Wednesday, 30 May 2012

30 May 2012

A very very quiet morning around the park, on the weather front it was a bit cooler than of late at 15c and a bit of cloud in the sky although I'm not sure we will get the thunderstorms that were promised earlier in the week, mind you looking at two websites they yet again can't decide which way the wind is blowing, one said WSW another said NW and I felt it was more like NNE, all rather confusing, only 34 species were seen this morning which just shows how quiet a visit it was, which was rather short from 06.00 til 07.30, I was hoping to be shooting off for the Orphean Warbler that had been found yesterday at Hartlepool Headland, sadly it seems to have done a overnight bunk.

Three Tufted Duck where on the boating lake first thing and just a single on the main lake, we've lost a few Mute Swans with just one on the boating lake and the usual four holding there territories, it should be fun when the cygnets hatch! Four Great Crested Grebe were on the main lake so we have lost a pair of these as well, a single Mistle Thrush was on the front of the main lake and at least c50 Swift were over the visitor centre, the Reed Warbler is still singing it's heart out by Ted Heath rock but no sign of yesterday's Sedge Warbler that Jeff Jones had seen, another two Reed Warbler were on the top pool, a couple of Black-headed Gulls went through separately, just four Chiffchaff were singing around the park with one Blackcap and still the three Garden Warbler, a Willow Tit was just after the first gate along the lake edge and Nick spotted the bird of the day a adult Kittiwake, it circled the main lake several times looking to land but gave up in the end, looking back over the Birdguides records this is the latest spring record at Westport since 2001 at least, although records before that can only be checked via the old paper way, I was rather happy with the find as it was a Westport year tick for me, putting me on 90 for the year, only other birds of interest was two Stock Doves on the old gas works.

Last day of the month tomorrow, I wonder what it will bring, if anything at all, mind you I will have to be either early or late tomorrow as the Olympic Torch is going past my house at the end of it's visit to Stoke on Trent, it passes at around 07.30 so rather early!

Monday, 28 May 2012

28 May 2012

A proper summers morning and a proper summer morning birding, at 06.00 the temp was already at 17c, the sky was cloudless and pretty much windless as well, although I have to confess I forgot to check the wind direction, visit was just a few hours til 08.00.

Five Mute Swans were on the boating lake with the other two pairs in there usual places making nine in total, so no change their then, Tufted Duck have been a bit erratic recently and today was no exception, when I arrived there was six but when I left just one , a male, remained, Great Crested Grebe remain steady at six, although it's getting late for breeding, fingers crossed we'll get a late pair breed this year, the Reed Warbler at Ted Heath Rock could be heard singing away from the grass bank and at least another two singing birds were on the top pool, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the main lake and was seen several times during the day, I didn't make it down the Avenue to see how the breeding pair were getting along with there hungry youngsters, two Mistle Thrush were on the front edge of the main lake and around c35 Swift were quite high over the lake.

Just four Chiffchaff were heard calling and three Willow Tit around the park, a Jay was in the reserve and two Grey Heron flew over the top pool, I didn't get much of a look of them but they looked like juvenile birds, on the pools in the reserve two broods of newly hatched duckings totalled twenty, the three Garden Warbler were again singing in there usual places, also on the top pool a single newly hatched Coot chick, from the old gas works a Buzzard was soaring over Bradwell Wood, just two Blackcap were heard/seen today at opposite ends of the park, two Whitethroat were on the old sewage works  and a Reed Bunting briefly sang on here, back on the grass bank two Pied Wagtail were present, three Lapwing flew over and a single Black-headed Gull flew in.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

23 May 2012

A strange weather day to start off with, although the temp was 13c it felt cooler with a N breeze, their was slight foggy conditions at first which got so bad at one stage you could hardly see the other side of the main lake, once the sun got up however it was a different story with clear blue sky and by the end of my visit the temp has soared to 24c, visit from 05.45 til 09.15.

On the Warbler front, eight Blackcap included two females, five Chiffchaff, two Reed Warbler, three Garden Warbler, one Whitethroat and one Willow Warbler, the lake's held, ten Mute Swan, ten Tufted Duck, eight Great Crested Grebe, at least eight Mallard ducklings were at the top end and around 50c Swift over the lake, Canada Geese goslings numbered 20 today with no sign of the two new groups from the other day, one group of six and another for three, along the front of the main lake a group of five Starling included two youngsters.

In the nature reserve the family party of Willow Tit still number seven, also had two Willow Tit around the boating lake, two Mistle Thrush were also on the playing field and a single Pied Wagtail on the front edge of the main lake, two pairs of Great Spotted Woodpecker were around the park today with one pair feeding young, lastly a Reed Bunting was singing on the sewage works and a small group of five House Martin over the main lake.

21 May 2012

Well so far it's been a pretty good week to book off work and I'm only a few days into my holidays, It's my birthday on the 23rd and I always try and book the week off, two reasons really, firstly I don't like working my birthday and it's normally a week when a few decent migrants can turn up around the country.

Sadly it hasn't really been happening at Westport and I've had to travel a bit further a field to see the birding gems of the last few days, it started on Sunday when after a normal visit around the lake I was lounging about the house when I received a text from Nick, Bluethroat at Doxey Marsh, further information came through, it was a male of the Red-spotted Bluethroat variety, being a British tick I was rather keen to see this bird, Nick was at Branston with his dad making there way to Stafford, I put a request out of Birdforum for a lift without success, then I thought about the train, it runs from the bottom of my road via Stoke station into Stafford within 30mins, sorted, just needed to work out how far from station to said bird, but their was no need as a guardian angel in George Smith who had already seen the bird was on his way up to pick me up!! This really is above and beyond the call of duty and I really just cannot thank him enough for this.

So arrived on site and within 15mins or so I was watching a stunning male Red-spotted Bluethroat sat on the fence no more than 50ft away.

Red-spotted Bluethroat by Steve Gibson

Rather late that night news broke of a Cream-coloured Courser at Herefordshire, in the morning I met up with Nick at Westport, it was a rather pleasant morning with a temp of 9c, I completely forgot to make a note of the wind but their wasn't much to talk of as the lake was totally flat, visit from 05.50 til around 07.30.

It was all feeling very much like summer, as though migration was finished with at Westport and breeding is in full swing, Warbler numbers have dropped off now, probably because territories are established and breeding is now the priority, around the park, five Blackcaps, four Chiffchaff, two Whitethroat and single Garden Warbler and Reed Warbler.

On the lakes Mute Swan had increased by an extra one too  nine, Tufted Duck had increased slightly as well too six, that said they couldn't get much lower, Great Crested Grebe remained at two and Canada Geese goslings are up to 26, a Grey Heron was on the boating lake for a short time until it was chased off by a Carrion Crow, and a single Jackdaw flew over, just a couple of Starling were collecting food for there young along the front of the main lake and 3 Pied Wagtail were along here as well, Swift numbers were much much lower over the main  lake with no more than 20c present.

The only other bird of note in the reserve, as well as Warblers, was a male Reed Bunting on the top pool, lastly along the canal side a couple of Treecreeper and a family of seven Willow Tit to go with the single we had seen earlier in the reserve.

So before we left the park news broke that the Cream-coloured Courser was still present, a quick check of the sat nav suggested it was around 2hrs 15mins away, Nick couldn't go due to work, but if his Dad was interested would I go?? Err yes!

At 09.00, George picked me up and after a near 3hr drive we arrived at a golf course that really was the back of beyond, it was on a hill that was 1,243ft above sea level, the views as well as the weather was stunning, we made our way up the hill and arrived at the crowd of people out of breath, we couldn't believe our luck as the bird was showing right in front of us, although slightly hidden by the rough on the edge of the fairway, I know I use this word a lot but it really was a stunning bird and one the bird books just don't do justice, the pattern on the head is incredible, we stayed for over an hour or so, watching it run around and at one point chasing a Skylark, I really wanted to see it's legs and eventually we managed to see it's white legs, bit like mine when I'm in my shorts for the first time after winter!

I really can't say thank you enough to George Smith, despite the fact he had already seen the Bluethroat, he still came to Stoke to pick me up, take me down to see it and then bring me back, and then to top that he takes me to see the Cream-coloured Courser, a bird he doesn't even need having seen the one on Scillies, George you are a true legend, gent and friend and I thank you very much for your kind generosity.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

20 May 2012

Well a nice pleasant morning weather wise didn't quite work the same when it came down to the birds seen today, yes it wasn't terrible but there just wasn't anything special to get the pulse racing, especially after the heart pumping Turtle Dove of just five days ago.

The weather was really strange today taking into account the MSN weather said it would be 2c with a ESE breeze and then on checking the BBC weather it said it would be 5c with a N breeze, normally with a north breeze it would be cooler than a ESE I would of thought, in the end the BBC was nearest to the facts, it was indeed a N breeze, although the temp was slightly up at 7c, cloud coverage has high up with a few blue patches showing, it was a epic visit from 06.00 til 09.50!!

I guess the biggest thing today was seeing quite a few more young birds about, last week Nick saw young Willow Tit and Long-tailed Tit, we have already seen young Mallard (10 today), Coot and Canada Geese, which are now up to 27 goslings, this includes a hybrid Canada x Domestic Greylag, other youngsters seen today included the first young Robins of the year and a party of young Great Tit.

Swift numbers were high today, it really was impossible to count them but we estimated a count of 250c, it really could of been much higher than that, with them around 30c House Martin, about the same number of Swallow and just three Sand Martin, last week Nick had a good count of 25. Warblers numbers were pretty much the same, six Blackcap, six Chiffchaff, two Reed Warbler, two possibly three Garden Warbler, just a single Whitethroat, were have all the Whitethroat gone from last year? lastly a single Willow Warbler which has been singing all week along the 'Avenue'.

On the lakes, Mute Swan are down to eight, four on the boating lake and the other two pairs in there usual breeding areas, just two Great Crested Grebe are present, this is another species that is having a bad year down here, from two breeding pairs last year, this year is looking like a big fat none! Although there are just eight Tufted Duck this is a huge improvement on a couple of days last week when Nick had a zero, this has happened before but it not very often and it's been several years since it last happened.

Elsewhere around the park, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the visitor centre as did a single Starling, yet again another species which is well down on last year, it's not exactly a common species at Westport anyway but at this time of year you normally get flocks on the playing field collecting insects for their young, so far this year I don't think I've managed double figures for them. Three Pied Wagtails were around the park, three Willow Tit, a Grey Heron flew over the top pool and a couple of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were flying over heading NNW, along the canal side of the main lake a couple of Treecreeper and a male Reed Bunting was calling near Ted Heath Rocks, a Kestrel was hovering over the old sewage works and a Collared Dove was on here.

Earlier in the week Nick had a pair of Linnet by the visitor centre, these were Westport year ticks and took the year total to 107.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

15 May 2012

Well despite the awful weather the last few days around Westport have been rather good, yesterday started off with two Shelduck briefly on the main lake, which were year ticks here for me, a couple of Pochard were flying around with some Tufted Duck, on the Hirundine front around 100c Swift were joined by 50c House Martins and just five Sand Martins, by the top pool a Sedge Warbler and two Reed Warblers were singing away plus a male Reed Bunting on here. Later I had another Sedge Warbler singing and showing rather well on the old sewage works, the other highlight was the 4th Hobby of the year over the old gas works which was another Westport year tick for me.

Today the weather was quite frankly 'fowl', at one point I wasn't even going to leave the house as it was snowing!! It did ease off and I decided to risk it, which was a good decision in one way but in terms of the weather not so as it threw it down for large parts of the visit, the temp was 5c but felt more like freezing with a cutting NNW breeze, visit from 06.20 til 09.25.

Warblers were in short supply today due to the weather, just five Blackcap, three Chiffchaff, two Reed Warbler, three Whitethroat and a single Garden Warbler were seen/heard. Two Collared Dove were in the reserve and another on the old sewage works, over the main lake yesterdays Swift had been replaced by c100 House Martins, just c30 Swift today and no Sand Martin, on the main lake five Great Crested Grebe and just two male Tufted Duck, the usual four Mute Swan and another six flew over the old gas works, a Grey Heron also flew over, on the grass bank four Pied Wagtail and two Little Ringed Plover, just three Canada Geese gosling have been around now for the last few days with no sign of were the others have gone.

Back in the reserve and at last a dry spell of weather, a Jay flew over the railway line, up by the top pool, two Willow Tit were joined by a single Coal Tit on the green feeding trays, it was just by here that I noticed a Dove in the tree by the gate to the old gas works, I thought it was another Collared Dove and when I put my bins on it I had a shock when I noticed a mottled back and on it's neck black and white stripes, it was a TURTLE DOVE, I was shaking as I tried to sent a text to Nick and the others I have numbers for, it then flew out the tree and headed towards the old sewage works, at this point the heaven's opened and it rained heavy and I mean heavy for at least an hour, I was soaked, I looked up and down the sewage works but no joy, I headed back to the top pool, no joy, I was then joined by GAS and we again searched the old gas works and old sewage works but no joy. I was gutted that no one else had been able to see it but so happy to find such a rare Staffs bird never mind a Westport rarity, I believe and I'm just awaiting confirmation that it's only the second Westport record.

Thanks to Nick Pomiankowski the county recorder for providing the following records of Turtle Dove at Westport, only two previous records, the first was the 14th April 1997 followed by a second record on the 28th May 1999.

Later in the day Dave Kelsall had a look around, no joy on the Turtle Dove but did manage another Westport year tick in a Spotted Flycatcher around the top pool area.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

09 May 2012

Last few visits have been a bit of the quiet side after all the excitement from the end of April and early May, but so far we have managed too add Kittiwake, Cuckoo, Reed, Sedge & Garden Warbler to the Westport year list, leaving us a a not to bad 104 for the year to date.

After a Sunday visit to Flamborough Head and surrounding areas (see Nick's blog) and a rest to recover followed by a late shift at work, it was back to a later than usual visit to Westport, it was probably the warmest day of the year with the temperature reaching 17c, helped by a light SSE breeze, this showed with the large number of people already down and around the lake including a group of pensioners with about 15 small yachts on the model boating lake, I'd have some pictures to show but sadly while in Yorkshire my camera died.

On the Warbler front I heard/saw five Blackcap, four Chiffchaff, just two Whitethroat, two Reed Warbler on the top pool and a Garden Warbler around there as well, the main reason for my visit was Jeff Jones thought he'd heard a Sedge Warbler calling in the thicket on the top right of the main lake, but while looking for it a Reed Warbler had popped out so casting doubt as to what he'd heard, he needn't of worried as I approached the area I could hear the Sedge Warbler singing, another Westport year tick and probably the last of the Warblers til autumn migration.

On the main lake Tufted Duck have plummeted to just five!! Also on here three Great Crested Grebe, four Mute Swan with the other two in the reserve, seven Canada Geese goslings and a Common Sandpiper was flying around, going back to the Mute Swan in the reserve a strange sight was a Canada Goose gosling running around the Mute Swan nest and then getting under her wing as she continues to sit her eggs, no idea were the Canada gosling has come from but the mute Swan seemed happy to let it be. Other news on the chick front is at last the first Mallard chicks of the year with a family of eight on the top pool, these are very late compared to usual years when Mallard chicks are normally one of the first too hatch.

Other sighting of interest included two Treecreeper along the canal side of the main lake, a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the old sewage works as did a Grey Heron, a single Willow Tit was on the top pool and another around the model boating lake, very few Hirundines were about this morning with just four Swallows on the old gas works, a single Swift was over the main lake as was a Buzzard being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.

Friday, 4 May 2012

April overview, a record month?

April turned out to be a rather special month after a very poor last few months, it especially picked up over the last five days of the month, as you would expect a lot of new year ticks are added this month with all the spring arrivals and with so few added in March due to late arrivals it further boosted the month, in total a incredible 21 species were added to the year list and the month saw a total of 82 species recorded, I'm sure a few other Westport regulars will know better but certainly in the three years I've been back around Westport this is the highest monthly total for any month period, and it wouldn't surprise me if there hasn't been a higher total in any previous years.

The usual additions that we would normally expect in March came in early April with Little Ringed Plover, Swallow, Willow Warbler and to a lesser degree House Martin, then there were the obvious species that always arrive in April, these included, Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Swift & Whitethroat.

There then follows the species which although not always guaranteed in this month or even in spring they are becoming more regular on passage, these included, Osprey, Hobby, Oystercatcher, Arctic Tern, Lesser Whitethroat, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and White Wagtail, other species that have been seen in other months previously and were new for the year included, Pheasant and Raven.

So this brings me down to the special birds found this month, and I'm not really sure which I would class as 'bird of the month', sadly none of them were photographed, the first was found by Bill Low on the 25th with not just one but four adult *Little Gulls*, I think there are two other previous records but all involved single birds, this was followed by a *Yellowhammer* found by Colin, I've looked through what records I have and I've looked at the 'Westport bird report for 2002' which includes a section at the back for rare/scarce birds at Westport and there is no mention of any Yellowhammer records, although I'm sure this species has been recorded here previously. Finally on the 28th Jeff Jones found a superb male Pied Flycatcher in the trees around Ted Heath Rock, it stayed for the whole day allowing all the regulars to catch up on this much needed tick, so bird of the month, Little Gull, Yellowhammer or Pied Flycatcher, I'll let you make your own mind up.

* Thanks to Nick who has updated me with the following records, to my surprise Little Gull records are way out, just between 1983 & 1991 alone their have been a total of 11 records, also regarding Yellowhammer Nick has two previous records one in 88/89 and the other in 2008.*

04 May 2012

A nice addition to the Westport year list was a Cuckoo found by Nick this morning singing in the reserve, this takes the year list too 103, also present, a single Reed Warbler on the top pool, Jeff Jones had the first one to return the previous day, two Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper also the Whitethroat population is building rather slowly with three on the old sewage works this morning.

Below are a couple of photo's from Phil Jones of the Kittiwake and a nice summer plumage Dunlin which were present on the previous day.

I made a visit this afternoon from 15.15 til 17.30, it was quite cool, and felt much cooler than the 15c on the Steelite clock, probably due to the NE breeze, cloud coverage was total with the odd light shower.

The first thing I noticed was the huge number of Hirundines and Swifts, by far the most numerous were House Martins which outnumbered Swallows by at least 70%, Swift were also in good numbers esp hawking insects over the grass bank, it was great as they whizzed past your head within inches and you could hear the rush of wind as they shot past, even funnier was watching my dog Misty as she tried to jump up and catch one!

On the boating lake there were two groups of Canada Geese goslings, the first had eight goslings and the second just two which were notably older than the first group, there was also ten Mute Swans on here plus four on the main lake and two in the reserve, the breeding pair on the main lake has had the nest fenced off by the council but I fear it's too late as when I walked past the parents were sat on the water at the side of the nest while a Carrion Crow pecked (unsuccessfully) at the eggs.

On the Warbler front six Chiffchaff were heard, four Blackcap and four Whitethroat one of which was along the reserve side of the main lake, I didn't hear any Willow Warblers though which has been the case for three straight visits now, Pied Wagtail numbers have dropped off with just two seen on the front of the main lake, on the main lake, just 16 Tufted Duck, five Great Crested Grebe and two groups of Coot with young, one of which had a healthy count of nine chicks, the other group only consisted of two but again like the Canada Geese were much older.

In the reserve a single Coal Tit and Willow Tit were on the top pool but no sign of the Reed Warbler from the last few days, a Buzzard was being mobbed by Carrion Crows over the old gas works, two Mistle Thrush were on the old sewage works along with two Collared Dove and lastly two Starling were on the playing field as I left.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

02 May 2012

After a fantastic April were 82 species were recorded, May has a lot to live up to, but things have started brightly.

This morning Nick found a adult Kittiwake on the main lake and a Dunlin on the boating lake, the Kittiwake is a first for the year and took the Westport year list too 100 species for the year.

At around 18.45 Phil Jones rang me to say he'd found a Wheatear on the old gas works, I was half way through my tea, but I put it away and made my way over too Westport, after all it was a year tick and I need as many as I can get at the moment as I'm so far behind the Westport total this year.

I reached the old gas works, having noticed at least 40+ Swift over the main lake on my way in, I could see Phil near the old buildings and made my way towards him, I eventually picked the Wheatear up and we both thought it looked quite large and with the buffing underneath wondered if it could actually be a 'Greenland' race of Wheatear.

I managed to get a few half decent shots off and have a look below and see what you think, the one of it's back is sadly blurred but gives an idea of the colouration.

As I was leaving I noticed a large raptor flying over the main lake, it was a male Peregrine and another Westport year tick for me, so not a bad late evening visit at all.

I will get the overview of April done in the next day or two, and a update of the 'blast from the past' and highlights from May 2011.