Birds in Worcestershire – October 2012 to March 2013
by Gavin Peplow
A rather cold and wet winter continued right the way through to a very cold March, dominated by easterly winds and leading to one of the latest springs for many years.
October began with the Great White Egret remaining at Grimley, feeding along the extensive shoreline along with up to three Little Egrets. Waterfowl were represented by four Common Scoter at Bittell, a singleton at Upton Warren - all mid month, whilst a Scaup also visited this last site and four Red-crested Pochard found plenty to feed on at Kemerton Lakes. A very late Honey Buzzard was reported over Stourport during the third week, whilst more expected were up to three Short-eared Owls on Bredon Hill. Three individual Rock Pipits passed through Ripple Pits and a Water Pipit was reported briefly at Upton Warren. Up to five Ring Ouzels were counted on Bredon Hill and a few were seen on the Malverns. Typically late migrants, Black Redstarts were seen briefly at Lower Park Farm, Tardebigge and Bredon Hill, whilst other scarce passerines included four Hawfinches at Coney Meadows – an exciting new local reedbed reserve near Salwarpe; along with scattered Crossbill records at various sites including a flock of at least 40 at Eymore Wood.
November began with the first Waxwing of what was to become an impressive influx over the first part of the winter, this in spite of the berry crop being rather limited and quickly devoured by other migrants such as Fieldfares and Redwings! Dark-bellied Brent Geese were found at Bredon’s Hardwick and Ripple and an impressive flock of 52 Pink-footed Geese flew over Tardebigge at the beginning of the month. First one and then two Long-tailed Ducks arrived at Bittell and stayed for several weeks, being understandably popular as a species that is only seen every three or four years on average in the County. Scaup were found at Clifton Pits and Hewell Grange whilst a Little Gull loitered at Kemerton Lakes for a couple of weeks. This time of year typically witnesses a small passage of Snow Buntings on the Malverns and this autumn was no exception with three birds being seen in the first and third weeks. A Black Redstart at Ripple was a welcome addition to the site list, particularly as it was also one of very few seen during the year. Other passerines included a count of 60 Corn Buntings at Summerfield – a pretty exceptional number these days. A near adult Glaucous Gull arrived at Lower Moor at the end of the month and was earlier than most records, obligingly remaining well into December.
Waxwing numbers peaked at the beginning of December, with the largest flocks being 54 in Evesham and 53 at Webb’s Garden Centre, Wychbold. Four Snow Buntings, again on Worcestershire Beacon during the second week were likely to have been new arrivals, whilst a little further south only three Hawfinches could be found at their traditional haunt on the flanks of Chase End Hill. Three Whooper Swans at Ripple were a sure sign that winter had arrived and a redhead Smew at the same time was again a first for the locality. The year concluded with an unseasonal Little Egret at Westwood and a ringtail Hen Harrier drifted through Kemerton Lakes
2013 started wet with the river valleys being flooded and good counts of wildfowl being reported at the traditional floodplain sites. The three adult Whooper Swans returned to Ripple mid-month, whilst further adults were seen at Grimley and Lower Moor. Two adult Bewick’s Swans at this first site quickly moved north and were seen a bit later at Clifton Pit, whilst a drake Scaup also took up residence at Ripple, eventually remaining right through to April. Lower Moor also hosted an Iceland Gull, though it was often difficult to find amongst the many thousands of Gulls loitering in the area. Grimley ran into a purple patch from the third week during a cold spell, attracting two redhead Smew, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Short-eared Owl and at least 20 Brambling, but the undoubted highlight was a party of no less than seven Common Cranes that were seen over a period of six days around Clifton Pits – an unprecedented record for the County, with all birds being unringed / untagged and so apparently not part of any of the south-western reintroduction schemes! Elsewhere two ‘Siberian type’ Chiffchaffs – birds from one of the north-eastern populations at least - were found at Powick Sewage Works, whilst the four Snow Buntings were seen again on several dates around the north Malverns. Perhaps the same ringtail Hen Harrier from December was seen on the south side of Bredon Hill and then later reported around the Overbury Estate, whilst a Knot at Ripple was again new for the site.
February dawned with a first winter Great Northern Diver being found at Westwood Pool. It lingered overnight but was soon off the following morning – the first record for four years in the County. A further two Whooper Swans dropped in to Upton Warren briefly in what was a very good winter for the species, whilst two Common Scoter also paused briefly there. Elsewhere a splendid drake Smew lingered at Bittell, whilst the two redheads remained faithful to Grimley. A Spotted Redshank at Ripple was not only exceptional for the time of year, but also yet another first record for the site! Gulls normally dominate many of the bird records in winter and this year was no exception. Four or five Iceland Gulls were found, whilst the trickier to identify Caspian Gull was confirmed on a couple of occasions near Wyre Piddle. A handful of Mediterranean Gulls were seen including two birds roosting on the floodwater on Upton-upon-Severn mid month. Black-tailed Godwits were found at Upton Warren and Lower Moor during the last week and several Red Kites were seen at scattered locations.
After only one Bittern had been seen at Upton Warren for much of the winter, three birds congregated there for a couple of nights in mid March whilst another was watched at Coney Meadow on and off. Passage Avocets were seen at Bittell and Ripple, whilst numbers built up to 16 at Upton Warren later in the month. Yet another Common Crane was reported, this time a single bird flying over Arley and a Short-eared Owl showed intermittently at Lower Moor.
It’s been one of the best springs for a good number of years for passage Kittiwakes with a good sprinkling of sightings from around the County. Early returning migrants included a Marsh Harrier at Upton Warren, Ospreys at Ripple and Grimley and a Ring Ouzel at Clifton Pits, though the bitterly cold winds that prevailed at this time held back almost all summer visitors, including species such as Sand Martin and Wheatear, well beyond their normal return dates!
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Fig. 1. Waxwing at Upper Moor 5th January 2013. Andy Warr
Fig. 2. Common Cranes, Ripple 20th January 2013. Andy Warr
Fig. 3. Whooper Swans, Ripple, 9th December 2012. Andy Warr
Fig. 4. Knot at Ripple 26th January 2013. Andy Warr