Thursday, 28 May 2009

Red-Necked Phalarope

Wednesday 27th May. Belvide Reservoir, 18:10 - 19:30

Not much to say, other than a superb female Red-Necked Phalarope from the West End Hide. That's the first Red-Necked Phalarope I've seen in Staffs during the spring. And at the time of writing, now two of them!

The bird was too distant for me to dodgyscope, but photos of both Phalaropes can be found on Steve Nuttall's excellent Belvide Birding blog.

Right. Off to Norfolk for the weekend, so I'll see what I can find there............

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Is this Berkeley Square?

What was Vera Lynn going on about, with all that nonsense about a Nightingale singing in Berkeley Square? Everyone knows the place for Nightingale is Branston Water Park! Eh???????

But before that:

Friday 22nd May, Hawksmoor, 21:00ish.

1 Roding Woodcock

Saturday 23rd May, Blithfield Reservoir, 18:30 - 19:00.

Literally a half-hour trip along the causeway. Still 2 Sanderling legging it up and down the concrete.

Sunday 24th May. Branston Water Park, 11:30 - 14:00

I kid ye not reader. Usually unheard of in this part of the world, in amongst this stuff was a singing male Nightingale:

Across the canal from the water park is a impenetrable area of thick scrub. Ideal really, for the bird anyway. Not so for us birders, but Nightingale is a notorious skulker.

It's strange how you can get anomalies sometimes in bird sightings. The only Nightingales I've seen or heard before were in Suffolk six years ago. By then I had already seen Thrush Nightingale over the years, twice!

Dimmingsdale, 15:30 - 16:30

Thought I would try Dimmingsdale before going home, as I've seen Spotted Flycatcher here the last couple of years. Not today though, although still a few Pied Flycatchers singing around the Ramblers Retreat car park. Also lots of people enjoying the glorious sunny weather.

Thinking about it though, when I have seen Spotted Flycatcher here it's coincided with the Glastonbury festival. So a mental note, do Dimmingsdale before Tony Christie's on the telly!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

What a Prat!

A couple of well-deserved days off work. Well, I thought so anyway.

Monday 18th May. Belvide Reservoir, 11:00 - 12:40.

The last time I visited Belvide was the week before I started this blog. Never been since for one reason or another. A bit of a struggle getting the combination lock on the gate to work, even when entering the number in the right order. The combination just wasn't clearing, but thankfully a couple of gentlemen could open the gate from the inside.

Wasn't that a song by the Pet Shop Boys?

Anyway. Belvide was rather quiet unfortunately. Large numbers of Swifts and House Martins around, as was a drake Wigeon.

Onto Chasewater next. Lots of shoreline here at the moment, pity it attracts more people and dogs walking along there than birds. There were still 20 Ringed Plover and 12 Dunlin next to the Water-Skiing club, none of the scarcer waders however. The wind changing to the south-west has put pay to the magnificent number and variety of waders seen in the midlands only a few days earlier.

Tuesday 19th May. Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry, Kent, 12:35 - 14:45

What did you do on your birthday this year? Well, I spent most of mine in the car! Hopefully to successfully twitch the Black-Winged Pratincole.

Incidentally. On the drive down to Kent, news filtered through on the radio of the imminent resignation of Michael Martin MP, speaker of the house of commons. On Radio 2, Ken Bruce was bombarded with e-mails of suggestions for the new speaker. My personal favourites were:

Mr T. Quit your jibber-jabber fool! And:

Brian Blessed. So he can shout "Gordon's Alive!" in the chamber.

But I digress. I eventually arrived at the Grove Ferry end of Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve.

Straight over to the Marsh Hide, where the Pratincole had been lazing around all morning I was told. Not easy to see either, as the bird can go missing when stood behind islands in the lagoon.

I had just found the bird with my binoculars, then setting my scope to take some pictures, when the Pratincole took off, flew around the lagoon and headed off towards Grove Ferry. On the downside, impossible for me to digiscope the bird now, but much easier to see when in flight. The black on the under-wings was obvious.

When heading back to Grove Ferry a birder from London was looking through his scope then told me he had a Honey Buzzard going across. Bloomin heck it was! A bit distant but longer-winged and tailed than a Common Buzzard, as it carried on it's migration north-west.

The Black-Winged Pratincole was seen a number of times hawking over the reeds from the Harrison's Drove hide, in accompanied by lots of Swifts. Indeed, the Pratincole is reminiscent of a large Swift or hirundine in flight.

Then when leaving the hide and heading back to the car, the Pratincole flew low straight over me, heading back towards the Marsh Hide. An absolutely wonderful moment, and thought that would be a good time to finish, being wary that I ought to get back home.

I've never birded in Kent before, but I must return here at some point. What a great place Stodmarsh is, I was really impressed with it. I tried to give the place as much time as I could, but a whole day could easily be spent there.

In addition to the Pratincole and Honey Buzzard, there were many calling Cetti's Warblers, a few Marsh Harriers, a couple of Hobbies (including one catching a dragonfly right in front of the Marsh Hide), Little Egrets, Avocets. All that in a couple of hours!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Pesky Manager

I didn't see this one coming. Burton Albion's new manager is
Paul Peschisolido, with Gary Rowett as assistant.

Good luck Pesky!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Anti-Climax Day, and Eurovision Review

Saturday 16th May.

A change in wind direction put pay to the passage of waders and terns that occurred during the week. Oh well. At least I had been indulging myself in birding as much as I could during the good conditions. In fact, indulging as much as an MP filling in their expenses form. Ooh, satire!

Weaver Hills, 7am. Thick fog! Which can be good for bringing migrants down, but I didn't fancy getting myself lost up here.

Blithfield Reservoir, 12:30 - 16:00

Still a couple of hangers on from the causeway, in the form of a Black Tern and a Turnstone.

Two each of Common Sandpiper at the dam and Ringed Plover in Blithe Bay.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 16:30 - 18:00.

6 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Red-Legged Partridge. As I said, bit of an anti-climax really.

Eurovision Review.

Dobra Dacha! Hello world wide web, this is Local Birding calling.

Anyway, it came and went like a dose of salts, and I've now sobered up. With Norway triumphing in a record points total (was he really playing that violin?). I thought it was rubbish, but mind you, does anyone watch it for the quality of the songs?

I thought Azerbaijan should've won, which finished third. Amazingly, we were fifth. Although I felt that putting Andrew Lloyd Webber on stage, tinkling the ivories, was a blatant point-gaining exercise.

Unfortunately the lunatic songs from Czech Republic and Serbia didn't qualify for the final, so only leaving Moldova to provide some weirdness.

I fear that the change of voting system, stopping the loonies from voting for the stupid songs, will finish what I consider to be a golden-era of Eurovision over the last decade or so. Some of my personal favourites of recent years are as follows:

Austria 2003.

Ukraine 2004 (this one won!).

Moldova 2005.

Lithuania 2006 (actually, this one really is awful).

Ukraine 2007.

Spain 2008.

I don't think you'll see quality of this kind in future.

Friday, 15 May 2009

It's All Kicking Off!

Blimey, where do I start? Weather conditions have led to a magnificent passage in recent days. Thought I'd better get up to date before the weekend.

Wednesday 13th May, Uttoxeter Quarry, 18:20 - 20:00

Well, a magnificent passage apart from here! 4 Dunlin and a Ringed Plover was a rather disappointing show. A consolation however was something cute and fluffy:

Thursday 14th May, Doxey Marshes, 13:00 - 13:40

Lunch-break birding at Doxey led to a Black Tern over Boundary Flash.

Chasewater, 18:20 - 19:20

Grey Plover just to the north of the Water Skiing club, then a walk along the west shore in increasingly misty and drizzly conditions. I could make out the Little Stint amongst the Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the other side of the north shore. But the longer I was there, I was just getting more rain on the lenses to find any Sanderling or Turnstone. I was on the wrong side really.

Friday 15th May, Doxey Marshes, 12:45 - 13:25

Another quick nip out to Doxey. No Black Tern today but a drake Garganey feeding away right in front of the hide at Tillington Flash. Typically I left the camera at home. Also around were 5 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover and 3 Common Sandpiper.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 19:20 - 20:40.

Missed out on Steve's Black Tern and Andy's Sanderling found earlier in the day. But 16 Dunlin and 7 Ringed Plover around.

Phew! Get my breath back, and off we go again this weekend................

Monday, 11 May 2009

Local Waderfest

Waders have always been a favourite of mine. I think it's because they're a group of birds usually associated with the coast. To see them inland, while living miles away from the sea, has always held a fascination. Now is a good time of year to see some of the more unusual ones on spring passage.

Thursday 7th May. Blithfield Reservoir, 18:10 - 18:50.

A handy check of at work revealed three Whimbrel in Tad Bay. I just got there in time, as they took off a few minutes after clapping eyes on them.

Friday 8th May. Uttoxeter Quarry, 20:00 - 21:15.

Come on washing machine, Andy's found a Wood Sandpiper. It must be a real one this time as it wasn't found by me!

I must admit I did have a chuckle to myself while viewing this bird, way too windy to dodgyscope it unfortunately. What the hell was I thinking? Or what hallucination was I doing? The general jizz identification of Wood Sand is true you know, like a miniature Redshank but with the tail-wagging of a Common or Green Sandpiper. Also around were 13 each of Dunlin and Ringed Plover.

Perhaps I had a preminition the other week? Nah, it was just a cock-up. And when you write a blog about what you see, there's absolutely no hiding place! You've just got to be honest and gracious. And looking back, it's actually rather funny.

Although I might be onto an idea for a new birding product. Instead of looking through a scope, look through a crystal ball!

Saturday 9th May.

In an exchange-student stylee, is was very kind of Martyn, Kay and Max to show me round, what will be, the new Middleton Lakes RSPB reserve. At the moment access is restricted, until the reserve opens, to a limited number of permit holders. It's not worth trying to get on without one either, as there are plenty of RSPB wardens around. Who no doubt would ask a tresspassing birder to leave the site.

Highlights here included a Greenshank, adult Yellow-Legged Gull, pair of Garganey, 24 Dunlin, 5 Ringed Plover, Cuckoo.

Adjacent to here is Dosthill pits. I haven't been here for about 12 years, and my it's changed.

I suppose this is the other side to how some gravel pits turn into. For recreation instead of a wildlife habitat, in stark contrast to the other side of the River Tame. It's a shame because the whole of one side here was very marshy. That's all flooded now for the water-skiiers.

Afterwards Martyn was keen to find out if the Wood Sandpiper was still at Uttoxeter Quarry. We had a look but no sign unfortunately, but still 9 Ringed Plover and 8 Dunlin around.

Sunday 10th May.

A relaxed, find whatever I can (however little), birdwatch at Uttoxeter was duly aborted about half an hour in. I received an RBA text alert that said "Great Grey Shrike on Cannock Chase, south of the Katyn Memorial".

Well that's put paid to a relaxing visit then! I must admit I was rather surprised. It is very late for Great Grey Shrike, and very few have been seen throughout the country all winter. A thought also went through my mind, maybe it's possible (especially at this time of year) it could be Lesser Grey Shrike? You never know. Actually, chances are I probably do know........

A couple of hours searching around the heath produced no Shrike, but there were Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Whitethroat.

Well folks, this week is Eurovision week. If you can't remember what Eurovision is, it's a song contest. Where people from lots of European countries sing some silly songs, then vote for the country next door.

I did give quite a lot of coverage to this event last year. I have decided not to do so this year. Mainly because of a lack of Terry Wogan, who's wisely had enough (surely Graham Norton is not a good enough replacement?) and the lack of an Irish Turkey!

Actually, as a sneak preview I've looked through all the songs on the Eurovision website, and to be quite honest, most countries have gone really dull and boring this year. But thank goodness for the Czech Republic (who in the video is dressed up as a super-hero):

And Serbia (whose voice, him on the right that is, you'll have to listen to believe!):

As for the United Kingdom? Forget it, we won't win. Even with Andrew Lloyd Webber being the mastermind behind it. I don't know why he bothered.

Monday, 4 May 2009

A Day in the Life (of a Pallid Swift)

Monday 4th May. Crosby Marine Park, Lancashire (what happened to Merseyside?), 10:50 - 12:10

I didn't get up particularly early today, and wasn't really expecting the Pallid Swift to still be around. When I realised it was, plus knowing the weather wasn't going to be brilliant, there would be a good chance the bird could still be around. I've never been to Liverpool before.

Between Bootle and Crosby were signs to Marine FC. Blimey, that's a blast from the past of Burton Albion's Northern Premier League days. I always wondered where they were.

But anyway, adjoining the group of twitchers on arrival, were all looking at a Swift above them. Sure enough that was the Pallid Swift, and one the easiest twitches I've ever done. While I was there I did get easier to pick the bird out amongst the Common Swifts. With a bit of practice, as it goes away then comes nearer, it does become noticeably paler overall, but in particular the inner primaries and secondaries. There was also a first-summer Little Gull.

Also present were a rather twitchy Blurred Birder (he must be sick of the sight of me!), and renowed Liverpudlian wildlife photographer, Steve Young (Some photos of the Pallid Swift on Steve's website).

I suppose while in Liverpool I could've visited the Beatles Story exhibition at the Albert Dock. I don't know why, but I usually find audio-visual things like that a bit of a disappointment. And in any case, you can't beat just listening to the great albums of Revolver, Seargent Pepper and the White Album. Maybe next time I'm in Liverpool......

It also sounded like there was a good selection of stuff at Marshside RSPB reserve, up the road at Southport. Speaking of which, the website of Southport's main tourist attraction, the Lawnmower Museum, is fantastic! Especially the introductory song that is played. As it says, it's mower interesting!

Marshside, 13:30 - 15:00.

Bloomin eck, the wind and rain had worsened here! Earlier in the day there had been Garganey, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. I didn't see any of them! But never mind, I got the main one I wanted today. It was just nice to do a bit of dodgyscoping within the comfort of the Sandgrounder's and Andre Nel hides:

Oh, apparently Nel's hide is named after Miss Nel Unna, and not the South African cricketer after all. That reminds me, I'll do another question of hides during the summer, when hay fever kicks in and I'm stuck indoors.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Oh Bloggers Day, Oh Bloggers Day........

........with Richard, Martyn, Reg, Max and Kay! Carol Ann Duffy? Move over new Poet Laureate!

Yes folks, out of the blogosphere came a meeting of birding bloggers. Although it was a pity that Stuart the Alrewas Birder was unable to make it, take care sir!

Saturday 2nd May. Dimmingsdale, 7:25 - 9:30

I had just opened my front door and getting stuff out of the car when the Blurred Birder arrived. Good job I'd had breakfast by then, so off we went to the mighty Dimmingsdale in the Churnet Valley.

Martyn and I had latched onto a Pied Flycatcher prior to Reg, Max and Kay arriving. After then a bit of a walk along the valley also produced some Siskins, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest, a distant singing Redstart and least a couple of Wood Warblers which included a magnificent singing male.

Hawksmoor, 10:00 - 11:30.

You know, after much thought, I think this is my favourite of the Churnet Valley woods. And not just for the picture of Tony Robinson on the information board (sorry fellow bloggers, I forgot to point that out!). Another couple of singing Wood Warblers here, plus a showy Redstart and a parachuting Tree Pipit.

It was good to get the four woodland specialities under the belt relatively quickly, as that gave us all the more time up in the moors to the north of Leek. As I've said before on this blog, moorland birding is not easy and requires patience. An ice cream also helps.

Without giving too much away, location-wise, for obvious reasons. Highlights up here included Hobby, Peregrine, Golden Plover, Snipe, Raven, Wheatear and a few Red Grouse.

Incidentally, I've been meaning to mention this for ages. Up in the North Staffordshire Moors, along the A53 between Leek and Buxton is the village of:

I don't know why, but a Queen song and a floor-cleaning product, that does the hard work so you don't have to, always pop into my mind.

Bloggers Day duly ended at Tittesworth Reservoir's conservation pool, where there was a couple of Common Sandpiper. A most enjoyable day, which I'm sure will be repeated again at some point.