Saturday, 31 May 2008

Bare Faced Cheek!

I'm struggling to think straight just at the moment. All will become clear later.

Friday 30th May.

An evening was spent at Berry Hill Fields in Stoke, to look for a Hoopoe that had been sighted earlier in the day. I did get a brief distant view of the bird, quite close to the radio mast right at the top of the hill. Despite searching nearer, and scrambling through a few electric fences, neither I or any of the other birders on site managed a better view. Perhaps a lesson there.

It is amazing how many good migrant birds turn up at Berry Hill. It's a green oasis surrounded by Hanley, Fenton, Longton and Bentilee. It's North Staffordshire's Fair Isle I suppose.

Saturday 31st May.

Afternoon spent at Uttoxeter Quarry with me mate and fellow birder, Andy.

Three of the goslings here appear much yellower, and have a different shape, to the other three Canada goslings. There is a white domestic goose around the quarry. Has she "done a Cuckoo" and laid three eggs in another Canada Goose's nest? Does this happen? I've heard of creches formed with Flamingoes but not Geese. This is a mystery for Scooby Doo to solve.

We managed a good selection of birds. Best of all was a singing Reed Warbler, another site tick.

We also managed one other sighting, and this'll teach us for straying away from the footpath. Which is not something I condone by the way, and I definitely wouldn't do this during working hours, as it is a working quarry. Let's just say, and I quote from Richie Benaud (cheque for royalties is in the post), we had a slight interruption for athletics. Something like this:

We had a real live streaker! A real full monty job. Thankfully I had put the camera away by this point. Not sure if he's the landowner of the adjacent fields, and unlike Andrew Symonds here, he didn't half scarper away from us! What was odd though, was by the time he reached the next field he had a pair of Speedo's on, where did he keep them? Must've have been in his cap, at least he wore that!

In over 20 years of birding, that's never happened to me before and I still can't quite believe it now. Not even at Studland Heath in Dorset, which happens to have a nudist beach next door. I shouldn't be too surprised though, it was a kind of League of Gentlemen moment that provided the inspiration for the name of this blog.

It's either appropriate, or ironic (not sure which yet), that later this evening I'll be paying a visit to Hawksmoor to look for Woodcock.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Uttoxeter and Blithfield

I didn't get out until I saw England win the test match, hurrah. After that, a walk round Uttoxeter Quarry produced:

1 Greenshank
1 Ringed Plover
8 Common Tern
6 Goosander

This photography lark isn't easy when it's blowing a gale. These came out alright though.

There had been a Fulmar at Blithfield all day. Once at Uttoxeter, Blithfield is nearly there. So it seemed only right to get over, only for a short time. The Fulmar was distant from the causeway, flying nearer to the dam. It seemed perfectly healthy though, pecking at flies from the waters surface. If it's going to stay, it'll need more than flies to feed on.

Speaking of Fulmar, is the collective noun for Petrels a gallon?

Following that, back home in time for Springwatch. You'll find no smutty references towards Kate Humble's tits on this blog! Ah............

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Ingleby, South Derbyshire

Saturday 24th May.

Onto the euro nonsense in a bit. First, there's a bird to be seen. A first summer female Red-Footed Falcon at Ingleby, between Willington and Swarkestone in South Derbyshire.

I know Willington and Swarkestone well, just not this bit in between. A bit of an eye opener really, in terms of the view of Swarkestone Quarry you can get from the path by the Trent (looks promising), and the caves that you walk past en route to the Falcon field.

Pity that by the time I got there, everyone had gone! So it took a bit of searching before the bird flew over the hedge, then flew over low and landed into the maize field. An absolute stunner of a bird.

Unfortunately I didn't have much time for photography, I was in a bit of a rush to visit family in the north east. Here is a photo of the bird however, many thanks to Nick Sismey for allowing me to use it.

On the walk back to the car in layby east of Ingleby, at 10:50 a very intruiging raptor appeared over one of the farms, then flew up high towards Swarkestone. A very pale Buzzard underneath with a long tail, a black trailing edge to the underside of the wings, and at no point did it's wings go into a v shape.

The one thing that is stopping me from claiming Honey Buzzard is I don't recall the black bars on the underside of the tail. So at the moment, I'm pretty sure it was a Honey Buzzard, but not quite confident enough to submit to a recorder. An interesting bird nonetheless. I wish someone else was with me at the time.

So anyway, back to Eurovision shenanigans. Russia won. I didn't think it was any good, mind you, when are any of them? Paddy Power was on the money though, the Irish bookie made it the favourite. On the positive side, it will keep the Russians happy and will continue to supply us all with gas for the next year.

That period of nonsense has now come to an end for another year. Time to think of something else. I know just the thing. I'm glad Paul Merton mentioned this on Have I Got News For You the other night. I've seen this recently as well, and reacted with just as much bewilderment.

And why not!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Prediction Time!

Yes, get in!!!!!!!!!!!! The pirates got through!!!!!

A definite bias towards the east and Scandinavia tonight. I'm glad 75 Cent from Croatia got through (on the left)........................

Time for a prediction for saturday's big final. Best of luck to Andy Abraham, it is our best song for a long time. I can't see it happening though.

I think the contenders are Sweden, Greece, Azerbaijan (on debut), Armenia, Ukraine, Poland. The song from Finland is my kind of thing, a good rock n roll number, reminded me of Judas Priest.

However, I think the winner will stay in the Balkans, and I'm going with Bosnia-Herzegovina. They're just about mad enough to do it.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Shock in Belgrade

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, Dustin the Turkey didn't qualify for Saturday's final.

I was convinced Slovenia would though. It appears that voting rules have changed in the semi finals that will stop the Balkan and Baltic states voting for each other.

Just as well that Rodolfo from Spain (he with the plastic guitar he plays with his nose!) automatically qualifies for the final.

Here's hoping that the pirates from Latvia can qualify on Thursday, fingers crossed!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

New Scope!!!!!

Sunday 18th May.

It's my birthday tomorrow (21 again), so I treated myself to a new scope, plus a digital camera adapter. From now on, I'll try my best to stick a few photies of what I see on here. No more dots in the sky from me! Well, there might be!

So then folks, this is as they say, it. My first attempt at digiscoping, now don't laugh! Actually, I couldn't give a monkeys if you did. I'm not doing this thinking that I'll be any good, just record shots. Just over to Uttoxeter Quarry today, sightings included:

1 Grey Plover
1 Turnstone
2 Common Sandpiper
5 Common Tern
2 Shelduck
1 Goosander

Although a bit distant, a pair a stunning summer plumaged waders.

This Common Sandpiper got much closer, however. Really pleased with these shots.

Eurovision alert!!!!!! Dustin the Turkey will be "performing" in the first semi final on Tuesday night, on BBC3. That's the only birding I'll be doing then!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Return to Cotton Dell

Sunday 11th May.

It was a wise move to get out for an evening walk, following a rather surreal experience. I was on "Points Of View" today!

I sent an email to the BBC a few weeks ago, after watching "Later with Jools Holland" on the Friday. I may have had a few drinks by then, but it all seemed like a repeat the live show earlier in the week. Also, and I hadn't thought of it until Jeremy Vine said, it's still called "Later", but the live show is on earlier!

Even one of the producers came on to explain. What was really weird was the bloke who read my email out definitely wasn't me! They gave me some southern dialect. I thought they always used the voices of the people who write in, otherwise what's the point of making them sound like they're on the phone? Surely the BBC aren't cheating again are they (don't call me Shirley)? I suppose they were doing this back in Barry Took's day, but not making them sound like they were on the phone.

Anyway, after a brief first visit to Cotton Dell last Monday, I decided to explore this woodland further. I waited for the heat of the day to pass, it felt nice and cool in the shade of the trees.

2 singing Wood Warbler
4 singing Pied Flycatcher
4 Grey Wagtail
2 Jay
1 Great Spotted Woodpecker

Despite the warm weather, it's amazing how fast the leaves have developed within a week. At this rate it won't be too long until the woodland birdsong settles down.

The bluebells and wild garlic well into bloom. Cotton Dell is a lovely spot. I can't really decide which is best between here, Dimmingsdale and Hawksmoor. They all have their own qualities and all are worth visiting. From a birder's perspective, Dimmingsdale tends to get the most of Joe Public visiting.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


Phew its a bit warm for May. Only a little bit of birding done today. Part of which was covering one of my two squares for the new BTO Atlas:

Not that there was much out of the ordinary around home, no Firecrest today. But seeing the reports of rarities seen around the country in recent days, I had to get over to check the quarry at Uttoxeter. I want to find my own Red-Footed Falcon, or Red-Rumped Swallow, or White-Winged Black Tern.

As it turned out, wasn't much out of the ordinary in Uttoxeter either:

7 Common Tern
1 Common Sandpiper
2 Oystercatcher
2 Yellowhammer
4 Goosander
1 Whitethroat

But if you don't try you won't find anything, and this is THE time of year to find something rare.

I've also spent a fair few hours on the computer. Entering my Staffordshire sightings for this year so far, onto Birdtrack:

And oh yes, I'm not going to Wembley. Burton Albion were knocked out of the play-offs by Cambridge United. Oh well, roll on next season. In the meantime there's plenty of cricket in the summer to look forward to. Oh, and Euro 2008 if anyone's bothered about that.

But most importantly of all, the Eurovision song contest is only two weeks away. Fingers crossed for the Irish Turkey!

Monday, 5 May 2008

North Staffs All Day Bash

Monday 5th May.

Good old bank holidays. I had an excellent day's birding today touring various sites in North Staffordshire. For birding in the midlands, this area takes some beating at this time of year. And I also had company with me today, in the form of fellow blogger Kay, and Max, from Brightside Birding. We were accompanied by Dean, king of the North Staffs thread on Bird Forum.

A bit of a misty, drizzly start so I thought it would be best to explore some woodland before heading up into the moors north of Leek. The first place we tried was Hawksmoor, a lovely woodland owned by the National Trust. They've even got a picture of Tony Robinson on their information board. Sounds like a cunning plan to me!

We managed Tree Pipit, pair of Redstart, Garden Warbler, and heard a Pied Flycatcher calling but couldn't see it. We put that right at the Ramblers Retreat in Dimmingsdale. Told you this place comes into it's own in the spring, there must have been three or four Pied Flycatchers singing here without making any effort at all to find them. Unfortunately on a bank holiday, lots of day trippers think the same thing, in a mini Cannock Chase kind of way.

Knowing that Dimmingsdale would be busy today, I thought I would try a new woodland for me, at Cotton Dell, just to the north of Oakamoor.

Not far up into the wood, there was a Wood Warbler singing away. Quite hard to spot but we got it eventually. I'll have to explore Cotton Dell more deeply in the near future. Its possible that this could be the best of all the woodlands in the Churnet Valley.

The afternoon was spent at various spots up in the North Staffordshire Moorlands.

Without going into too much detail, for sensitivity of some of the species seen (and so I don't get snotty messages from people who think they own the internet!), the following species were seen:

1 Short-Eared Owl
1 Hobby, took out a Meadow Pipit!
1 Peregrine
Red Grouse
2 Snipe
Quite a good number of Curlew and Lapwing, always good to see!

So an excellent day today. Can it carry on tomorrow with Burton Albion's second play off game at Cambridge? We were diddled out of a win on friday night you know, after two awful decisions from the officials got Cambridge back into the game.