30 Mar 2010

Local Raven.

After Saturday's excitement Sunday was spent at home with the occasional foray out to take Molly for a walk. The stubble fields still hold a flock of around 50 Meadow Pipits and there are still 3 Reed Buntings and a few Chaffinches around - the latter now joined by a a few Linnets.

The main surprise is the Raven still hanging around. This time of year they'd usually be expected to be breeding. I don't think its one of a pair so I assume its a none breeding bird thats found the area to its liking. It was seen displaying a few times although most of the time it was quite happy feeding in the rape fields.

28 Mar 2010

Black Redstart on Hilbre.

A late night Friday meant I wasn't awake early enough to get to Hilbre before the high tide. Chris & Steve were there though and a text around 8ish alerted me to a Black Redstart. Bugger. Groucho Payne was also up bright and early, albeit hungover and a missed call from him was returned whislt I sleepily made a brew. Mark hadn't seen Black Redstart in Cheshire before so was keen to try and catch up with it. Plans were made to nip across after high tide. Five minutes later he rings me back - Black Redstart, Marbury Country Park.  Being a lot closer to his house he managed to see that one along with Al Orton and they both decided to make the trip to Hilbre for second helpings! Before we'd even left Steve rang to say the bird had been trapped and ringed!

The walk across was enlivened by me having to give all 17 stone of Al a piggy back across various water filled gutters as he'd forgotten his wellies but we managed to arrive at the Obs with my spine intact although compressed. Meeting Colin Wells we had a brew before searching for the Black Redstart. It didn't take long for Al to spot it but it remained elusive for the whole of our visit, disappearing for up to an hour at one stage.

Black Redstart, Hilbre. Spot the shiny new ring.
Another brew and we decided on a low tide seawatch. A few Kittiwakes were passing along with the odd Little Gull, a Fulmar and an unidentified auk.

Although there weren't many birds around it was nice to be out on the island and enjoy the spring weather.

26 Mar 2010

Wheatears & coffee.............

An early morning dash to Hilbre following the tide out was thwarted by the reluctance of the sea to ebb away - probably due to the low pressure the tide seemed to linger and not want to go. Hanging around on the foreshore I was fortunate to see a Snow Bunting flushed by an early morning dog walker as it headed out towards the Islands.

Whilst Chris had made if before the tide, Degsy and I wandered in and out of the water in our wellies looking look two over grown Calidrids. Or Dickheads to the casual obeservor. We eventually picked our way through the water and although my feet were dry Degsy had holes in his wellies that meant they were neither use or ornament.

Plenty of birds for us to see though with good numbers of Curlews roosting on Little Eye and the regular Peregrine treating us to a flypast whilst the Brents swam ahead of us wondering what was going on.

Arriving on Hilbre we were met by Chris with a nice Coffee and two Wheatears he'd trapped. Once duly processed we set them on their way where hopefully someone will spot the colour rings and report them so we can get an idea as to where these birds end up.

The spring Little Gull passage is underway and Hilbre have had good numbers of these dainty gulls over the last few days. Apart from the Wheatears the only other signs of spring passerine passage were  new Robin and a single Chiffchaff.

All to soon our time on the Island was up but just as we were leaving something a lot larger than the Pergegrine treated us to a fly past - rarely seen in this neck of the woods the RAF Nimrod must have been at Speke airport. Maybe its a new tool being employed t otry and find some of these elusive birds that keep turning up at Gilroy Nature park that no one seems to be able to see!

Back on the mainland there was just time for a quick look around Leasowe Lighthouse where 4 Wheatears, 3 White Wagtails & 5 Chiffchaffs were picked up along with a Greenshank in the gutter with 3 Little Egrets and a good number of Redshanks.

The wet field opposite the entrance to the cafe provided a good oppurtunity to photograph a Curlew and some Black-tailed Godwits from the Landrover whilst a local Starling devoured a slug after bashing it against a fence post to remove the slime - something I've never seen them do before.

It's nice to see the pond by the house with frog spawn in it after a number of blank years.

20 Mar 2010

First Wheatears.

The first spring Wheatears are arrviving in dribs and drabs along the N Wirral coast and with several Ring Ouzels already being reported in the N West along with Alpine Swifts on the S Coast, Saturday had to be the day when I found my first spring Wheatear. A moment that really tells you winter is past and spring is here.

As if the weather didn't let me know in no uncertain terms. Rain and lots of it. Still, Molly needed walking so I persevered thinking that the inclement weather may have forced the odd migrant down to sit out the rain before the urge to migrate kicked in again. I was right:

Three Wheatears in the pony paddocks west of Leaoswe Lighthouse! Despite the teeming rain a record shot of this momentuous event was recorded for prosperity.

Unfortunately a Greenshank seen in the gutter didn't linger but there were two Little Egrets present (probably the ones that have been lurking in the Birkett) showing off their nice yellow feet as the montage below shows.

18 Mar 2010

Yankee vagrants.

With loads of American vagrants seemingly arriving weekly I'm always on the look out for something unusual! However, this bird can't be classed as a genuine vagrant  -even though its arrived at the same time as Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, more Ring-billed Gulls and Bonaparte's Gulls than you can shake a stick at, 2 Pied-billed Grebes in the Emerald Isle and inumerable dodgy Lesser Scaup, Dressers Eiders and other such delights.

It's been living wild since last spring and after hearing it was still going strong I couldn't resist a look. Somewhere in deepest darkest Cheshire between the Gowy tip and Craughton lurks this beauty.

Its been seen displaying with a Common Buzzard and seems quite happy feeding on the local rabbits.

Plenty of corvids around at the moment and the local Rookery is a place teeming with activity. A Raven's still knocking around the stuble fields on occasions and Carrion Crows are beginning to display.

A few summer migrants are beginning to trickle through & a pair of Little-ringed Plover have taken up what will probably be very temporary residence on bare ground alongside a series of rain water attenuation ponds near the end of the M56 motorway. I can see them from the car as I return from work in the evenings!

A large unidentified raptor flew over the house early this morning but by the time I picked it up it was to far off to positively identify as I didn't have my binoculars with me. My first reaction was 'Osprey' but with news of a Red Kite a few miles further north a couple of hours later I'm now not sure. Bugger.Visible migration consisted of a single Redpoll and a Grey Wagtail.

14 Mar 2010

More Skylarks.

Up with the Lark Saturday morning and set off for the N Wirral coast in search of an early Wheatear - not a migrant to be seen but caught up with Eddie Williams who I'd only seen once since our S African trip last June. A beautiful morning with only the Skylarks to keep me occupied although two flyover Ravens and a handfull of Black-tailed Godwits were also logged.


No migrants for me but someone in West Kirby has reported two White Wagtails. Amazingly amongst the first in the country with none reported on the south coast.

The garden feeders are now attracting both a male and female Blackcap whilst frog spawn has appeared in Stanney Woods - a good three weeks later than in previous years.

11 Mar 2010

Deformed Blue Tit

Bill deformities in birds aren't particularly rare but this was the first one I've seen 'in the hand' so to speak. It's a euring code 5 i.e born last year so has managed to survive the harshest winter for 30 years. It probably wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for Barry's feeding stations.

Either that or the male Crossbill(s) at Ness Gardens last spring was putting it around a bit.

More fantastic photo's from Skipper Albatross Conlin's South Atlantic epic here:

7 Mar 2010

Basking in the Mediterranean warmth of spring.

A long weekend this week with Friday spent ringing at Barry's place in Burton. Most of the Hilbre Obs regulars were present whilst the Pied-billed Grebe swam undetected just off the north end................Joking aside, with two of these in Ireland this week surely it won't be long before one is discovered lurking on a lake somewhere in the UK.

Much excitement Friday night following news of 16 Tundra Bean Geese near Frodsham weir. The birds were apparantly still present at dawn Saturday but mysteriously metamorphosed into Pinkfeet when Frank relocated them a few minutes away on Frodsham Marsh. An easy mistake to make as can be seen from the photo below taken several years ago on the Lancashire mosses. Spot the Bean Goose............

Sunday dawned sunny but cold. With Wheatear's being reported on the south coast a trip to the N Wirral seemed in order - if only to join family on a picnic by the Lighthouse. A walk around the pony paddocks was depressing in that it didn't reveal a single bird! However, the habitat looks superb and if the paddocks stay wet for another few weeks they'll be teeming with wagtails.

With the tide just turning flocks of Redshank fed in the gutter off the sea wall as Molly & I meandered back to join the picnic.

Deciding to try New Brighton for Med Gull I headed towars the Mersey mouth to find the whole area teeming with people so the usual roosting gull flocks were nowhere to be seen. Gulls soon appeared when someone started feeding the feral Pigeons & I managed a few quick shots of this 3rd calender year bird respendent in the bright sunshine.

Back at Stanney Woods the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker hasn't begun drumming in earnest yet - even the Greater-spotted are only just getting going. It was nice to find a singing male Goldcrest still hanging on despite the coldest winter for 30 years. Wren & Treecreeper numbers have crashed though.

4 Mar 2010

First spring migrants.

Spring officially started yesterday as far as Cheshire's birding fraternity were concerned with the arrival of three Garganey at Burton Marsh! Two drakes and a duck. Very early but very welcome.

Even though the first spring migrants have officially arrived the wintering ones are still very much in evidence as more of the weekends photo's show below:

Winter plumage Dunlin above.

Purple Sandpiper above.

Redshank above.

Ringed Plover above.

Sanderling above.

All photographed at Leasowe Coastguards.

1 Mar 2010

Up with the proverbial.

Spring is definitely springing - despite the seemingly never ending frosts. The birds are beginning to sing and I'm now waking up to daylight and the first tentative songs of the local Robin, Song Thrush & Chaffinches. Sunday morning saw me awake early and I decided to take Molly up to Leasowe to once again try for the Black Redstart that was seen again Saturday. No joy but 4 Eider on the sea between the cafe and Leasowe Castle Hotel were a good 'spring' find.

Skylarks are singing and showing well - no need to flush them or get to close if you use the car as a hide and use a bit of patience.

Beautiful little birds and its nice to such good numbers locally this year.