Tuesday, 31 March 2009

31st March 2009

Seems that at least 3 other birders visited Earlswood today. During the morning, "B90" saw a Swallow circling the Manor Farm, Red Lion and Hungry Horse fields at around 9:00 am, as well as a Kingfisher fly over Engine Pool parallel with the road towards the engine house.
Lee Johnson then visited during the afternoon and saw 1 male Blackcap (singing just past last garden going south on Engine Pool's east side), 4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Swallows, 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Herring Gulls, 5 Buzzards, 2 Jays, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 1 Nuthatch.
It's always great to hear of others' sightings at Earlswood, so thanks guys for your reports. I too visited the lakes during the afternoon, but can't add much to the above apart from 2 Song Thrushes at the Mereside Fishing Pools. I heard/saw the male Blackcap at the same area that Lee did, and I'm pretty sure now that I heard it at that spot yesterday as well. There was no sign of the Greylag Geese, but according to an Earlswood regular I met there had been 8 or 9 on one occasion this month. Watching the field around the Hungry Horse for c. 20 minutes, saw 1 Kestrel, 1 Common Pheasant, 10 Stock Doves, 1 Feral Pigeon and 2 Goldfinches. In another field along Cleobury Lane, saw a black Rabbit which I've never seen in the wild before (could be an escape of course).
Next migrant at Earlswood is likely to be Willow Warbler, with at least one seen elsewhere in Warwickshire today. It seems that someone reported one at the lakes on April 3rd last year, so will be excellent if one's seen even earlier this year.
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 30 March 2009

30th March 2009

I had an enjoyable afternoon visit at the lakes, with 22+ Sand Martins, 2 House Martins and 8 Swallows seen flying over Engine Pool and Terry's Pool, and 4+ Chiffchaffs observed in various places. I strongly suspect I've missed earlier occurrences of Sand Martins at the lakes this month, despite putting more effort in, but the House Martins could well be site firsts for 2009. Their numbers have been rather erratic this month but 21 Tufted Ducks were present today (possibly my best count at the lakes to-date). 2 Greylag Geese were in one of the fields north of Terry's Pool again. Also, I believe I saw 2 Linnets around the Hungry Horse.
The breeding season has apparently started now, with a female Blackbird seen collecting nesting material in my garden this morning. Doesn't look like Mute Swans will be breeding at Earlswood this year - might be something to do with what happened last year. Anyone know what happened?
M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 28 March 2009

28th March 2009

I finally managed to see hirundines at the lakes this morning, with 2 Swallows seen very briefly over Engine Pool at c. 9:20 am. Other good sightings were 3 Jays and the 3 Greylag Geese at Terry's Pool, and 1 Siskin around Windmill Pool. 5 Cormorants, 5 Herring Gulls, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (including a ringed bird that I was just about able to note down details for) and just 4 Tufted Ducks were also seen. Spent some time birding along lanes south and east of the lakes, and saw 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Common Pheasants (1 heard only), 4 Collared Doves, 55 Starlings, 28+ Fieldfares, 20+ Redwings, 10+ Goldfinches and another Jay. Just 15 Stock Doves were counted in the field surrounding the Hungry Horse.
I now have arrival dates for Chiffchaff and Swallow at Earlswood for this year, but if anyone has earlier dates for these species or sees any martins, terns, etc before I do I'd be most grateful if you could send them to me for this blog and my records. I'm still interested in other Earlswood records too though.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 26 March 2009

26th March 2009

No sign of the Ravens, Buzzard or carcass in the field in-between Cleobury Lane and Lady Lane during the late afternoon today.
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

25th March 2009

At c. 1:25 pm today, as I was pushing a bit of lettuce through the wire of my mom's budgie aviary in our garden, a Sparrowhawk flew from behind me into the wire about a metre from where I was standing for a split second, then flew to a bird bath a few metres from me, at which point it quickly realised I was very near to it and hurried off! The strange thing was that I'd been stood next to the aviary for 10-15 seconds and I wasn't exactly frozen still when this happened. Anyway, it took me a while to recover from the shock of this totally unexpected and extremely close encounter!

A little later, I journeyed to Earlswood on my bike again. At the field surrounding the Hungry Horse, I saw a Linnet again and counted 51 Stock Doves (didn't think I'd beat yesterday's count so quickly!). These birds are congregating with corvids at this field because it has recently been ploughed. At the lakes, I saw a ringed adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on one of the buoys at Windmill Pool, but it landed on the water then flew off before I could have a good look at the rings with my scope. At Terry's Pool, 5 Cormorants and 3 Greylag Geese were present. Tufted Duck numbers at the lakes had increased to 11. The highlight of the trip though was seeing a Buzzard and 2 Ravens at what seemed to be a partial Canada Goose corpse in a field in-between Cleobury Lane and Lady Lane (I'd only seen Ravens in flight before today).
M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

24th March 2009

Cycled to Earlswood during the afternoon. Counted 28 Stock Dove and 1 Jay in the field around the Hungry Horse. At the lakes, 3 Herring Gulls, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 5 Cormorants, 1 Kingfisher and just 4 Tufted Ducks were seen. I also saw 2 Greylag Geese in the usual field (3rd bird might've been hiding in pit), a calling Chiffchaff at Windmill Pool's southwest corner, and a Reed Bunting in the scrubland south of that pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 22 March 2009

22nd March 2009

I joined 10 other people on the WMBC Solihull Branch's Earlswood field trip, which was led by Branch Chairman Humphrey Miller. I myself enjoyed the outing, and I think everyone else did as well, with some good sightings had. Areas visited included part of Wood Lane, Clowes Wood and New Fallings Coppice SSSI, Terry's Pool and Engine Pool. Our first notable sighting was a Kingfisher moving from Engine Pool to Terry's Pool. I was pleasantly surprised at how productive the small stretch of Wood Lane we visited (in-between Manor Farm and New Fallings Coppice) was, with a Green Woodpecker, a Meadow Pipit (over) and a hunting Kestrel seen, and a Common Pheasant heard. 1 or 2 Coal Tit were seen in Little Clowes Wood, and a Chiffchaff was heard in Big Clowes Wood. Returning to Little Clowes Wood, we saw 2 Buzzards soaring overhead and heard a Raven briefly. Reaching Terry's Pool, 7 Cormorants and some Tufted Ducks were seen, but I was disappointed that the Pochard and Shoveler didn't show for us. The field trip finished back at the Malthouse Lane car park. Walking back home, I saw 3 Greylag Geese in one of the fields north of Terry's Pool - a record count for Earlswood in recent years, as far as I know - and I also saw 8 Nuthatches, 2 Treecreepers and 1 Song Thrush.
M.P. Griffiths

Friday, 20 March 2009

20th March 2009

Yet another visit to the lakes on the bike during the afternoon, and this time I was finally rewarded with a Chiffchaff (though I only heard it) singing around Terry's Pool. I still haven't seen a single hirundine, yet two-figure numbers of Sand Martin have been reported elsewhere in Warwickshire today. Also at Terry's Pool were 7 Cormorants, the female Pochard, a male Shoveler and 10 Tufted Ducks. There was no sign of yesterday's Greylag Goose pair, which makes me wonder how many unusual birds have only visited Earlswood for a day or less and been missed by birders.
With the recent sunny weather we've been having, the path around Terry's Pool is currently a lot less muddy and much more pleasant to walk along than a few weeks ago. I haven't checked the western side of Windmill Pool, which is often also very muddy, but that too has probably been affected by the weather. Therefore, the WMBC Solihull Branch fieldtrip should be an enjoyable one, provided it doesn't rain between now and then.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 19 March 2009

19th March 2009

Went to Earlswood Lakes on my bike during the afternoon for the second time since the 15th, hoping for a migrant bird to have arrived but still no sign of any. However, a singing Chiffchaff was reported a few miles away at Solihull Lodge today so hopefully one of these at least will be seen at Earlswood within the next few days. My best sighting today was a Linnet (lifer!) next to the Hungry Horse car park; this seems to be an uncommon species at Earlswood (as far as I'm aware) with no more than 6 reported at a time during the last few years. Another good sighting was 2 Greylag Geese (wild?), which flew from the northeast over Engine Pool at c. 5:20 pm and landed in a field north of Terry's Pool. The female Pochard was still at Terry's Pool with some Tufted Ducks.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 15 March 2009

15th March 2009

Went to do the WeBS counts at the lakes during the morning; highlights were 1 redhead Goosander, 1 male Shoveler, 1 female Pochard, 12 Tufted Ducks 3 Cormorants and 1+ Kingfisher. Goosander (1?) at Earlswood Lakes was plotted on the BirdGuides BirdMap today, but I didn't report this and don't know the details. I'd hoped to see a hirundine or two whilst I was there but was disappointed again, though I did see 2+ Buzzards, 2+ Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Goldcrests, 4+ Treecreepers, 2+ Siskins and 94+ Common Frogs, and heard 2+ Common Pheasants, around the lakes and other parts of Earlswood.
M.P. Griffiths

The Solihull Branch of the West Midland Bird Club have organised a field trip to Earlswood next week on Sunday 22nd March, as follows:
Earlswood Lakes and Clowes Wood (SP109739) Meet in the Malthouse Lane car park at 10:00 am. A mixture of broad-leaved woodland and common water species, perhaps early Chiffchaff.
Further information about Solihull Branch field trips can be found here. Birders who aren't members of the WMBC are welcome to attend this and other branch trips.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

14th March 2009

After seeing a number of Sand Martin reports on the BirdGuides BirdMap, I cycled down to Earlswood during the late afternoon hoping to see my first for 2009, but no hirundines were seen. However, I've just noticed on the map that there's a Sand Martin report from nearby Alvechurch (Worcestershire) so perhaps I'll see this species tomorrow when I do my third WeBS counts at the lakes.
The lakes were pretty quiet again, apart from Terry's Pool which had 1 male Goosander, 1 female Pochard, 4 Tufted Ducks and 6 Cormorants, with 4 Goldfinches around the sides.
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 9 March 2009

9th March 2009

After spending all morning at the Bittell Reservoirs (and Cofton) hoping to see the 5 Scaups that had been reported there on the 8th and finding that they'd gone, I visited Earlswood Lakes during the afternoon. The Scaups weren't there and the lakes were rather quiet, with 5 Cormorants and some Tufted Ducks being the only birds of note. At Engine Pool I saw a one-legged female Mallard on one of the fishing platforms - a bird which I think I was told has been at the lakes for a couple of years now.
I met a couple of birders who I've met on previous occasions, and they said that they saw a Gadwall and a Goldeneye at the lakes late last year. Wish I'd seen those!
M.P Griffiths

Friday, 6 March 2009

6th March 2009

Having recently heard that a couple of Mealy Redpolls and several Lesser Redpolls had been seen at "Earlswood Lakes" (exact location unknown) during the last few days of February, I went there during the morning and left during the early afternoon. Eventually reaching Windmill Pool, I saw a redpoll in trees along the pool's western side, south of the sailing boat club premises. Continuing on to the scrubland south of Windmill Pool, I saw some more redpolls there and believe that I saw 5+ Lesser Redpolls (lifer!). I had a few reasonably good views of these birds, but often they were obscured by vegetation making it extra difficult for someone unfamiliar with redpolls (like me) to ID them properly. One redpoll I saw on its own had some white on its back but I couldn't be certain of the rump colour. I would really appreciate it if someone who knows their redpolls could visit Windmill Pool's western side and the area of scrubland to the south, as I have not found any other records of Mealy Redpoll at Earlswood and I have no idea whether the person(s) who saw the two will submit details and a description (required by WMBC for acceptance) to the county recorder, so that it can be confirmed that Mealy Redpoll have occurred at Earlswood. The redpolls weren't particularly difficult to locate.
Elsewhere at the the scrubland, I saw 2 Reed Buntings (haven't seen any at Earlswood in ages!), 2 Stock Doves, 1 Coal Tit and 1+ Bullfinch. Some other good birds were seen at the lakes. Most notable were 3 Ravens over Windmill Pool (a record count for Earlswood?). Also at Windmill Pool were 2 Herring Gulls, with 13 Siskins and 2 Pied Wagtails around the sides. At Terry's Pool, I saw 5 Goosanders, 3 Shovelers, 1 Pochard, 2 Cormorants and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, with 2 Buzzards over, and 2 Treecreepers and 4 Bullfinches around the sides. I had a unusual encounter with a Kingfisher around Engine Pool, which I saw perched in a small tree at the bottom of someone's back garden before it noticed me and flew off over the pool!
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

4th March 2009

Walked to the lakes, staying there for much of the morning. Passing through New Fallings Coppice, I saw 2 Chaffinches (possibly the first I've seen actually within the wood!), 1 Treecreeper, 1 Nuthatch and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. At Terry's Pool, I saw 1 Goosander, 1 Pochard, 4 Cormorants, 2 Treecreepers and 1 Coal Tit. 4+ Siskins were seen around Engine Pool. Totals of 20 Tufted Ducks, 1+ Kingfisher, 2 Redwings, 3+ Song Thrushes, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Treecreepers and 2+ Bullfinches were also observed at and around the lakes.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1st March 2009

Up early and back on the bike today. Around 7:30 am I saw 10 Meadow Pipits near the Hungry Horse. At the lakes, Terry's Pool was particularly productive even though I only watched it from near the easternmost corner, with 5 Goosanders, 3 Pochards, 2 Shovelers, several Tufted Ducks, 1 Kingfisher and 3 Jays seen. Elsewhere at the lakes, viewed from the causeways, I saw a Grey Wagtail at Windmill Pool and 5 Cormorants at Engine Pool. On two widely spaced occasions, I possibly heard a Raven calling from around the lakes. My last good sightings within the area were at Forshaw Heath, with a Buzzard over and my first bumblebee of the year. The rest of my birding today was spent in Worcestershire...

Surrounding areas
Despite living less than half a mile away from the land of Worcestershire, I'm afraid I've done very little birding in this county (a short visit to Ipsley Alders Marsh NR being my only serious birding outing) up 'til now. My main aim for today was to check out the Bittell Reservoirs and surrounding areas in the hope of adding some more species to my life list; this was achieved! On my way to the reservoirs, I had my first lifer of the day when I saw a Little Owl perched in an oak tree (thanks Reg for the info!), and also saw 1 (possibly 2 or more) Raven, 3+ Rooks, 3+ Buzzards, and 2+ Lapwings. I was impressed by the Bittell Reservoirs, especially the Lower Bittell - excellent waterbird habitats. I'd hoped to see a wader at Lower Bittell but couldn't see any, though I did see 4 Goosanders and a number of Teal, Shoveler, Pochard and Tufted Duck there. Upper Bittell was rather empty, which I found surprising for a reservoir that's much larger than any of the Earlswood pools, though there was a very large number of Grey Herons present. I proceeded on to Cofton Reservoir, knowing it to be a small waterbody and not expecting to see anything unusual; therefore, a male Pintail on the lower/overflow pool was a very nice surprise and my second lifer of the day. I was really tired when I got home because of the distance travelled and some struggles up hills, but it was well worth it for the two lifers.
M.P. Griffiths