Sunday, 25 November 2012

Saturday November 2012 - A trip to the seaside

My first full week off work and towards to end of it I actually started to feel less tired. I was now managing to walk all round Westport without feeling totally knackered by the end. Unfortunately, it was quite quiet still, until Friday. I had a phone call on Thursday evening reporting an immature GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Chasewater. On Friday, we did a shortened walk around Westport and then headed off south. It had actually been three years since my last GND in Staffs, a self found one at Blithfield in December 2009. We were rather spoilt in 2006-08 with the number of birds frequenting Chasewater. 

We parked up by the Swag, and stood next to ESC, and as always we had a very nice chat. The immature Great Northern Diver was diving in the top right hand corner, but we were looking into the sun. We walked up the right hand side path and enjoyed some rather good views. It makes a change for a diver to be on the Swag, and obviously showing better than normal.     

Imm Great Northern Diver at Chasewater

While we were at Chasewater, I had a call to say MPR had found a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Blithfield. Well, we might as well see two GND in a day while we could, so we headed over to Blithfield. We met up with Roger, but we had to walk almost as far as Ten Acre Bay before we found our second Great Northern Diver of the day as it dived close to the dam wall.

Next stop was on the Moors where a SNOW BUNTING had been refound this morning by the Mermaid Pool. Steve Seal and Ann P-B were already searching the area as we arrived, but there were two blokes up there flying aeroplanes, which probably didn't help too much. DP and TE set off down the track, and this coincided nicely with the flyers finally retreating to their cars from the blustery conditions. I stood talking to SS when all of a sudden, DP started to wave. I quickly rang GAS to try to extract him from the warmth of the car, and soon we were watching not one, but two Snow Buntings. Ann managed to grapple the camera from Steve and took some cracking shots.

The Mermaid Pool Snow Buntings. Pics by Ann Pallas-Bentley.

And so onto Saturday. There wasn't much to see in Staffordshire that we hadn't already seen. I fancied a visit to the pits during the afternoon, but we just didn't know where to go for the morning. If I did too much walking before the pits, I would probably have ended up on my knees crawling back across the fields from Branston. When confirmation came that there was a DESERT WHEATEAR in Rhyl (following a report of a Wheatear there yesterday) , PJ suggested we headed there. It was an easy decision to make, as it had been six years since my last DeWe in Britain. We picked PJ up and we were parking up by the golf course in Rhyl  in no time. There was a smallish crowd of photographers on site, and the female Desert Wheatear was showing extremely well as it fed on the sea wall by the side of the path. It was always hotly pursued by the long lens boys, who just had to get that closer shot than the close shot they had just got. Basically, the poor old Desert Wheatear was chased up and down the path. In the end I stood still, knowing full well that it would fly back down towards me again.

Female Desert Wheatear at Rhyl - only the second record for North Wales.

and another shot by PJ. This is my first female DW in Britain!

Satisfied with our views at Rhyl, we headed off to see what else we could find along the coast. We had quite a long session at Llandulas, starting off on the high road on the Llysfaen Station Road. We thought the views from here would be too distant and naff, but we were pleasantly surprised that we could pick birds out on the sea. PJ found a Black-throated Diver, and you could even see the female Common Scoters, but no sign of the SURF SCOTERS. We drove down to the beach, but the light had started to fade by now. You could still spot the Red-breasted Mergansers and auks but picking out a bobbing SURF SCOTER proved impossible. We did see seven Velvet Scoters (in flight!) and an adult Iceland Gull flew past. 

We headed for home, but we just had one last bird to see, and another Welsh tick for me. We headed towards Kinmel Bay, and we were soon watching 53 of them. Fancy having to twitch one of these when you live in North Staffs - Waxwing capital of Staffordshire (in some years anyway)

Welsh Waxers at Kinmel Bay by PJ

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Friday 16th November 2012 - 30 years of hurt and two days of agony

What a week! Last Saturday was quite good to say the least. When you flog local patches weekend afer weekend, its nice sometimes to have good days. It makes it all seem worthwhile. This Saturday, I'm sat at home...

It all started at Westport, like all good stories do. Mid morning on Sunday, I headed back to try out my daughters new wellingtons. I didn't like the colour and frankly they were way too small, but we managed. It was here that I started having "heartburn pains". These carried on all day, and by the evening, my chest and arms were aching quite a bit. I had hardly any sleep, Deep Heat didn't work (was it muscular?), Gaviscon didn't work. I rang in sick on Monday morning and tried, but failed to get into my doctors (thats another story for a long twitch one day). I spent all day with a hotwater bottle on my chest trying to ease the pain. I eventually got into to see the Doc at just after four. By 7pm, following a ride in an ambulance, I was on a trolley having surgery in hospital, and getting to terms with the fact that I'd had a heart attack. It wasn't what I'd always imagined a heart attack to be like. I had after all, done all the hoovering and cleaned out the rabbit, and so, it was hard to accept what had happened. I'm only 42 after all.  

The operation went fine, a stent was fitted, and my heart rate was back to normal the following day. A few days in hospital and on Thursday, I was allowed out. GAS picked me up, and first place we headed to was, Westport. I did manage to walk one lap on my first afternoon out, even though I was in serious trouble afterwards.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening, a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER had been found at Drayton Bassett. I found this slightly irritating, but in my predicament, I would just have to accept it. As a young teenage birder in shorts, I had been told about the story of the Rudyard 1989 White-rumped Sand and how it had been suppressed. I was even pointed out the person alledged to have been involved, and it leaves a lasting impression on you. And so when, finally, after over 30yrs another WRS turns up, I felt a sense of justice had been done now.

Friday arrived, and after popping into work (with my first ever sick note), we headed down to DBP. At 09-30hrs we had confirmation that it was indeed still present. We knew we would have to go in via the old way, as there was no way I, or pops could managed a 45mins walk from the car park in the mud. The old way was just what the doctor ordered. 

The pit south of the North Pit

At first, it was out of view on the backside of an island, but we didn't have to wait long before the 1w White-rumped Sandpiper came into view. Despite the grey day/grey bird/grey background, it did actually show quite well, especially when it flew to the closest island. 

The 4th White-rumped Sandpiper for Staffordshire

It may be a few weeks until I can walk to the pits now. Oh well. But maybe I was the lucky one this time.  

Tired of lugging a large tripod around all day. Well here at Clayhead Towers we have the solution to your problems. Fancy a light weight, easily carried around pod that's also cheap? Try the new CLAY-POD. Its yours for just £19-99 - full instructions and a free leaflet provided. Go on - you know you want to!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sat 10th Nov 2012 - Willington birder tells Clayheads where to go!

Another Saturday. Another day to plan. It was suggested that we went for the Sussexshire HOODED MERGANSER. There was a bit of a supporting cast down there as well, such as a RED-BREASTED GOOSE, but having travelled the country this week with work, I just didn't feel like getting up early again and heading off. Some weekends you like to travel, others you just like to stay at home, and bird in Staffs!

The day started off at the Golden Pond, with Stanley the Scaup still present and still eluding a few birdwatchers and there was a few bits and bobs flying over, but Autumn appears to be slowly drawing to a close.

Dr Slumberland promised to get up early today, and he didn't let us down, joining us at 09-30hrs still wearing his dressing gown and slippers. Interesting birding attire I thought.

And so the question that is on everyones lips every Saturday. Where to go to before the pits open for business. We knew Blithers had had one of its quieter weeks, but we knew GJM was in full control there. As we walked round Westport, I made a suggestion about popping to Willington GP in Derbs for the GREAT WHITE EGRET, a bird we hadn't seen since June. And so that's where we headed to.

We parked up in the car park and started to walk down the track. We asked the first birder if the GWE was still showing. Apparently, it hadn't been seen since first light. We started chatting to him, and asked him where he thought it flew to. "Clay Mills" was his reply. That's Staffs I thought!

We walked back to the car and headed for Clay Mills, a place I'd never been to but I had thought about finding it just in case anything ever turned up there. I made a quick call to another veteran Staffs birder, who also had never been there before. First stop was at the Clay Mills Sewage works, but there was no way through here down to the river. According to our maps (on the indispensable mobile phones. Must haves are the OS map app, and any surface feature/real image mapping), there was another track. We found that, drove down it until we reached a footbridge over the railway line. We parked up and headed in the direction of the river. Three Raven and a Green Sandpiper flew over, and three blokes were ferreting in the wood. We waved, and they waved back, so we left the track by the locked gate and walked across the stubble field, taking us in the direction of the sewage works and the large lake there.    

First views of the GWE

I made a quick scan across the fields towards the river and saw a large white, heron like object in the field. I was fairly confident that I'd found the Great White Egret. We tried to get closer, but in the end a fence and a series of channels blocked our way. At first, the GWE was quite elusive, and it must have been 20-30 mins before it came into view again, after walking down into a channel and out of view. We phoned Birdnet with directions, stating the bird was in Derbyshire, but we were stood in Staffs. CJW was also trying to get a grid ref. As I scanned the maps on the phone, and looked towards the bird, I started to have a nagging doubt come over me. Although we couldn't see the river, we knew from the map that it ran close to the buildings in the distance. It dawned on us that the GWE was actually in Staffordshire. Celebratory hugs and high fives all around.

I think this is the Rock House in Newton Solney. The Trent runs directly in front of this. The GWE is the white blob to the right, and is stood on the Staffs side of the River Trent.

And so with the news broadcast, a final showing as it finally came out from its ditch, we headed off. The rest of the day was quite leisurely, and we ended up for the roost at Chasewater, meeting up with JA, SR, MY, KD and NS. The adult Iceland Gull was already in, but it didn't stay for too long, flying off north some 20 mins later. An awkward to see adult Mediterranean Gull and Yellow-legged Gull finished the day off nicely.
Picture of the Iceland Gull in fading light - hence slightly blurred. Anyone who wants a copy - are you really sure?

And so we're well into November, and what else can we expect to find this month in Staffordshire? Well Red-breasted Mergansers should be turning up now, always a nice find. And maybe time for a diver or one of the rarer grebes. Anything can happen!

Female Red-breasted Merganser

and two nice shots of Slavonian Grebe - always nice to see in Staffordshire

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Saturday 3rd November 2012 - zzzzzzz Staffs Again zzzzz

So another day birding in Staffs. Westport was the first place to visit, as per usual. The immature drake Scaup (Stanley perhaps?) returned today having gone missing on the Friday. Quite a few thrushes flew over as well.

Then, the where next question. Its seems like every Saturday we have to find somewhere to go before we can enter Branston GP's at mid day. This week there had been one, maybe two GREAT GREY SHRIKES seen on the Chase. We headed to Beaudesert first, and met up with "fellow blogga" Paul Shenton from the Moors, and  more importantly Bill Brydges. Bill hasn't been too well recently, and so it was very nice to catch up with him. There was no sign of the Shrike here, so we followed Paul and Bill to Upper Longdon, where again we chatted, looked for the Shrike and then gave in. I've learnt with Shrikes that if they aren't there when you first arrive, wait a bit, then go, and say well that's Shrikes for you. You're either lucky, or unlucky, and its probably best not to waste too much effort chasing one. 

We headed over to Branston, popping into Kings Bromley layby as we passed. A Little Egret was feeding on the opposite bank, and with careful fieldcraft (parking the car behind a big bush, getting scope out quietly and walking slowly)), I was able to get some pictures of it.

Little Egret at Kings Bromley, November 2012.

And to think it was only just over 20 years ago on 31st May 1992 that I twitched a Little Egret at Rudyard to add it to my county list. Now, I've even had them fly over my house.

Little Egret, Rudyard Lake - 31/5/92 by WJL

We carried on to Branston GP's. It wasn't a bad visit, quite few waders on show, but nothing new had arrived. At least we had the Golden Plovers to count again.

Golden Plovers at Branston.

And so that's all for this week. Not much to say really. So time to pad the blog out a bit, as is the case in quiet times. The first week of November has seen quite a few decent birds in the past, all allowing me to take some stunning photo's.

On 7th November 2009, we saw the Fan-tailed Warbler down in Kent - a quite nice grip back.

FTW at Pegwell Bay CP, Kent - Nov 2009

In 2004, we popped down to Cornwall to tick the Little Crake at Marazion on 6th November. Another stunning picture is produced below.

Little Crake in Cornwall - Nov 2004

Back to 2002, and a Bobolink was the reward on 2nd November for standing in the pouring rain on Hengistbury Head. Copies of the picture are available at the usual prices. I can also reproduce it on coasters, tee shirts and posters.

Bobolink in the Bobolink field at Hengistbury Head - what a coincidence!

Even further back in time, in fact, 25 years ago, I saw the Forster's Tern at Penmon Point on Anglesey on the 1st November. And I haven't managed to catch up with another yet.

Forster's Tern sat on the large rock.

 And finally, back to 1986. On 2nd November, I twitched my very first BBRC rarity, the Lesser Grey Shrike at Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsular.  

My first BBRC rarity, (my first twitch??) - Lesser Grey Shrike at Aberdaron 26 years ago