30 Nov 2010

Lurking in pub car parks.

Shot down to the Hinderton Arms, Neston during lunch today to try and photogrpah the 60+ Waxwings found by Kenny Dummigen yesterday. When I arrived there were only 16 birds left that spent a few minutes in the tops of ome of the tallest trees before flying off in the same direction as the rest of the flock.

Looks like I'm fated not to catch up wit ha large feedign flcok at the moment!

28 Nov 2010


The thermometer plunged this week with heavy frosts and snow experienced locally. The local council are doing a lot of work in Stanney Woods so, keen to see what was going on, I went with Molly Friday afternoon. The main ponds have been dredged and some of the encroaching trees cleared to make them more attractive t oinvertebrates. Hopefully they'll still attract the amphibians. New hard paths have also been laid. Ideal for the local scallies to get around on at nght whilst filling the ponds with their empty tins and bottles!
Quite a few birds around with Redpools being hear but not located and the usual woodland supsects all being seen or heard. Scraping a few fallen leaves away with my boot attracted a Robin for a few posed photo's.

Walking the stubble fields Sunday proved there had been some cold weather movement with two Snipe & a Jack Snipe being flushed from a flooded portion of the field. A couope of Bramblings were heard callling in the large mixed finch flock but couldn't be located whislt a few Lapwings passed overhead on a beautiful afternoon when both the moon and sun were on show together.

A late night Saturday night meant a bit of  later start going to Hilbre Sunday - with the temperature down to -5 C I'd reached West Kirby before the Landrover warmed up enough for some heat to come from the heater! Fantastic views across the West Hoyle to Point of Ayr and beyond to snow-capped Welsh  mountains.
Not many passerines today but a couple of new Blackbirds were ringed with wing measurements suggesting they were continental birds. Most of the avian action was centred around the Brents and waders. For some reason everything was easily spooked today but Golden Plover, Grey Plover and Snipe were good Hilbre records.

 Spot the Grey Plover above!
 The Brent flock includes a couple of colour ringed birds - these have travelled phenomenal distances to vist Hilbre. See here for details of where these birds have come from.

20 Nov 2010

Rhizostoma octopus.

Not a mollusc but a stonking great jelly fish. The common name appears to be 'Sea Mushroom' Jellyfish but for Hilbre Obs members it'll always be 'dustbin lid' jellyfish.

A quick trip to Hilbre yesterday afternoon after the tide revealed around 50 of these creatures washed up on the strandline.

Why Octopus? Becasue they have eight large tentacles. Its eight 'legs' are covered with a network of mouths that catch particles fanned down onto them by the swimming motion of the bell. They looked positively prehistoric.

A pre-dawn journey this morning was in order to get to Hilbre before high tide. Plenty of birds moving with a few Blackbirds and Song Thrushes grounded in the slightly misty early morning conditions. Suprisingly there were also a couple of late Goldcrests.

 Overhead passage consisted of Starlings, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and Skylark. A short seawatch resulted in a few unusual sightings - Gannets, Kittiwake (adult & juvenile) and an adult Little Gull!

Wader numbers a increasing with at least 21 Purple Sandpipers being logged earlier in the week. Not so many today though but there was the added bonus of a Grey Plover.

Despite a search of likely areas close to home this afternooon there were no sightings of Waxwings but I'm sure I'll see more this winter!

16 Nov 2010

More local Waxwings.

A nice suprise lunch time whislt walking Molly before attending a meeting in Wrexham. More local Waxwings - two birds scoffing hawthorn berries in a hedge borderign the stubble field. Just had time t odash home and grab the camera before the meeting! The birds were unfortunately quite distant as they were one side of the field and I was the other!

Also guzzling berries like they were going out of fashion were a couple of Filedfares and some Redwings.

With crops like these festooning local hedges I'm sure there'll be more photo oppurtunities this winter. Hilbre also scored on the Waxwing front this week with their first birds for nearly 40 years. We kept a look out Sunday but to no avail but Monday was a different story - see the Hilbre blog.

Not much around Sunday apart from twwo grounded Song Thrushes that seemed to appear after a late morning shower whilst good number sof Starlings pssed overhead with two making a rare stop to feed in one of the paddocks.

With American Bittern and Pied -billed Grebe both added to my British list in the last month I'd made a omment about checking Coot flocks for a Yankee Coot. Lo & behold the crystal ball worked but the geography wa a bit out. One's turned up in Ireland. Expect to see photo's here of a British one sometime this winter.........

12 Nov 2010

Back for seconds!

Seond helpings of the Pied-billed Grebe today on the way back from Leeds.

Followed by Great Northern Diver on Astbury Mere, Cheshire just as dusk was falling.

9 Nov 2010

Stop press! Pied -billed Grebe, Greater Manchester

For once I struck lucky. Nipping out of the office at lunch time to go and see the Woodlarks frequenting a stubble field near Congleton I'd just arrived and seen the birds through Jill Barbers scope (thanks Jill!) when Steve mentioned the mega alert had just gone off on the pager. Pied-billed Grebe, Hollingsworth Lake, Greater Manchester. Woodlarks forgotten and it was a quick dash up the M6 and across the M62 for most of us there.

Amazingly the bird was showing well! It has apparently been there for 4-5 days after being initially identified as a Red-necked Grebe before being re-identified from photo's. Well done Ian!!

How often does that happen? A rare bird almost  right on the door step!
Back in the office by 15.30!

Its officially autumn.

The recent change in the weaather has caused the leaves to turn colour quickly  and some of the colours are amazing. In the autumn sunshine they glow gold, yellow and red. Photographs don't always do them justice.

Not only are the leaves looking spectacular but theres a good array of fungi in the local woods.
Finches are gathering in good numbers on the stubble fields and I keep looking out for a Wood Lark! Every year I hope to find a wintering bird and this year is no exception. With two on a stubble field near Holmes Chapel maybe my luck will be in!
Two trips to Hilbre last weekend - Saturday's was restricted to a few hours after the tide to see if any birds dropped in before dusk whilst Sunday saw a full compliment of the Obs team on the Islands from dawn. Another sign that Autumn is upon us is the reappearance of the photgenic Purple Sandpipers. A maximum of 8 have been counted so far this year, including these two roosting over the high tide at the north end.

Its always nice to see these charismatic little waders back. Brent Goose numbers are building up nicely with 90+ being counted on the sea over high tide whislt a good passage of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings passed over head with a few birds trapped and ringed during the course of the day.

No sign of anymore Waxwings locally but with a few turning up at other sites in Cheshire I'm sure we'll get a few more locally this winter.

3 Nov 2010

American Bittern, Walmsley Sanctuary, Cornwall.

Sadly no photographs as the bird was always quite distant and there was scarcely breathing room  (in a hide designed for 10 people but holding 40) let alone room to lift a camera. I concentrated instead on getting good views.

I travelled overnight with Jase Atkinson and we pitched up in the designated parking field at around 03.30. A bit of a cat nap and we headed towards the hide at 06.55. I managed to get a seat next to Josh Jones and there followed a tense period of waiting and looking (well most of us looked and tried to ignore the squabbles and claims of queue jumping behind us) until another birder picked the bird up eating a fish but mostly obscured in a ditch. Fortunately it was our side of the hide and for the next 90 minutes it played hide and seek as we endeavoured to get  decent views and get people on to it through our scopes. Some people couldn't help but moan as despite our best efforts they just couldn't see it - even when it was perched in full view after clambering up a dead Reed Mace stem! Actually thinking about it, all the squabbling and arguing came from one couple - they argued with each other, she moaned she couldn't see the bird despite looking through my scope on at least 6 occasions when it was in view, she accused another woman of queue jumping and generally pissed people off.

A cracking bird though and well worth the almost 20 year wait since the last one.