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?