Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Passport Birding

I renewed my passport recently, as my old one only had a few months left until it expired. On receiving my new passport, I was pleasantly surprised when flicking through the pages, to find some birds!

Red Kite, although looking decidedly blue!


Looking at the colour, must be a male Merlin!


The "nitty-gritty" page also features Crossbill and Red Grouse (I think!). Not featured here because I'm not putting my ugly mug on. Oh, and my passport number and other personal details!

By the way reader, my new passport will be in use in just over three weeks time. More on that later................

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Gulls on Film, Part I

Saturday 25th July. Croxden Quarry, 12pm.

Text from Andy read "Juv YLG". Ok then, I'll have a look but I will readily admit, although I'm fine with adult Yellow-Legged Gull, my experience of juveniles is absolutely zip. This was the bird in question.

It looked good to be one, certainly looked different to a nearby juvenile Lesser Black-Backed Gull, here for a comparison:

Another comparison picture being the subject in question at the bottom, compared with the darker juvenile bird in the top left-hand corner.

But what I didn't want to do was just take his word for it and tick it off. I wanted to take some photos, go away and study the bird, work out for myself what made Andy think this was a Yellow-Legged Gull and try to learn from it.

With the help of the Malling Olsen and Larsson "Gull Bible" and Alan Dean's Gulls in the West Midlands Region website, I think it's because of the following areas on the bird:

What I have worked out is a clear contrast of colour between the tertials and greater coverts, rules out juv Herring Gull. This bird also has a paler head and mantle compared with juv Lesser Black-Backed. But I'm not sure if it's just me, but the shape of both the tertial edges and the scapulars seem to be more rounded than on LBBG.

Of course, I could be talking complete twaddle, I usually do. I don't claim to know everything. If anyone happens to look at this and think I'm wrong then please do let me know, otherwise I'll never learn. It's given me a headache anyway!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A day out in Wor-Ces-Ter-Shire

But before that, Uttoxeter Quarry purple patch continued. 10 Green Sandpipers and a Greenshank on the evening of Wednesday 15th. Then on the evening of Friday 17th Andy found a female Red-breasted Merganser, which I had a sneaky peek at. Annoyingly I left my camera at home.

Saturday 18th July.

It's good to do something different for a change, so I had a day's birding with Kay and Max in Worcestershire. A journey of discovery and enlightenment. Well no not really, just birding. The first port of call was Kemerton Lake, near Kinsham.

Then Gwen Finch Nature Reserve, near Eckington.

Notice that by now I would mention a list birds. Well, there weren't any. Actually that's not true, a drake Pochard and plenty of Yaffles at Kemerton, then Blackcap and Grey Wagtail at Gwen Finch. Both sites look like they would be good for winter wildfowl and warblers in the spring. Picturesque around here as well.

Next on the agenda was Ryall gravel pits. Working in I.T. I've come across plenty of nerds in my time. I've never considered myself a computer nerd, it's just a box to help me do my job, and waste time on the internet (but not when working, please don't sack me!). However, I am a self-confessed nerd when it comes to holes in the ground, created by the extraction of sand, gravel and aggregates.

Ooooohhhhhh, corrrr, I like the look of this one! Ryall GP's is also right next to the River Severn. As for birds, a Redshank and flock of Lapwing, three Ravens and a rather lovely Hobby.

After a spot of lunch Clifton was next. Again, quiet at the moment. Not a lot of shoreline and I would imagine better in the winter. I was impressed with Grimley New Workings though. 2 Little Egrets were present along with plenty of Common Terns. The day finished with an excellent view of a Spotted Flycatcher around a nearby churchyard at Holt. Body and mind were flagging somewhat by now due to the early start after a busy working week, hence the lack of photos by now.

In conclusion, areas of gravel workings for birding in Worcestershire are small compared with some of the complexes you get in the Trent and Tame valleys, and indeed at Uttoxeter. But nonetheless it was a most enjoyable day, with quality rather than quantity on the birding front. Cheers Kay and Max!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

How to bore other birders about a Spoonbill!

You know how sometimes you just can't get off to sleep, because your mind's whirring away and it won't switch off? Well, after finding that Spoonbill that's exactly what happened to me. After a lazy Saturday morning, feeling a little groggy but my mind still on cloud nine, I decided to head over to Blithfield.

Luckily (lot of that about at the moment) while I was on my way there was a text from Martyn about five Common Scoters in Blithe Bay. That'll do!

Then over in Tad Bay were a Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 1 Dunlin, 2 Wigeon and a calling Raven. Martyn then had endure the whole Spoonbill story whilst sat in the Tad Bay hide, I'm sure he started nodding off at one point.

Feeling that my luck was in I decided to put a few quid on the lottery. In case you're wondering, I didn't win a penny!

Sunday 12th July, Gailey Reservoir, 12:15 - 13:15.

Let's see how the last day of the test match goes before deciding to go out or not. Well, not long in Kevin Pietersen left a straight ball and got clean bowled, lets go to Gailey!

While listening to test match special in the car an email was read out that read my mind. "I'm not going out, I could go out, I'd have a better day if I went out!". Unlike that chap I did go out to escape what was looking like a pummelling defeat to the Aussies.

Anyway, there's been a female Red-Crested Pochard at Gailey, and here she is:

Following this I thought I'd better check Uttoxeter Quarry before going home, but going via the causeway at Blithfield. Eric Clare was around and we had a chat, mainly about the Spoonbill funnily enough. I promise I won't go on and on about it for ever!

A Greenshank had arrived at the quarry today:

As well as 2 Green Sandpipers and 12 Curlew.

As for the first test, amazingly we didn't lose! England held on for a draw, which from watching the last hour of play Ricky Ponting chose the wrong bowlers for the final few overs. Not that I'm complaining.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Heavens To Murgatroyd!

Friday 10th July, Uttoxeter Quarry, 19:00 - 20:45.

As mentioned previously, I do like my cricket. However, one summer sport I've never been a fan of is golf. One thing I do know about golf is that the South African golfer, Gary Player, is famous for the quote "The more I practice, the luckier I get". It's true with birding as well you know.

I'll say the Snagglepuss catchphrase again, Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Or, Sufferin' Succotash! (see Sylvester the Cat)

Or, Blistering Barnacles! (see Captain Pugwash)

Yep, it's a Spoonbill. The news was duly put out on the information networks. Then came a heart stopping moment. A few minutes before anyone else arrived, the Spoonbill decided to take flight. "Oh no, don't do this to me now!" I thought. Thankfully it just circled the quarry a couple of times and landed back in the same place, and I gave a huge sigh of relief!

For the rest of the time the bird was feeding away constantly. It certainly wasn't a juvenile, as there were no black tips on the primaries as it was in flight. Perhaps a sub-adult? There was a patch of yellow on the end of the bill, and a little bit of a crest on the back of the head.

A Spoonbill in Staffordshire takes me back to the memorable summer of 1995. Reasons for it being memorable? One, it was really hot. Two, that stupid, media-hyped "Blur v Oasis" battle (which incidentally featured one each of both band's worst songs). Three, the Spoonbill in Tad Bay at Blithfield, which seemed to sleep all summer! It did nothing compared with this one.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Eve of The Ashes, Come on England!

No birding done last weekend. Never mind Wimbledon (despite Andy Murray doing rather well this year. Don't worry, he'll do even better next year, or maybe even in the US Open in September), this summer is all about The Ashes! Starting with the first test in Cardiff on Wednesday.

Thankfully I once heard Jonathan Agnew say "we've removed the 2006/07 5-0 whitewash out of Wisden", so that's good enough for me. I'm more than happy to wax lyrical about the 2005 series. Even the Sooty Tern on Anglesey couldn't tempt me away from the telly back then. Even now watching replays of that second test at Edgbaston, where England won by two runs, still sets my heart running.

As like 2005, I'm sure it'll be a great sporting contest as well as toughly fought on both sides. It would be a cheap shot to go on about the usual stereotypical phrase "Aussies are bunch of convicts". But no, I can do better than that. Lest not forget what the Aussies are capable of, in particular the "Underarm Incident" of 1981 here. Ending in some wise words from the great Richie Benaud.

By the way, I've haven't a clue who's going to win this time. In a way it was worth the humiliation of a 5-0 whitewash just to see the back of messrs Warne, McGrath and Langer. And of course since then Gilchrist and Hayden have retired.