26 May 2008

Red Kites & Skuas

Flushed with success after last Wednesday's Bluethroat Hilbre produced the goods again Thursday with a probable Montagu's Harrier looming out of the early morning mist. Unfortunately I wasn't there to see it! Thursday did result i nsome success though as a meeting in Leeds gave me an oppurtunity to divert down the M6 in search of a long staying Red Kite near Nantwich. I dfidn't actually have to that far as a Red Kite appeared alongside the A53 west of J18 on the M6 before dropping down into a wooded area. According to reports else where 2 birds were seen nearby at Nether Alderley near Macclesfield and one over the M6 in the same area on the same day as I saw mine. Could these be the bird(s) that have been seen regularly in the Alsager, Crewe, Nantwich triangle?

Easterly winds over the last few days again filled us with hope the Wirral might turn up the goods. Unfotuntately the wind has been so strong most self respecting birds have been hunkering down in deep cover.

The LBO team of Conlin, Duff & Woollen spent quite a few hours either drinking tea at the cafe or siutting on 'Honey Buzzard' bench over looking the paddocks and sea over the weekend. I though I'd got an Arctic Skua Friday but it was to far out in the heat haze. Problem solved Saturday when Allan spotted one careering west quite close in shore.

21 May 2008

What the Fc*k is that!

And so the words of the Secretary of the Hilbre Island Bird Observatory have been immortalised on the Worldwide web! What prompted such an outburst? Well I will tell you.

With S E Winds blowing all week and Bluethroats being seen on Bardsey and Aberdeen the weather conditions looked promising for a rarity on Hilbre so I rang Steve Williams and cadged a lift in the Landrover at 06.30 this morning along with Colin Jones, Pete & Doreen Williams.
Plenty of hirundines were moving and the first round of the heligoland traps produced a Spotted Flycatcher and a couple of Willow Warblers - a good sign. We had just finished our first cup of tea of the day made by the incomparable Doreen when I spotted an unusual looking bird perched up on the highest point of the island to the south of the Obs. Just its head was showing and calling Steve we both looked looked at it umming and aghhing, or in Steves case swearing ' what the fc*k is that. Look at the super on it'. At that point the bird dived into deep cover and calling the others we made our way towards where it had disappeared. Steve muttered something about a Rubythroat whilst I suggested, partially out of hope, Bluethroat!

Walking slowly through the bracken the bird suddenly flew low in front of us. Pete Williams was probably the first to yell 'Bluethroat' as the bird shot passed him, giving us all a good view of its distinctive tail pattern and veered across to the pond. The bird soon got moved on by the local Meadow Pipits and returned to for whatever will be known as 'Bluethroat Ridge'

The news was put out and local birders informed. Mark Turner & Allan Conlin were two of the first to arrive.Then began a game of hide and seek as the bird defied all attempts to get much detail on it. Initially we thought it wasa 1st summer male, then and adult female..................

Eventually the problem was solved when the bird flew through the Obs garden and got caught in the bottom shelf of a mist net. Red-spotted Bluethroat. 1st summer male!!!!!!

Added excitement was provided by an Osprey between Hilbre & Point of Ayr getting mobbed by large gulls. The good news is that the Bluethroat stayed on the Island and was seen by a number of visiting birders including Frank Duff who managed to get back from Belfast in time!!!

19 May 2008

A weekend of contrasts!

Saturday started well with a male Redstart in Stanney Woods and soon got better with news of a Spoonbill at Inner Marsh Farm. I arrived just in time to see it fly from the top of the trees i nthe Heronry and disappear. Thankfully it reappeared back on No. 1 pool just after I decided the hide was to full and returned to the bench. With three male Garganey, the Whiskered Tern and Little Egrets flying backwards and forwards to their nests the scene was reminiscent of the Carmargue!

With news that Portland Obs had trapped a lifer in the form of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Malc, Jase, Dan Pointon & myslef made plans to go down Sunday -especially as the overnight weather looked wet meaning, hopefully, the bird wouldn't fly off. A disastorous decision. Not only did the Olvaceous not play ball but we missed the Thrush Nightingale having only brief flight views of Little Bittern for consolation whilst the LBO hosted a very showy Red-rumped Swallow! Aghhhhh! My experiences yesterday have almost put me off 'twitching'. Never have I come across such a bunch of people possessing so little in the way of basic fieldcraft. Sprossers are skulkers. Breaking the skyline standing above the quarry its in whilst talking incessantly and loudly and taking phone calls is not the best way to see one. Keeping a low profile, being quiet, and putting phones / pagers on mute probably helps. Gutted of Cheshire....

15 May 2008

Coenraad Jacob's Stint

Bit if a mouthful that. Probably why it was called Temminck's Stint after the venerable old Dutch geezer who did so much for ornithology in the 19th Century.
With so many Temminck's Stints in the country I'd hoped one would turn up in Cheshire & hoped I'd be the one to find it at Decca Pools or IMF! No such luck and I was in work when I failed to see Stephen Menzies message to say he'd found one on Frodsham No. 6 tank! I even failed to notice the pager message and the first I knew was when Malc Curtin rang me.Cue panic mode as my long suffering secretary wished me luck. Luckily the bird was still there but quite distant and we were looking directly into the sun - hence the crap pics.
A good find by Mr Menzies who'd taken time off from his exams. We are still looking for that elusive Red-footed Falcon though!
With traffic chaos on the M53 and all roads leading to the Wirral blocked I decided to walk around the fields adjacent to the house tonight. A well worthwhile exercise as for the first time this year I recorded singing Yellowhammer and a
flyover Yellow Wagtail - only my 2nd for this particular 'patch'.
A distant soaring raptor turned out to be a Peregrine whilst several Tree Sparrows and Lesser Whitethroat completed the interest.

14 May 2008

Gold-spangled Tringa

OK, so its a Wood Sandpiper but I bet if it was in Asia or South America it would have a name similar to the above and not one that hardly does justice to such a cracking little bird.
News came through late last night of a Temminck's Stint at Carr Lane, Hale. However, it was to late to go over so I set the alarm early this morning and arrived to find Frank Duff & Steve Tomlinson already there. With so many Temminck's currently in the country it was hardly suprising one turned up in Cheshire but unfortunately this one had done a bunk.

Suprisingly the Wood Sandpiper was still there and much closer to the road than on my previous visit.

With a large influx of Red-footed Falcons in Europe (60 in Switzerland!) we've had a few in the UK but none yet in Cheshire - despite a few of us being out looking every night!

11 May 2008

Bird race weekend.

When Groucho Payne asked me to be in his team to provide a bit of opposition to Team Focalpoint I agreed on the condition if a 'mega' broke or if a good Cheshire bird broke we'd change the plans! Team Gary consisted of Mark, Jase Atkinson, Al orton & myslef and the name was derived from our nicknames - Groucho, Apprentice, Radar & YoYo.

This was our first attmept and we were up against the seasoned opposition and record holders Pod & Fred with fellow team members Malc 'the driver' Curtin and Paul B.

I was at Chester races Friday when news came through of a Whiskered tern at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB and again of a Honey Buzzard at Leasowe found by Al Conlin & Al Orton - the Happy Als! Oh well. Can't get them all! The tern flew off just after 20.00.........

After getting home at 01.00 and being picked up at 03.00 I was pretty tired but raring to go. Things started well for us in the Eastern Hills and we located all the key species. From there we intended going to Sandbach where we'd been informed a Wood Sandpiper & Garganey were present the previous night before slowly working our way along the M56 corrider to the Wirral ultimately ending up catching up with waders and sea birds as the tide came in.

All that rapidly changed when a text came through from Steve Williams at 06.45 to say the Whiskered Tern was still there. An immediate change of plan was in order - something we'd all previously agreed upon. This was to good a bird to miss. Alistair had dipped it the night before by minutes. Ineeded it for my Cheshire year list and it was a Cheshire lifer for Jason & Mark. Stopping brielfy at Sandbach we shot across to the Wirral and were duly rewarded with superb views of this, my fifth, Cheshire Whiskered Tern.

As a result we never made the pre-high tide wader movement as we retraced our steps back along the M56 to catch up with all the other species we'd bypassed. Still we had great fun and a good 'craic'. Our final score was 130 whilst the opposition scored 138. Worringly neither team saw or heard Cuckoo. We didn't get a single Grasshopper Warbler due to the timings of our visits to known sites following our detour.

However, a stewards enquiry is to be held over the lamping of Mandarin by the opposition. Surely this is against the rules.........................................

Many thanks go the following people who provided us with invaluable information and help on the day - Jan Jones, Al Conlin, Steve Williams, Frank Duff, Andy Forth and of course my fellow team members for providing such a good laugh.

As well as the Whiskered Tern the weekend also added Quail to my 2008 Cheshire list.

8 May 2008

Its all go innit?

With warm S to SE winds blowing all week birds were bound to start moving through. As predicted a Red-rumped Swallow(s) turned up on the Wirral and was seen at Hoylake and the LBO. Unfortunately it didn't hang around for any of the regulars to catch up with it. Some compensation was gained in the form of a cracking male Blue-headed type flava Wagtail found by Allan Conlin.
A very interesting bird as it didn't show the full suite of ID characters of a typical Blue-headed.
Other good birds seen during the early part of the week were Spotted Flycatcher, Whichat & more Wheatears.
Highlight must be the flyover Woodlark picked up by Steve Williams on Hilbre! A Cheshire/Wirral lifer once again. Other good Hilbre birs included Whinchat, Greenland Wheatear & a cracking male Redstart.
Out to sea Little Tern numbers are building up and a single Guillemot mooched around off the north end.

Further down the Wirral at least 5 pairs of Avocets are attempting to breed at Inner marsh Farm RSPB and the long staying female Marsh Harrier has also put in an appearance. A Grasshopper Warbler was reeling along the railway embankment right in the open. Garden birds include my first garden Lesser Whitethroat and nesting Song Thrush - another garden first.

Stonechat - Leasowe. The one with the white rump......

Avocets - IMF. 17 now present.

5 May 2008

Another good Bank Holiday weekend.

Wow. What a weekend for the N West. No sooner had I predicted Short-toed Lark & Red-rumped Swallow for the Wirral then one of each turns up on the Great Orme and Audenshaw Reservoir respectively! 40 miles to the west and 40 miles to the east. To cap it all an Alpine Swift also made a brief appearance at Audenshaw. Still Wirral & Cheshire wasn't all that bad and the weekend produced a Cheshire 'lifer' for me.
The male Garganey at IMF showed well Saurday
and a trip to the LBO resulted in an amazing 11Yellow Wagtails, 4 Whinchat & 6 Wheatear.
The Bank Holiday Weather was kind to us and Sunday morning I set off early with Molly to search Burton Marsh & the Decca Pools for an early Quail as one had been reported at Heswall the previous day - a very early record. No Quail but two stunning Hobby's hunting Meadow Pipits and spending along time perched up on fence posts. Long enough for Steve Williams to twitch them! In addition to the Hobby's the long staying female Marsh Harrier put in an appearance before I went home for a well earned breakfast. That didn't take long and I was soon heading towards Carr Lane, Hale where Frank had reported a Wood Sandpiper on the flood. Not always an easy bird to catch up with in Cheshire in the spring. Deciding to head through Liverpool and meet the rest of the crew at the Lighthouse I had no sooner set off when Allan rang to say they'd got 2 Velvet Scoter amongst the 2,500+ Common Scoter just off shore. With news coming through that they were still there I even managed to get the teas in from the cafe before eventually getting distant views of this Cheshire lifer.

2 May 2008

Sublime Citrine

Another amazing week in the N West. However, this weeks star bird turned up at RSPB Conwy and not the Wirral as had been predicted for the last two years! News from RBA of an unconfirmed report of a male Citrine Wagtail at Conwy provoked mobile phone network melt down as the LBO team of Duff,
Conlin & Woollen tried to find out more news.
Confirmation came from John Roberts who rang me back from Cyprus. Abandoning our quest for rarities on the Wirral we headed in two groups to Conwy with Steve Williams picking up Frank & I enroute whilst Allan waited for Mark Turner.

News was relayed to us about the bird whilst we were driving at speeds that would have had Scotty beseaching 'she can't take anymore Jim' with Steve casually announcing his brake warning lights had come on..........

Unfortunately when we arrived the weather had deteriorated badly and the bird wasn't on show. 30 minites passed during which time the possible Iberain Yellow Wagtail put in an appearance. I decided to check ut another small pool further along the path and the Citrine flew up and onto the salt marsh where all who managed to make it
before dusk managed good but distant views of this stunner. I'd only 'ticked' Citrine Wagtail on Foula last year as its one of those birds that turn up regularly enough to warrant not travelling to far....................... A spring male was on my most wanted list! A grotty juvenile now this.
Apart from the excitement of the Citrine the birding week has progressed well withtrips to the Wirral and other local hotpsots producing Black Tern (Inner Marsh Farm), Whinchat, Pied Flycather, Redstart, Sandwich Tern and more Lesser Whitehtroats than I've seen for a long time.
Putting something back into birding is something I'm a great believer in. Whether its undertaking Atlas work or doing voluntary wardening all birders should get involved in some way or another - eve nwatching a local patch on a regular basis and submitting records to County recorder is putting something back. Last night was my turn to watch Neston Reedbed. A beautiful evening and a fantastic aray of migrant warblers singing and displaying.
Back to the Iberian - it looks good but the possibility of an intergrade with the cinereocapilla race from Italy can't be ruled out. After all, Italians have a certain reputation. I've seen what I thought to be an Iberian two yerars ago in Spain. That one had a full supercillium.
So far the Easterly winds of the last few weeks have produced Black Lark, Calandra Lark, Caspian Plover and Citrine Wagtail. With a Bank Holiday imminent soemthing else is bound to turn up.