Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Perfect Year

So here we are, almost at the end of another birding year. If you've been reading my blog regularly, you'll know that my approach to birding this year has been fairly laid back. Despite this there have been many highlights. Self-found lifers are always remembered fondly, so adding Arctic skua and short-eared owl to the life list in 2009 was particularly rewarding. Finally putting snow bunting to bed in Norfolk in February was also a highlight, so thanks to Steve Jones for finding them for us.

Sticking with self-found birds for a bit, there were many more during the year, including willow tit, marsh tit, tawny owl, brambling, Mediterranean gull, lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warbler and common crossbill, but none of these were lifers. Still great birds though.

Other highlights were two red kites seen in and around Wythall, most of the birds seen in Islay in May, the Slavonian grebe seen in breeding plumage in Devon, the hat-trick of black tern, American black tern and white-winged black tern at Farmoor Reservoir in August, and the Sabine's gull at Upton Warren.

Most of 2009 was dedicated to walking the patch. In doing so, I clocked up 110 miles and saw a grand total of 79 different species. As usual, I was birded-out come November, which meant that I didn't get out as much as I would normally. If I had, I think I could have bagged another few birds for the list. It might be something I try again in a few years though.

Despite all this top-notch birding, I think I will remember 2009 mainly for the butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. The week I spent in Devon was a real eye-opener in this respect. Watching a female golden-ringed dragonfly ovipositing on Aylesbeare Common was both fortunate and brilliant, as was finding a pair of azure damselflies in a nearby pool just moments later.

Pearl-bordered fritillary, large skipper, marbled white, common blue and grayling were amongst my favourite butterflies, but I couldn't summarise the year without mentioning the influx of painted ladies to the UK, which never became boring no matter how many times I saw them.

What next?

Normally I would now be considering a few goals for the coming 12 months, but I have decided to take something of a sabbatical until 2011. That's not to say that I won't be out and about doing some birding here and there, but I think it will be very low key. I will continue with the blog, which I really enjoy doing, but don't be surprised if you don't hear from me quite so often. The plan is to update the blog on a monthly basis, with the occasional trip report thrown in for good measure, and perhaps an ad-hoc newsflash here and there if I've seen something particularly good.

With this fresh approach to things, I think it's time to give the blog a bit of a facelift. Look out for that in January.

Finally, I would like to wish a Happy Christmas to anyone who has read the blog this year, or those that I have met out in the field in 2009. I hope 2010 brings you everything you wish for.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That's What Friends Are For

I ventured out with my newly-fledged birding chum Boyley on Sunday morning. Boyley works at Blythe Valley and was keen to have a poke around to see what we could find there.

Before that, however, we paid visits to a few other sites. Starting with Hopwood, we finally managed to track down the little owl that eluded us a few months ago. Also here were many redwing, with a few fieldfares dotted amongst them. Moving on to Bittell, the best spots included goosander, wigeon, kingfisher and a great black-backed gull, but not the goldcrest or treecreeper that I had hoped for.

Little owl

Little owl pic courtesy of Boyley's Nokia 5800

On the way to Blythe Valley we stopped off at the Hungry Horse field near Earlswood Lakes, which has held golden plover in recent weeks. Sadly the field was empty on this occasion.

Finally we had an enjoyable stroll around Blythe Valley. The habitat here looks very similar to that at Pearl Group where I work, but on a much bigger scale. In terms of birds we saw green woodpecker, long-tailed tit, kestrel, song thrush and bullfinch amongst others. Definitely some potential here for better birds come the spring, and I would expect an excellent range of butterflies too. I will certainly be back next year.

An enjoyable morning was topped off with a coffee at Sainsbury's. A good bit of birding.

Boyley and I have been out a few times now, and he's already seem some excellent birds. I feel a bit like the ambassador, spoiling his guests with the Ferrero Rocher pyramid at his party.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


On Friday I met up with a few of the Islay crew and my brother for a few pre-Christmas drinks in and around Birmingham. It's something we do most years and is always a good laugh.

A few years ago, I had noticed several references to birds in some of the various pubs we frequented, so I thought it would be fun to incorporate this into the day's proceedings. You know how it is though - after three or four pints I had other things on my mind, so the best I could manage was the following picture, plus a pretty feeble list of actual birds that I saw on the day.

Spot of the day

Spot of the day

After lunch in the Black Eagle, Dad produced the quiz and did a passable impression of Jeremy Paxman, whilst the rest of us split into two teams of three. Rounds included cinema, television, nature and sport, after which the scores were neck and neck. Well, truth be told, my brother, Aiden and I calculated that we had just shaded it by a few points.

Dad seemed keen, however, to deploy his tie-breaker. Not wishing to disappoint him, and suspecting it might be bird-related, we agreed. First up, each team had to give the common name for the following birds - otis tarda, lullula arborea and locustella luscinioides.

Initially thrown by the first one, I suddenly had one of those flashes of inspiration that you only get when you've consumed a few ales, and confidently scribbled down great bustard on the answer sheet.

On the opposing team, Leapy had no trouble with the second, but nor did I. It was woodlark. A bit too easy that one, Dad!

The last one again had me scratching my head, but I could see Leapy wasn't doing any better. I knew it was a warbler, but which one? Luckily, I know how my Dad's mind works and realised it's a bird that we have joked about before. Savi's warbler was penciled in, completing a hat-trick for team Telescope.

Oddly, despite the fact that Leapy, Ivor and Steve had only got one of the three right, Dad worked out it was still a tie, so it was sudden death. Up came the final bird - nyctea scandiaca. I initially wrote down snow bunting, but quickly realized it was snowy owl and corrected myself. At that point we decided we'd had enough quizzing for one day, and Dad had seemingly run out of questions, so that was that.

Amongst other highlights was a short recital from Roger's Profanisaurus IV: The Magna Farta. Most references were unfit for inclusion in the blog, but we did enjoy Nana Kournikova - a female that looks hot from behind, but is actually old and wretched.

Dad and Leapy enjoy the Magna Farta

Dad and Leapy enjoy the Magna Farta

Steve told us one of his legendary jokes, which went down well, there was an interesting discussion as to whether Eric Clapton is actually a good guitarist or not, the World Cup draw kept us entertained for a few minutes, and Leapy, Ivor, Steve and I spent the last hour or so talking birds - a typical boys' day out really.

For his final trick, Dad managed to lose his wallet on the train back to Solihull. To cut a long story short, he was reunited with it an hour or so later. Many thanks to Mrs Reg who dropped him back at the station to collect it from the chap pictured in the background of the next shot.

Dad is reunited with his wallet

Drunken fool!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back In The Village

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a couple of special birding places that are particularly dear to my heart. Confusingly, I refer to both as the magic field, and each has delivered its share of decent birds over the years. In conjuring terms, however, the one close to home is a little bit Paul Daniels when compared to the Siegfried and Roy of the one in North Wales.

Last Friday we headed up to North Wales for a short break. We stayed in the sleepy village of Llangybi, where Mum and Dad have a bungalow. The main goal was to help them with some work in the garden, but it would be foolish not to take advantage of the excellent birding opportunities whilst up there.



The bungalow

The bungalow

Snowdon as seen from the bungalow

Snowdon as seen from the bungalow

On Saturday afternoon we managed to get down to Criccieth, where we undertook a spot of seawatching. Common scoter, shag, and a guillemot were the pick of the birds.

Guillemot at Criccieth

Guillemot at Criccieth

Also of interest was this splendid double rainbow.

Twice as nice

Twice as nice!

Sunday morning saw me make my first venture to the magic field.

Things were quiet on the way up, with just a few redwing and fieldfare to liven the spirits, and a dead sheep in one of the fields. Just before I reached the magic field I spotted a single goose flying right to left. I took in as many features as I could, though the light wasn't brilliant. There seemed to be an argument for it being a pink-footed goose, but also sufficient evidence to say that it could have been a greylag instead. One thing was for sure - pink-footed goose is already one of the stringiest birds on my life list, and I wasn't about to try to string another. I hate stringing, me.

Once the goose had disappeared from view, I continued to the magic field. It was uncharacteristically quiet, but I planned to stick around for a bit anyway. This plan was abandoned, however, when a red kite suddenly emerged away to my right. Wow! This is the first one I've ever seen in this area. Another tick for the magic field.

A distant red kite near the magic field

A distant red kite near the magic field

The kite drifted right, roughly in the direction of the dead sheep I had seen earlier. I reasoned that there was a good chance it might come down near the carcass, so I made my way back down the lane. Sadly, I had no further sightings of the kite, but a raven floating over the small conifer plantation nearby was a consolation.



After working in the garden, we all took a stroll back to the magic field. A raven was seen again, along with a stonechat, but nothing better.

Other forays during our stay took us to Porthmadog and Foryd Bay, plus a visit to a local spot for woodcock. Sightings of note included whooper swan, curlew, redshank, dunlin, brent goose, rock pipit, black-tailed godwit, wigeon, teal and little egret. Another seawatching session at Criccieth produced a turnstone and a red-throated diver.

Foryd Bay

Foryd Bay

Whooper swans

Whooper swans

On the way home on Wednesday afternoon I spotted another red kite near Bala. Great to see these beautiful raptors beginning to expand their range.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Impossible

What's impossible? Gull ID, that's what! Well, maybe not impossible, but always a challenge.

Here's a few pics from Stubber's Green today, which may or may not illustrate this point.

Yellow-legged gull

Yellow-legged gull - note the yellow legs

Yellow-legged gull

Yellow-legged gull - note the absence of any legs!

Common gull

Common gull - not actually all that common!

Great black-backed gull

Great black-backed gull - okay, that one's fairly easy

Not a Caspian gull

Caspian gull? No. Had us excited for a bit though!

Here's another picture, taken at the same site last year, of a probable Caspian gull.

The suspicious gull

Was it? Who knows?

I love gulls, me!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn

I love Autumn , me.

Already I've seen the first returning fieldfare and redwing of the season, plus a few other species that have been absent for the past few months.

The colours on the trees, that certain, specific Autumny smell that permeates the air, the dark evenings - they all add up to a magical time of year.

I'm particularly looking forward to a few more walks around the patch, in the hope of squeezing out another few birds for the list. On that front, Earlswood Lakes has the potential to fill a few duck-shaped gaps and I fully expect to be back there in November and December.

Seizing the advantage of the decent spell we've had in October, Mrs Reg and I had an enjoyable few hours at Brandon Marsh on Monday. We didn't see anything that would necessarily set the birding world alight, but kingfisher, goosander, common gull, sparrowhawk and redwing were all encountered.

Throw in the unmissable call of Cetti's warbler, and the sight of many teal, lapwing, shoveler and gadwall, plus half a dozen snipe or so, and it would be a very grumpy birder who could have not found something to enjoy.

Oh, and there was also what will probably be the last dragonfly sighting of the year. I'm not absolutely sure what it was, as it was darting around rather a lot, but my best guess would be a migrant hawker.

So, onto today's title. This refers to a feathered thorn moth that Mrs Reg discovered peering through our kitchen window on Monday night.

Feathered thorn

Another life tick on my paltry moth list. I'm hoping that moths might play a bigger part in my adventures next year. I'm even thinking of purchasing a moth trap.

No trap required for my next potential lifer, however, assuming that somebody out there can identify it. It turned up in the house last night, looking a bit worse for wear. I will hand out a ridiculously generous 500 telescope points for anyone who can have a reasonable stab at what it might be. Nothing rude please.

Mystery moth

If no replies are forthcoming, I'll throw it over to the forum and see what happens.

Until next time, keep sweeping up those leaves!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gone Gone Gone [Done Moved On]

Goodbye birding, hello twitching. My Dad and I had a go for the glossy ibis at Fisher's Mill Pool this morning, and missed the bird by a whisker apparently. It had been seen shortly before we arrived, but was not relocated.

Still, we had an enjoyable time walking along the canal, picking up some nice birds along the way - fieldfare, siskin, willow tit, kingfisher and linnet to name a few.

On Fisher's Mill Pool and in the surrounding area, the best of the birds were wigeon, gadwall, goldeneye, teal, more siskin and linnet, a pair of stonechats, and a juvenile garganey.

Other spots included meadow pipit, red admiral, painted lady and a small copper.

It certainly looks like a good site for birds and butterflies, and quite possibly dragons and damsels too. I would be keen to make another visit next year.

Obviously a bit of a shame about the ibis, but enough other stuff to make it an enjoyable few hours. Good to meet a few other birders too.

Everything Changed

Worcestershire Source has undergone a bit of a makeover today. Please pay a visit and make sure to e-mail any bird sightings from the county to Thank you to everyone who has helped to make the site what it is over the last year or so.

In addition, Worcestershire Source can now also be followed on Twitter at Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Into The Woods

A beautiful autumn morning saw me pay a visit to one of my favourite haunts, the Wyre Forest. Accompanying me for his second official birding experience was my mate Boyley.

The main aim was to fill in a few gaps on his fledgling life list. On the whole, we did quite well. As is often the way, however, a few species eluded us. These included goldcrest, long-tailed tit and song thrush.

On the positive side, we had good numbers of redwing over Lodge Hill Farm - the first I've seen since the leaves started falling of the trees, excellent views of dippers on Dowles Brook, and half a dozen Mandarins on the River Severn by Trimpley Reservoir later on.

In total, Boyley added a further 21 species to his list. Our next venture will probably be to Bittell Reservoirs, with the intention of seeing a few different duck species.

It's been really enjoyable to get back in touch with the birds that I have perhaps begun to take a bit for granted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My List

The Great Big Birding Spreadsheet Version 5.0 is now up and running. Here's a snippet ...

The Great Big Birding Spreadsheet Version 5.0

Spotting Stobarts rules!

As I said before, I love spreadsheets, me!

And in case you think I've failed in my quest to use a song title for every blog entry this year, My List is track nine on Sam's Town by The Killers. Get in!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Happy Birthday

Mrs Reg celebrated her birthday on Thursday. It would be very impolite of me to disclose her age, but if you add up the number of different butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies that I've seen this year, then take away the number of pectoral sandpipers I've seen, you'd have your answer.

We spent Friday with the family, walking around Draycote Water. I must point out that this was Mrs Reg's idea, and a decision that had been taken at the beginning of the week. However, when I spotted that a lesser scaup had turned up there on Thursday, I did afford myself a wry smile!

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup at Draycote Water

Nice one, Mrs Reg. Many happy returns!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

He Was The King

First up today is this picture of an excellent sycamore moth caterpillar, which I found in the front garden yesterday.

Sycamore moth caterpillar

Onto today, and a patch walk produced a new tick, when a kingfisher was spotted in Tanners Green Lane. Never seen one there before, so a welcome surprise.

That takes the birds seen on foot tally to 79. By the way, it's me that's on foot - not the birds, silly!

The rest of the morning has been spent revamping my birding spreadsheet in readiness for next year. I might even show you a snippet of it next time.

I love spreadsheets, me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


If something good sticks locally for over a week, I do sometimes feel duty-bound to go and have a look at it.

As a result, the new Golf had its first birding-related outing this morning when my Dad and I paid homage to the pectoral sandpiper that has been at Draycote Water for over a week.

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper and dunlin

Pectoral sandpiper with a couple of dunlin

Also present was this juvenile bar-tailed godwit - a welcome addition to the year list.

Bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Been A While

Quite a few weeks since my last post, so I thought I'd better provide a quick update on events.

Last Monday Mrs Reg and I headed off to York for a few nights. The cat was duly delivered to the cattery, which is conveniently located not too far from Bittell reservoirs. I had received news of a number of greenshanks at the upper reservoir over the weekend and the lure was too much to resist. A quick scan revealed one greenshank - my first for the year.

During my stay in York I enjoyed several good sightings, despite it being a non-birding break. On Tuesday evening I spotted a pair of peregrines displaying over York Minster and a visit to Castle Howard on Wednesday produced a lifer in the shape of a black darter in a small reservoir located in Ray Wood. I also spotted a marsh tit in the woods.

It was such a nice day on Thursday that we decided to stop off at Fairburn Ings on the way home. Whilst there I added willow tit and tree sparrow to the year list, and there was another lifer - emerald damselfly, which was seen in one of the pools. Also, many common darters on site, and southern and migrant hawkers present too.

Since getting back, I have resisted the urge to do any twitching, though the pectoral sandpiper at Draycote Water remains appealing.

I'll finish on a sad note. After 11 years and 4 months, I am saying goodbye to my trusty Peugeot 306. Rupert, as he's affectionately known, has served me well, and in spite of all his little quirks he will be missed. In about an hour's time I'll be picking up my new car - a VW Golf named Yubbub. I hope I have as many great birding adventures in him as I did in Rupert.

Until next time, I'll leave you with some shots taken over the last week or so.

Red admiral

Common darter

Speckled wood

Common blue damselfly

Red admiral, common darter, speckled wood and common blue damselfly all seen at Castle Howard

Emerald damselfly


Common darters up to no good

Emerald damselfly, brimstone and common darters at Fairburn Ings

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pop Goes The Weasel

Two of them in fact - seen running across the road near Shenstone yesterday. These are only the third and fourth weasels I have seen, and were the highlight of a morning spent with my friend Boyley, who has expressed an interest in becoming a birder.

I decided that the best way to spark his interest was to go to a few sites where we might see one or two elusive species. First up was Hopwood, where we had a look for a little owl. Sadly, the owl didn't put in an appearance so we headed to Upton Warren.

Here we had juvenile water rail, little ringed plover, dunlin, green sandpiper, common sandpiper and snipe - all decent spots for someone just starting their life list.

Just before we left, we were treated to good views of a peregrine that made a couple of passes over the Flashes.

Aside from the two weasels, Shenstone offered little of birding interest. Still, Boyley is on his way now with a burgeoning list comprising just under 40 species.

I'll leave you with a couple of shots taken in the garden on Saturday. The first is a rather tatty and forlorn-looking peacock. The second is the culprit that I rescued it from. Naughty boy!


Naughty boy!

Barney aka Faterpillar and the peacock

Friday, August 21, 2009

Darts Of Pleasure

A couple of new pics taken at work on Wednesday.

Common green grasshopper

Common green grasshopper

Common darter

Common darter

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

A trip out to Earlswood lakes this morning brought a couple of additions to the patch list - namely common sandpiper and lesser whitethroat. Sadly, no kingfisher, hence today's title.

A willow warbler in Tanners Green Lane, less than a mile from home, was also notable.

I have now surpassed 100 miles on the patch this year and accumulated 78 ticks thus far.

No pictures today as the camera stayed at home, but here a few shots taken at work on Friday.

Green-veined white

Green-veined white

Green-veined white

Green-veined white

Speckled wood

Speckled wood






Finally, it appears that silly season is now with us again, following sightings of Montagu's harrier and spotted crake at Upton Warren this weekend.

Methinks there could be a bit of twitching to be done over the next month or two!