Monday, September 27, 2010

The End Draws Nigh

Rudyard Lake from railside

In birding terms, Friday 24 September was a wasted day. Fay was expecting a telephone call from one of the curators at the Shrewsbury Museum which kept us house-bound until the call came through. By early afternoon, with still no sign of that call, Fay telephoned the Museum only to reach a brick wall. We hung around as the information Fay was hoping to receive was of some importance to her. Sher continues to wait for that information.

Saturday 25 September was only a little better. We had a second appointment to meet up with Fay’s brother and his wife. We need squeeze in an early morning stroll along the towpath of the Trent & Mersey Canal, from Bridge 64 to Love Lane and then took the opportunity to revisit Leathermill Lane.

Sunday 26 September was earmarked for lunch with one of Fay’s more distant cousins in Biddulph, another genealogy aficionado; they shared the grandparents of Fay’s grandparents, whatever that makes them in relative terms!

However, Fay’s paternal grandparents ran the Wesrport Inn on Canal Street and while this beerhouse no longer exists [unless it’s the derelict Pack Horse Inn on the corner or alternatively the Sea Cades building at the other end of that section of canal – it does have the hint of former stable yards to it] Fay was keen to see the area and perhaps even come away with a photograph or two. Using a combination of an old Stoke-on-Trent road atlas and Where to Watch Birds in the West Midlands we headed for the [now non-existent] parking area on nearby Canal Lane. From here we simply followed the canal towpath, alongside Westport Lake- even if the Visitor’s Centre was completely fenced off!

The Westport Lake area did, on the other hand, provide two new Trip and Staffordshire List birds.

Yesterday, Monday 27 September saw us race off to Leek to visit an old favourite haunt, the Picture Book Bookshop and Churnet Valley Publishing in Stanley Street. Back in the 1990s, when Fay and I made frequent overseas birding trips [always calling in on the Old Dart to visit kith and kin] we made a point of calling in here – and, more often than not, either walking out with or having a collection of birding books sent out to us in Australia.

It shuts on Mondays!

We took the opportunity to visit Rudyard Lake and almost immediately came across a Mandarin Duck and Canada Goose.

Canada Goose on canalside.
It is a little after 0440 hours as I tap out these few words [sleep and diabetes often refuse to collaborate with each other]; the day is earmarked for taking my two sisters to Strafford-upon-Avon. How can I refuse them? They have made their home our home, fed us and generally looked after us during our month-long stay. Who am I to refuse them a small culture shot in a town that will almost undoubtedly be filled with tourists and Feral Pigeons?

Tomorrow [Wednesday 29 September] will be largely spent in packing and with final farewells. We leave for Brisbane on Thursday.

Trip List: 102 Staffordshire List: 62

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Essex and Back

View from our hotel room. Note strip of lawn through railings.

Right from the outset, at the very beginning of our planning stage for this U.K. trip, the Blackwater Estuary was always going to be an integral part of the itinerary. As a former history major, indeed as a current continuing student of history, it was one of those corners of English history that I had somehow always managed to miss visiting and once in Australia the distance seemed impossible.

The key to a quick, untroubled, journey down to Maldon, or more specifically Mersea Island, appeared to be the A14. Using our AA road atlas we plotted the route: head for Lichfield and Tamworth [A38, A5], connect with the M42 until it hit the M6 at Junction 4 and join the A14 at Junction 19. That would lead us to the M11 and eventually to the A120, A12 and finally onto the B1025 into Mersey.

And all went to plan until we hit the outskirts of Colchester, At this point the earlier free flowing traffic became an agonising snail’s pace; a long series of roundabouts and bumper-to-bumper tail-gating.

We did of course eventually manage to crawl our way around Colchester and join up with the B1025 all the way to Mersea Island.. Given that it was still too early to check into our hotel we veered off to the left on crossing the causeway. This took us to East Mersea, the more agricultural of the two Mersea Island townships.

We added Dunlin and Ringed Plover almost immediately on reaching the estuary.

Other than the one lunch appointment with another of Fay’s cousins we got in as much birding as possible, visiting Abberton Reservoir, paying a second trip to East Mersea and following a number of routes around West Mersea. New additions were made to the Trip List although the Cetti Warbler – and the vaguely possible Lapland Bunting [which the RBA pager had been dotting both north and south of Essex] - eluded us.

Oddly enough, one of the best sightings of the two days was a bird we hadn't even considered as a possible. Our room at the "Victory At Mersea" hotel opened out onto a balcony overlooking the boatyard and estuary but with the concrete carpark immediately below us. At the edge of the carpark, between it and the road, was a narrow strip of lawn. I was enjoying the first cuppa of the morning on the balcony when I happened to look down towards the aforementioned lawn and there, almost unbelievably, was a Green Woodpecker!

Green Woodpecker

Image from English Country Garden website.

Trip List: 96 Staffordshire List: 58

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Uttoxeter Quarry

View from public footpath


Following on from the rather disappointing, if not quite shattering Apedale Country Park experience, visit to Chasewater, Fay and I decided to try our luck at what for us was new Staffordshire birding site, Uttoxeter Quarry. I’d come across this via Richard Powell’s “Local Birding for Local People.”

As all too often seems the case when we attempt to follow directions given within the pasges of Where to Watch Birds in the West Midlands, we became somewhat geographically disorientated. In the end, having gone round the island twice, we took the bull by the horns and simply drove into the nearby Works Office and asked. The two men in the office initially appeared rather reluctant, hesitant but when I pulled the old trick of pleading that we had come all the way from Brisbane, Queensland, they mellowed in attitude, pulled down a large map of the area from the wall and gave us directions on how to proceed. Further, the more dominant of the pair contacted someone on his mobile telephone and soon secured permission for us to park in a gateway [unmistakable by the concrete trough placed crosswise].

On leaving the office I noticed a large, colourful plan of what appeared to be an impressive wetlands setting. The men explained that this was the company’s exit proposal once the quarry ceased to function.

We couldn't stay long - yet another date with more of Fay's innumerable cousins- but the Gadwall was both a new Trip and Staffordshire List entrant. Thanks Richard!


Common Wood Pigeon

Common Magpie

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull


Common Coot

Great Grested Grebe

Tufted Duck

Mute Swan

Carrion Crow

European Robin

Canada Goose

Pied Wagtail


Barn Swallow


Northern Lapwing

Greylag Goose

Barnacle Goose

Grey Heron

Trip List: 92 Staffordshire List: 58

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shades of Chasewater

Chasewater, falling levels. Image by Kevin Smith

We both retain a fond and enduring memory of Chasewater.
It was late December, mid-1990s. At the time the older of my two young sisters lived in Brownhills so obviously a trip to visit Anna almost invariably included at least a quick scan, often a longer look, around the reservoir. On this particular occasion there was a howling, near-gale force wind coming in from either the Arctic or perhaps even more distant Siberia. Whichever, the wind chill factor had the mercury plummeting well below zero; it was brass monkeys’ weather. A sheet of ice stretched across the surface, creaking and cracking as it shifted slightly under pressure.

Chasewater frozen. Image by Cuvu [no real name available]

We were parked somewhere close to the sailing club; we didn’t know any better and in those conditions few sailors would have weighed anchor to “Ahoy” a pair of eccentrics scrutinizing a large screech of gulls. There was a small patch of clear water somewhat ahead and slightly to our right – one o’clock to the car bonnet. For obvious reasons a colony of gulls had gathered on this ice-free section.

Also for obvious reasons, Fay and I scanned the birds from the warm comfort of our hired car, viewing through the windscreen. There appeared to be wall-to-wall Herring Gull in various stages of growth development from 1st-year winter birds to adults in full winter plumage.

It was Fay who spotted the one gull among a group off to the side that was different. You have to appreciate that Fay has perfect 20/20 vision and is particularly good at long distances. She can often describe intricate plumage details with the naked eye while we mere mortals race to our binoculars. Birding was a “natural” pastime for Fay to adopt.

Once I had located which of the gulls was “different” I had to agree that it did appear to be unlike its immediate neighbours but from my angle the bow in the windscreen and the choppy air itself made positive identification problematic. There was really no alternative, either we abandoned the attempt to distinguish it from the others and dismissed it as just another Herring Gull in one of its partial plumages or we braved the icy Arctic blasts to take a better look.

But which of us would be the one to leave the warmth of the car, extend the tripod legs, unzip the all-weather casing and focus the scope on the bird to view it at closer quarters? One of us would have to do it. We compromised and I went out.

With rapidly numbing fingertips and cheeks that felt as id they’d be stung by a thousands red-hot pinpricks I managed to home in on the gull but by that time my eyes were streaming rivulets of tears, blurring my vision so that it was impossible to focus on anything but a general amalgamate of white, grey and black; a massive blob of pied bird body. I dived back into the car, dried my eyes, took a deep breath and ventured forth again where only fools and oddball birders would dare to tread – praying that the anomalous gull hadn’t moved from centre scope.

It hadn’t and it wasn’t a Herring Gull. From here at Attlee Crescent, years from the actual incident and miles from my notes back in Nanango, Queensland, Australia, I can’t now recall all the diagnostic features we considered before coming to our joint prognosis [and we can disagree, leaving the bird unclaimed] but certainly the ring around the bill and the prominent eye-ring were foremost.

It was a Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis.

Given the above you can perhaps imagine how devastated Fay and I were on first sighting the Chasewater of [ 20 September] 2010. We had been warned, at the Chasewater Railway Station where we initially visited for a cup of tea, that owing to remedial work aimed at eventually raising the reservoir water levels there would be a temporary drop in water levels but the spectacle that met our eyes was beyond our wildest dreams – “Dunesque” in its arid proportions. Where water had once lapped the very edge of the carpark wall it now lay two score metres from the edge; where there had been megalitres of water there was now mere thimblefuls. The reservoir appeared as a chronic victim of aquatic cancer overdosed on chemotherapy.

There were a few species hanging around, mostly semi-tame waterfowl scournging titbits from the public together with a myriad of hybrid Mallard in all shades of plumage. Other than that I remained impressed only by the humble Rook.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Overlooking Teignmouth

As anticipated we could not access a computer during our time in central Wales and Devon. Indeed, in PENBRYN it was next to impossible to find mobile telephone reception, although I did once consider climbing to the top of a towering cliff abutting the caravan park. The replacement knee suggested this might not be a smart career choice.

On the other hand both these locations were primarily periods of visiting/staying with FAY’s relatives: birding would be incidental. The following blog is no more than a brief bridging narrative between DOXEY MARSHES and our return from ALBRIGHTON [Shropshire] this morning [Sunday 19 September].

Back in the late 1990s we had made a point of driving out to GRIGIN’S FARM in Central Wales to add Red Kite to both our Life and British Lists. A little later we saw the bird over the M40, a few miles beyond London. Now it seems the species is fairly common throughout central Wales, if indeed not even further afield.

We saw our first Red Kite low over rooftops as we negotiated a turn taking us around the outskirts of ABERYSTWYTH. A few miles further along, near LLWYNCELYN, we had our second sighting of this elegant kite.

Red Kite [Image from RSPB website]

At N52o 26’ 23” W03o 45’ 35” we spotted movement across the other side of the road and pulled up at a convenient layby. We added Common Redpoll to the Trip List. In the carpark of the DYFFRYN CASTELL HOTEL [ N52o 25’ 08” W03o 48’ 14”] we had crippling views of a pair of Common Buzzards gracefully circling overhead.

Using a previous download from [“Birdwatching in West Wales”] we found a small window of opportunity on the morning of Monday 13 September and made our way to POPPIT SANDS on the TEIFI ESTUARY. Almost immediately we sighted a small group of Eurasian Oystercatchers and just behind them a Little Egret and Whimbrel. The Eurasian Curlew, almost directly ahead of us, no more than a few metres distant, was a great bonus.

From POPPIT SANDS we travelled to the TEIFI MARSHES at the Welsh Wildlife Centre but by the time we arrived the earlier good weather turned and it rained. Nevertheless, on the vague promise of a possible Cetti’s Warbler, we trudged our way to “Kingfisher Hide” and then “Creek Hide.”

Looking out through Creek Hide

We dipped in both instances.

The “iron bridge” over the River Nevern was even less forthcoming but it was amusing to find a Yorkshire lass acting as barmaid at the Golden Lion pub.

Mute Swan on the River Nevern below the "Iron Bridge"

Tuesday 14 September found us making the long hike to TEIGNMOUTH, Devon. The funnier side of using a “satnav” to negotiate narrow Welsh country lanes must await telling another day [eventually on our website]. Suffice it to say that we only learnt of the Tour of Britain cycle race as we approached TEIGNMOUTH and were turned back to twiddle our thumbs at the nearby Smuggler’s Inn pub.

The delay also gave us the opportunity to visit the DAWLISH WARREN NATURE RESERVE – and again our true feelings about the Centre building and its almost ghostly staff must await the resurrection of our website. Fortunately the birds themselves were far more cooperative with the Northern Wheatear and Sandwich Tern taking the biscuit. The following morning we dipped on the Cirl Bunting at PRAWL POINT and remained unaware of the House Finch at EAST PRAWL until we were running too short of time to keep a lunch appointment with Fay’s cousins.

We returned to RUGELEY late on Thursday evening and the following morning headed out to BLITHFIELD RESERVOIR again. Having already birded both sides of the causeway we decided to try our luck at TAD BAY. There were a number of signs indicating that only “Permit Holders” were permitted to proceed. We had a permit but what the signs failed to tell us is that it was necessary to carry keys to open padlocked gates! That had us stumped and we wondered what the more elderly WMBC members did in such situations – we’d noted a young birder simply climb over the gate back at the ADMASTON side of the causeway. Or does the WMBC issue powered zimmer-frames capable of upward thrust?

Little more remains to be added. Later that Friday [17 September] we went across to ALBRIGHTON and although we did little birding we saw an awful lot of SHREWSBURY and enjoyed our time at the WROXETER Roman settlement site. However, possibly the highlight of the stay here was to show our hosts [and very good friends] a Great Spotted Woodpecker at their elaborate garden bird feeding station – it was a new addition to their garden list.

Great Spotted Woodpecker @ Feeding Station, Blithfield Reservoir

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Apedale Country Park looking out over the fields

In birding terms Friday [10 September] is best forgotten. We were never really going to get in much real birding. FAY had an appointment to meet up with an 82-year old aunty who had once lived in New Zealand but who FAY hadn’t seen in for many years.

We arose to a bleak, overcast, sky that threatened rain; a sheet of gloom descending over Staffordshire. Clearly it had rained overnight, leaving traces of water in crevices and between cobbles. The canal towpath would be too muddy, too slippery, simply too dangerous and when you’re limited in the number of clean trousers you can change into, caution tends to rule the moment.

As it had cleared slightly by 0830 hours we decided to leave RUGELEY earlier than was absolutely necessary for the journey up to NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME. Where to Watch Birds in the West Midlands indicated a few likely spots in the immediate locality of Newcastle. We opted for the Apedale Country Park.

It was raining along the approach road but again eased as we pulled into the carpark. We decided to go for it, our luck had to change. Wrong! It continued to cast gloom over the scene; the light made photography difficult and then the drizzle came down to punctuate an already miserable morning with a fine mist of raindrops.

Apedale wildlife?

The Carrion Crow and Common Wood Pigeon mocked our feeble attempts; they remained unconcerned with the rain. After meeting up with the fifth dog, all off lead, all sniffing around, we decided to turn back to the car. It stopped raining as we approached the last incline to the carpark; the sun popped out from behind a grey cloud and beamed down on us in mockery.

We’ll leave for Australia at the end of the month with less than fond memories of birding in the Potteries. Sorry, Richard.

At last! Some real Apedale wildlife!

Saturday 11 September

63 today!

Decided to celebrate my birthday with a quick visit to DOXEY MARSHES, on the edge of STAFFORD.

What a delight compared to yesterday’s debacle at Apedale Country Park. The only frustrating aspect is the knowledge that in all those years when we lived in Rugeley it had never occurred to us to visit here. What a glorious wetlands setting! I even forgive that pair of Mute Swans [with half a dozen older cygnets] who argued the toss with us as to rights of way! Something to tell the grandkids… baled up by a pair of swans on my birthday!

Today’s tally included:

Carrion Crow

Common Wood Pigeon

Europeaan Robin

Mute Swan

Common Starling

Common Magpie


Common Chiffchaff

Common Mallard

Black-headed Gull

Common Coot

Grey Heron

Canada Goose

Northern Lapwing

Common Blackbird

Northern Shoveler

Common Moorhen

Great Cormorant

Barnacle Goose

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Common Snipe

Common Kestrel

Barn Swallow

European Goldfinch

Eurasian Teal

Great Tit

Blue Tit

Again, following a little more tweaking, the current tallies stand atL

Staffordshire List: 54

Trip List: 74

We’re off to PENBRYN, on the central Welsh coast, in the[Sunday] morning, again, visiting FAY’s cousins who run a caravan park in the area. I’m unaware of the computer/Internet situation here, as I am unaware of the situation when we visit more of FAY’s cousins in Teignmouth, Devon, immediately on leaving Wales. so this could be the last blog until we return to Rugeley on Thursday 16 September.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Jay image from
It was always going to be difficult to immediately follow up on BELVIDE and SLIMBRIDGE. It’s not every day, or every couple of days, that you can pick up two lifers in as many days.

Much of Wednesday morning was taken up in returning from TEWKESBURY and thereafter in taking my two sisters to HANLEY, part of the STOKE-ON-TRENT conurbation. The only event of note was that Fay and I bought ourselves a new pair of walking shoes [FAY] and boots [me] from the local BLACKS store.

Goldcrest image from cieronymidou.blogspot.comThursday [09 September] did at least see us venture forth to the KATYN MEMORIAL on CANNOCK CHASE in lieu of our early morning canal stroll. Given the surname and memories of my father’s tales of the slaughter of Polish army officers by the Nazis -together with reports that this was a top spot for the local Nightjar- it seemed a good choice to [a] bird and [b]reconnoitre for a planned evening visit.

And while it was only a comparatively brief stroll through cobweb shrouded heather and bilberry patches, we did record a pair of Jays and our first 2010 Goldcrest. Other species included|:

Carrion Crow
European Robin
Common Magpie
Common Pheasant
Common Wood Pigeon
Coal Tit
Barn Swallow
House Martin

And eight Fallow Deer does along Kingsleywood Road on the way back to Rugeley.

And, with corrections from previous postings, the current tally stand at:


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

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Taken from the RSPB website.

Anyone can type in a list of species recorded at any one particular birding spot. There's no real talent in that. We all, however, in one form or another, do it. My list appears below.

Of more interest to Fay and I were the notable changes since 1999 [in my case] and even 2005 [in Fay's case].

We are aware of the decline in Tree Sparrow numbers but where are the House Sparrows? Have they also suffered a decimation? We came across a small handful during our two towpath strolls but back in 1999 they were profuse.

Similarly, while strolling through Rugeley's Market Square, we noted the absence of Rock Dove [Feral Pigeon] which once literally infested the old Town Hall clock tower. We eventually found a couple skulking down by the stream at Brook Square.

Where are the garden Blackbirds? The Starlings?

And when did WoodPigeon become so prolific an urban creature? Indeed, I've seen more Jackdaws in town than I can ever remember in Rugeley in bygone days.

Of course we haven't really started any serious birding yet, we're still at that meeting kith and kin stage of the trip. Nevertheless we have managed to "sneak" out a couple of times to do a little, mostly early morning when others around us appear to be still snugly wrapped up in bed- my sisters have already raised an eyebrow or two at my continuing habit of being up and about by 0400 hours!

The Trent & Mersey Canal is a mere stone's throw away; we enter at Bridge 65 [by the Mossley Tavern] and then either walk up towards Love Lane [next to the old tannery] or down to Bridge 64. Either way, we return via the road.

Yesterday, Sunday 5 September, because of a last-minute change to the family visiting schedule, we managed a few minutes at Blithfield. There were three birders at the Admaston end of the bridge but as I guessed they'd be intent on "ticking" the reported Osprey [we have a RBA rented for the duration] I decided to drive on to the other end.

Cold, overcast and dull but the Osprey duly put in an appearance and a little later, when I looked over, those three birders had disappeared.

There didn't seem much else on offer: Great Black-backed Gull, a solitary Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, in various shades of hybridization, Cormorant, Swallow and somewhere behind us, Woodpigeon.

We cut our losses and headed to Brocton Pool, which may not been its official name but is the name Fay and I have known it by since back in the 1970s. It immediately brought back poignant memories. On a previous visit here [c. mid-1990s] the resident in the end house first notified us of the major decline in the British population of Tree Sparrows. We can still recall, during a later visit to Norfolk, when a small group of local birders [we had hosted them on their last trip to Australia] swore us to secracy and surreptitiously guided us along a narrow path leading to a bird hide. With finger to lips Chris indicated the need for absolute silence. When we looked out both Fay and I were gobsmacked to find ourselves looking at a humble Tree Sparrow.

Back in our halycon Staffordshire days, Tree Sparrow was a common woodland species and certainly never anything worth writing home about. Vestiges of the American Passenger Pigeon?

Brocton provided us with a few gems, capped by magic views of a Treecreeper. We also added Nuthatch [seen earlier at Leighton Moss, Lancashire] to our Staffordshire List. Other birds included: Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Coot, Chiffchaff, Great Tit and, one of my particular all-time favourites, Long-tailed Tit.

And that's it to date.

Trip List: 35
Staffordshire List: 29

PS In an earlier blog I inadvertently gave the wrong URL for my propsed South Burnett blogspot. It should read:

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Just a brief note to advise readers that FAY and I arrived here yesterday [Friday 03 September] and immediately made our way north to LEIGHTON MOSS. Nothing overly outstanding with the Nuthatch at the feeder the clear favourite of the day. The Marsh Harrier was another gem.

The Tally:

Carrion Crow
Great Tit
Marsh Harrier

Alas jetlag was beginning to take its toll so we packed up our binoculars and scopes and headed south on the M6 "home".

Our current Staffordshire list consists of:

Carrion Crow