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Thursday, 23 March 2017

A last minute Twitch - worth £4.50 of anyones money!

Sometimes the celestial wheel turns in just the right way and the spirit guides that look after birders go that extra mile to put the universe in balance for them.

I occasionally look at the National Bird News on an evening, just to keep up with what is going on - but hardly ever during the day. But for some reason today, just before 17.00 I had a look and the top entry was for 16.51 - Brent Goose at Chasewater! What were the chances?

Those of you who have followed the blog for some time will be aware of my history with Brent Goose at Chasewater. I have missed the last four to turn up and despaired of ever seeing one. This one was apparently found by Paul Jeynes who had the nous to put the word out ASAP. I didn't know this but guessed that Ian Ward might be there so gave him a call - "Yes its here, in the Powerboat Club Compound" - in my imagination I could see this ridiculously obliging specimen posing for fantastic views but with clear sky's predicted for tonight there would be little chance of it remaining until the morning.

Sometimes it just has to be done. One quick call to Brownhills Cars (01543 378787) and £4.50 later the friendly driver has pulled up at the compound and the elusive Dark Bellied Brent had found its way onto my Chasewater List (Number 195). Some of my enthusiasm even got to the driver who jumped out of the van and borrowed my binoculars to have a look at our rare Russian visitor.


Big thank you to Paul, to Ian Ward and also Julien Allen (for whom it was also a Chasewater Tick) who volunteered to be my chauffeur home too - a bit of stress? Yes but a satisfying payoff too. Even though I had already seen several hundred of these birds this year - this one lost waif was worth more to me than all the others put together.

Also seen tonight were a number of recently arrived Sand Martin a male Shoveler and the semi-resident Velvet Scoter. I was told that the Pintail had been seen earlier too but it couldn't be found in the failing light and rough water.

What a great way to end the day! - Chaz

I know I said I wouldn't, but I did!

Wellll - it was a nice afternoon (if a bit blustery). Anyroad-up it was a waste of time as I had been beaten to the punch by that well known Fulicaatraphile - Kev Clements and as nobody can beat his counts there didn't seem much point in counting the ducks that he had counted ten minutes earlier! The only things I can add to his day list are a couple of singing Chiffchaff and a Grey Wagtail.

So here is todays Menu for the Marsh and Mere:

Goosander (19) - Shoveler (8) - Teal (20) - Gadwall (3) - Tufted Duck (33) Dabchick (2) Oystercatcher (2) and no less than eighteen Coot.

Kev actually had the nerve to challenge me to beat his Coot-Count (as if I dared)! I had to let him know that unfortunately I had more interesting things to do LIKE WATCHING PAINT DRY!

Alright, I know I'll be sorry when he finds the first American Coot for the West Midlands County but Coot - Honestly? At least my Yankee Ducks have some romance about them.

"Quick - Hide it's blooming Clements again!"
Seriously, thanks to Kev as always for his input, it seems that he and I are (at the moment) the only people daft enough to visit the site? - Chaz

As Promised

I said that I would keep you informed of any response received regarding the damage to the mineral line. I have today received the following e-mail from Jaclyn Lake, the Natural England official responsible for sites in our area.

Dear Mr Mason
Thank you for raising this to our attention, and for the photographic evidence.  Our enforcement team will deal with this accordingly and I will keep you updated.


Lets hope that this activity will now cease and we can move forward without any further unpleasantness - Chaz

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

'Where's Wally?' - For birders

Its Wednesday, middle of the working week and its peeing down - all day if the forecast is to be believed? I actually re-arranged my Swimming days this week in accordance with the predicted weather and it appears that I did the right thing.

The younger slightly harder (and dafter) me would have probably said "Sod it!" and done the Marsh anyway but I am more of an old git these days and given the abysmal state of the Marsh at present I hope you will forgive me for Not doing a visit today? I am waiting for the high pressure at the weekend when I am hoping for Willow Warbler, Sand Martin, Swallow etc. (That prediction sounds like the 'kiss of death' if ever I heard it - get ready for the usual ducks)!

So - what shall I write in an attempt to entertain the odd (and I mean ODD) loyal follower who has nothing better to do than log on and read my drivel? Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful to anyone who reads it, if it wasn't for you lot I would be writing for my own entertainment.

Lets talk about what I like best about birding (Boring I hear you say?) well, what if I tell you that it is something that makes even other birders think I am a bit strange?

Since the very beginnings of birdwatching I have had a fascination with wildfowl and in particular, vagrant wildfowl from north America (Nearctic Ducks if you will) part of the reason for this may have been one of my earliest birding experiences, finding and having to identify a feral male Carolina Wood Duck that was a regular character amongst the ducks in Walsall Arboretum. I would track it down on every visit until it disappeared or passed away sometime in the early 1980s.

This strange proclivity  was spotted at a very early stage by my old mate John Holian who long ago brought me a badge saying 'Duck Spotter'. Now I am sure that this was meant as a gentle jibe but I am proud to say I have worn that badge with pride for birding in almost every county in Britain and still have it to this day. I suspect that even John would confess to a certain amount of surprise last year when he found out who many American Wigeon, Ring-Necked Ducks and Green Winged Teal I had seen over the years. If one turns up and I can get to see it, off I go!

But this is a preamble, what I am talking about the aspect of birding that gives me the most pleasure and it is something that many birders find both boring and frustrating - I love to work through large flocks of Teal or Wigeon looking for American Wigeon or Green Winged Teal - it really is like playing 'Where's Wally' with ducks! Tony Stackhouse was always disproportionately impressed that I located a Green Winged Teal at Martin Mere many years ago.
Spot The GWT - this one is easy-peasy Photo Copyright Surfbirds
The bird had eluded all comers amongst a flock of something like fifteen hundred Teal and I actually managed to find it (twice - just after I found it the first time all the Teal were flushed by a Peregrine and I had to wait for them all to settle back in). But what a sense of satisfaction it gave me - it may be easier than locating a Caspian Gull at Chasewater but I know which I would rather do.

My very favourite though has to be American Wigeon. These are often in big flocks of European Wigeon and feed with their heads down much of the time so you often need to be looking in the right place at the right time to pick it up and this can mean going back and forth through dozens or hundreds of Wigeon before you manage to connect with the bird in question. When you finally find it I suspect that Dave Appleton's picture (Below) of a bird in Norfolk should give you some indication of the reward (well its always worth it to me - so there)!

Photo Copyright: Dave Appleton
So there you are - a little bit more about Chaz the Birder than you needed to know but it perhaps passed five minutes of your time aimlessly and without having to indulge in daytime television (so I have done you a favour really).

If anyone swims out to do the Marsh and Mere today  I will of course update, alternatively you can expect this component of the Clayhanger Expeditionary Force to go into action at the weekend.

Enjoy the rest of your week - Chaz

Monday, 20 March 2017

If you didnt know...

You have just missed International Happiness Day! Well lets be honest, it would have been an inappropriate event on my blog. International grumpiness day is more in keeping with my persona as anyone who has met me will doubtless agree?

More importantly, something that has taken me by surprise is that this is one of those years when the equinox falls on the early side of the 21st so today was the vernal equinox! That means that tomorrow there will be slightly more day than night so some evening birding may be on the cards for those of you who are normally prohibited such activity by work obligations and falling darkness. If more proof were needed we 'spring forward' on Sunday as we once again move from GMT into BST.

Perhaps the one plus point if Scotland declares Independence is that they can establish Scottish Time to accommodate their needs and the rest of us in Independent U.K. can stop monkeying around with the clock twice a year (lets face it, the first world war is long over and we only tolerate it these days to stop children in Scotland from getting run over)!

Unless you have been to the north of Scotland in deepest winter you may not realise what a problem it really is - I have been up there when it was just getting light at 08.45 and in Norway you can almost add an hour to that with darkness descending by 15.00 - such is life closer to the arctic.


No bird news yet but given today's weather that's hardly surprising. There was something of a movement of Sand Martin on Sunday at a number of sites and with high pressure booked in for the weekend, I suspect that window of opportunity for the migrants is not very far away. - Chaz

Saturday, 18 March 2017

More migrants arrive

Little Ringed Plover Today - Photo Joseph Pass
Despite the Overcast this morning, managed a nice half-day with Martyn and Joseph Pass. For a change the Trent Valley and Tuckleshome where on arrival we found just a handful of waders including four Ringed Plover and an overflying Redshank. After a good walk around though we returned late morning just in time to see a small party of waders arrive including at least two Little Ringed Plover, straight back from Africa perhaps?

We were discussing the apparent bottleneck on Migrants coming north and I expressed the opinion that it was possibly this interminable line of fronts that are going through at the moment and that the odd things that are turning up probably arrived in southern England last week and are apparently moving north - just an opinion but it would fit the facts?

Good news if I am right as that would mean that one of these mornings when the pressure changes we will be knee deep in migrants - at last!

Big thank you to Martyn and Joseph, particularly Joseph who was kind enough to let me have one of the photographs he was able to take through his Telescope.

Have a good Sunday all! - Chaz

Friday, 17 March 2017

Garganey for breakfast

No - don't get stressed-out, you haven't been suppressed! The Garganey was not on the Marsh or Mere but at Middleton Hall R.S.P.B. today, a nice pair of birds showing well in front of the first viewing screen.
Before you ask NO! This is a stock photo for those who dont know
This was not a planned visit, my old mate Steve Hill had  finished his working week and asked if I fancied a morning out, I checked out the bird news and the only thing to come-up early-on was this recently arrived pair of wonderful migratory ducks fresh in from Africa. Always pleased to see a Garganey, occasionally there will be years when they are all over the place but then in other years they seem to pass through the midlands without pausing to be enjoyed by the locals.

A surprise at Middleton was the presence of four Avocet today. I know that these days Avocet in the Midlands is beginning to be taken for granted but some of us older birders remember when the arrival of an Avocet on passage was a major local twitch. Of all the species overdue on the Marsh List I suspect that Avocet is probably the one I would most like to put to bed. We may even have had the odd bird stopping off for all I know as the sites get such poor coverage for much of the time. It wouldn't surprise me!

The only other birds of interest were a couple of Little Egret (another once upon a Time Midland rarity that we now take for granted) and at least four or five singing and calling Cetti's Warbler, one of which was seen briefly as a grey shape flying through a stand of reed after being flushed by a Reed Bunting.

Actually thinking about it, any one of those four species seen today would have prompted a mega-alert in the midlands thirty years ago - it just shows how times have changed.

Big thanks to my Mukka Steve for a splendid morning out, I think I will let him keep his 'Good Luck Charm' status for the time being.

Have a good weekend all! - Chaz