Monday, 8 October 2012

Saturday 7th October 2012 - Chasing former mega's

While birders were heading for Ireland in search of the EASTERN KINGBIRD, we decided to stay in Staffordshire and wait. That is what happens most Octobers, and it is a month that I've started not to look forward to. Birds turn up at the most awkward of times, and you simply can't book 31 days off during October. And when birds do turn up, they head off at Friday lunch times. No, I've still not got over that SANDHILL CRANE. 

So with American birds literally dropping out of the sky in Ireland, we were on standby for any mainland birds that may be found. We started the day at Westport. With clear skies, what was going over was obviously in orbit, and despite spending two hours there, we didn't have much to show for it. 

We briefly popped into Blithfield to see the female Scaup and then it was onto Branston GP's. There was just about enough on show here to make the visit worthwhile. As we were walking towards the Sandy Pit, the whole Lapwing/Golden Plover flock took flight, and as they were circling around, we managed to pick out a Dunlin and a Black-tailed Godwit among them. By the time we arrived at the Sandy Pit, everything was dropping back down to feed. Along with the Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit, there were three Ruff and a Green Sandpiper plus a healthy count of 226 Golden Plover.

Golden Plovers with a Black-tailed Godwit amongst them

I also managed to finally see the White Buzzard that has been frequenting the area. An awesome bird, my first glimpse of it had me sweating as I quickly trawled through all the white/grey birds of prey I knew.

These pictures of the Branston Gyr-Buzzard were taken by Jon Woodcock a few weeks ago

All the time we were wandering round Staffs, news was filtering through that the female PALLID HARRIER was still showing in South Yorkshire. We had half considered going to see this bird at first light, but with news that it was still hanging around, we decided to pop over. PJ came over and we left our car near to the A50 and headed off in his.

We planned to call in for the RING-NECKED DUCK at Orgreave first. I took me ages to find the site and programme it into the sat nav. We trusted the sat nav, even when it took us into Rotherham District Hospital. We realised I'd managed to mess the location up. Still, not a place you visit on a birding trip too often.

As we were driving out of Rotherham X-ray department, and past the Outpatients, PJ received information that the PALLID HARRIER was still showing. Hospital beds and trolleys went flying as we hurtled out of the hospital and screeched just up the road to Ravenfield. We parked up sensibly where all the other birders had parked (on the main road in Ravenfield) and started the one mile walk to the viewing point.

We were concerned for Pops making such a long walk, but we set off at a steady pace. We'd got plenty of time on our hands before it was due to roost. As we came to end the end of the first lane, PJ said he could see birders. I looked at the map on my phone but we were no where near the vantage point. We walked over to the crowd of birders in the field, and we were soon watching the female Pallid Harrier sat in a distant field.

The fem Pallid Harrier (this photo has been forwarded to the finders to use for their record submission to BBRC

The crowd shot

The field with the Pallid Harrier in is the one on the horizon

For the next hour, we stood and watched it preen, and not much else. It just sat there. We were determined to see it in flight, and eventually it did. And withins seconds, it flew over the ridge and out of sight.

We popped into the actual Orgreave lagoons on the way home, but in a brief search, in fading light, we were fairly certain the drake RING-NECKED DUCK wasn't present.