As the snow and ice continued to grip the Midlands and the rest of the U.K, hundreds of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the move this morning flying over mainly to the North, with smaller numbers of Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls mixed in with the flocks. The Larid highlight however was a superb adult Great Black-backed Gull which i picked out flying North with 14 L.B.B Gulls at 11.10am (and only the 2nd record of Great Black-backed Gull at Lutley Wedge, since the first in December 1998!)
Although in the Midlands as a whole Great Black-backed Gulls are classed as a 'fairly common winter visitor', the winter distribution in the West Midlands is very low only 1% and even Worcestershire only 5% according to 'The new Birds of the West Midlands 2005'. This is presumably why it's taken me 12 years, and the coldest December for a 100 years to record Lutley's second! It was worth the wait!
5 Lapwing (1 >E) (4 >NNW)
Spot the GBB! 25/12/10
Great Black-backed Gull (middle) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls 25/12/10
Highlight today was a smart adult Common Gull which flew over heading East with 4 Black Headed Gulls, otherwise apart from a couple of Siskin flying over it was more of the same with Fieldfares making cold weather movements.
A flock of 13 Waxwings flew over my garden at 10.07am totally ignoring all the apples i had put out to attract them, and landed in trees nearby on Bassnage Road for a few minutes before flying off again.
'Life in the freezer' on the patch this morning! Temperatures plummeted to a record low of around -13°c overnight with at least 16 cms of snow still on the ground, from the heavy snowfall on the 18/12. Some cold weather 'escape movements' were noticeable over the top footpath, with the highlight being 2 Curlew that flew over heading West at 11.23am (these are the first winter records of Curlew at Lutley Wedge). A few Lapwings also flew over fleeing the freezing conditions including a flock of 7 flying at high altitude rapidly >West at 12.35pm, along with increasing numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings. Hard Weather movements 10.40am-1.30pm 2 Curlew >W 9 Lapwing (7 >W) (1 >SSW) (1 >NE) 79 Fieldfare (48 >S/SE) (19 >W/SW) (2 >E) (3 >N) 57 Redwing (30 >S/SE) (12 >N/NW) (9 >W) (2 >E) 1 Song Thrush >W/NW 8 Skylark (7 >E) (1 >SW) 53+ L.B.B Gull 11 Herring Gull 2 Raven >E
Frozen Lutley looking South to Clent Hills, and Ice crystals 19/12/10
A quick visit this afternoon to Wassell Grove Pools. The highlight on a fairly quiet day was a large flock of 55+ Siskins feeding in the alder trees around the pools, until they were flushed by a hunting Sparrowhawk. Also seen:- 21 Redwings, 1 Fieldfare, 7 Bullfinch and 1 Common Buzzard.
I found yet another flock of 42 Waxwings in Halesowen this afternoon, noisily 'trilling' from the top of a tree on Highfield Lane/Park near the junction with Chapel Street at 12.35pm before they flew off to the SW.
An incredible hoarfrost covered everything this morning, after last nights freezing fog cleared as the temperature plummeted to a new record low of at least -9°c! Not surprisingly given the arctic conditions there were some more signs of hard weather movements, with 1 Common Snipe, 3 Lapwing and 5 Cormorants seen flying over. Winter thrushes were again obvious feeding on berries in the hedgerows amongst the thick covering of hoarfrost. The Redwings especially could be in for tough time of it soon, when they exhaust the dwindling berry supply, especially as the freezing weather is forecast to be around into January!
I found another 6 Waxwings at 09.30am today at Bassnage Road/Foxhunt Road Halesowen, and managed to get a short sound recording and a few record photographs, before the flock flew off 'trilling' high to the South at 09.38am.
Waxwing/sonogram (Halesowen West Midlands) 7/12/10
The ground on the patch today was still frozen hard and covered with ice this morning caused by the slight thawing of the lying snow over the last few days re-freezing overnight, making conditions underfoot treacherous. The highlights birding wise were 2 Common Snipe which flew over at 12.35pm . A few winter Thrushes were still around in the hedgerows with 30+ Redwing and 2 Fieldfares seen, and I also managed to get a good sound recording of one of the Fieldfares which was perched in the hedgerow along the Top Footpath. Also seen of note :- 1 Goldcrest, 10 Siskin, 6 Bullfinch, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 2+ Common Buzzard, 3 Herring Gull >N/NE and 13 Black Headed Gulls (including 1 carrying a leg ring).
The patch Waxwing record was well and truly smashed today! A superb flock of 32 Waxwing flew in from the north at 11.40am and continued swiftly south towards Clent. Also 1 Common Snipe, and 11 Golden Plover flew high over the Top Footpath, and a influx of 45 Skylark were in the fields by Grange Farm. 32 Waxwing >S 11 Golden Plover >W 1 Common Snipe >SW 45 Skylark 43+ Redwing 2 Fieldfare 1 Herring Gull >WSW
31 of the 32 Waxwing flying south! Lutley Wedge 2/12/10
Finally the Waxwing invasion reached the Lutley Wedge recording area! I found 2 Waxwings near Lutley Lane this morning, perched in the top of a Leylandii tree near the junction with Portsdown Road/Snowdon Grove at 10.45am, and a short while later at Grange Farm, I heard another Waxwing calling as it flew over. These Waxwings are only the 3rd/4th records for the local patch, so a real red letter day!
The freezing cold wind and frequent heavy snow showers throughout the morning, made for tough birding conditions along the Top Footpath, but there were more signs of hard weather movements, in breaks between the blizzards. There were the first signs of Skylarks beginning to flee the freezing weather and more Lapwings flew over, with a noticeable influx of Redwings flying over and feeding in the hedgerows. 15 Lapwing >W/SW
I found another flock of 18 Waxwings very near to my home today at 10.20am. The flock were perched in the top of a tree on Bassnage Road/Foxhunt Road Halesowen. They were only present for about 5 minutes giving me just enough time to take a few record photographs, though sadly the light wasn't great due to the onset of blizzard like conditions! I also made a sound recording of the 'trilling' calls before they flew off.
More hard weather refugees today, though due to my late morning arrival at the patch I got the feeling I was possibly just seeing the 'tail end' of any wader movements, and may have missed some birds going over earlier this morning. There was a noticeable increase in numbers of Fieldfare, and also more Lapwings flying over with flocks of (21) (22) and (3) single birds, fleeing the cold weather.
The freezing weather continues with very low temperatures overnight(-7.8°c) and not rising above freezing all day. More 'escape movements' today with Lapwing, Golden Plover, Cormorants and a single Common Snipe all flying over from late morning, with 5 of the Lapwing dropping into the horse paddocks along the Top Footpath to feed briefly. Also seen 1 Raven flying West, 2 Fieldfare, 16 Redwing, 6 Siskin. 'Hard Weather' movements :- 33 Golden Plover >SW 69 Lapwing (60 >W/SW) (9 >ESE) 1 Common Snipe >WSW 5 Cormorant >NE>N 1 Herring Gull >NW 1 Meadow Pipit >W
Golden Plover heading > SW and Cormorants 28/11/10
The freezing weather began to dig in today, bringing a dusting of snow overnight, a biting cold northerly wind and severe windchill. There were more signs of yesterdays cold weather movements gathering momentum, 25 Lapwing flew west and also 1 Common Snipe which circled high over Lutley Brook several times before flying southwest. Also seen of note :- 27+ Redwings, 2 Common Buzzard.
First signs of 'hard weather' movements today due to the current freezing weather. A flock of 14 Lapwings flew over heading West at 12.30pm, no doubt just the first of many to come in the next few days as birds flee the freezing conditions, especially if we get snow falling on top of the hard frozen ground. Also 3 Cormorants flew over heading West.
Also seen, 1 Common Buzzard feeding on worms in the horse paddocks along the Top Footpath, 3 Fieldfare, 37+ Redwing, 2 Siskin.
Just 'off patch', I found a superb flock of 20 Waxwings at 10.48am perched in a tree next to Thornhill Park Halesowen, and only a stones throw from my house! They were only perched for a couple of minutes, so i was pleased to get a few record photos, before the flock flew off!
A quick visit to Wassell Grove Pools today. There were 48+ Redwing in the hedgerows surrounding the pools and several flocks were seen flying over, though they were pretty mobile so an accurate count proved difficult. The highlight was a good sized flock of 24+ Siskins in the alders around the pools. Also of note 5+ Bullfinch, and 2 Coots were still present on the main pool.
At Wassell Grove Pools:- A flock of 12 Redwing flew over the entrance track to the pools, and approx 50 Redwings and 30+ Fieldfares were in the surrounding hedgerows. Also 10 Siskin flew over, and 2 Raven flew over >South.
Heavily overcast skies and low cloud seemed to suppress a lot of visible migration this morning, though Thrushes (mostly Redwing) appeared to be arriving and 'dropping out' late morning into the hedgerows due to the overcast skies.
I managed to get a reasonable recording of Song Thrush flight call today. The call is a very quiet and sharp 'sip' and can almost be 'subliminal' i think when you here it from migrating birds, though it still seems to carry for some distance even from high flying birds if you have sharp hearing that is!
Song Thrush Sonogram of flight call Lutley Wedge 31/10/10
Another 'Finch' day, saw the record autumn passage of Brambling at Lutley continuing with at least 14 flying through, and good numbers of Chaffinch again on the move west. Small flocks of Starling again headed West, 2 Ravens flew in over the Top Footpath heading off to the W/SW and frustratingly a Grey Anser Goose sp flew high and distant over the Top Footpath, but just too far away to make a positive i.d.
An excellent day of visible migration! Highlight was a Red Kite (possibly the same bird seen on 16/10/10?) which flew West mobbed by 4 Jackdaws at 09.10am. There were good numbers of Chaffinch arriving from the east through the morning, and involved with the same movement an influx of Brambling with at least 18 birds heading West. Other highlights were 2 Bullfinch flying through high to the NE then E (possible 'northern race'? Or more likely dispersing British Ssp pileata?!) and 4 Golden Plover that flew West at 09.24am. 'The trill has gone!' Sadly this morning as yesterday and every morning since the invasion began, every Starling/Waxwing shaped shape was just that, a Starling! And not a Waxwing! Still it's early days, as far as the Midlands and invading Waxwings goes so plenty of time yet. And as for the insane time and effort i've put in on the patch for a flyover 'Lapbunt' this autumn to probably no avail, we better not go there!
Visible Migration 08.00am-12.00pm :-
1 Red Kite >W 4 Golden Plover >W 135 Redwing (92 >S/SW/W) (10 >E/SE)