Sunday, 26 February 2012

Returning Curlews, and other things

Not that much to report this time reader, no twitching or nonsense like that. Checking Uttoxeter Quarry yesterday, it was great to see a flock of 30 Curlews, starting to flock up before moving into the hills. Also around were 5 Oystercatcher, 3 Green Sands, 6 Snipe, 2 Goldeneye, 1 Shelduck and 38 Goosanders.

Onto today, starting off from the viewpoint at Croxden Quarry. The main highlight was the chip, chip, chipping call of a Crossbill over, along with a drake Shoveler.

The rest of the day was spent up in the North Staffs Moors. A look round the conservation pool at Tittesworth had 2 Curlew, 2 Oystercatcher, 10 Pochard and a Willow Tit, with 17 Goosander out on the main reservoir. Various stops around the moors revealed some Buzzards, Ravens and Red Grouse. Finishing off at Swallow Moss, a couple of Short-eared Owls performed beautifully.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A twitch to Welsh Wales

When it comes to twitching, I'll do a few a year but I couldn't do it all the time. Once you've seen everything, where do you go next? Much better to leave something in future I think. But a twitch was planned for yesterday, which originally was the Dark-eyed Junco/Spanish Sparrow double-whammy in Hampshire. Although personally, the Junco would've been the priority as I saw the Cumbria Spanish Sparrow in 1996.

That was until Thursday evening, when looking through Birdguides it mentioned a Common Yellowthroat at Rhiwderin, just outside Newport. Eh, did I read that right? Right, this Saturday twitch has to change! For a start it's much nearer, between the Yellowthroat and the Junco I'd much rather see the Yellowthroat. And most important of all, it's a bird in Burton Albion colours!

Arriving at Rhiwderin about 8am, fingers crossed the Yellowthroat would appear in the hedgerows before the impending rain later in the morning. It didn't! Some rather yellow-looking Siskins around, and a Goldcrest flitting about in the hedges. After a couple of hours the rain started to get heavier. The forecast had it lasting for two or three hours, then clearing away for a sunnier afternoon.

Hopefully by then, old Yellowthroat might become more active. So to pass the time, and a slight thought of not wanting to get the car stuck in an increasingly muddy field, there were a couple of other places to try. The first being Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, just south of Penarth, which in turn is just south of Cardiff.

Completely new territory for me, never been to Cardiff before. The main reason for coming here was a drake Lesser Scaup, which showed extremely well with the Tufted Ducks.

Also present were a Med Gull which looked like it was leaving it's 2nd-winter plumage, not a lot of black left in the primaries. And a very friendly Whooper Swan, whose wild credentials were somewhat questionable!

Two different Bonaparte's Gulls were around Cardiff Bay, by a Helipad and water treatment works, so that was somewhere to try next. I suppose this is where I really should've done some research as to where this spot was. Getting your bearings around the Cardiff Bay barrage as a start, couldn't even find the helipad never mind the bird! But a few Rock Pipits and Turnstones were around the barrage, with the Welsh Assembly building in the background.

With a biting wind and rain around the barrage, the pager went off to say the Yellowthroat had been relocated. Let's not waste any more time here, but get out of Cardiff and back to Rhiwderin as quickly as possible, in a style similar to something from Smokey and the Bandit!

Parking in Rhiwderin village this time, the field was too muddy by now, even an AA van was stuck! But wellies on and a mad dash up the hill, and the Common Yellowthroat was happily feeding away in ditch. Regularly jumping out, catching insects and moving from one side of the ditch to the other. Phew, and what a fantastic bird it is! When it could be seen openly in the ditch it was hopping around like a Robin, but with a bright-yellow throat and black mask covering the face.

A brilliant bird and an unforgettable twitch, a day of real lows and highs and a mixture of weather conditions. If anything it should give all local patchers hope, you never know what you might find. No thoughts of getting any photos of the Yellowthroat from me, but the next best thing is the twitch shot.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Ice to see you, to see you, Ice!

No, I don't like it when it's this cold. Mainly because I know my local patches are going to completely frozen and not really worth bothering with. A quick check of Uttoxeter Quarry yesterday proved that, and forget Brookleys Lake because it's so sheltered.

But there was a job to do first, and that was helping out with the duck count at Blithfield for the first time. An ice-free deep end produced plenty of duck and Cormorants too. Also from the dam were the Black Redstart showing well, and these two drake Goldeneye.

A quick check of Tad and Blithe Bays didn't produce much, apart from lots of ice. However, it turned out later on that there was a redhead Smew in Tad. Oh, missed that then.

As I didn't see much point in birding closer to home, I tried Doxey Marshes next. Very little exposed water of course, but a bit of Creswell Flash contained 2 Goosander and 14 Pochard. As for the Water Pipit, no sign unfortunately. Although a single pipit that flew over was a Meadow Pipit.

Really not knowing what else to do for the rest of the afternoon, I went to Belvide. You never know, the juvenile Glaucous Gull might re-appear in the roost, and if all else fails, there's a Scaup.

Well, it's a good job the Scaup was there! Very few gulls came into roost, which so often happens at weekends when rubbish tips are shut, gulls then tend to move on. Should've thought really. But one good piece of entertainment was one particular immature Herring Gull having fun with a cork. Flying up into the air with the cork in it's bill and dropping it down, and a bit of ice hockey! But be warned if any other bird tried to pinch it, Corky wasn't happy with that! But that aside, it ended a day where not much went right.

Onto today. When pondering where to go when a strange twist of fortune happened. The pager went off, "adult Glaucous Gull at Westport Lake!". It's only twenty minutes away and hopefully the mist will keep it down for a bit, let's go!

Half-expecting it to fly off before arriving, the adult Glaucous Gull was still there, having moved from the boating lake onto the main lake.

What a monster it is, towering over the Lesser Black-Backed Gulls! Apart from it's size, the short primary projection distinguishes it from Iceland Gull. After 15 minutes it took off, gained height in the mist and was gone! But that completely made up for yesterday.

To finish for this time, just one little bit of unfinished business from yesterday. Heading back to Blithfield this afternoon, the redhead Smew was indeed there at the end of Tad Bay. Best viewed from Newtonhurst Lane.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

So much for the Italian Job!

Thanks Fabio, especially for the World Cup in South Africa. The draws against those footballing super-powers, the USA and Algeria. Then 4-1 against Germany. At least we got further than France!

I've put my application in to the FA. For £6 million a year, I think I could put up with a turnip on my head in the papers, or a fling with Ulrika! However, if it's not to be, then there's only one man for the job. It won't be Stuart Pearce on a permanent basis, or The Special One.

To give you a clue, and a real Radio 2 tune if you ever heard one, here's something sang by Milan Mandaric!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Four Inches

Four inches of snow and the world hasn't come to an end!

As can be seen here, the remaining patch of water in Uttoxeter Quarry still remained after the snow. Not much change to yesterday really, 2 Goldeneye and 54 Goosander. And the Swan carcass? It's gone! No doubt taken by a Fox.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

There's a Brass Monkey outside

Or words to that effect! Its snowing out there now, so I'm all stocked up and time to get cosy at home.

But I did check Uttoxeter Quarry earlier this morning. Not surprisingly most of the water is frozen over, apart from in one corner where all the duck were congregating. Which included 45 Goosander, 122 Wigeon, 100 Teal, 55 Tufteds, 6 Pochard and the Oystercatcher which must be thinking it's made a big mistake in leaving the coast so soon!

There was also a recently-perished Mute Swan carcass on the ice, which the Crows and Magpies were already inspecting. Sad to see, but with a bit of luck it could prove a bounty for Buzzards, Ravens, maybe even a Red Kite? Something to check tomorrow anyway, as long as I'm not snowed in.

I bet Snake Pass is shut by now. Which reminds me.........