28 May 2013

Jasper & flowers

For once the sun shone over a Bank Holiday weekend. Well, two days out of three aren't bad.
The weekend started well when Groucho Payne rang to say he'd pick me up to make the short trip to Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB where a Pec Sand had apparently morphed into a Temminck's Stint!

On arrival the stint wasn't showing but Mark managed to pick it up crouching amongst some vegetation. Not the best views of a Temminck's but still a good bird for Cheshire and by no means annual.

Saturday was spent around the house and garden. A check of all the nest boxes I've put up around the area revealed only two are so far occupied and even one of those may have been deserted. The bird are having a really bad spring so far. The good news is that a pair of Bullfinches are still visiting the feeders so may stay and breed locally. I ringed a pair in the garden last year but never saw any offspring. These are a different pair and will hopefully have more success.

Sunday morning meant an early start on Hilbre but there were no migrants around. The island looked beautiful in the sun though as the wild flowers at last began to open in the warmth. The ramp leading up from the beach is surrounded by Thrift and Birdsfoot Trefoil.

Highlight of the birding day was a very late Dark-bellied Brent Goose found on the west side as the tide flooded whilst the non-birding highlight was this fine looking Jasper or Sea Slater!
The marine equivalent off a Wood Louse but 10 x bigger.

By contrast Bank Holiday Monday was dismal and a stay over the tide was totally non- productive with a single Gannet and a couple of wayward Guillemots being recorded. A late Greenland Wheatear sheltered miserably in the lee of a wall at the north end but it was to wet and dark to even consider getting the camera out.

24 May 2013

Buzzards killed to protect pheasants.

This is disgusting:

Gamekeepers are already responsible for the deaths of numerous birds of prey in the UK and this now seems to justify their actions.

I'm incensed by this but anger should be directed at the correct people otherwise its wasted. We need to know who gave the authority for this despicable act of vandalism. Natural England was formed in 2006 from an amalgamation of the countryside agency, English nature & the rural development services. David Milliband was Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs during the formation.

They are a non-departmental body responsible for the protection & improvement of the natural environment ( including  the marine environment & geology).

Being a non-departmental public body they are independent of Government. However the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has the legal powers to issue guidance on various matters.

So, whilst I'm not a fan of any politicians as I think they're all a bunch of useless twats who've never lived in the real world, we should find out where our anger should be really directed.

The person whose name is on the authorisations is Dr Matthew Heydon. He is the principal specialist for wildlife management at Natural England and according to his LinkedIn profile he's been in the job since 1998. He is the one responsible for issuing licences permitting such actions

We need to get our facts right so we know where to direct our anger. Did Matthew Heydon take the decision himself or did the government intervene?

A natural part of our avifauna is being legally persecuted to protect an introduced species. Its unreal.
I recently found a Buzzard that had been shot in the eastern Cheshire hills where pheasant shooting is known to take place. I hazard a guess it wasn't a random attempt at killing a Buzzard by a moron with a gun just wanting to shoot anything that moves.

Buzzard with gun shot wound to lower belly, Wildboarclough, Cheshire.

Only a few miles away from this incident a pair of Hen Harriers, who'd tried to nest on the moors across the county boundary in Derbyshire  a couple of  years ago, were shot and the nest destroyed. Local birders say Short-eared Owls are similarly persecuted in the area. The quicker all gamekeepers are licensed and inspected the better.

21 May 2013

Dippity doo da

A frustrating few days!
With news of a female Dusky Thrush breaking late Friday night and the phone going mental as friends rang to arrange lifts I went to bed in a bad mood. I couldn't go Saturday as I'd arranged with Jase Atkinson that he'd come and lay the floor in our new kitchen - the only free day he had before the builders return to finish off. Instead we left at midnight Saturday night and arrived just after 5 am on Sunday. It soon became very clear that the bird had done an overnight flit during the only break in the weather for several days........................I was back home by 14.00 and carried on decorating. Bollocks.

Just to make me feel even worse Hilbre caught their second Whinchat of the spring. Still, I've had a good run of luck and this is the first major dip for a good few years.

15 May 2013

It doesn't get better than this.......

Local birding at its best! With building work still going on at home it gave me an excuse to spend as much time as possible in the field to escape the noise and dust. I spent Friday afternoon exploring the canal towpath and surrounding fields around the Shropshire Union canal at nearby Stoak. A blustery afternoon but some great local birds. Highlights were at least 3 singing male Lesser Whitethroats and 4 pairs of Lapwings attempting to nest on recently drilled potato fields.

The freshly ploughed field also held a few finches including this male Chaffinch. Unfortunately, if you look closely, you can see its succumbed to the dreaded 'grotty leg' disease that this species are prone to.

Saturday was another pre-dawn trip to Hilbre although strong blustery winds meant there were few migrants. A few Willow Warblers had battled through though.

Surprise of the day though were three late Scaup that hung around along the tide edge as it flooded.

7 May 2013

Local 'mega' and not a pear tree in sight.

With Jan being safely dropped off at the airport Saturday for her week with the girls it was left to me to start gutting the kitchen as its being rebuilt whilst she's away. Well, most of it will be finished & I'm living out of the microwaved contents of cans until its completed.

Having to be at the airport by 06.00 meant I couldn't get to Hilbre before the early tide so I waited until Cheshire year lister Mark picked me up for a scout around the N Wirral coast. We explored the wooded area adjacent to the biscuit factory in Meols before heading to the more heavily watched areas around Leasowe Lighthouse. Sedge Warblers were back in large numbers and we also found a few Common Whitethroats and Wheatears.

Star bird though was a lone Whimbrel that hunted crabs along the tidal gutter and proved confiding enough to let us photograph it.

It wasn't until I processed the pictures on the laptop that I realised I'd managed to photograph it mid dump!

From here we drove down to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands just in time to see a Cuckoo perched up on a distant gate. The male Garganey also showed well but a Little-ringed Plover was more elusive. Two Common Sandpipers and a handful of summer plumaged Dunlin amongst the non-breeding flock of Black-tailed Godwits were nice to see but it wasn't long before fatigue broke out and we headed for home. However, news that a Pectoral Sandpiper was still showing well at Carr Lane pools and that a Wood Warbler had been seen nearby in Hale Park banished all thoughts of rest and I headed the short way down the motorway hoping for some photo's. By 'well' read distant but on show all the time. A definite 'scope job. The Wood Warbler was still present in 'Ice House Woods' adjacent to Hale Hall but was right up in the sycamore canopy.

Sunday saw a dawn start on Hilbre where the S W wind didn't help with any drift migration but we did catch a few Willow Warblers and it was a pleasant if rather blustery day.

Bank Holiday Monday and the builders started work in the kitchen! After sorting them out with keys etc. I took a wander down the lanes hoping for Lesser Whitethroat. There were two singing males in the usual locality with the bonus of a Raven, singing Yellowhammer, two Greenland Wheatears hunting flies amongst the cow pats and the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year - not in its usual spot but along the railway embankment so presumably on its way somewhere else.

Star birds though were these pair of Grey Partridge. After patiently sat in the Landrover and using it as hide for more than 2hrs in the sweltering heat they came into the open to be photographed for posterity.

Its really nice to see these birds locally. A covey of birds that spent a winter in a stubble field near the house a few years ago mysteriously disappeared about the same time two men started hunting 'rabbits' with Harris Hawks on a regular basis.

3 May 2013

Pesky 'polls.

Another pesky Redpoll. This one from my garden. Biometrics show it to be above the norm for Lesser Redpoll and in the range for Mealy.