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