31 Jul 2016

Broad-leaved Helliborine

Jan & I have just had a relaxing week in Majorca celebrating her mum's 80th with the rest of the family. Although I didn't do much birding, as usual, I took my binoculars with me and managed a few good birds in the pine covered slopes adjacent to our hotel. Sardinian Warbler, Crossbill & Audouins Gull were all relatively common & I also managed a Hoopoe flying over the sea from one side of the bay to another. Spotted Flycatchers were perhaps the commonest species in the resort with lots of juveniles around. It was good to see House Martins doing well nesting on the side of the hotel as well.

Arriving back Friday we both woke early Saturday morning as our body clocks were still on 'Majorca time' - we'd got into the habit of waking early and spending an hour lazing around on the beach before breakfast and before it got to hot. Consequently we woke up at 06.30 Saturday morning and decided to walk off some of the over indulgence. Following one of our usual routes from home to the nearby village of Mollington things were depressingly quiet on the bird front. Its that time of year when all the adults are moulting and the juveniles have dispersed.

Walking back along a shaded part of the cycle path that I hadn't walked very much recently as I tend to take the alternative route around the field margin looking for butterflies my brain registered an orchid species.....................Having a hunch of what it was, although  I hadn't seen one for years, I took a quick photo and sent it to Sean Cole who confirmed my suspicions - it was my first local Broad-leaved Helliborine!

I went back this morning with the macro lens and found a bonus two more flower stalks. Photography  was hard as I didn't take a tripod and I was shooting at F3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second due to the shaded nature of the site.

Walking home in the sunshine I had the added bonus of seeing my 2nd local Painted Lady of the year and a late Speckled Wood.

21 Jul 2016


The beautiful sunny weather we've had recently has meant that, although theres very few birds knocking around or active, theres been a plethora of butterflies and other insects on the wild flowers locally to our house. After spending a relatively quiet morning on Hilbre where there were lots of butterflies on the wing I planned a trip out from home once I'd had some lunch and sorted out a few chores.

Deciding to take the macro lens out with me I intended looking for a few more butterfly species. A successful trip with the first Gatekeepers flitting along the field margins and a few Meadow Browns knocking around.

Star butterfly though was a Comma that spent a good hour coming back to the same aspen to sun itself and then landed on my hand presumably to get salt from the sweat that was leaking out of every pore.

A fabulous experience.
Other insects were also very active including a number of Marmalade Fly's ( a species of hover fly) and large numbers of Soldier Beetles.

Some nice flowers seen as well with Greater Willow herb, Ragwort, Field Pansy and Hedgerow Cranesbill all offering a different perspective through the macro lens.

Some bird relief was provided by the large number (c200) Swifts passing high and flying south in silence. I only noticed them as  I was watching a couple of Lesser Black-backed gulls circling and picked up the Swifts way above them.

All in all a nice relaxing way to spend a hot summers afternoon.

18 Jul 2016


I recently took a walk along a very overgrown footpath close to me. I don't usually walk this route as it can be very overgrown in summer  and extremely wet in winter! I knew there were a few Early Spotted Orchid plants there from my last visit but what I found stunned me! The first few plants were found in shady areas beneath trees and brambles but when the scrub opened out to areas of rough grassland the orchids were everywhere with a conservative estimate of over 500 plants in one small area.

 An amazing sight. As well as the orchids it was nice to find some Foxgloves in full flower.

Bee Orchids have faired badly locally this year. From the eighteen rosettes I found earlier in the spring only one flowered with the rest being eaten by rabbits.

11 Jul 2016

Terns & Gulls

I had a busy day recently! I got invited to go and help ring Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls at a colony in N Wales but also got a message from Steve saying the planned trip to the Skerries to ring Arctic Tern chicks was going to be the same day albeit later!

Common Terns were a new species for me and I met up with the team including Hilbre regulars Alan H & Kenny Mac around 09.00. It was nice to catch up with Nicola again who I'd last met ringing Jackdaws at her site in N Wales a few weeks previously.

The colonies were located on specially made tern rafts and the first one meant a short wade in wellies whilst the second one required a bit of rowing.

A great trip and it was nice to meet up with a few names I'd heard of but not actually met. Both species seemed to be doing well although there had been quite a bit of chick mortality reported earlier in the season. As is usual in any colony there were nests at different stages of development. The older Black-headed Gull chicks were almost fledged and the ages ranged from small youngsters, eggs just hatching and eggs still in the nest.

The noise from the colony was deafening but at least the Common Terns don't attack with the ferocity Arctic Terns do.

After a quick lunch it was time to head over to Bangor and meet up with Rachel & Steve for the drive to Holyhead harbour where we picked our boat out to the Skerries.

The Common Tern and Black-headed Gull colony was noisy enough but Arctic Terns are deafening!

As quickly as possible we worked through the colony eventually ringing 399 chicks before we ran out of time. We only had a couple of hours on the island before the boat had to leave again.

A great days ringing and a privilege to be able to spend time with the terns. The boat trip back to Holyhead was made even more enjoyable by the evening passage of Manx Shearwaters that accompanied us

7 Jul 2016


The SCAN and SEGUL teams went back to Puffin Island recently for the annual Cormorant ringing trip. We ringed a sample of 200 Cormorant chicks with 50 of those being colour ringed (green rings with a 3 letter code). They're not the cutest of chicks and have pretty disgusting habits, being sick and squirting guano all over you doesn't make them endearing.

Its quite amusing how the adults try to brighten up the nests with garlands of fresh vegetation including flowers- it does nothing to hide the smell though.

As well as the Cormorants we spent the day ringing a few more Shag pullus and any more Razorbills we could find before spending a few hours ringing young Guillemots. We managed to catch and ring a few adult Guillemots as well as re-trapping some birds already ringed in previous years. One of the new adults was this beautiful 'bridled' form that Fed had the pleasure of ringing.

They really do look like they're wearing spectacles. Maybe, like the rest of us, they have to start wearing reading glasses with age!

With our pick-up boat being delayed for an hour we had time to relax on the beach and wash off the worst of the grime in the sea before heading for Beaumaris after another long but successful day with the added bonus of a few fresh mackerel courtesy of the ships crew. Another great day but very tiring and after getting up at 05.00 I didn't get home until 20.30. Showered, changed, tea, beer and then bed!

4 Jul 2016


No, not a new hair style - I've only got enough these days for a short back and sides or a 'number 4 all over'. Ringlet Butterflies. I've found a small colony near me and I've never seen one here in the twenty years I've been living in the area.

Apparently they're colonising Cheshire & Billy Moreton has had big numbers at Frodsham. Great to see although a pain to photograph with just the phone. It was nice to see some Meadow Browns and Small Skippers on the wing as well.

 Meadow Brown

1 Jul 2016


Its that time of year when my attention turns to ringing Swallows on  local farm - all thanks to Barry B for gaining me permission. They've seemingly had a good year this year after a late start. I've missed ringing na few broods because they were to big to ring and I'd risk them exploding prematurely fro the nest if I'd tried. We've had the added bonus of finding a couple of House Sparrows nests and a Robin!

There are plenty of House Sparrows on the farm and we are discussing a potential project involving putting up nest boxes for them over the winter.At the moment they seem to be taking over some of the Swallows nests and unfortunately these can't take the weight of the heavier birds and the piles of grass and straw they fill the nests with.

 House Sparrow pullus.

 Swallows nests with young.
 Young Robins at 2-3 days old.
Young Robin ringed a week later!

The Robins nest was unusual as they'd nested in an old tit box where the front had perished and was hanging off!