30 May 2009

Here come the girls.....................

To quote from the TV advert - Painted Ladies everywhere. More than at the make-up counter of Boots. With record numbers on the move I scored with one in the garden Wednesday followed by 7 on an evening stroll the following day. Nothing could compare to the shock of seeing literally thousands on Hilbre Saturday morning. Literally clouds of Painted Ladies rising from around our feet. An awesome sight and to think they've migrated all the way from Africa is mind boggling.

Certainly more butterflies than birds with only flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and a handful of Sanderling providing much interest although a Hobby blasted through early on and a dead Swift found on 'Buzzard Hill' looked to have fallen prey to the falcon.

Plenty of birds in the garden though with the juvenile House Sparrows all inquisitive and keen to get immortalised o nthe web. At one stage the bird bath was brimming with 5 baby Great Tits and even the male Bullfinch enjoyed a dip in the blistering heat.

More posing and preening than Christiano Ronaldo. Talking of which! Headline of the week:

Rumour has it the explosion heard at Old Trafford Friday wasn't Sir Alex giving his players the infamous 'hair dryer' treatment but the sound of a bubble bursting.............................
And whilst on the subject of news papers and bylines here's another one - all the hooligans are on Shetland. I know at least one Man City hooligan who's banished himself (only kidding Jase!)

25 May 2009

A warm weekend.

A sunny Bank Holiday weekend! Time to dust the barbeue off and get in the garden for the first time this year. Friday evening saw me in Stanney Woods where the highlight was the male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker calling above the heads of the furtive little scallies dodging around clutching their illicit bottles of alcohol in Bargain Booze bags. It was something out of a vampire film as they scuttled from one patch of darkness toanother whilst trying to avoid the dappled sunlight that filtered through the canopy onto the tracks. The highlight of their week - drinking rot gut vodka and getting a high from smashing the bottles to show how tough they are!

The garden is teeming with young birds with broods of Goldfinches, Robins, House Sparrows and Starlings. The Starlings are everywhere and we've had at least 50 juveniles and adults flying around between the nearby fields (where the farmers been muck spreading) and the garden all weekend. Just like a scene from a Hitchcock movie................

It was an expectant crew that departed West Kirby early Saturday morning bound for Hilbre. A beautiful day but few migrants to be seen and photographic oppurtunities were limited to the resident Meadow Pipits and the few remaining Whimbrel. You can tell its quiet not even Gilroys had anything interesting!

Only a couple of late Wheatears graced the west side whilst amongst the waders a few lingering Dunlin, Sanderling, Knot and a single Bar-tailed Godwit provided the other interest. Still it gave plenty of time to savour Mrs Williams' home made Brownies!

Bank Holiday Monday saw me having to got to the office early so we decided to take Molly to Loggerheads where I'd heard the Pied Flycatchers had failed to return this year. The good news was a single male Pied Flycatcher was heard singing on the opposite side of the stream to the main path but best of all was a cracking male Redstart heard and then tracked down to a stand of old Beech trees at the top of the hill.

Intersting news from Portland Obs where following last weeks difficult hipolais warbler on the Great Orme they've now reassessed one of their birds photographed but not caught and from Spurn a singing male was also initially mis-identified this weekend. I wonder how many old records submitted without the benefit of digital photographs have also been mistakenly identified?

21 May 2009

Melodious it is then!

Concensus of opinion appears to favour Melodious Warbler with other photos available showing length of 1st primary in relation to primary coverts being the clincher. Interstingly Bardsey caught Icterine yesterday..................

Melodious Warbler above photographed in Shetland 2007.

20 May 2009

Icterine or Melodious?

Looks like the Great Orme warbler is causing some debate with some observors questioning its true identity. In the field the whole jizz of the bird shouted 'Iccie' but questions are being asked over the primary projection. Svenson shows there is a wide range in the wing length of Icterine Warbler and the smallest is only 2 mm longer than the largest Melodious. Easy enough to see from the comfort of an arm chair..............................

BWP suggests lenght of exposed primaries should be greater than 50% length of exposed tertials. Running the ruler over the Great Orme bird and taking into account the drooped wing so measuring the tertials rather than the exposed secondaries you get the following:


Melodious warblers can show pale wing panels but rarely as extensive as this bird . The dark centred pale fringed tertials are also good for Icterine as are the pale fringes to the greater coverts.

A very educational bird and one who's identity is not as clear cut as it first seemed.

17 May 2009

For sale, one large lump of Limestone suitable for turning into cement........

'Two Phones', Degsy & me were enjoying a nice cup of tea ( and choccie biscuits) on Hilbre and commenting on how good it looked for an Icterine Warbler. A phone goes. Its one of Steve's. He answers and immediately lets out an expletive. Shocked we wonder whats happened - we soon find out. Marc Hughes has found OUR Icterine Warbler on the Great Orme. B*gger! Plans were instantly hatched to get rid of the Orme. If it wasn't there the good birds that keep turning up there would probably end up on the Wirral. Turn it into cement and build a land fill site near Leasowe Lighthouse. Cap it and bingo an instant headland..........................

Plans were made for a quick raid across the border and Steve picked me up and drove over to where Marc kindly agreed to meet us. Within seconds we had our first glimpse of probably what will be the only Icterine Warbler in the N West this spring. Clambering up and around a hawthorn bush about 40 m from where we stood.

Meanwhile VidAl was holding his own back at the Lighthouse despite the rain making things a little damp. The old adage 'the biggie travels alone' was never so true as in this case. Both the Wirral and the Orme were virtually devoid of birds yet an Icterine turned up on its todd!

A fantastic reward for all the effort Marc puts in on the Orme!

16 May 2009

If this was the east coast...................

Full of expectation the Saturday Hilbre crew departed the foreshore at West Kirby anticipating an Island heaving with birds. With a S E wind blowing surely an Icterine, Melodious or perhaps someting even rarer would make it our way?

The omens were good when a Peregrine was seen on the rocks between Little & Middle Eye. Birders are a superstitious breed and consult the oracle whenever they need reassurance. Some of us bypass the oracle and just consult the navel. Navel gazing is a massively underated past time.

Our expectations begun evaporating when the wind showed no signs of abating and the Island seemed strangely devoid of birds. Only a couple of Willow Warblers and a single Wheatear were grounded but a strong hirundine passage kept us entertained. The male Common Scoter and a handful of Whimbrel inhabited the foreshore whilst Frank inhabited the kitchen and kept us all fortified with tea.

A party of Mute Swans provided an unusual sight as they landed on the east side of the Island and stayed an hour before departing for Point of Air.

As energy levels began to dip Mrs Williams junior's sublime Coffee & Walnut cake was produced by Steve and as the sugar levels increased so did the optimism. Crumbs of comfort for the hardened crew.

Being an optimist there was still half the cake left............................. so still full of optimism I decided to head out and carry on the search for the elusive rarity once I'd reached home.

Bundling Molly into the back of the Landrover I left the drive only to be distracted by the local corvids creating a racket and obviously upset by something. A long winged raptor appeared through the windscreen and my first reaction was 'harrier'. Reversing back up the drive I grabbed the camera off the front seat as the raptor flew straight over the house. F*ck me it was a Red Kite!!! Getting harrassed all the time by the beligerent Crows it initially headed S W before giving up trying to fly into the teeth of a gale and drifted N W up the Wirral.

Awesome! The day suddenly got an awful lot better. My optimism was well placed!

15 May 2009

Welcome to Cheshire - twinned with the Carmargue.

I could have been in the Carmargue today - except for the weather! A quick trip to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB after work in case a Temminck's Stint or Black Tern showed up failed on both counts but Spoonbill, Avocet and Marsh Harrier were a good selection for Cheshire!

The Spoonbill flew in over the hide from Burton Marsh and circled before settling briefly on the back of No. 1 lagoon and then disappeared again. The Marsh Harrier favoured the area at the back of the reserve by the old barn and only once came close enough to get a couple of shots.

7 Avocets present but it looks as if all the nests have failed again. Rumour has it a hungry Badger scoffed all the eggs along with those of the Black-headed Gulls.

The black blobs aren't marks on the lens or the camera sensor - they're St Marks Flies that have hatched and are currently everywhere.

14 May 2009

America may be full of red necks but Cheshire's got Black Necks!

An hour of pure pleasure watching these fantastic birds by myself.

A trip to Leeds finished in time for me to call in and look at some local Black-necked Grebes on the way home. Despite the overcast conditions and drizzle the four birds present gave stunning views.

The Black-necks were the main attraction but the local Little Grebes are also looking resplendent in their breeding plumage.