reed although there will be more Reed present. The usual range of other Warblers with Lessers in the roadside hedge. A prominent Cuckoo was calling from the dead trees being mobbed by what looked like a Reed Bunting - that was the Old Workings.

A minor diversion was the antics of Lord Grimley, in his role as Admiral Cardboard - he was fettling his landing craft for 'sea trials' and a bit of gunboat diplomacy

The New Workings held large Gulls and Acros of both species. 2 more Cuckoos were calling and the Cetti's was still singing from the scrubby pool opposite the White Hart one. A feeding Little Egret putting in an appearance added spice. A pleasant bimble but unproductive to say the least

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: Cuckoo, 1 of 3. The Collie and the Wolly and a smart Little Egret.
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Old Tuesday 12th May 2020, 16:39   #1462
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Just noted an egret sp heading west over gainsborough trading estate towards redhill school, despite a mad dash to the back of the house where we have an open view over stourbridge juction station we couldnt get a second look but looked very large with laboured flight!

Fens pool isn't that far away!

Matt
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Old Wednesday 13th May 2020, 06:25   #1463
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Nice one Matt

I am never dismissive of them - i remember twitching my first down at Looe in Cornwall..........that's how rare they were back in the 80's

What interests me more is where they are breeding. Will the start using the Grey heronries around here or set up on their own or just an isolated pair here or there? There are large numbers of Little Egrets in the West Midlands and most, if not all, are adults or subadults - i have yet to see any locally that are recently fledged birds so i shall keep checking out likely locales...

Good Birding -

Laurie
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Old Wednesday 13th May 2020, 06:31   #1464
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No go on Sunday and with Cabin Fever starting to set in i popped out, against my better wishes, at 8o/c Monday morning. Despite having on more layers than an Onion it was an hour and a half of misery with an unbelievable chill factor for the first half of May Despite that there was a party of c75 mixed Hirundines feeding below the Dam on Fens Top Pool - mainly House Martins and Swallows but a handful of Sand Martins and a coupla Swifts to add to the grist. Warbler song almost non-existant and that was it for the day!

Yesterday was more productive with a circuit of FP from 0730-0930. Plenty of Warblers with Whitethroat in double figures and Lesserthroat at 6+ singing birds. At least 50 Swifts were present with the same amount of mixed Hirundines of all 3 species - it is good to see what is now exceptional numbers of these birds around here in a feeding party after last year's poor showing all round... Came back via Merry Hill but no Raven activity altho a couple more Lesser Whitethroats noted. Williams Pool held a freshly hatched Coot clutch, only 2 seen so the others must have fallen prey to the ever-present LBB's.

For those making their first tentative forays birding - don't expect too much.
Despite the good weather in April the winds then as now were mainly in the North and this situation will remain so for the foreseeable 10-14 day forecast. Either side West or East of N which does not bode well - high pressure is stuck firmly over Fenno-Scandia and the only relief will be the strength of the winds but the cold origins remain the same. Temperatures will drop noticeably overnite and a cool start to most days followed by warmer temperatures by early afternoon. I visit the Portland Bill Bird Observatory blog for the previous days haul and it makes for grim reading. Despite the reduced coverage it is the quietest Spring for 30 years and this is down to the inclement winds with very little originating in Iberia or further South in the Mahgreb. By all means get your Vitamin D fix but migrants bigger than warblers will be thin on the ground imo.....

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: Swifts and synchronised Hirundines and male Whitethroat - all from Fens Pools.
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Old Friday 15th May 2020, 11:19   #1465
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Blood and Sand.....

Wednesday was a no-go i simply could not be bothered to try and do any cycling or birding in the moderate, cold wind..........again

Yesterday i decided to put the Dog in my specially adapted basket and cycle towards Bunkers Wood letting her out at Stourbridge Crematorium as it is all off road from there to the wood. The 'Crem' has lots of nice tall Conifers and has been prospected by Ravens a couple of times over the last 5 years but not this one. Bunkers was busy with other dog walkers and families - it's that sort of a place. I bumped into an older couple who had binoculars but they are mainly 'Moth-ers' and required some ID over a Garden Warbler song. It turned out they are keen moth trappers and we have a mutual friend in Dave Grundy who has come a long way since i first met him nearly 40 years ago when i lived near Middlesboro and together with the 2 other people i worked with gave his fledgeling conservation volunteer group a series of training courses - Dave is currently 'marooned' in Andalucia, i am in the West Midlands - i am glad one of us has moved on to pastures new

Bunkers' held 6 species of Warbler to my ear and a pleasant hour was spent trotting the dog and generally looking in the more layered areas. I have decided to restart my nestbox building over the coming Winter - Bunkers' could do with about 50 so i shall check out a couple of nearby factories for a supply of suitably dimensioned pallets. Withymoor could do with about a dozen so i shall set myself a winter strategy - something i have promised to do for a few years...

The afternoon i decided on a quick visit to the 3 suitable fields up at West Hagley as the breeze was light and warmer by 3 o'clock. I was undecided but am glad that i made the effort. As i was scanning the fields in question i got up the top one and apart from Rooks, Jackdaws and Skylarks there was just a small party of mixed Wood Pigeons and Stock Doves. The group also contained a White feral Pigeon. As i counted them they shot up into the air as if somebody had thrown a grenade and out of my peripheral vision what appeared like a missile streaked into the melee like one of those Youtube videos where an air strike is called in. In an instant the feral pigeon seemed to explode in a ball of feathers whilst its wild cousins put as much distance between it and the avian Hellfire that had just hit them. The poor bird dropped to the ground and was immediately pounced on by an immature Peregrine that began to pluck the feathers of the dead bird furiously...

The Peregrine was a large individual which i 'pigeon-holed' as a female and altho in posession of a dark hood it wasn't Black and the upperparts were a 2-tone Brown. I am no expert but i would say a first-Summer individual...

I have probably only seen Peregrines actually kill close up about a dozen times, plenty of attacks, feeding birds and individuals taking prey back to a nest but it is rare to actually witness a kill. I also know of about 20 active nests within a 30 mile 90 degree arc to the West of Stourbridge but cannot suss out where the mating birds from the Delph are - how frustrating. I watched the bird feed for about an hour taking a couple of hundred snaps in the process. The feast was taking place about 300 yards away but i did not realise how much heat haze was present. My binoculars are Nitrogen-filled and my spectacles are UV anti-glare so when i looked thru the camera on full optical zoom at 600mm obtaining sharp images was not expected and so it was. I snapped away and watched the bird change positions whilst it proceeded to feed on the breast. After about an hour it shuffled to one side and i thought it will fly off away from me. It didn't and flew directly towards me, huge bulging crop, and shot about 20 feet over my head. I was looking forward to a long burst sequence but all i got was 'memory card full' so no sharp flight images to add insult to injury a Buzzard landed to glean what it could so nothing of that either.

It was probably no accident that the White Dove was taken as it would have stood out from the other 2 Grey species i just hope it didn't have an Olive branch in its beak

This is the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile for me - being out, finding your own stuff and witnessing an interaction like a Peregrine kill. During my vigil lots of cyclists, walkers etc passed by me with nary a glance or many hello's - none realising the drama that had gone in in the adjacent field which makes me glad i am a naturalist/birder but each to their own. One chap who i see regularly was the only one who enquired so i let him use the 'bins and he was most impressed i also pointed out Whitethroat and Corn Bunting which he was pleased with and made a mental note to remember. Needless to say i did not have my Opticron travel 'scope with me, something i bought to take out all the time. It is only 50mm but the light-gathering is phenomenal - about time i took my own advice re: 'chance favouring the prepared mind'

I have attached 3 sets of photos. They are all variations on the theme of feeding Peregrine. Due to the heat haze none are sharp. I do however like the 'Pastel' painting effect that the haze has rendered the images and find the overall effect quite pleasing. I might do some Photoshop work on them and print off a set to hang somewhere

Good Birding -

Laurie
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Old Friday 15th May 2020, 11:21   #1466
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Old Friday 15th May 2020, 11:24   #1467
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Old Friday 15th May 2020, 11:28   #1468
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For those of you who are out and about and are wandering why it is so quiet here is the solitary paragraph copied and pasted from the Portland Bird Obs blog for yesterday the 14th of May.....

"We don't want to be negative in such unusual times, but today barely merits a blog write-up. In over 11 hours and approximately 200m of net: two Reed Warblers, two Willow Warblers, two Goldfinches and a Whitethroat were all we could muster. The highlight of the day came with a female Gadwall past on the sea; otherwise land-based migrants were very sparse with the whole island giving no more extras than two Whinchats, three Spotted Flycatchers and a handful of Wheatears."

If i look hard enough i can probably match that on one of the patches locally.

Good Birding -

Laurie
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Old Sunday 17th May 2020, 05:49   #1469
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Friday saw my usual routine of Fens Pools in the morning and Hagley Fields in the afternoon with domestic stuff in between. Nothing of note to post really altho a good party of Swifts were feeding over the Top Pool at ca75 birds plus assorted Hirundines. Whitethroats, as elsewhere, were the standout Warbler...

Saturday saw an hour before brekkers back up at Hagley but apart from Whitethroats, a Corn Bunting and a party of hawking House Martins that was it. There is still a pile of White feathers left in the middle of the field from Fridays drama.

Up at Grimmers from 11-1:30 for a very lean visit. More birders out for their Vitamin D. You can spot them a mile off - pale to Grey looking individuals muttering to themselves about something called 'Garganey' No waders of note, didn't spot any terns and Reed Warblers were the most evident passerine. 4 male Cuckoos heard plus a bonus of a calling female over at the White Hart fishing pool where the male Cetti's is still present and singing briefly.

Back on Tuesday as the weather and wind is due to be more productive according to the forecast. Attached is yesterdays circuit route. Of note, for me locally, was a male Cuckoo calling this morning at 0545 from the car park outside the house in Stourbridge. I estimate no more than a mile away probably less from the other side of the ring road to the West - my first record in 18 years

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Wednesday 20th May 2020, 12:22   #1470
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An hour or so around Fens Pools and back for 0900 on Sunday as it was just too gloomy with the cloud darkening by every minute. Popped by en-route to listen to a very noisy Raven chick being told to shut it by a nearby adult as i stopped the bike a couple of hundred yards away at the Waterfront. The Pools themselves held nothing and the hoped for small challenging wader did not appear but was compensated by a noisy and easy to identify larger one on my return via Merry Hill in the form of an overflying calling adult Oystercatcher - quite the surprise of the day! An hour up at the Hagley Fields yielded litte but hedgerow Whitethroats and that was it...

Monday i just didn't feel like ploughing the same furrow and couldn't think of anywhere else to go so i didn't bother.

Yesterday was a slight change to my routine as the weather was so good. Still up to FP for 7 on the promise of a self-found Summer-plumage Arctic wader but it was Knot to be and little in the way of passerine activity either. I decided for an 18 mile tour of local habitats to the West for 3 hours from 2-5 in the afternoon. It was mainly a listening exercise and to check on what fields are being cultivated and at what stage they are at. Island Pool at Ismere held the usual warblers. Hurcott the same plus half a dozen singing Reed. One of the rangers was putting up a signs saying 'No Cycling' - best of luck with that one mate! I pointed out that the car park was rammed full of cars and that i had cycled from the other side of Stourbridge and would be the only visitor actually interested in the natural history of the site He agreed and said pay no attention but they had had 2 complaints and that he cycles to work each day and doesn't agree with it particularly as hardly any MTB's use the place as it is not 'challenging' enough and Bozza had reccomended walking and cycling rather than cars - my conscience, as always, has been and remains perfectly clear on my MO during these 'troubled' times Asparagus duly 'liberated' i headed back via the Hagley Fields where i was pleased to bump into a smart female Wheatear not looking biometrically larger or brighter as birds of the Greenland race will be during the latter half of May.

Whilst en-route to Hurcott i thought i would investigate the old Lea Castle Sanatorium. In the past i have had a pair of Hobbies hawking over the area. The buildings were bulldozed a coupla years ago and now appear on Google Maps as areas of sand. Currently there is an application for removal, over 10 years, of sand and gravel before 600, yes 600, homes are built. Needless to say there is a thriving anti-quarry group but no opposition to the housing as such although i think the adjacent cul-de-sacs will gear up depending on the decision. I personally would welcome a quarry then a wetland reserve and no housing but i can't halt 'progress' all on my own despite leaving my thoughts on the relevant Faecebook page. There are tons of signs and a sinister-looking portakabin from the entry road but GM shows a nice access track across the fields from the main road to the West which i shall undertake this coming Sunday.....

Attached with the relevant pictures to the post is an image of a Swallow taken by Joe Stockwell at Portland this week. It is notable because it is a juvenile bird. This has presumably hatched somewhere in the Northern Mediterranean coast or even in the Mahgreb from very early arrival adults or possibly birds that have over-wintered in maybe Morocco. I have recorded adult Swallows and House Martins in November and December in Southern Morocco. What is interesting is that a recently-hatched bird would continue making the journey North to probably not breed. There is a possiblility that some birds are now not making the journey sub-Sahara thus saving them considerable time and effort? I like visiting these areas out of season because of the potential of out-of-season finds. Should you visit Maroc, at any season, then please send Patrick Bergier at Go-South a copy of your records particularly extra-limital and non-seasonal records

http://sur.ly/o/go-south.org/AA000014

Good birding -

Laurie

Attached: Raven on guard, female Wheatear, yesterdays cycle route, Google Map of Lea Castle (LC) Hurcott (H) and Asparagus (A) and the juvenile Swallow...
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Old Thursday 21st May 2020, 09:58   #1471
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Hi Laurie, the juv Swallow at Portland intrigued me also - especially as I saw what appeared to be a juvenile on my patch a couple of weeks ago. I thought at the time it's highly unlikely to be a uk-bred individual. Perhaps they fly north from southern Europe due to longer day-lengths in more northerly latitudes during the boreal summer, offering more feeding opportunities. As the numbers of breeding Swallows and hirundines locally seem to be at a low ebb over the past 2 or 3 years (locally, at least, hirundine populations appear to go through cycles of abundance), perhaps there is less competition for food also. Just my thoughts.
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Old Friday 22nd May 2020, 04:46   #1472
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Hi Dave -

The lack of Hirundines and Swifts over the last 3 years troubles me too.

I look at very local examples e.g. a street that had Swifts on every house that now doesn’t because one dwelling had their soffits replaced by UPVC so the neighbours, not wishing to be ‘soffit shamed’, did likewise and now they are gone. This loss of breeding cavities has to be widespread. Then there is the general decline in insects due to subtle air pollution and the endless ‘tidying up’ mentality that the Brits seem to indulge in whenever it is sunny It used to be the weekly ritual of ‘washing the car’ but now we have Eastern Europeans to carry out the tedious chore it is Dandelion chopping. I thought it was just a UK thing but when i went to Poland last year there wasn’t an hour in the day when you could not hear a strimmer being overused! What could be worrying is an overall drop in birds wintering sub-Sahara with a corresponding reduction in returning birds?


I made several enquiries last year on birding sites in both Mali and South Africa with regard to wintering and migrating Hirundines but for some reason never got a response

The juvenile Swallow does not surprise me as adults are wintering North of the Sahara but what surprised me was the fact that it has undertaken the Northerly migration as breeding birds do...

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Friday 22nd May 2020, 06:27   #1473
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WRT hirundine populations - I noted in the early 2000's, there were several poor years, locally, when they appeared relatively scarce. By 2010 - 2014, the numbers in my area were very high and I was regularly getting post-breeding roosts of Swallows and Sand Martins of 700+ birds. I spoke to a local landowner who is lucky to have Swallows and House Martins breeding in and around his equestrian facilities and he reinforced what I had suspected - numbers of breeding birds are low at the moment but there have been fluctuations in the past. The apparent recent decline is probably (hopefully) not part of a monotonic downward trend. In good years, hirundines can raise 3 broods so do have the potential to bounce back if other limiting factors are favourable (e.g. during migration and wintering). On the plus side, Common Whitethroats seem to be fairly abundant these days and have largely recovered from well documented population crashes associated with sahelian droughts, which started in the late 1960's.
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2020, 05:23   #1474
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Hi Dave -

Good points and fingers crossed

There is another photo on the Portland Obs blog of a juvenile. It has been begging for food from adults but whether it is its parents is unknown. I shall certainly be scrutinising any early Swallows etc exhibiting short tail feathers in future.....

Agree re: Whitethroats - over the last 5 years at the sites i visit around here they have been growing in number and singing birds in quite high densities along suitable hedgerows.

Good birding -

Laurie
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Old Thursday 28th May 2020, 10:47   #1475
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Altho i have been out twice daily since last posting i have seen nothing of note to add. Early morning 7-9 visits to Fens Pools have been underwhelming and is now feeling very ‘Groundhog Day’ but i shall persevere until mid-June at least as the place has to yield a decent wader surely.....

With no coverage at Upton Warren it means a reserve i use as a barometer for passage species is not available - one would have thought that a couple of regulars would be able to do the place in order to keep an eye on Avocets etc - the RSPB staff on their reserves are doing just that?

Bumped into Andy Daniels at FP this morning and saw Todd Chater from a distance last week so ppl are out and about. The weather has been excellent and is settled with clear Sun until Sunday and dry next week with mid-20’s the ‘new normal’ for a bit

On the strength of that it will be Grimmers tomorrow...

The Ravens at Merry Hill have now fledged and gone - irritatingly i did not manage an estimate of the brood as it went from very noisy to very quiet in a lapse of 3 days visiting Fingers crossed for a repeat next year

Good birding -

Laurie
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