Moore Nature Reserve 24.03.15

A lucky few managed to have fine views of a Red Kite – certainly a first for the team at Moore! The success of the various re-introduction programmes of this magnificent bird mean both that the RSPB, since December 2014, is no longer asking for notification of sightings, and also that they are becoming, if not actually common (unless you happen to be driving down the M40), then at least ‘familiar’. Nonetheless, there is still something of a thrill in identifying this raptor with its clearly forked tail and adding it to the ‘day list’.

Bird List for Moore NR  (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great- Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Greylag Goose
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Gadwall
  8. Teal
  9. Mallard
  10. Shoveler
  11. Pochard
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Red Kite
  14. Buzzard
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Oystercatcher
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  22. Sand Martin
  23. Wood Pigeon
  24. Wren
  25. Blackbird
  26. Song Thrush
  27. Chiffchaff
  28. Blackcap
  29. Robin
  30. Long-tailed Tit
  31. Coal Tit
  32. Great Tit
  33. Blue Tit
  34. Nuthatch
  35. Jay
  36. Magpie
  37. Jackdaw
  38. Carrion Crow
  39. Chaffinch
  40. Goldfinch

Some great photos from Heather and John with particularly clear ones of the Woodpecker and Treecreeper (missing from the list?).


Woolston Eyes 17.03.15

Dry, a chill dampness hanging in the air, but with some bright periods later

An air of restlessness tumbled about Weir Lane as the bulk of the original Team Tuesday awaited their ‘guide’ for the day who, for due to unforeseen circumstances – two blessed Mediterranean Gulls on his Moss – had put the 10am start back a couple of minutes. In the past this would not have been so bothersome to the Team for there were usually ‘late’ arrivals, but under the new and auspicious leadership of Clive ‘being prompt’ now seems to be achieved with ease, as there now prevails a need to get out there and get birdwatching for all it’s worth and, more importantly, with all recognising that everyone plays a part in SEEING (and identifying (ed.)) each and every bird!

The Weir gave our first wildfowl of the day providing easy viewing of Tufted Duck, Pochard and Great Crested Grebe thus adding to a day-list that already held House Sparrow (an increasingly ‘rare’ bird to note these days) Collared Dove and Long-Tailed Tit. Breeding plumage Cormorant then gave easy viewing as we peered down into the loop of the old river upon which sat a few Shoveler which were being carefully scrutinised by a couple of Grey Heron from the riverbank.

Ears then came into play as first a burst of song emanated from a Chiffchaff which stuck its stake in the ground proclaiming that ‘Spring is Here’ (never mind waiting for the coming equinox), but alas none of the observers saw it unlike the next couple or so of species which first gave note of their presence by their calls: first a trio of Great Spotted Woodpecker ‘jicked’ atop some tall trees whilst a Treecreeper crept onto our list as did four Lesser Redpoll—all this before entering onto No3 bed!

Footbridge crossed, all happily padded on along the south-bank of this ‘island’ bed pausing to take in the views across this wondrous wetland habitat with its open water and enticing channels along which wildfowl aplenty amble away the day. Greylag and Canada Geese put themselves onto our tally whilst the effervescent Black Headed Gull Colony told its own story of a raucous breeding season to come. There was to be a steady amble into the centre of the bed, but this was somewhat delayed when sharp ears called a halt to our progress for ‘up there’ nicely hidden from view called a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which gave but the briefest of views as it departed from this crowd of adoring onlookers—as is oft the case with this diminutive and sadly now scarce bird.

A check from the East Tower Hide allowed all to note how much work has been undertaken to improve and open up this extensive Reedbed making it, in my opinion, our very own ‘Leighton Moss’ of Cheshire, but before we fell into a reverie of admiration a touch of the harsher reality that lies within nature broke this harmonious spell as we took to examining several corpses of Starlings, which had been selected from the vast table that has lain enticingly before our ‘resident’ Barn Owl in the form of vast nightly ‘Mumurations’ that have been this winter’s Woolston Highlight!

Morgan Hide then engulfed our number allowing all to settle into watching a widescreen showing of nature at its best when Spring comes ‘a calling’. Lesser Black Backed Gull, Little Grebe and Reed Bunting moved our count ever upward, but perhaps we were a little too fast off the starting block this year as our longed-for BNG were not present, but ‘Hey-Ho’, the nice thing about not ticking every expected bird on one visit simply guaranteed a return to this impossibly and almost improbably superb nature Reserve that sits but three miles from the centre of Warrington—wonders will never cease!

A circuit of the bed then led us back to base and ready for a well earned lunch; the appetite for which was surely enhanced by our morning’s encounter with this gem of a site.


Many thanks to Dave from the Team, both for an excellent morning’s birding, as ever made more enjoyable and instructive by his enthusiasm, his wealth and depth of knowledge and his good humour, and for penning the above report.

Bird List for Woolston Eyes (CG)

  1. Blue Tit
  2. Great Tit
  3. Long-tailed Tit
  4. Wren
  5. Robin
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Carrion Crow
  8. Collared Dove
  9. Woodpigeon
  10. Mallard
  11. Pochard
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Gadwall
  14. Teal
  15. Coot
  16. Moorhen
  17. Great Crested Grebe
  18. Mute Swan
  19. Cormorant
  20. Grey Heron
  21. Shoveler
  22. Canada Goose
  23. Greylag Goose
  24. Magpie
  25. Buzzard
  26. Song Thrush
  27. Treecreeper
  28. Jay
  29. Bullfinch
  30. Goldfinch
  31. Greenfinch
  32. Red Poll
  33. Dunnock
  34. Blackbird
  35. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  36. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  37. Reed Bunting
  38. Lapwing
  39. Shelduck
  40. Black-headed Gull
  41. Lesser Black Back Gull
  42. Little Grebe
  43. Merlin (a fleeting glimpse, but the consensus was that this was what a number of us saw!)

Some photos from Hilary:

Pennington Flash 10.03.15

Clear and bright with plenty of warm sunshine On what was forecast to be the best day of the week weather-wise, the Team returned to Pennington Flash, a favourite haunt, anticipating a good morning’s birding. And it seemed that we were not to be disappointed; in quick succession Goldeneye, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and others had been identified across the wide expanse of the Flash, and even before we had moved away from the  car park we had seen almost half as many species as during the whole of last week’s expedition! Temporarily splitting into two sub-groups, better to fit into Kingfisher Hide and the nearby Bunting Hide, we enjoyed good views both of Reed Buntings, Gadwall, a selection of other water fowl, and also of a number of woodland birds, with Bullfinch, especially, now coming into their full breeding plumage and showing particularly well on such a bright morning. Although the Water Rail, that had been sighted a few minutes earlier by a member of Team Friday whom we chanced upon, did not put in a repeat appearance for the main group, our patient photographers, who at this point got detached from the rest of the Team, were rewarded with some excellent views of this shy bird (see below). However, in partial compensation, a few of us were lucky enough to catch a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher that sped across the water. Following our now familiar clockwise path round the park, Horrocks Hide gave good views of plenty of birds resting and feeding on the Spit, including a small group of Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Cormorant and a solitary Redshank, preening itself just a few metres in front of us. Despite the sunshine over the Flash, however, the chill still penetrated  through the open windows of this north-facing hide, and after only a few minutes we were glad to move outside again and warm ourselves in the sun, watching a good number of Reed Bunting feed on the cleared ground at the back of the Hide. At the Edmondson Hide Shoveler and half a dozen Grey Heron were clearly visible, but from this point on, we had to work harder to get views of the birds: the scrape in front of Ramsdale Hide was almost completely empty of bird-life; and a Song Thrush, clearly audible to all in the trees ahead, simply refused to show itself. Undaunted, however, the Team pressed on to be greeted by a Skylark soaring over the meadow at the side of the canal, and then, as we retraced our steps from the rise overlooking the Flash, by the clear and unmistakable song of a Cetti’s Warbler which seemed to be moving to and fro amongst the reed bed, but, as is usual for this bird, without showing itself. On the long trek back towards the car park, the scarcity of woodland birds amongst the trees and undergrowth on either side of the path was disappointing, and somewhat puzzling given the obvious feeding opportunities provided, and we might have ended the morning a little despondent, despite an already lengthy day list, had not the visit to Teal Hide treated us to the remarkable spectacle of fifteen or so pair of Goosander.  Most of these elegant birds were resting on the central island directly in front of the hide, but one female was repeatedly, and almost fretfully, ducking her head under the water, seemingly in an attempt to get her feathers into best shape, rather than to feed! On the final push towards the car park, we were distracted from our ornithological endeavours for a moment by the sight of thirty or so frogs in a shallow pool at the side of the path, busily and determinedly mating, and making a not insignificant noise whilst they were about it! This sight, together with the apparent ‘pairing’ of many of the waterfowl and the bright plumage of the birds which had been noted throughout the morning, reminded us on such a warm and pleasant morning that Spring cannot be far off. Indeed, the weather was so tempting that several members stayed behind and, after al fresco lunches, helped to push the total count of species over the magic half-century figure by seeking out a few more woodland birds and a hard-to-see Garganey!

Bird List for Pennington Flash (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great- Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Greylag Goose
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Gadwall
  9. Teal
  10. Mallard
  11. Garganey
  12. Shoveler
  13. Pochard
  14. Tufted Duck
  15. Goldeneye
  16. Goosander
  17. Buzzard
  18. Kestrel
  19. Water Rail
  20. Moorhen
  21. Coot
  22. Oystercatcher
  23. Lapwing
  24. Snipe
  25. Redshank
  26. Herring Gull
  27. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  28. Black-headed Gull
  29. Stock Dove
  30. Wood Pigeon
  31. Kingfisher
  32. Skylark
  33. Pied Wagtail
  34. Wren
  35. Dunnock
  36. Blackbird
  37. Redwing
  38. Robin
  39. Long-tailed Tit
  40. Willow Tit
  41. Great Tit
  42. Blue Tit
  43. Nuthatch
  44. Treecreeper
  45. Jay
  46. Magpie
  47. Carrion Crow
  48. House Sparrow
  49. Chaffinch
  50. Greenfinch
  51. Bullfinch
  52. Reed Bunting

Some superb photos this week from Heather and John!

Sankey Valley 03.03.15

Bright with plenty of clear blue sky, but strong, icy wind

A hard core of the Team gathered in the parking area near what used to be Sankey Bridges railway station (closed 1949), competing for space with heavy road re-surfacing equipment. Setting off along the path parallel to the disused St Helens Canal we could hear the birds, but catching sight of them was an entirely different matter. And so it proved for the rest of the morning; although we heard its alarm call on several occasions, no-one actually saw a Blackbird!

However, making our way in a clockwise direction along the track round the capped tip between Sankey Brook and the canal, the woodland and hedgerow birds that we did catch sight of, showed particularly well in the clear light. We were also treated to the sight of the first of several Kestrel seen during the morning, hovering in the strong wind and clearly visible against the bright blue sky.

A little further on, the sight of several hundred gulls, Black-headed, Lesser Black Back and Herring, awaited us on Richmond Bank, out in the middle of the Mersey. Just as we were all wishing someone had a scope, better to engage in that delightful pastime of differentiating between various species of gull, we were distracted by the sight hundreds of starlings rising from over the tip on the other side of the river and creating a spectacular murmuration.

Heading back towards the canal, a tantalising glimpse of a small bird that might, or might not have been a Stonechat, led to an intense scrutiny of the various field guides carried, and although the sighting could not be established for certain, a local birder encountered later on our walk, did confirm the presence of these birds, at least a few weeks ago.

At the Ferry Tavern, the furthest point of our walk, the strength of the westerly wind and the incoming tide was clearly apparent out on the river, with a series of what looked like mini-bores coming upstream. A careful survey of the opposite shore revealed both a solitary Redshank, which conveniently moved into a patch of sunlight to reveal its brightly coloured legs and, perhaps more unusually, a Pheasant that was feeding close to the water’s edge.

With the chill of the wind beginning to penetrate, it was decided to turn back towards our starting point. On this stretch, along the canal which looked almost attractive, reflecting the blueness of the sky and with a fine growth of reeds on the far side, we had good views both of  a pair of soaring Buzzards and some more Kestrel searching for prey on either side of the canal, but, for the rest, the birds mostly seemed to be keeping well hidden in the trees and bushes.

Not quite a flamingo, but almost as exotic!
Not quite a flamingo, but almost as exotic!

Finally, with thoughts of lunch perhaps beginning to dim our attentiveness, we almost missed a single pair of Gadwall which were sharing a small pond, adjacent to the canal, with some not especially welcoming Mallard: a reminder, perhaps, that the true birder always looks twice!

Bird List for Sankey Bridges (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Gadwall
  7. Mallard
  8. Buzzard
  9. Kestrel
  10. Pheasant
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Redshank
  14. Herring Gull
  15. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  16. Black-headed Gull
  17. Woodpigeon
  18. Robin
  19. Long-tailed Tit
  20. Great Tit
  21. Blue Tit
  22. Magpie
  23. Jackdaw
  24. Carrion Crow
  25. Starling
  26. House Sparrow
  27. Bullfinch
  28. Goldfinch