Monday, 19 December 2011

Saturday 17th December 2011 - A Crane at Blithfield on a three coat day!

Another Saturday, and another days birding to be done. Westport was wet and cold with quite a snow fall as I was walking round. I did see seven Teal and four Goldeneye, so it was worth getting my first coat of the day soaked.

Armed with my second coat of the day, we headed down to Blithfield for the duck count. It was good to be back doing the count around the Deep End, but, unfortunately, it was still sleeting. In fact, it never stopped as I walked the complete circuit. Twice I had to seek shelter in the fishermens huts just to get out of the near blizzard conditions. Plus there weren't actually that many ducks to count. Perhaps they had all flown north to warmer climes. How did we all survive last winters epic six week spell!

As I was walking across the dam, with the sleet stinging my face, my thoughts turned to this blog, and what on earth was I going to write. Then, like a vision, there appeared a CRANE in front of me. Perfect I thought, that will do nicely, and I managed to get a few photo's of it on the shore.

Sorry for not putting the sighting out earlier. A fine example you'd all agree. I suppose Tips put that on his year list as well.

The funny thing was, up until this point, CRANE was my best sighting of the day. I walked into Mickledale Bay, counted the Mallard and Wigeon before they flew out, and then noticed a few birds feeding on and around a freshly dug drainage channel. There were a few Goldfinches, a Robin and a Black Redstart. I had to look twice as I couldn't quite believe I'd found something half decent on a day like this. As the sleet hammered down, the Black Redstart fed unconcerned. I called GAS and extracted him from the warmth of his car. I then made the secret signal to the other members of the Blithfield Birders Group and the bird was successfully twitched.

I trudged on, counted Portfields and then headed for the warmth of the car - second coat totally soaked. Next stop was at Branston, but despite the forecast for a drier afternoon, it was still raining heavily. I was down to my third and final coat and so we sat in the car waiting for it to stop. Fellow Clayhead PJ was at Rudyard, seeing his second EIDER in Staffordshire. We had a brief conversation, and he told me how he was watching the EIDER from the comfort of his car. Moments later, I had a text thru saying RED-THROATED DIVER at Rudyard. I forwarded it to PJ, only to find that as he was watching the EIDER, the RTD popped up next to it! We were faced with a tricky decision now. Either get soaked walking round one of the pits in the rain or head to Rudyard for a fine North Staffs tick.

The journey up to Leek wasn't too bad, but as we got nearer to Rudyard, the rain turned to snow. Quite heavy snow. In fact the A523 was quite slippery, and we nearly slid on one of the bends. We headed for the north end of Rudyard where PJ had been, but we just couldn't find a decent place where to stop. The snow paused briefly, and so we headed to the sailing club. The road went over the moors onto high ground, and we were soon driving on very slippery roads, with snow still coming down. From the sailing club, we could see the Eider, but no sign of the diver. We drove up to the dam, and I started walking. In the end, I walked the whole length of the lake, back to the north end, and still there was no sign. My suspicions were that it flew off as soon as it had stopped snowing. I did see two drake Mandarin though, another Rudyard tick!

PJ's shot of the Eider showing the snow falling
My photo as the light was fading.