Worcestershire Record No. 20 April 2007 p. 31
This has been a fairly dry winter with temperatures a little lower in the second half of the period than in recent years. It has though again been exceptional for rare and scarce birds with no less than two species occurring for the first time in the County.
The tail end of a very heavy Ring Ouzel passage continued into early November and it was this that prompted better than usual coverage of Bredon Hill. This indirectly led to the exciting discovery of a first winter male Pied Wheatear by the summit tower on the 5th. With only about 50 records nationally, this species from south eastern Europe had never previously been recorded from an inland County and proved the point that you can never be sure as to what may turn up next! It was though found quite late in the afternoon and unfortunately could only be enjoyed by a handful of observers before it moved on ahead of heavy rain overnight.
The start of the month also saw the late Osprey lingering near Bewdley and a Little Egret continued to find sufficient food at the Gwen Finch reserve, Nafford, whilst the Bittern showed frequently at Upton Warren. A few days later a Dartford Warbler was located on call but proved a little elusive to see amongst bracken and gorse on the slopes of North Hill over the next week or two.
Several Crossbills were seen on Bredon Hill and the north Malverns and the first of an influx of presumed continental Hawfinches appeared on Bredon Hill, in Redditch and at Wadborough. Two Snow Buntings were seen together on Worcestershire Beacon on a couple of dates ten days apart and were presumed different individuals, whilst a Short-eared Owl was also seen there intermittently.
November continued on a rich vein with an adult Laughing Gull being discovered at Throckmorton Tip towards the end of the month and it then subsequently roosted at Westwood Pool. This bird was part of an unprecedented national influx of about 60 birds at this time and was only the second record of the species in the county. A ‘Kumlein’s Gull’ was also found in the Westwood roost at this time - this bird is now believed to be a hybrid between Iceland Gull and Thayer’s Gull and originates from the north east of North America. It has been detected in Britain with increasing frequency in recent years.
Four ‘redhead’ Red-breasted Mergansers unusually lingered at Bredon’s Hardwick for a week or two and the month concluded with a juvenile Bewick’s Swan at Lower Moor. This though unfortunately was to prove to be one of only eight birds of this species seen all winter in the County.
Early December produced Worcestershire’s first Red-necked Grebe for nine years at Bredon’s Hardwick and this individual remained for most of the month. A Woodlark was found the next day at Wadborough and unsurprisingly proved popular whilst it remained there through to February, despite often being very elusive feeding with Meadow Pipits amongst spent market gardening crops. Finches also began to build there and at least 30 Brambling along with up to six Mealy Redpoll could be found with 200 Lesser Redpoll and good numbers of other commoner species for much of the winter. A further 50 Brambling were also seen at this time at Grimley.
A male Hen Harrier was a good find but only paused briefly over Throckmorton Airfield whilst a female or immature (ringtail) of this species was seen flying over Wadborough. A Scaup at Westwood and another at Clifton Pits were surprisingly the first of the year whilst two or three ‘Caspian’ Gulls – the eastern form of Yellow-legged Gull, were found at the traditional gull hotspots of Throckmorton Tip and Westwood.
Just before Christmas three Snow Buntings were found on Worcestershire Beacon. They may have included some of the birds seen there in November but they all remained into the New Year with one still present in late March.
The extent of the Hawfinch influx became apparent with numbers at Croome Park building up to 22 birds by mid December and one or two others found at scattered localities including at Salwarpe. A Firecrest was also reported from the churchyard at this last locality at the end of the year.
The New Year began with both Little and Mediterranean Gulls seen in the Westwood roost but more unexpected was a lone Bean Goose seen on one date at Defford Airfield. It displayed the key characteristics of the Taiga race of this species and if proven, will constitute the first record of this sub-species for the County. Another rare goose – this time a Brent, was seen briefly at Bittell the following week.
A smart male Black Redstart seen near Alfrick was unusual for the time of year and it was soon established that it had first been seen the previous month. Both this and a female or immature of this species – found on Worcester Cathedral a few days later - remained into March and probably constitute the first over-wintering records for the County.
Meanwhile wintering Chiffchaffs are expected these days and there were up to a dozen birds around Lower Moor sewage works in January, including one showing some features of the north eastern ‘Siberian’ form. The only Iceland Gull of the winter roosted one night at Westwood at the month’s end and was then seen briefly at Hartlebury Tip the following day.
Further Hawfinches were located in churchyards at Rous Lench and Harvington in early February whilst good numbers continued to show intermittently at Croome Park. Colder weather brought a drake Scaup to Kinsham but the biggest surprise of the month was the discovery of this species’ much rarer North American relative, a Lesser Scaup, which was found on the River Severn at Grimley during the second week. This first-winter male bird showed very well here for several days before relocating to Westwood Pool the following week. It then disappeared for a couple of weeks before returning to this latter locality for several days early in March. Needless to say, this was the first record for Worcestershire and even though anticipated with the significant increase in British sightings in recent years, it was very much appreciated by all who saw it! A Firecrest was found at the same time as the Lesser Scaup at Kempsey Sewage Works and remained well into March whilst a Bittern was also reported briefly at Grimley, in of all places, a field of leeks!
A male Hen Harrier, perhaps the same bird as present in the County in December, was seen several times in early March over Defford Airfield. It was later reported that it had been seen in the area over a period of several weeks. A ringtail of this species also passed through Upton Warren later in the month. A Long-eared Owl was another good find by the Moors Pool at Upton Warren whilst an early returning Swallow was seen at Bredon’s Hardwick at the start of the third week. A Gannet was picked up following a period of strong winds at the end of March and the month concluded with the return of four Avocets to Upton Warren along with the first few summer migrants.
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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