Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Kings Norton Nature Reserve 21/02/16

On Sunday I was very happy to be back at my local patch for the first time in a few weeks - the previous weekend I'd been both ill and not in Birmingham, and the weekend before that the weather had been truly dreadful! I still wasn't feeling 100% recovered from my illness (which I'd decided with the help of Dr Google was probably a chest infection), but I was determined to see what I could find at Kings Norton Nature Reserve. It was a good trip, assuming that none of my sightings were illness-induced hallucinations! I took plenty of (admittedly dreadful) photos of the best one, to be extra sure ;o)

Here are my highlights; I saw 38 species in all, of which one was a new one for me at this site. I've now seen 56 species in total at the reserve. It was a bit of a wildfowl extravaganza this time around....
  • 11 Teal on Wychall Reservoir - as far as I could tell. The marshy nooks and crannies of the reservoir make it a bit difficult to count the Teal, but obviously provide them with some nice habitat!
  • Four Goosanders and seven Tufted Ducks on Merecroft Pool.
  • Also on Merecroft Pool, TWO male Shovelers - I'd only previously had one there.
  • My most unexpected and exciting bird of this trip - a lovely male MANDARIN DUCK on Merecroft Pool! Provenance unknown but it sounds like he'd been doing the rounds of various local sites - I bumped into another birder who said a Mandarin had been seen at Upton Warren in the week, and Adrian (a fellow KNNR patch birder!) spotted a Mandarin in Cannon Hill Park on Monday morning. Most likely all the same bird. We may not ever see the Mandarin at KNNR again but I don't know, there are some very nice overhanging branches and secluded spots around the edge of the pool of the type favoured by Mandarins, I think he should come back ;o)
  • A pair of Grey Herons building a nest in an Alder on the island in Merecroft Pool.
  • A very large flock of Goldfinches in the bushes around the top end of British Waterways Meadow, with a few Siskins interspersed among them. I watched and listened for ages but couldn't find any Redpolls in there.
  • A Sparrowhawk flying over the Paddocks.
  • A Buzzard over Wychall Reservoir.
  • A Treecreeper in trees along the Rea Valley route, not long after I'd entered from Westhill Road.
Sadly I neglected the West Extension once again - I'd pretty much run out of energy by the time I reached Popes Lane, but am looking forward to getting back to KNNR for the guided walk this Saturday, by which time I am sure I'll be 100% recovered.

Here are a couple of scenes of the reserve from my trip:

Path down the side of the paddocks.
Pinehurst Meadow (HDR) - it was a bit windy for HDRs really, some dodgy alignment in there.

Unfortunately I hadn't brought my zoom lens with me, so could only take some truly dreadful record shots of the Mandarin!

View full size to spot the Mandarin!
View full size to spot the Mandarin!
I also took a few photos of the Herons building their nest, again rather far away:

Grey Herons nesting.
Grey Herons nesting.

The reason I'd left my zoom lens behind was to bring my close-up lens instead, to photograph some plants - I've recently started a new course, Identiplant, which will enable me to develop my botanical identification skills to a more advanced level. At the moment I know quite a few common plants, but this course should equip me with the skills to use a floristic key properly and therefore the ability (in theory) to identify any plant! As part of my first assignment I had to find three monocots in flower; not too hard at this time of year, especially with the warm weather we've been having over much of winter. I don't actually have to take photos of the plants I find for my assignments, but I enjoy doing it and it's a good way to keep records. Here's what I found, hopefully my identifications are correct:

Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop).
Crocus vernus (Spring Crocus).
Muscari armeniacum (Garden Grape Hyacinth). OK so I cheated a bit, I actually took this photo in our neighbour's front garden when I got home!


Blackbird Goosander Nuthatch
Black-headed Gull Great Spotted Woodpecker Robin
Blue Tit Great Tit Shoveler
Bullfinch Greenfinch Siskin
Buzzard Grey Heron Sparrowhawk
Carrion Crow Herring Gull Starling
Chaffinch Jackdaw Stock Dove
Coal Tit Lesser Black-backed Gull Teal
Coot Long-tailed Tit Treecreeper
Dunnock Magpie Tufted Duck
Feral Pigeon Mallard Woodpigeon
Goldcrest Mandarin Duck Wren
Goldfinch Moorhen

Monday, 22 February 2016

Swallow painting for Brewood Ringers

A few months ago, Ben from Brewood Ringers got in touch with me via this blog to ask whether I would donate a painting to the ringing group, for them to raffle off to raise money for their activities. I was happy to oblige - a nice excuse to do something a bit different from my usual paintings for this blog (sorry about the lack of these lately!). I was given free rein but asked Ben if there were any species in particular that might be particularly relevent to the group; he suggested a few and from those I chose Swallow. I hadn't yet painted anything with similar colouration to a Swallow so was looking forward to working in this pallette; also I hoped that this would be a nice subject for a painting that someone would be happy to win in a raffle - everyone likes Swallows! I painted in my usual medium of watercolours; here's the finished painting:

Swallow watercolour painting.
And here it is in its frame:

Framed Swallow painting.
I delivered the painting to Brewood Ringers at the weekend, at one of their ringing demonstrations at Ashwood Nurseries near Kingstanding. It was great to meet them and catch the end of their demo; I got to release a Greenfinch :o) Afterwards we headed over to nearby Wall Heath to catch up with the Hoopoe that has been there all winter. There were a few birders there and it wasn't long before one of them found the Hoopoe, feeding and bumbling around in some long scrubby grass. This habitat didn't make for the best photos but we enjoyed some nice close views through binoculars; see if you can pick out the Hoopoe in my dreadful record shots below!


Me about to release the Greenfinch.
View full size to find the Hoopoe!

View full size to find the Hoopoe!

View full size to find the Hoopoe!

I hope the raffle ticket sales raise lots of money for the group, and that whoever ends up winning my painting likes their prize!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Kings Norton Nature Reserve 30/01/16

I was back at my local patch, Kings Norton Nature Reserve, on Saturday for my weekly stroll. Being full of cold I'd eaten an extra-large lunch and put on all my warmest clothes before setting out, however I still wasn't quite feeling on my A-game so may have missed a few birds this time around! However I still saw 38 species so not too shabby :o) Here are the highlights!
  • Mr Shoveler was back on Merecroft Pool, feeding furiously!
  • A Mistle Thrush hopping around the Paddocks, only my second sighting of this species at KNNR.
  • Some very furtive Lesser Redpolls hiding deep in some bushes near British Waterways Meadow.
  • A pair of Goosanders on Merecroft Pool.
  • A Kingfisher flying east over Wychall Reservoir.
  • Redwing feeding unobtrusively in the mud just to the west of Wychall Reservoir.
  • Four Stock Doves flying around the Merecroft Pool area.
  • A Treecreeper in the fading light in the area (not open to the public) northwest from Wychall Reservoir.
  • Just as I was leaving, a small group (6-8) of Pied Wagtails flying overhead to roost somewhere for the night.
Here are a few photos - just scenes of the reserve, as I was wearing my massive duffle coat for extra warmth, I didn't have enough pocket space for my zoom lens as well!

British Waterways Meadow (HDR, a bit windy).
Next to Merecroft Pool (HDR).
Was pleased with this one of Merecroft Pool - a view I hadn't much experienced before due to the extremely muddy path! (HDR).
West of Wychall Reservoir just after sunset (HDR).


Blackbird Great Tit Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)
Black-headed Gull Grey Heron Redwing
Blue Tit Herring Gull Robin
Bullfinch Jackdaw Shoveler
Carrion Crow Kingfisher Song Thrush
Chaffinch Lesser Black-backed Gull Starling
Coal Tit Lesser Redpoll Stock Dove
Coot Long-tailed Tit Teal
Dunnock Magpie Treecreeper
Goldcrest Mallard Tufted Duck
Goldfinch Mistle Thrush Woodpigeon
Goosander Moorhen Wren
Great Spotted Woodpecker Mute Swan