Staffordshire Bird News

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Blast from the Past - The Ovenbird twitch - 28th Oct 2004

Another blast from the past from the Clayhead Crew, as today is the 6th anniversary of our trip to see the OVENBIRD on the Isles of Scilly. It was a remarkable day and below are my diary notes from October 28th 2004. On Monday 26th October 2004, John and Jean Harding discovered an OVENBIRD near the feeding station at Trenoweth. Eventually, it was re-discovered and the twitching began

(497) 16:52 ***MEGA***SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S NR WATERMILL 4.45PM. BN 16:50 25/10/04

Unfortunately, this also coincided with a large low pressure approaching with storm force winds and torrential rain predicted. We originally were trying to go down on Tuesday, but the Scillonian III was leaving St. Mary's at 14-00hrs, thus leaving only 1½hrs on the island. In conversation with PJ, he said the area was heavily brackened with many paths. With 600+ birders all trying to view the bird, it might have been impossible to see the bird in such a short time. We decided to travel down later in the week. The weather was at its worse on Wednesday, and the Scillonian III was cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday. The aeroplane was definitely not running on Wednesday, but they would reassess the situation on Thursday. This was a gamble; as if we left the decision to go until Wednesday afternoon, then there might not be any seats available. I had other commitments on Friday, and so the only option was to go by helicopter on Thursday. We decided to wait for positive news on Wednesday 27th and then book the tickets for Thursday. The positive news did come through, and the bird had survived another night. However, the next message on the pager did concern me a little -

(616) 09:20 SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S HAS BROKEN LEFT LEG 09:20 27/10/04

I tried not to worry too much, and thought that maybe it would not move about too much now. GAS booked three tickets on the 09-45hrs flight from Penzance to St. Mary's, and PJ booked another for PL, but he was returning on the 17-30hrs flight. We were coming back on the last flight off the island at 18-00hrs. All the plans were made when this message came through at dinnertime

(628) 12:12 SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S BTW WATERMILL+TRENOWETH 12.10PM THE BIRD IS IN A VERY POOR STATE & WILL BE TAKEN INTO CARE. 12:10 27/10/04

I phoned PJ, and we decided to cancel the trip. He phoned the booking office and was able to transfer his ticket to next year. We were going to cancel, but decided to wait until later on in the afternoon, just in case something else was found on the island. Just to confirm the situation, the next message confirmed our unfortunate decision.

(630) 12:42 SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S BTW WATERMILL+TRENOWETH 12.35PM BAD INJURY DOWN LEFT SIDE BUT BIRD IS STILL ELUSIVE AND NO FURTHER ATTEMPT WILL BE MADE CATCH IT BUT ITS THOUGHT IT WILL NOT SURVIVE. 12:42 27/10/04

PJ phoned up Paul Flint at Birdnet, and his conversation resulted in this amazing message, plus arguments developing between RBA and Birdnet.

(635) 14:00 SCILLY THE OVENBIRD ST. MARY’S HAS A GASH ON ITS LEFT SIDE ITS LEFT LEG STICKS OUT AT A RIGHT ANGLE AND IT CAN’T GRIP WITH ITS LEFT FOOT THE OTHER LOT CLAIM IT APPEARS OK ON THE SAY SO OF THE LOCAL VET WHO IS NOT A BIRDER. 13:58 27/10/04

Doubt started to enter my mind after this message as to what was the current condition of the bird? If we cancelled and didn’t travel, and then the bird was still showing on Thursday morning, we would have felt a little cheated.

(636) 14:08 SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S BTW WATERMILL+TRENOWETH 2PM HAS BEEN SUNNING ITSELF NOW DRIED OUT AND LOOKS PERKIER 14:06 27/10/04

PJ phoned LGRE up, and he said that reports were wrong, and the bird was OK. This was confirmed by this message at 17-15hrs. PJ rebooked PL’s flight, and we all breathed a sigh after such a stressful afternoon.

(647) 17:16 SCILLY OVENBIRD 5.10PM SHOWING BY TRACK BTW WATERMILL & TRENOWETH THE BIRD IS FEEDING OK AND LOOKS A LOT BETTER THAN IT DID THIS MORNING. 17:13 27/10/04

Thursday 28th October 2004 – Isles of Scilly
We arranged to pick PJ up at 03-10hrs, and then drove to Fenton to pick PL up. I drove the first leg down to Sedgemoor, and then GAS took over. In parts it was a clear night, and a partial eclipse of the moon was observed. We received reports that one helicopter was down, and we would be experiencing some delays. We arrived at Penzance at 08-30hrs, and discovered that our 09-45hrs flight would be leaving at 10-15hrs. As I was walking back to the car, we received this message, confirming that the OVENBIRD had again survived the night.

(656) 08:33 SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S SHOWING ON TRACK BTW WATERMILL & TRENOWETH. BN 8:31 28/10/04

I was still extremely tense, and, along with PJ, found the waiting for the flight across hard. We eventually took off at 10-20hrs, and we landed at 10-40hrs on St. Mary's. There was confusion at the airport, where the taxi we had booked had been taken by another six birders. We grabbed our bags and crammed into another taxi, arriving at Trenoweth at 11-00hrs.PJ and PL both ran off. I walked, but soon lost GAS and so I walked faster. The area was under the conifers, and I soon came to an area on a slight hill. A group were standing under the trees, staring down at the floor. PJ pointed down, but among the branches and pine needles, I couldn’t see a thing. I moved around slightly, and then I saw the Ovenbird sitting on the floor, crouching for shelter behind a mound. It appeared that the wing was sticking out, and it appeared to be a bit unhealthy. I looked around and realised GAS hadn’t arrived yet. I walked back to the path and phoned him. He told me he had gone through a gate and was heading for another. I knew I hadn’t walked through any gates, and started to look for him. I eventually found him across a field, walking in the opposite direction. I guided him back and we all enjoyed incredible views as the bird just sat on the floor, approximately two metres away.


(674) SCILLY OVENBIRD ST.MARY’S 11.20AM ON TRACK BTW WATERMILL & TRENOWETH BUT AGAIN APPEARS UNWELL AND IS STRUGGLING TO STAND.BN 11:20 28/10/04

It was difficult to digiscoped the bird, as it was too close, and the viewing area was cramped. The floor was uneasy and very springy. The pathetic state of the bird was clear when it tried to move. It couldn’t walk, and just used its wings to attempt to move. It just rolled about the area, and then just sat there. It was a sad sight, and took the edge of what should have been an incredible bird. It was clearly unwell, and needed help urgently. Will Wagstaff and Bryan Thomas were coming up to take pictures of the bird, and when they arrived discussions took place. It was decided to capture the bird and take it into care. Will took his hat off, and after a brief flutter, the Ovenbird was in his hand. We had only just made it in time. The bird was now in care and untickable!

(676) 11:38 SCILLY OVENBIRD HAS BEEN TAKEN INTO CARE 11.30AM & MAY BE FLOWN TO MOUSEHOLE.BN 11:36 28/10/04


The bird was taken away, and we all stood around. Part ecstatic as to the nature of the tick, elated that no-one else could tick the bird now, but sad that we saw it in such a state.

(684) 12:51 SCILLY OVENBIRD WILL REMAIN IN CARE ON ST. MARY’S. THERE WILL BE NO VIEWING DUE TO BIRDS EXTREMELY POOR CONDITION.BN 12:49 28/10/04

We eventually wandered away from the Ovenbird site, and headed for Newford Duck Pond where a PALLAS’S WARBLER had been already seen that morning. A small crowd had gathered around the duck pond, but there was no sign of the Pallas’s Warbler after a ten-minute wait. It was here that we received the following pager message –

12:30 CORNWALL CREAM-COLOURED COURSER UNFORTUNATELY DIED OVERNIGHT IN CARE AT MOUSEHOLE BIRD HOSPITAL.BN 12:28 28/10/04

We walked past the Longstones Café, and found a taxi parked up outside a barn. PJ went in and persuaded her to take us to the Incinerator.The taxi dropped us off right outside the Incinerator. In one of the gardens opposite, a Waxwing was feeding on fallen apples.

We watched it for a while before it went out of sight. Some passing birders had told us that a RED-BACKED SHRIKE was showing at the end of the allotments. We walked down the path, and the juvenile Red-backed Shrike flew out and landed on the hedge further down, showing very well. We also received a report that a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER had been seen a little further down the path. We stood sheltering under the trees for ½ hour while it rained. There was no further sign of the bird, but another 10+ Common Chiffchaffs were seen. We walked back towards the Dump Clump, where we had better views of the Waxwing.

It was now 13-30hrs, and it was raining steadily. We walked to the Mermaid where PJ bought us a drink. PJ had been speaking to Ren Hathaway who had got the Ovenbird in his house. There had been a lot of ill feeling caused by the taking into care of the Ovenbird, and Ren had arranged for Scilly birder Bryan Thomas to come and see our pictures and videos of the bird. They were after some ‘evidence’ to show the state the bird was in. Bryan took my memory card away, and took some pictures from it. We sat in the Mermaid chatting away, and were joined by Nigel Hudson. Eventually it stopped raining, and at 15-15hrs we set off. Our flight off the island was at 18-00hrs, but we needed to be at the airport by 17-00hrs. It was still raining on and off, but also the wind had increased. In the harbour, Nigel Hudson told us that there were 30+ BLACK REDSTART feeding. We looked down from the wall on a beach full of birds, all pecking around the rocks and seaweed. We counted 6+ Black Redstarts, 5+ Common Chiffchaffs, 30+ Robin including some with very orange breasts. These were Continental Robins. There was also a Stonechat and many Rock and Meadow Pipits.

We walked round into Porthcressa, but the wind was extremely strong. Another Black Redstart sheltered on one of the window ledges. Seaweed was strewn everywhere as a result of the high tides and winds. We headed for the airport as the conditions were worsening. We had phoned the airport and the choppers were still flying. Apparently, the wind had been worse yesterday. We walked to the hide on Lower Moors, mainly looking for JACK SNIPE. The water levels were too high. We did see a Common Greenshank, Cormorant, three Mallard and a Black-headed Gull. We carried on walking towards the airport.

At Careg Dhu, a PALLAS’S WARBLER had been showing all day. This was only just up the road, and we had time to walk there. GAS decided to miss out and head for the airport. We arrived at 16-15hrs. After only a short wait, the Pallas’s Warbler came into view and flitted about in the trees in front of us, showing very well. We watched it do two or three circuits, before we headed back to the airport. We took off at 18-05hrs and enjoyed a relatively smooth flight. It was raining heavily in Penzance, and in the dark and the confusion, I managed to take the wrong rucksack. It didn’t stop raining until we were well past Exeter, and in parts it was torrential. We arrived home after midnight, a journey of 5hrs+.

(708) 18:28 SCILLY: WE ARE VERY SAD TO REPORT THAT THE OVEN BIRD HAS DIED. BN. 18:25 28/10/04

video

Friday, 22 October 2010

Thursday 21st October 2010 - Chasewater

Sometimes in birding you are unlucky, and other times you are lucky. Well this morning, I did Westport as per usual and then did one or two jobs around the house. I'd finished tidying up and had just sat down at my computer when the pager beeped. My reward for my mornings efforts was a LEACH'S PETREL at Chasewater. Even time for me to get back for the school run at 4pm. For the first time this week a twitch was on. Gear grabbed, coats on and hurtled down to GAS's house. A bit sticky on the M6 but not too bad and we arrived at Chasewater at 13-30hrs. There had been no updates on the pager since the first news, but as we walked out from the visitors centre, I could see a small crowd standing on the shoreline. After a 3 mile walk, we arrived at the waters edge. The Leach's was that close it was visible with the naked eye on approach. It didn't do much, just sat and floated, but it did fly twice when a Coot came up behind it. Seven records for Chasewater and first live one there since 1987.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Wednesday 20th October - Inner Marsh Farm & Anglesey

After visiting Westport, we headed off to Inner Marsh Farm to see the WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN that had been present there since 14th October. However, there had been no reports of it still being present by the time we arrived, and our suspicions were confirmed when we asked the Permit Checker at the top. We decided to carry on down to the hide though, which was full. So we stood for quite a while at the back, bending down to peer through the flaps. Eventually, we managed to get a seat just as a helicopter buzz overhead, reducing the waders present considerably. A Spotted Redshank and Greenshank both showed well, but were asleep for most of the time. After about an hour, we decided to head off. Just as we were parking up we received news that a GLOSSY IBIS had been found on Anglesey. This was just too hard to resist as I, like several of the Clayheads have a soft spot for Anglesey (Forster's, Bridled & Sooty Tern, Green Heron, Isabelline Wheatear, Black Lark...the list goes on) and this was another rare to add to my list. We headed across North Wales and soon came to Anglesey. At the third attempt, we found the flooded fields south of Llyn Traffwll, just SE of the Valley RSPB reserve. On the first scan, there was no sign, and it looked like it was going to be one of those days again. A second, harder look revealed the 1w Glossy Ibis in the cattle field at the back of the flooded area. Just as I had phone Dag at Birdnet to update him, it was chased off by a Raven and flew off. I watched it drop behind a large hedge, and so we headed off. I spoke to another couple of birders who had just turned up, and we went in search of it, but there was only a farm behind the hedge. I drove down the lane a little bit further and saw three other birders hurrying down a lane. I jumped out of the car and ran after them to tell then where the Ibis had flown to, only to be told they had just received a call to say it was down this lane. How fast news travels these days! We walked down the lane and had better views of the Ibis.
video
Flushed with success, we headed off on a whirlwind tour of Anglesey, stopping off at South Stack for the Chough, and check of the harbour and fish quay saw no BLACK GUILLEMOTS, but Beddmanarch Bay had Red-breasted Merganser and Grey Plover.

Above - two Chough in the grounds of the lighthouse - honest

South Stack - only 45hrs to travel from Ness Point in Suffolk (the furthest east point in Britain to South Stack)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Monday 18th October 2010 - Suffolk

First day of my week long holiday. We had originally planned to pop over to the Scillies today to see the RED-EYED VIREO on St Agnes. All the times were sorted and it was only £17-50 on the Scillonian. However, the bird was only reported twice on the Sunday - last one at 13-30hrs and elusive. I decided not to take the risk and so after hours of deliberation, we decided to head to Suffolk.

We arrived at Sizewell at first light and started to look for the PALLAS'S WARBLER that had been in the car park the previous day. We knew it was in some sycamores, so we started to check every sycamore. Birding was slow at first, but we soon found a Chiffchaff and two Goldcrest. Then three other birders arrived and things started to look up. However, there was no sign of the PALLAS's. After two hours, we headed for Southwold.

Luckily at Southwold, the two Northern Long-tailed Tits were showing very well by the toilet block on the campsite. We were then told that the PALLAS'S WARBLER was showing at Sizewell. We headed back south again.


Standing in the shadow of the Power Station

Back at Sizewell, we soon found out that the PALLAS'S was not on the car park after all, but further along in front of the power station. There was a small crowd and finally we were watching our second target bird of the day. I managed a short video clip before it disappeared. We had one more brief view and then that was it - no further sign. Another birder said he'd just seen a PALLAS'S on the car park and so we wandered back there. Why and how the bird suddenly shot off we will never know. Below are a few videograbs.




Next stop was Dunwich where locating the 1s drake King Eider was not too tricky - it was the only duck on the sea! We drove round to Dunwich Heath and got slightly better views as can be seen in my full framers below.




And then we headed off to Lowestoft for bird of the day - the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL. Not the easiest place to find, but eventually I found Sparrows Nest Park, and then I asked a gardener where Arnold's Walk was. It was just a path in the park! We stood around, chasing after every Robin and we were soon joined by my good friend Dick from Herts. Things were looking a little bit grim until a birder came along the path and beckoned us. We had only been standing in the wrong place for half an hour. We soon joined 10+ birders in a more overgrown area, but it was heavily vegetated and quite dense. The bird could have been anywhere really. The last sighting was a claim about an hour previous. We gave it till 3pm then headed off.

As for the RED-EYED VIREO, it came on the pagers at 08-50hrs, and then again at 12-30hrs but not again for the rest of the day. Our boat across the Aggy was at 12-30hrs, and we only had 2hrs 15 mins on the island. Good decision or another error?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Saturday 16th October 2010

Well its mid October, the month we all look forward to each year for the rarity fest, and so far this month, I've not left Staffordshire yet. Today started off as per usual at Westport. CJW joined us today and it was not that bad a visit with 60+ Fieldfare flying over plus the first returning Goldeneye. Then we joined fellow Clayhead PJ up at one of our favourite sites, Berryhill. Armed with our barbed wire cutters, electric fence disablers plus spades in case we needed to dig a tunnel, we went in search of the BLACK REDSTART. Our good friend, Russell B was on site and had already seen it. We followed his directions, and for the first ten minutes of our visit, we didn't have to negotiate a single barbed wired fence. Unfortunately, there was no further sign of the BLACK REDSTART despite a thorough search and the obligatory fence scaling session to find our way out of the maze that is Berryhill.

While we were dipping at Berryhill, we joked that I would have nothing to report and no photo's for my blog again. I laughed and said that I still had two more sites in Staffordshire to visit, and I would not have to resort to posting pictures from the past just to fill my blog up.

So its back to October 17th 2003 and an excellent few days in the Scillies. We had already ticked the Pied Wheatear on St Mary's on our arrival the day before, and we were very fortunate that on the morning of the 17th, the GREY-CHEEKED THRUSH was refound on Tresco. Thats where we headed, and the bird gave us the real run around before finally, late in the afternoon giving itself up for all to see. Pictures below.







But back to today. At BGP's I managed to see a Marsh Tit, 42 Golden Plover, four Ruff, three Green Sands and a Redshank. I also met another birder there today. This is my 25th visit to BGP this year, and so far I've seen three birders there - Messrs Powell, Scattergood and a nice young couple out the pouring rain one time. Today I met an elderly gentleman, who stopped and had a chat and introduced himself. It was none other than DIMW himself!

And finally, this is for you Chris

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Saturday 9th October 2010

A fairly dull visit to Westport was immediately livened up this morning when I spotted a small dark goose flying straight towards me as we walked on the old gas works. As it turned, I realised it was a Brent Goose - a Westport mega! It carried on flying over us and then turned towards the lake. I phoned PJ up and sped off back towards the lake in case it had landed. Luckily for all, I soon refound it swimming off the jetty and soon the Westport regulars were all descending en mass. Even Mr Westport himself, WJL turned up.

This is the 5th record for Westport.
1989 - One present from 7th to 13th April.
1993 - A party of 12 on 9th February.
1996 - Four present on 19th and 20th November.
2000 - One on 8th November.
2010 - One on 9th October.


It was then on to BGP again today, where a healthy selection of waders on the Sandy Pit included eleven Curlew, a Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper, five Ruff, 22 Golden Plover and seven Green Sandpipers.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Saturday 2nd October 2010

A quiet day in Staffordshire today, and I was on my own for the first time in ages. First stop was at Belvide for the juv Black Tern and two of the three Scaup that were present. I also had an interesting chat with Staffordshire birding folk hero Bernie Smith. He spent nearly half an hour listing all the excuses as to why he hadn't walked up Blakeney Point last weekend. I then moved onto the East Staffs gravel pits, where i had a Common Sandpiper, a Pintail, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and a fine count of 51 Goosander.
No photo's today so I have decided to re-visit 2nd October 2004. An excellent days birding with PJ, RS and GAS and a day trip to the Scilly Isles. It was to be one of the best Octobers of the decade with five ticks in all including stunners such as Ovenbird, Masked Shrike, Western Sandpiper and of course the Cream-coloured Courser. It was a beautiful day, and the Courser showed extremely well on St Martins. It was in a far healthier state here than it was when it relocated onto the golf course on St Mary's later in its stay.