Monday, 25 February 2008

Anything for the weekend sir? Wales win again and a Torres hat-trick!

In the Six Nations, Wales won again beating Italy 47-8 at Cardiff, with Shane Williams and Lee Byrne producing a bit of magic to score two tries each, and Tom Shanklin added another try to cap his 50th cap appearance for Wales.
Although Wales have now won three games in the championship, I think the last two games, against Ireland and France will the hardest games Wales will have play in the Six Nations!

One of the few highlights in Liverpool's F.C. season, has been the world-class performances of Fernando Torres. "El Nino" for short is the first Liverpool player for over five years to score more than 20 goals in a season. So it was pleasing to see him score a hat trick against Middlesborough this weekend.

Finally just for my mate John,I had a nice cup of tea and a pea-nut butter Muffin at a friend's house over the weekend!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Liverpool 2 Inter Milan 0 Hooray!!

Recently being a supporter of Liverpool FC has been a quite depressing experience, no chance of winning the league, and knocked out of the FA Cup by Barnsley last saturday.
So the result last night, thanks to goals from Dirk Kuyt and Stevie Gerrard,along with Rafa's tactically nous (probably the best manager in europe!) was great to see.
Hopefully in the next three weeks, in the return leg at the San Siro in Milan, Liverpool can finish the job off.

Come on the Reds!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Anything for the weekend sir?, A Dipper and a Ferret!

Starting early( Circa 5.45am) on saturday morning in sub zero temperature's,myself, Mark Skevington and John Hague ventured out for a birding trip to North Nottinghamshire and the Socialist Republic of Greater Yorkshire.
Our first port of call was Clumber Park to look for Hawfinches, which are normally around the chapel in the centre of the park.

Leaving the car in minus six temperature's we wandered around the grounds next to the chapel, taking the odd photo in the very atmospheric landscape of freezing fog and heavy frost. John then picked up a male Hawfinch singing on top of a nearby conifer tree. After John and Mark had taken a few distant shots of the bird with there new toys, the bird promptly flew off. The bird then showed again briefly in nearby trees, before flying off towards the nearby car park.
By this time, we were all feeling a bit peckish so decided to have breakfast at the greasy spoon opposite to the entrance to the park.
I would recommend the bacon and sausage cobs at this site, as their were the best breakfast cobs I've had for over the last six months!

Our next port of call for the day was Potteric Carr nature reserve, near Doncaster. This reserve is probably the best place in the UK to see wintering Bitterns.
The day before, the Bitterns had been seen from Piper Hide, so we headed to the hide first.
Looking out of the hide,most of the surrounding water was frozen, with the majority of the bird life sitting on the ice. Over the next hour we scanned the reedbeds, but the Bitterns refused to show. The only notable sighting we had was a fox cheekily checking out the ducks for the comfort of one of the reedbeds.
Moving on from the hide, we checked the feeding station out, were had excellent views of a feeding Water Rail underneath the feeders. As you can imagine John and Mark took a number of shots of the bird.
Following a quick coffee break at the field study centre, we checked out the rest of the reserve.
The only highlight we saw before returning to the car, was a couple of Willow Tits in the south part of the reserve.
The main reason for this trip was that John had never seen a Black-bellied Dipper, so the chance to see one not too far from Potteric Carr was too good not to miss.
Arriving at Watton, we checked out the brook were the Dipper had been seen earlier in the morning, but after a fruitless walk along the brook into the nearby wood, there was no sign of the
Maybe John had dipped the Dipper?!
Walking back towards the Mill House,the bird then suddenly flew along the brook in front of us.
Although the bird was wary of our presence, John and Mark did manage to get a few record shots of the bird.

Our final destination of the day was Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve for the Raptor roost.
Although the best hide (Singleton Hide) to watch the roost was closed because of a guided walk, we soon settled in the next hide along the path.
Sightings we saw from this hide included two Short-eared Owls flying over the large reedbed, at least four Barn Owls hunting over the reedbed,and up to at least eight Marsh Harriers roosting in the reedbed.
An adult Whooper Swan on a nearby pool was also nice surprise on the sighting front, and a year tick to boot.
Sadly we missed a roosting ring tail Hen Harrier as it was out of sight from the hide, and a Bittern which flew low over the reedbed, as the birder who found it,his directions were pants, and most people in the hide could not get onto the bird.

As it was dark by now, we decided to call it a day, and drive home to Leicester.
Dropping off John at his home, the final sighting of the day was quite strangely for myself and Mark, a White Ferret running along the main A6!?
Maybe there is feral Ferret population alive and kicking in Birstall, or some halfwit has lost there prized pet, answers on a postcards please?!?
thanks to Mark for some of photos!

Friday, 15 February 2008

National Chip Week

Over this last week, it has been National Chip Week (check out the link Love Chips), so this evening I will par take in eating some fish and chips from the local chippy.

Some chip facts for you:

1 out of every 4 British potatoes are made into chips - that's approximately 1 1/4 million tonnes every year.

Thick chips absorb less oil than thin ones; so chunky chips are a healthier option.

Given the popularity of the classic British dish, it’s no surprise that across the UK there are 11,000 fish and chip shops!

If you laid all the British potatoes that are turned into chips every year end to end they would stretch around the world 76 times!

It would take an area the size of 56,000 Wembley Stadium football pitches to grow all the potatoes needed for the chips consumed in Great Britain each year.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Anything for the weekend sir? Wales win, Manure lose!

Over the weekend, a couple of things happened which made me happy, Shane Williams showed a bit of magic scoring tries against Scotland in the Six Nations, for Wales to beat Scotland 30-15, and then Man City beat Manure 2-1 in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Although I am Liverpool FC supporter, I have always had a soft spot for Man City, so well done City for beating the scum.
Other things I did over the weekend included counting Ducks and Geese at my local birding patch of Watermead Country Park (please look at the Soar Valley birding website for the results) and then watched an excellent German film "The Lives of Others" about East Germany in the 1980's before the collapse of the Iron Curtain, arounded a friend house, after dining on an excellent home made Lamb Stew!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Wallcreeper twitch in Northern France 7th Feb 2008.

On Thurday 7th February, myself, John Hague and Bob Duckhouse twitched the Wallcreeper which had been on the cliffs between Boulogne and Wimeraux for almost two weeks.
We caught the 6.35am ferry from Dover(which actually left at 7.30am!), and treated our selves to the typical British Breakfast, which was not too bad for processed food.
After the breakfast we did a bit of seawatching, and had good numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets, Fulmars and Kittewakes passing the ship. The only other highlight we had before we docked was an Eider duck flying past the ship mid channel.
After docking at Calais we went straight to Boulogne to see if we could get onto the beach, but found that the tide was coming in very quickly, so we decided to check out the forests south of Boulogne for Black Woodpecker and other species which are scarce in the UK.
Arriving at the Forest de Hardelot, just south of Hardelot le Plage, we checked out the forest for the next couple of hours. Sightings in the forest included most of the common bird species, Bob then find a Crested Tit in conifers not far down the main track from the car. This was a WP(Western Palearctic) tick for me, so I enjoyed watching this bird for a good few minutes.
Other birds seen included good numbers of Willow and Marsh Tits, a few Bramblings, and slightly strange for us a large flock of Yellowhammers in the middle of the forest.
Walking back to the car, John heard a Black Woodpecker calling next to the road, so we had look for this bird.
Over the next ten minutes we heard the Black Woodpecker call a number of times, but it did not show itself, so we had to put it down as a near miss on the sighting front.
After a brief chat by the car with another birding crew from Sussex of the sightings we had seen, we drive back to Boulogne via a petrol station and a few local french villages.
We parked not far from the cliffs, and walked down the steep steps to the beach, which in fact were WWII German fortifications.
Meeting up with the Sussex crew again and couple of french birders from Lille, we started to check the cliffs for the Wallcreeper.
After what seemed an age scanning the cliffs (which in fact was probably only 15minutes)one of the Sussex crew shouted that he had the bird, and it was feeding on one of broken concrete fortifications on the beach.
The bird then flew up onto the cliffs, and we watched the bird feed for a good twenty minutes.
Although Wallcreepers are small birds, I will never forgot the colour of its wings, as it flicked over the cliff face, a beautiful crimson colour, with spots of white, which reminded me of a large butterfly.
We decided to try and get closer to the bird for photographic purposes,but lost sight of bird on the cliff.
Half an hour later and no sign of the Wallcreeper, we decided to cut our losses and go back to Calais to catch the ferry.
Other birds we saw around the cliffs included a female type Black Redstart and up to three different Mediterranean Gulls.
I must admit seeing the Wallcreeper on the cliffs will go down as one of my favourite birding experiences and finally seeing one of the mythical birds of European birding and a WP tick too boot!
Arriving back at Calais, it seem a bit of anti-climax at the end of the day, as we were delayed
for two hours waiting for the ferry, and the only birds of note in Calais harbour was a group of Yellow legged Gulls and couple of Kittewakes.
After the delayed ferry finally arrived, we got back home to Leicester just before 10.30pm.
I would like to thank John and Bob for keeping me company during this excellent trip and helping me with directions on how to drive in France for the first time!

Thanks to Sean Cole for supplying the photos of the Wallcreeper!

Hello and Welcome to Earl Gray blog spot

Hello everyone, following on from my friends who have started a blog recently(please see my links), I have decided to start a blog on my rants and raves of daily life mostly about my hobbies and interests, but also what is topical to me.
Just to let you know, the idea for the blogspot, came from my recent birding trip to Northern France to see the Wallcreeper near Boulogne and the famous advert by PG tips of a British chimp cycling in the tour de france (see links), and hopefully I wont be sued in the near future for the use of my blogspot!
Any way hope you enjoy my blog, and look forward to your comments.
Earl Gray.