Sunday, 27 September 2009

Gorillas, er, I mean Geese in the Mist

No pictures this time, you'll just have to read it.

A lot of birding blogs have been mentioning the recent megas of Tufted Puffin and Sandhill Crane, and quite rightly so. But don't forget that we're also having an unprecented influx of Glossy Ibis at the moment. So when's one going to settle in Staffordshire? Well I think I know. Two weeks time, when I'm away in Portugal. It'll happen!

Uttoxeter Quarry, 12:30 - 14:45.

The Garganey and Pintail still around, plus a Stonechat, 1 Green Sandpiper, 4 Jays and a Swallow (last one this year?). But really, the water level's too low at the moment.

Back in the spring I paid a few visits to the Weaver Hills. I would give precise directions but I can't be bothered. But if you look on a map it's roughly between Uttoxeter and Ashbourne. Anyway, thinking about it now I tried to bite off more than I could chew in the spring. Considering all the other habitats you want to cover at that time of year. But maybe autumn would be more convenient?

Well, one Wheatear was around, along with many Meadow Pipits, good numbers of Goldfinch and a few Skylarks. The Wheatear's a little result in itself, certainly whetted my appetite to try again.

Sunday 27th September. Weaver Hills, 9:45 - 11:00

I had mentioned this site to the Blurred Birder a while ago, who seemed quite impressed when looking at it on Google Earth, especially as he's a fan of a form of birding that's inspired by Viz mag, or something like that?

After the last week with hospital visits and the like, I wasn't intending on getting up really early, but when I did arise I noticed a text from Martyn saying he was at the Weavers. On arrival and finding Martyn it was rather misty, not really the required conditions for visible migration.

But after a while, in amongst conversations of our impending birding trip to Portugal, we could hear the call of geese. Does the nearby farm keep any? But the calls got nearer, and they didn't sound like Greylag or Canada Geese?

Sure enough, eventually out of the mist above us appeared a skein of 41 Pink-Footed Geese, fantastic stuff! They were flying west, so must be heading to Martin Mere or the Ribble estuary. Also a Snipe and a Raven around, so that's a resounding result for me.

Uttoxeter Quarry was the next port of call. However, on rejoining Martyn after getting a bit of shopping done, he had lost his mobile phone. On trying to ring it there was no noise from the car, so must've lost it up on the Weavers. So Martyn went back to find it and I had a look round the quarry.

A little later my phone rang. It turned out that a group of walkers had found Martyn's phone and were at Stanton, the next village along. You know, I think the retrieval and return of someone's mobile phone is worth a Portuguese pint?

As a matter of fact, when I arrived at the quarry two birders were leaving, complaining that another "birder" had decided to walk across the bottom of the main gravel pit, flushing every bird in sight. Please, if you're going, stick to the footpaths. Especially as a lot of new excavation work has recently started. And if I was there at the time, I would've taken a photo of said offender and put it in view of the whole internet. As I did with the Spotted Sandpiper flusher at Tittesworth last year.

The day ended at Blithfield, although Martyn had to leave abbrubtly when told, probably on his mobile phone thinking about it, of an Aquatic Warbler in Warwickshire (two pints?). Not a lot out of the ordinary at Blithers, although the flock of usual waders (Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Lapwing) in Tad Bay did lead one of those nice Peregrines off on a merry dance. They just lead the Peregrines into temptation.....

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Apologies for the delay in blogging. A little bit of a health scare in the family, but no need to worry, we're ow rate me duck! Hence the name of the blog title. When it comes to blogging, the trouble I have is if I don't do it quickly after birding, I forget what to put down.

But the birding I managed to do last weekend, off the top of my head. Saturday involved Uttoxeter Quarry (a Pintail being the main highlight) and Blithfield (2 Ruff, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Snipe, 5 Pintail, 24 Guzzunders and a female Mandarin).

The main highlight however was on Sunday, being the Ferruginous Duck (or is it White-Eyed Pochard?) at Belvide. Which at the time I was there showed very well in front of the Scott hide.

I've also been most saddened to hear of the split of Chas and Dave, after 35 years. Everyone knows Rabbit of course. But don't be fooled, Gertcha is by far their best song. In fact, thinking about it, have I seen Chas birding round Blithfield?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sink the Pink!

Monday 14th September, Tittensor, 7:00 - 7:40.

That's better! In a pre-work sortie back to Tittensor, for the third time. At 7:20am a flock of about 20 Starlings landed on the roof of St. Luke's Church, which included the juvenile Rose-Coloured Starling! Whoop whoop!

I would've loved to have had the courage to set my scope and camera up, but felt conscipuous and uncomfortable enough as it was. But job done at last.

When it comes to birding, if there's one thing I hate is birding around housing estates and looking into people's gardens. I can't stand it. But sometimes it's a necessary evil. That's how I've seen Rose-Coloured Starling in this country before, a cracking adult at Sinfin in Derby in 2002. Plus others like American Robin (Bingley, 2007) , Baltimore Oriole (Oxford, 2004), Black-Throated Thrush (Chesterfield, 1997) and numerous Waxwings.

The King is in the Building

Sunday 13th September, Cut End, Lincolnshire, 9:30 - 12:30

Feeling much better today. I have a bit of a history, and not a positive one, when it comes to King Eider. In particular the first time I went to Shetland in 2005. A drake was seen at Collafirth, so that was the first place I tried after arriving in Lerwick, but no sign. However, I didn't realise until later on that there are TWO Collafirths and I went to wrong one. Doh. And of course, by the time I found the right one it had gone.

So with the thought of an eclipse drake King Eider at the south western edge of The Wash, at Cut End near Boston, this was too good an opportunity to miss. So off I went, along the well trodden path along the A50 and A52. I could go all "Top Gear" now, but I do actually quite enjoy the drive along the A52 from Nottingham, going through Grantham, to Boston. It's a proper road.

A few other birders were around the Cut End hide on arrival, who were onto the King Eider but very distantly. No point putting the camera on the scope today. So I waited around during the morning for the tide to come in. But it didn't seem to make any difference, the King Eider preferring to stay around green buoy 13N.

I really did need the 60x zoomed right up on my scope. The big distinguishing feature that I noticed was, when the bird stretched out I could make out a broad, white diagonal stripe from the bottom of the neck, heading towards the breast.

I made a note of this, and checking a field guide back in the car, that's exactly what an eclipse drake King Eider has, in addition to the large orange patch on the bill. I heard another birder say that when the bird stretches upright, the shape of it looks like a bit like a Penguin. That's not a bad analogy.

Then on the walk back to the car:

It's the Boston Belle heading out into The Wash, full of people armed with binoculars and cameras. It does half-day cruises from Boston, out into The Wash to look for birds and seals. They must be doing a roaring trade at the moment with the King Eider around. In fact, after doing some digging on Google, for purposes of future reference, the Boston Belle is ran by Maritime Leisure Cruises in Boston.

Sinked by Pink

Thursday 10th September.

Uttoxeter Quarry this evening: 1 Wood Sandpiper, 4 Green Sandpipers and 3 Common Sandpipers.

Saturday 12th September, Tittensor, 9:00 - 11:00.

An early start to look for the Rose-Coloured Starling was scuppered by a bit of a rough night's sleep. I wish I could say it was down to beer but it wasn't. One piece of fish, from the reduced counter, too many. I won't say where from, but as Lily Allen managed to do, the shop's name rhymes with "Al Fresco".

I managed a reccy mission after work the evening before, so I knew where to go, and eventually arrived to the news that the Starling had been seen earlier, but not now. In fact, this is the garden where the home owner found the bird.

And had also been getting onto the roof of St Luke's Church.

But alas, no sign after a two hour wait, and as time went on Starling activity in general just got quieter. But never mind, if the bird stays around I could alway try again one morning in the week, before I go to work. By the way, St Luke's Church also doubles up as the HQ of the "Tittensor Anti-Stringing Front":

Wise words. I then decided to head over to Blithfield, to try and look for the Slavonian Grebe. But really I should've just gone home because I wasn't with it. Couldn't see the Grebe around the deep end, but there was a Ruff in Tad Bay. Actually there were two, one in the bay and the other in the hide.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Magpies v Badger

Saturday 5th September.

Just a quick visit to Uttoxeter Quarry today, en-route to the big game. No, not at Wembley, over to moneybags Notts County!

There's not much water left in the main gravel pit at the moment. But still enough to attract some duck and easy pickings for Cormorants, a Common Sandpiper and a couple of Green Sands. But the main highlight was a Whinchat, in amongst the weedy stuff in the gravel pit that's now taking hold a bit.

As for Burton Albion's game, a 1-1 draw was a fair result in my opinion. In addition to plenty of Magpies at Meadow Lane was the sight of County's new signing, Sol Campbell, who waved to the crowd before the game. I dipped Sven Goran Erikkson however.

Sunday 6th September.

A day's birding with Martyn today. Starting out at Drayton Bassett. Highlights here included a Little Egret, 3 Redshank, 2 Snipe, a Common Sandpiper and 2 Swifts. A slight diversion was then taken, to suss out car parking at Birmingham International Airport, reasons why will become apparent in a few weeks...............

Then over to Blithfield. Starting off around the dam, where goodies to be found included 2 Whinchats, a Wheatear, Yellow and Grey Wagtails and a Green Woodpecker. Then in Tad Bay were 41 Goosander, 1 Pintail, 2 Ruff, 1 adult Yellow-Legged Gull, 1 juvenile Common Tern.

Also whilst in Tad Bay, a couple of oddities caught on camera:

The rather macabre sight of a Crow tucking into the carcass of a Goose of some kind. Probably not the best advert for South Staffordshire Water PLC, but that's nature. Then mixed feelings:

I would usually be delighted to see any live Badger. More often than not, you see them dead at the side of the road. But one could tell this animal was in trouble. Clearly lame in one of it's hind legs and desperate to find somewhere to hide in the sedge behind it. Anyone's guess to know what happened to it. Hit by a car, or got into a fight with another Badger (or worse), or poisoned. Hence the term being "Badgered" I suppose, meaning persecuted............

Anyway, despite this a good craic was had with the others in the Tad Bay hides. A walk along the Admaston side of Blithe Bay produced 5 Wheatears, another Ruff (or perhaps one of those from Tad?), 6 Swift (probably the last I'll see this year, that's a sad thought), 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 7 Ringed Plovers and 10 Dunlin. Now for my controversial statement of the year............

Pesky waders. Don't they know that all they do is tease those nice Peregines????

Controversial statement well and truly over! Normal service will be resumed in the next blog entry!