27 January 2007

If at first...

It didn't look so good to start with at Leam Valley this morning.

A few of the usuals were about - the finches, some smallish tit flocks, a few Carrion Crows and Rooks etc - but overall I was really struggling for birds. The scrape just about summed things up - full to the brim with water, totally devoid of anything avian.

But I persevered - after all, opportunities to go birding for more than a ten-minute stroll are few and far between at the moment. And that perseverance paid off as one by one, more species were added to the morning's list.

As I headed out of the reserve and towards Offchurch Bury, I had seen just 22 species, a paltry haul (I would normally aim for 30 as a bare minimum at any time of year). But things speeded up when I got to the weir at Offchurch Bury. In among 300+ Black-headed Gulls there were nine Common Gulls. In the field with them were about 30 Canada Geese, a Pheasant, seven Mallards and and two Coots.

Overhead a Buzzard soared, and a flock of 45 Redwings scuttled by. A loud squawk heralded a passing visit from a Grey Heron and then a Cormorant, a real favourite of mine, parked itself on a tree over the weir for five minutes. So I was over 30 species before I knew it.

Flushed with success I pressed on with the walk to Offchurch. Adding a small Fieldfare flock, a Kestrel, a Mistle Thrush and a few Chaffinches and House Sparrows to my list as I went, it turned out to be a perfectly pleasant morning on the patch.

21 January 2007

Two different places?

I rarely go birding in the same place two days running (come to think of it, at the moment I rarely go birding two days running, but that's a different story).

Today, again short of spare time, I nipped out for a second successive stroll around the Radford Seleme fields - and it could almost have been a different place.

Most notably at the top of the hill, there were no Ravens. Watching them tumbling and dancing in the high winds yesterday, I wondered if this was why they had chosen this exposed spot. Perhaps I was right - today, with no wind to play in, they had gone.

In their place came two Buzzards roving across the fields and the edge of the village, mobbed by the Carrion Crow and Jackdaws as they went.

The huge Fieldfare flock of yesterday had also moved on, leaving just a solitary bird near the bottom of the hill. And where yesterday I saw a few distant Yellowhammers, today I was surrounded by them. Various birds which I only heard yesterday came out on show today as well - several Song Thrushes, Pheasants, Dunnocks and a Wren.

All in all, for a total of three hours birding, it has been a fabulous two days with an unforgettable patch first and huge variation - showing again why regular patch work is so important.

20 January 2007

Ravens - a new bird in town

I published my patch 'wish list' a little while ago, and in response a birder from Kenilworth wrote to tell me that he had seen double-figure counts of Ravens in recent months - surely they were on their way to me.

And how right he was. I crept out for an hour-long birding walk around Radford Semele this morning before work (yeah, still too much of that right now) and was having a fantastic time (all the regulars, including great views of a Green Woodpecker and some all-too-rare Linnets) when I suddenly saw a large black bird among the Crows and Jackdaws.

At first I thought it was a dark Buzzard, but no - it was black, with a long, heavy bill and a diamond-shaped tail - this was my first patch Raven! Within moments it had been joined by three, four, five more and soon I was watching these amazing aviators twisting, turning and playing, their feet hanging low below them, in the strong westerley winds towards the top of Crown Hill.

It was wonderful to watch, and became more amazing as more and more Ravens turned up. In the end I estimated 18, but that has to be plus or minus 5 or 6 - they were so mobile that it was impossible to be 100% sure of the number.

7 January 2007

Another go for the Great Skua

Thought I'd make a quick dash for better views of the Great Skua at Draycote today. Fat chance.

I finally found it (thanks Dave and Richard), but only a bit closer than last time. Apparently it's now on its last legs, so that's probably it for me. A slightly bigger blob than last time, but a blob nevertheless. Back to 'proper' patch birding for me from now on, and no more of this twitching nonsense!