20 Sept 2009

Red-necked Phalarope on the Wirral.

A great couple of days birding on the Wirral started early Saturday morning with a dawn trip to Hilbre. Unfortunately we could only stay a couple of hours but the Obs reported a steady passage of birds through out the day.

Sunday saw Molly and me meeting up with Al Conlin to search the bushes paddocks around Leasowe Lighthouse for migrants. Not many passerines to be found but as the tide came in plenty of waders could be found on the waters edge or flying past after being pushed off the sandbanks - including this stonking Bar-tailed Godwit.

I'd wandered away to photograph the waders leaving Al a couple of hundred meters away watching the birds fly past.

Next minute he's ringing asking if I'd seen the possible phalarope go by! Boll*cks! Scrambling back over the sea wall I hurried to catch him up and listen to the tale of the 'one that got away'. Luckily Al thought it had landed about a mile away on the groyne immediately behind the Leasowe Castle Hotel. Convinced that it was a Red-necked and not a Grey Phalarope Al directed me to park amongst the wedding cars - not a wedding but a wedding fair. Feeling a bit out of place we scuttled round the back of the hotel, across the golf course and stood up on the sea wall directly opposite the groyne. A quick scan with the scope didn't reveal anything immediately but suddenly Albatross Al gave a slightly strangled cry of 'I've got it on the rocks'. Sure enough there it was but what species? Not wanting to put the news out until we were absolutely certain we studied the bird as best we could, at distance, before confirming it was indeed a Red-necked Phalarope. With the news broadcast other local birders soon appeared.

The combination of needle like bill with lack of yellow base and the extensive black fore crown clinched the identification as a 1st winter Red-necked Phalarope. What a find by one of Wirral's premier rarity finders.

The mini -twitch including Kendo Nagasaki no longer watching the bird but writing his shopping list, Steve 'I'm just going for petrol dear' Williams, Colin Jones (peering thorugh my scope!), John ' where is it? I must be looking the wrong way' Jones & Stan the man. Late arrivals included Mark Turner and our old mate Frank striding the fairway like a collosus stomping golf balls into the turf as he made his way via the direct route.

Elsewhere things were really quite quiet with the occasional Chiffchaff, Whitethroat & Blackcap to maintain interest. A quick trip to Inner Marsh Farm to join the campers and picnic-ers in the hide (come on guys - shove up, shut up and stop waving your arms out of the hide and the birds might come nearer) gave better views of the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper a couple of Green Sandpipers and a handfull of Ruff.

Grey Wagtails seem to be moving through in some numbers with several over Hilbre and this bird found close to the house. The garden seems strangely devoid of birds at the moment but piles of feathers dotted around suggest either a marauding Sparrowhawk or next doors cat! The lack of rain has meant the nearby pond is pretty dry and unappealing so this Wood Pigeon has virtually taken up residence on the bird bath.

Finally, an obliging Kestrel hovered long enough to get immoralised and digitised.

Great stuff!

18 Sept 2009

Autumnal weather

Autumn is upon us. Leaves are changing colour and flocks of tits & 'crests are beginning to steam through the woodlands and gardens. Hopefully the colder weather will deter the brain deads who inhabit Stanney Woods at night drinking cheap alcohol and smashing bottles to amuse their tiny minds.

Autumn passage over the house has started with the first parties of Meadow Pipits and the odd Grey Wagtail have passed over at first light. A major garden rarity was recorded this morning - a Reed Bunting by the pond. The high pressure has resulted in some superb sunsets over the garden in the last week.

Amongst other creatures inhabiting the garden is this large Frog that Molly found and takes great delight in getting it to hop by nudging it with her nose. Along with the regular Hedgehog its helping decimate the slug population.

16 Sept 2009

Assessing the rarity factor and 'hot' news from Bristol

Wonderful stuff! At last a definitive guide to allow a birder to participate in self examination of stools and assess for him / herself  the physiology of the human body is affected by the state of mind - or even allow a mate to assess your state of mind.........................................................

A copy has been pasted into my notebook as a reminder for our forthcoming Shetland jaunt. Brilliant piece of work by John Lawlor. See his website at:
Quite timely really as the RBA 'mega alert' has just gone off - Tufted Puffin in Kent..................................
Thousands of birders are now leaving the bathroom thinking was that a Type 5 or 7?
On another Bristollian matter it has been brought to my attention that Bristol Students Union suffered a major fire yesterday.
"Bristol University's student union was evacuated today after a storage shed full of canoes caught fire.Residents who live opposite the building saw thick black smoke coming from a shed in the front of the building in Queen's Road, Clifton, just before 9am today.The windows of a room with a swimming pool shattered due to the heat of the fire. Staff also had to be evacuated from the building.
Avon Fire and Rescue had the blaze under control by 9.30am. Queen's Road was closed during the operation"

Rumour has it the blaze was caused by our old birding mate Paddy O'Poynton childishly trying to set alight to the gaseous emissions caused by several curries and numerous pints of rough cider on a night out. Just as well he didn't cough!

14 Sept 2009

Even more Sandpipers.

Just when I thought it safe to relax back in the hammock and have a well earned snooze in the late afternoon sun my phone alerted me to a text! It was off David King informing me there were two Pectoral Sandpipers at Inner Marsh Farm. Within two minutes I was on my way  - two Pecs together is a notable occurence in Cheshire.

As expected the car park and hide were full but the Pec's were still present frequenting the island to the right of the hide in the same spot where last weeks Curlew Sandpiper frequented so record shots only.

Other waders seen in my brief visit included Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank. Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing.

13 Sept 2009

Bits and bobs.

With an easterly air stream towards the tail end of the week expectations were high of something rare on the Wirral or in Cheshire. With Booted & rarities being found along the east coast surely one would end up over this way and proove twitchable. No such luck! Howevr, birds are beginning to move in small numbers and Hilbre had a slow but steady movement of Robins, warblers, chats and wagtails. Two early morning starts proved that the year is waning - it was still dark at 06.00! Even though bird numbers weren't high there were some fantastic sightings - such as the immature Peregrine watched hunting down and eventually catching an unfortunate Redshank as dawn broke - the Redshank did everything it could to escape by repeatedly diving into the water before probably succumbing to exhaustion.

From the second photo shows the falcon seemingly dispatching its prey by biting through the chest cavity to the heart. Gruesome but effective.

Hilbre also hosted small numbers of returning Northern Wheatears and a single Stonechat whilst several Grey Wagtails passed overhead.

All good stuff and bread and butter for an Observatory - unfortunately not every bird can be a rarity!
The Indian summer has meant the last few days have been extremely hot and birding stopped by midday to be replaced by a quiet snooze in the garden on the hammock! Not quite stopped though as a commotion above me turned out to be a large party of Rooks trying to chase off a pair of Ravens and a Buzzard sharing the same thermal.

Stanney Woods is very quiet but a few Goldcrests seem to have arrived over the last week and Song Thrush numbers seem to be up. Elsewhere a reported Curlew Sandpiper with Dunlin at the wader mecca of Gilroy didn't raise much enthusiasm - I've yet to see any of the birds ever reported here except the resident escaped exotic teal. Apparantely it flew in with Dunlin and virtually flew straight off again. Wirral's exotic escapes continue to be rpeorted with 'Terry' the Rose-ringed Parakeet still to be seen around Leasowe Lighthouse and the paddocks behind  the seawall and a Ross's Goose spoiling its wild crednetials by mingling with the Canada's and two farm yard 'table' geese at Inner Marsh Farm.

9 Sept 2009

Sandpipers galore.

Meandered down to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB earlier this week and caught up with a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper that frustrated my attempts at photographing it by remaining distant. Water levels low with plenty of exposed mud and looking good for a rare wader or two...............................
Not so this individual at Traeth Dullas that landed my side of the stream briefly. One of 4- 5 present along with the long staying Baird's Sandpiper. This time it was the turn of the Baird's to stay out of lens reach!

More locally this Rook was a bit more confiding then they usually are.
Weather conditions are looking good for a rarity this coming week with winds coming from the East. In timely fashion BB have published an article on ageing & sexing of Asian chats. Siberian Blue Robin on Hilbre at the weekend?

8 Sept 2009

Bare a*ed birders.

A quick mention for two of Cheshires finest - Pod & Gregsy-La - who've gone to Laos to try and find the recently 'discovered' Bare-faced Bulbul. The lads are spending 2 weeks in the steaming tropics looking for this Bulbul with a face as smooth and feather free as a babies bum. Follow their exploits here:

They've found them and even photographed them. People with a sensitive constitution may find some of the images upsetting - especially the one of Pod stripped to the waist looking like Grant Mitchells Grandad and Gregsy getting a good chewing on by a Leech.

6 Sept 2009

Another great seawatching day on the Wirral.

Hilbre Obs members and guests were out in force yesterday and I was joined in the yomp across by Mark Payne and the ever youthful Kenny Mac - even though he needed to carry his own oxygen bottle! Apparantely he's better at swimming than walking. Sweating after arriving at double time to catch up with an Osprey on the West Hoyle Bank we were greeted by the welcome sight of Doreen Williams brandishing a tray with mugs of tea!

After a quick refreshment we joined the other avid seawatchers in the hide and waited for the fun to begin. 7 solid hours and a very numb bum later we'd amassed in incredible list of birds. See the Hilbre Blog for full details. Birds included a juvenile Sabine's Gull seen only by two of us as it was to far to the left for others to see and  couldn't be seen by observors on the slipway.
Leach's Petrels gave good views as they worked their way back to the open sea and we counted a good Bakers Dozen.
Brilliant stuff. With Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Red-throated Divers and Manx Shearwaters passing in good numbers we were kept busy - although the hide went distinctly quiet when news came through that the ever vigilant Seaforth Crew had got a Wilson's Petrel in the Mersey Mouth and that our old muckers 'Skipper' Conlin and his faithful manservant Kendo Nagasaki had twitched it from the New Brighton side and saw the bird after being talked onto the location by the Seaforth lads but had poor and distant views. Nice one lads.
After leaving my sandwiches in the Obs Mark and Steve kindly shared their lunches with me - including some  delicious homemade pizza. Certain people scoffed all theirs.................................
With a juvenile Sabines Gull on the foreshore at Meols being a County lifer for Mark we declined Doreens kind offer of another brew and pegged it acorss the sands for a distant glimpse of my third Sabs in two days.
A fantastic day was rounded of by superb views of Little Terns feeding in one of the channels off Middle Eye.

Local birding doesn't get much better than this!

4 Sept 2009

A clean sweep with a Sooty.

Expectations were high with 30 -40 knot westerlies blowing off the N Wirral coast and a full compliment of Wirral seawatchers were out and joined by luminaries from the opposite side of the Mersey. Birders as far afield as Manchester had ventured out for the day to experience a good blow on the Wirral. We weren't disappointed! The mouth of the Mersey was the unusual location for my first Cheshire Sooty Shearwater - a bird that lingered for a good hour allowing the assembled throng to feast their eyes on this local rarity. Manx Shearwater, Leach's Petrel, Fulmar, Bonxie and Kittiwake all put in an appearance but after missing at least 2 Sabines Gulls Mark Turner & I decided t ojoin Frank & Allan at the Gunsites only to get a call saying an adult Sabines was showing well at Perch Rock just off the breakwater!!! Bollocks. Off we shot leaving Graham Jones to find a juvenile Long-tailed Skua as is bombed past through the surf. Double bollocks.

Unbelievably we 'twitched' an adult Sabines - it was still showing well and I braved a sand blasting by walking down the beach for these shots.
A cracking days seawatching and a Cheshire lifer as well. Unfortunately we missed the Balearic found by one of the Seafroth  crew earlier in the day but theres always tomorrow.........