The Sandbach U3A Birdwatching programme for 2010/2011 began at Blithfield Reservoir between Uttoxeter and Rugeley on Wednesday 15th. A strong westerly blew us to our destination, and triggered a scrabble through rucksacks and car boots for extra clothing. Blowy autumn had arrived!
Ten members met at the western end of the causeway across the reservoir, and there we were joined by Roger Broadbent, the West Midlands Bird Club’s man at Blithfield. Roger’s help over the next 6 hours was to prove invaluable as he shared his intimate local knowledge of the site with us. We had been joined too by Chris Parry of the South East Cheshire Ornithological Society, along to lend us his experience (invaluable when extracting a couple of Barnacle Geese out of several hundred Greylags and Canadas).
Roger quickly found one of the two Little Gulls on site, and his running commentary of the bird’s progress as it hunted for food across the choppy water ensured all had good views of this magic Little Gull in its juvenile, black-W-across-the-wing plumage. The reservoir surface had a mosaic of hirundines moving across it in the strong wind with Swallows and House Martins the more numerous, but Sand Martin well represented. We walked up the Admaston Reach shoreline of the reservoir adding Skylark, Ringed Plover, 2 juvenile Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and brief views of a departing Yellow Wagtail. An insensitive driver on the foreshore put up the birds we were walking to see, but a large Ruff partially made up for that on the return.
As we left the dam car park a Hobby flew west towards Admaston. We crossed the dam and headed north, for the Stansley Wood Education centre, close to which we parked. First stop was the feeding area, where the star birds were a Nuthatch and a shy Chiffchaff, which kept to an elderberry bush at the back. We walked down to the new hide overlooking Tad Bay, and scaring out the incumbents, settled down to our watching and our lunch. We saw a single Black-tailed Godwit feeding around the Tad Brook outflow, and a smaller Ruff. Three eclipse-plumaged Ruddy Ducks were picked out amongst the Tufted, and several Shoveler painstakingly identified amongst the Mallards.
A Peregrine flashed across Duckley Plantation before diving across the Dimsdale Shallows to our left. And two Barnacle geese were picked out from the Greylag and Canada Geese multitude.
The majority of the group headed down to the hide at Beech Tree Point, where excellent views were obtained of the juvenile Little Gull. On the walk back three larger waders dropped onto the shore of Duckley Reach, across Tad Bay from us. Telescope scrutiny soon revealed three Greenshank, a thoroughly good end to an excellent day’s birdwatching, which yielded some 46 species.
Blithfield Reservoir is generally a site open only to permit holders of the West Midland Bird Club. Access by the general public is confined to the causeway which holds the B5013 road across the middle of the reservoir, and Watery Lane on the east side of the reservoir, which leaves the B5013 in a southerly direction, and sticks fairly close to the reservoir banks for about half a mile.
Next outing will be to Pilling on 20th October, where we hope to see wintering geese as well as waders on the estuary.