As my brother had got some free tickets to see Worcester Warriors play Sale Sharks on Saturday afternoon, the morning was going to have to be a close-to-home job, so I opted to erect the hide, and try my luck in the back garden. The problem at this time of year though is light, and it never really got light enough for good shots of anything, until it was time to head out.
Nevertheless, I was rewarded for my efforts by the arrival of the local pair of bullfinches, as well as the usual suspects. A coal tit came in close briefly, though an angry blue tit soon chased it off. Not very friendly! And a trio of long-tailed tits also paid a visit, taking it in turns to peck at the suet block.
The rugger was good, though I'd have preferred to have seen Worcester win. Sale were just a bit too good for them on the day, and the Warriors lost some key players early on.
Sunday was the planned birding day though. An early start - it was barely light when I rolled up at Kay & Max's place, with Reg just pipping me to the closest parking spot. Wasn't long before we were off ooop norf, heading in convoy to Doxey Marshes, to meet up with Richard Powell and Stuart (Alrewas Birder). Max's map reading skills were shown off to the, erm, max, as he took us on a detour off the Stafford junction from the M6, in the wrong direction. I followed, thinking the plan had changed, until a rather sheepish-looking Max made for a U-turn!
Moments later, he was at it again, scaring the local dog-walkers, as he tried to navigate his car down a footpath. I stayed back, chuckling...
Picking our way through the mud, we spotted a pipit or lark, and there were some finches around, gold and green, though in the light they all looked black. By the viewing platform, which had a rather delapidated screen in place and had to be the coldest place on the reserve, we spooked a water rail, which dashed by in seconds, disappearing into the reeds. Waaaay too far for pics were some geese, which Kay identified as being geese. No, seriously she spotted barnacles, though how she could see them on the geese is beyond me.
At this point, Richard arrived, wisely wearing wellies, and we went for a wander back to the main lake where we were supposed to meet up with Stuart. However, I had spotted something perched nearby, and snuck off for a closer look. Looking as chuffed with the conditions as me, sat a female kestrel, and she allowed me fairly close for a pic. An approaching walker scared her off eventually, though it could have also been the sound of my fellow birders, looming up over the hill towards me, all of them present at last.
A brief break from the gales and cold in a metal hide, allowed me time to review some pics and delete the odd 100 or so rubbish ones... and also get some fluid back in my eyes. Gales and contact lenses don't mix. Exiting the hide gave us a surprise. The sun came out, and with it... erm, not much else. Nevermind. We did get to see some tufted ducks, mallards and swans, the latter giving a nice fly-by. And on the walk back to the cars I spotted a reed bunting in someone's garden.
Next stop was for a gull viewing... anyone that knows me, knows how enthralled I am with gulls. The view point was from a bridge at a place called Cold Meece. I couldn't see any shivering mice, though a local common buzzard was mewing in a tree nearby, so perhaps it had caught one? I soon lost interest, and wandered over the road to see what was about the river side. Much more interesting, with goldfinches, long-tailed tits and a treecreeper mooching about.
Final stop the owls of Park Hall. Or as it turned out, the absent owls of Park Hall, as neither could be seen anywhere. Oh well, such is life. At this point in proceedings, I had to head back to civilisation, so left the others to risk their lives on the moors. Even the news from Kay that I'd missed the sightings of a short-eared owl and a hen harrier, didn't make me regret having to leave early, as I sat warm in my conservatory, sipping hot chocolate, watching the garden birds once more.