Monday, 31 January 2011

The Lads Done Great

Oh well, despite a spirited performance by the Brewers at Turf Moor, out of the FA Cup, 3-1. But a little bit of history made, and good luck to Burnley. Watch out for Chris Eagles as well, a very classy player.

And with that, back to birding. Just another potter around home on Sunday. With a few more additions to the Cheadle area year list, that being Lapwing, Great Crested Grebe and Common Gull. I know, its awe-inspiring stuff.

And Uttoxeter Quarry. The two White-fronted Geese still around, as was the Pink-foot and the Goosander roost starting to build up a little now, with 44 birds in to roost.

That's about it for now. As for the camera? At the time of writing I'm told that it has arrived in the shop today. That shop being a well known camera shop that begins with a "J" and ends in "essops". After all that, it would've been quicker to get one on that website that sounds like a rainforest.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Common Taters

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I'm off to Burnley tomorrow to watch a game of football, hoping to be out birding on Sunday.

It may have escaped people's notice, but football has mentioned in the news once or twice this week. Regarding certain off-air comments, and then the subsequent sacking of Andy Gray:

And then the resignation of Coventry's finest (or was that The Specials????), Richard Keys:

You see, some of us are old enough to remember him from TV-AM days!

In a way it seems a little harsh, but wouldn't have been so bad if their comments did actually sound like jolly banter. But it didn't sound like that to me. Then their comments turning towards Karren Brady, who's married to Burton Albion's manager, well that's not going to get me on their side is it?

I remember one of the all-time greats of sports commentary, Richie Benaud (twenty twooooooo for twooooooo), once said "the more you say, the more chance you have of coming across as a fool". This is a phrase that I take into consideration throughout life, but apart from blogging of course.

So even as two of Sky Sports' stalwarts have now gone, at least two of my favourites still remain. One being the voice of darts, Sid Waddell:

And dear old Bumble, David Lloyd. Start the car!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

White-fronted Goose, The Sequel!

Another round up of my weekend's birding. Last weekend I was told of a probable Nordic Jackdaw near Croxden Abbey, so that's where I started on Saturday morning.

Finding a field between Great Gate and Croxden Abbey, with plenty of Rooks and Jackdaws in, as well as a couple of Stock Doves. There was one Jackdaw that looked like it had a bit of a faint neck-collar on it, but I don't think it was enough for a Nordic. At least its an excuse to add a winter country scene of feeding corvids.

Onto Brookleys Lake next, and what a difference a year makes here. This time last year I was enjoying myself with Ferruginous Duck, Scaup, record breaking counts of Mandarin and a Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid. A few nights of frost in the week, combined with being surrounded by trees to block any breeze, has the caused the lake to completely freeze over again! Very frustrating. As a result, only 131 Mallard, 4 Mandarin and 2 Teal, all stood on the ice.

Thankfully Uttoxeter Quarry was much better, no freezing over here. But if there was ever a sign of a harsh winter, then it's this burst pipe in the quarry grounds. Glad it's not outside my house!

But it does mean that water is being pumped out, hopefully there'll be some mud and shoreline in time for spring. But in the present time, a pleasing selection of stuff. One of the White-fronts was still around with the Greylags, close enough to have it's photo taken this time.

Other birds around were a rather tatty-looking Pink-footed Goose, 35 Goosander, 3 Goldeneye, c150 Wigeon, 24 Teal, 8 Pochard, 1 Green Sand, 3 Curlew and a Barn Owl. Also a quarry rarity in the form of two Great Black-Backed Gulls, that didn't hang around for long.

As for Sunday. Tried to fit in a woodland walk near home, trying to find flocks of finches, Redpolls, Crossbills that kind of thing. So I tried Hawksmoor. Absolutely no finches here, but there was the usual woodland fayre of tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper. A walk down to the pond at East Wall farm produced 2 Little Grebes, the first I've seen since before the harsh weather at the end of November. That is one bird I have wondered about how well they would survive during this winter, so it was good to see two here.

Another quick check of Uttoxeter Quarry didn't produce much different from yesterday, apart from an increase in Tufted Duck and the Greylag flock wasn't around. So I thought I would try the gull roost at Blithfield to end with, and that didn't produce anything out of the ordinary either.

Well, there'll be no birding for me next Saturday, as I'm off to watch a little game of footy in Burnley. And all being well, I'll be picking up a new camera. Nothing particularly professional, but it should have enough umph to put another selection of rubbish pictures on this blog. So expect some Blue Tits at feeding stations coming soon!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Retreating Ice

I don't want to moan. But now the ice has thawed out, can it not be so wet and windy?

As a result, I've not done much today. Just a walk round home, not a lot seen either. A rather poor effort but not easy in the conditions. On the positive side, I do now have a clean and shiny kitchen, and that really did need doing!

Yesterday was a bit more productive though, and nothing to do with a Slater-billed Gull. Presumably that gull at Rainham is named after the Slater family in Eastenders!

The two White-fronts still at Uttoxeter Quarry with the Greylags, along with 12 Goosander, 3 Goldeneye, 5 Pochard, 30 Tufted Duck, 10 Wigeon. Also a good size flock of Linnets and Skylarks around, but it was a pity I couldn't get a view of them settled, in order to give them a good grilling.

Surprisingly most of Brookleys Lake was still frozen over. Which must've been a sign of how cold it must've got there, with it being quite sheltered. Just 28 Mallard, 4 Mandarins and a 1 Tufted Duck on a small patch of open water, plus a couple of Ravens overhead.

And to finish, a quick check of the feeders in Dimmingsdale. Where a Marsh Tit appeared for a short time, in addition to more usual fayre. And that's it really, perhaps next weekend will be a bit more productive.

Monday, 10 January 2011

An addendum, pitfalls of following the herd!

Ha ha. You know, I had my suspicions about Lesley the "Lesser Scaup" at Hatfield Moors yesterday. Honest guv! That just shows how much attention we paid towards it yesterday, i.e. not much! We moved on after about a minute, looking for an Arctic Roll.

RBA have since said, that said duck is either a Tufty or a hybrid.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

Sunday 9th January. South Ferriby, Lincolnshire, 9:10 - 10:40.

Whilst in the middle of my giant-killing celebrations, I was asked if I would like to join in a trip to Lincolnshire, to see the Rough-legged Buzzard at South Ferriby. Which I agreed, a good excuse not to consume too many celebratory alcoholic beverages.

I've also not seen a Rough-legged Buzzard for a very long time, so it would be nice to see one again. The only one I've seen before was at the end of 1994, at the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire. We eventually arrived at that classic Rough-legged Buzzard habitat, the South Ferriby cement plant!

Not being flippant, there is a large area of waste ground, rough grass and reeds around the plant's perimeter fence. So an ideal hunting ground for birds of prey. Old Rough-leg took a bit of finding for a while, but was evenutally spotted, perched in a patch of conifers.

Throughout our visit, the bird was spending it's time perched in the trees and bushes, with occassional flights, where we could see features such as the broad tail-band and dark-brown belly. It also got more difficult to see due to the sun getting higher in the sky, and having to view to the south. So it was time to move on.

I hadn't realised that Hatfield Moors is on the way back to the M18. With an Arctic Redpoll and Lesser Scaup around, lets give it a try. It's a new place for me, and along with Thorne Moors, part of the "Humberhead Peatlands":

Well the first-winter female Lesser Scaup was a piece of bread. Er, I mean piece of cake, definitely cake! What's going on here then, are usually they his friendly? Although with most of the water frozen, why not make the most of feeding on bread being thrown out.

If only the Arctic Redpoll was as easy. There was about 100 Redpolls in a flock, but hardly ever kept still and impossible to pick out anything other than Lesser Redpolls. In fact, other birders had been trying to pin down the Arctic Redpoll all day, and were saying it was really difficult. The only other highlight here was a Woodcock.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cheer up Tony Mowbray............

Well, I don't quite know how we did it, but, we did it. We beat Middlesbrough and into the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time!

Don't leave Shaun, stay and sign a new contract.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Pair of Y-Fronts

Monday 3rd January.

Sticking to local patches today, starting at Uttoxeter Quarry. It really was a quiet start with everywhere still frozen up. That was until about 200 Greylag Geese flew into the field next to the main gravel pit. At the same time, a skein of 28 Pink-footed Geese flew over and to the south-west.

Back to the Greylags, and a scan through revealed not just one White-fronted Goose, but two! Whether one of them was "Wagner" the feral one, as featured in this blog last summer, I don't know. But both looked like adult birds, unringed and were wary enough. Difficult to digiscope as well, as they were pretty distant and constantly grazing.

Other birds around included a Green Sandpiper, Goosander, 30 Wigeon and 2 Teal.

The afternoon was spent having a look round various spots in and around Cheadle. Which was pretty productive as well. We managed to find a flock of about 20 Lesser Redpolls, with a skein of around 60 Pink-Feet going over them, a drake Mandarin, a few Song Thrushes and to finish, a hunting Barn Owl as it got dark.

And with that, it ended quite a successful christmas period of birding, and not had that much time available either. With the Northern Harrier and a good selection of stuff in Norfolk, and a hat-trick of decent finds.

I don't know if any other birder feels the same way, but when you find a good bird do you have a little punch of the air in triumph, or dance a little jig? I must confess to dancing a little jig sometimes, in the style of these darts fans!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

In With the New!

Saturday 1st January, 2011.

You may be wondering why I started birding in 2011 looking at a field just outside Cheadle? Well reader, I'll tell you. It's all down to a reccy mission from New Years Eve, wondering where to start the new year off. Just a general birdwatch around home, or a little bit of county twitching.

On the whole, everywhere I tried round home on New Years Eve was pretty quiet and all areas of water still frozen over. But by the time I got to Hales Hall Pool, and after wiping my boot clean from stepping in something left by a dog, a small Falcon flew over and heading for farmland to the north.

First impressions on the bird's shape were a Peregrine, but way too small to be one and the wrong shape for a Kestrel. The other thing that went through my head was Mistle Thrush, was it was nearer to this size. But no, it was a Falcon. So it had to be a Merlin, and checking field guides back home, it had the barrel-shaped chest and wings shaped to a sharp point, reminiscent of one of those set-squares you had in Maths lessons at school.

Not surprisingly though, no sign of it this morning. And as things turned out, I didn't have that much birding time on New Years Day, as I spent most of the day with my brother and his family in Tamworth. But I did have a look at the Bewick's Swans at Elford on the way. 16 of them, along with 169 Mute Swans.

Sunday 2nd January.

Onto today then. One thing I'd like to do is have a look at the Short-eared Owls at Berry Hill in the afternoon. But before then, lets have a walk round Doxey Marshes in Stafford. You never know, might get lucky and get the Bittern to appear round Boundary Flash.

So to begin with on Creswell Flash, a count of duck included 16 Goosander and 10 Pochard. Then another scan with binoculars a bit further back, blimey o'reilly!!!!

A Bittern performing very un-Bittern-like behaviour. Just stood out on the water's edge for at least an hour, bold as brass and showing wonderfully well. On being joined by some other birders a little later after finding this one, they had another one at Boundary Flash. So that's two Bitterns for Doxey today!

Onward and into The Potteries. A quick look at another flock of Waxwings, in Longton, and a quick view of the back of a Long-eared Owl at Park Hall Country Park.

Then onto Berry Hill fields. Where everyone viewing, birders, photographers and walkers alike, were treated to crippling views of a hunting Short-eared Owl.

With that out of my system, for now, I'll do some proper birding tomorrow!