Thursday, 30 April 2009

30th April 2009

100th post, apparently!
Cycled to Earlswood during the early afternoon. From the causeway, I saw up to 13 Common Terns and 5 Swifts at a time, as well as 2 Grey Wagtails; however, without doubt the best bird that I saw there was a Yellow Wagtail! It landed on one of the wooden rails along the causeway, before dropping down on to the road but was quickly scared off by a vehicle (grr!), flew off over Windmill Pool and left the lakes, heading southeast - an Earlswood tick for me, but would've been nice to have seen it at rest for more than 30 seconds. Also seen were a Canada Goose pair with 5 goslings at Terry's Pool, and 1+ Common Whitethroat and 2 Reed Buntings at the scrubland south of Windmill Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cycling along roads near Earlswood. In the Box Trees area, I saw 2 Red-legged Partridges (lifer!) and 3+ Skylarks. At Blythe Valley Park, I saw a Kestrel and 2 Reed Buntings, and heard a Cuckoo and a warbler (Sedge/Reed, in a reedbed).
Once again, I had bad luck cycling home - it was dark and I was in a hurry to get home because my bike has no lights, and I had a bit of an accident. Basically my one leg is a little painful to walk on now, so I probably won't be visiting Earlswood during the next few days at least (unless of course there is a report of a bird there that I've just gotta see). Still, at least the bike seems okay ;-)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

28th April 2009

An afternoon visit produced 8 Common Terns, 30+ Swallows and 6 Mallard broods at the lakes. Saw a Kestrel hovering over fields southeast of Terry's Pool. At the scrubland south of Windmill Pool, I saw a Common Whitethroat and a possible Garden Warbler, as well as a Swift over Earlswood Common gardens heading towards the lakes.
Rain, hail, thunder and lightning forced me to leave, and I got soaked to the skin cycling home.
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 27 April 2009

27th April 2009

I was at the lakes for a short time during the early afternoon, and from the causeway (which I didn't venture from) I saw 12 Common Terns, 2 Swifts (my first this year), 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Kingfisher.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 26 April 2009

26th April 2009

Cycled to Earlswood during the late afternoon, and met one of the regulars who said he'd had 2 Cuckoos (scrubland south of Windmill Pool and over Terry's Pool), a Swift, and a Common Sandpiper (Terry's Pool) earlier on.
I had 8 Common Terns, 12+ Swallows and 2 House Martins at the lakes, with a Kingfisher seen flying over Windmill Pool and 1 (or 2) Common Sandpiper at Terry's Pool on the islands.
M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 25 April 2009

25th April 2009

During the morning, John Yardley had 5 Common Terns and 1 Common Sandpiper at Windmill Pool.

Later, 2 Swifts were reported on Worcester Birding (per John Yardley).

Friday, 24 April 2009

24th April 2009

Spent most of the morning at the lakes, though I also had 1 Skylark, 4 Lapwings and 5 Stock Doves at the field around the Hungry Horse. Up to 7 terns at a time were seen at the lakes, though of these I only managed to positively ID 5+ Common Terns. Of these, one had a shorter, darker beak than the other bird it was associating with, which made me wonder if it was an Arctic, but all of its other features indicated that it was a Common - I wonder though if someone without a scope would've identified it as an Arctic, especially as the leg length of these birds seem to vary depending on their posture (at least that's what I find). There were also 2 Common Sandpipers and a female Mallard with a brood of 11 at Windmill Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 23 April 2009

23rd April 2009

John Yardley went around the lakes this evening until just before dark, and at Windmill Pool saw 3 Common Terns, as well as 1 Common Sandpiper on boards by the sailing club; and a second flew up from the back of Terry's Pool. Not much else apart from the usual birds.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

22nd April 2009

B90 reported seeing 2 Arctic Terns and 2 Common Terns at Windmill Pool during the morning.

On the way back from an outing, I had an opportunity to do a few minutes birdwatching at the Hungry Horse car park during the early afternoon and was pleased to see 8 Linnets there. Later, I cycled back to Earlswood, hoping to hear a Cuckoo along Wood Lane but didn't despite going along that road twice. There were no terns about when I reached Windmill Pool at c. 4:50 pm. The most notable sightings were 3 Grey Herons, and along the north side of Terry's Pool a Mallard pair with 15 ducklings (saw a female with 16 on the 19th though).
M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

21st April 2009

Had a pretty good time at Earlswood again during the afternoon. At Windmill Pool, I saw 5 definite Common Terns and 1 Common Sandpiper (over water). At Terry's Pool, the 2 Mute Swans were still present; and along the northernmost side I saw what must've been a Grass Snake (didn't see its upper half though) and possibly heard a distant Cuckoo in the direction of Wood Lane. At the scrubland south of Windmill Pool, saw 1 singing Common Whitethroat. Up to 8 Swallows were counted over the lakes at a time whilst I was there. At c. 6:20 pm, 4 House Martins and 2 Sand Martins arrived, but didn't stay long. Going along Wood Lane on my way home, I saw a Muntjac Deer in a field at the edge of New Fallings Coppice at c. 7:00 pm.
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 19 April 2009

19th April 2009

Still tired from all my recent birding activities, I needed to go to the lakes today regardless because it was a WeBS "priority date". Terry's Pool was quiet, but at Engine Pool I saw 2 newly arrived Mute Swans (the other 2 must've been hiding or gone), 2 Greylag Geese and 5 terns fly over very briefly. An experienced birder I met at the causeway thought they were all Common Terns, as did I (I assume he'd been watching them for longer than me). At Windmill Pool, saw 4 terns on the buoys, but seeing the sailing boat club gates open and people there, I was anxious to finish the pool's counts before the boats were put out; I was really pleased to locate a summer-plumaged Little Grebe amongst the vegetation along the west side (perhaps only the second record of this species at the lakes this year). With the counts over, I passed Terry's Pool on the way home and saw that the male Pochard was there (damn boats!).

I'm getting to really dislike fishermen. I've seen piles of litter left by them, and fishing line on the ground and dangling from trees on numerous occasions. You might remember I once found a Wren dangling from a twig via fishing line, but I don't think I've mentioned that I've also seen a swimming duck (rather than a fish) get caught at the end of a fisherman's line, and a gull and a Woodpigeon in flight with fishing line trailing behind them. Also, some fishermen leave their gear on the path, which is particularly annoying if I'm pushing my bike, and most seem to ignore anyone at the lakes who isn't fishing. I once had a fisherman who back casted as I was cycling behind him along the road and obviously hadn't checked for people beforehand, though luckily for me the hook missed me by a few metres. Anyway, this morning as I was trying to count the waterbirds at Engine Pool, I heard a loud, obviously man-made "koh" behind me and turned around to see a bunch of chav "fishermen" walking passed, grinning. One of them mockingly said something about "a fine specimen", causing the others to laugh. I felt like telling the mindless yob that "specimen" is not a birding term, and to go back to McDonald's, but I said nothing. Hopefully he caught the turtle and got a finger bitten off!!! I can't stand people who spoil other people's enjoyment, and thought it was bad enough birding along roads with the idiot drivers who sound their horn just as they pass.

Apologies for the lateness of this post, and the posts for the 16th, 17th and 18th. Lately, I've been feeling pretty drained and haven't been at my computer much.

M.P. Griffiths

19th April 2009

I was at the lakes again this morning, mainly to see if the Arctic terns were still around. More about that later.

Birds of note included several blackcaps, a couple of willow warblers, four mute swans, two greylag geese, many swallows, a few house martins, a drake pochard on Windmill Pool, two grey wagtails, and a whitethroat in the scrub behind Windmill Pool.

Following last week's bird, another oystercatcher flew north over Windmill Pool at 7:40am, then headed east and wasn't seen again.

I spotted a female mallard with a brood of three in one of the channels next to the path that runs along Windmill Pool.

Getting back to the terns, I counted seven birds on arrival, but was unable to categorically identify any as Arctic terns. However, whilst walking around Windmill Pool, a bird perched on the upturned buoy in the centre of the pool looked interesting.

Fortunately, the bird stayed put until I got round to the other side, from where I had better views. I couldn't see any black tip to the bill. The tail appeared to project further than the primaries, and the legs appeared short. There was also clear demarcation between its white cheek and greyish underparts. On that evidence alone I was happy to record this bird as an Arctic tern.

Soon afterwards, another tern landed next to it. This looked like a common tern to me, appearing slightly larger than the first bird and with none of the features mentioned above being immediately obvious.

However, both birds took flight and were soon joined by a third tern. All these birds appeared to have long tail streamers in flight. They rose to a reasonable height and circled a few times. At this point I lost sight of two of them. The third bird headed off in a northwesterly direction and I soon lost sight of that one too. This all took place at about 8:50am.

I believe three Arctic terns were reported yesterday, so looking at all the evidence, I would say that these were the same birds, and it will be interesting to see if there are any further sightings later today.

Before I left, I counted five birds, so I may have missed one first thing. I identified two of them as common terns. I look forward to any further news regarding these birds over the next few days.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

18th April 2009

There was another report of Arctic Tern(s) at Earlswood Lakes, seen sometime before 9:11 am. I didn't notice this until the afternoon, but cycled down and got there at about 2 pm. When I first got there, I was pretty sure there were 4 terns present at Windmill Pool but soon there were just 2 there. Those frickin' sailing boats were out, so that I was often only able to see a tern resting on a buoy for less than 30 seconds. Even so, I thought both were Common Terns and could see no features that would suggest Arctic.
Back at home, I saw yet another report of Arctic Tern(s) at the lakes, seen sometime before 8:16 pm, but of course it was far too late to go out and anyway I had zero energy.
M.P. Griffiths

Friday, 17 April 2009

17th April 2009

In the morning, walked to Earlswood to meet John Yardley to go to Upton Warren (Worcestershire). Whilst walking along Norton Lane, heard an owl-like call twice from trees but I can't quite remember exactly how it sounded other than that it began with "wr" - certainly wasn't a Tawny Owl.
John brought me back to Earlswood, and from c. 3:50-4:30 pm I saw 4 Common Terns (certainly not like the Arctics I saw at Upton Warren) and 3 Swallows at the lakes.
Back at home I saw "Arctic Tern, Earlswood Lakes" plotted on the BirdGuides BirdMap, and saw that the bird(s) were seen at 5:05 pm, so crazily (I was a bit tired) I cycled back to the lakes hoping to add the species to my Earlswood list. I got there just after 7 pm to see what I thought were 2 Common Terns, though they never rested on the buoys near the causeway and the lighting wasn't good.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. Thanks to John, I managed 13 lifers (!) at Upton Warren, which were Gadwalls, Shelducks, Avocets, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plovers, Dunlins, Redshanks, Snipes, Yellow Wagtails, Sedge Warbler(s), Cetti's Warblers, 3 definite Arctic Terns and an adult Little Gull. What a place!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

16th April 2009

From roughly 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm, had 3 Common Terns (2 when I first arrived), 60+ Swallows, 5+ House Martins and 4 Sand Martins at the lakes.
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

15th April 2009

The blog is a year old today!
I walked to Earlswood during the early morning. Had 6 Linnets at the Hungry Horse. At the lakes, the weather made things difficult - I had to deal with thunder, lightning and heavy rain, and later on cold, strong winds - but at least there weren't many people around. At Windmill Pool, there was a Common Tern on one of the buoys, 2 Grey Wagtails, a pipit which I believe was a Meadow Pipit flew over the water a few times, and along the south side I saw presumably the same Common Whitethroat as yesterday singing; there was also a limbing Fox in a horse pasture along the western side. At the scrubland south of Windmill Pool, observed 2 Reed Buntings, 2 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs (a third was along Windmill Pool's south side as usual). Saw my first female Blackcap of the year around Terry's Pool. Fairly good numbers of hirundines were over the lakes, including 20+ Swallows, 5+ House Martins and 1 Sand Martin (kept checking for a Red-rumped Swallow but didn't see one). Took the footpath that goes very roughly parallel with Norton Lane through Rumbush Farm, and saw 2 singing Skylarks and a male Common Pheasant, but there was no sign of a certain species reported in that area recently that I really wanted to see, or at least hear...

Addendum for 11th April 2009
...Midlands Birder reports on his blog that he saw 4 Red-legged Partridges in a field along Norton Lane in that area. Very nice!!! I know of only one other record of this species at Earlswood in recent years, so I guess this isn't a common bird there.

M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

14th April 2009

During the morning, B90 had a Common Whitethroat just by the small pumping station(?) next to the Spring Brook to the south of Windmill Pool (SP112734), singing in one of the shrubs with white blossom, along with 5 Long-tailed Tits; also, several Nuthatches in New Fallings Coppice and the west end of Terry's Pool, and several groups of Swallows and House Martins over Engine Pool and Windmill Pool, with a Swallow perched on telegraph cables by the Wood Lane car park.
During the early afternoon, I managed to relocate the Common Whitethroat at the same area and it was still there at c. 2:35 pm when I left, but there was little of note at the lakes. I did meet a couple who said they read this blog - nice to meet you both.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. A Red-rumped Swallow was reported at Upper Bittell Reservoir today, but there was no sign of it when I was there during the late afternoon. Still, might be worth checking Earlswood Lakes tomorrow as one was seen there for two days in 2004!

Monday, 13 April 2009

13th April 2009

Should've known better than to go to Earlswood Lakes during a sunny bank holiday, but nevertheless I went during the late afternoon to find the lakes cramped full of people. Took me ages to get from the engine house to the causeway overlooking Windmill Pool because of all the people on foot and fishing, and a car which after racing along Engine Pool's northeast side had to reverse slowly and carefully back because 3 or 4 other cars had already come the other way. Only a few ducks and gulls were visible from the causeway, and there was nothing of note at Terry's Pool visible from near the park entrance either. Wasn't gonna waste hours of my time pushing my bike round the lakes, letting rude people pass, avoiding dog poo, witnessing people doing things they shouldn't, etc just for probably one or two warblers or hirundines, so concentrated my efforts at the quieter areas. At the scrubland south of Windmill Pool, saw 2+ Lesser Redpolls and 1 flyover Swallow, and heard 2 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs (a third was still along Windmill Pool's south side). At the sewage treatment works, saw 2 Grey Wagtails on the filter beds. Returned to the lakes later on to find much less people about, but still nothing of interest apart from a Swallow at around 6:45 pm.
Back at home, saw a Rook flying quite high over my village - my first definite sighting of this species from my house.
M.P. Griffiths

P.S. the female duck that I thought was a hybrid appears to be a Mallard with a very strong facial pattern. Thanks to the guys on BirdForum who ID'ed her for me. See I still think she's the prettiest female Anas duck I've ever seen.

12th April 2009 [MPG]

Cycled to Earlswood during the late afternoon, watching mainly from the causeway for about 50 minutes before I left. Saw a Common Tern and a female Siskin at Windmill Pool, and 2 Swallows over Engine Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

12th April 2009

On Sunday morning I visited New Fallings Coppice, Clowes Wood and the lakes.

In Clowes Wood, I concentrated on the path that runs adjacent to the railway line. The best birds were blackcap, chiffchaff, and a flock of what I believe were siskins and lesser redpoll, though identification was difficult as I was looking high up in the canopy and the birds were silhouetted against the sky. The calls I heard were consistent with lesser redpoll, but I am fairly confident I spotted at least one or two male siskins amongst them.

New Fallings Coppice held nothing better than a couple of great spotted woodpeckers.

On reaching Terry's Pool, I walked left towards the metal bridge. A few hirundines were seen, but although I suspected they were swallows, I never positively clinched identification. Another blackcap was heard along the path.

After crossing the metal bridge, I heard the familiar song of a willow warbler. I tracked it down to a tree just a few yards away.

Walking down the southern edge of Engine Pool, I reckon there were another three or four blackcaps, all in good voice.

Instead of walking around Windmill Pool as I usually do, I decided to scan from the causeway instead. No common tern were seen and there was nothing else out of the ordinary on offer. I had a good look for grey wagtails and common sandpiper without success.

The highlight was an oystercatcher that flew east over Engine Pool and Windmill Pool at 9:40am - the first one that I recall seeing at the lakes.

On the way home, the area around the Hungry Horse was very productive. Three linnets were seen, along with three lapwings, several stock dove and a few swallows. A skylark rose out of a field a bit further down Norton Lane.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

11th April 2009

John Yardley had 1 Common Tern and 2 Common Sandpipers at Windmill Pool during the afternoon.
I too was there during the afternoon, and was fortunate enough to see the tern and sandpipers at that pool as well. The possible Garganey x Mallard hybrid was still at Windmill Pool, favouring the northwest side (alongside the causeway) like yesterday. I shall try to get her identified on BirdForum tomorrow. I also saw 2 Swallows, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 male Blackcaps over and around the lakes. Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard, but I didn't count them.
Arctic Terns have been seen elsewhere in Warwickshire today, so could well be seen at Earlswood as they seem to be an annual or almost-annual occurrence at the lakes in recent years.
M.P. Griffiths

Friday, 10 April 2009

10th April 2009

Cycled to Earlswood during the early morning, and had a number of good sightings but got rather wet because it rained (as forecast). At Windmill Pool, saw 2 Common Terns, 3 Greylag Geese and a female duck that could be a Garganey x Mallard hybrid. Also observed over and around the lakes were 5 Swallows, 5 Sand Martins, 2 House Martins, 8 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 5 vocal Jays, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Reed Buntings.

Then I visited nearby Dickens Heath, where I had a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and a Reed Bunting at the ponds, and a Green Woodpecker and another Chiffchaff at the nature reserve.

Returned to Earlswood during the late afternoon to get some decent pics of the possible hybrid duck and got this video:

The 2 Common Terns were still present and active:

M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

8th April 2009

During the afternoon, counted 7 Herring Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 Black-headed Gulls at the lakes. At Terry's Pool, saw 4 Swallows flying overhead and heard a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap around the edges. I saw a second singing Blackcap at Engine Pool along the north side.
There were plenty of rude people around the lakes, but fortunately I did meet two people who were pleasant to talk to.
M.P. Griffiths

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

7th April 2009

Once again, passerines were about the only notable birds present at the lakes during the afternoon. At Terry's Pool, heard 2 Willow Warblers (along the northernmost side), 2 Chiffchaffs and a Coal Tit, and saw 4 Swallows overhead. There was a third Chiffchaff singing from the southern side of Windmill Pool. Met Jim Winsper (who did an interesting talk about bird populations last month which I attended) who was with another birder and a boy, and whilst with him he pointed out a House Martin over Engine/Terry's Pools. I also saw 1 Kestrel, 8 Linnets and 15 Stock Doves away from the lakes. Visited the sewage treatment works, but there was very little there and nothing of note.
There was no sign of the Wren in-between Engine Pool and Terry's Pool - if anyone passes that spot please keep a look out (it was making sounds of distress when I found it dangling yesterday).
M.P. Griffiths

Monday, 6 April 2009

6th April 2009

During the afternoon, heard/saw 2 Willow Warblers (finally!) along the southern sides of Terry's Pool. Also at the lakes were 6+ Swallows, 2 Sand Martins and 2 singing Chiffchaffs. Birds seen away from the lakes included 10+ Fieldfares (over Hungry Horse field), 6 Linnets, 1 Kestrel, 3 Great Spotted Woddpeckers, 3 male Common Pheasants (one of which was in a garden!) and 3 Stock Doves.
Along the strip of land in-between Terry's Pool and Engine Pool, I found a Wren with fishing line down its throat dangling from a twig. I managed to free it from the twig and was thinking what to do next (didn't have the RSPCA's telephone number) and then the Wren managed to escape from my hand. Sadly I couldn't find the Wren again and left feeling really bad that I hadn't managed to keep hold of it - it'll probably get stuck to a twig again and die. Damn fishermen!!!
M.P. Griffiths

Sunday, 5 April 2009

5th April 2009

B90 had a quick walk round Engine Pool at around 8:45 am and had a Willow Warbler singing in the second garden east of the Wood Lane allotments, as well as a Swallow over the Hungry Horse fields.
John Yardley went during the afternoon and, although human disturbance was high, managed 3 Chiffchaffs, 5 Nuthatches and 2 Treecreepers; and also a possible Willow Warbler (high up, not singing) along the southern side of Windmill Pool by the benches.
A Common Tern was apparently seen elsewhere in Warwickshire today, so this species could well be the next migrant to be seen at Earlswood.
M.P. Griffiths

Saturday, 4 April 2009

4th April 2009

A visit during the late afternoon and evening produced 8 Swallows and 3 Sand Martins over (mainly) Terry's Pool, and a Kestrel and 2 Mistle Thrushes along Wood Lane. I also counted 8+ bats over Engine Pool and Windmill Pool.
M.P Griffiths

Friday, 3 April 2009

3rd April 2009

Cycled to the lakes during the afternoon, but 2 Greylag Geese, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, as well as a Peacock butterfly (my first for the year), all at Terry's Pool were the only notable sightings.
Jonathan Yardley visited Earlswood during the evening and saw a Swallow on wire by The Lakes train station, 1 Willow Warbler and 2 Chiffchaffs around Terry's Pool together with 2 Nuthatches; and also had a really close view of a Grass Snake swimming.
The Willow Warbler seems to be the first for Earlswood this year, and it's interesting that the arrival date last year was exactly the same as this year. The Grass Snake sighting appears to be very unusual, as it's currently the only definite record of a reptile at Earlswood that I've come across (though I seem to remember being shown a snake skin that had been found there during the early 1990s when I was an infant).
I wouldn't like to say what the next migrant bird species will most likely be. As I more-or-less said earlier, Osprey is possible. White Wagtail have also occurred on a number of occasions in recent years, mainly in April, the most recent being 08/04/2008. A Sedge Warbler was reported at nearby Cheswick Green last month on the 29th, but this species isn't often reported at Earlswood. Otherwise, two species that are very likely to occur at the lakes within the next few weeks are Common Tern and Common Sandpiper.
M.P. Griffiths

Thursday, 2 April 2009

2nd April 2009

After an unsuccessful attempt to see some Waxwings reported over Solihull, decided to pop over to the lakes during the evening but a Tawny Owl heard calling nearby was the only notable bird around. I also saw my first bats (2 or 3) of the year over Engine Pool.
M.P. Griffiths

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

1st April 2009

Walked to Earlswood during the early morning, and stayed there for about 7 hours apparently! No hirundines were seen, but noted 6 Chiffchaffs, 1 male Blackcap (this time singing along the northern side of Engine Pool near the car park), 1 Kingfisher, 2 Greylag Geese and 4 Common Pheasants during the expedition. My best sighting was a female Pochard at Engine Pool; she moved to Windmill Pool as human presence increased.
Hopefully an Osprey will put in an appearance during the next 2 weeks or so, because in recent years single birds have been reported on 02/04/2001, 11/04/2003 and 08/04/2008 (BirdGuides).
M.P. Griffiths