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.

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