Monday, 29 November 2010

What's the word on the street, Johnny?

A little acknowledgment to the passing of a comedy genius, Leslie Nielsen:

In addition to "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" films, it's precursor, "Police Squad!" was well worth watching. Even the closing credits were funny:

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Berry Hunt

As the song goes, the weather outside is indeed, frightful. It's horribly cold out there, didn't feel like spending hours outside today. But what I thought I would do is try and find some berries around home, on Rowan trees in particular. In the hope that sometime in the near future, some Waxwings will be attracted to them.

In the end it turns out that Upper Tean has a few Rowans with some berries still on. Cheadle appears to be void of Rowan berries, even the tree in the town centre car park has been stripped. I found a flock of Waxwings on that tree in 2005.

I remembered a flock of Waxwings in Uttoxeter a couple of years ago, around the housing estate next to Old Knotty Way, so I thought I'd check it out. On arrival and a short walk around, there's loads of berries round here. In particular two large Rowans along Lark Rise. It's a pity the next cul-de-sac isn't called Candleford!

On walking back to car, a flock of around 30 birds flew into these trees for a short time, then moved on. Well blow me down, its a flock of Waxwings! Brilliant!

A little later the Waxwings returned, 35 of them it turned out. I love it when a plan comes together. Hopefully they'll stay in the area for a while, there's plenty of berries in the area to feed on.

Ooh, as for the FA Cup draw. The Brewers at home to Middlesbrough, Brian Clough's home town. It's not quite the fairy tale draw, but I'm pleased with that. We might be able to pull off a shock.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Up for the Cup!

I wasn't planning on doing any birding today. It's FA Cup second round day, with Burton Albion being at home to Chesterfield. With a place in the third round at stake, when all the Premiership and Championship (you know, those leagues that used to be called Division 1 and Division 2!) sides join in, I was all set to go to the game. That was until I woke up and drew the curtains. Oh no!

At least an inch of snow had fallen overnight. Its going to be freezing standing round the terraces of the Pirelli Stadium. So just a bit of birding time around Uttoxeter Quarry and Brookleys Lake, then listen to the game on good old Radio Derby.

At the quarry there were 2 Goldeneye, 10 Goosander, 1 Golden Plover with 220 Lapwings, 1 Snipe, 1 Peregrine, 1 Raven. Brookleys Lake had 86 Mandarin, 5 Goosander, 7 Pochard and a drake Gadwall.

All finished, back in the car at 3pm with Radio Derby on, and go back home. And yes, the Brewers won 3-1! Hooray, that means Burton Albion are in the FA Cup third round for only the fourth time. Last time we got to the third round, five years ago, we got drawn against some little team called Manchester United, you might've heard of them.

I don't know why I'm currently thinking this, but with all the Nigel Clough connections, I have a sneaky feeling that tomorrow's draw is going to put us against Derby County. But all will be revealed tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gull gets the last laugh

Not much birding done this weekend. Saturday morning involved the annual stock up of coal for the winter, so didn't get out birding until the afternoon.

At Brookleys Lake were 24 Mandarin, 2 Goosander, 40 Tufted, 8 Pochard, 2 Gadwall, 1 Kingfisher. Uttoxeter Quarry had 19 Goosander, 13 Golden Plover in amongst 500 Lapwing, 4 Pochard, 1 Goldeneye, 40 Wigeon, 2 Green Sand, 5 Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.

Back at the quarry on Sunday morning, not a lot of change, but I did get chance to take some pictures of some duck having a Sunday morning lie in:

Andy and Malc were also around and had found a Chiffchaff. On getting to the spot where it was, there were actually two Chiffchaffs, great stuff! Malc also mentioned he was going to the gull roost at Foremark Reservoir later, just to see if last night's Laughing Gull was to reappear. Ooh, can I come?

I've seen one Laughing Gull before, in Sunderland, but it was nearly 15 years ago. So a bit later off we went in Mad Malc's Mystery Machine, along the A50 and into South Derbyshire.

Plenty of gulls to look through and plenty of birders looking. Unfortunately there was no sign, best I could do was a couple of Yellow-legged Gulls. But hopefully, the Laughing Gull might appear again somewhere during the winter.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Gazumping Gazzunders

Right, where to start this time. Well, yesterday started with a cracking morning at Uttoxeter Quarry. Although the birding started off as pretty hum-drum stuff, but excited to see the main gravel pit brimming full of water, after all the wind and rain in the week.

There was a flock of around 90 Golden Plover that didn't settle, 11 Snipe, 2 Green Sands, 1 drake Pochard, Peregrine and Raven, and a single Goosander.

As time passed, and with continual scanning with the scope, somehow the numbers of Goosander got higher and higher, without seeing very many flying in. How does that work? Well, one became nine, then 22, then 25. Then a short walk round the other gravel pits, and quick exchange of texts with that lover of knitted jumpers, Stevie Fair Isle.

This weekend is of course the WeBS count weekend. As Steve is the Utchiter Quarry WeBS counter, quite rightly a count of Mallard at this point wouldn't go amiss. When heading back to the main gravel pit, as much as I tried to count the Mallard, I could quite concentrate on them. That's because by now, there seemed to be just as many Goosander out there as Mallards! In the end the Goosander count ending at a whopping 64!

A site record count. It's weird because as regular as Goosanders are at the quarry, very nearly all year round, I was buzzing after that.

I've wanted to have a look round Branston Gravel Pits for the last few weeks without having the time. So this was the time to do it. It was a pretty good start as well, including a Ruff, a Little Egret, 6 Redshank, 13 Curlew and this smart drake Pintail with a flock of Wigeon.

Unfortunately the Sandy pit area was deserted of birds. This was because a Pheasant shoot was taking place a short distance on the other side of the public footpath. Oh oh, how do I blog this one?

I remember having to write an essay about "blood sports versus country pursuits" at school, and struggled even then. I live in the countryside and I'm open-minded enough to know that this activity goes on. After all, that's why Pheasants exist in this country. People have the right to choose what to do with their lives, but it's not something I could ever bring myself to do.

I just hope that for the one Pheasant I saw get shot and land dead not far from me, they had the decency to collect that bird, to give it the respect and dignity that it deserves. Especially when they turned backs on it after shooting it. I nearly told them that but I didn't. After all, they had the gun.

So I didn't see much point in hanging around, so headed back to Uttoxeter, just to see if the Goosander roost count can be gazumped. But in the end, the count finished at a paltry 53.

As for today, gave that Great Grey Shrike on Cannock Chase a go. I've been putting it off for long enough. After parking up at the Cadet Huts car park, a certain Blurred Birder was already on site, saying "where were you five minutes ago?". Oh no, not again, getting used to just missing Shrikes recently. But thankfully, I managed to get my bins onto the Shrike a short while later, albeit briefly, sat on some telegraph wires near the Cadet Huts.

By the time I got the scope ready it had gone. That view will have to do for today. After picking up a bit of shopping at Tescos in Stafford, I know, Aqualate Mere is not far away. But unfortunately Aqualate was very quiet, even the log book in the hide was largely devoid of notes.

Thoughts turned to roosting Gazzunders at the quarry again. And I'm glad I did, as shortly after bumping into Andy and Nobby, two Whooper Swans flew over heading north! Obviously following the River Dove, but where were they heading?

As for Goosanders, we couldn't gazump it again, 54 this evening. The record is in tact! However, I don't think it will last for long.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Sprung a Leek

It's been pretty quiet round here this weekend. Yesterday Uttoxeter Quarry had a Green Sand, a Dunlin, 3 Wigeon and that's the best it got. Oh yes, also a White-fronted Goose (christened "Wagner" on another blog, someone's been watching X Factor!) with the Greylags. No doubt the feral bird that was around in the summer, pity that.

There have been some Waxwings in Leek over the last week. I'm sure there's no real hurry to see them, as it looks like there's such a large invasion further north, it's only a matter of time before there'll be many of them round these parts. But seeing as I didn't know what else to do, I decided to have a look around some classic Waxwing habitat. Namely, the Barnfields Industrial Estate:

On arrival yesterday afternoon, I'd missed them by about 20 minutes and didn't come back. So gave that up and tried Swallow Moss until dusk, and that was birdless as well!

So another try for the Waxwings this morning was rather more successful, as six birds were present. Most of the time perched in a large Ash tree, then coming down to feed on the berries of a small Rowan on the opposite side of the road. And as is usually the case with Waxwings, allowing for good photo opportunities: