Thursday, 27 March 2008

Driven out by the Locals?

Here's where it was folks. The Firecrest was actually on those branches on the left of the picture. No sign of it today after two visits (there's nothing for you here!). I've now christened this bend in the river "Firecrest Corner"! A description has been sent to Nick Pomiankowski, the county recorder.

What's even more unbelievable is that a Firecrest was found seven years ago a short distance away from here, along a disused railway line. No sign of it there either this morning, but there was a singing Chiffchaff and 5 Siskin. My first local Chiffchaff for a local person this year.

Thoughts are now turning towards my birding trip to Wales, starting on Saturday.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Come on Baby Light my Fire(crest!)

Today goes to show, if you're out looking you never know what you might find. I only planned an afternoon wander around the fields and woods at home in Tean (which is absolutely nothing like Royston Vasey, hence the name of this blog).

I got to the bridge by the River Tean to check for Grey Wagtail, no sign of any. I then found a Nuthatch hopping around an island in the river. I then found another small bird hopping around the branches in front of me. Amazingly, it was a Firecrest. I won't repeat the expletive I let out when I realised what it was, I really couldn't believe my eyes.

It's only a couple of minutes to walk back home to ring a local birder I know, put the news out on and left a message on the West Midland Bird Club hotline. I then returned to see it again briefly, and that was the last I saw of it.

But what a moment finding my own Firecrest, got to be one of my best ever finds. I've seen a few before but it's nothing like the thrill of finding your own. This isn't any old Firecrest, it's MY Firecrest!

I'll see if I can find it again tomorrow.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Berry Hill Fields, Stoke-on-Trent

1 Lapland Bunting
3 Redwing

I was just about to do the joyous task (not!) of getting some cleaning done around the house, when a quick check of reported a Lapland Bunting on the Adderley Green side of Berry Hill fields.

Sure enough there it was, feeding around a grassy mound in the horse paddock. To add to the feeling of Lapland, a small flurry of snow made it feel at home, and made me feel that I want to get back home. I've never visited this side of Berry Hill before, only the Fenton side when the Red-Backed Shrike was there.

I've really had enough of this non-stop cold wind, this isn't Shetland you know. I haven't really felt like going out and about over Easter. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, polish and dusters................

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A Cannock Chase Day

To escape daytime telly for the day, I've been out on Cannock Chase today. I have got back in time to see Jasper Carrott's Goldenballs however! I'm getting into that a bit, in a similar way that I got into Noel Edmonds' boxes.

But anyway. The Seven Springs area was the first port of call:

1 probable Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I accept this is a feeble claim, but a small Woodpecker took off out from the canopy of birches by the car park, and had gone before I could get the bins on it. Honest guv!
2 singing Chiffchaffs, my first this year
1 Yellowhammer, on the walk up to strawberry hill
6 Redwing
3 Buzzard
Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker

Good viewpoint at the top of Strawberry Hill, looking back towards Seven Springs.

Onto the visitor centre at Marquis Drive next. I thought I would try the feeding station here. Plenty of Siskin (in fact Siskins were everywhere on the Chase today!) and Chaffinch, plus a pair of Bullfinch. I'm probably a bit late for Brambling now, but the feeding birds did have to put up with a school party pond dipping right next to them.

After some salad and a couple of hot cross buns for lunch, a walk on the heath around Katyn Memorial and Sherbrook Valley produced:

2 pairs of Stonechat
Reed Bunting

The Sherbrook Valley, a classic example of a glacial valley. That's the geography lesson for the day.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Euro Update!

Being at home for a while, the daytime telly is driving me mad! Thankfully, Youtube exists these days. And further more to my recent posts about Dustin the Irish Turkey, it looks like he has some competition from Spain!

This is Rodolfo Chikilicuatre. Who says western Europe doesn't take it seriously any more? Quite a lot of this year's Eurovision entries are on Youtube now. As a serious contender, I quite like the look of Slovenia. In terms of the song, and the young lady doing the singing!

I've got to get out for the day tomorrow. I think a day's birding on Cannock Chase is called for. It looks like it'll be a nice day, and I can get over there before the world and his wife are out over easter.

By the way. Coming soon! A birding world tour of Wales!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Uttoxeter Quarry, JCB Lakes and Dimmingsdale

At Uttoxeter Quarry today:

2 Green Sandpiper
3 Oystercatcher
singing Skylark and Reed Bunting (if you can call a Reed Bunting's microphone "one-two" test a song)

The gravel company's water pump is doing a good job of exposing some mud, looking good to attract some waders.

I then decided to have a look at the JCB lakes in Rocester next. It's not somewhere I usually look at due to the wildfowl collection they have. But after reading an article in the Burton Mail a few weeks ago, there was an intruiging bit about Egyptian Geese. That have made their own way to the lakes, and haven't been introduced by the Bamford family. There are a pair of Egyptian Geese here, complete with seven goslings. And here they are, prepare to say "ahhh".

I'm sure they haven't arrived from the banks of the River Nile, but some have been gradually spreading west from the feral stronghold of Norfolk. There are some rather interesting duck species in the Bamford's collection. I don't know if they're free flying either. But I did notice species such as Ruddy Shelduck, Mandarin, Red-Crested Pochard, Ring-Necked Duck and Hooded Merganser. Here's hoping they don't do a bunk to Blithfield! No problem with the good number of Great Crested Grebes however, looking resplendent in their "Toyah Willcox" plumage!

A walk along Dimmingsdale, near Alton, next. This produced a Siskin, pair of Grey Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Treecreeper, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Little Grebe. I would have walked along to old railway track towards Oakamoor to check the Marsh Tit feeders again, but it started raining. Some scenes of Dimmingsdale, although I'll be taking these again in the spring, once the warblers and flycatchers arrive.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Doxey Marshes

Well its been a strange week. Laid off from work last Friday, then bombarded vacancies on Jobserve and CW Jobs. Two interviews yesterday, then an offer accepted today! I start next month. Which also means I have some time to get some birding in before I start.

I suppose the only downside to it is that I was planning on going to Sweden starting in late May. I've had to cancel that because I can't start a new job, then go away for a week so soon. Never mind, I'll definitely try that next year. I might go away for a few days somewhere, we'll get easter out of the way first though.

As my new job is in Stafford I thought I'd take a drive over there today. Firstly to take a photo of my new workplace to show family and friends. Then a look round Doxey Marshes.

As urban natures reserves go, I think Doxey is pretty good. It's certainly an island of green, being surrounded by housing, retail parks, the west coast main line and the M6!

It has it's moments for rare birds as well. In particular the River Warbler back in 1996! I've seen Spotted Crake and Red-Necked Phalarope in the past as well, not the Purple Heron though. But anyway:

8 Goosander
8 Redshank
1 Snipe
19 Fieldfare
2 Redwing
1 Buzzard
1 Great Spotted Woodpecker

The water level looks ideal for waders at the moment. Plenty of Teal around also.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Trent Valley Day

Back to some old stomping grounds today. I try to visit Drakelow or Willington when my beloved Burton Albion are at home. Except I didn't go yesterday. Just as well really as we lost 3-1 to Histon, money well saved there. So I made a day of Drakelow, Croxall and Willington today instead.

Drakelow is the one of the places that got me into birding in the first place and is steeped in my personal birding history. I didn't visit the place for a number of years due to a succession of events. Namely not renewing my permit from the power station gatehouse in about 1999, losing my permit and the little detail of the power station closing. So I was most relieved last year to hear that the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have taken over the running of the reserve and were issuing permits from a list of previous holders.

It's not a particularly welcoming sight, but with no power station and gatehouse to sign in there's not much alternative. I managed a total of 42 different species today, including:

17 Goldeneye, amongst seven different species of duck
1 Oystercatcher
25 Fieldfare
8 Redwing
2 Siskin
1 Buzzard
2 GBB Gull
singing Song Thrush
Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers

The water level on the main lagoon is currently very high. It takes longer to recede here than other gravel pits basically due to it's age, meaning there is more sediment at the bottom. As a result the flooded reeds meant no Water Rail today. When the water doesn't flood the reeds it's still the best place I know to get really close views coming to the feeding station.

Scott's lagoon. Six months ago this was full of Willow. The DWT have been steadily clearing the area, and at least now it looks like a lagoon again. They have also been working on the Trent itself, to improve river flow for fish, and for Otters ultimately. Most of this work is out of view, but you can see the edge of this work from the north hide. A lot of trees have been cleared, which now gives a clear view of my old school! Ugh.

After Drakelow I paid brief visits to Croxall and Willington. Croxall produced:

4 Oystercatcher
2 Goosander
2 Goldeneye
1 Redshank
1 Snipe

Willington produced:

20 Goosander
15 Goldeneye
3 Shelduck
1 Redshank