Pennington Flash 16.01.18

Strong wind, wintry, squally showers

A hardy dozen of the team gathered in the car park just after 10am and wasted no time in making their way to the shelter of Bunting hide. There, we were rewarded with the sight of plenty of woodland birds making the most of the feeding opportunities, and, given that Spring cannot be too far away, beginning to look their brightest and their best in mating plumage. Blue tits, Willow tits, Reed Buntings, Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Robins were all in evidence, joined on the ground by Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove and Moorhen, the latter two species present in good number. We even had a brief sight of the Water Rail that frequents this corner of the reserve, before a sudden hail shower sent all the birds scurrying for cover.

With the cold beginning to penetrate and a promising, but alas only temporary clearing of the skies, it was decided to head on towards our next objective, Teal hide. Pausing briefly to admire a couple of Song Thrushes, we pressed on, but progress was suddenly halted by the sharp eyes of one of our number who had spotted the electric blue of a Kingfisher perched on a low branch overlooking a small pool three or four metres from the path. Although the bird did not emerge from cover, most were able to get a view, before it dived and then flew off further back into the undergrowth, no doubt to devour whatever it had caught, away from prying eyes! Setting off once again, our attention was next drawn to the tops of the alders alongside the path where there was plenty of activity. The light at this point made identification difficult, but eventually some clarity (both of mind and light) led to the identification of these birds as Redpoll.

At Teal hide, the hight water levels had attracted a fair mix of waterfowl and given the brightness, we had good views of male and female Goosander, Gadwall, Coot and Teal. Careful scanning of the island directly in front of the hide eventually revealed a lone Snipe whose colouration made it extremely difficult to pick out on the rocky water’s edge until it moved.

A longish trek to Ramsdale hide saw us crossing paths with a couple of late arrivals who had chosen to do the tour in the opposite direction and from the hide itself we had views of Goldeneye, a good number of great Crested Grebe, more Goosander, and, after a lot directional instructions, of a pair of Little Grebe that were actively fishing way over towards the far bank of the flash. At Edmundson hide a Little Egret was present and we also admired the antics of Shoveler, some of whom were circling round and round, no doubt to disturb food from the bottom of the pond, and others whose bobbing head displays appeared to have more to do with the approaching mating season. Our final, and brief stop was at Horrocks hide, but the northerly wind was blowing straight into the hide (doesn’t it always?) and after adding Herring Gull and Lapwing to our morning’s list, it was decided to call a relatively early end to what, despite the weather, had turned out to have been a rewarding first trip of our 2018 season (… and we had avoided the showers!)

Bird List (DL)

  1. Goldeneye (M&F)
  2. Blackbird (M&F)
  3. Robin
  4. Coot
  5. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  6. Herring Gull
  7. Black-Headed Gull
  8. Dunnock
  9. Shoveler (M&F)
  10. Canada Goose
  11. Mute Swan
  12. Mallard
  13. MoorHen
  14. Pied Wagtail
  15. Stock Dove
  16. Wood Pigeon
  17. Great Tit
  18. Blue Tit
  19. Willow Tit
  20. Chaffinch (M&F)
  21. Bullfinch (M&F)
  22. Reed Bunting (M&F)
  23. Water Rail
  24. Kingfisher
  25. Redpoll
  26. Magpie
  27. Gadwall (M&F)
  28. Goosander (M&F)
  29. Tufted Duck (M&F)
  30. Heron
  31. Little Egret
  32. Teal (M&F)
  33. Snipe
  34. Great Crested Grebe
  35. Little Grebe
  36. Cormorant
  37. Lapwing
  38. Mallard (M&F)

Dunham Park 05.12.17

Cloudy, dull and cool but not as windy as forecast

Sixteen birders met in the carpark at Dunham Massey for the last trip of the year, with everyone looking forward to a delicious lunch at the end. It was cloudy and not very bright, but no rain was forecast.

In the trees around the carpark we saw redwings, carrion crows, jackdaws, magpies, collared doves, wood pigeons, jays, for some a tree creeper and the first of several nuthatches flitting amongst the branches. Some thought we had seen enough to support a plan to go straight to the pub!

However, we carried on through the Visitor Centre to the lake where, sadly, no kingfisher was to be seen. We saw black-headed gulls, mallard, moorhen and tufted ducks and these ‘usuals’ were present on all the pools we later visited.

Walking along the Smithy Drive some heard the yaffle of a green woodpecker, but couldn’t locate it and so carried on towards the Smithy pond. Here, an eagle eyed member of TT then saw the green woodpecker, on the ground at first and then flying away. On the pond, as well as the ‘usuals’, were a lone Canada goose, coot and, in a tree close by, a gold crest and wren that had us circling the tree in order to catch a glimpse of them.

We then did a circuit of the outer path around the estate, but didn’t see many more birds. A flock of jackdaws flew in and rested on the trees opposite, though we couldn’t see anything that may have caused them to take flight. Another gold crest flew across the path, but was hard to see in the tree it landed in; a great-spotted woodpecker flew across behind the trees; and large numbers of fallow deer of many different shades were present on both sides of the path, mostly ignoring our presence and continuing to feed.

From a gate along the path two male pheasants were seen in the distance, but closer in, on the trees to the left, there were good views of a flock of tits which included coal, blue and long-tailed. On some tree branches we saw bright yellow jelly fungus (Tremella Mesenterica) which looked like gelatinous blobs.

As we walked back towards the house, the pond on the right had a grey heron on its bank but by now most were thinking of lunch, and so we stepped up and over the stile to walk along the path towards Little Bollington.

On the way were two more herons on the banks of the stream, and rooks and pied wagtails on the field. A buzzard was seen briefly flying towards a tree behind the wall in the distance. As we crossed the narrow bridge over the Bollin, some had good views of a kingfisher diving in to the river, but it then flew upstream and out of sight (of those following up! – ed.). On trees close by were seen chaffinch, house sparrows , goldfinch, blue tit and a robin.

At the Swan with Two Nicks two more members of Team Tuesday we waiting for us and having studied the menu, we all chose our food. As all the different tables made noisy conversation, Hilary gave out her Jolly Christmas Bird Quiz 2017 to keep us all ‘bird- nerding’ over the Christmas break.

We also showed Clive our appreciation for all his planning and organising with a small gift to say thank you, and, finally, we wished each other a very merry Christmas and happy New Year, looking forward to being back with TT on January 16th 2018. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Tufted duck
  4. Pheasant
  5. Grey heron
  6. Common buzzard
  7. Moorhen
  8. Coot
  9. Back-headed gull
  10. Wood pigeon
  11. Collared dove
  12. Kingfisher
  13. Great-Spotted Woodpecker
  14. Green woodpecker
  15. Pied wagtail
  16. Wren
  17. Robin
  18. Blackbird
  19. Redwing
  20. Mistle thrush
  21. Goldcrest
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Treecreeper
  27. Nuthatch
  28. Jay
  29. Magpie
  30. Jackdaw
  31. Carrion crow
  32. Rook
  33. House sparrow
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Goldfinch

Marbury (Witton Bridge)

Bright, blue skies – plenty of sun

The Team gathered in the carpark at Witton Bridge cheered by the bright sunlight which was a welcome change to the gloomy skies of the past few days and confident(!) that a good morning’s birding was in store.  Indeed, even before we had set off, we were treated to the sight of a succession of woodland birds, robins and tits, coming in to a nearby feeder, and sharp eyers glimpsed a Great Spotted Woodpecker land on a tree just a short distance away, where it proceeded to peck at the branches giving everyone the chance to get good views of it, the colours of its plumage beautifully illuminated in the bright sunshine. Then, just as we were turning to follow the track up towards Forge Bridge, our attention was drawn to the first of many Redwings seen over the course of the morning and amongst them, to a Green Woodpecker, also making the most of the feeding opportunities in the damp ground.

Finally leaving the carpark, our progress remained slow as we stopped to enjoy more views of the Redwings, caught sight of a lone Reed Bunting and Mistle Thrush, and enjoyed the flypast of fairly dark-feather Buzzard. With time having passed – indeed it was getting near coffee time for some members of the group – our pace quickened and we headed for Forge Bridge. Here, unfortunately, there appeared to be little, if any,  activity, partly on account of the higher than usual water level, which had covered the mud edges that are usually exposed, and partly due to the distinctly cooler temperatures in the shade; the birds were all seeking the warmth of the sun and apparently uninterested in looking for food under the tree canopy. A quick detour to Hadyn’s Pool was as disappointing as on our last visit. Although the water levels were high, no birds seemed to be attracted to it. However, many of the Team took advantage of this halt to open those flasks of coffee before continuing our progress, which we did after the sighting of what was almost certainly a Peregrine, perched high up on roof of the distant Salt Works.

Neumann’s Flash made up for any disappointment we may have felt, and we had good views of a variety of ducks including Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall, all either out on the water or resting on the island in front of the hide. With the sun for once not in our eyes we were able to scan the flash and pick out other waterfowl and gulls, including Shoveler, Coot, Little Grebe, some very pale Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Lesser Black-back Gulls and some Mute Swans.  We were even able to enjoy the view, on the far bank, of a fox grooming itself in the warm sun! (Later views showed that it had lost much of its coat and was presumably going to struggle to survive many more cold nights.) Closer to us, the busy activity of a small Wren washing itself in the  shallow water next to the hide, attracted our attention and it was amazing how hard it was to make out the presence of this well-camouflaged bird amongst the branches and tree roots; only by focussing on the movement of the water as the bird washed itself was it possible to pinpoint its exact location and get just a fleeting view.

Pressing on back towards the carpark we saw little, apart from some House Sparrows flitting amongst the brambles. At the far end of the flash, however, we enjoyed good views of a pair of Red Wings high above at the top of some birch trees and a brief glimpse of a Fieldfare that dropped in on another tree not far away, before flying off again. The expanse of water on the other side of the track held no avian treats; there were just a pair of Carrion Crows wading through the shallows and prodding in the soft ground, but a final scan from the platform near the carpark picked out one, or perhaps two, Kestrel hovering, but far off, and a small flock that was circling around, but was to far away for identification.

At this point, clouds having been blown in by a freshening wind and leading to a distinct drop in temperature, it was decided to end our visit and to get back to the (relative) warmth of the cars, happy with another rewarding visit to this site with its good range of habitats.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Robin
  2. Great tit
  3. Blue tit
  4. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  5. Blackbird
  6. Mallard
  7. Redwing
  8. Green woodpecker
  9. Dunnock
  10. Song thrush
  11. Carrion crow
  12. Coal tit
  13. Magpie
  14. Buzzard
  15. Kestrel
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Peregrine falcon
  18. Teal
  19. Wigeon
  20. Mute swan
  21. Coot
  22. Shoveler
  23. Tufted duck
  24. Black-headed gull
  25. Lesser Black-back gull
  26. Great Crested grebe
  27. Gadwall
  28. Little Grebe
  29. Moorhen
  30. Herring gull
  31. Wren
  32. House sparrow
  33. Long-tailed tit
  34. Fieldfare


(Photos JH)

Chorlton Water Park 21.11.17

Dull, grey and gloomy at times though warmer than expected for the time of year

15 members of Team Tuesday met at Chorlton Water Park on a wet and slightly muddy carpark. Thankfully the earlier rain had stopped and we were able to wander the paths without our hoods up. From the carpark we saw greenfinch, goldfinch, blue tit and carrion crow and this led to us voicing our hopes for the birds we would like to see. These included gadwall, kingfisher, siskin, redpoll and goldeneye but as the light was not at its best some doubts as to our success were also expressed.

From the edge of the lake we immediately saw some of the ‘usuals’, mute swan with cygnets, Canada geese, coot, moorhen, a heron hiding in the reeds, great- crested grebes, cormorants, gadwall, wood pigeon and 3 parakeets before, joy of joys, a pair of goldeneye were spotted on the opposite side of the lake in front of the island.

Feeling much cheered by this sighting we started our anti- clockwise walk around the lake where we had good views of a group of tufted ducks but nothing else new. We all looked up hopefully but only saw ‘leaf birds’ as one member described them. When we arrived at the

Mersey the river was running fast and high and the usual grey wagtail was nowhere to be seen though more mallard, Canada geese, magpies and carrion crows were around.   Common periwinkles were still flowering by the gate which added a splash of colour to the grey day.

As we continued to walk round the lake we saw and heard a very noisy black – headed gull though, as it was barely opening its beak, it took some time to identify which bird was making all the noise. A sharp eyed member then saw a kingfisher which flew from its perch on a branch towards the far bank with a black- headed gull trying to steal the catch it was carrying. Unfortunately we were unable to locate its perch on the other side. From the same location good views of a great – spotted woodpecker were seen on the top of the tall trees.

After arriving at the bridge further views of the parakeets were seen on the tall poplars by the river path before our attention was turned to the river itself, by the sighting of a bird diving under the water where the river cascaded over stones. There was prolonged discussion about whether the bird was a goosander or Red – breasted merganser as one had been seen at Alexandra Park over the last few days. However, with the evidence of a stunning photograph in front of us, there was no doubt it was a female goosander.


We then crossed the bridge and walked along the path looking into both the orchard and field at the other side but only added jays to our list. We then turned back to finish our circuit of the lake before heading home.

However, as we walked along the path we could see plenty of small birds flitting around in the trees here and by the pond. They included a large flock of goldfinch, long tailed tits, a coal tit, great tits, blue tits, a gold crest, blackbird, robin, a song thrush foraging in the leaves, and more good views of a great – spotted woodpecker pecking for food amongst the tree branches. There were birds everywhere you looked and this felt like a joyful end to our walk after the lack of birds earlier. This wasn’t quite the end though as a few herring gulls were identified on the lake and sparrows were first heard and then seen in the carpark as well as a collared dove on a tree.

As lunch or a cuppa called we swapped our wet boots for shoes and made our way homewards before the expected rain started again. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Tufted duck
  6. Goosander
  7. Goldeneye
  8. Great crested grebe
  9. Cormorant
  10. Grey heron
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Black-headed gull
  14. Herring gull
  15. Feral pigeon
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Collared dove
  18. Great spotted woodpecker
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Song thrush
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Jay
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion crow
  29. House sparrow
  30. Chaffinch
  31. Greenfinch
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Ring-necked parakeet



Marshside RSPB 14.11.17

Heavy cloud, misty and a little drizzle at times

Having arrived in a somewhat windswept car park at Marshside, members of the Team lost no time in making for the shelter of the nearby Visitor Centre, only to find that seating space was at a premium due to the presence of another birding group who were busy scanning the very wet-looking marsh. However, a bit of tactical manoeuvring soon meant that we too had good views of the birds that were present in some number, although not always easy to spot both on account of the undulating nature of the terrain and the fact that many, including Canada, Greylag and Pink-fotted Geese, had settled on the far side of the lakes in front of us.

The sighting of a raptor sitting quietly on top of a post in the middle distance led to a good deal of discussion regarding its identification, before a consensus emerged from all present, including the RSPB volunteer, that it was a female Merlin. Later, at least one other of these birds was noted, similarly resting, presumably satisfied after an early breakfast, and offering good views even in the generally overcast conditions. The deepening gloom made difficult the identification of some Egrets whose white plumage stood out from afar. One, the nearest, was clearly a black-billed Little Egret, but three or four others, further off and only intermittently showing themselves, were harder to identify until a temporary improvement in the light levels showed a pale coloured bill on at least one of them, and their penchant for the company of the cattle grazing on the far side of the reserve suggested that these were in fact a group of Cattle Egrets, that had apparently been present on the site for some time.

Unusually perhaps for this site, there was little activity in the air; Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits occasionally rose up for a brief swirl across the sky, but seemingly just for the fun of it and not as a result of the threat of a passing raptor. Indeed most birds seemed happy either resting in the lee of some clump of vegetation or feeding in the ground made soft by the recent heavy rains.

After lunch we set off for Nel’s hide and were almost immediately stopped in our tracks, as a Stonechat was spotted perched on top of one of the bushes alongside the path and apparently quite happy for us to approach to within three or four metres before flying off. Nel’s hide brought  good views of Pintails, which were present in good number, as well as a small group of Gadwall. Further off a lone Curlew was spotted, as well as a number of Redshank that were busily probing the mud and moving to and fro in the shallow water. And almost as soon as someone had suggested that it was unusual that we had not seen a Heron, not one, but three were spotted in quick succession! A comparison of the gulls in front of the hide led to the conclusion by the Team that, in addition to Black-headed and Herring Gulls, there were also a pair of Common Gulls present, their dark eyes and black-tipped bills, clearly marking them as different from the rest.

A distinct drop in temperature – or perhaps we had opened too many of the windows in the hide in our keenness to get good views of the birds? – then suggested that it was perhaps time to call an end to what had been both a challenging and fulfilling day’s birding, enlivened, as ever, by the usual TT camaraderie. (CG)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Shelduck
  2. Wigeon
  3. Little grebe
  4. Mallard
  5. Great black-backed gull
  6. Lesser black-backed gull
  7. Merlin
  8. Canada goose
  9. Lapwing
  10. Curlew
  11. Pink- footed goose
  12. Black- tailed godwit
  13. Cattle egret
  14. Little egret
  15. Teal
  16. Shoveler
  17. Goldfinch
  18. Greylag goose
  19. Starling
  20. Mute swan
  21. Black-headed gull
  22. Herring gull
  23. Kestrel
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Robin
  26. Moorhen
  27. Stonechat
  28. Magpie
  29. Gadwall
  30. Tufted duck
  31. Pintail
  32. Coot
  33. Redshank
  34. Jackdaw
  35. Grey heron
  36. Common gull

Woolston Eyes 07.11.17

Rain – grey sky – total cloud – more rain – a tad drier later!

The time to get our Autumn Visit to Woolston Eyes under our belts didn’t quite coincide with the weather that we often conjure up in our minds for this splendid time of the year, when the sunshine dances through hues of trees bearing Gold and Copper clad leaves. Instead today, although the leaves were of that splendid autumnal patina as we parked up on Weir Lane, the other life-sustaining force of nature held sway and swept through the trees with its overbearing droplets of moisture!

The delay in setting off as waterproofs were hoisted into position was not wasted however, for about us, seemingly quite happy with this soggy day, was that relatively uncommon bird for our day list; the once super abundant House Sparrow which has suffered massive declines in its number over the past few decades. Fortunately, the jumble of hedges and feeding opportunities in this area supports quite a healthy flock of these cheerfully chirruping birds.

Then after the briefest of de-briefs, we set our feet in motion with a distant hide beckoning us to take shelter within its comfy surroundings, but being an inquisitive lot we soon paused to check out the loop of the Mersey upon which Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and Little Grebe bobbed about careless of the rain…well they would be wouldn’t they!

Strides in motion and we moved on …. at least twenty paces ….  before we simply had to pause in order to admire three Redwing which sat atop a couple of tall Lombardy Poplar trees, but fortunately for us these soon continued with their restless migration allowing us to push on through the rain.

Once more in defiance of the conditions, we paused to note a pair of Gadwall as they sat out on the waters of the basin area. Then it was full steam ahead as we passed along the bank of number two bed pausing only to note a couple of Cormorant which had ‘draped’ themselves high up in some trees along the riverbank.

We ‘stormed’ over the footbridge with every intention of invading the ‘Tranquil Isle of Three’ to impose our ‘oohs and aahs’ upon this picturesque, well-managed and bird-rich spot of land which lies within reach of the hustle and bustle of the M6 Thelwall Viaduct to the east and the ever expanding urbanisation of Warrington to the west.

The elevated South screen invited us to get a little nearer to the moisture filled clouds revealing a large number of Teal which were taking advantage of the managed lower water level to hoover up seeds out on the exposed mud. Next, after ensuring that we had also added the sighting of a lone Shoveler to our list, we hot footed – or was that mud-slid  – over to the comfort zone of the Morgan Hide.

A flock of finches tried to slow our progress, but as we knew they weren’t about to go anywhere in a hurry due to the rich pickings to be found on this bed, we valiantly ignored them and reached our sheltered spot saving them for later—phew!

A deep breath or two on noting the beautifully busy panoramic view that lay before us was then followed by (1) a rush to open coffee flasks and unwrap elevenses or (2) an equally hasty urge to note the wide variety of birds that lay before our eyes—being neutral I cannot myself say which of the two came first, but all I can say is that satisfaction lay over the Team like a comforting, and in today’s weather, waterproof blanket of peace.

Moorhen trundled about the place chucking their large footed prints all over the mud whilst a few Wigeon added a splash of colour to the exposed newly created mud banks as they came ashore to graze on the weed cover.

Grey Heron stalked the shallows for unsuspecting prey whilst a small flock of Common Snipe whizzed about the air looking for a patch of sheltered mud to land—their difficulty on this occasion seemed to be that they were spoilt for choice now that the bed has a better control of the water levels which at this time of the year needs to be as low as it was on this visit. Greenfinch delighted those watching the feeders and as each new species appeared these dedicated observers alerted the rest of the Team to these sightings thus I believe by the end of our visit all had been able to say that they had comfortably seen Willow Tit, Dunnock and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

A conversation that seemed fitting with the Grey Damp Cloud Enveloping conditions that ruled (but NOT ruined) the day then unhappily started to slide the Team towards the despairing reality that we as lovers of the natural world are all too aware of—the plight of our wildlife and their rapidly diminishing habitats BUT as there were no comforting bottles of wine around to drown our increasing sorrows — the siren call of a reserve doing its very best to offer a safe haven to this wildlife soundlessly drew our eyes and mood back to this days positivity!

A move to check the Stewardship crops which are at present drawing in a wide variety of seed-eating birds then got our legs back into action and our field skills into full throttle and as we slowly circuited round the inner section of the bed we managed to note at least 150 Chaffinch, 45 Linnet and a few Goldfinch before we headed back to our cars.

 A pause in our progress to recheck the South Platform Hide then paid off as we locked onto a lone Black-Tailed Godwit giving a sufficient spread of species for our Rainy Day bird list to enable our release homeward which was as ever completed in the ‘gentle’ hubbub of contented conversation after another day in the inspiring arms of the natural world. (DS)

Bird List (CG)

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Blackbird
  3. Collared Dove
  4. Feral Pigeon
  5. Black-headed Gull
  6. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  7. Herring Gull
  8. Greylag Goose
  9. Grey Heron
  10. Mallard
  11. Tufted Duck
  12. Wigeon
  13. Gadwall
  14. Teal
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Little Grebe
  18. Cormorant
  19. Shoveler
  20. Shelduck
  21. Greenfinch
  22. Goldfinch
  23. Chaffinch
  24. Goldcrest
  25. Pied Wagtail
  26. Dunnock
  27. Blue tit
  28. Long-tailed tit
  29. Willow tit
  30. Common Snipe
  31. Redwing
  32. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Carrion Crow
  34. Jay
  35. Magpie
  36. Robin
  37. Linnet



Martin Mere 31.10.17

Bright, some cloud and comparatively warm

Just after 10.30am, a dozen or so members of the Team turned down the chance to carve pumpkins or learn broomstick flying, or any of the other Halloween activities on offer at Martin Mere and left the shelter of the Visitor Centre to begin what turned out to be an excellent day’s birding.  The Discovery Hide afforded the usual good views across the mere with Lapwing, Shelduck, and Black-headed gulls all present in large numbers, mixed with a smaller count of Ruff and Pintail. Further off, on the far side of the water were a few Whooper Swans and rather more Greylag Geese. Stopping to scan across the water from the behind the new screens, en route to the Janet Kear hide, several members spied a Common Snipe in the mud along the water’s edge and, further on, a Goldcrest flitted back and forth amongst the bushes alongside the path. The hide itself provided plenty of interest including a small party of Tree Sparrows, a mix of tit mice, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and a pair of Reed Buntings all of which were flying back and forth onto the feeders, enjoying the food and scattering a fair amount of seed to be scavenged on the floor below by a family of rats that looked particularly well fed.

The excitement really began, however, at the United Utilities hide, where first a resting Buzzard was the focus of our attention, which was then directed towards a male Kingfisher that was apparently  taking a break and gave everyone in the group ample time to admire its electric blue coloration, before it eventually flew off. A Marsh Harrier next put in an appearance – the first of several sightings of at least two birds during the rest of the day – flying close over the marsh in front of the hide and revealing evidence of some damage to one of its wings. A final scan over the fields revealed the presence of some Pink-footed Geese which were not easy to spot as they were feeding in the long grass and only raising their heads every so often. The aptly named Harrier Hide, our next port of call, gave further views of a Marsh Harrier, but the water in front of the hide was comparatively empty of birdlife with only half-a-dozen Gadwall, a few Mallard and a solitary Little Egret on view.

After lunch, we reassembled in the warmth of the Raines Observatory, enjoying close views of Shelduck and Ruff, before setting out towards the Ron Barker hide. A brief pause at ‘Owl Corner’ proved fruitless, although one lucky (?) member was ‘annointed’ from above. A detour to Kingfisher Hide produced more sightings of Reed Buntings and also of Kestrel that appeared to swoop in, perhaps trying to take prey from the feeder. At the Ron Barker hide there was plenty to see, a pair of Mute Swan and a small group of Shoveler amongst the large numbers of Wigeon and Teal and, in the distance, large numbers of Starlings strung out along some telephone wires. One of the Marsh Harriers put in another appearance, and besides a flypast on the far side of the marsh, one of these birds landed a little way off to tear at a dead swan, watched by two or three hungry Carrion Crows who were somewhat impatiently waiting their turn for the feast.

With the light beginning to fade and a corresponding drop in temperature the group began a trek back toward the Visitor Centre and the car park to begin the journey home after a day that had been full of interest and spectacle. A few of us, however, first stopped to watch the feeding of the birds in front of the Discovery hide, always a sight worth seeing, no matter how often one might have witnessed it, and always remarkable for the way in which the different species of bird never seem to mingle, rather keeping to their own groups and producing a vivid, almost colour-coded, picture. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1c50

Bird List (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Whooper swan
  4. Greylag goose
  5. Pink-footed goose
  6. Shelduck
  7. Wigeon
  8. Mallard
  9. Gadwall
  10. Shoveler
  11. Pintail
  12. Teal
  13. Pochard
  14. Tufted duck
  15. Pheasant
  16. Cormorant
  17. Little egret
  18. Grey heron
  19. Marsh harrier
  20. Common buzzard
  21. Kestrel
  22. Moorhen
  23. Coot
  24. Lapwing
  25. Ruff
  26. Common snipe
  27. Black-headed gull
  28. Herring gull
  29. Great black-backed gull
  30. Lesser black-backed gull
  31. Stock dove
  32. Wood pigeon
  33. Feral pigeon
  34. Collared dove (juvenile)
  35. Kingfisher
  36. Wren
  37. Robin
  38. Blackbird
  39. Redwing
  40. Long-tailed tit
  41. Blue tit
  42. Coal tit
  43. Great tit
  44. Starling
  45. Magpie
  46. Jackdaw
  47. Raven
  48. Carrion crow
  49. Tree sparrow
  50. Chaffinch
  51. Greenfinch
  52. Goldfinch

Marbury Country Park 17.10.17

Bright, still warm for the time of year, and definitely less windy than of late

A good number of the Team gathered in the pay-and-display car park at Marbury, pleased that the weather had improved so much from the previous day and pleasantly surprised that there was no ‘paying and displaying’ to do! Signs of the recent storm were few, but unusually there was a definite dearth in avian presence amongst the trees around the car park, as though the birds had either been blown away, or were distrustful of the apparent calm and were still hunkering down somewhere. Some bird calls were heard on our way to the first of the hides, but with plenty of leaves still on the trees it was well nigh impossible to catch sight of anything. However, the first hide proved reasonably rewarding, with a variety of tits making the most of the plentiful supple of seeds that had been left out, and the good light across the Mere providing striking views of the bright green heads of male mallard and a mix of tufted ducks, coot and great crested grebe. On the far side there were plenty of birds and eventually, having walked a way along the track beside the Mere, we got better views of these which included an apparently lone curlew, a single pied wag-tail lit up in the bright sun, as well as Canada geese, black-headed gulls, lapwings and two or three cormorants.

A brief coffee break saw the arrival of a family of mute swans, two adults and three young, as well as a discussion regarding the identification of a small active duck nearby. Eventually, although no others of its species were present nearby, a consensus formed that it was a juvenile tufted duck, even though it was the size of a little grebe and seemed to be diving just as actively as that species does.

The Ice Pool hide gave excellent views of several nuthatch on the feeders and, although unfortunately this was a lone sighting, of a couple of redwing close by. At Forge Bridge there was neither sight nor sound of the Water Rail that has sometimes made its presence felt, and Haydn’s Pool was disappointingly bereft of any bird life at all. Thus it was decided to press on to Neumann’s Flash where it was understood at least one Hooper’s Swan had been seen. By this time, just after midday, the angle of the sun across the flash made observation difficult, and although there was much determined scanning none of the swans present appeared to be Hooper’s. However, we were pleased to catch glimpses of Teal, a small group of Wigeon, some Shoveler lazing on the island across from the hide and two or three Lesser Black-backed Gulls floating out on the flash.

With thoughts of lunch now coming to the forefront of minds, the group set off on the long walk back to the car park, happy to have spent a good morning in the open air, even if the birding had not been especially dramatic.

Bird List (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Wigeon
  4. Mallard
  5. Shoveler
  6. Teal
  7. Tufted duck
  8. Great crested grebe
  9. Cormorant
  10. Grey heron
  11. Coot
  12. Lapwing
  13. Curlew
  14. Black-headed gull
  15. Lesser black-backed gull
  16. Woodpigeon
  17. Pied wagtail
  18. Wren
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Goldcrest
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Nuthatch
  27. Jay
  28. Magpie
  29. Carrion crow
  30. Chaffinch

Burton Mere Wetlands

Having started the day in quite dismal conditions – rain, mist and traffic jams for some- ten  TT members were delighted to see the sunshine at Burton Mere Visitor Centre. Sightings of cattle egret, marsh harrier, ruff and snipe, alongside the more regular black-tailed godwit, lapwing, teal and wigeon, certainly raised the expectations of the day ahead.

After a good half-hour scanning the area in front of the reception hide, it was decided to venture forth and investigate the rest of the site. But no sooner had the group left the hide, when one of the RSPB volunteers called us all back with a shout of ‘the little stints have just flown in’, which indeed they had, a green sandpiper also making an appearance.

Now round to the pools to seek the kingfisher, and after watching grey wagtail nearby, the group was indeed rewarded with a kingfisher flying past and settling on the far bank.

Buzzard, kestrel, more snipe and linnet were all spotted on the way to the far hide at Inner Marsh, where there were even more rewards; a wonderful wood sandpiper in front of the hide and golden plover aplenty among the lapwing on the scrape.

By now it was time to return to the visitor centre – some in desperate need of sustenance – and a short stroll to see the spectacle of hundreds of pink-footed geese returning to the marshes, before tackling the journey home after an extremely satisfying day.  (MH)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Black swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Pink-footed goose
  4. Wigeon
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Teal
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Pheasant
  11. Little grebe
  12. Little egret
  13. Cattle egret
  14. Grey heron
  15. Marsh harrier
  16. Sparrowhawk
  17. Common buzzard
  18. Kestrel
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Golden plover
  22. Lapwing
  23. Little stint
  24. Green sandpiper
  25. Wood sandpiper
  26. Redshank
  27. Black-tailed godwit
  28. Ruff
  29. Common snipe
  30. Black-headed gull
  31. Woodpigeon
  32. Kingfisher
  33. Grey wagtail
  34. Pied wagtail
  35. Wren
  36. Dunnock
  37. Robin
  38. Blackbird
  39. Cetti’s warbler
  40. Long-tailed tit
  41. Coal tit
  42. Blue tit
  43. Great tit
  44. Nuthatch
  45. Starling
  46. Jackdaw
  47. Jay
  48. Magpie
  49. Carrion crow
  50. Rook
  51. Chaffinch
  52. Greenfinch
  53. Goldfinch
  54. Linnet

Moore Nature Reserve 03.10.17

A group of 12 eager TT members convened at Moore on a bright autumn morning and -despite a chilly breeze and a lack of leader – determined to cover as much of the reserve as possible to see what avian delights could be discovered.

Initially a multitude of jays and the occasional crow and magpie seemed to be the order of the day, the trees around the car park remaining eerily silent. Lapwing Hide provided the ‘usual’ sightings: coot, mallard, tuftie, gadwall and little grebe – and a kingfisher was seen darting past by a lucky few. Then a birdless wander to the feeding station followed, where absolutely nothing stirred as the feeders have yet to be filled this year. At least there was no rain, and we even had the occasional feeling of warmth from the sun in more sheltered spots.

Spirits rose soon after this as a goldcrest flitted in an ivy-clad tree, then kestrel, buzzard and a flock of long-tailed tits could be added to the list before Birchwood Pool was reached. Here Canada geese had gathered in their hundreds, with a few Greylags and other waterfowl,  and another kingfisher sighting encouraged all to step out to see what Pumphouse Pool might have to offer. No disappointment here; yet another kingfisher sighting, then cormorant, shoveler, teal, then  – a wader alert –  both black-tailed godwit and ruff, and pied and yellow wagtails too.

Now feeling satisfied, and hungry too: time to return to the cars, but not before a few lucky members caught fleeting glimpses of a green woodpecker flying from grass to tree.

Message of the day: never give up hope of seeing something unexpected. (MH)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Jay
  2. Jackdaw
  3. Carrion crow
  4. Starling
  5. Collared dove
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Nuthatch
  8. Magpie
  9. Black headed gull
  10. Buzzard
  11. Feral pigeon
  12. Kingfisher
  13. Little grebe
  14. Coot
  15. Tufted duck
  16. Mallard
  17. Gadwall
  18. Wood pigeon
  19. Blue tit
  20. Robin
  21. Kestrel
  22. Goldcrest
  23. Long tailed tit
  24. Chaffinch
  25. Great tit
  26. Canada goose
  27. Greylag goose
  28. Great crested grebe
  29. Wigeon
  30. Teal
  31. Cormorant
  32. Black tailed godwit
  33. Raven
  34. Herring gull
  35. Ruff
  36. Grey heron
  37. Grey wagtail
  38. Pied wagtail
  39. Green woodpecker
  40. Moorhen
  41. Shoveler