Marshside and Mere Sands Wood 26.04.16

Bright, chilly and very breezy at first, with just a few spots of rain later

Those who had made it to the Marshside car park were almost swept off their feet as they booted up by an icy blast, which was blowing in from the north. Undaunted, however, we ventured down onto the foreshore, drawn by the song of sky larks, the sight of oystercatchers and general evidence of avian movement amongst the bushes and scrub. Indeed, we soon had good views of the said sky larks soaring high above us and seemingly untroubled by the strength of the wind. House martins sped overhead and a small flock of goldfinches also drew our attention by their colour and call, but some other small birds further off unfortunately defied identification.

Arriving in the welcome shelter of RSPB hide we were almost immediately treated to a memorable spectacle; the female of the pair of avocets that had made a nesting site on the little island immediately in front of the hide, promptly laid an egg – the first of what was likely to be a clutch of four. Had we not seen this happen it would have been almost impossible to make out the egg, so well camouflaged was it. Indeed to the casual viewer (or predator) it looked like just another pebble!

Although not quite as eggciting, the next hour or so was very productive in terms of sightings: in addition to the usual range of waterfowl both a redshank and a common sandpiper were identified, a lone swallow obligingly rested on the fence adjacent to the hide and we all enjoyed the sight of large numbers of black-tailed godwits, many of which were coming into their bright chestnut orange summer plumage. Reports of the presence of a mediterranean gull amongst the hundreds of black-headed gulls led to some determined scanning and this was rewarded eventually by the the pretty certain identification of an immature specimen that took off, not long after all the gulls had taken flight at the approach of a peregrine that had crossed the lakes.

A brief visit to Nel’s Hide, some 400 metres south down Marine Drive, afforded good views of a pair of active little grebe and, in the distance, some teal and pochard. Re-grouping in the car park, we then headed for Mere Sands Wood to rendezvous with other members of the Team for lunch in the class room in the VC. Hunger satisfied, and notes of sightings compared, the enlarged group then set out on a circuit of the reserve.

Sadly this afternoon session did not afford a sighting of the common tern that had been spotted earlier in the morning by the sub-team but plenty of sand martins were seen skimming back and forth across the lake and the usual mix of cormorant, tufted ducks and shoveler were seen.  However, we struggled somewhat to catch glimpses of many woodland birds, apart from a wren enjoying a sand bath just below one of the hides and a pair of long-tailed tits feeding on a willow just in front of another. Our identification skills were put to the test at one point, trying to distinguish a bird that could have been either a chiffchaff or a willow warbler and which, at least while in view, steadfastly refused to sing! In the end, the consensus was for the former – on account of its dark legs – but the presence of the latter bird was confirmed soon after as the distinctive descending notes of its song were heard from the depths of the shrubbery alongside the path.

IMG_2254With darkening skies to urge us on, the progress towards the VC and car park was relatively speedy, although we did catch sight of a solitary song thrush in the meadow and a quick visit to the feeders behind the VC added a bullfinch and a reed bunting to our list, which after four to five hours’ birding had grown to an impressive length.

Bird List (MH)

1. Mute swan
2. Canada goose
3. Greylag goose
4. Shelduck
5. Mallard
6. Gadwall
7. Shoveler
8. Teal
9. Pochard
10. Tufted duck
11. Pheasant
12. Great crested grebe
13. Little grebe
14. Cormorant
15. Little egret
16. Grey heron
17. Common buzzard
18. Peregrine
19. Moorhen
20. Coot
21. Avocet
22. Oystercatcher
23. Lapwing
24. Common sandpiper
25. Redshank
26. Black-tailed godwit
27. Black-headed gull
28. Mediterranean gull
29. Herring gull
30. Lesser black-backed gull
31. Wood pigeon
32. Skylark
33. Sand martin
34. Swallow
35. House martin
36. Meadow pipit
37. Wren
38. Dunnock
39. Robin
40. Blackbird
41. Song thrush
42. Chiffchaff
43. Long-tailed tit
44. Blue tit
45. Great tit
46. Starling
47. Jay
48. Magpie
49. Jackdaw
50. Carrion crow
51. Chaffinch
52. Greenfinch
53. Goldfinch
54. Bullfinch
55. Reed bunting



Rostherne Mere 19.04.16

Bright sunshine all day

Team Tuesday gathered early in the village car park spotting jackdaws and 4 buzzards even before we’d had our briefing. Today John was our leader, having kindly arranged for us to have access to this secluded gem of a nature reserve. A short stroll through the village found us debating whether the 2 rescued barn owls we’d seen could be counted on the day’s list: we decided against.
From the observatory a pair of bullfinches, as well as cormorants and rabbits were the main talking points, and we soon headed off towards the lefthand side of the mere. We learnt that Rostherne Mere bordered the glacial reach during the last Ice Age and is 100 feet deep. The depth and expanse of the mere means that it is the last sheet of water in this area to freeze in the winter consequently acting as a refuge for large numbers of water fowl.
Across the field we had wonderful views over the water, with cormorants and possibly 30 nests in the far trees and closer to we were looked down upon by a ginger felis catus perched high up in a tree. FullSizeRender 2We stopped by the inlet where John explained about the work being done to encourage the reed bed growth. On through the bluebell laden woods, blackcap and chiffchaff were noted along with peacock and brimstone butterflies and some members of TT saw 3 great spotted woodpeckers flying through the trees. The damp ground encouraged wood splurge and an unusual fungus called King Alfred’s Cake as black as the original cakes must have been. These are also known as Cramp Balls so named because carrying them was thought to ward off cramp. Suddenly we realised the background hum of the traffic had been overtaken by the noise of the cormorant families as we found ourselves walking quietly behind the nests.
Emerging from the wood we walked across the field towards a viewpoint, only to find ourselves facing a charging group of young cows, fortunately they were only being curious, but it was a little unnerving to see them running across the fields towards us, particularly as we had left one of our group behind on their own. All was well, however, as we returned through the wood, to reach the field and then the lane where a fracas in the trees was thought to have been caused by a sparrowhawk. A treecreeper showed itself to us right by the church and the group then split into those going home and those staying for an afternoon perambulation.
Those spending their lunch hour on the church benches were rewarded with orange tip butterflies, a nuthatch, 2 great crested grebes doing part of their courtship ritual and a flypast from a great spotted woodpecker. Then we were ready for part 2 of this Rostherne walk. Down through the trees to take in the badger sett and good views of a treecreeper followed by a lengthy discussion about the leg colouration of chiffchaff and willow warbler. Reed buntings came into view, and as we entered the reed bed we heard sedge warbler close to and the yaffle of a green woodpecker in the background. These 2 birds teased us for half an hour or so as we could hear them clearly, but with no sightings to be had.
We reached the woodland, could smell the wild garlic and see the bluebells, but decided it was time to turn back only stopping in The Whitley Hide for a Mandarin duck and a female goldeneye to be added to the day’s list. Here, we also had time to appreciate the work that is carried out by the warden and the volunteers at Rostherne, which encourages so much flora and fauna to prosper, and to thank John for such an enjoyable and informative day. (HP)

Bird List (MH)

1. Canada goose
2. Mallard
3. Mandarin
4. Pheasant
5. Great crested grebe
6. Cormorant
7. Common buzzard
8. Sparrowhawk/kestrel??
9. Coot
10. Lesser black-backed gull
11. Stock dove
12. Woodpigeon
13. Collared dove
14. Great spotted woodpecker
15. Wren
16. Dunnock
17. Robin
18. Blackbird
19. Willow warbler
20. Chiffchaff
21. Blackcap
22. Long-tailed tit
23. Coal tit
24. Blue tit
25. Great tit
26. Treecreeper
27. Nuthatch
28. Jay
29. Jackdaw
30. Carrion crow
31. Chaffinch
32. Goldfinch
33. Bullfinch
34. Reed bunting

Also heard: green woodpecker and sedge warbler.

Butterflies: brimstone, small tortoiseshell, peacock, orange tip, small white.

Marbury Country Park 12.04.16

Overcast grey day (again!); threat of rain not materialising; getting progressively warmer

A good turnout of TT birders convened in the main Country Park car park wondering about the conflicting weather reports for the morning. But any pessimism was soon forgotten as they were greeted by the continuous and heartening chorus of woodland birds ( a wall of avian sound) which stayed with the group throughout the morning. Flitting from tree to tree were long-tailed, great and blue tits and blackbirds and then the first sighting of a swallow – a good start.

Passing the busy construction site from which the new wardens accommodation and toilets are fast appearing, the group headed down towards the western end of Budworth Mere with  sightings of woodland friends everywhere including robins, a chiffchaff and jays galore. Then overhead the appearance of a large dark raptor – buzzard size but not buzzard shape, a sparrowhawk perhaps, the jury remains out!

Reports of the presence of at least 10 little gulls on the Mere the previous day gave a keen edge to the examination of the water surface and far banks but alas no sightings! (Other experienced birdwatchers encountered along the Mere-side walk reported a similar absence – clearly the gulls had moved on.) However the Mere did yield black-headed gulls, tufted ducks, mallard, gadwall, shelduck and great crested grebes in their wonderful summer plumage, and along the far banks a lesser black-backed gull, a cormorant and grey herons. By the westernmost hide, some members of the group were lucky to see two grey wagtails down below the hide. And over the Mere flew scores of sand martins interspersed with house martins, first sightings of the year for many of the group.

Continuing along the Mere-side footpath and then the Forge Brook footpath, members continued to be entertained by excellent sightings of a blackcap, willow warblers, numerous nuthatches, goldfinches, courting wrens, songthrushes, more jays, a buzzard taking a well-earned rest on a tree branch and (joy!) goldcrests.

Following the splitting up of the group as some members were faced with the expiration of their car parking tickets, the main caucus ploughed on to the canal footbridge where a nesting buzzard was spotted in the nearby trees, and then onwards to Marbury Lane where the second blackcap of the morning was spotted by some.

With water levels at Haydn’s Pool somewhat higher than usual, mute swans, two oystercatchers, teal, a little grebe and shovelers were welcome sightings, supplemented by stock doves in the far trees and bullfinches and goldfinches in the trees by the hide.

Yet again the “water rail bridge” on Marbury Lane provided no water rails to observe or hear, but the disappointment was easily outweighed by a flurry of great spotted woodpeckers flying from tree to tree (some courting?) along the footpath to Neumann’s Flash. The Flash itself revealed great crested grebe, tufted duck, shelduck, gadwall, coots and moorhen, a nesting Canada goose and a “skulking” grey heron, and a fleeting glimpse of a reed bunting in the nearby reeds. Two car park returnees picked up these sightings independently and also reported hearing the yaffle of green woodpeckers in addition to the drumming of their bigger cousins. (SC)

Bird list (BP):

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Greylag Goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Gadwall
  10. Mallard
  11. Shoveler
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Buzzard
  14. Pheasant
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Oystercatcher
  18. Black-headed Gull
  19. Wood Pigeon
  20. Sand Martin
  21. Swallow
  22. House Martin
  23. Grey Wagtail
  24. Wren
  25. Dunnock
  26. Blackbird
  27. Song Thrush
  28. Robin
  29. Blackcap
  30. Chiffchaff
  31. Willow Warbler
  32. Goldcrest
  33. Long-tailed Tit
  34. Great Tit
  35. Blue Tit
  36. Nuthatch
  37. Jay
  38. Magpie
  39. Jackdaw
  40. Carrion Crow
  41. Goldfinch

Trans-Pennine Trail

Weather: 8 degrees, bright with intermittent sunny spells

Nineteen TT birders met at the Henshall Lane Car Park, many arriving quite early for the 10.00am start keen to avoid the most puddly bits of the car park into which we just about all squeezed (not the puddles). Clive gave his briefing to the backdrop of a chiffchaff singing its heart out – a lovely introduction to the summer term’s birding

As we set off in the usual easterly direction, along the trail a greenfinch was heard singing but was not seen. Almost immediately, we had an excellent close view of a yellowhammer in a bush close to the path. It seemed oblivious to us all watching it and stayed quite still in the bush for some time. The lovely song of a mistle thrush was heard next as it sang from the top of a tree quite distant to our left, and the group remarked upon how well the song carried across the fields. – It deserves better than its Latin name Turdus viscivorus.

Willow warblers have returned from sub-Saharan Africa and their sweet cascading song followed us as we moved onwards. We stopped to watch two grey partridge on our right, a lapwing mobbing a crow and a small flock of about 20 linnets – oh, and a couple more yellowhammer. A skylark climbed higher and higher singing all the time.

We stopped for some time looking at a bird sitting in a hole in a tree trunk some distance away. In the past this has been a little owl site, and in turn we identified it as a little owl , a kestrel and a buzzard. Eventually it flew as one of our group decided to take a closer look – it had been a kestrel having a mid morning rest! There was much debate and thumbing of pocket bird books over the identity of a pale-fronted bird – one of a group of three – close to the top of a tree some distance away, and we opted eventually for a female linnet . We also spotted a solitary swallow. Oh yes, and three more yellowhammer, again one very close by.

Arriving at the path where the right turn takes us up to the canal, we decided just to retrace our steps. The trail was busy today – we had a large group of walkers from the Wirral who were clearly lost, cyclists with no bells (but squeaky brakes ), runners, pushchairs and horses. It was however an excellent morning’s birding and will surely be remembered as ‘Yellowhammer Day’. Many of the group repaired to the Rope and Anchor for lunch , the quality of which I cannot review as I had to return home. DC (Lunch was good, and from the comfort of the dining room, we were able to add a colourful Goldfinch to the day list. Ed.)

Footnote – while writing this I have a male chaffinch tapping at my study window – why do they do this? – please tell me next week at Marbury !

Bird List (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Mallard
  3. Buzzard
  4. Kestrel
  5. Grey Partridge
  6. Pheasant
  7. Lapwing
  8. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  9. Stock Dove
  10. Woodpigeon
  11. Skylark
  12. Swallow
  13. Blackbird
  14. Song Thrush
  15. Mistle Thrush
  16. Wren
  17. Dunnock
  18. Robin
  19. Chiff Chaff
  20. Willow Warbler
  21. Long-tailed Tit
  22. Blue Tit
  23. Great Tit
  24. Magpie
  25. Jackdaw
  26. Carrion Crow
  27. Chaffinch
  28. Goldfinch
  29. Linnet
  30. Yellowhammer
  31. Reed Bunting