And so January has finished already. I didn't manage to do the 100 in Staffs before the month was out, but I ended January on a healthy 94 species. I decided there was no need to panic and in fact I've just been patch working all month as per usual. And I'm not bored yet.
The last weekend of January saw us head through the snow to Orgreave to look for SC's BEWICK'S SWAN that he'd found in a flock of Mute Swans. The side roads were just about passable and we soon found the flock. As we were standing by the car scanning through the herd, eniment local birdwatcher and author George Brian drew up along side me, and wished me luck in my search. As I started scanning the nearest birds to me, I realised that one of the Swans wasn't actually a Mute. It was in fact a Merlin, sat amongst the closest group. Poor old George Brian had managed somehow to miss a solitary Merlin sat in the nearest group of swans.
A Merlin and a Mute Swan at Orgreave
February started far warmer and milder than January, and the first Saturday out we visited Belvide to try and catch up with the BITTERN that had arrived during the week. We left the motorway at the A5 junction, and CJW in the back seat immediately noticed a pale gull flying from Gailey Resv. I circled the roundabout again, and then headed off the A5, pulling up in the first layby. Eventually, the flock of gulls caught up with us again, and there was a juvenile Glaucous Gull (we originally assumed it was the 2w that had roosted at Belvide the night before). I rang Belvide to warn them and sure enough, SN was able to get on to it as it flew past distantly.
We added a few year ticks at Belvide with Brambling and Tree Sparrow on the feeding station, and we had a nice amble up to the Gazebo Bay. We scanned for the BITTERN but there was no sign. We walked back with SN who was convinced it was back in the SE bay. Amazingly, Steve managed to find it again just as we had given up hope of seeing it. Only its head and beak were showing, and only when the reeds blew apart. The bird certainly attracted birders to the reserve, and a crowd of 20+ birdwatchers soon gathered around Steve's scope. I do hope that these birders will continue to birdwatch in Staffs and maybe visit other areas too. As it was, we didn't see another birder for the rest of our afternoon. It was so nice to get away from the crowds! We were standing at the feeding station just looking as you do, when several birdwatchers came up behind asking what we were watching! (What do they think it is - Minsmere!)
Who needs a long lens! Stunning photo's of the Belvide Bittern.
We eventually ended up at an extremely muddy Branston GP's at the end of the day. The mud was so deep in parts, we were in danger of getting our hats dirty. Our main aim was to check the gull roost there. Amazingly, it was a roost made up entirely of big gulls, and not a single BHG was seen. There was an impressive count of c80 Great B B Gulls, but no sign of the white-winger that we hoped for.
Above - all in a days birding in Staffs
Water Rail at Branston GP's