Sunday, 30 December 2012

The end of 2012

Well, christmas festivities are done and dusted once again.  The following few days mainly involved a piece of the dreaded DIY.  No getting away from this one, as the bannister fell off the staircase wall, suppose I'll have to stop sliding down it from now on.

The fix involved drilling new holes into the wall and new screws to attach the bannister back on, whilst being ingeniously propped up by lots of books on the stairs!  Wow it worked, usually my DIY adventures end up like this.

But as there was a bit of daylight left on Friday afternoon, there was time for a quick look round Brookleys Lake.  Sadly, a small oil spill has appeared.  It would be easy for any flood water to pick up a patch of oil and for it to make it's way into the lake, but it looked like more than a small patch.  Lets hope it doesn't do too much damage, particularly to any fish in there.  As can be seen a boom has been put up at the lake's mouth where water flows in.

Perhaps it's just as well there wasn't very many duck around at all, with 12 Mandarin, 4 Goosander and a drake Gadwall of note.

Saturday involved an afternoon at Blithfield.  A few Goldeneye dotted all around the reservoir, an absolute stack of Teal in Tad Bay, could easily have been 600, no green-winger though.  The gull roost in Tad held up to seven different Yellow-legged Gulls.

And as for today, it's just been Uttoxeter Quarry.  Which contained 179 Wigeon, 10 each of Goosander and Pochard, 1 Goldeneye.  Unfortunately for 2013 listing purposes, no sign of the Pink-footed Geese in the Greylag flock and no sign of the Common Sandpiper for a few weeks now, presumed drowned!  No I definitely hope not.

And that's it for 2012, a memorable year for many different reasons.  But can 2013 have less rain please?

Monday, 24 December 2012

On this special night..................

He's on the way you know, as long as you've been good all year!  No, I don't mean Bob Dylan.  Happy Christmas reader!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Caspian Gull, this time in technicolour!

He's not got another Caspian Gull has he?  Oh, I think he has.  Stick with it though reader, it's not a dot in the dark this time.

Even though birding time is at a premium at this time of year, restricted to weekends and approaching the shortest day.  It really is a case of not knowing what to do with yourself, things are pretty quiet, and not until January will the same birds become a year tick again.

But the weekend began with a usual check of Uttoxeter Quarry.  With Andy already around, 3 Pink-footed Geese were with the Greylag flock.  Two of those birds are definitely new in, and plenty of duck around.  But the undoubted highlight was the sight of a small, dark falcon going full pelt, a female Merlin!  Shortly after losing the bird, a flock of Starlings and Lapwings in the next field scattered themselves and took to the air.  After that little triumph it wasn't going to get any better, so time to move on. 

The next port of call was Silverdale Country Park, where recent goodies have included a juvenile Iceland Gull and two different Caspian Gulls.  On first sight of The Void, plenty of gulls were still on the ice, but by the time of getting to the water's edge and setting the scope up, the vast majority of them took off, typical.  Thankfully however, the first-winter Caspian Gull remained, and that was the bird I wanted to see, never seen a first-winter before.

A really distinctive gull, especially at this distance.  And what a massive hooter!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Gulls in Monochrome

Only out on the Sunday this weekend just gone.  Saturday was a complete write-off, due to waiting for a chimney man.  After Jackdaws nested up there this year, I'm after one of those mesh things to put on the chimney pot.  Sorry Jackdaws, but I don't want to end up with loads of smoke in the house.

Despite being told someone would appear and waiting around home all day, no-one turned up.  That's someone else added to the list when the revolution comes, it's getting a rather long list.  Anyway, hopefully there'll be better luck trying someone else, onto Sunday's birding. 

Duck numbers are building up a bit at Uttoxeter Quarry, with 26 Goosander, 63 Teal, 30 Wigeon, 81 Tufteds and 3 Pochard.  Also two Willow Tits around, and a third GBB Gull over the last few weeks.

With the wind picking up in the afternoon, it was over to Tad Bay at Blithfield and wait for the gulls to come piling in to roost.  Which they did, Tad Bay being more sheltered than the deep end.  The adult Caspian Gull was eventually found, and eventually came nearer to the hide.  However, it was getting darker:

...and darker...

...and darker!

Must admit though, I didn't realise it was getting quite so dark.  Is there a problem with the camera?  Everything's in black and white!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

November in a Nutshell

Rumours of my demise are premature!

So what's gone on then?  Well, a bit of post-Scilly blues, how on earth does this blog top that?  But mainly it's been the state of the laptop that I bought earlier this year.  A couple of days after finishing the Scillies blogging it completely packed in, probably had enough of me writing nonsense and piffle.

It should've been fixed and returned last week, but when turning up at PC World:  "We're extremely sorry, there's been a mix up.  A Miss Powell dropped a computer off at the same time, which got sent away and yours is still here!"  Talk about exasperating, to quote Victor Meldrew:

So I've not been best pleased, but I'm informed that it's on the way back in a couple of days time.  In the meantime, thankfully I kept hold of "old laptop", but the dear old thing is powered by a hamster in a wheel these days, and is prone to crashing.  In fact, it's already crashed once whilst getting this far, so I'd better get a move on.

Throughout November, checking at weekends of course at this time of year, the best bird around Uttoxeter Quarry (but not today by the look of things) has been an extremely late Common Sandpiper, looking set to overwinter.

Just hope it can survive.  Every time this bird has pink legs and the tail stretches beyond the primaries, so it's still not a Spotted Sand.

Back in Burton for the evening of Sunday 11th November, but before that the afternoon was spent on the banks of the mighty River Trent, taking a butchers at a Great White Egret.

From what I could tell, those viewing this bird from Clay Mills were getting rather distant views.  I knew that you could get to the riverbank from other side, at Newton Solney in South Derbyshire.  Luckily, much better views could also be gained from this side of the river too.  The Egret happily feeding in the ditches of the field by the river, and also walking around, sticking it's leg out like John Cleese's ministry of silly walks.

Around this time, the national invasion of Waxwings had reached this neck of the woods.  But personally they weren't easy to catch up with to start with, the first seen being a flock of seven in Cheadle.  Additionally, a White-rumped Sand had been discovered at Drayton Bassett during the Tuesday of the week.  Oh no, would it stay until the weekend?

Thankfully it did, and two visits were made, just to the south of Tamworth, on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th.

En route back to Drayton Bassett, I got a little distracted just before reaching the A50 at Uttoxeter.  This was due to a fine flock of Waxwings!

At least 16 birds, perched in trees just by the roadside, next to JCB's world parts centre (not world darts centre, if only!).  It was discovered they were feeding on Yew berries, which I've never seen Waxwings feed on before.  When eventually back at Drayton Bassett, a nice little bonus to the White-rumped Sand was the discovery of a Long-tailed Duck.  Or if any Americans are reading this, that's Oldsquaw to you (what's one of those?).

Finally, catching up on last weekend.  On the Saturday, unfortunately the Snow Buntings up on the moors, around the Mermaid Pool, had disappeared.  Into the afternoon, surprisingly Uttoxeter Quarry hadn't yet flooded, the Common Sand still around, along with 10 Goosanders.  In addition to the Waxwing invasion, the midlands has been getting a mini-invasion of Great Northern Divers of late.  Not sure whether I'd be needed for some DIY help on Sunday, there was enough time for a look at the Blithfield Diver by the dam.  The bird showed really well between the angling club and the dam's valve tower.

Very wisely, my DIY skills weren't required for the Sunday, so I went birding instead.  By this time Uttoxeter Quarry was flooded out.  The path through Cotton Mill farm and over the River Tean was accessible, but not knowing how much higher the river may get put me off crossing, don't fancy getting swept away and drowned!

So most of Sunday 25th was at Blithfield.  The Diver was still around the deep end, but now further in the middle because of sailing boats.  Two female Scaup were discovered in Tad Bay, and about an hour before dusk, along with Martyn, Kay and the Proud Potter, two adult Yellow-legged Gulls and a pretty good candidate for an adult Caspian Gull appeared in the Tad Bay pre-roost, before eventually flying off towards the causeway.

So that was birding in November, and rather good it was too.  Just want my laptop back.

Friday, 2 November 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 4, All the fun of Blackpoll.

There's not much left to mention on this year's Scilly trip reader.  With only one full day left, a calm, sunny day was forecast for Thursday 18th October.  The Blackpoll Warbler was still being seen on Bryher too, so a whole week after seeing the bird in flight, it had to be a return to Bryher for better views, hopefully.  But the main thing to do is to just enjoy your last full day on Scilly for this time.

There was just enough time before catching the boat, for a walk to the dump clump where a Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing well, and a Snow Bunting on Porthmellon beach too.  After about an hour and a half on Bryher, the Blackpoll Warbler was re-discovered just to the south of Veronica Farm.  Oh oh, where am I?  Stuck on a path by Samson Hill, Scilly-ticking the Hooded Crow!  Somehow I got back to the coast path rather quickly, and may have involved a bit of tresspass round a field and over a gate, but I did walk along the edge.

The Blackpoll Warbler showed absolutely brilliantly, probably the best it had shown all week, with it's full set of colours on show.  The dark wings with two white bars, yellow underneath and bright orange legs!  There's plenty of photos of the Blackpoll Warbler around the internet that do this bird justice.  It was one of those times when messing about with photography was unneccesary, just enjoy a fantastic bird.

Other birds seen on Byrrr that day included another 2 Coal Tits, a female Merlin and a selection of waders including Redshank, Greenshank and one each of Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit.

Due to the pager mishap the previous week, Friday 19th October had to be spend on St. Marys, to eventually find Dick Filby who had my new replacement pager ready.  All sorted, and a big thank you was given.  Not only for the pager, but for all the hard work he puts in there every October.  Not sure what would happen, with regard to bird news and arranging extra boats, without him.

During the day, the main highlight again was excellent views of the Red-breasted Flycatcher in the dump clump.

But with a heavy heart, aching limbs and sore feet, it was time once again to board the Scillonian ferry back to Penzance.  But even on the ferry that wasn't quite the end of it.  A pod of about 50 Common Dolphins were spotted.  But best of all when approaching Lands End, 3 Balearic Shearwaters flew south, in front of the ship!  And with them, a long overdue British tick.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 3, The Road to Mandellii?

A tough few day's birding then ensued.  On St. Marys for Sunday 14th October, a brief Serin on the Garrison didn't stick, and was subsequently seen on Gugh.  The following search of the Garrison did produce 2 Crossbills and a Great Spotted Woodpecker though, all flying over.

By the time of reaching Porth Minnick there was no sign of either the Little Bunting or Wryneck.  So a return to the Garrison at the end of the day did reveal a Ring Ouzel, showing really well.  But in reality, it was a bit of a salvage operation for the day.

Monday 15th October was a day of impending heavy rain forecast for the afternoon, and another day spend on St. Marys.  A morning walk through the Holy Vale, Borough Farm and Pelistry Bay didn't produce very much.  The main highlight of the day was the discovery of a Short-toed Lark, with Meadow Pipits in the horse paddocks of Carn Friars.

With the lark seen well, the rain did start to pour down heavily now.  Taking some shelter in the ISBG hide at Lower Moors for a while, a Jack Snipe showed really well, bobbing away as only a Jack Snipe does!

Over the course of the day, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler had been found in the Dump Clump.  The wet weather made looking in a rather dark Dump Clump impossible.  One for another day hopefully.  No boats went to St. Martins either today, and with no birders staying on the island, what's there to be found tomorrow, was the thought.

So Tuesday 16th October was to be a return to St. Martins, despite the Hume's Yellow-browed.  It sounded like there was a bit of contention surrounding this bird anyway, so that put my mind at rest for going off-island.  It so very nearly paid off too, as an Olive-backed Pipit was found around Little Arthur Farm.  The trouble was the boat I was on docked in at Lower Town, so had half an island to walk through to get there.

The OBP didn't settle at all, first flushed by a Merlin, then dog walkers.  On finally catching up with the group on the bird and setting the scope up, by the Higher Town cricket pitch, the bird took off west and over the hill by the Higher Town quay.  Aaargh, agonisingly close.  From the bird that I saw take off it could've been anything really, and Olive-backed Pipit is too good a bird to tick than with a view like that.

The rest of the time was spent scrutinising the fields along the coast path back to Lower Town, but no sign of the OBP and not much else either.  So the idea of heading to St. Martins was right, but execution wasn't quite there.  Back on St. Marys the sight of three Ring-necked Ducks taking off out of Porthloo cheered me up no end.

The Ring-necked Ducks must've been blown in ahead of a big depression out in the Atlantic, heading in for the evening and next day.  Indeed next morning, Wednesday 17th, the overnight rain had passed but it was very windy:

Thankfully the dump clump is quite sheltered, suppose I'd better head over to look for the Hume's Yellow-browed.  At the Scillonian club log the previous evening, people were happy with this bird being a Hume's rather than a bog-standard Yellow-browed, call is king.  It was also suggested that this could be a race of Hume's called Mandellii, which spend the winter in south-east Asia and do appear more boldly-marked than your normal Hume's.  All completely new to me, and absolutely fascinating.

Whilst watching birds hopping through the sallows, there was definitely one Yellow-browed type that was duller underneath, compared to another obvious Yellow-browed.  No point comparing the wing bars because they'll show up on this bird anyway.  I think that's safe enough to tick as Hume's.  Meanwhile, the Ring-necked Ducks had eventually settled at Porth Hellick pool, not surprisingly having a well-earned rest.

A slow walk through Holy Vale to Porthloo was next, via the Strudelhaus.  Upon reaching a nice comfy rock to sit on at Porthloo beach, most of the time was spent counting Oystercatchers, Curlews and Wheatears.  A few gulls passed overhead, and one of them was a second-winter Med Gull.  "Ooh, I could radio that out" I thought, especially as the bird was heading towards Hugh Town.  So the details were spouted out on Radio Filby.  "Channel 1, Channel 1.  A second-winter Med Gull flew south over Porthloo beach, heading towards Hugh Town. Over".  The details were then duly relayed. 

About 10 minutes later a rather panic-stricken looking birder approached me, demanding details of the Med Gull, in a manner reminiscent as if I was something scraped from the bottom of his shoe.  Shortly afterwards, this charmless chap then spoke on the radio "Apparently, the Med Gull flew over Porthloo towards Hugh Town".  Eh, what do you mean apparently?  I already said that, and saw it with my own eyes! 

Be careful what you say on the radios, because an argument could've easily started, had I wanted to.  But perhaps he didn't catch everything that I said.  About a minute later, the radio mentioned that the Med Gull was re-found on the other side of Hugh Town, at Porthcressa.  Ha, vindicated, that showed him.

The 17th ended off with a seawatch from Penninis Head, but only six distant auks flew past.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 2, Samson without Delilah

The evening of Wednesday 10th October was spent in the Scillonian club, supping Tribute and contemplating the plan for tomorrow, after a less than successful start.  A boat trip on Joe Pender's vessel, the Sapphire, was going ahead for the next morning.  Not a full-blown pelagic, but a tour of the outlying smaller, and uninhabited, islands and islets, with a landing on one of them if possible.  And of course, if a mega is found during the day then everyone aboard is on hand to move straight away.  All that for £12, so why not give it a try?

So Thursday 11th October began by boarding the Sapphire, heading towards Annet and the Western Rocks to begin with.  Hmm, what's that little dinghy for, that's trailing behind the Sapphire?  I don't know, won't worry about that.............

But anyway, two female Common Scoters and a Marsh Harrier were around Annet, then moving to the Western Rocks revealed many Grey Seals:

Also some fast-growing seal pups:

Four Purple Sandpipers were also found within a Turnstone flock on the rock known as Mellegdan.  The name of which should not be confused with a Melodious Warbler!!!

After that, it was over to land on Samson and explore this island, the largest uninhabited island in the archipelago, for a couple of hours.  It was at this point when I realised what the little dinghy was for, oh oh.  Samson doesn't have a concrete quay in order for boats dock in, so what you have to do is to climb down off the Sapphire and sit yourself on the rubber edge of the dinghy.  The boatman will then take you as close as he can to the shore.  Which in this case, was to wade in a least a foot of water and onto the beach.

However, be very careful when disembarking from the dinghy, because I took a stumble and my right leg was soaked nearly up to my waist!  More serious once on the beach however, was the discovery of two objects missing from my coat pocket.  Thankfully, my mobile phone landed in the dinghy, but my RBA pager was not so lucky.  Oh crap, crap, crappity crap, that's gone in the sea! 

Why oh why did I not put them in my rucksack?  I don't know, I just didn't.  Oh well, can't do anything about that now.  Despite Dick Filby also on this trip, no point disturbing him about it until the evening.  This is Samson:

The increasingly windy conditions were a great help in drying my trousers, but there weren't huge numbers of birds on Samson.  Thankfully though, there is one single Tamarisk bush on the island, and this contained a Wryneck.  But eventually time was up, and it was time to get back on the Sapphire, via the dinghy.

Next on the agenda was to check for wader roosts on Tresco and the eastern isles, with the Spoonbill also showing well on Green Island:

It was at this point where news was breaking of a Blackpoll Warbler on Bryher.  This meant a complete change of plan, Bryher it was.  On reaching the southern edge of Veronica Farm, all that I saw of the bird was it taking off out of a Pittosporum bush and into a pine tree.  Seeing the bird through the bins, two white bars on dark wings were obvious.  Checking the Sibley field guide later, that's exactly what Blackpoll Warbler has. 

So although happy that was the bird, the view itself was pretty unsatisfactory.  But, it was more than those who took the 3pm boat from St. Marys.  So for now, I suppose it will have to do.  The Sapphire left Bryher at 6:15pm, so starting the day at 9:30am, that £12 for day was excellent value.  All that was left to be done was to find Dick Filby in the Scillonian club that evening, to explain the pager mishap, just like turning up at the headmaster's office!  He was really good about it actually.  A replacement pager was on it's way, and a loan pager with Scilly news to keep going for now.

Instead of returning to Bryher the next morning, Friday 12th October, the day started off on St. Marys, teaming up with Kay, on her first ever Scillies visit.  Starting off on the Garrison until the American Golden Plover was rediscovered in Porth Hellick bay, and excellent views of a female Merlin perched in a pine tree along Carn Friars Lane.  En route to Porth Hellick, reaching Salakee Farm, the radio kicked into life once again, "Solitary Sandpiper on Bryher".  Whoa!!!  Right, enough time to enjoy the American Golden Plover for a while, then back into Hugh Town for the 2pm boat to Bryher!

When you return from your holidays, people always ask what you did.  Well me, on my holidays I looked at a pile of manure!

Look closely however, and this is where the Solitary Sand was discovered, giving crippling views.  Not only was it Solitary, the bird was on it's own as well!


Three Coal Tits were also seen on Bryher today, part of an unprecedented influx into Scilly, originating from Ireland.  You could tell they were Irish because of the yellow flush to their cheeks, and they were waving their shillelaghs!

It was also discovered that a birder, known to many as Higgo, found a likely-looking Blyth's Reed Warbler on Bryher that afternoon, just prior to the return boat back to St. Marys.  After last year's little triumph with Blyth's Reed, I didn't feel the need to rush back to Bryher the next day, Saturday 13th.  So instead of following the masses, I took a boat to St. Martins instead, to try and find my own birds.

Over the course of the day on St. Martins, I managed to find my own Irish Coal Tit and had it all to myself, as well as two Yellow-browed Warblers, a Common Whitethroat, a Peregrine with prey and a flock of 24 Sanderling.  Later that day, news from Bryher had mixed results.  Although the Solitary Sand showed well all day, there was no sign of the Blyth's Reed Warbler and only a few people had a single view of the Blackpoll Warbler.

Tea was had in the Bishop and Wolf for the evening, and a very nice piece of steak it was too.  But hang on, what's that music they're playing in the background?  You're kidding!!!!

You ain't seen nothing yet, that's a bit cruel isn't it?  All those Blackpoll dippers that'd been on Bryher all day, kick them while they're down!  Also, check Bachman Turner Overdrive's initials (BTO), now that is spooky.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The 2012 Scilly Season. Part 1, Gripped and Dipped.

So, it's Scillies time again.  Which all began on Sunday 8th October with the drive down to Cornwall.  Birding in Kernow was a little quiet.  A scan of the Hayle Estuary revealed both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, a Ruff, 2 Med Gulls and 10 Little Egrets.

As there was nothing around  that really took my fancy to twitch (the Red-rumped Swallows had long left Marazion Marsh), and with a south-easterly wind picking up, I thought I'd try Porthgwarra for a seawatch.  This is Porthgwarra reader.

The one slight snag in the plan was I had no change for the pay and display machine.  The strengthening wind would've made seawatching difficult anyway, so an alternative plan was hatched.  At the beginning of the lane to Porthgwarra is a track towards Bosistow Farm, the southern end of the Nanjizal Valley.

A walk to the farm and back produced a few Goldcrests but otherwise quiet.  The pager then mentioned 3 Glossy Ibises and a Hooded Crow just up the road, to the east of Sennen.  The spot was surprisingly difficult to find without an OS map, but eventually one of the Glossy's and the Hooded Crow were seen in a field next to Trevear Farm.  First Hooded Crow I've seen in England too.

The next morning, Monday 8th October, the fog lifted from Penzance harbour, but still shrouded St. Michael's Mount, creating an atmospheric scene as the Scillonian ferry departed.

Unfortunately foggy conditions occurred during most of the crossing.  The fog lingered when even reaching St. Mary's, but not as high as the telegraph tower.

Realising how foggy it was, it made my mind up to go straight to St. Agnes for the afternoon, to try for the Grey-cheeked Thrush.  Even though I felt seeing the Thrush would be unlikely, it seemed like a better bet to try for this than looking for the Buff-bellied Pipit in the fog.  Not surprisingly, after spending a couple of hours looking at a dry stone wall, no sign of the thrush.  So a great big dip there, and St. Agnes deserves better then staring into one small field, but it was the right thing to do.

The following morning, on the 9th, started with a pre-breakfast walk to Penninis Head, as the Buff-bellied Pipit had been roosting here the previous few evenings.  Well, it didn't look like it was here at first light, so it was back for breakfast and back to Penninis again.  The mist was coming and going a bit, but at least the Dotterel was still around, just north of the lighthouse.

As was the Richard's Pipit further inland, along King Edward's Road.  At one point the bird showed brilliantly, perched on the top of a hedge.  Just in time for one digiscoped photo.

Whilst walking along the Penninis Farm trail, the radio system kicked into life, "Buff-bellied Pipit on the airfield, seen from the windsock".  Here we go, the first manic walk of the trip!  However, by the time of getting to up to the windsock, the Buff-bellied Pipit had gone behind a ridge and out of sight.  After a few hours of searching through the Meadow Pipits and Wheatears on the airfield, there was no sign.  The American Golden Plover was around however, and for the day formed an odd-couple pairing with a Curlew Sandpiper.

Other birds of note seen on St Mary's on the 9th included Redstart and Whinchat on Penninis, a single European Golden Plover and a female Merlin dashing around the airfield, 2 Dunlin and 9 Greenshank in Porth Hellick bay.  So in all it wasn't a bad day's birding, but the Pipit dip didn't make it feel that way.

Birding highlights on the 10th, still on St. Marys, included a flyover Tree Pipit over Porthloo, heading towards the golf course, but no sign of the bird on the golf course itself (neither was the Buff-bellied!).  Also a Jack Snipe at Lower Moors, juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Porth Hellick, singles each of Sanderling and Whimbrel in Old Town and Porth Hellick Bays respectively.  Also the rather odd sight of a Northern Wheatear with a completely black back and red throat.  The bird must've been attacked by a Sparrowhawk or similar, and took evasive action by diving into a muddy puddle.

So after dipping Grey-cheeked Thrush and Buff-bellied Pipit, and too late for the Sykes's Warbler on Tresco over the weekend, not a great start.  It's not going to be like this for the next week or so, is it?

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The weekend before the Pittosporum battle

Well, what on earth do I say this time?  It's the last day of September, and with the exception of a great morning on the moors last Sunday, on the whole birding locally this month can be summed up with this facial expression.

Thanks to the Olympics opening ceremony for that.  I really hoped that this weekend's windier conditions might've brought something in, but it hasn't been the case.  Uttoxeter Quarry had a bit of a build-up of duck yesterday, which included 3 Pintail, 37 Wigeon, 74 Teal, 5 Shoveler and 2 Goosander.  Singles of Dunlin and Golden Plover, 6 Snipe, 3 Curlew, 2 Green Sands and 74 Lapwings completed the set of waders.  Also present was a site year-tick, in the form of 3 Jays.

Next was Aqualate Mere to have a look at the Black-necked Grebe.  One matter that I hadn't accounted for was the boardwalk to the hide being completely flooded.  Usually the paths at Aqualate are very good, no need for wellies.  Well, being too lazy to turn back for them, there was only one thing for it, and get my feet wet.

The water only got to about ankle-deep, and once in the hide the wind was whipping up the waves across the mere.

After much searching the Black-necked Grebe was eventually found about half-way out.  The combination of frequent diving and bobbing in the waves didn't make it easy to locate.  But it was there, and that's the first Black-necked Grebe I've seen this year.  A Black Tern was also flying around the mere.  Just got to get my feet wet through the boardwalk again, and a squelchy walk back to the car!

Looking at the map I had forgotten that Belvide is fairly near to Aqualate.  Not wanting to put up with Stafford traffic again a look around Belvide was next, in the Scott and Chappell hides.  But apart from a couple of Goldeneye, nothing really out of the ordinary.  Looking through the log book in the Scott hide however, the report of two Sandwich Terns here in the week, turning out to be erroneous, all became clear!

And as for today, it's just been Blithfield.  A single Common Tern off the causeway, 28 Wigeon in Tad Bay and that's as good as it got.  A good sign to pack it in for today. 

And that's it from local birding for a while.  A week of work to get through, then next weekend I'll be doing my packing, sorting out matching pairs of socks (you can never pack too many!), and make my way down to Penzance once again, supping pints of Tribute, Proper Job or Doom Bar in The Dolphin next Sunday evening.

Then onto the Scillies for eleven nights, the annual October battle between birder and Pittosporum bushes.  Pittosporum is horribly dense stuff, but I'm getting excited about it all now.  Last year really was an incredible time, if it's only half as good this time I'll be pleased.

Recent rarity highlights on Scilly have included Buff-bellied Pipit and Ortolan Bunting, both of which would go down very well with me.  Whether they'll stick until the 8th remains to be seen of course.  But then again, I thought the same about that Waterthrush last year. 

And just to get myself even more excited, here's something I found on Youtube.  Bring it on!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A long weekend

Currently in the middle of a long weekend, with a couple of days off work.  Can't see Monday being a birding day though, due to waiting around for a little man to get a job done at home. 

Friday was though, the drizzly morning looked quite hopeful for bringing something down.  A morning at Uttoxeter Quarry was quite productive for some waders, I suppose in the context of this autumn it was pretty good.  Highlights included 2 Golden Plover, 10 Snipe, 2 Curlew, 2 Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and still a Common Sandpiper clinging on.

Branston GP's was a little disappointing though, with only a Ruff, 5 Curlew and a Green Sandpiper.  Perhaps I'm expecting too much though, I don't know.  Onto Saturday, a gloriously sunny day. Starting off at Croxden Quarry, large numbers of Swallows, plus a few Meadow Pipits, could be seen making their way south.  This Jay showed well, pity the camera lens was a little steamed up, but never mind.

Uttoxeter Quarry didn't have much change, so quite a bit of time was spend studying the Common Sandpiper.  It's getting quite late for them now, and as autumn progresses I suppose thoughts would be turning towards Spotted Sandpiper, which of course happened at Tittesworth a few years ago.  So why is it a Common Sand, and not a Spotted Sand?

There was the barred effect on the wing coverts but it didn't stand out that much, plus a white supercilium.  This bird also has pink legs, so definitely a Common Sand.  Sometimes it's good to just remind yourself these things and refresh the old grey matter.

Following a tip-off on Saturday evening, of roosting Hen Harriers up on the North Staffs Moors, it was a pleasant surprise to wake up to a dry Sunday morning.  A drive around the moors, the male Hen Harrier was caught up with at Swallow Moss, and what a magnificent sight it was too!  In fact, it was great to see a Hen Harrier up there in good light conditions.  Usually, and particularly back in the day when Hen Harriers regularly roosted at Swallow Moss during the winter, they would appear when it was nearly dark.

Other birds seen up t'moors included 10 Snipe flying around Swallow Moss, around 300 Pink-footed Geese flying north-west (either making the most of the easterly wind from Norfolk to Lancashire, or aborting a flight to Norfolk and turning round?), and this Whinchat at Knotbury.