Rixton Clay Pits 27.01.15

Overcast and feeling mild, except when exposed to the wind from the Moss

Some eighteen or so members of the Team gathered in the Nature Reserve car park (opened courtesy of the Warrington Ranger Service) to take advantage of what was forecast to be the last reasonable weather before the storms which threaten major disruption over the coming days. IMG_1215Our first port of call was the Visitor Centre to pick up leaflets and to take advantage of the view point looking across the lower end of the reserve, an area that we had traversed on earlier visits, but without perhaps appreciating its full extent. As we threaded our way across, following one of the well-marked trails, we were treated to the sight of a pair of Kestrels, one male and one female, flying backwards and forwards before coming to rest in a nearby tree, and evidently determined not to stray too far from each other at what must be the start of the breeding season.

The lake at western end of the reserve revealed a small number of waterfowl including Shoveler, Gadwall and Moorhen, all apparently unperturbed by the presence of a busy main road just a few yards away.  There was plenty of activity in the trees and hedgerows along the edge of Moat Lane, but, despite the absence of foliage, it was sometimes difficult to locate and identify birds before they flew off to a new perch – usually somewhat further away! Nonetheless, a pair of Bullfinches and the first of quite a few Goldfinches encountered during the morning were sighted, before we moved on towards the next large lake on which there was plenty to observe, including a good number of Tufted Duck and Gadwall, and a lone Heron partially obscured amongst the reeds.

Encouraged by the progress so far, or perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, the Team now struck out confidently into largely uncharted territory following the way-marked ‘Amber Ambler’ trail. Plenty seemed to be going on in the hedgerows alongside the path and in the trees above us with tits of various kinds flitting to and fro, and a particularly sharp pair of eyes made out the restless activity of a Goldcrest, which disappeared, unfortunately, before many in the group had caught sight of it. The ‘Amber Ambler’ gave place to the ‘Blue Pacer’ and the sighting of a lone Mute Swan walking along the path ahead of us, but it was then that our troubles began in earnest. The track deteriorated into a muddy scramble as we circumnavigated the last of the lakes. There was some talk of turning back, but, thanks to  some strategically proffered helping hands, we all reached a boardwalk, evidently installed for the anglers who frequent this area, and progress was once again reasonably easy (and secure). After crossing the last area of the reserve where there was evidence of a programme of coppicing, it was finally decided to turn back towards the Visitor Centre and the car park.

A little deflated by the paucity of sightings through this last section (a lustily singing Robin and a solitary pair of Mallard were the highlights!), it seemed that the morning was coming to something of a disappointing end, but, walking along a short section of Moat Lane, our spirits were quickly lifted, first by a small flock of Redwing clearly visible high up in the trees; by the briefest of glimpses of a Sparrowhawk; and then by the sighting of the first of several Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which showed themselves over the next few minutes.  And finally, as we threaded our way back across the reserve and over those challenging stiles, about a dozen Teal flew overhead, their size and cross-like silhouettes making identification comparatively easy and providing a satisfying conclusion to our visit to this interesting and surprisingly extensive site.

Thanks to our photographers, who didn’t have it easy today, and to Barbara who managed both to keep the list and struggle through the mud!

Bird list for Rixton (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Gadwall
  5. Teal
  6. Mallard
  7. Shoveler
  8. Tufted Duck
  9. Sparrowhawk
  10. Buzzard
  11. Kestrel
  12. Pheasant
  13. Moorhen
  14. Coot
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  17. Goldcrest
  18. Wren
  19. Blackbird
  20. Fieldfare
  21. Redwing
  22. Robin
  23. Long-tailed Tit
  24. Coal Tit
  25. Great Tit
  26. Blue Tit
  27. Nuthatch
  28. Magpie
  29. Carrion Crow
  30. Starling
  31. Bullfinch
  32. Goldfinch

Marbury Country Park 20.01.15

Cold, and icy underfoot, but bright throughout

Despite the best efforts of the Highways Agency and their road closures, the Team met at the appointed hour and led by Hilary lost no time in beginning a circuit of the northern end of the park. An early sighting of a couple of Redwing immediately lifted spirits and we were also pleased to find that the feeders next to the (unoccupied) wardens’ hut and in front of the hide overlooking Budworth Mere were well stocked and, on a cold morning such as this, were attracting a good many small birds. Nuthatch, Coal tit and Dunnock were amongst those noted. Reliable reports of the presence of a Bittern amongst the reeds at this end of the Mere led to some determined scanning, but not, unfortunately, to a sighting.

Continuing along the path beside the Mere, largely frozen out in the middle, we were afforded distant views of the activity across the lake where large numbers of Canada Geese seemed in a particularly restless state, rising noisily into the sky every so often. Such activity may have been in response to what appeared to be a flock of another species of goose, at least from its call and general colouration, that showed itself taking off in some number, unfortunately too far away and too briefly for a definitive identification.

The approach to the Ice Pool Hide generated a certain excitement as some members of the Team were fortunate enough to catch sight of a Goldcrest, but the rest of us still had plenty to enjoy as a variety of birds, large and small, took advantage of the food that had been laid out on the feeders, with even a Jay managing, just about, to squeeze on to one of the roofed tables.

The path through the woods alongside Forge Brook held plenty of interest, with a great deal of tit-mice activity overhead and more sightings of Redwing. We managed to get unusually close to a solitary Song Thrush doggedly hunting for food amongst the leaf-covered ground, and totally unconcerned by our presence a couple of metres away.  A bit more distant, but no less appreciated, was a Treecreeper busily working its way upwards and clearly illuminated by shafts of bright sunlight penetrating the edge of the wood.

With time passing, it was decided at this point to strike out for Haydn’s Pool, where we arrived to be confronted with … very little! As on the Team’s previous visit last term, the pool seemed to have attracted very little in the way of bird life. However, after a few moments of disappointment, sharp eyes made out not only a solitary Buzzard sunning itself on the top of a distant tree, but also a small group of five or six Snipe, close to the edge of the water, and similarly warming themselves in the sun, which lit them up and made them more visible than usual, despite their accustomed immobility.

At this point, a call to order (or a reminder of the expiry of parking tickets) by our leader resulted in the Team turning back towards the car-park and lunch, but not without one final treat en route, the sight of a male Bullfinch puffing out his chest for all to see, a sign, perhaps, that the mating season is not far off.

As usual, thanks to Heather and John for some excellent photos and to Barbara for the list.

Bird list for Marbury Country Park (BP) 

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Shelduck
  7. Gadwall
  8. Mallard
  9. Pochard
  10. Tufted Duck
  11. Buzzard
  12. Moorhen
  13. Coot
  14. Snipe
  15. Common Gull
  16. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  17. Black-headed Gull
  18. Pigeon
  19. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  20. Goldcrest
  21. Wren
  22. Dunnock
  23. Blackbird
  24. Redwing
  25. Song Thrush
  26. Robin
  27. Long-tailed Tit
  28. Coal Tit
  29. Great Tit
  30. Blue Tit
  31. Nuthatch
  32. Treecreeper
  33. Jay
  34. Magpie
  35. Jackdaw
  36. Carrion Crow
  37. Chaffinch
  38. Greenfinch
  39. Bullfinch

Chorlton Water Park 13.01.15


Overcast throughout, with a few spots of wintry rain at the end

Grateful for a ‘weather window’ of comparative calm, the Team gathered in the car-park just before 10am to be briefed by Marian, our leader for the day, with regard to the latest initiatives for co-operation between the Mersey Valley Wardens and the RSPB, and on the events planned by them for the Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend of 24-25 January, all of which sounded very positive.

Our first view of the lake was very encouraging with a good of variety of water fowl in evidence, including some very washed-out looking Great Crested Grebe, several Pochard, a very Black-Headed Gull which stood out from his fellows whose heads were still pale looking, and the tantalising glimpse of a Common Gull – there one minute, gone the next!

It was at this point that the group almost fragmented irreparably as excited reports of the sighting of green parrots (!?) led some to dash back up the slope towards the feeders adjacent to the car-park, while others, less easily distracted, continued more sedately along the path round the lake. Thankfully, this proved to be only a minor set-back; parakeets were seen and the group reunited. In fact, later in our progress, the whole group  came across a lone parakeet perched in the trees on the far side of the River Mersey, its tropical green brightness looking slightly out of place against the bare branches and in the murky light of the Manchester winter.DSCF8507

In fact, the low light levels made the identification of woodland birds throughout the morning rather difficult: there was plenty of activity with several flocks of small birds flitting back and forth between the various feeding opportunities amongst the trees, but deciding exactly what species they were, was challenging, unless they were close. However, it was evident that all these birds were intent on building up their strength in advance of the colder weather which has been forecast and which they, no doubt, have sensed as imminent.

The height of the river meant that our hunt for Wagtails proved fruitless, the rocks on which they normally rest being well under water, but our compensation came in the form of a fine pair of Goosander working their way upstream against the fast flow of the river.

A brief sally onto the Kenworthy Woods area of the park, resulted in our first (and virtually only) sighting of a Robin, the briefest of glimpses of a Buzzard and a Kestrel, and the rather more satisfying sight of a pair of Bullfinch in the bushes on the edge of the orchard area.

It was while we were admiring this latter pair that the first spots of sleety rain made themselves felt, and it was soon agreed that it was perhaps time to turn back towards the car-park. The last surprise of the morning (a very pleasant one) was the sighting of two good friends, Maggie and Joan, who had been tempted out on what had certainly promised earlier to be a much finer morning, weather-wise,  than actually transpired. Greetings and news exchanged, they headed off to find the parakeet, whilst we continued on, looking out for the woodpecker that they assured us had just been sighted. Unfortunately, I understand their quest for the parakeet was no more successful than ours for the woodpecker!

Thanks to Heather and John for the photos.

Bird list for Chorlton Water Park (BP)

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Gadwall
  7. Mallard
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Goosander
  11. Buzzard
  12. Kestrel
  13. Moorhen
  14. Coot
  15. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  16. Black-headed Gull
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Wood Pigeon
  19. Collared Dove
  20. Rose-ringed Parakeet
  21. Wren
  22. Blackbird
  23. Redwing
  24. Robin
  25. Long-tailed Tit
  26. Great Tit
  27. Blue Tit
  28. Jay
  29. Magpie
  30. Carrion Crow
  31. Starling
  32. House Sparrow
  33. Chaffinch
  34. Redpoll
  35. Siskin
  36. Goldfinch
  37. Linnet
  38. Bullfinch

Chat Moss/Little Woolden Moss 06.01.15

A mix of strong westerly wind/heavy showers/bright fresh sunny conditions

Dave Steel very kindly turned out, in what initially were rather discouraging conditions after the reasonable weather of late, to lead us (and I for one had forgotten just how long his stride was!), and he has also penned the following report:

The Chat Moss micro-climate did little to deter the Stoic Sale Set from Stampeding into the Fit City car-park at the appointed hour.  In fact it seemed to Spur Team Tuesday into Summoning up a Stupendous effort to Smile-Smile-Smile into the teeth of the weather propelling all out of the car-park and off in Short order to the Fisheries where a well appointed Cafe awaited their presence. (Some did miss Mistle Thrush and Redwing that were in Princess Park but, hey-ho, whenever have these meet-ups been all about birds anyway?)

Over vaporous vessels of Tea and Coffee all settled into another New Year of comfy chat that has so characterised the gatherings of TT (and I admit TF) throughout our years together. In fact I believe at one point the hot-air exuded from this animated hubbub of close friends overtook the steam exuded from our cuppas!

Then, after a call to arms from the old Recruiting Sergeant all propelled themselves into the teeth of a stiff Westerly breeze upon which sat for our list Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. After a few footfalls over to the Deep Pool we added Tufted Duck and Mallard, and oh, just for old-time’s sake, an ‘unidentified’ Little Bundle of Feathers was identified by Sight/Sound and Jizz as a Meadow Pipit, as it disappeared into the ether.

A serious amount of stomping then followed, as earnest step followed earnest step in our quest to reach Little Woolden Moss, but this proved to be less of a trudge than hinted at for we found enough to distract us along the way with Fieldfare, Grey Partridge and Buzzard being some of the highlights.

The order of the day was also noted as unchanged from the old WEA times with the team’s progress perpetually punctuated by easy flowing conversation and laughter making the distant goal seem a mere cock-stride from our starting point, and thus the wondrous Lancashire Wildlife Trust Reserves of Cadishead Moss and LWM were ‘soon’ achieved.

A quick appreciation of the beauteous Purple Moor Grass clad Cadishead Moss was followed by a pause to absorb the extensive view that LWM afforded; for here before our eyes lay a work in progress which will one day bring into the ‘heart’ of Salford a magnificent re-imagining of a raised peat bog that once may have deterred all but the faint hearted to wander into its boggy beauty 10,000 years ago.

(Can you believe that such a RARE GEM lies but 10 miles from the centre of Manchester???????????????????? A place that simply needs appreciating for its raw beauty and timelessness—-a place to quietly visit and simply peer across allowing our imagination to see how this precious lowland raised peat bog habitat is being and WILL be restored to its ancient glory in the caring hands of the non-profit making Lancashire Wildlife Trust).

A part circumnavigation of the reserve along its well appointed and newly completed pathway gave a wind-refreshed wander along which we added a 200 strong flock of Stock Doves which were taking advantage of that now ultra rare modern farmland habitat (due to the proliferation of Winter Wheat) …. Stubble.

A desire to push on and try and connect with a large flock of Skylark that were noted on these stubble fields the day before may have been in the mind of ‘M_MG_0084oss-Man’, but even he admitted that, at this juncture, a retreat homeward was the better option, rather than face a rebellion from what is now a ‘free-spirited’ team who were once under the iron-fist of an exacting Tutor. (Yeah … right!!!).

The Bimble back then added Raven, Bullfinch and most EMPHATICALLY a lone person sighting of a Merlin all of which are to be recorded by the scribbler of this piece of doggerel whose rules (if he has any) seem (if TT don’t mind me saying) a little less exacting … but that’s what you get when those in the upper echelons of The Wilmslow Guild are allowed their sway….!

Fisheries reached, all but a few melted away into the distance, whilst those who love a nice bit of well prepared and reasonably priced food retired to the superb cafe for a well-earned bit of grub with one of this select group having to force himself to wade through a generous mixed grill—inspite of him already having had a sandwich …. what a hero, especially as he started his diet — ‘err’ – yester … tomorrow!

Bird List for Chat moss/Little Woolden Moss (BP)

  1. Mallard
  2. Tufted Duck
  3. Buzzard
  4. Kestrel
  5. Grey Partridge_MG_0028
  6. Pheasant
  7. Moorhen
  8. Lapwing
  9. Snipe
  10. Stock Dove
  11. Woodpigeon
  12. Meadow Pipit
  13. Wren
  14. Blackbird
  15. Fieldfare
  16. Redwing
  17. Mistle Thrush
  18. Robin
  19. Great Tit
  20. Blue Tit
  21. Jay
  22. Magpie
  23. Jackdaw
  24. Carrion Crow
  25. Raven
  26. Starling
  27. Chaffinch
  28. Bullfinch
  29. Reed Bunting

Thanks to Barbara for the list and to John Hancock for the photographs, both of the visit and of the starlings he and Joan saw on their way home.