Following the coldest spring in years, temperatures gradually warmed into May, the sun came out and we enjoyed an excellent summer completely in contrast to the previous year. This has undoubtedly helped many species enjoy improved breeding success, particularly our migrants, though some of our residents struggled to find enough food to feed their nestlings during April.
A splendid drake Smew remained at Bittell Reservoirs into early April, as did a Scaup at Ripple Pits. Migrants struggled in, with Ring Ouzels well represented at several lowland sites, namely Clifton Gravel Pits, Shenstone and Stone - numbers peaking on Bredon Hill with eight mid-month. Ospreys passed along the River Severn near Bewdley and through Upton Warren and Garganey were found at Holt and the Gwen Finch reserve at Nafford. It was a very good spring for White Wagtails – the continental sub-species partner of our Pied Wagtail - with a peak count of at least 34 around Holt and Grimley.
Although a regular passage migrant, a truly exceptional flock of 69 Black-tailed Godwits paused very briefly at Upton Warren mid-month, whilst up to five Little Gulls lingered slightly longer over the Moors Pool there on the same day. This site then attracted two Pied Flycatchers around the North Moors Pool – a very scarce visitor here, whilst the next day another was equally unexpected at Bittell. The rarest sighting of the month was a Great White Egret that visited the new Pershore Wetlands Reserve alongside the River Avon one evening at the end of the month. Now becoming a lot more regular, there are still only a few records for the County and so those that turn up still attract a lot of interest.
May began with a Sandwich Tern at Clifton Pits and is so often the way, observers watching that bird then found another ‘scarcity’: a Caspian Gull. Rarer ducks included two Red-breasted Merganser at Westwood, followed by a Common Scoter a week or so later, whilst further Garganey were seen at Ripple Pits before three drakes turned up at Grimley.
A strong wader passage through the month included two separate Temminck’s Stints and three Wood Sandpipers at Grimley, a Bar-tailed Godwit there and two or three other birds at Ripple and Upton Warren, and approximately 25 Sanderling, with significant flocks of five birds at both Ripple and Clifton Pits. A similar number of Whimbrel were seen around the main wetland sites and half a dozen or so Turnstone passed through. There was a steady trickle of Arctic Terns, but only two Black Terns were reported.
By far the most outstanding record of the month and indeed the year for the County was a GREAT REED WARBLER at Grimley at the start of the third week. Its loud grating song was enjoyed by many though it proved a lot trickier to see as it lurked within its typically favoured reedbed habitat. Sadly it was only present for just one day.
Another Great White Egret was found at the beginning of June at Upton Warren whilst three Little Egrets dropped in to Ripple. In an otherwise fairly quiet month, late migrants or wandering non-breeding birds included Garganey at Grimley, a Black Tern through Upton Warren, a Marsh Harrier at Hewell Grange and a good number of Red Kites around the County. An unseasonal female Scaup visited Ripple, a Common Scoter dropped into Bittell and immature Little and Mediterranean Gulls were seen amongst the breeding Black-heads at Upton Warren.
Avocets enjoyed another record-breaking year at Upton Warren, with up to 47 counted in July, including 33 juveniles! Other interesting passage waders there included Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and a maximum of six Black-tailed Godwits. This popular reserve also dominated other interesting records during the month including at least four Mediterranean Gulls, up to three Little Egrets and a now rare Willow Tit visited the feeding station from mid-month. Elsewhere Turtle Doves were very scarce with only a couple of reports. Small groups of Crossbill included ten over Redditch towards the end of the month.
A Honey Buzzard was reported at the beginning of August over Walton Hill whilst other raptor records included a Marsh Harrier through Upton Warren and presumably the same wandering Osprey seen at this last site, Tardebigge and then Hewell Grange. Interesting waders included Wood Sandpipers at Grimley, Ruff there, at Clifton Pits and Upton Warren, with six briefly at this last site on one date. Little Egrets peaked at six at Grimley and return passage terns included parties of three Arctic at both Bittell and Westwood, and Blacks at Bittell, Grimley and Hewell Grange. A few Whinchats were seen at several sites with three on Hollybed Common at the end of the month.
The first Black-necked Grebe of the year was found at Bittell, with presumably the same bird re-locating to Westwood the following day. Waders otherwise provided the main interest: two Curlew Sandpipers were brief visitors to Upton Warren but Little Stints at this site, Clifton Pits, and Lower Moor remained longer. A couple of Little Gulls were found along with eclipse plumage Garganeys, whilst Rock Pipits at Clifton, Ripple and even North Hill in the last week were a sure indication that autumn was on it’s way !
For information on recent sightings and to report any unusual birds you may see, please visit http://www.worcesterbirding.co.uk/