Red Grouse, Crib Y Garth

Or Cat’s Back or, most prosaically of all, Black Hill. But in any case the easternmost spur of the Black Mountains, which puts it in Herefordshire and thus in England. Which is rather exciting because the bird I heard yesterday (and Allan and Heidi saw, lucky them!) was only my third English record for the species. It follows the Forest of Bowland in 2003 and somewhere in Northumberland in 2006. Both a long time ago and it’s even nearly three years since my last encounter in the Pentlands. That’s what you get for moving away from Scotland.

Lagopus lagopus, which makes red grouse the nominate species of the ptarmigans. Yup, it’s really a willow ptarmigan and not a grouse at all but not many in this country bother with that.

So, it was a good year bird and several of those have started appearing lately. Today was my earliest wheatear, on the Severn Estuary coast south of Dowlais but north of Blake’s Pools. A distant grey plover was also new for 2011. Three days back, Upton Warren had my earliest little ringed plover and not quite earliest avocets. My trip to the Midlands also brought one peep from a tawny owl at the aunt’s place in Kidderminster.

Last week at Chew Valley the spotted sandpiper was showing well, the wintering garganey was still around and the Somerset list went up by one somewhat junk bird. An Egyptian goose has been hanging out by the picnic site for a while. I didn’t go for it but it found me as I scanned the causeway end for the long-tailed duck. No duck, but the one goose.

On 178 species Somerset now ties it up with Angus, which is a county with plenty of red grouse.

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