Sunday, 24 July 2011

Saturday 23rd July - A quiet day in Staffordshire

Not much around locally at the monent so we visited the usual haunts on a Saturday. After a very quiet visit to Westport, we were down at Blithfield for about 0830am. As we walked down to Tad Bay, Martyn, Kay and Richard Powell were already walking back up - not a good sign! But we soon found out the answer - we were looking straight into the sunlight (is easy to forget that when you arrive early at Blithers, you go to Blithe Bay first!). We had 8 Common Snipe and a Redshank in Tad, but Blithe Bay was fairly quiet, with just a Greenshank on show, and as we walked back round Beech Tree, a Kingfisher flew past. From the point, we could see an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the causeway. By the time we returned to Tad Bay, the light had improved. The Osprey was perched up, and Richard managed to find a Dunlin.

And this was about as good as it got. I headed off to the pits, and in 4hrs, all we managed were two Green Sands, a couple of Little Egrets and another Kingfisher.

Especially for you Martyn - hybrid geese!

Butterfly pics for all those who give up birding in the summer and wait for those who are still birding to find something for you

One or two Cormorants

An almost in focus Yellow Wag - at least the pebbles in the background are in focus

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Saturday 16th July 2011 - Arnfield Resv & Blacktoft Sands

No, don't worry. I'm still here and I haven't resorted to chasing round after butterflies, worms and dragonflies yet (nor racehorses!) . The previous two weekends I spent at my usual haunts in Staffs, seeing a few bits and bobs but I didn't manage to take any pics. This Saturday, the Clayheads (this week - myself, GAS & CJW) decided to hit the road. First stop was for the summering WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER in North Derbyshire. This bird turned up on a Sunday, and so I decided to wait until the following Saturday to go for it (bit too far for an after work trip and it seemed to be a morning bird). Last Saturday however, I couldn't make it until mid morning and so I left it. Fortunately for me, there was only one sighting all day, but then on the Sunday, it was reported three or four times. The bird was starting to bug me. So we made plans to go this Saturday. However, as has happened quite frequently this summer, the forecast was bad. I thought there was a possibility that it would be dryish from 0700 - 0900hrs, so I knew we had to be early. We arrived at Westport at 0530hrs, did a quick walk round, picked CJW up and headed up to Tintwhistle.

There was a small crowd when we arrived, but there had been no sign of the BONELLI'S so far. We walked around, got a feel for the area and even found a warbler flock. Then, following a few showers, more persistent rain came, and by 0900hrs, we were soaked and headed back to the car. We knew there was no chance of seeing it in this weather. We sat in the car, dried out and waited.

Our idea was to pop up to Blacktoft to see the MARSH SAND, but even that hadn't appeared on the pager yet. So we just sat and waited. CJW even tried to ring Blacktoft, but they couldn't answer the phone as they were "out on the reserve". Eventually, positive news came thru and we set off for East Yorkshire/North Humberside, arriving on site at 11-30hrs. And it was pouring down.

We walked towards the Ousefleet Hide but no one appeared to know where the MARSH SAND was. We found the screen from where the last sighting had been, but all three seats were taken. Then a birder from the hide came out and said he'd just seen it. We went into the hide and waited. Eventually, the birders moved out, and we managed to get a front row seat. (The hide faced forward overlooking a field. It was only a side window that overlooked the scrape, and together with the three seats at the screen, viewing the area was limited!) And so we waited. We must have sat there for an hour, seeing several Little Egrets, Ruff, Dunlin, two Green Sands, and an almost black Spotted Redshank. Then we spotted what we initially thought to be a Greenshank. We sat and watched it, and slowly we realised several things weren't quite right with it. Its beak was very fine, its legs were spindly, and although it was feeding away from the other waders, I realised it was actually smaller than a Redshank. We realised we were watching the Marsh Sand! (it was our own version of the Daventry Greatershank). But no one else in the hide said anything, no one else spotted it, they were quite happy to scan the empty field in front of them.

The Marsh Sandpiper at Blacktoft.

We had a quick walk round the other hides, and we had quite a good session, despite the appalling weather. We saw two Spoonbills, several Marsh Harriers with young, an Avocet, more Spotted Redshanks, two Wood Sandpipers and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Images from Blacktoft

So despite the weather, we had seen one of our targets for the day. We decided to head back to Derbyshire. As we drove back, it did stop raining, and in parts, there was a bit of blue sky. We parked up by Arnfield Resv at 15-30hrs in beautiful sunshine. As we walked back along the path, we saw loads of warblers feeding. Things were looking good. Then, five minutes later, it poured down again. Even after it stopped it took ages for the warblers to come out again. There were five of us wandering up and down, but there was just no sign of the BONELLI's again. We stood on the bridge, and despite the fact it had been dry for nearly an hour now, we were facing defeat. I walked up towards the barbed wire gate and immediately heard a short burst of song. I picked up some bark, a few strands of grass and managed to imitate exactly the call I had heard. Amazingly, it responded. CJW heard it and pin pointed it to a lone hawthorn bush in the field.

The lone hawthorn where the Bonelli's Warbler was skulking.

CJW managed to get everyone together (all 5 of us) but there was a small bit of disbelief that we had heard it sing from an isolated bush. We all agreed that we would imitate the song once more (this time CJW whistled the song). It sang again, and soon we were watching the Western Bonelli's Warbler sitting in the tree. It was an incredibly skulking bird, and so inactive for a phyllosc warbler. It came out again but then it disappeared again and it was time to head for home.

Two modern day birdwatchers!

Look at these two. They don't even know a rare bird is watching them from a bush. One is even looking at his phone. And no bins in sight at all.

Then the one suddenly spots the rare bird. But what does he do? Get his notebook out? No, because modern birders don't carry notebooks! He tries to take a picture with his phone! Modern birders hey