Tuesday, 30 June 2009

BTO Atlas fieldwork

We're back in the UK for just a few days - in fact June is flying out to the Caribbean tomorrow - but we found a couple of hours this morning to complete our coverage of SK92B, our chosen tetrad for the BTO Atlas Project.

Two timed visits are required during the breeding season, the first in April or May and the second in June or July. Our early visit was made on 12th April when few migrant species had arrived so today we expected to add several new birds to the list.

We have sometimes been a bit disparaging about Doxey and from a birding point of view (or any other really) it doesn't compare well with our other base in Tavira. Having said that, life is full of surprises and this morning's two-hour walk across to Stafford Castle and then through the golf course to Castlefields and back produced two species that we would not have predicted: Kingfisher and Grasshopper Warbler.

We didn't see the Kingfisher well enough to determine its age or sex but it was certainly quite a way from any likely breeding habitat. It was seen at a small balancing lake, not far from Stafford railway station. A pair of Mute Swans with six cygnets, a Coot, a Great Crested Grebe and 25 scruffy-looking moulting Mallards were its only company at what is not an especially attractive site. Our guess is that it will soon move on.

Mute Swan

We have occasionally seen and heard Grasshopper Warblers at Doxey Marshes Nature Reserve, no more than half a mile from where this morning's bird was reeling but it was still very unexpected. This had become quite a scarce species in Staffordshire although recent years have seen something of a recovery in numbers which is perhaps continuing.

The point is that we were really too busy to go birding today but the BTO Atlas Project was our excuse to take time out. Not only that but it took us to an area which wouldn't have been our first choice as a birding destination. And we saw plenty of birds!

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