Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Tuesday January 31st

Ladywalk NR
A Bittern was seen again at B Hide but was mobile and elusive and not seen after around 1300 hrs (Ben Eaton, Ken Bentley). Also another Oystercatcher after the one at Alvecote yesterday, Shelduck and five Pochard.

Middleton RSPB
Staffs:  Great White Egret was on Jubilee Wetlands with c.300 Golden Plovers (Martin Whalley).

Monday January 30th - Other Sightings

Alvecote Pools
Warks: An early Oystercatcher was near Railway Pool and the regular Great White Egret was on Gilman's Pool (Roy Smith).

Ladywalk NR
Ten Grey Herons, one Little Egret, female Pintail and seven Goosander (per Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: A Great White Egret left the heronry roost at 0718hrs and flew south. Also 53 Little Egrets left the roost, with half staying to feed on the paddock between the wood and the farm; quite a sight I would imagine and pretty unique in the county (Steven Pick).

Monday, 30 January 2017

Monday January 30th - Bittern at Ladywalk NR

A Bittern showed well at Ladywalk NR today and Pete Lichfield was on hand to capture some fine images as shown below. It is thought that two birds are now present.

These photos are from B Hide and visitors should approach very quietly to avoid flushing the bird, which is close enough to see and hear your arrival. Please show permits and car stickers and if the hide becomes full please allow space for others if you have seen the bird well. Thank you.

Sunday January 29th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: Great White Egret still at Gilman's Pool and c.400 Lapwings nearby (Roy Smith).

Hams Hall
A 'Siberian' Chiffchaff (unringed) showing fulvescens traits was with eight Common Chiffchaffs around the outflow with Peregrine and Raven nearby. The classic tristis which was at the outflow has maybe moved on (Simon Rose).

by Simon Rose

The Bittern showed from Riverwalk Hide at 1228hrs (Steven Pick)

West Mids: 64 Golden Plover were off Wishaw Lane (Dean Baker).

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Saturday January 28th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: Great White Egret and 17 Goosanders (Tom Perrins)

Ladywalk NR
Three Goosanders, four Shelducks, 50 Teal, two Little Egrets (Pete Lichfield). A freshly dead Goosander seen today, looks like a probable Peregrine kill (Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: 270 Greylags and seven Shelducks (Karl Sargent).
Warks: 52 Little Egrets roosted at the heronry (Steven Pick).

Friday, 27 January 2017

Friday January 27th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: The two Barnacles are still with the Canadas and the Great White Egret was on Gilman's with 12 Little Egret and five Goosanders (Simon Rose).

Coton Lake
The roost held the adult Mediterranean Gull, adult Yellow-legged Gull, 86 Lesser Black-backed, 28 Herrings and 72 Common Gulls. Also Chiffchaff and a Water Rail. On the Lea Marston side: five Shelduck and a female Pintail (Alan Dean).

Hams Hall
A 'Siberian' Chiffchaff was heard and seen down from the Edison Rd bridge and four Chiffchaffs were seen, with one more on the Ladywalk entrance track (John Harris).

Kingsbury WP
Adult Yellow-legged Gull still, 215 Shoveler, two Goosanders and four Goldeneye (Alan Dean).

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Thursday January 26th

Alvecote Pools
Warks:  A Great White Egret was still on Gilman's Pool (Roy Smith).

Ladywalk NR

by Bob Duckhouse
Middleton RSPB
A Shoveler count today resulted in 203 on the whole site. 61 at Fisher's Mill and the remainder in Staffs (Katie Thorpe).

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Wednesday January 25th

Kingsbury WP
Due to unforseen circumstances my Duck Count (WEBS) was delayed until today. Numbers of water birds have fallen quickly though there has been some disturbance with chainsawing of trees continuing across the park. Main species were Canada Goose 145, Coot 297 (439), Mallard 92, Teal 33, Wigeon 74 (133), Shoveler 42, Gadwall 39 (194), Tufted Duck 145, Goldeneye 10, Little Egret 3 & Lapwing 41. The figures in brackets show the species where numbers have fallen the most since the last count on December 19th.

In the Logbook at Cliffe Pool there is a note of a Marsh Harrier for three out of the last four days at around 1530 hrs. It was apparently hunting over the islands for Snipe etc. Needless to say it didn't arrive again for me. I have seen a Hen Harrier (once) and numerous Sparrowhawks here attempting this modus operandi with the latter species being remarkably adept at stalling a slow flappy harrier-like flight.

Ladywalk NR
Some late news: The Bittern and at least one Siberian Chiffchaff present but no further details.

Further down the Tame there are some of those Waxwings. At Castle Vale there are still 50 at the junction of Farnborough Road and Blenheim Way.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Tuesday January 24th

Ladywalk NR:  A Great White Egret was at B Pools on and off from 1330 - 1500hrs (John Franklin).

Monday, 23 January 2017

Monday January 23rd

News that our friend  Wal J Eley aka Wal J Egmont had passed away became known over the weekend.

Steve Pick spent many an hour with him counting the Little Egret roost and perhaps knew him rather better than most of us. Steve has kindly sent over the following words and pictures.

RIP Wal (taken in 1968)

Some people might say he was a cantankerous, eccentric communist but when you got to know him you realised how passionate he was about the environment, fauna & flora, politics, sport, photography and of all things, ballet. He was a wealth of knowledge and had an unbelievable memory for facts and figures although couldn’t remember that he had told you that story a hundred times before.
Broomey Croft car park and SKAN hide was his home but he would also spend many an evening looking for Owls on the path to SITA hide where in recent times he’s had large counts of Little Egrets and Oystercatcher. I first came across him in the early noughties when with his old mate Barry he would spend hours listening and looking for Groppers in Richards Meadow. If it hadn’t been for him I would still think they were Dunnocks and I’d got an acute case of tinnitus.
He believed in equality and saw the good in everyone, even if they were a waste of space, it was a failing of the system and not the person in his eyes. You either loved or hated his political views but I wouldn’t let myself be drawn in and steered the conversation towards two of his other passions, football and cricket. I think he played for the colliery teams at a very high level in both and would often recount his batting averages and how he turned the keeper inside out or kicked him with the ball into the back of the net.
One of his other hobbies was photography and he would blind me with terminology such as ISO and f numbers which are still alien today. The Broomey Croft foxes were one of his favourite subjects and he would lure them with food to the car park barrier security light for that better shot. He didn’t want to dazzle them with a flash and in the end he had them eating out of his hands. I often think they ate better than him. He was particularly proud of his white winged crow shot which got lost when PC World wiped his hard drive and one evening I found him fuming in the car park that it was gone, never to be seen again.  Luckily he had emailed it to me a year before. Also when you talk about passion and memory then he was still very passionate about his Spoonbill sighting some 17 years down the line and wanted the F-ing word “putative” removing from the WMBC record of 2000.

The famous White-winged Crow by Wal

Wal will be sadly missed by all of us that had the pleasure of his company down at Kingsbury Water Park. We now have no excuse when we are late home for tea as “I got Wally’d” is no longer an option.

RIP Wal 
A date for the funeral is yet to be announced but we will post this on The Blog.

Monday January 23rd

Firstly news from yesterday Sunday 22nd

Hams Hall: The two 'Siberian' Chiffchaffs were in their usual spots at the outfall and behind the Wincanton building. Common and Green Sandpiper on the river (Dave Hutton).

Ladywalk NR: The Bittern was seen for five minutes at 1415 hrs. A Mandarin was also seen (J & P Fincham)

by Pete Lichfield

Lea Marston: A Merlin seen from the railway bridge above the river (Steve Cawthray). The Red-crested Pochard was on the Coton side again (Dave Hutton).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Great White Egret, eight Shelduck, Peregrine, Chiffchaff and four Stonechats (Karl Sargent et al)

Warks: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported near carpark.

Whitacre Heath NR: Two Willow Tits on the feeders (Steve Cawthray).

Today's news - Monday 23rd

Warks: The Great White Egret is still present (Roy Smith).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: 220 Golden Plover, 50 Lapwing, two Pintail, 10 Shelduck and two Stonechats were all on Jubilee Wets (Karl Sargent et al).

by Fergus Mosey

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sunday January 22nd

It is with deep regret that The Blog announces the passing of 'Wal' J Egmont. A fine man, dedicated to nocturnal wanderings around KWP. We will put together some appropriate words in due course.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Saturday January 21st

A few birders were around at Hams Hall today but apart from one 'Siberian' Chiffchaff, Common Sandpiper, six Chiffchaffs and five Grey Wagtails it was fairly quiet. A Peregrine was sat on the Stobart depot Dave Hutton et al).

No other significant news received on yet another dull, grey, cold day

Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday January 20th

Coton Lakes
The Red-crested Pochard was on Lake 2A still. An Oystercatcher was seen by others (Alan Dean).

Hams Hall
The ringed 'Siberian' Chiffchaff was at the outfall with nine Common Chiffchaffs. Along the river a further nine Chiffchaffs and a Common Sandpiper still (John Harris).

Ladywalk NR

photo Pete Lichfield
A Goldcrest was nicely photographed but seems to have a dodgy leg. Other sightings were Shelduck, c200 Teal, 75 Wigeon, 50 Shoveler, six Pochard, three Goosander and three Little Egrets (Pete Lichfield).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Great White Egret on Jubilee Wetland and also 21 Snipe, 200 Lapwing, 150 Teal, and 80 Wigeon.
Warks: 20 Pochard and 10 Goldeneye on Fisher's Mill (RSPB).

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Thursday January 19th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: A cracking nine Whooper Swans (three juveniles) on Mill Pool was a great find on another dull misty day. Also Great White Egret still (Roy Smith). There was a small movement across our area today with 21 at Blithfield Res too; these birds arriving at 1550hrs.  

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Nine Shelduck, Stonechat and Cetti's Warbler were the highlights (Steve Atkinson).

The future of the Tame Valley 

Enormous credit is due to the naturalists that have been visiting The Valley since the end of the gravel extraction period, commencing at the south end around 1970. Their records have been kept, often in private notes, but also in a form that is accessible such as the WMBC Reports and the monthly BTO Wildfowl Counts (WEBS). Occasionally the importance of these records (or lack of them) is underlined when someone tries to achieve some form of protection for the area we all take for granted.

Over the past few weeks Tracey Doherty of Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Project has been in touch as she is trying to obtain designation of the whole valley as a 'Local Wildlife Site'. Tracey has said that threats to the area will undoubtedly arise from HS2 (definitely) and the Coleshill Neighbourhood Project, amongst others. A Local Wildlife Site, once designated, has to be considered and mitigated for to show no biodiversity loss during any planning process.

The birders that contribute counts to the Blog and ultimately to the Annual Bird Report are vital protectors of the habitats we enjoy. Without these counts we cannot substantiate the data we can now put forward to planners and others that seek to develop sites in and around the Tame Valley.

With reference to https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs/data/species-threshold-levels we have been able to provide counts from birders in the Tame Valley and show that certain species are present here that are in numbers of national (UK) significance. These are Gadwall, Shovelor, Tufted Duck, Coot, Little Egret, Cormorant and occasionally Pochard.

So please make an effort to safeguard these valuable habitats. Some of The Valley is in good hands but we must be on guard to protect some other areas from development.

Your records in the form of a count are vitally important. Any help here is really appreciated. At least one count a month of the key species will assist me in maintaining records, which can ultimately make an important difference.


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Wednesday January 18th

Alvecote Pools
WEBS count highlights on Monday: Mallard 95, Tufted 82, Goosander 15, Gadwall 26, Teal 32, Scaup 1, Shelduck 1, Canada 66, Mute Swan 37, Great Crested Grebe 10, Little Grebe 13, Coot 53, Moorhen 18, Little Egret 13, Lapwing 70 (Bob Duckhouse).

Coton Lake
The Red-crested Pochard has returned to Lake 2A, with 110 Pochard there too. The Gull roost has started to disperse and rather quickly, if tonight is anything to go by: The adult Mediterranean Gull remains though LWHG (Large White-headed Gulls) are down to just 96 Lessers, 66 Herring and a Yellow-legged Gull.
Lea Marston side: A hybrid drake Pochard x Tufted Duck (All of these sightings - Alan Dean)

Kingsbury WP
An early Curlew was a surprise today and one was also recorded along the Blythe Valley; Spring has sprung. The early return of good numbers of Shelduck in the valley since late- November has also been a feature of this Winter. Also 180 Lapwing, seven Little Egrets, 13 Goldeneye and three Goosanders (Steve Cawthray).

Ladywalk NR
Around 70 Lesser Redpolls were evident after being elusive since the, still to be nailed, pale bird accompanied them (Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: 145 Golden Plovers, eight Shelduck and the hybrid, two Cetti's Warblers (Steve Atkinson).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Tuesday January 17th

Alvecote Pools
Staffs: A female Scaup on The Pigs (Bob Duckhouse).

Hams Hall
The 'Siberian' Chiffchaff behind the Wincanton buiding was showing very well and calling today. As observed by John Harris, it appears to be an unringed bird, which strongly resembles the bird featured by Alan Dean in photos on the Blog of January 4th and 9th. This confirms that we now have three birds with the ringed, 'classic', tristis, now residing at the outfall, as blogged on January 15th. Now we have much milder conditions only four Common Chiffchaff were observed between the outflow and Ladywalk double-gates (John Harris). Just the odd Goosander here and there on the river again today.

Ladywalk NR
There is a report of the 'Siberian' Chiffchaff near Hide A again on Birdguides , this evening.

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: A first -winter Mediterranean Gull was on Jubilee Wetlands with a Great Black-backed and 69 Lesser Black-backed Gulls this afternoon (Katie Thorpe). Also, six Shelducks, five Pintail (briefly), two Stonechats (Karl Sargent). 80 Golden Plover and a Common Chiffchaff were also in the area (John Harris).

At Dosthill NR, the Scaup has re-appeared (Geoff Williams).

Monday January 16th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: A Great White Egret still with 14 Little Egrets on Gilman's Pool (Roy Smith).

Ladywalk NR
The WEBS count today in horrible conditions produced 279 Teal, 30 Little Grebes, which included 18 together on the river at dusk, six Shelduck, 136 Gadwall , Common Sandpiper on the river and 242 Cormorant roosting. Also a 'Siberian' Chiffchaff seemed to roost near Hide A (Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
The highlights of the WEBS count here: Pochard 26, Mallard 169, Goldeneye six, Shelduck 10, Greylag 268 (Katie Thorpe et al).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday January 15th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: After a nine day absence a Great White Egret was at Gilman's Pool with 12 Little Egrets (Roy Smith).

Coton Lakes 
The adult Mediterranean Gull roosted with two Great Black-backed Gulls (Pete Sofley).

Hams Hall
The ringed 'Siberian' Chiffchaff at the outfall, seen today, seems to be a rather more classic tristis than the one previously photographed there. ( See January 4th and 9th Blog entries) per Dave Hutton. The bird which seems settled behind the Wincanton building was seen yesterday (Steve Cawthray). Also today, 12 Common Chiffchaffs at the outfall and 10 Bullfinches near the road bridge (Dave Hutton).

Kingsbury WP
Otter Pool: 214 Lapwings, 42 Cormorants, inc a colour-ringed bird from Essex, first seen here on February 26th 2015 (Steven Pick).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: Two Stonechats were following cattle in the south meadow.
Staffs: Four Shelduck and the hybrid thing were at Jubilee Wetland (all info Steven Pick).

West Mids: The Stonechat is still on the straw bales (Carl Hiles).

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Saturday January 14th

Coton Lakes
A small group gathered for the roost but no sign of the Glaucous Gull. However, slightly more birds came in apart from fewer Herring Gulls. The adult Mediterranean Gull was found early on. Totals were 208 Shovelor, 254 Lesser Black-backs, 72 Common Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull. Also three Water Rails near the hide, Kingfisher and Cetti's Warbler (Carl Hiles, Tom Perrins, Steven Pick and SMH).

Kingsbury WP
At the model boat pool, 25 Little Egrets were present in the afternoon. On Swann Pool the Red-crested Pochard and Black Swan were still present (Steven Pick, Julian Allen).

Friday, 13 January 2017

Friday January 13th

A bright day, although breezy, and a covering of snow after a night with temperatures around zero. Perhaps there will be some movements as a result.

Warks: I forgot to include that the two Barnacles were still in with Canadas on Monday 9th (Bob Duckhouse). Today, a Stonechat was near Railway Pool and it has been around for a week (Roy Smith).

Coton Lakes
A surprising find today was a second-winter Glaucous Gull, which was found by Alan Dean at 1509hrs, allowing me to get there in good light before it left with other Gulls. Fortunately it returned after 45 mins and was still present at dusk along with adult Mediterranean Gull, 268 Lesseer Black-backs, 114 Herring, 66 Common Gulls and two adult Yellow-legged Gulls.
Alan has commented that "although the eye appears dark, there is a small pink area at the extreme tip of the bill, while 'freckling' on the upperparts is uneven. These features, together with very creamy appearance in January, indicate a second-winter bird."

The Glauc by Alan Dean
This bird is the first at the Coton roost since two individuals in January 2011 and there was a bird at Fisher's Mill around the same time. After almost writing off this winter's Gull roost in Tuesday's Blog, we were very pleased to see this bird and will continue to do it with renewed enthusiasm in November/December.

Hams Hall
Two 'Siberian' Chiffchaffs were along the river today; the ringed bird was at the outfall and the other was still behind the Wincanton building. The snow and fall in temperatures resulted in 18 Common Chiffchaffs being between the outfall and the Ladywalk double gates. A Firecrest is now overdue (John Harris).

Ladywalk NR
The Redpoll sp on the 4th has not been seen again but an image of a bird elsewhere from Graham Catley on Twitter, and reproduced below is apparently a very good likeness (per Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: Our man did the Egret roost and saw a Great White Egret and 34 Little Egrets at the Hall heronry (Steven Pick).

Wishaw: Golden Plover make a welcome return for Carl Hiles who estimated 297 amongst winter wheat at Wishaw Lane this morning.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Thursday January 12th

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Great White Egret, three Stonechats, 45 Wigeon, 80 Teal and 30 Shovelor at Jubilee Wets and 102 Teal at North Pit.
Warks: Brambling at Gallows Brook, eight Bullfinch, 20 Siskin and 10 Redpoll. Fisher's Mill: 100 Golden Plover over and 21 Pochard, 35 Shovelor, ten Goldeneye (Katie Thorpe).

West Mids: Stonechat still (Carl Hiles).

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Wednesday January 11th

Not much to report today after a blustery day

Shustoke Res
A Raven and a Jack Snipe nearby in a brief visit by Pete Forbes.

West Mids: The Stonechat is still present from yesterday (Carl Hiles).

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Tuesday January 10th

Coton Lakes
A good grilling produced five Shelduck and a drake Pintail on the Lea Marston side. On the Coton Hall side, 56 Pochard, 105 Shovelor, Cetti's, Chiffchaff and Water Rail. The Gull roost has been poor this winter and continued to underwhelm today. The roost generally disperses in mid-January, so this winter is going to be one of the most disappointing we have seen; not entirely unexpected now that open landfill sites are no longer prevalent in the north of the county. The roost held 185 Lesser Black-backed, 110 Herring, two Great Black-backed, two Yellow-legged, 34 Common and ca.3000 Black-headed Gulls (Alan Dean).

Hams Hall
A total of 11 Common Chiffchaffs were between the outfall and Ladywalk double gates today. Also the ringed 'Siberian' Chiffchaff was at the outfall and a second bird was in thick riverside scrub behind the Wincanton building (John Harris). At Sainsbury's, 80 Redwing were on the pyracantha and they roosted in willows by the river (Pete Sofley).

by Pete Lichfield

Kingsbury WP (south end)
The usual adult Yellow-legged Gull remains on Bodymoor Heath Water and on past performance it will depart in the next couple of weeks. The Red-crested Pochard is on Swann Pool with five Goldeneye. Three Goosanders, 18 Little Egrets and 17 Lesser Redpolls were all in the same area (Alan Dean).

Ladywalk NR
Peregrine, ca.100 Teal and 50 Wigeon (Pete Lichfield) 25 Stock Doves roosted with the Cormorants (Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Great White Egret on Jubilee Wetlands (RSPB).

West Mids: A Stonechat was at the bottom of Wishaw Lane nr the playing field (Carl Hiles).

Monday, 9 January 2017

Monday January 9th

It appears that the weather scuppered any chance of birding today as after trawling the usual blogs, Twitter and internet sites I haven't come across much news. Apart from the following:

Ladywalk NR
18 Little Grebes roosted in the calm waters at the junction of the Blythe and Tame and 18 Meadow Pipits were on the marsh (Pete Sofley).

Shustoke Res
After a remarkable absence recently a Great Crested Grebe has returned with 14 Little Grebes, 47 Pochard and 91 Tufted Ducks (Pete Forbes).


I know that several people tried to get the Chiffchaffs at the weekend, with varying levels of success. To keep the Blog topical, Alan Dean has again offered some images and comment - Thank you, Alan.

Comparison of 'Siberian Chiffchaff' type with 'fulvescens traits and Common Chiffchaff of nominate form collybita.
Note generally tristis-like grey-brown upperparts and off-white underparts of 'fulvescens' bird, lacking the overall more-colourful, olive and yellow appearance of collybita.
However, the 'fulvescens' bird also has pronounced yellowish-olive fringes to remiges, rectrices, coverts and lower scapulars plus a yellow tinge above the eye.


Yesterday marked the anniversary of the discovery of three, increasing to four, Lapland Buntings, at the now-named Richard's Meadow at Kingsbury WP. On January 8th 1978 and until February 26th, when two remained, these birds were enjoyed as part of a mixed flock of 250 Yellowhammers and up to 150  Reed Buntings. Something there for you to dream about....

Incidentally for many years I gave no thought as to how Richard's Meadow came to be named, only recently discovering it is simply named after Richard White, who grazes sheep there from time to time. Richard lives on the A5 at Grendon and runs a very conservation friendly farm there.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sunday January 8th

Hams Hall
Much milder weather today and yesterday but Common Chiffchaffs still in good numbers. 12 were present at the outfall and a Siberian Chiffchaff (unringed) was with them (Carl Hiles, Dave Hutton).

Ladywalk NR
120 Teal, 30 Shovelor, 6 Pochard, 25 Wigeon, two Little Egrets and a Cetti's Warbler, photographed below by Pete Lichfield at Hide B.

Middleton RSPB
Strangely only one bird was present today, a Great White Egret on Jubilee (Kevin Whiston et al).

Water Orton
Nine Goosanders and a Green Sandpiper along the river (Dean Baker).

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Saturday January 7th

Alvecote Pools:
Warks: At Mill Pool, 13 Goosanders and 11 Shelducks (Tom Perrins).

A flock of 30 Waxwings was reported on Twitter at 1510hrs. No idea whereabouts.

Hams Hall.
Common Chiffchaffs are really being drawn to the easy feeding along the Tame. At the end of 2016 we had four or five but today the maximum count was 14 and these were just between the outfall and the first bridge over the river - no doubt there were others further downstream. Also a Common Sandpiper there (Dave Hutton, Kevin Whiston). A 'Siberian' Chiffchaff was also seen in the area (Kevin Whiston).

Ladywalk NR
Frozen pools presumably still as Duck numbers very low: Two Shelduck and six Pochard being the best. Plus a Marsh Tit (Pete Lichfield).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: A Great White Egret flew south towards Kingsbury WP early on but was thought to have returned, with two present in Staffs later. Three may have been present but foggy conditions prevented confirmation (Steve Atkinson).
A minimum of 58 Little Egrets roosted at the heronry tonight; however, as ca.30 arrived together and from all directions this count could well be beaten as they leave in the morning (Steven Pick).

Friday, 6 January 2017

Friday January 6th

Middleton RSPB
It's getting far too competitive with all this Egret counting. Steve Pick is on his second alarm clock in 12 months but after a sleepless night he wrestled the record count back after mere hours.
Warks: 61 (Sixty one) Little Egrets left the roost today. All but four went south, as usual. A Woodcock was seen over the carpark (Steven Pick).

Ladywalk NR
A female and a drake Mandarin Duck were on the river today. Also two Chiffchaffs and a 50 strong finch flock in the copse (Ben Eaton).

Thursday January 5th

Alvecote Pools
Warks: Two Great White Egrets, six Goosander and eight Shelduck. Of interest is where these GWE roost, particularly after nine Little Egrets flew in here around first light. We seem to know that these GWE are not roosting in the Middleton area and their Little Egrets are generally leaving shortly after first light and mostly leaving to the south. Perhaps there is somewhere up by Thorpe Estate or Twycross. Anyway bird news was from Simon Rose via Twitter.

Hams Hall
There is a new 'Siberian' Chiffchaff, bearing a ring, along with the first bird at the outfall. Also five Common Chiffchaffs. Along the river as far as the Ladywalk double gates were a further seven Common Chiffchaffs. Temperatures have dropped markedly for a couple of nights, resulting in this influx. A Firecrest will be next (John Harris).

Ladywalk NR
The Bittern has been elusive but showed in the sunshine today. Three drake Mandarin Ducks were clearly frozen out from their usual farm pond and were the first since 2015 here (Ken Bentley, Pete Lichfield, John Galletly et al).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: The heronry held a new record count of 59 Little Egrets tonight (John Harris & James Benwell).
Staffs: Great White Egret on Jubilee & North Pit, also five Stonechats, seven Shelducks and a solitary Golden Plover over (RSPB).

Whitacre Heath NR
A pair of Stonechats.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Wednesday January 4th

Ladywalk NR
A large, pale, 'very white' Redpoll sp was behind Hide A with ca.100 Siskin/Redpoll/Goldfinch. Seen briefly and high in the alders (Pete Sofley). Five Goosander and four Pochard were on site and nearby on the river, a Common Sandpiper and 'several' Chiffchaffs (Pete Forbes).

Middleton RSPB
Warks: Five Shelduck on Middleton Pool (no records on the Pits apparently). Water Rail(s) continue at the feeders and a Cetti's was at Fisher's Mill.
Staffs: Great White Egret on Jubilee Wetland (Steve Atkinson).

The 'Siberian Chiffchaffs' at Hams Hall and Ladywalk NR 

There have been regular records of 'Siberian Chiffchaffs' (Phylloscopus collybita tristis) along the River Tame at Hams Hall and Ladywalk NR for "many" years (literature not to hand). The Edison Road outfall area is a literal hotspot in winter, with an ice/frost free zone created by warmer, treated sewage water from Minworth SF. Even in low temperatures there is an abundance of insect life to which many species are attracted. There have been up to three 'Siberian Chiffchaffs' in this area recently, following the first (near the Ladywalk entrance) on December 24th 2016. Alan Dean has provided me with a submission for the 2016 Bird Report after he saw a probable second bird at the outfall and we both agree that it is of topical interest as the bird is probably still present. Links to Alan's ongoing research into the Chiffchaff geographical intergrades, hybridisation, mixed singers etc etc are given below.

Alan Dean takes up the story ...

"On December 28th, 2016, I visited the outflow at Hams Hall, where Dave Hutton had recorded a ‘Siberian Chiffchaff’ on Dec. 26th.  The bird was soon located, frequenting the channel leading down to the river, with four Common Chiffchaffs in the same area. It displayed the following tristis-like features: crown and mantle grey-brown with a slight ‘tan’ tinge but with no visible olive; underparts with off-whitish ground-colour  with no evident yellow but a weak buffish wash on breast and flanks. It differed quite strongly from a ‘classic’ tristis, however, in that there were very prominent yellowish olive fringes to remiges and rectrices and similarly coloured streaking in the wing-coverts and lower scapulars. Faint olive in these feather tracts is within the compass of mainstream tristis but the prominence and extent of the hue on this individual placed it firmly in the ‘fulvescens’ camp, this being emphasised by a yellow wash on the fore-supercilium and upper eye-ring.
Only comprehensive genetic analysis can determine whether such strongly marked ‘fulvescens’ traits are within the range of variation of pure-bred tristis or are a result of introgression from abietinus. Currently, determining reliable nuclear DNA markers which distinguish between tristis and abietinus is proving difficult (Martin Collinson & Peter de Knijff in lit.) Mitochondrial DNA determines only the maternal lineage, so does not detect hybrids / introgression  per se. "

Alan has added the following clarification about the Outfall bird described above:

"The current approach (pragmatic rather than genetically unequivocal) is that individuals with ‘fulvescens’ traits are acceptable pro tem as Siberian Chiffchaff as long as they have the characteristic ‘brown and buff’ hues of tristis and olive and yellow hues are sufficiently limited.  Often, ‘fulvescens’ traits are detected in digital photos but have not been observed by eye in the field. Chiffchaffs frequently move too rapidly and at a range which restricts the detail discernible by the eye. Most important of all is that in the field it is quite impossible to say that any tristis candidate does not have slight ‘fulvescens’ traits. A total absence of yellow in body plumage and eyering, for example, can only be ascertained by examination in the hand. It is not possible to be certain that such tinges are entirely absent by observation in the field. That is why – for some years -  countries such as Sweden would accept as tristis only individuals which had been trapped. Of course, this leads to a serious under-recording of the taxon, so nowadays most records committees accept individuals with limited ‘fulvescens’ traits – though, as already noted,  it’s still debated whether these traits are individual variation among pure-bred tristis or are a sign of introgression. Under this approach, accepting field identifications always implies that a bird has the characters of tristis sensu lato (i.e. classic or ‘fulvescens’ combined). We all operate with this proviso when we identify a bird as tristis. Quite a few birds seen in our region have shown ‘fulvescens’ traits in good quality digital photos – see eg www.deanar.org.uk/tristis/casestudy2.htm. It’s also the case that ‘fulvescens’ types will generally have a tristis call (and even a definite hybrid could well do so). Calls are an important guide to taxon but are not a guarantee of a pure-bred individual. There are no ‘absolutes’ as things stand – we await the outcome of more-comprehensive genetic analyses, if and when effective techniques are developed."

Alan has allowed me to publish his images on the Blog and during preparation of this today I have seen the colour variation which often exists between devices when presenting the same images. Any assessment of 'tristis' is difficult enough and reliance on photographs for identification is rarely sufficient unless they are of the very highest digital quality.

Alan's comment and images below:

"Note prominent yellowish-olive fringes to remiges, rectrices, wing-coverts and scapulars : far more evident than in 'classic' tristis. Also yellow tinge in upper eye-ring".

Alan has now accumulated a wealth of online information and the links below are highly recommended, particularly I find, as an occasional reference read. It has been regularly updated since 2009 as new information becomes available from Alan's research and his discussions with his impressive list of contacts. 

www.deanar.org.uk/tristis/tristis.htm is a link to the whole document and www.deanar.org.uk/tristis/appendices.htm#fulvescens&riphaeus  and www.deanar.org.uk/tristis/tristis.htm#fulvescens both provide further discussion about fulvescens.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Tuesday January 3rd

Alvecote Pools
Warks: A Great White Egret still present.

Kingsbury WP
A Jack Snipe was on Cliffe Pool and the Yellow-legged Gull was on Hemlingford Water. Barn Owl at Cliffe Pool at dusk (Steve Cawthray).

Ladywalk NR
'Siberian' Chiffchaff keeping low just over half way down the track with four Common Chiffchaffs, also Woodcock and two singing Marsh Tits (Pete Sofley).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: The Scaup still on New Reedbed Pool plus 100 Lapwing on Jubilee.
Warks: Ten Goldeneyes on Fisher's Mill and 150 Lapwing (RSPB). A Tree Sparrow by the farm was a welcome arrival; it would be great, given the nearby feeding area, if they could be encouraged to breed again (Rob Strong).

LATE NEWS: A ringtail Hen harrier was seen at Whitacre Heath on Saturday 31st, eventually heading off towards Lea Marston. May still be across the Haunch Lane area and worth a look.

Monday January 2nd

Alvecote Pools
Warks: A Great White Egret still on Mill Pool (Roy Smith).

Hams Hall & River Tame as far as Ladywalk entrance held up to three "Siberian" Chiffchaffs today. Two were see by the double gate at 1119hrs and one was at the outfall at 1245hrs. Also nine Common Chiffchaffs along there (John Harris).

Kingsbury WP
Hemlingford Water etc: Yellow-legged Gull, 16 Litle Egrets and two Goosander (Julian Allen).

Middleton RSPB
Staffs: Scaup, Great White Egret, seven Shelduck, eight Pochard, Woodcock, Green Sand, Peregrine, Stonechat and two Cett's Warblers (Steve Atkinson).

Sunday January 1st

Today was a bit of a washout and I can't see any local news.