Firstly, some belated news from 27 November 2011. A male Merlin was seen flying across Tad Bay. May we stress again the need to enter important sightings into the log book or send them to blithfield@westmidlandbirdclub via email?
December was generally mild but as the month progressed it became increasingly wild and wet. Consequently water levels began to rise as the Blithe burst its banks during the last week. Diving duck numbers remained low throughout although Great Crested Grebes were present in greater numbers than 12 months ago. Wigeon, Teal and Mallards all increased as the winter advanced. There were also some record breaking counts for Lapwings and Golden Plovers. A Great Northern Diver put in a brief appearance. Iceland, Glaucous Gulls and Caspian Gulls were all available at the Deep End roost when on the last day of the year 2 adult Kittiwakes were a bonus. Last month's Merlin was still around, 2 Whooper Swans were reported in Tad Bay. Dunlin and Golden Plovers were present throughout on the diminishing muddy shore in Tad Bay. The only other waders were a single Redshank, 2 wintering Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper. A Black Redstart was in Mickledale Bay from the17th until the year's end.
The month began with about 60 Golden Plover in Tad Bay but their numbers tended to vary from one hour to the next. 30 Dunlin were still present. 2 Shelduck continued to prefer Blithfield for their winter home as did a drake Pintail. Just 87 Wigeon were in Tad Bay and 3 drake Shoveler. 4 of the 5 Pochard were drakes whereas the split for the 4 Goldeneye was two of each gender. 5 Mute Swans spent the month at Blithfield. 52 roosting Goosander were a disappointing maximum for the entire month. 13 Herring Gulls in the Tad Bay pre-roost heralded the start of the usual December influx. A Tawny Owl called at dusk. 24 Dunlin were counted on the 2nd when 50 Golden Plover were logged. A Shelduck was still present on the 5th when 8 Goosander spent the day in Tad Bay. 41 Dunlin were counted. The highlight though was an adult Great Northern Diver located at the Deep End. Although seen well its stay was all too brief. A Redshank was found on the 6th when a Green Sandpiper was again present. 15 Goosander were recorded and Golden Plovers decreased to 30. The Shelduck remained too. On a rainy afternoon Admaston Reach hosted 160 Wigeon on the 7th. 35 Great Crested Grebes were present also.
A Peregrine entertained on the 9th when 2 Pintail were present. A Buzzard was reported too. 2 Green Sandpiper were on site and 31 Dunlin were found. 120 Golden Plover were estimated to be in Tad Bay. During the day it was possible to compare an adult Great Black-backed Gull with several Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The Tad Bay gull roost revealed both an adult and a 2W Mediterranean Gull. An adult Caspian Gull put in its usual Saturday appearance on the 10th when a Yellow-legged Gull was also apparent within the growing numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 36 Dunlin were still present in Tad Bay. A single Snipe was located on the 12th. A Buzzard soared overhead and a Sparrowhawk was also reported. 9 Goosander were present mid afternoon. 23 Dunlin were found and 200 Golden Plover. The Peregrine was seen again on the 14th and caused extreme nervousness amongst the150 Golden Plovers and 25 Dunlin. The drake Pintail was seen again in Tad Bay where 5 Goosander were found. Only 23 Goosander roosted on 15th as the mild conditions prevailed. 2 Little Egrets fed at dusk along Yeatsall Bank. 300 Teal were in Tad Bay and 250 Wigeon. 850 Lapwing were counted before they were disturbed but there were many more. At least 100 Golden Plovers also took to the air. Just 3 Dunlin were found in the murky conditions. 23 Herring Gulls were in the pre-roost and 13 Common Gulls too.
Messrs Broadbent, Holt, Betts, Mant and Smith conducted the WeBS on the 17th in poor conditions as rain, sleet and snow fell throughout. The latter heralded his return to the team by finding a 1W/fem Black Redstart feeding around Mickledale Bay thus hastening the quick return to the Reservoir by two of the WeBS team who were on their way home to dry out. Although elusive at times the Black Redstart was to be enjoyed for the rest of the month by a trickle of twitchers. The Common Sandpiper was still present thus demonstrating this species increased tendency to winter in Staffordshire. A Green Sandpiper was included too. 8 Dunlin was a good December total. 141 Golden Plover were present in Tad Bay. Given recent estimates 454 Lapwing was a disappointing total. A single Redshank concluded the wader list. 31 Tufted Ducks was a little higher than expected but only 8 Pochard could be found. 16 Goldeneye was also a modest count. Similarly 5 Goosander were present but just 9 Coot were found. 9 Shoveler, 441 Wigeon,647 Teal, were overshadowed by a big count of 1014 Mallard. The lone Pintail and Shelduck were in Tad and Blithe Bays respectively. 79 Cormorant offered little evidence of the needless licensed cull. 14 Grey Herons showed little evidence of a significant recovery to pre last winter levels. 62 Canada Geese were counted and 26 Greylag Geese were not necessarily a true reflection of the numbers present on previous days. The 5 Mute Swans remained. 355 Black-headed Gulls stayed throughout the morning. Good numbers of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were also present. Later the gull roost produced 2 adult Caspian Gulls, 3 adult and a 1W Yellow-legged Gull.
The Black Redstart was rediscovered on the18th in better conditions. An adult Kittiwake was a good find at the Deep End. 43 Dunlin were still in Tad Bay and a Green Sandpiper was below the dam. A Little Egret was also below the dam on the 20th when an estimated 1000 Fieldfares were at various locations. Redwings continued to be in a minority. 7 Gadwall were new. Only 9 Dunlin were found on the 21st and just 15 Golden Plovers as water levels were now rising appreciably. Shelduck increased again to 2. A Gadwall remained with 2 Shoveler. 22 Goosander roosted. A male Merlin was reported around Blithe Bay. A Caspian Gull was again in the gull roost plus a 2w Yellow-legged Gull.
The male Pintail was seen again on the 23rd. The first ringing session of the month did not take place until the 23rd for a variety of reasons. A Bullfinch was a good find. A Goldcrest ,Song Thrush,3 Blue Tit,10 Chaffinch, including just two adult males, 8 Great Tits including 4 retraps and a retrapped Nuthatch and Coal Tit were the only other birds During the afternoon of Christmas Eve it was possible at last to have an accurate count of Lapwings present. A grand total of 1350 Lapwings was achieved and 204 Golden Plovers also. 2 Shelduck remained and 2 Pintail. 8 Shoveler were in Tad Bay and Pochard had increased to 11. 8 Goldeneye were in Tad Bay also. 21 Dunlin were found. A Green Sandpiper was in Blithe Bay. A lone Redwing was in Stansley Wood and 50 Fieldfare fed along Watery Lane. A total of 5 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 4 Nuthatch fed on the bird feeders. The Broompits feeder also hosted a Willow Tit. 150 Golden Plover were estimated on Boxing Day. Dunlin decreased to 15 and became increasingly difficult to find amongst the weeds. The Pintail was still in Tad Bay. The 2 Shelduck also remained and 2 Raven were seen overhead. 2 Whooper Swans were new in on the 27th when 2 Pintail and 2 Shoveler were present. 2 probable Yellow-legged Gulls were studied in Tad Bay. The 2 Raven were seen again and a Buzzard also. The mild conditions continued to depress woodland bird numbers as evidenced once again by a modest haul at a ringing session. 6 Chaffinch including just one male, another Bullfinch, a Treecreeper, 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Redwing were new. A Goldcrest and 2 Blue Tits were re-trapped. A massive 653 Golden Plover packed into Tad Bay on the 28th when 16 Dunlin were also located. A juvenile Glaucous Gull was a seasonal offering in the Deep End gull roost.
6 Common Gulls were noted on the 29th. The Black Redstart had become increasingly elusive during the last few days but it showed briefly in Mickledale Bay on New Year's Eve. 2 Raven vocalised excessively nearby. A flock of 75 Linnets were also on the shore and 12 Pied Wagtails fed amongst the cattle. The only Egyptian Goose of the year stood proudly on the grass at Portfields Bay causing some excitement for the Blithfield year listers who were further rewarded with 2 fly through Kittiwakes and a juvenile Iceland Gull in the gathering gloom. Meanwhile the Goosander roost assumed the disappointing total of 29. The drake Gadwall helped close the year with c200 Golden Plover , c600 Lapwings. Just 5 Dunlin were discovered. The final ringing session revealed only a Wren, 2 Chaffinch, a Coal Tit, 2 Great Tits and Blue Tits with one re-trapped Blue Tit and a re-trapped Long-tailed Tit. When the session closed the temperature was a mild 10.5° Celsius. The contrast between December 2010 and 2011 could not have been greater!