Sunday, 28 February 2010

Stormy Weather?

Saturday 27th February.

A little bit of forward-planning was done this morning. It involved buying a new pair of walking boots in Hanley, in readiness for the onslaught (I hope!) of spring.

I took the trouble of driving past the entrance of the Potteries Museum on the way. There was an unbelievably long queue of people waiting to get in. All of them to see, of course, The Staffordshire Hoard. I'm really not a history expert or enthusiast, but if it wasn't so popular I wouldn't mind having a look at the hoard myself. But I'm not prepared to queue for hours in order to see it.

Anyway, the new boots were bought, back to birding. You know when a season is running out of steam? Well, winter is definitely running out of steam round these parts! At both Brookleys Lake and Uttoxeter Quarry, there was a large drop in duck numbers, other than Goosander at the latter. But everything else really, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Wigeon, you name it. Not even a Scaup to be found, what's going on there?

On the bright side, it should hopefully mean that it won't be too long to wait until the first few spring migrants arrive during March. Chiffchaff, Little Ringed Plover, Sand Martin, Wheatear, that kind of stuff.

After that damp squib, I thought I try driving up into the moors to look for some raptors. Which was a bad mistake as all I managed to find was thick fog. So that brought an early end to the day's birding.

Sunday 28th February.

For the last few days, the weather forecast predicted the edge of a large storm hitting our area, passing up from Portugal, Spain and France the previous day. With that in mind, plus fewer duck to work my way through yesterday, Blithfield was the place to be for some blown-in seabirds.

Err, well, that was the cunning plan anyway. And it was a very good plan, except the storm just didn't materalise! D'oh!!!!

In a three hour stint at Blithers, starting off at the dam produced a few Goldeneye and an impressive-sized flock of 25 Stock Doves (I know, that's a sign it's a struggle!), single Shelduck and Curlew around the causeway, and 3 Pink-footed Geese and 14 Goosander in Tad Bay.

Also around the dam was this. It looks like a pub or restaurant somewhere has lost one of their boards, and has ended up around the dam's overflow!

Two courses for a tenner, that's good value isn't it? I don't think I'll have the soup though, too watery! Boom boom. No? Oh never mind.

With the non-appearance of the storm, don't know what to do now. Didn't see much point in staying around Blithfield, so I decided to try the moors again, and to Swallow Moss.

Still plenty of patches of snow around up here, and looked like there was some fresh stuff heading towards Buxton. Other than a Kestrel, no sign of any other birds of prey like Hen Harrier or Short-Eared Owl. One can only imagine that the harsh winter has taken it's toll on their prey species up here.

But there were a couple each of Red Grouse and Red Deer. There was also a pellet on a fence post. Finding another use for those sandwich bags you can buy to put your butties in (I use them quite a lot actually, they are good), picking the pellet up and breaking it up, I assume it must've been made by a Red Grouse, or possibly a Pheasant. It consisted entirely of seed husks and small stones. Obviously using the stones to, well, separate the wheat (or whatever plant it came from, heather presumably) from the chaff.

I've had enough of winter now. I want spring.

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