Monday, 29 October 2012

Velvet Scoter and Great Grey Shrike in Staffs

With Martyn Yapp AKA The Regional Tick on an official blogging sabbatical I better keep my blog updated, particularly with the regional stuff.

Winter birding mode has already begun and we started on Cannock Chase, perhaps to see if a Great Grey Shrike had arrived. As GGS have now arrived in Wales this stood a decent chance.

Beginning at the Glacial Boulder around 7:40am we spent some time scanning a thrush flock which were feeding on berries. These consisted of 40 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing and around 15 Blackbird. There were huge falls of thrushes on the east coast in recent days and it has not taken long for these birds to reach us.

Also noted in this area; 8 Redpoll (over), 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Jay, Green Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Goldcrest and 2 Buzzard.

We then moved on to Upper Longdon, which held a wintering Great Grey Shrike last year. And bingo!

Great Grey Shrike returns to Upper Longdon. Image courtesy of Martyn Yapp

Surely the same returning bird. We put the news out and then watched the bird which showed very well on its favoured tall stump, before moving further down into the valley after getting a bit of hassle from a Kestrel.

Also of note here 2 Raven and a distant thrush flock over the valley, looking to be mostly Fieldfare.

The rest of the day was spent around Blithfield Reservoir; not at all a bad move as it was to turn out....

The juvenille Black Tern was visible from the causeway, although it disappeared shortly after lunchtime. A late record indeed.

In Tad Bay there were c75 Wigeon, 10 Goldeneye, 4 Goosander, 20 Pochard, Teal and Shoveler. From Beechtree Point I counted 117 Great Crested Grebe and Common Gull was noted.

With the weather turning inclement, we returned to the shelter of Martyn's car and set off for the deep end in search of some Common Scoter that had been seen earlier. In particular there was news of 2 Common Scoter by the angling centre.

However we could see no sign of these here and continued around the res to scan for them. Stopping about half way, we picked up two distant large ducks which looked like Scoter, just as we set off to get nearer to investigate, we got a call from Julian Allen who was on these two birds and they were Velvet Scoters!!

Not only a Staffs mega but also a first for Blithfield - this was massive!! 

Record images of Velvet Scoter by Martyn Yapp

 A bit of white knuckle and we were soon viewing them from the fishing hut; an absolutely spanking drake and duck. Unfortunately these birds seemed very nervy and perhaps this was due to sailing boats still being out. Sadly the birds flew north around 2:42pm, having only been present 10 minutes (to our knowledge).

Whilst Martyn, Julian and myself were very lucky to see the Velvets, it was also very disappointing that their stay was so very brief meaning that other Staffs birders were unable to connect, even those arriving on the scene within minutes.

The birds were again searched for but sadly they had clearly gone.

Interestingly, the same morning a pair of Velvet Scoter had dropped in at Anglers Country Park near Wakefield where they also stayed for 10 minutes before flying south. Surely the same birds...

Finally a lone Common Scoter was showing very well by the dam.

Common Scoter by Martyn Yapp

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