Sunday, 6 December 2015

A splash of colour to brighten up a dull Staffordshire winter

Staffordshire has suddenly sprung into life now its winter, and the last few weekends have been happily spent birding in the county. Its times like this when you realise the importance of having more than one list to concentrate on. I myself keep 48 different lists so I have plenty of opportunities to keep the ticks rolling in. 

It all started on 21st November when I popped into Chasewater to see the drake Red-crested Pochard. I only realised when I returned home that it was infact my first ever one at Chasewater. 


Red-crested Pochard at Chasewater
The following weekend following Storm Brenda, we returned to Chasewater for a Shag. CJW had never had one in Staffs before so he was over the moon when we finally had it on the dam. It was also my first at Chasewater, although I'd managed one at Blithfield and two at Gailey before.

Shag at Chasewater
On Saturday 28th November, the day was almost ruined again by another storm, this time Storm Colin. A wet day was forecast, but we decided to head down to deepest south west Staffordshire where a HOOPOE had been found. On the way down the M6, we received information that it had flown off strongly to the east. We hastily made up plan B and carried on down to Farmoor Resv. Of course the HOOPOE reappeared, but we were already well on our way to Oxfordshire. Despite the wind and rain, we managed excellent views of the Grey Phalarope as it swam just a few feet offshore. We also saw the Red-necked Grebe from the comfort of the hide on the causeway. This was a nice surprise as we assumed (incorrectly) that all the hides would be locked. 

We headed back north, driving through continuous heavy rain and arrived at Wall Heath at 14:45hrs. It was nearly dark, and we were told that the HOOPOE had just flown into a tree, possibly to roost. We grabbed just our bins and headed up the hill, not really expecting to see anything. We'd waited about half an hour when the Hoopoe suddenly reappeared, and showed very well on the grassy slope. No photos though of either bird today as it was raining most of the day, and I didn't want to get my optics wet.

And into December. I decided to return to the Hoopoe again on Saturday 5th to try and get some photos. I arrived at 11:00hrs only to find there had been no sign yet today. Hardly surprising as this week it was the turn of Storm Derek to ruin another Saturday. This time it was dry, but there were 80mph winds. My hair was a complete mess. I stuck it out for an hour, and then headed back to the car, passing Grizzly Adams on the way in. I gave him the low down, told him it was windy and off I headed.

We'd only travelled ten minutes down the road when Grizzly rang to say it had just flown back in. We screeched to a halt, slammed the car in reverse and just kept reversing all the way back to Wall Heath. I ran up the hill and there was the Hoopoe feeding away. The wind from Storm Douglas was too strong, so I had to lower the scope and (peter) crouch down. I did manage a few shots though.

And look what it's found to eat here

and another one. Wonder where that came from?
Then it was onto Chasewater and bird of the day. A RING-NECKED PARAKEET had been coming into roost for nearly two weeks now. There was a good turn out, with Messrs Jones and Richards, Chaz Mason and Clayheads No1 Stalker himself, stalking us as he always does. At just after c15:00hrs ish, I heard the call of the Ring-necked Parakeet, and like clockwork it had flown in to roost as per usual. Eventually, it settled down and sat in a bush along the main path, but it was still flying over the main lake at nearly 16:00hrs. A fine county tick, and my last easy tick has fallen. It's all down to waiting for the 90's rares to make a return visit to the county now.

PJ took this fine photo tonight.
 In the roost, "Caspo" Richards managed to find a quite perfect adult Caspian Gull, plus I saw a brief 2w Mediterranean Gull.  

Adult Caspian Gull with the 2w Mediterranean Gull to the right