28 Feb 2009

Gulls again at Arpely.

Back to Arpely again today with reduced observors & numbers of larids. Although numbers down we still got some good stuff albeit distant. First up was a 1st winter Glaucous Gull followed closely by a 1st winter Med Gull & then the first of several adult and near adult Yellow-legged Gulls.

The Glauc was typically belligerent and cleared a space amongst the lesser Gulls by intimidating them!

Adult Yellow-legged Gull.

1st winter Mediterranean Gull

Eventually Tim picked out a distant 1st winter Iceland Gull feeding on the tip face and then a second one showed up slightly closer roosting on the same muddy area as the other gulls photographed above.

1st winter Iceland Gull.

Meanwhile, the ponds in Stanney are full of frog spawn.

Which links quite nicely to the spawny gits (messrs Atkinson, Vaughan & Conway) who, on leaving Arpely and travelling to Richmond Bank jammed in on an adult Iceland Gull!

25 Feb 2009

Dream on....................

Not birding but on business but what a couple of days. Griffon Vulture, Black Kite, Hobby, Montagu's Harrier, Roller, Hoopoe, Serin (everywhere), Black Redstart and huge numbers of White Storks on nests. The Wirral. I wish. Unfortunately all seen on a drive from Madrid to Zaragoza!

22 Feb 2009

Rare Hilbre sighting.

Finally all the decorating & furniture-building is complete (for now)! Ikea has a lot to answer for but I've got to admit those Swedes are fiendishly clever. Missing the fortnightly larid fix at Arpely meant I was at a loose end until Al Conlin suggested a low tide walk over to Hilbre to check for any scarce / rare sea ducks or grebes.With chores complete I jumped at the chance - especially wit hthe promise of a special 'Hilbre fry-up'. Just the thing after a strenous walk lugging camera, scope, bins and a rucksack for good measure.

If I hadn't made the effort I'd have missed a very rare event! Frank actually walking to Hilbre! Some say it's the first time he's ever attempted the journey on foot!!!!

Seawatching was very disappointing with only a single Red-throated Diver and a handful of Common Scoter to show for our exertions. A Snow Bunting made the trip worthwhile and proved to be very confiding and photogenic. The amount of white in the wing and the clean flanks meant we sexed it as a male. At least chef Conlin was his usual Michelin- starred self.

Elsewhere a single Mealy Redpoll remains in Stanney Woods with a much reduced number of Lesser Redpoll. The male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was half-heartedly drumming but the Goldcrests definitely think springs here.
The hidden pool alongside the road leading to the municipal recycling centre is proving to be attractive to a variety of wildfowl with Pochard, Shoveller, Tufted Duck, Teal and Gadwall all being seen today.
Spring must be on its way - I had the first Skylarks moving over the house early this morning whilst the Bullfinches seem to have overcome their shyness and are feeding on sun-flower hearts taken from the feeders rather than scavenging on the ground.

20 Feb 2009

Full circle!

Siskins back in the garden - just like last February. They only seem to reach us in February.
News of a group of Tundra Bean Geese at Whitburn was fortuitous as I'd just left a meeting in Gateshead! Apart from that its been fairly quiet on the birding front - apart from the Wirral's premier pelagic skipper persuading me to go to South Africa with him in June for a spot of South Atlantic pelagic-ing for Albatross species along with cage diving with Great White Sharks. Awesome!!

15 Feb 2009

Red Rocks on a winters afternoon

Deciding to join Al Conlin & Mark Turner at Red Rocks for a spot of sub-zero temperature seawatching paid dividends when a Black-throated Diver was picked out amongst the commoner Red-throated Divers. Mark saw this bird yesterday and Al had a 'probable' back in the beginning of January. It has also been reported as a 'probable' from Hilbre towards the end of January. Not much else to be seen though and no sign of any of the wish lish of Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian & Red-necked Grebe.

Closer to home decorating was interrupted again by the need to dash into the garden and grab a few record shots of 3 Lesser Redpoll that decided to pay a visit. It's interesting to compare these birds with the Mealy's - much streakier and grubbier all round.

Visiting birder, John Tubb, did well in Stanney Woods yesterday with Willow Tit! I've never seen one there. Jammy git. John also saw the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker & Mealy Redpoll(s).

14 Feb 2009

Richmond - the only bank in the Country that delivers!

Fresh in from my morning sojourn to Stanney Woods and facing a day of decorating I was musing over the porridge when Jono Williams texted to say he and the Seaforth gull addicts had a Ring-billed Gull on the Mersey at Richmond Bank. The only bank that keeps its promises and gives up its treasures freely without charging for the benefit.

Decorating was temporarily forgotten as I grabbed my gear (minus 'scope) and shot off like the proverbial scalded moggy. Thirty minutes later I'm huffing and puffing up the slope and looking at an adult Ring-billed Gull through Jono's scope.

Nice one lads! Along with a dinky looking 1st winter Glaucous Gull, 1st winter Iceland Gull and adult Yellow-legged Gull it was a pretty good but short visit! Happy I headed back along the motorway drawn by the siren call of the paint brush.
Nice to catch up with Midlands birder Alan Northen & Shrewsbury pie addict Mike Stokes in Stanney yesterday where we managed to catch up with 1 -2 Mealy Redpolls amongst the Lesser's again.

12 Feb 2009

It's bl**dy cold out!

Most of the week I've been working outside in sub -zero temperatures and have managed very litle birding. A brief visit to Rivacre Valley resulted in a suprising Little Egret that has apparantly been present for several weeks. A first for the reserve. Good numbers of Lesser Redpolls were feeding in birch trees alongside the brook.

The Redpoll flock in Stanney is now well scattered but MT managed to catch up with one or more of the Mealy's. There are signs, despite the cold, that spring is springing - the Heron is catching frogs in the still semi- frozen ponds and birds such as the Nuthatch and Stock Dove shown below are proclaiming their territorial rights. Even the Great-spotted Woodpeckers are joining in!

An early morning dart to Frodsham before work netted a single Ruff & two Little Stints on a frozen No. 6 tank. Elsewhere a check of a reed fringed lake on the edge of Ellesmere Ports industrial area snared a male and female Goosander and a shell shocked looking Ruddy Duck. A great little spot this and very close to the Mersey Estuary, nestled away almost hidden fro mthe road. Following information received from Pod a quick trip to the sandstone hills just south of Chester meant marsh Tit was added to my local list.
A report on the pager of a Europena White-fronted Goose at Gilroy Nature Park (within a clipped wings glide of the duck brothel that is Newton duck pond) raised hopes but an investigation by the Wirrals premier goose expert disocvered a poxy looking Greylag hybrid. The size gave it away..........

7 Feb 2009

Back to Arpely

Another organised gull watch for the laridophiles today at Arpely tip where 11 hardy souls braved the freezing temperatures to search for white-winged gulls amongst the thousands milling around the tip face. With freezing temperatures and bright skies the bracing air was filled with the sound of gulls and the sweet fragrance of the tip filled the nostrils provoking a gag reflex!
Plenty of action today but no sign of the adult Glaucous Gull found yesterday by Tim Vaughan & Pete Kinsella or the adult Ringed-billed Gull found by the lads earlier in the week. The total haul was 2 Iceland Gulls (1st winter & 2nd winter), 2nd winter Glaucous Gull, adult & 1st winter Med Gulls, 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls (one sporting a metal ring) & a possible Caspian Gull. Other interesting birds were a leucistic Herring Gull & an argentatus Caspo look alike.

2nd winter (3rd calendar year) Iceland Gull

One of the adult Yellow-legged Gulls can be seen on the left in the photograph below - through the 'scope the red orbital ring could be clearly seen. An earlier bird on Birchwood pool superficially looked like a YLG but had paler legs and a yellow orbital ring - an argentatus Herring Gull!

The gull below superficially resembled a Caspian Gull but was in fact an argentatus Herring Gull. The eye colour gave it away!

Another interesting and educational tour of one of the more salubrious corners of Widnes. It made a nice change from peering up the ar*e ends of Redpolls in Stanney Woods and certainly gave my neck a rest!

5 Feb 2009

More Redpoll fun in Stanney Woods.

A break in the snow Wednesday afternoon meant the sun broke through for a few hours so I took the oppurtunity to search out the Redpolls in Stanney again - the flocks now up to 20+ with some a number of birds that look good for Mealy amongst them including the different individuals pictured below. Two Ravens getting chased off by the local Carrion Crows were a good patch record.

Redpoll 1

Redpoll 2

Redpoll 3

Redpoll 4 & 5

Redpoll 4

Redpoll 5 - cropped in picture of left hand bird in photo of 4 & 5 above.

Redpoll 6

2 Feb 2009

The one that got away?

More Redpoll action at Stanney over the weekend with a Friday afternoon visit throwing up a tantalising glimpse of a 'poll with completely white underparts. The bird was seen briefly with a flock of Lessers and then disappeared. Only the underparts were seen well as it hung upside down feeding on birch catkins. Allan arrived about an hour later and the bird was glimpsed briefly again before dusk. Any one who knows Stanney will realise how hard it is to locate a small flock of birds feeding high up in the dense canopy!
Redpoll sp on left with Lesser.
My first reaction was Arctic but even with the Wirral's premier Redpoll team of AC, MT out and about Saturday and Sunday the bird wasn't seen again. B*llocks. At least Molly enjoyed wading through the muddy trails.
Deciding to brave the weather Al Conlin & yours truly decided to head out for a spot of seawatching at Hilbre Saturday afternoon. Fortified by Allan's special 'Hilbre fry-up' we spent 2 hours in the seawatching hide before retirng to the relative warmth of the Obs. It was bitterly cold and we managed a grand total of 8 Red-throated Diver, 2 Common Scoter, 8 Gt-crested Grebes, 3 Guillemot & 2 Razorbills! We failed to see the Gt-N Diver that apparently swam in front of the hide whilst we were watching a close-in Red-throated Diver..........

Wanting a respite from craning my neck in Stanney I took a quick trip to New Brighton Sunday morning in the hope of finding Mervyn the Med Gull to photograph. No luck with 'him' but a cold looking Sanderling provided soem camera fodder whilst sitting in the warmth of the Landrover. The poor bird was trying to keep warm by dragging on Egor's butt-ends!