Sunday, 31 January 2010

Black-throated Thrush

Sunday 31st January.

I know from experience that it takes about 45 minutes to get to Whitby from my sister's house in Teesside. So I took a bit of a detour on the way home, to Newholm in North Yorkshire, a couple of miles outside Whitby, to see the female Black-Throated Thrush.

Once again, it's another rare thrush found in someone's garden.

The thrush showed well straight away, and for the duration of the hour that I was there. Certainly some well-stocked feeders in these gardens, including 2 Willow Tits with the more usual garden fayre. But for just an hour's birding out of a whole weekend, that's not bad eh?

Friday, 29 January 2010

A Question of Hides, Part 4

Well, last weekend was a combination of a day's birding (written about on Kay's blog) and some working for the yankee dollar, in the form of overtime, not to be sniffed at. Visiting family this weekend, so birding may be limited again.

Normal service will be resumed soon. So in the meantime, hurrah hurrah, I've got some more celebrity hide names!

Holkham in Norfolk is a really good site for this. In particular (and why didn't I think of this one before?) former Manchester United, Leeds United and Scotland striker, Joe Jordan!

There's also a hide here, in honour of Denzel Washington:

Meanwhile, down in Kent. At Dungeness, there appears to be a hide named after Hanson (american brotherly boy band, circa 1997):

Perhaps I could branch out into lakes and ponds? For example, at Attenborough Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Nottingham, there's a lake named after Bernie Clifton.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Cold as Ice

Saturday 16th January.

At least the snow's gone, but still most areas of water frozen over. Which must mean it's still cold, but odd that it doesn't feel quite so cold. Must be acclimatising to it.

Not a huge effort put in today, not the best weather to deal with. At Brookleys Lake, amazingly, the Ferruginous Duck (you know, him up at the top there!) was back! Wonder where it got to last week? The female Scaup still around, 30 Mandarins and a Peregrine with prey in it's talons. Another Mandarin bites the dust, was that a Queen song?

Uttoxeter Quarry was still largely frozen, but there was an excellent Goosander total of 46 birds. I then finished along Watery Lane at Blithers to try the gull roost, the deep end being free of ice. But in truth this was a mistake, battling against the thickening mist.

A much nicer day forecast for tomorrow, I think a gull day is called for. In particular there's this second-winter Glaucous Gull around Albert Village. After being fortunate enough to find a second-winter Iceland Gull at Coldmeece a year ago, I do know that second-winter "white-wingers" are really smart birds. So I'd quite like to see this one.

Sunday 17th January.

Albert Village Lake, Leicestershire, 9:30 - 12:30.

I have a lot of family history in and around Swadlincote, it's an area I know really well. So I am embarrassed to admit I've never birded this lake before.

Similarly to Stubber's Green, it's a lake near to a rubbish tip, hence it's attractiveness to gulls. Incidentally, it's a well known fact that Albert Village was the venue for the 1992 winter olympics! Well, there is Swad dry ski slope nearby, what more do you need?

There were a few large gulls on arrival. Not a huge number, about 100 birds, but a relatively high percentage of them being Great Black-Backeds. Also on the lake were 7 Pochard, 2 Cormorant and a Green Woodpecker on the surrounding slopes, being reclaimed colliery land.

But no Glaucous Gull. As the gull numbers dwindled, I thought I'd get a bit of shopping done in Swad, then return to the lake to see if gull numbers increased. They didn't.

So, what to do now? I don't think it's in the area. I decided to cut across country to Croxall, I could have a look round there and Whitemoor Haye. When I got the Croxall a pager message appeared, "2nd winter Glaucous Gull at Stubber's Green".

Now, logic will dictate that if a rare gull is seen at Stubber's during the day, there's a good chance it will appear in the roost at Chasewater. I cut short Croxall, skipped Whitemoor Haye and headed over to Chasewater.

I got there way too early for the roost really, indeed the bird being re-found, along with a first-winter Glaucous at the nearby Highfield tip. That made the anticipation grow! So I waited along the west shore for the rest of the afternoon. Eventually two other birders arrived to join me, and I think we all found the first-winter Glaucous at the same time. A really dark looking thing with the paler primaries, a bright pink bill with black tip.

Then as it was almost dark, the second winter Glaucous was found on the left hand edge of the flock. What a beauty it was too, ghostly pale. When it, and most of the other gulls, took off to the north, in a strange way it was similar to watching a Barn Owl in flight, it was that pale.

As Chasewater is completely frozen, albeit thawing slightly, it was strange to see Chasewater being used as pre-roost for Blithfield! But it goes to show, patience (about two and a half hours at Chasewater, three hours at Albert Village) and persistence (all day in the field) will pay dividends.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

It's Snow Joke

Saturday 9th January.

When the weather gets as cold and severe as it has been at the moment, it's always difficult to know what to do for birding. You know just about all areas of water will be frozen over, so most wildfowl will have cleared out. Walking around woodland and farmland can be difficult as well, being wary to not disturb any remaining birds around, to save their energy. Then there's the state of the roads.

Thankfully, getting to Brookleys Lake from Ellastone was not a problem, although I think it would've been a struggle for my car to continue along the lane to Alton Towers.

This is the only remaining patch of open water left on the lake. Not surprising that my Ferruginous friend has disappeared, but incredibly the female Scaup was still there and appears to be well, diving to feed all the time. The only other diving duck left was a female Tufted Duck, plus 7 Mandarins.

There was a similar sized patch of water at Uttoxeter Quarry too. Here the first-winter drake Scaup remains, the only diving duck around. This bird was nowhere near as active as the Brookleys lake bird. I would imagine Brookleys Lake has a greater food supply for diving duck and Coots compared with a recently-dug gravel pit, being a more established lake, so one fears for this bird I'm afraid.

Also around the small patch of water were 4 Goosander, 3 Wigeon, 20 Lapwings plus Raven and Sparrowhawk overhead.

Sunday 10th January.

Still bloomin cold, and still don't fancy going too far. As you were at Uttoxeter Quarry this morning, the drake Scaup still looking rather inactive.

I then took a walk around Hales Hall Pool in Cheadle.

A Water Rail walked across the path in front of me, and showed well a few times in amongst the local duck and Moorhens, no doubt being able to feed on bits of bread being put out. There was also a Snipe, Goldcrest and about 30 Greenfinches, an impressive sized flock these days.

It's also been noticeable just how tame Redwings and Fieldfares have become. Let's just hope a thaw happens soon.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year

Isn't New Year's Eve a complete waste of time? I've never seen the point in it, especially the "having to pay to go into a pub" thing. It's a Scottish event anyway.

I just wanted to get to New Year's Day, and see if the Ferruginous Duck was still there. So I had an early night, recorded the Hootenanny (HOOTENANNY!), and over to Brookleys Lake at first light.

Friday 1st January.

And was it there? Of course it was! And it now has the honour of being on my blog title for the time being. Also on the lake were a female Scaup (moved here from Uttoxeter Quarry), 2 Goldeneye, 7 Mandarin, 7 Pochard and a Kingfisher.

Onto Uttoxeter Quarry (as featured in January's "Birdwatching" Magazine) next. The first winter drake Scaup, which was at Brookleys Lake on Boxing Day, was still here along with a Pink-footed Goose, 6 Goosander, 116 Wigeon, 10 Teal, 1 Pochard.

Blithfield next. Unfortunately the Green-winged Teal in Tad Bay proved difficult, but did get the redhead Smew in Blithe Bay and the Great Northern Diver from the angling club, swimming out of Ten Acre Bay into the middle of the deep end.

I also found this odd looking Gull. After some studying and asking around for advice, the conclusion is Yellow-legged Gull. But comments welcome.

Saturday 2nd January.

I must confess I did a lot of chasing around for birds in Staffs during 2009. I don't want to do quite as much of that this year, although I'll gladly travel to see some good quality birds. I want to do a bit of exploring this year. I've got a couple of areas in mind first, one in particular is the countryside around Brookleys Lake, and following the footpaths around the Wootton estate.

So after another look at the Fudge Duck this morning (there were also four Crossbills that flew over!) that was the plan. However, I didn't realise we were in for a fall of snow! I really didn't fancy leaving my car parked along an ungritted lane, so headed down into Rocester for a bit, where there was nowhere near as much snow.

A rather wintry looking Weaver Hills, once the clouds had cleared. Scanning from the entrance to Kevin Quarry (I wonder if there's someone with that name?) produced a Peregrine mobbing a Buzzard. Another dollop of precipitation started, let's postpone the exploring for another day.

So I went back to Blithfield to have another try of the Green-winged Teal. All the edges of Tad Bay had frozen over so much easier today, due to all the duck stood on the ice. Somewhere in the middle here is a Teal with a vertical stripe:

A lot of new facilities have been added at Blithfield in recent times, some of them mentioned on this blog. I didn't realise a gallows pole has been added in Stansley Wood. So don't start stringing, or you know what'll happen!