Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Last blog of 2009

Well after yesterday's palpitations and adrenaline rush, after finding the Ferruginous Duck, I'm shattered. So I'll have a couple of lazy days now, until we all start again on New Years Day.

I seem to remember mentioning "Song of the Decade" the other week. Unfortunately, Absolute Radio's chart was rather disappointing. A worrying amount of McFly in that list, but The Killers were number one, so not all that bad.

Hmm, what else is there? Ooh I know, who won "Beard of the Year" this year? Well reader, I can tell you. It was, and completely out of nowhere until recently, Zack de la Rocha from "Rage Against The Machine":

Runner up was Slavoj Zizek, Professor of Philosophy apparently (all a bit too high-brow for me):

And in third place, ex-Policeman tantric eco-warrior, Gordon Sumner:

This is all unfair on the South African batsman, with a corking beard, Hashim Amla:

I wonder if the Ferruginous Duck will still be around on New Years Day...............

Monday, 28 December 2009

Heavens to Murgatroyd, Part II

Was it Sid Waddell that said "it's like deja vu all over again"? If not, then it sounds like something the great man, the voice of darts, would say.

Boxing Day turned into a bit of a bonus birding day. Pity the football was postponed, as I was really looking forward to watching the Albion at Port Vale in a Staffordshire derby. But I went birding instead, consisting of Uttoxeter Quarry and Brookleys Lake.

At the quarry there was a Jack Snipe in the sedge, along with 6 Common Snipe. Then at Brookleys the first-winter drake Scaup still around, although looking a little bit smarter than a few weeks ago.

Then onto today with the same itinerary. Andy had picked up the first-winter drake Scaup at Uttoxeter yesterday, and was still there today. But there was also a second Scaup, a female, and a Pink-footed Goose in amongst the Greylags.

Then onto Brookleys Lake again. A first scan along the duck produced another "oh my god!" moment:

Bingo, one drake Ferruginous Duck. Well that wasn't around on Boxing Day. There was a drake Fudge Duck here four years ago. Could it be the same bird? Although there are a few around the country at the moment.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Zat You, Santa Claus?

I will get some birding done soon, a couple of days after Boxing Day.

You know all the usual christmas songs start popping up at this time of year? Slade, Wizzard, The Pogues, Rage Against The Machine, that type of thing? Well, how come I've never heard "Zat You, Santa Claus" by Louis Armstrong until a few days ago? It's brilliant, don't ever knock a bit of big band music.

Anyway, if anyone happens to read this then have a nice christmas, and give Satchmo a listen.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Mapping

It's cold out there, back home after last night's work christmas do and watched the England cricket team scrape a draw by the skin of their teeth. I recently acquired some old Ordnance Survey maps, made in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, covering all sorts of places in Staffordshire. They really are fascinating.

(after consulting the copyright lawyers, most definitely Copyright Ordnance Survey, please don't sue me!!!!!!).

Gailey Reservoirs, from 1889 (no M6 there!):

Belvide Reservoir, 1892:

But most fascinating of all are these, from 1889 and 1901. Notice the names of landmarks such as "Stansley Wood", "Watery Lane" and "Ten Acre Pit", sound familiar?

It is difficult to imagine what Blithfield would have looked like before the reservoir was built. Especially imagining the mill pond where Blithe Bay is today.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Oh by the way, which one's Pink?

Saturday 12th December.

A pre-christmas small gathering of bloggers in a tour of South Staffs today. Consisting of myself, Martyn and Craig, the blogger known as Midlands Birder. Although it was a shame that Kay wasn't feeling the Mae West, and was unable to attend.

Kicking off at Stubber's Green. Straight away when I arrived the third-winter Caspian Gull was found, along with 3 Goosander, a few each of Common and Great Black-Backed Gulls and a plethora of Herring Gulls in different plumages.

A quick stop along the south shore at Chasewater produced the adult Mediterranean Gull.

Throughout the morning it was becoming apparent that I was missing skeins of Pink-footed Geese closer to home, heading from Norfolk to "Lanky-Lanky-Lanky-Lanky" Lancashire. Absolutely no sign of any further south, but that always happens. North Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is on a direct flight path between the two areas.

Never mind, and in any case lets see if we can get Craig another tick, as there had at least one Smew at Drayton Bassett. But before then, I enjoy all things weird and wacky. So a wintering Whinchat, at Tameside Nature Reserve on the edge of Tamworth, had to be investigated.

The bird appeared to be feeding away perfectly happily in the rough grass, lets hope it survives the winter. Also around were a pair of Chiffchaffs, 3 Snipe and 8 Wigeon on this small pool.

As for Drayton Bassett, unfortunately no sign of any Smew, but a first winter drake had been briefly located in the Trent Valley. We decided check Croxall just in case it had moved there. No Smew here either, but credit to Craig for finding a solitary Pink-footed Goose. We weren't to be left out of the hundreds of passing Pink-feet today, we had our grand total of one!

There was also a female Pintail and a staggering number (well it is round here in the winter) of 33 Redshank. Our day ended back at Chasewater for the gull roost for the last hour of daylight left. We picked out the adult Med Gull again, along with a few adult Yellow-legged Gulls and one of the Caspian Gulls. As for which one it was, gawd knows. But it ended a most enjoyable day.

Sunday 13th December.

Sticking closer to home today, starting at Brookleys Lake again. The first winter drake Scaup was still around, and continuing the passage of Pink-footed Geese a skein of about 150 flew over, in addition to 158 Mandarin (and there could be even more than that).

The afternoon was spent at Uttoxeter Quarry. Which had a nice selection of duck, a Peregrine, a Green Sandpiper and 6 Snipe.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Doing My Bit For Science

I always find details of bird ringing recoveries absolutely fascinating. When the Blurred Birder and I were in the Algarve back in October, we came across two juvenile Greater Flamingoes at the Santa Luzia salt works, that had darvic rings on their legs. Those are the plastic rings with large lettering on, so they can be read by using optics, as long as they're close enough of course.

They were close enough for me. So when I got back home, I submitted the ring details to the Euring website, and I got some details back today.

It appears that these two young Flamingoes were ringed as chicks in July, some 250 kilometres to east, in Spain. But what surprised me is they did not originate from some coastal marsh or salt pan, but at a freshwater lagoon 50 kilometres north of Malaga, well inland.

Fantastic stuff, but why did they go to there? It also brings back fond memories of some warm weather!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A day out round "That London"

I cracked. Finally, I went down to Staines Moor, adjacent to Heathrow airport, to twitch the Brown Shrike. Well, why not? Things are rather quiet around home, and if I was that bothered about it I would've gone weeks ago.

But anyway, the path to the site got increasingly muddy. Got job I got my wellies.

It eventually leads to a riverside meadow with scrub.

Straight away the Shrike was showing to about ten people. Over time the bird became more active, hunting around the reedmace in the river. Eventually the bird got closer, allowing for excellent views.

Also around were a Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Fieldfares, Redwings and bringing back more memories of India in addition to the Shrike, two Rose-ringed (not Ring-necked!) Parakeets.

Well that was easy, what can I do now? If I went home I wouldn't get much birding time before it got dark. There had been a couple of Serins at Rainham Marshes, which would also be a British tick. Albeit on the other side of London, but may as well while I'm down here. The traffic on the M25 wasn't too bad, although most of it had a 50mph limit.

This is the edge of the mound where they get to, which by the way, blocks off the view of the rubbish tip next door. The female Serin showed briefly, too quick for a photo, along with a pair of Stonechat. So that's Serins seen at the edge of a rubbish tip and on manicured lawns at Quinta Do Lago. Do you ever get them in true wild places?

I'm sure the RSPB reserve would have been worth exploring, but it was time to get back home. But if you're into architecture, Rainham Marshes is the place to be. Well, not really considering all the other landmarks in London. The Dartford Crossing:

The truly underwhelming Eurostar bridge:

And the downright weird looking visitor centre. Might get one of these at Middleton Lakes one day.

Sunday 6th December.

A bit whacked after yesterday's twitch and driving. While I was at Rainham Marshes, Andy found an immature drake Scaup at Brookleys Lake. Glad to say it was still around this morning.

There have also been county record-breaking counts of Mandarin duck. 104 at least this morning, but nearly one less when a passing Peregrine just missed catching one.

This afternoon we went to Copmere, hoping for some close views of roosting gulls. But apart from about 20 Black-headed Gulls, that was it. It sounds like Swynnerton landfill site has closed. If that's the case then that's a bit of a blow, as it was really good for gulls round there last winter.