Monday, 30 November 2009

The One Show

You may remember reader. Back in August, I embarked on a ferry called the Pride of Bilbao. Whilst on board, Mike Dilger was filming a piece on Whales and Dolphins for a televisual programme called "The One Show".

Well, that item was on tonight's show. Thankfully I avoided the cameras successfully, but the film can be seen here. Towards the end of the programme, between Carol Vorderman yacking away about maths and Cliff Richard and The Shadows performing "Move It". Their last ever live performance in the UK apparently. If you ask me this is Cliff's best ever song, I don't know why he ever bothered afterwards.

Anyway, don't be fooled. Each piece to camera took Mike Dilger about four or five takes.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

All set up for winter

Saturday 28th November.

Well, the plan on Friday night was to go to the cup game at Gillingham, via Staines to look at the Brown Shrike. But I've been trying to shake off a heavy cold all week and still felt rather groggy this morning. So just tootled around closer to home.

Uttoxeter Quarry, 11:30 - 13:30.

Oh yes, water, lots of lovely water!

It's already made a difference to the numbers of duck, with higher numbers of Mallard, Wigeon, Teal and a couple of Shoveler. Also a personal site tick in the form of three Ravens. Hopefully the water level will lead to better birding in the winter months ahead, as I was worried a week ago that it could get a bit dull for birding, never mind blogging.

Following some patch work, there's been a Great Northern Diver at Belvide recently, so I thought I'd take a look.

I do realise the picture makes the Diver look more like Nessie, wasn't easy to get a decent picture from the Scott hide in the afternoon gloom. But when not sticking a camera onto the scope the bird was showing well towards the dam. The white notch in the side of the neck, giving the Diver a collar-like appearance, was also noticeable.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Belvide Bonanza

Saturday 21st November.

Did I say autumn was winding down? Well, at Uttoxeter Quarry I don't think it even started. Actually that's a little unfair. The water level still looks ideal for passage waders. Trouble is they've all gone now, and there's not enough water to attract diving duck, or a rare Grebe or Diver.

I'll stick with it of course, but unless it fills up a bit, it could be a long winter. Still a nice flock of 15 Snipe around, along with 16 Wigeon and a couple of Teal.

After that I was struggling to think what to do next. That was until the pager mentioned a Snow Bunting at Belvide. Which showed really well on the shoreline in front of the west end hide, a cracking little bird. Pity I left my camera in the car, by which time the heavy persistent rain had started.

Sunday 22nd November.

Well, back at Belvide again. As it's the perfect place to go for a Shag.........

What? What else did you think I meant?

The bird did have a head by the way, but was doing a lot of preening at the time.

Pondering to myself about what to do next. I know, I'll give Aqualate Mere a try, not all that far up the road from Belvide. Although I did wonder if I had arrived in Exmoor.....

On arrival at the hide, flicking through the sightings book, both Bittern and Cetti's Warbler have been around for about a month. Isn't is strange how they don't get put out on the information networks? If it was the breeding season I would understand of course. Anyway, after a while of waiting in the hide, a familiar burst of noise came out of the reeds to the right of the hide, that's a Cetti's Warbler alright.

The day was finished at Blithfield, to check for roosting gulls in Tad Bay. Which was rather productive actually, as I managed to pick out an adult Med Gull, along with an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Little did I know while I was at Aqualate, all sorts of fun and games started at Belvide. Make up your own mind for this wader.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Tough Going

Last weekend was just one of those times, where you put the effort in but not much in return. I nearly didn't bother blogging about it. But no, I always intended this to be a warts-and-all tale, within reason of course.

Saturday 14th November.

Starting off at the quarry in Uttoxeter:

1 Redshank, 2 Green Sandpipers, 140 Golden Plover, 300 Lapwing, 55 Teal, 3 Wigeon, 60 Fieldfare.

Then at Blithfield, 4 Redshank and 6 Dunlin in Tad Bay. Any thoughts of checking the gull roost at the causeway were thwarted when an almighty shower came in.

Sunday 15th November.

A much calmer morning, so a walk around the Katyn memorial area of Cannock Chase was called for. And not a bad selection actually, considering the time of year. A few Stonechats, a single Redpoll, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Fieldfares, Redwings, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

The afternoon was then spent in the Trent valley, most of the time at Whitemoor Haye to scan for farmland birds. Which produced very little really, the call of a Partridge got me excited for a short while, but it was Red-legged and not the Grey I was hoping for. To break the lack of birds, a short visit to Branston Water Park produced a Water Rail and 4 Snipe in the reeds at the southern end.

And that was as good as it got really. Must be a sign that the best of autumn has passed. In fact, this was the most exciting thing I saw at Whitemoor Haye. Alongside Sittles Farm is a small airstrip, about to be put to the test here........

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Rock 'n Roll Birding

I do like my popular beat combos. So I've always wondered for a long time now, what is "The Birder's Anthem"?

Well, I can't really put my finger on one song as there are all sorts of different aspects to birding. So, by the power of Youtube, here are my birding anthems:

1. The Twitcher's Anthem. "I Want It All" by Queen.

2. The Local Patcher's Anthem. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2.

3. The Stringer's Anthem. "Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac.

4. The Suppressor's Anthem. "Our Lips Are Sealed" by the Fun Boy Three.

5. The Migration Fall Anthem. "I'm Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage.

You get the idea with that. This is what the dark nights have reduced me to!

As a musical aside, one will notice that we're heading towards the end of a decade, and next year will be the start of a new one. To commemorate the last ten years, Absolute Radio are currently conducting a poll for the "Song of the Decade". I have used my vote wisely, and gone with "Is This The Way To Amarillo.

But I encourage everyone to vote in this poll, just to make sure that anything by James Blunt, or "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, doesn't win! I shall be following this poll closely during December.

Monday, 9 November 2009

On the road to Wembley

You know, if I could muster the effort to twitch the Brown Shrike at Staines, that blog title would be rather appropriate, not that far away from Bobby Moore's statue. How much longer is it going to stay, I might crack yet. As for this weekend, I decided to go a bit lazy on the birding front. Still a bit done mind you.

Saturday 7th November.

A decent selection at Uttoxeter Quarry to start with. Including 37 Golden Plover, 2 Green Sandpiper, 6 Goosander, 23 Wigeon, 4 Redwing, 2 Fieldfare, 1 Stonechat and an intruiging flock of around 20 Reed Buntings. Worth keeping an eye on them during the winter.

A check of Swallow Moss until dusk afterwards proved rather quiet. No sign of any roosting Hen Harriers yet, but perhaps the rain didn't help matters. What was around however was this Red Deer stag. Honest guv, it really is there, but it was getting dark.

Sunday 8th November.

But the real reason for the blog title is because I have a lot of time for the F.A. Cup. I still find it rather special, there's nothing more exciting in the footie calendar than the third round draw.

Thanks to Football League status these days, the mighty Brewers go straight into the first found proper. With a potential banana-skin tie at home to Oxford City to look forward to, I thought some time spent round Whitemoor Haye and Branston would be a good idea before going to the match.

That was until I was on my way getting as far as Uttoxeter, a call from the Blurred Birder informed me of a possible Long-Tailed Duck at Blithfield, off Beech Tree Point. And so it proved to be the case. Unfortunately I had left my camera at home, but thankfully I've wheeled and dealed, a "Blaggers for Bloggers" deal, to get an exclusive picture.

Also around Blithers were a Curlew in Blithe Bay. Then in Tad Bay were an immature drake Scaup, 1 adult Yellow-Legged Gull, 13 Dunlin, 3 Goosander.

As for the footy, thankfully Burton Albion scraped a 3-2 victory, with the reward of an away tie at Gillingham. If the Brown Shrike is still around on the 28th I could combine the two, hmm................

Monday, 2 November 2009

Whoops, they're Bewick's

There's a clever pun in the title, which will become apparent..............

Saturday 31st October, Weaver Hills, 9:00 - 10:30.

After all the excitement of the last few weeks, back to a bit of bread and butter. A migration watch up the Weavers. Well, I did when the fog cleared............

Quite a bit of activity when the mist cleared. 200 Fieldfare, 46 Woodpigeon, 90 Starling, 10 Skylark, 12 Meadow Pipit, 1 Siskin, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Linnet and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull.

A decision next for the afternoon, Uttoxeter Quarry or another try for Glossy Ibis round Drayton Bassett? Well, it was the latter. An afternoon stood by Fisher's Mill pit and scanning around until dusk, along with the Voices of the Tame Valley, Tom and Julian.

Unfortunately there was no sign of the Ibis all day. But highlights included the Garganey, 5 Little Egrets, 1 Water Rail, 6 Snipe, 1 Guzzunder, 20 Fieldfare and 4 Redwing.

Sunday 1st November, Blithfield Reservoir, 11:15 - 17:00.

A wild and windy day, I just felt that Blithers would have the best chance of something blown in.

4 Whooper Swans in Tad Bay I was told. But that can wait whilst scanning around the dam, and not much appeared. Then a text from Mr Blurred, informing me that the two remaining Swans are Bewick's rather than Whoopers. Looking at the size of them initially, they certainly weren't much larger than the surrounding Canada Geese.....

....then a bit of movement a short while later.

Now reader, if you look at the bird on the left, I can fully understand why there may have been a bit of confusion. One thing I always remember about Bewick's is the "concave" shape of the bill. But this one looks really long and quite straight, with a large amount of yellow on it. The bird on the right a more classic Bewick's.

It just goes to show how much variation occurs on the bill of Bewick's Swans. Which as every schoolboy knows (well, those of us who remember Sir Peter Scott on the telly, and his studies at Slimbridge), the bill pattern is unique, just like our fingerprints. Fingerprints being unique that is, our fingers don't look like a Swan's bill!

Also in Tad Bay were 71 Golden Plover, 5 Dunlin, 11 Snipe, 3 Goosander, 1 Shelduck,
and 17 Pintail. Also some autumn fungi in Stansley Wood. Don't pick it if you don't know what it is, I haven't a clue!