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June 2015 Diary
Sightings, news and photos from Chasewater and surrounding areas.
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For latest bird news in the local area see Staffordshire Bird News (external link)

 

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It is so sad to report the passing away of Eric Phillips over the weekend. Eric has been such a huge part of the West Midlands birding scene for over half a century and was a regular visitor to Chasewater during this period. Rob Hume in his book Life with Birds refers to his first meetings with Eric at Chasewater in the early 1970s by saying: "Eric was a different animal from the others: he was a twitcher, in the proper, original sense of the word before the media picked up on it and misused it as a definiive term for a birdwatcher. Eric travelled the country in pursuit of rarities, but maintained his regular visits to local spots in the West Midlands and began, increasingly, to come to Chasewater."
Over the years, the initials EGP graced hundreds of records in the West Midland Bird Club's annual reports and to encounter him 'over the Pool' was always a pleasure. Even on one of the many quite days, with no hint of a rarity, his love and knowledge of nature exuded from this modest and seemingly ageless man. I first met Eric at Chasewater whilst I was a shy teenager and then was surprised and pleased to encounter him and his partner Bet in far away Cape Clear during the mid-70s and over the ensuing years his calm, yet captivating, charisma enchanted everyone. Even into his 70s he would cycle from Kingswinford to Stubber's Green and on to the Chasewater gull-roost and home again through a winter evening rush-hour as if it were no more than a stroll in the park. Eric will be greatly missed but he has left a huge legacy of happy memories of a man completely connected to nature (G Evans).

Rob Hume has also sent us these fond memeories of Eric.

I have been feeling miserable for several days since hearing the sad news about Eric Phillips, although I had seen little of him for years - in fact, the last time we met was at John Fortey's funeral. Before we had a telephone I used to walk to a call box each Friday evening and phone Eric, but often as not the greeting was 'Mrs Phillips speaking.' Eric's Mum would be ready, paper and pen in hand, to write down anything I had seen and, more importantly, to tell me anything already on the pad - Eric was one of the centres of the West Midlands grapevine then, much of his information coming from Dave Holman in Norfolk. 
We would meet at Chasewater or park behind Gailey pools, and go off on our travels to Wales, Norfolk, Portland, the Wyre or wherever - or more usually, Blithfield. Eric would usually be warm and dry in his old flying jacket - 'half a sheep' he called it - and generally stopped before we began to birdwatch to bring out from some hidden place his bowl of Alpen and a bottle of milk.
Often as not with John Fortey, we saw a lot of good birds - and Eric always joined the hunt for glaucous and Iceland gulls in the roost. We had a few autumn holidays on Scilly, too, with some great birds back then - Eric showed his great sense of humour on these memorable days in the islands. It was a bit tested when we drove north to Scotland only to meet a car load of Celtic supporters in Blair Atholl, head-on - Eric had to leave his battered VW Beetle and we came home on the train. 
Later we hired a car and went back, to start where we left off, heading north to see Scotland's best birds including a trek up to Cairn Gorm in deep snow.
Eric, John and Betty deserved their fantastic white-tailed plover and so kindly drove round to my home, far out of their way, to tell me about it - although, thinking it was then too late for me to go that evening, they kept me guessing with a game of 20 questions' - I never would have got it even with 120. But I did manage to go that evening and see it before dusk, along with Tony Blake and Alan Dean amongst others. Great memories.
Thanks, Eric, for some really good days.
Rob Hume 

Mon 1st Today a Sanderling, a Dunlin, a Ringed Plover and a Little Ringed Plover were present (PW) and during the evening 6 Sanderlings were on the Sailing Shore during a storm (GR). 400 Swifts were present during the morning (GR).

Sanderling (© PW)

Dunlin (© PW)

Ringed Plover (© PW)
Tues 2nd A Little Ringed Plover (PW) and 2 Sanderling (GR).
Wed 3rd Many Common Blue Damselflies were in flight and a Little Ringed Plover was present (PW).


Common Blue Damselfly (DL)
Thurs 4th A Little Ringed Plover was present along with 4 Common Terns, 330 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 15 Herring Gulls and 30 Black-headed Gulls. 2 Ravens flew north-east over Anglesey Basin where several Common Blue Damselflies, a Large Red Damselfly and a male Red-eyed Damselfly were over the canal. Several Common Blue butterflies were in flight, extensive patches of Floating Water-plantain were in the canal and several Round-leaved Sundews were evident though some were very close to the main latrine for the cows! (GE).
Anglesey Basin (GE) Large Red Damselfly (GE)
Fri 5th A Ringed Plover, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and 3 Common Terns were present (PW).
Sat 6th A Ringed Plover, a Little Ringed Plover, 3 Common Terns and a Cormorant were present (PW).
Sun 7th No records
Mon 8th A Sanderling, a Little Ringed Plover and 4 Common Terns were present (PW).
Tues 9th No records
Wed 10th No records
Thurs 11th Two broods of Willow Tits were seen, totalling 5 young.
Fri 12th
The monthly WeBS count produced totals of 52 Mute Swans, 32 Canada Geese, 142 Mallard, 10 Tufted Ducks, 23 Great Crested Grebes, 166 Coot, 4 Common Terns and an Oystercatcher. A Reed Warbler was singing from the overflow channel reedbed but this was being trampled and eaten by the cattle which had also grazed the Deergrass to the ground and deposited large quantities of dung on the Sundew site. However, they are having little impact on the invasive birch on the heath. Last year's colony of Bee Orchids in front of the Innovation Centre has been closely mown - no orchids this year. On the Norton Bog site there were 3 Red Deer and 2 Muntjacs (GE).
Mute Swan family on the Lagoon.

Large Red Damselflies (GE)


Four-spotted Chaser (GE)
Sat 13th No records
Sun 14th The Ironman Triathlon event took place.
Mon 15th No records
Tues 16th no records
Wed 17th No records
Thurs 18th  No records
Fri 19th
A second-summer Mediterranean Gull was present along with at least 10 Common Terns. 17 Tufted Ducks were on the Swag and 2 Oystercatchers flew over to the north-west (GE).
Record shots of the Mediterranean Gull (GE)

Sat 20th

The Ox-eye daisies on the dam have made a fantastic display on the dam this year (pictures courtesy of Brownhills Bob)
Sun 21st A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling on the North Shore (NS) and around 40 Bee Orchids are in flower at Norton Bog.
Mon 22nd Both Muntjac and Red Deer were traffic casualties on the by-pass.
Tues 23rd A female Black-tailed Skimmer was at Norton Bog.

Black-tailed Skimmer (GE)

Bee Orchid (GE)
   
Wed 24th
Three Bee Orchid plants have just about survived the mowing at the front of the Innovation Centre but more positively two colonies at Norton Bog contain 7 and 89 flowering plants. A Grey Wagtail was at the south end of the dam, several Common Terns were present along with 3 juvenile Black-headed Gulls. A Red-eyed Damselfly was on the canal and a male Broad-bodied Chaser on the boardwalk bog-pool. Butterflies included Speckled Woods, Large Skippers, Small Heaths, Common Blue and Meadow Browns (GE).
Broad-bodied Chaser (GE)
Common Blue Damselfy (DL) Red-eyed Damselfly (GE) Common Blue Butterfly (DL)
Thurs 25th No records
Fri 26th Several Common Terns, an Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper were present (GR).
Sat 27th No records
Sun 28th No records
Mon 29th A Redshank, Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper were present (GR).
Tues 30th No records