Inspired by last week's outing around my local patch, I decided that more of the same was in order this weekend. I was keen, however, to walk a bit further this time, taking in some of the excellent farmland habitat around Hopwood.
Initially, I took a similar route to last week and was pleased to see that the gulls had once again taken up residence in the flooded field along Station Road. A quick scan revealed them all to be Black-Headed Gulls, with no sign of a Mediterranean Gull amongst the throng.
The woodland that connects Tanners Green Lane to Barkers Lane was full of activity last week, but as dead as a doornail this time round. I guess a week is a long time in birding! The fine, but persistent drizzle probably wasn't helping matters as Barkers Lane was also quiet. I did note three Fieldfares, however - a bird that I didn't see last week.
When I reached the magic field along Hill Lane the weather was beginning to improve, so I considered it worth the excursion to Weatheroak Hill and into Watery Lane, which contains the excellent habitat that I mentioned earlier. Just for fun, I had hit the record button on my camera as I made my way towards the tree that is known to contain a pair of Little Owls. Sometimes one of the birds will perch obligingly on one of the prominent lower branches, but I was disappointed to see that it wasn't there.
Suddenly, I caught a bit of movement and saw the owl land on a branch higher up the tree. I reached for the binnies, but the bird had disappeared. The camera was still recording, however, so I made a mental note to check the video carefully when I got home. I managed to analyse the film for the first time today and was pleased to see that I had caught the owl on camera. The picture isn't brilliant, but I have ringed the little fellow for your benefit.
Also in this area I saw a couple of Yellowhammers, two Sparrowhawks, a small flock of Chaffinches and a flock of over a dozen Pied Wagtails. Good numbers of Fieldfare were also about and a single Redwing was spotted high in a tree.
On the way back up Weatheroak Hill, I stopped to take a picture of this old windmill, which is up for sale.
I reckon it would make a cracking bird observatory, though you wouldn't get much change out of £600,000 if you were thinking of buying the place.
I've really enjoyed birding my patch these last few weeks and I think it's time to reveal one of my goals for 2009. I aim to get out and bird the lanes and fields of Wythall at least once a month, occasionally taking in Hopwood, where the Little Owls reside, and Earlswood Lakes, which are about two and a half miles from where I live. All of this birding will be done on foot, and any birds that I see will be added to a specific patch list. I've set myself a target of getting 75 different species on this list. Also, I'll be doing my bit for the environment by using the car less.
I'm also pulling together some other plans, which I will reveal in the New Year, but there is definitely going to be a shift away from getting lifers and year ticks and more emphasis on specific goals, not all of them birding related I hasten to add.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there are still six and a bit weeks left before 31 December 2008 and I'm off to Wales on Saturday where I hope to be ticking Purple Sandpipers, Snow Buntings, Water Pipits, Whooper Swans and more. As ever, a trip report will follow upon my return.