Sunday, 5 February 2012

Saturday 4th February 2012 - A wintery weekend in Staffs

Little bit of music for you today

Following the lowest overnight temperatures of the winter so far, Saturday started off at Westport. Other than increase the numbers of Tufted Duck and Pochard, the recent cold snap brought nothing new into Westport, and as per usual, the duck numbers then slowly drop day by day. The only area of open water was in the centre of the lake, and is becoming smaller by the day.

As we were walking round, news came from Belvide that the previous nights roosting GLAUCOUS GULL was still present. We decided to leave Westport and head straight down. There was a slight delay on the motorway so we headed through Stafford, adding about 15 minutes to the journey. Then the inevitable happened, and as we were leaving the M6 at Gailey, we found out that the GLAUCOUS GULL had flown off.

As we were so close, we diverted to Gailey to look for the BLACK REDSTART. We met up with the Snapper but there was no sign of the BLACK REDSTART or the regular MED GULL. It was still only 0930hrs and we were struggling as to where to go next.

I checked the sat nav and found that Stubbers Green was only 8 miles away. We'd never been before and so we headed down. We found the pool, but I couldn't really see where to park the car. I had a quick walk around but there were only a few gulls, and these were sat on the ice. You could see a constant movement between there and the tip, and you could sense a decent gull could drop in at any moment. But at least I can stay say I've been to Stubbers now. As we drove away, we passed a sign welcoming us back into Staffordshire. Strange I thought as some of the poor map readers from South Staffs think Stubbers is in Staffs!

And so on to Branston GP's next. We hadn't really seen much so far today, and as I was walking across the sheep field, I received news that the BLACK REDSTART had been seen at Gailey and there was an ICELAND GULL at Stubbers. Super I thought. The first pit at Branston was mainly frozen except for a small area right next to the footpath. I stood by the stile and counted what I could. Most of the birds I did flush did a circle and dropped back in. I then walked along the path and a wader flew off from the shore. I was most surprised to find it was a Knot and I watched it fly to the other side and land. A site tick for me! I met up with GAS and we grilled a flock of 60 Redpoll, but I just couldn't fudge any of them into a Mealy. We didn't expect much on the Sandy Pit, but as I scanned the reeds, I spotted two Snipe. I realised one of them wasn't a Common, and we were soon enjoying good views of a bobbing Jack Snipe. The day was slowly becoming not bad after all.

Jack Snipe at Branston GP's. Usual prices apply but limited to only one per person.

The snow was forecast to hit us at 15-00hrs, but I was aware it was already snowing in Stoke. I headed to the last pit of the day. I started working my way round, seeing 464 Pochard including the leucistic bird. Then it started to snow, but I battled on. In near blizzard conditions, I found the drake Smew again. A perfect bird for a snowy day.

Sunday and I had to battle through four inches of snow to get to Westport. Fortunately the main roads were clear of snow. We had 25 Lapwing on the ice, but it was quite foggy, and duck counting was tricky. During the afternoon, I checked my emails and found that matt4scfc had seen a Knot and two drake Pintail at 3pm. It was by now nearly 17-00hrs and going dark. I hurtled down, but it took me three different platforms before i found the Knot, feeding among the Mallard. I phoned PJ and GAS and they both saw it in the fading light as it roosted on the ice. Eventually I managed to get hold of CJW, and we waited for him to run down. He managed to see a small blob on the ice in the rapidly fading light.

This is the 7th record of Knot at Westport.
1990- 1st record – One flew south Dec 15th
1993- One on Apr 4th
1993- One Sept 8th
2000- One flew around and was chased off by Black-headed Gulls on Sept 26th
2001- One flew through on Dec 30th
2005- One standing on the ice on Dec 30th
2012- One roosted on the ice on February 5th.

PJ kindly produced this artists impression of the Knot at Westport