Thursday, 30 April 2009

Oh Wow!!!!!

Wednesday 29th April, Croxden Quarry, 18:50 - 20:00.

You may remember reader, that I recently described Croxden Quarry as a birdless, desolate hole? Well, I nearly fell off my chair when I received a text from Mad Malc which said "Avocet @ crox". Whoah, whoah, sweet child o' mine, hang on a minute? Is this Croxden or Croxall? The latter gets all the rarest birds at the moment.

But no. Unbelievably it was Croxden Quarry. This I had to see! And indeed I did. You know, birds are easier to identify when they're in black and white.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

One good Tern deserves another.

Friday 24th April. Willington Gravel Pits, 18:15 - 19:00

Here's a dilemma while stuck at work on a Friday afternoon. On one hand, a Little Tern at Belvide, a very respectable county bird. One the other, 11 Whiskered Terns at Willington in South Derbyshire, which is an unbelievable number at an old stomping ground of mine. So I went there.

After going straight from work I realised on the way that my camera was at home. Thankfully I have a photo of one of them from Kay, freshly arrived back from bonny Scotland.

Saturday 25th April. Hawksmoor, 11:00 - 12:45

A walk round one of my local woods in the morning produced a singing Wood Warbler, 1 Pied Flycatcher and 3 Redstarts.

I wasn't sure what to do next. A quick nip back home to check birdguides mentioned 2 Bar-Tailed Godwits at Branston. So off we go there:

As you can see one of them in cracking full summer plumage. Heading back towards home to get shopping done. Uttoxeter Quarry was eventful:

What the hell was I doing thinking this was a Wood Sandpiper? Although, most of the Green Sandpipers you see in the autumn and winter don't have all that mottling on the back, just a plain green. I can't ever remember seeing a full breeding plumage Green Sand in late April, but really that clear cut breast band, going in a straight line, should have given it away. There's also nowhere near enough mottling on the back for it to be a Wood Sand.

A complete shocker, and a quick correction to the information services was done.

Sunday 26th April.

Still feeling chastened by last night's howler, I felt a lie-in was called for. Even that was a mistake as I missed a Greenshank at Uttoxeter Quarry. Long gone by the time I got round there.

Time for birding was always going to be limited today, due to the big match at Torquay. So a quick check along the causeway at Blithfield before heading over to my dad's. I managed to pick out an Osprey perched in a tree along the eastern side. Is Ozzy back? No, I'm not starting the naming of Ospreys again this year.

As for the game? Not surprisingly Burton Albion lost to Torquay United 2-1. But thankfully, Cambridge United could only draw against Altrincham. I've always liked the Alty you know! Which means the Albion are crowned champions, and Burton is back in the football league for the first time since 1907. Hurrah hurrah!

When eventually leaving for home and switching my mobile on, I was bombarded with texts mentioning 5 Whiskered Terns at Croxall! Would you believe it! I'll just have to admit defeat with those, impossible for me to get to them while they were there.

Birding wise I probably haven't done too badly, but it just feels that most of my decisions this weekend have been wrong. I'll live to fight another day though. I think it's time for an appointment with a birding-psychiatrist. Now, where's that number for Dr Derek Pechora...............

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Lows and Highs of a Weekend

Saturday 18th April

You know, all week I was planning a trip down to Hampshire to twitch the White-Throated Sparrow. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Why? One reason. What are Burton Albion doing to me?

Losing to Oxford on Friday night led to a disturbed night's sleep. When waking up on Saturday morning all I could think about is waiting around for the score at Salisbury City. It's a horrible feeling and time just drags, similar to waiting for exam results.

On a lighter note. During Friday night's game, while watching on Setanta, who was sat in the crowd in front of Jim Smith? None other than ITV's Jim Rosenthal:

Consall Nature Park, 8:20 - 10:50

With my mind not fully on birding today, and feeling that if I had gone to Hampshire I wouldn't have fully appreciated it, I took a relaxing spring morning walk round Consall in the Churnet Valley.

During the walk I managed to find three Redstarts. One very showy male near the visitor centre, and two singing along the Caldon Canal towpath. Also a brief singing Pied Flycatcher near the Black Lion pub (pictured above) and two Marsh Tits.

Back home for some lunch, then as Dusty Springfield used to say, I just don't know what to do with myself. Thankfully I received a text from Andy, "Whinchat at Tickhill".

Another of those local places never blogged before. This is the patch of rough grass along Tickhill Lane near the village of Dilhorne. It has always looked like it could be good for Whinchats, and today proved to be the case:

After that, just get home and watch the footy scores progress. My worst fears materialised, Cambridge beat Salisbury 2-1. At least the emotional turmoil can stop for now. Nothing can be done until the last day of the season next Sunday. I've no idea what's going to happen. Although there is one thing I do know, Cambridge can't beat us on points. I thought a few weeks ago that the title could be decided on goal difference, that could well be the case.

Sunday 19th April. Old Winchester Hill, Hampshire, 9:40 - 11:50.

Awake at 5:30am, on the road at 6am. It's a good run actually, and arrived just over three and a half hours later.

Must've been about 40 birders there when I arrived. Luckily for me I only had to wait about ten minutes for the White-Throated Sparrow to appear in a Hawthorn. Even better it stayed perched for a few minutes, allowing enough time for a photo.

Only one photo mind you, the bird took off while taking a second. Shortly afterwards the Spuggie was feeding on the path where seed has been laid down, then got flushed by a Chaffinch.

After some waiting around and no further sign of the bird I decided to take a walk around Old Winchester Hill nature reserve. The South Downs is a part of the country I've never been to before, it is lovely. In fact, this part of the country might warrant further exploration. Which may well happen in August, but more on that nearer the time.

It has been well documented that the White-Throated Sparrow has been present since November 8th and successfully suppressed until last week. To me it seems a shame that Natural England felt they had to do this. I'm not entirely sure of the reason for it. One story I have heard is that the bird was found amaciated back in November, and putting seed down has brought it's health around. If so then that's understandable and commendable.

But if the reason was to protect the reserve's habitat, home to rare plant and insect life, from being trampled on by twitchers, that doesn't entirely wash with me. If that was the case, then from what I could tell perhaps the wardens should pay more attention to the growing numbers of dog walkers and kite-fliers roaming around the top of the hill, straying away from footpaths.

Whatever the reason, without the Sparrow it's a place I would never have contemplated visiting otherwise. I really enjoyed my visit for the spectacular location as well at twitching the Sparrow.

Just before getting back home, a quick check of Uttoxeter Quarry. Especially as Steve found a Little Gull in the morning. That had long gone by now, but there was a singing Lesser Whitethroat and the very faint sound of a calling Cuckoo.

Monday, 13 April 2009

A Day of Two Halves

Monday 13th April, Berryhill Fields, 8:00 - 11:00

For once I managed to wake up rather early. Where can I go this morning? Uttoxeter Quarry or Blithfield again? Possibly. Or Weaver Hills?

I'd noticed that Grasshopper Warblers are arriving back, which is a perennial local bogey bird of mine. I can't remember the last time I heard one near to home (or anywhere I usually go birding), never mind see one. So I went to Berryhill Fields.

A misty start might also bring other migrants in, in theory. A walk round the fields during the morning produced a couple of reeling Groppers, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Wheatear. I also managed a good chat with Russell, local Berryhill birding-officianado. Who also had a Redstart this morning, but I didn't see it.

So as I was saying, an afternoon with Sultana Sports on the telly. As I thought might happen, the Brewers didn't win the league title at Kiddy. But only Cambridge United can pip us now, and would require their goal difference to improve by (at the moment!) seven. One point from the last two games will be enough. Roll on Friday night.........

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Blithfield Easter Bonanza

Friday 10th April, Blithfield Reservoir, 9:30 - 13:00.

A bit of time off work for Easter equals birding time, well some of that time anyway. I couldn't believe there was not one drop of rain pretty much the whole time. Long enough for a walk round the deep end. Which produced three year ticks for me in the form of 1 Common Tern, 2 Common Sandpiper and 1 Yellow Wagtail, in addition to 4 Wheatears.

10 Goldeneye in Tad Bay, with another 2 (plus another Common Sandpiper) in Blithe Bay. As was featured recently by the Blurred Birder, I attempted to inspect the new lavatory in Stansley Wood. Unfortunately it was locked. I assume someone was in there or it could quite possibly be the most inconvenient of conveniences.

After some lunch the rain was setting in, and washed the rest of the day out unfortunately. I did later receive a phone call from one of the Blithfield enforcers, er, I mean voluntary wardens (only joking, Richard's a nice chap really!), informing me that I had put my sightings in the book under Wednesday. Whoops! What can I say, I've never been one to keep track of time!

Saturday 11th April, Weaver Hills, 9:30 - 10:30

A Curlew and a Swallow to add to the ubiquitous Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. I'm going to stick with it though, although I do feel it's a struggle to give it the amount of time, and to get there early enough, that the place deserves.

I was also feeling really tired. In addition to yesterday's walk round Blithers I have also been doing some exercise in the evenings after work (I've got a push bike you know). So the plan was just to have a lazy day at home. No birding, no footy (which I should've gone to really). Just one job to do, put some roofing felt on the shed.

I was just starting to measure the shed roof up when the phone went from Martyn. "A Little Gull and three Arctic Terns at Blithfield deep end". Where were they yesterday?

I was determined to get this roofing felt on though. It was an intended job over christmas until I caught the flu, never had chance since. Here is the result, with a bit of an overlapping-pie crust finish:

Incidentally another of my DIY heroes, as well as Frank Spencer, is Reg Prescott. But anyway, over to the sailing club.....

Blithfield Reservoir, 13:45 - 15:00

The Arctic Terns were easy to find, so not the Little Gull. I was joined by Martyn and we eventually re-found the bird. This photo's a bit distant but it's still a decent comparison with the Black-Headed Gull:

This one however, you'll just have to take my word for it and follow the arrow!

Uttoxeter Quarry, 15:45 - 17:20

2 White Wagtails being the highlight. Also a Treecreeper (a personal site second), 2 Green Sandpipers, 11 Goosander, 20 Linnets.

At the time of writing I'm not sure how much more birding time I'll get until I'm back at work. Monday morning should be ok, then in the afternoon it'll be time to watch (potentially!) a piece of history. If the Brewers win at Kidderminster Harriers that's promotion done and dusted, and the first time a side from Burton-on-Trent in the football league for about a century! Very wisely it will be shown on Sultana Sports, so I'll be off to my dad's!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Dance Like Hell

Saturday 4th April, Weaver Hills, 9:45 - 10:45

Well, things are improving up here. 2 Swallows passed low over, more Meadow Pipits around (18 in total), a similar number of Skylarks to last week plus a couple of Buzzards. Keep the faith.........

In the afternoon my DIY skills were requested by my dad, for a new garden bench. I don't know why I was asked, it must have been the heavy lifting. When it comes to assembling flat pack furniture you'd be better off asking Frank Spencer.

Branston Gravel Pits, 12:30 - 14:30

But it did give me an opportunity to have a look round Branston Gravel Pits. The single Avocet still in residence:

Also 1 Ruff, 2 Curlew, 7 Snipe, 3 Redshank, 6 Oystercatcher, 13 Shelduck.

The bench was assembled with faultless precision, then sat down to watch the Grand National. Incidentally I had second and third in the sweep at work, so that's £30 to collect!

Sunday 5th April, Uttoxeter Quarry, 9:00 - 10:30

One freshly arrived Blackcap, 17 Goosander, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Shelduck, 2 Oystercatcher, a few Sand Martins and this rather lovely Yellowhammer.

At this point reader, you may be wondering "what's the blog title all about?". Well, I'll tell you. I haven't put much non-birding nonsense on for a while. So, after listening to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie the other night, may I present Tom Jones dances like hell! I don't know about you, but I think that particular song sounds like the theme tune to Batman. Proper Batman that is, with Adam West as the caped crusader!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April Foolery

I know it's been and gone, and April Fools Day only lasts until 12 noon. But here's a couple of ornithological tales I've seen today. First,
the reverse-calling Cuckoo, and Shetland Mega's being removed from the British List!

Both stories are as credible as a Crocodile at Sandwell Valley and a Belted Kingfisher at Shugborough. What? You mean that it really was there? Doh.