21 Sep 2017

A few recent garden birds.

The new patch / garden list is now up to 95 species with the addition of a flyover Green Sandpiper that presumably was disturbed from one of the several local ponds.We've also recently had the first winter Pinkfeet over and there has been a small but continuous movement of Meadow Pipits.

Here's a few shots I've taken from the bedroom window recently!

 Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker
 Male House Sparrow

Juvenile Robin
Female / juv Blackcap

18 Sep 2017

Bonxie - Hilbre

Another Hilbre visit  at the weekend with Al & Steve. Waiting for my lift in the dark at West Kirby the sound of waders calling filled the air. Dunlin, Redshank & Oystercatchers were all on the move. Arriving at the Obs as the sun was just beginning to rise we were greeted by the call of a Goldcrest and a Robin 'ticking' nearby. A quick round of the traps was rewarded with a solitary Goldcrest that was duly ringed and released. Whilst Al was making a brew he called me to look through the kitchen window at 2 Chiffchaff that were flitting around the bushes. At least 3 Wheatears were also on. One of the Chiffchaffs found its way into a heligoland trap thus doubling the total number of birds ringed for the day.

Three different Rock Pipits were seen and two more dropped out of the sky calling and landed on the west side cliffs and there was a small passage of swallow.

All the waders and gulls on Middle Eye were behaving a bit strangely and kept flying up and circling around. A couple of Peregrines were around and this seemed to be the cause of the disturbance. However, they all seemed to abandon Middle Eye which seemed very unusual. All was revealed when a Bonxie was spotted by Al flying off the beach at the south end of Hilbre and over the Obs before flying off north.

What a bruiser!

With the tide ebbing far enough to drive off we left the island only to be momentarily distracted by a Rock Pipit perched up on the cliff alongside the vehicle ramp. Using Al's car as a hide I managed  couple of decent shots through the open window.

Another great morning.

15 Sep 2017

Hilbre and a close encounter with a grebe!

For the first time for several years the weather gods colluded to give us prolonged north westerlies - Leach's weather! With my Landrover still off the road Steve kindly lent me his for a quick afternoon trip to Hilbre accompanied by Col & Kenny.

The tide was already flooding three hours before high tide when we set off from West Kirby. A stranded Great -crested Grebe was spotted on the rocks adjacent to the Landrover track by Middle Eye and Kenny leapt out of the vehicle and caught it. Grebes can't take off on or walk well on land as their legs are so far back. A quick examination showed it didn't appear to be injured and was probably exhausted - in fact Kenny sustained more injuries than the grebe had in trying to rescue it!

Arriving at the Obs we put it into a large bag to keep and warm and calm with the intention of releasing at at high tide.

Leachs Petrels were spotted from the Obs balcony almost on arrival and after a quick brew we headed down towards the sea-watching hide with the grebe in its bag for release.

It dived under water immediately it was released and we last saw it swimming back out to sea.

A good seawatch ensued with 16 Leach's Petrels being tallied along with 3 Arctic Skuas, Manx Shearwater and a pristine summer plumaged Black-throated Diver. We also had 6 Black Terns including 5 in one flock and numerous Sandwich terns but only two Kittiwakes.

31 Aug 2017

Long shadows

Long shadows and darker evenings - autumn is certainly on its way. Gossamer in the morning dew, brilliant sunsets and ripening apples on our trees. More sure signs the autumn equinox is on its way. The red berries of Cuckoo Pint make a brilliant splash of colour beneath in the dark areas beneath the hedges in the garden. Amphibians are already hibernating and an early morning collection of an unused pallet of paving slabs revealed a bewildered Toad. I moved him to the shed where he crawled underneath to find a new resting place. The Little Owl is already moving around and proclaiming his territory and wasn't best pleased to see me standing in the garden at 6.15 this morning with a mug of tea.

On the birding front my UK BOU list has increased by one as last years mad dash to Minsmere to see
what was (and now is) potentially the first UK record of Western Swamphen was worthwhile as its now been accepted on to the British list.
See here for report of that trip

26 Aug 2017


The weather gods combined nicely recently to enable an afternoons ringing in the garden before we left for our summer holiday in Ibiza. It was a pretty good session with 50 birds ringed of 9 species with good numbers of Greenfinches. Two new species were added to the garden timing list - a juvenile Coal Tit provided proof that the pair that started visiting the garden in the spring have successfully nested nearby. Star bird was this 2nd calendar year male Sparrowhawk. A really tatty individual that has started moulting its primaries. As can be seen from the photo the outer primaries are extremely worn. I've seen him around quite a few times recently and there's also a larger female occasionally visiting the garden.

14 Aug 2017

Colour flagging Ringed Plover with SCAN

Saturday saw me having a fairly leisurely start to meet up with the rest of the SCAN team in N Wales in an attempt to catch Ringed Plover and mark them with individual colour flags. This enables birds to be individually recognised in the field without having to recapture them and provides important data as to the importance of the Lavan Sands site for either a wintering or migration stop-over site. Two distinct moult strategies are apparent in the birds using this area - those that have started their annual moult winter in the UK whereas those that winter in Africa don't moult until they reach their wintering grounds. The African wintering population generally breed further north than the UK wintering population.

Once we'd set the nets its a waiting game. Despite forecasts to the contrary the weather was wet and miserable. Luckily it improved as we headed towards high tide and we managed a respectable catch of 168 birds of which 92 were Ringed Plover and the rest were Dunlin with the exception of a single Sanderling. All birds were ringed, aged, sexed (where possible), moult recorded, wing length, bill and head measurements taken and weighed. A great effort by the team and some interesting moults recorded.

Above: Juvenile Dunlin

Above: Ringed Plover aged 5 in with suspended moult moult with primaries 2-4 being old and 10-6 being newly moulted.

Below: Ringed Plover with suspended moult having seemingly moulted two primaries in its breeding ground and the rest in its wintering quarters.

The salt marshes and shingle ridges around the area are also home to some stunning wild flowers. Both Sea Aster and Horned Poppy were present although the Sea Aster is rapidly going to seed - a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed by the large flock of Linnets present.

7 Aug 2017

August doldrums.

There hasn't been much activity on the birding front over the last week although I managed a confirmed 'tick' when the BBRC announced the Stow Blue Rock Thrush from earlier this year had been accepted as a genuine vagrant! I was a bit late to the party on that one as it turned up whilst  I was in Australia. I had a great day Saturday learning how to make and repair mist nets - I'll need a lot more practice though!

We've been looking after our son and daughter in laws 12 week old Labrador puppy over the weekend and as Jan was out Sunday it was my turn to entertain her so no ringing or birding. I did record 36 species of bird in or around the garden whilst stopping her disappearing with my tools and through gaps in the hedge! .

Insects were the main thing though and I managed to find what I think is a Field Grasshopper (its the first grasshopper I've seen in the garden) warming itself on the garage wall and a Forest (shield) Bug.

As well as planting an area of the garden with wildflower plug plants to, hopefully, attract more bees and butterflies next year I've also planted a Lavender bed which is now flowering. The bees love it and sitting on the bench alongside it you can hear their constant buzzing.