Birds in Worcestershire – October 2014 to March 2015

Gavin Peplow

A very dry winter, particularly compared to 12 months earlier, ran into a rather chilly and somewhat later than we’re used to spring.

The remaining summer passage migrants dried up as October progressed with most noticeable being a few Ring Ouzels on the North Malverns and Bredon Hill until after mid-month and an Arctic Tern at Upton Warren. A Yellow-browed Warbler was an excellent find on a Stourport Caravan Park and was remarkably the second in the County for the year.

Two Whooper Swans passed through Clifton Pits and a White-fronted Goose joined the resident Greylag flock at Ripple. Unusual duck included Red-crested Pochard at Clifton and Kemerton Lakes and a Common Scoter at Bittell. A male Hen Harrier was reported all too briefly near Castlemorton Common and a couple of Merlin were seen around the County.

Three Little Stint paused briefly at Upton Warren and a Turnstone was very unusual for the month when it dropped in for a day at the John Bennett Reserve, Nafford. A Polish ringed Caspian Gull at Upton Warren was only the second ever at the Reserve and was followed by a bird resembling the very black-mantled Scandinavian ‘fuscus’ race of Lesser Black-backed Gull – this individual having been seen earlier at Grimley.

The month was a good one for passage Rock Pipits, with groups of three, then four at Grimley and another three at Clifton Pits, with further singles at Kemerton and Upton Warren. The month closed with a Snow Bunting being found on Worcestershire Beacon.

November started where October left off with Snow Buntings increasing to a small flock of five on ‘The Beacon’ on Malvern Hills during the first week and singles lingering through to the third week thereafter. A Short-eared Owl was also seen on the Hills on several dates at this time.

A Common Scoter visited Grimley and Red-crested Pochard were found at Lower Moor, Grimley and Westwood.

After a poor year for the species there was suddenly a ‘glut’ of Black Redstart records with birds found at Lickhill Quarry, Sheriff’s Lench, Kidderminster, St. John’s Church in Worcester and then a female took up residence for the winter on Worcester Cathedral!

Both Hawfinch and Crossbill were in short supply with only one or two records of each. A Great Grey Shrike was a good find on Bredon Hill and lingered two or three weeks, though became progressively harder to locate as it roamed widely. The month ended with a juvenile Dark-bellied Brent Goose joining the Canada flock at Upper Bittell.

A Whooper Swan dropped into Grimley briefly at the beginning of December. Four Little Egrets were still at Ripple at this time and thereafter two or three were more or less resident at Upton Warren throughout the winter. The wintering Bittern at this last site proved very elusive, only being seen infrequently and then sadly what appeared to be a second bird – a new arrival - was found dead on the ice on the North Moors at the end of the month. An autopsy indicated that this bird had flown into overhead wires as it was otherwise of a healthy weight. Several Caspian Gulls were seen during the month and an Iceland Gull roosted one night at Westwood.

A Firecrest was trapped and ringed at Langdale Wood but wasn’t seen thereafter and another was found at the end of the year in Salwarpe though eluded the efforts of most Birders trying to get a view of it! ‘Siberian’ or ‘tristis’ race Chiffchaffs appeared at Kempsey Sewage Works and also over the river at Powick Sewage Works, where there were two. The most surprising passerine record of the month however was a very late Whinchat that remained at Lower Smite Farm until at least Christmas – the latest date ever recorded in the West Midlands Bird Club recording area!

The New Year began rather quietly with the highlights being the long staying Brent Goose that showed intermittently at Bittell along with several interesting Gulls including a couple of Caspians, an Iceland in the north of the County, and a presumed Kumlein’s form of Iceland Gull at Throckmorton. Elsewhere the female Black Redstart remained on Worcester Cathedral though was often elusive.

The number of interesting records picked up in February with a ringtail Hen Harrier reported near Tiddesley Wood at the start of the month and Long-eared Owl identified in headlights one night near Hindlip. A Smew only stayed a day at Westwood and three Red-crested Pochard made a similarly brief stop at Ripple. A Great White Egret was reported in flight over Hollywood in the north of the County but couldn’t be relocated, though Little Egrets were seen at Bittell, Nafford and Westwood as well as at Upton Warren. A Black-tailed Godwit spent a couple of weeks on the Longdon Marsh Reserve whilst the first Avocet had returned soon after mid-month to Upton Warren, with a notable 14 birds present during the last week.

March was colder than in recent years and migrants were consequently quite slow to arrive outside early records for Sand Martin, Wheatear and Tree Pipit. A Common Scoter dropped into Clifton Pits and a drake Garganey was an attractive find when it showed at the John Bennett Nature Reserve, Nafford. Avocet numbers increased to 27 at Upton Warren during the month whilst six Black-tailed Godwits at Grimley was notable.

About five Merlin were seen at scattered sites and there were a good series of records of Red Kites at many sites, including notably one over Worcester Cathedral!

An adult Iceland Gull showed early in the month at Wildmoor Tip, a Kittiwake joined the Upton Warren roost one night and at least three Mediterranean Gulls were seen, including at this last site. A Little Gull also dropped in briefly into Upton Warren in the last week.

Presumably the same Firecrest as in December reappeared at Salwarpe for a couple of days but was always elusive, whilst the highlight of the late winter period was a Yellow-browed Warbler which stayed for at least three weeks around the Sewage Treatment Works at Sedgeberrow – a bird that’s becoming an increasingly regular visitor to the County !

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