Worcestershire Record No. 26 April 2009 p. 47

BIRDS IN WORCESTERSHIRE – November 2008 to April 2009

by Gavin Peplow

This winter has been colder than the recent average, with greater snowfall than has been seen for more than ten years. Nonetheless a good range of bird species have been found and enjoyed by many, with some notable highlights particularly during the late autumn and early spring migration periods.

November began with a first winter Ring-billed Gull being found at Bredon’s Hardwick. It then moved north and was seen briefly at Lower Moor and then Throckmorton Tip on the same day before disappearing. Whilst this bird was being looked for, an adult Glaucous Gull was a surprisingly early winter find at this last site. Sea Duck often pause in the County during this month so a drake Common Scoter at Bittell wasn’t unexpected, though it proved unusual in staying into December. Two further birds joined it on a single date later in the month, whilst single Red-breasted Mergansers were found both there and at Lower Moor.

A Slavonian Grebe that visited Westwood on a single date early in the month was the first in the County for several years. Passage Geese included a lone Pink-foot that wandered between Grimley and Clifton before settling down to winter in the Lower Moor area. A further four birds of this species also paused a short while at Clifton mid month and two Brent Geese were seen one afternoon at Grimley. Two Whooper Swans were found at Longdon Marsh but didn’t linger.

A Snow Bunting proved elusive on the North Malverns as did a Firecrest a little further south along the hills. The month concluded with an immature Hen Harrier being found near Hinton-on-the-Green and a Smew at Bittell.

A Water Pipit, perhaps the same bird as last winter, was found at Grimley New Workings early in December and remained well into the New Year. Also seen during the month were up to three Bitterns at Upton Warren, a Black Redstart at Malvern Wells, up to five Hawfinches in Croome Park and at least four Short-eared Owls at various sites.

After good numbers of Waxwing had turned up in eastern Scotland earlier in the autumn, a few birds reached the County in the second half of the month, with a small flock at Upton Warren, increasing to 21 just after Christmas and a further 13 birds feeding in a large apple orchard at Suckley amongst a few thousand Fieldfares and Redwing. Good numbers of Waxwing were then seen through into the New Year and even up to mid-March at a range of widely scattered sites, with the peak count being 43 at Avoncroft Museum near Bromsgrove.

January began with a Twite at Lineholt, an increasingly rare winter visitor in the County. It failed to oblige however and was only seen briefly one afternoon. A Black-necked Grebe at Clifton Pits was the first seen at the site and constituted a somewhat scarce winter record. Three Pink-footed Geese paused briefly at Bredon’s Hardwick, whilst a White-fronted Goose lingered a week or two at Upton Warren. Another Firecrest, initially trapped and ringed at Upton-upon-Severn Sewage Works, remained for several weeks whilst several Crossbills were noted at Hurcott Wood and in the Wyre Forest, but remained generally very elusive.

The early part of 2009 may best be remembered for the number of records of scarce Gulls. In particular, following a couple of Iceland Gulls before Christmas, multiple sightings of this species were recorded at Westwood Pool and more particularly at Throckmorton Tip. With no previous record of more than two birds together, up to four were seen on several dates right through the early part of the year to April. It was believed that at least 15 different individuals were involved – completely unprecedented for any species of ‘white-winged’ Gull which normally number one or two a winter in the County! Additionally a Kumlein’s Gull, currently recognised as a sub-species of Iceland Gull, was also found at Wildmoor Quarry. Glaucous Gulls in comparison were fairly scarce, though again three separate juveniles were reported at Throckmorton on a single date in mid-February – an excellent record by normal standards! Several Caspian Gulls were also seen as many observers became more familiar with the suite of features that need to be checked to identify this newly recognised species.

March began with a very early Little-ringed Plover at Bredon’s Hardwick and the first returning Avocet to Upton Warren. Five Scaup at Bittell were exceptional and the first record of the species for a couple of years, though they only remained one day. Early migrants included one or two Ring Ouzels, and House Martins, whilst presumably the same Twite that was seen in January was relocated at Grimley in the last week. The month ended with a Hoopoe being reported at Chase End Hill briefly.

Migration gathered pace as April progressed with the highlight being a Red-rumped Swallow at Bittell – only the third County record, though sadly only remaining on view for less than an hour. A Corncrake was belatedly reported calling near Libbery mid-month, hopefully a species that might become again more regular with the various re-introduction programmes that are currently underway to support conservation of this species. Rough weather in the third week saw a good passage of Little Gulls with at least eight at Bredon’s Hardwick, along with several Arctic Terns. The second Black-necked Grebe of the year, this time in summer plumage, was seen again at Clifton Pits and could conceivably have been the same bird that visited there at the start of the year. Two Common Cranes were reported at Longdon Marsh early one morning and a Brent Goose paused briefly at Holt.

Wader passage was rather poor with the exception of Whimbrel – about 20 passing through Bredon’s Hardwick. The month concluded with Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserves hosting larger raptors in the form of an Osprey over Upton Warren and then a male Marsh Harrier visiting firstly the Gwen Finch Reserve at Nafford and then Feckenham Wylde Moor on consecutive days.

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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