Saturday, 1 March 2008

United Kingdom September 1 - September 16, 2006

United Kingdom Trip Report
September 1 - September 16, 2006

David Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman

September 1, 2006

We flew out of Pearson International Airport, Toronto at 20:15h bound for Manchester on a nonstop flight with Air Canada. Despite all the publicity surrounding new security measures we found no evidence of more stringent procedures; if anything it was marginally easier than normal. We had to comply with the restrictions on hand baggage but we had packed accordingly and were in compliance. If anything, perhaps this new world of enhanced security has taught us to travel a little lighter.

September 2, 2006

Our flight was on time, but for some reason unknown to us there was an interminable delay in getting the bags through to the carousel. It was about a half hour before the first pieces of luggage started to appear and even then it was slow with periodic stops when no more items were delivered to the baggage area. However, after a wait of forty to forty-five minutes our luggage arrived and we were able to exit into the arrival area of the terminal.
David’s brother,Mick, and his nephew, Paul, were waiting patiently, and it was good to see a couple of familiar faces in the crush of people. They had inadvertently parked at the wrong terminal so we had a long walk to retrieve the car, but that was exactly what we needed. It felt good to stretch our legs after almost seven hours on the plane. It was raining heavily when we left Manchester for Uttoxeter, Staffs but it had pretty much stopped by the time we arrived. Little did we know that would be the only rain we would get other than for one other morning and a few spots here and there. For England in September, the weather would turn out to be glorious, with warm, sunny days almost exclusively.
We drove to Bramshall (just outside Uttoxeter) where we would be staying at Mick and Brenda’s (David’s sister-in-law) house, to be greeted by an affectionate hug, a cup of tea and lunch. It was good to be back in familiar surroundings. Paul had arranged for two weeks’ vacation from his job as a Train Manager with Virgin Rail to chauffeur us around to wherever we might wish to go, and since he lived right next door in a house built on land severed from the farm, it was a perfect arrangement for us.
After lunch we went for a short walk up to the village churchyard, where in the past Spotted Flycatcher had been reliable, sallying forth to snag prey from its perch atop the tombstones. Early to mid September is right around the time this species leaves for southern climes, but we hoped it would still be there. Alas, we had no luck, and as it turned out, we would not see Spotted Flycatcher on this trip. However, Miriam added a couple of lifers with House Martin and Common Swift and we also saw Blue Tit, Common Chaffinch and two Eurasian Collared Doves which have now pretty much colonized most of the British Isles.
It has always been our practice to try to stay up as late as possible on the first day, to try to get accustomed to the time change quickly, and to go to bed at around the time we would normally go to bed, so towards late afternoon, having caught up on family news, we went out to the JCB Park at Rocester.
Although created by this far-sighted company as a recreation area for its employees and the public at large, with a collection of native and exotic waterfowl, it has become a bit of a magnet for wild species also. White Wagtails were all over the grassy areas near the water and there was also one Yellow Wagtail, a lifer for Miriam. There were at least fifteen Great Crested Grebes, some with young, and we watched one adult feed a fish that appeared to be half the size of the chick, to a begging, posturing baby. The fish disappeared down its gullet in about ten seconds flat! Common Moorhens and Eurasian Coots were plentiful, again many with young.
Three Grey Herons flew in as we walked the perimeter of the lake, and both Lesser Black-backed and Common Black-headed Gulls were perched on the ornamental sculptures. We saw four Wood Pigeons, but we had already seen many of them on the drive from Manchester Airport. In fact, this species would become the most common bird we would see throughout the entire trip. Eurasian Magpie would be a close second but Wood Pigeon was clearly the title holder! Aside from the obviously exotic species there was a single Common Pochard on the water, a lone Eurasian Wigeon and the now ubiquitous Canada Goose in profusion.
It seemed that most, if not all, of the birds belonging to the collection were banded, but with free flying populations of Barnacle Geese, Black Swans, Egyptian Geese and others throughout the country, with several established feral breeding sites, it was not always easy to separate genuinely wild birds from captive stock. For example, on this day we saw three Barnacle Geese, all with leg bands; the following day when we returned there were over twenty barnacles and none of the newcomers were banded. We were subsequently told by informed local birders that Barnacle Goose is now breeding regularly in Northern England and Scotland and birds show up regularly at reservoirs and large bodies of water throughout the country. Apparently there was a fairly large escape of birds from the Wildfowl Reserve at Slimbridge some years ago, and birds banded in Greenland and Iceland are recovered from time to time.

September 3, 2006

In the morning we went to visit Fred and Sylvia Allen on whose farm I had worked each weekend and during summer holidays for several years throughout late grade school and high school. It was wonderful to see them both again. Fred is now seventy-seven years old and looks robust and well, despite having heart bypass surgery some years ago, and he is still sheep farming.
Barn conversion is a thriving venture in the UK these days. Old barns are converted into residences with all of the original structural integrity being preserved, and some of them go for high prices indeed. Fred and Sylvia now live in a converted barn on their farm so that they have everything on one floor, and it is quite beautiful. It’s hard to believe that I milked cows in there close to fifty years ago!
On the way to the farm we saw Common Blackbird and Ring-necked Pheasant.
Passing through the ancient village of Doveridge on the way back to uttoxeter, we stopped at the church of St. Cuthbert to see the ancient yew tree, now held together with chains, where local legend has it that Robin Hood married Maid Marian. It seemed appropriate that a European Robin was singing in the tree!
After lunch, Paul drove us out to Blithfield Reservoir, near to the historic village of Abbot’s Bromley, famous for its ongoing performances of pagan horn dances, to say nothing of the abundance of architecture from different periods in British history, going right back to the thirteenth century. The reservoir was created in 1953, when I was just ten years old. I remember it well, because a whole village in the valley was flooded. None of the structures was demolished and in periods of low water levels the tops of buildings can be seen poking above the surface.
The bird life at Blithfield can change almost daily and the many different bays and coves need to be explored to achieve full coverage. However, admission to many of the areas is by permit only, so we had to be content to bird from both ends of the causeway. It was incredibly windy and we had a hard time keeping the scope steady. However, the birding was good and we added the following species: Greater White-fronted Goose, Great Cormorant, Tufted Duck, the only Common (Mew) Gull of our trip, Mute Swan, Common Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Ruddy Duck and Barn Swallow. The Great Cormorant was a lifer for Miriam and the Common Ringed Plover a lifer for both of us.
Despite the wind it was a bright, sunny day and there were numerous ice-cream vending vehicles present. Many people seemed to have gone for a drive and were quite content to sit in their vehicle looking out over the lake, where there were fishing boats and wind surfers, eating an ice cream. Miriam had her first taste of that great English delicacy, a Ninety-Nine! For the uninitiated, a Ninety-Nine is an ice cream cone (or as they say, a cornet) with a chocolate flake stuck in the top. I have no idea where the name came from. It seemed, however, that this ice cream was extra sweet, because it came from Ashmore’s dairy, a local firm from whom I used to buy ice cream when I was a kid, and they still make it just as well today.

September 4, 2006
Today was not a birding day, per se. We went to the little town of Hartington in Derbyshire with Brenda and Paul, to visit the Stilton Cheese Factory outlet and to buy some cheese (which we did in large quantities at very good prices!). It was a lovely day and it was very pleasant to walk around the centre of town and poke into a few of the local shops. We had coffee and local pastries in a tea shoppe.
On the way to and from Hartington we saw many Rooks, Carrion Crows and five Great Black-backed Gulls. In Hartington Western Jackdaw seemed to be on every rooftop and their call was never out of earshot.
For dinner that night we picked up fish, chips and mushy peas in Tean and took them home to eat. And a fine meal it was too. No doubt our arteries groaned but our taste buds rejoiced! And the half a tumbler of Irish Whiskey afterwards didn’t go down badly either.

September 5, 2006
Today was totally dedicated to birding, beginning with the birds around the house. In addition to the
species we saw every day, we added Eurasian Greenfinch and Barn Swallow. We saw two Common Blackbirds also, mildly significant in that this was a species that we saw relatively infrequently.
Paul had become a member of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and took us to The Wolseley Centre, a small reserve operated by this organization. It is truly a wonderful little place, with varied habitat and a bird garden with feeders. We were delighted to be there. This was the only location where we saw Eurasian Nuthatch, with stunning views of it. Miriam is partial to nuthatches and had really hoped to add this species to her life list. In the bird garden we sat on a bench and were regaled by a steady procession of Great Tits, Blue Tits, European Robin, four Winter Wrens, a Coal Tit, Common Chaffinches and so on. It was quite delightful.
We then had lunch at the Wolseley Inn where the pub food was delicious to say the least. Miriam had salmon and broccoli fish cakes washed down with lager and lime, I had a mushroom, Stilton, broccoli Cobbler with a glass of crisply dry white wine and Paul had beef and ale pie with a pint of Coke.
After lunch we drove to Cannock Chase, which certainly didn’t live up to our expectations. The area that we visited was basically birdless! We saw a mere four species - European Robin, Carrion Crow, Eurasian Magpie and Common Moorhen. After about an hour and a half of futile searching we left to visit the Doxey Marshes near Stafford. That turned out to be an inspired move, since the Doxey Marshes were as productive as the Chase had been barren. Had I realized what a terrific birding area this is I would have made a point to get Paul to take us there earlier. We didn’t even cover a third of the reserve and were thrilled with the variety and quantity of bird life we encountered. Species of note were Hen Harrier, Northern Lapwing, Common Snipe, Northern Shoveler and Common Kingfisher. Of the foregoing the harrier, lapwing and snipe were all lifers for Miriam. We saw many other species also, and, as already indicated, the variety, numbers of birds and variety of habitat made this location quite special.

September 6, 2006

This was the day we had perhaps looked forward to most. Before coming to England we had contacted various members of the Derbyshire Ornithological Society and had arranged three days of birding with three kind people who had offered to help us.
Rod Key, a joint recorder with the DOS, had made an offer beyond our expectations. He had thrilled us with the promise of a day’s birding in one of the hot spots of East Anglia, the County of Norfolk, and in particular a visit to the RSPB Reserve at Titchwell. Today was the day! We were joined by Sue Jones who had agreed to bird with us in Derbyshire on Friday. Paul delivered us to an agreed meeting area just outside Derby and we set off in high spirits for the coast.
Our first stop was at Hunstanton Cliffs to look for Northern Fulmar. Almost as soon as we stepped out of the car, a fulmar was soaring on the sheer winds at the edge of the cliff. This seemed made to order and Miriam had her first lifer of the day.
Titchwell was everything we had hoped for and more. Rod told us that it was quiet there but you could have fooled us! After parking the car in the overflow parking lot (and this was the middle of the week!) we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker high in a tree. Another lifer for Miriam and it would be one of only two individuals of this species for the trip. On the way down to the wetlands and ocean front, we saw a Eurasian Kestrel hovering above a marsh. Several Little Grebes gave Miriam another lifer, eight Ruffs yet another. Pied Avocet was common and a lifer for both of us. By now you are starting to get the picture. It was already becoming a birding Utopia. Eurasian Curlews could be seen easily, a spectacular and distinctive bird, and Little Egrets were almost constantly in view. Rod said that Little Egrets, a true rarity just a few years ago, are now becoming so common in different locations around the country, that they no long elicit gasps from local birders. A flock of about fifty Greylag Geese flew over, four Eurasian Teal were sighted, Black-tailed Godwits were in the areas away from the ocean, Bar-tailed Godwits feeding where sand and salt water meet. We saw Common Redshanks, and seven Egyptian Geese. Two Eurasian Sparrowhawks cruised the marshes and a Western Marsh Harrier, one of the special birds we had hoped to see, quartered the marsh in classic harrier fashion. There was a large flock of Northern Lapwings, Meadow Pipits flitted hither and yon; we saw a Little Ringed Plover and later a Common Ringed Plover. On the beach were thirteen Black-bellied Plovers, a couple still in breeding plumage. Thank goodness for Rod and Sue to identify two flocks of about ten Common Linnets for us. There were Ruddy Turnstones, a Greenshank, many Eurasian Oystercatchers, seven Red Knots, Sanderling fleeing from advancing waves and returning to feed in frenzied fashion, three Common Eiders riding the waves with three Black Scoters behind them. After much searching Rod found a Curlew Sandpiper for us. We thought that we were not going to find a Little Stint, but on the way back to the car another birder pointed one out in front of us and we added this species to our day’s total. Already it was a wonderful day’s birding, but it wasn’t over yet.
Many of the species mentioned above were lifers for Miriam and some for both Miriam and David. Rather than keep repeating this fact when so many birds fall into this category, all lifers will be mentioned in the total species list at the end of this report.
After a lunch eaten at the car, Rod outlined a few options for the rest of the day. We chose to go to Northhamptonshire to try our luck with Red Kite, a species David dearly hoped to see. And we were not disappointed. Somewhere near to Kingscliffe, Rod advised us to check the sky and almost immediately Sue spotted one. We got out of the car and had prolonged and spectacular looks at this magnificent bird. Kites never fail to fill me with awe; they are truly enigmatic birds. A little farther on we saw another, there were two kestrels hovering, a Common Buzzard, and four Red-legged Partridges. Rod said that he heard a Green Woodpecker, another species high on our “most desirable” list. After a minute or so, the bird flew from one side of the road to a small copse of trees in a field on the other side, and even though David saw where it landed, the bird could not be relocated. This was one of the few disappointments of the trip - Miriam was looking the other way and did not see the bird.
Our final stop for the day was at Rutland Waters where we saw Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, three more Little Egrets, seven Egyptian Geese and all three species of wagtail. This is where we added the second Great Spotted Woodpecker. A real highlight was a second Curlew Sandpiper. A Common Kingfisher was just a blur of colour zooming over the water.
We headed back to Derby where Paul would pick us up, and learned that Rod had decided to accompany Sue and the two of us on Friday for our foray into Derbyshire. Buoyed by this great news and the inner contentment of a memorable day’s birding we headed for Bramshall and dinner.

September 7, 2006

Paul had arranged for four of us to travel first class by Virgin Rail to London for the day, in order to
give Miriam a chance to see at least the major highlights of the capital. So Brenda, Paul, Miriam and David all got up at 05:00h to travel to Wolverhampton to catch the train. It was a very comfortable trip down with an excellent breakfast on the train.
Upon arrival at Euston Station we took the tube over to Green Park and walked through the park to Buckingham Palace. We then went through St. James’ Park where the bird life is prolific, even in the centre of a large city, past Horse Guard’s Parade to Trafalgar Square and went into the crypt at St Martin’s in the Field to the cafeteria there. This was a lesson in just how expensive London is - $40.00 for four coffees and four tea biscuits! We purchased tickets for an open top double decker bus for a tour of the city, with the option to get on and off at any time along the route, and also with a boat cruise down the Thames included. We had a very informative bird’s eye capsule of the city and disembarked at Westminster Abbey where we went inside and took a good part of the tour, which was very interesting, Outside we could see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament along Westminster embankment. It was near here that we boarded the ferry for the trip down the Thames, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and many other interesting locations, both historical and modern.
At the end of the boat ride we took the tube to Harrod’s Department Store where we gazed only; then went to Harvey Nichols where we had a coffee and finally took the tube back to Euston Station to catch the train home. Dinner on the train with a nice red wine was delicious and even though we were delayed due to problems with the signals we were still home by about 23:50h.

September 8, 2006

We were glad that we were meeting Rod and Sue at 08:30h and not at 07:00h as was the case on Wednesday, given that we had had a busy day yesterday and had arrived home late. Furthermore, we had only to travel to Mickleover - at least somewhat closer than going to Derby.
It was good to see them both again and we set off for a day’s birding in Derbyshire, this time with Sue driving. We first stopped at Cromford to look for White-breasted Dipper, our target bird for the day, but had no luck, although we did see a Grey Wagtail. We moved on, journeying through classic Derbyshire Dales country with stunning vistas at every turn. We drove past Chatsworth House and on to Leadmill Bridge the second option for the dipper. This time we were lucky - no less than five of them! This was a much-desired lifer for both of us. We also saw a Grey Wagtail.
At Beeley Moor, our next stop, we got six Red Grouse, Lagopus lagopus almost immediately, two Common Buzzards and a Merlin. Miriam was Madame Hawkeye on this occasion; she first spotted all three species! The Red Grouse was a lifer for both Miriam and David.
After lunch at the Miner’s Arms in Brassington, we headed for Carsington Waters.
We saw numerous species from two different blinds, although there was nothing new, and a total absence of shorebirds. We saw six Common Pochards, the only ones other than the single bird we had seen at JCB. In the trees on the way to the first blind, we added Goldcrest, another joint lifer, and near to the second one our only two Eurasian Tree Sparrows for the trip, and a single Song Thrush.
The final stop of the day was at Bradley Dam, where there is a significant population of breeding Mandarin Duck. We estimate that we saw in excess of thirty birds, and Rod says that this location is doubtless the premier area to find this species in Britain today. We very much appreciated being there; we certainly would not have found it by ourselves.
Sue had to end the day by 17:00h to chair a meeting of the Derby Natural History Society, so we called Paul to meet us back in Mickleover and we bade farewell to our two new friends with the sincere wish that we might one day be able to reciprocate their kindness with some Ontario birding.

September 9, 2006

Today was the annual ploughing match in Uttoxeter when farmers young and old come together with their tractors of various vintages to display their skills at ploughing a series of straight furrows. There is also a category for horse drawn ploughs and a show of horses of different breeds with proud owners vying for the cherished ribbons.
This is an event which Mick never misses and we went there with him.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the hedge-laying contest. Hedge-laying is a venerable method of creating a hedge in Britain. The top growth of a hedge row is cut off and the bottom layers trimmed and bent and interwoven in a fashion to create a dense living barrier to prevent livestock from escaping from a field. The hedge continues to grow and after a lapse of a dozen years or so the whole procedure is repeated so that the bottom section is a dense, impenetrable barrier. This method creates habitat for wildlife, not the least of which is nesting spaces for many birds, and eliminates the cost of conventional fencing structures.
We had lunch in a large tent there. As might be imagined, this is where the typical English Ploughman’s lunch originated. It generally consists of pork pie, ham, cheese, salad and pickled onion, with copious quantities of bread and butter, tea and English trifle. Where but in England would such a lunch be served in a tent in the middle of a field on beautiful china plates, with real knives and forks, the tea on china cups and saucers, the dessert in china bowls? There is a small army of farmer’s wives and daughters preparing, serving and washing dishes in a tradition that has gone on for centuries. Long may it continue. It was encouraging to see many youngsters participating in the annual ploughing competitions. The prize money is nominal but the honour is eagerly sought.
On the way home we stopped at the Uttoxeter Recreation Centre where Mick is a member of a lawn bowling team and Miriam and David went for a walk along the river.
That evening Brenda prepared a lovely dinner and invited all the members of her family so that we could all get to see each other at one time.

September 10, 2006

We visited Chatsworth House, the ancestral home of the Earl of Devonshire. David has been there a couple of times, but it was Miriam’s first time to visit this magnificent English country mansion from a time gone by. It was especially interesting to visit an exhibit which had been put together to commemorate the life of the “old” Duke, Andrew, who had died a year or so earlier. One tends to think of inherited privilege in England as a sinecure to a lifestyle to which few of us can ever aspire. While there is obviously some of this involved in an ancestral dukedom, a completely different side of the Duke was revealed. He was obviously a man deeply committed to Derbyshire, a visionary, an art collector, a man concerned with his country, a valiant soldier and a person with a deep sense of civic duty. It was an unexpected side bar of this trip to get to understand a little of the life of a man so deeply rooted in this rugged part of England.
After lunch there, we went to Castleton to visit the gift shop at the Blue John Mines where Miriam wanted to look at some Blue John jewelry. She wound up purchasing a lovely necklace and ring for quite reasonable prices.
It was another glorious day, with hikers in abundance all through the Peak District, hang gliders floating through the sky, and a tree full of jackdaws to entertain us with their antics.

September 11, 2006
Dorothy Evans is the third member of the Derbyshire Ornithological Society to agree to help us with some local birding. We met Dorothy at Clay Cross at about 09:45h and immediately drove to an area called Cutthroat Bridge in the High Peak. We embarked on a stunning walk through heather and bracken on a day to make the gods sing. Even if we had not seen a bird it would have been a memorable day and one that we would look back on and salivate. The world is full of magnificent areas, and we have been fortunate to visit some of them, but this rugged Derbyshire landscape rivals them all. But birds we did see: eleven Meadow Pipits; a minimum of eleven Red Grouse, and possibly more; a lone Whinchat - a sighting which excited Dorothy and thrilled us; five Stonechats including a male near the end of our descent back to the bridge who obligingly perched atop some bracken to enable us to see every field mark; a female Hen Harrier; a Common Kestrel and a Grey Wagtail. Imprinted on my brain is the sound of Red Grouse calling “Go Back,” “Go Back.” It was such an evocative sound in that wild and brooding habitat. I will certainly go back there one day.
Before moving on to the next location, we stopped for lunch at the Lady Bower Inn where Dorothy and I had fine sandwiches, but Miriam, unfortunately, had a roast beef sandwich that needed a chain saw to cut it. It was the only pub meal that we had during our entire trip that was anything less than excellent.
Dorothy took us to an area in the Upper Derwent Valley known as the King’s Tree, commemorating a tree planted there by King George VI. Here we added Eurasian Treecreeper to our list for the trip when two landed on a tree right in front of us.
We stopped at the Fairholmes Rest Area to pick up a bottle of water and to check out the feeders. The most abundant bird was Common Chaffinch but there were also Coal Tit and Blue Tit, as well as two very vocal robins. At the Calver Marshes we added Long-tailed Tit and watched a Eurasian Kestrel hovering. Ashford in the Water produced four Mute Swans and about twenty jackdaws.
Dorothy had asked us what else we would like to see and we indicated that another dipper would be lovely. So we made Lathkill Dale our final stop and indeed saw a White-throated Dipper before we left. Also, we noted four Grey Herons all perched in and/or flying around the same copse of trees. Possibly there is a heronry there.
Paul and Brenda came to pick us up somewhere near Ashbourne and we bade farewell to Dorothy, with the sincere wish that she visit us in Ontario one day. We spent a wonderful day with her.

September 12, 2006
We left for Wales at about 09:20h driving through Chester and along the north Welsh Coast to Conwy.
We had a walk around the old walled town and had a lunch of fish, chips and mushy peas in a restaurant that proudly bragged “Probably the Best Fish and Chips You’ll Ever Eat.” Well, you know, they may just be right. The fish was well cooked in a light batter that was very tasty, the chips were fresh and firm and the peas heavenly.
After another brief walk along the walls of the castle, we went to check in at the B&B, “Fishermore.” We were greeted by the owner, Peter Dyer, who served us tea and cookies in the garden. The place was very nice, but as we found out at night, very noisy with substantial traffic along the main road pretty much all night.
We walked back into Conwy and had a drink on the outside patio of a bar down on the quay. Then we walked back to the B & B and met downstairs for dinner at 19:30 h. We went to the Groes Inn, the oldest licensed establishment in Wales, about two miles away and had a fine, but expensive dinner.

September 13, 2006
After breakfast at the B& B where we met a friendly couple from San Diego, Mick and Brenda dropped
us off at the RSPB reserve at about 09:30h. It wasn’t open at that time, but we were able to bird along the outside estuary, where we saw a Northern Wheatear, a lifer for both of us.
At 10:00h the gates opened and we went in to find that admission charges had been waived due to construction. A new visitors’ centre had just been built, with the old one being converted to a coffee shop. We walked the entire perimeter of the reserve and stopped at all the blinds. Eurasian Curlew was common and there were large numbers of Eurasian Oystercatcher. It was delightful to see substantial aggregations of Black-tailed Godwits and there was a flock of twenty-nine Common Redshank. A pair of free flying Black Swans had arrived there the previous day. Apart from the wheatear the highlight for us was a Common Kingfisher initially perched on the ridge of a sandbank and fishing from that “perch.” We had it in the scope for several minutes and were able to observe every detail of its plumage and behaviour. At one point it caught a fish, banged it against the hard, packed wet sand several times, until it was stunned and ate it. A Common Snipe was closely observed from one of the blinds. Once again we were able to really focus on all the details of its plumage.
Mick and Brenda picked us up at 12:30h and we left for Anglesey. We ate lunch at a pub in Holyhead on the way through and it was very good. Our destination was South Stack to see the Red-billed Chough and we parked at the top of an area of open heathland to walk across to the edges of the cliffs in a very strong wind. We were rewarded with excellent views of choughs and four Common Ravens and a Peregrine Falcon were an added bonus. When we left we passed a field where several choughs were feeding and Miriam was able to take photographs.
We were back at the B&B by 16:30h and Mick and Brenda went up to their room to rest. Miriam and I walked back into Conwy and saw a Common Kingfisher on the way. In Conwy we bought a bottle of wine to share with Mick and Brenda after dinner, to celebrate four years since we first met.
At 19:30h we drove out to a pub called the Fairy Glen and had an excellent dinner. Miriam had steak and ale pie and David had venison cooked in red wine.

September 14, 2006

We left Conwy after breakfast at the B&B to head to Betswy Coed. It was raining steadily and
continued to rain all the time we were in Betswy Coed. We walked around the town nevertheless and had a coffee before leaving to continue on to Shrewsbury.
In Shrewsbury we had a wonderful lunch in an old Tudor pub and marvelled at some of the Tudor structures still occupied as homes or functioning as businesses. We walked around town a little and then left for Bramshall.
Before dinner, when the sun had once again started to shine and the rain was but a memory, Paul took us out to JCB to get a little exercise and see a few birds. There was nothing new, but it was very pleasant to be there nonetheless.

September 15, 2006

We went with Paul to walk through the 30 acres of land Mick and Brenda still own at Snelston. The Churnet River runs along the base line of the property and it was a pleasant walk, although wet underfoot. Paul had a doctor’s appointment, so he dropped us off at JCB, where three Cackling Geese had arrived since last night. They were no bigger than the ubiquitous mallards there.
Rod Key had been given directions by a friend to a site for Eurasian Hobby near to Blithfield Reservoir and we went out to try to see this bird. We found the location, but despite a careful search we could not find the bird.
We also walked another nearby area alongside a canal where several holiday barges went by. It was a pleasant walk but there were no significant birds. Similarly, there was nothing unusual or different from previous visits on the reservoir itself.
Brenda prepared a delicious farewell dinner for us and we went to bed at about 22:00h to get a good night’s sleep to prepare for our long journey the next day.

September 16, 2006

We left for the airport at around 08:00h with Paul and Brenda. We made really good time and had a coffee together before saying goodbye and going through to the gate area. Our flight was delayed by about an hour, but the pilot made up someof the lost time. By the time we cleared customs and immigration it was about 16:00 h. We called to have the shuttle pick us up to retrieve our car and drove home, calling at Zehr’s in Waterloo to pick up milk, bread and a few other items. We were in the house by about 18:00h.

All species for United Kingdom September 2 -September 16, 2006.
Little Grebe LM
Great Crested Grebe
Northern Fulmar LM
Great Cormorant LM
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Greater White-fronted Goose
Greylag Goose LM, LD
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose LM
Common Shelduck
Egyptian Goose LM, LD
Mandarin Duck LM
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Eurasian Wigeon LM
Eurasian Teal LM
Common Pochard
Greater Scaup
Tufted Duck
Common Eider LM
Black Scoter
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red Kite LM, LD
Marsh Harrier LM, LD
Hen Harrier LM
Common Buzzard LM
Eurasian Sparrowhawk LM
Common Kestrel LM
Peregrine Falcon
Red Grouse (Willow Ptarmigan) LM, LD
Red-legged Partridge
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Eurasian Oystercatcher LM
Pied Avocet LM, LD
Little Ringed Plover LM, LD
Common Ringed Plover LM, LD
Black-bellied Plover
Northern Lapwing LM
Red Knot
Ruddy Turnstone
Curlew Sandpiper LM, LD
Little Stint LM, LD
Common Redshank LM
Spotted Redshank LM, LD
Common Greenshank LM
Black-tailed Godwit LM
Bar-tailed Godwit LM
Eurasian Curlew LM
Common Snipe LM
Ruff LM
Black-headed Gull
Mew Gull
European Herring Gull LM
Lesser Black-backed Gull LM
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Stock Dove LM
Wood Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Common Swift LM
Common Kingfisher LM
European Green Woodpecker LD
Great Spotted Woodpecker LM
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common House Martin
Meadow Pipit
White Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail LM
Grey Wagtail LM
Winter Wren
White-throated Dipper LM, LD
European Robin
Northern Wheatear LM, LD
Whinchat LM, LD
European Stonechat LM, LD
Song Thrush
Common Blackbird
Goldcrest LM, LD
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Eurasian Nuthatch LM
Eurasian Treecreeper
Eurasian Magpie
Western Jackdaw
Rd-billed Chough LM
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
Common Starling
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Common Chaffinch
Common Linnet LM
European Goldfinch
European Greenfinch

LM = Lifer for Miriam
LD = Lifer for David

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