31 Jan 2010

Swans and Spoonbill.

A quick look at the swan herd on Shotwick fields on the way back from work Friday afternoon revealed two separate groups - one tucked up virtually out of site close to the railway embankment between Inner Marsh Farm and Shotwick boating lake and one conveniently close to a parking spot alongside the main road. Both Bewicks and Whoopers present incuding one yellow -legged individual. Cygnus michaellis?

The yellow-legged bird is the closest in the above photo.

Bewicks above. Whoopers (and Bewicks) below.

The Parkgate Spoonbill has been givnig everyone the run around - primarily becuase no one knew where to look! Deciding to walk Molly along the seafront yesterday I met up with Al Orton. Although the news had been put out twice that the Spoonbill was present whilst we were there we still couldn't find it. Eventually, after much detective work, we located it roosting on the marsh opposite the Marsh Cat Restuarant and duly put out the directions for others to benefit! A beautiful walk along the edge of the marsh though with further interest being provided by Hen Harriers, Little Egrets (seemingly greatly reduced in numbers) and a Short-eared Owl.

The Little Stint at Frodsham was equally frustrating until you knew exactly where to look. Not in the usual flooded corner of No. 5 tank but further along towards Marsh Farm where you can look back on yourself across another flooded section of the same tank. Three Ruff were a nice bonus on No. 6 tank.

Menawhile the milder weather has meant a return of the mixed Bunting, Finch and Pipit flock on my local stubble fields. The highlight being a flock of 12 Skylarks amongst the 50+ Meadow Pipits. A handful each of Yellowhammers & Reedbuntings and large numbers of Chaffinches completed the set. Best of all though were two Goldcrests and a Treecreeper working the hedgerow with a foraging flock of Long-tailed Tits. At least some Goldcrests have survived the cold spell.

Regular dog walkers along the lane have taken to putting down seed for the birds and quite often the Buntings can be quite close but always fly as soon as they spot anyone walking towards them. Other birds attracted to the stubble include a flock of 50 -60 Starlings. No longer a common sight in this area - I haven't seen one in my garden for several years. One or two of the local Buzzards also appear to find the area attractive - no doubt attracted by the number of rabbits present. Something very noticeable when their tracks can be seen in the snow.

24 Jan 2010

Flocks of Firecrest and even bigger flocks of Crossbill.

Flocks of birds in Chehsire are certainly the theme for this week. Feeling pretty pleased with finding the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker in Stanney Woods I was gob- smacked to get a call from Frank to say he'd found not one but three Firecrest during his morning perambulation around Delamere. Taking a leisurely breakfast I set off with Molly and arrived just after Al Orton. Finding the spot was easy enough but  I was soon distracted from thoughts of Firecrest by an amazing flock of 40+ Crossbills above our heads feeding on larch cones. With mist and darkness pervailing the photo's were pretty poor but it can be seen that quite a bit of pair bonding was going on with the females begging and the males feeding them. This is certainly the biggest flock I've ever seen in Delamere let alone Cheshire.

The last photograph shows 34 Crossbills circling overhead whilst still more were still sat in the Larch. Brilliant stuff.

Turning our attention to the Firecrests we soon found one working its way through the vegetation but with Al having to get off to watch some second rate team called  'Man Utd' play I walked back towards the car with him before veering off to look for some Brambling Frank had told me about. Once again the weather defeated any good photo's and with the usual weekend Delamere crowds building the birds were no longer the 3 -4 m away that Frank had seen them!  After a long search I spotted one sitting high up in a beech tree.

A real shame as they're beautiful birds. With negative news from the Firecrest site I decided to head for home, thaw out and get some lunch. The best laid plans and all that.................

A phonecall from Malc Curtin to say he'd had two of the three birds showing down to a couple of metre had me scurrying back to find a mini twitch had developed with visitng birders from Liverpool (nice to see you again John), Manchester (Ann & Mike Ribbands) and Warrignton as well as Cheshire stalwarts Enid & Tony Murphy. The birds hadn't shown for awhile but walking back along the path I heard one call and picked it up less than a metre above ground level creeping through the bracken. Soon there were two together and everyone went away happy with their views. Once again the poor light conditions and the birds constant movement defeated the camera and all I ended up with was the 'record shot'.


A real shame as they are really little gems designed to brighen up a dull winters day.

Sadly one of the garden Bullfinches has succumbed to either a cat or the Sparrowhawk with a sad little pile of wet feathers in a corner of the garden. I can't make my mind up if the feathers have been chewed or plucked although the fact they're on the ground beneath a bush suggests the neighbours ginger & white cat is to blame. Measures have been taken to try and prevent it hiding beneath the bushes and lying in wait. So maybe these are last photograph of that particular Bullfinch? (Takne through the window again).

At least one male is still here as I write so they haven't been deterred to much.

22 Jan 2010

Gulls at Gowy and flocks of Smew.

I'm  out of hospital from having my sinuses bored out so I can breath the fragrant aroma of tips now the gull watching season is upon us! Flock of Smew? When did that last happen in Cheshire! On my way to Gowy to check the gulls the message came through that there were now 2 Smew at Rostherne so I carried on straight down the M56 and was lucky enough to find Steve & Jill Barber in the hide and they kindly let me in. Definitely 2 redhead Smew as both were together but interestingly another bird flew from the east end. Unfortunatley the first two had gone to ground so we couldn't prover the three bird theory. Only the two bird one. With a support act of 2 female Goosander and a drake Mandarin (one of 4 present) it well worth the effort. Smew are one of my favourite birds and I remember hitching from my parents house in Suffolk to Abberton Reservoir in Essex aged around 14 to see my first one (along with a mate we also 'ticked' Red-necked Grebe that day). I can't resist Smew.

Returning to Gowy a search of the thousands of gulls present revealed a 1st winter Iceland Gull roosting in a field of winter wheat along with and adult and 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull. The times spent with the gull experts of Seaforth on Arpley tip is paying off. Cheers lads & I hope to catch up with you all soon.

I returned with the camera today to find a large flock of gulls close to the road whilst others loafed nearer to the tip.

This is the extreme left of the flock in the field that probably numbered 2,000 birds. Amongst them I again picked out the 1st winter Iceland Gull  but, as usual watching gulls, the unexplained 'dread' suddenly made them all fly up, circle round, mix themselves up and generally be a pain in the arse - twice!

Searching through the flock again the Iceland Gull had moved out of camera range but there were still some interesting birds present including this dainty looking long winged Lesser Black-backed that had me thinking 'fuscus' . Unfortunately it appears to be just a runt bog standard sub adult Lesser Black-backed.

Compare it to the bird on the right and with the bird below and you'll probably get the picture............

Compared to this bruiser it was positively tiny. This Greater Black-backed obviously knew I was watching from the open landrover window but wasn't a bit perturbed. Probably working out if Molly was edible or not.

Quite a few darker mantled argentatus Herring Gulls around as well:

Ringing Al Orton with the news about the Iceland Gull I headed home. Within an hour Al phoned back to say he'd not only got the Iceland but the juv Glaucous I first found on 8th Janaury. It is nice when someone else gets to see the birds you find!

The only other news concerns Stanney Woods where a Grey Wagtail is overwintering on one of the ponds deep in the wood and the Lesser Spotted-woodpecker was briefly seen with a roving tit flock this morning.

20 Jan 2010

Netta rufina

A twitchable Red-crested Pochard in Cheshire! No where near Gilroy or the Newton duck brothel so possibly has credentials as a genuine bird thats moved to the N West to avoid bad weather elsewhere. A scenario made more likely by the presence of one on Southport Marine lake.

Many thanks to Big Al for picking me up from home due to my current incapacitated state!

The mysterious disappearing Black Redstart.

A Black Redstart has been seen on several occasion over the last month between Leasowe gunsites and the Castle Hotel. Its proved to be very elusive and Sunday was no exception. Despite a three pronged attack the crack team of Conlin, Orton & Woollen failed to find it once again despite some judicious trespassing.

The trip was made worthwhile by the appearance of the long staying colour ringed Med Gull coming to bread at the lighthouse cafe.

The flooded fields opposite the entracne to the cafe car park held 3 -4 Shoveller and a good sized flock of Lapwings. The colours on the Lapwings were spectacular - especially the preening bird.

Meanwhile the sea wall reverberated with the sound of cockle shells being dropped by the local gulls hoping to break them open for the tasty mollusc inside.

Interestingly 2 Snow Buntings were reported at Kings Gap but it seems these were a one observer sighting and theres been no further sign since. After last winter they've been noticeable by their absence.

17 Jan 2010

Moore local birding.

Moore nature reserve is one of the most reliable places in Cheshire to see Willow Tit (apart from Woolston but you need a permit for there and its a bit off the beaten track.............) as they come to a well stocked feeding station. Great little birds but hyperactive and not easy to photograph. To many E numbers in the sunflower seeds I reckon!  Still, a quick visit at the tail end of last week as it was getting dark was rewarded with great views of these and other woodland species.

Now the snow is melting birds are beginning to return to the stubble fields with Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer still present amongst greatly reduced numbers of finches. Star find though was a Raven  feeding on a Wood Pigeon corpse before flying west towards N Wales 'cronking' as it went.

Saturday morning saw Steve and me on a very blustery Hilbre. With the island virtually to ourselves apart from the Ranger it was a great place to destress after an eventful week at work. Following on from my opservations of birds returning locally the theme of the day was passage - loads of Skylarks passing overhead and some hugging the wave tops to try and keep out of the wind. A seawatch produced good numbers of Red-throated Divers, Great-crested Grebes and Common Scoter whilst a flock of 39 Scaup were the most I've seen together for many years. As usual the Brents and Purple Sandpipers put on a good show with the first Dark-bellied brent of the winter being found between Middle Eye & Hilbre as the tide forced all the geese together in one flock.

With a lunch of beans on toast followed by a whole packet of chocolate fingers the stress levels certainly dropped although the cholesterol levels probably rose a bit but sod it who cares.

14 Jan 2010

Garden visitors.

Not much in the way of birding action this week apart from a quick call in to a partially frozen Rostherne Mere on the way home from a meeting in Bury. My endeavours were rewarded wit hflight views of a Bittern flying across the mere and landing in the reeds below the hide and the later as it flew from here to the reed bed at the east end.

The garden feeders still dragging in the crowds and I'm having to top them up virtually every day. I spent some time  trying to photograph the Bullfinches but they're very timid so I had to settle for shots through the window. Two Moorhens now feeding on scraps as the pond still frozen.

Even the Meadow Pipits are trying to get in on the act proving its not only Tree Pipits that perch in trees. Maybe this is a new species - Wirral Tree pipit.