Sunday, 24 June 2012

Saturday 23rd June 2012 - A swift visit to the Wirral pays off!

News broke on Friday that a LITTLE SWIFT had been found at New Brighton. I thought nothing more about it - it was Friday afternoon, not a great travelling day, and I'd got someone coming round for tea. It was when my guest came (fellow Clayhead Pops!), and when we started talking about the bird, that I suddenly realised Pops wasn't with me in 2001 when I saw the Notts bird!

I'd already got a busy day's birding planned on Saturday. It was WeBs weekend and I'd offered to help Sir Roger out at Blithfield, and I also had my own counts to do at Westport and at several gravel pits. We decided to meet up at Westport in two cars, and if the LITTLE SWIFT came on, Pops could pop up to the Wirral, and I could count Coot.

All the plans changed when the LITTLE SWIFT very obligingly decided to roost on the Pier House on New Brighton sea front. I knew if we could get there early enough, we could see the bird before it flew off. I arranged for Pops to pick me up at 04-30hrs. As I waited for him, news was put on the forum that the LITTLE SWIFT was still roosting. I texted him to hurry up, and we raced up to the Wirral, arriving just after 05-30hrs. There was already 30+ birders in place, and for twenty minutes we watched the Little Swift sit awkwardly on a window hinge. It did move occasionally, but it appeared to be panting heavily, and it didn't really look in good shape.

The Pier House - Little Swift on second floor above the Pier House name

Sitting comfortably?

Watching the Little Swift over the river - A few North Staffs birders in the crowd

At 05-50hrs, it flopped onto the window ledge and flew off. It wasn't flying that well at first, fluttering a little, but eventually it warmed up and went to feed over the Mersey, as well as coming back towards us. At 06-20hrs, job done and we headed back to Staffs. We even managed to visit Westport.

The duck count at Blithers was fairly straight forward and quiet, and the counting went well for the rest of the day. Thank goodness the WeBs count is only done monthly!

Original artwork by PJ

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Saturday 16th June 2012 - A Clayhead helps out

Another rainy mid summers day was in store. Staffordshire was going through one of its quiet spells again, but there was one bird to go for. We headed down to Aqualate where a MARSH HARRIER had been reported during the week. We entered the hide and as soon as we had sat down we were watching a female Marsh Harrier quatering the reed bed. A Kingfisher also showed well in front of the hide.

Kingfisher at Aqualate

Female Marsh Harrier at Aqualate

We had finished at Aqualate by 0930hrs, and we headed over to Blithfield. A check from the causeway revealed not much at all. We headed over to the pits as usual. It was while I was at Branston that I received a call from RTo. He'd received information that there was a RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Blackbank. As I was too far away, I immediately rang fellow Clayhead PJ who was re-painting his painting again. Its not very often that I get to tell him to get his shoes on! PJ threw his paint brush down and raced up. He walked down the Silverdale track and met two birders. Apparently they were very pleased to see another birder and PJ was able to confirm their initail thoughts that it was indeed a female Red-backed Shrike, and news was rang out.

We decided to leave the pits (quiet, wet & windy) and we headed back towards home. We arrived at Blackbank just after 14-00hrs, and it started to rain quite persistently. The Red-backed Shrike showed well but distantly as it sat on a fence half way down the field. It continues a run of unexpected birds for Staffordshire this year.

Distant shots of the Blackbank Red-backed Shrike

and a shot from PJ

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Thursday 7th June 2012 - Out and about

As part of my week off, Thursday was my big day out. Unfortunately there were two slight problems. Firstly, there wasn't too much around left to see, and secondly, it was forecast to rain all day - which ever part of the country we chose to visit.

We started off at Westport - fully waterproofed up - and we ended up getting soaked. A quick check of the latest BBC Weather forecast revealed the NW wasn't as rainy as we first thought. We headed first to Frodsham for the drake RING-NECKED DUCK. It was raining as we arrived, but a search through the Tufted Duck revealed no sign  of the RND. Missing the first target bird is always a good way to start the day.

Next stop was Parkgate on the Wirral. And it actually stopped raining. Luckily, the Great White Egret was showing quite well in the middle of the marsh.

Great W Egret at Parkgate

 We headed off to Wales next. Our target were the breeding LITTLE TERNS at Gronant. We parked by the caravan park and walked through the dunes to a deserted beach. The Little Terns showed a treat as they flew in and out to sea directly over our heads.

The fenced off area at Gronant

It also rained all day Friday, and was still raining Saturday morning. As we walked round Westport for the third consecutive morning in the rain, the Fowlea Brook was beginning to show the effects of all the rain. I haven't seen it this high for quite some time.

We made a brief visit on Saturday morning back up to Frodsham, and this time, the Ring-necked Duck was more obliging.


Drake Ringed-necked Duck at Frodsham - my first since the Westport bird of 2009

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wednesday 6th June 2012 - Derbyshire

While others return to work, I'm still celebrating the Diamond Jubilee all week. PJ and GAS popped over the border into Derbyshire yesterday, and had a fine session watching the Red-foot at Willington. Today, with nothing much else to see, we decided to head back over. There was no news yet on the pager as I presumed the vast majority had returned to work. GAS pointed me in the right direction, but he opted out of the ten mile slog along the banks of the River Trent for the second day running. It actually only took me twenty minutes to reach the pylons. I stood with the other two people on site and I was soon enjoying excellent views of the 1st summer male Red-footed Falcon as it fed over the river just in front of us. It also sat in several of the bushes for quite lengthy spells. It was nice to finally catch up with a male Red-foot, as all my previous one were 1st summer female birds.

The River Trent with the Red-footed Falcon in flight

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Monday 4th June 2012 - East Yorkshire

We decided to give the Diamond Jubilee festivities a miss and so we arranged to go out birding instead. We were due to go for the ROLLER at Aldbrough on Monday, but the previous evening it had flown south. We planned to start at Westport and then decide where to go.

However, things all changed when I woke up on Monday morning only to find that the ROLLER had returned from its short flight only 15 minutes later. None of the bird info services had picked up on this. I sent a text to "Mr Snoozy" CJW and following the briefest of visits to Westport, we headed for East Yorkshire. The sun was out following Sundays perma-rain and the motorways were quiet. We even had confirmation half way through the journey that the ROLLER was still present.   

We parked on the roadside verges despite what the pagers were saying, as we didn't want to fill up the stately home's car park and not allow the visitors to park there. I could see the Roller from the car as we got out, and we had an extremely pleasant visit. The Roller showed very well, preening at first and then later it started to fly across the field. My first adult Roller in Britain, and a British tick for "Mr Snoozy".  

Roller at Aldbrough, East Yorks

Roller by PJ

It started to rain quite heavily, so satisfied with our views, we headed down to Blacktoft, for our second target bird of this mini-twitch. It was nearly 11-00hrs by the time we arrived, and I was concerned that we'd arrived too late to see the MARSH WARBLER that had been present. 

We eventually got past the Commandant on the reserve gates (why are all RSPB security guards the same?) and joined the line of expectant watchers. There was no sign. We stood there for about half an hour before, suddenly, out of no where, the Marsh Warbler flew in and started singing right in front of us. We had amazing views as it happily sang to us right out in the open.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Tuesday 29th May - Déjà vu in Hartlepool

During the morning of Tuesday 29th May, news came through of an ORPHEAN WARBLER trapped and rung on Hartlepool Headland. It was released at the Bowling Green, and there were regular sightings of it during the morning. It was just like the WHITE-THROATED ROBIN all over again.

I planned to leave work at 15-00hrs, but when I read it was just sitting in a bush, not moving, I panicked, blurted out some pathetic excuse and left work at 14-20hrs. I met up with Pops and by 15-00hrs we were heading north. It was to be a stressful journey (unlike the one for the WTRobin when we drove the whole journey with no news at all!) . First of all, the ORPHEAN WARBLER flew off, but luckily, it was soon relocated and eventually returned to the Bowling Green. Then, only nine minutes away from the site, news came on the pager saying that "some observers believe the bird to be unwell". I had visions of it being picked up moments before we arrived. 

We arrived on site at 18-00hrs, having paused and glanced at the WTRobin wall and walked quickly to the bowling green. It was heaving with birders. I had a very brief chat with Snapper Richards, Archie and Mr Maggot before we pushed our way through the crowd and found a space.

We were soon watching the Orphean Warbler flitting around in one of the bushes on the far side. I was amazed at its large size plus the large beak. But most of all, I was watching a flaming Orphean Warbler in Britain!

Following these initial views, we lost track of it. Eventually, it was relocated sat motionless in a bush. And there it sat for the next hour or so, occasionally lifting its head.

The Orphean didn't move from this position for over an hour!

The next problem, was that PJ and RSu were also on their way up, having left work at 16-30hrs. I eventually rang them to see where they were, and they were still 30 mins away. I looked at the bird and willed it to cling onto life for just a few moments more. I tried to guide them in, but Pops went back to the car to try and spot them. At about the same time, some local youths decided to start banging the fence behind the "roosting" Orphean Warbler. 

I looked up and saw PJ and RSu rushing into the Bowling Green. I waved to them and beckoned them down to me. Next minute, the banging got louder and the Orphean Warbler flew off. I wasn't sure whether either of them had seen it, but luckily, by stopping at the top, both had seen it before it flew. It was a very close shave.

We waited another ten minutes, and the local kids started banging again. This time we knew where the Orph was sitting and we were able to watch it fly across in front of us. PJ stayed after us and had some good views. We headed home, happy with our second extremely succesful twitch to Hartlepool.    

Sunday, 3 June 2012

12th – 26th May 2012 - Birding in the Sunshine State

PJ recently spent 2 weeks in Florida driving from Merritt Island down to Key West, visiting Kissimmee, Mount Dora, Palm Beach, Miami & Key Lago - birding & sight seeing en route. This was his fourth holiday in America so there were limited ticks available. Highlights amongst the 100 plus species seen were ; Red Cockaded Woodpecker, Florida Scrub Jay, Limpkin, Least Bittern, Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, Swallow tailed Kite, Bachmans Sparrow, Yellow Throated Warbler, American Redstart plus many more.

Here are a few photos from the trip.
American Redstart and Yellow-throated Warbler

Bachmans Sparrow

Bald Eagle

Florida Shrub Jay


Sandhill Crane

Semi-p Sand

Reddish Egret

Great Blue Heron

Least Bittern

Snowy Egret

Tri-coloured & Green Heron

Wild Turkey
Northern Mockingbird

Mottled Duck

Rocky Raccoon

Red-winged Blackbird

Wood Duck