Birds in Worcestershire – November 2010 to April 2011
This last winter will be remembered as the coldest for several decades, with in particular heavy snowfall and extensive sub-zero temperatures during December. Though milder from January, this has overall been a very dry season, with clear sunny days in March developing in to an early spring. The impact on our smaller bird populations of these conditions has yet to be revealed.
A party of four White-fronted Geese lingered at Bittell into November whilst a Great White Egret was watched briefly at the same site mid-month – the first locality record. ‘Sawbills’ were well represented with single Red-breasted Mergansers at this last locality and also at Bredon’s Hardwick, whilst redhead Smew were seen at Westwood Pool and at Lower Moor. A ringtail Hen Harrier was seen near Bewdley whilst Upton Warren attracted a passage Short-eared Owl and two Bitterns were seen there intermittently. Scarcer Gulls included both a Little Gull and a Kittiwake at Clifton Gravel Pits and two Caspian Gulls at Throckmorton Tip. A Grey Phalarope one evening at Westwood was exceptional in being the third record of this species for the autumn.
Good numbers of Waxwings arrived in the north and east of the UK and a party of 14 birds were seen briefly at Chaddesley Corbett mid month. A Water Pipit at Lower Moor was only the second site record, whilst a Snow Bunting on the Malverns was more predictable. Following the earlier autumn influx, a single Lapland Bunting was heard over Bredon Hill but unfortunately wasn’t seen to land. Hawfinches appeared in reasonable numbers at Chase End with up to six birds counted.
As winter began to bite in early December, six Bewick’s Swans and a Great Grey Shrike were seen briefly at Clifton Gravel Pits, whilst a Black-necked Grebe there lingered a bit longer before leaving when the main pit froze over. An unexpected find was a Dartford Warbler on the north east side of Evesham. It was found one frosty morning in an old apple orchard and stayed for a week before disappearing. A second year Glaucous Gull visited Throckmorton Tip and a Snow Bunting was seen on the north Malverns mid-month, though the highlight was a party of seven Bean Geese that stayed a few days at Clifton Pits until snow covered their favoured feeding area and they moved on. Waxwing numbers built up extensively across the County with the highest count being 135 at Tenbury, adding to the local interest of a Bittern feeding in the open along the banks of the River Teme, right on the edge of town! With no respite from the weather, an adult Whooper Swan was seen at various points along the River Severn before it ended up joining the Mute Swan flock in the middle of Worcester at the end of the year, thereafter remaining there through to the spring. A Firecrest was reported in the Wyre Forest and nearby a sub-adult drake Smew attracted much interest as it tried to find food on an unfrozen section of the river in Bewdley.
Temperatures eased a little from early January and there was a good selection of scarcer birds seen over the month. Main highlights included Iceland and Caspian Gulls at Throckmorton, with another of the last species also seen at Wildmoor Tip near Bromsgrove. Wildfowl were represented by two Bewick’s and a Whooper Swan at Bredon’s Hardwick, two White-fronted Geese at Lower Moor and a Scaup at Bittell. Two Mealy Redpolls were seen at Stourport and Hawfinches were regular visitors to Lodge Hill Farm in the Wyre Forest. The month concluded with a Great Grey Shrike being seen briefly at Bredon’s Hardwick.
Perhaps the same wandering Shrike was reported near Upton-upon-Severn a couple of weeks later in mid-February whilst elsewhere a very early returning Avocet appeared at Upton Warren. A Mediterranean Gull became a regular visitor at this last site from later in the month, a Kittiwake visited nearby Westwood and another Caspian Gull was found at Wildmoor Tip. Bittell attracted a drake Scaup followed by a drake Red-breasted Merganser a week later. Waxwings continued to be seen in good numbers but were generally elusive as they moved on quickly in their search for food.
Presumably two different Scaup were again at Bittell on a single date in early March and one or two White-fronted Geese continued to be seen occasionally at Lower Moor. A Glaucous Gull visited Throckmorton Tip on a couple of dates during the second half of the month and the Whooper Swan that had been wintering in Worcester, dropped into Upton Warren for a couple of hours. Hawfinch numbers peaked at an exceptional 22 in the Wyre Forest on a single date, with otherwise only single figure counts being reported. Several Mealy Redpolls were seen and/or trapped at the Knapp and Papermill reserve at Alfrick and included one bird believed to be of one of the northwestern races from Iceland or Greenland. A Black Redstart was found on Clent and early returning migrants were widely reported from the second week. What was believed to be the same Great Grey Shrike eventually settled down on Bredon Hill and was then seen at various locations around the Hill over the next few weeks.
April proved to be an excellent month in the County, with a good range of scarce and unusual species being found. Birds such as Little Egret, several Marsh Harriers, Wood Sandpipers and the last few Waxwings from the winter invasion only making up a strong supporting cast! A Hoopoe flew across Upton Warren Moors Pool one early morning early in the month, but unfortunately couldn’t be relocated. A strong Ring Ouzel passage included up to 12 birds on Bredon Hill, whilst a Blue-headed Wagtail – a subspecies of the more familiar Yellow, spent a couple of days at Ripple. A very good count of eight Little Gulls spent an afternoon at Upton Warren mid-month, with observers watching these delightful ‘larids’ also picking up an Osprey flying over and a Sandwich Tern - the latter probably being the same as one seen at Lower Moor earlier in the day. A few Arctic Terns were noted and a Black Tern was seen at Clifton Pits. A Spoonbill spent about ½ hour at Upton Warren Flashes before moving on and two Common Cranes were even briefer, only being seen in flight over Churchill near Redditch as they headed north.
Without doubt the highlight of the month was a Bluethroat that was first seen hopping around the base of reed stems at the Hen Pool, Upton Warren one late afternoon during the last week. Unfortunately it was very elusive, although it did show itself singing for a brief period the following morning before disappearing completely. It was a male of the white-spotted race and only the third ever County record (the other two both being of the red-spotted race). The month concluded with a strong passage of Bar-tailed Godwits – 27 flew over Upton Warren one evening and a further nine flew through the new John Bennett reserve at Birlingham.
Records compiled from reports received by Birdline Midlands. For all the latest information on birds currently within Worcestershire and the Midlands Region, call 09068-700247 (calls charged at 60p per minute).
Fig.1. White-spotted Bluethroat at Upton Warren, April 2011. Computer generated painting © Andy Warr.