28 Apr 2014

Tic Tic TicK. Little Bunting Hilbre

I'm buzzing. Its been two Cheshire ticks in two days! First the Night Heron and today Hilbre's 1st Little Bunting trapped and ringed this morning after being seen singing in the Old Obs garden and then re-found this afternoon on the west side. I had a couple of hours between meetings which were, luckily, all local so shot up to West Kirby to meet up with other Obs members requiring a lift.

When we got across to Hilbre Steve & Colin had pinned the bird down on the steep west side and it wasn't long before we got good views of this little tic tic ticking emberizidae.

Black-crowned Night Heron on the Wirral.

When news broke that a visiting birder had found a Black-crowned Night Heron paddling around in the Birkett by the bridge along Lingham Lane, Leasowe all the Wirral  listers got excited by the prospect of, potentially, the first accepted record for Wirral. A few lucky souls saw it on the first morning but as mentioned in a previous post we dipped in the evening despite permission being granted to search normally off-limits sites.

Al Conlin got some stunning photos Thursday afternoon & I got rained off Friday only for the bird to be seen flying over at around 7.20 pm after I'd retired soaking wet. I didn't feel up to it Saturday night but a pattern was developing as it again flew over and landed in a private area along the Birkett at around 8.05 pm when Steve managed a record shot.

Plans were hatched for another attempt Sunday & Mark Payne met me at my house and joined me for the 20 minute drive to Leasowe Lighthouse. Arriving at around 6 pm we were soon joined by other local birders.

Quite a few people lost interest and stood around gossiping whilst a few of us continued scanning the skies in all directions knowing that, in all probability, the bird would only be on show for a few seconds. Suddenly I picked it up virtually overhead and got everyone on it as it flew over circled low and dropped into the Birkett exactly where it had done the previous night. It was literally on show for a few seconds - just long enough to rattle off a solitary record shot!

As it appeared so suddenly it most have flown in along the left hand side of the Birkett (looking downstream) and been obscured by the trees. A great addition to the Cheshire & Wirral list! Once again the Lighthouse strikes...........

25 Apr 2014

Back to the UK

After two weeks in Australia its finally time to return to the UK. The first thing you notice when returning home is how green everything is despite us being an over crowded small island.

After unpacking and catching up on the gardening it was time to explore the local 'patch' for freshly arrived migrants. I didn't have to leave the garden for the first three with Willow Warbler, Swallow & House martin all making a garden appearance. As well as these I added Green Woodpecker (only the 3rd record), Common Whitethroat, lesser Whitethroat and a 'patch mega' in the form of a pair of Greylag Goose apparently breeding on one of our many local ponds. I even managed to hold the phone against the binoculars for a record shot:

A Night Heron seen at Leasowe in the Birkett along Lingham lane was  a new county bird for a lot of people. Unfortunately it proved elusive and despite a vigil to dusk never reappeared. It's still there though with Allan Conlin getting some superb flight shots as it unexpectedly flew over him yesterday. The local Grasshopper Warblers put on a good show though!

Straight from the Nigh heron dip Steve & I headed for Hilbre to ensure we were there for first light.Due to the early high tide I'd have had to get up at 04.00 to drive across in plenty of time.  A late arrival menat a late night as we tucked into the superb curry made by Steve's wife Clare. However we were still up at 05.30 to be greeted by a beautiful sunrise.

With the island to ourselves we managed to catch and ring a few migrants with the majority being, as expected, Willow Warblers. We did catch a nice 2nd calender year Common Whitethroat and four Greenland Wheatears though!

As well as the grounded birds there were a few short staying migrants that dropped in over the high tide including this gorgeous male Yellow Wagtail that hung around just long enough for a few photos by the pond in front of the Obs.

A great return to British birding after two weeks looking at exotic Australian avian fauna.

22 Apr 2014

White-bellied Sea Eagle

Last one from Australia.
We spent a few days on the coast at a fabulous place called Merimbula. Our apartment overlooked the estuary whilst 150 behind us was the thunderous Pacific.

The noise of the surf was incredible and the belt of scrub behind the dunes proved a good birding spot. I picked up a few seabirds as well  - Gannet & Gull-billed Terns. Highlight was this flyover beast of White-bellied Sea Eagle!

18 Apr 2014

Final few days in Australia

Although not really a birding trip I've managed a few new birds whilst I've been here - Golden Whistler & Grey Shrike Thrush. Unfortunately the Whistler didn't hang around long enough for a photo. I've been walking my daughters dog every morning up through the housing estate to the hills behind. This has been my new local 'patch' whilst I've been here and I've recorded around 70 species in a few days!

As well as the birds there's been a big mob of Kangaroo's most mornings. Once the place gets busier they retreat higher up into the trees but at night come down to feed on the lawns.

The local botanic gardens is currently playing host to a large roost of Fruit bats meaning a lot of the park area is out of bounds to the public. The noise and smell from this roost is incredible.

Bird life in the gardens include these Australian ibis that seem to be finding food beneath the roosting bats - insects attracted by their droppings?

Birds seen on my morning walks with the dog include the following:
 Brown Thornbill
 Diamond Firetail
 Dusky Wood Swallow
 Eastern Rosella

 Flame Robins
 Grey Shrike Thrush
 Jacky Winter

 Superb Fairy Wrens
Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

I'm slowly learning calls of Australian birds as well and becoming more confident about ignoring calls without having to investigate everything as I don't know what it is.

15 Apr 2014

G'day cobber

Away from Cheshire for a short while with a business / holiday trip to Australia. Loads of fantastic birds and I've managed to add a couple more to my Ozzie list including wild Emu! Back in the UK in a few days time. Hopefully someone will relocate the Crag Martin. 

Australian King Parrot

Rainbow Lorikeet

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Australian Pelican

Pied Currawong

I'll post a few more photos over the next few days.

1 Apr 2014

The Hilbre game estate....................

A Hilbre mega had the Obs members excited last could have been anything this time of year. A Yankee Sparrow perhaps or an early overshooting Mediterranean migrant. It was only the 2nd record for Hilbre and totally unexpected. A bleedin Pheasant! It was found last Thursday and I saw it Friday afternoon when I made a short trip across to do some more maintenance work.  I didn't manage a photo as I only saw it in flight as Steve almost trod on it but I did see the elusive Rabbit. Take note Mark & Harriet!
Saturday morning and Mr Jones & me were on the Island at first light. It was looking good for a few migrants but the first round of the traps produced nothing. The Pheasant suddenly appeared on top of the five bar gate leading into one of the paddocks and proceeded to walk towards us, past the Obs and down the Landrover ramp! Result.

With Partridge two years ago, a Rabbit & now a Pheasant the council will soon be selling the shooting rights to raise money!

The excitement soon abated as a couple of Northern Wheatears appeared and Chiffchaffs started appearing in the heligolands. Two male Wheatears were caught and ringed using potter traps to catch them and six Chiffchaffs were caught. There was a good passage of Meadow Pipits through the morning and small numbers of finches flew overhead with a Greenfinch, two Chaffinches and three Goldfinches settling for awhile.

 Photo above © Steve Williams

Both the Wheatears were aged as 2nd calendar year (Euring 6) on account of the black wing coverts and lores.

It was nice to see the Linnets back on territory with several males singing at different locations.

A bit more excitement was provided by a young Grey Seal that decided to spend the high tide on the beach at the south end and then got stranded when the tide receded. With a large number of people visiting the islands, as part of a joint initiative between the ranger service and RSPB, Obs members were asked to help 'persuade' it to move to a slightly less obvious location. This we managed to do despite its reluctance and occasionally lunging at us with bared teeth. They may look cute and cuddly but they are a to predator with teeth to match.
Another excellent couple of days and I even managed to install another 4 nest boxes at Barry's private site. To cap it all a very photogenic Little Egret hung around long enough in the gutter for me to photograph. Normally they're off as soon as you stop the Landrover.