Wednesday, 31 December 2008

December 31st 2008

Minus 4 overnight and freezing fog – not the best of conditions but an early visit to Addison Rd / May Lane junction was productive with 12 Waxwing in trees by Bernhard Court before flying off north.
By the time I arrived at Draycote Water the freezing fog had hardly shifted and was very slow to clear throughout the day with temperature struggling to get above freezing.
Coal Tit and 5 Mistle Thrush in toft shallows and adult winter Med Gull in toft bay with many Black-headed Gulls that were slow to leave the roost. Eight Snipe were frozen out from the shoreline in toft and Red-necked Grebe, male Smew, 2 Great-northern Divers, streaky the adult winter Yellow-legged Gull and 2 Shags were along farborough bank. Popped in to café to say my farewells to the staff – lost there jobs as the café is closing today – a mobile café will be on site at weekends till another firm bids for the tender – the seating area and shop is open to public as normal. Not a good start for the year for um. Country Park was quiet and the feeders in the ranger’s yard were empty though a Willow Tit was seen with 23 Long-tailed Tits and a Grey Wagtail nearby. Have put a request to ST to fill them for tomorrow.
The Red-throated Diver was out in centre and could just be seen in the gloom otherwise it was quiet till a very impressive flock of Shoveler arrived – 148 counted and a male Pintail off grays barn along with 30, Pochard, 80 Wigeon and 100 Teal. At least 40 Siskin and 2 Lesser Redpoll were feeding in alders in toft shallows, 9 Golden Plover flew over and then – bingo – 5 Waxwing flew over heading for half way lane so gave chase. (my 3rd Record for the pond). Searched from Dunchurch village to the A45/M45 roundabout but cleared off pretty quickly - to many men from the press (M45 closed due to incident) no sign of any and was just turning in to Windmill Lane, Dunchurch when one flew over heading back towards Draycote.
Marks father in law had a Red Kite yesterday over the straight mile (B4453). That’s it – another year – a few of us are year listing tomorrow, meeting up at Draycote Water tomorrow then having breakfast at the Little Chef (approx 1000-1030) on the A45 near Dunchurch. If you are going to pond don’t leave it to late – its normal for Joe public to come in big numbers on new years day so parking becomes limited. Birders have been turned away in the past. Weather could be just as bad as today so dress up warm. Finally i hope you have enjoyed the read and many thanks to those who have been supportive over the last year especially buddy Dave – we have shared some crackers this year mate so here’s hoping.


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

December 30th 2008

I was out with Dave this morning checking on sites for New Years day visiting the valley, Draycote Water, Lawford Heath and Addison Rd, Rugby. The afternoon was spent road testing Trog ending up at Draycote Water.
Luckily we had none of the very low temperatures and freezing fog that were forecasted though it was still cold with a fresh easterly wind. No Barn Owls seen till we arrived at Calcutt where we managed 2 just after dawn and we had a very interesting chat with the local farmer who keeps an eye on them. Our local council in there wisdom have demolished the nearby bridge they were roosting in and he reckons that this has reduced sightings by 50% this year. Certainly more difficult than ever and the wet summer reducing vole numbers has not helped. He saw a Red Kite here last week and has seen the odd Stonechat in the plantation. We also saw Raven and Green Woodpecker.
Surprisingly Draycote Water was void of birders as we watched 3 Great-northern Divers, Red-necked Grebe and male Smew from farborough bank before walking to valve tower. The Red-throated Diver was showing well near the inlet but became more difficult appearing near the valve tower, hensborough bank and out in the center. It’s feeding well and can spend well over a minute underwater resurfacing miles from its original position.

Red-throated Diver
The 4th Great-northern Diver was by the valve tower and off inlet we had 2 Shoveler and amongst the finch flock we had a Linnet and Corn Bunting.
Lawford Heath had 2 Buzzards, Great-spotted Woodpecker and 8 Yellowhammers but little else except for a Buzzard following the plough and another search around Addison Rd, Rugby failed to find any Waxwing.
After dinner went out to road tested Trog and searched the Addison Rd / May Lane junction with no luck and was cycling up Hillfield Rd towards Plexfield Rd when a flock of 8 flew over heading north. Dave had 5-10 in trees back of Bernards Court as he drove past while out shopping.
The roost at Draycote was a lot more productive than of late with 3 Yellow-legged Gulls and first winter Med Gull.
"Blue Lobster" informs me of a Ring-necked Parakeet in valley at Willoughby recently. See comments 28th Dec.
Dave found this in Bloom's Garden Center yesterday

Mottled Umber


Monday, 29 December 2008

December 29th 2008

Out buying a new bike? – The steed finally gave out – even with no saddle, brakes, handlebars and wheels she did me proud. The latest speed machine (Trog) has go faster stripes - unfortunately they still don’t make bikes with heated saddles. On the way back home we looked around the Addison Rd / May Lane area and the local estates but no luck on the Waxwing flock which had increased to eight yesterday though elusive.
Well its two days to the end of what’s been a brilliant patch year and already planning the next, won’t be doing anything different on the patch – just continue plodding away but will try to do more paintings and make more visits to Eldernell, Cambridgeshire. My wish list for 2009 is Red-necked Phalarope and American Wigeon for the pond and be pretty chuffed with either Stone Curlew or Dotterel for the valley. Mind you I wouldn’t mind a few claw backs – Surf Scoter, American Golden Plover and Collared Pratincole at the pond all have a story attached as to why they are on my friends list and not mine.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

December 28th 2008

Although home late I was out early. Down to minus 2 overnight with a north easterly wind making it even colder. Entered valley off the A45 via the minor road to Woolscott and watched two Barn Owls intent on hunting so they ignored me and passed just feet away. Another Barn Owl was hunting the county lane from Woolscott to Sawbridge and two more were back of the village before I continued to Wolfhamcote where my sixth of the morning crossed the canal heading towards Flecknoe.
With no chance of a cooked breakfast today a few nips from the hip flask while I took a time out at Wolfhamcote before returning to Sawbridge checking the hedgerows with plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing along with 5 Goldcrests.
Along the Flecknoe Rd there were a few Yellowhammers and Raven near Fox Covet and male Sparrowhawk and two Buzzards at Grandborough Fields Farm. Distant views of Draycote Water showed that it was getting busy so decide to stay in the valley and worked Hill Rd before taking the footpath to the fishing lagoons. Tree Sparrow 4 in Willoughby, Water Rail on the lagoons along with 8 Teal and 20 Golden Plover near Beck Hill was my reward until coming back into Grandborough where 2 Waxwing were perched on wires and trees at the junction of Hill and Grandborough Fields Rd before flying towards the church – yippee a new bird for me in the valley.

Arranged with Dave to meet John and the bumbling bears to do the roost and while waiting for them we had a Great-northern Diver some distance out. (they had Peregrine over country park) Another Great-northern Diver was close in rainbow corner and Dave Hall’s shout of Red-throated Diver was ignored until I realized he was serious and it was even closer so we had stunning views. A first winter, it moved to hensborough bank for awhile then later it was seen in the middle of the roost and someway out. This is my 18th record for Draycote involving 22 individuals and has the privilege of being my 177th bird of the year setting a new draycote record for me and also my 188th bird for the patch. Checking my records only 2 of the 18 have been long stayers so fingers crossed we can keep it till the New Year. What a beauty (Dave not the bird).

Red-throated Diver by john Judge
The hybrid Peregrine with jesses flew past hensborough bank but on the minus side the six of us failed to find anything apart from a single Yellow-legged Gull in the roost and once cold set in and the talk got on to Pete’s superb cooking (makes mince pies you would kill for)it was time to call it a day.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

December 27th 2008

A long overnight journey for a day out in Cornwall started with a Barn Owl hunting the motorway verge north of the M4/M5 junction and another flew across the A30 on Bodmin Moor. The key bird we were going for was the first winter Snowy Owl which was on the moor below Sperris Quoit south of the coastal B3306 three miles south west of St Ives and after a short walk it was located on its regular fence post, a magnificent beastie, showing well. Also in the area were Stonechat, Raven, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Short-eared Owl and female Merlin. After breakfast in Penzance we searched nearby Jubilee Pool for Purple Sandpipers and found 17 and a first winter Iceland Gull off shore heading for Newlyn while a search of the sea at sandy Cove produced both Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe. No sign of last weeks Pacific Diver in St Ives Bay, just 3 Great-northern Divers or the Bittern at Long Rocks pool so moved on to Helston Boating Lake to see the first winter Ring-billed Gull and found two present with over wintering Yellow-browed Warbler nearby. Ended a good day adding Chough to the day list. Apparently we had another Barn Owl on the way home but I was fast asleep – what a surprise.


Friday, 26 December 2008

December 26th 2008

A Barn Owl between Tollgate and Manor Farm as we entered the valley at 06:45 was the only bird of note in what turned out to be a very poor visit.
Draycote Water faired a little better with 2 Great-northern Diver, Shag, Red-necked Grebe and male Smew off farborough bank but nothing new has arrived for awhile now. A female Merlin was seen on Lawford Heath on the way to Brandon Marsh which unfortunately was dead apart from 3 Coal Tit and female Goldeneye.
Decided to visit the May Lane/Addison Rd junction for yesterdays Waxwing but no sign and with busy dinner time traffic I was certain we had no chance until I spotted 5 resting in tree on the opposite side of the road to where they are feeding. Quick phone calls soon had Mark, Mason, pa Phillips, John, April and Bob present but we then had to go as dinner was ready.

Waxwing by John Judge

Waxwing by Bob Hazell
Five is my second highest count in the county.


Thursday, 25 December 2008

December 25th 2008

Draycote Water was closed today to cars with access only via route 41 only so I had the reservoir almost to myself apart from a few mince pies running round.
There were 2 Kingfisher in toft shallows along with 2 Lesser Redpoll and 4 Siskin. Red-necked Grebe, male Smew and 3 Great-northern Divers off farborough bank. The feeders in the rangers yard had Coal and Willow Tit plus 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker while the country park had 2 Green Woodpecker and Treecreeper. First winter Shag was in front of the sailing club, Common Sandpiper windsurfing area, 3 immature Ruddy Duck rainbow corner, 23 Goosander off inlet and the 4th Great-northern Diver by the valve tower. Little else till grays barn where 3 Goldcrest, 5 Siskin and 12 Long-tailed Tits and the female Pintail off shore.
Waxwing have finally arrived on my patch and managed to react quickly to the news of one near the junction of May Lane and Addison Rd Rugby just in time to avoid being late for my Christmas dinner. My 8th county record with the last in 2004.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

December 24th 2008

Out looking for owls down the Grandborough valley and rewarded with Barn Owl near Lodge farm on the A45 then two more at Sawbridge, and one still hunting at 0815am at Calcutt. Four from three sites was well worth the effort. Supporting birds included Little Owl at Sawbridge, Tawny Owl heard at Grandborough and Broadwell, Woodcock over Calcutt along with 5 Bullfinch and 2 Siskin. Napton Reservoir had 2 Kingfisher, Water Rail and female Goosander and Goldeneye amongst the 8 Gadwall, 10 Pochard while the entrance road had a Grey Wagtail and Lesser Redpoll with a Med Gull adult winter loafing around with a few Common Gull. Retracing my steps back to Broadwell there were 2 Ravens near Gibralter bridge and Great-spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper in Millbank spinney. Along Flecknoe Rd there were 4 Buzzards, 100 Lapwing and a single Tree Sparrow but at Grandborough Fields there’s not much left of the sheep carcass and the smell may have been responsible for attracting a distant Red Kite seen briefly over the sky line towards Grandborough village. 2 Ravens present.
By the time I arrived at Draycote I had missed the gang so I hope Santa gives you what you all want? – I know what I would like to give you? – bless.
Another poor roost – I seem to have lost me touch or the goodies have gone to the north of the county, 2 Yellow-legged Gull adults the best I could find plus the 4 Great-northern Divers, Common Sandpiper, male Smew, Red-necked Grebe, Shag, Snipe and Pintail female.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

December 23rd 2008

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with
good health and good birding.

It was another mild night with light drizzle. Did the roost with Mark and Mason but apart from adult Yellow-legged Gull failed to find anything interesting in the roost at Draycote Water though the huge amount of Common Gulls and 400 Greater Black-backed Gull present were impressive. Common Sandpiper feeding by the windsurfing area and 2 Great-northern Divers only birds of note.


Monday, 22 December 2008

December 22nd 2008

Another cloudy mild night with light drizzle early morning so took the opportunity to run a moth trap at Draycote Water overnight and managed 11 Winter Moth, 3 Mottled Umber and a December Moth. On the birding front all the usual suspects present with 4 Great-northern Diver, Common Sandpiper, 2 first winter Shag, Red-necked Grebe and male Smew while the supporting birds included Oystercatcher over calling, 27 Goosander mainly on the west side of reservoir, Kingfisher, 4 Green Woodpecker, Peregrine, Yellow-legged Gull (old streaky) and Lesser Redpoll. Mid afternoon and conscious that I need to make room for my forth coming Christmas blowout I walked to Ashlawn Cutting – nothing special just a few Fieldfare and Redwing 5 Bullfinch and Great-spotted Woodpecker and tons of dog crap.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

December 21st 2008

Another mild night with 4 Winter Moth’s in the garden trap. A wander round the valley with Dave produced 5 Raven and a Fox on the sheep carcass along with 18 Magpies while nearby a Buzzard, Kingfisher and another Fox but no sign of any owls.
Draycote was blustery with 3 Great-northern Divers off farborough bank along with the Red-necked grebe and another Great-northern off valve tower. Among the 500+ Black-headed Gulls in fields below farborough spit were a second winter and last nights first winter Med Gull that still has some juvenile plumage on head and mantle. The gulls were very jumpy and after meeting up with Kevin Grewcock and finding the male Smew off toft bank we were lucky enough to have a male Merlin go past. Lawford Heath had 2 Peregrine, 3 Buzzards, Tree Sparrow, 40 Skylark, 20 Yellowhammer, 120 Collared Dove and 500 Fieldfare near Rookery Hall.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

December 20th 2008

Very mild overnight so December Moth and 2 Winter Moth were not unexpected nor was the heavy rain so not worth going out till this afternoon. Invited to JJs for dinner so we did the roost at Draycote Water and managed to find 3 Med Gulls (2 adult winters and a first winter still retaining some juvenile plumage on head and mantle). The streaky headed adult Yellow-legged Gull which has been here on and off since the summer was on the fishing platform along with a very brown first winter Shag which from its plumage is different to the one hanging around the valve tower. Only other birds seen were Common Sandpiper, 2 Great-northern Divers and 18 female and 12 male Goosander. On the way to JJs there were many Winter Moths emerging so could be a good night for them.


Friday, 19 December 2008

December 19th 2008

You have a chance for a good day when you wake up and a Little Owl is sitting on your garden fence – magic. The morning was spent planning the last few birding days of the year working out which locations to check so we have some idea what to go for on 1st January and of course somewhere to have breakfast.

Smew by Bob Hazell - you can't get bored with this beauty
Ou this afternoon with Dave to Draycote Water and met up with Bob Hazel for a chat before we wandered out to farborough spit.Only 2 Great-northern Divers were seen off the fishing platform though Bob had seen four earlier and the Red-necked Grebe and male Smew were further along farborough bank. Off the spit many gulls were gathering for the roost early but nothing of note found and 3 Buzzards flew over. Not much in valley till we reached Grandborough Fields where we found a group of mixed corvids feeding on a dead sheep which included 5 Raven.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

December 18th 2008

Another cracking day and good to shared it with Dave.
Arrived at Nene Washes, Eldernell, Cambridgeshire as dawn broke and watched two Barn Owls hunting the drier fields in front of the car park before walking to check the fields holding water west of Lord’s Holt. Plenty of duck especially Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail and some of the 150+ Whooper Swan were very close before they left for there feeding grounds. After a cup of coffee we did the east side where there were more flooded fields which held some impressive numbers of duck and waders. Approximate count were Golden Plover 1000, Lapwing 3000, Ruff 40, Black-tailed Godwit 20, Dunlin 20, Berwick’s Swan 4, Teal 500, Wigeon 1000, Pintail 300 and many Shoveler, Mallard, and Gadwall. The nearby Decoy Wood had 2 Buzzard and 2 very smart Peregrines which remained perched for half an hour. Amongst all the duck and wader activity the 2 adult Cranes looked magical and showed very well before they moved to feed behind wood. These two could be the birds we saw in October at Welney that are wintering in the area. Also seen were female Marsh Harrier, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Siskin 12.
Now we were cooking on gas so with fingers crossed we went to Coveney where just south of the village we had a twenty minute wait for the Rough-legged Buzzard to show. At first it was distant seen perched in tree and on ground but eventually had some cracking flight views. New bird for Dave so he’s a happy bunny.
There were plenty of Whooper Swan in the fields between Coveney and Welney and after dinner at the Welney Wetland and Wildfowl Trust reserve we went for a walk. The main observatory and wing hides remain open to visitors, but all other footpaths and hides are closed due to increased water levels. The A1101 between Welney village and Suspension Bridge is closed. Access to the Welney Wetland Centre is always possible from the A10 at Littleport or Ten Mile Bank during times of flood. Duck and wader numbers were distant though one small group on raised grass held 3 Bean Geese but to see the reserve in this state is certainly impressive. Egyptian Goose in field behind centre and 500+ Golden Plover.

Mottled Umber by Bob Hazell
Good to see Bob has finally recovered from his illness and back in the field, he had a good day at Draycote Water seeing all the usual suspects and managed to relocate the Red-necked Grebe along farborough bank and Mottled Umber on wall of cafe.


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

December 17th 2008

A Cracking Day
Overnight rain cleared to a clear frosty morning with clear skies and good visibility for a change so checked on Draycote Water at first light then the Grandborough valley in the afternoon.
Toft shallows had 3 Siskin, Treecreeper and Kingfisher while Water Rail, 2 Snipe, Willow Tit and 3 Goldcrest were in gray’s barn and the male Smew was mobile off farborough spit.

Smew by Terry Southgate
Three Great-northern Divers were together off the fishing platform loafing on the surface plus Grey Wagtail and the windsurfing area had the long staying Common Sandpiper. Rainbow corner was very productive with a Peregrine, male Merlin with in minutes of each other and a roving flock of 26 Siskin and the leam valley from rainbow produced 2 Buzzards, 200+ Fieldfare, 3 Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 17 Pheasants and Corn Bunting which flew over calling heading towards the country park. The Goosander flock by the inlet included 17 female and 8 males along with Kingfisher, 2 female Shoveler and female Ruddy duck and the 4th Great-northern Diver was by the valve tower. Biggen bay had male Blackcap, Treecreeper and another 2 female Shoveler. Also seen were Green Woodpecker 4, Bullfinch 9, Lesser Redpoll 2 and Sparrowhawk.
Back out again early afternoon and spotted adult Glaucous Gull flying over the Rugby Rd, Dunchurch possibly heading for Draycote just a couple of minutes after leaving home so perfect timing.
Walked the waterlogged footpath between Dunchurch and Grandborough in the afternoon, heavy going but sure worth it with a Short-eared Owl flushed from a stubble field east of Bunkers Hill wood along with 4 Snipe and a nearby Willow Tit and male Stonechat. Nearing Grandborough village there were plenty of winter thrushes with one field alone having over a 600 Fieldfare. Also seen were 4 Tree Sparrow amongst a party of 30+ Yellowhammers and 67 Golden Plover. Decided to stay late and do some “trunking” in Bunkers Hill wood and rewarded with a hunting Barn Owl and perched Tawny Owl while moths found were Winter Moth 5, Chestnut, and Mottled Umber.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

December 16th 2008

Thick fog this morning so gave Draycote Water a miss and carried on to Draycote village and worked the national Cycle Route 41 to Birdingbury Bridge (dis-used railway line) and the footpath from Birdingbury Bridge to Manor Farm, Draycote and back hoping for the shrike. The cycle route had 14 Bullfinch, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Green Woodpecker and 4 Goldcrest while the footpath had hundreds of Fieldfare, 30+ Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, 3 Jay, Red-legged Partridge and 3 Buzzards. Arriving back at Birdingbury Bridge a Little Owl was feeding on the ground. The Journey home via Birdingbury, Leamington Hastings, Hill, Kites Hardwick and Dunchurch was pretty quiet with the area still misty and very few highlights - apart from some dodgy drivers, best would be the Marsh Tit at Birdingbury and 3 Raven near Kites hardwick.


Monday, 15 December 2008

December 15th 2008

JJ rang early telling me Kevin G had found a male Smew off farborough bank –unfortunately I had Christmas shopping to complete so it had to wait until later in the day. Well done Kevin though it will mean the kodak fiddlers will be back, very few of them have been around since the red-necked went walk about. Terry kept me informed of its whereabouts as did Colin and Sara who had spent some time searching for the shrike – no luck but they did find a male Stonechat between Home Farm, Bourton and the Birdingbury Bridge plus 40 Wigeon grazing by the side of the River Leam.
Once Sainsbury’s had been ticked off the list it was down to the pond early afternoon with a Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker and 12 Siskin in toft shallows, two female Ruddy Duck and a Kingfisher in toft bay, Shelduck asleep in grays barn and 14 Golden Plover over. The resplendent male Smew seen along with 4 Great-northern Divers, Common Sandpiper and the first winter Shag. Scope views of Corn Bunting behind the inlet and the roost held Glaucous Gull first winter, Yellow-legged Gull 2 adults and one first winter and adult winter Med Gull. Curlew flew over late and Little Owl calling as I passed biggen.


Sunday, 14 December 2008

December 14th 2008

Out with Dave working the valley and yesterday’s rain was heavier than we realized with many areas flooded but found a way through and rewarded with a perched Barn Owl south of Sawbridge while still dark and another flew pass by Grandborough Fields Farm after first light. Also 2 Tawny Owls heard and 2 Buzzard seen.
Arrived at Calcutt to late for any owls so on to Napton Reservoir finding Water Rail, 2 Kingfisher, 11 Gadwall, 25 Teal, 20 Pochard and many Fieldfare in the adjacent fields.
Draycote Water had 3 Great-northern Divers by the fishing pontoons and one by valve tower with 250 Great-crested Grebe dotted around the reservoir but no trace of the red-necked. With so much flooding around duck numbers have increased with well over 150 Wigeon 80 Teal present and only other bird of note were 35 Golden Plover.
After breakfast Brandon Marsh was underwater so we only managed a short walk but still managed 2 Water Rail, 6 Snipe, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk and nice group of 60+ Siskin near the visitor centre.
Lawford Heath was a hive of activity with 60+ Skylark, 150 Collard Dove and 100 finches by Rookery Hall with many corvids, 400 Fieldfare, 100 Redwing, a few Meadow Pipits, 3 Buzzards and 17 Long-tailed Tit nearby.
Back out again after dinner for the roost at Draycote Water with slightly better light conditions than of late and managed the first winter Glaucous Gull and a first winter Yellow-legged Gull off dunn’s bay plus male Merlin hunting the adjacent golf course and biggen bay shoreline. Also seen were Yellowhammer 12, Jay, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Common Sandpiper and Snipe.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

December 13th 2008

Strong winds and heavy rain overnight continued for most of the morning easing off slightly by mid-day but still a wet, dreary day. The milder temperatures helped to catch only my second moth since November 18th with a Winter Moth in the trap last night following a Scarce Umber which was trapped on the 10th.


Friday, 12 December 2008

December 12th 2008

Out early looking for the shrike, working the theory there is more chance of it being in the area between villages of Draycote and Birdingbury than off draycote bank where everyone seems to be twiddling there toes, Unfortunately the area has very few footpaths with many of the fields having tall hedgerows so not easy to work but ideal for the shrike – less disturbance.
Extremely cold -2 with a sleet shower and after three hours by which time it was raining I only had a probable brief sighting some distance away perched before it dropped down north east of draycote hill, Birdingbury so I gave up for the comforts of central heating and food. Birds seen included Barn Owl by the Princethorpe flyover (A45/A4071), Tawny Owl perched in trees along the straight mile (B4453 near Tile Barns), Kingfisher near Birdingbury Bridge and Corn Bunting between Birdingbury Bridge and Bourton village. Also seen were 4 Siskin, 23 Yellowhammer, 300 Fieldfare, 200 Redwing, 100 Stock Dove, 2 Raven and 2 Buzzard.
Out again this afternoon with Dave to Draycote Water for our usual Friday coffee and cake session and a walk to rainbow corner. A Common Sandpiper was resting on the sailing pontoon with two Great-northern Divers nearby and a third by the valve tower. From rainbow we attempted to do the roost but visibility was poor so concentrated on the smaller gulls nearby and managed adult winter Med Gull very close in to hensborough bank, adult Yellow-legged Gull flew past and 23 Goosander but the star was a Jack Snipe that circled over our heads before landing in the field behind inlet. There were lots of Fieldfare, Redwing and Stock Dove between rainbow and draycote hill.
APPEAL –apart from the usual plea regarding your records – you will miss the book when it goes I need Scaup (check nail) and Bewick’s Swan for my year list at draycote – one short of my 1995 record so get out there and find um for me. Already set a patch record for myself – 186 with the furthest one just eight miles from home – credit crunch listing at its best


Thursday, 11 December 2008

December 11th 2008

Did the roost with Mark this evening but we struggled in the gloom and found only 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls and 3 Great-northern Diver seen earlier.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

December 10th 2008

No sign of the Great Grey Shrike at Draycote Water found by Mark and Francoise this afternoon so spent one and half hours searching the fields next to the reservoir before I found it half a mile away near draycote hill. On the down side I could not get it on to my draycote year list but it’s a good patch bird being only my third record with one in May 1979and one in the winter of 83/84 so it was long overdue.


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

December 9th 2008

Overnight rain turned frosty as it cleared. The Gull roost at Draycote Water held Iceland Gull first winter, Glaucous Gull first winter, Yellow-legged Gull 2 adult winters and a Med Gull adult winter which was well worth freezing your bits off for. The four Great-northern Divers still present (3 farborough bank and one near valve tower) along with the elusive first winter Red-necked Grebe off dunn’s bay. Also seen were Pintail female, 6 Ruddy Duck, 9 female and 4 male Goosander off draycote bank, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and 14 Long-tailed Tit while a Woodcock flew towards the country park and a distant Tawny Owl heard.


Monday, 8 December 2008

December 8th 2008

Out with Dave again but apart from a stunning deep pink sunrise worth looking at there were no sign of any owls or Stonechats around Grandborough Fields Farm and little else in the valley. Draycote was quiet with only 4 Great-northern Divers (3 in same scope view off fishing platform), 8 Goosander and 440 Canada Geese worth mentioning. Male Goosander flew over café in Long Itchington heading south. Rest of day shopping, getting gear for our birding trip to Gambia – sun and sand and life ticks.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

December 7th 2008

Out with Dave before sunrise to Calcutt checking the area for our visit on New Years day and the temperature was -3 with a heavy frost but at least the weathermen were wrong about the fog – none apart from some mist around Draycote and Kites Hardwick as we passed by. Woodcock low over our heads and a Barn Owl hunting close too the road but unfortunately the best viewing area from the bridge is off limits due to road works.
Draycote Water was cooking on gas with 200+ finches leaving their roost with at least one Brambling heard and a few Siskins. Coal Tit on the feeders in the Rangers Yard. Three Great-northern Divers were together off the fishing platform and showing well, 2 Redshank in toft bay and a Little Owl in the field below farborough spit before if flew in to hedge to roost.
The continuing cold spell has finally started bringing birds in as smaller waters freeze up with a good increase in Goldeneye numbers with 36 counted and 4 Ruddy Duck off the north shore, 264 Great-crested Grebes, 300+ Canada Geese and a year tick in the form of a male Red-crested Pochard in gray’s barn as it swam amongst the willows.
Breakfast in Long Itchington and a chance to thaw out then off to Brandon Marsh which was 90% frozen over and we arrived at carlton hide just in time to see the Bittern fly from newlands, also seen were 2 Water Rail plus another 2 heard calling, 4 Siskin, Nuthatch, 2 Treecreeper, 8 Snipe, 12 Gadwall and 78 Shoveler.
Lawford Heath had Coal Tit, 3 Buzzards, 6 Meadow Pipit, Tree Sparrow, 20+ Yellowhammer, 30+ Stock Dove and Corn Bunting all seen from the disused barn on ling lane. Back at Dave’s enjoying dinner and a male Blackcap was on his feeders. Late afternoon a Sparrowhawk scared the sugar out of my garden birds


Saturday, 6 December 2008

December 6th 2008

Took advantage of the clear cold spell in the weather to work the valley around the Woolscott, Sawbridge and Wolfhamcote area before tomorrow’s forecasted fog and Monday’s rain with a Barn Owl between Laurel and Tollgate Farm along the A45 just after first light and 7 Tree Sparrow and 5 Yellowhammer among a party of Chaffinches on the minor road between the A45 and Woolscott. No gulls were seen around Sawbridge Grounds but 150 Fieldfare and 30 Redwing present along with Green Woodpecker and Raven while the county lane between Woolscott and Sawbridge had 2 Red-legged Partridge, 7 Pheasants another Sparrowhawk, Blackcap male, 20+ Yellowhammer, 4 Siskin and 4 Tree Sparrow with more Fieldfare and Redwing. The county lane between Sawbridge and Flecknoe had Great-spotted Woodpecker, 6 Bullfinch and Little Owl.
Wolfehamcote had 4 Snipe, 6 Reed Bunting and 3 Teal near the Old Vicarage with distant Buzzard. Returning home along the A45 there was a Peregrine over the Onley Prison heading in to Northamptonshire and 56 Golden Plover in adjacent fields then my third puncture of the week so a 3 mile walk home.
John Judge gave me a lift to do the roost at Draycote Water and with the Hall brothers we managed a first winter Glaucous Gull near the valve tower. Also seen were 12 Goosander and 2 Great-northern Divers from the café and Francoise had the Common Sandpiper earlier in the day. Both Jupiter and Venus seen in the evening sky as we walked back to the car park. Back out again half way through me dinner to see the Barn Owl that was perched on out buildings along Ashlawn Rd. Thanks sis.


Friday, 5 December 2008

December 5th 2008

The morning was spent at home watching the garden with 8 Blackbird, 3 Starling, 3 Dunnock, 6 Wood Pigeon, 2 Collard Dove, 8 Greenfinch, 5 Chaffinch, Winter Wren, Robin, 6 Blue Tit , 2 Great Tit and 2 Coal Tit while overhead Lapwing 3, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Rook, Crow and Jackdaw noted.
Down the pond with Dave in the afternoon for our coffee and cake just as it pissed down so we gave up after a feeble attempt to find something different other than the GND or RNG and drove round the Grandborough valley. Managed two Buzzards at Woodbine Farm, 50+ Fieldfare near Grandborough Fields Farm with more around Sawbridge and Sawbridge Grounds but bird of the day was the first winter Glaucous Gull in a field behind Sawbridge Grounds on the Grandborough to Sawbridge road resting among a flock of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the way out we had 10 Tree Sparrow by the side of the road north of Woolscott.


Thursday, 4 December 2008

December 4th 2008

Two puncture this mornings on top of the cold, wet and windy weather did not help my mood so I only have myself to blame for not concentrating as I biked along the Hill Rd in the Grandborough valley and flushed a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker from the entrance to Valley Farm and could only manage poor views of it flying away. Bloody good record for this part of the valley. Up till then the valley had been pretty dire so a lesson learnt which paid off further down the road when checking a group of Common and Black-headed Gulls that held a first winter Med Gull half hidden as it sat sheltering from the wind. Also in area were 9 Stock Dove, 6 Bullfinch 14 Yellowhammer, and a Raven.
The journey to Napton Reservoir was uneventful apart from many Redwing and Fieldfare feeding on any hedgerow that had not been decimated by the barbaric cutting methods of the local farmers use, and at the reservoir things are similar with a lot of “gardening” being done that is making the place pretty sterile and very little seen apart from Kingfisher and a Water Rail heard.
Cycling back along the A426 I had 2 Raven, 2 Buzzard and 4 Red-legged Partridge and arrived at Draycote Water in time to see Willow and Coal Tit but no Brambling’s near the Rangers Yard. The long staying Red-necked Grebe and 2 Great-northern Divers were off farborough bank, Little Owl was back in its usual haunt, 12 Golden Plover flew over heading west and Oystercatcher in toft bay before doing the roost. The light was poor again as another front came in but I managed 2 first winter Glaucous Gulls and a first winter Yellow-legged Gull while freezing me nuts off.
Also seen were the regular (if your lucky) female Merlin taking a keen interest in the 60+ Yellowhammers, first winter Shag and another 2 Great-northern Divers near the valve tower, 9 Siskin, Kingfisher, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Grey Wagtail, 2 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker.


December 3rd 2008

Another cold night with a hard frost and ideal for a walk around nearby Cock Robin Wood & Plantation looking for birds effected by the conditions. Under the larger trees a number of finches were working the leaf litter and managed to find 5 Brambling among the 70 Chaffinch and 30 Greenfinch. Also in the area were 3 Nuthatch, Treecreeper, 4 Jay, 24 Blackbird, 56 Redwing, 34 Fieldfare, Great-spotted Woodpecker and 7 Siskin while 4 Snipe flying over east indicated they were having issues with the hard ground.
More birds in the garden than of late but nothing special and could finding nothing in the roost at Draycote Water.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

December 2nd 2008

It was a cold night with snow and sleet showers mid-morning so did not rush out which paid off when a call from friend on my estate wanting to know what kind of bird she had at the bottom of here garden. The description was confusing so popped round for a look and rewarded with a Tawny Owl half hidden in her ivy covered tree and as we chatted came to realise there was a second bird present though this bird was a lot more secretive with only its face peering out of the ivy.
Draycote was cold and arrived too late to see the first winter Glaucous Gull seen by Bob and Francoise – nothing in toft shallows (what a surprise), all five divers on show at the same time and the Red-necked Grebe still present but distant. No new arrivals that I could find and duck numbers are still very low though Bob managed to relocate last weeks Corn Bunting yesterday and the only other of birds of note were 244 Canada Geese in toft bay plus 3 feral Greylag Geese, 22 Goldeneye, 9 Goosander, 2 Lesser Redpoll in toft, Coal Tit near the Rangers yard and 8 Siskin seen on the way out by the M45 bridge along with 5 Song Thrush.


Monday, 1 December 2008

December 1st 2008

A very cold day with the clear skies in the morning being a bonus compared to yesterday’s weather so gave the Grandborough valley a good search. Too late to look for owls but the marshy vegetation by the bridge between Willoughby and Sawbridge had 3 Snipe and my first Water Rail for this location while I failed to find the Stonechats at Grandborough Fields Farm but managed 2 female Brambling by the entrance to Woodbine Farm and 4 Lesser Redpoll just out side Grandborough village on the Hill Rd. Also 2 Tree Sparrow and plenty of House Sparrows.
Further along Hill Rd there were plenty of Redwing, a few Fieldfare and 5 Yellowhammers but the most productive area was on the busy A426 by Millholme Brook bridge with 8 Bullfinch, 30 Greenfinch, Willow Tit, Raven, Kingfisher, Little Owl and 3 Grey Partridge. Kites Hardwick village had a flock of 9 Long-tailed Tits and 4 Siskin flying over with a Peregrine by the golf range and 34 Golden Plover resting in the field opposite.
Draycote was busy with birders, bikers, pram pushers and walkers so took a look at Lawford Heath where I managed Kingfisher, 2 Teal, 3 Jay, 3 Tree Sparrows, 12 Golden Plover, first winter Yellow-legged Gull and 15 Stock Dove.
Garden feeders finally picked up with Carrion Crow, Magpie, Coal Tit, 6 Chaffinch, 4 Collard Dove and 7 Greenfinch this afternoon enjoying the extras I had put out.


Sunday, 30 November 2008

November 30th 2008

I had a pre-arranged coach trip to the Norfolk organised by one of our friends who runs a birding class locally but the weather was against us and it never stopped raining so combined with a strong north wind and dropping temperatures it was not one of our better days. Common Scoter 150+ and a few Eider off Hunstanton, 2 Marsh Harrier Holkham Freshmarsh and first winter Kittiwake in the car park at Wells Wood with 3 Little Egret nearby the reward for getting drenched.


November 29th 2008

Well the 20 Eider, 2 White-billed Divers and Lesser White-fronted Goose could have been at Draycote Water this morning but with visibility down to 20 yards one will never find out. The thought of spending money on others woke me up early so knowing it was pointless looking at reservoir I decided to get the steed out and check out toft shallows despite the freezing temperatures – much better than moping at home. A Kingfisher perched on the footbridge as I arrived soon disappeared along with the Fox that came within feet of me before it saw me. A careful approach along the path produced the hope for Brambling with male and female feeding quietly in the leaf litter and occasionally coming out in to the open to drink with a few Chaffinches giving excellent views. Also present were very large numbers of Siskin and though counting was difficult as they moved through I managed a very respectable 89 along with 4 Lesser Redpoll. No Long-tailed Tits in shallows but 24 were crossing half way lane as I left.
John Judge and I had agreed to keep an eye on the weather in case it lifted in time to do the roost but the fog hardly lifted so knocked that idea on the head.


Friday, 28 November 2008

November 28th 2008

Early morning walk to Cock Robin Wood and Plantation before Sainsbury’s opened produced 2 Nuthatch and 2 Goldcrest. Out with Dave this afternoon for our Friday coffee and cake session and Draycote Water was overcast with a light south easterly breeze. Turned in to a social event with many friends in café so only saw three Great-northern Divers together by the fishing platform and a couple of male Goosander flying around as we ran out of time for a wander. Only a single Buzzard seen in valley. Weather for tomorrow is yuk with freezing thick fog forecasted to be very slow in clearing so looks like its Christmas shopping unless I can come up with something better to do with my money.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

November 27th 2008

Draycote Water was dull and overcast with a strong south west wind especially early afternoon with the odd light shower. Finally caught up with the recently elusive Red-necked Grebe off toft bank with the female Common Scoter nearby and on the opposite north bank a female Mandarin Duck sitting under trees on the north shore 200 yards east of lin croft point with a few Teal and a 100+ Tufted Duck. I still think they are plastic even though they are on the British list so this Mandarin was my 13th record involving 14 birds but I have not seen a male here since 1996. The female Smew was difficult to see in the choppy waters off lin croft point and was reported later in rainbow corner and toft bay so very mobile. The two farborough bank Great-northern Divers were fishing together just off the platforms and the other two were off draycote bank between inlet and valve tower. Also off farborough bank were 3 Curlew near the farm house and the female Merlin was perched though distant on the farms entrance road fence before it flew towards sewage farm and toft bay. Toft shallows early afternoon was extremely busy with a roving tit flock involving 45 Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit, Goldcrest 3, Treecreeper 2 and also in the same area were Great-spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail 14 Siskin, female Brambling, 8 Bullfinch and Kingfisher. Other birds seen were the first winter Shag, female Ruddy Duck, 23 Goosander, 25 Pochard and Green Woodpecker 4.
Bike ride home was productive with Raven over Dunchurch, Lesser Redpoll 4 in Waring Way, Dunchurch and Nuthatch in Cock Robin plantation. The garden feeders have been pretty quiet recently and late afternoon only Coal Tit was the most notable bird present.


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

November 26th 2008

I decided that looking for last Sundays Long-eared Owl at Draycote Water early this morning was worth another effort in case the bird was still present.
All though overcast and cold there was little wind and I was lucky enough to have an owl species fly away from me the length of the “lump” but as it was still six o clock and pitched black I did not get enough on jizz to be certain which species. Heard distant Tawny and Little Owl from the direction of nearby Draycote village and scared me self to death when a Badger shuffled past.
Checked the feeders by the ranger’s yard at first light before any disturbance and managed a male and female Brambling, Treecreeper, Willow Tit, and Coal Tit while 3 Green Woodpeckers and 50+ Redwing were in the country park. Would have stayed longer but got cheesed off with birders asking "what yer got" - even sneaked behind a tree for a pee and some pratt followed me.
Out again mid-afternoon for the roost and between the M45 bridge and toft shallows there were 56 Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit 16, Goldcrest 3, Wren 5, Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail while toft bay had 2 first winter Med Gulls in the pre-roost in toft bay along with the female Common Scoter. In the main roost off the “steps” the first winter Glaucous Gull arrived at 3:55pm with at least 6 Yellow-legged Gulls (2 first winters and 4 adults) another Med Gull in the form of a second winter and my first female Smew for the winter was seen in flight. Also present were 4 Great-northern Divers, another group of 30 Siskin feeding near the golf course and 17 Goosander. Red-necked Grebe is still present off farborough bank though I did not see it myself and missed the Merlin and Common Sandpiper seen by others.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

November 25th 2008

WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLE Draycote Water 1030-1200hrs showing down to 8ft – bloody wonderful – just a pity a falconer was attached. Certainly attracted an audience of birders and walkers as they posed for photo’s but it was not being flown which is lucky as the Cormorants, Little Grebe and Duck crapped themselves when it appeared and scampered.
OK back to real birding. It was a sunny day with a chilly north westerly wind with new arrivals since my last visit being in the shape of more Goosander’s and a female Brambling. The Goosanders were off valve tower before dispersing with 15 female and 9 male while the Brambling was found when Mark, Francoise and myself checked out the feeders in the ranger’s yard. At least four Great-northern Divers were dotted around the reservoir but there seems to be no trace of the Red-necked Grebe so it may have gone while the Common Scoter female was still in toft bay and the Shag first winter by the fishing platforms. I had a Peregrine go over early morning while Mark had two mid-morning and the Water Rail was still around and at least four Kingfishers seen , no doubt due to the cold spell we are experiencing and at least 17 Siskin still in toft shallows. Part of the day was also taken up socially – chatting to Bob H, Bob D, Mark and Francoise as well as all those admiring the eagle. Also seen were Pochard 25, Wigeon 30, Goldeneye 22, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker 3, Yellowhammer 35, Skylark 18, Buzzard 2 and I had a good look at the Common Sandpiper – just double checking as Spotted Sandpiper has been found in Staffordshire recently. I intended doing the roost but the beautiful sunset made the light conditions very poor.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

November 23rd 2008

Were you one of those who decided you would be better off staying by the fire or curled up under the duvet this morning – wimp.
A clear frosty night with a light flurry of snow turning to freezing rain then become a heavy downpour, and guess who was out in it. Pretty obvious – me – plodding away and despite the many discomforts (and there were loads) ended up with two year ticks for my Draycote Water list so now home and cosy and all my gear in the tumble dryer.
All five Great-northern Divers were on show with two off farborough bank, one in rainbow corner, one by the valve tower and one in dunn’s bay and the Red-necked Grebe was two hundred yards off farborough spit with the Common Scoter female still in toft bay. The first draycote year tick was a very bedraggled Long-eared Owl being mobbed by Magpies as it tried to roost in hedgerow near valve tower and the second year tick was a Corn Bunting feeding with 44 Yellowhammers between rainbow corner and inlet. The bunting was a good find as they are declining in this area and the Yellowhammer flock is a good number for here these days as it also another species declining.
Good birds kept coming in with two Dark-bellied Brent Geese arriving just as the skies cleared and the sun came out but unfortunately it was bad timing and the sailing boats appeared and flushed them off after only a 15 minute rest. Some unknown observer had a Grey Plover and Peregrine and Sparrowhawk hunted for food over the country park which had a female Brambling and Willow Tit. Toft shallows had 20+ Siskin, 2 Lesser Redpoll and 2 female Brambling and on the other side of the M45 there were 2 more Lesser Redpoll with a party of Goldfinch and as another shower arrived I decided to call it a day. Other birds seen were 3 Green Woodpecker, 2 Little Owl, Water Rail, 38 Pochard, 2 male Shoveler, Ruddy Duck male, 19 Goosander, 18 Goldeneye, 8 Gadwall, Grey Wagtail and 17 Long-tailed Tits with 5 Goldcrest.
Patch News: My little sis (she who must be obeyed) had a Barn Owl near the gibbet hill roundabout (A426/A5) this morning (use to drag um out of town and string um up in the good old days) and John Judge’s dog flushed a Woodcock near Long Lawford.


Saturday, 22 November 2008

November 22nd 2008

Extremely cold this morning due to the wind chill – froze me bits off. Two Barn Owls still out hunting first light at Calcutt with Woodcock making a brief appearance in the adjacent plantation along with 8 Siskin while the disused railway cutting had 14 Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll 2, Willow Tit, Buzzard 2, Fieldfare 400 and 200 Redwing.
Napton Reservoir had Lesser Redpoll by the entrance, Little Owl on the roof of the stables and Grey Wagtail while the reservoir held 10 Teal, 6 Gadwall and more winter thrushes in the surrounding hedgerow and a party of 34 Long-tailed Tit.
Retracing my steps back in to the valley I had a Raven at Broadwell, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk by the double barns along Flecknoe Road and Buzzard 4 but a noticeable lack of small birds around and along the Hill Rd.
Glaucous Gull first winter, Yellow-legged Gull 4 (2 adults and 2 first winters) and Caspian Gull adult were all in the roost at Draycote Water along with 2 first winter Med Gulls. Great-northern Diver 3, Common Scoter female seen.
Patch News- Mark Philips had a Barn Owl crossing the Leicester Rd, Rugby by Central Park and Premier Inn this morning.


November 21st 2008

Very overcast with a strong cold north westerly wind when I met up with John and Dave for coffee this afternoon at Draycote Water, we made no effort to explore the area so only 2 Great-northern Divers off fishing pontoons and 58 Lapwing to report. A drive round the valley was just as crap.


Thursday, 20 November 2008

November 20th 2008

I felt a lot better when I woke so was down the valley just after first light with 250 Golden Plover in fields behind Willoughby village cricket club along with a few Fieldfare and Redwing and two Grey Partridge in the left hand field just before the village of Sawbridge. Very little seen between Sawbridge and Grandborough but things started to change once I was on the hill rd with 500 Fieldfare and 200 Redwing near valley fields farm, a stunning female Merlin perched by the side of the road giving very prolonged views (out came the sketch book) and a Little Owl by barn farm. Other birds seen in this area were 2 Raven, 2 Buzzard and 4 Lesser Redpoll.
Draycote Water was cooking on gas. The Red-necked Grebe was 200 yards off farborough bank drifting further out till it re-appeared late afternoon in toft bay. Great- northern Divers on occasions were just as elusive though by early afternoon all five were showing (three off draycote bank and 2 near fishing pontoons). Toft shallows had up to 36 Siskin 4 Lesser Redpoll 2 Chiffchaff and 3 Brambling.
New arrivals included a female Common Scoter in toft bay and the Goosander flock has increased to 18 while 5 White-fronted Geese flew low over toft bay 3pm and may have landed near toft farm. Also seen were Kingfisher 2, Jay, Pochard 12, Goldeneye 16, Buzzard 3, Peregrine, Water Rail, Shag, Little Owl.
Bob and Francoise had the hybrid Peregrine over draycote bank at mid-day which appeared over toft bay just before dusk scaring the brown stuff out of the gull roost and Adie had a male Merlin.
Feathered Thorn on wall of cafe - don't think we will see many moths for a while once this cold spell reaches us on Saturday.


November 19th 2008

Tried to make it to Draycote Water but had to turn back – no energy. Still a few Siskin and Lesser Redpolls between M45 bridge and toft shallows.
Patch News - Common Sandpiper and Water Rail were seen by Mark Phillips at Draycote Water plus all the usual stuff. John Judge had adult and first winter Yellow-legged Gull on Lawford Heath tip.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008

November 18th 2008

Despite the coughing and spluttering threatening my field craft credibility it was gorgeous day weather wise at Draycote Water today managing a very impressive list before fatigue took over late afternoon arriving home desperate for bed.
On arriving the hedgerows between the M45 bridge and toft shallows was heaving 50+ Siskin, 14 Lesser Redpoll, 12 Long-tailed Tit, 5 Goldcrest and a few Chaffinches while on my departure the flock were more spread out but included 17 Blue Tit, Chiffchaff and Treecreeper.
The Red-necked Grebe was a hundred yards off farborough bank and became more distant as the day progressed so the photographers had to contend them selves with one of the four Great-northern Divers which was fishing near the pontoons. Met up with Rich Dawkins and Dave Hutton for coffee and later a chat with Francoise and Mike Doughty. There were 11 Goosanders (4 male and 7 female) off the inlet and at least nine of these arrived last Sunday according to F. Other sightings today included 7 Dunlin going over heading west, Sanderling circled reservoir before deciding to go south, Little Owl, Kingfisher, 2 Buzzard, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 18 Skylark, 20 Meadow Pipit and Raven.


Monday, 17 November 2008

November 17th 2008

OK I'm a wimp - bloody man flu has me buggered so did not bother going out. Patch News - 57 Mute Swan and 88 Golden Plover in the avon valley between Bretford and Kings Newham.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

November 16th 2008

Not the best of days – overcast and drizzle becoming drier and brighter to show Dave’s friend the valley, Draycote and Brandon Marsh.
Two Buzzards at Woodbine Farm and 500+ Fieldfare was all we could muster in the valley and Draycote Water from farborough bank had the Red-necked Grebe and at least two of the 5 Great-northern Divers with a few Goldeneye out in centre. Brandon Marsh was a little more productive with 44 Snipe, 3 Goldeneye, 20 Siskin, 4 Jay, 2 Lesser Redpoll, Treecreeper, 21 Long-tailed Tit and 2 Coal Tit but we missed the Nuthatch and Marsh Tit.
Patch News – Mark Phillips had the Little Owl this afternoon by the double barns, Flecknoe Rd and yesterday a Peregrine was seen perched near Sawbridge.


Saturday, 15 November 2008

November 15th 2008

Out early to find the sixth Great-northern Diver at Draycote Water but however hard I tried I only counted five with four out in centre and one near valve tower before they split. From my observation point off draycote bank it transpired we were having a heavy does of the sofa and what’s about brigade so kept out the way concentrating my efforts on the “lump” and the “fishing pond”. Managed to find Treecreeper, Siskin 12, Tree Sparrow, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Redpoll 4, Jay and Kingfisher which was a good haul for this part of the reservoir and a Ringed Plover was on the outlet. Distant views of Shag.
I used the National Cycle Way Route 41 from Draycote village to Birdingbury, planning to join the Grand Union Canal at Gibraltar Bridge before using the towpath as a route to Flecknoe so I could explore the valley. There were 10 Bullfinch, single Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest 3, Jay 3 and Great-spotted Woodpecker along the cycle route while the canal part of the journey was most enjoyable with a Peregrine, Teal 17 and Water Rail on nearby Napton Reservoir, plenty of Fieldfare and Redwing in the hedgerows and a field near Lower Shuckburgh had 100 Golden Plover. Kingfisher flew past. Left the canal near Mill Farm and went to Grandborough Fields Farm where 2 Stonechat and 2 Red-legged Partridge were present with nearby Fox Covet having 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Along Flecknoe Rd there were more Fieldfare and Redwings, many Yellowhammers, Bullfinch 5, Raven 2 and the double barns produced Little Owl, 3 Buzzards and the highlight of the day when a Crossbill female or immature flew overhead here calling heading west. The hedgerow between the large open barn and Grandborough village had 2 Brambling amongst the 12 House Sparrows and the road to Willoughby had Snipe 2, Raven and Buzzard 2.
Question – have you been to the pond recently?, have you put your records in book – with no records or very few e-mails to the Draycote web site being received then its on the cards this facility will end – make it so.


Friday, 14 November 2008

November 14th 2008

Still five Great-northern Divers at Draycote Water with unconfirmed reports of a possible sixth which has been hard to verify as they are very mobile with three off farborough bank, one near valve tower and one between the “steps” and dunns bay. The Red-necked Grebe was by the fishing pontoon enjoying its 15 minutes of fame from the visiting photographers and the Shag was anywhere between valve tower and Y buoy. Other sightings included a dozen Lesser Redpoll, Brambling, Water Rail, many winter thrushes and Buzzard. Running short of time so me and Dave did not have time to do the valley justice and only saw a couple of Buzzards in a quick drive through.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

November 13th 2008

I was due in Oxford today for my annual lobotomy but I’ve been fighting a cold so did not want to pass it on to those having chemotherapy so a day at home. Not a bad thing considering the lousy weather we have had today.
Not much to report just Long-tailed Tit 3 and Coal Tit 2 on the garden feeders with 6 Wood Pigeon gobbling up any leftovers underneath. Patch News - John Judge had a Barn Owl yesterday evening in the valley north of Grandborough village.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

November 12th 2008

I set up a portable moth trap at Brandon Marsh last night and with no intention of hanging around I was out early this morning to inspect the catch and though it dropped to 5 degrees I still managed 5 moths of four species. Light Brown Apple Moth 2, November Moth agg, Yellow-lined Quaker, and Winter Moth. The Barn Owl was out hunting sheep field and the returning Bittern flew across newlands from east marsh but not much else accept plenty of water. Returning back home to drop the gear off I had a Kingfisher at Wolston and on Lawford Heath managed Sparrowhawk, Raven and 6 Tree Sparrow. Once fed and watered it was back out to the pond with brighter skies so intended to do the roost. Bob, Francoise and Ollie found a male Snow Bunting in toft bay and all three took some stunning pictures.

Snow Bunting by Bob Hazell
Unfortunately by the time I arrived it was mobile appearing along toft and farborough bank a couple of time and only giving flight views. Spent 2 hours on farborough spit checking the area for Great-northern Divers and there are now FIVE. This is my highest count actually on the reservoir though I did have 4 on res and 3 flying over west on 16th November 2005. A good area to view them is off draycote bank if the one from farborough bank isn’t performing. As you can tell from Bob’s brilliant photo they can be awesome.

Great-northern Diver by Bob Hazell
Red-necked Grebe spent most of the day by the fishing pontoons so another bird that gave the many photographers a good time though it moved off towards farborough spit mid afternoon when a sailing class got to close to it. Another good bird was the Short-eared Owl found by visiting birders below farborough bank and a draycote year tick for me. Other birds seen were Shag, Siskin 4, Green Woodpecker 2, many Redwing and Fieldfare around the perimeter, Buzzard 2 and a few Linnets and Skylarks. Stayed for the roost and the light finally improving managing the first winter Glaucous Gull from hensborough bank then moved to farborough spit where the smaller gulls due to the north west wind were in very close and found 3 first winter and 2 adult winter Med Gulls amongst the thousands of Black-headed and Common Gulls before they moved in to the main roost.

A poor effort from me of the Red-necked Grebe

Part of the roost and sunset from farborough spit


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

November 11th 2008

There are at least 3 Great-northern Divers at Draycote Water with a possibility of a 4th. One is off farborough bank, one off valve tower and one in dunn’s bay while this afternoon one was seen flying in to reservoir from the east and landed out in centre. Unfortunately it could have been one of the three attempting to leave and spotted coming back but as I spent some time looking across the reservoir at the time I thought I would have seen it circling. Another interesting sighting today was of two adult Peregrine’s one of which was very large and its plumage much lighter, almost two tone with dark primaries contrasting with the rest of its wings and body plumage and the head whiter so have not ruled out the possibility of a hybrid. Only new arrival seen was a female Brambling in the country park and other sightings included the Red-necked Grebe off farborough bank but more distant in the strong south west winds, first winter Shag, a very confiding Shoveler resting by the fishing platforms, 48 Golden Plover, 11 Pochard in toft bay along with 12 Wigeon and 6 Gadwall. There were two Kingfishers in toft shallows pool as I was leaving this afternoon plus 30 odd Teal.

Dunchurch Cricket Club had a first winter Med Gull feeding on its flooded pitch as I cycled past home.


Monday, 10 November 2008

November 10th 2008

Another fast moving depression went through last night so it was a mad dash to pond early morning before the next deluge of rain was due. There were two Kingfishers in toft bay along with 4 Siskin in toft shallows. The elusive Rock Pipit was on toft bank while in the fields below had a first winter Med Gull feeding in a mixed gull flock. The flock kept being flushed so suspect the Merlin was about but did not see it and the Little Owl was in its favorite place. Towards the fishing pontoons off farborough bank the Red-necked Grebe and one of the immature Great-northern Divers were close inshore and showing extremely well while the second bird was off the sailing club along with the first winter Shag. In rainbow corner there were female Ruddy duck, another Kingfisher and 2 Buzzards while in the right hand hedgerow of the field behind inlet there were 2 Tree Sparrows and also seen were Jay 2, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. New arrivals were by the valve tower with male Stonechat on the fence of the purification works while a first winter Kittiwake and 3 female Common Scoter were further out. The expected rain came in so it was a damp journey home brightened by an impressive flock of 35 Long-tailed Tits crossing the old A45 just outside Dunchurch.

Red-lined Quaker (lower) and Feathered Thorn in last nights trap despite the weather.


Sunday, 9 November 2008

November 9th 2008

A fast moving depression went through last night with high winds and heavy rain followed by clear skies but alas when we got to Grandborough Fields Farm at first light it clouded over and started raining heavily so a total wash out, only 3 Buzzards seen. It had stopped raining by the time we got to Draycote Water and the Red-necked Grebe and 2 Great-northern Divers were still present along with a Kingfisher in toft bay, 100 Golden Plover over and amazingly the Merlin female was seen again as it flew over the country park.
Lawford Heath had hundreds of winter thrushes, Starlings and 3 Tree Sparrow but very few Chaffinches due to the farmer covering up his silage so no Bramblings while Brandon Marsh was very poor due to high water level with 4 Goldeneye being the best we could find.
PATCH NEWS. Steve Valentine took these shots of the Grandborough Fields farm Stonechat this morning and John Judge had two Peregrine near the A426 / Flecknoe Rd junction and I had 2 Feathered Thorns in my moth trap.


Saturday, 8 November 2008

November 8th 2008

Overnight rain cleared with just the occasional rain shower but very blustery. The fields and hedgerow around Grandborough Fields Farm were very active with more thrushes counted than yesterday and a Barn Owl out hunting mid-morning. Also in area were Stonechat male and female, Grey Wagtail, Raven 2, Buzzard 3, Skylark 13 and Brambling 4 plus two Foxes and four Hares. Conditions underfoot for the walk to toft lagoons were pretty soft and hard work but rewarded with a male Stonechat and Little Owl and a diversion to the edge of bunkers wood produced a Marsh Tit the first for area for some time and a Nuthatch.
Arrived at Draycote Water but it was very busy so after a glance at the Red-necked Grebe, Little Owl, Shag and a longer look at the newly arrived Great-northern Diver I cleared off home. John Judge phoned to offer a lift for the roost mid-afternoon and we were on our way when the Bumbling Bears rang to tell us they had two adults and one immature White-fronted Goose so on our arrival we legged it to farborough spit and the geese were still present in the field below. Little Owl was also showing and there are now two Great-northern Divers off farborough bank so that will bring out the county's sofa brigade tomorrow. Bumbling Bears also had a Rock Pipit on toft bank. The roost was gathered off rainbow corner and close but the light was appalling and struggled to find anything until JJ found an adult winter Med Gull just before dark and we had put our gear away.


Friday, 7 November 2008

November 7th 2008

The overcast conditions cleared this morning with lovely sunshine though gathering clouds mid morning showed the next front to arrive is not to far away. Out with Dave for our Friday coffee and cake session this afternoon and meeting up with Bob before a walk out to farborough spit. Red-necked Grebe showed very well and had a few admirers though some should be drug tested after thinking it was a Great-northern Diver? Also showing was the Little Owl and while watching this with Ollie and Francoise the Merlin shot past leading us a merry dance trying to keep up with it. Meadow Pipits 40, Fieldfare 35 and Shag only other birds of note.
A drive along Flecknoe Rd produced one Stonechat at Grandborough Fields Farm and a flock of 500 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing feeding just right of the farm, 3 Buzzard also seen.
Steve Seal had a good session with the Red-necked Grebe this morning so no apologises for publishing more pictures as they are bloody good. Cheers mate.


Thursday, 6 November 2008

November 6th 2008

The last 36 hours on planet Richard has been bloody awful with low cloud and persistent drizzle resulting in low motivation bordering on suicidal tendencies so more than grateful when Steve Seal rang to say he was on his way to pond with Dave Hutton and would pick me up. Dave has just passed his test so he was driving – well done mate but you can take the stabilizers off now you’re legal.
The weather was still dull and overcast but at least the rain had stopped when we arrived at Draycote Water and a walk along farborough bank soon located the Red-necked Grebe showing well and as photos were being taken I picked the first of six Little Gulls and we had 5 adults and one first winter and a first winter Med Gull which flew over our heads.

Red-necked Grebe by Steve Seal
Decided to have a coffee hoping it would brighten up later and met up with Francoise who had potted up a December Moth so we soon had that on a log for a photo session. Feathered Thorn also noted.

December Moth
Joined by Bob Duckhouse and Bob Hazell we went back out as it had brightened slightly and viewed the Red-necked again and a look from farborough spit produced adult winter Med Gull in toft bay which then landed in the fields behind us. A Common Sandpiper was on the wall of toft bank feeding on insects and could be set to over winter and a sweep of reservoir produced 230 Great-crested Grebe and 3 Shoveler but no sign of the Little Gulls so they must have moved on. Unfortunately the rain came in so we left and back home a bit of bird activity with 2 Coal Tit and a Goldcrest in the garden.

Photo of one of the Sprawler we have had recently


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

November 4th 2008

Arrived at Draycote Water just in time to be shown a first winter Med Gull feeding in a mixed gull flock below farborough spit and the Little Owl nearby. Red-necked Grebe still present though it spent most of the morning off the sailing club before returning to farborough bank.

Red-necked Grebe by Bob hazell
I gave the reservoir a good search taking advantage of no wind but could not relocate yesterdays scoter's or diver. Met up with Bob, Francoise and Lee in cafe and while enjoying a coffee spotted a small falcon fly in from the right and it landed on the wall of farborough bank - stunning female Merlin. Other birds seen up to mid afternoon were Shag first winter, Yellow-legged Gull 2 adults, Sparrowhawk, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Pochard 24, Goldeneye 8 female and 4 male, Raven and counted 181 Great-crested Grebes plus three escaped Cape Shelduck.

Cape Shelduck by Bob Hazell
The low cloud started breaking up mid-day and this resulted in 50+ Skylarks going over and I stayed for roost putting Lee and Bob on to a first year Glaucous Gull I had found and there were another 4 adult Yellow-legged gulls in the roost. Surprisingly there were very few large gulls arriving in comparison to yesterdays roost but on the plus side there was a massive jump in Common Gulls numbers with an estimated ten thousand present.
Two more Sprawlers were on the cafe wall and on the way out Common Pipistrelles were hunting over windsurfing car park and near hide while two Noctule bats were feeding along farborough bank.


Monday, 3 November 2008

November 3rd 2008

Overcast with a light north north east wind this morning and not very motivated when I went out to check the moth trap just after eight. Had removed the top and about to check the egg boxes when I heard a Firecrest call and the bird was located in my neighbours Holly tree and watched down to six feet before it flew in to an apple tree two doors down – garden tick (well I was in the garden). Hung around the kitchen in case it returned but apart from 120 Fieldfare and 40 Redwing going east I never saw it again and as Sainsbury’s beckoned I could not afford the time searching for it.
Out this afternoon to Draycote Water with the wind much stronger searching for yesterdays Red-necked Grebes and one was off farborough bank 300 yards from the café and reasonably close – well that’s until you look through the my view finder. First winter Shag was still present and a nice party of one male and seven female Common Scoter were 500 yards off draycote bank. All though it was a grotty evening with poor light I decided to stay for the roost and managed another view of the Kumliens Gull adult and it looked spot on but would like better conditions to be 100% certain. Also seen were 3 Med Gulls with 2 adults and a first winter along with 2 Yellow-legged Gull adults.
While watching the roost a Great-northern Diver adult still in partial summer plumage appeared in the middle of it – but it seems to be one of those buggers that like to swim miles under water and never appeared in the same place twice so no wonder I hadn’t spotted it earlier. Also present were Little Owl, Shoveler 3 female, Goldeneye 4 including adult male, Wigeon 19, Redwing 100, Fieldfare 40 and Raven 3.
Two other highlights for the day were 2 Sprawler on the window of the café and a Common Pipistrelle Bat near the hide as I was leaving.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

November 2nd 2008

Another day out of the county meant I missed the Red-necked Grebes at the pond which was not surprising considering the atrocious weather last night. Strong north east winds with heavy rain experienced overnight here in the midlands had died down by the time we reached Norfolk at first light. Great day with many highlights including:-
*watching hundreds of ducks migrating in to the wash off Hunstanton with the best being a male Long-tailed duck.
*watching migrating Goldcrest's come in off the sea at Titchwell and start feeding round our feet.
*seeing Dave's face after a 90 minute wait when the Red-flanked Bluetail eventually showed - priceless and a tick for him.


November 1st 2008

Out early and the wind was north easterly with a bitter wind chill and managed to last two hours on Bush Hill, Flecknoe before my body screamed out for warmth. Plenty of thrushes going over with 200 Fieldfare and 500 Redwing along with 700 Starling, 100 Chaffinch, 50 Meadow Pipit, 40 Skylark and a stunning Short-eared Owl flew lazily past along with 10 Brambling, 5 Siskin and 3 Lesser Redpoll. Earlier I had seen two Barn Owls so a great start to the day though it did not feel like it as I tried to get me little legs working the steed.
There were Stonechat, Great-spotted Woodpecker 2, Raven 2 and Grey Partridge near Grandborough Fields Farm and nearby Woodbine Farm had a Buzzard on a recently killed rabbit which reluctantly flew off as I went past. Further down Flecknoe Road there were 60+ Linnet, Golden Plover 45 and a large tit flock containing Long-tailed 23, Great 6, Blue 12 and at least 3 Goldcrests. Migrants continued to go west with at least 500 Fieldfare, 1200 Redwing, 800 Starling counted but difficult to keep on the road when your head is in the air so it wasn’t long before I ended up in the ditch. Nothing broken accept my pride.
In the afternoon met up with John Judge to do the roost – no doubt the start of many to come. Weather was dire with poor light and strong winds making it hard work. Managed one Yellow-legged Gull and Med Gull adult with a possible Med Gull plus a bird showing the characteristics of adult kumlieni but too far to away to be certain


October 31st 2008

Still in the middle of this cold spell with a north westerly wind and temperatures struggling to reach 7 deg and as I was not meeting up with Dave today I wander over to Lawford Heath early afternoon then did the roost at Draycote Water. The heath had 3 Brambling amongst the Chaffinch flock at Rookery farm along with 6 Meadow Pipit and a male Merlin perched and taking a keen interest in the activity around the farm. Also seen were Little Owl, Red-legged Partridge 3 and Yellow-legged Gulls 2 adult.
Draycote water still had the Water Rail in the north east corner of toft shallows and one of the Shags decided to show itself to me but the roost was difficult to work and only saw 2 Yellow-legged Gull first winter and adult while over head 12 Siskin flew south. Earlier this morning I had a party of 19 Long-tailed Tits go through the garden.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

October 30th 2008

Thousands of thrushes south over garden at first light but was disappointed when I arrived at Draycote Water as they were migrating further east over Bush Hill, Flecknoe and few took a westerly route over pond. Water Rail in toft shallows was a welcome visitor - sightings have dropped off in recent years since the sewage farm became mechanised and the beds dried up. Duck numbers have increased slightly with more Wigeon and Teal though still low for this time of year and a sub adult male Goldeneye joined the 4 ladies. Highlight of the day was the Red Kite drifing south at 11:14am mobbed by an army of corvids. Also seen were 1200 Starling, Shoveler 3, Gadwall 9, Common Sandpiper in toft bay, Dunlin on shoreline in front of cafe, and Peregrine 2. Mark phillips had the Little Owl again.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

October 29th 2008

It was another clear night dropping to at least minus 3 so it was bloody cold with icy roads and the remains of yesterdays snow still laying on the high ground as I entered the valley at first light. This unseasonal cold spell certainly brought the owls out and I had my best count for sometime with 4 Barn Owl, 2 Little Owl and a Tawny Owl around the Sawbridge / Willoughby area and once the sun rose then smaller birds became very active along the roadside hedges picking up 8 Reed Bunting, 42 Chaffinch, 12 Yellowhammer, Blackcap female, 130 Fieldfare and 38 Redwing between Sawbridge and Grandborough Fields. The Stonechat was still at Grandborough Fields Farm along with 13 Skylarks 2 Mistle Thrushes and Sparrowhawk. Checked the double barns area along the Flecknoe Road but no sign of Snow Bunting or Long-eared Owl all though there was some commotion in the next field which may have indicated the owl’s presence. In the time allowed walked the Grandborough to Dunchurch footpath as far as the lagoons. Reed Bunting 4, Skylark 12, Linnet 150, Fieldfare 76, Redwing 35, Meadow Pipit 12, Chaffinch 180, Brambling male and Stonechat male.
Back in Rugby for domestic duties gave me a chance to check out my garden feeders with Coal Tit 3, Chaffinch 6 and plenty of Blue and Great Tits plus a brief visit from a Goldcrest. This also gave me a chance to check the moth trap and was surprised to find a Common Marbled Carpet in there, just shows how hardy these little critters are.
John Judge rang informing me of two more Whooper Swans at Draycote Water so out again after dinner. The sunshine did not make me feel any warmer and the Whooper’s which were both adults were in toft bay before flying off south.

Whooper Swan
Through out my visit there were a small groups of migrants going over and my total count was an impressive 4000 Starlings, 530 Skylark which is the largest movement I have recorded here for this species, 100 Chaffinch, 200 Redwing, 50 Fieldfare, 9 Reed Bunting and.6 Lesser Redpoll. Decided to stay for roost and conditions were ideal with no wind though the temperature did plummet and recorded adult Yellow-legged Gull and adult winter Med Gull before my extremities said they had enough. Also present were Kingfisher 3, Common Sandpiper, Siskin 2, Shoveler 5, Gadwall 11, Pochard 4, Goldeneye 3 and Little Owl 2.
Checking my records today’s and yesterdays Whooper Swan records were my 13th and 14th record involving 78 birds and only recorded in 12 out of 32 years so shows they are still a scarce bird around these parts in comparison to Bewick Swan for which I have 59 records of over 600 birds and recorded in 26 out of 32 years.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

October 28th 2008

Last night was clear and frosty with early morning fog so dug out me long johns, hat, scarf and gloves for the ride to Draycote Water. Fog soon lifted and pretty impressed that there were two birders already out but reality soon kicked in when they didn’t even give the Whooper Swan immature a glance as they walked passed. Other new arrivals included 14 Reed Buntings, 4 Shoveler and another Little Owl making it two for the day but no sign of Little Gull or Shag so I am sure they have gone. A steady stream of Starlings went over heading south west with a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Also seen were Great-spotted Woodpecker 3, Green Woodpecker 4, Gadwall 8 and Kingfisher.
Left for Lawford Heath just as the rain started so struggled to keep dry when I got there and though there were still plenty of finches around I gave in when the skies darkened hoping I would be home before it dropped but alas another soaking.


Monday, 27 October 2008

October 27th 2008

If yesterday was the worse birding day of the year putting me in a right old mood then today in comparison has been absolutely magical leaving me with a grin as wide as Jo Brand’s derrie air. The day had started on the downside with my first nil return since April from my moth trap due to the clear skies and drop in temperature but if this counted against the moths then the birds gained by enjoying a day of no rain and wintry sunshine.
Went out after dinner to Lawford Heath checking the two finch flocks that depending on food availability could become residential this winter. The first near the Coal Pit / Lawford Lane junction is a mixed flock of Chaffinches and Greenfinches of about 150 birds with 10 Redwing and 4 Mistle Thrushes while the Rookery Farm site has at least 200 Chaffinches, adult and immature Brambling plus 3 Tree Sparrows, Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipits 5 and Collared Doves 78 with nearby Little Owl, Raven and Buzzard.
Decided to give Draycote Water a miss and concentrated time and effort on the valley and hit the jackpot by the double barns along the Flecknoe Road with a half hidden roosting Long-eared Owl in the far hedgerow being mobbed by Magpies and finches and while enjoying this a white-winged bird flew past and after some searching found it to be a immature / female Snow Bunting that attached itself to a small Linnet flock.
As I passed the next house on the right a Hen Harrier flew over lazily heading north. Full adult male looking resplendent as it went past yards away from me and I watched it flying over the country park at Draycote Water so hopefully someone else was sharing my good fortune. Other birds seen were Stock Dove 46, Tree Sparrow 2, Fieldfare 30, Sparrowhawk, Raven 2 and Buzzard 2 and further down the road the Stonechat was at Grandborough Fields Farm along with a brief glimpse of a distant Barn Owl.
Clocks have gone back now so a dodgy bike road home in the dark along the A45 with high speed traffic but at least I can be seen in my new fluorescent jacket - look like a fairy but if it save me from crushed nuts who cares.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

October 26th 2008

A crap day in paradise.
Heavy rain
Little Owl, Grandborough Valley
Heavy Rain
nothing at Draycote Water apart from Willow Tit in CP
Heavy rain
Brambling male, Chaffinch 200 Collared Dove 60 Lawford Heath
light rain
Snipe 44, Black-tailed Godwit Brandon Marsh
Peed off
back to bed


Saturday, 25 October 2008

October 25th 2008

Locally the wind moved to the south east for a couple of hours in the night before swinging back to south south west just long enough for a mid morning rush of thrushes through the dunsmore gap and down the Grandborough valley. Fieldfare reached 2300 and Redwing 1100 with 200+ Blackbirds noted along with the usual Starling flocks and 100 Golden Plover. One of the highlight was a White Wagtail amongst the “pieds” feeding on the old maize field between Sawbridge and Willoughby which has recently been ploughed and raked. We dont get many of these in the area being mainly a spring migrant and a Merlin imm/female racing along the hill rd could be one thats hanging around for the last few weeks.
A long overdue visit to Napton Reservoir produced a very elusive Water Pipit near the car park but little else and no Cetties Warbler so not sure if they still remain here.
As the wind picked up Draycote Water looked inviting but was hard work and though the usual Little Gull was present I could not find the Shag and spent too long in biggen bay freezing me nuts off trying to get to grips with a small warbler giving appalling views in the shore line willows, not the right shape or size for a chiff/willow but never showed for more than a nano second and wasn’t calling. Other birds of note were Yellow –legged Gull first winter, Redshank, Long-tailed Tit 10, Little Owl at the new location, Green Woodpecker 2, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit 30+, Grey Wagtail 3, Kingfisher inlet, Buzzard 2, Sparrowhawk and Goldeneye 2.
Late evening in the valley eating out gave an opportunity to listen for owls – Little and tawny calling


Friday, 24 October 2008

October 24th 2008

Out with Dave this afternoon to Draycote Water and it was deader than dead. Met up with Stephen in cafe and Mark and his dad on toft bank. Little Gull still in toft bay. A ride round the grandborough valley was more productive with a Peregrine hunting Starlings over the Hill Road and the Stonechat has returned for its fourth winter to Grandborough Fields Farm. Decided to return to Draycote water for the roost and shocked myself by finding my earliest ever Iceland Gull by three weeks with a second winter individual in the roost along with first winter Med Gull and 3 first winter Yellow-legged Gulls. The Iceland could be one of last winters first year birds returning tho early birds tend to move through.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

October 23rd 2008

On the principle that if we did not go for anything specific then Dave could not dip for the third time in a row we headed for Norfolk on spec. Breakfast at Kings Lynn at first light showed that there was some migration going in land with Whooper Swan 5 and many passerines despite the south west wind.
Arrived at Hunstanton and spent an hour watching migrants hugging the coast line as they came in and many passed just feet away from us. Counted Starling 9500, Chaffinch 2500, Redwing 98, Fieldfare 40, Meadow Pipit 32, Skylark 17, Greenfinch 10, Siskin 7, Snow Bunting 5 and a Robin. There were thousands of Wood Pigeon in the fields between Kings Lynn and Hunstanton so we never counted those still arriving.
Next stop was Titchwell but the 5000 Pink-footed Geese in a roadside field near Thornham were worth a stop and some feeble attempts to photograph them. By the time we arrived at Titchwell only Starlings continued coming in with another 7000 counted, Marsh Harrier, Spoonbill, Avocet 5 and Water Pipit were the best birds on the marsh while the coast has 20 Snow Bunting giving excellent views, a Jack Snipe coming in off the sea and 50 Common Scoter off shore. On returning to the car a Firecrest was calling but difficult to find in the high winds.



Wednesday, 22 October 2008

October 22nd 2008

Had a good session of visual migration over Bush hill, Flecknoe early morning for a couple of hours with Wood Pigeon 250, Starling 134, Fieldfare 53, Redwing 45, Meadow Pipit 45, Skylark 34, Chaffinch 23 and 100+ which went unidentified plus a few Blackbirds all heading in a south westerly direction. Nothing exciting but good to see. Earlier near Sawbridge I had two Barn Owls still out hunting at first light and four Snipe while further down the valley along the Flecknoe road 2 Grey Partridge were in Cym & Dave’s Basealy small holding along with a single Corn Bunting and nearby 20+ Stock Dove, Buzzard and 2 Raven. Too many pushchairs and joggers for my sanity so gave Draycote a miss till late afternoon but very little about apart from the Shag and Little Gull. Interestingly Mark Phillips had a Little Owl at a new location for Draycote so hopefully it will take up residence. Another Atlantic depression is on its way so fingers crossed it will bring something.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

October 21st 2008

There was a small passage of Starlings and Wood Pigeons at Draycote Water this morning but little else moving at first light after yesterdays strong winds. First winter Little Gull remains in toft bay and the Shag was on the training boat with plenty of Meadow Pipits on farborough bank. After coffee things started to liven up with a first winter Pomarine Skua spotted flying purposely across the reservoir at 11:03 but it went straight over hensborough bank heading south. Looked a smart individual in good light and my 6th record. This was then followed by 2 Golden Plover circling before heading north west, 2 Brambling going south west calling and a Sparrowhawk mobbing a Raven. A party of 12 Long-tailed Tits in toft shallows, 2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Buzzard, 3 Green Woodpecker and 2 Kingfisher by the inlet were the best of the rest. Late afternoon visit to the valley produced very little apart from 3 Golden Plover and 2 Buzzard.
Back home and another "mervin" in the trap - well just.

Merveille du Jour on the end of my traps actinic light.
Patch News - a House Martin was over Napton on the Hill on Sunday.