Sunday, 24 February 2008

Uttoxeter and Croxden Quarries (and well done Dustin!)

For the seven years that I've lived in the area, I've always noticed a gravel pit when I drive on the A50 flyover at Uttoxeter. Thanks to some info on Bird Forum regarding access to the quarry I paid my first visit there today.

I didn't stay for too long as some rather angry looking clouds were on the way. But I managed to find a Green Sandpiper, 2 Oystercatcher, 15 Goosander, done well for them this weekend. Also a couple of Buzzard and a singing Skylark. I'll definitely be paying more attention to this area in future.

Then just a quick look at Croxden Quarry when the rain stopped. The pair of Ruddy Shelduck are back, wonder where they went to.

And well done to the people of Ireland for getting Dustin off to Belgrade in May. The winning song in all it's glory, and to Dana's disgust, can be found here.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Deep Hayes Country Park

The next month or so is the best time of year to look for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. So we're told anyway. These days, however, in Staffordshire they're about as common as hen's teeth. There's more chance of a Turkey winning Eurovision than seeing one. Which reminds me, I must find something on RTE's website tomorrow.

The most reliable place in the county that I know of has been the Seven Springs area of the chase, but even there I haven't seen one for the last few years. In fact, I've only seen this species three times. Amazingly, my first years ago, was in the back garden back home in Burton. I'm certainly the reason was the tree felling that was going on at Branston Golf Club at the time.

So over the next few weeks I'm going to try some other places. The first site that I tried today, being Deep Hayes Country Park, between Leek and Stoke.

I've never been here before but I got quite an impressive total of species, 34. All the riverside woodland certainly looks a likely spot for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Plenty of Alder, Oak and Birch. I found:

16 Goosander
1 Willow Tit
1 Grey Wagtail
1 Little Grebe
1 flyover Cormorant
1 Fieldfare
Song Thrush
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

But no Lesser Pecker! Anyway, here's what Deep Hayes looks like.

Only two small lakes here like this one, so 16 Guzzunder was quite an impressive number.

Riverine woodland.

There's also a small hide overlooking a feeding station. This was where the Willow Tit was.

Perhaps an early start would give me a better chance, or perhaps there are just none around. I could pay early morning visits to both here and Greenway Bank Country Park on my way to work. Unless someone out there knows where to find them? If so, please let me know, it would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Come on Dustin!

This entry really does have an ornithological theme, honest! I’ll let you into a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the Eurovision Song Contest!

I object to it being a “camp spectacle”. To me, it’s all so ridiculous (the songs and the voting) I think it’s brilliant. Wogan is a hero! While watching it, consuming large amounts of alcohol seem to make more sense.

Be thankful. A friend of mine once said "we should be dropping bombs on them, not singing songs at them!".

Although I haven’t heard the songs yet, I’ve seen the UK contestants for this year, and to be honest I couldn’t care about any of them. Thanks to all these “talent” shows, they’re just providing us with pointless rejects. This year I’m looking across the Irish Sea. I have everything crossed that my tip for Ireland will get through to Belgrade.

Come on Dustin the Turkey! You’re western europe’s only hope of a win!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Croxall Gravel Pits

Just a quick look round Croxall today, en route to my brother's house in Tamworth to deliver some birthday beer.

2 Redshank
1 Shelduck
8 Goldeneye
1 Kingfisher
1 Buzzard
3 Redwing

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Consall Nature Park

I fancied going on a long walk, on a crisp day, without having to go too far. So I paid a visit to Consall Nature Park, just to the north of Cheadle.

Starting off at the Sheepfold car park, near to Kingsley Moor. Down to the River Churnet and Caldon Canal at Consall Forge, then along the river up to the confluence of Coombes Brook. Then heading back to the visitor centre to check the feeders (and use the facilities), and back to the car. Took about three and a half hours of walking, and I'm starting to stiffen up as I type.

2 Raven
2 Buzzard
calling Tawny Owl (in the middle of the day, which can happen when it gets cold)
1 Kestrel
6 Siskin
1 Redwing
20 Goldfinch
Great Spotted Woodpecker

I have seen Dipper along this stream at Far Kingsley Banks, but not today.

Far Kingsley Banks itself, lovely view.

The weir next to the Black Lion. Once spring arrives it's a good spot for Grey Wagtail.

The bird table round the back of the visitor centre. A couple of Nuthatches here, a few Chaffinches and plenty of Blue, Great and Coal Tits.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Staffordshire Moorlands, Swallow Moss

As Kate Bush once said, "out on the wily, windy moors" today. I really need to have a particular frame of mind for birding in moorland, and that's just to accept whatever you find. The time of year doesn't make any difference, you can spend ages up in the staffordshire moorlands and not see a thing. But for the species you can find its a case of quality rather than quantity. Such a large area to cover as well.

So I had a mixed to reaction to a report of a Rough-Legged Buzzard seen near Swallow Moss and the Mermaid pub yesterday. On one hand it would be very nice to see it, but on the other it's going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack and I could be wasting my time.

I decided to spend the whole afternoon and to just take my time in the area, looking for good vantage points to scan the horizons. Very pleasant weather as well. I spent a bit of time at Boarsgrove, which gives a good view to a large area of heather.

Eventually a Buzzard did fly past, a very brown Common Buzzard. I carefully followed it's progress in the hope that it might attract another raptor. Quite a successful tactic of mine. Except for today. However, the Buzzard did flush out three Red Grouse.

Between here and Swallow Moss I managed to find a few Kestrel, Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

When I arrived at Swallow Moss quite a few birders were there. I assumed looking for the Rough-Legged Buzzard as well as the roosting Hen Harriers. After a while two birders stopped to say to me "it's further down the road". Thinking they meant the Rough-Legged Buzzard. When I got to the spot they mentioned they actually meant a Great Grey Shrike.

So that was a nice surprise and a very good consolation, especially as I missed the Great Grey Shrike here back in early November. I bet it's the same bird and has spent the whole winter in the area. I left the moss probably too early for the Hen Harriers, but I had my fill of roosting harriers at Hickling.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Park Hall Country Park and Alton area

AM at Park Hall Country Park, Weston Coyney, Stoke-on-Trent:

3 Long-Eared Owls
36 Golden Plover
40 Fieldfare
5 Redwing
3 Yellowhammer
Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Meadow Pipit

I don't know why its taken me so long to catch up with the Long-Eared Owls at Park Hall, just one of those things. But finally I managed to catch up with three roosting birds today, a marvellous sight. Some scenes of Park Hall:

Hulme Quarry. The Golden Plover and thrushes were in a farmer's field to the west of here.

After some celebratory sandwiches, the afternoon was spent birding in the Alton area. First to Brookleys Lake.

Complete with JCB's test track, although no diggers driving round here on a saturday afternoon. There were a pair of Mandarin here, although there have been nine in recent months. I have found Goosander here not long ago, but not today.

I then moved onto the Dimmingsdale car park at the Ramblers Retreat. I didn't walk along Dimmingsdale today, although that comes into it's own in the spring. There is a track, old railway line actually, that heads towards Oakamoor. Along here there are some feeders that is a reliable spot for Marsh Tit.

One Marsh Tit did the right thing and showed itself here. Plus Blue, Great, Coal and Long-Tailed Tits, Nuthatch, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming away, which means spring isn't that far away. But how far away exactly?

Of course, 2nd February is Groundhog Day. Phil will tell us how much winter we have left!

Looks like Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so six more weeks of winter to go. Does it count for us in the UK?

Friday, 1 February 2008

Psychedelic Snow!

Typical. You decide to work from home because you're paranoid of getting stuck in the snow, and hardly any turns up. Apart from this stuff:

The flash had quite a psychedelic effect on the nearer snowflakes. You never know this cold snap might bring something down. Personally I'm hoping for a Pine Bunting.