Saturday, 22 November 2008

Into The Valley......

Saturday 22nd November.

You know folks, it's only last weekend I was thinking to myself "I haven't been to Drakelow for a while, I must get over there". Imagine my shock and surprise last Wednesday night, when the information services started mentioning a Blue-Winged Teal there! Albeit on the previous Saturday however.

This species does seem to have gone quiet in the midlands for quite a while now. There were quite a few during the nineties. I recall seeing them at both Branston and Willington Gravel Pits, and a cracking male at Monsal Dale in Derbyshire.

After doing a bit of research on the Derbyshire Ornithological Society's website, it turned out that the bird was seen with a flock of Shoveler and Tom "Mr Drakelow" Cockburn only saw it for a few minutes. Between the time it took to get a book from his car and return to the main hide the bird had gone and not to be seen again.

With this in mind, I thought it was time to spend a day's birding around my roots. The magnificent town that is Burton-on-Trent. To quote Bruce Springsteen, my hometown ("Born in the USA" is a great album!). You know Israel is known as "The Land of Milk and Honey"? Well, Burton is the land of Beer and Marmite! I know what I prefer. That's enough waxing lyrical, Burton's great.

Willington Gravel Pits, 8:15 - 10:00

An excellent selection of 42 different species here this morning. Highlights included 1 Redshank, 2 Goldeneye, 16 Gadwall, 41 Pochard, 21 Shoveler, 30 Wigeon, 32 Teal, 6 Skylark, 4 Willow Tit, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 6 Bullfinch, 1 Song Thrush.

Drakelow Nature (formerly known as Wildfowl) Reserve, 10:50 - 13:30

Again, another very good selection of stuff. In amongst 38 different species, 10 Goldeneye, 6 Snipe, 3 Siskin, 1 Green Woodpecker.

At this point, I could've got over the Burton Albion's game against Stevenage Borough. But I decided to carry on with birding. The Brewers are at home again next Saturday, and I'll have been paid by then! BTW, we won 2-0, come on you Brewers!

Whitemoor Haye/Croxall Gravel Pits, 14:30 - 15:45

This'll impress the Alrewas Birder! Back into Staffordshire and to Whitemoor Haye. There seems to be quite a lot of setaside here at the moment. In amongst the taller stuff there were a number of Mute Swans where I could only see their heads bobbing up and down. Thankfully in amongst them was the bobbing head of a Whooper Swan. By the gravel pit entrance were a Goosander and 13 Goldeneye.

At Croxall Gravel Pits were another 10 Goldeneye. Then walking under the railway to the east side, and the newer scrape created by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, were a pair of Little Egrets.

A couple of years ago, I remember some miserable so-and-so writing in the comments section in the East Hide here, stuff like "What is the point of this scrape?" and "there goes another decent trent valley gravel pit for birding".

Admittedly the hide on the west pit is a bit pointless, but I think today makes the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust well and truly vindicated with the work done east of the railway line, and well done to them I say. As well as attracting wintering Little Egret (how many more are there in the county? Not many I can tell you!) it looks like a great habitat for Snipe and Redshank.

I'd finally had enough of the cold, got my supermarket shop for the week done in Uttoxeter and went home. Getting home I realised that a Spotted Sandpiper had been found at Tittesworth. From my experience wintering birds can hang around for a while, so fingers crossed!

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