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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Early January 2017 - Anglesey, Venus Pools and Staffs

Well mid January and here is the first blog. As I said, we are taking it easier this year and have decided to do far less birding than last year. We have even decided to make up trips and ticks, so don't be surprised at the end of the year when you suddenly find out we've seen birds x, y and z this year but obviously you won't read about them on here or see any photos of the birds. Its a lot easier and cheaper that way and your list still grows. We're becoming "Ghost listers".

So this year on January 1st we decided to see how many species we could see in a day on Anglesey. Something a bit different to do, but we managed to see 84, a new personal Jan 1st record for me. It was just a shame that the strong N wind hampered out day a little. We saw the Cattle Egrets again near Malltreath, Great Northern Diver, Pale-bellied Brent and Slavonian Grebe at Beddmanarch / Penrhos / Inland Sea, three auk sp sheltering in Holyhead Harbour, a nice Yellow-browed Warbler at Soldiers Point, four Long-tailed Ducks in Trearddur Bay and a Jack Snipe flushed from Malltreath Marsh.

CJW and The Stalker managed to open their accounts for the year with a trip on the 2nd to Venus Pools to see the excellent female Pine Bunting. By all accounts it was a bit of a looker and showed really well. He is CJW's video.



And here is one I saw earlier, way back in 2004 in Norfolk. 


Pine Bunting, Choseley Barns, Norfolk. March 2004
Locally, obviously the Long-tailed Duck was still present at Westport until the 7th, plus there were a few Waxwings about and three Tundra Bean Geese at Bent Lane.

Tundra Bean at Bent Lane taken by CJW
We then had two consecutive Saturdays spent in Staffordshire, mainly due to the weather. Saturday 7th was forecast to be foggy, but it lifted in time for us to see Staffordshire's first ever winter record of Temminck's Stint, found at Branston GP. Here's a remarkable video clip by CJW considering the distance it was showing at.



We caught up with the Velvet Scoter again at Chasewater and Scaup at Gailey but dipped the Bittern at Belvide, probably due to the incredible noise created by one party assembled in the hide.  

Last Saturday, the 14th, we had several plans thwarted by the recent snow. In the end, we popped up to Sandbach Flashes and managed to catch up with one of the Iceland Gulls there, before we headed down the M6 back to Belvide.



And that's the first half of January completed.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Black-throated Thrush St Asaph December 30th 2016

A quick trip to North Wales on the penultimate day of 2016. The BLACK-THROATED THRUSH at St Asaph hadn't really been showing until 1100ish so we headed up to Anglesey for first light. We were soon watching five Cattle Egrets and four Little Egrets feeding in a field inland from Malltreath.


We knew time was tight, so a quick check of Beddmanarch Bay saw just the one Slavonian Grebe and a Great Northern Diver. On the Inland Sea we found another GND, a few PB Brent Geese but no SCAUP. 

We then headed back down the A55 to St Asaph and eventually after one missed sighting, we found ourselves stood behind the chapel staring at a berry tree. We only had to wait 45 minutes or so before the female Black-throated Thrush flew back in, showing well but briefly.


And folks, at 14:30hrs on New Years Eve, I'm fairly confident in saying that's it. Its been an unforgettable  year in lots of ways. 

We've made the decision to take it easy next year, do less birding and more walking across fields looking at scenery.

Only joking. 2017 starts on Anglesey at first light......Bring it on baby.

Good night xxx

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blue Rock Thrush in Gloucestershire 28th December 2016

You just knew it. I closed the year, did a nice blog to end the year, nice photo and video and then "the year that just keeps on giving" had one final twist.

Just after Christmas, photographs appeared of an apparent Blue Rock Thrush that was visiting a garden in Stow-on-the-Wold. It was all a bit odd at first, but eventually the address was given out, and fortunately, we had already planned a day's birding.

We popped down to Stow in CJW's cars and arrived in the dark. We moved into position and joined the 30 or so birders who were already on site. The shout went up; we were too near the hedge to see so a quick dash across the grass and we found ourselves in a prime position and enjoyed decent views for the next hour or so; the light gradually improving as the morning went on. An odd bird and yet another housing estate twitch. I just don't know what to make of this one.







We were hoping that the Belvide Grey Phalarope was going to stay for it's second day, but unfortunately there was no sign. So instead we headed up to Rutland Water and to the dam, where Leicestershire's first record of a Surf Scoter was showing quite nicely among a small flock of Tufted Duck.




Juv Surf Scoter at Rutland Water



 


Sunday, 11 December 2016

2016 Review




 

I think thats it for 2016 but every weekend in December so far we've said "Is that it?" and the so called "Year that keeps on giving" has produced another two rares for us in December. 

So 2016......I didn't get my first lifer until July but then the year sprung into life, and a complete opposite to 2015. We had a decent Autumn for a change. 

Statistics wise - a decent year I think, with at least five lifers, maybe as many as seven eventually but we'll just have to wait and see. Finally I went a year without a Staffs tick but I did get two Westport ticks.

Bird of the year - thats easy...it was the Red-eyed Vireo in Porthgwarra.

Enough waffle. You can read the blog for yourself.

So on behalf of all the Clayheads, I would like to wish all of our good friends a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we'll see you all on January 1st. Obviously we'll see the proper birders for the rest of the year as well.

Personally, I would like to thank all my fellow brother Clayheads for their support and companionship throughout the year, especially in June. One of the worse trips the Clayheads have ever been but you all turned up and for that I thank you.

Love to you all (well most of you) and see you all next year!

Finally, we have to end the year on with a song. This song is dedicated to the rest of the Clayheads. To The Stalker, PJ, PLo and CJW I hope you enjoy this fine tune, and for Chris you have my permission to watch it muted.

 

Dusky Thrush Derbyshire 10th December 2016

Everyone in the world had seen the Beeley Dusky Thrush during the week. I could perhaps have snooked away during the week but I resisted temptation and held my nerve and waited until Saturday.

CJW agreed to travel again to see it for a second time, and we even had the thrill of a free shuttle bus taking us into the village. We arrived in the dark and managed to get on the third bus of the day, and we were joined by Mr Moorehen. We were a little surprised by the small numbers initially present, and we set our scopes up on the front row overlooking the wall in the orchard - a prime position.

We had decided on a plan. We were going to stay in the orchard all the time, as the Dusky Thrush seemed to keep coming back throughout the day. 

It slowly started getting lighter, and there was no sign. Eventually, at 08:30 ish it flew in from the right hand side, perched a few times on the bushes, then started to feed on one very large apple. Unfortunately for us in our prime position, the view was blocked by one of the red canoes. But I'd seen the bird, and it was on my Derbyshire list.

We stood and waited. Several times the now packed yard emptied as brief sightings were had around the village, but we still stayed putt. It was now 10:40hrs, and it had not returned and I was still without any photos. We decided there would be a cut off point of 12:00hrs. The bacon baps were very nice though.

Another shout went up and everyone went rushing into the field again. In a feeble attempt to at least get some photos, I ran in after them. At last my legs were moving again. The freedom of walking in a field was exhilerating. By the time i reached the top of the second field, the Dusky Thrush had flown through the hedge into another field higher up. Everyone was milling around. I decided to phone CJW to keep him in the picture. He told me the Dusky Thrush was back in the orchard showing well.

So to all you up and coming listers / tickers / mega chasers and not bothered about any patchwork stuff at all types, following my two years as a twitcher I've learned a few things from mistakes. First one is if you have a plan, stick to it, no matter how long it takes for the bird to return. 

While I was walking / running back to the orchard, CJW took the following video.



I managed to take this video upon my return.



And in case you missed it earlier, the full story of the first Dusky Thrush I saw in Britain is here

   

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Masked Wagtail in Pembrokeshire 3rd December 2016

December is one of those months when those who have been fading since January 2nd fade even further, waiting for their annual days birding on January 1st. 

All of the current Clayheads were sitting with their feet up, reading their van Duivendijk, planning trips for 2017, when news came from Pembrokeshire that a Masked Wagtail was present - and a British first to boot. Now those who are clued up will realise that a Masked Wagtail will probably just stay a subspecies and nothing else, but fortunately, LGRE includes it on his UK400 list and so we felt the need to pop down.

It really felt like one of those end of term twitches. If it wasn't for the fact that it was a UK400 tick and I'm nearing my next certificate (thats the one for 300 species in the UK), I don't honestly think I could have been ar.. bothered to go. When you have to be up at 4am for work in the week, then it hurts a little to get up at that time at the weekend too. 

Anyway, spurred on by my fellow crew, we set off for Pembrokeshire at 05:00hrs on a Saturday morning. The journey was alright; no hold ups at all, and we arrived in the village of Camrose at just after 09:00hrs. Our good friend Grizzly was already on site, and we followed all on site parking instructions (actually we parked in the first layby we came across because we couldn't find the field to park in). 

And following a short wait, we were soon watching a Masked Wagtail feeding on the road in front of us. The twitch really did have a bit of everything. It was a twitch in a residential area, so cars kept pausing to ask what we were doing; there was a slippery grass slope and there were some certain birders who are more welcome at twitches than others.
 
Look at the guy who's lying in the road

Just look at the guy furthest left - have you ever seen that expression at a twitch before. And the lady on the left looks like she's suffering 2016 burnout
 





1w Masked Wagtail, Camrose, Pembrokeshire
   
An extremely rare photo of me plus the man slipping down the slippery slope and nearly taking out another birder. You just knew it was going to happen (photo by CJW)



Friday, 18 November 2016

Hooded Merganser Kilbirnie Loch, Ayrshire

On Saturday 12th November, we made a quick dash up the M6 / M74 to Ayrshire to see the relocated drake Hooded Merganser, arriving just west of Glasgow by 08:30hrs. We both did think that this was a bit of a mad-one, but a tick is a tick, and we both needed it for our various lists. For me, it was a welcome Ayrshire tick. This fine drake was feeding with a small flock of Goosander, always keeping its distance from us.

  
Kilbirnie Loch


At 09:00hrs we headed back home (as I had to be out by 17:30hrs), calling in Carlisle on the way south to see a flock of 31 Waxwings. Amazingly, these are only my third ever Waxwings outside of Staffs, and my first since 2012 (#Octogontastic #painsinchest)