Worcestershire Record No. 27 November 2009 pp. 36-37

BIRDS IN WORCESTERSHIRE Ė May to October 2009

by Gavin Peplow

This has been a rather mixed summer weather-wise, with a hot spell in June giving way to a less settled July and August. September was dry and October mild and overall a good selection of species has been seen throughout the period.

Alongside the expected returning summer visitors and passage migrants, early May also saw the appearance of a juvenile Iceland Gull at Throckmorton Tip as well as on fields near to the Trust Headquarters at Lower Smite. This was a surprisingly late spring date for this northern species, but no doubt resulted from a large influx that saw far more birds than normal wintering well south in Western Europe.

Spring wader passage has dwindled somewhat in terms of numbers and variety of species over the last few years, but Sanderling bucked this trend this year with up to 14 birds being logged in the second half of the month and at five widespread sites. Two Wood Sandpipers were seen at Grimley and Turnstones stopped briefly at Lower Park Farm, Upton Warren and Bredonís Hardwick. This last site also hosted a Little Stint on a single date mid month. Even though Marsh Harriers continue to increase in eastern England, it remains a good find in the County Ė just two were seen during the month at Upton Warren. Other spring raptors included a good spread of Red Kite sightings and Honey Buzzards were reported near Bewdley and over Summerfield. Tern passage included two Little Terns at Bredonís Hardwick, one of these birds also visiting nearby Kemerton Lakes, whilst a concentrated passage of Black Terns mid month included flocks of nine at Bredonís Hardwick and five at Throckmorton Lagoons.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the month for many birders was the opportunity to see Spoonbill in Worcestershire. Although there had been nine previous records, none had lingered long, so an adult at Clifton Gravel Pits in mid-month proved popular. It was seen late one afternoon before flying off, though returned again briefly the following day. Amazingly, a second bird was then seen a couple of days later at Bredonís Hardwick. Other notable records included a White Stork over Cleeve Prior and two Common Cranes flying north over Grimley. These last birds were reported commuting widely across the Midlands over a period of a few weeks and were almost certainly the same two that were reported at Longdon in April.

Wader passage trickled on into June with a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper at Upton Warren during the first week, whilst a Red-necked Phalarope that paused at Throckmorton Lagoons at the same time and was only seen by itís finders. Presumably a different Red-necked Phalarope (though again a male) was then much appreciated at Upton Warren a couple of weeks later and constituted the fifth record of this species for the reserve. Avocets have sadly not done so well this year and only one brood fledged on the Flashes, despite ten adults being present for several weeks earlier in the spring. Quail were heard at Shenstone and Longdon Marsh and there was a scattering of late passage Black Terns at several sites.

Quail continued to call from cereal fields at existing sites during July, with three newly found birds heard near Bluntington during the first couple of weeks. Little Egret sightings picked up, as has been the trend in recent years, with a maximum of five birds pausing briefly at Throckmorton Lagoons mid month. Mediterranean Gulls are also expected at this time of year following post-breeding dispersal and individuals at Upton Warren, Ripple, Clifton and Nafford didnít disappoint! Crossbills had been fairly scarce up to this point in the year, but a flock of 48 on Bredon Hill stood out with very few other records being received. A Bittern returning to Upton Warren in mid July was the earliest ever there by nearly three months and might perhaps have been a failed breeding bird, whilst two Pink-footed Geese at Hollybed Common were decidedly unseasonal and perhaps indicative of a local feral population rather than truly wild birds!

August began with three Black Terns at Clifton Pit and a further four at Upton Warren, but it then remained fairly quiet until mid month when a few lucky observers at Upton Warren unexpectedly witnessed a male Montaguís Harrier flying through the Flashes. More observers were then able to enjoy a Spotted Crake feeding furtively in front of the Moors Hides later the same day whilst still hoping the Harrier might return! This same site continued to attract visitors from all over the Midlands (and beyond!) when a second summer Sabineís Gull was found roosting on the flashes later in the month and it continued to oblige most evenings for the following fortnight. Exceptionally, a further two second summer birds of this species also touched down at Westwood in the last week before quickly moving on. Little Egret numbers peaked at six at Grimley mid month whilst a Wryneck in Evesham sadly fell victim to a cat in the last week.

Sabine's Gull at Upton Warren
© Andy Warr

A party of eight disorientated Shags paused for a few hours at the beginning of September at Bittell and a storm blown Manx Shearwater was picked up in Perdiswell. Modern satellite technology enabled a juvenile female Osprey to be tracked moving south over the County, even revealing that it roosted over one night at Hewell Grange. Unfortunately though, Internet updates were a little too tardy to enable local birdwatchers a real chance of seeing this bird in the field! The earliest ever Snow Bunting for the West Midlands region and perhaps also the most confiding, was found mid month on the top of Worcestershire Beacon and stayed for over ten days - it allowed approach to within a few feet on many occasions! Elsewhere a juvenile Hen Harrier attracted a lot of interest in the extreme north of the County at Fairy Glen, ahead of an adult male being seen, again by a fortunate few at Upton Warren a couple of weeks later. Other September highlights included a Woodlark at Elmley Lovett, a Grey Plover heard as it flew over Lower Smite and a record count of 56 Mandarin at Trimpley at the monthís end.

Pair of Mandarin Ducks
© John Robinson

October began with the discovery of Worcestershireís fourth Great White Egret at the Gwen Finch Reserve at Nafford and this bird showed well on and off before heading south. A second Bittern arrived back at Upton Warren and up to four Pink-footed Geese were seen at Clifton Gravel Pits. A small passage of Ring Ouzels was noted on the North Malverns and Bredon Hill, whilst a few Crossbills continued to be noted at the latter site and also in the Wyre Forest. A Firecrest, also on the Malverns was the only one reported so far this autumn, whilst only one Black Redstart was recorded Ė near Sinton Green at the end of the month. Fifteen Common Scoter at Bittell was the largest flock of this species in the County for a good number of years, whilst single Red-breasted Mergansers were seen at Westwood and Upton Warren. The month concluded with three immature Scaup at Clifton, hopefully the precursor to further sea duck records over the coming winter months

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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