Saturday, 28 January 2012

Probably the best photo of a Great Grey Shrike, in the world!

Hmm, I've build that up a bit. Having said that though, anything is going to be better than last weekend. It really was terrible, so much so that I didn't even blog it, to save slashing my wrists! Whatever I tried, just defeated by the wind and should've stayed at home. So it was great to see a nice calm morning today, despite having to scrape a thick layer of ice off the car. Something I've not had to do much of this winter.

Today began with a cracking morning at Uttoxeter Quarry, just got better as time went on. A Kingfisher early on was a site year tick, 28 Goosander and 5 Goldeneye on the water and the first Oystercatcher of the year. Then discovered a Little Egret fishing on the River Tean, that's a bird I only saw here once last year.

When getting the camera to whack out a few snaps of the Egret, something caught my eye in the sky. Actually, it was quite a lot of things, a very large skein of Pink-footed Geese! Just a shame that the noise of the A50 traffic drowned out their calls.

I thought there was about 300 of them, heading towards the Potteries. But after seeing a pager message of 800 about half an hour later, over Newcastle-under-Lyme, maybe that was a conservative estimate? But I'll stick with it.

Well after all fun and jollity, my luck's in now, what can I do for the rest of the day? Realising that I still haven't been to see the Shrike at Upper Longdon yet, that's something I could do and some Trent Valley stuff as well.

The Great Grey Shrike at Upper Longdon was the star of Midlands Today the other week. There are many excellent photos of this bird all over the internet, but quite frankly, this isn't one of them!

Actually, good views were to be had when looking from the other side of the sun. Anyway, it's been seen and ticked, you know what one of those looks like!

Onto Whitemoor Haye, where there was no sign of any wildfowl, due to blokes wiv shooters, as they say on Eastenders. But a look around the farmland produced lots of Mute Swans (ok, there is wildfowl then), some Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows, and this Little Owl.

Croxall had a ridiculously large number of Pochard, 306 of them I counted. Finishing off at Branston Gravel Pits, where there were a good selection of waders considering the time of year. 3 Ruff (2 male and a smaller, un-Buff-Breastable, female), 2 Green Sands, 10 Curlew, 97 Golden Plover and 2 Redshank, along with 10 Shelduck, ended a most enjoyable day's birding.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A day of Twitching in Norfolk

Sometimes it's refreshing just to have a break from the norm. So yesterday was a day out in Norfolk, with hopefully a couple of lifers to be gained.

After just under four hours in the car, the first stop was in the Yare Valley at Buckenham Marshes, to look for the Lesser White-fronted Goose. As time passed, gradually taking the riverbank path towards Cantley, a decent bird list was building up. Including White-fronted Geese, 4 Whooper Swans, Peregrine, ringtail Hen Harrier, 5 or 6 calling Cetti's Warblers and some of the tamest Wigeon you'll ever encounter.

While walking towards Cantley a skein of geese flew past back towards Buckenham, and as it turned out this contained the Lesser White-fronted Goose. A brisk walk back indeed did reveal the Lesser White-fronted Goose with around 50 Taiga Bean Geese. Hurrah, first lifer of the day.

The bird was distant, zooming the scope right in you could faintly see the ring around the eye. Quite a stubby-shaped bill, no obivous barring on the belly like a White-front would have.

That wild goose chase took up most of the morning. So getting back to the car, round the Norwich ring road and through Holt, to Cley.

During the morning the Western Sandpiper had been on Arnold's Marsh, so that was the place to go to when parked up.

Getting to the end of the east bank, the Western Sand was showing well and quite close. Hurrah, lifer number 2!

I'm relieved it was on Arnold's Marsh and could be easily viewable from the east bank, rather being cramped up in the one of the hides. The more usual waders were on Arnold's Marsh such as Dunlin, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit. Also a nice group of Bearded Tits in the reeds and 4 Marsh Harriers overhead, performing a bit of a display.

With this little twitching mission accomplished, the day finished with a look around Titchwell.

The Arctic Redpoll was feeding in the alders along the path to the freshmarsh, with the other Redpolls and Goldfinches. Also stacks of duck and waders on the freshmarsh, particularly impressive numbers of Ruff, Golden Plover and Pintail. One final surprise before the drive home was this Water Rail feeding in the ditch by the path.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Blowing in the Wind

Cor, what a windy few days it's been! It made for tricky birding conditions yesterday, just for keeping the scope still, but easier today.

Spending the morning at Uttoxeter Quarry, and just missing Andy's fly-through Grey Plover. A big increase in duck numbers, with at least 500 Mallard, 300 Teal and 100 Wigeon.

Other duck included 15 Goosander, 2 Goldeneye, 13 Pochard and 6 Shelduck already making their way inland. The Pink-footed Goose still with the Greylags, and 4 Dunlin and c120 Golden Plovers with c300 Lapwings. A most pleasing visit.

Heading over to Chasewater for the gull roost was also productive. However, it wasn't the easiest roosts as many of the gulls were taking shelter from the wind, in the north-west corner and packing themselves in quite tightly. Thankfully, an adult Med Gull was seen early on, and eventually the stunning near-adult Iceland Gull showed well on the water.

As for today, with much less wind. 5 Goosander and 19 Mandarin at Brookleys Lake. Spending the afternoon at Uttoxeter Quarry until dusk, the only difference in wildfowl was a drake Pintail. 35 Goosander roosted, 6 Ravens and a Grey Wagtail flew over.

Monday, 2 January 2012

So this is 2012 then!

When the London Olympics was announced, 2012 seemed like ages away. It's here now, where does all the time go?

Anyway, two days of birding to kick the year off with. New Years Day started at Dimmingsdale of all places. Why's that, because I forgot to mention the other week, there's a few Bramblings round there, so that would be a good start. There was still at least one female Brambling still around.

Brookleys Lake was a bit quiet, with generally fewer duck around but 6 Goosander were noteworthy. Last time I checked Uttoxeter Quarry was the day after Boxing Day and was rather disappointing. But today was much better, lots more duck around including a good count of 80 Teal, 30 Goosander, a female Pintail and 2 Goldeneye.

But best of all, and reward for persistence, was a Pink-footed Goose in amongst the Canadas and Greylags. Not quite the wild goose I was hoping for, that would be a Bean, but just be grateful for small mercies.

Finishing off at the Blithfield deep end, but beaten by the weather at this stage. Just too wet and windy for the Black Redstart to show, but it can wait for another day. And in any case it was great to catch up with Team Staley! Using the little shelter in St. Stephens Bay to check the gulls, nothing unusual out on the water. A new year but still jinxing the Blithfield gull roost!

As for today. Building up a new list of common species, may as well do that around home. So I've checked a number of different spots in and around Tean and Cheadle. The main highlight being a Water Rail and a Kingfisher at Hales Hall Pool. Last year, it took me until July to see Kingfisher and August to see Water Rail. This year I've seen both on the second day of the year, which gives an indication of just how harsh last winter was.