Staffordshire Bird News

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Bluethroat at Tongue End 18th February 2017

Another fantastic days birding in a long line of other fantastic days birding started off at Willow Tree Fen in Lincolnshire. This place looks quite a good reserve but for some reason, it hasn't turned up anything really top draw yet. It does look an ideal place for a late summer RED-FOOTED FALCON maybe for instance.

Anyway, CJW, I and the Stalker walked down the little path and joined the crowd. We'd already passed quite a few birder/birdwatchers walking back, several of whom were back slapping and punching the air with glee. One tramp, sorry, local birdwatcher-type even told us that we should get ourselves down there as there was a BLUETHROAT showing really well. We replied is there really, and we said we might well go down and have a look. 

So we stood in the crowd. And waited. And waited. And actually we started to get really cold as sub-Saharan tropical heat had been forecast for today and we had dressed accordingly. CJW was actually wearing shorts and his Right Said Fred string vest as he thought it was going to be that warm.    

Eventually, just before hypothermia set in, the Bluethroat popped out and did its performance. The sound was deafening. Some even dived for cover in the reed  bed as they though they were under attack from a Japanese sniper. In fact, it was the sound of 120 camo-clad long lens toting muppets with their cameras making all those wonderful sounds. They can obviously silence them, but we are dealing with idiots here who think for instance they can take photos of a duck caught by fishing line and pass them off as a duck showing well. 

I digress (yes muppet I'm still on about you Mr @duckonarope). We watched the Bluethroat wander up and down a few feet away from us. Unfortunately, due to the freezing temperatures, my fingers began to go numb as I shot some video. Anyway, Lord Lichfield has finally started to get to grips with his camera, and his latest offering, if watched on high definition on your mobile, isn't too shabby at all. In fact, its amongst the top two videos you'll see on this page.





We made the relatively short journey up to Rutland Water, where we only managed to add two Black-necked Grebes to our day list, and we couldn't find the much hoped for RED-NECKED GREBE. 

Next stop was back to Drayton Bassett Pits where we finally connected with the Greenland White-fronted Goose, showing well in the field with the Canada Geese. I wanted to see this goose, as its still quite a rarity in the county. This is only my 3rd sighting, with the previous two sightings being my first and second sightings. I also have seen quite a few flavours of geese so far this year. I wonder if I can do the clean "geese" sweep this year or not?




We then decided to head off to Chasewater, where we hoped to see GLAUCOUS GULL or maybe a CASPIAN GULL. CJW was especially excited about this, as he's such a fan of gull roosts. But, there was the chance of one or two year ticks, so the visit had to be done. 

As we were walking back to the car, I received a phone call from a contact at Branston. He'd found something, and it was a Branston tick for me. I told CJW and The Stalker, but they decided to leave it to me to decide where to go next. They were both looking forward immensely to the gull roost, and neither of them had a Branston list. We'd all seen the mystery bird in question twice this year as well. It was a no brainer. Surely it was obvious I had to go with the majority decision in the car.

We were soon parking up at Branston.We only had to sprint to the southern pit. We were soon out of breath, gasping for air, our lungs seemed so tight. Sweat was pouring off us. Then we got out of the car and put our coats on; we walked across the fields. 

It  took us quite some time to find the female Long-tailed Duck, but The Stalker eventually located it. And true to form, it was diving constantly. But it was another addition to my Branston list. What a fantastic day it had been.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Crossing the boundary - birding in Newcastle-under-Lyme

Just realised I'd forgot to mention in my previous blog about two birds I'd seen locally recently. DK refound the immature Iceland Gull on the new housing estate at the bottom of Keele Bank on 1st February. It showed extremely well sat on a house roof and I was able to take these shots with my phone through Brian C's new scope.




Immature Iceland Gull near Poolfields
Then I ventured into dangerous territory by visiting Bent Lane recently. Don't really feel comfortable visiting this site as I may get Guillemot eggs thrown at me by the local sea bird expert. Anyway, no sign of the Iceland Gull but the three Tundra Beans were showing quite well. 

Tundra Bean Geese at Lord Bentner Lane



Tonight's song is dedicated to all the sea watchers at Berryhill Cliffs.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pine Bunting in Yorkshire 4th February 2017

Having not been able to visit the Shropshire PINE BUNTING at the start of the year, and having only seen the one bird in Britain in 2004, we did consider heading up to see the Dunnington bird on a few occasions, but we never got round to going. 

So with not too much in Britain to go for, CJW devised a trip to go up for the PB, and then hopefully, if we had time, head to the coast to see a few year ticks. The plan sounded good, but it all depended on the PB playing ball.

We left Stoke at the reasonable hour of 6am, picked The Stalker up and headed straight up to Dunnington, near York. We arrived just after 8am, and there was already a small crowd gathered in the paddock, looking towards a hedgerow and a stubble field. On the odd occasions when the whole flock was flushed, we were amazed at how many buntings there were in the area. We saw Yellowhammer, Reed and Corn Bunting, but there was no sign of the 4th species. Then the whole flock was flushed, and the area became quiet.  

We stood around, watching a few birds flying back in but still no sign. There was never any suggestion that we should head off, but we knew that there was now a chance that this was the only bird and site we would see today. 

Then at 11:40hrs, following a previous false alarm, a shout went up and there was the male Pine Bunting. It perched up in the hedge and showed well but distant. We watched it several times before it disappeared and so we headed off.

Next stop was Rufforth where an immature Glaucous Gull was sat in the field opposite a very handily placed layby. The tip was only a few fields away and it was heaving with gulls. No wonder they get so many gulls here. We also had two Red Kite over the tip.   

Imm Glaucous Gull at Rufforth.
Then we came to a halt. We considered going for the SNOW GOOSE in Lancs, but that was over two hours away, then we thought about the PALLID HARRIER near Spurn, and that was an hour and half away. We just sat and pondered, until someone grabbed the horns by the bull and said "Spurn". 

The journey down to Spurn wasn't too bad, and we soon arrived on the edge of Spurn, at Welwick Saltmarsh. There was only one car parked at the bottom of the lane when we arrived, and we soon found him on the edge of the marsh. We were soon watching a Merlin and a quartering SEO. He told us he'd possibly seen the PALLID HARRIER but it was distant and disappeared. As soon as he said that, The Stalker picked up the wintering Pallid Harrier flying over the saltmarsh. We'd been there almost five minutes. 

We decided to wander to get better views of the SEO and PH when they returned. We found the Brent Goose flock and picked out four Pale-bellied Brents among them. After they were all flushed, I started scanning through and found the Black Brant. Probably the first time I'd seen all three types together in the same flock. 
Videograb of the Black Brant

We eventually walked round as far as we could and stopped by the pumping station. It was only then that we realised it was the site of 2013 Ivory Gull twitch.

We stood around for about an hour until the sun dropped. It was a really fantastic spell of birding in a superb location, with two Barn Owls, two Short-eared Owls, and then at one stage we had Marsh, Hen and Pallid Harrier all in the same view together.