Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Last Blog of the Year

The big result is in folks. The 2008 "Beard of the Year" is..................

A tie between.......................

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. And..........

Tom Jones. That's not unusual!

I think this'll be my last blog entry for 2008. If you enjoy reading it then that's great. If not then I'm sorry, but the world wide web is your lobster.

I'm sure there'll be more nonsense, and some birding as well, in 2009. Perhaps not so much mention of Eurovision though. Without Wogan I don't think I could take much interest in it, just like Formula 1 without Murray Walker.

My cold has improved a lot now, so the first four days of January should be jam-packed with birding time. It'll be interesting to see how many bandwagon-jumpers will appear at Uttoxeter Quarry, especially if the Brent Goose is still around on New Years Eve (still there yesterday).............

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas Goose

Wednesday 24th December, Uttoxeter Quarry, 12:30 - 14:30.

Quite a successful couple of hours at the quarry on christmas eve. Firstly, a personal site tick in the form of a Jack Snipe that took off out of the sedge, and very nearly gave me a heart attack! Even though I saw where it landed nearby, could I find it again? Nope.

On the far side of the main gravel pit there is a field. Usually there are Canadas and Greylags grazing here, as well as the three grown-up Cuckoo Geese (remember them?, they're still alive). Today however there were a small number of Barnacle Geese with them.

Imagining myself being on Islay, for a bit of a laugh I decided to count them (16 in the end). However, in amongst the geese was something much smaller and darker. "Bejaysus!" I thought (or words to that effect), that's a Brent Goose!

Certainly was, of the dark bellied race, and that is a site tick. It never ceases to amaze does it? You get towards the last few days of the year, you don't think there's going to be anything new to see (and thoughts are turning towards the new year).

At the time of writing I'd hoped to get out birding again. But ever since christmas morning I've had this rotten cold. I don't know where this "man flu" nonsense comes from. Even this cold I've got, which is quite a bad one, when you've got flu you really know about it!

I managed to visit family on christmas day and boxing day, but for nowhere near as long as I would've liked. I probably should've stayed at home, gone and spread my germs around now.

Hopefully I'll be out again soon. I must be improving if I'm on the computer again. In the meantime I've been catching up on some quality telly. I've just watched "Carry On Up The Jungle" on G.O.L.D. Then later on, on BBC2, the best ever episode of "The Young Ones" is on later, Bambi! I think I'm on the alumni at Scumbag College.

Monday, 22 December 2008

A Taste of the Med

As promised, back to birds............

Monday 22nd December, Stubber's Green, West Midlands, 10:30 - 13:30

After being so impressed a few weeks ago, Andy and I felt that another attempt for Caspian Gull at Stubber's Green was called for.

No sign of Caspian Gull again though. However, about half an hour in I caught onto a gull with white primaries. Apologies to Andy, thinking I meant Glaucous or Iceland, I actually meant this:

Fresh in from Mediterrania, it's an adult Mediterranean Gull! Admittedly they're not as rare as they used to be, but I've never found too many of them before. So I'm dead chuffed with it.

But what a great place Stubber's Green is for gulls. Gulls are an area of birding that I know I need to improve on, and this is the ideal site. So much better than viewing them miles away at a roost on a reservoir, in fading light, when they're coming in from all directions. Not to mention while freezing your bits off for your efforts.

One thing I have noticed however, is that Mediterranean Gull is missing from the latest gull equivalent to Wisden, the Blurred Birder's guide to gull identification. What's all that about?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Simon Cowell Ruins Christmas (again!)

Bah, Simon Cowell gets his christmas number one again, despite "The Jeff Factor". Geraldine reached number five. She should've ingored Paul McCartney and released "Blankety Blank" (or R Wayne's should've released "Do The Hucklebuck"?).

Perhaps if messrs Waterman, Chapman and Fox let Disco Dave through the audition, he would've had more success?

I see that Chris Hoy was Sports Personality of the Year last week. Another prediction that went wrong, not that I have a problem with that though. I've been to his island on Orkney, but least said about the old man the better (boom boom).

Normal service will be resumed soon, with some birds on this blog!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Geraldine for Christmas Number One!

I'm so glad Channel 4 repeated "Britain's Got the Pop Factor, and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice" last night. I missed it when it was on last time, whilst in Shetland.

Now that Simon Cowell has his new money-making toss-pop victim to exploit, I really Really REALLY hope that Alexandra (no offence I'm sure she's lovely) is pipped to the christmas number one by Geraldine McQueen:

Who looks nothing like Peter Kay dressed as a woman. But once you've heard the song and seen the video, which is not at all annoying, it'll make you want to buy it and ensure Cowell misses out this year!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

And so this is christmas, and what have you done.......

Saturday 13th December, Uttoxeter Quarry, 13:45 - 15:40.

What a foul morning. No good for birding but at least I got my christmas cards written and posted. Just a couple of hours round the quarry when the rain eventually stopped.

The undoubted star today was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, albeit a brief one. Too far away and gloomy to make out a red cap with the bins, then took off (which really gave it away) before I could get the scope on it. But nevertheless a site tick for me, associated itself with Blue Tits. Also around were 2 Goosander, 12 Wigeon, 24 Snipe, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Song Thrush, 103 Greylag Geese.

Time to go and get ready for my work's christmas do at the Alton Towers hotel.

Sunday 14th December, Brookleys Lake, 09:00 - 10:00

The departure time out of Alton Towers gives away the amount of alcohol consumed the night before. Thank goodness there were free bottles on wine on the table, because there was no free bar and at £3 a pint, there'll no binge drinking from me!

I was quite impressed with the Alton Towers resort actually. Especially the lift music in the Splash Landings hotel, next to the water park. Which included the theme tunes to Hawaii 5-O and Captain Pugwash!

It was well worth not getting completely wasted anyway for two reasons. One, buffet breakfast! Two, Brookleys Lake next door. After finding 13 Mandarins here a few weeks ago, imagine my surprise to count 51! I wonder if there's a commute going on between here and Bradley Dam near Ashbourne?

A short time was then spend at the Ramblers Retreat in Dimmingsdale. Plenty of feeders are up at the moment. Thankfully the regular Marsh Tit appeared, plus a Raven overhead.

A nip back home to drop some things off, then over to Blithfield. The main reason being to help out one of the regulars there, Richard, with setting up his new digiscoping equipment. For an astrononmical fee of course! No, not really.

Once this had been sorted out, a couple of surprises greeted me in Stansley Wood. This is the first one:

The old Tad Bay hide has gone! In a way I'll miss those planks to sit on in front. However, I won't miss the seats inside the hide.

There are also some feeders up in Stansley Wood. There's some really heavy-duty ones that look very Squirrel proof and should last for years. But it did make me think of something reminiscent. Well, you know there's Tad Bay and Blithe Bay? This photo makes it look like there's now Guantanamo Bay!

Free the Blue Tit one!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Wax on? Wax off.......

Sunday 7th December, Uttoxeter Quarry, 12:00 - 14:00

Just before a visit to the quarry, a quick look around Lidl and Tescos in town first. A small flock of Waxwings were sighted here a few days ago, but not at the moment. The Lidl car park does have two small rowans, that still has quite a lot of berries on them yet. That's still another possibility for Waxwings in the near future.

Unsurprisingly most of the water was frozen over today, but still managed to attract 6 Goosander, 7 Wigeon and a Shoveler. And two personal site ticks, which were Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls. Also plenty of throstles. Isn't it time a Black-Throated Thrush was found in amongst all the Redwings and Fieldfares?

Well folks, at the moment I'm uncertain on how much birding will be done next weekend. Saturday should be ok, but in the evening it's the work christmas do. Sunday may depend on how hung over I am!

Due to the christmas do I'm going to miss the big X-Factor final, who's going to win? My money is on Eoghan. There's one particular reason why, I'll let Harry Hill explain.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Really Local Birding!

Saturday 6th December, Walk round home, 8:50 – 10:00

It is good just to have a walk round home with the binoculars. Not literally round home of course, as that wouldn’t take very long. I ought to do it more often really, but it is something I intend to do more of this winter. Especially when I have a couple of weeks off over Christmas (aaargh, there’s that word for the first time on this blog!) and after finding that Firecrest last March, was that around all winter?

In almost exactly the same spot as that Firecrest were a pair of Tree Sparrows. They’re unheard of in the eight years I’ve lived here, so that could be quite an important discovery.

Park Hall Country Park, 12:40 – 14:25

After nipping into Hanley to buy a new mobile phone, and to check some rowan trees that I know of in that part of the world (no Waxwings!), I had time for a walk round Park Hall. Unfortunately no sign of any roosting Long-Eared Owls today. In addition to a Willow Tit and a flock of about 250 Golden Plover was this smart Little Owl:

Well folks, the jungle fun is over for another year and the Stenders lad won (congratulations on your winnings Reg, don’t spend it all at once!). By the way, in case you were wondering about the the quiz answer from the last blog entry, Teresa Bazaar. I know some rubbish facts me!

We are now heading into some important “end of year” awards. At the time of writing the comedy awards are about to start. I wonder how many awards will go to “Gavin and Stacey” this year? No, I’ve never seen it either!

There’s sports personality of the year. I think Lewis Hamilton will win, but I’d quite like to see Rebecca Romero win it (Olympic medallist in two different sports). I would also mention the Christmas number one, but that’s been ruined by Simon Cowell!

However, by far the most important end of year award is “Beard of the Year”. For those of you familiar with Test Match Special, Jonathan Agnew does read out regular updates from Keith Flett of the BLF (Beard Liberation Front). This is probably due to the presence of TMS scorer and statistician, Bill Frindall, the bearded wonder.

In the last two years the award has gone to Robert Plant and Monty Panesar. I’ve just found this year's nominees and can be viewed here! Bearders is a nominee once again, as is Robert Plant. I think it might be between Jarvis Cocker and Roy Keane. When the result is announced, shortly before new years eve, you'll hear it here first folks!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Jungle Update

Thankfully "The Mallett" has gone. Am I the only person that wants David "I used to be in Dollar" Van Day to win?

Quiz question. Who was the other member of Dollar? I know.

Monday, 1 December 2008

South Staffs Day Out!

Sunday 30th November.

It was very kind to be offered a day out birding with Andy, Nobby and Mad Malc.

Stubbers Green, 10:30 - 11:30.

When being told we're off to Walsall, my thoughts were "Its a bit of a trek to Poland isn't it?". No, I jest of course!

Unfortunately for us it appears that Sunday is not a good day for the regular Caspian Gull to make an appearance. The local tip isn't working, so old Fidel Caspo must head off somewhere else to feed and wash during the day. I shall return at some point however!

Cannock Chase, 12:00 - 14:00

A smart pair of Bramblings on the bird tables at the Marquis Drive visitor centre, then over to Katyn Memorial.

Rather quiet on the heath really. 2 Ravens, a Redpoll calling overhead, Green Woodpecker, a few Reed Buntings. Not even a Stonechat!

Chasewater, 14:30 - 16:00ish

I must admit I haven't done a winter gull roost for years, and was hopelessly out of practice. They always remind me of being cold! Chasewater's definitely the place to be for a gull roost though. We managed to find an adult Mediterranean Gull however, as long as the bird was sideways on!