Rostherne Mere 28.04.15

Cloudy and very breezy day with sunny spells

_MG_0173Despite an earlier shower of sleet and an unpromising weather forecast, an intrepid band of TT birdwatchers congregated in the car park of St Mary’s Church. From there John Hancock took the group on an informative and entertaining tour of this National Nature Reserve/SSSI/Ramsar site.

We started with a visit to the well maintained and organised A.W.Boyd Observatory, which afforded extensive views across the Mere. The cormorant roost on the north west side of the Mere (c.100 nests) was prominent, and we marvelled at the myriad of sand and house martins swooping over the near side of the Mere. Then we ambled along the eastward footpath which took us into the sloping woodland, where we were shown evidence of various management works including rhododendron clearance and sighted a number of our regular woodland friends. Onwards down to the reedbeds at the eastern edge of the Mere, we heard, but were frustrated by the non-appearance of sedge and reed warblers. A diversion along the wooded stream to the east revealed treecreepers, blackcaps and chiffchaffs. Back to the reedbeds, we were happy to see reed buntings and swallows and, out on the Mere, mute swans, great crested grebes, tufted ducks and mallards.

Continuing along the path into the woodland on the north side we were assailed with the strong scent of wild IMG_1384garlic and the carpet of new bluebells and even early purple orchids and beautiful views of the church across the Mere. Returning to the reedbeds, the warblers continued to frustrate us with their non-appearance, possibly due to the very vigorous (and chilly!) breeze. A quick diversion into the “YTS” hide revealed more views of the cormorant roost and better views of the tufted ducks. Then back into the sloping woodland where we were entertained by a songthrush and the tapping of a great spotted woodpecker.

Luncheon club members who lingered on for the afternoon were rewarded with sightings of a pair of bullfinches, a great spotted woodpecker, a pheasant, and a barn owl (albeit the latter was a captive in a local resident’s garden).

A beautiful spot well worth further visits at other times during the year! (SC)

Bird list (BP)

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Mallard
  7. Tufted Duck
  8. Buzzard
  9. Coot
  10. Black-headed Gull
  11. Stock Dove
  12. Woodpigeon
  13. Sand Martin
  14. Swallow
  15. House Martin
  16. Blackbird
  17. Song Thrush
  18. Chiffchaff
  19. Blackcap
  20. Robin
  21. Long-tailed Tit
  22. Great Tit
  23. Blue Tit
  24. Treecreeper
  25. Magpie
  26. Carrion Crow
  27. House Sparrow
  28. Chaffinch
  29. Reed Bunting

Many thanks to Natural England and the site Warden, Rupert,  for allowing access, and to the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society for letting us enjoy the comfort of the A.W. Boyd Observatory. We are also, of course, extremely grateful to John for his initiative in organising the whole outing. 

Finally, thanks to Barbara for the day list and to Simon for his report.


Hale (Merseyside) 21.04.15

Bright and sunny – a very warm Spring morning

A good turnout of TT birdwatchers congregated by St Mary’s Church under a clear blue sky with the promise of a beautifully warm spring morning ahead. As we parked and debated what outerwear to take, we were greeted by the various songs and sightings of coal tits, chaffinches, house sparrows and a jay.

Setting off down Within Way towards the River Mersey, activity in the hedgerows and fields beyond increased with a proliferation of goldfinches, chaffinches, dunnocks, robins, and then we were all treated to clear sightings of whitethroats, a yellowhammer and a reed bunting, all brilliantly illuminated in the bright sunshine. Above us and the bright yellow fields of oil-seed rape to the left, flew early swallows and skylarks. Further along, distant views of Decoy Marsh and the River Mersey to the east revealed Canada geese, shelducks, lapwing and oystercatchers.

Reaching the River Mersey and walking along the bank towards Hale Head and Hale Lighthouse, the exposed mudflats revealed a variety of waders which generated a lot of debate due to the difficulties posed by their distance, plumage and silhouetting by the bright sun beyond – bar-tailed godwits, curlews, redshanks, oystercatchers and ringed plovers.

Scanning the Mudflats
Scanning the mudflats

Before reaching the lighthouse we were treated to the appearance of the Mersey bore, which rapidly covered the mudflats and disturbed small flocks of oystercatchers, which flew eastwards past us. Behind us, above the fields, skylarks continued to entertain with their distinctive song and pheasants called and appeared at the top of the slope. From the lighthouse, views to the west along the river bank towards Speke and the Airport revealed little apart from, surprisingly, a single Egyptian goose (an escapee?).

The return walk along Lighthouse Road was accompanied by more skylark song and a close view of one in the ploughed field to the west. There was some discussion about the possible appearance of two wheatear on a far edge of the field and about a flock of small unidentified birds which rose and wheeled over the far end.

Returning to the houses of Hale village along Church Road, our trip was nicely rounded off by the more familiar sights and sounds of house sparrows, collared doves and starlings, and for some, a chiffchaff.

Throughout the morning, we spotted numerous butterflies, including Small Blue, Small Tortoiseshell (feeding on the flowering rape), Peacock, Green-veined White and Small White. (SC)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Egyptian Goose
  6. Shelduck
  7. Gadwall
  8. Mallard
  9. Buzzard
  10. Pheasant
  11. Oystercatcher
  12. Lapwing
  13. Ringed Plover
  14. Bar-tailed Godwit
  15. Curlew
  16. Redshank
  17. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  18. Feral Pigeon
  19. Wood Pigeon
  20. Collared Dove
  21. Sky Lark
  22. Swallow
  23. Wren
  24. Dunnock
  25. Blackbird
  26. Chiffchaff
  27. Common Whitethroat
  28. Robin
  29. Coal Tit
  30. Blue Tit
  31. Jay
  32. Magpie
  33. Rook
  34. Carrion Crow
  35. Starling
  36. House Sparrow
  37. Chaffinch
  38. Greenfinch
  39. Goldfinch
  40. Yellowhammer
  41. Reed Bunting

Thanks to Heather for the photos.

Marbury Country Park (Witton Bridge)

Spring is truly sprung! Bright and breezy and getting increasingly warm as the morning progressed.

A good turnout of TT birdwatchers was greeted at the Witton Bridge car park by the promise of a predominantly sunny morning and by three buzzards circling closely above and the very noticeable spring chorus of woodland birds.

With the help of a country park map usefully provided by one member, we set off anti-clockwise around the perimeter of Ashton’s Flashes. Distant views across the flashes revealed a few wildfowl on the open water, particularly a little grebe. However the trees and bushes between the track and Wade Brook and the scrub and reedbeds below the path were rich with movement and birdsong, and soon we were treated to close and extended views of goldfinches, long-tailed tits, reed buntings and even a great spotted woodpecker, and then chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps (for many of us the first sightings of these summer visitors). These treats continued all the way to the southernmost viewpoint across the flashes and then around to the west side. Additional pleasure was derived from seeing butterflies enjoying the warmth, including Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells.

We continued along the track northwards skirting the east side of Neumann’s Flashes continuing to be entertained by the new summer visitors and some of our more familiar woodland friends, including a brightly plumaged song thrush, up to the east hide. From the hide, pairs of shovelers and of great crested grebes, lapwing, and mallard were observable but not close enough to merit too long a stay. As we continued round to the hide on the north side of the flashes, we were treated to a raven circling immediately overhead. At the hide, the flash was again sparsely populated by wildfowl but we did glimpse gadwall and common shelduck against the brightly reflected sunshine on the water.

Stopping for a careful examination of another song thrush in the woodland we hurried along Marbury Lane to the quaintly named Butterfinch Bridge in the hope of spotting a water rail but to no avail. However some members did glimpse a grey squirrel lying prone on a moss covered log apparently snoozing in the spring warmth. So onward to Haydn’s Pool where we were rewarded with sightings of oystercatchers, black-headed gulls, lapwing, and another pair of shovelers. But no sand martins yet! (Although a fellow enthusiast/volunteer did point out that he had seen some a few days earlier which he claimed were travelling further northwards before returning to Haydn’s Pool for breeding).

We finally ambled back to the car park stopping only to investigate the noisy tapping of a woodpecker in the mature woodland along Marbury Lane but our search was in vain. Nevertheless by common agreement it was a thoroughly entertaining morning.

After a picnic lunch, a small splinter group moved up to the main car park and were rewarded with sightings of a coal tit at the hide overlooking Budworth Mere and of a nuthatch at the woodland hide. (SC)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great-crested Grebe
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Gadwall
  7. Teal
  8. Mallard
  9. Shoveler
  10. Buzzard
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Oystercatcher
  14. Lapwing
  15. Black-headed Gull
  16. Wood Pigeon
  17. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  18. Wren
  19. Dunnock
  20. Blackbird
  21. Song Thrush
  22. Willow Warbler
  23. Chiffchaff
  24. Blackcap
  25. Robin
  26. Long-tailed Tit
  27. Great Tit
  28. Blue Tit
  29. Magpie
  30. Carrion Crow
  31. Raven
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Reed Bunting

Mike reported sighting a couple of swallows on the journey home, and there have been reports of sand martins at Chorlton Water Park in the last few days: and there were certainly plenty at Leighton Moss last Saturday.(CG)

Wigan Flashes 31.03.15

Overcast, a strong cold breeze, but a little brightness later.

Undeterred by the dire weather forecast, an admittedly smaller than usual group gathered at the Wellham Lane entrance to Wigan Flashes. Orientating ourselves with the help of a conveniently placed, if not very clear map of this former industrial site, we set off in an anti-clockwise direction round Ochre and Bryn Flashes. The strong wind did not suggest that we were going to see many birds, but within a few yards of the access point a well-stocked feeding station showed plenty of activity with the Great Tits, Sparrows, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a lone Coal Tit all making the most of the relative shelter of the location. A pair of Pheasants were plodding around in the soft ground below the feeders and a Willow Tit dropped in to snatch a quick snack.

Wigan Flashes
Wigan Flashes

Walking along one of the many paths that criss-cross this extensive site, it was evident from the calls heard that there were plenty of birds around, but we were only able to get brief glimpses as they flitted back and forth across the path. What was possibly a Muntjac Deer was sighted, and a solitary Snipe shot up into the sky to be buffeted by the wind as we approached Ochre Flash, where a fierce wind whipping across the water deterred us from a prolonged survey of this expanse of water.

On the edge of the extensive reed beds of Bryn Flash, both Great Crested and Little Grebe were sighted, and as we turned to walk back along the western side of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal the very clear call of a Chiffchaff was heard. It was while we were vainly trying to locate this summer visitor, that a group of six or seven Redpoll suddenly flew into the Alders growing alongside the canal and began to feed, just a few metres away from us. The sunlight, that had made one of its brief appearances at this moment, lit up red markings of these birds clearly and  we had plenty of time to admire them before they flew off again.

Turner's Flash
Turner’s Flash

Crossing the canal we made our way towards Turner’s Flash, along a well-made path and past the occasional slag heap, a reminder of the industrial origins of the site. On the flash itself there was not a lot of activity, but Cormorant, Gadwall and Black-headed Gull were present in small numbers. The highlight here was, however, the arrival of a Willow Tit (ringed), which afforded us plenty of time to  admire it as it flew back and forth amongst the small trees growing on either side of the path.

With darkening skies and an increasingly strong wind, it was decided to turn back towards our cars, but one final treat was in store as eyes were once again drawn upwards by the clear call of a Chiffchaff and this time one, if not two, of the these birds were seen in the trees above. A Wren saluted us as we finally passed out of the reserve at the end of a good morning’s birding on a site that all agreed was well worth further exploration. Those few hardier souls who stayed into the afternoon added Shoveler, Goldeneye, Pochard and a Peregrine to the day’s tally.

Bird List for Wigan Flashes (CG)

  1. Pheasant
  2. Goldfinch
  3. Chaffinch
  4. Greenfinch
  5. Great Tit
  6. Coal Tit
  7. Blue tit
  8. Blackbird
  9. Robin
  10. Reed bunting
  11. Willow Tit
  12. Dunnock
  13. House sparrow
  14. Woodpigeon
  15. Greylag Goose
  16. Canada Goose
  17. Carrion Crow
  18. Jackdaw
  19. Tufted Duck
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Lesser Black Back Gull
  22. Mute Swan
  23. Snipe
  24. Coot
  25. Moorhen
  26. Mallard
  27. Grey Heron
  28. Cormorant
  29. Jay
  30. Magpie
  31. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  32. Little Grebe
  33. Great Crested Grebe
  34. Red Poll
  35. Long-tailed Tit
  36. Chiffchaff
  37. Wren
  38. Gadwall
  39. Shoveler
  40. Goldeneye
  41. Pochard
  42. Peregrine