Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi

Ever since seeing that Kittiwake last week, I've developed a rotten cold. It was at it's worst over the Saturday and Sunday. I really should've just stayed at home, but that's the trouble with these pagers, they tempt you to go out.

And in the end, on both days I really should've stayed at home anyway. Blithfield on Saturday afternoon was very quiet. As for Sunday afternoon at Uttoxeter Quarry, with my mind thinking "right, where are the waders and where's the Garganey", I overlooked a flock of gulls. Which probably contained the juvenile Med Gull that was found by the county recorder (glad you were looking Nick!).

A short spell in the Tad Bay hide at Blithfield afterwards did produce the nice flock of 13 Curlew Sandpipers, but no sign of the Osprey. So other than the Curlew Sands, a pretty forgettable couple of days really.

So to Bank Holiday Monday. And again I wasn't planning on a serious day's birding. That was until a pager message mentioned a Sandwich Tern at Westport Lake. Well why not have a butchers at it, won't take too long. And I'm glad I did go because the bird showed wonderfully well.

Perhaps showing too well. The Sandwich Tern did appear to be rather lethargic whilst sat on the post, I was concerned that it may be ill. But perhaps it was just due to exhaustion. Not a lot of time was spent here because whilst driving to Westport Lake, news filtered through of a juvenile Citrine Wagtail at Ogston Reservoir in Derbyshire. It's an excellent record for the midlands, so I grabbed some lunch and off I went, only about an hour's drive away.
I haven't been to Ogston for donkey's years, but ever since I started blogging I've felt I should find an excuse to come here, if only to use that terrible blog title! I saw my first Red-rumped Swallow here in 1991, plus a few winter gull roosts that didn't amount to much. Lining up with the other assembled birders I stood with Barrie Staley and his family.

I suppose Barrie was my birding mentor as a young lad. Barrie used to work at the same company in Burton as my dad, so we were privy to all sorts of bird info (including the Ogston Red-rumped Swallow of 1991), which to this day I am grateful for. That's probably why I'm still birding now.

Oh yes, the Citrine Wagtail. In a two-hour twitch there was one brief view of the bird after about an hour, wandering out of the flowering daisies and into some short grass. That was until a Pied Wagtail chased it up and away somewhere, too fast to follow it in my scope. Then about another hour later the bird decided to show well, albeit a bit distant, along the shoreline. The prominent double wing bars and bold supercilium that stretches around the back of the head being visible.

With a scope zoomed up to the max, and camera zoomed up to the max. This is probably the worst ever picture of a Citrine Wagtail, they were easier in Poland! This really is the bird, the wing bars are noticeable, but not much else.

But still, a successful twitch, and a much better way of shaking off a cold than stopping at home.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

I was out birding on Sunday, the day after my dip on the Humber. But other than 3 very nice Redstarts at Uttoxeter Quarry, not much else out of the ordinary.

But I've had a very productive evening at Blithers after work today. After the pager mentioned an immature Kittiwake during lunchtime, thought I'd have a look. Starting off round the dam, heading towards the causeway, I first saw the bird in flight off St. Stephens Bay.

It then took a bit of re-finding when parked up at the causeway. But eventually the bird flew over to the north side of the reservoir and settled down on the water.

And still a couple of juvenile Little Gulls around, one of them settling with the Blackheads along Admaston Reach.

All this, plus 1 Knot, 13 Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlin. Not bad for an hour and a bit.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A Dip in the Humber

Saturday 21st August. Alkborough Flats, Lincolnshire, 9:00 - 13:15.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, that's another one I haven't seen, but probably should've done by now. I've also heard a lot of good things about Alkborough Flats, a few miles north of Sunny Scunny, for a while now. So what better excuse than to go and visit now? So off I went, along with the self-styled "Baron of Croxden Quarry" himself, Mad Malc.

The obligatory information board pic:

Alkborough Flats is a fairly recent addition to birding sites around the Humber estuary, constructed as a natural flood defence. Situated at the very end of the mighty River Trent, it's also on the opposite side of the river to the more established Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve. And here is the end of the Trent, where it and the Ouse flow into the Humber:

Around this part of the estuary were good numbers of Avocets, a couple of Little Egrets, a male Marsh Harrier and the odd sight of six Ruddy Shelducks. A hide near the car park also gives excellent views over a lagoon. Plenty of Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits, Greenshank (see blog title) and a small flock of small waders. Unfortunately they only consisted of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers.

The rest of the site gives rather distant views to the remaining lagoons and marshes. While getting our bearings to the whole area, we eventually came across a group of birders who thought they were onto the Semi P, but weren't 100% sure. The bird was lost to view for a considerable amount of time. So we decided to call it a day and dip out, no-one had a confirmed sighting. This was a big mistake, as the Semi P came on the pager about an hour after leaving. But knowing how distant the views must've been, I'm not that disappointed in the end.

You never know but perhaps, just perhaps, owd Semi P could've been found quicker if all birders on site were actually looking the right way?

Don't worry, we made sure he was still alive!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Thank Heaven for Little Gulls

Ah Maurice Chevalier I thank you! Who is he? No idea! A french singer from yesteryear, but I'm not that old to remember him.

I've been making the most of a few light evenings over the last week, while we still have them. Highlights included two adult Yellow-legged Gulls at Croxden Quarry last Monday and two Little Egrets flew through Uttoxeter Quarry last Wednesday, presumably heading for the Little Egret mecca that is Blithfield Reservoir.

Following those Egrets, on walking back to the car I spotted a lady picking blackberries with one of these on her shoulder!

Very impressive, not every day you see a Macaw in the field. But can I tick it?

Sunday 15th August.

A full morning around Uttoxeter Quarry was had to begin with. With such highlights around as a Greenshank, 6 Green Sandpipers, 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 LRP, 5 Snipe, 13 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, 22 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 1 juvenile Shelduck, 1 Peregrine and 10 Egyptian Geese.

Onward to Blithers next, starting in Tad Bay. 1 Pintail, 1 Ruff, 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 8 Ringed Plover was a decent start. I then spotted a juvenile Little Gull which flew out towards the causeway. "That was good" I thought, so headed over to the hide at point to try for another view, which I did near to the causeway, but not easy looking into the sun.

I was later told that there were two juvenile Little Gulls from the causeway, so I went over to there and had much better views. This is what Maurice was going on about!

When you're at the Admaston end of the causeway, you can get a view of pretty much the whole reservoir. And you can make out the number of white dots, that are in fact Little Egrets. I could make out 6 in Blithe Bay, 1 between the causeway and St. Stephens Bay and 3 in the Concrete Bay.

One last check of Tad produced 2 LRP, 2 Snipe and a Peregrine. Also, intruigingly, 5 more Little Egrets. Certainly two were there when I looked earlier. So unless three of these I counted before from elsewhere, then there could well be 15 birds. It wouldn't surprise me if there were.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


I've slacked off a bit on the birding front this weekend. Mainly because of the test match and the start of the new football season, come on you Brewers. After a 0-0 draw, lets get the early season cliches out of the way, it's a marathon not a sprint!

And in addition to some football, there was also a marriage proposal at half time, with the inevitable consequence of the crowd chanting "you don't know what you're doing". And a girl singing on the pitch before the game, whose name sounded like a well-known crisp snack. What's it all coming to?

One thing I did do however, was to go to Belvide after work on Friday, to see the juvenile Black-necked Grebe. Which showed well, quite close to the shore from the Scott hide.

It's one of those birds you don't see enough of, no matter what plumage they're in.

Other than that I've spent some time at Uttoxeter Quarry on the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Most notable are the numbers of Yellow Wagtails at the moment, plus what must be the weirdest selection of geese. Which includes 6 Egyptians, 2 Barnacles and a White-Fronted. You can tell it's a struggle when I'm taking pictures of a feral goose, if only it was winter!

I don't think this bird has come from the collection at JCB in Rocester. There are a couple of White-fronted looking geese there, but they don't look quite the ticket. This one looks in good nick, an immature by the look of it. But I don't think it originates from Russia either.

And some more butterflies. Small Skipper, Small Copper and Peacock on some Ragwort.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Blithfield clear-out and some exploring

Saturday 31st July.

Over the last week or so all sorts of decent birds had turned up at Blithfield, such as Garganey, Curlew Sand, Little Stint, Knot, Sanderling. So of course, by the time I got there they've all done a bunk.

But in the end it wasn't all bad. A Turnstone stayed all too briefly in Tad Bay. 3 Little Egrets in Blithe Bay was a disappointing show when it looks so good at the moment. One last check of Tad was worth doing though, as there were now two Med Gulls. One of them a juvenile, quite close to the hide.

Also a first-summer, which was ringed but too far away to read the plastic ring on it's right leg.

As for Uttoxeter Quarry in the evening, 3 Little Egrets flew west, 5 Common Sands and 3 Curlew were about as good as it got.

Sunday 1st August.

To begin with, one adult Yellow-legged Gull at Croxden Quarry.

I was soon getting the feeling that today's weather was not conducive to bring anything new, wader wise, so I've done some exploring today. The first site I tried was Thorswood nature reserve.

Only a stone's throw away from the Weaver Hills, and more rough ground here with Gorse, Hawthorn and Bracken. Plus a small plantation of mainly Beech trees. Certainly the kind of place where you could imagine finding an autumn Whinchat.

Next was Brown End Quarry in Waterhouses.

Not really a birding site but worth a visit if you're into geology and botany. Lots of wild flowers also leads to lots of insects. There were absolutely stacks of Gatekeepers.

There was also this one. Which I think may be a Brown Argus, but it might just be a female Common Blue, I dunno.

Finishing off at Swineholes Wood.

I like the look of this place for some autumn migrants, a mixture of heath and rather stunted woodland.

So, time permitting, I do think I'll be returning to both Swineholes Wood and Thorswood during the autumn, combined with the Weavers. Bring on the Shrikes and Yellow-Browed Warblers!