30 Apr 2009

Stone me.

Had a phone call whilst on the way home from work this evening from Mark Turner who'd found a Stone Curlew on the ploughed fields near Leasowe Lighthouse! A couple of chores to do and I was on my way with Al Orton (fresh from twitching both the Crested Lark and Colared Flycatcher). A Cheshire lifer for both of us. Well found Mr Turner. A Wirral rarity that a good number of people managed to twitch!

Well collared.

When news broke Tuesday night of a 1st summer male Collared Flycatcher in a private garden (with no access) on Portland my immediate reaction was 'Oh well' there will be another............' With meetings in Hereford & Birmingham the next day it wasn't looking good even if the bird was refound which, full of pessimism, I didn't expect!

Against all expectations it was refound Wednesday morning and was viewable from the public road! B*gger!!!! Bang went my nice round trip from home to Hereford to Birmingham and then home. I'd have to go to Portland as well if time allowed. Computing mileage and times I figured if I could leave Birmingham before 15.00 I'd get to Portland with a couple of hours daylight to spare. I left at 14.45 and got there just after 18.00 thanks to some directions from Dan 'Paddy' Pointon that enabled me to bypass the worst of the Dorchester rush hour traffic.

Arriving in to find about 20 people lined up on the pavement peering down a drive between two houses the bird soon showed but in typical flycatcher fashion hardly stayed still long enough to photograph. Still the obligatory 'record shots' were obtained for the blog and the bird showed on and off until dusk.

A muttering amongst the crowd got louder as news filtered through of another'mega' in Kent. This time a Crested Lark at Dungeness. That one would have to wait!!!!!

The long drive home was made longer by the M6 being closed at Junction 10. Nice of the idiots in charge not to sign post a diversion. I ended up driving along the M54 and up the A41 to Chester arriving home just after midnight.

28 Apr 2009

On the Pennine Way

Couldn't resist a diversion after a meeting in Bury to the Pennine's near Oldham where three Dotterel had been showing well for the last couple of days. Despite setting off in rain the weather cleared as I reached the designated pull in and set off up the Pennine Way to where the birds were showing.
A small crowd of about 4- 6 people were treated to superb views although there always seems to be one photographer who has to leave the path and get closer to try and photograph the individual rictal bristles. Actually he did me a favour as I'd moved along the path from the main group to get better light and the birds came within 5 metres of me! Awesome.

One superb female and two rather duller looking males. A fact I politely explained to the elderly couple next to me after the husband told his wife there were two females and a brighter plumaged bird that was obviously the male! The birds came so close you could hear the soft contact calls they were making to each other.
Finally the one photographer who chose to try and get closer.................
Oblivious to the distress he was causing the local Meadow Pipits whose nest he was probably stood on.
Back to the car and a welcome cuppa and bacon sarnie from the guy running the food van. The tea was made especially for truckers with 80 teabags in a a massive pot. Enough to give you hairs on your chest. The guy was a bit peeved with the birders taking up all the space in the layby and sipping tea fro mtheir own flasks cos it meant his regular truck drivers couldn't park!

Closer to home its good to see Pied Flycatchers are maintaining a precarious presence in western Cheshire away from their stronghold in Macclesfield Forest. Two males (and a Redstart) singing today at a site near Beeston and Frank's got a couple (and another Redstart) in Delamere. Not brilliant shots but the weather was crap.

26 Apr 2009

A hearty breakfast.

Unable to get up so early this morning I eventually made it out just after 08.00 and headed up to the 'Lighthouse Bird Observatory' to check for newly arrived migrants. On arrival it was immediately obvious that the news of the last couple of days good birds had dragged in birders from far and wide. Every bramble bush containing a Grasshopper Warbler had its attendant photographers.

Meeting up with AC we walked the path behind the paddocks where a single Whinchat and about 10 Wheatear charged around amongst the steaming piles of horse sh1t. Plenty of hirundines were seen coming in over the beach and good numbers of Sedge Warblers, Reed & Common Whitethroat were logged - soon to be recorded for posterity in a log book placed in the Fishermans Cafe by the fishing pools along Lingham Lane.

A need for calories led us to join the two Kens - Mr Roberts & Ken(dough) Nagasaki for a spot of wrestling with a full English at aforesaid cafe. Even Molly was allowed in and given the odd morsel as we consumed our breakfast and several cups of tea.

Nice to meet up with Ian Fleming this morning who found Friday's Wood Warbler. Good find Ian - keep finding those birds.

Amazingly another Wirral first reportedly turned up at that inland migrant hot spot of Gilroy today when a Spotted Flycatcher was seen. With all the birders out and about around Lingham Lane and theLighthouse this weekend its suprising one hasn't been found elsewhere. Not even Portland Bird Observatory has logged one.

My prediction for the next few days? Subalpine Warbler somewher in the N West along with Whiskered Tern- preferably close to home but not Gilroy where birds seem to disappear soon after dawn.

25 Apr 2009

Another cracking day on the Wirral

Getting up in the middle of the night to walk over to Hilbre for dawn seems like a good idea until the alarm goes off and its still dark outside. Still the sunrise alone made it all worthwhile but a day at the Obs produced plenty of good birds.

Even before the first cuppa had been drunk a male Redstart was caught and ringed followed closely by a Mealy Redpoll. Nice to get the oppurtunity to see one close up rather than cricking my neck in Stanney Woods looking up their backsides at undertail coverts. The second caught in two days and as Steve pointed out considering the number of Redpolls caught at the Obs there's a relatively high percentage of Mealy's this year showing we've had a good season for them in the N West.

Plenty of Wheatears moved through during the day and they ended up perching on all kinds of wierd places including chimneys and the tops of mist net poles.

Whimbrel numbers are increasing and today saw a good number of Dunlin and a few Ringed Plover on the Island at high tide. Other seabirds were a bit scarce with only Sandwich Terns and Gannets being numerous just before high tide.

Heavy squally showers moved some birds in front of it and a Swift came in off the sea at the north end whilst an early Garden Warbler was caught in one of the heligoland traps. Beautiful birds and not deserving of their borin latin name!

Meanwhile the shore based birders also had a good day with over 100 Wheatear and 8 Whinchat being logged around the Lighthouse area along with another Ring Ouzel found by our old mucker John Tubb who's at last got himself out into the field...... ;-))
Mr Payne also excelled himself today finding a Black Tern on Marbury Mere. Good birds are there to be found.......................

Knackered after the days exertions I just about summoned up the energy to walk Molly for a few miles around my local area in the afternoon. The Little-ringed Plover seem to have moved on and their muddy home is rapidly drying up. Singing Lesser Whitethroat was the best bird - for the last few years they've always arrived around about this time in April. Tomoorow dawns another day but I cetainly won't be setting the alarm to early!

24 Apr 2009

Git orrff my land......................

The immortal words uttered by the Squire to birders daring to trespass on his patch for Wood Warbler. A local 'mega' and never before recorded at the Lighthouse.

The Squire looked resplendent today and is taking local birding back to a more genteel age when Gentlemen went out in the field in jacket and tie.

A cracking bird but highly mobile and elusive.

Plenty else to keep the Lighthouse team occupied today with several Whinchat, at least 10 Wheaters still early afternoon, a male Redstart, reeling Grasshopper Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Reed Warblers, Blackcap, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Sedge Warblers.

Local birding doesn't get better than this...............................

22 Apr 2009

Proof for King Kenny and the solving of a mystery.

Not Dalglish but the other King Kenny of Merseyside - Mr. McNieffe. The Union flags been flying at the Hilbre Obs indicating Royaltys in residence! Just for Kenny here's an uncropped shot of my muddy cow field to show the abundance of avian life really has occured on this for green corner of suburban Ellesmere Port and not somewhere more exotic!

After seemingly going missing the Little-ringed Plover are back and showing no signs of wanting to leave even though the water is rapidly evaporating. It also looks as if at least two pairs of Lapwings may also be attempting to nest in this field as well. A quick trip down tonight with Mark Turner got him the plovers for his Wirral list.

Interestingly the birds were seen copulating again and the bird with the narrowest breast band appears to be the male! Other birds using the area include at least 15 Linnets still flying around in a single flock and this smart looking Song Thrush.

Meanwhile back on Hilbre the resident Linnets are already nest building as are the Meadow Pipits. Not much else on the Island at the moment but a reeling Grasshopper Warbler was a nice surprise.

After much ribbing from 'two phones sioux' and the 'blog meister' I'll come clean and announce I've brought my own green wellies to replace my leaking old Dunlops! Hopefully they'll bring me as much luck as they've brought the Mackerel mudering skipper of 'Miss Molly', although I was very reluctant to scratch them in the Blackthorn today. Maybe when they're not quite so new and shiny.
The LBO team searched the Lighthouse area this evening for that rarity that may have eluded Hilbre and pitched up on the mainland instead. Nothing major but my first Reed & Sedge Warblers of the year along with several Common Whitethroats and a highly vocal Lesser Whitethroat. All nice birds to see - we even managed to solve the conundrum of the elusive Wirral Ring Ouzels. With so many being reported on the Wirral and having only seen two of them (one at the Lighthouse and one on Hilbre) I was beginning to think my eyes and ears were going . However, all was explained to the team when one of the paddocks was seen to hold a black rabbit with a white crescent on its upper belly - looking for all the World like a long eared four legged buck toothed Ring Ouzel. Mystery solved. An easy mistake to make at first light.

What I didn't mention in my last post was Friday's White Stork found by Chester Zoo's two Sarah's near Malpas and searched for later by Roger W and my good self to no avail. Photographic proof has been sent to the Rarities Committee and the same bird may have been seen flying over Northop Hall Sunday afternoon. Along with the Helsby White-throated Sparrow thats another BBRC rarity escaped the Cheshire Listers this year. Bu*ger.

19 Apr 2009

Waders, wellies and migrants.

The lighter evenings mean getting out for awhile after work and wardening work has begun at Neston Reedbed. A couple of trips down this week were rewarded with a late Hen Harrier dropping in to roost and the first Grasshopper Warblers reeling away in the brambles.

My local 'patch' is rapidly becoming the Gilroy of the South Wirral with Thursdays Spotted Redhank staying until at least Friday evening. Two Tree Pipits flying over early Friday morning and the first Common Whitethroat singing from a hawthorn hedge completed the haul. People may mock but when I find the spring Broad-billed Sandpiper on my muddy cow pat strewn local piece of field they will mock no more............................................................................................

Hilbre was the chosen venue for the weekends birding activities and walking through the channel resulted in wet feet meaning I'll have to buy my own magic wellies! Good numbers of migrants were about on both days although the early starts were a bit strenuous. Suprisingly its taken two weeks for Whimbrel to move the short distance from the birding blackhole in West Kirby to Hilbre where the first small groups were heard, seen and photographed.

Redstarts were a feature of the weekend with a female being ringed on Saturday and a male on Sunday. Wirral's premier Red-rumped Swallow finder, freshly bedraggled from celebrating his find in the pub Friday night, found a male at the Lighthouse whilst Roger Wilkinson found another at Neston Old Quay - where a Lesser Whitethroat also rattled last night as Jan & I took Molly for a quick walk before enjoying the evening sunshine sat outside the Harp with a pint.

Talking of Red-rumped Swallows - there is some confusion over when it was last seen. The last confirmed sighting was Friday night but there were two sightings Saturday, one of which was well away from its usual haunt. This was then deemed to be 'erroneous' by RBA but still feature on a local webiste. What is happening?

But I digress and mine is not to reason why. They must have their reasons. Hilbre also provided my first Yellow Wagtail(s) of the year with a bird heard Saturday and one seen Sunday. Along with several Tree Pipits a very elusive Ring Ouzel, double figures of Wheatear lots of phlylloscopus Warblers and a strong passage of both hirundines and Finches it was a good weekend to be on the Island.

Amazingly a single Fieldfare dropped into the Observatory garden Sunday before heading south of all directions. A couple of Common Scoter are still hanging around but most of the other winter visitors have departed.

A great weekend. Plenty of birds, good craic, good beer, a curry and beautiful weather. The only downside was a dead leg after being head butted by one of Hilbre's delinquent sheep that also tried to toss poor Molly over the fence. They obviously have a thing about men in wellies.......

16 Apr 2009

They're magic wellies.

I stand corrected. The lucky green wellies are actually magic wellies. A bit like kissing the Blarney Stone, although I hasten to add I din't kiss them, the magic can be passed on. Just standing next to the magic wellies and some of it rubbed off............................

No Red-rumped Swallow for me but a cracking Spotted Redshank a few minutes from home on the flooded field where the Little-ringed Plover are sill present.

A fantastic local find so close to home.

An early start today meant I was out at first light walking Molly. There must have been a fall last night as every bush seemed to hold either a Willow Warbler or Blackcap and two Tree Pipits flew over calling.