Thursday, 30 August 2012

What's that in the sky?

I've avoided non-birding posts for a while, but time to make an exception.  Mainly because of this object in the sky.

Taken from Powell Towers this evening.  Next time you see it, give it a wink for Neil Armstrong!  The moon affects so much of the nature on our planet, whether it's the state of the tides or the navigation of bird migration. 

Personally, birding gives me a sense of adventure, especially when exploring other countries.  But that can be nothing like the Apollo 11 mission to the moon that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins undertook in July 1969.  And it'll never be forgotten.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Cheadle Chatline

Well, it's another Bank Holiday Monday, but it's not been quite as wet as the forecast made it to be, for once.  Must admit I'm ready to say good riddance to this summer, bring on the autumn.  Ever since Easter Monday when it threw down all day it's been so wet, pretty much all reservoirs and gravel pits are still full of water.  Very disheartening for trying to find some passage waders, but I suppose you just have to concentrate on other birds instead.

Saturday's birding began at Uttoxeter Quarry, which had a few waders despite rising water levels again.  The Greenshank and one LRP were still around, 5 Ringed Plovers were new in, plus 8 Common and 4 Green Sands.  Add to this a female Pintail, a Redstart, a Yellow Wagtail and 3 Common Terns, it was a decent selection if nothing out of the ordinary.

Onto the Blithfield causeway, and a first scan immediately revealed an old friend from last week, the Marsh Harrier!  Which soared over the Duckley Plantation then headed north-west, round the corner of Tad Bay, then briefly seen in Blithe Bay.  Also seen from the Tad Bay hide were a Hobby, 2 Pochard and 2 Wigeon.  So with these and the Pintail, the first few winter duck starting to arrive.

Whilst at Blithers a text from Mad Malc was received, to say there's a Whinchat on the Cheadle Chatline.  Don't worry, the Cheadle Chatline is not one of those 0898 numbers, that kind of chatline doesn't even bear thinking about.  It's not even the birding equivalent of the Samaritans.  It's just a very long piece of fence wire and rough ground in a farmer's field on the northern outskirts of Cheadle, and is proving to be quite a reliable spot for passage Whinchats.

Eventually two Whinchats had been seen, but by the time I got there I managed to find one bird, perched on a bale of hay.

Zoom in a bit.

A year ago, a visit to Swineholes Wood up on Ipstones Edge, proved productive with good flocks of tits, warblers, Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers.  So that's where Sunday's birding began, but what a contrast this time.  Just a single Spotted Flycatcher and 6 Willow Warblers were found in amongst a few Blue Tits and Coal Tits, surely another sign of the wet summer having a detremental effect on passerine numbers.

After that disappointment, at least Branston Gravel Pits should have some waders.  This proved to be the case with a Ruff, 18 Black-tailed Godwits, 15 Green Sands, 2 Common Sands, 2 Dunlin, one Ringed Plover and 15 Curlew present.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Back to fitness, Marsh Harrier and Birdfair

Around the time of the last blog entry at the end of July, I thought I was over the worst of a cold.  But it's been a real lingerer, very slow to shift.  Then continuing work with it, by the end of a working week you become a physical wreck.  Without going into too much detail, sometimes my nose resembled that of dear old Gilbert here:

During the intervening time a couple of visits to Uttoxeter Quarry were managed, but with little energy.  But it did produce two different Med Gulls, a 2nd winter on the 4th August (along with a drenching in the rain) and an adult on the 15th August.

So to get right up to date for this weekend.  The undoubted highlight of morning's Uttoxeter Quarry visit was towards the end.  When walking away from the main gravel pit and turned round to find the gulls and Lapwings had been flushed.  The cuplrit was a large, all dark-brown raptor with a cream head.  A female/juvenile Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Common Terns, woohoo! 

Presumably it's the same bird that went through last Sunday, and the recent Blithfield bird?  Could be, I don't know.  Other birds included a Greenshank, 7 Common Sands, 4 Green Sands, 13 Common Terns, 27 Teal and a few warblers including Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.  Then an afternoon around Blithfield, along with other members of the regional blogosphere, produced such delights as 31 Black Terns between the causeway and Beech Tree Point, and Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat in the bushes below the dam.

Onto today.  I've been thinking for a while about going to the Rutland Water Birdfair, so for once I did.  Mainly to chat with the people who have helped arrange some of my trips over the last few years, as time has progressed I've thought that's something I really ought to do. 

My last visit to the Birdfair was in 2004, eight years ago, and vividly remember coming away feeling completely bewildered by the sheer range and choice of tourism companies, optics and other products and organisations available to you.  Eight years on, none of that has changed.  I can understand why the exhibitors keep returning year after year.  But personally as a punter, it's too much to take in, the marquees are too hot and sweaty, which leads to it all being a bit frustrating.  There Tim Appleton, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

However, one event was throughly enjoyable.  That was the talk on the tales of Exmoor (and a programme from Alaska this christmas), by the Beast of Exmoor himself, Mr Johnny Kingdom:

Admittedly he's no David Attenborough.  But what he lacks in knowledge is made up with enthusiam, and he's mad as a box of frogs!