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.


simon woodbine said...

do you know to any good birding sites around west midlands

Kay said...

Hi Richard, I'm hearing a lot about Swallow Moss lately, what with the Harriers and now the RL Buzzard and the Shrike. We're hoping to head up there soon, perhaps next weekend if the weather stays ok. have you got any tips for spotting Red Grouse there?

Enjoying your blog - keep it up :)

Kay (Brightside Birding)

Richard Powell said...

Hello Simon

It depends if there's anything in particular you want to see. There's Sandwell Valley RSPB reserve. I don't venture into the west midlands that often. Perhaps Kay from "Brightside Birding" blog might have some ideas?

Kay said...

Hi Simon, to be honest although I live in Brum, I tend to travel to a lot of places in Worcs, Warks and Staffs as I prefer the birding. In W Mids itself there's Sandwell Valley, Stubbers Green near Walsall (never been but good gulls there lately), Marsh Lane in Solihull (permit needed), Bartley Resevoir and Sheepwash Urban park (never been there either). Hope this helps.


Martyn Yapp said...

The older birders (ok so I was there) in the region will all have seen the cracking pale Rough-legged Buzzard that frequented the slope behind the top road at Swallow Moss. Sorry don't mean upset you, but blimey what a bird. Come to think of it the Black Grouse were also showing then...Gripped

Richard Powell said...

Hello Martyn

Somehow the word "cobblers" comes to mind, and I don't mean fixing shoes!

It's a shame there are no more Black Grouse up there.