31 May 2010

Stumpy - a local legend.

Stumpy is a local legend. He's a Wood Pigeon with one foot missing. Stumpy doesn't land gracefully. He crash lands like a plane with half its undercarriage missing. He makes his presence felt by crashing down on our conservatory and then sliding down the roof to the gutter as he can't get a grip. He crash lands in the trees and the noise of him falling through the branches is truly alarming. Stumpy is the fattest Wood Pigeon you'll ever see. He stuffs his face at our feeders and has a reputation for either being to stupid or to intelligent to fly off when we go out to fill them. Whilst other birds fly off and wait in the sanctuary of the nearby bushes he sits and waits nearby to ensure he's the first to fill his face. Stumpy flys between our garden and a neighbours depending on who's got the easiest pickings. How did he lose his foot? We don't know but presume some kind of frost bite during the cold winter.  Unfortunately he seems to have disappeared - he's to heavy even for the biggest female Sparrowhawk to have made a meal of him so we have to assume one of the local cats has got him. A real shame as he was a character.

Good news on the garden front is that the Robin has re-nested and now sits tight ona clutch of eggs 1m off the ground right by our garden gate! Either a very foolish or very astute move. With the constant opening of the gate and people / dog moving in and out its unlikely a predator will come near.

Not much else locally although a walk Saturday morning with Molly was rewarded with a fly through Hobby in exactly the same place as the one earlier in the spring.

Sunday saw force 5 WNW winds so a seawatch was the order of the day on Hilbre. Although windy it was a beautiful day to be on the island with sparkling blue seas and the Sea Thrift in full flower (its late this year) and contrasting with the carpets of yellow Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Birds were plentiful with spectacular numbers of Gannets passing by along with good numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns and my first Little Terns of the year. Manx Shearwaters totalled 30+ whislt a dark phase Arctic Skua harassed the terns distantly out towards the wind farm. Good numbers of Fulmar were also loged with one bird seeminlgy prospecting around the cliffs as it was seen to circle the island and come close to the west side on a couple of occasions.

No migrants on the island but the local Linnets and Meadow Pipits were in full breeding mode.

28 May 2010

Like buses..............

Like buses. You wait ages for one and then suddenly three turn up together. So it is with rare birds. After spending ages in the field all spring I'm on a business trip to Vienna and bang- Bluethroat at the Lighthouse followed by a Nightingale on Hilbre and then a White-tailed Lapwing at Seaforth. I got to see the Lapwing today  but the views were crap. Not a patch on the Caelaverock bird of a couple of years back.

For an account of that momentous day see here: and scroll down to the 6th of June. Mr McKinney - sorely missed!

Its the Nightingale that really hurt though. The first on Hilbre since the 70's and a Cheshire tick as well. C'est la vie - but it's still shit!

24 May 2010

Sunny weather.

Events conspired to keep me away from Hilbre this weekend and the warm weather meant most of the birding was done close to home - sometimes from the comfort of a hammock in the garden! Plenty of activity though with a warm weather influx of House Martins and Swallows into the area. The alarm calls of the hirundines and local Starlings had me looking expectantly skywards for a maruading Hobby but instead a pair of Sparrowhawks were the cause of the consternation. A hammock tick.....................

The local rape crop is flowering well and looks quite spectacular. Somewhere amongst this lot a Yellowhammer was singing over the weekend - a needle in a haystck job. A yellow bird in a sea of yellow.

The hot weather has caused many birds to stop moving by 10.00 am so its not been worth going out much after this time for the last few days )although the garden inhabitants are waking us up at 04.30 singing their heads off).

Nesting still in full swing with Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldfinches building nearby.

15 May 2010

The bird moaners.

A new phenomonen during this relatively quiet spring on Hilbre - the Bird Moaners. Forget the Dog or Horse Whisperer this is the real deal. A lack of birds prompts a load of moaning and suddenly something turns up either flying over or on the Islands. The recent Marsh Harrier was 'moaned' in as were the Sedge Warblers.
Yesterdays visit prompted plenty of moaning. A slight south east  wind brought relief fro mthe cold north westerlies of recent weeks but brought with it heavy rain meaning we were all soaked within a very short time and had to resort to trying to dry off in front of the calor gas heater in the Obs. Moan, moan, moan..........

Mind you it worked! This 2nd calender year male Redstart was briefly seen skulking in the blackthorn but not conclusively identified before it ended up in one of the heligoland traps.

News of two Curlew Sandpipers at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB led me to visit for the first time for several months to find a virtually empty hide and the Sandpipers shwoing well but quiet distantly (from a photographic point of view!) from the hide. No other waders around apart from the summering flock of Black-tailed Godwits but 2 -3 Yellow Wagtails were nice to see as were the hordes of Sedge Warblers seemingly singing from every bush.

Earlier in the week two Wood Sandpipers at Sandbach Flashes tempted me away and I picked up Malc Curtin and Mark Payne on the way down. More locally a Spotted Flycatcher is back on in one of the few
territories I know of locally.

9 May 2010

Close to home.

After spending most of the last few weeks in Leeds it was nice to have a couple of days pottering around at home. No trip to Cornwall for a House Finch for me I'm afraid. The thought of going all that way after working 14 hour days for two weeks was to much and I gave the kind offer of a lift from Al Orton a miss. All the trees in the garden are now fully leaved and young birds are appearing everywhere. Unfortunately all the young Blackbirds got predated and a Sparrowhawk dispatched the female of the pair nesting in the back - the nest now contains four cold eggs. A brood of young Robins has appeared in the back whilst another pair are nest building in the ivy by the front door!

Suprisingly the local Moorhens have managed to keep five of their intitial brood of six - a good sized brood compared to previous years.

House Sparrows have somehow found a gap in our roof tiles and are busy feeding young.

Meanwhile a steady stream of Hilbre Obs members have been making the pilgramage south from the north Wirral to Stanney Woods to see the very showy male Lesser-spotted Woodpecker. Star bird this morning however was a Wood Warbler picked up whilst looking up at the canopy for the Lesser -spot. It wasn't singing but calling to itself and had seemingly moved on by mid afternoon.

3 May 2010

Autumn weather

The fine weather took a turn for the worst Sunday and Hilbre felt more like November with a cold north easterly blowing. As expected migrants were at a premium with few birds grounded. These did include the Observatories second Lesser Whitethroat of the spring though as well as a couple of Wheatears.

A single drake Eider was just off the west side when I walked across at 06.30 but by the time I'd let others in theObs know it had disappeared.

Waders were scarce with only a handful of Whimbrel and a few Curlew representing the large waders. A few small groups of Ringed Plover and Dunlin moved through during the morning.

1 May 2010

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker & summer migrants.

A late evening walk around Stanney Woods last night was rewarded with the Lesser -spotted Woodpecker drumming and calling. Knowing the Cheshire team of Pod, Gregsy, Fred & Malc were doing a bird race today I let them know and decided to check on it again this afternoon. It showed stunningly well and gave itself up to the bird racers later in the afternoon.

Great stuff! Its not often you get views of Lesser -spotted Woodpecker like this and I stood and watched it for an hour as it occasionally flew off to another tree but always returned to the same spot eventually.

A walk along the lane this morning revealed yet another Wheatear in the ploughed field whist a singing Garden Warbler was another good local bird. They're not annual round me at all. Other migrants included plenty of Common Whitethorats and a single Lesser Whitethroat along the railway embankment whilst the alarm calls of the hirundines alerted me to the presence of a raptor. I looked up in time to see a Hobby flying through towards N Wales!

Another good local bird was a singing male Yellowhammer whilst the warm weather brought the local Buzzards out in force and at one stage I had a kettle of 6 birds over my head.

Checking all my local haunts for the bird race team led me to the 'secret' lake down near the tip. A pair of Gadwall were the best birds but the reeds were alive with Reed & Sedge Warblers.