27 Feb 2010

Finch Fest.

The garden feeders are geting drained every other day. The number of birds visitng is remarkable. A male Blackcap is now a regular but even putting out half an apple won't tempt him to stay long enough for a photo. He grabs a sunflower seed and skulks back in the bushes. Milder weather yesterday even tempted a bit of song whilst the Chaffinches have been singing now for several weeks.

All the photo's were shot in poor light with a high ISO to try and get theshutter speed high enough to freeze an movement. Hence the graininess.

Cetti's Warblers are back on the Wirral and a 3 hour wait last weekend was rewarded in one short burst of song and a couple of 'tacs' deep within hte undergrowth. Its good to see they've survived the cold weather and hopefully the recent Cheshire colonisation will continue. Nearby Long - tailed Tits seemed to sense the imminent arrival of spring and were seen gathering nesting material!. Maybe they're making a feather filled duvet.

22 Feb 2010

Digiscoping with Paul Hackett

A quick plug for Alan Davies & Paul Hackett who are organising a Digiscoping demonstration. For details contact Alan on the email address below:

We have been talking with Paul Hackett, ace digiscoper about organising some events to help people improve their digiscoping to get the very best images possible. Paul produces stunning images and can help you greatly improve your pics with his expert tips and practical advice. We plan an all day session with both theory and practical so you get the chance to take pics with Paul on hand to advise and help. It should be a great fun day, relaxed and informal, if you would be interested please get in touch. Numbers will be limited and booking essential so we can plan the day. We are looking at doing two courses one on Saturday the 17th April and the same one on Sunday the 18th April.

If you would like to book or would like more details please contact us.

Alan and Ruth

The Biggest Twitch

21 Feb 2010

Owls, Geese and Dowitchers.

Sunday morning and the snows back. Unbelievably after the beautiful day yesterday I woke to find leaden skies and several inches of snow! With Molly recovering from an operation and not being allowed to walk far it looks as if we'll be house-bound for most of the day. With Janet in London for the weekend its just me and the dog fending for ourselves as best as we can.

The week started with a quick trip to IMF with Al Orton where the Long-billed Dowitcher had taken up very temporary residence. Not only that but we had an extra bonus when an Egyptian Goose flew in! I've seen more Dowitchers in Cheshire than these feral breeders.

With Jan up very early for her trip Saturday I decided to spend a couple of hours at Burton Marsh and walked along the track to the Decca Pools where plenty of wildfowl seemed to be congregating. it was a beautiful clear frosty morning with hardly a cloud in the sky.  The fields behind the pools were full of finches and buntings with a flock of at least 150 skylarks being one of the highlights.

A careful and patient search of the mobile finch flocks was required to pick out a couple of Brambling whilst amongst the commoner Reed Buntings a single male Yellowhammer glowed in its canary coloured plumage. Elsewhere on the reserve a flock of 30 Yellowhammers has been feeding in a sacraficial crop. It's nice to see so many birds together - 200+ Linnets, 30+ Reed Buntings, 50+ Chaffinches and of course the Skylarks, all feeding in one area of stubble where the farmer has left it stand for the winter.

I made a quick visit to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB but didn't go into the hide as the full car park suggested there wasn't going to be much room! Instead I scanned the new area of the reserve out towards Shotwick and picked out the Egyptian Goose again. A couple of Water Rails showed well foraging in the wet leaf litter at the bottom of the path but the main attraction was the huge numbers of Pinkfeet feeding just off the reserve. I reckoned there were 600+ - surely a record number for the county in recent times.

Just as  Iwas pulling up at home Mark 'Groucho' Payne rang to say he was heading over as Lou was going to the cinema. Arranging to meet at mine we once again set off to Burton where this time we also saw the wintering Marsh Harrier and some superb Short-eared Owls.

Once again a patient scan of the stubble was rewarded with a Brambling and then it was back to IMF to try and catch up with the Egyptian Goose for Mark. Unfortunately some complete numpty had left the hide, climbed a fence and up the bund shielding visitors from the scrapes and frightened off all the birds and the Egyptian Goose had disappeared. Still we picked out 5 Ruff on the new flood and eagle-eyed Groucho found a single Spotted Redshank. With the light fading and the temperature dropping fast the RSPB showed its caring side and made two cold members a welcome cup of tea! We also had a chance to see the plans for the reserve expansion. It really is going to be a stunning place. Already the creation of a new wetland habitiat has attracted a Bittern and the big flock of Pinkfeet. Unfortunately it appears as if the cold winter has decimated the local Little Egret population and we only saw 3 -4 birds all day. Hopefully some may have just moved to milder areas but a lot will have died.

The garden feeders have now attracted a male Blackcap!

Finally, Allan and the rest of the Antarctic cruisers have returned and his blog will be updated over the next few weeks to include some photo's of some of the stunning birds they've seen:


18 Feb 2010

Wagtail update.

More news on last years colour ringed Pied Wagtail from Iain Livingstone who rings them in Scotland:

Thank you for the report of the colour ringed wagtail via BTO.

This bird is one of ours from last autumn.
Ringed X714157 as a Juvenile at roost in Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell North Lanarkshire, on 29th August 2009.
Due to the excellent photo we can be sure this is the individual and will be able to report it to the BTO for analysis.
Thank you very much for sending this in. The record fits with the movment of our local (probably), juvenile Pied wagtails south for the winter and is our second from Cheshire. One killed by a cat in Northwich in December 2008.

I think Iains being very kind about the photo.

15 Feb 2010


I was walking Molly along the lane and scanning the stubble when suddenly every bird took off in fright. Expecting a Sparrowhawk I checked the skies to see this Peregrine heading west at height and not at all bothered by the presence of so much potential food below!

Also present today was a flock of 194 Lapwings.

A phone call from Graham Jones to let me know he'd found a Long-billed Dowitcher feeding with Lapwings off Denhall Lane, Burton saw me heading off for a quick look. Unfortunately Graham rang to say the bird had just flown & I missed it by 10 minutes! A check of the Decca Pools revealed 3 Ruff & a roosting Bar-tailed Godwit that caused monentary panic as all  I could see was a head with a prominent supercillium as the bill and rest of the body were partially hidden.

13 Feb 2010

A lucky Rabbits foot.

February the 13th. Unlucky for some but lucky for others. My Mum's birthday! Not so lucky for the Rabbit as this local Buzzard seems to be carrying the whole leg along and not just the foot as a good luck charm!

The local Dunnocks are beginning to sing along the hedgerow and doing what Dunnock's do with lots of chasing and wing flicking on the ground.

Signs of spring are definitely in the air even though the temperature is barely above freezing. A quick look at the Shotwick fields for Swans Friday afternoon was rewarded with a mixed herd of Whoopers and Bewicks relatively close to the road. Using the Landrover as a hide ensured they didn't get spooked and fly off.

An early morning trip to Hilbre Saturday morning with Steve & Colin proved to be a good move  -despite having to get up in the dark! It was one of those beautiful February days when there was still a chill in the air but defineite signs of spring and things to come. Only another 3 weeks and we'll be seeing the first Wheatears......

The long staying Velvet Scoter was to distant to photograph but showed gave good 'scoped views for most of the morning. The Brent's reached record numbers for this winter and the flock held two Dark-bellied amongst the more numerous Pale-bellied. Sea-watching was successful with good numbers of Great-crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers and Red-breasted Mergansers.Passerines were represented by the first (for me) Linnets of the year and the over-wintering Rock Pipit. The regular peregrine was soaking up the early morning rays debating its next move whilst all the Obs members saw a Harbour Porpoise off the north end. Great stuff.

As usual the Purple Sandpipers looked unbelievably cute as they roosted over the high tide.

With bacon butties and Clare's chocolate melting moments what more could we want....................

Scaup. Thats what! On leaving Hilbre I took the oppurtunity to catch up with the long staying 1st winter drake Scaup on West Kirby marine lake. It was quite happy at the N end leaving the dinghy pilots at the other end.

Don't forget:

9 Feb 2010

Antarctic trip report.

My mate Allan and his motley crew of tango-ing onboard miscreants have set off for a once in a lifetime trip to to the Antarctic via Argentina & the Falklands. Allan has set up a trip blog & I've agreed to help update it so everyone who knows them can see what they've been seeing:

6 Feb 2010

Return of the cold weather.

Not much birding this week due to work commitments that saw me leaving one ice-bound country for another - Austria! At least they know how to cope with a bit of cold weather. Arrivng late Thursday night at Manchester airport I was once again struck by how inefficient our airports are - only 4 immigration desks open (resulting in a 40 minute wait whilst a tannoy apologised for the inconvenience due to refurbishment. There were still 3 empty desks though................) & two separate car park ticket machines failed to work. Time from leaving plane to getting into car 45 minutes with hand luggage only!

Anyway, back to the birds, Good numbers of birds still utilising the stubble and the local Raven spotted carrying off a juicy bit of road-kill.

The dusting of snow made the local Robins even more photogenic than usual whilst the Starling flock still doesn't have a Rose-coloured amongst them. It's only time.............

All the usual birds still feeding in the two fields each side of the lane but the large Chaffinch flock has now been joined by small numbers of Greenfinches.

2 Feb 2010

Leucisitc Whooper

More news on the pale legged Whooper on Shotwick fields courtesy of Adrian Foster who contacted the WWT. This is their response:
Many thanks for sending this through. Looks like a clear case of a leucistic Whooper to me. I see that there’s also some lack of pigmentation on the bill (in the black areas towards the tip) though not as marked as on the legs.

It’s been some time since I’ve seen one, but there were occasional cases of Whoopers with aberrant leg colour at Martin Mere about 10 years ago. Best ones
Thanks for the info Adrian.