Monday, 28 April 2014

25th April 2014 - Pond Life!

With no Bird ticks about Myself ( PJ ) Phill Locker & Charlie Simpson decided to try & tick an Amphibian instead, the rare Natterjack Toad at Ainsdale & Birkdale Sandhills LNR. Southport.
We had arranged to go on the guided tour meeting on the car park at 9pm, the rain which had been persistant most of the afternoon eased off as the tour began and we were soon at the first pool or  'slack' as they are referred to in these parts. In the torchlight 1 - 2 pairs of yellow eyes could be picked out in the darkness so the main man waded in and scooped one out so we could all get a close view. They were a bit smaller than I expected & the yellow stripe down the back was very obvious.

Natterjack Toad

We moved on to a larger Slack where there were good numbers of males all calling for the females who were hanging out the dunes, we had another close up view before moving on to the Newt pools, here we got 2 or 3 Great Crested Newts & a couple of Smooth Newts.

Great Crested Newts

All in all quite a pleasant night which was rounded off perfectly with a pint of, what else, Natterjack Bitter !!!

Monday, 7 April 2014

5th April 2014 - Plenty to crow about

Another solo Saturday for me this weekend but despite there being apparently nothing about, I had a rather good day. It just shows with a little effort, you can still enjoy yourself and escape from day to day realities just for a few hours. 

First of all, I walked around Westport. Star bird was a Rook that flew over. This is one of those birds that may not excite too many people, but its my first Rook over Westport since 2012! For some reason, they've gone scarce in the area.

Next stop was at Belvide where my target bird was the long staying Velvet Scoter. I'd seen this bird already this year at Aqualate, and caught up with it at Belvide last year. My reason today for seeing it was.....I'd never seen a Velvet Scoter in April before. Now if that's not a good reason to leave the comfort of your settee I don't know what is. Also saw seven of the Scaup

I made a late decision and from Belvide I headed down the M6 and M5 to Slimbridge. Fortunately as I'm a member of the WWT, I didn't have to pay the £76 entry fee. I made the long walk to the furthest hide away from the centre, the Kingfisher hide, and there waiting for me was my target bird of the day - a Hooded Crow. And which list was this going on you may ask......why this was my first ever English Hooded Crow
There were three "easy" species left to get on my English list. I saw Black Guillemot in Portland in December, now the Hooded Crow which just leaves Chough to get. Apparently there are a few in Cornwall so I must pop down there sometime.

Hooded Crow at Slimbridge.

Next stop was an equally long walk to the Holden Tower, at completely the opposite end of the reserve. It was standing room only on the top deck, but I managed to set my scope up and get a decent view in between where people were sitting. Star attraction here were the two Taiga Bean Geese that had flown down from Worcestershire. It always been an issue as to what these geese are called. Its generally accepted as "Tiger" or "Tayga" Geese, but today, one esteemed knowledgeable gentleman called them Tee-Agra Geese. I quite like that name. 

The Slimbridge Tee-Agra Bean Geese

All was going well in the Holden Tower. I was photographing the Tee-Agra's, year ticking the lovely Barnacle Geese when all of a sudden a little old lady came along.

and she saw the empty seat in front of me and so sat in it. She then started moaning how she was never able to get comfortable in the hide and wasn't able to use her scope properly. I know the feeling little old lady. I had two choices - Stand and bellow my disgust or make a fool of her on my blog.

And that was nearly that for the day. I'd still got one more site to visit, and that was back up in Staffordshire. I had such a leisurely day, I even had time for a nap at Strensham Services. Birding with the Clayheads in the fast lane as ever.


I managed to find the Alrewas Long-tailed Duck again

and also find a new site for Heron's nesting. Never seen one as low as this though.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

End of March trips

March was a long month with five weekends. I managed two trips before the end of the month.

Saturday 29th March 2014
A busy day that started off back in Macclesfield where the COUE'S ARCTIC REDPOLL had shown on the last two mornings, but only up to 07:30hrs. We decided to skip Westport to maximise our chances. We arrived just after 06:30hrs, and the two birders already present said they had probably seen the COUE'S ARCTIC REDPOLL in the tree. We joined then, but for some reason, the Redpoll flock couldn't settle at all. Very rarely did any drop onto the feeders, and when they did gather in the trees, they soon flew off. 

Eventually, we were alerted to a pale Redpoll perched high up. As soon as I saw it, it looked good for the Coue's Arctic Redpoll. I was particularly impressed by its frosty appearance. It really did stand out from the other Redpolls. I managed a short video clip of it before it flew off.

We headed south, briefly visiting Westport and dropping CJW off before we headed to Belvide Res to see the Firecrest. Excellent views were had as it showed extremely well. I had to admit I do rather like seeing Firecrest.

Next stop was at Blithfield on the dam, but there was no sign of the ROCK PIPIT, and there was no sign of the AVOCETS at Branston.

Undeterred, and still early in the day, next stop was at Brownhills in the fair county of West Mids for the long staying Glossy Ibis that had recently reappeared. When we arrived it was showing well in the paddocks.

Brownhills Glossy Ibis - my first in West Mids. Its a shame some birders refuse to recognise this beautiful county

There had been a report of two TAIGA BEAN GEESE in Worcestershire, but some bird information services were reporting them as TUNDRA BEAN GEESE. Having never seen TAIGA in the Midlands, we still had just enough time to head even further south to Kemerton Lakes, down in south Worcestershire near to the Gloucestershire border. On our arrival, it was only a short walk to see the two Taiga Bean Geese sat in a field with c30 Greylags. The general consensus amongst the local birders was indeed with Taiga and not the original Tundra. A fine Midlands tick indeed.  


Monday 31st March 2014
A busy week ahead and so Monday was the only day we could have a trip out. We headed down to Cambridgeshire where we hoped to see the three decent ducks that had turned up in recent days. 

First site was at Fen Drayton where a fine drake Baikal Teal was present. It seemed strange to see another one so soon after ticking the bird in December last year.

Next stop was Pymore and the Ouse Washes where there was a 1w drake American Wigeon. Luckily for us, two nice ladies had been watching it and knew exactly where it was. Unfortunately, our first views were rather distant, and the bird was asleep.With a handy swan nearby, we were soon on to it.

American Wigeon - you can just see the white blaze about 5 o'clock from the swan. Copies of the photo are available at £13 a copy (only in size 3x2) 

We headed a little further up the road to opposite the Four Balls Farm to look for the female RING-NECKED DUCK but despite quite a crowd searching, we couldn't find it. Not a bad day with Marsh Harrier and a pair of Garganey also seen. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mid March 2014

I hope you don't think the blog is becoming like that blog that is always a month behind, or even one of those blogs that ends then restarts under a different name, and then ends again. 

No, its just I've been doing quite a bit of birding recently, mainly due to my short unscheduled holiday nearing its end. I needed to test my physical strength during March, so what better way than a few birding trips.

Monday 17th March 2014
Following our return from our Scottish adventure, I took CJW up to Broken Cross in Macclesfield to look for the COUE'S ARCTIC REDPOLL that had been visiting a birders garden here. PJ and PLo had successfully seen it on Sunday. We stood for two hours watching the Redpoll come and go, but there was no sign today of the Coue's. Good views were had of several Mealy Redpoll though. 


Mealy Redpoll at Macclesfield

Friday 21st March 2014
Westport had a small purple patch at the end of March. On 19th, a Green Woodpecker showed well in the back, on 20th, a flock of Golden Plover and an adult Kittiwake flew over, on 21st, an Oystercatcher spent a few hours feeding around the lake, on 22nd, two Little Egrets flew over, and on 25th two more Kittiwake dropped in, plus my earliest ever British Swallow was seen.  

Pictures taken with my phone at Westport - Cormorant, Kittiwake and Oystercatcher

Saturday 22nd March 2014
A day out in Staffs with CJW was hard going, until we popped into Blithfield on the way back home. There we saw a fine drake Garganey and two early LRP's.

Drake Garganey at Blithfield - my first one in March in Staffordshire