I am still here. It just felt that at the end of 2012, after five years of blogging and pretty much non-stop, the time was right for a bit of a break. But not a birding break, certainly not. Isn't winter a drag? I'm just glad that we're now back into spring, and enjoying the lovely spring-like weather! Ah.
Just a couple of miles from home. Look a little closer however, and those drifts look more serious.
So being confined to home today, it looks like a good opportunity for a catch-up on what I've seen so far in 2013. Which included a couple of January gull roost visits to Chasewater, on New Years Day and on the 13th. Iceland (adult), Glaucous (2nd winter pictured below) and Caspian Gulls were all seen over the course of both visits.
Saturday 5th January was spent watching the mighty Brewers at Leicester City. But before the game I paid a visit to Swithland Reservoir, and a look at the two female Velvet Scoters that were present at the time, at the dam end.
The weekend of the 12th and 13th January was quite productive. The major highlight was the reappearance of Uttoxeter Quarry's overwintering Common Sandpiper, which hadn't been seen since the beginning of December. The pink legs and long tail projection still meant that it wasn't a Spotted Sand! Alas, the bird was never seen subsequently, following the first major snowfall a few days later.
Other highlights that weekend included an adult Med Gull at Blithfield, and the appearance of a Red-necked Grebe at Belvide on the 13th, along with other year ticks like Jack Snipe, Brambling and Little Owl.
February began with an adult Whooper Swan and a Jack Snipe at Uttoxeter Quarry on the 2nd. Then Sunday 3rd February was an enjoyable day out in Derbyshire. It all started with a Hawfinch at Cromford, then a Great Grey Shrike on a misty Beeley Moor. Next was a visit to Ogston Reservoir, whilst enjoying the Red-necked Grebe here there was also an encounter with master story-teller, Mr George Brian!
Onto Carsington Water was next, where one Great Northern Diver was visible. Finishing off with some wild swans at Twyford, between Willington and Swarkestone. 5 Whoopers and a family party of 7 Bewick's finished off an excellent day.
As for March so far. The main highlight at the beginning of the month were flocks of Waxwings making their way back north. A flock of 35 birds in Hilderstone on the 3rd, then this flock of 18 in Cheadle on the 9th.
I was very kindly invited to a little twitch mission to the Somerset levels on Sunday 10th March with Martyn and Kay, plenty of birds to see and in a wonderful place to go birding. The main highlight being the Pied-billed Grebe at Ham Wall RSPB reserve, which showed well albeit briefly. Also intruiging was the bird's call, which Martyn thought was a Crane and I thought was a speeded-up Donkey!
Other birds on offer were drake Ring-necked and Ferruginous Ducks, NINE Great White Egrets at Shapwick Heath on the other side of the Ashcott Corner car park and the first Sand Martin of the year. And all to the backdrop of Marsh Harriers, booming Bitterns and cettying Cetti's Warblers. A fantastic area which I can highly recommend. Also good to see fellow blogger and Burtonian, Karen Woolley.
The return journey involved a stop at Aust Warth, next to the first Severn Bridge. Eventually the rather bizarre sight of two Twite appeared out of nowhere, circled around and landed in a Blackthorn bush for a short time, then took off. They were Twite alright, but I can't ever recall seeing Twite in trees and bushes, only on the ground. They are finches after all, so why not?
And so to last weekend. A usual Saturday morning spent at Uttoxeter Quarry yielded a decent selection of birds but nothing out of the ordinary, or any summer migrants. What on earth can I do now? The RBA pager had the answer, "1st winter drake Lesser Scaup at Ogston Reservoir". Hallelujah, praise the lord, that'll do, I'm off.
And surely enough, the Lesser Scaup was still present and showing well in Chapel Bay, with Tufteds and Pochards.
It turns out that this was Derbyshire's first Lesser Scaup, and only stayed for the one day on the 16th. Finally, on Sunday 17th March, some time exploring the Trent valley gravel pits revealed 2 Ringed Plovers at Branston GP's, and with the last look, 2 Little Ringed Plovers in the flooded field opposite the entrance to the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas. Wonderful!
So despite all the snow that's currently around, the first few summer migrants are battling their way back. Good luck to them.