Saturday, 27 June 2009

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

You see, even the late Michael Jackson had a song with a message for birders in mind (apart from Rockin' Robin of course). Unfortunately though, in late June it doesn't take very long until you have had enough. In fact, one could Say Say Say that birding at this time of year is Bad. It's enough to drive you Off The Wall, but we keep trying.

Thursday 25th June, Uttoxeter Quarry, 19:15 - 20:15

Just an hour spent, but a pleasing sight was two Green Sandpipers.

Saturday 27th June, Blithfield Reservoir, 11:15 - 14:20.

Apart from an Osprey perched in a dead tree in Tad Bay, very little out of the ordinary.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 14:40 - 16:30.

Rather quiet here as well, although loads of Meadow Brown butterflies. There was one adult gull sat asleep in amongst the Lesser Black-Backed's. The wing colour looked good enough for Yellow-Legged. That is until it stood up and showed it's pink legs, Herring Gull.

It's either my slight colour blindness, or there are slight variations in colour. Sometimes the colour on LBBG's can look different depending on the light. Just like Thursday night's Green Sandpipers, it was time for me to Beat It.

By the way, I can't claim to be a fan of Michael Jackson's music, but there's a respect for some of his and Quincy Jones' work. That being the albums "Off The Wall" and "Thriller".

I can fit one more song in, especially due to living near Stoke-on-Trent. That song is Smooth Criminal. This is due to the lyric where Jacko says "Annie get you oatcake". By a strange coincidence, there is an oatcake shop in Fenton called "Oatcake Annies"!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Havin' a Quail of a time!

Sunday 21st June. Berry Hill Fields, 13:15 - 15:20.

A lazy, birding-free, pollen-avoiding, weekend was duly interrupted by the report of a Quail at Berry Hill in Stoke, which showed well. This had to be investigated. So off I went, giving a lift to Andy and Mad Malc.

When arriving at the Longton end of the "fabled hill of the potteries", Russell Toon and Nick Pomiankowski were soon found. Unfortunately the Quail had disappeared into long grass by he time we got there.

After waiting a while, with Hanley (aka Up 'Anley Duck) in the background, we were treated to a Quail calling literally a few feet away at the bottom of this slope. Surely we would then be guaranteed a view? Nope, not even a rustle of grass, how do they do it?

Almost immediately after, another Quail was heard more distantly. It must've been two different birds. Russell had also heard one calling at the Fenton end, so three birds is quite possible.

It's in there somewhere! The more distant Quail was towards the back, behind the paddock where the Lapland Bunting was last year. Surprisingly hay fever hadn't taken hold whilst here, but that all changed when driving home.

Friday, 19 June 2009

A Question of Hides, Part 3

While I'm stuck indoors keeping away from hay fever, time to bring back an old favourite. As we all know, whether we like it or not, the world of celebrity is the "in thing" these days. I see Celebrity Masterchef is back on the telly, with some more "exceptional plates of food".

So lets attach some more celebrities to the names of bird hides. Many thanks to some suggestions earlier this year, which were:

Paul Stanley, front man of KISS (Carsington Water).

Valerie Singleton (Blacktoft Sands).

Stuart Pearce (Gosforth Park).

Since then I have thought of some more. Would you believe:

George Harrison (the quiet Beatle, as if you didn't know who he was!) once "drove" his livestock through Stodmarsh? Must've been during the seventies, between the Beatles and his collaborations with Jeff Lynne/Travelling Wilburys.

Gareth "Not Norman Pace" Hale (Martin Mere).

The Pioneers (Summer Leys). Classic ska band, who did "Long Shot Kick De Bucket", covered here by The Specials.

To end with this particular episode of "A Question of Hides", there's a "Williams hide" at Hickling Broad. Oh eck, there's loads to choose from:



Nope, I'm going with Mark Williams:

No not that one, this one:

Him from the Fast Show and those adverts where he says "We wanna be together!".

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The birder's fear of the pollen count

Friday 12th June, Cannock Chase, 20:30 - 23:15.

A birding blog-based gathering this evening, on Cannock Chase to look for Nightjars. Which included myself, Kay and Max from the Brightside, Stuart the Alrewas Birder, Archie Archer and Tom and Julian of Tame Valley fame!

We had excellent views of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away, best view I've had for many years actually. Other than that it was a bit of a struggle. By the time we got anywhere near to a churring Nightjar it was very nearly pitch-dark, so not much chance of seeing the bird.

Then as we were all leaving it was very kind of one driver in the car park who switched their headlights on, so we could all see each other. I can't think of any other reason why the person in the car would want to do this.

Saturday 13th June, Aqualate Mere, 10:45 - 14:00.

Inevitably, spring migration draws to a close and things start to quieten down for the summer. So why not do some exploring? Somewhere in my home county I have never been to before is Aqualate Mere, between Stafford and Newport, just over the border into Shropshire.

An impressive selection of 39 different species here, including a good selection of warblers, Shelduck, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and this Cuckoo.

But perhaps the most impressive sighting at Aqualate was this Hornet. That's something you don't see every day. Absolutely huge it was, like a Jasper on steroids!

As for the most exasperating sight from my trip to Aqualate. Well, it has to be one of these:

Someone in the hide decided to put their binoculars down and started doing a Sudoku puzzle! Nothing against Sudoku, but if I were to do that in a hide then you can guarantee every rare bird under the sun would fly past or appear out of the reeds. Recimiscent of this old Kit Kat advert!

Seven Springs, 14:30 - 15:45.

Battling through the traffic in Stafford and onto the Seven Springs area of Cannock Chase. I haven't been round here for ages. It was worth it though for a short time, as I managed a good view of a Spotted Flycatcher and still a Wood Warbler singing away.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 18:15 - 20:15.

A couple of hours with Andy over at the quarry. Which was rather quiet really, but still a solitary Dunlin with 3 Ringed Plovers, 1 Curlew, 5 Goosander and a pair of Shoveler. Hay fever really took it's toll on me at this point, with constant sneezing, runny nose and puffed up eyes.

I fear that if the weather stays dry and warm, I'll have to go into my temporary summer retirement for the next couple of weeks or so, until we get into July. Even at the time of writing it's getting a little unbearable.

I'll see how it goes, but it may be the end of birding (but not necessarily blogging) for a short while. Unless something turns up of course, in 1996 the Doxey River Warbler was found in late June. Something like that would get me out!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Do I not like Orange........

Saturday 6th June. Uttoxeter Quarry, 14:50 - 17:30.

........and not just because of England losing to Holland in the World Twenty20! As they say on the news just before giving the football results, look away now!

There, that was harmless wasn't it? Oh eck, who let these Ruddy Shelduck out? The bird's name that is, not using a mild swear word just to describe Shelduck! In any case, whether they've flown from JCB's collection at Rocester, or feral birds from continental Europe. It's just not the same after watching them at Bharatpur, somewhere they belong.

Also around the quarry were 4 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin, 1 Dead-Legged Partridge and 5 Buzzards.

Sunday 7th June, Belvide Reservoir, 12:45 - 14:15.

What a wet morning! Although it does have it's advantages, keeping the pollen down mainly. And it can bring the odd bird down somewhere. In particular today at Belvide, where a splendid summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank appeared.

Bit distant for my scope, but at least you can make out it's a classy summer-plumaged bird. It was also good to chat with Steve Nuttall and Bernie Smith whilst in the west end hide.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 15:00 - 17:20.

It stopped raining at Belvide, so time to head towards home. Andy had found 15 Black-Tailed Godwits at the quarry in the morning, so I wanted to visit at some point during the day. Thankfully they were still around in the afternoon, along with 17 Ringed Plovers and 3 Dunlin.

Orange isn't so bad after all, it just depends what bird it's on.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Go Paxo Go!

A completely non-birding related topic.

When it comes to politicians, I've always held a fascination with either watching their careers implode around them (plenty of that going around at the moment, including my MP, Bill Cash) or dodging questions when being interviewed.

Speaking of the latter, I saw "Newsnight" last night. Twelve years after Jeremy Paxman's infamous interview with
Michael Howard, he's at it again! This time Paxo's victim was William Hague. I bet Hague wished he asked him!

Monday, 1 June 2009

A stomp in the fens

As mentioned previously, a weekend spent in East Anglia. Whilst driving to Norwich, news filtered through of a Great Knot at Breydon Water. "Shiver me timbers!" I thought politely, or words to that effect. But I bet it doesn't stick around.

Saturday 30th May, Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, 10:30 - 13:30.

As I thought, the Great Knot had moved on. And in fact, not much else around to go for. Perhaps it was a little indulgent to go after the Squacco Heron at Wicken Fen, considering the number I've seen abroad before now (if you want to see loads of Squacco's, try the Thulasihleka Pan, Richards Bay, South Africa).

Unfortunately it appeared that early mornings and evenings were the best time for the Squacco Heron on Baker's Fen. But at least a dozen Little Egrets around, along with good views of Hobby and Cuckoo.

Lakenheath Fen, Suffolk, 14:15 - 17:30.

Twenty years ago, almost to the day, during a short birding holiday with my mum and dad we had an unforgettable day away from the north coast, in the brecks. Along with Weeting Heath for Stone Curlews and Santon Downham, which held the last pair of Red-Backed Shrikes (only a male was around), we visited Lakenheath for Golden Orioles.

Quite wisely, back then this site was nowhere near as well-publicised as it is today. Away from the poplar plantations it looked very different back when, all arable crop fields. What a transformation twenty years on! The poplars are now surrounded by reedbeds, marshes and lagoons. This is what the RSPB do best if you ask me, habitat creation/improvement.

An impressive selection of birds here too. Including a stonking male Golden Oriole, Garganey, Hobby, Marsh Harriers, a Bittern booming away. And more Cuckoos, an enviable amount of them here compared to around home.

Sunday 31st May, Potter Heigham/Hickling Broad, Norfolk, 09:00 - 12:30.

A bit of time for a morning's birding around Hickling Broad. A fruitless search around Potter Heigham for where a Great White Egret was supposed to be (in the end the bird is around the southern edge of the broad itself, so we were way off), over to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve.
Highlights around and about in the area included four Cranes, a flyover Bittern and a female Bearded Tit. However, the largest gathering of people were looking at this beautiful Swallowtail butterfly:

I've never twitched an insect before, there's a first time for everything!

Alas it was time to go home. I did think about going via Wicken Fen again but didn't fancy getting stung in the pocket by the National Trust, only to dip again. But a most enjoyable weekend, many thanks Jo, Ian and Fran.