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.

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