Friday, 28 October 2011

Saturday 22nd October 2011

We faced another dilema today with the arrival of a SCARLET TANAGER in Cornwall. On Friday, there had been very few sightings indeed, and for the first time this Autumn, we actually made a correct decision, and we decided not to go. We did leave Sunday free just in case, but in the end, there was no further sign of it in Cornwall, and, amazingly, another SCARLET TANAGER was found on the Isles of Scilly. In fact, as we wandered around the Staffordshire gravel pits that afternoon, there were an amazing four ticks for me on St Mary's (the WATERTHRUSH, WILSON'S SNIPE, OBP and the TANAGER!). Still it was great to be birding on my local patches!

We visited Croxall first, seeing not a lot but a Little Egret. Then it was onto Branston, where we saw a Little Egret plus a few Goldies

Then, we went to another area, where we saw enormous numbers of Coot (800+) and Wigeon (500).

15th October 2011 - Rufous-tailed Robin twitch

I had planned a day out in Staffordshire for today; starting off at Westport, then I’d offered to help with the duck count at Blithfield before heading to Branston and then onto some other pits. Quite a busy day. Then, late on Friday, a mega came on.


17:08 14OCT2011

Initially, it was thought that the bird was on a tidal salt marsh, but all this was soon cleared up, and in fact it was on a track at Warham Greens. However, clear skies were forecast and we knew there would be a very strong chance that it would not be present in the morning. However, it was a Saturday, and PJ suggested that we went anyway. RSu joined us, and I picked them both up at 03-30hrs. I was to be the only driver for the whole day as GAS was still not driving yet.

Warham Greens, Norfolk 07-00hrs We drove up the track and we were guided into a field to park by LGRE. There was quite a crowd gathered already by the track, and we stepped through a hedge and stood on the edge of a field, waiting for the sun to come up and warm the bushes. There were already birds flying over, and we saw several flocks of Golden Plovers and Pink-footed Geese over. All of a sudden, the massed crowd started walking down the field. At first we thought that the RUFOUS-TAILED ROBIN had been found but we then realised everyone was not walking with purpose and in fact just getting into position. Another party were working their way down the lane. When they reached the bottom, I think everyone realised that there was no sign of the RTR, and it had done the widely predicted bunk during the night in clear skies. We stood around for a short while before wandering back to the car. We saw a Brambling, an Egyptian Goose flew over, three Lapland Buntings flew over calling, a Barn Owl flew over, there were some distant Brent Geese on the saltmarsh plus several Little Egrets. With a BLUETHROAT reported at Stiffkey and a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL at Holme already reported, there were a few bits for us to go for.

Warham Greens

Holme NWT, Norfolk – We headed along the coast to Holme next for the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL. We were stopped along the track by the first hut, and asked specifically where the RFBT was. He assured us it was in the NWT reserve, and so we paid him £3-50 each. We followed his directions and ended up in the NOA place. We didn’t last too long in there and we were asked to either leave or pay another £3. It was quite annoying to then walk on a public footpath through the dunes. We soon found the crowd waiting for the RFBT to reappear – it had showed only ten minutes previously. It was slowly turning into one of those days. We stood around for a short time, but I soon got bored and wanted to actually see something. I walked along the path and did a bit of sea watching. It was flat calm and extremely sunny. There was not much to see, but there were two Red-throated Divers, a Gannet and a Great Crested Grebe. A Brambling also flew over. We all wandered off a bit, but then I saw people moving quickly through the woods. We headed back to find everyone heading in the same direction. When we finally caught up with them, I saw a silhouetted bird shape tumbling through a tree. It then flew, and so I headed off in that direction. I stood again and waited. Someone spotted the RFBT again, but I couldn’t see it from my angle. I was crowd watching more than birdwatcher, and I was able to keep up with the bird. Eventually, I managed brief views of the 1w Red-flanked Bluetail as it was perched on a branch at the bottom of a bush. The crowd all soon caught up, and it was gone. I felt as though the bird was being chased and it was not being allowed to settle. But everyone was desparate to see it. We eventually followed the crowd and encircled a bush but there was no further sign. As we stood and waited, reserve staff were frantically putting a rope fence up around the bush, no doubt trying prevent the twitching hordes from trashing the bush. What with the confusing problem of two reserves in the same area and then this, and along with all the £3-50's they had raked in, we decided to leave Holme with rather a bitter taste in our mouths.

PJ took this photo of a Comma at Holme NWT/NOA today

Stiffkey Fen, Norfolk – We decided to head back along the coast to Stiffkey where the BLUETHROAT had been seen. I was originally heading to Stiffkey Campsite Wood for the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER but I managed to miss the turning. We started walking down to the Fen, the first birder we asked told us that the BLUETHROAT had been seen to fly off some time ago. We continued down into the wood by the stream where we were told there was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. We stood around but it wasn’t too long before we heard the Yellow-browed Warbler calling. We stood around long enough to eventually have several brief glimpses of it in the trees, but it never showed well. I was almost certain a second bird was in the area as well.

Weybourne, Norfolk – We were sort of on a roll now, with poor views of fairly decent birds, so we decided to go to look for a very elusive RADDE’S WARBLER just a bit further along the coast at Weybourne. There was a small crowd gathered, but there had been no sign of it since it had been tape lured earlier. I tried to do the same with my phone but it just wasn’t loud enough. We suggested to other birders to try to play the call, but again it failed due to loudness and connectivity. There was a Cetti’s Warbler in the same bush. This rather summed up our day and we headed home.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saturday 7th October 2011 - The Sandhill Crane twitch......

The SANDHILL CRANE gave itself up again last Sunday dinnertime by landing in Suffolk. It just wasn't practical to dash off last Sunday (roast beef dinner just coming out of oven) and with no chance of getting a day off in the week, we knew we would just have to grin and bear it and wait until the weekend. We always knew there would be a chance that it could fly off at anytime, but once the pleasant weather ended on Tuesday, and the roughish weather came in from Wednesday, our optimism increased. Quite strong winds were forecast for Thurs and Fri, and we began to think there was a chance it would stay until Saturday.

The Autumn 2011 jinx (come on, who's cursed me into having a tickless Autumn? Is it you Tips, or you Ramron, or Derbyshire's chief flusher?) struck again on Friday when at 1030hrs, it flew off high south. It was truly gutting news as another decent tick had gone begging.

So the full Clayhead crew (including Pops on his first trip out since breaking his ankle in August) were all revved up with no where to go. We had to stay local just in case the SANDHILL CRANE did happen to be located again. And with the news that a GREAT WHITE EGRET had been seen at Kings Bromley, we decided to head there first. We pulled into the lay by, seeing two Little Egrets, but no sign of the GWE. We headed up towards Yoxall, where we met up with GJM. We followed him to Yoxall Meadows, an area that was near to the river. There were some nice fields here, but the river was a little too deep. We returned to the lay by and decided just to sit and wait and have our dinner. At 12-00hrs, a large white bird ghosted down the river and carried on flying south. Another Staffs Great White Egret in the bag.

We headed next to Blithfield, and drove down into Blithe to save Pop's legs. A nice, unhurried plod down saw two Wheatear, a Peregrine, a Pintail, a Black-tailed Godwit, twelve Dunlin and a Curlew Sand. Tad Bay was a little quieter, with three Pintail, a Ringed Plover and two Dunlin.

We were heading to Belvide next, but news of an AVOCET at BGP's sent the team into a spin. Some wanted to see the LEO for a year tick, others wanted AVOCET for their Pits year list. Arguments started, with those who wanted to see the Owl changing their minds, and those who wanted to see the AVOCET saying it was alright to see the Owl. We drove round in circles for nearly two hours before we headed off to Belvide. We only had to ring SN once before we found the Long-eared Owl, which was showing quite nicely.

Long-eared Owl at Belvide

The full Clayhead crew re-united - the first time together since 2nd January!

And then we headed towards Branston for the AVOCET. We were sure we had just enough time to get there and still be back home at a reasonable time. We walked rather quickly to the Sandy Pit, and CJW with his little legs was finding it hard to keep up. The Avocet was showing quite well in the fading light, along with six Green Sands and a Black-tailed Godwit.

Avocet at BGP's - my 19th species of wader there this year (and managed to miss Turnstone and the Pec)

So a fairly decent day in Staffs, but missing the SANDHILL still dampened our spirits. Will we get a tick this Autumn?

Monday, 3 October 2011

September 2011 - A Clayhead on Safari - Part 2 Birds

Approx 150 birds seen with over 70 being ticks (3rd visit to Africa) many highlights - including Secretary bird, both Ostriches, 3 species of Bustard, 6 species of Eagle, 6 species of Vulture and 4 species of Hornbill.

Somali Ostrich

Silvery-cheeked Hornbill

Hildebrandts Starling

White & Pink-backed Pelican

Hadada Ibis

Red-billed Hornbill

Kori Bustard

Common Ostrich

Maribou and Great Cormorant

Blacksmith Plover

Greater and Lesser Flamingos and Grey-headed Gulls

Lappet-faced Vulture

Secretary Bird

Black-bellied Bustard

Sunday, 2 October 2011

September 2011 - A Clayhead on Safari - Part 1 Mammals

PJ has just returned from just over two weeks hoilday in Kenya. The first week was on safari visiting Samburu, Aberdare, Lake Nakuru & Masai Mara. Forty species of mammals were ticked off including - Black Rhino, Spotted and Striped Hyenas, Silver Backed Jackal, Genet, Warthog, Giant Forest Hog, three species of Mongoose, four species of Monkey and twelve species of Antelope
All these pics below from Masai Mara

Below Grevys zebra at Samburu, Buffalo at Aberdare all the others at Masai Mara

Waterbuck & White Rhino with red billed oxpeckers at Nakuru, Reticulated Giraffe at Samburu