05 February 2006

Super Bowl Weekend!

Okay, not the best photo of a Short-eared Owl, but it will do as a reminder of a great bird!

In the end I didn’t go after the Great Grey Shrike on Saturday afternoon - I didn’t have enough time and also the bird had not been seen during Saturday morning - so I just went for the owl instead! The bird was out hunting by 2:00PM, so even though it was a dull and cloudy day the views were very good as it flew around. Even better was the fact that the bird I saw wasn’t even at the site I had intended going to, but at one of the local patches that I visit!

On the lookout for prey.

This first site (no, I am not naming it!) also gave me my first Green Woodpecker, Shoveler, Shelduck and Grey Partridge of the year. All reasonably easy birds to find in Derbyshire, but they still need finding each year! After watching the owl for around an hour, I moved on to my second site of the afternoon, Aston-on-Trent gravel pits. These lakes are still being worked for gravel and are strictly private so my viewing was from the works access road alongside the A50.

I had stopped off here in the hope of adding Smew onto my list and, after a short while searching the lakes through my ‘scope, I had located a stunning adult male! Another great “tick” as these winter visitors are rather scarce in the Derby area. As a bonus, I picked up Golden Plover and Dunlin here too! By now, it was just after 4:00PM so I headed for home with eight new year ticks in the bag!

Saturday evening did not run quite so well…. The plan had been to go and see our friends, Paul & Ali, so I could get them started on the basics of running a Blog. All was going fine until we tried uploading some photos; they just would not publish to the Blog properly! After trying everything I could think of we gave up! I’m still not sure what the problem is, maybe an issue with the Blogger upload, maybe their PC, but it has me beat! Still, it gave us more time for the red wine and the Play Station!

This morning turned out to be dry, if a little dull and overcast, so I decided that I would try for the shrike. After a quick breakfast and then a drive of just over half an hour, I was at Walton-upon-Trent for 8:20AM, far too early for the Shrike as it didn’t decide to join us until just after 9:00AM! The first views of the bird were rather distant and, what was more worrying, it was on the far side of the river, which meant it was in Staffordshire! Not good when you're doing a Derbyshire year list! In the end, it all worked out OK as the Shrike came over onto the “right side” of the water to see a Kestrel off from what must have been the shrike's territory.

With all the birds I had hoped for this weekend all located, I decided to head back towards Derby and some local patch working again. I chose to go to Ambaston, a small area of old gravel pits, open farmland and newly planted woodland. Nothing too out of the ordinary here but it was nice to just have a steady walk around and see what I could find. More notable of the species here were Buzzard, Snipe, Redwing, and a feeding flock of around 200 Wood Pigeon. I also added a couple more year ticks with Yellowhammer and Skylark.

Not pretty whilst they are working...

...but old gravel pits can help the wildlife in the end!

Now it’s time for the American Football Super Bowl, so I’m about to go and get settled in front of the TV with a bottle of whisky and some Pringles! Tomorrow, I have an extra few hours in bed!

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