Chorlton Water Park 15.05.18

Sunny, a few clouds in a blue sky, a gentle breeze. Not cold!

Around 20 TT birders met in the car park at Chorlton Water Park on a lovely day. After checking the feeders and seeing bullfinch, robin, ring-necked parakeet, dunnock, sparrow and great tit we set off down the hill and towards the lake. On the lake we saw Canada geese, mallard, coot and mute swan, including one with 5 fluffy cygnets who were following her very closely.

We then set off along the path to start our walk around the lake. There was some discussion around 2 birds we saw along the way and it was agreed that some had seen a bullfinch and others a redstart as one did not have the white patch on its rump and had a black back.

We then took a detour up the steeper path and through the trees. We saw long-tailed tits, swifts, (a first this year for some) song thrush and heard a chiffchaff singing though were unable to locate it through the leaves. We heard many such songs around the water park but did not actually see any of these birds.

We then stopped at the picnic tables for refreshments and saw many birds flitting about but they were impossible to identify as they flew for cover. Eventually we spotted 2 female and 1 male blackcap, long- tailed tits, a blue tit, whitethroat, a bullfinch carrying nesting material, a buzzard and a brimstone butterfly. Great tits were also seen taking food into a nest box in the trees.

Our next stop was the gate at the side of the river and the river itself where, though we stood hopefully, we saw only a carrion crow, another bullfinch and orange tip and large white butterflies. We then continued our walk around the lake smelling the may blossom, listening to the noisy honks of the Canada geese and identifying more butterflies such as the green-veined white.

At the bridge we saw mallard on the river, a grey heron on the bank and heard greenfinch. An eagle- eyed TT member glimpsed a grey wagtail in the stones at the side of the river. A jay gave us great views as we walked towards the orchard but we only saw carrion crow and wood pigeon when in it.

We then crossed the lane to do a circuit around the field. In the field was a peacock butterfly, 2 more bullfinches and a goldfinch and as we continued round a magpie with nesting material, a carrion crow and a wood pigeon were the only birds we saw. We could hear a lot of bird song and were pleased that there were so many birds about even though we couldn’t see them. One lucky person saw a fox as he walked ahead of the main group.

We then came to the bridge over the Mersey again where the grey wagtail flew over our heads and gave good views further up the river. As we reached thelake by the larger island we were surprised to see 3 terrapins sunbathing on a tree trunk. There were Canada geese next to them but it was unclear if they were being friendly or not. The distinctive voice of reed warblers was heard and small birds were spotted flitting around the fence by the lakeside but these turned out to be house sparrows, one very wet after a bath, and not the buntings or warblers we were hoping for.

At the pond everyone seemed to relax, some sat down and we all started to chat. Noisy crows were heard and a blackbird was seen and as we walked through the wildlife garden and back to our cars we all agreed that Chorlton Water Park was a wonderful nature reserve. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute Swan plus cygnets
  2. Canada Goose plus gosling
  3. Mallard
  4. Tufted duck
  5. Great crested grebe
  6. Grey heron
  7. Common buzzard
  8. Coot
  9. Woodpigeon
  10. Feral pigeon
  11. Collared dove
  12. Swift
  13. Grey wagtail
  14. Dunnock
  15. Robin
  16. Black Redstart
  17. Blackbird
  18. Blackcap
  19. Long-tailed tit
  20. Blue tit
  21. Great tit
  22. Starling
  23. Jay
  24. Magpie
  25. Carrion crow
  26. House sparrow
  27. Goldfinch
  28. Bullfinch
  29. Parakeet

Plus: butterflies – speckled wood, orange tip, small white, large white, brimstone, peacock, holly blue, comma; 3 terrapins; 1 fox

Photos JH & DC

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Chat Moss to Little Woolden Moss 08.05.18

Team Tuesdays Chat Moss Long Distance Ramble

Blue Skies….Sunshine…Heat…impossible, it cannot be so, something is rotten in the state of Denmark and quoting a Tennis Player of yore; “You cannot be serious” – were but a selection of the words and thoughts fleeting through the minds of Team Tuesday as they arrived at Moss Farm Fisheries in almost perfect weather – I repeat –  almost perfect weather!

Yes, this was a wander about Chat Moss that bucked the usual trend, BUT most assuredly the rest of the day fell into its usual pattern starting with several members of the Team dibbing into the delights of the food and drink on offer at ‘our’ Gem of a cafe out on Salford’s Mosslands. Then once the sun cream had been applied, water supplies loaded and the debrief by TT’s usual Kapitan was over, the taskmaster for the day outlined the arduous route  that needed to be followed in order that objectives were to be attained. This even excluded the usual wander about the lovely environs of the Fisheries grounds owing to our need for some backtracking along our ‘normal’ route during our annual late spring wander—needs must and all accepted with good grace thus we were off!

Willow Warbler sang out, as did a Chiffchaff, as we moved north up Cutnook Lane giving all cause to pause in some shaded spots in order to try and discern where these ‘leaf’ Warblers were hiding within the fresh flush of leaves that now make ‘woodland’ birdwatching a test of our bird recognition by call; for to actually see them is now almost an impossibility unless they sit atop the trees. Open mossland then brought us out into the heat of the day, but at least now we were able to see our next group of birds with ease – well that did apply to the pair of Oystercatcherwhich had a nest out on the bare peat but to note the Little RingedPloverand the Curlew … well a little more effort was required owing to the heat haze but see them we did … just.

A wander west along a lovely weed strewn and young birch growth blessed track (yes nature does it better if the landscape is a bit ‘rough and ready’) then brought us Linnet, Whitethroat and Goldfinch after which we gained views across some open pools. Lapwing, Tufted Duckand Pied Wagtail came easily into view, as did the Greylag Geese which were nosily enjoying the established, but more enclosed pooled part of this ex-Peat Milling site.

Hearts and Lungs were then subject to some aerobic exercise as we retraced our steps back as far as Twelve Yards Road along which we then proceeded once more in a westward direction. A ploughed field then drew our attention, for within its peaty brown furrows sat a pair of Yellow Wagtail which, as a young lad does with a pocket mirror,  played games with the sun, reflecting back its rays to dazzle our eager eyes. The female proved a little less co-operative moving in and out of view whilst the male thankfully, for our ‘eager-to-see-team’, sat atop a clod of soil and gave us an audience in order that we could admire his supreme beauty. Then a rather understated plumaged bird came into view adding Stock Dove to our list whilst an elusive, but brightly coloured, Yellowhammer gave more of an perfunctory performance, preferring to shun the limelight on this occasion. Then as we continued towards our next destination butterflies in reasonable number and variety flitted about our chosen route, allowing our identification skills to discover Orange Tip, Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma, thus proving once more that there is much more to being a birdwatcher once wildlife enters our souls.

Little Woolden Moss reached, and a serious bit of sky searching led us into the blue, but within it moved but fragments of cloud until a serious kerfuffle broke out over a pooled area. Lesser Black-Backed Gulls which are normally the aggressive birds on the block screeched into the air, Blacked-Headed Gulls screamed in fear, and a lone Oystercatcher threw itself into the water ALL avoiding the fervent attention of an Peregrine which on missing these prey settled on a peat bund and calmly devoured a few recently emerged Dragonflies. As this scene was being digested by us awestruck bystanders to nature in the raw, our attention was then quickly drawn skyward as a shout rang out by a determined Team member who had not given up on searching for our original raptor of the day: thus all then delighted in the mastery of the sky being blithely demonstrated by a Hobby which was taking high flying Dragonflies with aplomb.

It was then time for that wander back along that highway that always seems on the return journey to have increased in length by many a Twelve Yards. Conversation and the prospect of a spot of nice food for lunch in Henry and Yvonne’s lovely cafe,  which is set in a piece of scenery that easily morphs to a gentle bend in a slow moving reed fringed river,  made our return to Moss Farm Fisheries a mere bagatelle of sun blessed steps. (DS)

 Bird List (MHa)

  1. Blue tit
  2. Wood pigeon
  3. Chiffchaff
  4. Blackbird
  5. Mallard
  6. Canada goose
  7. Blackcap
  8. Lesser redpoll
  9. Oystercatcher
  10. Carrion crow
  11. Gadwall
  12. Little ringed plover
  13. Willow warbler
  14. Moorhen
  15. Buzzard
  16. Pied wagtail
  17. Reed bunting
  18. Greylag goose
  19. Whitethroat
  20. Goldfinch
  21. Linnet
  22. Lapwing
  23. Tufted duck
  24. Black-headed gull
  25. Kestrel
  26. Curlew
  27. Swallow
  28. Stock dove
  29. Yellow wagtail
  30. Yellowhammer
  31. Skylark
  32. Lesser black-backed gull
  33. Peregrine
  34. Hobby
  35. Wheatear
  36. Teal
  37. Magpie
  38. pheasant

Heard  –  wren, song thrush, sedge warbler, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch

Photos JH

Rostherne Mere 01.05.18

Long sunny intervals, but a chilly wind

On a bright and fairly warm May Day morning a goodly number of Team Tuesday set forth at Rostherne.  We greatly appreciate permission to go into the reserve from site manager Rupert of Natural England, thank our own John H for organising it at bluebell time,  and also Steve, one of the volunteers,  who accompanied us on this occasion, full of information.

Several birds such as goldfinch, house sparrow and blackbird, were seen on our way through the village, including a circling buzzard, as we made our way to the Observatory. Having paid our dues, with some encouragement given to become yearly members, we settled for a view of the Mere with some thermos flasks quickly being produced. The Mere showed relatively few water birds, but we had fine views of a good half dozen great crested grebes, trees laden with cormorants and a pair of mandarin ducks. Black headed and lesser black-backed gulls were further out and buzzards were taking advantage of the thermals during the morning. We had close-up views of a pair of kestrels perching on a dead tree, and witnessed a mating session reminiscent of the Trans-Pennine Trail, last week. Not to be outdone, a couple of blue tits, not far from the hide, also decided that the mating season was well and truly here. The bird table brought great tits, blue tits and a shy coal tit into view, and we also had a glimpse of a nuthatch. Finally, from the thicket of brambles a fine male bullfinch appeared, the colours of its plumage almost catching fire in the sunlight.

We next set out on our amble through the woods and fields. Chiffchaffs called constantly, but were difficult to spot due to the tree foliage. Blackcaps were singing, searched for and eventually spotted. The yaffle of the green woodpecker teased us and some sharp eyes saw it fly, and a great spotted woodpecker was drumming but elusive.
As it warmed up, the butterflies appeared and we had four species to enjoy, brimstone, peacock, veined white and several pristine orange tips. In the reed beds Steve pointed out the reeds flattened by the starlings roost and a fine male reed bunting showed. Steve then explained the difference between the songs of the reed and sedge warblers, squeaky reeds and scratchy sedges, but not one popped up to back him up.

Moving on, we walked through swathes of bluebells admiring them and some of the other spring flowers in evidence, including wood sorrel and several clumps of early purple orchids. We looked in vain for John’s bear, but may have found it’s poo! Coming back we checked the owl box for the barn owl, but to no avail. Then we called into the Bittern Hide, enjoying the comfort of the carpeted seats, but little was to be seen, even the mouse refusing to appear. As we came back up through the woods we inspected the badger holt still hearing constant wren songs and met Sheila and Dr. Ben, who had just finished their count for the day. They had seen swifts and a spotted flycatcher and were interested in our sightings of butterflies. By then it was time to leave this idyllic spot and head home. (TG)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Mandarin
  5. Tufted duck
  6. Pheasant
  7. Great Crested Grebe
  8. Cormorant
  9. Common buzzard
  10. Kestrel
  11. Coot
  12. Black-headed gull
  13. Lesser black-backed gull
  14. Stock dove
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Collared dove
  17. Pied wagtail
  18. Dunnock
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Blackcap
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Nuthatch
  27. Magpie
  28. Jackdaw
  29. Carrion crow
  30. House sparrow
  31. Chaffinch
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Bullfinch
  34. Reed bunting

Photos DC & CG

Woolston Eyes 24.04.18

Team Tuesday Venture forth to Woolston Eyes–AGAIN 

A busy place, it can be, on Weir Lane when Team Tuesday roll into this outskirt of Greater Warrington where sits, in seemingly splendid isolation, that pearl of the West; Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve, which in these times of the Carbon Landscape Projecthas been given some status and recognition, and is, in my opinion, regarded as the launch pad for this treasured sweep of land that from here pans out north and east covering a vast swathe of open land all the way through to Wigan and beyond. (Follow link above for further information.)

Next there was the debrief which almost required; firstly a megaphone due to a numbers of the Team who had arrived; and secondly because of the hubbub of conversation that had already started to flow as fast as the plastic phase of the lava flow after a volcanic eruption! Debrief over and all were soon on their way over to the loop of the Mersey and the Weir’s associated basin upon which sat Shelduck, Gadwall, Cormorant, Tufted Duck and our ‘ever so reliable’ pair of Great Crested Grebe which normally spend the spring season here making several breeding attempts against all the odds that are usually stacked against them owing to the ups and downs of the river based upon our atypical glorious summer downfalls!

The mini ‘master class’ in Gull recognition was passed with flying colours thus adding Herring/Lesser Black-Backed and Black Headed Gulls to our tally with an ease which is more than can be said of the Warblers we encountered on our ‘hike’ over to number three bed…..for these were strong voice (Cetti’s/Willow Warbler), but weak in appearance, although Chiffchaff and Blackcap did oblige with their impression of the ‘dance of the seven veils’ as they appeared and disappeared amongst the now rapidly emerging leaf cover which has finally started to grace the trees in this current spring starved season of 2018.

The Bridge over the reserves part of the River Mersey then led us onto the land of the Black Headed Gull colony amongst which we hoped to gain more than a handful of other bird species which in truth  seem more than content to spend their summer season in the company of their raucous neighbours—a lesson in tolerance and ‘live and let live’ for us humans to take note of perhaps…..for in ‘putting up’ with the in your face gulls there was to be gained an element of protection—for beware any unwelcome intruders to this scene for a posse of Gulls are ever ready to ride them ‘out of town’.

A diversion west to gain the Morgan Hide, owing to footpath restoration work,  allowed all to relish the effects of a typical April Day when soft caressing showers (someone been reading Chaucer? ed.)  worked wonders on our complexions. At the hide there soon arose cries of pure delight as we peered out from the Rotary Hide and revelled in the delightful  views of FOUR summer-plumaged Black-Necked Grebe which were more than happy to ignore our wall of oohs and ahhs  and continue with their efforts to bond for another much hoped for successful breeding season.

The Morgan Hide did eventually gain our presence for we were assured of further views of the BNG whilst all could (1) gain a number of other species (2) snaffle tuck bag snacks and (3) chill out in life affirming company……thus an hour was well spent within the confines of a bird hide the likes of which is hard to beat out on our Carbon Landscape wanderings. The feeders gave a whiff of Winter with an appearance of a lone Brambling, gave hope in the return of the Greenfinch after a few years of disease induced decline, and allowed all to be distracted from the ‘business’ of the Reed Clad waters before us which gave almost too much activity for our eyes to comprehend—well for a while at least. Greylag Geese gave the ‘cute’ factor with one pair already sporting seven trophies of their breeding season success, as they chaperoned their Goslings about the open waters whilst a VERY lonely male Lapwing  wished he had logged onto a better dating site, for display as he might, he had not yet met the partner of his dreams, whilst a very contentedly looking pair ofGadwall hung around together ‘knowing’ that they would introduce us all to their offspring when the time was right for them this season. Meanwhile the sky effervesced with ‘hirundine’ fervour as Swallow/House Martin and Sand Martin refuelled on insects that were emerging from the waters before our eyes..an absolute joy to see by all of our gathering of kindred spirits.

Then came the time to start the gentle Bimble back to our cars and onward for lunch which was, as ever, ‘interrupted’ by those blessed birds we all share a love of with today’s pace blocker being an elusive but by some briefly glimpsed Whitethroat, which happily shared its eclectic mix of sound which ‘surely’ said ‘Boy am I glad to be back in the country of my birth after my somewhat arduous journeying to Africa for the winter’.

At last taking a fond farewell the Team were happy in the knowledge that in only two weeks they would once be roaming about a large swathe of the Carbon Landscape for Chat Moss was to be the next step in this specially designated sweep of precious landscape. (DS)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Great crested grebe
  11. Little grebe
  12. Black-necked grebe
  13. Cormorant
  14. Grey heron
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Lapwing
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Herring gull
  20. Lesser black-backed gull
  21. Woodpigeon
  22. Collared dove
  23. Swallow
  24. House martin
  25. Dunnock
  26. Robin
  27. Blackbird
  28. Song thrush
  29. Willow warbler
  30. Chiffchaff
  31. Whitethroat
  32. Blackcap
  33. Blue tit
  34. Great tit
  35. Jay
  36. Magpie
  37. Carrion crow
  38. House sparrow
  39. Brambling
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Greenfinch
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Reed bunting
  44. Cetti’s Warbler (alas – heard only!)

Photos DC

Trans-Pennine Trail 17.04.18

Breezy, a few spots of rain

A near record number of the Team gathered in the Henshall Lane car park for the first outing of the Spring/Summer season – not that the weather seemed that way inclined in the least! However, the promise of spring was highlighted by the vigorous notes of a Chiffchaff that determinedly made itself heard over the chatter and obligingly showed itself perched just a few feet above our heads. Indeed, the trees surrounding the car park seemed to be drawing in a fair number of other birds, no doubt seeking refuge from the stiff breeze and before we had even begun our progress along the old railway track towards Broadheath, we had added Long-tailed tit, Great tit, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon to our list.

Making our way along the trail we soon realised that both the breeze and the low light levels meant that spotting birds was going to be something of a challenge, but undaunted we kept scanning the surrounding fields, and caught the odd glimpse of Magpie, Carrion Crow, a couple of Lapwing and even of a single Greater-spotted Woodpecker. In the distance large flocks of Jackdaws and Starlings were seen feeding on the fields and rising up in swirling black clouds, every so often. The lusty song of a Skylark drew eyes upwards, and there high above us the bird was fighting vigorously against the wind as it tried to maintain its position. This was the first of several seen and some members saw some glide gracefully back down to earth and disappear in the long green grass that was no doubt hiding their nests. Further on, the bright colours of a Yellowhammer attracted our attention, the bird perched out in the open and offering clear views of its fine plumage.

Scanning one of the few mature trees standing in the fields along this section of the trail, a male Kestrel was spied, taking refuge from the wind in a hole in the trunk, its feathers ruffling despite its shelter as it peeped out, perhaps as we thought, looking for prey. However, the real object of its attention was revealed shortly after when sharp eyes caught sight of a female Kestrel resting in the fork of a nearby tree and enjoying an early lunch of some prey or other. With little ceremony the male bird swooped down on top of the female, with who knows what intention(!), only, however, to be determinedly rebuffed and forced to retreat to a nearby branch, whilst the female continued her feast.

The copse where School Lane crosses the trail, gave us (and the birds) a bit of shelter from the wind, which had strengthened and by this time was also carrying the odd spot of rain, and we spent some time spotting and trying to identify the numerous birds that were making their presence known through their calls and were flitting back and forth amongst the trees. Blackcap and Willow Warbler were noted and seen by several members of the group, although a Treecreeper proved more elusive and was glimpsed only by a few.

Just before we reached the furthest point of our progress along the trail towards Broadheath, a Brown Hare was spotted running across one of the fields to our left and this animal then settled down, out of the wind, its ears close to its head, and most of us got good views of it. More or less at the same spot some Mallard were spotted waddling along the side of one of the drainage ditches and a Pheasant, several of which had been heard previously, was sighted as it poked up its head briefly from out of the long grass in which it was sheltering.

Taking one last look across the fields before turning back towards the car park, we caught sight of some Stock Doves in the distance and had close views of a Dunnock and some Goldfinch that were pecking about across some puddles along the field’s edge, a reminder of just how wet it has been of late. However, by this time, thoughts of lunch were becoming harder to resist and the group turned back and made speedy progress towards the car park and, for some, the pub, where a convivial lunch was partaken, looking out at the rain that had begun to fall, almost as soon as we had sat down.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Chiffchaff
  2. Long-tailed tit
  3. Song thrush
  4. Chaffinch
  5. Carrion crow
  6. Blue tit
  7. Great tit
  8. Robin
  9. Blackbird
  10. Magpie
  11. Wood pigeon
  12. Cormorant
  13. Great-spotted woodpecker
  14. Lapwing
  15. Skylark
  16. Yellowhammer
  17. Jay
  18. Starling
  19. Jackdaw
  20. Kestrel
  21. Mistle thrush
  22. Blackcap
  23. Nuthatch
  24. Treecreeper
  25. Mallard
  26. Swallow
  27. Pheasant
  28. Wren
  29. Dunnock
  30. Goldfinch
  31. Stock dove
  32. Willow warbler
  33. Heron

Leighton Moss (27.3.2018)

Overcast with occasional drizzle

After an arduous journey through rain and occasionally heavy traffic, 15 intrepid members of the Team assembled praying for better weather and a productive day. Our arrival appeared to coincide with an immediate improvement in the weather which held for more or less the rest of the day and with encouraging spots of wren and coal tit around the car park, we congregated in Lilian’s Hide. Settling down to views of moorhen, mallard, tufted duck, coot, gadwall, teal and greylag geese, we were delighted to see a little egret and at least 6 snipe flying around the far side of the pool but unfortunately settling out of sight amongst the rough grass opposite the hide. Almost immediately we had our first sighting of a male marsh harrier floating repeatedly across the far reedbed, its tricoloured wings vivid in the improving daylight.

Heading out on the Lower Trail and Boardwalk, there were clear sightings of long-tailed tit, chaffinch and reed bunting, and at least one member heard the distant yaffle of a green woodpecker from across the farmland to the west. The Causeway Hide revealed a rich mix of wildfowl – tufted duck, wigeon, pochard, coot, shoveler, little grebe, mute swan, pintail (the tail feathers prominent as they spent most of the time dabbling) and great crested grebe in its resplendent summer plumage  – in addition to lapwing and to resting cormorant and great black-backed gulls. Again, a marsh harrier flew over the reedbeds, and a second raptor sped overhead with some, maybe not conclusive, agreement as to its identity as a sparrowhawk.

Walking further onward along the Causeway, we were treated to the explosive song of Cetti’s warbler, several loud outbursts of squealing/grunting from water rail, and the booming of bittern – but frustratingly no sightings! The walk through the woodland to the Lower Hide revealed, amongst others, jay, nuthatch and treecreeper along with very tame pheasants. From Lower Hide, a good selection of wildfowl again, which included goldeneye and three snipe (some inconclusive debate as to whether great or jack) sitting quietly along the near pool edge facing away from the Hide.

Hungry for a late lunch, we marched back single-mindedly to the visitor centre, but lucky individuals spotted a Cetti’s warbler appear from the reedbeds along the Causeway and disturbed a water rail at its junction with the Boardwalk.

After an outdoor lunch, the weather having improved significantly by now, and a sighting of bullfinch at the adjoining feeding station, we trekked down to the Grisedale Hide armed with intelligence gained from reserve staff about the presence of a tawny owl and water rail. Unfortunately no sightings of them, but we were delighted to be greeted at the Hide by up to four marsh harriers (a swarm?) floating around the reedbeds, with one male painstakingly collecting twigs and lengths of reed to take to its nest within the far reedbed. Also amongst the various wildfowl on the pool, a single great white egret sedately waded towards the Hide picking out fish and other goodies from the shallow water. What a fine, elegant and memorable sight! And an opportunity to contrast and compare with a little egret nearby.

With the group fragmenting as individuals left to make the long journey home, the remaining members popped into the Tim Jackson Hide to see teal, gadwall, mute swan and pintail and then stopped on their return along the woodland path to watch a willow tit which had been spotted by one of the happy band.

Driving across to the Eric Morecambe and Allen Hides, we were rewarded with significant numbers of black-tailed godwit, shelduck, avocet, wigeon, teal, shoveler and pintail, as well as gulls (lesser black-backed and black-headed) and oystercatcher. And finally from the Allen Hide, a single redshank to round off an excellent day!

Meanwhile, a splinter group of two dropped off at Warton Crag just as a peregrine falcon flew in, landed on a ledge and continued calling for some time, perhaps for its mate who did not turn up. Opposite a pair of ravens were nesting, so a very worthwhile visit for them. (SC)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Wren
  2. Coal tit
  3. House sparrow
  4. Dunnock
  5. Collared dove
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Blackbird
  8. Greenfinch
  9. Goldfinch
  10. Robin
  11. Pheasants
  12. Great tit
  13. Wood pigeon
  14. Magpie
  15. Goldcrest
  16. Marsh harrier
  17. Teal
  18. Tufted duck
  19. Gadwall
  20. Little egret
  21. Greylag goose
  22. Coot
  23. Snipe
  24. Long-tailed tit
  25. Blue tit
  26. Black-headed gull
  27. Cormorant
  28. Reed bunting
  29. Carrion crow
  30. Lapwing
  31. Shoveler
  32. Mute swan
  33. Little grebe
  34. Wigeon
  35. Great-crested grebe
  36. Pintail
  37. Shelduck
  38. Mallard
  39. Lesser black-backed gull
  40. Greater black-backed gull
  41. Pochard
  42. Cetti’s warbler
  43. Canada goose
  44. Water rail
  45. Jay
  46. Nuthatch
  47. Treecreeper
  48. Goldeneye
  49. Buzzard
  50. Grey heron
  51. Oystercatcher
  52. Great white egret
  53. Moorhen
  54. Bullfinch
  55. Willow tit
  56. Avocet
  57. Black-tailed godwit
  58. Redshank
  59. Curlew
  60. Sparrowhawk

Photos (DC)

Risley Moss 20.03.18

Calm, generally overcast, but a few sunny intervals

A good number of the Team gathered in the car park at Risley Moss for a return visit to a site we had not been to for some time. Conversations and the awarding of the prize for the Christmas Quiz (congratulations Mike, and thanks to Hilary and John) were interrupted, first by the sight of a lone buzzard being harried by a crow and then, soon after, by the appearance of one, two, three and finally four of these graceful raptors, enough surely to justify the use of their collective term: a Wake of Buzzards.

Having decided to follow one of the trails round the reserve, we headed first for the Woodland Hide, some catching sight en route of a small flock of starlings and others of a pair of Ravens that flew over us. At the hide the feeders were drawing in a number of birds, all looking very fresh in their spring plumage; Nuthatch, Coal tit, Blue tit and both a male and a female Bullfinch. On the path behind the hide the cheeck, cheeck of a woodpecker drew eyes upwards, but catching sight of what proved to be a male Greater Spotted was not easy, at least until it flew off in its usual undulating way. Jay and Magpie were noted and pressing on to the now sadly vandalised Observation Tower some Goldfinch were sighted in the trees alongside the path.

With the sunshine having broken through the clouds, the picnic tables overlooking the moss suggested it was time for coffee, but there was little to entertain us, apart from the usual friendly chatter amongst the Team, until a solitary Reed Bunting was spotted, more or less straight in front. Despite our best efforts, little else, apart from a pair of Mallard, was revealed and we decided to head for the Mossland Hide. Along the way, although we could hear plenty of birds, catching sight of anything other than Robins proved difficult. In front of the hide itself, although there had been a welcome effort to clear vegetation that had previously obscured the view, all was quiet, save for alone duck that quickly made itself scarce before anyone could identify it!

Our onward progress was briefly halted by a glimpse of a shy Moorhen taking cover, from which it determinedly refused to move, under the overhanging bank of a small pond more or less adjacent to the path, and by the activities of a Treecreeper that briefly teased us with its antics before flying further off into the woodland. Gulls, probably Herring, were seen circling high overhead, but by this time, the cloud had thickened and, in the increasingly gloomy conditions, the former noise of bird activity seemed to have died down, apart that is from the noisy call of a Wren (heard but not seen!) and the cross-sounding alarm calls of a number of Great tit, which we came across just as we approached the Visitor Centre.

In the centre itself there was a display showing photos of the mindless destruction of the Observation Tower, as well as plenty of information about the history and ecology of the site, which, during the Second World War, housed a Royal Ordnance bomb-making factory. A Nuthatch was making a show on the feeders in front of the VC, and its bright colours afforded a suitably pleasing memory to take away with us after our morning’s unusually quiet, but nonetheless enjoyable, birding.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Nuthatch
  2. Buzzard
  3. Robin
  4. Blue tit
  5. Blackbird
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Bullfinch
  8. Long-tailed tit
  9. Great-spotted woodpecker
  10. Dunnock
  11. Starling
  12. Raven
  13. Jay
  14. Magpie
  15. Goldfinch
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Mallard
  18. Carrion crow
  19. Reed bunting
  20. Great tit
  21. Canada goose
  22. Moorhen
  23. Tree creeper
  24. Herring gull
  25. Coal tit

Photos DC & CG

Mere Sands Wood 13.03.18

Overcast at first, clearing later

Despite the less than promising skies, a good number of the Team met outside the Visitor Centre at this Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve and quickly decided upon splitting our visit into pre- and post-lunch sessions. Setting off first towards the Cyril Gibbons hide, we were soon scanning the tops of the trees where a variety of tits and finches were flitting about making the most of feeding opportunities. Blackbirds and Robins flew back and forth across the path in front of us, and as we approached the hide the unmistakable whining of a Little Grebe was heard. However, from the hide itself there was no sight of this bird, but we were treated to good views of a couple of pair of Goldeneye, numerous tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe which was looking its very best in fine breeding plumage. Pressing on round Mere End, some of the group caught sight of a Treecreeper, others of a Collared Dove and Mistle Thrush, whilst all were treated to good views of some Nuthatch, which first attracted our attention by their noisy calls. One pair appeared to be readying a nesting hole in one of the trees, or at least one of them did, whilst the other (the male or the female?) preened itself in the warm sunshine that was beginning to break through the clouds by this time. Looping back round on the path towards the VC and lunch, Shelduck were spotted feeding in the stubble fields just adjacent to the reserve, and a Grey Heron and Coot were added to our day list at Heath Lake and End Lake.

Lunch was taken in the Visitor Centre, by kind permission of the site manager, and suitably refreshed we dallied for a while behind the screens at the VC watching a variety of birds coming in to take advantage of the well-stocked feeding trays: Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Dunnock and even a Pheasant, which jumped up rather awkwardly onto one of the tables. Our afternoon circuit, taking in Marshall and Ainscough hides, was made in increasingly sunny, almost spring-like conditions, and we had good views across the Hollow of Cormorants, a Little Egret, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, a couple of Herring and Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Oystercatchers.

From Redwing hide, despite determined scanning, we were not able to add anything to our list, but, undaunted, we pressed on to  Rufford hide where we had clear, but only partial views of a Sparrowhawk, perched on the far side of a pile of logs, evidently enjoying the sunshine whilst it digested what must have been a fairly substantial lunch, since not even the antics of some Magpies that dropped in appeared to be able to disturb it. The sunshine was now lighting up the view in front of us and the colours of a number of Teal resting amongst the reeds positively sparkled.

 

Sadly we had at last to drag ourselves away from this pleasing spectacle, but there was just time for a few of us to make a final detour down to Heath Lake, where at last we caught sight of a Little Grebe busily diving, looking for, and, one one occasion, finding food. A pleasant stroll back to the carpark rounded off a very successful trip to a site that is always attractive.

 

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Shelduck
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Shoveler
  7. Teal
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Goldeneye
  11. Pheasant
  12. Great crested grebe
  13. Little grebe
  14. Cormorant
  15. Little egret
  16. Grey heron
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Common buzzard
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Oystercatcher
  22. Black-headed gull
  23. Herring gull
  24. Stock dove
  25. Woodpigeon
  26. Collared dove
  27. Dunnock
  28. Robin
  29. Blackbird
  30. Mistle thrush
  31. Long-tailed tit
  32. Coal tit
  33. Blue tit
  34. Great tit
  35. Treecreeper
  36. Nuthatch
  37. Magpie
  38. Jackdaw
  39. Carrion crow
  40. House sparrow
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Bullfinch
  44. Reed bunting

Photos HW and CG

Pre-Spring Woolston Wander 06.03.18

Cool, but little wind and distinctly milder than of late! 

Of late, due to the severely cold weather which rode upon an icy easterly airstream, there have been a number of waifs and strays searching for food and shelter with Golden Plover and Ruff out on my mosslands, Brambling and Blackcap in my garden and today at the tail end of the awful weather I found a gaggle of souls wandering aimlessly about Weir Lane—for these I felt they needed gathering together asap and leading to the comfort zone of the nearby Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve….a task not too easy as it turned out….

All moved as one towards the Weir with relative ease noting House Sparrow aplenty along the route but once the river was encountered splinter groups started to occur as Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen were carefully observed after which a re-grouping took place at the weir crossing for here Goldeneye were to be admired. Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe and Grey Wagtail then demanded our attention before we once more set off for number three bed moving slowly along the west bank of number two bed where summer plumaged Cormorant and a sentinel Grey Heron etched themselves onto the day list.

A Marsh Harrier was clearly noted by one of the team but this lingered not quite long enough for good views to be gained, but most of our eyes settled, all but too briefly, upon this raptor which disappeared into number three bed, which was then carefully scanned from our viewpoint but all we could turn up was a Buzzard—oh and a flock of Black Headed Gulls which were now back for the breeding season.

The pace then picked up and soon all were safely across the footbridge and onto the pathways of this splendid ‘island’ sanctuary but as expected a pause or two was built into our progress with the south scaffolding hide being the first of these and from this vantage point Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal were noted, boosting the wildfowl count for the day. En-route to the Morgan Hide Snowdrops and emerging Wild Garlic were noted reminding us that spring was almost upon us and as if to confirm this Greenfinch and Song Thrush were offering up their courtship song as we negotiated some of the ‘slightly’ mired sections of the pathway.

Destination reached and a chorus of contented ahhs then rang from within the auditorium that is the Morgan Hide as all settled down to admire the open water and reedbeds that hummed with life. Team Wirral (Kenny, Colin and Stewart) along with Woolston stalwarts Dave Bowman and Alan Warford were in situ and keen to point out the bird activity out on this ever-changing backdrop of life that lay before us. An Oystercatcher hurried about the bed, but couldn’t find anywhere to settle: with luck as the season progresses it may choose to breed out on the shingle isle that was created last year—fingers crossed. The bird feeders were not without their own whirl of activity as Chaffinch, Bullfinch and both a male and female Brambling managed to draw eyes away from the reedbeds in order that these too could be admired and of course tallied onto an ever growing day list.

A Lesser Black Back Gull then reminded us that nature is as raw as last week’s winds for one individual, which we surmised was full of breeding season territorial hormones, set about passing Black Headed Gulls with vicious intent and for those of the team who were of a stoic nature a video of a kill made by this gull, several hours earlier, could be viewed…

A patient wait to try and gain views of the Harrier, noted earlier, then took place with the time being happily spent catching up with our Wirral Wanderers, snacking through elevenses and plans for possible future birdwatching trips being discussed, but the bird remained stubbornly out of view thus just as the cool was starting to creep in we moved off for a circuit of the bed. Not too much was added to the tally for the day, but views of another Brambling was gained whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldfinch kept our scribe for the day in gainful employ.

Then it was time to make a steady move over to the weir and onto our cars with the book being closed once Herring Gull had become our final bird noted for the day. (DS)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Canada goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Teal
  9. Pochard
  10. Tufted duck
  11. Goldeneye
  12. Pheasant (heard)
  13. Little grebe
  14. Great-crested grebe
  15. Cormorant
  16. Grey heron
  17. Marsh harrier
  18. Common buzzard
  19. Coot
  20. Moorhen
  21. Oystercatcher
  22. Black-headed gull
  23. Herring gull
  24. Lesser black-backed gull
  25. Wood pigeon
  26. Collared dove
  27. Great-spotted woodpecker
  28. Grey wagtail
  29. Dunnock
  30. Robin
  31. Song thrush
  32. Blackbird
  33. Wren
  34. Great tit
  35. Blue tit
  36. Long-tailed tit
  37. Magpie
  38. Carrion crow
  39. House sparrow
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Brambling
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Siskin
  45. Bullfinch
  46. Reed bunting

Photos JH

 

 

Wirral Winter Wander 20.02.18

Bright with clearing blue skies, stiff breeze

Pre-walk duties carried out on clear views, sun blessed and north wind caressed morn led me back to the Team who had arrived in reasonable force for the 10 am start on Denhall Lane. Distractions aplenty delayed Team Tuesdays move north towards Neston Quay for inland, Stock Dove requested an entry on our day list, marshland flaunted a ‘pair’ of Great White Egret and, roadside, our almost deified Wirral hosts Kenny, Colin and Stewart were holding court to mesmerising effect, but nonetheless we managed a break out and off we ambled upon another Wirral extravaganza.

Activity aplenty out on the marsh managed to break up deep and meaningful conversations which seemed to range in any and every direction other than birdwatching, proving as Rag and Bone Man sings (we) Are Only Human after all ….then birds DID win through. Skylark song drifted through the air bringing nature’s angelic chorus into our souls whilst Curlew offered their haunting calls as Linnet and Reed Bunting paused for photographers to attempt image-capture these delightful smaller passerines.

Decca Pools area reached and all gained the slight incline to gain more sweeping views of this wondrous salt marsh area over which distant flocks of Starling, Pink Footed Geese and Gulls including Great Black Backed milled about during the frenzy of another day in their collective survival. The foreground from this vantage point gave with ease a lone drake Pintail, numerous Teal and Wigeon plus an elusive Little Grebe. Then after a visual acuity test, in which I am happy to report all passed with flying colours, resting Common Snipe were scraped onto our recorder’s list.

A move onward was then soon halted for a ‘Ring-Tail’ (Juvenile/Female) Hen Harrier was brought to our attention by our Raptor spotter of the day—this bird didn’t help the viewing by all of the Team for it was taking full advantage of the strong Northerly ‘breeze’ to move rapidly over the marsh, but happily I believe all connected with it to some degree or other…just!

We then decided that this was a good time to retreat towards the comfort zone of Burton Mere RSPB reserve for an early lunch and without further ado we about-turned to our cars, but the pace wasn’t set at too greater speed as we had a lot to chat about and there was a pair of Raven to admire, just to keep the ornithological element of the day topped up!

A rather busy Burton Mere Reserve was totally unfazed by the influx of our Team and with ease it absorbed us into its welcoming arms giving plenty to view whilst lunches were absorbed with comfortable ease. The Accountants cold and precise Double Entry Bookkeeping or the more subtle humanistic view of Henry Reeds – ‘The Naming of Parts’ – incremented the lunchtime part of the list with Avocet, Black Tailed Godwit, Shoveler, Redshank and Gadwall to name but a few birds that graced our comfy viewing point before we set off for an hour’s bimble about the site. Tufted Duck, bustling Goldfinch and a resting Little Egret lined the way to our next hide from which a flighty Stonechat and a carefully observed Cetti’s Warbler were noted before we decided that a final push for the day would lead us to Parkgate.

A brief drive later and most of the Team were ready to absorb a little more of the days dominant Northerly air flow which kept its promise to chill unlike a certain Owl species that in not putting on a show failed to thrill. Disappointment then ended this splendid day OR DID IT?—NEVER! for here a Marsh Harrier chose to make our acquaintance, Lapwing Galore spilled about the sky, a lone Brambling, sensing our ‘need’ to add another relatively elusive bird to our tally, perched atop a nearby tree, young Peter (Kenny’s lad) turned up helping to reduce the age average of our team, whilst finally a mini flock of Fieldfare and Redwing allowed views unlike a clearly calling Green Woodpecker!

Then it was time to bid a fond farewell to the Wirral, its Wildlife and our much appreciated Wirral Triumvirate. (DS)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Great White Egret
  2. Jackdaw
  3. Stock dove
  4. Wood pigeon
  5. Nuthatch (H)
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Little egret
  8. Starlings
  9. Dunnock
  10. Common buzzard
  11. Reed bunting
  12. Linnet
  13. Mallard
  14. Moorhen
  15. Long- tailed tit
  16. Pink-footed goose
  17. Raven
  18. Shelduck
  19. Carrion crow
  20. Meadow pipit
  21. House sparrow
  22. Lapwing
  23. Blue tit
  24. Teal
  25. Great tit
  26. Chaffinch
  27. Skylark
  28. Curlew
  29. Lesser black-backed gull
  30. Coot
  31. Pintail
  32. Wigeon
  33. Redshank
  34. Snipe
  35. Black-headed gull
  36. Little grebe
  37. Kestrel
  38. Hen harrier
  39. Cormorant
  40. Avocet
  41. Black-tailed godwit
  42. Canada goose
  43. Shoveler
  44. Grey heron
  45. Tufted duck
  46. Marsh harrier
  47. Gadwall
  48. Coal tit
  49. Robin
  50. Greylag goose
  51. Magpie
  52. Stonechat
  53. Cetti’s warbler
  54. Great black-backed gull
  55. Brambling
  56. Pied wagtail
  57. Green woodpecker (H)
  58. Pheasant
  59. Fieldfare
  60. Redwing
  61. Wren

Photos DC/CG