Worcestershire Record No. 16 April 2004 p. 5
A mixed winter witnessed generally mild conditions, though often with northerly winds prevailing. This was interspersed with several short colder spells when there was some snowfall. Though perhaps less memorable for the overall variety of bird species, this season has nonetheless yielded several notable records.
For many, the highlight of the winter was the appearance of first one and then two Bitterns at Upton Warren. Both birds remained into early March and by which time they were showing particularly well, perching on bushes around the Moors Pool each evening towards dusk! This locality also hosted Worcestershire’s first winter record of Yellow-browed Warbler – a bird that stayed for about a month leading up to Christmas.
Late autumn featured two Short-eared Owls that showed well on occasions over Throckmorton Airfield, followed by another on Bredon Hill. A party of five Whooper Swans visited Bredon’s Hardwick and a local ‘influx’ of Long-tailed Ducks took place in mid November when firstly two birds visited Upton Warren Flashes before a third took up temporary residence at Westwood.
One feature of the winter has been the opportunity for local birders to become a little bit more familiar with the some of the continental races of Herring Gull, with in particular, several ‘Caspian’ Gulls being sighted. As the name suggests, these birds originate in Eastern Europe and are believed to potentially be a separate species from Herring Gull and indeed the closely related and more familiar ‘Yellow-legged’ Gull that has become much more regular in the region in recent times. In contrast, there was a dearth of records of the northern ‘white-winged’ Gulls – namely Glaucous and Iceland.
January started brightly with seven Waxwings being found on the Dines Green housing estate in Worcester. This flock quickly grew to 24 birds though they often roamed widely and could be rather elusive to find. A Firecrest was found at Trimpley Reservoir at this time and remained several weeks though could be difficult to pinpoint except when calling.
Two Smew roosted at Grimley for several nights in early January and a further bird later spent several weeks commuting between Lower Moor, Throckmorton and Bishampton Vale Pool. Three Pink-footed Geese took up residence at this first locality and were believed to be wild birds, finally leaving the area in mid April.
A further highlight of January and February was a flock of up to 17 Hawfinches regularly feeding on a heavy Hornbeam crop along the slopes of Chase End Hill. Always a tricky species to find let alone see well, these birds whilst typically shy, afforded nice views to many birders visiting the area at this time.
Following an early Avocet at Lower Moor in late February, hopes were raised that there would be a repeat of the breeding success of last year at Upton Warren. After brief visits from a couple of singletons, a pair returned to the Flashes and quickly appeared to be settling down to nest. Despite two eggs being laid, this appeared to be a different and less experienced pair than that from last year and sadly the eggs were quickly predated causing the birds to leave site shortly afterwards.
March was a good month for passage Gulls with at least seven Kittiwakes being found and an estimated eleven Mediterranean Gulls passing through Bredon’s Hardwick. Three Little Gulls also visited Westwood and a Sandwich Tern was seen briefly there. The month concluded with a Black-necked Grebe at the same site.
As always, migration gathered pace as April arrived with its warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. Several Ring Ouzels were found on the Clent Hills and a smart drake Garganey arrived at Upton Warren. Two Ruddy Shelduck at Grimley mid month, though brief stayers, were though less likely to have been of genuinely wild origin.
An amazing passage of Wheatears took place during the third week with no less than 39 birds counted on an area of wasteland just north of Droitwich, whilst over 50 were estimated to have passed through Wassell Grove in the extreme north of the County. Only about four Ospreys were reported and one or two Red Kites were seen briefly.
April finished on a high note with firstly a drake Green-winged Teal being found at Bredon’s Hardwick, quickly followed by a Common Crane seen drifting over Lower Moor the following day. Finally, parties of eleven and five Arctic Terns fed over Westwood and Bittell respectively as heavy rain arrived at the month’s end.
Records compiled from reports received by Birdline Midlands. Please phone through details of all your interesting sightings to the 24-hour Hotline on 01905-754154 (free on application to regular callers). For all the latest information on birds currently within Worcestershire and the Midlands Region, call 09068-700247 (calls charged at 60p per minute).
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