Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Clayheads on Tour 2012 - Kefalonia, Ionian Islands, Greece

To escape the Birdless British Summer PJ and Mrs PJ flew to another Birdless Island, Kefalonia home to Captain Correlli and his mandolin. Most of the usual mediterranean birds were seen during the week the highlight being a very reliable male Scops Owl which could be seen around the hotel most nights.

The only tick of the holiday were the Loggerhead Turtles in Argostoli harbour which hang around the fishing boats waiting for scraps.
Loggerhead Turtle

Woodchat Shrike

Eastern Rock Grayling

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Saturday 28th July 2012 - Gloucestershire

Today we left the county for the first time this month. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, Staffordshire is going through a pretty quiet spell at the moment, and last Saturday, we spent all day trawling various sites, and at the end of the day we realised we'd seen absolutely nothing. Secondly, I have a slight problem with visiting Branston at the moment. You see, you have to walk through two grassy fields to get there. Last week as CJW followed  me, he commented on the amount of dust I was kicking up. We soon realised we were caked in yellow dust. It took me a few moments to realise the yellow dust was pollen - loads of the stuff - in fact, my trousers were yellow, and CJW had to wipe an inch of yellow dust off his scope lens. As a hay fever sufferer, this is not an ideal situation, and for the last two weekends, I been sky high on anti-histamine and sneezing my head off for several days afterwards. This week, we gave the place a miss. We headed to Gloucestershire instead. 

We popped into Gailey on our way south (GJM -who would have thought it had come to this!), but our journey south was soon held up by an overturned vehicle on the M5. We decided to leave the motorway, but soon discovered that there was a PURPLE HERON at Coombe Hill Meadows, a place I'd never visited before. We soon found the place, but the car park was small, and we only just squeezed in. We walked along the towpath, and soon met up with some birders heading back. They looked at our footwear and laughed at us. We then found out that the path to the hide was flooded, and there was a nice, black, smelly mud about a foot deep to wade through. We were told that without wellies, we stood no chance!

Every birder walking back told us the same story. Except one in trainers.

The path to the hide

He said that he had walked along the bottom of the fence. And so I did the same. Sometimes, I put a foot on either side. However, it was quite a long stretch of flooded boardwalk, and I was soon knackered. The things you do to see a bird! It took me about three-quarters of an hour before the juv Purple Heron decided to give me a flight view. Then, I had to negotiate the path once more. Ten minutes of shuffling along the bottom of the rail again.

Stunning picture of the Purple Heron in Gloucs

It was then onto Slimbridge. Unfortunately the motorway traffic was now coming through Gloucester town centre, and it took us nearly an hour to do the 25min drive down to the WWT centre. We managed to get in without paying the £10-95 entrance fee and soon were watching the s/pl LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER sleeping among the large group of BLACK-TAILED GODWITS. It was showing quite well, but we were looking into the sun.

Long-billed Dowitcher at Slimbridge - my first one for 6yrs!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday 21st July 2012

Another day beckoned in Staffordshire. At least this time the forecast was for a good dry day. Walking round dry, sandy, gravel pits on a warm, summers day is something that everyone enjoys doing, especially CJW who joined me today. There had been a few waders appearing on Friday, and so we headed off full of hope. I started off at Westport, but it was really a lifeless, soul destroying visit. There hasn't been much seen there this week at all looking back.

Next stop was Blithfield. We called in at the causeway, having a chat with GJM. We drove round into Tad Bay. The water levels here are still incredibly high, and you have to start fearing the worse for wader passage this Autumn.

At Branston, on the other hand, water levels are dropping nicely. With high expectations we headed for the Sandy Pit. We had eight Green Sands, a Common Sandpiper, two juv Redshanks.......and that was all.
We visited another pit nearby, but again, we flopped. At the end of the day, we realised we'd been flogging a bit of a hot dead horse today.

During the week, PJ and myself discussed "blasts from the pasts" on quiet days in the summer. I told him today's blog would be alright, as I would find something, but he sent me some photo's just in case.  

Back to July 2005!

This beast was seen on 10th July

This monster was seen on 16th July

and this on 18th July

 Sooty Tern off Anglesey, Caspian Tern at Leighton Moss and Lesser Crested Tern in Norfolk - all in eight days. Oh the good old days!

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Clayheads receive the ultimate honour

The latest Gyr Crakes video is out.

Amazingly, the producers have decided to feature three of the Clayheads this time. At 3:26 minutes, we appear, sunbathing on the garrison.

We were unaware as to who took this picture, but there were plenty of birders around. It was a gorgeous, sunny September day. The Scillonian crossing, costing a special £25 day return, was like a mill pond. We had excellent views of a probable Sunfish, 25+ Common Dolphins, including four swimming alongside the boat, 2+ Harbour Porpoise and a pod of 10+ Risso’s Dolphins, as well a few Pom Skuas.

Our main purpose was to see the Buff-bellied Pipit on St Mary's, and excellent views were had indeed.

It really was an excellent day trip. We had an hour to spare. So we sat on the Garrison, and having been up since 01-30hrs, we enjoyed a little sleep. Great days indeed!

Saturday 16th July 2012

Another quiet Saturday in Staffordshire today. Its been a long slog this summer, but there have been a few highlights along the way. Walking around flooded, birderless pits does have its advantages. We headed to Gailey first and we were soon watching the Spotted Flycatchers by the chimney. A Reed Warbler was also showing well from the causeway

Above Reed Warbler & Spot Fly at Gailey

We headed for our usual stroll around Branston GP's for the afternoon. A few waders on show - a Greenshank, five Green Sands, 21 Curlew and a Peregrine circling overhead.

The water levels on the scrape are back down to normal again

although the overflow pipe is still submerged - a lot of water is being pumped from somewhere

 And on the scrape was this little fellow - the only wader fledging on site today. Its been a disastrous season for the ground nesting birds

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Saturday 7th July 2012 - Mopping up in East Staffs

Apologies for no blog last week, but the only bird of note that we saw was a Black-tailed Godwit at Branston Pits. And that have made a short blog entry.

Black-tailed Godwit at BGP's on 30th June 2012 

And so onto this Saturday. We were trying to have a trip to somewhere, but there was just nothing to go for. So I suggested we stayed in Staffordshire.....again. Westport was quiet as it had been all week. There were two birds at Gailey and Belvide, so we headed there first.

At Gailey, a s/p BLACK-NECKED GREBE had been present for a few day. Unfortunately, it didn't stay for the weekend masses and there was no sign. We did see 14 Common Terns and a family party of Little Grebes.

Next stop was Belvide for the eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard. CJW eventually found it after I had tried to string a sleeping fem Gadwall as it. Old birders often talk about spending hours with Richie Richardson on the East Bank at Cley. Well we've got our own version in Staffs - Bernie Smith and we managed to bump into him and spend a few moments listening to his latest tales and escapades - always a pleasure! 
The Red-crested Pochard at Belvide - showing well from the next hide!

We made the cross county trek to East Staffs, and onto Branston pits. It had rained heavily again on Friday (a month's worth in one day was forecast) but we were amazed at how it had affected the pits area. Water levels have been high all summer, but it was plainly obvious there had been some serious rainfall here.

Path beneath the pylons waterlogged

The overflow pipe on the path to the Sandy Pit - usually high above the water

This picture shows the tide mark where the flood came up to - half way inside "Dead Man's Wood"!
The path and gate to the Pec Scrape - it was about an inch below welly height here!
  The water levels on the Pec Scrape are so high Tufted Duck have moved on

The Pec Scrape - the levels would have been disastrous to any breeding waders here (unfortunately they've all been predated tho but that's another story!)

We just made it back to the car before the heavens opened again (poor Richard Powell wasn't so fortunate). We headed to Uttoxeter Quarry, hoping that we would drive away from the shower. We did managed to arrive when it was dry, but it soon rained afterwards. Again, we witnessed the after effects of yesterdays rain. We couldn't walk the usual way to the main pit as the path was waterlogged.

 Chris soon found out this water was deeper than his wellies - we found an alternative path in

A small stream today - but look how high the water came to yesterday

Our target bird - a distant diving Common Scoter

Uttoxeter Quarry - May 2011 at the time of the Lesserlegs
Same view today - the pit is full!