Birds in Worcestershire – May to October 2011

Gavin Peplow

Either side of a very dry but not exceptionally hot or sunny summer, we’ve witnessed some exceptional spring and autumn passage records in the County, with two new species being found. This now takes the overall total of birds recorded in Worcestershire to over 300 species!

Following a very sunny April, May was a lot cloudier but still delivered several significant highlights. Primary amongst these was the first County record of Spotted Sandpiper, an American species and close relative of our familiar Common Sandpiper. This particular individual was resplendent in its full ‘spotty’ summer plumage making it very distinctive as it paraded along the dam wall at Westwood Pool at the beginning of the month.

This spring proved to be better than for several years in terms of the number of passage waders seen. Continuing from the end of April, the strong movement of Bar-tailed Godwits included a flock of 18 over Wassell Grove with singles also at Grimley and Upton Warren. Counts of three and four Wood Sandpipers at this last locality and Lower Moor respectively were significant, whilst Turnstone were recorded at Grimley and Ripple and a scattering of Sanderling included a County record flock of seven, again at Ripple.

Grey Plovers are quite scarce these days, so one at Bredon’s Hardwick was appreciated, but more unexpected was a Pectoral Sandpiper that spent a couple of days at Grimley in the third week. This was the first spring record for Worcestershire, though over 20 have been seen in autumn.

Towards the end of the month, a bright female Red-necked Phalarope graced the flashes at Upton Warren, only to be joined by a second female a couple of days later – the first time two individuals of this species have been found together. The first bird lingered into June, though as it disappeared for days at a time, which led to some speculation that up to four birds may have been involved!?

Garganey were unusually scarce with single drakes at Bittell and Ryall. Sandwich Terns were noted at Upton Warren and Ripple whilst a party of seven and then three Little Terns passing through Bittell on the same day was unprecedented. A longer-staying Osprey visited Bittell spasmodically during the month, whilst a Black-necked Grebe also dropped by for a couple of days. This was followed by a typically short-staying Spoonbill at Upton Warren. A Black Redstart was also reported briefly at this last locality and Marsh Harriers were seen there and at Crossway Green.

One or two Quail appeared towards the end of the month but far more unexpected was a report of a singing male Common Rosefinch for just a few minutes at Upton Warren. Despite extensive searching from soon after the report, there was no further sign, but if accepted this would provide yet another first for Worcestershire!

An excellent total of 16 juvenile Avocets fledged at Upton Warren during June. Other waders of note during the month (in addition to the superb female Red-necked Phalarope !) included two Turnstone at Bittell and a count of seven Black-tailed Godwits at Upton Warren.

Elsewhere a Marsh Harrier hunted over fields near Shenstone during the second week, a Common Crane was reported drifting over Rous Lench and evidence of the start of a small influx of Crossbills was seen with a party of seven heading south over Abberton.

Mediterranean Gulls were seen at Clifton Gravel Pits and Upton Warren, a Kittiwake passed through Bittell and Quail were heard on Bredon Hill, at Nafford, Rous Lench and Strensham.

The highlight in July was a Hoopoe seen near Kidderminster, with what was presumed to be the same bird appearing a couple of days later - though even more fleetingly - at Upper Bittell. As the water levels continued to drop at this last locality there were some good passage wader records with three Knot, a Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper and two Sanderling recorded.

Becoming more widespread, two Red Kites feeding over a freshly mown hayfield near Cutnall Green were perhaps now to be expected, but a Hen Harrier reported near Harvington mid-month was certainly unusual for the time of year. A few more Crossbills were seen with parties of 12 at Clent and eight over Egdon, whilst a Garganey was found at Longdon Marsh towards the end of the month.

August was quiet with the highlights being a Black Tern and then a Marsh Harrier through Clifton Gravel Pits, an Osprey over Upton upon Severn and a Quail near Hagley. As has been the case in recent years, Upton Warren attracted several Mediterranean Gulls during the month as well as a Spotted Redshank that fed on a dwindling area of mud as the dry weather continued.

Another strong wader passage continued through September with the most notable records including two Curlew Sandpipers at Bittell, Little Stint and Spotted Redshank at Bredon’s Hardwick and both this last species and a Grey Plover at Grimley. The highlight though was a very obliging (and photogenic) Grey Phalarope that spent a couple of days at Holt mid month. A few Black and Arctic Terns passed through during stormier weather, with counts of ten and seven at Upton Warren. A Honey Buzzard was also reported briefly at this reserve. A long staying Black Redstart was enjoyed by many at Shenstone, particularly as it has been a relatively poor year for this species and remained for much of the month.

October started with a smart male Hen Harrier flying through Grimley and this site continued to attract some good birds over the next few weeks. A Rock Pipit was expected, but perhaps the surprise of the year occurred when an immature Barred Warbler was caught unexpectedly in a mist net on the edge of Old Grimley reedbeds mid month! Whilst this is a regular though always very scarce passage migrant around our coasts and islands, inland records are exceptional, probably not least because it always seems to be a skulking species at the best of times. A lucky few local birders managed to see this individual when it was released, but unfortunately (for the birders!) it flew off strongly over a tall row of trees once it regained its freedom and could not be relocated. Needless to say, another ‘first for Worcestershire’ and only the second ever found in the West Midlands region.

Further interesting sightings over the remainder of the month included a party of four Whooper Swans at Upton Warren, two White-fronted Geese at Bittell, a Black-necked Grebe at Westwood and a Short-eared Owl at Throckmorton, with anticipation that more of this last species would follow as a result of a big influx that occurred on the east coast during the month …

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).