Monday 30 May 2011

A visit to Uttoxeter Quarry

Monday 30th May 2011
Another dreary Bank holiday and with family matters to attend to I hadnt anticipated any birding. In the event the lure of another good bird in Staffs. was too strong and I made time for a dash to Uttoxeter Quarry for a wader I'd never seen in the 4 Counties before, a Lesser Yellowlegs. The walk along the footpath was a little damp but at least the persisent heavy rain had stopped, at least long enough to have a good look at the dainty shorebird. The main pit provided some excellent habitat with a variety of species present including Sanderling, Dunlin and LRPs. all viewable from the Public footpath. There was just time to exchange a few pleasantries with a motley selection Staffs birding legends before heading back.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Snake in the grass

Sunday 29th May 2011

Birding in Warwickshire can be a bit samey away from reservoirs and old gravel workings. Particularly with songbirds in decline. I got quite excited yesterday hearing 3 Lesser Whitethroats singing in the hedges along my walk around Caldecote Hall, between Nuneaton and Atherstone. Birds were few and far between, keeping down in the strong wind. I heard a few Whitethroats and saw a small flock of Linnets and a dozen or so Skylarks. So nothing unusual, its times like these that the mind starts to wander, imagining what might be on the track just round the next bend or perched up in the next group of bushes. What comes into your mind comes into my mind are species which are extremely unlikely but just possible. In the past it might have included Wryneck or Golden Oriole but now I'd be happy to see a Turtle dove or Spotted Flycatcher in North Warwickshire. The fantasy list has got bigger. So, back in the real world I was also pleased to find a pair of Grey Partridge on the walk. Other species encountered included a single Yellow Wagtail, 6 Stock Doves, a pair of Lapwing, a Yellowhammer and the a couple of Kestrel. Corvids were well represented paticularly Magpies and Jackdaws, the numbers of both have increased dramatically in my area in recent years. They must be heavily predating ground nesting species at the moment in these dry conditions. Even the Wheat is barely a foot high and many other crops with the exception of Oil seed Rape has barely germinated, offering very little cover for nesting birds.
The walk also produced a Grass Snake which moved very slowly through some long grass at the edge of one of the Wheatfields.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Night Heron and Red necked Phalarope

Common Swift, Earlswood Lakes
Common Swift
Common Swift

Mandarin Duck
Monday 23rd May 2011

It had to be done, another attempt for the Night Heron at Earlswood lakes. This time I was prepared and ready to stick it out until total darkness fell. So with sandwiches and plenty of warm clothes I started the lonely vigil. I say lonely because I was the only birder on site to begin with but by 9.00pm there was probably 8 of us scanning the distant trees. While we waited I amused myself trying to photograph the Swifts as they shot low over the causeway at high speed. Pretty hopeless task as the light slowly faded but then there was always the friendly neighbourhood Mandarin to fall back on. Further interest came in the form of 3 waders which flew round the lakes before landing on the small shingle island on Engine pool and identified themselves as Dunlin. Yet more entertainment was provided by a confrontation on the single track causeway as two cars from both directions met in the middle. Neither would back up as other cars waited to cross at either end. It was like a scene from High Noon. Who would back down. There was waving of arms but neither car budged an inch. Birders watched the drama unfold openmouthed. Would there be violence. The tension mounted. A woman a passenger in one of the waiting cars went to negotiate a settlement but no agreement could be found. The stalemate went on, the waiting cars turned round and disappeared and the birders gradually lost interest and resumed the search of the skies.

At 9.30pm the Night Heron, clearly an adult, flew over Windmill pool and appeared to drop down just beyond the trees bordering the road. So that was that, an interesting evening. As for the outcome between the two arrogant car drivers, who cares?

Tuesday 24th May 2011

I'd just finshed my visit to Sutton when news of a Red necked Phalarope at Blithfield reservoir came through. My visits to this WMBC 'Hotspot' - tend to be few and far between but as I was already half way there it was an opportunity not to be missed. The Red necked Phalarope was fairly distant but thanks to the help of one Bernie Smith, was soon located. Much closer though was an Osprey which strangely no one else had noticed. It gave some wonderful opportunities for photography but for once I was cameraless.

We were joined by Roger Broadbent who found the Phalarope. Roger and I went our separate ways to look for a Sanderling on the dam and joined up again to compare notes. No sign of any waders but I decided to have a quick look at the causeway on the way home. On the shore near the causeway was the summer plummaged Sanderling in company with 6 Dunlin. A good conclusion to a very pleasant afternoon in Staffordshire. I must do it more often.

Monday 23 May 2011

Cyprus -2011 Part 3

Red rumped Swallow, Nr Nata

Cattle Egret, Asprokremnos Res.

Cattle Egret

Little Owl, Dhiarizos valley

Juvenile Cretzschmar's Bunting

Eleonora's Falcon, Phasouri

Red backed Shrike

Bee eater

Bee eater

Cyprus warbler

Cyprus warbler

Sardinian warbler

Gossy Ibis, Phasouri reedbeds

Black eared Wheatear, Paphos headland
Tree Pipit, Asprokremnos Dam

Tuesday 24th May

The final images from a very relaxing trip to Cyprus. Saw a good deal of the wildlife Cyprus has to offer including 78 bird species. Nothing particularly amazing or unexpected but many 'quality' birds. What was perhaps interesting was a few species we didn't see such as Hoopoe, Long legged Buzzard and Woodchat Shrike and the apparent decline in numbers of Spanish sparrow and Corn Bunting. Black Francolin could be heard and occasionally seen in their usual areas and Eleonora's Falcons were found along the cliffs much closer to Paphos than in previous years to my knowledge. The people we met on our travels were great, the beer awful but Feta and Spinach pie proved an ideal lunchtime substitute for Pork pie!

Alpine Swifts, Red footed Falcons and Common Crane :Cyprus 2011

Alpine Swift, Asprokremnos dam - these shots show the throats of the birds swollen with insects, presumably to take back to their young.

Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift
Alpine Swift
Spur winged Plover, Paphos sewage works

Spur winged Plover

Red footed Falcon, Agia Varvara

Red footed Falcon

Red footed Falcon with Roller

Common Crane, a straggler at Asprokremnos reservoir

Common Crane

Monday 23rd May 2011
A further selection of the variety of birds to be seen in Cyprus in May

Sunday 22 May 2011

Strange goings on at Coton

'elp ?

21st May 2011

So whats going on 'ear then? Answers on a postcard please. There were plastic containers involved which appeared to contain wet bread but no fishing rods were observed. Usually strange behaviour is confined to the car park.

Meanwhile there was a good deal of bird activity with 6 species of warbler in song.

Cyprus 2011- part 2

Squacco Heron, by far the most numerous Heron species seen in all 'wetland' areas visited

European Bee eater, again large numbers seen around the Paphos area

Golden plover, an unexpected find in company with a single Grey Plover on Mandria Beach.
Grey Plover, Mandria Beach

Roller, common often competing with local Jakdaws on rocky cliffs


Cyprus warbler, numerous and in many locations not seen in before. The fear that they might be driven out of breeding areas by the colonisation of the Sardinian warbler does not seem to be happening.

Crested Lark

Black headed Bunting, Smylies trail, Neo Chorio. This was the only sighting of this species.

Golden Oriole, never easy to see well but quite numerous in orchards and woodland areas during the early part of our stay.

Spotted Flycatcher, one of the commonest birds of the trip particularly on thr Arkamas.

Sunday 22nd May 2011
Sorry for the delay but distracted by elusive Spoonbills and Night Herons. A few more images from Cyprus.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Cyprus 2011

1st summer Red footed Falcon, Anarita
Thursday 19th May 2011

Just enjoyed a non-birding holiday in Cyprus, a bit earlier than last year so just caught the end of the migration season, not that we were birding, but you keep your eyes open dont you! Only trouble is you miss a few things in the UK. if you go away in May. It seems the good stuff was quite local this year I think I missed a Midlands tick, the Black Stork, and a County tick ,the Night Heron and a few other good birds but I can live with that. We had a great holiday.

Cyprus gets a bad press, the shooting and trapping of wild birds. Quite rightly, but throughout our stay we saw and heard no evidence of either in the countryside of south west Cyprus. The cynic would say they're too busy destroying the habitats, building more and more apartments and Villas they cant sell. There are 2 ways of looking at it. You can make an individual gesture by simply boycotting the country or, visiting the country and make it clear that you are there because of the birds. You cant make any sort of statement passively though, you've got to talk to people - local farmers, hotel managers and write to tourist boards etc. Just not going somewhere might make you feel better but it aint going to change anything, Tourists will continue to flock to places like Cyprus and Malta.

Anyway back to the birds, Jan and I wandered about the local countryside, taking in some good birding locations such as Smylies trail, Cap Drapano, Mandria, Phasouri, and the Asprokremnos reservoir. The trusty camera was never far away to record what we saw.......

Wednesday 4 May 2011

All in a day's Birding

Sedge Warbler, Kingsbury Water Park

Sedge warbler
Wednesday 4th May 2011

Did the Drayton Bassett loop trail today venturing tentatively into Staffordshire as there aint much wader action at the Fisher's Mill end. Met up with Keith Wimbush and Ron Thomas and together we scanned the north pools. Viewing was difficult mid morning but we did find a single Wood Sandpiper lingering and a couple of Common Sandpipers to go with the 3 at Cliff pool, Kingsbury. I carried on round the loop trail and met up with Keith and Ron at the Courtyard Coffee shop later.

It was when I returned to the car, parked in the car park, that the fun began. I was sitting in the car deciding whether to eat my Beef Pasty, bought earlier from Gales pie shop in Atherstone, there and then or whether to move on to a venue with a better view to enjoy said pasty. While I was pondering a rather large BMW pulled into the car park and heads in my general direction. It was one of those situations where you just knew what was going to happen from a long way off. The BMW started to turn to park next to me. 'Shes going to stop and back up, she'll never make it on that lock'. 'She got to stop'. I just sat there, and waited. Crunch - as the BMW got cosy with my Skoda. I thought posh cars had posh braking systems and didnt need to use the cars of ordinary folk as buffers. Having re-designed my door panels profuse apologies followed and particulars were exchanged amicably.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Fun in the Sun

Lesser Whitethroat, Fisher's Mill
Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

Black tern, Shustoke Reservoir

Black Tern

Black tern

Common Whitethroat, Kingsbury

Sedge warbler

Tuesday 3rd May 2011

With a proper days birding to look foward to I opted for the the Tame valley. With some good passage birds being found over the last couple of days at the north end of the valley the plan was to work through as many locations as possible from South to North. I resisted the temptation of going to have a look at the Spotted Sandpiper in Worcestershire. There was clearly an influx of Common Swift with over 30 at Coton, 15 at Shustoke and a similar number at Broomey Croft, Kingsbury. Cuckoos were in evidence with the now regular individual at Broomey Croft waiting for the Reed warblers to oblige and another at Whitacre Heath Nature reserve. At Shustoke the reported 3 Black terns had increased to 5 and annoyingly Adrian Mills spotted a Ist summer Little Gull as we scanned the lake. Annoying, cos I'd missed the bird earlier and can't include it on my self found year list. I moved on to the Water park via Lea Marston and the newly refurbished Cedars Cafe, amazing what a lick of paint can do. New management, slightly different menu but still greasy spoon prices. I'm on for a free coffee for giving the place a mention on the old blog. 80p for worldwide publicity - I think I'm selling myself short. Might negotiate a small breakfast as well!

Anyway spent the afternoon walking north but I only got as far as Fishers Mill as I stopped to try and get some snaps of warblers. Unusually Lesser Whitethroats were the most obliging. I missed out on the Wood Sandpipers at Drayton Bassett but hey I was having fun with my warblers. The only other birds of note were Song thrushes. I counted 7 in the cowfield, either feeding on the ground or singing from the bushes.