Burton Wetlands 24.11.15

Overcast, heavy showers, but a few sunny intervals (and rainbows!)

Despite the unfavourable weather forecast, a group of about 16 hardy – or should it be ‘foolhardy’? – members of TT decided to brave the elements and gather at Burton RSPB reserve. From the welcome warmth of the reception building, the group was immediately treated to the sight of a marsh harrier hawking across the reeds searching for prey. This alone made the journey through drizzle and motorway spray seem worthwhile – so, feeling more enthusiastic the group turned their attention to the murky view across the water where dozens of teal, widgeon and black-tailed godwit dominated the scene. Having added lapwing, shoveler, greylag goose and snipe to the list, it was decided to move on to the Marsh Covert hide for lunch, before heading out to the further reaches of the reserve. A few members of the group decided to walk the longer route around the fishery pools and were rewarded by views of not just one, but two kingfishers.

On reaching the hide it was obvious that lunch was to be the highlight here, as the few visible birds were in the far distance – but at least a kestrel agreed that it was lunchtime, hovering, then swooping onto a poor unsuspecting mouse just in front of one of the windows. Lunch over, the walk to the next hide was tackled, despite intermittent drizzle and blustery winds. Along the way a flock of redwings were DSCN6306.jpgspotted in a field, linnets(?) flew overhead, and a couple of lesser redpolls were noted by some sharp-eyed members. In front of the old Inner Marsh Farm hide a pair of stonechat flitted amongst the reeds and a pair of redshank flew in briefly to be added to the list, as the sun illuminated the scene turning the reeds from a dull grey to a rich golden hue.

Indeed the sun now seemed more inviting and as the shelter was left, a green woodpecker yaffled above and a bullfinch sat posing in a tree. A walk to take in marshside views was soon curtailed, however, as the weather closed in once more, but passing through the grazing ground of a flock of sheep we caught sight of a veritable vollery of pied wagtails and several starlings, enjoying the churned up mud. Back to the reception building, a few decided to complete a full tour of the site by visiting the feeders near the barn to find flocks of greenfinch and gold finch, leaving more weary-footed TT members in the warmth, where a kingfisher obliged and posed on a branch. Satisfied with a good day in bracing air, it was time for TT to return home. (MH)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Grey Heron
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Wigeon
  6. Teal
  7. Mallard
  8. Shoveler
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Marsh Harrier
  11. Buzzard
  12. Kestrel
  13. Pheasant
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Lapwing
  17. Dunlin
  18. Snipe
  19. Black-tailed Godwit
  20. Curlew (heard)
  21. Redshank
  22. Black-headed Gull
  23. Common Gull
  24. Wood Pigeon
  25. Collared Dove
  26. Kingfisher
  27. Green Woodpecker
  28. Pied Wagtail
  29. Robin
  30. Stonechat
  31. Blackbird
  32. Redwing
  33. Great Tit
  34. Blue Tit
  35. Magpie
  36. Jackdaw
  37. Carrion Crow
  38. Starling
  39. Chaffinch
  40. Greenfinch
  41. Goldfinch
  42. Linnet
  43. Lesser Redpoll
  44. Bullfinch

Rixton Clay Pits 17.11.15

Dull and overcast, and threatening rain

Undaunted by the dire weather forecasts, a dozen members of the Team congregated at the Rixton Clay Pits car park (kindly opened for us by Marcus of the Warrington Ranger Team) eager to see what this site had to offer us. After the usual confab, and sight of a Kestrel perched up in a tree on the other side of the busy A57, we moved off to the Visitor Centre, where we met the said Marcus, and made such use of the facilities as was required.

Waiting for the group to re-assemble, some were soon scanning the fields opposite where, besides a large number of corvids, some geese were feeding in the soft ground. After much discussion and squinting through binoculars, the consensus emerged that these were Pink Feet, due in the main to the lack of any blackness about their heads. No such discussion was needed, however, when the unmistakable cheeck of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker caused us to turn back towards the Visitor Centre where the said bird displayed itself high in a nearby tree for all to see.

With spirits suitably lifted, we set off across the reserve following the ‘red trail’ and soon found plenty of avian noise and activity amongst the bushes and undergrowth. Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch and a variety of titmice were noted as we headed towards the first of the several pools stretching across the site. There were fewer waterfowl in evidence than seen in some of our previous visits, but two pair of Shoveler were present, busily swimming back and forth, as is their wont.

Having negotiated a couple of rather challenging stiles, we headed towards Moat Lane, resolved on this occasion to venture out on to Rixton Moss. Views across the pools en route were difficult due to the density of the trees and bushes, but a family of Mallard was spotted – parents and a brood of a dozen ducklings – which led to a short discussion re the longevity and taste of such fowl.

A drizzle set in as we moved towards the Moss, but spirits were not dampened as we proceeded on our way, noting that the nearby tip was apparently being capped and thus no longer such a draw for the hundreds of gulls that it had been in the past. The fisheries, however, seemed to attract a fair number of Black-headed Gulls, some of which rather bizarrely had come to rest on electricity wires, and in the background we noted the first of the flocks of starlings, that over the next half-hour or so seemed to become ever more numerous. It was here too that we first heard the plaintive call of a Buzzard, but despite a determined scanning, a sighting of this raptor (under threat again from gamekeepers, if recent newspaper reports are accurate) was not achieved. The Moss appeared less than welcoming as the drizzle increased momentarily, and it was decided that we had tarried long enough and should now head back from this furthest point of our expedition.

Re-tracing our steps along the track, with the rain having thankfully ceased, we did at last catch sight of that Buzzard that had been teasing us for so long, as well as a couple of Redwing that were feeding on the berries in a small tree near the track. (We had earlier almost certainly seen Redwing flying overhead, but their movement and the poor light had prevented a definitive identification.)

The last significant sight of the morning, just before we got back to the Reserve, was what can only perhaps be described as a ‘practice’ murmuration, as several hundred Starlings wheeled low, back and forth, less disciplined than usual, before dropping on to electricity wires that were visibly dipping under their combined weight. It looked for all the world as if they were preparing to roost early, and there was speculation as to whether the impending threat of Storm Barney had in some way or other communicated itself to them.

But with that threat in the back of our minds, it was decided to make our way back to the car park without further delay, thankful that we had had a much better morning’s birding than many of us had thought possible. (CG)

[In fact as will be seen, our morning’s count was somewhat better than that of our previous visit, earlier this year in January.]

Bird List (MH)

1. Mute swan
2. Pink-footed goose
3. Mallard +ducklings!
4. Gadwall
5. Shoveler
6. Tufted duck
7. Cormorant
8. Grey heron
9. Common buzzard
10. Kestrel
11. Moorhen
12. Coot
13. Lapwing
14. Black-headed gull
15. Lesser black-backed gull
16. Woodpigeon
17. Collared dove
18. Feral pigeon
19. Great spotted woodpecker
20. Wren
21. Dunnock
22. Robin
23. Blackbird
24. Redwing
25. Long-tailed tit
26. Blue tit
27. Great tit
28. Nuthatch
29. Starling
30. Jay
31. Magpie
32. Jackdaw
33. Carrion crow
34. House sparrow
35. Chaffinch
36. Goldfinch
37. Bullfinch

Marshside and Mere Sands Wood 10.11.15

Blue skies, warm breeze and plenty of sunshine

photo 1
(Photo HP)

The tide was well in as Team Tuesday gathered in the car park at Marshside and we were soon looking across the marsh to be greeted by a small group of little white egrets and beyond them little white horses on the sea. Flocks of knot flew along the shoreline and many birds were noted flying over but soon with the hint of a rainbow in the sky we turned and headed for the visitors’ centre.

The main hide gave us plenty of opportunity for honing our waterfowl identification skills with teal, wigeon, pink foot, greylag and shoveler as just a few of the species we spotted. A passing helicopter raised hundreds of birds we hadn’t previously sighted, but it gave us a flavour of the sheer number of birds that must have been there. With thanks to the friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, we left the hide to head back to the car park, stopping for a look through the screens, but the sun being low and shining completely in the wrong direction to see anything we wasted no time in travelling on to Mere Sands Wood for lunch.

    (Photo HP)
(Photo HP)

Lunch was a companionably warm affair seated round a table in the centre’s lecture room where we heard about the work being done on the site to attract willow tits back to breed. At the feeding station attention focused on Rattus norvegicus and Erithacus rubecula the latter being a particularly red red variety ( cue for song.)

We spent the afternoon walking through the woodland around the lake revelling in the warm sunshine and autumn colours. Dipping into the first hide gave us a juvenile cormorant and two unidentified birds hiding under willow branches. In Ainscough Hide despite the bright sunlight, we saw shoveler, and Redwing Hide gave us good views of great crested grebe and shoveler again. On to Rufford Hide to see close views of a wren and yes a shoveler, this one a female, in the sunshine looking rusty brown in places, going round in circles to stir up the water and the mud.

Arriving back at the car park we left in good spirits after time spent with the sun in our faces, temperatures that would match a summer’s day and ready to face any roadworks on the way home.(HP)

Bird List for Marshside (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Little Egret
  3. Pink-footed Goose
  4. Greylag Goose
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Shelduck
  7. Wigeon
  8. Gadwall
  9. Teal
  10. Mallard
  11. Moorhen
  12. Lapwing
  13. Knot
  14. Ruff
  15. Black-tailed Godwit
  16. Black-headed Gull
  17. Great Black-backed Gull
  18. Pied Wagtail
  19. Magpie
  20. Greenfinch
  21. Starling

Bird List for Mere Sands Wood (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Shelduck
  7. Teal
  8. Mallard
  9. Shoveler
  10. Tufted Duck
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Black-headed Gull
  14. Wood Pigeon
  15. Collared Dove
  16. Wren
  17. Dunnock
  18. Blackbird
  19. Robin
  20. Long-tailed Tit
  21. Coal Tit
  22. Great Tit
  23. Blue Tit
  24. Jay
  25. Carrion Crow
  26. Chaffinch

Woolston Eyes 03.11.15

Dry with some bright periods

Cars aplenty lined Weir Lane on this cool slightly murky morn as I arrived to touch base with that force for life Team Tuesday who seem to go from strength to strength in their weekly amblings about the Northwest near and far in search of wildlife with birds still atop their list.

A quick de-brief to the sound of a chattering flock of House Sparrow (becoming a rarity these days) was quickly followed by a move over to check out the nearby a loop of the River Mersey which held a drake Goldeneye which soon caught the eye of all assembled. Then after suitable homage had been paid to this smart winter visitor we scanned the rest of the water to find Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Moorhen and Coot….yes this was to be at the very least a wildfowl day.

We then made steady progress around the west bank of No2 bed adding Cormorant, Long Tailed Tit and Mute Swan before we crossed onto No3 bed which was to be our goal for the day as this ‘isle of tranquillity’ houses a good mix of birds-more than enough to keep our Team occupied for a couple of hours.

Photo (JK)

The platform hide vantage point then enabled all to gain views out onto the now transformed habitat of No3 bed with its channels cut through the reeds affording great views over water and thanks to a much better regime of water level control muddy edges to this water (a wader ‘magnet’ we soon discovered) here our faithful ‘Keeper of the List’ added Teal and Wigeon.

 We then made quick progress over to the Morgan Hide owing to the fact that this was an autumn visit hence we were unencumbered by those blessed summer visitors and their confusing songs which inevitably slow us down although a Bullfinch was heard piping it’s contact call from deep within a stand of Blackthorn it slowed us not a jot.

A hurried ‘kerfuffle’ then overtook our quiet comfortable autumnal mood owing to the fact that the Morgan Hide offered a vista which was ‘filled’ with birds all of which clamoured to be seen and named but this rush for knowledge then settled back into the ‘British Library Reading Room Mode’ once we had noted the fact that ‘the birds weren’t in any hurry to leave’ and were happy to oblige us with relatively easy viewing. Thus we set about studiously finding each species in turn and labelling same one by one all the while not straying from our desire to admire each and every one of them —- once we had got that first sighting out of the way!

Snipe, Lapwing, Coal Tit, Greenfinch and so on were soon swelling our day-list with ease whereas a Water Rail both seen (by a few of our gathering) and heard (by most of same) had to in that classical Oliver Twist style beg for inclusion….magnanimity prevailed and this species was then added to the ‘Heard’ List!

With so many eyes occupied in scrutinising the vista that lay before us it was not long before Black Tailed Godwit, Shoveler and Grey Wagtail were captured into our memory banks making this yet another superb Woolston visit to add to our tally of same over the past few years.

The comfort of the hide then quietly paled and all rose and made a move to wander around the rest of the bed which kindly laid on a Pintail (female), Reed Bunting, Linnet and Redwing for our perusal. Thus step by step we once more reached the footbridge with this now offering the pathway to lunch thus we happily succumbed and headed back towards our cars picking up two overflying Skylark en-route.

I personally then called in to ‘My Moss’ on the way home (Little Woolden Moss Nature Reserve to be precise) noting Pink-Footed Geese and a Peregrine birds which I am certain Team Tuesday will easily add to their list as this season progresses. (DS)