Tuesday, 29 November 2011

...and it was 10 years ago today...

When the world heard of the passing of George Harrison! George was of course, the guitarist in a four-piece combo from Liverpool called "The Beatles". Best bit of Beatles guitar work? I'd go with this one:

And a bit more of George. This always reminds me of twitching for some reason. Especially the lines "it's going to take money" and "it's going to take time" Wise words George!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wish you were here

There was the thought of a twitch to Chew Valley Lake this weekend. But in the end as a famous twitcher once said, I couldn't be bothered, but stayed closer to home instead.

Yesterday began at Uttoxeter Quarry for the morning. Looks like the Red-crested Pochard has now moved on, but present were 284 Golden Plover, 6 Snipe, 7 Curlew, 1 Green Sand, 2 Goldeneye, 3 Goosander, 5 Pochard, 2 Shoveler and 25 Wigeon.

The afternoon was spent at the gull meccas of Stubber's Green and the roost at Chasewater, with the Azorean Yellow-legged Gull being seen again at Stubber's in the week. Not a large number of gulls at Stubber's during the couple of hours I was there, and the wind really started picking up. But there was an adult Caspian Gull in, and an adult Med Gull.

Heading over to Chasewater, the presumed/putative/probable (any other words beginning with P?) Azorean Yellow-legged Gull was on the water.

I've never been to The Azores but I can't imagine it being anything like Chasewater. But it must be happy enough in it's stay. At one stage, and completely missed at the time, it was briefly accompanied by an adult Med Gull. Didn't notice that until looking through my photos, although the Med Gull was seen a bit later on.

Also around were 2 "ordinary" adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a Whooper Swan.

Onto today. Not much change at Uttoxeter Quarry, with Goosanders increased to 10. The rest of the time was spent at Blithfield. Not a huge amount out of the ordinary, and the reservoir really could do with some rain to fill Tad Bay and Blithe Bay. As a result, with the exception of Teal there's not a lot of duck in.

24 Dunlin in Blithe Bay. Tad had 58 Golden Plover, 1 Dunlin, 2 Snipe, 2 Shelduck, 4 Goosander, 5 Goldeneye and 2 Ravens. And incidentally, this is the feeding station in Stansley Wood.

Plenty of food in the feeders, but no birds using them. Perhaps due to the mild autumn and plenty of natural food still around? Maybe, but look closer and there could be another explanation!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

It was 20 years ago today.........

When the world heard of the passing of a certain Freddie Mercury! I can well understand people not liking the music of Queen these days, particularly with the "We Will Rock You" musical around. But do not forget what an influential band they were.

Of course, everyone knows the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, Radio Gaga and Don't Stop Me Know, to the point of ad-nauseum. But in days of yore, Queen were a proper rock band you know. Allow Exhibit A my'lud. I do hope Germaine Greer doesn't read this, I'm sure it's very unlikely!

And another bit of rock, lets rock! The title track of Queen's final album, on the same year that Freddie passed away, Innuendo.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fog Stopped Play

Birding was rather protracted this weekend just gone. Partly, on the Sunday because of the fog. It only started lifting a bit in the late afternoon, so down to Uttoxeter Quarry. The descending gloom revealed the female Red-crested Pochard still, 2 drake Pintail, 3 Shelduck, 15 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler and 16 Goosanders came in to roost. Plenty of Canada and Greylag Geese but nothing else with them, like White-fronts or Tundra Beans.

As for the Saturday. Well, no birding but it involved one or two dodgy dealings (not really!), and ended up with one of these. Now's the time you know, with X Factor, Strictly and The Jungle on. Here's a plug from it's sponsor, although it does make you wonder why we all bother.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Some Wildfowl and some Gulls

That's a rather unimaginative blog title this time, because that could be the same over the next few months!

But over this weekend, there's a definite increase in duck numbers at my birding sites near home. Starting off at Brookleys Lake yesterday, Mallards up to at least 250, 60 Tufteds, 3 Teal, 2 Gadwall and a drake Pochard. It was only the Mandarins that hadn't increased, still only about 10.

The most interesting count at Uttoxeter Quarry were the Teal, a whopping 104, by far the largest number I've seen there. The female Red-crested Pochard still around, 52 Tufteds, 16 Wigeon, 1 Goldeneye, 1 Pochard, 6 each of Goosander and Gadwall. Also still around 50 Golden Plovers present, 5 Curlew, 6 Snipe and 1 Dunlin. There was also a large flock of gulls which contained 2 adult Yellow-legged, 1 Herring and 2 Common.

I haven't explained yet since getting back from the Scillies, Uttoxeter Quarry's main pit has filled right up again. At the furthest point of the gravel pit from the public footpath is the River Dove. For some reason the gravel company have dug a hole in the river bank, allowing the gravel pit to flood. I don't really understand why they've done it, particularly as it's also being pumped out!

Whatever the reasons for it, it's looking great for wildfowl again. And onto today, where stood on the footpath at the quarry, behind my left shoulder were a few high-pitched squeaks in amongst some goose honking. Turned round and four grey geese were coming over. Pink-feet were the initial thought, but getting my binoculars on them they turned out to be White-fronted Geese! Wonderful, the black marks underneath were very clear.

Unfortunately they just carried straight through. The only other difference were Pochard had now increased to 6. The possible/probable Azorean Yellow-legged Gull had reappeared at Chasewater the previous evening. I'd quite like to see it just to see for myself how different they look. So that was planned for later, but time to check Tad Bay in Blithfield first.

Tad Bay revealed 9 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, 29 Dunlin, 3 Snipe and a flock of around 300 Golden Plover.

I haven't been to Chasewater since the Franklin's Gull was there in July last year. The tide's still out!

The work on the dam has now finished, and the water is higher since old Franky Boy was here. But there's still a long way to go until it's full.

Despite the probably Azorean YL Gull being seen on Cannock tip during the day, it wasn't found in the roost. There was a interesting-looking candidate, but the concensus of opinion was it wasn't quite right. But there was a myriad of Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Yellow-legged Gulls around, in different ages, shapes and sizes. Also the adult Caspian Gull in after spending the day at Stubber's Green and an adult Med Gull.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Catching up the last two weekends

The trouble I've had with all the great stuff to write about on the Scillies, is there's been no time to think up some words and pictures of the birding and twitching I've done since I got back. So I'm determined to catch this blog up in one fowl swoop.

As we're back in Greenwich Mean Time now, birding is now restricted to weekends (boo!). Both weekends have featured a Saturday twitch and a Sunday proper birding day.

Saturday 29th October was an afternoon twitch to Attenborough Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Nottingham, to see the Squacco Heron. Couldn't go in the morning as the old jam jar was having a tyre change, and then ummed and aahed for a while on whether to go at all. But I did go and in the end it was a rather long wait, but may as well give it until dusk because there's nothing else to do. But just before 5:30pm and starting to get rather dark, the Squacco flew in to the River Erewash, fantastic to see it in flight.

Told you it was getting dark!

Sunday 29th October was back to patching. Uttoxeter Quarry had a good sized flock of 232 Golden Plover, 2 Curlew, 1 Snipe, 1 drake Pochard, 6 Wigeon. It's also getting to the time of year to regularly check Brookleys Lake again, which contained a female Goldeneye, drake Gadwall and 20 Mandarins.

An afternoon drive round the North Staffs Moors produced 3 Stonechats and a few Red Deer. Finishing off at Swallow Moss until dusk, a Short-eared Owl flew across the heather just before darkness descended.

So onto the weekend just gone. Remember remember the 5th November, for another twitch! This time, into Shropshire for the Steppe Grey Shrike at Wall Farm Nature Reserve, a few miles north of Telford. Which continued to show well, albeit a bit distant, along a hedgerow.

Despite it's distance you could certainly tell the differences from Great Grey Shrike. Such as the pale lores (the patch between the eye and bill), the large wing patch and very little difference in colour between the upperparts and underparts. In fact, I'm struggling to understand how it's grouped in with Southern Grey Shrike. If you see Southern Grey Shrike in Portugal, they look nothing like this!

So to get everything up to date, yesterday. Which followed the same itinerary to last Sunday, but better. Uttoxeter Quarry was the best it's been for months! Parked up, a text from Andy saying 2 Whooper Swans had just flown in. I was only just thinking that it's about time we had some.

We've had a good record of Whoopers during early November, so they must use the River Dove as a migration route. Andy's visit was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, so I had to get him back after finding a female Red-crested Pochard.

As for this bird's origins, your guess is as good as mine, but it was there. It's legs bore no rings when stood out of the water. Also around were a female Pintail, 3 Goosander, 5 Pochard, 13 Wigeon, 25 Teal, 164 Golden Plover and 10 Curlew.

Brookleys Lake was pretty quiet this time, probably due to Alton Towers firework display the previous night. And as for another drive round the moors, not a lot until getting to Swallow Moss. Late on in the afternoon, a ringtail Hen Harrier appeared over the Revidge side, hunting away.

Half an hour later 2 Short-eared Owls appeared in the distance, quite high in the sunset sky. That ended an excellent day's birding, of finding (or at least trying to find) my own stuff.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The 2011 Scilly Season. Part 5, the last few days.

Into the final stretch now. The 19th had the first boat to Bryher (also known as "Byrrrr" if you're sat at the Scillonian club bar!) since being on the islands, due to the state of the tides. So that's where I went, albeit leaving at 2:30pm and a couple of hours on Tresco.

Nothing outstandingly rare all day, but Bryher had a dark-bellied Brent Goose on the pool, a Whinchat and a 1st winter Med Gull. The main highlight on Tresco was this Lapland Bunting, on the path near to the Carn Near quay.

Getting rather tired now after about 10 days on my feet, the 20th was a day back on St. Agnes. Again quite productive but without anything spectacular. There was a noticeable influx of Fieldfares today, a flock of 30 flew over the parsonage. So this was at least added to the trip list, as were a Short-eared Owl and a female Merlin.

The final day, the 21st, there wasn't much left on St. Marys to see that hadn't been seen. But there was a Scilly mega in the Carreg Dhu garden, a Treecreeper. There's a first time for everything, and the Treecreeper twitch was on! Which did show during the morning, as did a Yellow-browed Warbler also at Carreg Dhu and 2 Pink-footed Geese over Old Town.

And that was it for this time. A pint in the Bishop and Wolf before the ferry back to Penzance, ended what must be the best birding trip I've ever done in Britain by a mile. It was also rather bizarre to walk into the Bishop and Wolf with this blaring out. Strange what you remember.

But that wasn't quite the end of it. On the 20th a Scarlet Tanager was found on mainland Cornwall, at St. Levan, which was also seen on the morning of the 21st but not since. Seeing as I was in Penzance anyway, it had to be worth a try during the morning of the 22nd.

The birding gods had been incredibly kind whilst on the Scillies, surely this was too much to ask for? Well, over the morning there was no sign of the Tanager at St. Levan at all. Then came birding god's real sting in the tail, when the pager went off "MEGA, Scilly. Scarlet Tanager at Holy Vale"!!!!

Well I presumed it was the same bird, but there is a theory that these are two different birds. A lot of gutted-looking people started leaving St. Levan, it hadn't been seen for over 24 hours anyway. But I just took it as a sign to pack it in and go home.