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.