Worcestershire Record No. 22 April 2007 p. 9

BIRDS IN WORCESTERSHIRE – November 2006 to April 2007

by Gavin Peplow

This has been another mild winter with only a couple of brief colder snaps including some heavy, but short-lived snowfall in February. It has though been generally a lot wetter than recent winters, before significantly drier conditions took over in March, then leading on to the warmest April on record !

The last of the summer migrants left the County in early November with a couple of Ring Ouzels being seen on Bredon Hill. Upton Warren attracted an unprecedented three Bitterns to the Moors Pool from mid-month and at least two of these stayed through into February, though as always, patience was required to get the best views. One or more Little Egrets were seen at Westwood and Upton Warren on occasions through the month (and through the winter) and a pair of Red-crested Pochard visited Pirton on a single date. A southerly passage of Woodpigeons over Grimley totalled an impressive 3500 birds counted over an hour and a half one morning, but the quite unexpected highlight of the month was a Leach’s Petrel at Westwood one late afternoon, appearing a little surprisingly, during a period of calm high pressure. Other highlights included a Red-breasted Merganser at Bredon’s Hardwick and a Hawfinch at Bittell – one of very few sightings of this species following last winters influx.

December provided a greater range of species than normally expected, starting with a Black Redstart around the barns at Lower Smite Farm. Gales during the first week drove a significant number of Leach’s Petrels inland and Worcestershire recorded birds picked up in Kidderminster, Broadwas and Redditch, all of which unfortunately died. A further individual though was watched flying strongly south down the Avon valley over the floodwater at Bredon’s Hardwick once the storms had abated. This period of high winds also drove a Pomarine Skua into the County, with a bird seen briefly over Upton Warren - the first record for the reserve. A hybrid Ferruginous Duck at Throckmorton attracted some interest, whilst a Brent Goose on floods near Kempsey Lower Ham also proved popular. Other wildfowl included an unseasonal Garganey accompanying the Teal at Bittell through into the New Year and a Common Scoter on one date at Trimpley Reservoir. Twenty Waxwings were reported briefly in Bromsgrove and a Glaucous Gull ventured south from it’s regular roost in South Birmingham to spend one night at Westwood over the Christmas period.

The New Year got under way with a Whooper Swan watched flying south over Kempsey – it was relocated a few days later at Upton upon Severn where it obligingly stayed for a week or two. Also at Kempsey, this time around the Sewage Works, at least nine Chiffchaffs included two or more ‘eastern’ race birds wintered and attracted significant interest (and debate!) from observers attempting to determine their origin. A small party of four Bewick’s Swans were seen flying over the Gwen Finch reserve before landing further south in Gloucestershire and another Red-breasted Merganser was seen briefly one evening at Westwood. First year Iceland Gulls visited Throckmorton and Wildmoor Tips, whilst there were sightings of about six Mediterranean Gulls on floodwater and in the Westwood roost. The month concluded with an adult Red-breasted Goose joining the Canada flock at Grimley – a really attractive bird, but unfortunately more likely to have been from captive origin than of genuine stock!

A further four (perhaps even the same) Bewick’s Swans paused at Bredon’s Hardwick in early February and three birds flew over Wyre Piddle a few days later. Early return passage White-fronted Geese included a small party heard over Redditch one evening and a skein of about 80 heading north-east over Buckland towards the end of the month. There were three or four sightings of Red Kite, but more surprising was a very early Osprey reported near Tenbury Wells mid month. With continuing climate change and birds now even reported as over-wintering in Scotland, further early and late records might perhaps be anticipated ?

The first returning Sand Martins passed through Upton Warren during the first week of March, whilst other early migrants such as Wheatear, Ring Ouzel and Little Ringed Plover appeared after the second week. Flooding during the first part of the month attracted several Mediterranean Gulls, including two at Powick, with other birds at Kempsey and Upton upon Severn. A Little Gull was also seen over floodwater whilst a Kittiwake favoured Bredon’s Hardwick for several days. The rarest ‘larid’ recorded though was a first winter Caspian Gull, but sadly it only showed briefly to one observer at Lower Moor. A lone Waxwing was reported in Warndon in mid-March and a pair of Red-crested Pochard found the aquatic vegetation at Kinsham to their liking at the end of the month.

Encouragingly, seven Avocets returned to Upton Warren and two pairs were showing signs of breeding activity as April arrived, whilst nearby a pair of Garganey lingered for a while on the Moors Pool.

April was very dry and mainly sunny, with many summer migrants returning early. Highlights included a very good passage of Ring Ouzels, with double figure counts from Bredon Hill on several dates. Lower numbers were seen on the Malverns and around Clent and Walton Hill, whilst singles even visited lowland sites at Bittell, near Shenstone and at Elmbridge. An excellent count of at least 23 Wheatears was made around Lower Smite Farm during the third week, but a Black Redstart in central Worcester proved extremely elusive. A record ‘group’ count of four Mediterranean Gulls was made at Bredon’s Hardwick and a Short-eared Owl was seen on one date on Bredon Hill. An Iceland Gull at Kinsham was atypically late for this species in the County, but more predictable was the start of the spring wader passage with Whimbrels seen at Grimley, Lower Moor and Upton Warren. This last site also attracted a short staying Wood Sandpiper and three Bar-tailed Godwits at the end of the month - hopefully the start of a stronger May passage than has been witnessed in the County over the last few years…

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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