28th January. January Challenge Update

With just three days left of the month things have got pretty tight at the top. Rather suspiciously things have gone rather quiet during the last few days. Fortunately I have the rest of the week off and plan an assault on the top two though my chances of beating Mr Garner seem unlikely as he's secretly working on splitting the Common Crossbill into at least five species that only he can separate.
I scored heavily over the weekend with a tipped off Ruff at RV, a self re-found Firecrest at PHW and at last a Willow Tit. Sadly as I was obliged to tip off the others the former two lost all meaning - rules is rules.
Saturday afternoon brought Andy and me level until he obligingly found me a Dipper and was looking in the wrong direction when the Hen Harrier flew in. Sunday was mostly a no birding day but a text from Pete had me back at Aldwarke for a Chiffchaff which put Pete in the awkward position of lending me his bins to get it on my list. Three Shelducks on Orgreave late afternoon led to a severe rubbishing of the RV bird - which was met with some hostilities and accusations of suppression.

The coming weekend will prove interesting.

26th January. Credit Where Credits Due

I nicked this from the Torygraph after a tip off. I won't take credit for the story but I'm sure that it's more than a bit coincidental that pie sales have risen by 36 percent since the creation of this blog - I thank you!

British Pie Eating at 30 Year High

This tasty looking specimen was unavailable for comment.

19th January. Lunchtime Jaunt

The lure of a Pintail, this lunchtime, on the outskirts of Rotherham town centre was just too much to resist particularly knowing full well that Mr Wragg et al would be going. So arriving there to an empty car park was a surprise though not such a surprise when I soon realised that the target was also absent. A quick walk round also proved fruitless apart from the long staying Green Sand and a couple of Shoveler. Being as I was already out I thought I'd have a crack at Bolehill in order to finally catch up with Willow Tit - a species that is playing particularly hard to get. True to current form it remained hard to get unlike the Cetti's Warbler which gave a quick burst of song just to let me know it was still there. The fields around Treeton and Ulley were fog bound so feeling rather stupid I went back to work. With a current run of dipping the coming weekend will either make or break me in this silly addictive game - watch this space!

15th - 17th January. Positive Birding

Another long weekend meant I had the chance to catch up with Mssrs Garner and Wragg in the January challenge. Whilst I initially started in a fairly laid back style the thrill of the chase has taken hold. Having managed to combine a few key species with site visits earlier in the week the weekend was looking good to catch up on a few bogeys.
A few sites around Rotherham came good on Friday morning where I managed to add Green Sandpiper and Little Grebe at Centenary Riverside and Red-legged Partridge and Little Owl at Thrybergh. However my abandoned visit to RV left me still needing Willow Tit. The reason for abandoning was this cracking adult Caspian Gull found by Pete Wragg at Poolsbrook.

My return to RV to look again for Willow Tit and Chiffchaff was disturbed by larusophile Pete who had now found a Yellow-legged but not wanting to leave Bethany sitting on the doorstep I passed.

Saturday was never going to be a good birding day, several hours work, taking Beth to school and pissing down rain did not bode well. Fortunately I had a two hour window. I tossed a mental coin and headed for Beeley Wood in search of Lesser Pecker. Walking a mile or so from the car and scrambling up / falling down a railway embankment proved fruitless. Time running out and almost back at the car I stumbled upon a tit flock, gave a quick blast on the ipod and nothing. A text to Martin informing him of my failings did the trick and almost as soon as I'd pressed send the little bugger appeared in front of me. Another trip to RV mid-afternoon was again aborted in favour of 8 Corn Buntings at Pebley.

Sunday was going to be tricky I had to juggle family stuff with a few birds in the Peak. Monsal Dale first for Marsh Tits which eventually (after sending Jo and Beth to the cafe) were found adjacent to the viaduct followed by another sliding / falling over session on the ice.
The Derwent at Froggatt was somewhat in heavy flow and consequently the Dipper wasn't there.
Brambling appear to be in short supply this winter and Longshaw Visitors Centre at the moment is the only site pulling them in. Walking up to the centre I received a text from Pete which stated "Mealy Redpoll on feeders Longshaw" Bonus! A frustrating wait, another hot chocolate for Beth and a few tantalising glimpses of Redpolls did nothing for my patience - though an invisible skein of Pinkies over head added themselves to the list. I was clear by now that Jo was also losing patience - not with not seeing the Mealy or the Brambling but with my apparent obsession! Fortunately a nice white-wing barred, grey toned Mealy dropped on the floor with the lessers and a drake Brambling landed in the tree opposite. Brownie points now running in the negative we headed back to the car for a delicious crisp sandwich - I know I spoil them two!
Aware of a situation brewing I decided not to spend too long looking over Ladybower for Raven and thus failed. Another call from Pete left me frustrated in that he'd scored Raven, Dipper and Marsh Tit just down the road from Monsal Dale - bugger!

A quick tally up leaves me just 4 species behind the leader, though getting Willow Tit, Golden Plover, Raven and Dipper would see to that.

15th January. Piss Cock Partridge

Any of you lucky souls that pay out twenty + quid a month to Murdoch are in the unenviable position of being able to watch Bill Bailey's Birding Bonanza! Before you none subscribers rush to the phone with your debit card details, don't bother it's the biggest pile of crap to grace our screens since Big Top. I cannot be alone in thinking that the theme and title were born during an Alan Partridge type brain storming discussion or perhaps even Partridge came up with it.

I'm currently devising a new TV show. Basically it involves several groups of hobbyists gathering at a local gravel pits and beating the shit out of one another following a huge dispute over how great their opposing hobbies are.

14th January. An Apology

It would seem that I went a bit too far with my previous post. One should appreciate that with the continuing cold spell the poor angler is having a bit of a rough time at present and that their need to catch is the over riding matter in all of this and indeed in everything. I suppose I was a little rough saying that the old bloke had gotten his just desserts, nobody deserves to get beaten up whilst out persecuting wildlife particularly when they have 'permission'. So let's all kiss and make up and embrace each others hobby.

Ironically it was the selfish actions of an angler that had me venturing out to Strines for a site visit this lunchtime. Visit over and I decided on spending my lunch nearby at Wigtwizzle. A site visit near here earlier in the week conveniently saw me add five species to my month list including Black Grouse (allowed by mutual agreement) though failing on Crossbill. This time I was more fortunate and picked up three in the small clearing at Wigtwizzle. Pleased that wouldn't have to enter this snow bound hell again I decided to travel back down the edge of Morehall Res'. The reservoir was frozen solid and apart from a Moorhen void of life - however a real surprise was a hunting Tawny Owl sat on the fence at the side of the road. Presumably a very hungry individual and certainly the first time I'd witnessed this truly nocturnal owl day hunting.

10th January. Other Peoples Birds.

The continuing cold spell meant that almost all the water bodies in the area are just about void of any free water. On the plus side the freeze is keeping the fishermen away, no doubt tucked up watching Sky with a can of Special Brew and taking their frustrations out on the missus, also any open water did seem to contain at least a couple of photogenic Water Rails.

Sunday seemed to be spent looking at other people's birds. After an aborted trip to a snow bound RV we settled on a wander around PHW which on the whole was very quiet and very frozen and with the exception of another Water Rail we saw nothing. A phone call from Roy informed me of a viewable Jack Snipe at Bole Hill Flash. Given that the only 'in the open' Jack Snipe I've ever seen were from the Porthellick hide it really would have been churlish not to go, even if it was someone elses bird.

No snipe were flushed in the making of these photos!

Other peoples birds became a bit of a feature of the afternoon with another text about a roosting Long-eared Owl on Tinsley Golf Course.

The sudden interest in seeing other peoples birds stems from me stupidly taking part in the local bird groups January challenge league where I currently reside very close to the bottom with 84 though I have yet to venture far from the Rother Valley.

As nice as it is to photograph birds in snow, this weather is getting a bit tedious now!

Hard Winter Guidelines

I was recently asked the question "Would it be alright to use an i-pod to lure them out?"
Depends which way you look at it! For instance a singular species will no doubt be cheered up to hear the call of one of it's kind - raising the moral and giving it something to live for. In fact, imagine how depressed it might feel if it were alone without a friend in the world - it would probably lose the will to live and throw itself to the mercy of the elements. It is probably the use of the ipod (other media devices are available) that is keeping the Bole Hill Cetti's alive!"

"How about flushing birds" As for flushing birds. It is clearly necessary for some species to be kept on their toes - imagine how fat those Snipe would get if they didn't have a regular fly around. Their flight muscles would no doubt waste away and leave them in such an obese state that flying would be impossible consequently leaving them open to predation by healthy regularly flushed species such as Water Rail, Bittern and Short-eared Owl. Therefore for such species flushing should be encouraged!

This Fat Snipe was easily captured by hand and subsequently eaten

Of course these guidelines apply only during a normal winter. As we are currently experiencing particularly harsh conditions sensible measures should be adhered to. Flushing should be increased two-fold. There are several reasons for this but none more important than gripping off your mates with the largest species counts. Continued flushing will also prevent birds from freezing to death and sticking to the ice and as mentioned earlier keep them fit and alert.

If Ipod's are used try using a recording made in the Mediterranean regions, this will trick the birds in to thinking it's mid-spring and thus make them feel all cosy, warm and just a little bit horny. Calls accompanied by short bursts of classical music may suffice in the absence of any such recording.

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