Following on from the excellent start to the year in East Yorkshire, a trip to Slimbridge was made on 3rd January. As with most weekends in January, it was forecast to rain and so we thought there would be plenty of cover for us. The female Ferruginous Duck was found in the Asian Pen and showed quite well. We also had 110 White-fronted Geese, plenty of Bewick's Swans, six Barnacle Geese and a Merlin.
Ferruginous Duck at Slimbridge
The following weekend, the 10th January, strong winds were forecast but we battled on, visiting a few sites in Staffordshire before we finally gave up and went home. Highlights of this day were a fine Black Swan at Whitemoor, where there were good numbers of Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows seen.
The 17th January saw a trip down to Devon where three PENDULINE TITS had been showing frequently during the week at Darts Farm near Topsham. We were the first car in the car park, and as we were getting our kit together, another car pulled up. Next thing someome was shouting we couldn't park there! It was only the Clayheads No.1 Stalker Ian "The Stalker" who had followed us all the way down the M5 from Stoke just to see where we were going. Such dedication. We waited three hours for the PENDULINE TITS to appear, but they didn't. We headed to Broadsands were the Cirl Buntings showed well in the car park, plus some good sea watching in the bay saw a Velvet Scoter, several Great Northern Divers and three Black-necked Grebes.
Cirl Buntings at Broadsands
Last stop of the day was in Brixham Harbour, where seven Purple Sandpipers showed very well on the breakwater. In fact we were standing above them and looking down at them. We also saw this stunning Oystercatcher.
And so on to Sunday 25th January and a trip to Lancashire. First stop was at Pilling for the Pomarine Skua. Unfortunately it isn't looking it's best anymore, and spent most of our visit walking around a field like a rabbit. (Actually as we were walking along the path, I did think it was a rabbit before I lifted my bins. Not many birders have mistaken a Pom Skua for a rabbit). We also had good views of the flock of c70 Twite.
Next stop was at Rossall Point for the wintering SHORE LARK. The grassy area where it frequented was full of dog walkers and people walking about. We knew there was no chance of it being there. We headed down to the beach. I wanted to head to the right, PJ wanted to go left. We went left, walked only a few steps when a large ish bird flew past us. I saw where it dropped and amazingly there was the Shore Lark.
Shore Lark by Phil Jones
We headed down to Blackpool for the TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Mythop. We found the large flock of Pink-feet, but we could only view from the car or else we would have flushed them. We pulled up next to the only other car watching them, and he shouted out directions for us. PJ even managed to get out of the car and knocked on his passenger door window. We were really struggling and just couldn't get our eyes on to it, despite the goose being fairly close. Then I found the bird he was watching. Sadly, its legs were a rich pink, rather than orange. We left, but we did see some Whooper Swans nearby.
Whooper Swans by PJ
We had decided we wanted to end the day at Chaswater, following the previous nights report of a possible THAYER'S GULL in the roost. There was a good turn out for the roost, with quite a few of Staffordshire's active birders assembled. The roost wasn't a massive one, but we did manage a 2w Yellow-legged Gull, 3w Caspian Gull and an adult Iceland Gull.
Iceland Gull at Chasewater
3w Caspian Gull at Chasewater