21 Dec 2020


We regularly get Sparrowhawks coming through the garden and I've ringed several since we moved here. I recently found evidence that one had been using one of our old moss covered apple trees as a plucking post. Whilst on the phone one day I noticed this gorgeous male Sparrowhawk sitting in our oak tree. A quick goodbye and an end to the conversation and he sat long enough for me to quietly open the window and get a few photos. 

This bird isn't ringed so isn't one of the ones I'd already ringed in the garden

We recently had some sad news about a Sparrowhawk we'd re-trapped in Janes garden - see here.
This venerable old bird was recently found in a Hoylake garden with a broken wing and leg and unfortunately had to be euthanised by a vet. A sad end for a fabulous bird.


8 Dec 2020


I've been neglectful of fungi over the years. Sometimes  I make the effort to try and identify them and other times I pass them by without a second thought. This year seems to be a good one and I've found several locally to us and in the garden which I've taken the time to try and identify. There are so many it's really quite difficult to remember any but the commoner ones.

Candle Snuff  - so called because as it gets older it has black bases and looks like a candle wick that has been snuffed out. See below: 

King Alfreds Cakes o na dead ash stump - said to resemble King Alfreds burnt offerings. 
Shaggy Inkcap.
Sulphur Tuft.

Fungi come in all kinds of guises and some are parasitic on insects. I found this dead pollenia fly (thanks Gavin) in the garden that I didn't recognise. It was striking with black and white zebra bands. Googling black and white striped flies and found out it was a kind of fungus, probably Entomophthora muscae, that infects the fly and then kills it as the fruiting bodies burst through the thorax resulting in the dramatic black and white banding.
It just shows - you're never too old to stop learning! 


 With the current lockdown ended I made the trip up the Wirral and across to Hilbre recently and stayed the tide. The weather started off being pretty miserable but brightened up and allowed some good photographic opportunities with the regular wintering waders and the ever present female Kestrel

Purple Sandpipers are one of my favourite birds and certainly my favourite wader. I remember seeing my first ones on the sea defences at Lowestoft as a teenager whilst twitching a Franklins Gull. As well as the Franklins I also ticked Glaucous Gull & Little Auk the same day! 

This years seems to be a good one for Purple Sandpipers with better than usual numbers being reported in some regular wintering sites. Hilbre appears to be following this trend as we have currently got 15 around the island compared to single figure numbers for the past few years. They're remarkably confiding and sittign quietly as the tide dropped enabled me to get some really close photos as they worked their way towards where I was sitting.

With the high tide and disturbance from kite surfers on the mainland roosting spots for Oystercatchers were at a premium and as well as the 6,000 + roosting on Middle Eye there were nearly 2,000 roosting on Hilbre.

Bar-tailed Godwits are generally a bit distant but this one was feeding in the gutter just below the obs.
The stiff breeze meant the Kestrel spent a lot of time hunting voles and just hanging in the wind without having to mover her wings much to hover. At one point she was almost at eye level with me and completely unperurbed as she hunted the west side cliffs.

The changing weather And light conditions provided the opportunity for some artistic landscape shots as rain showers swept in from N Wales to the west and the waves crashed against the rocks.
Above: view of over the rocks to the west of the access track 
Below: My landrover parked at Hilbre Bird Observatory
Below: a rain storm approaching  from the west

All in all it was a good day on the island even though the days are getting shorter and truncated at each end. Getting home at 4 pm meant I was jet washing the salt and sand off the underside of the landrover virtually in the dark!