Dunham Massey 16.12.14

Cool and generally overcast, but occasional brightness, an odd shower and a couple of brilliant rainbows

A cheerful group met in the car park at Dunham Massey just before 10am, unaware that our usual pre-Christmas jaunt to this location would prove rather more successful in terms of sightings than some previous visits.


In fact, we had not even left the confines of the car park before we had been treated to views of woodpecker, treecreeper, redwing and song thrush, as well as the more usual tits and the odd (seasonal) robin. All these birds seemed to be enjoying the various types of food available to them both in the trees and on the ground on a quiet and perhaps relatively mild morning. Exiting the car park, we made our way along the track leading towards the Bollin Mill development accompanied by  the sound, but only fleeting sight of a nuthatch.  To the left of the track, waterlogged fields, evidence of just how much rain we have had of late, hosted large numbers of black-headed gulls, lapwings and a single pair of mute swans that soon took off and flew over us in spectacular fashion, the strong beats of their wings clearly audible in the still air. Having crossed the Bollin which was in full spate over the weir, we were rewarded with fine sightings of a grey wagtail, whose bright yellow markings were shown off to advantage against the brown mud of the field in which it was hopping around searching for food. Redwing and noisy house sparrows witnessed our retreat towards Dunham Park and our annual quest for snipe along the banks of the millstream as it flows out of the park. This time, unfortunately, our search was in vain and the sudden arrival of a most unwelcome shower meant that we did not linger long, tempted both by thoughts of coffee and mince-pies in the warmth of the cafe, and by siren voices singing of recent sightings of ‘exotic’ species on Smithy Pool.

_MG_0136The shower having passed, it was agreed that the short detour in search of new sightings would be worth the effort, and, indeed, we were not disappointed as we had clear views of two male and one female goosander, gliding back and forth amongst the more familiar mallard and coot. Having enjoyed this treat, it was at last decided to head to the cafe, but not without venturing along the path towards the far corner of the main lake, the well-know haunt of the ‘Dunham Kingfisher’ … just in case!  We could hardly believe our luck when keen eyes made out a bright splash of electric blue, reflected in the still water of the lake. The kingfisher was resting on one of the shrubs close to the water and showed no intention of moving, and so everyone was able to gaze at their leisure on this spectacular bird.

Thus it was a thoroughly contented group that gathered in the cafe for an ‘end-of-year’ chat, to say goodbye to George (see ‘Links’ for his webpage) and to make plans for new trips in 2015.

Thanks to John Hancock for the photos and, as ever, to Barbara Punchard for the list. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

Bird List for Dunham (BP)

  1. Grey Heron
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Gadwall
  5. Mallard
  6. Tufted Duck
  7. Goosander
  8. Buzzard
  9. Pheasant
  10. Moorhen
  11. Coot
  12. Lapwing
  13. Black-headed Gull
  14. Woodpigeon
  15. Kingfisher
  16. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  17. Pied Wagtail
  18. Grey Wagtail
  19. Wren
  20. Blackbird
  21. Redwing
  22. Song Thrush
  23. Robin
  24. Long-tailed Tit
  25. Great Tit
  26. Blue Tit
  27. Nuthatch
  28. Tree Creeper
  29. Magpie
  30. Jackdaw
  31. Rook
  32. Carrion crow
  33. Starling
  34. House Sparrow
  35. Chaffinch




Martin Mere 08.12.14

Overcast, cool and strengthening wind

A much depleted group gathered in the Visitor Centre at Martin Mere just after 10am, conscious that the weather forecast for later was not very promising. However, breaking into two small sub-groups we determined to get as much as we could from this extensive site while we had the opportunity.  The Swan Hide provided excellent and easy viewing of whooper swans, pintails, shelduck, greylag geese and mallard, but for other species such as widgeon and teal rather more effort was required as they were not present, at least for the moment, in large numbers. A brief transfer to the Harrier Hide was accompanied by the chattering of goldfinch feeding in the alders alongside the path. At the hide the highlight was undoubtedly the brief appearance of a marsh harrier which flew low over the reed beds.  Coming to rest on the top of an electricity pylon, it soon attracted the attention of two crows, who were unable, however, to disturb it despite a certain amount of effort on their part.

Our groups were temporarily reunited in the warmth of the Raines Observatory. Here we were treated to the sight of a small flock of ruff and the markedly smaller female reeve, the main wader seen at Martin Mere over the winter, acco_MG_0075rding to one of the WWT Rangers. We also learnt from him something about their characteristics and migrations, some ringed birds apparently having come from as far away as Russia. After a quick lunch the two groups once again separated,  one to continue towards the Janet Kear Hide from where the group was amused by the antics of at least 12 goldfinches and 9 greenfinches vying for perches on the hanging feeders. The flashes of colours, red, gold and green in the sunshine were stunning. The Reed Buntings had commandeered the flat feeders and were not allowing the tits and finches much of a look-in. The other group made their way to Ron Barker Hide, but not before being shown the well-hidden roost of a Tawny Owl which could just be made out amongst the ivy-clad trunk of a tall tree close to the path. The Ron Barker Hide produced little in the way of new sightings, although there was much talk of kingfishers, and it was only on the way back towards the Swan Hide for the scheduled feeding that a number of woodland birds including wren and dunnock were added to the day list.

From well before 3pm there was evident a growing avian excitement as small groups of swans flew in, and there was a general movement of wild fowl towards the feeding area adjacent to Swan Hide. The sight of hundreds of birds being fed was as spectacular, and noisy,  as ever, and it was interesting to see an apparent pecking order (pun intended) where swans had pride of place, closely followed by mallard and shelduck, with others, including, perhaps surprisingly given their size, greylag geese, only getting a look-in much later.

IMG_1197Soon after, swiftly fading light, reminding all that the shortest day was not far off, suggested that it was now time to conclude what had been an interesting outing, not, after all, cut short by the weather.

Bird List for Martin Mere (CG +BP)

  1. Blackbird
  2. Chaffinch
  3. Greenfinch
  4. Robin
  5. Tree sparrow
  6. Blue tit
  7. Mallard
  8. Shelduck
  9. Lapwing
  10. Greylag goose
  11. Pintail
  12. Pink-footed goose
  13. Widgeon
  14. Black-headed gull
  15. Great black-back gull
  16. Lesser black-back gull
  17. Herring Gull
  18. Coot
  19. Moorhen
  20. Teal
  21. Cormorant
  22. Goldfinch
  23. Marsh Harrier
  24. Pochard
  25. Tufted Duck
  26. Heron
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion Crow
  29. Ruff
  30. Starling
  31. Tawny Owl
  32. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Buzzard
  34. Wren
  35. Reed Bunting
  36. Great tit
  37. Woodpigeon
  38. Dunnock
  39. Pheasant

Moore Nature Reserve 02.12.14

Bright with some cloud, chillier than of late

A lucky thirteen gathered in the car park on what promised to be a reasonable morning weatherwise, at least after the gloom of late. Agreeing with a fellow group of birders which route to take so as to avoid overcrowding the hides, Team Tuesday set off without further delay to Lapwing Lane Hide, where clear light afforded good views of a variety of water birds, including widgeon, mallard and teal, resplendent in their bright plumage. The well-stocked Feeding Station was attracting a good range of birds, and here too the sunlight showed off to their best a pair of nuthatch and even a humble chaffinch.

Making our way along the old tow-path of the Latchford Canal our attention was soon attracted, first by a noisy flock of longTawny Owl at Moore-tailed tits, and then by the cameras and scopes of our fellow birders all pointing upwards towards the ivy-clad bark of a tall tree.  With a little bit of effort we were rewarded with the sight of a Tawny Owl dozing motionless on its perch amongst the ivy, unperturbed either by the attentions of the tits or by the excitement among the human flock below. For many of the group, it was a first sighting of this bird in a location that had often been scrutinised unsuccessfully on previous visits, and it was not one that will soon be forgotten.

Birchwood Pool held the usual crowds of (mostly black-headed) gulls, which were unusually active however, being attracted by work on the adjacent tip that was obviously turning up plenty of feeding opportunities for them and the hundreds of other gulls that were wheeling about in the distance. A pair of little grebe were actively diving for food immediately in front of the hide, and, further off, sharp eyes made out a goldeneye, just as intent on making the most of its feeding opportunities in the calm water.

A longish walk to Pump House Hide was rewarded with the sight of half a dozen black-tailed godwits, infrequent visitors to the Reserve. Further views of these birds were had from Colin’s Hide on the other side of Pump House Pool.

At this point, fatigue, and thoughts of lunch were beginning to make themselves felt, but just before we dispersed a great spotted woodpecker obligingly perched itself right in front of us and two pairs of buzzards – two in the sky and two resting in a tree –  announced their presence with typical ringing cries – bringing the morning’s count to a respectable 40, according to our official compiler almost exactly what it had been on our previous group visit earlier in the year!

Bird List for Moore NR (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Wigeon
  5. Gadwall
  6. Teal
  7. Mallard
  8. Shoveler
  9. Common Pochard
  10. Tufted Duck
  11. Goldeneye
  12. Common Buzzard
  13. Kestrel
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Lapwing
  17. Black-tailed Godwit
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Tawny Owl
  22. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  23. Pied Wagtail
  24. Dunnock
  25. Robin
  26. Blackbird
  27. Song Thrush
  28. Long-tailed Tit
  29. Willow Tit
  30. Coal Tit
  31. Great Tit
  32. Blue Tit
  33. Nuthatch
  34. Jay
  35. Magpie
  36. Jackdaw
  37. Rook
  38. Carrion Crow
  39. Chaffinch
  40. Goldfinch