30 June 2007

Black-throated Diver at Draycote

June and July can be quiet months for birdwatching, the spring frenzy of inward migration, territory claiming and breeding now over, and the return journeys yet to start.

Many birders handle this enforced rest period by turning to other nature-related hobbies - seeking out flowers, dragonflies, butterflies and moths. Others use the opportunity to build up a much needed store of brownie points at home (a bit of DIY usually goes a long way). But whatever else they may be doing, all birdwatchers keep their eyes and ears peeled in case of unexpected action.

Yesterday was a case in point, as an email alert went out to a Black-throated Diver at Draycote Reservoir. This is an extremely unusual sighting - you don't get many BT Divers at Draycote full stop (I've never seen one anywhere, let alone on my doorstep like this) - and certainly not in the summer months. The whys and wherefores will be better explained by better birders than me -my only mission was to get down there at the crack of dawn and find it!

Pouring down of course, but what the hell - I needed the fresh air and a five mile walk anyway. I set off clockwise, aiming for the point where it had been seen last night. Suffice it to say that I had nearly completed the full circuit by the time I found it, swimming away from Toft Bay towards the Valve Tower. I was able to get good views of it for a few minutes before it drifted into the murky grey - I was expecting an adult bird in splendid plumage, but as so often I was wrong - this was effectively a winter plumaged bird. As always, Warwickshire bird photographer Steve Seal had got straight there on hearing yesterday's news, and got the great photos that are attached here - thanks again Steve.

Despite the persistent rain, it was nice to be out birding again. Other highlights of the morning included: great views of not one by seven Green Woodpeckers, all feeding on the ground around the reservoir; three Linnets, a bird I don't see often these days; Swifts swooping around me at head height, confirming just how big and chunky they actually are; and Common Terns swooping low over the water, a perennial favourite.

10 June 2007

Sunday morning at Leam Valley

Hurrah - my endless cycle of professional examinations came to an end on Friday (unless I have to retake something, in which case scrap the 'hurrah' bit).

So now, with only my job and a small child at home to keep me busy, I might get a few more birding trips in.

This morning was my first trip to Leam Valley in a while, nice enough but always likely to be fairly quiet in June (the best birding times around here are typically March to May and September to November - when migrants are arriving, leaving or passing through, and all birds are generally calling, nesting, getting ready for winter or generally doing interesting things).

A few favourites were on show, like a Buzzard, a Kingfisher, a pair of Bullfinch and a Green Woodpecker. A Reed Warbler on the scrape was the first for me on the reserve itself (normally I find them further along the river), and I discovered from a helpful dog walker that two cygnets fledged from the Mute Swan's nest two-and-a-half weeks ago. Good luck to them.

9 June 2007

Swifts over Radford Semele

I've been a bit worried of late about the relatively low numbers of Swifts and House Martins in the skies over Radford Semele.

Possibly I was a little early in expecting them. Certainly in the last couple of weeks, things seem to be picking up - on Friday night there were perhaps a dozen Swifts screaming overhead at 9pm. Still not as many House Martins as I would expect, but perhaps the numbers will improve as the young fledge.

(Mind you, based on the two pairs I saw still building nests at nearby Charlecote House this weekend, there's some way to go before any young appear. Certainly no problems about numbers mind - there were scores of Swallows and House Martins across the whole estate.)