Monday, 31 December 2012

Sunday 19th December

The two Gt Northern Diver were present despite a lot of boat activity, one was reported today 20th December. I counted the wildfowl on Sunday and there were over 150 Pochard, 200 Tufted Duck but the Wigeon appear to have moved on.

The Alder along the railway line have held both Redpoll and Siskin in the last week but on the whole it has been quite – bird wise at least.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day

Had a good walk from home to Shustoke and back and saw around 80 Yellowhammer in two flocks near to the main road. At the Reservoir there was a single Barnacle Goose with the Canada Geese no doubt it was a feral bird but nice just the same.

The two Gt Northern Diver were at the east end avoiding the boats and I have to say they look settled. It was packed with people around the Reservoir today with quite a few birders present. There was a good flock of Siskin and Redpoll in the Alders along the railway line, but on the whole it was quite quiet.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Yesterday (Xmas Eve) there were over 100 Pochard and Tufted Duck present and 27 Goosander as well as the long-staying pair of Gt Northern Diver.

Today we walked the dog around Hams Hall with a view to searching for Waxwing, we drew a blank but saw several Chiffchaff and a Green Sandpiper near to the Outflow. There were good numbers of passerines in the roadside trees but nothing out of the ordinary.

I checked out the fields near Hollyland which a couple of years ago held good numbers of finches and bunting and the odd Tree Sparrow. Today there were around 100 Chaffinch and around 15 Yellowhammer but nothing else. The Tree Sparrow population in this area appears to have crashed. I haven’t had one in my garden for over a year. In 2005 I had five pairs nesting in the garden and 48 young were ringed and regularly used to see upto 40 on my feeders – but not now!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday 22 December

On Friday the Captain and I spend the afternoon at Coton and saw the Long-tailed Duck, there was also a mixed flock of Redpoll and Siskin along the railway line. Today, I caught up with two Waxwings adjacent to the BMW island at Hams Hall. I took my life in my hands trying to photograph them with the amount of traffic going up and down that road.

I checked out Shustoke, and the two Gt Northern Diver were still present and a Kingfisher flew over the reservoir. The boats were out so I assume most of the wildfowl had moved to the small pool.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday 16th December

Haven’t had the time recently but I managed to get over today to carry out my Wildfowl count for the BTO. There was as usual a lot of activity with what looked like a full blown race taking place at the sailing club. This resulted in both the Gt Northern Divers being penned in down the east end. One of them took off flew around a little and decided to land again.

There were good numbers of wildfowl on the small pool but apart from the Gt Northern it was quite quiet although I found three ***** Duck amongst the raft of Gt Crested Grebe. There was a Nuthatch calling and a good number of mixed finches around the Paddocks but on the whole it was quiet.

Wildfowl numbers:

 2 Great Northern Diver
20 Little Grebe
42 Great Crested Grebe
 2 Great Cormorant
 1 Grey Heron
 1 Mute Swan
 3 Canada Geese
11 Wigeon
 2 Gadwall
28 Mallard
68 Pochard
140 Tufted Duck
 3 ***** Duck
 4 Moorhen
108 Coot

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Friday 7th December

Managed to get over on Friday afternoon with both Gt Northern Divers present. There were two Goosander, c.50 Pochard and a ***** Duck. (DEFRA). That was a first for me for the year. There was little else but the Divers are still present today Friday.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Sunday 2nd December

I saw reports that there were still two Gt Northern Diver present but I only saw the one (juvenile). The Common Scoter appeared to have left also. There were a few other wildfowl around with four Gadwall, 10 Wigeon, c.30 Pochard. There was little else of note on a busy day around the reservoir.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wednesday 28th November

Much the same as yesterday, although I haven’t managed to get over but both the Gt Northern Diver and the Common Scoter where still there.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tuesday 27th November

Firstly there was a Smew briefly this morning (Bobby D). Then the Gt Northern Diver was reported followed by a message to say that there were now two. I managed to wangle a couple of hours off work, so I phoned the Captain and we met up and walked round. There was a female Common Scoter (Paul Hyde) at the west end and the two divers were more or less together about half way around. It started to rain and that combined with the cold wind convinced me it was time to call it a day.

I did take my camera but the light was so poor that it proved to be a waste of time.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Monday 26th November

Received a  text to say Steve Cawthray had found a Great Northern Diver at Shustoke. I managed to get out and see the bird. It was still there mid-afternoon there was also a Goldeneye and a fly over Raven.

Monday, 12 November 2012


Well I am back from a week in Tenerife and it didn’t turn out to be the relaxing week I was hoping for. Flew out with Thompson on the 2nd November – if you are taking hand luggage – beware. Their limit is 5kg with the suitcase weighting about 2kg, plus a telescope, bins and camera. Unless you can survive for a week on a couple of pairs of “skidders” and the clothes you fly in – then don’t go with them!

Having had my suitcases rifled at Birmingham Airport in the past I am reluctant to fly from there with anything apart from hand luggage. When you go to a surprise birthday party taking everyone’s birthday cards to surprise a sister-in-law and find on arrival that all the cards have been opened and the money taken, it tends to make one cautious. Plus, despite emailing the airline and airport authorities and never having a reply I tend to think sod you!

Arrived in Tenerife £60 lighter (thank you Thompsons) no pun intended on the word “lighter”. It was pouring with rain. We decided that we would have a car for a few days and try and photograph some Canary Island endemics. If you have ever birded the island before you can work quite hard and see barely 40 species. That was the case with us with four day’s birding we amassed only 32 species, that was mainly because we were trying to get photo’s of Bolle’s and White-tailed Laurel Pigeons. Although we saw the former we missed the latter mainly due to the weather which was invariably raining in the north  where the main sites are. The Arjos site is a 5.8k walk but now after about a 1k walk on a sharp left hand turn by a red marker “7” there is a footpath which leads to a felled area which overlooks the Laurel forest. We checked this out on the return leg and had several views of Bolle’s I assume that White-tailed would occur here as well and it takes 40 minutes off the walk. However, one thing to bear in mind is that it faces west and the sun did hamper viewing in the evening so it would be best earlier in the day.

I did get a tick out of the week with my first Rock Sparrow closely followed by around another 50 or so. Apart from the obvious birds Blue Chaffinch, Bertholot’s Pipit, Canary Island Blue Tit, Tenerife Goldcrest, Canary Island Chiff-chaff, Cory’s Shearwater and Atlantic Canary the best bird we had was Barbary Falcon and the similarly named but not nearly as exciting Barbary Partridge!

We also came across a few of the subspecies that abound – Kestrel, Buzzard and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Bertholot’s Pipit


Rock Sparrow

Atlantic Canary

Blue Chaffinch (female)

Blue Chaffinch (male)


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Thursday 1st November

Up and round early as I had to go to work earlier than planned. The Slav Grebe was still there and there appeared to be a lot more thrush’s around. With steady numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare passing overhead. There were still a lot of Siskin around with a group in the car park. However, it started raining so I left early but still wet. Off to sunnier pastures for a week see you when I get back!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wednesday 31st October

Was over early this morning and there didn’t appear to be any sign of the Slavonian Grebe from yesterday. I made my way around and it was quite quiet but I came across the grebe at the east end feeding close in. There were quite a few birds around for a change with six Pochard on the main pool. There were a lot of Fieldfare and Redwing going over and flocks of Siskin were around in numbers with well over 50 counted.

A flock of 13 Lapwing went over heading west. I met Dave Hutton photographing the grebe and I joined him before leaving and checking out Bixhill Lane. I was scanning the field when a distant call caught my attention, I saw a bird drop in at about 200 yards distance. I was thinking it was probably a pipit so I set my scope up and worked the area. I picked up the head and shoulders of what looked like a Lark with a obvious supercillium  almost immediately in dropped down. It was either a young Skylark with a pronounced super, or a Woodlark. The supercillium looked too marked for a Skylark but Woodlark is a big call in Warwickshire. I saw Dave making his way back past me. I told him what I had seen and suspected so we decided to walk over. As we arrived in the general area first one Skylark when up followed by three other birds probably Skylark,  I don’t know if I was relieved or disappointed!
Slavonian Grebe, Pete Forbes
Slav Grebe, Dave Hutton

Slav Grebe, Dave Hutton

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Tuesday 30th October

At last, finally a good bird, for me anyway. I had a few hours off work and as it was a cracking morning thought I would take a walk around the reservoir. There was a Bullfinch in the car park, worth mentioning considering the dearth of birds recently. As I made my way around the west end I picked up a distant Grebe, it look larger than Little and black and white in colouration. My first thought was bloody hell another Black-necked Grebe (I have found five in the last couple of years).

But as I got closer it didn’t have the correct head shape and looked quite large, when I caught up with it unfortunately it had the sun directly behind it, but it was an obvious Slavonian Grebe. At that point I received a phone call to inform me that there was illness at work and I had to leave!! I put out the news, and left. This is the first Slavonian Grebe that I have seen at Shustoke, I am sure there have been others but not for a while. I am not aware of any in the West Midlands this year, so it might be a better bird than I thought.

On the way back to the car park there were double figures of both Fieldfare and Redwing and a couple of Lapwing flew in.

Afternoon, apparently there was a Knot (Steve Cawthray) this afternoon briefly. Also Lynn Wimbush may have seen two Slavonian Grebe yesterday (Monday).

Upper two Slavonian Grebe, Paul Lathbury

Slavonian Grebe,  Bob Duckhouse

Monday, 29 October 2012

Sunday 28th October

Managed to get over early afternoon just before the rain came. There was little of note, a group of Wigeon (17) flew over heading west. There were no other wildfowl of note. We saw around six Goldcrest but that was it. There seems to be a general dearth of birds around at the moment, as I have mentioned before it must have been a very poor breeding season all around.

Red-breasted Merganser – Bob Duckhouse (thanks, I will ask permission when I see you)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday 27th October

Over at sunrise this morning but no sign of the Red-breasted Merganser, in fact although it was a beautiful morning there was little of note, there are however good numbers of Fieldfare around with around 40 in a tree by my house.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday 26th October

There have been a few Fieldfare and Redwing over in the last few days. I notice on Rare Bird Alert that there was a Red-breasted Merganser reported from the Reservoir today (Friday).

Apart from that thing have been rather quiet.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Quiet Thursday

There was a report of two possible Red-crested Pochard but the finder was not sure, as they may have been Wigeon. As there had been two Wigeon around recently I assumed that is what they were. Having a spare hour I thought I would check the Reservoir anyway.

I didn’t seen any RCP or Wigeon for that matter in what must rank as the quietest trip I have ever had, and believe me I have had some quiet days here recently! Apart from a few Common Gull coming into roost there was nothing, I don’t think I got much about double figures of species. On a good day in the past I used to get close to 50 species seen.

There has been a immature male Peregrine knocking about the fields around Castle Lane and I watched the bird as it attempted to land on the pylons without success. It eventually gave up and landed in a nearby tree.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A weekend in Cornwall

I will start this with the statement “I don’t twitch much”. That said I have become aware that this was the first year since I started birding (which was when the world was Black & White) that I haven’t had a new species for the UK. I could have had a couple of ticks this year but I it was either too inconvenient / or I couldn’t be bothered with the driving / or just too expensive, but mostly a mixture of all of them.

Anyway, on Tuesday a Paddyfield Warbler turned up in Cornwall and it was still there on Friday so I or should I say we (the Wife) decided that a weekend in Cornwall would be nice. So Saturday morning at 5am we were up and away. We arrived at 10.30ish at Church Cove with no news either way on the bird but having seen the weather forecast I was hopeful that the bird would still be there.

I was right, and after an initial 15 minute period of no activity the bird performed really well for the 20 or so birders present. After having our fill we went for a wander having heard that there was Red-backed Shrike in the area. Someone gave me directions but we got lost and decided to make our way back to Church Cove, by accident we ended up dropping onto the bird. The rest of the day was spend birding the Cot Valley and Pendeen but we saw nothing unusual.

On Sunday we spend the morning at Nanquidno Valley and had a great morning without seeing anything unusual. But there was a Peregrine, Chough, Blackcap and a few Chiffchaff. We decided early afternoon to start making our way home after an enjoyable trip.

Paddyfield Warbler, Church Cove, Cornwall

Paddyfield Warbler, Church Cove, Cornwall

Red-backed Shrike, The Lizard, Cornwall

Red-backed Shrike, The Lizard, Cornwall

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Wednesday 10th October

Met Steve Haynes going through the gulls at Shustoke yesterday evening so I joined him for an hour. Although there were good numbers of gulls there was little of real interest. There were around 2,350-3,000 Black-headed Gull, 500 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 60 Herring Gull and 4 Common Gull.

Whilst we were standing there we saw Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker and a Jay.

The guy who lives opposite got talking to us, and although not a birder has a reasonable knowledge of birds and covers the reservoir more than I do. He was saying that he had seen Ruddy Duck recently and that Tawny Owl had been regular, neither of these species have been recorded this year. Steve Haynes has also seen Hobby so that is three species added to the year list.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Request for sightings

Went over last night, apart from a Wigeon and a lot of gulls there was little of note. However, I have started to tot-up this years sightings and there are some gaps. We are nearly 30 species down on last year.

Although not scientific, it is fair to assume that this years breeding has been rather a wash-out as there have been few warblers around this autumn. Generally bird numbers seem well down not just at the Reservoir. Waders have been a complete disaster, the high water level and overgrown condition of the shoreline being the main factors, coupled with disturbance and general lack of waders generally has seen the lowest number ever recorded at this site.

I am in particular looking for records to fill in the gaps, obviously anything rare that I haven’t heard about with the only good birds I am aware of being Scand Rock Pipit, Black-necked Grebe, Smew, Common Scoter and Med Gull.

But I am looking in for records for this year of the following: Hobby, any waders apart from Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing and Common Sandpiper. Garden, Sedge or Reed Warbler. Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer.

Hopefully, someone has had a better year than me.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Monday 8th October

I haven’t managed to get over today but there was a Common Tern @2pm (Steve Haynes)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

6&7 October and the last week of Hillwalking!

I managed to get over a couple of times over the weekend and it was again rather poor but at least I had a couple of species that I haven’t seen for a while. Off the car park there was a single Common Gull whilst I had a couple of flyover Skylark. In the woods there was a Treecreeper in with the Tit flock but not much else. The only migrants were two groups of Swallow which totalled seven.

In the afternoon Joy dropped me off near Water Orton I made my way alongside the Sewage Outfall which has proved interesting in the past. However, at the start of the walk there were a number of examples of flytipping which didn’t help my mood. Worse was to follow as the path that runs towards The River Tame was muddy, wet and uncomfortably to walk along, in no small part to the amount of people that had been up there on Trail bikes, the path was that badly churned up that I was covered in mud by the time I got to the end.

Following the river to Ladywalk I had a single Chiffchaff, whilst at Ladywalk itself there was a single Little Egret, good numbers of wildfowl and I had around half a dozen Swallow through, whilst the feeders had both Willow and Marsh Tit. I also met up with a couple of old friends who were interested on my Munro’s challenge was going (they regretted asking).

I have added a couple of photographs of what will probably be my last hillwalking trip of the year. On Saturday 21 September we tackled the Fisherfield Mountains a remote area of Scotland about the size of the Lake District (unfortunately there are no roads or vehicular access – I should say fortunately) the only other person we met that day was wild camping overnight. We being soft southerners hiked in and out in a day. We started walking around 8am and got back to the car at 7.30pm just as the sun was setting. It was an impressive landscape and very remote.

I managed a days birding on the Angus coast on the Tuesday as there had been a big storm overnight with lots of trees down in the Tayside area. The gale was unusual in that the wind was easterly which is good for the Angus Coast. Unfortunately there were showers during the coarse of the day but I managed a 50 or so Manx Shearwaters, two Sooty Shearwaters, Arctic Skua and Bonxie. The highlight though was a Grey Phalarope which flew past me very close in at Arbroath. I have seen quiet a few Grey Phal over the years normally on puddles I have even seen a couple at Shustoke but I have never seen one flying properly and let me tell you they are quick! Much quicker than I was expecting.

On the Wednesday we tackled the impressive mountain of An Teallach (it is a massive mountain that contains two Munro’s – complicated I know) if you have ever been towards Gairloch via the road to Ullapool it is that frightening beast that fills the sklyline as you drive down Desolation Road towards Dundonald. The cloud was rather low and visibility was poor, and as daylight was at a premium we decided that we would only tackle the two Munro’s rather than the ridge and a succession of tops. Fortunately the Munro’s are at the same end of the ridge and we avoided any difficulties as a result. It was a shame as the weather was that poor that we never got any views.

On the Thursday my brother dragged me out for a game of golf (not a game that I play). Fortunately there were around a dozen wrecked Guillemot on the River Tay off the North Inch a strange sight!

Loch a’Bhraoin with our Munro targets in the centre still several miles away.

Sgurr Ban in the Fisherfields

The view west from Beinn Tarsuinn with what is known as the “Tennis Court” on the ridge

Joy and I on top of Beinn Tarsuinn just the ten miles back to the car!
Todays earlier hills Sgurr Ban & Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair from Beinn Tarsuinn

Four days later and totally different weather. Bidein a’ Ghlas Thuill on An Teallach

Sgurr Fiona on An Teallach

Thursday, 4 October 2012

It doesn’t get any better

At a loose end I thought I would pop over and look through the gulls. There were plenty of them with 800 Black-headed Gull, 140 LBB Gull, 30 Herring Gull but little else – that is a little inaccurate I meant nothing else – gull wise. I was expecting Common Gull but didn’t see any never mind the fact that I was looking for Med Gull!!

Just for once I only got as far as the car park as it was too late to walk around, the only other species of note was the pair of male Wigeon.

It has got to get better soon – hasn’t it!!!

Monday, 1 October 2012

28 to 30 September

Again it is very quiet there were a couple of Wigeon on the main reservoir but near enough a complete lack of wildfowl. Again passerines were not very evident although there were small numbers of Swallow passing through on a steady basis. There were a couple of Greylag in with the Canada’s but that is really scraping the barrel.

On Sunday we went over with the wind speed increasing it was a pity it was south-west rather than south-east or north-east for that matter. Again there was little around although I did have my first sign of winter with a small flock of around 16 Siskin flying over.

A week or so ago there was a Med Gull briefly (Steve Haynes).

Monday, 17 September 2012

It’s so Quiet

This has been the quietest autumn that I can remember, not only at Shustoke but in the Midlands generally. I have been around a couple of times but there really hasn’t been anything worth writing about. On Friday there was a single Wigeon and seven Shoveler but that has been about it. Warbler corner has been very poor. I think that the wet summer has killed off the two large Hawthorn bushes that used to attract warblers, the area is wet anyway but I think it was probably too wet this summer. Hawthorns and saturated ground don’t go too well together.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Normal Service Resumed

Heard about a Roseate Tern at Kingsbury Water Park, being intrepid I though I will go and see if there is anything at Shustoke, my hunch was right there wasn’t anything, in fact it was as dead as a knit! The only good thing was that if I had gone to Kingsbury I would have missed the Roseate Tern anyway as it didn’t stay long.

But I can console myself as a friend of mine who is Rangers season ticket holder emailed me to say – amongst other things – that Rangers entertain Elgin tomorrow – Rangers v Elgin, Its got to be marbles!!!!

At Last a Wader

Don’t get too excited it was just a Common Sandpiper! However, there was a little bit happening with a couple of Blackcap, a few Chiffchaff and the star bird of the day a “Lesser Whitethroat”.

The reservoir itself was quiet, although there was a brood of Great Crested Grebe that were coming along nicely. With Autumn fast approaching there were good numbers of hirundines but they were nearly all over the nearby fields rather than the reservoir itself.

All in all better than it has been.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Out and about over the weekend

I have been mainly a slave to the garden over the weekend, hoping to get it done and dusted for the winter and more importantly leave the autumn free! I did get over a couple of times but it was rather quiet although dodging the rain on Sunday I did at least come across a tit flock which contained a few of the commoner warblers.

Locally, Hobby’s have been successful, which in itself is amazing given the weather, and they are quite easily seen at the moment, especially is a Buzzard invades their territory. Raven have been around recently although more often heard than seen. Also on Tuesday night returning from the airport a Barn Owl flew across the main Birmingham to Coventry road near the recycling centre, no doubt on its way to help itself to the resident rodents.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

I am out there, honest!

I have been over Shustoke a few times in the last week but in all honesty it has been absolutely ****! Culminating in last nights visit where it rained heavily all the way round, I was literally soaked to the skin. There was nothing of note whatsoever, not even any hirundines, no terns, no warblers, no finches – no nothing. The water level is that high now, there is very little chance of any waders whatsoever, normally at this time of year there would be the odd wader, but I haven’t even seen a single Common Sandpiper as yet. Even Warbler Corner has been very quiet – but you have to keep on trying!

Whilst in the garden in the last week or so I have had a family party of five Raven fly over and there are a couple of Hobby still.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Missing in Action

I have been rather busy of late and although I have been over to Shustoke a couple of times there hasn’t been much around. It should however, start to get a little more exciting. I think it will be a rather poor autumn for waders with the water level higher than I can ever remember at this time of year. There were in the region of 100 Lapwing the other night but little else in the way of waders, normally there would be at least a few Common Sandpiper. Anyway if you have been missing my posts I have to have a few more up over the coming weeks.

I am not long back from two weeks birding and hillwalking in Scotland, here is a quick summary. We managed to climb eleven Munro’s ten new and one we had to redo as we couldn’t find the summit in very poor weather. The plateau was flat and about the size of Birmingham and my compass was playing up. Anyway as a result we had a 22 mile walk to redo.

We managed to complete the Glencoe Munro’s by climbing Bidean nan Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach on the Saturday in reasonable weather. Then on Tuesday we climbed Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige. The path works its way up the corrie on the the ridge then there is a couple of hours walk over a couple of other hills to the far end and Stob na Broige. The picture was taken late on when the weather had cleared but it was shrouded in cloud when we climbed. We encountered a group of eastern europeans on the top who were completely lost and me managed to direct them to the path off the hill (there are only two). Strangely we saw very few birds with just a couple of Raven, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit.
Stob Coire Sgreamhac from the Lost Valley in the centre is the way down!

Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige at the end of the ridge seen far right.

Then on Wednesday hopeful of a bit of birding we climb Beinn Mheadhoin in the Cairngorms. We have climbed nearly all of the Cairngorm hills and usually encounter a few good birds Scottish Crossbill, Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan and Snow Bunting to name a few. I actually took my proper bins with me rather than my compacts but saw very little.
On the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin.

Also in that week when not climbing we had a day out in Angus at Montrose Basin and the coast down to Arbroath. We didn’t see much with a male Surf Scoter in Lunan Bay the pick. The basin had Barnacle Goose and Greenshank and some commoner waders but little else – wrong time of the year.

We then relocated to Loch Carron where on the Saturday we travelled up with my brother and his wife and climbed Slioch. We arrived in the car park and it was tipping down, but we decided just to go for it. Fortunately within ten minutes it started to clear and the weather got progressively better all day although the hill was shrouded in cloud for the duration. It was also Joy and I’s 33rd wedding anniversary, who says I don’t know how to treat a lady. On the way down we encountered a large group of around 30 people making there way slowly up the hill. We found out that it was the last Munro for one of them and he was taking all his friends and family with him to celebrate. We wished him well and dwelt momentarily that hopefully next year we would be in the same position.

On top of Slioch on our 33rd Wedding Anniversary.

Did a bit of birding on Sunday, but saw very little then on Monday two of the hardest and most difficult to reach Munro’s Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor were on the agenda. We were up at 5.30am and walked in from Craig for four miles to the river crossing, it was pouring down the whole way and I was beginning to question why I was doing this. The river crossing is two wires that you have to shuffle across to get to the other side. We had used this crossing a couple of years ago doing two other hills. Unfortunately the bottom wire had snapped and after spending 15 minutes trying to locate a safer crossing there was nothing for it but to take off the boots and wade across using the top wire to steady ourselves.

We were joined by another walker who had camped out overnight, Charlie was good company and witty. He worked at Durness power station and he was soon acquired the nicknamed “Homer”. His blog name on Walk Highland is Trekker53 and he does some good reports.

It was then a stomp up to the bealach, then up a Corbett (2,500ft to 2,999ft) then descend to another bealach then the north face of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgaich (or Cheesecake) confronted us. It was scary! There was a faint path which we followed then we had to scramble up a 50ft high crack which had water pouring down it. Then we were faced by a massive cliff, I managed to find the gully that you have to use to gain access then we were there just a 500ft climb up to the summit. We then dropped down to the col where at last there were around a dozen Ptarmigan.

We left our rucksacks here to climb to the top of Lurg Mhor arguably the remotest of Munros, it is certainly one of the hardest to get too. We dropped into Glen Monar then traversed across the aforementioned Corbett back to the bealach down to the river – boots off. We left Charlie at his tent, gave him the Zulu wave before we disappeared from view then it was back to the car – 13 and a half hours later. We then when down to the pub for a few well earned pints.
The north face of Bidein a’ Choire Sheasgach

The next day feeling brave we climb Liathach which contains two Munro’s Spidean a’ Choire Leith and Mullach an Rathain. This is regarded as one of the most difficult and exposed of the mainland Munro’s and I was a little worried how the wife’s would react, especially when I read that an experience woman climber had fallen to her death just a couple of years back! So to protect my ears I kept that to myself!

It was a steep climb for a couple of hours until we hit the ridge, but this was probably the best day weather wise and the views were simply stunning. We hit the first Munro in good time and the next section was the tricky bit across the pinnicles. It actually turned out to be a lot easier than I was expecting and after an hour all the difficulties were over and we had a pleasant ridge walk along to the second summit of the day Mullach an Rathain. It was a steep descent and after having walked three days out of four I was looking forward to a rest.
Liathach – the pinnacle ridge with Spidean a’ Choire Leith behind.

Mullach an Rathain at the other end of the ridge.

Ben Alligin from Mullach an Rathain with Upper Loch Torridon and the Hebrides beyond.

Our day off found us birding the Applecross area. This contains the highest road in the UK where it is possible to see Ptarmigan. I though great, I will take my photographic equipment and get some photographs. Well I nearly had a first, we parked up and headed to the mast on the hill we scoured the area for 90 minutes we got caught in hail and rain and after 85 minutes and nearly back at the car, I hadn’t seen a single bird! Now that has never happened to me ever, then I was rescued by a single Meadow Pipit.

At Applecross it was really crowded so we didn’t stay long but there were a group of eleven summer plumaged Black-throated divers just off-shore.

As we were heading home on Friday – Thursday was our last day walking and we chose another remote hill Maoile Lunndaidh this was the same starting point, the hamlet of Craig but instead of crossing the river we followed the track further up the glen. It was very steep going but soon we reached a large plateau and for a change there were a lot of birds.

I am 99% certain that I saw an immature Snow Bunting but I never got great views plus my bins were covered in sweat droplets and by the time I cleaned them the bird was gone. My brother who was ahead of me, spotted the bird and he was reasonably sure it was one as he was closer to it than I was at first.

However there were loads of Golden Plover and Meadow Pipits all around the summit. I now haven’t seen Golden Eagle on the hills for a couple of years and I am getting desperate, but still I have a few more hills to do this year just 46 left to do!!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Wednesday 18th July

The 1st summer drake Common Scoter was still present in the evening although it took flight a couple of times with the Rescue Boat out on the water. There was a single Common Sandpiper but little else.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Monday 16th February (sorry July)

The 1st summer drake Common Scoter was still present this morning joined by a female Common Scoter.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Saturday 14th July

The summer continues in a similar vein – mixed would be a polite description! I was at work most of Saturday but managed to get out for a bit and cover Coleshill Quarry for the first time in a while but although it is full of water there wasn’t much around apart from a few Reed Warbler, one of which was carry nesting material.

Anyway I received a text to say S Haynes had found a Common Scoter at Shustoke. The bird was quite active out from the car park, but I only had my bins with me so I left it and headed home for my scope. On returning Bobby D was returning to the car park from photographing the bird but it had flown to the far end. I dropped the scope on it but it was by now asleep.

There was also a Shelduck present with around 30 Common Tern with a juveline with them, the first of the year for me.

Common Scoter, Bob Duckhouse

Common Scoter, Bob Duckhouse

Friday, 13 July 2012

Common Tern numbers continue to rise

Steve Cawthray email me to say he had 32 Common Tern at Shustoke on Thursday. Another couple of weeks and we should be seeing a few more birds passing.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wednesday 11th July

I think I scored my lowest total of birds for Shustoke today, although I admit I wasn’t really trying and the path to the small pool didn’t appeal to me. I could hear the river roaring from 100 yards away so I didn’t bother. There were around 20ish Common Tern and the only other bird of note was a Wigeon.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6th July

Well, where do I start, I has been tipping down today. While not as violent as a week last Thursday where my garage was under two inches of water. But as I left the house the water was rising on the drive. There has been so much that the ground is saturated. So I left my oldest in charge with the orders to hold back the water – the kind of challenge that he rises too.

I came home at lunchtime to survey the damage to find he had rigged up the pump from this aquarium to a hose and was pumping the water into the field. You can’t buy that kind of thinking! I hope the weather turns soon because I for one have had quite enough. I’m going to end up talking like one of the baddies in Stingray if we get much more wet!

I have been over Shustoke but it has been very quiet, I missed Mondays Little Gull but there are plenty of Common Tern and there were a couple of Lapwing which no doubt if it follows the pattern of previous years, numbers will build up slowly over the summer to a flock of around 100 before the end of August.

Gurgle, gurlge glug glug.

Which is Stingray talk for thank you and good night.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Monday 2nd July

Despite the terrible weather there was a 1st Summer Little Gull at the Reservoir today along with 27 Common Tern (Steve Haynes).

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Slave to The Garden

Spent the whole day in the garden, even though there was a Little Swift in Merseyside, but if I don’t do it no one else will. I had a bit of interest with a fly over Hobby. But the main find was a dead Spotted Flycatcher which I raked out of the border from under a large Oak tree. I have only ever seen one life Spot Fly and technically it wasn’t in the garden. It looked to have only been dead a few days, but unfortunately it is in an area where I wouldn’t see it from the house. However, I am pretty miffed that I never saw it alive and makes me wonder how long it had been there.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Wednesday 19 June

Had my first visit in quite a while, pleasant enough walk but little in the way of birds. There was nothing apart from a couple of Song Thrush and a single Blackcap singing.

There were two pairs of Gadwall and it was nice to see that the injured male Teal was still around. There were a half a dozen Common Tern but no where near the numbers reported recently.

It will probably remain quite for the next six or so weeks before we start to get a trickle of migrants coming through. However, it is not looking good for waders with the edge really overgrown and the water level high.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Decorating, Work and Break Dancing Squirrels

I have had a hectic two weeks, undermanned at work and trying to decorate one of my bedrooms. This has left me with little time for birding. The poor weather had decimated the breeding birds in the garden with the Goldfinches and Red-legged Partridge deserting. The Crows that nest in the largest of my Pine Trees had there young blown out of the nest, they were all dead when I found them and could not have been more than a couple of days of fledging.

Driving down Castle Lane on Saturday a squirrel was spinning round on its back erratically I thought it must have took a glancing blow from a car, I slowed down and it was moving with jerking motions it was only when I got close that it put on a spurt of speed towards the verge. It would have been nice to think that it was practicing for Britain’s got Talent, but unfortunately, for the squirrel at least, it had been despatched by a Stoat that was dragging the much larger animal off to its lair!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Friday 8th June

Adult Arctic Tern with two possible 1st Summers (Tom Perrin). I have been knee deep in decorating since coming back from Scotland, but it is a quiet time of year anyway. Hopefully I will get over for an hour tomorrow – especially if it is raining!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Saturday 2nd June

Not much at Shustoke apparently, although the Black-necked Grebe was seen last Tuesday.

I have spent the last week with the lady wife climbing in Scotland but I did manage to get a bit of birding in whilst there.

Climbed seven Munro’s including the Ring of Steall in the Mamores, which was a hell of a day with four Munro’s and a lot of climbing plus the “Devil’s Ridge”.

Last Sunday I had a call from a Scottish friend of mine who knowing I was in Perth texted me with news of a Red-backed Shrike and Marsh Warbler in Angus. Joy and I decided to have a go for them as it was only just over 40 miles away. We were fortunate and got both birds.

I met up with Stuart on the Wednesday as the conditions were excellent. He has found some stunning birds in Angus including Collared Flycatcher, Eye-browed Thrush and Blyth’s Reed Warbler to name but a few. Wednesday looked good the wind had east in it but there was a steady drizzle most of the day which probably contributed to it being a wash out bird wise. Apart from a couple of Spotted Flycatchers the coast was poor. The highlight was a visit to a bay were access from the cliff was down a very steep path with the aid of rope, Stuart in full waterproofs stayed dry, but I got absolutely soaked to the skin. We then got out by following a gully out to the top of the cliff, what path there was muddy and wet and part of it had been washed away by a land slip, Stuart was very apologetic but I think he had a glint in his eye.

Forfar loch however, had a Red-crested Pochard and Little Stint. We also had moment of excitement with a distant hybrid resembling a Lesser Scaup but on closer examination it was a hybrid PochardxTufted. The

On Friday Joy and I were up at 5.30am drove to Kinlochleven and climbed Na Gruagaichean which was the last of the Mamore group we hadn’t climbed. It was a short day and we were back in Perth by 3.15pm and packed and on our way home at 5.30pm as we were driving down the M80 I was amazed to see a White Stork soaring above us. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop but excitedly I put the news out but found out later that it was probably an escape from the local Safari Park!

Hopefully now I will manage to get over the Shustoke a bit more often and there will be a few birds around.

Beinn Achaladair

Red-backed Shrike, Angus

Marsh Warbler, Angus

Sgurr a’ Mhaim, and the Devil’s Ridge

On top of Sgurr a’ Mhaim with Ben Nevis behind.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Monday 21st May

I had a really busy weekend, left home at lunchtime Friday drove to Perth, up at 5.30am the next morning drove to Glen Arkaig, climbed three Munro’s (17 miles) got back to Perth at 10.45pm up at 8am the next morning and drove home. There is life after twitching!

The three hills were mammoth, a really serious day out in rough terrain. The Knoydart hills are quite rough walking, more so with the amount of snow on the tops. The descent off the first hill Sgurr nan Coireachan was scary, very steep and covered in wet snow. The second hill of Garbh Chioch Mhor just went on for ever whilst the last hill Sgurr na Ciche was a steep slog. It took us seven hours to get to that point. We were then faced with an eight miles hike back to the car. There were a few people on the hills and we met a couple from Castle Bromwich which I found amazing. The only bird of note that I saw was a single Ring Ouzel.

I was going to pay a visit to Shustoke late on Sunday but decided against it. However, I received a text at work on Monday from TP to say that a Nightjar had been found at Ladywalk (J Alton), so the grass had to wait. The Nightjar was showing very well and seemed rather settled.

At Shustoke things are rather quiet although the Black-necked Grebe was still there on Saturday, the Potato Field still held a Wheatear last night, will try and get over to the Reservoir at some point and catch up.

Garbh Chioch Mor and Sgurr na Ciche

Me and my brother on Sgurr nan Coireachan

Sgurr na Ciche

Nightjar, Ladwalk, my best effort

Nightjar, Dave Hutton

Nightjar, Dave Hutton

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Tuesday 15th May

There was a report of a Black-necked Grebe yesterday although I didn’t see it, I took the dog with me yesterday so I stayed at the periphery of the Reservoir. It was quiet with a couple of Whitethroat, Skylark, two Common Tern and the Teal. I also saw the demise of a Great Tit, it dived into cover only for the Sparrowhawk to follow it straight in and despatch the bird – that’s nature for your – Tooth and Claw!

However, this morning (Wednesday) there were seven Wheatears in the potato fields and I had only my third record of House Sparrow for the garden today as well – but I was more impressed with the Wheatear.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Weekend

Didn’t get over much the weekend apart from Saturday evening. Cannock Chase was hard work with quite a wind blowing and a low sun that was in my eyes on the approach walk to the Stepping Stones. I did score with all three target species, Wood Warbler, Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.

The Reservoir was rather quiet, on arrival there was a Cuckoo in the large trees by the entrance to the sailing club. That was probably the highlight, I doubt there will be much wader passage this spring as the water level is as high as I can remember. Again it was windy and rather cold for the time of the year, consequently there were very few birds singing. Two Skylark over the fields adjacent to Bixhill Lane were the next best thing.

My potato fields produced even more Wheatear with three on Saturday and one still present on Sunday. Surprising really as this is one of our earliest migrants. I am knee deep in gardening at the moment and found a Red-legged Partridge nest under one of my hedges whilst weeding the borders. The sitting bird exploded from cover scaring the life out of me. I may end up gardening with a DeFib if it happens again.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Thursday 10th May

I haven’t managed to visit but the Black-necked Grebe is still present, it can be tricky as it is continually feeding and spends more time under the water than above!

The Potato fields produced four Wheatear last night and there was still one present this morning. There have also been three or four singing Whitethroat along the length of hedgerow where I walk my dog every morning.

I was talking to one of the villagers on Wednesday who reported seeing Red Kite in the last week or so, I still hold out hope of connecting with one which I did over twelve years ago over Maxstoke Golf Course before I covered the area properly.

I have my annual trip to Cannock Chase planned for Friday evening so I hope to cover the Reservoir more over the weekend and I will try to pick up some of these pesky warblers that I keep missing, that is of course if the sun comes out and they start singing.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Wednesday 9th May

With the rain easing, I decided to try my luck. In the car park there was a Cuckoo calling away, as I walked along the west shore a Common Sandpiper flew in – not bad! There were a lot of Swift, and a good number of hirundines but not as many as there has been. The Black-necked Grebe was still in its usual spot at the east end and was feeding energetically, anoyingly it never came close, sticking to the centre of the reservoir the whole time. Whilst watching the grebe two Mistle Thrush noisily saw off a Cuckoo.

I tried my luck around the small pool, but by this time it had started to rain rather heavily, as a consequence there were few birds singing. As I made my around the other side of the fishing pool three Little Egrets flew overhead flying east god knows where they were heading (possibly the fishing pool behind Daw Mill).

The rest of my trip was rather uneventful the grebe was still there but still as far away as it was possible to get. There are still nearly double figures of Common Tern and a pair of Gadwall. Breeding is underway with a pair of Canada Geese down to one goosling already. The Mallard seemed to have faired little better.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Tuesday 8th May

Apparently the Black-necked Grebe from yesterday was still there. I have had a couple of Hobby locally and the potato fields off Castle Lane held a couple of Wheatear again this morning, that is my fourth sighting so far this year. One was suspiciously similar to Greenland Wheatear.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Monday 7th May

Nothing ever turns out like you expect, firstly what a waste of time delaying my holiday for the Albion game last weekend, boring, apart from Hutton playing basketball on the goal line and the Referee proving beyond any doubt that he was blind, it was dire – thats enough of football.

Hill walking was a mixed bag, after last year where we had terrible weather, last week was exceptional. The plan never materialised, the first part did, we climbed Gulvain but it was harsh, it completely destroyed my legs. It was around a five mile walk in, then straight up – it was one of the steepest ascents I have ever done and in retrospect too much for a first hill of the year. I could hardly move my legs when I got back down they were completely cramped up and I still had a five mile walk back to the car! Its funny but I can tell my wife a joke and she hardly smiles, hit my thumb with a hammer and she’s in stitches. That 90 minute walk back to the car kept her well amused.

The second part of the plan didn’t happen I was walking like a polio victim so on Tuesday my brother his wife and Joy climbed three of the Fannichs that I had done years ago with my two lads. I drove and had a days birding on the north-west coast near Guirnard Bay. There were several Great Northern Divers, but no White-tailed Sea-eagles. I carried on round the bay and had the pleasure of watching an Otter for over an hour. There were few migrants around and it was rather quiet but I did pick up a few year ticks during the day.

I travelled to Fife of the Wednesday seeing a good few birds including Whimbrel, Long-tailed Duck, Common and Velvet Scoter but not a lot else.

On Thursday we climbed Sgurr Mor which is north-west of Fort William down a long glen called Glen Arcaig, it took ages and the road was more like a ride at Alton Towers. We had to climb into Glen Kingie and then another steep pull saw us at the summit in around four hours. The views from the top had to be seen to be believed. You could see over to Skye and as far as the Cairngorms away to the east. There were also a couple of Ring Ouzel near the summit.

Anyway back to Shustoke, after spending nearly all weekend and the bank holiday gardening Joy informed me she was going shopping with No.2 son, so I snuck out and did a quick circuit. It looked really quiet until I picked up a summer plumage Black-necked Grebe at the east end. Hopefully it will hang around.

Gulvain, we had been walking nearly an hour at this point.

The summit of Gulvain with my brother and his wife.

Ben Nevis from the summit of Gulvain


On the summit of Sgurr Mor with the one I love and the wife! Please note I always have binoculars with me