A forty eight hour day trip! Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, 7-8 October 2016

Pallas’s Warbler, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire.
What a cracking little entertainer.

Pallas's Warbler 1, Donna Nook, MJMcGill  Pallas's Warbler 2, Donna Nook, MJMcGillPallas's Warbler 3, Donna Nook, MJMcGill

A day out was promoted with a week to go, the night before I mooted making it an overnight stay. All who were keen to attend were flexible, brought an overnight bag. We had a very early start on Friday morning (0530hrs) and set off North up the M5. The decision as to which direction we should head in was made as we reached Birmingham, we turned to the East to meet the many migrants that were still arriving. Over the previous few days an Eastern Crowned Warbler had been showing at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and we gambled on it remaining just one more day.

 with plenty of other birds about if it decided to move on it was to be our first stop. We had our answer well before reaching this East Yorkshire site, the bird had gone but carried on to see what else may have arrived. After passing through the swanky visitor centre we studied the adjacent copse and enjoyed good views of tired, grounded Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and at least two Yellow-browed Warblers as they fed in the sallows, a few other common passerines were also seen around this site.

A good tristis Siberian Chiffchaff candidate was among the dozens foraging about the site. Five Barnacle Geese flew South and flocks of Redwings streamed inland. It was difficult to ignore the large numbers of noisy Tree Sparrows around the car park, visitor centre and copse, it was brilliant to see so many.

A short drive to Thornwick Bay followed and we took a cliff top walk above the chalk cliffs and stacks, two Wheatear, three Stonechat, a Peregrine and numbers of feral pigeons pretending to be Rock Doves were all seen, Gannets streamed by over the sea below which made the Black-browed Albatross seen a couple of days before something to dream about, sometimes it is all about timing. We didn’t see the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen an hour earlier but it was fairly breezy.

High above the sea cliffs a Short-eared Owl was flapping about being mobbed by Jackdaws, it hung in the air waiting to be allowed to descend and presumably hunt the grassland. At the North Marsh we had great views of a juvenile Taiga Bean Goose in the company of a small party of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese.

Moving on to the lighthouse we joined others who had seen a Ring Ouzel, the field and hedges were full of Redwings and Fieldfares, Linnets,  Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers and Song Thrushes. After looking over the sea and lighthouse fields we loaded again up to head south toward Alkborough Flats to try for the Western Swamphen before dark.

Arriving at the site we overlooked the vast wetland area from a vantage point, the birds were distant but as the conditions were so calm it was possible to hear most of the birds calling. A few Marsh Harrier came in to roost. Large numbers of Avocet, a few Ruff, Greenshank, Dunlin, Snipe, Bearded Tits and other unidentified species busied about in the reeds and on the flood.

The light faded, it was too late to see anything else so we headed back to the car, twenty minutes of information gathering and a group decision to seek accommodation and stay in the East was made. We booked bargain rooms above a busy Scunthorpe pub hotel, checked in and settled down to a drink, bargain evening meal and a pub singer belting out tunes we all know.

We had an early night as we had to be up and out at 0630 to try for the Swamphen again, it was great to watch the sunrise at Alkborough Flats and see the birds waking. Pink-footed and Canada Geese stirred and headed out for the day, Water Rails were bold and ventured out to the open mud. Six Little Egrets left the roost for the creeks, scanning through the waders a couple of Spotted Redshank were seen chasing fish, whilst we all focussed on them the Western Swamphen came out of its roost site and flew across to its chosen feeding site to give us a variety of action views albeit distantly.

Happy with our start we moved off to the Lincolnshire coast with a quick stop at a pleasant tea room for breakfast near North Somercotes, a few late juvenile Swallows still begged their parents for food on the roof. I am glad to say our breakfast was a little more civilized. Getting back to the birding we drove the couple of miles to Donna Nook and walked out along the sheltered seawall scanning the bushes along the route. We racked up 40+ Goldcrest, 5 Redstart, a Ring Ouzel, 40+ Robins, 20+ Reed Buntings, 5 and 6 Brambling, thrushes, pipits and other common passerines including a female Blackcap. Neil spotted two Hen Harrier that were hunting over the rough grassland and a party of Common Scoter from the seawall, as we walked back toward the car park we had more views of passerines and a few flocks of different wader species flying over.

Back at the car park we saw three Blackcap feeding on berries and were soon all watching a stunning Pallas’s Warbler as it hovered to pick insects from the sallow. Yet another party of Tree Sparrows fed nearby. We decided to take on the walk to where a Siberian Stonechat was showing but it wasn’t straightforward to access, we tried a route through the dunes seeing more Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs along the way, the fields held Curlew, Golden Plover and flock of Starlings.

We gave up trying to get to this bird, MOD land and the Sea Buckthorn hedges being part of the reason, we decided to call it day seeing more Tree Sparrows and the Pallas’s Warbler again on the way back to the car, a good drive back saw us back in Whitminster by 5.30pm to conclude this ‘day’ trip.

Thanks to my three eager birding companions for the company.

Martin

September 2014 blog

September 2014 delivered a good variety of waders to the Severn and WWT scrapes, unfortunately low numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were generally recorded. The settled weather may well have allowed many migrants to pass through unhindered. Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers were present in double figures, an easterly airflow helped to deliver higher than average numbers.

Dunlin with a Curlew Sandpiper and Ringed Plover over the Severn

Waders in flight, Dunlin and single Curlew Sandpiper  (5)_edited-1

Great Crested Grebes
Adult and begging juvenile on Gloucester to Sharpness Canal
Some late broods around this year.

Great Crested Grebes, Frampton church, Glos to Sharpness Canal (3)_edited-1

Ruff juvenile

Ruff, juvenile, MJMcGill_edited-1

Golden Plover

Golden Plover, Dumbles, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue butterfly, male, MJMcGill (2)_edited-1

Spotted Flycatcher
A few turn up in the Severn Vale on passage, a few more were around than is typical this year thanks to rain storms.

Spotted Flycatcher, Knott Hide (2)_edited-1

Crane and Greylags
One of the Great Crane Project birds at home among geese (and swans) as they are across their range

Crane and Greylags, Top New Piece (1)_edited-1

 

August 2014 blog- Marsh Sandpiper, a first for Gloucestershire!

All images by M.J.McGill unless stated.

Curlew Sandpiper juvenile
The first Siberian reared-Africa bound youngsters appeared on the Severn at the end of August

Curlew Sandpiper, Dumbles

Yellow Wagtail
Flocks of these busy birds were present locally favouring the cattle herds and the disturbed insects as a food source.

Yellow Wagtail, juvenile 1st winter, 29-08-14,  MJMcGill

Peregrine juvenile
The parents were in attendance around the Upper Severn during July and early August but eventually left the young to get on with. This one managed to bring down a juvenile Tufted Duck on the Severn shore. One species not learning survival as quickly as the other can be fatal.

Peregrine juv

Marsh Sandpiper, a first for Gloucestershire, 28-30 August 2014

Marsh Sandpiper, Splatt Bridge,Frampton on Severn, Glos, 003, 28-08-14, M.J (2)_edited-1

Marsh Sand, MJMcGill

, 007

P1160076_edited-1

The week began with some interesting weather forecasts, easterlies with heavy rain and migration was well underway. By coincidence I was due to benefit from a four days off due to a run of working weekends. A conversation with Nige Warren at In Focus had me speculating on a certain graceful needle billed wader being ‘next in line’, it was a good date and weather system.

I went in to work at WWT Slimbridge on the 26th mentioning to Dave Paynter that it feels rare.  I eagerly checked and balanced water levels and went through the birds on the scrapes, a good selection was present. All pumps and grids sorted so  I went on to spend all day tractor mowing on the Dumbles, just another part of management for the thousands of wildfowl and waders that winter on site. It was clear that a fall of birds had happened, a flock of Ruff were with the Lapwing so stopping for a sandwich late afternoon  I was pleased to see six Greenshank  among the other fall waders on the Severn.  It looked promising, I finished up  late, as we left for home I  mentioned ‘that’ hoped for wader again to Dave.

On Wednesday morning I went searching for migrants for a couple of hours and had a decent haul of passerines. I  wandered along the path north of Splatt Bridge at Frampton on Severn spotting  a small flock of Teal on the shallow flood. This temporary wetland was created by the recent super moon high tide surge. A party of 4 Ruff and 7 Greenshank  with the duck were very notable for this location and added to a very enjoyable prolonged  and above all relaxed birding walk, something which is not really possible whilst working.

The next day  I was keen to go out again so I set off to Hock Ditch, a distant wader flock was forced into mobility to the highest mud due to the incoming tide. A variety of waders were out on the Severn, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was the first of the autumn for me, a few Common Terns, Whinchat and Redstart added to the tally. Five Pintail dropped out of sky and into the flooded field, I just had to check it again, I had thoughts of rare waders. I grew up rather obsessed with wildfowl but waders have really hooked me as a result I am into sifting through flocks of these varied birds.

A scan of the flood revealed an increase, more Greenshank and Ruff on every sweep of the scope. When I got to a tenth ‘shank’  it turned out to be a small, delicate and more elegant creature that made the Greenshanks look ungainly. ‘Get in’ , a Marsh Sandpiper was wading around among this mob of waders. This fine visitor was a juvenile, like so many young waders at this time of year nearly every feather was perfect. What a smashing bird, just what I had been hoping for. I spent a bit of time enjoying being in its company taking the time to study the plumage, when preening I noticed it had a slightly bent tip to the bill.

The Frampton Severn bird is only the second of have seen in England, the first being a spring adult I twitched with Rich Hearn at Earl’s Barton GP in Northants many years ago. I have enjoyed watching this species many times abroad including memorable parties of spring breeding plumage adults in Greece and most recently in October 2013 when I was among the small numbers of wintering birds that feed in the high tide creeks and pools in and around the Coto Donana NP.

After taking in all I could on this bird I began ringing friends so they could pass on news then tweeted out details. It was flushed by raptors flying over a couple of times and made forays south over the adjacent reserve. This allowed me to see it in the WWT Slimbridge recording area which was a bonus. The bird flew down to the reserve on a few occasions and it may well have actually roosted there.

From all the messages I have received it is clear that a lot of people enjoyed this bird, especially me and all local/county birders. A first for the county is always nice but this wader was something a little bit special.

27 August 2014

A few days off and a chance to spend time birding properly. Quietly watching and listening to a section of hedgerow can be very rewarding, even relaxing when you not in a rush to get on. Many juvenile birds will come out and have a look at you, a hedge which offers a sun trap for insects and basking for birds with a variety of berries is best. I managed to see and hear ten species in a very short section today which included three Reed and a Cetti’s Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat.

Cetti’s Warbler

Cetti's Warbler, 28-08-14, MJMcGill (1) copy

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler, 28-08-14, MJMcGill (1) copy

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting, 28-08-14, MJMcGill copy

Greenshank
This August has been very good for records of this species around the Severn and scrapes.

Greenshank, juvenile, Rushy, 17-08-14, MJMcGill (14) copy

Great Crested and Little Grebe

Great Crested Grebe, 03-08-14, 001, MJMcGill Little Grebe, MJMcGill (3) copy

Garganey
The challenge of sifting through sleeping late summer Teal flocks looking for Garganey is something I relish every year. I managed to record six plus on two dates this August around WWT wetlands.

Garganey, 100 Acre, 16-08-14, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

Visited Slovenia from 5-12 August, see trip reports page for details.

 

 

 

 

June and July 2014 blog and sightings

All images taken by M.J. McGill copyrighted.

31 July 2014
Black Darter, Forest of Dean
My only dragonfly session of the summer, been too busy at home in the garden to take full advantage of the heat wave and insects. On my few hours out at a favoured site I managed to see Southern, Common or Moorland and Migrant Hawkers, Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmer, Black and Common Darter, Emerald, Azure, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies.

Black Darter, Woorgreens, FoD, 31-07-14, MJMcGill (14)_edited-1

22 July 2014

Cattle Egrets at Frampton on Severn, Court Lake
A good summer find for Nick Goatman who seems to find scarce egrets for a pastime.
Remarkable for being in full breeding plumage and mating.

Cattle Egrets, Frampton

Albanistic Meadow Pipit with normal mate
John Budd reported this bird to me earlier in the season, I managed to locate it and find out what it was for sure.

Albanistic Meadow Pipit, Dumbles, 22-07-14, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

Albanistic Meadow Pipit, Dumbles, 22-07-14, MJMcGill (4)_edited-1

Blue-headed Wagtail female
I first spotted this bird in late June and carefully watched it. It had attracted a male and the pair settled down to nest in a recently topped section of the Tack Piece at WWT Slimbridge. Keeping an eye on timings it hatched and successfully fledged young on the predicted dates. The pair could be located when nest building and feeding young but not at all when incubating. A summer success.

Blue-headed Wagtail, female, Dumbles, 22-07-14 (1)_edited-1

20 July 2014

A July rarity at WWT Slimbridge
Spotted Crake
Somebody reported this bird but we do not know who, a good find for summer hinting they may be breeding locally. It did appear after thunderstorms.

Spotted Crake, Top New Piece, 20-07-14, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

Redstart
Again appearing this summer with fresh juveniles locally.

Redstart

Another two more obvious July birds

Oystercatcher chick

Oystercatcher and chick, 15-07-14, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

and…reedbeds full of Reed Warbler activity

Reed Warbler, 15-07-14, MJMcGill_edited-1

Dunlin on the Severn
July sees the return passage of this familiar wader, it also heralds the first sightings of juveniles.
An adult and juvenile (right) compare plumage and bill length.

Dunlin, Severn Estuary, 14-07-14, MJMcGill (16)_edited-1

Close up head study of an adult Dunlin

Dunlin, Severn Estuary, 14-07-14, MJMcGill (42)_edited-1

July saw many second broods of House Sparrow fledging in my garden. They give me great pleasure and I try to help them as much as possible with feed and nesting sites, once again 9-11 pairs nested on my property.

House Sparrows

House Sparrows, fledging at 6 Holbury Crescent, 11-07-14, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1 House Sparrows, fledging at 6 Holbury Crescent, 11-07-14, MJMcGill (18)

29 June 2014
Spoonbill
I was making my back through the WWT Slimbridge grounds when this bird appeared overhead and circled, it looked to land in the African pen but chose to move off NW.

Spoonbill, 23-06-14, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill (4) copy Spoonbill, 23-06-14, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill (6) copy

 

22 June 14
Golden Plover on the Severn estuary
An unusual mid-summer record of what appeared to be a female ‘southern race’ apricaria 

Golden Plover, Severn Estuary, 22-06-14, MJMcGill

 

Meadow Pipit
Another bird who brightens up midsummer with it’s song and display antics

Meadow Pipit, Dumbles, 22-06-14, MJMcGill (1) copy

 

14 June 2014
Grasshopper Warbler
A male took up territory locally and sang for two weeks.

Grasshopper Warbler, Frampton on Severn, 14-06-14, MJMcGill

13 June 2014
A visit to Strawberry Banks GWT to search for Marsh Fritillary butterflies. It was a hot sunny day albeit late in the season for them but I was fortunate enough to find a few.

Marsh Frtillary, Strawberry Banks GWT, 13-06-14, MJMcGill (10) copy

 

12 June 14
Glossy Ibis
One of a trio that John Budd had initially discovered on the Dumbles at WWT Slimbridge. Despite feeding conditions looking perfect, they moved on.

Glossy Ibis, Top New Piece, 12-06-14, MJMcGill (6) copy

9 June 2014

Red-necked Phalarope at WWT Slimbridge
I finally caught up with this ‘here today, gone tommorow’ bird

Red-necked Phalarope, Top New Piece, 09-06-14, MJMcGill (4)_edited-1

8 June 2014

House Martin collecting mud pellets for nest.
This individual is sporting a flat fly parasite.

House Martin with flat fly, MJMcGill

Close up of the flat fly.

Flat fly parasite

Goldfinch coming for a drink on a hot day

Goldfinch, drinking, MJMcGill (4) copy

5 June 2014

Garganey male in the Rushy

Garganey, MJMcGill

Oystercatcher
Looking their best in June.

Oystercatcher head study, 05-06-14, MJMcGill

Hobby
Heatwaves are good for insects, insects are good for this summer visitor

Hobby, in flight, 05-06-14, MJMcGill

 

2 June 2014

Reed Bunting
June is full of birdsong, the reedy ditches are home to these smart birds

Reed Bunting, male, 02-06-14, MJMcGill

 

May 2014 blog and sightings

Many of my sightings are from where I work as a Senior Warden-WWT Slimbridge but I do get about the Severn, Gloucestershire and further afield. All images are mine unless stated and are copyrighted.

23-29 May 2014

See trip report section for sightings on a visit to Scotland and the Western Isles.

21 May 2014

Received a call from Jake King to say he had a strange wader which was distant in heat haze on the Top New Piece, I offered to join him to have a look. Conditions were trying, very hot and humid and visibility was difficult. On arriving in the hide, Jake had already started picking out features. Scope views were much better than anything the camera could pick up, a careful check of all features was made. We were both happy with Temminck’s Stint as the conclusion. A nice little find for Mr King on a day when a few were noted about the country.

Temminck’s Stint at WWT Slimbridge

Temminck's Stint, TNP, 21-05-06, MJMcGill Temminck's Stint, TNP, 21-06-14, MJMcGill

Marsh Harrier

A sorry excuse for a Marsh Harrier, plumage missing everywhere including a re-growing tail. This bird has summered around the Slimbridge/Frampton area. That evening I saw it and a second, this time a fresh plumaged female around the 100 Acre/Splatt area

Marsh Harrier, female, 21-05-14, MJMcGill

20 May 2014

Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling on the Severn

A high tide where the small waders were harassed by a Peregrine and moved to rocks to sit it out.

Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Sanderling on the Severn, MJMcGill 20-05-14

Ringed Plover

Smart chap.

Ringed Plover, Severn, 20-05-14, MJMcGill

Sanderling

Like so many of the other wader species in May, this bird is Arctic bound.

Sanderling, Severn, 20-05-14, MJMcGill

Scarce Chaser

This newly emerged insect was my first of 2014

Scarce Chaser, teneral, Bull Ground, 20-05-14, MJMcGill

19 May 2014

Very pleased with how many Cuckoo are about locally this spring, seeing/hearing them daily is just ace.

Cuckoo

Cuckoo, MJMcGill

Arctic Tern

The last one hanging on locally appeared to be ill or perhaps tired after the gales, it commuted between the Severn estuary and Frampton pools where Nick Goatman was also seeing it most days. A few flocks went through this spring.

Arctic Tern, Severn, 19-05-14, MJMcGill Arctic Tern, circling over 100 Acre, 19-05-14, MJMcGill

Grey Plover on the Severn

Grey Plover, Severn Estuary, 19-05-14, MJMcGill

Grey Plover (probably 1st summer) and Bar-tailed Godwit (1st summer)

Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, Severn, MJMcGill, 19-05-14

13 May 2014

I went in early a mizzle laden morn to get to grips with Lapwing broods on the ‘bottom pieces’ (names of fields/marshes) and my second peek over spot revealed more chicks of this often unsuccessful local breeder, things were looking good for a change. I scanned an saw a variety of brood ages feeding along where the vegetation meets the muddy shore, all was well. Then I heard it, a crashing bashing, clanking, rock n rolling Great Reed Warbler cranking out full on heavy warbler metal. In my head I said to myself…nice…Great Reed and carried on searching for fluffy wading birds chicks with oversize heads and legs. Another rendition of ckkkrrkk ckkkrrkk, chhiick, chhiick, kraak kraak and the monster in the reeds got the Euro to drop! Great Reed Warbler at WWT Slimbridge, man that is a first for the site/patch. It went one further and climbed higher in the reeds, I did not know if I should brave it and stay or run for it, the reeds were shaking all over the place, I got the camera out and then it appeared. It looked at me and stared me out, I froze, then dropped my bins and took a shot.

It then moved into action, it was in a mood but luckily for me a Reed Warbler that was annoyed nearby took the brunt of the scolding, it chased it’s tiny relative away. I backed off up the bank and saw it a few more times as it patrolled up and down the ditch and into the hawthorn trees, I left it and went over the bank to start calling out news of this long overdue visitor. It is a third for the county of Gloucestershire. Within the hour the bird moved along the ditch to the Holden Tower and performed for plenty that day and the next. I went back to complete my wader work the next day.

Great Reed Warbler and Reed Warbler, Top New Piece, WWT Slimbridge

“What are you looking at titch, can I help you”

Great Reed Warbler and Reed Warbler, Top New Piece, 13-05-14, MJMcGill Great Reed Warbler with Reed Warbler, Top New Piece, 13-05-14, MJMcGill

10 May 2014

Spring gales brought lots of goodies to the Severn but not as far up as my usual patch. No luck with the Pomarine Skuas or breeding plumaged Great Northern Diver that were being scoped a bit further downstream but a few notables. Outrageous views of a Gannet was a real treat, this one nearly landed on the head of Gloucestershire ‘seen the lot’ Neil Smart. I did wonder if he had kipper for breakfast. A Bonxie was also of note.

Gannet

Gannet, head, Severn Estuary, 10-05-14, MJMcGill Gannet, Severn estuary,10-05-14,  MJMcGill

Gannet, taking off from Severn Estuary, 10-05-14, MJMcGill

5 May 2014

A good day for migrants at work begun with a species I had never personally found in Britain before. I have seen a few including the two previous Glos records. Just before 8am whilst scanning the Rushy I clapped my eyes on an adult breeding plumaged Bonaparte’s Gull. It flushed three times before I could get a pic which was a worry but I was glad that it settled down on South Lake for all to see.

Bonaparte’s Gull (left) on the Rushy

Bonaparte's Gull, Slimbridge, 003, 05-05-14, MJMcGill

Bonaparte’s Gull (right) with Black-headed Gull, South Lake- Images MJMcGill

 

Bonaparte's Gull, Slimbridge, 002, 05-05-14, MJMcGill

Another view of the Bonaparte’s Gull.

Bonaparte's Gull, Slimbridge, 001, 05-0514, MJMcGill

Other good news at work  was that at least two pairs of Avocets had hatched young on the Dumbles.

Other migrants/summer residents noted were 2 Greenshank (saw one just moulting on Rushy/Top New Piece and one in breeding plumage on estuary), Green Sandpiper on Tack Piece (scarce in spring), 3 1st summer Mediterranean Gulls, 1st summer Little Gull, Spoonbill, 3 Common Sandpiper (two S Lake, one Dumbles), Garganey on South Lake/Top New Piece, Swift passage over 100, Little-ringed Plover (saw one flying/calling heading S and one on the scrape on the Dumbles). Out on the estuary-Common Tern, 46 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Sanderling, 64 Dunlin, 69 Ringed Plover, 2 Grey Plover and a Whimbrel. A long staying female Wheatear at Middle Point plus single Yellow Wagtail, Hobby and a Cuckoo singing.

4 May 2014

I logged my first 2 Hairy Dragonflies of 2014 (one GHG and the other 100 Acre) NRS saw a Four-spot Chaser and c40 Azure Damselflies were on the wing.

In the afternoon I spent time trying to be helpful in the hides, I heard a drake Garganey call once and searched for it. No sign for a while until I located it tucked under the bank on the South Lake. Eventually it showed.

Garganey, drake on South Lake

Garganey, South Lake, 04-05-14, MJMcGill

Eurasian Spoonbill on South Lake

Eurasian Spoonbill, South Lake, 04-05-14, MJMcGill

3 May 2014
Up and out early on a sunny spring morning to search for my target bird of the day-the tiny Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, I was delighted to see/hear two males drumming and calling. One male really impressed me with great views, I enjoyed every carefully spent minute spent in his company whilst he did what he had to do. On various rambles I logged 20+ Garden Warbler, 12+ Tree Pipit, a pair of Goshawk, single fly-over Crossbill, 3 singing Wood Warbler, three singing Lesser Redpoll, singing Siskins and a variety of commoner forest birds.

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Forest of Dean-locality withheld

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Forest of Dean, 03-05-14, MJMcGill

Wood Warbler

Wood Warbler, FoD, 03-05-14, MJMcGill

2 May 2014
A walk with my children along the Severn Way at Arlingham produced c20 Swallow actually plucking insects of the umbellifer and a few Sand Martins, perhaps the latter breed in the red sandstone cliffs of Newnham on Severn.

 

 

April 2014 blog and sightings

April 28 2014

A female Whinchat and collection of 8 Wheatear included one clearly identifiable male Greenland.

Whinchat, along the Severn fences

Whinchat, female, Severn, 28-04-14, MJMcGill

April 24 2014
Male Ruff-such a smart bird had to show it again. It was crouched in the water on South Lake for a long time, maybe predator related.

Ruff, male, 24-04-14, MJMcGill

Wheatear-male along the foreshore

Wheatear, 17-04-14, MJMcGill

April 17 2014

Bar-tailed Godwit– one of three feeding on the sands, none were in breeding plumage, all were first summers.

Barwit, MJMcGill

April 13 2014
At work I gained my best views yet of the Hooded Crow plus my worst of the Taiga Bean Geese, a notable passage of Swallows was in evidence and 9 Ringed Plover and 45 Dunlin were of note. Bird of the day was the male Ruff on the Rushy. A late call from Nick Goatman alerted me to more Curlew migration, he noted two flocks, one of c100 and a larger one of c200 climbing high and heading inland. I heard a few from my garden plus a few Swallows feeding over the village.

Hooded Crow

Hooded Crow, BNP, 13 Apr 14, MJMcGill

Ruff (attaining breeding plumage)

Ruff, Rushy, 13-04-14, MJMcGill

Pair of Shelduck on Severn ooze

Shelduck pair, Severn Estuary, 13-04-14, MJMcGill

Early morning Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit, MJMcGill

April 12 2014
An evening walk to Hoch Ditch with Rich H turned out to be chilly and breezy but 33 Dunlin and 6 Ringed Plover gave close views, a flock of c45 Curlew were also seen. A morning walk to count singing warblers on the reserve gave me 3 Reed, 2 Sedge and 5 singing Cetti’s Warbler.

April 11 2014
A lot of bike exercise today, a few miles early doors and then a trip to the Forest of Dean to do a couple of rides and a couple of walks with my son. A ride around was memorable for bird song. At RSPB Nagshead I caught up with singing male Pied Flycatcher and a pair of Goshawk. New Fancy View surrendered 3 Crossbill which included a close fly-by female plus 30 Siskin. A Tree Pipit at Crabtree Hill.

At home two House Martin were back over Whitminster

April 10 2014
A pre-work stroll produced a male Greenland Wheatear, a sumptuous fly-catching male Redstart and a Yellowhammer flying along the foreshore. There were also a couple of Sanderling on the estuary sandbanks. Nige Warren got me onto a  distant Red Kite, this provided a first of the year for me in the Vale. At home the Orange Tip butterfly was around again.

April 9 2014
A Little-ringed Plover was flying around calling over the Top Hut/Rushy area at work. It appeared to drop down onto the latter site. Harriet had an Orange Tip butterfly in our garden.

April 8 2014
A search of breezy Severn estuary at lunchtime produced a fishing Sandwich Tern, no doubt the same bird Nick Goatman saw over Townfield Lake, Frampton.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern, The Noose, Severn, MJMcGill 001

Sandwich Tern, The Noose, Severn, MJMcGill

April 7 2014
Back to work at Slimbridge, a smashing start to the day was watching 13 Avocets arguing, pair bonding, nest scraping and chasing and being chased by crows. A local scarcity came in the form of a female Goosander.

Goosander, MJMcGill

April 6 2014
An hour out on my bike along the Glos to Sharpness Canal- 2 Sand Martin and finally Willow Warbler,  at Saul Warth the usual birds but out on the estuary 18 Ringed Plover, 1 Little Stint and 3 Dunlin.

Some thoughts on Partridges- Red-legged v Grey

In Whitminster today I saw a Red-legged Partridge on the road, it was completely soaked looking miserable and bedraggled. It struggled to push through the grass and hedge to get into the field. I started thinking again about this situation. These release birds in behaviour are a million miles from their healthy and beautifully marked wild counterparts that I see on the continent. The hand reared birds are clueless, have no idea how to survive. The Red-legged Partridge shoots I have seen from public roads look pretty dull from a ‘Sport’ point of view. A line of beaters desperately trying to get these birds to fly into the guns but these rotund birds are basically stumbling along in front of them, reluctant to fly, they prefer to walk and hop up and over walls. The doziness of these birds and their close relatives- the release pheasants are a hazard on the roads, I have nearly crashed a few times trying to avoid them. As a non-native bird I don’t think they should be released at all. A link to a thought provoking blog by Dr Mark Avery  http://markavery.info/2014/03/31/letter-mp-response-defra-2/

I have no interest or reason to hunt anything personally, I cannot understand why anyone gets pleasure out of killing things for fun. I can understand and accept it for food, maybe as a tradition but what I see is so far removed from any tradition it is embarrassing. I am saddened by the fact I watched Grey Partridge become extinct locally, the Slimbridge coveys died out (probably a combination of habitat changes, unsympathetic farming and over-hunting) in the late 80’s. I was still seeing them between Frampton and Whitminster and even on Saul Warth to Fretherne in the 90’s. I have seen them around Severn House Farm, Berkeley in the 2000’s. The last reliable birds near to home were in the Dursley, Wotton under Edge/Tetbury/Bath square but I cannot find any these days.

I wanted to do something about it. Many years back Neil Smart and I attended a Game Conservancy meeting on the Cotswolds along with c40 landowners and farmers concerning Grey Partridge, their habitat and needs. It demonstrated that this group of people were interested and appeared to care.

I wish our native Grey Partridge were still so numerous that those that do want to hunt for food did so in a sustainable way, that small efforts are made to re-establish the Grey Partridge in England. A very small amount of sympathetic farming can make the difference for survival, surely landowners, the farming and rural communities and wildlife lovers all want to see the ‘English’ Partridge back among us.

In January I was delighted to see Grey Partridge in the ‘high’ Cotswolds of Gloucestershire after not doing so for a while. I can identify three areas in the county where the landowners/farmers are apparently sympathetic to wildlife whilst still ‘shooting and hunting’. These places are  examples where a greater diversity of birds can be found and often in good numbers, places where declines may be halted, perhaps they are reversing. These examples give great hope and highlight that it can work. It raises the question, why can’t all farmland be this way? We all pay taxes, subsidies are there to make a small allowance for wildlife.

I for one am keen to do something about it, I wanted to a while ago but alas I do not ‘own’  and cannot afford to buy any land. It would be great if local landowners/farmers were keen to support any re-establishment attempt, I and many others for sure can provide help, advice and effort to restore these birds to our fields, surely they have a right to exist locally again. Who wants to do something about Grey Partridges?

Some links

http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/g/greypartridge/

http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/species/birds/grey-partridge/

http://www.gwct.org.uk/research/species/birds/grey-partridge/

April 5 2014
Good to catch up with NRS ‘Smarty’ and go for a birding stroll together, we were both pleased to see Lapwing and Redshank settling into territories along the Severn foreshore, many could be hassled by the falcon that is hanging around the area. A Swallow flew S and we watched a Common Tern flying/fishing along the canal between Fretherne and Splatt bridges.

Falcon sp- Saker x Gyr? Any suggestions.

Falcon sp, 05-04-14, MJMcGill

Common Tern

Common Tern, Glos to Sharpness Canal, Frampton, 05-04-14, MJMcGill

April 4 2014
Exercise regime through walking today was good and migration watch was excellent. I saw the following on the Severn…

10.15 Goosander female- flew off downstream
10.14 Great Crested Grebe-floating, I reckon the same bird is hanging around out here for last week.
10.30 First winter/summer Little Gull flew high down river, floated up at 10.45

Little Gull with BHG
10.45 33 Dark-bellied Brent Geese-floated up and past Saul Warth to Hock cliff. One small brown first summer and a very well whitish flank-marked bird among them. Still within DBBrent range I felt.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Severn, inc bird clean flanks, 4 Apr 14, MJMcGill
11.05 A Sanderling, 8 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin flew downriver.

I had a visit to the doctors for 11.40 but returned to Saul Warth to see if I could get closer to Brents. They had moved back out off Saul Warth. A flock of Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Snipe, variety of duck and 7 Little Egrets were flushed by something on the Saul Flashes.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Severn, in flight, 04-04-14, MJMcGill

Dark-bellied Brent Gees, in flight, 001, Severn, 04-04-14, MJMcGill

Brents with a few Shoveler. Lots of the Saul Warth/flashes duck have been on the estuary over the last few days.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese with Shoveler, Severn, 04-04-14, MJMcGill

 

12.05pm Located a flock of 27 Kittiwake floating on the river, they called a few times and took off heading high.

 

Kittiwakes on the Severn, 04-04-14, MJMcGill

Kittiwake, Severn, 1st flock, 04-04-14, MJMcGill
12.15 A picked up a Spoonbill flying high over Splatt/100 Acre, it was flying south, Nige Warren texted to say he had seen it from In Focus too.
12.35 A flock of c 100 Kittiwake flew rapidly low up channel in a tern-like flock and to joined another flock. I made it 131 in total.

Kitiwake, in flight, Severn, 04-04-14, MJMcGill
1255 A second summer Mediterranean Gull with a very feint hood was milling about.
1300 A flock of Curlew flew high from the Dumbles calling and showing pre-migration behaviour.

Had to leave for another doctors appointment at 2.00pm.

3 April 2014

A large, brownish-grey falcon was around the Noose, River Severn. I also saw it last Saturday on driftwood on the sands. Long tailed and winged. I also saw a Red-legged Partridge walking along the foreshore and four Otters (mum and 3 cubs) whilst out. The latter are always a joy to watch. At Townfield Lake, Frampton on Severn I went through a flock of 260 1st summer Black-headed Gulls, it contained a first winter/summer Mediterranean Gull.

Falcon sp, Splatt, 03-4-14, MJMcGill

Falcon sp, Splatt, 03-04-14, MJMcGill

Visibility was pretty bad and by the end of the day I felt pretty awful. The smog pollution and African dust had certainly had an impact on  my health, I wish I hadn’t gone out. Worth bearing in mind that the smog is produced by humans and our usual SW winds blow it all away to somewhere else. Is Britain still the filthy old man of Europe?

April 2 2014

I spent an hour sat watching the Severn tide from 0915-1015 and saw the following…
1 Great Crested Grebe flew N
1 Swallow n
4 Sand Martin N
1 male Yellow Wagtail N
1 Oystercatcher N (plus two territorial birds)
38 LBBGull N
18+8 Linnet N
1 adult Mediterrnean Gull
5 Arctic Terns N (they climbed and went inland)
Common Tern 1 N

The Common and Arctic Terns and Yellow Wagtail are my earliest ever in the county. The weather and conditions are producing some unusual records this year. A Black Tern was seen on the London reservoirs on 4th April!

April 1 2014
A male Goosander flew upriver at 10.01 to Saul Warth and back down at 10.14 heading inland to the canal. Three Sand Martin were the only other migrants.

Goosander
Goosander, 1 Apr 14, MJMcGill

 

March 2014 Blog and sightings

March 31 2014
I had to drop my son off at his friends due to an inset day so took the chance to look for some downland or what we called farmland birds whilst at Leighterton. A short drive away and I bagged 8 Corn Bunting from the car and 260 Linnet.

Corn Buntings

Corn Bunting, 31 Mar 14, MJMcGill

Corn Bunting, 31 Mar 14, MJMcGill 001

I headed home and rested up for the afternoon when I saw a tweet from Colin B about a Bean Goose on the Dumbles. I had to have a look and fancied a trip out to loosen up my joints. On reaching the Holden Tower I joined Nige Warren and Paul Taylor, the latter was watching the Hooded Crow proving he does study his birds when given free time. I got onto the Bean and saw it was a female Taiga Bean Goose, a quick scan revealed a male, the same pair I saw on Saturday morning!

Great to see this (should be) species as it has been years since my last at Slimbridge.

Male left and female right Taiga Bean Geese, The Dumbles

Taiga Bean Goose, male, Dumbles, 31-03-14, MJMcGill Taiga Bean Goose, female, 31-03-14, Dumbles, MJMcGill

The lovely couple together

Taiga Bean Geese, male and female, Dumbles, 31-03-14, MJMcGill

Late in the evening I cycled to Saul Flashes where a large pale Greylag was roosting, I saw the same bird floating on the estuary on the morning tide.

 

March 30 2014
14 Fieldfare and a Redwing W over my house. A canal side stroll produced a female Marsh Harrier hunting the foreshore and single Little-ringed Plover and even scarcer here a Yellowhammer N. I went for a drive to bird from the car and saw a 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull with full hood in fields near Arlingham/Overton Lane.

In the afternoon I got a call from DBP  about a possible Hooded Crow from Holden Tower. I was there when he confirmed it was still present, a county lifer. Thanks to the ‘Sunday gang’ for getting news out and going out of their way to do so. I narrowly missed the 91 bird that Pete Alder saw, long time to get that one back.

Hooded Crow

Hooded Crow, Dumbles, 30 Mar 14, MJMcGill

March 29 2014
I was up very early, seems to be the norm lately and noticed that Mike King was actually enjoying life on Cleeve Hill. I formulated a plan which involved taking my bike, there was no way I could reach the Postlip valley on foot. A short roll down to the area of the washpool and I was able to settle under a hawthorn and scan for the two Ring Ouzels. was joined by two other ouzel hunters and had a chat whilst watching a female feeding on earthworms. Nice to see Andy Wiggins in his usual habitat on the hill but sadly unable to go for a stroll with him. After giving detailed instruction on where to find the birds he reported that he saw the male as well confirming MLK’s previous total. I missed the male.

Heading off in the car I detoured to the reported Tundra Bean Geese at Kemerton, Worcestershire, being just over the border it was not far and close to the car. I was soon watching two Taiga Bean Geese, excellent to see them locally. It was a male and female, the gander being a striking almost fully orange billed bird hence an old name being Yellow billed Bean Goose. The female looked like she had laid eggs before, she showed a real ‘saggy ass’.

Later in the day a short walk across the road from home and I could see 30+ Sand Martin.

Taiga Bean Geese, Kemerton, Worcs.

Taiga Bean Geese, pair, Kemerton Lake, Worcs, 29-03-14,MJMcGill Taiga Bean Geese, pair male on right, Kemerton Lake, Worcs, 29-03-14, MJMcGill Taiga Bean Geese, Kemerton Lake, Worcs, 29-03-14, MJMcGill Taiga Bean Geese, Kemrton Lake, Worc, 29-03-14, pair, MJMcGill

Female Ring Ouzel, Cleeve Hill

Ring Ouzel, female, 29 Mar 14, MJMcGill Ring Ouzel, Cleeve Hill, 29-03-14, MJMcGill

March 28 2014
Off crutches and a painful hobble to the foreshore of my so beloved Severn. I saw my first pair of Little ringed Plover and three Ringed Plover of the year. The latter among 9 Dunlin and 2 Little Stint out on the sands off Hock Ditch. Two Grey Plover went through N.

Little ringed Plover, Saul, 28-03-14, MJMcGill

Little ringed Plover, Saul Warth, 28-03-14, MJMcGill

March 20 2014
My first five Sand Martin and four Grey Plover on the estuary.

The threat of Whitminster losing lots of varied habitat due to housing developments looms large. I intend to provide a voice for the birds, a selection of Whitminster residents in late March below.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk, female, Whitminster, March 14, MJMcGill

Great spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker,male, Whitminster Mar 14, MJMcGill

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer, male, Whitminster, 27 Mar 14, MJMcGill

March 10 2014

I underwent my fifth operation on my damaged foot, it was a relief to finally get it out of the way as it has been highly stressful having it hanging over me. It should be for the best in the long run but means a short-term lay up to heal and then a programme of light then increasing exercise to build up strength. As usual it is totally frustrating to be unable to walk again. Being ill the week before did not help things at all but I am so glad the operation was quick and went to plan. N. Bristol NHS at Southmead were brilliant, they removed the metal plate and eight screws and did a very neat sewing job.

March 5 2014

In the company of Terry Grant in the Holden Tower we were enjoying the birds when he spotted a Spoonbill on the Tack Piece. It was very restless and flew around the reserve visiting many spots.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill, Dumbles, 5 Mar 14, MJMcGill Spoonbill, 5 Mar 14, Dumbles, MJMcGill

March 3 2014
A likely candidate for female American Wigeon was on the Dumbles scrape. I watched it for over half and hour and took lots of video but never captured the wing flap. I did see this event through the scope and it had white axillaries. The bird flew off when the tide flooded the Dumbles. It had a very strong mask around the eye and a grey not a all brown head.

Female American Wigeon?

poss American Wigeon, female, Dumbles, 03-03-14, MJMcGill

January to February 2014 blog and sightings

21 February 2014
Another visit to the Cotswold Water Park to see the Smew before they left. I was pleased to see the ‘set’ , four males, two female and a first winter male.

Smew ‘White Nuns’

Smew, CWP, 21-02-14, MJM

February 10 2014

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull, Severn, 9 Feb 14

This bird was initially spotted by John Phillips, it remained around the estuary for many weeks but never gave me close views. This ambitious effort taken from the Holden Tower.  I never got to age it with such poor views, it was a first or second winter. Maybe the CRC will get closer images submitted showing the plumage detail and eye colour.

A Tundra Bean Goose flew in and fed on the Dumbles as did a particularly large, pale Greylag. This made five of these hulking birds on the saltmarsh.

 

January 25 2014
A few visits to the Cotswolds kept me interested with Red Kites, Hen Harrier, Merlin, albino Dunnock and utter delight at seeing Grey Partridges.

Great Grey Shrike, Barrington Bushes

Great Grey Shrike, Barrington, 25-01-14

Little Stint

Little Stint, Dumbles, 27-01-14, MJMcGill

At least three Little Stint wintered around the Severn with the newly worked over scrape on the Dumbles being the most reliable place to see them.

January 20 2014

Conducted the monthly Wetland Bird Survey at WWT Slimbridge, the high water levels turned up a few good birds including Water Pipit, Short-eared Owl and Greater Scaup. As I predicted it turned up later on the Rushy and stayed for a couple of days.

Greater Scaup, first winter female with Tufted Duck

Greater Scaup, female, 20-01-14, MJMcGill

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl, 20-01-14, MJMcGill

January 10 2014
A visit to the ‘no entry’ capital of Gloucestershire produced a Kumlien’s Gull. See blog post about it.

Kumlien’s Gull

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill, 003 (1)

January 2 2014

The Green-winged Teal that I saw at the end of December may have been the same bird as depicted below however it did not strike me as being the same bird based on the vertical stripe not being so bold. Perhaps this bird was a second individual? This bird was also on the Tack Piece following a day of no sightings of any GWTeals despite searching. With c5000 of these little ducks in our area this winter I would not be surprised if there were more.

Green winged Teal male, Tack Piece 2 Jan 14

 

Kumlien’s Gull-adult at the Cotwold Water Park, Pit 57 (Somerford Lake) 10 January 2014

On 10 January 2014 I set out in the morning to go birding in the Cotswolds and to visit a bank. After a Shrike-less visit to Cirencester Park I visit the nearby town to pay in the cash from my son’s Christmas laptop saving fund for use of my credit card to purchase it. As I was nearby and had not visited for years I ended up in the Cotswold Water thinking it would be nice to see a drake Smew. I made my first stop at pit 57 to walk Ted (little family dog who gave me the pleading eyes when I was setting out hence getting to tag along) along the Thames. I was, as is usual drawn to the flocks of wildfowl but eventually turned my attention to the gulls.

Trying to scope through gaps in the hedge I saw what looked like an Iceland Gull among the Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed and Common Gulls. It was very difficult to get a decent view, it was breezy, the bird was on the far, sheltered, side of the lake and nearly always facing directly away from me (into the wind). I moved to new spots to get a side view and avoid the albeit weak low winter sun, being directly in line with the bird. I spent a long time with it trying to get some decent pictures, below are the best I could manage as I was also trying to soak up any flank-on views when it presented.

I did not see it flap very well, what I did see it appeared very white wing-tipped. It preened and showed the true extent of the dark chevrons on the primaries which were narrow. The bird spent most of the time asleep day-roosting on the water with the bill tucked away. I never got a flight view or saw the legs. In the end I ran out of time and had to leave but put news out as soon as I got a signal.

Some features that it sported…

rounded ‘inflated, Fulmar-like’ head, ‘friendly’ and soft looking.

even, smallish, non-fierce bill with blunt tip.

feint ghost chevrons on underside of primaries.

very narrow dark (not solid black) chevrons on upper side of primaries- I think dark grey. Right wingtip more well marked than left.

light head streaking with darker masks around eyes.

long winged.

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill (1)

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill, 002

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill 001

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill, 003 (1)

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill, 004 (1)

Kumlien's Gull, adult, CWP Pit 57, 10 Jan 2014, MJMcGill,005 (2)

I was satisfied that I was watching an adult Kumlien’s Gull which I do not see very often. I did catch up with a bird on the Gloucester tip but had poor flight views only. A better experience was with a Kim Milson? found adult that roosted on nearby Pit 16 so many years ago I don’t remember the year.

Martin J McGill

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