30 Dec 2010

Farewell to the first decade of the 21st Century!

Its amazing how quickly the year end has come once again. Not only the year end but the end of a decde. Milder weather saw Obs members heading to Hilbre for a few hours yesterday. Amazingly the sea was virtually devoid of birds with just a few disntant Great-crested Grebes and some flypast Scaup to show for our efforts. On the passerine front Blackbirds and Song Thrushes predominate with one elderly Thrush returning after being ringed on the Island during the winter 2009. The Brent Geese numbers are still fluctuating but there are three colour ringed birds still amongst the flock.

The only other photo oppurtunity in dull overcast conditions was provided by an Grey Heron that posed for visitors to the Island before deciding the shoreline provided better feeding oppurtunities.

No sign of the local Peregrine but plenty of evidnece that its been busy with 'kills' of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot and Redshanks scattered around the island and foreshore.

So, with the end of the year nigh what did 2010 hold birdwise?
It was an interesting year both locally and nationally with a few good birds 'unblocked' - including Marmora's Warbler (I'd already seen the 1982 bird whilst!), Lesser Kestrel, Northern Parula, American Bittern, Pied-billed Grebe and, unbelievably, what could turn out to be Britain's 2nd Alder Flycatcher! Four of the above were 'lifers' for me!

Other good birds for me included both Sykes & Eastern Olivaceous Warblers on the British mainland. Both species I've failed to connect with on numerous previous occasions.

The autumn was pretty good and the annual Shetland jaunt certainly produced some quality birds. The star bird for me was a Red-flanked Bluetail in Kergord plantation. Sitting quietly at a respectable distance the bird soon got used to our presence and actually settled 1 m above my head at one stage. Although I once again failed to connect with either of the rare locustella warblers the trip was well worth it and I'm already planning next years jaunt. Our flights and accommodation are already booked!

For sheer star quality though the Northern Parula takes some beating. Watching this little gem feeding only a few metres away with Paul & Vicky Wren being the only other birders present was superb.

Once gain the Wirral sea-watchers 'A' team took an international trip. This time to the Canaries to look for White-faced Storm Petrel with spectacular success. 21 were logged between Lanzarote and Gran Canaria and we also saw two Little Shearwaters on the return from La Gomera to Tenerife. With the team scoring with the other endemics it was a fantastic trip with great company. Who knows next year?
Despite a slow start some good birds were seen in Cheshire and on the Wirral this year although events conspired against me to ensure I missed some good birds on Hilbre Island - namely Nightingale, Yellow-browed Warbler and Great Grey Shrike. I did catch up with Woodlark, Slavonian Grebe and Lapland Bunting - all scarce birds in the county.

Late Autumn also saw a Waxwing invasion and we managed to find our share. The first county birds of the year for me were in my garden followed by several other small parties of self found birds.

So heres to 2011 and what ever it may bring!

28 Dec 2010

Festive birds.

The big freeze ended today! I woke up this morning to find the lawns clear of snow for the first time in weeks! A stroll around Stanney Woods fist thing this morning was productive with a Woodcock being flushed and at least one Mealy Redpoll being nailed down amongst a large flock of Lessers. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers have started drumming and I'm pretty sure I heard the Lesser Spot as well.
A quick search of the gulls on the fields adjacent to Gowey Tip revealed a juv Iceland Gull but the majority of the birds were to far away to identify anything else with any confidence.

Walking Molly along the lane adjacent to the stubble fields this afternoon proved birds are moving after the thaw with parties of Lapwings and Skylarks constantly overhead. The stubble fields themselves held good numbers of chaffinches and a single male Yellowhammer

The cold spell has meant some unusual sightings in the garden over Christmas with a Snipe under the hedge in the back garden Christmas and a Tree Sparrow on the feeders. The first in the garden as opposed to flying over. Several other Snipe have been seen flying over the garden in the last week and a Grey Wagtail made a brief visit before being chased off the lawn by one of the three Moorhens now present.

 Nice to see this Coal Tit photogrpahed first a couple of weeks ago has survived the cold snap!

21 Dec 2010

Winter Warblers

Three Blackcaps now making the most of the fat feeders hanging in the garden. 2 females & a male seen together. Amazing to think these birds may have come from Germany rather than migrate to Africa and that this is only a fairly recent phenomenon.

I managed to grab these shots through our conservatory window but still haven't managed to photograph the Moorhens yet who now expect to be fed every morning!

My father-in-law also has Blackcaps in his garden a couple of miles away so it seems the colder weather in northern Europe has caused more birds than usual to displace to our shores.

19 Dec 2010

In the deep mid winter.

The big  freeze is back and with it some stunning scenery aroud Hilbre as the sub zero temperatures make it resemble more like Alaska than the UK. The intrepid Obs teams made it to the island both Saturday and Sunday despite the persistent bone chilling cold - we even had ice flows!

Plenty of birds around though with a good sized flock of Scaup containing up to 60 birds with the odd Shoveller & Tufted Duck thrown in on consecutive days.
Several skeins of Pink-feet were logged flying overhead but the waders were the best. Driving across as the tide ebbed and using the Landrover as a hide gave fantastic close views.

 Another feature of the cold weather was a constant overhead movement of Skylarks with some big flocks being recorded on both Saturday & Sunday. Several groups landed on Hilbre which is a scarce occurrence these days.

Closer to home the garden birds are making huge inroads to the feed supplies. The Moorhens are regular and wait by the kitchen window for a slice of bread in the mornings whilst a male Bullfinch has joined the commoner finches around the seed feeders. This morning I went out and found  two Waxwings  on the TV aerial but by the time I'd got the camera back out the Landrover they'd flown off. A Redwing sat in our Ash tree wasn't so shy.

An abortive trip to Inner Marsh Farm with Al Orton Friday afternoon in search of a reported Green-winged Teal revealed only a runt looking Common Teal still with some juvenile plumage but plenty of these feeding on spilt grain around the feeders.

14 Dec 2010

Rave - on

A great party on Hilbre Saturday with Obs members turning out to celebrate the 50th birthday of Scottish exile Mark Eden. Plenty of wine and spirits flowing to warm the cockles along with a delicious hotpot cooked by Harriet.  Unfortunately I was driving so couldn't partake of the generous quantities of wine unlike some who had to be poured into their house!

After a night out Saturday following the Hilbre party I wasn't keen to rise to early Sunday but spent the day mooching around putting up Christmas decorations and walking Molly around the local fields. Highlight was 20+ Waxwings flying overhead and heading west. Despite asearch of the nearby industrial estate they couldn't be refound so I assume they headed off towards N Wales. The Raven has reappeared and gave a fantastic display in the bright sunshine as it rolled around the sky displaying in vain as there were no other Ravens in the vicinity.

The garden feeders have attracted both a male and female Blackcap whilst numbers of other birds continues to increase - especially the finches.

10 Dec 2010

Garden birds.

The cold weather has meant birds flocking to the feeders which are being emptied on a daily basis. Latest addition is a female Blackcap that turned up last weekend and is making inroads into the fat feeders. With the local pond frozen two Moorhens have been resident feedign on grain I've put down for them.

I finally caught up with a flock of Redpolls in Stanney Woods - theres about 20 in one flock with a possible Mealy amongst them but I'll need better views to nail it. Maybe there will be an Arctic on the Wirral this winter as well.

5 Dec 2010

A wintery day on Hilbre.

Up at 05.15 in the freezing cold I wondered what the hell I was doing going to Hilbre on such a day. Picking Steve up from home we drove across to the islands in the dark just as the tide was flooding over the lower Landrover track.

First priority - get the kettle on and enjoy a brew with one of Mrs Williams divine banana & chocolate muffins for a pre-breakfast snack. As the tide rose and the light got better it all became worthwhile. There was only the two of us on the Island surrounded by sea and birds. Waders were roosting undisturbed around the rocky shores with quite a few Grey & Ringed Plover amongst the thousands of Oystercatchers.

Brilliant views! Just a shame the light wasn't brighter. A walk down the north end revealed the Purple Sandpiper flock roosting in their favourite spot.

There was plemty of movemtn on the sea with 50+ Red-throated Divers being logged - including a flock of 8 flying together and other smaller groups. Commn Scoter and Great-crested grebes were also abundant whilst the wintering Rock Pipit busied itself feeding around the salt water pools.

Star birds though were the flock of 19 Scaup between Hilbre and Red Rocks that spent the whole time bobbing up and down preening. A rare sight off the N Wirral coast these days.

Another good sighting were two Bottle-noosed Dolphins and as the tide receded the waders left their roosting spots and started feeding on the freshly revealed shoreline just as it started raining.

Time for us to return to the warmth of the Obs, another brew, another muffin and prepare for the reutrn to the heaving metropolis of West Kirby where it seemed everyone who had a car was out shopping or parking in ridiculous places blocking roads. With both Molly and me being suitable shattered an early afternoon snooze was in order.........................