Fletcher Moss 16.04.19

The ‘Reserves’ enjoyed a good morning at Fletcher Moss and along the Mersey, as reported by Maggie and recorded for posterity any John:

A select group of TT members had a good walk round Fletcher Moss today and here is the list  –  pretty good really!

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Goosander
  4. Grey heron
  5. Common buzzard
  6. Moorhen
  7. Herring gull
  8. Woodpigeon
  9. Kingfisher
  10. Great spotted woodpecker
  11. Grey wagtail
  12. Wren
  13. Dunnock
  14. Robin
  15. Blackbird
  16. Song thrush
  17. Chiffchaff
  18. Blackcap
  19. Long-tailed tit
  20. Coal tit
  21. Blue tit
  22. Great tit
  23. Nuthatch
  24. Starling
  25. Jay
  26. Magpie
  27. Jackdaw
  28. Carrion crow
  29. Ring-necked parakeet


Much better looking than the group we always see on TV!


Transpennine Trail, Dunham 02.04.2019

Cold and overcast with a threat of rain

With a heavy shower of rain falling as members travelled to our rendezvous point at the Henshall Lane car park, the morning amble along one of our nearest bird watching spots was not promising.  However the rain stopped and any concerns ultimately proved unfounded, the group enjoying a relaxed and productive morning.

Turning onto the trail in an easterly direction, we were greeted by the clear two-tone call of chiffchaff, and, after careful searching, the diminutive source was spotted in the adjoining treetops. A single cock pheasant was spotted mooching about in a field to the south, a grey heron lazily drifting across the fields to the north, and then a distant hovering kestrel searching for potential prey. Then our first yellowhammer of the morning, on a mound in the fallow part of a field, its yellow head and breast only becoming apparent when it deigned to turn and face us. And then the sweet melody of a song thrush drew us to another trail-side tree.

Further on, a scattered group of lapwing were identified by their unmistakable profile.  In the same field, smaller birds were spotted hopping along a nearer ploughed strip, two of which were clearly identifiable by colour as yellowhammers. Extensive debate led to the conclusion that their more lightly coloured friend was a wheatear, the first of the year for many of us. Above the same field a skylark rose and treated us to its enticing song.

Fast approaching the furthest extent of our morning walk, a mistle thrush was observed in a tree adjoining the farm to the south and a buzzard sailed overhead. To crown the morning’s outing, a pair of jays became the centre of attention for some minutes,  bouncing along a path nearby, and for some members, a house martin swooping over the field to the north.

So with the “Spring Term” of group visits now satisfactorily completed, we happily adjourned to the Rope and Anchor for a convivial lunch. (SC)

Bird list (MHa)

  1. Chiffchaff
  2. Long-tailed tit
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Robin
  5. Wood pigeon
  6. Pheasant
  7. Lapwing
  8. Kestrel
  9. Yellowhammer
  10. Magpie
  11. Song thrush
  12. Carrion crow
  13. Wheatear
  14. Dunnock
  15. Skylark
  16. Mistle thrush
  17. Buzzard
  18. Blue tit
  19. Great tit
  20. Blackbird
  21. Cormorant
  22. House martin
  23. Jay
  24. Chaffinch

Woolston Eyes 26.03.19

Dry, cloudy, but bright, with a refreshing (!) breeze

The first few days of Spring; and where might there be a few early returning migrants, where might there be an almost guaranteed selection of wildfowl to mull over, where might there be a comfortable hide in which a Team of twenty-one might sit with ease, where might this place be that requires but a relatively short drive followed by an easy going ambling walk into the quiet of a lovingly cared for nature Reserve?……..obvious really for Team Tuesday old and new … it had to be Woolston Eyes for this week’s jaunt into birdwatching with the best of company.

Once the Weir Lane Linear car park had gathered its harvest of vehicles and after a quick debrief by the indefatigable Clive all moved off in relative order in the direction of the Mersey which was bound to offer our first wildfowl of the day…it did not disappoint. A flotilla of Tufted Duck seemed to be rallying round a pair of Great Crested Grebe (Mar(t)y and Rose) as if two birds were the royal flag ship of Henry VIII, and as happened to the Mary Rose they soon sank out of view. Undeterred, our binoculars then led us to the magnificence that can be achieved in nature by a simple combination of deep red and silvery grey as our eyes met a small number of Drake Pochard, which were accompanied by their females who were happy to slip by in their understated apparel.
Gadwall, Moorhen, Mallard and Canada Goose happily made up the numbers of wildfowl already encountered and at that we strolled off to the Weir where a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gull basked in the glory of their renewed breeding plumage in readiness for perhaps causing a little mayhem in the lives of the nearby Black Headed Gull colony. Three Buzzard mewed their far carrying call as they sauntered about the sky nonchalance oozing from them in their effortless flight whilst Cormorant whizzed by in their rush to get to the fish shop before it closed … I know there I go all anthropomorphic again … moving on we gained the west bank of number two bed.

Cetti’s Warbler lay down their gauntlet in defiant explosive mode in their usual emphatic voice…”catch (a view) me if you can”  (alas only the privileged few amongst us have achieved this)  whilst almost equally loud calls rang out from several Chiffchaff, but at least one of them put in a brief appearance upon the stage of this variety show of a day. Then after a gathering of the clans outside the gates of the forbidden citadel of numbers two and one ‘beds’ (lest we forget the Woolston Eyes Conservation Group Phoenix rose from the results of the constant battle to prevent the silting up of the Ship Canal the spoils of which being deposited here on the four dredging beds) we stormed over the footbridge and overran the defenders who wished to be but left alone in the mayhem they had brought upon themselves in committing to a new breeding season.

Views from the south Hide gave Shelduck, Shoveler and Teal for most of the Team, with the rest of our gathering taking their lack of these species on their personal list in their strides towards the John Morgan Hide, from which all such species, and more might easily be gained. Having a keen and regular visitor already in place in the Hide then gave all an element of ease in the search for the reported pair of Mediterranean Gull for with aplomb our fresh faced ‘guide’ offered succinct directions which led all to view these rather smart looking Gulls. An air of peace next followed with flasks trickling hot drinks into cups, snacks being produced and unwrapped with enthusiasm whilst a Male Lapwing tumbled about the sky in his efforts to gain a mate … judged on last year’s efforts he will succeed. Then from two directions were espied that jewel in the crown species for this Reserve; Black Necked Grebe with a total of five of these being admired to such an extent that if our appreciation was the rays of the sun these birds would have ended up with sun faded plumage … always a joy to behold.

A nudge in the direction of a winter we all admit, through years of experience, that may not yet have left our shores simply because the spring equinox has been crossed came in the form of at least four Brambling, which have yet to be convinced that their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and beyond are ready for their arrival, and survival … a bonus for our eyes indeed. Sand Martin, times two, then swept into the sky allowing all to practice their ability to test their binocular skills in following such small objects about the air before that lay us before they these two minuscule bundles of pulsating life pushed on to their breeding grounds perhaps somewhere along the banks of the Clyde … these things of nature never fail to impress.

Then it was time to wander back taking the circuit that led us gently around the areas of the winter seed crop, north and south meadows and out back to the footbridge with on this occasion little else to log on our day list…but as the pen being used to record the number of species we had encountered already having run out of ink this was of little concern … there was much more interest gained in the hubbub of conversation that led all easily back to our cars. (DS)

Bird List (CG)

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Wood Pigeon
  3. Feral Pigeon
  4. Blackbird
  5. Dunnock
  6. Greenfinch
  7. Bullfinch
  8. Chaffinch
  9. Brambling
  10. Great tit
  11. Blue tit
  12. Long-tailed tit
  13. Chiffchaff
  14. Common Buzzard
  15. Cormorant
  16. Grey Heron
  17. Kestrel
  18. Great Crested Grebe
  19. Black-necked Grebe
  20. Mallard
  21. Tufted Duck
  22. Pochard
  23. Gadwall
  24. Teal
  25. Mute Swan
  26. Lapwing
  27. Coot
  28. Moorhen
  29. Lesser Black Back Gull
  30. Black-headed Gull
  31. Mediterranean Gull
  32. Shoveler
  33. Shelduck
  34. Canada Goose
  35. Greylag Goose
  36. Sand Martin
  37. Greater Spotted Woodpecker
  38. Pheasant

Photos DC

Leighton Moss RSPB 19.03.19

Overcast, drizzle at the end of the day.

A select baker’s dozen of the Team met outside the Leighton Moss VC under heavy clouds and straightaway faced the challenge of making out the shape of a tawny owl sheltering deep in the ivy high up in one of the tall trees, just across from the feeding station. Yes – no – I think so – was all that could be heard for the next few minutes as all eyes were directed upwards. However, with cricks beginning to set in necks, it was at last decided to head off in search of more readily visible birds and we made our way first to Lilian’s hide. Here,  a pair of decoy terns momentarily caused some excitement, but in reality there was not much sign of life on the water, apart from black-headed gulls, some mallard and a lone teal on the far side of the water.

Our next port of call , the Causeway hide, was much more rewarding, however, and we were all able to enjoy the spectacular sight of about twenty Whooper Swans and then marvel at a fine Marsh Harrier that glided in across the lake, perhaps spooking the swans which proceeded to take off in magnificent formation. Besides these treats there was plenty else to see; lapwing, pochard, coot, tufted duck, gadwall, pied wagtail, great crested grebe, great black gull and cormorant, but sadly no sight of the otters, of which there had been plenty of reports. And it was in pursuit of these mammals that we set off towards the Lower hide where apparently it was most likely for them to be seen. Unfortunately the recent heavy rains had resulted in part of the path being flooded so we were unable to reach the hide, but disappointment was somewhat moderated by being surrounded by plenty of titmice and getting good views of  a couple of marsh tit,  a nuthatch and a song thrush.

On the way back to the VC (and lunch) some of us heard the unmistakable call (or cry?) of a water rail, although spotting the bird was another matter entirely. Lunch for most was enjoyed in the shelter next to the bird feeding station, where not only were we able to admire a succession of woodland birds coming to the feeders, including coal tit, marsh tit, nuthatch, dunnock, robin and some brightly coloured chaffinch, but also to observe a wren gathering moss which it was using to build a nest under the roof of the shelter itself.

After a bit more craning of necks looking for the owl, more successful this time, we set off for the Grisedale hide, pausing on route to admire a small rodent, probably a bank vole, that was making a good meal of some moss at the side of the path and seemed not the least troubled by our presence. From the hide we enjoyed watching a pair of marsh harriers gliding and landing, apparently looking for a nesting sight rather than prey, and we also saw shoveler, gadwall and teal.

Making our way back towards the car park before driving onto the Morecambe hide, we came across a water rail, literally just a couple of feet from the path, preening itself within a tangle of branches, but clearly visible and totally unconcerned by the excitement it was causing. Tearing ourselves away from this close encounter, which enabled us to see what an attractive bird the water rail is, with its striated plumage and long beak, we then made our way to the Eric Morecambe hide, for what turned out to be the last treat for the day. The three or four of the islands visible from the hide were covered with literally hundreds for black tailed godwits, some clearly coming into breeding plumage. We had good views of them and were also able to admire their ‘black tails’ as numbers of them flew back and forth in front of us. A few redshank were mixed in with the godwits, allowing us to appreciate the difference in size between these two species, but keeping more to themselves were some avocets whose black and white colouration and pale grey legs showed particularly well against the darkness of the water. They even took to the water and swam around for a little while, a more unusual view of a bird, more frequently seen wading along the shoreline. Further off were large flocks of teal and widgeon, and out across the water shelduck and shoveler swam back and forth.

With ‘weather’ blowing in from the bay – Heysham power station had suddenly disappeared from view! –  we decided to venture towards Wharton Crag, where in previous years we had seen a peregrine on its nest. On this occasion, however, we were to be unlucky  – perhaps we were a bit too early in the season – but at least we saw plenty of noisy jackdaws, and on the way there one carload of the team glimpsed a little egret in the fields – unusually, the only one seen all day. Finally, the rain that had been threatening for some time set in and so, packing away scopes and binoculars,  we made a hasty retreat to the cars and headed back towards the motorway and home, after yet another good day’s birding.

Bird List (M.Ha)

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


Photos DC



Chorlton Water Park 05.03.19

Sunny intervals and a cool breeze

A smaller number of the team than usual met in the CWP car park just before 10am to be greeted by the noisy squawks of three parakeets flying around in the trees near the feeders. After a quick briefing, we moved off down towards the lake where mute swan, cormorant, mallard, Canada goose, tufted duck and moorhen were all noted and two Great Crested Grebe were displaying to each other in their fine breeding plumage, which was showing particularly well in one of the sunny intervals that came and went during the course of the morning. Moving on round the lake we heard plenty of bird song, but caught sight of little in the way of actual birdlife. However, we soon came upon the first of what seemed to be four or five pairs of goosander that were swimming back and forth across the still water of the lake and occasionally diving for food. Like the grebes earlier, their colouring – greeny black heads for the males and russet for the females – showed nicely in the clear light of this early part of our wandering.

Glimpses of a female goldeneye were reported by some members of the group, but at this time attempts to pin down this elusive creature proved fruitless. Determined scanning of the birds out on the water did, however, lead to the identification of at least one pair of common gull, their squat and slightly brownish heads, helping to distinguish them from the surrounding black-headed gulls. At the end of the lake, coffee was taken by some, as we listened to the throaty song of a robin perched at the very top of a nearby tree and admired, in the clear blue sky above us, two circling common buzzard, one of which attracted the unwelcome attentions of a carrion crow.

Making our way towards the river’s edge, the wheezing of a greenfinch attracted our attention to the trees behind us where eventually this bird was spotted as it flitted back and forth, and a pair of bullfinch were also seen in the bushes close by. The river itself was flowing strongly but there was no sight of any bird activity along this stretch, so we turned once again towards the lake where determined scanning revealed first the presence of a lone shoveler, huddled down close to the shore of the small island, and then of a female goldeneye – perhaps the one that had provided those earlier tantalising glimpses –  now quite at rest, just floating along in the sunshine. Another exciting (for some?) exercise in gull identification now took place – thanks to the presence of a couple of gulls, conveniently floating more or less next to each other, and allowing a comparison between the altogether cleaner looking herring gull and the similar-sized, but dirtier looking common gull.

A ramble through Kenworthy Woods was unfortunately not very rewarding. At times the light was against us, making the positive identification of what might have been a few redwing impossible, at other times the presence of what seemed like an unusually large number of dog walkers (the rain was holding off after all), or the roar of the engine of a motocross bike no doubt frightened away what birds might have been there. Still, the team enjoyed a walk in the fresh air; the sight of blossom covering the blackthorn bushes; and, of course, the pleasure of each other’s company.

Having got back to the car park with no new species having been noted, we took time to look around as we removed muddy boots and in a final flurry starling, dunnock and goldfinch were all added to what was a fairly short, but nonetheless not unsatisfactory day list.

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Dunnock
  2. Great tit
  3. Blue tit
  4. Rose-ringed parakeet
  5. Collared dove
  6. Starling
  7. Great-crested grebe
  8. Cormorant
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Canada goose
  11. Black-headed gull
  12. Mute swan
  13. Moorhen
  14. Mallard
  15. Wood pigeon
  16. Goosander
  17. Goldeneye
  18. Common gull
  19. Coot
  20. Long-tailed tit
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Buzzard
  24. Carrion crow
  25. Greenfinch
  26. Bullfinch
  27. Shoveler
  28. Herring gull
  29. Jay
  30. Chaffinch
  31. Magpie
  32. Sparrow
  33. Goldfinch
  34. Song thrush (heard)
  35. Wren (heard)


A Wirral Wander 26.02.19

Bright and sunny – and unseasonably warm!

The pre-walkers ambled along Denhall Lane before the appointed time for Team Tuesday’s Wirral Wander finding enough, but not too much bird activity, for we didn’t wish to rob our soon-to-be-assembled gathering of any of the hoped for starlets that this sweep of land often has hidden in the wings,  awaiting to emerge to the oohs and aahs of an audience of land-locked Mancunians. Assured that the simple spectacle of the bustling rhythm of countless birds spilling over a landscape, that on this morn was bathed in what seemed to be a thousand suns of light, would do more than please the crowd, we moved over to our meet point.

Our Wirral hosts Kenny and Stewart, along with the rest of the Team were ready to march off at the pace which would have easily accommodated any stray sloth that may have wished to join us for this was ‘such a day’ that to hurry would be, as if offering an insult to our landscape host, which this day lit the wings of a myriad of birds … our job was to amble, pause and happily observe … nay – appreciate such flurries of life.

Starling in flocks of such numbers that lifted the spirits of the Team whose knowledge oft carries it down to that of negativity being aware of the almost catastrophic loss of this once common species.  Yet today here was a sky that tried so hard to allay our fears for the survival of this quirky species. Skylark bopped up and down as if desperate to be seen and appreciated by an eager audience, but they needn’t have been concerned for our ears were being caressed by their eloquent song. Next a ‘wave’ of raptors swept into view as one, two, three or was it four Marsh Harrier skimming atop the vegetation, all looking for breakfast or elevenses (who knows?), but for their observers this was a highlight which could have peaked our days list … if it wasn’t for the next instalment of this ‘day of delight’.

A ghostlike apparition, which one would expect to send shivers down the spine then came into view and to a person all shivered in delight at seeing a Male Hen Harrier; a perfect exemplar of how a simple combination of the colours Grey and Black can outshine the glow of a rainbow.

Decca Pools reached, giving all a rest from the cut and thrust of a brigade of power peddling cyclists as we took to the slightly raised viewpoint from which we kept our keeper of the lists busy as Shoveler, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, LittleGrebe and oh, so many more species. A push a little further towards Neston Quay, but not quite achieving this destination for once we had absorbed views of three perfectly plumaged Stonechat, we felt that lunch would allow time to reflect upon a morn that would take some beating for its sheer delight, which combined a landscape of gold which was populated by life on the wing. The ribbon of our team stretched over quite a distance as conversational-led strolling moved some on at animated speed, and others at a languid pace, which gave some more views of the Male Hen Harrier plus a perched female Merlin and for others simply the carefree comfort gained from a morning already full of delight.

Burton Mere then welcomed us into the bosom of mother RSPB where lunch was enjoyed at ease whilst Nuthatch chivvied away in the car park copse, Black Tailed Godwit wittered on from the marsh and other birds such as Avocet and Green Sandpiper quietly got on with their day. Lunch over and most then chose to wander over to the next Hide from which the views of a busy watery landscape fed our retinas with a
Stand of Grey Heron and Little Egret, a crowd of Redshank, and a new species or two for the list including Gadwall and Pintail and a hide which at one stage reverberated to the sound of some young families enjoying being here with wildlife. A great positive and a proof perfect that a touch of noise within a hide on an established Reserve makes not a jot of difference to the day to day lives of the wildlife that shelter on such sites. Cathedrals of wildlife need not quietude as we would expect out in the field.

The ranks then decided to choose different directions to close this delightful day which proved such a success up to that point, for all felt that in truth there was little else to be asked of this nigh on perfect day. Thus some stayed on site whilst a few decided that old-old traditions drew us to close the day at Parkgate …. where sadly (for all the team were not present), yet happily, Three Short Eared Owl closed this day of being at one with the Wirral. (DS)

PS Thanks once more to Kenny and Stewart for adding the spice to this sumptuous meal of birdwatching.

PPS The ‘Remainers’ at Burton Mere continued on their way over to the Inner Marsh Farm hide, carefully stepping round a number of frogs that were making their way along the path, some giving their mate a lift!  At the hide they were greeted by the piping calls of large numbers of Teal and Widgeon and had good views of Reed Bunting pecking at the reed heads, a pair of Oystercatcher and of a lone Curlew  probing in the soft ground at the water’s edge. The trek back to the car park, was lit up by the clear sighting of a Cetti’s Warbler, that had earlier made its presence known by its lusty singing. Thus, both sub-groups set off on the journey home well-satisfied with a great day’s birding and very appreciative, as ever, of Dave’s, Kenny’s and Stewart’s company and guidance. (CG)

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Pink-footed goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Wigeon
  7. Mallard
  8. Gadwall
  9. Shoveler
  10. Pintail
  11. Teal
  12. Tufted duck
  13. Pheasant
  14. Little grebe
  15. Great white egret
  16. Little egret
  17. Grey heron
  18. Marsh harrier
  19. Hen harrier
  20. Common buzzard
  21. Kestrel
  22. Merlin
  23. Peregrine
  24. Moorhen
  25. Coot
  26. Avocet
  27. Oystercatcher
  28. Lapwing
  29. Green sandpiper
  30. Redshank
  31. Black-tailed godwit
  32. Curlew
  33. Black-headed gull
  34. Herring gull
  35. Great black-backed gull
  36. Lesser black-backed gull
  37. Stock dove
  38. Woodpigeon
  39. Collared dove
  40. Short-eared owl
  41. Skylark
  42. Pied wagtail
  43. Wren
  44. Dunnock
  45. Robin
  46. Stonechat
  47. Blackbird
  48. Song thrush
  49. Cetti’s warbler
  50. Long-tailed tit
  51. Coal tit
  52. Blue tit
  53. Great tit
  54. Starling
  55. Magpie
  56. Jackdaw
  57. Raven
  58. Carrion crow
  59. Rook
  60. House sparrow
  61. Chaffinch
  62. Goldfinch
  63. Linnet
  64. Reed bunting

Photos DS & CG

Marbury Country Park 12.02.19

Cloudy at first, but brighter later

Some sixteen members of the Team assembled on a somewhat overcast morning and immediately took the revolutionary decision to begin our circuit of this varied site in the opposite direction  from the usual one, heading off down Marbury Lane rather than towards the mere. This meant that we were immediately  immersed in a search for woodland birds whose calls were loud and clear, but sight of which was not always easy. However, adjusting to the relatively low light levels we soon counted Blackbird, Robin, Goldfinch and Dunnock, which rather than singing were more intent on finding food along the field edges. The loud practice voice of a Song Thrush, not yet in full mellifluous flow, then drew our eyes towards the top of a tree, and soon after a loud drumming announced the presence of woodpeckers. In a short time most of the group had gained sightings of at least one Greater Spotted Woodpecker, the first of several seen during the course of the morning to the accompaniment of much drumming that often echoed from one side of the path to the other as we walked along.

Heading for Neumann’s Flash we paused at ‘Water Rail’ Bridge, but on this occasion it did not live up to its nickname, although we did enjoy good views of at least a pair of Nuthatch that were actively flitting about in the trees, literally only feet away from us. At the Neumann’s Flash hide coffee was taken by some, and the flash was scanned to see what birds were present. In fact there were plenty, but unfortunately right on the far side of the water where Teal, Shoveler, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed and Lesser Black Back Gulls were all spotted, no doubt enjoying the warmth of the sun, which had by now broken through the early clouds.

We then began the longish trek  back towards Budworth Mere, crossing the canal and making our way through the woods, en route spotting (and hearing!) more woodpeckers and some Starlings that were feeding along the edges of the nearby ploughed field. The feeding station near the Ice Pool was drawing in Blue and Great Tit, as well as a few male and female Chaffinch, but nothing else showed, discouraged no doubt by the presence of perhaps half-a-dozen grey squirrels that were active on the ground around the feeders.

As we made our way along the edge of the mere, our party by now having splintered somewhat, plenty of avian activity was noted on the far side where Curlew, Greylag and Canada Geese, Lapwing, Cormorant and even a couple of pair of Oyster Catcher were all present. Attention was focused on a large number (in excess of 100?) of smallish black birds under the trees on the far bank: closer inspection revealed these to be Coots, perhaps resting, but certainly in an unusually large number. Further on, both Little and Great Crested Grebe were seen, the former hiding amongst the reeds and only spotted with great difficulty, the latter in full view with one pair performing their almost symmetrical dance together.

At the main hide, to which reports of sightings of at least one bittern over recent weeks had drawn us, we enjoyed the sight of a variety of birds visiting the feeders in front of us, including a couple of Reed Buntings. Unfortunately, even the most determined scanning failed to reveal the presence of the bittern, although one of our number who had got to the hide a little before the main party  was lucky enough to have caught a very fleeting glimpse this elusive and well-camouflaged bird as it appeared to be settling down in its roost. Nonetheless, the general feeling was that this was only a minor set-back to what had otherwise been a most interesting morning of birding, and we headed back to the cars (and home) for a rather late lunch – at least in my case!

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Wigeon
  5. Mallard
  6. Shoveler
  7. Teal
  8. Tufted duck
  9. Great crested grebe
  10. Little grebe
  11. Cormorant
  12. Common buzzard
  13. Moorhen
  14. Coot
  15. Oystercatcher
  16. Lapwing
  17. Curlew
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Lesser black-backed gull
  20. Woodpigeon
  21. Great spotted woodpecker
  22. Dunnock
  23. Robin
  24. Blackbird
  25. Song thrush
  26. Mistle thrush
  27. Long-tailed tit
  28. Coal tit
  29. Blue tit
  30. Great tit
  31. Treecreeper
  32. Nuthatch
  33. Starling
  34. Magpie
  35. Carrion crow
  36. Chaffinch
  37. Goldfinch
  38. Reed bunting

Moore 5.02.2019

Overcast but not overly cold

The first good turnout of TT Birders for 2019 squeezed their cars onto the Lapwing Lane car park looking forward to a more comfortable morning of bird watching than the previous two team outings. As team members caught up on post festive period news, conversation intermittently turned to the future of this much loved nature reserve.  Outright opposition, if not outrage, was expressed about the apparent intentions of the landowners to exploit the site’s potential for housing and other development and the resultant loss of a priceless wildlife resource, a theme which was revisited several times through the morning.

And the wildlife responded positively and immediately with mistle thrush, magpie, blackbird, and long-tailed tit making themselves known on the “dog field” adjoining the car park. A kestrel and a buzzard also made an appearance and an eagle-eyed team member spotted a treecreeper on a nearby beech tree.  Suitably encouraged, we walked across to the Grebe Hide to note that the Birchwood Pool was substantially iced over. However a wide range of wildfowl remained undeterred, and concentrated on the remaining areas of open water were wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, pochard, coot, moorhen, tufted duck, shoveler, a single great crested grebe, little grebe, mute swan, Canada geese and black-headed gulls. Even better views of shoveler and teal were afforded by the Birch Strip Hide.

Heading eastward along the track through the edges of Birch Wood, we enjoyed sightings of a song thrush foraging amongst the leaf litter and various titmice flitting through the treetops, and both a great spotted woodpecker and nuthatch were spotted flying overhead. Pump House Pool offered a far more limited range of birds, but more experienced eyes picked out a number of common gulls among a flock of black-headed gulls, their size, darker colouring and green/yellow legs being easily distinguished.

Onward to the Phoenix Hide for a hoped for sighting of the elusive bittern in the Eastern Reedbeds, but alas we were disappointed again with little signs of any birdlife. However the sighting of a raptor in a nearby tree led to a lively debate about identity with final agreement that its blue-grey upperparts and slightly red-yellow barred chest were characteristic of a male adult sparrowhawk.  And careful examination of a group of thrushes high up in far trees revealed the white eye-stripe of redwing. Returning along the track, a mixed group of goldfinch and siskin caught our attention and also that of the aforementioned sparrowhawk which swooped through scattering the group in all directions but without any success.

Diverting through Middle Moss Wood to see if any tawny owls were present in their usual haunt of ivy-covered trees, we arrived at the Feeding Station Hide and settled down to enjoy watching the frantic lunchtime of blue tit, great tit, willow tit, coal tit (an excellent chance to compare and contrast!), nuthatch, chaffinch and reed bunting. Satisfied with a productive morning, the remaining members of the team sauntered back towards the car park but took the opportunity of one last look at Lapwing Lake from the Lapwing Lane Hide. Nothing much to report ……. aside from the top spot of the day, a water rail creeping through the undergrowth on the near left hand corner of the lakeside – a very exciting climax to an excellent morning! (SC)

Bird list (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Wigeon
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Shoveler
  6. Teal
  7. Pochard
  8. Tufted duck
  9. Great crested grebe
  10. Little grebe
  11. Grey heron
  12. Sparrowhawk
  13. Common buzzard
  14. Kestrel
  15. Water rail
  16. Moorhen
  17. Coot
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Common gull
  20. Wood pigeon
  21. Great spotted woodpecker
  22. Pied wagtail
  23. Dunnock
  24. Robin
  25. Blackbird
  26. Song thrush
  27. Redwing
  28. Mistle thrush
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Willow tit
  31. Coal tit
  32. Blue tit
  33. Great tit
  34. Treecreeper
  35. Nuthatch
  36. Jay
  37. Magpie
  38. Carrion crow
  39. Chaffinch
  40. Siskin
  41. Goldfinch
  42. Bullfinch
  43. Reed bunting


Pennington Flash 29.01.19

Heavy cloud, rain and cold

A baker’s dozen or so determined members of the Team gathered in the car park at Pennington in a light drizzle. Loosing no time in idle gossip, we set off quickly, having glimpsed some long-tailed tits moving through the trees behind us, first to scan over the flash where the usual suspects, including black-headed gulls, a lone lesser black back gull, a pair of little grebe, a female goosander and what subsequently was confirmed as a female goldeneye were all visible. Then, from the shelter of the Horrocks Hide we had good views across the spit of oystercatchers, a large number of lapwing, and a few stock doves all probing in the soft ground for food, and of a number of teal and gadwall dabbling in the shallows along one of the channels. Further off, we could see plenty of cormorants looking like rows of little old men with their black raincoats drawn closely around them in a valiant attempt to keep dry, as the drizzle gave way to rain, and of a lone great-crested grebe still in its rather pale winter plumage. A pleasant surprise – and we were in dire need of such treats as the weather continued to deteriorate – was the arrival of dozen or so goosander, male and female, floating across the water at the end of the spit. ‘A flotilla of goosanders?’ asked one of the Team, but subsequent research showed  that the ‘correct’ term (if any of such terms are correct in any sense) is a ‘dopping’, although at the time and in the place ‘flotilla’ somehow seemed much more appropriate.

Taking advantage of a lessening of the rain, we quickly made for the Edmondson hide, surrounded by birdsong from the trees and bushes on either side of the track, but without managing to get clear views of any of the birds that were so obviously present. In the hide, initial excitement at the sight of a pair of shoveler and of a grey heron, gave way to a slight despondency as the sound of the rain on the metal roof became increasingly loud. Some decided that the time had come (perhaps a little early) for coffee, whilst others continued to survey the not-too-promising vista in front. The efforts of this latter group were amply rewarded, however, and the spirits of all decidedly lifted by the sight of a couple of common snipe, doing what snipe normally do; hiding in plain sight. Binoculars and scopes were focused accordingly and we all enjoyed good views of these plain but attractive birds.

Again the rain conveniently eased off as we made our way to the hide overlooking Fox Scrape, but nothing new was sighted and a decision was taken to backtrack towards Pengy’s and Bunting hides, rather than pursue our usual full circuit. Again our progress along the track was made to the accompaniment of much birdsong and tantalising glimpses of what might have been a couple of song thrush. Given the size of Pengy’s hide,  the team split, with some going straight on to Bunting hide. From Pengy’s hide we had good views of reed buntings in the reeds(!) and of the odd bullfinch, robin and dunnock, but when the team was once again united in Bunting hide, we were all slightly taken aback by the sheer number and variety of the birds present. Reed bunting, great tit, blue tit, male and female chaffinch, greenfinch, dunnock, robin, blackbird, male and female bullfinch, moorhen were all in evidence (some more colourfully so than others, a reminder that spring(!!!) is really only just round the corner) and making the most of the feeding opportunity available to them (perhaps they sensed the impending bad weather to come?). Such was the variety of birdlife in front of us, that at least one of our number began to list the species that we were not seeing, and no sooner had the words ‘willow tit’ been whispered than –  hey presto – there was a willow tit! (Unfortunately ‘water rail’ didn’t have the same effect. (ed.))

With this final treat enjoyed by all, it was decided that further delay might risk being caught up in the forecast bad weather, so perhaps a little earlier than usual we happily made our way back towards the car park, but not without a few of us finally catching a clear view of a song thrush hopping around near the hedge on the far side of the field near the visitor centre.

Bird List (CG)

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Cormorant
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Lesser Black Back Gull
  5. Black-headed Gull
  6. Moorhen
  7. Coot
  8. Mallard
  9. Goldeneye
  10. Teal Gadwall
  11. Pochard
  12. Lapwing
  13. Oystercatcher
  14. Goosander
  15. Stock Dove
  16. Woodpigeon
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Robin
  19. Dunnock
  20. Magpie
  21. Long-tailed Tit
  22. Blue Tit
  23. Great Tit
  24. Common Snipe
  25. Grey Heron
  26. Chaffinch
  27. Bullfinch
  28. Willow Tit
  29. Song Thrush
  30. Blackbird
  31. Little Grebe
  32. Great-crested Grebe
  33. Tufted Duck
  34. Shoveler

Photos DC

Little Woolden Moss 22.01.19

Wintry showers including sleet + Bright sunny periods + Heavy cloud

Team Tuesday thwarted the best efforts of a wintry day, which made every effort to stop their progress around Little Woolden Moss. I do admit, though, that it was a close run contest in which a number of the prop forwards decided to scrum down at home being held down by enticing armchairs and kettles ready to refill their comforting cups of tea.
For those who missed the refs whistle to abandon the sleet filled pitch it actually proved to be a worthwhile game in which (and in spite of new flurries of winter wonderland snow) there was plenty of action which resulted in a surprisingly high score being achieved by close of play…match report follows.

My take on the day was based on the fact that as I was up at 0545 this morning for grandchildren school duties and after safely discharging those in a wintry walk to their school the day was young and it needed me to be out there retesting the waterproofing of my hands face and outdoor gear. I also strongly suspected that several members of TT, having known them now for quite a few years, would turn up rain hail or shine.
Thus by approximately 10 am I had a gathering of nine members of the Team ready to lift their binoculars to the sky and grab a host of sightings which were soon off to a pretty start when we encountered a flock of seventeen Long Tailed Tit, which were accompanied by an energetic and relatively easily seen Goldcrest.  A flock of Black Headed Gulls, a pair of Pied Wagtail and a huddle of Woodpigeon hung around the trees which were on the perimeter of our viewing area — Glazebury Sewerage Farm —ahh the romance of locations TT chose to visit!

Moss Lane then invited us to amble ever eastward towards the open Mosslands but made us pause to listen to the song of a Nuthatch that was trilling from the tree line.
Then after an orientation lesson whilst stood outside The Moss House bungalow in which we learnt that to wander south was to reach Little Woolden Hall or to set off north would take in Windy Bank Wood…

Geography interlude over we then had to do our best and see a flock of Fieldfare with a few Redwing mixed in followed by even greater efforts being taken to see a hundred strong flock of Lapwing whilst we did battle with a dazzling sweep of sunshine as the days weather swung between the sublime and the ridiculous. A move onward then took us into a ticker tape reception of snow as the weathervane swung rapidly in the direction of challenging. Fortunately we were but a few paces from an open barn that ‘invited’ us to take shelter. Then, as some of our gathering dug into their K rations, I mauled about in an area blessed with large deposits of Owl guano until I managed to find a Barn Owl pellet. Then as an appetiser to those who were still ‘Snacking’ the said pellet was rubbed gently on palm until it revealed numerous small bones and two skulls of mammals which I believe were those of shrew.

The snow was still persisting but what the heck we had birds to see out there on the windswept open plains of the Mosslands thus off we trooped shoulders set to the whiteout. Houseand Tree Sparrow did their utmost not to be seen although they were clearly heard but this mattered not for we did eventually gain views for our growing day list, noting the Tree Sparrows especially as some of these appeared to be chasing after the snowflakes (I can only assume that prosaically they thought this was a food source or imaginatively simply enjoying chasing these live ghosts).  A flock of Starling came in and out of view as they created their own flurries of flight whilst several Carrion Crow rose from the nearby turf field and removed themselves from our gaze, all the while we stepped boldly onward with a stewardship crop in mind. This crop, sown purely to keep wild birds alive in winter, was then reached and here, busily gorging themselves on Sunflower seeds, was a mixed flock of Finches which was at least two hundred birds strong. We indulged ourselves in this flight of delight in which we noted Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet  and with a touch of luck a couple of us noted Brambling.

A final push over to a field which has lain fallow all winter then gave yet another treat for our eyes as a flock of two hundred plus Skylark moved restlessly about the area. Reed Bunting numbering up to thirty grabbed our attention as they diligently took weed seeds from this area. Then after a brief recognition that having two such areas of farmland, which had been left in a less tidy manner for wildlife, was perhaps and in fact is the key to survival of birds in the winter being proved by the numbers of birds we had noted.

This was then rapidly followed by a pitch for our own survival as this wintry day plodded ever onward. Steps and Chat then brought us quite rapidly back to our cars with the chime of a victorious day ringing in our ears. (DS)

Photos DS