28 Apr 2010

Shaking a tail feather.

An amazing display from a male Pied Wagtail on the newly ploughed fields near the house earlier this week. A group of 9 Pied Wagtails were happily feeding and this male suddenly started displaying but when his advances were rejected he flew off and left the rest still in the field.

Once again Greenland Wheatears foudn the fields to their liking and a male and female were present. This year has seen only the 2nd  -7th Wheatears I've seen in this area and the only explanation seems to be that the farmer is leaving the fields as stubble over the winter and ploughing in the spring. The Wheatears seem to like the large flat areas!

Another good local sighting in the same area was my first 'patch' Whinchat! A cracking male that didn't stay around long enough for the camera. Newly in and singing along the railway embankment was a single Lesser Whitethorat but no Common's yet. A quick check of the hidden pond near  the recycling centre in Ellesemere port was rewarded with both singing Reed & Sedge Warbler. Slowly the migrants are arriving.

25 Apr 2010

Sylvia's everywhere.

Saturday morning saw me leaving home in the dark to join Colin 'Raddes Warbler' Jones on the trek to Hilbre. We arrived around 6.00 just as the sun rose to the gentle sound of the Chairman & Secretary catching up on their sleep..................................

One of the first birds heard was a Grassopper Warbler followed quickly by two fly over Tree Pipits and the first of 4 Yellow Wagtails. The first bird trapped was a Hilbre scarcity - a Lesser Whitethroat. I'd only been commenting to Colin on our way over that I'd not seen a Whitehroat this year yet. A Lesser Whitethroat would do nicely! But Hilbre is full of suprises and didn't disappoint as we also trapped a Common Whitethroat closely followed by two Grasshopper Warblers. Most of the visible passerine movement was over by 07.30 but two later Blackcaps added to the Sylvia list. Counting the Willow Warbler(s) and a solitary Chiffchaff we ended up with 6 species of Warbler. Not a bad record for Hilbre.

Keeping an eye on the sea paid dividends with a large mixed flock of Little Gulls and the first Arctic & Common Terns of the year passing down the west side along with a single Manx Shearwater. My first House Martin of the year was picked up by Steve flying over the north end heading east towards Red Rocks. A Sparrowhawk hugged the waves arriving from the west, rising only to glide over the island and also headed east where it was seen flying in over the sea by other shore based Obs members - closely followed by two Herring Gulls!  As a certain female Obs member commented, 'right up it's ar*e. Very eloquent!

Later o nSaturday afternoon Stanney Woods the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was drumming briefly but warbler numbers are very poor with single Chiffchaffs & Willow Warbler with 3 -4 Blackcaps. A Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the hedgerow opposite the car park.

Elsewhere near home this Chiffchaff decided to put on a wing quivering display whilst signing for the camera!He was obviously intrigued by Molly.

We have two Blackbirds nest in the garden - one in the front and one in the back! The front ones have just fledged whislt the female in the back is still on eggs. A Blackcap has taken up temporary residence by the pond. Goldfinches are also nesting in the front garden.

A quick walk along the canal towpath was rewarded with a Whinchat on the Gowy water meadows and our first local House Martin arrived Sunday morning and was joined by five others by midday.

23 Apr 2010

A sign of the times.

Plenty of migrants around in Cheshire this week and even my local patch managed 4 Greenland Wheatears on the recently ploughed stubble Tuesday evening - only the 2nd -5th Wheatears I've seen in the area over the years. 6 Sand Martins flew through the previous night and there has been a good passage of Pied Wagails (no Whites!) and Meadow Pipits whilst a flock of 60+ Swallows passed through on Wednesday evening along with my first ever local Merlin. Other migrants are slow to trickle in and I've not seen either Whitethroat or Lesser Whitethroat locally yet.

Breeding is in full swing with the first brood of Blackbirds fledged in the garden. A second nest has eggs and House Sparrows, Blue Tits and Great Tits are building nests in the various boxes scattered around. The local Moorhens have hatched six young and it will be interesting to see how many survive the attentions of the local Magpies - in previous years I've seen them catch and kill the young chicks.

Song Thrush, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches are all nesting nearby and can be seen collecting nesting materila around the garden - I've been grooming Molly and leaving her hair out for the birds to collect.

Many thanks to Mark Payne who rang me with the unbelievable news that the Isles of Scilly police have bought their first speed camera. Unbelievable as it may seem people have been speeding on the islands narow lanes.

See link here:

Rumour has it a pair of muppets were clocked speeding between pub and rare bird in a hired golf trolley last autumn.

18 Apr 2010

Another day another Ring Ouzel

I saw another Ring Ouzel on the Wirral today found by Colin Jones in the pony paddocks adjacent to Park Lane. A female and not as showy as the male at Leasowe yesterday but beggars can't be choosers.

I'd joined Allan for a walk around the fields inland of the Lighthouse. Parking in Carr Lane we slowly walked our way across the raillway crossing and up Park Lane with Molly in tow. Not many migrants around although a fly over Tree Pipit and 9 grounded Wheatears in one group were nice to see.

Deciding to walk Molly back the way we'd come and pick up the car I joined Allan for a chip butty and a cuppa at the Lighthouse cafe before driving round to where Colin was still waiting and seeing the Ouzel.

Great stuff - Ring Ouzel's are always worth a second post on the same day!

R' Ouzelled from my nap.

Another early monring start for Hilbre yesterday arriving around 06.30 just as the sun rose above West Kirby. Not that many migrants around but 5 Greenland Wheatears and a couple of Willow Warblers on the ground whilst my first Whimbrels of the year hung around the rocky west side. Overhead migration included the first Yellow Wagtail of the spring, Tree Pipit and plenty of Redpolls! No sign of either the hoped for Osprey or Ring Ouzel though.

Later, whilst having a nap but trying to keep one eye on the clear skies above me at home in case an Osprey flew through, the phone disturbed my reverie with a message from Al Conlin to say he'd found a male Ring Ouzel near Leasowe Lighthouse.  Not only that but he'd seen an Osprey earleir as well.

16 Apr 2010

Tales of the river bank.

Not quite Ratty & Mole but more a tale of the canal bank. Took a walk along the Shropshire Union Canal one evening during the week as tow path overlooks Gowy Water Meadows and it's a good place for picking up raptors. No Ospreys or anything else unusual but two very pale Buzzards - one of which can often be seen hovering alongside the nearby M56 giving rise to previous heart stopping thoughts of Rough-legged Buzzard!

A beautiful warm spring evenign had the Skylarks & Yellowhammers singing whilst Lapwings chased off any potential predator that encroached in their territories. With the canal being frozen for much of the winter it was nice to see the Kingfisher back!

The resident Cob Mute Swan took exception to Molly strolling along midning her own business. The female of this pair is colour ringed with a green darvic ring numbered CS06 and enquiries through the Cheshire Swan ringing group reveals she was ringed on 29/08/06 age unknown (so presumed adult) a couple of kilometres away.

Molly, being well used to his aggression, didn't take the slightest bit of notice being more interested in rooting through the empty food wrappers left by the so called custodians of the canal bank who spend ages drowning maggots on the end of hooks. Plenty of other birds singing but very few warblers as yet.
Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Linnets all present and holding territory.

11 Apr 2010

Spring passage starts here.

A fantastic morning saw a depleted Hilbre crew of 3 + 1 very happy dog departing the foreshore at 06.30 and arriving just as the sun was rising above West Kirby. It soon became apparant that birds were on the move as Redpolls were picked up overhead as they 'buzzed' their way in a south westerly direction. On the island itself one of the first birds picked up was a Reed Bunting - one of two present.

There was a strong overhead finch movement but not many birds grounded on the island although as the morning progressed the first Greenland Wheatears of the spring appeared. Having the privilege of ringing one of these birds I immediately noticed how big and chunky it was compared to the more dainty N Wheatears we'd caught a couple of weeks ago - even before the biometrics confirmed it as leucorhoa.

Cracking birds.

There was much excitement on Hilbre Friday when a 'mega' in the form of Tree Sparrow turned up. With a small passage at nearby Red Rocks another turned up Saturday. Another new species for my Hilbre list!

The first Willow Warbler of the year was caught and ringed and small numbers of Sand Martins and Swallows began to fly through as the day got warmer. Seawatching was rewarded with views of the semi -resident Velvet Scoters, Gannets, Little Gulls and the first Sandwich Terns of the year.

With mist all around birds dropped in for a short time then flew off. More Redpolls appeared along with good numbers of Goldinches and a single Greenfinch whilst the local Meadow Pipits took exception to a Tree Pipit on their patch and chased it, calling. through the Obs garden. Meanwhile a single burst of song from a hidden Grasshopper Warbler had us searching in vain for this renowned sculker.

At the north end 4 White Wagtails briefly dropped in much to the annoyance of the resident Pieds. From the photos it can be seen how clean the flanks are on these birds compared to the Pied Wagtail photographed last weekend at Leasowe. One shot also shows the grey rump as opposed to the dark rump of the Pied Wagtail.

Once the tide dropped visitors began to stream across the sands and the bird numbers dropped off so after a celebratory bacon sandwich we packed up and departed to the mainland.

8 Apr 2010

Black Duck, Conwy.

Excellent find by Alan Davies on the Conwy Estuary yesterday.

Distant but all the relevant identification features picked out and when it got spooked by a couple of canoeists it certainly wasn't pinioned! Distant flight shots cropped in below show white underwing panels, lack of white border on the speculum and contrasting head colouration compared to body.

6 Apr 2010

White-winged Gulls and Osprey's.

With a Glaucous Gull and two separate Iceland Gulls being seen and photographed off the N Wirral coast over the Easter weekend a minor twitch ensued. The Glauc was first picked up by Mark Turner on the sea earlier in the week and relocated by Allan Conlin off Leasowe Lighthouse on Good Friday. I think this is the first authenitcated record of Glaucous Gull on the Wirral for many years. The last one I saw was a short staying juvenile bird at Rock Ferry around 2003 -2004. Taking Molly for a walk Saturday morning Janet & I  found the Wirrals laridophiles viewing the Glaucous Gull as it sat on the beach about a kilometre away with the other large gulls attracted by a major Starfish wreck!

Bank Holiday Monday I again took Molly up to Leasowe for a search around the pony paddocks and Lingham Lane.  Meanwhile Allan had relocated the Glauc back on the beach and this time the obligatory crap record shots were achieved.

With Monday's tide much lower than on previous days the gull wasn't forced to fly off when the sea covered it's favoured sand bank. Once it got to deep for it to lie down it stood up and then when it got  even deeper it simply floated!

Nearby the wintering Greenshank showed well but distantly in the channel around the breakwater.

Whilst perambulating around the inland footpath looking for Wheatear's or an early Yellow Wagtail I came across a couple of birders looking at this 'White Wagtail'. Despite me pointing out the dark
rump they weren't willing to change their minds. No wonder so many records of White Wagtail are treated sceptically.

The only other migrants seen were a couple of Swallows but all the gulls suddenly lifting off alerted me to a possible raptor flying over head but I couldn't pick it up.

Back home a Chiffchaff has taken up residence near the pond and has been duly added to the garden list for 2010 as it occasionally forays into our trees.

Star bird though was this Osprey heading over NW when I arrived back from working in Leeds this afternoon. I just had time to grab a quick shot as it disappeared over the house. Unfortunately I forgot to extend the lens so it was shot at 150 mm rather than 500 and I didn't have time to alter the  exposure compensation.