Sunday, 25 April 2010

Apocalypse Cow

Sunday 25th April.

I've been suffering with a grotty sniffle all of Friday and Saturday, it kept me laid low all day Saturday. Very frustrating at this time of year, but feeling much better and raring to go today!

Starting at Uttoxeter Quarry, where there was an excellent selection of birds if nothing out of the ordinary. Highlights were a Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, 2 House Martin, 1 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 4 Goosander.

I decided to head over to Doxey again at this point. At the Homebase end of the reserve a cracking male Whinchat showed really well, in addition to at least one reeling Grasshopper Warbler, many Sedge and Reed Warblers.

A Black Redstart had been found at Berryhill Fields in the morning. I didn't know what else to do, so I thought I'd give it a try. In truth I was fully expecting not to see it, as I know Black Redstarts can be absolute swines to see most of the time. After parking up at the end of Mossfield Road, the walk towards the White Door Paddock I managed to find a few Wheatears. I did wonder if one of them was of the Greenland race, but not this one:

Some more Wheatears in the White Door Paddock, then as a small shower finished, I spotted a chat with a quivering tail, on the fence wires on the far side:

That was the Black Redstart alright, great stuff! I assume it was female, as it had a uniform greyish-brown all over, apart from the red tail. Just too quick for me to get any pictures of it, as it was constantly on the move, feeding away. In case you're wondering why it's called the White Door Paddock, this is why:

As a large black cloud was in the Uttoxeter area, I decided to finish back at the quarry. The rain had just stopped when I arrived. As Andy and Malc were already there, they just had 15 Dunlin drop in. Also a Ringed Plover and now 5 Common Sandpipers. Just shows you how quickly things can change at this time of year, especially with a bit of rain around. Also present, providing inspiration for this blog title, were the fan club:

Yes alright, calm down ladies. I'll sign some autographs after counting the Dunlin!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Wood Sandpipers

Wednesday 21st April.

Two Wood Sandpipers were found at Doxey Marshes yesterday. I had a look at them then, but didn't have the camera on me. So I went back after work this evening as they were still around. I'm rather glad I did!

It's a species I had a bit of a debacle with a year ago, but nevertheless it's still a favourite of mine.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The ash-avoiding Whooper Swan

Saturday 17th April.

I fancied a little bit of a change of scene for birding today, so decided to try my luck at Aqualate Mere.

Absolutely stacks of Shovelers out on the mere, plus Shelduck, Gadwall, a couple of Pochard, plus a Willow Tit on the feeder in front of the hide. The log book in the hide always makes interesting reading, and was rather surprised to read of a Whooper Swan seen earlier in the week at nearby Coley Lane Marsh. Not only that, but this bird has been in the area for at least the last few weeks.

It's a new place on me, I'd never heard of it before. Thankfully a map in the hide points out where Coley Lane Marsh is, so thought I would check it out. A quick text to the Blurred Birder about this was also done, as Whooper Swan would be a much-needed tick for this 2010 year list.

It looks a fantastic little spot, but no sign of the Whooper here or in nearby fields. There were Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat and a singing Lesser Whitethroat however. At this point I just assumed the Whooper had moved on, so I decided to move onto Doxey Marshes.

Typically, when parked up in Stafford, Martyn had found the Whooper, with Mute Swans on a pool by the main road, the A518. This I had to see for two reasons. I couldn't work out where the roadside pool was, and missing the Kittiwake at Tittesworth the other week in similar circumstances, I wasn't going miss this!

When getting back I could understand why I couldn't see the pool from the car. It was a in a well-concealed spot, only partially viewable from a farm track opposite, between Coley Lane and the entrance to the Aqualate estate. Impossible to set the scope up, but good enough for a view of the bird with binoculars. Obviously this bird knows more than we do. It must be waiting for all that volcanic ash to clear, before continuing on it's journey back to Iceland.

With the Whooper Swan finally seen, back to Doxey. Highlights here were two Sedge Warblers and a Whitethroat along the Isabel trail near Homebase, Reed Warbler at Boundary Flash, White Wagtail and Snipe from the scrape. And that was about it really.

Well, reader, if like me you're gripped with "Election Fever" (eh?, not really), you would've seen the first "Leader's Debate" on telly the other night. I was impressed actually, by the performance of the Liberal Democrat leader, Norman Clegg:

Readers of a certain age will also know that he's the voice of Wallace in the "Wallace and Gromit" animations. This also begs the question, of the other two leaders which one's Compo and which one's Foggy? Actually, Foggy is a good name for a policitian.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Swingin' Spring

Sunday 11th April.

A small celebration was had the previous evening, due to my horse (Don't Push It, ridden by Tony McCoy) winning the Grand National sweep at work. After winning second and third prizes last year, I imagine I'll be really popular at work on Monday.............

Well, in some ways spring has arrived. But Blithfield was slightly disappointing for spring migrants today. I would've thought there'd be a Common Sandpiper around by now, but not yet. Nevertheless, Yellow Wagtail below the dam and Blackcap in Stansley Wood were my first for the year.

There were other signs of spring around. Daffodils looking resplendent:

And putting the swing into spring, some Toads doing, well, what Toads do at this time of year:

I think "getting jiggy with it" is the phrase used these days, I'm not down wiv da kidz. Personally I prefer a bit of rumpy pumpy.............

Over at Uttoxeter Quarry, last week's Pipits were replaced with more Wagtails. Three Yellow and one White Wagtail around. Really lucky with how this picture turned out, despite how far my scope was zoomed in and how far away I was from this Yellow Wagtail:

No sign of the female Scaup but there was a female Goldeneye, 18 Goosander, 2 Shelduck, 2 Shoveler, 8 Teal, 1 Mandarin, 2 Green Sands, plenty of Swallows and Sand Martins. And oh yes, these two things:

At least the one on the right resembles an Egyptian Goose, but blimey, what went on with the other one? It's got the body of an Egyptian Goose, but the head of who knows what. Answers on a postcard.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Pip Pip Hooray

Sunday 4th April.

Sometimes I don't get chance to go birding on Easter Sunday. But I did this year and I'm glad I did. Although it wasn't a very good start, responding to a pager message of a Kittiwake at Westport Lake. It had gone by the time I got there, I didn't really hang around that long either.

So onto Blithfield next. A check of the causeway for the Little Gull was quickly aborted due to the strength of the wind, I couldn't keep my telescope still. Instead, I viewed from the comfort of the hide at Beech Tree point. The adult Little Gull, with it's black head starting to show through, showed well if a bit distantly.

There was also the odd House Martin in amongst the flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows. Plus a male Wheatear that showed wonderfully well along the overflow wall of the dam.

Finishing off at Uttoxeter Quarry. Along a short stretch of shoreline, Andy and I managed to locate a stunning summer-plumaged Water Pipit:

My pictures don't really do the bird justice. If that wasn't enough there was also a Rock Pipit (site tick):

And a White Wagtail:

It's the combination of the three together that I've never seen before, and feel rather privileged to have witnessed it. When we get to the end of this year I'm sure this will be a highlight. Add in a female Scaup, 9 Goosander, 2 Mandarins and a Green Sandpiper, at a local patch a few minutes from home, that is birding at it's best!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Ringo Stars

I nearly called this blog entry "Two-Bar Blues". But I'm not one to dwell on missed twitching opportunities. But at the time of writing, it looks like the Two-Barred Crossbill at The Lodge (in Sandy Beds) has done a bunk.

In any case, it's Easter time, extra birding time. A quick check of Uttoxeter Quarry after work, on a bitterly cold Thursday evening produced my first Swallows of the year. Thirteen of them, along with 2 Sand Martins, and must've been wondering why they bothered to return just now.

Also around was a female Scaup, 2 Shelduck, 5 Goosander, 4 Curlew, 5 Oystercatcher, 2 Green Sandpipers.

Friday 2nd April.

What was good about this Friday? It was a foul day, weather wise. That was until about 4pm. As the rain started to clear I did a little twitch mission into The Potteries.

First port of call was Park Hall Country Park. Thankfully a passing dog walker pointed a roosting Long-eared Owl out to me, roosting away in a different tree to where I've seen them in previous years. This blob in the tree is, would you believe, a Long-eared Owl.

Then onto the mighty Berryhill Fields, which is gaining a fine reputation as an inland migration watchpoint. Being surrounded by the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and accessible to lots of birders, must help as well. A pair of Ring Ouzels (or is it Ousels?) a male and female, were proving popular, none more so than with me.