There were some cracking waders off Hilbre recently with Steve picking up a number of colour ringed Sanderling. There were god numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover that gave good photo opportunities as they roosted over the high tide. They've all headed north now to their tundra breeding grounds but it won't be long before they're making the return journey. Every year we check them for a possible rarity but we found nothing more unusual than a couple of Curlew Sandpiper. In previous years the N Wirral shoreline has scored with Semi-palmated Sandpiper, a possible Western Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Broad-billed Sandpiper! Anythings possible.........
The recent fine weather has meant quite a few butterflies locally. Star turn being a single Painted Lady that flew past me at high speed without settling as I was looking for Bee Orchids at a site near home.
More accommodating was this Holly Blue that turned up on our patio, funnily enough, on a holly bush!
I've been busy ringing a few pullus locally and Swallows see mot have had a late start but are now doing quite well. Our garden Robins have hatched and four young have been ringed. Its lovely watching them being fed from the comfort of the sofa!
The first juvenile Goldfinches, Greenfinches and House Sparrows are visiting the garden and I've caught a few. A big surprise was a controlled Blue Tit - I know where it was signed which his quite surprising as it seems to have travelled about 30 km! Until I've submitted it to the BTO and got a response I'll not mention where it is incase someone complains that I've not submitted it through the proper channels.....................
The weather was kind to us on our latest visit to Puffin Island. We had a few short showers which made the terrain very slippery underfoot. Seabird colonies are smelly places at the best of times but add a bit of rain into the mix and they simply become the seabird researchers equivalent to Glastonbury but probably smells a lot worse.
Meeting up at Beaumaris the team consisted of a number of newcomers including visiting ringer Vivain from mid-Wales and Liverpool University researchers, Alice, Harriet & Fed. Amelia is a SCAN trainee but hadn't been out to Puffin much before and there was Ian and myself who, after a number of years, have got used to the routine. The team were ably led by Steve.
The focus on this trip was to ring as many Shag and Razorbill pullus as we could find within the allotted timescale. After the introductions we headed towards the jetty and our transport. The trip out was uneventful with a couple of Black Guillemots showing near Beaumaris pier and, as we got closer to the island, swarms of auks & Shags.
After being transferred to the island we changed into our oldest clothes. Steve gave a safety briefing and explained what the aims were and got to work. The birds seem to be doing very well this year and there was a lot for us to do.
Some Shags were still on eggs whilst other nests had very small young but there were still plenty of good sized pulls for us to ring!
Reaching the boulder fields and ledges where the majority of the Razorbills breed we turned our attention to ringing this species - including some feisty adults.
Alice ringing an adult Razorbill
Amelia with a young Razorbill
Harriet ringing a young Razorbill a bit older than the bird above and probably soon to fledge.
Like other auks Razorbills fledge before they can fly and launch themselves of the breeding ledges within a few weeks to join the parents at sea. I can't really blame them - they'll probably do anything to get away from the smell! As well las plenty of youngsters there were also a number of birds still on eggs and we'll go back and ring these on the next trip.
Auk 'rings' aren't really rings at all but 'clips' with a special technique for closing them which is easiest done using engineering pliers rather than large ringing pliers. We also managed to ring a few Guillemot pulls but the main trip for these will be in a few weeks time. It was great seeing all the activity around the seabird colonies and I never get tired of it. The ledges were full of breeding auks, Shags and Kittiwakes whilst higher up on flatter ground gulls were either incubating or feeding young. We ran the gauntlet of the gulls on several occasions with one particular Great Black-backed Gull managing to hit me and almost knock my cap off.
Some of the the team taking a bit of a breather.
A great day and a good number of birds ringed ! A smelly, tired and generally happy team departed the island around 1630 for the boat rip back to Beaumaris where we saw a party of Manx Shearwaters shearing ahead of us. A lifer for Federico who's more used to the Mediterranean species in his native Italy.
Ahead of me was the drive back to Cheshire where the first thing I did was stuff all my clothes, rucksack and boots int the washing machine on a hot wash! A shower followed and then a curry before I relaxed in front of the TV to catch up with the rugby. I woke up at 5.30 am Sunday morning still on the couch with half a bottle of beer in my hand! Deciding it wasn't worth going to bed I retired to the conservatory with a cup of tea (the beer was flat) and the previous days newspapers where I promptly fell asleep again before finally getting up around 08.00 stiff as a board and with a cricked neck.
I got an email back from Steve Dodd the other day about one of the Razorbills I'd photographed on Puffin Island recently. We were already pleased to have one old bird with an 'M' prefix ring that was ringed in 2000 but according to IPMR (ringing data base) K27458 was first ringed as a pullus (chick) in 1987 and re-ringed a few years ago when the old ring became virtually unreadable!
That makes K27548 29 years old!!! It may sound old but the longevity record for a Razorbill is 41 yrs 11 months & 28 days making Razorbills the 2nd longest living species in the UK after Fulmar.
But still a venerable old bird.
I got an invite recently to help ring Jackdaw pull at a colony in N Wales. What a fabulous place! The Jackdaws were nesting on holes in the wall of an old farm building and reaching them necessitated the use of a long ladder. Its a good job `i'm not worried about heights.
A great way to spend a few hours before a family barbecue on a Bank Holiday weekend although I did need a shower before joining the family fun. In total 21 Jackdaw pull were ringed which is apparently down on previous years. The feeling is the Jackdaws, like many other birds, have failed to nest due to the poor condition of the adults. As well as the Jackdaws we found a bonus Blackbirds nest with 5 young which we also ringed.
Jackdaws have there most amazing colour eyes and the youngsters are no exception. Despite their noisy gregarious behaviour the youngsters are very quiet and just open their bias and gape at you without making a sound.
What a beautiful day to spend among the seabird colonies on Puffin Island. An advance part from SCAN & Liverpool University travelled to the Island to continue colour ringing Shags and try to record as many Razorbill ring numbers as possible. Last year we experimented with me photographing the rings in the field to ensure they were all read correctly. It worked pretty well so this trip I did the same again. The idea is to read as many rings and confirm them with photographs as part of the RAS (re-trapping adults for survival project) -see BTO website here.
The sun was shining and the birds were very active with gulls, auks and Shags all nesting or feeding young. Walking from the beach to the main colonies we came across numerous gulls nests with eggs or small young.
Herring Gull nest with eggs 'chipping' - you can just see the egg tooth of the yang bird on the top left egg.
Most Guillemots and Razorbills were o eggs but we did find a few small Razorbill chicks.
Photographing the Razorbill rings is frustrating but rewarding. I've found the best method is to sit quietly on top of the cliffs and let the birds come to me. However, a lot of the time they're suspicious and sit facing you so you can't see the ring number so a little patience is required in waiting until more birds arrive causing a bit of shuffling around. Star bird was the one that was ringed in 2000!
There are many distractions on Puffin Island and I couldn't resist a few photographs of Puffins, Razorbills and Shags.
Cheshire & Wirral: 305 Western Sandpiper - armchair tick!
New garden list: 70 Little Grebe
Garden List: 128 Spotted Flycatcher
What this blogs about.
Welcome to my blog about birding on the Wirral, in Cheshire and beyond. This blog will be updated regularly to include photographs of birds (and other wildlife) I've photographed both in the UK and abroad. Enjoy!#
All photo's are taken by me unless specified and I retain the copyright. Photos shall not be used for any other purpose without express permission.
Moved to the Wirral in 1983 and settled there after marrying in 1986. I've been birding since I was 7 or 8 - it was that long ago I can't remember!
My formative years were spent in Suffolk and birds became a passion in my teens. I started twitching when still at school but began seriously whilst at University in the late 70's and early 80's. Yes I am old enough to remember Nancy's cafe!
Took a bit of a break due to other committment but now able enjoy getting out birding both locally and for long distance twitches and trips.
Married to my beautiful wife Janet since 1986 and have two grown-up children.
I've been lucky in that work has taken me to many countries and I've always managed to do a bit of birding wherever I go. The only continent I've yet to visit is Antarctica!
I first became interested in photography whilst still at school and used an old Zenith SLR with a Tamron 300 mm lens. I've rediscovered my earlier interest and have graduated to digital - much easier to use for an amateur like me! My kit now includes a Nikon D7100, Nikon D7000, Nikon F4 500, Nikon F2.8 300, Nikon 80-400, Nikon 1.4 & 2.0 x teleconverters.
I've been birding since I was a kid - I got my first pair of Prinz 8 x 30 binoculars aged 9 and these saw me through until we moved to Suffolk in 1971. On my first visit to Minsmere I realised the old binoculars had to go.....................................
My Great Aunt, Joyce Lovell, encouraged my interest in wildlife and I remember spending hours in her Somerset cottage poring over Tunicliffe's superb illustrations.
My first solo twitch was in Suffolk when, in December 1977 when a Sociable Plover turned up at Great Henny - a 12 mile push bike ride but I had to get Dad to collect me in the car as I was so cold I couldn't move and took refuge in a telephone box!
I trained as a ringer at Wicken Fen in the 70's whilst still at school but let my licence lapse when I left University and worked abroad. I've subsequently retrained and ring extensively with Hilbre Island Bird Observatory & the SCAN ringing group.