31 Mar 2009

Eastern promise -Water Ouzels & Mountain Blackbirds.

Sit back and enjoy the spectacle that the Cheshire eastern hills have to offer!

At least 3 Ring Ouzels (all seen together - 2 females & 1 male). Possibly as many as 5 but it could have been the same mobile pair.

Red Grouse every where but typically wary.

Plenty of Wheatears.

Meadow Pipits everywhere.

Dippers in the streams.......................................

Along with Grey Wagtails.....................

Mandarins on the reservoirs........................................................

Curlew, Golden Plover and Raven's overhead!

Finally, the first Willow Warbler od the year and a single northward bound Swallow.

27 Mar 2009

At least one Woodpecker undeniably exists.

Unlike America where photographic forgery, claim , counter claim and character assination have all been attributed to the search for the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker at least there is photographic evidence that an equally elusive bird is well and thriving in that remote urban woodland that is Stanney Woods.

At long last I managed a few record shots of the male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker this morning. Picking it up drumming I finally located it within 200 m of the car park. Although drumming it wasn't calling much but showed well for about 30 minutes.

Migrants are thin on the ground with only a single Chiffchaff and Blackcap showing. Elsewhere a flock of 30+ Linnets feeding on the stubble was a good local record where in the past only the occasional flyover birds have been recorded. Good news is that the Tree Sparrows are back in the same area after being missing most of the winter. 5-6 birds were amongst the resident House Sparrow flock. Spring is slowly arriving and even the local Carrion Crows are beginning to collect sheeps wool to line their nests.

A pair of Bullfinches have been shy and secretive visitors to the garden and spend a lot of time feeding on spilt nijer see thrown around by the Goldfinches. The male banged into the conservatory window yesteday but flew off seemingly unharmed. Knowing how easily Bullfinches haemorrhage I was pleased to see them both back this morning and contorted myself out the bathroom window to get a couple of photo's.

Stu Taylor of the RSPB is leaving the Dee Estuary and moving back to take up a post in Wales. Good luck Stu & we'll no doubt catch up sometime in the future!

25 Mar 2009

What no football?

Been abroad for a couple of days on business. Nothing much on the bird scene apart from singing Black Redstart. Theres been some interesting developments whilst I've been away - it appears that none of my Man Utd supporting mates have made any comment on their blogs about Saturday's result at Fulham...................Oh dear. Its all going Pete Tong. 6 goals conceded in two games and three red cards. I've not received any gloating texts for a couple of weeks! However, I feel it is my civic duty to bring this result to the attention of the wider masses.

Fulham 2- Man Utd 0

After the game it was discovered Ronaldo had left this on the pitch'

Anyway back to the birds. It looks as if Hilbre stalwart Degsy has been performing beyond the call of duty again as a Coal Tit ( a rare bird on Hilbre) was caught chewing on his nuts in the Obs Garden. No pain no gain!
I should imagine Ferguson will consider roasting a few nuts let alone chewing on them!

22 Mar 2009

Birding doesn't get tougher than this..................

So spake the wise sage of West Kirby after another relatively fruitless few days in the field searching for the elusve biggie on the N Wirral Coast. With Hoopoe, Osprey & Ring Ouzel being reported in N Wales and across the Mersey in Lancs hopes were high for something good but rewards were scant and limited to a few Chiffchaffs and Wheatears. Hilbre scored Thursday with an early Tree Pipit - a good find and probably the earliest in Cheshire.

Trips to Hilbre Friday and Saturday meant two early morning starts! The first Wheatears of the year were caught and ringed and a good passage of both Gannets and Little Gulls kept the troops entertained whilst we sustained ourselves with Mrs Williams' incomparable chocolate melting moments. The male Eider put in a brief appearance flying past the N end before promptly disappearing and two Merlins meant the Meadow Pipits were in a constant state of agitation.

Birding is all about getting out and enjoying the fresh air and countryside so a derelict patch of ground in Bromborough, surrounded by wire fences, fly tipping and with the stench of two stroke in the air from the trail bikes roaring up and down, wasn't exactly a salubrious place to be. It did have some benefits though - a Little Ringed Plover amongst the displaying Ringed Plover and a good flock of alba Wagtails witha single White Wagtail amongst them. Found by the Wirral's premier Bacon Butty maker along with his side kick who, not content with snaffling the rest of the melting moments also snaffled a Bacon Butty with my name on it...................

Local home the Buzzards are displaying and an afternoon stroll with Molly also resulted in two Sand Martins battling north against a head wind.

Spring is here but the going is tough as the migrants slowly tricke in.

19 Mar 2009

A sad day.

Pete Williams, Chairman of the Hilbre Island Bird Observatory, passed away recently and his funeral was held yesterday. A moving tribute to Pete can be seen here:

It is a measure of the esteem in which Pete was held that the chapel was overflowing and people were standing in the aisles and outside to listen to the tribute written by his family and read out by the Vicar. He will be missed by everyone who knew him. Although there were many Wirral & Merseyside birders present it was hard to recognise everyone in suits & not wearing their standard birders -garb and without bins around their necks!

A beautiful spring day culminated in my first Wheatear of the year.

16 Mar 2009

Cattle Egret & Avocet!


News came out today of a Cattle Egret near Frodsham that had apparantly been present for a week. Unfortunately no one knew exactly where it was! However, consulting aerial photographs of the area on the net, I pinpointed a likely field that you could see had cows in and passed the news on to Pod & Malc who duly found the bird literally the other side of the farm track!

This is probably the same bird seen at nearby Delamere Forest recently and is the 3rd confirmed record for Cheshire following birds on the Wirral and at Higher Poynton last year. The bird stayed pretty close to its prefered cow pat frequently digging in for some juicy morsel. The same fields also held two adult Med Gulls with a flock of Black-headed Gulls.

The lighter evenings means getting out after work and so a quick trip to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB was in order. Brilliant views of Ruff near the hide and even the ellusive Avocets put in an appearance.

15 Mar 2009

Strange happenings....

Quote of the weekend: Sir Alex Ferguson 'I felt we were the better team'.
Result of the weekend: Man Utd 1 Liverpool 4

Humiliation of the weekend: Man Utd being routed at Old Trafford.
Headline of the weekend: 'Liverpool open up title race with clinical demolition of Ferguson's flops'

Strange happening: complete silence from all my Utd supporting mates. Have all their mobiles suddenly stopped working?

The next best quote of the weekend?

Phil Vickery ex-England rugby captainand cornerstone of the front row asked why he thought the penalty count and yellow cards against his team would be reduced this weekend:

'Because I said so'.
Asked again by the female interviewer:
'Because I said so'.

A sweet result at Twickenham today with the French being routed 34-10!

A good weekend all round but still no summer migrants for me despite being out and about in the most likely spots. Good news is that some birds are gettign through with Stan ringing me about 2 Wheatear at Burton Marsh yesterday and several Sand Martins being seen locally.

With milder weather all the birds are starting to sing in earnest and a walk around Burton Mash this morning was accompanied by singing Skylarks and Reed Buntings. Several Greenshank were present on the Decca Pools and a female Marsh Harrier hunted distantly. Other raptors included Merlin & Hen Harrier and there are still 100+ Pinkfeet around.

Other birds included a Water Rail seen briefly in flight and a pair of posing Grey Partridges.

A tour of the N Wirral coast yesterday ended up with the usual cuppa at the Lighthouse cafe with Frank & Al and a desperate attempt to salvage something from a disappointing day by searching through the gulls and waders on New Brighton marine lake.

More locally the Mealy Redpoll's are still present in Stanney Woods but no further sign of the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker.

13 Mar 2009

A mistake on my part.

After seemingly resolving the issue of disappearing birds on the Wirral yesterday I opened my in-box this morning to find photographic evidence that I was only partially right. Rather than a transformation process it appears that a hybridisation has taken place as a locally placed birder sent me this photograph taken yesterday.

Actually this is probably a more reasonable explanation following my own observations at a nearby reserve where both Avocet and Shelduck are known to breed. It appears that one lone Shel-drake has penchant for black & white birds with no prejudice. It is easy to imagine that after this mating it turned its attention to a female Avocet.

My thanks to the well informed local who sent me the picture of the Avoduck and helped clear up the mystery.

12 Mar 2009

Full moon birding.

The effects of the moon cycle on birds is well known. From its effects on the tides dictating wader movements to clear night and migration the moon has as much effect on birds as the sun! However there has been a recently discovered and as yet unheard of phenomonen occuring on the Wirral during the recent full moon.

Little did I know when photographing the above magnificent spectacle from my garden that there would be a more sinister aspect to its beauty.

It appears that, in certain areas on the Wirral, it can cause birds to transform into another species. One has to be quick to react on news in these areas as the transformation is quick to complete.

Today two of these:

Very quickly transfomred themselves into two of these:

Unfortunately local Wirral yearlisters living close by were just to late!

8 Mar 2009

In search of migrants!

With news that two very early White Wagtails had been reported on the Wirral hopes were high the first wave of migrants would be heading our way this weekend! Nothing -and no White Wagtails subsequently reported anywhere else which is a bit mystifying! A case of Easyjet back (come on guys I know you don't want to pay extra for seats with back adjustment but just a couple of degrees extra will make all the difference to passenger comfort!) meant I've not had the inclination to wander far but even so spent a lot of time out and about looking for the first Chiffchaff to no avail.

Highlight of the weekend has been the return of a singing male Yellowhammer locally - one of only two birds tenaciously clinging on for the last few years. Good news is our local farmer has signed up to the entry level Countryside Stewardship scheme and has left stubble all winter. This has attracted a large mixed finch flock and his first Barn Owl for 25 years!!! Ploughing commences for the spring sowing of barley in the next couple of weeks so I'm hoping the odd Wheatear will drop in given favourable weather conditions.

No sight or sound of the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in Stanney Woods all weekend despite having the camera with me! Some interesting shots of Treecreeper (above) and Great-spotted Woodpecker showing the adaptions that make them so adept at climbing - especially the stiffened tail feathers of the Woodpecker.

Rivacre Valley was also a migrant free zone but teeming with commoner birds. This reserve certainly seems t obe the stronghold for Bullfinches in the area and is home to at least one pair of Grey Wagtails.

A quick trip to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB on Friday afternoon was rewarded with good views of Ruff and a selection of wintering wildfowl. The Oystercatchers are back on territory but no sign of their Avocet -foe yet. Both Water Rail & Med Gull were heard but not seen. With lots of muddy margins its looking good for a spring wader passage.

Finally, congratulations to those celebrities who've climber Kilimanjaro for the Red Nose appeal. Having done it myself in 2004 I know what they've been through and how they feel!

Yours truly on the summit of Kilimanjaro - Uhuru Peak 5895 m above sea level.