24 Jul 2008

Good golly Miss Molly

The first pelagic trip organised by the newly formed North West Seawatching Association took place yesterday aboard the good ship 'Miss Molly'. She sailed from West Kirby to Beaumaris (Anglesey) with a motley crew including 'El Presidente' and skipper Conlin (who now has more honourary titles than an African dictator), First Mate Woollen, Seaman Staines, Statler & Waldorf.
1st mate
Fortified by 'Bob the plumbers' excellent work in the galley (bacon, egg, beans & fried bread) we set off in a virtually windless calm. Sea birds were scarce but we did see numerous auks off both the Orme heads and Puffin Island, Anglesey. Suprisingly we saw only 1 Arctic Skua and very few Gannets. Common, Little & Sandwich Terns were also seen in low numbers.

Guillemots with single Razorbill

Bridled Guillemot
Puffins off Puffin Island - at least 7 seen on the sea here
Visible migration was hampered at one stage by a dense blanket of seafog rolling in off the Great Orme but we were fully prepared for such eventualities and repared to the cabin to drink yet another mug of tea.

Arriving 7 hours later in good spirits at Beaumaris we had time for a quick pint before getting the train back to Chester. Miss Molly will remain at Anglesey for a couple of weeks before the crew sail her back again.

Two views of the Great Orme not normally seen by birders.

I'm off to Ternife tomorrow where apart from a bit of R & R on the beach I'll be trying for the various endemics. Hopefully there will be some good pics to post when I'm back.

21 Jul 2008

Great expectations come to nothing.

With Saturdays NW gales continuing over night we arrived at the Lighthouse to find news of our previous days exploits and spread far beyond the hallowed lands and birders from far and further had congregated for the expected seabird bonanaza. Sadly it didn't materialise and one by one they departed leaving the stalwarts (fortified by Mark Turner and his excellent Lemon Drizzle cake scoffed beneath our brolly whilst Allan went to inspect the nearby clump of Japanese Knotweed for American passerines!). With no shearwater and only a handful of Arctic Skuas the day was saved by the departure of 7 Storm Petrels from the mouth of the Mersey that gave pretty good views as they tacked west against the wind.

News is that Saturdays Roseate Tern was also picked up from Dove Point, Meols later the same day. As the bird we saw was heading that direction it must surely be the same bird.

News from Spain is that Mr Conlins fame as a seawatching supremo has spread - see this link and read report for August 2007: From now on he will be known as El Presidente of the newly formed N West Seawatching Association. All records of Seabirds seen from the N Wirral coast must be verified by this association. The formation of this association has been prompted to prevent the stringing of 1st summer Kittiwake as Sabines Gull and dark phase Arctic Skuas as Sooty Shearwaters. Sooties do not kleptoparasitise Terns.

Finally, is this the future face of birding in the UK? Congratulations to our mate Dan Pointon who'll soon turn 18. To celebrate this event I post this picture of the tw*t in a hat!

19 Jul 2008

You can't beat a good blow - just the job.

The first proper N W gale of the 'season' saw the Wirral seawatching triage of yours truly, Frank Duff and Allan Conlin joined by Marbury exiles Pod & Mark Payne for a spot of seawatching off the sea wall at leasowe. With winds gusting up to force 7 things were looking pretty good. As seasoned veterans of seawatching off the Wirral coast we had all the gear - the exiles had nowt!
Umbrellas were pegged into position, camp chairs (ooh they were awful) unfolded and flasks of tea placed close to hand - just like a British seaside holiday (which in effect it was as its not yet the end of July).
Me & Pod living it up - more tea Vicar? Good grief Sir - more wind!
Richard Smith who arrived late along with Allan & Frank.
Five hours later the crew had amassed a good selection of birds including Roseate Tern, 30+ Manx Shearwaters, 4+ Arctic Skuas, 2 Bonxies (seen together with an Arctic Skua), a handfull of Gannets, 4 adult Kittiwakes and a single Storm Petrel.

Contact with the Seaforth regulars who'd had a Leach's Petrel amongst their haul left us a bit deflated as not only did we miss that bird but we failed to get the number of Storm Petrels reported from the mouth of the Mersey. However there's always another day and tomorow looks just as promising weather wise...............................................
As usual members of the public were inquisitive as to what we were doing. This provoked some quality answers:
Woman walking dog: 'can I ask what you are doing?'
Frank: waiting for a bus'
Man: 'What are you watching?'
Pod: 'The golf'
Mark: 'You can see Birkdale from here'.
Me: 'We can see Greg Norman'.
Man: walks of bemused........................

17 Jul 2008

Stormy weather

One eye on the wind gauge today with half a mind (the intelligent half) to check out the Mersey Mouth at Perch Rock for possible Storm Petrel. With several being reported in Liverpool Bay I thought there'd be a good chance of them being swept in on the high tide if the wind continued W or NW. It veered to WSW but at 24 knots I trundled up the M53 in the Landrover intending to use it as a hide. Initially nowt but suddenly there was a Storm Petrel careering crazily across the white tops of the waves. Unable to resist Franks succumbed to the temptation and the delights of having a nice warm Landrover to use as a vantage point and joined me within the hour. Jammy sod arrived just as we one Storm Petrel decided to put on a show less than 50 m infront of us. Agghhhm, I should have gone home for the camera! We watched both petrels depart the estuary an hour later, as good mariners should, right between the two main buoys marking the mid channel! Frank returned the favour by finding a superb adult summer Little Gull and we notched up 3 Kittiwakes as well as good numbers of Sanderling & Ringed Plover.

A quick visit to IMF again late afternoon to get some better pics of the Glossy Ibis revealed an almost empty hide. Just as I like it!

It seems to be feasting will on chironomid larvae and these can be seen if you blow the pics up.

Interesting behaviour from resident Shelduck towards a Lapwing as well. Was it trying to sh*g it or drown it. Oh well, ducks will be ducks!

16 Jul 2008

The 'purple' patch continues for Inner Marsh Farm RSPB

There I am sitting at my desk looking out at the miserbale weather when a message comes through on the pager. Local Channel 1. North West. Expecting news of yet more Spoonbills at Leighton Moss, Med Gulls in Lancs or the long staying Glossy Ibis at Marshside but absolutely nothing in Cheshire I idly take a look................ Yep, Glossy Ibis............Scroll down a bit.......... Holy sh*t - it is in Cheshire at Inner Marsh Farm and only 20 minutes from the office.

A quick phone call to the wardens to ensure its not a hoax & I'm off ringing others on the way. A 'purple' bird - well almost and the third rarity at IMF this year. Whats going on? Twenty minutes later I'm fumbling with my phone camera and trying to digiscope the bird in the wet. I hate digiscoping and it hates me. Is it the Southport bird? I've no idea and it doesn't really matter. Its a Cheshire lifer and its on my list!

Now if only I'd got a photo of Frank in his three quarter length pants and coat with his hood up looking like he'd escaped from South Park......

So far this year IMF has had Green-winged Teal, Whiskered Tern, Pectoral Sandpiper and now the Glossy Ibis. My bets on White-rumped Sandpiper next.

13 Jul 2008

Mervyn the Med Gull is back!

Highlight of the rest of the week (I'm easily pleased) has been a juvenile Common Redstart that has taken up temporary residence feeding on insects in a local cow field. I first found it Friday but it proved to be quite wary and hard to photograph. I managed a couple of half decent shots this morninng - probably as a result of being up early after virtually no sleep as Mrs W was awake all night with with food poisoning after a prawn curry at a local hostelry! I got there before to many people had walked the footpath driving the bird further into the fields. A good local bird - I can count on one hand the number of Redstarts I've seen in this area in 20 years. By the look of this bird it must have only recently fledged. Where has it come from? Surely not far! Amongst other local birds the Tree Sparrows seem to have had a good breeding season with 20+ feeding in a nearby Barley crop whilst a juvenile Robin allowed a good comparison with the Redstart.
Thursday saw the Wirral Seawatching team of Conlin & Woollen meet up at Leasowe Lighthouse for the first seawatch of the autumn(!). A south westerly breeze didn't bode well but it was a beautiful evening for sitting gazing out to sea like a couple of old farts on our folding chairs with a flask of tea to share. Acutally it was pretty impressive with summer plumaged Black Tern and Med Gull putting in an appearance. Mervyn is back! A suprising number of Gannets also moved through out towards the wind farm whilst a single adult Arctic tern graced us with its presence.

We estimated at least 700 + Knot flying west as the tide receeded - many of them in summer plumage whilst a small number of Bar -tailed Godwits (one in summer plumage) also made a brief stop over.

By contrast Saturdays brief seawatch in a more fashionable N Westerly produced jack sh*t. Not even a Gannet. The sole highlight being a solitary adult Kittiwake.

Still, tis the season for sea watching and a prolonged N Westerly should result in a few Storm Petrels in Liverpool bay over the next few weeks whilst increasing wader numbers at Kings Gap should include the odd Curlew Sandpiper.

8 Jul 2008

Flex those Pecs - it's summer!

Summer? Whats that? Oh, yeah. The rainy season.
To plagiarize Roy 'Chubby' Brown. Summer?, summer? What the f*ck is summer?

The damage to Al Ortons car Sunday turned out to be less severe than first thought and due to water damage from the mini typhoon we drove through. Should get an F1 McClaren Al - preferably with Lewis Hamilton as chauffer.

Couldn't resist the oppurtunity to try and photograph the Pectoral Sandpiper at Inner Marsh Farm this afternoon. Still distant but I managed a few reasonable shots. Nice to see Paul Grennard back in the N W and read his soggy copy of the Pembrokeshire Bird Report - complete with write up on the Pechora Pipit and Pacific Diver he was instrumental in the identification of. Even Hilbre stalwart Colin Jones and partner Val turned up.

As well as the Pectoral Sandpiper there were a couple of Ruff, Spotted Redshanks, Little-ringed Plover and at least 600 Black-tailed Godwits including this colour ringed bird. With all that bling its suprising it can fly!

The water level is gradually being lowered at IMF in time for the wader passage. Watch out for those annual claims of Bairds Sandpiper!

Unfortunately the hide at IMF was once again populated with a loud minority of birders who cannot resist telling everyone what they've just seen at a volume that deafens me in a confined space. Why can't people whisper these days? Why do I want to hear about the Little Egret flying over when I can see 40 through my binoculars? This seems to be a common problem in hides these days. The same occured at Old Moor RSPB last week whilst dipping the Little Swift. The last thing I wanted was a booming Yorkshire voice resonating in my skull telling all and sundry how he'd seen the bird.

7 Jul 2008

Its wet enough for waders.

The week started off badly and got worse as the days marched on. Firstly the Little Swift was relocated near Barnsley but I couldn't get away from work until 15.30 and missed it by 25 minutes. A real sickener! Secondly whilst enroute to the Saltholme Pools Terek Sandpiper Sunday evening Al Ortons car threw a sickie and we ended up 30 miles from the bird and waiting for the AA to trailer us home eventually arriving in Cheshire well after 01.30. A real downer but especially for Al. Malc Curtin decided to go today so I jumped in the car, at short notice, to make the numbers up after helping Al sort his vehicle out. We arrived in poor weather and spent a good couple of hours looking for the Terek that was last seen flying! Just as we despondently sat in the car debating whether to leave some kind soul knocked on the window to tell us it had been refound. My second Terek and a bit of a comfort after missing the Anglesey bird of 2005 by one day whilst abroad! Unfortunately we all saw it except for Malc! Despite hanging aound it failed to reappear and putting a brave face on it, Malc decided to drive home. A subdued journey as we mulled over events. Its never nice when one person out of a group doesn't see the bird and it rarely happens with us.
Driving home along the M56 I received a call from Geoff Robinson of Inner Marsh Farm telling me he'd found a Pectoral Sandpiper on the reserve! 10 minutes later I was watching it from a distance with just two others before Mr Duff arrived. As well as the star attraction the long staying immature Spoonbill was present along with Common & Green Sandpipers and a handful of summer plumaged Spotted Redshanks!

With poor weather all weekend there wasn't much birding done but a rare trip to Rivacre Valley lnr was rewarded by the site of an adult Kingfisher feeding two recently fledged young sat in the wood about 50 m from the stream. If only I'd taken the camera................. Apart from the resident Grey Wagtails there wasn't much else around with mos of the migrants now keeping quiet as they raise young. It was good to see (or rather hear) so many Bullfinches around.
A Saturday walk along the Shropshire Union canal from Stoak towards Chester was abruptly halted by bad weather but the sun shone long enough for us to enjoy a pint outside the Bunbury Arms.
News from the BOU is that they've finally accepted Hooded Merganser on to the British list. Bring it on! All the Cat 'D' species are being reviewed and the smart moneys on Baikal Teal, White-headed Duck and Marbled Duck to be added! Kerching!