15 Sep 2014

Firecrest Hilbre and a few other migrants moving through

Steve rang me Thursday to say a Firecrest was in the trapping area on Hilbre - one of my favourite little birds and always a pleasure to see (and ring!). It was caught later but still present on the island when I arrived around 19.00 to stay overnight ready for the expected fall of migrants at first light  the following day. Unfortunately the combination of failing light and the birds constant feeding meant I couldn't get any decent photographs as even maxing the ISO on the camera only gave a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second!

Sexed as a female in the hand she was very active and continued feeding until it was almost dark before roosting. With a clear night forecast between 11.00 - 04.00 it wasn't expected to stay and the next day was gone.

The next day it became obvious there had been a small fall of migrants with Willow Warbler, Chifchaff and Goldcrests being caught and ringed. Meadow Pipits continued to move through the islands in small numbers and several were caught in Potter traps baited with meal worms - including this young bird showing a good moult contrast in the greater coverts between the juvenile creamy tipped outer ones and the new olive fringed adult-type inner ones. It had also moulted most of its median coverts except one outer one.

As the tide flooded the Wheatears started arriving and by the end of the day we'd caught another 4 Greenland race Northern Wheatears to add to an already impressive annual total.

Saturday was spent carrying out maintenance work at home and doing some ringing in the garden, where there have been lots of Greenfinches and Goldfinches taking advantage of the food I'm putting out, so it was Sunday before I ventured over to spend the afternoon on Hilbre.

With few migrants around the emphasis was on photographing some of the roosting waders and other birds.

                                                          Curlew coming in to land calling
                                                                        Adult Dunlin
                                                                  Juvenile Dunlin
                                                                          Ringed Plover
                                                                      Close up of a Turnstone

                       Montage of a Herring Gull dropping shells to crack them on the rocks
                                                     Oystercatchers flying off to roost.
                                                                             Meadow Pipit.

A single Chiffchaff and a juvenile Linnet were the only birds ringed.

As well as the photography I did a bit of maintenance and tidying up around the island making sure all the padlocks and hinges were oiled and working smoothly before this run of good weather ends.
                                 Sandstone weathering along the west side of Hilbre.

As the tide was late afternoon the sun was already setting before it had dropped enough for me to drive off allowing for one more artistic photo opportunity.

11 Sep 2014

Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope & Spotted Redshanks!

I'd planned to go to Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB straight from work last night with the camera. Knowing the light would be good from the old Inner marsh farm hide and knowing the Red-necked Phalarope and Pectoral Sandpiper were still showing from this hide I was hopeful of better photographs.

As it happened events conspired against me and it was just after 18.00 that I got to the car park and later still by the time I'd yomped the 15 minutes to the old hide. By now the light was beginning to fade as the sun set behind us but the birds showed reasonably closely allowing for some better photographs than I'd previously managed.

Firstly the Pectoral Sandpiper:

Next the Red-necked Phalarope. Really difficult to photograph as its so small and constantly moving:

Then the Spotted - Redshanks!

A brilliant evening capped off by watching the Great-white Egret and Cattle Egret flying into roost with Little Egrets by the mere.

8 Sep 2014

Cattle Egret

I spent some time with Barry on Friday installing another Little Owl box on his local farm as well as nipping down the nearby Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB site and a mad charge up to the north end of the Wirral.

Another pair of Little Owls have been seen on the farm so we've put a box up I made on an old oak in a suitable location. There are now 2 & possibly 3 pairs in the area.

The Cattle Egret was showing well at Burton Mere Wetlands as the cattle were closer to the reception area. They regularly took exception to the birds presence and chased it off back to the scrape where it would sulk for a few minutes before heading back for another round of bovine baiting. It was certainly feeding well and making inroads into the local amphibian population.

Just as I was returning to the car I got a phone-call telling me Kenny Dummigan had found a Wryneck in the paddocks adjacent to Leasowe Lighthouse - another really scarce Cheshire bird! I managed to get there in good time and had distant views of the Wryneck before it was inadvertently flushed by a woman coming into the paddocks to see to her horses. Despite another hours wait it didn't show again but luckily Steve re-found it later in the evening.

There was a lot of confusion at Burton Mere on Friday over a Pectoral Sandpiper. Jan Jones had found an interesting looking bird that, although distant, looked interesting enough for me to go and grab my telescope from the back of the Landrover. Unfortunately I got waylaid by the Cattle Egret on the way back to the reception hide and by the time I got back her bird had seemingly vanished and been replaced by a small Ruff (Reeve). Someone else claimed a Pectoral Sandpiper but when I looked all  I could see was a juvenile Dunlin! Mark Powell later rang me to say he thought he'd had a Pectoral Sandpiper earlier as well - curiouser and curiouser. All was explained later when Barry said he'd been down to the reserve later and seen all three birds together!

Returning to the reserve Sunday with Mark Payne the Pectoral Sandpiper was reported showing from the old Inner Marsh Farm hide. A Peregrine was disturbing all the birds and by the time we walked round the Pec had disappeared from view despite people claiming they were watching it whilst watching a Reeve. The birds were disturbed again and suddenly I picked up the Pectoral Sandpiper as it landed on some exposed mud and managed a couple of shots using the phone through the telescope.

With the Cattle Egret, Red-necked Phalarope, Pectoral Sandpiper and a good supporting cast of other waders and raptors Burton Mere Wetlands had a busy weekend.

5 Sep 2014

Red-necked Phalarope

After the excitement of the previous days Cattle Egret at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB there was another good find when Colin Wells found a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope spinning merrily around on the scrape in front of the reception building. This is a rare bird in Cheshire & Wirral although surprisingly it was the second record for BMW this year.

I arrived to find few familiar faces watching it and spotted it straight away. Although a bit distant I started setting the camera up only for all the birds on the scrape to suddenly take flight. Luckily someone watched it disappear towards the old Inner Marsh Farm hide  so Stan & I set off for the 20 minute hike along the new boardwalk.

I found it within seconds but unfortunately it was distant and we were viewing in direct sunlight.

Ringing Scot who'd just arrived at the reception hide I hung around until he'd seen it before heading off only to return later in the evening with Steve and Mark P to spend a couple of hours searching and waiting for the elusive Cattle Egret to not show............... Still, we had the added bonus of a juvenile Little Stint and a Water rail to keep us occupied.

Spot the Little Stint - photographed with phone through telescope at 70 x magnification! They are small.....

It was nice to see a number of Common Lizards basking in the sunshine as well. I can't remember the last time I saw one in Cheshire but they seem to be thriving at Burton Mere Wetlands.

As the RSPB's logo says 'giving a home to nature.'

Whilst on the non-bird theme, a day ringing in Barry's garden Wednesday not only resulted in just over 100 birds being ringed (giving plenty of practice for trainees Helen, Scott & Colin on the darker arts of post-juvenile moult) but fantastic views of a female Southern Hawker (cheers Pete) dragonfly ovipositing in the moss along side his garden pond.

2 Sep 2014

Ringed Plover and a Knot!

With wader numbers building up it was time for the SCAN ringing groups first autumn foray out to N Wales canon netting waders. The target were Ringed Plover with each bird being individually marked wit ha yellow numbered / lettered flag and a single red colour ring. The idea of the red colour ring is to draw attention to the fact the bird is ringed and hopefully get people to study it more closely to pick up the flag combination. The purpose of the study is to try and see how the birds move around and how this impacts WeBS Counts (more on WeBS counts here: ).

As usual with canon netting the setting up involved more hard labour than in the Alabama State Prison - especially as someone had nicked all the lump hammers from the lock up so we had to resort to banging metal pegs into a rocky beach with rocks! - followed by hours of inactivity lying on your back watching the sky whilst getting rained on and / or burnt to a crisp by the sun, whilst the flooding tide hopefully forces the waders up the boost to a site where the previous days recce suggests they should roost.

This time we were successful and the canons were fired resulting in a catch of 100 odd birds among which were 50 Ringed Plover, a good number of Dunlin, a smattering of Sanderling and a ringing tick for me in the shape of a single juvenile Knot. The Knot's plumage was gorgeous with the typical juvenile black sub-terminal bands and buff fringing to the feathers.

I ringed the Knot and then spent most of the session helping Rachel fit the colour rings. A messy job as the edges of the rings have to be glued to ensure they don't fall off to quickly. We also caught a few flagged birds from previous sessions and the data will be helpful in seeing how loyal these birds are to a single stretch of coast line.
 Adult Ringed Plover above & below.

 Juvenile Ringed Plover above & below. Note the fingers covered in Marley glue.

KC being fitted with his colour rings.

A great day although exhausting. Being outside all day and humping heavy wet nets and sacking around in chest waders makes for a good appetite!