28 Jan 2012

Reed Bunts

After watching Liverpool dump a 2nd Manchester club out of a cup this week we took a walk in the  late afternoon sunshine along the cycle route adjacent to some local stubble fields. Good numbers of finches feeding included a single Brambling. Buntings were represented by a single Yellowhammer but at least 20 Reed Buntings - a good size flock for this area.
A few Fieldfares & Redwings were also knocking around and the flock of 30 -40 Jackdaws were also present but very wary.

22 Jan 2012

Staying close to home.

An eventful week culminated  in Jan & I becoming Grandparents for the first time when our daughter Amy gave birth to her little girl, Elizabeth Rose, in Australia on Thursday. Fantastic news and we are so proud of her. Somehow I knackered my knee and had to back out of the weekends planned cannon netting for waders in N Wales. Instead I spent a good day being ferried around by Mark Payne birding local sights.

First stop was Sandbach in the hope of seeing the Green-winged Teal that had been seen. Unfortunately after a shed load of rain the Elton Hall Flash was flooded and all the teal were sheltering in the flooded scrubby woodland and we couldn't locate it.

There were plenty of other things to see though with Tree Sparrows amongst the best! Just a shame the weather was so bad for photography.

Next stop was Marbury - Marks local patch where we were hoping to find a Willow Tit. Again no luck but plenty of activity around the car park and bird feeders kept us amused and there was the added benefit of seeing the two regular roosting Tawny Owls.

A great days birding - nothing spectacular but a good variety of commoner species.

Sunday dawned windy and showery so with the tides not being conducive to a trip across to Hilbre and plenty of chores to do the day was spent pottering (limping) around at home although a bit of excitement was provided when the local corvids chased off one of the local Buzzards.

15 Jan 2012


A beautiful weekend in our part of Cheshire with blue skies, no wind and the first heavy frosts of the year. In fact the temperatures struggled to reach positive numbers all day Saturday on Hilbre! With a late tide and the prediction that there would be few new passerines around it was decided to make a leisurely start and arrive around mid morning with the intention of staying for a seawatch!

Plenty of activity from the waders with good numbers of Redshank, Curlew, Knot and Oystercatchers feeding as the tide flooded.

The Purple Sandpiper flock was still present but dispersed to roost in a number of different sites over the high tide. Turnstone numbers also continue to increase with the regular colour ringed bird from 2007 being present again. There were at least 4 Shags fishing off the north end - including a ringed bird that has probably originated from the colony on Puffin Island further to the west.

Compared to recent weeks the seawatching was a bit of a disappointment but entertainment was provided by a Rock Pipit making the most of some spilt crisps on the slipway below the hide.  It obviously heard the camera shutter but couldn't work out where the sound was coming from.

As well as Hilbre I've had a couple further up the estuary starting with Parkgate after work last Thursday. Two of the three Great White Egrets were easily seen within minutes of arriving at the Old Baths car park and a male Merlin followed two ring-tailed Hen Harriers around making the most of the small birds they flushed. Sunday saw me walking from along the footpath to the Decca Pools and then on to the sewage works where a Cetti's was typically skulking. Two water pipits were seen flying into the sewage works and one was seen through the fence feeding on one of the filter beds with a flock of Pied Wagtails, Grey Wagtails and Meadow Pipits. Walking back through the marshy area  Jack Snipe and 4 Common Snipe flew up in front of me and a Water Rail was seen by the small stream. Great stuff and a great winters weekend.

12 Jan 2012

Allan's 40th.

Cracking night out at Allan Conlin's 40th birthday party last Saturday night. Good entertainment with a Sinatra impressionist as well:

Happy Birthday!

9 Jan 2012

The monster of Hilbre.

After celebrating Allan Colin's 40th Saturday night and then going to another friends 60th to pick up my wife I didn't get to bed until 02.00 Sunday morning but still managed to get up before the alarm in time to meet up with Mark Payne and travel across to Hilbre in the dark so we could do a high tide seawatch. The visibility wsa pretty dismal to start with as squalls passed in from the west. After a quick low calorie breakfast of sausage & egg butties we set up in the seawatching hide for a marathon session.

It was pretty obvious birds were moving after the recent gales and it wasn't long before we picked up the first of 7 Little Gulls heading west back out to the Irish Sea. Two juveniles and 5 adults were logged.

Common Scoter were moving west in small numbers and two male Velvet Socters were picked up flying in from the mouth of the Mersey before ditching in to the sea by buoy 52. Several Red-throated Divers were seen in flight and on the sea and a Great Northern joined the party further west. A flock of distant seaduck were eventually identified as Goldeneye wit h20 birds bobbing around but a closer flock of 9 Scaup were more easily identifiable and all the males seemed to be 1st winter birds.

Highlight though was when Mark yelled 'white winger'.  To a birder that means only three things - an Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull or leucistic Herring Gull! A mild panic ensued  for several seconds until I got on the bird - A 1st winter Glaucous Gull trying to drown a sub-adult Greater Black-backed Gull. The Greater Black-backs off Hilbre tend to wait on the water and try and mug Cormorants so this one got a real surprise when it found out it was on the receiving end of some severe bullying. Eventually some adult birds came to its rescue and the Glauc was chased off.

As it came closer it looked as if it was going to settle and fly down the east side. Grabbing the camera I slithered down the steps and took position!
The bird eventually settled on the rocks between Middle Eye & Hilbre but was soon chased off and we didn't see which direction it headed. We later found out a juvenile Glaucous Gull had been seen just before high tide at Point of Ayr so this was probably the same individual.

Other highlights included 4 Shags and 1 dead one and 21 Purple Sandpipers roosting at high tide.
With the tide ebbing there was just enough time to finish the sausages and eggs before departing and taking the scenic route alongside West Kirby Marine Lake to see if the Glauc had landed there. No sign but we did pick up another very photogenic Shag and a male Red-breasted Merganser.

All in all not a bad mid-winters haul with the added bonus of a Barn Owl close to my house as we left in darkness at 07.15.

8 Jan 2012

Full of Beans.

Pod & Groucho left the wastelands of Northwich Saturday for a trip over for the Bean Geese and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon catching up with a few old acquaintances, availing ourselves of the hot drinks and mince pies laid on at Burton Mere Wetlands and actually doing some birding!

An amazing spectacle with over fiftyWhite-fronted Geese, the two Beans and three Barnacle Geese amongst the feral Greylags and Canada's in the field they've been frequenting all week. Closer to Puddington there were at least 4-500 Pinkfeet, another handful of Whitefronts and three more Barnacles feeding on another field.
Initially the Beans couldn't be seen and we surmised they'd got in to a small dip and were just loafing around. After a fruitless search we returned to the Landrover and drove off to check a few other spots before returning to the hide. Luckily Rob Adderley relocated them in their preferred field and sent Sonia back to find us and let us know they were there. I even managed the requisite 'record' shots and whilst we stood shivering in the wind a sub-adult male Hen Harrier flew overhead. Great stuf

Returning to the warmth of the visitors centre we availed oursleves of a another brew before braving the elements to walk down to the Marsh Cover Hide where Mark picked up a couple of Bewicks Swans and a single Snipe tried to hide amongst some dead stems.

5 Jan 2012

Bean Geese.

Amazing numbers of Whitefronts and Pinkfeet at the RSPB's new Cheshire flagship reserve at Burton Mere Wetlands or the Teutonic BMW for short. Wirral birders have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Bean Geese with so many small dispersed parties being discovered throughout the UK recently. Sure enough two Tundra Beans were found Monday by Colin Wells but just to late for me to get there before dark. Luckily they were relocated Tuesday and I managed to slip across just before dusk to meet up with Colin, Paul Brady and A N Other to see them feeding on winter wheat. Nice to see Al C & Mr T also present - not much tempts them away from the N Wirral coast these days!

After not being able / willing to travel for the elusive one seen near Crewe just before Christmas this was a welcome 'grip back' for the County list. There was a possible Taiga Bean at Inner Marsh Farm in 2003 (I think) but there was quite a bit of debate over its identification.

No pics I'm afraid but this is a small group I saw a few years ago at Whitemoor Hayes, Staffs.

3 Jan 2012

Happy New Year.

After a holiday full of family cheer & good food New Years day seemed an ideal opportunity to blow a few cobwebs away with a good walk in the Welsh Hills! Always a good place to pick up a few birds and this time was no exception. We climber Moel Famau and walked around the summit before descending the scenic route around the slope and down through the forestry plantation. The whole area is being managed for Black Grouse and signs are up telling how, through management, the population in this part o the Clwydian range has increased ten fold over the past few years. Knowing their preference for clear fell I kept my eyes open despite the stinging rain that had materialised and was lucky enough t see one Black Cock flying away from me down a steep sided valley. Things got even better with a flock of 20 + Crossbills feeding on larch cones further down.

With the winter gulling season upon us at Richmond Bank and the reports of Iceland Gulls being regularly seen I thought I'd check out the Gowy tip. Driving along the lanes adjacent to the tip I soon came across a large flock of gulls roosting up in a field very close and using the Landrover as a hide I spent a couple of hours going through them. Despite the numbers (2-3,000)  there were no 'white-wingers' and the best I could manage was two adult Yellow-legged Gulls.

I reckon at least 10 -15% of the Herring Gulls were argentatus and there were about 200 Black-headed Gulls and 20 -30 Greater Black-backed Gulls and a a handful of Lesser Black-backed amongst the flock. Whilst scanning my first Yellowhammer of the year flew overhead.

Nearby I spotted a Lapwing flock in a fied of maize stubble so stopped to check them for Golden Plover. No Goldies but at least 400 Lapwings present which is a good sized flock locally these days.

A trip to Hilbre Bank Holiday Monday was more about carrying out essential repairs to the Heligoland traps than birding but we did catch and ring the first bird of the year  - a male Blackbird and had good views of Brents, The Shag and the usual waders .