8 September 2010

Back at birding - migrants and a mega

Just as I thought I was going to miss the whole of Warwickshire's autumn migration, I was finally able to find an excuse for a day off and a trip to some of the best local spots.

I set off in a pretty jolly mood, but my hopes were no longer high as I stood high on Napton-on-the-Hill just before 7am. The graveyard was as quiet as a... well, a graveyard I suppose. After a bit of scouring I managed to find a few quietly calling chiffchaffs and a single spotted flycatcher skulking deep in the hedges, but where was the migration hotspot I had been reading about lately?

More than a little disappointed, I headed to Draycote Reservoir to hunt for some of the most recent sightings, notably yesterday's red-necked phalarope. Starting from Hensborough Bank I found both ringed and little ringed plover, a few freshly arrived wigeon, a snipe which flew fast and low past me, a great spotted woodpecker which did likewise, and the usual assortment of wildfowl (including a couple of pochard).

Turning my attention to the open water, I scoured in vain for the phalarope, failing to locate it but picking up the pretty considerable consolation of two little gulls and three black terns as I went. Moving on to Tofts I found up to a dozen juvenile yellow wagtails and a wheatear on Farborough Bank. Ayoung tern moving between Toft and Farborough was identified as a little tern, although I'm afraid juvenile terns are generally beyond my humble powers of identification.

Although I wasn't able to locate the phalarope, I did bump into a man who could - the original finder, Richard Mays. And, given a little time and a stroll back to Hensborough, he repeated the trick, finding this tiny later wader flitting and bobbing out in the deep water. Fantastic - a definite county tick and only my second red-necked ever.

After a refreshing (i.e. massive) breakfast at the Long Itch Diner, I gave Napton-on-the-Hill one last go. And what a difference a couple of hours had made. The churchyard had come alive: there were at least a dozen young spotted flycatchers around, young chiffchaffs and willow warblers hanging from every tree (the latter so brightly yellow that I thought for a moment I'd hit on a flock of a dozen wood warblers!), swallows and house martins swooping all around, a mistle thrush watching on from a nearby telegraph wire, and even a tawny owl calling in the middle of the day.

It was a real migration marvel; a lovely end to the morning and a reminder of what I had been missing.

Bird of the day: Red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), a delicate little wader which, unlike most waders, spends much of its time bobbing on the water. It has a notably frantic, twitching manner, spending all of its time pecking, preening or making short nervous flights hither and thither.

No comments: