Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

A quick trip this morning down the M6 to Gailey to see the 25 Bewick's Swans (22 adults/three immatures).This is the largest flock in Staffordshire for nearly 14 years.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Saturday 18th December 2010 - The Northern Harrier in Norfolk

The NORTHERN HARRIER had been showing most days again this week after disappearing for a short time during the cold spell. We had tried to make the trip before, but we had all been busy and of course the weather hadn't helped. It was looking a bit touch and go weather wise during the week, but by Friday, the forecast was predicting no snow for East Anglia, just freezing temperatures. However, at 05-30hrs when PJ, GAS and myself left Stoke with heavy snow falling and the roads getting covered, we started to wonder if we'd made the right decision or not. By the time we were on the A50 bypass, it had stopped. Despite getting reports all morning from home of 4cm's of snow, we never saw another flake all day. It was strange to listen to the radio and hearing about drivers getting stuck on the M5 (5 miles in 3hrs!) and we just sailed to Norfolk and back. We arrived at Thornham Marsh at 09-00hrs to a crowd of about ten birders. We soon found out we had only just missed the first showing by a matters of minutes. But it wasn't long before we had our first views of the Northern Harrier distantly on the other side of the marsh. We had several views of it before it caught something and dropped down onto the deck. We had enjoyed our spell here, seeing probably up to five Marsh Harriers , a Peregrine, Merlin, PJ saw a Barn Owl, Pink-feet going over, but we decided to head over to Titchwell for better views. PJ and GAS manage to get a good position to see above the crowds Titchwell was something of a disappointment. It was mostly frozen over, and for some reason we only saw one Marsh Harrier from this side. PJ did get better views of his mammal tick for the day - a Chinese Water Deer was showing quite well.
We did make a visit to the very recently opened new Parinder Hide. I think today was its first day open. I didn't really know what to make of it, but we did have good views of possibly as many as five Water Pipits feeding with a large Skylark flock. One of the Water Pipits and below the new Parinder hide Black turn table things with a handle on - you don't get these at Blithfield! Fully movable seats but the windows were opened by bits of string on a pulley system. We headed off for Holkham next, happy that we had seen our target bird for the day, but we wished we'd had slightly better views. Holkham was frozen and quite quiet, but we did eventually find a few Eurasian White-fronts and a single Barnacle Goose. It was here that we received a message saying the NORTHERN HARRIER was showing again. We had already decided to end the day at Thornham, and when we arrived we were given directions where the NORTHERN HARRIER had dropped down. Almost immediately, it flew right in front of us, giving us the excellent views we had wanted. It was the closest that any harrier had shown all day. Three times it flew past us, before it continued hunting further away. Below are some videograbs I managed to take. In between views, there was a good selection of waders showing well in the creeks, almost oblivious to the birders standing around and just getting on with feeding.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Saturday 11th December

A day out in Staffordshire for the first time in a few weeks. The day started off at Westport as per usual. Not a bad visit with a personal record equalled with 9 species of duck seen. They were Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, two Goldeneye, five Teal dotted about, a male Gadwall, a female Goosander, Sammy and finally three Wigeon flew around.
Next stops were on the Chase with brief visits to the Glacial Boulder and the Cadet Huts. Not a lot at either place except for loads of Fieldfare and Redwing.
Then onto the pits. I was not sure what to expect, as I remembered from last winter that a lot of the birds tend to move out. It was like that at Westport this week - very few birds on show. At BGPs, there was quite a large patch of open water on the first pit, but the Sandy Pit was still iced over, and actually there was only one bird on the whole pit - a female Teal. However, what made matters worse at Branston was a pheasant shoot had just started. It was slightly unnerving feeling the bullets wizz past my head and not being able to see the shooters! Luckily, it was over relatively quickly. The worse thing about visiting Branston at the moment is walking straight past a bird scarer. This is the second time I've played Russian roulette with this one. Fortunately it went off this time when I was quite a way away, but you just don't know when its going to go off next. Nightmare!

So it was on to my last site for the day. Again slightly more open water and a few more birds - 46 Goldeneye and 50 Goosander present. A small gull roost formed with 20 GBBG dropping in. I decided to stay here till the end of play instead of doing the roost at Blithfield. Nothing else dropped in and that was it for the day.

Mr Mant later emailed me to say it was the best roost at Blithers in years with the Chasewater birds going there now while the water levels are low. Two ICELAND GULLS were present. Oh well, there's always next weekend.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday 27th November 2010

Woke up to the first snow of the winter and its still only November. So its a chance for some snowy pictures from Westport as it was quite quiet there today.

And then it was off to Blithfield. I headed to Tad Bay first, but as I left the lane, the vehicle in front of me was struggling to get up the bank and along the track to Stansley Wood. I gave up immediately and decided to walk from the lane to the hide. Tad Bay was extremely quiet. I walked back to the car and stopped on the road at the bottom of Tad to see if three Swans I had seen flying over the wood had landed or not. There was no sign but there were two Foxes on the ice.

I then headed towards Branston GP's. On the way, I received a text from RB saying "Cambs then?!". As per usual with RB's cryptic texts I racked my brain to think why would I want to head to Cambridgeshire. Then I received the mega about the BAIKAL TEAL. Only a two hour journey, not much happening in Staffs, busy on Sunday so would have to wait all week - it was a no brainer. I set the sat nav and headed off. I was a bit worried at first as there were no updates coming through, but eventually the confirmation came that it was still present. All was going well and I was only about 20 mins away. Then I had another text off RB. Now if I'd thought about it and decided to leave it and not headed off to Cambs I would be looking at full frame pictures of a 1w BAIKAL TEAL now on the internet and regretting not going. But this time, I raced across the country for a hybrid. Brilliant - ain't birding good. And yes, as I was only 20 minutes away, I decided to carry on and see it.

Oh well, dust yourself off, there's always next weekend!

Monday, 22 November 2010

A trip to Fuerteventura

Fellow Clayhead gang member PJ recently visited Fuerteventura for the week and managed to get himself two ticks while he was out there. Here are just a few of his pictures that he took.

Fuerteventura Chat

Barbary Ground Squirrel

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

Trumpeter Finches

Spectacled Warbler

Southern (Desert) Grey Shrike

Plain Tiger

On an entirely different matter, a little video you can check out in your spare time

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Saturday 20th November 2010 - Staffordshire

We thought we were going to struggle a bit in the fog this morning, but fortunately, it was clear at all the sites we visited, but we did drive through some quite heavy stuff en route. Many thanks to those in charge of Fog distribution today. First stop after Westport was at Belvide to see the redhead Smew. It was feeding off the dam in the far corner so it was showing quite distantly. Amazingly, this is my first Smew at Belvide since the long staying 1988 bird.

A simply stunning photo of the Smew at Belvide.

We then spent some time at the feeding station in the woods as a Brambling was feeding on the seed with the Chaffinches. I also managed to bag a Nuthatch and I managed a few pictures of when a swarm of Long-tailed Tits descended but the light was quite poor and the pictures arn't that sharp.

Next stop was at Whitemoor for the Whopper Swan again.

Then it was on to BGP's again, and the Little Egret was still present on the first pit, but everything was extremely jumpy again on the Sandy Pit. I was nowhere near this time when all the Lapwing and Goldies flew up. I also decided to walk through to the Water Park this time. There was quite a bit a stuff on the main lake, with good numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon present.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday 13th November 2010

Only two of us today for the trip to Rochdale. PJ was jetting off to Fuerteventura and CJW was working all weekend. The reason for visiting Rochdale - well nearby Hollingworth Lake was for the PIED-BILLED GREBE that had been present all week. The last twitchable one was back in 1999 but my only previous one was way back in 1987 at Kenfig, nearly 24 years ago when I was a sweet 17 year old with a full head of hair. We visited Westport first and then headed up the M6 and M62, arriving at Hollingworth Lake at 09-40hrs. The Pied-billed Grebe was showing extremely well at first directly below the path, but it then moved further back to rest and preen. The second time it came close I was ready with my camera and managed to take a couple of acceptable shots. This Autumn is getting better as the weeks go by.

After spending a pleasant hour or so with the Pied-billed Grebe we headed back south to our next stop. A Great Northern Diver was at Astbury Mere. Now in the past, stuff has moved between Westport and Astbury, most notably my RING-NECKED DUCK from 2009 that spent a day at Astbury before returning to Westport when spooked by a large firework display. I decided it was best to check out the Great Northern Diver and see if there was anyway I could encourage it to fly the short distance south. Unfortunately, it was right at the back of the pool but I'm sure it will be at Westport in the next few days.

Our last stop of the day was in Leek for the 18 WAXWINGS that had been present for quite a while. I couldn't see much point in going for them before as it will only be a matter of time before they arrive in all the usual places in the city. Well these showed quite well for us and finished not a bad day at all.