Sunday, 10 June 2012

A proper go at Cannock

This morning we got up early and headed out to Cannock Chase to do a repeat of the trip I had there on Tuesday night. If you read that post you will see that I went in the drizzling conditions from 5pm onwards and managed to find Redstart, Tree Pipit and Cuckoo and came tantalisingly close to a Wood Warbler! Well if the views I had of those birds were ok then the results me and the nipper had this morning were out-of-this-world.
Only a few times have I proved to myself that old adage of "the early bird gets the worm" of those was whilst in Kos a few years ago when I spent five days having an evening visit around the salt pans at Tingaki and picking up one or two goodies before attempting an early morning visit (I think it was 5am! On my holidays! God knows how I swung this one past the girlfriend?). There are no words to describe the differences. I literally walked around gobsmacked ticking off Hoopoe, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Marsh Harrier, Great Reed Warbler, Greater Sand Plover, Squacco Heron, Temminck's Stint, Wood Sand, 63 Stone-Curlew in one field....the list goes on. The whole place, the feel, the atmosphere was simply alive. Completely different to the afternoon visits which were, now looking back, lacking in energy (from me and the birds!).
This same difference in the wildlife can also be attributed to Cannock. The weather obviously made the difference too - today was bright and cheerful, sunny patches, actually warm by lunchtime! But the other difference which I think is important at Cannock is the tourism industry. By 9am the place was thronged with mountain-bikers and dog-walkers, horse-riders and families out for the day. This is of course the magic of the place, the way that all these activities can be catered for is a very clever management system developed by the Chase District Council (among many others) but for the birder wanting to get good views of Cannocks speciality birds I heartily recommend getting up early, being the first on site, feeling the Chase wake up to a gorgeous summer's day!

male Redstart Wood Warbler uncooperative Spotted Flycatcher

And so to the birds - the only one we missed was Pied Flycatcher. A shame, yes. But when you consider that within the first 300m we'd had jaw-dropping views of 3 Wood Warblers parachuting their song around a birch copse, Spotted Flycatcher at the nest, numerous Tree Pipit, and 4 Redstart I think you'll agree it was worth the effort. We parked at the Punchbowl car park again and followed the main bike track to the Stepping Stones and then along the Sherbrook Valley. It was clear that Redstart and Tree Pipit had territories right along this track, we must have seen and heard at least 7 Redstart in total, and the Cuckoo was heard again in the Valley towards the heath. Brocton Coppice was popular with the Wood Warbler, but were not singing when we returned at 1130 so the emphasis to start early was brought home to me. At the top of the Sherbrook Valley where the track opens out to heathland a pair of Stonechat (another new for the year) stood on guard, and here we kicked a pale moth out of the grasses.

After a short chase we pinned it down and got this awful photo, to prove it was a Grass Wave - my first! We also encountered Cinnabar, Celypha lacunana, Common and Silver-ground Carpet as well as Small Heath and Large White butterflies and numerous bugs and other crawlies and flyers. It really was a beautiful mornings walk and if anyone ever says again "Why do you need to go birdwatching so early?", I'll simply say "if you're an early bird then you WILL be well fed"!

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