Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Image from RSPB
Black Tern [juv] What a hectic couple of days!

There we were, Monday morning [6 September], sitting around at Attlee Crescent wondering what we would do for the rest of the day other than engage in further idle gossip with sisters and assorted kin. We’d been out on our now customary early birding stroll, venturing further than the nearby canal, instead driving out to SEVEN SPRINGS, which we’d frequented in a previous era.

The birding was good, the walking even better to counter the rather high blood glucose reading of that morning! There was the usual Carrion Crow, House Sparrow and Common Wood Pigeon en route and at the carpark but the sighting of the moment had to be the Grey Squirrel scurrying around a tree base. Common Chaffinches “pinked” among the treetops and the seemingly odd, skulking, bird amidst the bracken fronds turned out to be a European Robin. At one of the “springs” we spotted three Mallards.

On the way back FAY first heard and then looked skywards to see 100+ Common Sand Martins flying by overheard. No doubt warmer climes were beckoning

From Seven Springs we wound our way to the area we have always known as BROCTON POOL. This was where, all those many years back, we first heard that the local Tree Sparrow population had been decimated. Indeed, a little later, while birding Norfolk, we still recall being sworn to secrecy by a group of birders [we’d hosted most of them on their earlier trip to Australia]. They stealthily lead us between wattle panels either side of a narrow path and at the hide raised fingers to lips to indicate the need for absolute silence. To our utter amazement the expected “megatick” turned out to be a Tree Sparrow, a humble bird that had been a common woodland species during our youth in Staffordshire.

The birding was [for a couple of re-visiting exiles] rewarding, capped when we passed through a patch which presented us with crippling views of both Eurasian Treecreeper and Eurasian Nuthatch. Other species ticked included:

Canada Goose [50+]
Common Moorhen
European Blue Tit
European Goldfinch
Common Blackbird
Black-headed Gull
Great Tit
European Greenfinch
Common Magpie

But that had been then, now it was time to twiddle thumbs and ponder the niceties of polite family conversation and what one could be doing out in the field if only there was an appropriate escape clause.

Then the pager beeped, announcing a Black Tern at BELVIDE RESERVOIR. LIFER! That settled any lingering doubts. Even my sister couldn’t refuse me the opportunity of a lifer – and Belvide wasn’t far away. With luck we’d be back within a couple of hours.

There was a minor hassle in actually locating the entrance to the reserve; the book and our GPS didn’t quite marry but once there we hurried off – along the wrong path as we learnt soon enough. Nothing overly concerning. We arrived at the first hide and asked if anyone had seen the tern but were met with puzzled expressions. Clearly not every West Midlands birder uses the RBA system.

At the second hide we met up with STEVE SEAL, of “Staffordshire Bird News” fame. He readily directed us onto the term as it manoeuvred back and forth on the far side but fortuitously against the dam wall providing good contrast between lightish bird [this was a juvenile] and dark stonework.

Thank you Steve!

The tern was the cream of the crop of course but there was also:

Common Greenshank
Curlew Sandpiper
Pied Wagtail
Mute Swan
Eurasian Coot
Great Cormorant
Common House Martin
Ringed Plover
Common Starling
Coal Tit
Willow Warbler

Tuesday 7 September

Red-necked Phalarope [Image from RSPB]
If Monday was hectic, Tuesday was even more so. FAY and I left RUGELEY early to keep an appointment with our friends LES & SANDY of TEWKESBURY. We had a very narrow window in which to meet up; they were off to Kenya on Thursday and Sandy had to work on the Tuesday anyway.

Perhaps a brief background setting would be of value. The friendship is based on less than half a dozen encounterss!

We first met because of mutual friends when Les & Sandy came to Australia on their initial visit. They weren’t birders at the time although both, I believe, shared a general interest in nature and wildlife. The mutual friends, knowing that Fay and I had been monitoring a nesting Tawny Frogmouth, asked us if we could show them the bird, which we duly did. It was obviously an impressive sight as some time later, after their return to England, we were informed that the pair, but particularly Les, had keenly taken to birding. That made the third couple we had introduced to the pastime.

Some years later Fay and I visited the U.K. and Les & Sandy hosted us for a few days. They took us to Slimbridge.

We saw a little less of them on their next trip to Australia but by that time Les was a competent birder and easily managed his own sightings.

We revisited Slimbridge where, Les informed us, there had been reports, albeit several days ago, of Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope but of course, as is always the case in these matters, no one could promise anyone anything.

I suspect Les was hoping to repay that Tawny Frogmouth.

At the Zeiss Hide we hit “paydirt,” the RED-NECKED PHALAROPE! Not quick, furtive glimpses but long, sustained views which afforded us the time to check out several diagnostic features at leisure.

The pace continued at almost breakneck speed. We added:

Spotted Redshank
Common Redshank
Little Grebe
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Barn Swallow
Rock Dove
Eurasian Coot
Common Moorhen
Mute Swan
Grey Heron
European Robin
Northern Lapwing
Common Buzzard
Northern Shoveler
Herring Gull
Long-tailed Tit
Common Kestrel
European Blue Tit
Great Tit
Sedge Warbler
European Goldfinch
Black-tailed Godwit
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Common Snipe
Northern Pintail
Great Crested Grebe
Great Cormorant
Eurasian Teal
Common Kingfisher
Lesser Whitethroat
Black Tern
Yellow Wagtail
Pied Wagtail

But all good things must come to an end. This had been our first full day of serious birding; Belvide had been a couple of hours snatched from the jaws of boredom courtesy of the RBA. That pint of real ale at the Red Lion was most welcome.

Staffordshire List [2010]: 30
Trip List: 71

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