Sunday, 29 January 2012

Eymore Wood 29/01/12

Been a busy weekend as usual, but was having a peruse of some of the other local bloggers and came across a post by Shenstone Birder about Crossbills at Eymore Wood. Now Crossbills have been eluding us for some time. We caught a brief glimpse of a female up in Scotland near Loch Garten last spring, but that's it, so far. So when we saw this post from last Tuesday, we had to give it a shot.

So having done shopping and jobs around the house whilst we had lovely weather on Saturday, we set out Sunday in low cloud and mist, great!! We have never been to Eymore before, but found it no problem and parked up at the top car park. So out came the flask of coffee, and we hung around for a while, we then heard the unmistakeable sound of Crossbills but couldn't see the little ........

So we finished our coffee and togged up to go for a walk, as we set out we chatted to a couple of like minded folk, who told us they has seen 2 females yesterday, and had come back to see if they could spot the males today. We decided to walk down to the reservoir and do the circular walk along the river and backup through the wood. We never did see any Crossbills or hear them again, despite staying and having another coffee in the car park. Hopefully next week we will have better luck. We are off up to Scotland for the week, lots of visits to some good sites planned, but who knows might see some good stuff, might see nothing!

The afternoon wasn't wasted though, despite the weather, the walk was great, enjoyed it and will certainly be making this a regular spot to visit. We did see:
On the reservoirs:
Mallard, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Black Headed Gulls (a few now in Summer plumage), Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Coot & Moorhen.

In the trees around the reservoir and River Severn:
Tree Creeper, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Crow &Long Tailed Tit

On the River:
Mandarin Duck (7m, 6f)

Then Back at the Car park:
Great Spotted Woodpecker & Robin

The light was terrible, so although I tried some photos of the Mandarin at high ISO, they were still rubbish. Some half decent Tuftie photos, but not good enough to post up here.

So thanks to Jason  K (Shenstone Birder) for his blog that took us out to this great spot and only half an hour from home.

Monday, 23 January 2012

RSPB Burton Mere (Dee Estuary)

Well after the spectacular sight of the starlings in Blackpool yesterday it was off to the Dee Estuary and the RSPB Reserve at Burton Mere.

Before I continue with that though, I must draw attention to my sister in laws back garden! She lives on the banks of the river Weaver just outside Winsford and the bird traffic through the back garden is terrific. In the 15 minutes or so whilst we had a bit of toast and a cuppa before setting out we had visits by:
Blue Tit 20+, Great Tit 15+, Chaffinch 20+, Bullfinch 2, Greenfinch 6, Goldfinch 6, Great Spotted Woodpecker 2, Robin, Blackbird 4, House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Magpie and out the front, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Cormorant and Black Headed Gull. I'm sure I've missed some out!

Anyway we then jumped in the car and headed off. Burton Mere is fairly new and the facilities are excellent, a nice warm visitor centre (which was essential on Sunday with the wind trying to blow you over and freeze you at the same time!) with panoramic views over the reserve. The staff were helpful and friendly too. Oh before I forget, just before getting to the car park, the 2 fields to the right of the track were full of a mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwing 100+

We were hoping to see the reported Spoonbill, but we just missed it! It was apparently right in front of the visitor centre about half an hour before we got there, oh well that's life! The Bean, Brent and Pink Footed geese were also absent, out foraging in the nearby fields, but we didn't pick up any sign. But all was not lost.

Perusing the pools and grassland from the visitor centre, we picked up:
Coot, Mallard, Dunlin (1st for 2012), Sanderling (1st for 2012), Teal, Shelduck, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Bar Tailed Godwit (1st for 2012), Lapwing, Canada Goose, Greylag, then over the trees to the right a Hen Harrier, spot of the day so far and again a first for the year. We then had a first for us for the UK, a Great White Egret, (Seen before in Borneo!) followed quickly by a Little Egret and 7 Grey Heron all together!

We then left the Visitor Centre and walked over to the nearby excellent double sided hide, where we added:
Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Kestrel (2), Black Tailed Godwit (1st 2012), Pintail (1st 2012), Gadwall, Shoveller and Pheasant (2). We stayed here for a while, before heading over to the distant second hide. (There is no direct path to this yet, although I believe it is planned, the easiest way is 10 minute drive around the reserve and then a 10 minute walk.)

We didn't pick up anything new here except Robin, Blackbird and Crows, but there were closer views of the Teal, Shelduck, Shoveller and some Lapwing. Plus a much better view of the Great White Egret, who had been hidden by the tall reeds/grass from the visitor centre and first hide.

Finally we left and decided to drive up to Parkgate, in the hope we might see the Spoonbill there as the volunteers at the visitor centre said that it does head over there, but again alas no sign. We did pick up some Redshank though (as well as Wigeon, Mallard, BHG, Little Egret and a another Pheasant.)

So after that we did a little sight seeing along the estuary up to West Kirby, then back, dropping in at Burton Mere for the last 20 minutes for another cuppa as it got dark and just to see if the Geese or the Spoonbill might have ventured back, but no.  Much better views of the Bar Tailed Godwits and Wigeon though as they had moved much closer to the visitor centre.

Anyway I think that about covers the day, I don't think I've missed anything. Very few decent photos as most birds were to far away!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Blackpool Starlings

Well we are up in Cheshire at Tina's sisters and have made a trip to Blackpool to see the Starlings if they were still doing their thing. After parking up near the north pier we had a quick coffee and proceeded through the gale force winds down the pier. Initially we just saw small groups of starlings swirling over the pier fighting the winds just like us!

Then as we walked further we saw this black mass on the beach at the shore line. I couldn't say how many starlings are sitting there, shall we say a lot! Then we noticed streams of Starlings seeming to appear out of nowhere to join this group sitting on the beach.

We found a sheltered spot out of the wind and watched the mass grow. After a while groups of starlings took off and headed for the pier and disappeared underneath to roost for the night. This took about half an hour until the beach was empty. Sadly I think that due to the strong winds there was no aerial ballet, but the whole thing was pretty amazing.

I would recommend a visit for this, utterly brilliant.

Just a couple of shots:

 A new collective noun for starlings, 'A Curtain'

Friday, 20 January 2012

They're Back but Nothing Else Going On!

Its been a really busy week with one thing and another, so I haven't been able to get out for my lunchtime walks, so its a good job that the birds seem to be starting to make a comeback in the Garden. No great numbers but at least they are about.

e.g. When making a drink today and looking over the garden, we had Great Tits, Blue Tits, Dunnock, Robin, House Sparrow, Blackbirds, Wood Pigeon and Magpie, but unusually a single female Chaffinch. It's rare that we get any Chaffinches in the garden, actually I don't see many in the area at all, so I was quite pleased for the visit.

We do have Black Headed Gulls and Grey Heron flying over, they come up from the canal, but only seen the BHGs today though.

So what does the weekend have to offer?  We are going up to Cheshire to visit like minded family, the plan is on Saturday to go to Blackpool for the Starlings, looking forward to that, then on Sunday visit the RSPB reserve on the Dee Estuary. Looking at the RSPB recent sightings for Burton Mere a Spoonbill was reported on the 18th, so if it's still around I will be well chuffed. It would be a first! So fingers crossed for the weekend and that the weather is kind for getting some good photos to add to the next blog.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sandwell Valley 14/1 & Middleton/Kingsbury 15/1

Had a busy weekend with one thing and another but managed to fit in a couple of hours at Sandwell RSPB on Saturday afternoon. After avoiding the traffic around the Hawthorns, I forgot the Albion were at home when we set out about half two.

Anyway we were hoping to see the snipe if they were still about, but no luck, we saw them last on the island opposite the hide but no sign this time. We walked around the lake from the forge mill car park, nothing out of the ordinary, but here's what we did see:

Canada Goose (great views of a couple of flocks coming in at dusk the noise of geese coming in is always worth hanging around for), Tufted Duck, Black Headed Gull, Pochard, Teal, Goosander (Quite a few about both on the lake and river), Lesser Black Backed Gull, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Crow, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Willow Tit, Bullfinch, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Blue Tit, Redwing, Coot, Moorhen, Dunnock, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard and Blackbird.

We were also delighted to see a fox trying to catch the Lapwings unaware (not that he succeeded, thankfully) as they quickly moved from the shore to the scrapes.

On Sunday after the gym we headed upto Middleton, this will probably be our last visit for a while, probably until spring, unless something out of the ordinary turns up! We decided to park up at the RSPB car park, go over the canal and have a walk down to Cliff Pool at Kingsbury, then back up the canal and through the Meadow trail hoping to see the Short Eared Owls by the river later in the afternoon.

The feeders near the Heronry produced:
Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Dunnock, Reed Bunting and Great Spotted Woodpecker
Followed by Long Tailed Tits in the reeds opposite the Rookery.

Had a quick look at Fishers Pool, before heading down the canal, again usual culprits about:
Coot, Mute Swan, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, BHG, Gadwall, Wigeon and a Buzzard flying along the back by the river.

We set off down the canal, but as it was such a lovely day there were lots of walkers, children, dogs etc. about and the hedgerows were empty, which was a bit disappointing. So we just enjoyed the sun instead.
This was our first visit to Cliff Pool, so we did all the hides. Not too much to see from the first hide as most of the pool was frozen near the hides and all the birds were over the far side of the pool in the sun. So we went the second hide, this was much better, so we settled down and got the flasks out.
The haul for cliff pool:
Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Greylag (just one!), Coot, Moorhen, BHG, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Buzzard, Crow, Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Robin, Buzzard
Just a note that the male Goldeneye were displaying, throwing their heads back, didnt see any females though.

We then headed back up the canal, which thankfully was now deserted and we had the good fortune to get a grand display by a Kingfisher looking for gaps in the ice, he gave us some great views,

We left the canal and went back through the Meadow Trail, on the way to the bench by the river, where were told the S.E Owls have been hunting, we added Redwing and  a Fieldfare to the tally. (The fieldfare was on his own fighting off a Blackbird who was after the berries in the same bush)
We arrived at the bench and again got a flask out (3 in my backpack, and 1 in Tina's!!)
Of course no Owls, but did add a pair of Goosander flying along the river and a Little Grebe diving in front of us. So as we didn't want to do the woods in the dark, we headed back, pausing briefly by the screen at Fishers, to add Lapwings which had now arrived to settle down for the night.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Stress Management

Sometimes you can get a bit bogged down with just hoping that you will come across a new species to add to your list, you then get disappointed when you see the same species over and over again, particularly when roaming around your local patch.

As it happens the past few days at work have been a bit stressful to say the least with things going pear shaped (I work in I.T. and the current project turned into a bit of a nightmare!) Anyway I just had to have a break, so I went to Haden Hill yesterday and yes the species list is more or less the same as usual, but just watching for a change was a delight and completely took my mind off things.

Watching a Buzzard scaring the Woodpigeons was great, he was swooping from tree to tree and every time the Woodpigeons in that tree went beserk!
Long Tailed Tits put on a great display flitting from bush to bush, hanging upside down from the branches, it was great to watch.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was busy making his way around one of the trees, drilling away.
The usual cast of characters were there, no tree creeper today, but you can't have everything.
So went back to work in a much better frame of mind. I can recommend whole heartedly a bit of birding for stress management.

The plan this weekend is to pay a first visit to Kingsbury, perhaps we will get a good view of a Smew, who knows, but does it really matter, just being there is the thing. (I'll see if I still believe that after the weekend, when someone tells me I have missed the Smew again by 5 minutes!)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Where Have All the Birds Gone and a Trip down the Canal! 10/01/12

The feeders are full, the sun is shining, but not a dicky bird! Well that's not strictly true a Woodpigeon was sitting on one of the trees, bit otherwise not a thing. Its been like that for a couple of days, whenever I get time to look in the garden there's nothing there. So as the sun was shining and I needed to get out the house (the joys of working from home) I decided to go for a walk along the canal as far as Warrens Hall.

So wandered down and was rewarded with a Buzzard, then another, then another until there were 5 circling around between the canal and Powke Lane Cemetery. Brilliant, never came that close but managed a couple of far away shots...

So after watching them for a few minutes, carried on walking along the canal and on to Warrens Hall and back:
The canal:
Buzzard (5), Magpie, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Coot, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Moorhen, Robin, House Sparrow, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crow
Warrens Hall:
Canada Geese, Mute Swan (4), Great Spotted Woodpecker (2), Redwings, Kestrel (1), Great Tit, Grey Heron (1)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Middleton Lakes RSPB 07/01/12

Managed to get out Saturday afternoon in an attempt to see a Smew at Middleton. Arrived about 2.30, the lovely morning weather had gone and was very dull and dismal, so no worthwhile photography today! Decided to go clockwise around the reserve for a change so that we had a bit more daylight along the canal side and then a possible chance of owls hunting by the river. After about 30 minutes stopped for a chat with some other birders (Middleton volunteers as it happens) asked if they had seen the Smew only to be told it wasn't about and probably gone over to Kingsbury. (Still haven't got around to popping in there, might do that next weekend. We could do with retiring, work gets in the way of birding!)

So plodded on around the reserve, I say 'plodding' as its really muddy and slippy on some of the paths at the moment. Anyway not a great list today as I think most of the birds had gone into hiding as it was so dull. Anyway here it is:

Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Rook, Long Tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Mallard, Coot, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Buzzard, Kestrel, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Little Egret, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Fieldfare, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Teal, Moorhen, Black Headed Gull and Goldeneye.

So we thought that was it, we were walking along the river, approaching the two finger post when something whitish dropped down behind the trees by a nearby pool. We carried on towards the pool and as we got close in the murk, there he was! Yes a male Smew, but our approach spooked him, so before we could stop and admire, he was off, disappearing over the trees and dropping down onto one of the other lakes. By now we were tired and it was getting very dark & murky, so we decided to head back to the car park. As we got back to the car it was almost dark, the path through the woods was fun, sliding about all over the place! When we got back to the car park, ours was the last car there (not unusual!), but we happily drove back to Blackheath with our first ever Smew in the bag! We need to try again for the Smew though to get a good sighting and perhaps some good photos to go with it.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Middleton Lakes RSPB 01/01/12

Happy New Year! Decided to start the new year with an afternoon jaunt over to Middleton, hopefully to see the Smew that has been reported there on the 28th. Also the RSPB had a guided walk planned for the afternoon, so we thought we would give that a try.
We set off about 13:10 and as we were getting in the car a Buzzard circled low overhead, a good omen perhaps! We shall see. So set off, then as we were joining the M5 at Oldbury my wife spotted a Kestrel perched on a tree just on the island by the slip road onto the M5. So a good start.

Arrived at Middleton and joined up with the walking group and dutifully paid our £2 each to the RSPB volunteers and set off from the car park. We immediately stopped To view the feeding station from the platform by the reed beds near the heronry. We were rewarded with:
Great Tit, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Robin, House Sparrow and a Reed Bunting, followed by a Grey Heron flying over and descending into the Heronry and Fieldfare flying over as well.

We then carried on to the woods and a brief stop at the next platform overlooking the pool to the right of the woods, only thing to report there were a few Mallard and a Kestrel. Nothing to report in the woods, apart from mud, and it being very dull and dark, so no photos today.

After crossing the canal we went anti clockwise around the wetlands walk, we left the walking group after the screen as they weren't going to go all the way around. We then learnt that the Smew had departed southwards not long before, oh well that's birding for you, despite that we enjoyed our walk round which was quite productive and got the new year off to a good start, here's a list of the rest that we were fortunate enough to see:

Woodpigeon, Long Tailed Tit, Coot, Lapwing, Wigeon, Black Headed Gull, Mute Swan, Teal, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Blackbird, Shoveller, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Lesser black backed gull, Rook, Little Egret, Common Snipe, Pheasant, Cormorant, Magpie, & Moorhen.