Birds in Worcestershire – October 2013 to March 2014

Gavin Peplow

This was a much milder winter than its predecessor, although record-breakingly wet, with extensive flooding down the Severn and Avon valleys dominating from the end of December though into late February.

October began where September left off, with a series of Rock Pipit records including birds at Clifton Pits, Grimley and Ripple, with an exceptional four moving through Upton Warren one morning mid month. The end of the second week was stormy and produced several local rarities including a Red-necked Grebe at Westwood and then a summer-plumage Red-throated Diver at Ripple pits. A juvenile Gannet was seen flying over Grimley and probably the same bird seen over Upton Warren a couple of days later. Two Whooper Swans also stopped briefly at Grimley at this time and a two Red-breasted Mergansers passed through Westwood Pool.

In a busy month for waterfowl, a Common Scoter dropped in to Upton Warren and a party of seven paused for a couple of hours at Clifton Pits, whilst a Black-necked Grebe at Westwood was only the second bird of the year in the County. Garganey were seen at Kemerton and Ripple Pits and a Scaup visited Westwood.

Upton Warren also attracted a late Avocet and a fly-over Grey Plover along with the rarest bird of the month in the form of a very short-staying GLOSSY IBIS – only the second County record of this species which is becoming a more regular visitor to UK shores, largely reflecting an expanding population in the Iberian peninsula.

A Hoopoe stayed several days in Stourport but had disappeared by the time the fortunate ‘non-birding’ observers had alerted someone able to identify their ‘lovely looking bird’ and a Firecrest showed well to a few at Grimley. The month concluded with a very late juvenile Marsh Harrier that found the Gwen Finch Reserve to its liking and lingered in that area for nearly two weeks and into November.

The highlight of early November and rather more obliging than the bird seen at Upton Warren a few weeks previously, were two GLOSSY IBIS at Lower Moor. Though rather mobile, they did spend a reasonable amount of time around the flash pools either side of the river over a three-day period. A Great Grey Shrike was found and just as rapidly disappeared at Defford Airfield whilst up to three Shag lingered at Upper Bittell for nearly two weeks mid month.

Perhaps a monthly record count of nine Little Egrets were seen at Grimley, indicative of the mild conditions which were to persist throughout the winter. A Bittern was seen irregularly at Upton Warren whilst this site also attracted another late Avocet and rather unseasonal Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwits. A few more Common Scoter were seen, with five at Kemerton Lakes the highlight. Passerines included several small parties of Crossbill, with the largest flock being 31 at Eymore Wood. Elsewhere two Snow Buntings passed through the north Malverns and one just strayed into the County near Frankley.

One or more wandering GLOSSY IBIS put in brief appearances at Upton Warren again and then over Captain’s Pool during December. Several Mealy Redpolls were seen at scattered sites and included an impressive eighteen at Lineholt amongst a large flock of Lesser Redpolls . At the end of the month an ARCTIC REDPOLL was also seen briefly at this last location on several occasions but sadly didn’t linger for the majority to enjoy.

Two separate Iceland Gulls were found amongst a good number of larger Gulls around the Wildmoor Tip area and this site also attracted a Caspian Gull. A Great Grey Shrike that lingered and was easy to see – a rare combination – took up residence and delighted many observers, also attracting the interest of passing motorists and pedestrians alike at a new plantation between Hopwood and the canal at Lower Bittell around Christmas.

Two juvenile White-fronted Geese joined the local Canada and Greylag flock at Ripple Pits later in the month, before being displaced as the floodwater rose ever higher with the onset of New Year.

The winter will certainly be remembered for the extensive and record flooding which dominated the first couple of months of 2014. An adult Whooper Swan spent two weeks on the ‘lake’ that was Upton-upon-Severn north Ham, whilst at least three adult Mediterranean Gulls were found in the roost to the south of the Town during January. A Great White Egret was reported flying over Upper Welland but there were no further sightings thereafter, whilst two Little Egrets, formerly very rare in winter, were seen regularly in the Droitwich area, often choosing to roost at Westwood Pool.

Two Scaup spent a few days at Bittell and a White-fronted Goose was found at Clifton Pits. A Short-eared Owl was a good find at Blackstone near Bewdley, whilst a flock of 200 Brambling on the Lickey Hills was a cracking sight. The biggest surprise of the month however was the finding of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Uffmoor Wood. How many other individuals of this attractive little warbler go undetected in similar habitat around the County we’ll probably never know!

A Slavonian Grebe was a good find at Westwood at the start of February, followed soon after by a two-day Great Northern Diver – unexpectedly the second there in two years. Apart from the lingering Whooper Swan and White-fronted Goose, the floods attracted a wholly unprecedented flock of c.1200 Pintail at Longdon Marsh – one Observer even considering there may have been as many as 1500 birds, a total far exceeding the previous record count of 600, also at this site!

At least two Iceland Gulls visited Wildmoor Tip, one of which wandered south to Upton Warren briefly, whilst several Kittiwakes graced sites from Ripple to Westwood. Mediterranean Gulls peaked at four in the Upton-upon-Severn roost and two showed on the central Worcester floods at Pitchcroft along with another Iceland Gull! Avocets returned early to Upton Warren mid month whilst a count of 35 Jack Snipe there was a site record and undoubtedly the highest count anywhere in the County for many years, if not for all time !

The weather finally became drier during March and also warmer, though only intermittently so during the month. Passage began to gather pace with the first Ring Ouzel along with commoner migrants being found. Two Marsh Harriers and an Osprey were seen at Upton Warren, along with a peak count of 31 Avocet. The long staying Great Grey Shrike at Hopwood and Yellow-browed Warbler at Uffmoor Wood continued to entertain throughout the month. The last few days of the month yielded a surprise with two Bean Geese of the ‘Taiga’ subspecies, fabilis, at Kemerton Lakes – only the second time this form has been positively identified not just in Worcestershire, but in the whole of the West Midlands Bird Club area!

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