Thursday, 28 April 2011

Is something going on tomorrow?

Don't feel guilty to out birding tomorrow, because this is the jist of what will be going on:

Monday, 25 April 2011

A Cushty Easter

I won't go on and on, but a round up of what's been seen over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

A decent start on Thursday evening, in the form of a male Whinchat on the edge of the JCB grounds in Cheadle. Good job there's a footpath along the edge.

Not much birding was done on Good Friday and Saturday. After Tuesday evening's excitement, Uttoxeter Quarry had quietened down a bit. Two each of Curlew and Dunlin, but the first Lesser Whitethroat had arrived. Then another check of Hawksmoor, where there was a nice and showy male Redstart.

More time spent outside on Sunday, however. Uttoxeter Quarry again, with Garden Warbler and Reed Warbler to add, plus now 3 Lesser Whitethroats. 2 Common Terns around Blithfield causeway, with 7 Wigeon and 6 Goldeneye in Tad Bay, 19 Shelduck and a Sedge Warbler in Blithe Bay.

And today, a wander round the North Staffs Moors. With a dashing Hobby and a few Wheatears amongst the usual moorland fayre.

And an aside. It's very sad that we've lost John Sullivan from this world, the writing genius behind Only Fools and Horses. The man that gave the phrase "Bonnet De Douche" to the world. I don't know why that tickles me, I don't think it means anything in French.

Everyone remembers Del Boy falling through the bar, and the chandelier falling down. But I always enjoyed this bit. If there's an annoying advert for Sky at the beginning, stick with it.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Ooh it's a Grey Plover

Over the last few weeks I've been making some evening visits to Uttoxeter Quarry, straight after work. It's all been thoroughly unproductive, up until last night. And with a north-east wind it had to be checked. This was the result:

A Grey Plover and also 3 rather smart summer-plumaged Turnstones. Crackerjack, roll on Easter!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Duck Counter For Hire

Well, where to start this time? Friday afternoon stuck at work I suppose, as news was filtering through of a Wryneck on Cannock Chase. Oh no, that's not going to be easy, "is there any point going?" was my thought at work. Actually no it wasn't, I was busy doing work! Nudge nudge, wink wink.

So when it got the 5:30, I suppose there's more of a chance of seeing the bird by going, than not. And it's only 20 minutes to drive from work to the cadet huts. It's probably clear by now that I didn't see the Wryneck, but I wasn't the only one during the evening. Nice to hear some Cuckoos around the Chase though, and a roding Woodcock over the cadet huts car park.

But anyway, there was a task to take responsibility of this weekend. And that was to do the WeBs wildfowl counts for three local sites. With Andy away on manoeuvres with the Cheadle Home Guard, I decided to take on the challenge. By the way, if you're ever in Cheadle and see someone doing impersonations of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army, you know who it'll be.

To begin with on Saturday's birding, a Common Sand at Croxden Quarry was a decent start. Uttoxeter Quarry had my first Common Whitethroat of the year, that being the main highlight there.

And so to the first WeBs count site, the JCB lakes at Rocester. Yes I know, there's all sorts of wildfowl there I can't include, not even the Hooded Mergansers. I won't bore you with the exact counts of Mallard and Tufted Duck, but it did provide an excuse to get the camera out, and fun with Great Crested Grebes.

Brookleys Lake was the second WeBs count site, ooh exciting! That was until I got there and noticed a distinct lack of wildfowl, it's easy this WeBs counting in April. 2 Mandarin, 3 Grey Herons, 3 GC Grebes amongst other things.

I decided to keep myself in suspense for the third WeBs count site until this morning. That site being Dimmingsdale.

Although there was an ulterior motive for leaving Dimmingsdale until Sunday morning, and that was to enjoy a woodland walk in another glorious spring morning. 4 singing male Pied Flycatchers around, and really chuffed with this Blackcap picture.

Oh, and there were some wildfowl as well! Actually, surprising to have a total of 5 Mandarins, 3 in the River Churnet and two others in flight. Then for the rest of the morning, there was another site I wanted to have a walk around.

Last summer, I had a bit of a mooch round Swineholes Wood, just to the north of Ipstones, and was thoroughly impressed. Ever since then I've been looking forward to exploring this site in the spring, to see what it may hold. I was not disappointed to say the least! The undoubted highlight being a calling Cuckoo! Ten years after moving from Burton to this corner of North Staffordshire, that's the first Cuckoo I've heard round here. In fact, the only other Cuckoos round here are in clocks!

Also a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, 2 Redstarts, 5 Wheatears a little further east along Ipstones Edge, and an absolute stack of singing Willow Warblers.

Well pleased with that visit, it'll have to be done again in the near future. Deciding what to do in the afternoon, after a bit of shopping, I see the Wryneck was re-found on the Chase.

No, not tempted, going to do another woodland walk at Hawksmoor. Where the highlights there were one more singing Pied Flycatcher, and that quintessential sound of a spring wood, the song of a Wood Warbler. Although a Tree Pipit song comes a close seond. But for looks and sound, to me the Wood Warbler is the king of warblers.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Seeing Red

That's a phrase usually associated with anger. Not this time, I think my luck was in over last weekend.

It all started with a job to do. If you've got a driving licence with a photo card, I didn't realise until last week that they expire after ten years. And at £20 to replace it, I can see why that was introduced, a nice little moneyspinner for the DVLA!

The Post Office can help you with a new photo, because these days it's pretty much impossible to get the size correct yourself in one of those photo booths. I have experience of this from renewing my passport. However, not every Post Office will do this for you. So could I have the convenience of doing this in Stafford, during my lunch break? No! So I had to wait until Saturday morning, where the nearest participating Post Office was in Uttoxeter.

With that job done, I wonder where I can go next? That'll be my favourite hole in the ground then! So with a late morning/early afternoon visit to Uttoxeter Quarry. For most of the time there was a good selection of birds, nothing out of the ordinary, but nice to see the first Blackcaps of the year. That was until the undoubted highlight appeared, a cracking Red Kite that ambled effortlessly across the gravel pit nearest to Leasows Farm and the River Tean, fantastic.

After that, back home and get for the Grand National. And a nice little touch on the gee-gees was had, after putting a couple of quid on Ballabriggs, and fourth in the sweep at work with State of Play.

As for Sunday, a small gathering of birding bloggers, consisting of myself, Martyn, Craig and Kay, was made on a gloriously sunny Cannock Chase, starting off at the cadet huts.

Well that was easy, the Great Grey Shrike was still around and showed really well. Also a couple each of Tree Pipits and male Redstarts freshly back in, along with 2 Swallows and plenty of Willow Warblers.

Over into the Sherbrook Valley area, other than a few Stonechats not much else. That was until Craig spotted a large raptor with a forked tail. Can't believe it, it's another Red Kite! Like waiting for a bus, that's two in Staffordshire in two days, brill!

Also spotted along one of the tracks was this Green Hairstreak butterfly. I've never seen one of these before, probably because I've never really gone looking for them.

There is one problem with Cannock Chase on a Sunday and sunny weather, it brings lots and lots of people out with their dogs and slog irons. So time to move on, for a check of Blithfield causeway and dam. 1 Common Sandpiper and 2 LRP's around the causeway, and a Wheatear and 3 Yellow Wagtails around the dam.

A diversion to Branston Gravel Pits was then made, with the sun beating down quite heavily by now. The weather probably didn't help with waders around the sandy pit this time, with only those of note being a Green Sand, 4 Curlew, 5 Oystercatcher and 3 Redshank. Duck highlights included 48 Teal, 5 Wigeon and a pair of Mandarin.

To finish off a most enjoyable day, back to Blithfield and a check of Tad Bay, where there were a pair of Pintail, 2 female Goosander and 4 Goldeneye.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cor, what happened there?

It's as if someone flicked a switch, and yesterday spring migrants were pouring in (or through)! Not that I saw too many of them, because I had more of an eye on the cricket world cup final. And well done to India.

I once had a sleepless night in Bharatpur, quite a bustling town but small by Indian standards, due to bangers being let off for no apparent reason. Now everyone's got a reason to let them off, I dread to fear what it would've been like in India last night!

But I did manage a couple of hours at Uttoxeter Quarry, before heading back to watch the Indian run-chase. I'm glad I did as the main highlight were a Common Sandpiper and 2 White Wagtails. To prove that things were happening all the time yesterday, in the evening there were 3 more White Wags and 3 Yellow Wagtails. There was also a Pink-footed Goose at the JCB south lake in Rocester. Genuine? Feral? Who knows, but it was there.

As for today, I had a bit of a yomp in the North Staffs Moors, just with my bins and new camera. As for birds, a few Wheatears, Red Grouse, Peregrine, Raven, Buzzards. And some pictures.

Although I don't think these are tickable!

Friday, 1 April 2011

You've got more Rabbit than Sainsbury's.......

Told you I was off for a knees up!

A while ago on this blog, I expressed my sadness at Chas and Dave splitting up, due to Dave Peacock's retirement following the passing of his wife.

Well, imagine my surprise and joy when I listened to Chris Evans on Radio 2 a few weeks ago, who interviewed Chas Hodges, and said "Dave's coming out of retirement, and we're doing one last tour". Oh wow, I've got to go and see them!!!!

And so last night, at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, I went to their gig.

And jolly good fun it was too! A two hour set, the first half being their pub and club stuff in the seventies before they were famous. Ending with their first hit, "Gertcha!".

After a short interval, their more recognisable stuff from the eighties. Such as "Rabbit", "Ain't No Pleasing You", "Snooker Loopy", "Margate" and my personal favourite, "The Sideboard Song".

Watch the blog hits plummet now!