Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Birding in Fog & Floods

Saturday 24th November 

Stubbers Green, 8.30am 

Despite good numbers of gulls here, there was nowt even slightly unusual amongst them. Most notable were 18 GBBG and 2 Common Gull. Wildfowl included 8 Shoveler, 29 Tufted Duck and a Pochard. Also a flyover Redpoll was noted.

We would have lingered longer but the gulls were then all flushed by activity at the farm. 

Chasewater, 9.30am 

Next, the Swag (or Jeffrey’s Swag as it's also know, I’ve no idea why). Locating the Great Northern Diver was slightly harder than anticipated, due to a thick blanket of fog that descended.

The Diver was viewable from the railway line and gave some good views. It seemed to be holding its bill slightly parted throughout our visit, which is perhaps cause for concern. Let's hope not.

Great Northern Diver - images by Martyn Yapp

Also here 10 Goosander, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, 10 Golden Plover over and good numbers of Wigeon and Pochard.

Cannock Chase

Finishing the morning around Tackeroo, it was now virtually impossible to bird as we were enveloped by fog. The only sound was the chacka-chacking of Fieldfare.

Noted; a fine pair of Bullfinch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Jay and a decent sized thrush flock, that was mainly Fieldfare, but with smaller numbers of Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush and 1 Song Thrush.

Sunday 25th November

Croxall Lakes, 8.00am

After the storms of last night, much of the Trent Valley was underwater and many roads were impassable.  At Croxall Lakes the lake had extended somewhat which was odd to see, but the hide was still functional.

A large Golden plover flock was on the fields over the road, numbering up to 400 birds joined by c200 Lapwing and c300 Black-headed Gull, plus the odd Common Gull.

Wildfowl numbers on the main lake totalled 123 Pochard, 187 Teal, 8 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall 8, 3 Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Goldeneye.

At another nearby pool we counted 36 Goldeneye.

Lichfield, 11.30am

As we were so close we called in at Cappers Lane, where a large number of Waxwings have been feeding. There were about 30 in the area, that we could see, but by the end of the day up to 80 had been counted.

Unfortunately my camera battery was dead. But whilst I can’t bore the Waxwing haters with my shots, I can with Martyn’s...

Waxwing - what's not to like? Image by Martyn Yapp

Blithfield, 1.00pm onwards

A watery battle to get here. Unfortunately we could not see the Great Northern Diver at the deep end, due to sailing activities that had pushed it out of our view.

After lunch, we relocated to Tad Bay hide where two female type Scaup were viewable from the hide; the birds flew south whilst we were watching them, but a nice gull pre-roost was building up. We were also now joined by Richard Powell and a bit later, Martin Whalley.

It wasn’t long at all before we were lucky enough to pick out an adult Caspian Gull, a crisp classic looking bird, showing all the salient features. Very nice indeed.

Richard managed to get some digiscoped pictures...

Caspian Gull - digiscoped images by Richard Powell

There were also 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls here and 14 Goosander.

Despite the inclement weather, some very good birds could be seen in Staffordshire this weekend, proving that it is always worth going out.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

White-rumped Sandpiper in Staffs

Saturday 17th November 

A big bird for Staffs, with only 5 previous records of this wader in the entire West Midlands region. Three of these occured in Staffs in the 70’s and 80’s and one in Worcestershire in 1996. *

And then of course, the one day bird at Grimley New Workings on 14th July this year, which Martyn and I tragically dipped the following morning.

A White-rumped Sandpiper had been found on Tuesday 13th November at Drayton Bassett Pits/Middleton Lakes, or whatever we call it these days. With work all week, my initial outlook on catching up with this bird was pretty grim.

However the bird was still present come Friday. Gulp.... This was a bird Martyn previously described as his ‘biggest regional bogey bird’, which didn’t exactly bode well for the bird hanging on till Saturday morning.

I’m pleased to say that the White-rumped Sandpiper was indeed still present and we enjoyed some very good scope views of this first-winter bird. It was active and mobile throughout our visit on the pit south of the north pit and it was undisturbed by some mechanial digging work that was going on.

White-rumped Sandpiper at Drayton Bassett, images courtesy of Richard Powell
Also notable; 2 Green Sandpiper, 4 Little Egret, 1 Golden Plover over and 1 Kingfisher.

This was followed by a quick call in at the Edison Rd River Culvert where we had a Chiffchaff and a Peregrine carrying prey.

* The new Birds of the West Midlands

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Staffs, Scoters and Waxwings

The weekend of 10th/11th November involved a regional day, followed to a jaunt to Wales with Martyn.

Saturday 10th November 

Stubbers Green 

First up; Stubbers Green, albeit briefly. It was more of a quick look in for Iceland Gull, rather than a dedicated gulling session, although that will no doubt be soon on the cards. No Iceland, or anything really on the scarce gull front. 4 GBBG, 4 Common Gull were present. A Green Sand was heard but sadly not seen and Shoveler and Pochard were noted, as well as a flyover Redpoll. 

Croxall Lakes 

We arrived at Croxall about 10.00am. Most notable here 2 Redshank, 1 Common Snipe, a flock of c100 Golden Plover, 1 Kingfisher and a Little Egret. Wildfowl included 55 Teal, 35 Pochard, 1 Goosander and 1 Shelduck .

There was also up to 80 Redwing present, but only the odd Fieldfare.    

Cannock Chase 

Then a saunter on the Chase, around Tackeroo down to the shooting butts. It was a liitle quiet, but a nice sunny afternoon.

Noted 1 Stonechat, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and common tits, finches etc.

Coal Tit - image courtesy of Martyn Yapp. Would make a nice RSPB Xmas Card


The day ended with a little gull roosting and surprisingly the adult Iceland Gull was in the roost early, but it then flew north. An adult Med Gull was also noted.

Sunday 11th November


Time to have another go for Surf Scoter. Up to 3 drakes are once again being regularly seen off Llandullas and we were on the scene from 7.30am scanning the Scoter flock. This was going to be hard work with a lot of the Scoter at this stage little more than little black dots.

A bit later we relocated at an elevated point on the cycle track and this made all the difference. Some of the Scoter had drifted a lot closer and Martyn picked out a fine drake Surf Scoter at the front of the pack. We got some quite good views on it, by cranking up the zoom; a tick for me too.

Also noted on the sea; 5 Velvet Scoter , c3,000 Common Scoter, around 20 Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Fulmar, 2 Kittiwake, 20 Oystercatcher and many Guillemot.


Following this, a little light relief was needed and we visited the car park of MFI in Llandudno. Or should that be Llan-dude-no?

Personally, I never tire of these beauties. Up to 200 Waxwings around MFI, B&Q etc. There were also some grockle queries to answer about 'exotic birds'.

Here is one of Martyn's

A flyover Grey Wagtail was also noted here.

Conwy RSPB

Finally Conwy RSPB. A couple of Firecrest have been around, but we don’t have much luck with these lately....

Noted here 2 Chiffy, Siskin, Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew and 13 flyover Golden Plover.

3rd November

Shustoke Reservoir

A day birding the northernmost reaches of Warwickshire began at Shustoke with Martyn and Ian. Target bird, the Slavonian Grebe that had been present since 30th October.

The bird was at the west end near some Great Crests. Always a nice bird to see, especially on an inland water.

Slav Grebe at Shustoke - images courtesy Dave Hutton http://seeswoodpool.blogspot.co.uk/

We did get wet here but noted 1 Goldeneye, 15 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Lapwing, a few Siskin, 1 Bullfinch and 7 Lesser Redpoll. Winter birding has well and truly begun.


Then a look at Coton Lakes, where frustratingly viewing is rather limited from the hide. It would help if some of the shrubs were kept in check.

We noticed some distant movement of Wood Pigeon involving 500/600 birds and also c300 Fieldfare. Also noted here 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Jay, 1 Kingfisher and Pochard, Shoveler etc. We had a look from the roadbridge, which has been good in previous years for Scaup, but again viewing is limited.


A couple of Firecrests had been reported here earlier in the week so this was our next target. No luck there, but its easy to see what attracted the Firecrests, with a pair of Blackcap and at least 3 Chiffchaff along this insect-rich path. In November. In Warks.

Also a few Redwing and Fieldfare around the reserve, Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, Redpoll and Jay. Wildfowl counts included 35 Shoveler, 45 Wigeon and 4 Goosander. Buzzard and Sparrowhawk noted.

Edison road

The Culvert here is another area that has previously had wintering Firecrest, so it was worth a gander.

Here we had 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Raven, a heard only Green Sandpiper and Teal on the River.

The Ravens gave very good views and even landed on a nearby building.

Raven - image courtesy of Martyn Yapp

Coleshill Quarry

The day ended here. An area none of us knew much about, but looked worthy of exploration. Noted 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 Little Egret and 1 Kingfisher .