Worcestershire Record No. 25 November 2008 p. 34


Gavin Peplow

Late autumn of 2007 produced some exciting birds and the following winter months, again fairly mild, provided plenty of interesting records, perhaps most noteworthy of which was the number of sightings of ‘white-winged’ Gulls from northern Scandinavia and the Arctic.

A Snow Bunting lingered on North Hill from October into November and was followed by at least two further individuals over the following weeks. Upton Warren yet again proved popular when a Grey Phalarope dropped in for a short visit. This record thereby meant that this was the first time all three Phalarope species had been recorded in the County within the same calendar year and, more remarkably, all were found at the same site!

A Red-Crested Pochard and a Water Pipit were found at Grimley, the latter settling down to winter, though it remained largely elusive throughout its stay. Westwood attracted two separate Scaup, whilst a lot more surprising was the belated revelation of a drake Lesser Scaup that had been well photographed in Stourport Marina on a single date mid month. Whooper Swans are never common in Worcestershire, so a family party of eight, initially at Upton Warren and then later near Bransford Bridge for a few days were appreciated and also reflected good breeding success for this particular group. The month concluded with a small group of four Woodlarks being located near Bittell and then two, perhaps birds from this same party, were seen on farmland at Norchard. Hopefully this species will again soon become more common locally.

A large flock of at least 500 Brambling in the Wyre Forest announced the start of a better than average winter for this species, though three Crossbills there were one of very few flocks reported throughout the period.

December highlights included a lone Waxwing in Redditch and Firecrests at both Barnt Green and at Brake Mill Pool – the latter site hosting up to three birds into the New Year. A Wheatear on the slopes of British Camp was decidedly out of season, but remained for over a week, whilst more expected were two different Glaucous Gulls and a Caspian Gull at Throckmorton Tip at the end of the month.

A single Pink-footed Goose lingered in the Lower Moor area, whilst a Short-eared Owl was seen nearby at Throckmorton. A Little Egret at Grimley was unusual for the time of year, but this species is now becoming a more regular visitor during the winter months.

The New Year began with two Brent Geese at Throckmorton Tip Lagoons, perhaps wandering birds first seen in the County the previous autumn. They moved later the same day to Westwood Pool before moving on. A Little Gull was also seen at Throckmorton briefly, whilst a drake Smew was a welcome find at Kemerton Lakes, though unfortunately had gone by the next day. Two Bitterns were seen intermittently at Upton Warren and another was seen briefly at Ryall Gravel Pits. The former site also hosted three or four Mealy Redpolls amongst a flock of Lessers feeding in alders and birches around the Moors Pool. These birds proved popular, if somewhat challenging to identify and remained in situ for several weeks. The bird of the month however was a drake American Wigeon which dropped in to Westwood late one afternoon and then promptly disappeared overnight, much to the frustration of many ! This constituted the first, albeit a long anticipated County record of this species. Flooding later in the month attracted good numbers of duck to Longdon Marsh including about 500 Pintail and a Snow Bunting was reported on one date on the Malvern Hills.

A Black Redstart visited Grimley New Workings in early February and was then seen occasionally there over the following few weeks. In the south of the County, eight Bewick’s Swans paused at Bredon’s Hardwick for a couple of days and three White-fronted Geese lingered on site with the ever-increasing Greylag flock. A Kumlein’s Gull (an Iceland Gull variant or sub-species and still subject to some taxonomic debate) was seen at Throckmorton Tip and at Westwood, whilst one or more juvenile Glaucous Gulls were also seen at the former site. The Norchard Woodlark flock had increased to six birds and they continued to be seen into the first week, although often proving quite elusive. The month concluded with the early return of the first Avocet to Upton Warren.

March continued as a good month for visiting ‘white-winged’ Gulls, with two Iceland’s at Throckmorton and Westwood and further birds later in the month again at the former site and also at Hartlebury Tip. Other gulls featured several Kittiwakes and Mediterraneans at expected wetland sites. The first Wheatears and Sand Martins returned towards the middle of the month, though a Lesser Whitethroat found in a Bromsgrove garden, may have been an over-wintering bird rather than an early returning summer visitor, judging on it’s rather tatty plumage. A Rock Pipit at Grimley attracted interest as it was of the Scandinavian race and was also beginning to show signs of its brighter summer plumage.

April was much colder and wetter than the previous year, though proved good for birding with in particular, a nice selection of waders and terns later in the month. Long stayers included at least four Mealy Redpolls at Upton Warren whilst a Reed Warbler at that site in the first week was one of the earliest on record for the region. Passage got into full swing with at least six Ospreys reported, one of which carried a satellite tag that had been attached in Scotland in 2007. This bird stayed a couple of days in the County and had been tracked all the way back up from West Africa since it’s migration started in March. It finally arrived back at it’s nest site in the Highlands six days after leaving Worcestershire and following a fairly leisurely flight north! Elsewhere several Little Gulls lingered at Upton Warren and a few Arctic and Black Terns were seen along with a Little Tern at Bredon’s Hardwick towards the months end. Upton Warren also attracted an early Curlew Sandpiper, whilst Avocet numbers built up to eight. A Grey Plover was seen at Bredon’s Hardwick and Garganey were reported from several sites. Four Common Scoter at Kemerton Lakes were the first record for the site, but the highlight for many was the appearance of three Common Cranes that were seen flying in to the new Trust reserve area at Longdon Marsh on a murky afternoon late in the month. They remained through until the next day and were enjoyed by many local birders.

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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