Birds in Worcestershire - November 1999 to April 2000

By Gavin Peplow

Another rather mild winter gave way to a very wet April but the whole period witnessed a good array of birds to satisfy all interests.

Two Whooper Swans typically only stayed half a day at Westwood in mid-November and disappointingly very few of their normally commoner and smaller relative, the Bewickís Swan, were found. White-fronted Geese were seen in reasonable numbers with 17 over Kinsham in mid-January and then a large party of up to 79 at Bredonís Hardwick a few weeks later.

Other wintering wildfowl included a Scaup briefly at Westwood in February following one at Bredonís Hardwick earlier in the winter. A hybrid American/European Wigeon at this site was the third such individual there - leaving local birders still awaiting a true-bred vagrant from across the Atlantic! A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers put in an all too brief appearance at Bittell in early April. Migrant Garganey appeared from late March at the new Gwen Finch reserve at Nafford, Ryall, Bredonís Hardwick and Westwood, and there followed another good passage of Black-necked Grebes with parties of three at Bittell and the same number a few days later at Westwood.

Little Egret at Lower Moor at the end of April provided one of the few records for that time of year - most birds having visited the County in late summer and autumn, but as records increase, could this in the course of time become a local breeding species?!

Wader passage commenced in earnest in April and despite very high water levels and localised flooding, a good variety of species were found. An Avocet at Grimley was the first site record though it soon relocated to nearby Upton Warren for a nine day stay after being given Ďgriefí by the local Mute Swans! Gwen Finch hosted Knot, Grey Plover and Black-tailed Godwit whilst 27 of this last species (a county record) circled over the Bredon floods in late April. A Spotted Redshank also flew north there a few days later.

Only a couple of Ospreys were reported by late April though there was a scattering of Red Kite sightings, mainly involving wing-tagged individuals, presumably from the various reintroduction schemes. Untagged birds included a first-year around Wolverley and another in the Teme Valley though both of these eluded most birdersí attempts to catch views of them!

A Short-eared Owl proved more obliging at Upton Warren, providing excellent views around the Moors Pool over several nights in spring.

The wet water meadows in the Avon valley proved very attractive to a variety of gulls with at least eight Mediterraneanís passing through between February and April whilst a couple of Little Gulls lingered there later in April. Earlier in the year an Iceland Gull was seen one evening at Westwood whilst a first year Glaucous Gull proved a little more obliging whilst visiting this site and Throckmorton Tip over a few days in February.

This winter proved a good one nationally for 'invading' Waxwings from Scandinavia and Worcestershire didnít miss out with first one then two visiting berry bushes in Droitwich before a party of five were found in Kidderminster during April. Arriving from a similar origin were up to twenty Mealy Redpolls at Wadborough at the beginning of the year whilst more surprising were three 'Siberian' Chiffchaffs found wintering at Lower Moor. These proved very popular with birders, even from outside the area, with considerable discussion as to whether this race may one day become a species in its own right as a clearer understanding of its relationship with our more familiar nominate race emerges.

A Dartford Warbler was found on the North Malverns in December - the fourth in the last five years and another potential County colonist with our apparently continuing milder winters. Other-wintering passerines included two Firecrests at the Nunnery Wood Countryside Centre just outside Worcester, up to 120 Bramblings gathering in April near Larford and a belated report of a Great Grey Shrike on Castlemorton Common in February.

This spring has proved excellent for Ring Ouzel passage with at least nine on Bredon Hill, up to six on Clent, along with a 'one-dayer' at Upton Warren. Other interesting spring visitors included two Black Redstarts - one on North Hill and another in Longdon and, unusually, a Snow Bunting on Worcestershire Beacon in early March. A Blue-headed Wagtail was also found at Grimley during April.

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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