Woolston Eyes 04.06.19

Overcast, bright …. some rain to finish

An unpromising sky saw Team Tuesday gathered beneath it, ready for our late spring jaunt onto this gem of a Reserve and just as the last members of today’s number arrived the sun came out, as if to reward the bubbling/brimming enthusiasm that is ever present within this company.

Tufted Duck still holding their crisp black and white plumage in breeding season mode bobbed about the Mersey whilst a boisterous group of Lesser Black Backed Gulls took time away from their inland nesting duties and bathed in the waters of the basin.
An ever so optimistic pair of Great Crested Grebe had once more managed to attach their precariously balanced nest upon the merest anchorage that could be found, yet were looking quite sanguine considering the number of ways that nature has managed to thwart their nesting attempts in previous years. Grebes admired we stepped along the right of way at a pace that fitted in trying to see a Whitethroat which gave happily of its song but chose not to appear onto the stage, preferring to keep in the wings …. Blackcap and Cetti‘s Warbler were equally ‘obliging’ turning this open air concert of song into a radio play … leaving their images to our imagination.

River crossed onto number three bed or was it? Well actually not quite, as an obliging family party of Grey Wagtail unlike the previous species mentioned were happy to dance before our eyes … a round of applause in the form of sheer delight shown by their audience still hung in the air as we moved over to the next stage. The south scaffolding hide then almost completely arrested our progress as we took in views across a very busy reed-bed which offered a whole sweep of species all of which  could be seen quite clearly and were more than enough to gain our approval and applause but out strode upon this stage, set before our eyes, a show stopping principal act.  This centre of attention then drew all eyes to the starlet’s which were being aired out in the public domain, upon the stage for the first time … yes the Black Necked Grebe  family just knew how to wow the crowds and ‘putty like’ in their plumes we paid them avid and adoring attention … for quite a while.

It was time to go seek the largest auditorium where all could take their ease and with luck catch the matinee performance from the Morgan Hide. A few of the Team did manage to catch a couple of street performers along the way and once due homage had been paid to the singing Sedge Warbler and relatively quiet but visible Whitethroat all settled into the Hide. Lapwing on its nest, Black Headed Gull (ever so cute chicks) plus more views of Black Necked Grebe, all vied for top billing in this lively variety performance that unfolded before our eyes and were enjoyed whilst picnics were happily devoured.

Time flew by, as ‘oft happens when enjoying a riveting show, leading us to happily wander from our front row seats and start the steady retreat back homeward. A check of the winter seed crop area only spoke of birds to see in the coming autumn whilst the wildflower Meadow still boasted of summer as we slowly progressed along the pathway that led us over to the footbridge. The basin area still looked busy with life out of which another species for the day was finally nailed onto our list and as the ink dried on Herring Gull the notepad was put away before the long promised rain could make it run, for just to prove that the weather can sometimes be kind to our wandering s this had just arrived as we were departing. (DS)

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Pochard
  8. Tufted duck
  9. Great crested grebe
  10. Black-necked grebe
  11. Cormorant
  12. Moorhen
  13. Coot
  14. Oystercatcher
  15. Lapwing
  16. Black-headed gull
  17. Lesser black-backed gull
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Woodpigeon
  20. Swift
  21. Grey wagtail
  22. Wren
  23. Dunnock
  24. Robin
  25. Blackbird
  26. Sedge warbler
  27. Whitethroat
  28. Blackcap
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Blue tit
  31. Jay
  32. Magpie
  33. House sparrow
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Greenfinch
  36. Goldfinch
  37. Reed bunting

Photos DS


Moore 21.05.2019

Bright and sunny with a slight breeze

A happy band of TT Birders gathered in the car park with a spring in their step and with the sounds of spring greeting them from all corners – chaffinch, blackbird, chiffchaff, whitethroat. Sightings of cormorant, buzzard, dunnock, long-tailed tit and even a nesting carrion crow were also soon picked up. The appearance of a coachload of schoolchildren intent on nature studies and woodland play near Birchwood Pool resulted in a quick change of planned itinerary and a walk along to the more peaceful Lapwing Lane Hide overlooking Lapwing Lake as a first step. Here we were able to enjoy sightings of little grebe, the first of several pairs of great crested grebe, mallard, tufted duck, Canada goose, and mute swan, who belatedly swam across to the hide perhaps in anticipation of  being offered some tasty morsels.

Onward along Lapwing Lane, the highlight was the repeated appearance of a treecreeper creeping jerkily up several trees. Then along the track towards Birchwood Pool the rich song of a blackcap was heard and its author was spotted flitting between stands of nettles and adjoining bushes. As we skirted the aforementioned schoolchildren noisily enjoying themselves in Middle Moss Wood, swifts were seen flying high above the clearing by Birchwood Pool West Hide.  The Pool revealed both little and great crested grebe, one of the latter sitting securely on its isolated nest on the water, and martins flitting at speed over the far water ( too far to make a clear identification as to type, although it was generally agreed that they would be sand martins). One eagle-eyed member spotted a small black and white presence in the adjoining bushes concluding the possibility of the first pied flycatcher of the summer for the group but unfortunately without the benefit of others being able to help on identification.

Then to the highlight of the day heralded by a strange repetitive metallic tikking, occasionally becoming shrill, from high in the trees above the track along the south side of Birchwood Pool.  With the appearance of a great spotted woodpecker with a bill full of insects circumspectly circling from tree to tree and the identification of its nesting hole at the top of a dead tree trunk, the source of the unusual sound became clear – the plaintive cries of the young awaiting their next feed. Our patient wait was rewarded when the adult (probably mother) finally perched at the nesting hole and poked her head inside to provide the snack, and then she was off again searching for more.

Birch Strip Hide revealed little on the Pool apart from great crested grebe and a blackcap in the surrounding bushes.

Looking out over Pump House Pool from both the Pump House Hide and Colin’s Hide, revealed more sightings of little grebe and great crested grebe as well as grey heron, lapwing, tufted duck, mallard and pied wagtail.  Regrettably no kingfishers in sight, and very markedly, no gulls, probably down to the closing and capping of the rubbish tip to the north which has acted as a magnet for many years.

Returning to the car park, the hard-working woodpecker was observed again as was a wren proudly showing off its physique in the warm sunshine at the top of a small bush. A deserved picnic lunch was then taken in the so-called “dog field” punctuated by casual sightings of goldfinch, chaffinch and whitethroat.

Suitably replete, a slightly reduced group wandered along the track to the south of Lapwing Lake enjoying the beautifully balmy afternoon sunshine. Sedge Hide revealed nothing of particular interest so up to the Raptor Watch Viewing Point. On cue, a sparrowhawk glided by and a kestrel appeared to the south, allowing some discussion about the differences in identifying characteristics. A willow warbler appeared in plain sight nearby, and in the distance a crow was spotted seeing off a buzzard which had clearly got too close for comfort. Continuing through the woodland around the Lapwing Lake and returning along the line of the former Runcorn-Latchford Canal, little of note was seen.  Disappointingly, the feeders at the Feeding Station Hide had not been replenished for some time so the clearing was devoid of birdlife. We wound our way back along Lapwing Lane towards the car park making one final visit to the Lapwing Lane Hide hoping for the appearance of a water rail but to no avail.

In conclusion, a very satisfactory and productive day’s visit! But some residual worries about the future of the reserve given the rumours of the development aspirations of the landowner and the apparent lack of maintenance of some of the features such as nesting-boxes,feeders etc. (SC)

Bird list (MHa)

  1. Common buzzard
  2. Dunnock
  3. Chaffinch
  4. Carrion crow
  5. Whitethroat
  6. Blackbird
  7. Cormorant
  8. Long-tailed tit
  9. Coot
  10. Moorhen
  11. Wren
  12. Mallard
  13. Mute swan
  14. Great-crested grebe
  15. Jay
  16. Little grebe
  17. Canada goose
  18. Shelduck
  19. Tufted duck
  20. Grey heron
  21. Tree creeper
  22. Song thrush
  23. Blue tit
  24. Blackcap
  25. Great tit
  26. Robin
  27. Sand martin
  28. Swift
  29. Great spotted woodpecker
  30. Gadwall
  31. Wood pigeon
  32. Jackdaw
  33. Lapwing
  34. Pied wagtail
  35. Magpie
  36. Goldfinch
  37. Willow warbler
  38. Sparrowhawk
  39. Kestrel
  40. Cetti’s warbler heard
  41. Pheasant heard
  42. Chiffchaff heard
  43. Reed warbler heard

Green- veined white butterfly, orange tip butterfly, speckled white butterfly, brimstone butterfly, small white butterfly, common blue butterfly, peacock butterfly

Photos (DC)



Hale Head and Pickering Pasture 14.05.19

Sunny, blue skies and warm!

The team could hardly have picked a better day for a return visit to Hale after a gap of almost three years. Gathering near St Mary’s Church and the towering statue of John Middleton we were greeted by the noisy chirpings of house sparrows and, as we waited for a few stragglers to join us, a collared dove, some starlings, cormorants, martins and a noisy 747 all flew overhead.

Setting off down Within Way we soon found ourselves serenaded by skylarks from either side of the path and entertained by the colourful flitterings of a variety of butterflies that the warm sunshine had brought out; orange tip, tortoiseshell and small white being the most numerous. There was plenty of birdsong, but spotting the singers was not so easy in the dense hedgerows, although some caught sight of blackcap, greenfinch and whitethroat.  One downside of the warm weather soon made itself apparent as we scanned the distant meadows – a heat haze that scopes and binoculars only served to magnify! Thus it was some difficulty that we made out a couple of little egrets amongst the Canada geese that were present in some number.

Arriving eventually on the banks of the Mersey Estuary, we were greeted by the rumbling song of reed and/or sedge warblers and it was only after some determined and patient scanning that these elusive birds were eventually glimpsed. On the rocks and mudflats that were slowly appearing as the tide receded, oystercatchers were seen and heard, a few lesser black back gulls showed and, out on the water a solitary gadwall seemed to be having a hard time swimming against the flow. A flash of bright yellow drew our attention away from the water and we were rewarded with a brief glimpse of a yellow wagtail on the green meadow behind us. Carrying on towards Hale Head and its lighthouse, a trio of grey partridge were spooked by a crop sprayer, skylarks continued to soar into the blue sky trilling excitedly and the song of the reed warblers continued to tease us, while we admired yet more butterflies, a day-flying moth, the Silver Y, and a selection of wildflowers –  including red poppies and blue cornflowers, their brightness set off amid the deep green of the long grasses. From the vantage point at the lighthouse we saw a couple of curlew wandering back and forth along the shore and a lone swallow swooped down, circled the lighthouse and disappeared before some of us had chance to catch sight of it.

Moving on to Pickering Pasture for lunch and a post-prandial wander, we had ample time to watch a small tanker edging slowly up the ship canal and to admire the industrial landscape on the far side of the Mersey, but bird-wise there was not a great deal of interest; all that seemed to be present on the wide expanse of mud were lesser black back gulls (in some number), shelduck and a few oystercatchers. Still, making our way along the track beside the water we found plenty else to appreciate and comment on, including some heavily scented dog roses and, eventually, a common blue butterfly, which, as was pointed out, is in fact anything but common, at least in our neck of the woods!

In sum, a very pleasant day’s outing with good opportunities to study and enjoy a varied offering of flora, fauna and lepidoptera.

Bird List (M.Ho.)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Shelduck
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Grey  Partridge
  6. Cormorant
  7. Little egret
  8. Grey heron
  9. Common buzzard
  10. Oystercatcher
  11. Lapwing
  12. Curlew
  13. Herring gull
  14. Lesser black-backed gull
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Collared dove
  17. Skylark
  18. Swallow
  19. House martin
  20. Yellow wagtail
  21. Pied wagtail
  22. Wren
  23. Dunnock
  24. Robin
  25. Blackbird
  26. Sedge warbler
  27. Reed warbler
  28. Whitethroat
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Blue tit
  31. Great tit
  32. Starling
  33. Magpie
  34. Carrion crow
  35. House sparrow
  36. Chaffinch
  37. Greenfinch
  38. Goldfinch
  39. Reed bunting

Butterflies: Small white, large white, green-veined white, red admiral, peacock, brimstone, common blue, holly blue, small tortoiseshell




Photos DC & CG

Pennington Flash 07.05.19

Light cloud with some sunny intervals

A group of about 18 enthusiastic TT members gathered in the Pennington Flash car park on a cool, but thankfully dry, morning.

A scan over the adjacent water revealed little of note – just the usual ravenous Mute swans and Canada geese with Mallards and Coots in attendance. A lone oystercatcher slept on the bank and a pair of Great Crested grebes could be seen in the distance, while Lesser Black-backed Gulls occupied several of the green buoys. It was soon decided that we should visit the Pengy and Bunting hides first then make our way round the site in an anti-clockwise direction. On the way to these hides 3 buzzards were seen soaring high above – and a flock of Long-tailed tits flitted through the nearby trees. Pengy’s Hide was very disappointing as the only activity – apart from a Great Tit using a nestbox near the approach path – was a pair of mallards and a few squirrels. Those of us who lingered a little longer were treated to the appearance of a single Stock Dove and a couple of male Bullfinches. Not the start we were hoping for.

Carrying on towards Lapwing Hide we were entertained by a chorus of birdsong – delightful to hear, but frustratingly the choir itself-  Robin, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and even a Cetti’s Warbler –  all proved difficult to locate as the fresh spring foliage obscured the view.

At Teal Hide things became much easier – Grey Heron, Little Crested Grebe, Teal and Lapwing all very visible – then a pair of nesting Little Ringed Plovers were noted on a nearby island. Everyone was so absorbed in watching this activity that the arrival of a dazzling Kingfisher on a post in front of the hide may have been missed, but luckily it posed for several minutes, giving the photographers of the group a chance to take some close shots.

A few members of the group then became delayed by a Mistle Thrush standing tall on the golf course. As this group arrived at the next screen the obligatory Grey Heron flew off from the distant trees and fine views of a singing Chiffchaff were noted. Patience was then rewarded by sightings of first an LBJ – possibly a reed warbler busy right in front of the hide … and then, for the lucky few, a Cetti’s Warbler in full song revealing itself in a nearby tree.

As TT continued round the site, the air was still filled with birdsong and soon Whitethroat could be added to the list as it sang high in the trees beside the path. There was a lot of activity in the reedbed at the far end of the water and birdsong to be identified – reed or sedge? – that is the question – but eventually both Reed and Sedge Warbler were seen, as well as the less secretive Reed Bunting.

Next on to Ramsdale’s, quieter than on previous visits, but another pair of Little Ringed Plover were nesting here , and a pair of Shovelers were resting in the shallow water. At Tom Edmondson Hide a family of Canada geese – tiny goslings and their parents – grazed in front of the hide and several Grey Herons could be seen around the water, while from the screen across the path good views of a Reed Warbler were achieved by all.

Feeling more than satisfied after a really good morning’s birding – and still dry despite a less than optimistic weather forecast – the group entered the final hide of the day – Horrocks Hide – to look across the spit. Immediately our spirits rose as there was not the usual icy wind sweeping across the water into the hide and then – WOW! This was some finale,  as Redshank, Stock Dove, Cormorant and Lapwing were all seen with ease. Then Little Plover, Sanderling, Common Tern and Garganay were all viewed with excitement through binoculars and telescopes.

A truly memorable end to a visit to a site that never fails to deliver. (M.Ho)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Great- Crested Grebe
  2. Little Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Gadwall
  8. Teal
  9. Mallard
  10. Garganey
  11. Shoveler
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Buzzard
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Oystercatcher
  17. Little Ringed Plover
  18. Ringed Plover
  19. Sanderling
  20. Lapwing
  21. Redshank
  22. Common Sandpiper
  23. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  24. Black-headed Gull
  25. Common Tern
  26. Stock Dove
  27. Wood Pigeon
  28. Swift
  29. Kingfisher
  30. Pied Wagtail
  31. Wren
  32. Robin
  33. Blackbird
  34. Song Thrush
  35. Mistle Thrush
  36. Cetti’s Warbler
  37. Reed Warbler
  38. Sedge Warbler
  39. Whitethroat
  40. Blackcap
  41. Chiff chaff
  42. Willow Warbler
  43. Long-tailed Tit
  44. Great Tit
  45. Blue Tit
  46. Jay
  47. Magpie
  48. House Sparrow
  49. Goldfinch
  50. Bullfinch
  51. Reed Bunting
  52. Carrion Crow

Photos (DC)

Rostherne Mere 30.04.19

Sunny and warm – spring at last!

Fine Spring weather and the first strains of a symphony of birdsong that was to last all morning  greeted the Team as we began our new season with the annual visit to Rostherne Mere. Met and briefed by John and Steve (and a Buzzard high above), first we made our way through the village towards the AW Boyd Observatory from where we had good views of a pair of Kestrel that had made a nest in a dead tree near the water’s edge and, across the mere, of the Cormorant ‘nesting tree’ where several dozen birds could be seen either sunning themselves, or sitting on their nests, some of which reportedly contained young chicks. On the water itself there was not a lot of activity, although Mallard, Coot, Canada Goose, Great-crested Grebe, a solitary Black-headed Gull and a pair of Lesser Black Back Gull were noted. Reveries – and early coffee for some – were interrupted, however, first by a fly past by a Peregrine – blink and you missed it! – and then by a formation flight of five Mandarin Ducks that took off and flew away, their brightly coloured heads showing clearly in the sunlight.

Leaving the Observatory our ears were first assailed by a noisy pair of Nuthatch that were flitting about in the trees nearby, and then, once we had actually got into the woods that fall away down towards the lake, by the raucous squabbling of a pair of male Blackcaps that seemed to be having an argument about the patient female that was waiting close by in the bushes. With more or less everyone having got views of at least one of the participants in this domestic dispute, we at last made our way down the slope admiring the bluebells as we went and keeping an ear open for the presence of woodpeckers, that we understood to be around. Without either seeing or hearing any of IMG_4424these birds, however, we headed across the field towards the Bittern Hide, where we were treated to a fascinating display of ringing, by Malcolm, one of the volunteers., who gently eased a ring onto one of the legs of a Reed Bunting, which he then released, apparently none the worse for its experience.

Our progress along the boardwalk was marked out by the brilliant yellow of the marsh marigolds growing along the path, and as we went along we were serenaded by the song of Reed (or Sedge?) Warblers. Then, just before we got to the wood on the far side of the mere, we were surprised by an outburst from the ‘resident’ Cetti’s Warbler, which had evidently been lying in wait to spring its aural ambush. In  the woods, birdsong continued to delight and the call of a Little Grebe, was added to the woodland tunes we were being treated to, but perhaps the main fascination was the sheer proliferation of wildflowers and their scents; ransoms, bluebells, herb Robert, stitchwort, dog violets and early purple orchids, all seemed to be thriving in the damp shade along the path.

On our way back through the reed bed, a reed Bunting obligingly perched for all to see, and as we climbed back through the wood, the drumming of woodpeckers bade us farewell after a morning that satisfied eyes, ears and nostrils – and if there were things that we had missed, it only made us more determined to revisit what is surely a real local treasure of a site!

Bird list (RD)

1.   Chaffinch
2.   Cormorant
3.   Jackdaw
4.   Tufted duck
5.   Robin
6.   Coot
7.   Great tit
8.   Mallard
9.   Buzzard
10. Great crested grebe
11. House sparrow
12. Black headed gull
13. Wood pidgeon
14. Mandarin Duck
15. Collared Dove
16. Canadian Goose
17. Magpie
18. Mistlethrush
19. Lesser black backed gull
20. Kestral
21. Peregrine
22. Nuthatch
23. Pheasant
24. Blue tit
25. hiffchaff
26. Blackcap
27. Greylag geese
28. Blackbird
29. Sedge warbler
30. Mute Swan
And from David, some butterfly photos: Orange-tip, Specked Wood and Green-veined White (female, only the spring generation have these markings)


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)