News archive

May 2012

Monday, 7 May 2012

Nightingale singing


It takes a man on a mission or, to be more exact a woman, to get up at 3am to go birdwatching, but that is what Cherry, Vanessa, Janet and myself did on a recent cold, dark May morning. We were hoping to find 90 birds, or even more if lucky, for the Group's annual Sponsored Birdwatch. The men were also fielding a team, but on a different day, so it was something of a surprise when thirty minutes into our walk in the Wyre Forest, a car motored past us with the men's team inside. What?! A quick conflab and all was revealed. Both teams had changed the intended days of the SBW because of bad weather and, not surprisingly, ended up choosing the only dry day in an otherwise wet few days. Like bad pennies, they kept turning up - or perhaps it was us who were the bad pennies...

Although this was a birdwatch, we saw a few mammals during the day. The first, most unexpectedly, was a figure low to the ground with a rather shambling gait crossing the main road near Worcester Cathedral. What the... it was a badger! Vanessa and I couldn't believe our eyes when it reached the other side and turned down New Road - a bit early for the shops surely? I've heard of urban foxes, but urban badgers?

We picked up Cherry and Janet in St Johns and on the way to Bewdley saw our first bird, a tawny owl, and then a fox. It was still dark when we reached Dowles Brook car park hoping to see or hear roding woodcock. No luck with that but we did hear our first cuckoo. From then on we were on a roll and for four hours had plenty of exercise finding thirtyfive birds including Wyre Forest specialities such as lesser spotted woodpeckers, pied flycatchers, garden and wood warblers, tree pipit, redstart, dipper and grey wagtail. Oh, and we also had half a dozen fallow deer. By then breakfast was long overdue, so after a hurried bite to eat, we had a quick scan of the river in Bewdley for gulls and hirundines, or anything else, then it was off to Trimpley Reservoir. Here we picked up red-legged partridge, common sandpiper, siskin etc and enjoyed watching a great-crested grebe bring nesting material to the female on her tiny floating island.

At Shenstone we hoped to find corn bunting, but found the men's team instead! They kindly put us on to a lesser whitethroat singing lustily which delighted me as I hadn't seen one so close before, and a yellowhammer. We left at noon for Upton Warren and having got past the halfway mark in terms of numbers seen, we were feeling rather optimistic. Oh fickle fate! UW had too much water after all the rain so, apart from little-ringed plover and avocet, no waders; hardly any ducks other than shelduck, gadwall and the ubiqitous mallard (did we remember to log it?) no ducks. But we did have a little gull fluttering like a butterfly amongst the blacked-headed, and which seemed to be highly prized by my colleages; I was less enthusiatic. In all we picked up fourteen species including a peregrine perched like a small dot on top of a radio transmitter tower. It was disappointing though as we had been expecting many more birds at this key site. It was the same story at Grimley Gravel Pits - only one little grebe, plus a whitethroat and kestrel were seen.

By then it was 3.30pm and we were flagging. A little restorative was needed and Peter Jones responded splendidly with tea and biccies at his house. Then it was off again, with a change of car and driver to Ripple - one heron, and Hollybed Common - nothing, before going on to British Camp (groan) where, thanks to a heads-up from Mick Woodward, we found wheatear and meadow pipit bringing our day's total to 88. This included a nightingale which had to be our star bird given that it's some years since it's been seen or heard in Worcestershire. It was 7.45pm and a suggestion that we might go to Longden Marsh for garganey and marsh tit, met with an emphatic no!. A stiff drink, food and bed, in that order, was what was on our minds.

Given that our team was three and half people (I was the half) we did very well, although it was disappointing not to have made our target of 90. Still, we we weren't far off. The men's team managed an excellent 95, but then they did have five expert birders on their team - not being competitive you understand ...

Frances Evans