Worcestershire Record No. 18 April 2005 p. 5

BIRDS IN WORCESTERSHIRE – November 2004 to April 2005

by Gavin Peplow

Although generally a dry and mild winter, there were a couple of colder spells during February and March when northerly winds took a grip, though the County escaped any significant snowfall. It has however been an exceptionally good period for scarce and unusual birds irrespective of the weather and undoubtedly the highlight for many will be the unprecedented invasion of Waxwings, with numbers many times greater than had been recorded in any previous influx.

Upton Warren struck a purple patch at the beginning of November with three Gannets flying over to the south followed by a Great Northern Diver passing through a few days later. A late Little Stint and a Little Gull provided a nice supporting cast whilst a Bittern returned to winter from the second week. A lone Waxwing by the Moors Pool for a few minutes one day mid month gave little notice of the invasion that was to follow! Two Common Scoter paid a brief visit to Bittell and a Black-necked Grebe remained at Westwood into the second week. A late Swallow at Bredon’s Hardwick on 20th looked distinctly out of place in the cold and wet conditions at the time which provided a temporary stop-over point for six Bar-tailed Godwits. Two Snow Buntings on Worcestershire Beacon were fairly typical records at the end of the month but nevertheless enjoyed by all who were able to see them. Nearby two Firecrests were found, one initially in a mist-net in a South Malvern garden. They both lingered until mid-December.

After a very poor previous winter for ‘white-winged’ Gulls, an adult Iceland was seen briefly over Wildmoor Tip in early December, and a first-winter Glaucous was picked out in the Westwood roost at Christmas, later making its way to Throckmorton Tip for some daytime feeding. A Red-breasted Merganser and a drake Smew mid-month were typically short-stayers at Upton Warren and Grimley respectively. and a lone Bewick’s Swan at Westwood was sadly to prove the only one of the winter in the County! Wintering warblers were in good evidence with, in addition to the usual spread of Blackcaps, good numbers of Chiffchaffs, mainly concentrated at sewage works such as Kempsey and Upton-upon-Severn. Birds showing characteristics of the Siberian sub-species were found at both these sites with three at the latter. These birds were also accompanied by the first ever wintering Willow Warbler for the County.

Waxwing numbers began to increase during January reaching 200 mid-month before peaking at around 300 at the end of the last week. This included an amazing flock of 246 birds, counted with the help of a digital photograph in Droitwich! Both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were seen at Westwood and Throckmorton Landfill site with at least three separate individuals of the last species. A count of 29 Raven’s at Holt was unprecedented whilst a Firecrest trapped in a private east Worcestershire woodland was a good record. A Great-grey Shrike was eventually ‘pinned down’ to an area of Croome Park mid-month and five White-fronted Geese moved around the County with a small group of Canada’s. What had already been a very good start to the year became even better when a male Pine Bunting was found feeding with Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers in an area of set-aside crop near Wadborough. It continued to please crowds of travelling birders for the next ten days and well over £1000 was collected and donated to the Tsunami charity appeal at the request of the landowner. An amazing month concluded with a drake Ring-necked Duck at Bredon’s Hardwick – only the third ever record for Worcestershire and unlike it’s predecessors, this bird remained in the south of the County for several weeks.

February began with an adult Ring-billed Gull at Lower Moor which then appeared on several later dates in the Westwood roost. Short-eared Owls were seen at Eckington and Throckmorton and a female or immature Hen Harrier was then seen all too briefly at Upton Warren. Incredibly, following the events in January, another rare Bunting - this time a Little -was found, again with Reed Buntings, in the north of the County in another area of ‘Pheasant shoot’ set-aside crop near Caunsall. As if this wasn’t enough, over the following few weeks a further two birds of the same species were found in the same crop with all three birds remaining into March! There had only ever been one previous record of Little Bunting in Worcestershire and multiple occurrences are unprecedented inland.

March by comparison was relatively ‘quiet’ though by any other standards would be remembered as a good month for birds. A Hen Harrier was seen several times around Caunsall by people looking for the Little Buntings and the Ring-necked Duck visited Kinsham on a couple of dates. A good passage of Gulls included up to six Kittiwakes at Lower Moor in the second week when one also turned up on the River Severn in central Worcester. Several Mediterranean Gulls were seen in the Lower Avon valley whilst adult and first-winter Iceland Gulls were watched on several dates at both Throckmorton Tip and Lower Moor. Another first-winter Glaucous Gull, again at Throckmorton, rounded off an excellent winter for these two species. The first Osprey of spring passed over Grimley in the last week and other early summer migrants included Tree Pipit, Redstart and Ring Ouzel at traditional sites. The Bittern left Upton Warren early in the month and counts of Waxwings dwindled to double figure numbers, though this still comfortably surpassed totals witnessed in any previous invasion!

April began with a party of ten Common Scoter at Westwood whilst Upton Warren attracted two or three passage Ospreys, Black Redstart and then a Water Pipit during the first week. A drake Garganey and a Sandwich Tern were all too brief visitors to Bredon’s Hardwick, but a Knot and several Black-tailed Godwits paused for a little longer at Grimley. A Hoopoe was seen in flight only over a Redditch Garden mid-month whilst a White Stork circled and landed briefly in a wood at Clifton Gravel Pits, before being encouraged on it’s way by the local Herons! It was later reported from Hollybed Common and may have been one of several wide ranging birds of this species that have escaped from captivity in recent years. As the last few Waxwings moved through on their way back to Scandinavia, the weather in the last week finally became warmer and witnessed summer visitors reappearing in greater numbers. Yellow Wagtails continued to be scarce but it was encouraging to see more Grasshopper Warblers arriving than in recent years as April drew to a close.

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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