18 Jan 2018

Patch birding.

This time of year is always slow birding when your patch is an inland site mainly consisting of improved pasture with a few small ponds and copses. I've been out a few times and waded through muddy fields and ditches. Theres  a few species I'd expected to get that seem to have gone AWOL. I've not yet seen Coal Tit or Grey Wagtail but I have already seen Barn Owl (sat on a fence post early one morning a few hundred metres from the house), Snipe (6 flushed from around a reed fringed pond) and Reed Bunting (scarce for some reason here). Coot, Moorhen, Teal and Mallard are all regular on the local ponds but the pond in front of the house has failed to attract big numbers of wildfowl yet although we've had the first Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and Wigeon of the year. The Teal are all hiding on another overgrown local pond thats actually in someones back garden!

Other regulars include Pinkfooted Geese and of course our resident Little Owls which can currently be seen basking in sunny weather from our bedroom window!

14 Jan 2018

Treecreeper. New to the garden ringing list.

In our previous house I think I only ever recorded one Treecreeper in 20 years! In our new place a Treecreeper has become a scarce visitor in recent months. Setting a mist net to catch Redwings among the windfall apples I was surprised to catch a Treecreeper  - the first I've ringed in my garden and probably only the 4th or 5th I've ever ringed. The last one was at Catterick in July 2014.

                                             Treecreeper, Catterick, July 2014.

Prior to that the last one I saw in the hand was one ringed by Colin in Barry's Burton garden in 2011.

These little birds are really well adapted to their life of probing for insects in tree bark. Their tail feathers are stiff (like a woodpeckers) to aid them in climbing ands they've long sharp claws and a long down-turned bill for probing into small crevices.

Quickly ringing the bird and taking the required measurements to rule out Short-toed Treecreeper I took a few photos before releasing it back into the garden where it happily flew to a large Scots Pine and started feeding. I never did catch any Redwings! Still,there’s always tomorrow.

I've got plans to make a Treecreeper nesting box so that'll be next on the list of projects.

It seems that every continent has a treecreeper species (or more than one) or a species adapted to a similar habitat. The photo below is of a White-throated Treecreeper I photographed in Australia.

 Whilst, the USA, has a variety of Treecreepers or wood warblers filling that niche - like the Black & White Warbler I saw and photographed on the Scillies a few years ago!

A few years ago I found a Treecreepers nest in Stanney Woods and photographed the bird carrying nesting material to the site. The photo below illustrates really well how they use their stiffened tail feathers to aid balance and as they climb the trees.

8 Jan 2018

A cold trip to Hilbre

A dark and frosty morning saw the team braving the cold with the promise of copious quantities of tea and mince pies! As the sun rose it became apparent the day was going to be beautifully sunny but bitterly cold. This was reflected in the bird sightings with a presumably cold weather movement of Pinkfeets overt he island with flocks appearing throughout the morning.

Several Wigeon were also logged and the now semi-residnet flock of 4 Eider were present off the north end.

This small group have been around for awhile and its rare to have them for so long off Hilbre. With the population on Puffin Island Increasing perhaps these birds are from there rather than Walney island? Either way it would be nice if they eventually stayed to breed.

As well as the resident Brent Geese we also had four flyover Greylags. Star billing, however, went to nine Whooper Swans that appeared from the east before landing on the sea off the West Hoyle bank for awhile and then flying west towards Gronant where they were picked up again and tracked past Llandullas all the way across to the Alaw reservoir on Anglesea.

The first birds of the year were caught and ringed with a Blackbird and Song Thrush being trapped in the heli trap and duly ringed by trainee Thomas.
With the visitor numbers arriving from West Kirby increasing we packed up and left around 11.00 and I was home for 12.00. With the rest of the family out for the day I decided to go for a walk around the lanes to see what species  I could find for the New Year patch list. An hour later I'd added three new species - Bullfinch, Stock Dove & Nuthatch but failed to find Woodcock along the railway embankment where I'd seen them previously. A cold day turned into a cold evening and a beautiful sunset with Moel Famua bathed in a golden light as the slid behind the hills.

2 Jan 2018

Happy New Year and a review of the 2017.

Well 2017 ended with a bit of a whimper with a household full of flu!
2017 was our first full year in our new house and my first year birding a new patch. With 102 species being recorded its looking pretty good! 100 of those species have been recorded from the house with only Kingfisher and Barn Owl being logged elsewhere in the village. One of the undoubted highlights has been the resident pair of Little Owls followed closely by a pair of Hobbies that spent a couple of weeks displaying before moving off elsewhere to breed.

Our annual jaunt to the northern isles again took us to Fair Isle where, although we didn't find any major rarities this year, the sheer grandeur of the place and the spectacle of migration made it a memorable trip.

As far as county ticks I managed only one this year - Pallid Harrier.  Blue Rock Thrush was the first addition of 2017 to my British list followed by Western Swamphen (after the Minsmere bird we saw in 2016 was accepted). I had to wait until the autumn to catch up with another - Cedar Waxwing on St Agnes where we had a memorable day trip that included Cliff Swallow and Isabelline Wheatear as well as the Waxwing!

See here for a trip report.

Hilbre has had to take a backseat this year due to other commitments and I didn't get across to the island as much as I would have liked. I did manage to get out for most of the SCAN trips to N Wales and Puffin Island as well as a memorable trip to Formby to catch and colour flag Knot.

11 Dec 2017

Cold weather movements.

We've had the coldest spell of weather for several winters. Temperatures have been below freezing in our part of Cheshire with snow and sleet falling as a result of storm Caroline passing directly over the UK and sucking down cold arctic air.

The cold weather has resulted in a big increase in the numbers of winter thrushes and starlings feeding in the field opposite the house. A nice surprise came yesterday in the form of a small flock of Snipe that had presumably moved from somewhere colder and spent the day feeding around the edges of the flooded pond.

I counted 9 in total but there may have been more hidden away. This is only the 2nd sighting of Snipe I've had since we moved in last December and the last bird was in the spring.

4 Dec 2017

Number 97. Redshank

Following on from the recent Dunlin the wet field opposite the house has now attracted species No. 97 for the house and garden list. With the field being full of gulls after having farm yard muck spread on it I've been checking through them on a regular basis all weekend.  Friday afternoon I spotted this Redshank feeding around the edge of the pond and it remained all weekend.  Photographed at extreme range through the telescope- probably about 400 m!

29 Nov 2017


Its great when a plan comes together. When we first moved into our new house I was keen to attract some winter thrushes into the garden by leaving the windfall apples from our very old and gnarled trees on the ground. last year our builder asked if he could take some for his pigs and ended up taking the lot so no thrushes!  This year I've been collecting them in buckets (to stop my son & daughter in laws labrador puppy eating them!) and have been spreading a few around - its worked. We've had a few Blackbirds and Redwings feasting and at the weekend a couple of Fieldfares dropped in.

They were extremely aggressive towards the other birds and very protective of 'their' apple. They were also extremely wary and it took an hours wait  in the wet and cold, crouched down behind a wall, to get these photo's.