29 Feb 2008

A miserable wet day in Cheshire

After spending the week in cold but fine weather in Austria & Italy I found myself back to a drab wet and windy Cheshire today. Whilst away the local Sandbach crew had discovered a Green-winged Teal on Elton Hall Flash so I decided to leave work early and head that way today just in case. My first ever UK G W Teal was 'ticked' here on 30th November 1980 as a student from Manchester University!!!!!

A text from one of the birding regulars informed me it was still there as I still driving through pouring rain! Luckily Janet Jones had waited for me and managed to get me straight on the the drake G W Teal before retiring back to her car! As is usual with these birds it wasn't doing much but sitting minding its own business. The obligatory 'record shot' was secured for the rarities committee before I left it to its own devices and walked down to Pumphouse Flash for the 'resident' juvenile Iceland Gull (with deformed bill) and adult Yellow-legged Gull.

The feeding station was swarming with Tree Sparrows and I was informed the record count at this site is over 200.

Can you spot the Green-winged teal?

With the weather clearing but with high winds coming from the west I decided to take a punt on the N Wirral coast in the hope that something had been blown in! From the Gunsites car park the wind rocked the car but I could see plenty of birds moving in the Mersey mouth so headed for Fort Perch. A good move. A 1st winter Little Gull and two adult Kittiwakes were amongst the throng of gulls around the massive 'Atlantic Conveyer' being manouvered into the docks by three tugs! A check of the marine lake, boating pool and surrounding grassy areas produced the usual gulls but no Med Gull. At least 200 Starlings fed on a grassy bank alongside the main road.

20 Feb 2008

Cinclus cinclus amongst other corny happenings.

The week started well with a large number of Corn Buntings on wires along Carr Lane, Hale. 33 - surely a record for Cheshire in recent times. A quick scan from Within Way produced a good flock of 200 + Golden Plover on the arable fields but best of all two Short-eared Owls hunting the saltmarsh. Magic.

Cinclus cinclus - the TSB's self proclaimed Mr. 'Eye Candy's' nightmare! I'd never seen the Continental race of Black-bellied Dipper before so with work taking me over to Hull it was only a short trip across to Watton where this bird has been hanging around for the past week. Unfortunately I had to contend with thick fog and -5 C temperatures so photography wasn't really an option! However the 'record shot' was duly acheived.

Once I'd crossed the Pennines to civilisation the fog miraculously cleared and a beautiful crisp evening descended. My mate Le Donis had informed the Marbury Bittern was showing pretty well in the icy conditions so another detour was in order. Unfortunately the only views I got were flight views as it came in to roost.
Another day and another potential customer to see. This time in Macclesfield. Hmm. A Cattle Egret has graced local fields at Higher Poynton for a week. An ideal oppurtunity to catch up with only my 2nd Cheshire record after the bird at Neston earlier this year. On arrival I was dismayed to hear from other people that there was no sign. Oh yes there was! They weren't looking in the right place. Another misty morning, another record shot made viewable by the magic of Photoshop.
The bird didn't come any closer than about 100 m and eventually flew out of site across the hedge to another field. A quick search couldn't relocate it but I had the bonus of a superb Little Owl.

Whilst in the Macclesfiled area it seemed churlish not to look for Dippers at Wildboar Clough and Red Grouse on the nearby moors. The Dipper was hard but the Red Grouse performed well!

One of the highlights of this week has been the appearance of Siskins on the garden bird feeders. Favouring the Nijer seeds at least 4 of these beautiful little finches have been fighting off all comers. These are the first in our garden for at least 7 years.

17 Feb 2008

Moore is more.

Another epic marathon at the gull mecca of the N West finally nailed American Herring Gull although the jury's still out and the bird will have to be accpeted by the powers that be! However, from all the reading we've done and the superb views of the bird in flight and on the ground it certainly ticked all the boxes.

Statto Williams found another very interesting and very dark 1st winter Herring Gull at Arpely. Not the same bird but another very good candidate for a 'smickers'. Not only did we finally catch up with this bird but there were two different Glaucous Gulls an two different Iceland Gulls present.

One of the Icelands was a big bruiser whilst the other was quite a dainty looking bird:

To cap a good weekend I managed to get the Cetti's Warbler at Neston Old Quay in another long wait in the frezzing cold.

14 Feb 2008

Blast from the past

Piccies on my mate Pods blog taken at Cley in the late 70's early 80's got me reminiscing over the times when I also had more hair than now! These pics were taken on Anglesey in May 1980.

One shows me about to ring a Blackbird, another shows two Manchester University Bird Club stalwarts ( Dr Mike Hounsome & Dr Martin Jones) about to partake in a Coot lamping expedition whilst the third shows a number of the bird club members relaxing!

The guy next to me leaning on the wall went on to become science correspondence for theBBC - Dr Dave Whitehouse. Graham Megson married Cathy and they now reside in Northumberland where Graham works as an envoronmentalist for local Government.
Note the standard student dress of tight Levi's, ex-armed forces knitted jumpers and long hair! Anyone watching 'Ashes to Ashes' on BBC 1 will instantly recognise the era. Some people I know are still stuck in the 80's!

12 Feb 2008

Deja vu?

News that the elusive Great-white Egret (or another!) had forgone the pleasures of the Dee Estuary for the more refined surroundings of Rostherne Mere created a minor twitch this afternoon with Groucho, Le Donis, Frank Duff & yours truly standing in the churchyard scoping this bird from a great distance. No chance of a pic using the DSLR but managed a record shot with the Samsung handheld against the scope!
Unfortunately we were looking almost directly into a vey bright setting winter sun! No matter. We got the bird. My 3rd Cheshire 'lifer' so far this year.
However, the feelings of success were dampened slightly with news that the possible American Herring Gull had been seen and photographed in flight over the Birchwood Pool at Moore nature reserve. Le Donis, being a jammy git, happened to be there at the time as did Fred & Jono.
The good news is that its still around..............................

10 Feb 2008

WeB's count, Marbury - putting something back into our birding.

Mark P & Pod are carrying out the regular WeB's counts at Marbury. All birders should put something back into their birding by taking part in surveys or recording for their local ornithological society. To many birders seem to be happy to tick and run.

Anyway, I digress. I agreed to join Mark and give him a hand as it also gave me a good oppurtunity to give Molly a good walk. Initial fog gave way to glorious sunshine and we were soon racking up the counts.

Checking Kidd Brook for a possible wintering Green Sandpiper we came across a very showy female Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. A patch year tick for my Mark but my 2nd of the year. No sign of a Green Sandpiper but we did get one flying off Whitton Brook later! A large Redpoll flock on Neumans proved to contain Lesser's only. Walking round to Haydn's Pool we came across more Redpolls - one was obviosuly very pale and white and was picked up with the maked eye in some alders before we realised there were other Redpolls with it! Not a classic male Meally but probably a 1st winter / female type.

A very satisfying 4 hours birding.

9 Feb 2008

Spring is springing but not yet sprung.

The day started with a trip to Richmond Bank for a spot of larid fun. A few of the stigs ended up viewing the dump whereas us more refined birders took our chairs and sat in comfort watching the mind numbing number of gulls from 'the bank'. The Seaforth birder scored first with a 1st winter Caspian Gull on the Birchwood Pool of Moore nature reserve followed by a 2nd different one on the tip. A phone call telling us they'd had a 'white winger' in flight increased our enthusiasm but the next phonecall telling us somene had had a Woodlark on the capped tip almost made us want to throw ourselve's in the Mersey. It's debatable if you'd actually drown first or die of acute poisoning at this point.

Things looked up for us when a 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull was found and then a lanky looking gull was agreed by all to be 3rd winter Caspain Gull. Yet another one......................

Eventually the Iceland Gull showed itself and I managed a quick record shot. There was some debate as to whether this was a 1st or 2nd winter bird. it has the plumage of a 1st winter but the bill colouration of a 2nd winter.

With the tide racing in all the gulls dispresed and I headed home to pick up Molly and stomp around Stanney Woods.

Here is where the springing and sprunging comes in - one of the ponds was heaving with fornicating amphibians. Frogs and their spawn everywhere! I managed to locate the resident Marsh Tit(s) first on call and then later as it sang.

8 Feb 2008

Gulls everywhere.

Richmond Bank & Arpely tip still producing the goods for the gull enthusiasts although there does seem to be a fairly quick tunrover in the birds present. Only one Glaucous Gull has been reported recently but three were present a couple of weeks ago. Iceland Gulls seem to have also disappeared and I wonder how many reports recently have referred to this beauty - see below.

A pristine leucistic herring Gull showing some grey on the mantle and brown primaries.

One of the Seaforth crew was lucky enough to find an adult Kumliens Gull yesterday but despite the best efforts of some of Cheshire's finest it wasn't relocated.

No sign of the weekends American Herring Gull either but Yellow-legged Gulls now almost approaching double figures.

Two adult Yellow-legged Gulls amongst the Herrings, L B Backed & Greater B Backed Gulls.

Many of the gulls show signs that although the tip is a good feeding place it can also be dangerous - missing feet, missing legs and damaged eyes have all been noted. A probable sub adult Caspian Gull was also seen yesterday but was to far off to get any pictures. All the ones here have been taken by hand holding the camera to the 'scope - the birds are to far off to use the DSLR. Structurally it looked spot on being a very lanky dark mantled gull with a pointed rear end and a long snout. It's probably the same bird that's been seen here and on the tip in previous weeks.
Looks like Saturdays going to be a busy one with a lot of birders descending on the area in the search of a rarity.

Big ugly juvenile Glaucous Gull - only its mum could think it pretty!

5 Feb 2008

Why did I do that?

Saturday 2nd February.

I'd planned to go gull watching at Richmod Bank with a group of like minded idiots who like nothing better than standing in the freezing cold watching gulls come to bathe after feeding frenziedly on the nearby tip.

With Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull all having been seen recently (and all by me!) this is the place to be................

And yet......................

I decided to spend the morning traipsing around the Dee Marshes with Molly (my black Labrador) looking for an elusive and highly dodgy Great-white Egret.

Why did I do that when the lads found a 1st winter American Herring Gull on Richmond Bank!!!!

A great effort by the Seaforth crew who were joined, in part, by the Marbury patch lads.