Tuesday, 22 October 2013

20th October 2013 - Struggling to get a semi

We had always planned to head off this weekend. It was just a matter of where. With ISABELLINE SHRIKE, SIBERIAN STONECHAT plus a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL in Yorkshire, it appeared that we would be heading off to Yorkshire again. 

Then, on Thursday 17th, a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER was found on Hayling Island but was only seen for a short time before flying off. A tick for me and GAS but not the others, the other problem being there wasn't much else down in the area to see, but the East coast was looking good. 

As always happens with problem birds, the SEMIPALMATED PLOVER was seen again on Friday and a trip was organised for Saturday. CJW decided to come with us just for a few year ticks. The bird came and went with the tides, and with high tide not until 12:19hrs, we didn't need to get up too early. We arranged a 06:00hrs start.

I got up at 05:00hrs and started to get ready. I then noticed a slight problem. The room was spinning, I felt light headed, incredibly dizzy and not quite well. I tried to mend myself, but when GAS arrived at 06:00hrs, I was still no better. There was no way I could drive down to Hampshire: in fact I couldn't even walk in a straight line. Eventually, at 08:00hrs, I had to tell CJW the trip was off. This was the first time ever in all my twitching days that I've ever had to cancel a trip. And as tick are especially hard to come by, I was gutted to say the least (I literally nearly was gutted too but I'll spare the details). GAS went off to Westport with CJW and I sat and swayed.

It did sort of ease as the day went on, but my head never entirely cleared. I was determined though to go ahead with the trip on Sunday. Unfortunately, CJW was working and unable to come. I got up at 05:00hrs again and I felt slightly better. I managed breakfast and GAS picked me up at 06:00hrs and did the first half of the driving. I was alright as long as I didn't look down. (I realise now it was an inner ear infection).    

We arrived at Hayling Island at 09:30hrs and joined the crowd of Sunday birders stood on the end of the point waiting for the tide to come in. There were plenty of waders coming and going, and slowly the numbers built up. By 11:30hrs, we had 200+ Sanderling, 50+ Grey Plover plus a decent sized flock of Ringed Plovers. However, there was one bird missing. Despite the flock behaving itself (even returning if spooked), no one had managed to pick out the SEMIPALMATED PLOVER. Then the whole flock flew off.

We followed the crowd as they walked back through the sailing club, hoping they would lead us to groyne 25, the location where it flew to yesterday. However, we realised most birders were returning to their cars. We ate our dinner, consulted my maps and found an area of beach with groynes. There was only one car park so we decided to try and beat the crowd and headed off down there. We parked up and walked along the beach towards the crowd already gathered. I kept checking my phone but there was still no news.
I casually set my scope up and asked if there was any sign. There was, and I was soon watching the 1w Semipalmated Plover through a kind gentleman's scope. We must have been standing there for five minutes before the news came through. Unfortunately, before the majority arrived, a dog ran through the flock flushing the lot. Luckily for the late arrivals, they did settle down again and good views were had. The Semiplover did stand out from the crowd quite nicely: its petite size was clearly noticeable.

Another 90's gripback and my first tick of the Autumn. Amazingly, this is my 7th tick on 20th October since 2000. In 2001, it was a Norfolk Pallid Swift, in 2002 a Pallas's Warbler on Great Orme, 2006 I was on the Isles of Scilly ticking Isabelline Shrike, Booted Warbler and Western Bonelli's, then last year it was the Fife Eastern Olivaceous. Certainly a lucky date for me.

We headed off and decided to pop and see the Red-breasted Goose on the way back home. The journey took about an hour to do, and we got stuck at the usual New Forest bottle neck. We also drove through some extremely heavy rain. By the time we arrived at Cutt Bridge, Milford-on-Sea, it had eased off, and I went off looking for the goose on the marsh with the Brent Geese. Most geese were distant and feeding in long grass, so I rang GAS up and asked him to bring my scope. As the sky looked dark, I casually asked him to bring my coat. Just before he arrived, the heavens opened again. It was quite exposed on the marsh, so we had to walk inland to find the nearest tree, and we sheltered there for about 20 minutes while the rain bounced down again. It was getting late now, and a quick check of the marsh revealed no sign of the R B Goose. We wandered back to the car where we met two birders. They suggested we headed towards the pond, as they had seen a couple of birders waving to them from that location. We drove up, a short walk later and there was the Red-breasted Goose sat in a field. 

I would just like to apologize to CJW for messing up his weekend. The best way I thought would be to dedicate this week's song to CJW, and what better song than one by the finest - the Queen of British pop! This is for you Chris! 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A stroke of luck leads me to a good skua-ring at Belvide

I had my first cold of the autumn this week. I've had worse. It did affect my birding though as I had to blow my nose more often as I walked round Westport than before. I managed and I didn't let it get me down. By Friday, the cold had dropped down into my throat, and my voice wasn't sounding like my usual Joe Pasquale anymore, but more like Brian Blessed. As the day went on, my voice slowly got worse and worse until it just faded away. I was speechless. Literally. Fortunately I'd started work at 05:30hrs on Friday and so I was due to finish early anyway. But when Steve Nuttall rang me to tell me that there was a Great Skua sat on the water at Belvide, I knew where I was heading for as soon as I finished. Then at 11:15hrs, I rang my boss who upon hearing my voice told me I might as well go home as I sounded rough and so poorly. 

I rang GAS and squeeked down the phone at him. We were soon heading down the M6 which was rather slow due to roadworks and that Friday feeling. But all the way down it was still raining. I hoped that while it rained, the skua would stay. We eventually arrived and following instructions from PLo as we walked past him, we headed for the Chappell hide.

And there was the Great Skua sat preening away in front of the hide - a magnificent Staffordshire tick It did flap occasionally and even flew around. It was in fine condition. It moves my Staffs list on by one (and don't forget folks my Staffs list only has birds seen in Staffordshire on. I don't resort to boosting it up by adding on species seen in nearby counties. Some birders get mixed up with West Midlands listing and Staffordshire listing. I'll show you the boundaries if anyone is confused.)  

Great Skua at Belvide

And so onto Saturday 12th October. The day promised so much. There had been Gannets, Great Skuas and Arctic Skuas scattered all across the Midlands. There was a strong NE winds and a biggy on the East Coast was predicted. Would this be the day I could finally dust off my list and get a British tick under the belt in the tick-fest that is Autumn  2013. We decided to play it safe and we started off in Staffordshire. We took our time at Westport, but by the time we came to leave, nothing major had come on for Staffordshire, and no major rares had been found on the east coast yet. We continued with birding round our usual haunts, but by the end of the day when we looked at our lists, we realised we hadn't seen much at all today. Oh well. There's always next weekend.

Chris tries out his new super lens on his camera. Steve Seal - watch out. There's a new photographer in town!

And finally, I been swamped with emails this week by people saying how they enjoyed my new music section, and what a fabulous taste I have in music. I've also had many requests for songs. Christopher from St Helen's wrote to me asking for anything by Jason Donovan. Apparently Christopher was a huge fan of Jason's and used to dress up like him and dance around to his songs. Great image Christopher!

Monday, 7 October 2013

5th October 2013 - A day to gloss over?

As happens in Autumn, the mega's were pouring in on an hour basis, which was great and really exciting if you were on Shetland. There wasn't much else around following a week of so called "rare-winds" but we decided on a trip out of the county during the morning, and then back into Staffs for the afternoon. It seemed a good plan. There was a late attempt at the "spanner in the works" birds with a reported PALLAS'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER on Spurn. The bird was never confirmed as a definite on Birdnet and with not much of a supporting cast there and the fact that we'd only just been to Spurn, we decided to monitor the situation instead and stick to our original plans. 

We called into Red Rocks on our way north to see if the reported BLYTH'S REED WARBLER was showing or not. However, it was a bit cold and windy and there was no sign. We only stayed briefly before heading off to Pennington Flash in Greater Manchester.

The Lesser Scaup took a little while to find, but eventually "sharp-eyed" CJW located it on our second visit to the hide. This was my second Lesser Scaup at Pennington, having seen one there in July 2004. 

The Lesser Scaup at Pennington

It was our plan to go and see the Bolton/Doffcocker GLOSSY IBIS but there had been no news from the site yet today. We decided to head back to Staffs and to Doxey for the PECTORAL SANDPIPER that had been relocated midweek. Just as we were leaving the carpark, a message came thru saying the Glossy Ibis were still present. It was only ten minutes away and so off we headed.

The site took a little bit of finding as the wrong road name was given in the instructions. We were soon parked up along a very bumpy track and we walked across a few fields towards the pumping station by High Rid Reservoir. As we approached, we could see birders looking down into the field. We had been told they were showing well, but it was still a shock to see how well they were showing. They were literally feet away from us. Amazing views were had. We've certainly never been this close to a Glossy Ibis before. 

Glossy Ibis, High Rid Resv, Gtr Manchester

This shows how well the Ibis were showing.

We headed down the M6 to Stafford and next stop was at Doxey Marshes. We parked up and I checked my phone as per usual. There was a tweet from Chris Bromley that simply said "I've just found a Glossy Ibis at Tittesworth!"

This confused us rather, and another check of the phone revealed the news wasn't general knowledge yet. CJW tried to ring Chris to get further information while I put the news out and alerted a few birders so they could get up there quickly to keep us informed. Once all the calls were made, we went off the see the Pec Sand. 

We met another birder en route who told us it was showing well. He did say though that we were going to get our feet wet by walking to it. We were rather surprised at this, as no one else had mentioned any flooding. He told us to keep to the centre of the path, as birders in the week had been trying to walk around the flood and ended up waist deep in water. Imagine that!

We stood at the scrape by the pollarded willows for about 10 minutes but there was no sign of the pec. While we were waiting a Jack Snipe came into view bobbing merrily away. Eventually the Pectoral Sandpiper showed well but briefly as it kept disappearing into the vegetation.

Jack Snipe at Doxey

With the Glossy Ibis showing at Tittesworth still it was time to make the long trek to North Staffordshire. The journey was uneventful and I dropped GAS and CJW off at the causeway to join the other birders. I carried on a little bit further up the road to park the car. Walking towards me was the Clayheads No.1 stalker Brocton Ian. He told me the Ibis wasn't actually where I had dropped them off by the causeway but it had flown into the fields by where we were standing. I made the short walk up the road and there was the juvenile Glossy Ibis feeding away in a puddle. Eventually CJW and GAS arrived, panting and out of breath but very grateful that I'd dropped them off about a mile down the road. 

Tittesworth/Meerbrook Glossy Ibis - the 6th record of Glossy Ibis in Staffs.

Finally, my new popular music video section. Swamped with emails after last week video, so here's another one for you all.