21 Feb 2014

Wagtail roost

Having previously noted some good pre-roost gatherings of Pied Wagtails I guessed there must be a big roost nearby. I found it just before Christmas! We'd just left a restaurant on our local retail park and I noticed a tree standing by itself in the car park and surrounded by a metal fence that appeared to be covered in pale leaves. Above the music playing from the food outlets trying to attract people in I heard the call of Pied Wagtails. Closer inspection revealed around 200 Pied Wagtails roosting in this one tree.

Since then we've been to the same restaurant several times and each time I check on the tree - the only time they weren't there was during a very windy spell when they were actually roosting on the ground below the tree! I have no intention of trying to catch and ring any of these birds as the roost is so localised in one tree the whole roost would be disturbed and probably disperse. The birds welfare always comes first.

Last night we went out for dinner and I remembered to take the DSLR to get some decent pictures rather than using the phone.
Photos above taken each side of the same tree and the one below is a close up crop of one of these.

A fantastic sight and whats even more amazing are the people walking past completely unaware of the birds in the tree next to them. Even Mrs W was impressed at my powers of hearing and observation and of course, the birds themselves. Its nice to know that even in this neon lit place that nature has found a home.

Spring is most definitely in the air. Well the birds think so. We've had the first Siskins of the year on the bird feeders and they'll be fattening up to move north to the breeding grounds. The two wintering male Blackcaps have now been joined by a female. During a short ringing session in the garden after work I caught two Blue Tits with the beginnings of brood patches. Another 3 weeks and we'll be getting the first Wheatears and Chiffchaffs through.

17 Feb 2014

Darvic ringed Mute Swan

Got this back from the Cheshire Swan group on the darvic ringed bird at Llay pool last week:

                             RESIGHTINGS REPORT

Darvic CFB4  BTO W36827 =  Female cygnet.   

Ringed  17/10/13 Hankelow Hall Pools,Audlem      SJ669462


Date     Place                                             ­

18/10/2013 Hankelow Hall Pools,Audlem                                    

About 30 km in a straight line I reckon.

13 Feb 2014

Back for 2nds - Slav Grebe, LLay

With much better weather today it would have been rude not to pay another visit to see the Slavonian Grebe currently residing on Llay pool just a few miles from the office. The only downside of today's trip was an old biddy driving a white Nissan Micra hurtled through the flooded section of road at warp speed and thoroughly soaked me! Still, I persevered and was rewarded with much better views than yesterday.

 It was catching and eating some kind of larvae and washing the mud off before swallowing.

                                                           Just look at those lobed feet|!

Photo below shows close up of larvae in the grebes beak. I'm not sure what they are but assume some kind of beetle.

Also present were a nice pair of juvenile Mute Swans one of which was sporting a green colour ring on the left leg.

12 Feb 2014

Slavonian Grebe, Llay pool

When I heard about this bird yesterday I assumed it was Gresford Flash but luckily a friend soon put me right and I managed to find the pool on the map - even closer to my office in Mold than Gresford Flash.

If there was an improvement in the weather  I resolved to go over during my lunch break today and try to get some photographs. There was & I did. It wasn't as close as last years bird at Astbury Mere in Cheshire but it was still nice to see. A great find by Duncan Halpin. Looks like there was a Pink-footed Goose in with the Greylag's as well although it was distant & I didn't have the scope.

If you go take your wellies and watch out for the flooded road!

10 Feb 2014

Myrtle Warbler

Its been a long time coming but finally, after 20 years, there's been a twichable Mainland Myrtle Warbler. The last one was in Bristol in 1994. There have been other birds since then but they've either been in Ireland or on inaccessible Islands - including Lundy last autumn. Found just as the last boat left the island for the winter........

A bird turned up on a garden feeder in High Shincliffe, County Durham during the RSPB garden birdwatch on 26th January but the photo's were only released last weekend and no one knew where the bird actually had been seen. Sterling work behind the scenes by Mark Newsome & Gary Woodburn meant the news was released and the news was broadcast Sunday morning to the masses. Bollocks -I was in York on family business. Lees than an hour away with no binoculars and no way of getting there. Luckily Al Orton was in a similar predicament and texted me to say he was going with Mark Powell & Dave Robinson at 5 am today.

After an uneventful journey punctuated by Al's snoring in the front seat we arrived at the designated parking area to find about 50 people watching the hedge where some feeders had been placed. Within seconds the birds appeared and we all watched from a safe distance (well most people did) until it had enough to eat and flew towards one of the local gardens calling as it went. Result! Whilst others decided to chase it around the houses those with a bit more sense and sympathy for local residents reasoned the bird was doing a circuit so we'd be best off waiting........

An hour and a half later the bird flew in calling into the top of a tall tree allowing some quick photo's to be fired off before it moved again. By now we were freezing cold having been stood in the same spot for 3 hours and with more people arriving all the time and local getting a bit upset with people abandoning cars in inappropriate parking places, peering into gardens and standing in the road we decided to leave.

Overall an enjoyable day marred only by a minorities inability to follow on site instructions and having to listen to loud conversations and mobiles ringing. It's very simple - if you have to talk do it in a whisper and put the bloody phone on silent. One guy in particular was a right pain and we'd run in to him at Rainham Marshes for the Baillons Crake a couple of years back:

Same bloke, same loud voice same annoying behaviour.

7 Feb 2014


Mark Payne and me took a trip over to Hilbre last weekend to do a bit of seawatching over the high tide - high it certainly was with the water sloshing around the base of the steps leading up into the seawatching hide. If the wind had been coming from the NW I reckon we would have been stranded for a couple of hours.

Not as many birds as we'[d expected and nothing unusual but good numbers of Red-throated Divers, Common Scoter & Great-crested grebes. There also seemed to have been a wreck of Auks as large numbers of Razorbills and a few Guillemots were seen heading west before the high tide.

8 Purple Sandpipers roosted on top of the cliff by the tide gauge until they were disturbed by a visitor.

The garden is continuing to attract Redpolls with 6-7 Lessers and now 2 Mealys visiting regularly. The sunflower hearts have also attracted a male Bullfinch that's unringed so not one of the ones from the spring of last year. The male Blackcap is still around with two birds seen on once occasion during the week.

Highlight though was this Treecreeper on an oak tree by the pond. I can't remember the last time I saw one locally outside of Stanney Woods.

3 Feb 2014

January Footit challenge

Well, the challenge is over for another year and I've logged 67 species out of a possible 70 anticipated and walked 33 miles in the process. I even resorted to walking at night to pick up owls. There's been some glaring holes in the species list - Brambling are thin on the ground this year & I've not seen one in my part of Cheshire. Jack Snipe was a notable absentee and I only recorded a single each of Woodcock & Common Snipe. In conjunction with others I reckon the weathers been to mild. Kingfisher was a long shot but I'd hoped for the Lesser -spotted Woodpecker in Stanney Woods bit it wasn't playing ball in the wind and rain.

Last year I added a new species to the patch - a Water Rail flushed from my swampy Snipe corner. This year I added two new species  - Little Egret and Merlin! I also discovered another Coot on a small pond in the middle of a cow field. Little Egret wad added to the garden list when I had two fly over Christmas Eve but it wasn't until a few weeks back that  I discovered one feeding nearby during one of my perambulations.

Two of the highlights has actually been a garden bird-the possible Coue's Arctic Redpoll (not counted) and a nice Mealy Redpoll.

All good stuff & I'm going to continue through the year as part of the patch challenge: