Sunday, 31 May 2015

31st May

I received the news today that Eric Phillips has died. He and John Fortey where stalwarts of the birding scene when I started birding back in the early 80’s and were always keen to help young birders. I remember them pointing out a Glaucous Gull to Pete Hackett and myself at Blithfield back in 1981.

I saw him for the last time at the Sandwell Valley Great Reed Warbler just over a week ago and he looked in remarkably good shape for his age. Early last year I saw him when he was twitching a Two-barred Crossbill through the Wyre Forest and he was using a walking frame as he had recently come off his motorbike – he will be sadly missed.

Bird wise it has been quiet LRP seem to be in the habit of dropping in late on at the Reservoir and I have seen them a couple of times. I have mainly been gardening and have had Cuckoo, Hobby and Common Tern fly over.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A trip to Hampshire

We decided to have a break on the coast and chose Hampshire, not least because there was a long staying Greater Yellowlegs a rare American wader that I had never seen in the UK. We got down early but unfortunately it was raining hard on arrival and as it turned out departure too!

We had a look from the road to try and locate the species but drawing a blank we went on to the Reserve of Titchfield Haven, at £4 a go it was a bit expensive but it was a pleasant visitor centre with friendly staff which is run by the Hampshire CC. We were given the low down on the bird and its habits but I was sceptical as the bird had flown at 1.30pm the previous day and if it wasn’t for the fact we were spending time down here I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

We were directed to the best hide overlooking the river where the mud was just starting to be exposed. We sat quietly in the packed hide for a couple of hours seeing little apart from a Med Gull, Avocet and a Greenshank. The only excitement came when I received a phone call and the Ramones – Surfin Bird came blasting out as I had forgotten to turn down the volume, fortunately apart from the odd chuckle no one bothered. Eventually people started to drift off and Joy and I decided to use the facilities as I felt the need for a coffee. The cafe was good value and the coffee was one of the best I have had. We were deciding what coarse of action to take and decided to check out the hides on the other side of the reserve just in case. We had just reached the gate when a birder coming out of the visitor centre shouted us to say the Greater Yellowlegs had been relocated, Result, we headed back to the hide and saw the bird it was feeding just upriver of the hide but was showing well albeit from a bit of an angle.

The spent the rest of the time in the New Forest where during the course of our stay we had some brilliant birding with a displaying Honey Buzzard, numerous Woodlark, Dartford Warbler and possibly most impressively a displaying Hawfinch. All in all a great trip.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Return to Old Haunts

Having spent most of the morning tidying up the garage news of a Great Reed Warbler (A West Midlands first) had me waiting anxiously for the rain to stop. It eventually did so picking up my old mucka Pete Hackett on the way we headed to Swan Pool in the Sandwell Valley.

There were a lot of familiar faces there including royalty in the form of Lee Evans. Erik Phillips was also present I would hate to work out what the average age of the birders present was but old Sam was there and he’s knocking 90!

Anyway the bird showed quite well then a squall hit and we all got soaked. Eventually the bird did show and quite well until I left around 4pm.

Great Reed Warbler, Sandwell Valley.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A week in Norfolk

We have just returned from a really good week of walking and birding in Norfolk. I am glad to get home for a rest!

We were based in Thornham which was an excellent base as Titchwell RSPB and Holme NNT reserves were both walkable. I added nearly 20 species for the year, including Dottrel, Spoonbill, Temminck’s Stint, Little Tern, Little Gull, a variety of waders and a few other bits and pieces.

Little Tern, Titchwell, Norfolk

The highlight, was without doubt the 2nd Citril Finch for the UK. News broke at around 9am whilst Joy and I were cooking breakfast. The news didn’t look promising at first so we didn’t rush. It soon became apparent that the bird was present and fortunately we were amongst the first on the scene. There were around 40 birders sitting around not doing very much. Within 5 minutes a unfamiliar call had me scouring the heavens and the bird flew overhead. It then disappeared in to a sandy depression filled with vegetation. After about 20 minutes it suddenly appeared feeding on the ground and stayed just long enough for us both to get views through my scope.

Turtle Dove, Holme NNT

It then flew again and was relocated on a sandy ridge in a stand of buckthorn. After an hour the number of people starting to increase so we decided to leave the bird and head elsewhere.

During the week we bumped into Steve Cawthray, a phone call from him the next day had us travelling the short distance to Holme NNT were a Wryneck had been reported. We searched for an hour without success and decided to try successfully for Turtle Dove a short distance away. On our return the Wryneck had been relocated, we got flight views but the bird remained stubbornly elusive. With the wind sapping our energy (a feature of the week) we called it a day. We met Steve later in the evening to search for Nightjar (two heard) and saw numerous Woodcock. The next day we met up to search for Stone Curlew, after a couple of clumps of earth had been claimed (I’m not entirely convinced my clump didn’t have an eye!) one bird suddenly appeared. Next we saw a Red Kite and a Little Owl in quick succession.
Stone Curlew, Norfolk

Little Owl, Norfolk

We rarely moving from this stretch of the coast, we ventured as far as Sheringham once. I parked up in the council car park which was empty, I kid you not, there were about 100 spaces and at most six cars in the whole car park. I was amazed to get back and find out I had received a parking ticket, I was furious, I phoned the number give only to be given another number? I phoned them and although I had 15 minutes left on the ticket. It turned out my back wheel was six inches over the white line. Welcome to Sheringham – I don’t think I will go back!!! It turned out to be a costly day, we went for a meal on the evening. I chose the wrong meal and really hated it, three slivers of Pork belly on a bed of cabbage (which I hate) with a few butter beans was not what I regard as value for money for £16!! Coupled with £11 for two drinks put the top hat on the day.

The wind eventually dropped on Thursday leaving a pleasant day but not quite so many birds.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday 7th May

Had a couple of trips today ended up getting soaked on the first of the day. Bird wise still not much singing but there were four Common Sandpiper and a couple of LRP (first for the year – for me anyway).

Off to Norfolk for a week which I’m looking forward too. I received a message that there had been a cuckoo locally, I haven’t seen one at the Reservoir yet this year. But I have seen both Cuckoo and Hobby locally, and if I could just see them at the Res that would take me to a 100 species for the year for Shustoke.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tuesday 5th May

Had a busy weekend with a early trip to Cannock Chase with Joy, we saw the usual suspects and enjoyed a good six mile walk. On returning home I got straight back into the painting. On the evening we took a walk around the Reservoir and added a new form of disturbance to the many other when I picked up someone in a wet suit swimming around the Reservoir!

This morning I took my normal morning walk and a group of around 40 Swift were seen just ahead of the rain. There where a couple of Common Sandpiper (5 last night) and a Common Tern. But with the weather showing no sign of improvement I headed home.