28 Apr 2008

Another Cheshire 'lifer'.

The week started with a steady trickle of migrants arriving at the Lighthouse Bird Obs (LBO). The weekend was going to be spent birding in Norfolk as part of 'Groucho' Paynes stag do and I'd arranged to meet Shropshire birder Mike Stokes at Chester railway station at 06.15 Friday before picking up Al Orton & Mark Payne enroute. Having time to kill we wandered around Stanney Woods with Molly and were just settling down to listen for the Lesser-spotted Woddpecker when Mr Podster rang with the news that two Black-winged Stilts were showing well on Neumans Flash. Frantic phonecalls ensued to the rest of the team to ensure they were up and packed before we hurriedly packed the car and set off. Finding out Malc Curtin hadn't got the message as his phone was off we managed to squeeze him in amongst the tonne of camping gear and duly arrived. After filling our boots with the stilts it was time for a delayed breakfast and we set off for Norfolk via Rotherham where year lister Al wanted to see the Yank Wigeon that had been reported from the local Country Park.
The Wigeon was easily found and within a short time we were resuming our journey to Norfolk. After setting the tents up in glorious sushine we headed to Cley to walk the shingle ridge behind Arnolds Marsh where two Shore larks were reportedly still present. After a long walk we found them just as dusk was falling and watched them feed amongst the shingle until deciding to head for the tents and a quick change before hitting the pub!

The next day (Saturday) saw us heading to Titchwell where we spent a few hours befoe deciding to make a dash towards Acle where a 'trip' of 13 Dotterel were reported. What a fantastic site. From here we headed back to the coast at Waxam pausing to view Common Crane before looking at two Ring Ouzels in the empty caravan site nearby. A Wryneck had been seen earlier in the same area and luckily it was still there when we arrived - despite some people trying to close!!!!
News that a pair of Montagu's harriers had returned to 'Norfolks worst kept secret' location (from the mouth of one of the locals!) had as driving the short distance where we were treated to fantastic views of these graceful raptors - at one stage the male chased off a trespassing Marsh Harrier almost twice its size.

Sunday saw as back at Choseley drying barns where we saw yet another trip of 8 Dotterel. A total of 21 in two days! Fantastic. Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers provided good photo oppurtunities whilst we hung around debating what to do next.
Eventually we decided on Dersingham bog where we hoped to pick up one of the Black Kites that had been reported around Norfolk all week.
No Kites but we were treated to a display by a pair of Goshawks as well as a Tree Pipit and a singing Woodlark calling just like a Beeeater - a sound I'd never heard before!
With time pressing we left for the long trip back to Cheshire via Baston Pits for Red-crested Pochard and then via Rutland Water where 5 Black Terns and the nesting Ospreys provided a welcome diversion.
A great week.

20 Apr 2008

Wow, what a week.

A stint of volunteer wardening at Neston Reedbed to, hopefully, prevent the local lobotomised knob heads from setting fire to it allowed me to catch up with 'our' local Cetti's Warbler as darkness fell. Two Whimbrel and two singing Grasshopper Warblers were year 'ticks'.

A meeting in Brigg thankfully finished early enough for me to divert up to Lytham St Annes in the fair county of Lancashire for a stunning adult Ross's Gull - only my 2nd in the UK. Thie first was in 1980! Ta to Big Al aka 'The Apprentice' for sticking with the bird until I got there. Unfortunately because I spent so much time looking at the bird it flew before I could get the camera set up. I believe two well known N West Photographers flushed it yesterday.........
The Lesser Spotted The Woodpecker performed well in Stanney Woods but my visit was cut short by news of a Cheshire Lifer along the M53 at Red Rocks. A stunning male Black Redstart. it showed distantly but well for about an hour before I left to walk around the Lighthouse Paddocks looking for more migrants with Frank Duff. Steve Williams beat it to us and phoned just as we arrived to say he'd got a first summer Ring Ouzel in the paddocks. Not much else around but after a bacon buttie at the excellent Lighthouse cafe we were joined by Allan Conlin for another walk around - the highlights being several Willow Warblers!
Sunday saw me shhoting back to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB with Al Orton to track down the elusive Garganey. A succesful mission accmplished in freezing weather. We also found the long staying 1st summer Little Gull amongst the nesting Black-headed Gulls.

Finally, the Mega Alert went off twice this afternoon - Calandra Lark on Fair Isle and Black Lark in Norfolk. I'm chilled. Both OML.

13 Apr 2008

A wet weekend in Cheshire

POETS day. That's friday - Piss off early tomorrows Saturday! So with glee I left the office to pick up Le Donis and the Apprentice for a trip to the eastern most boundary of this fair county. Our target was Ring Ouzel. A male had been reported singing at one of the regular sites so we were hopeful despite the inclement weather. Sure enough we were treated to superb views of a male and later a female. Nearby a single Red Grouse showed briefly but the local Dippers were more accomodating. A fly over Crossbill at Trentabank before the hail started falling was not relocated but we did manage a couple of Mandarin.

Saturday was a red letter day for my local patch of Stanney Woods. A male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker drumming and singing. A rare bird here. The last confirmed sighting was 10 years ago although several have been heard in the last couple of years. It was still there today.

Inner Marsh Farm RSPB didn't disappoint with female Marsh Harrier, Little Ringed Plover, Avocets, Spotted Redshank and a pair of Med Gulls (adult & 2nd summer). This fantasic little reserve will, if rumours are correct, soon be vastly increased in size with another hide and a new reception centre.

11 Apr 2008

Phew, what a week!

Still jet lagged Monday I was up and out early for a meeting at Runcorn via Woolston Eyes for Black-necked Grebe when the mega alert went off - Dark-eyed Junco Dungeness! It had to be done. With events conspiring against me to prevent me seeing the long staying Cheshire bird residing only 10 minutes from my house and missing the Norfolk bird last year this bogey had to be nailed!!!!!
A mad dash down to Dungeness saw me arriving just after lunch to join the throng of 50+ birders present. The bird eventually showed reasonably well but viewing was difficult as it kept going back into bushes in its favoured garden.
Satisfied I set off for home and had reached Sandbach when thenews from Mr Patchlister himself that a Long-eared Owl was showing at Neumanns Flash! I got there and enjoyed great views of this Cheshire scarcity before if flew!
Amazingly a White-spotted Bluethroat near Lancaster stayed a second day and the temptation of a 'race tick' was to much and I duly arranged to meet Malc Curtin and drive the short way up the M6 to where the bird performed faultlessly. A stunning little bird and part of a nationwide mini influx over the last week.
Thursday saw me on Anglesey and as I was returning to the office news came through that a Great-grey Shrike was at Moss Side, Moore. Another good Cheshire bird! With help from local birders Rob Smallwood & Frank Duff I was able to get straight onto the bird. This was my 4th Cheshire Great-grey Shrike since 2004. Unbelievably a 2nd bird has turned up today on the Wirral - unless its the Moore bird relocating!
Whats the weekend going to bring? Locally I hoping for Ring Ouzel and possibly an early Redstart. Nationally I predict Greater-spotted Cuckoo. Hopefully somewhere easy to reach.....

5 Apr 2008

Australia 2008

A business trip combined with the odd days R & R allowed me to catch up with some of Australias amazing birdlife. This was my 8th trip since 1997 to this Continent and my Oz list must be pretty good by now - I'll have to work it out. We started off in Melbourne and then travelled to Albury in NSW before heading to Sydney.

White-plumed Honeyeater

Eastern Spinebill

Superb Fairy Wren

Little Pied Cormoarant

Laughing Kookaburra

Tawny Frogmouth

Red-rumped Parrot