Hale 24.05.16

Bright  sunny late spring day

 A good turnout of eager birders assembled by St Mary’s Church marvelling at the clear blue sky and keen to take advantage of excellent spotting conditions. We were immediately greeted by sightings of goldfinch and greenfinch and a buzzard wheeling high above.

Turning onto Within Way and heading down to the River Mersey, the hedges were alive with activity – chaffinch, goldfinch, dunnock, a wren scurrying around in the undergrowth, and the distinctive scratchy warble soon revealing whitethroat. Skylarks rose above and fell into the field of rape and house martins swooped back and forwards.  Far to the west on Decoy Marsh could be seen flocks of Canada geese and shelduck, lapwing and, within the adjoining trees, a network of cormorant nests. From across the adjoining fields could be heard the call of pheasants and quail but unfortunately no sightings.

Reaching the bank of the Mersey, the incoming tide was gradually pushing Canada geese, oystercatchers, cormorant, shelduck, herring gulls, lesser black-backed gulls and curlew closer to the shore. In the intervening reeds, sedge and reed warblers sand loudly and one or two finally revealed themselves, while a number of reed buntings appeared perched precariously at the top of swaying reeds.


Walking along the bank to Hale Head and the lighthouse, a male linnet appeared and perched in the bushes adjoining the footpath showing off its bright red plumage. And in the field to the right, a pair of grey partridge mooched about near to the footpath offering  uncharacteristically close examination of these handsome birds.

With the tide pushing close to the riverbank, sharp-eyed members of the group were able to pick out ringed plover and dunlin searching for lunch. Finally picking up swallows swooping around the lighthouse and oystercatchers and ringed plover in the bay beyond, the group themselves felt the need for lunch and marched back along Lighthouse Road and Church Lane to the cars. But before our final departure, we were treated to sightings of house sparrows, chaffinches, collared doves and a small flock of starlings around the houses on Church Lane.(SC)

Bird list (MH)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Shelduck
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Grey partridge
  6. Cormorant
  7. Grey heron
  8. Common buzzard
  9. Oystercatcher
  10. Ringed plover
  11. Lapwing
  12. Dunlin
  13. Curlew
  14. Herring gull
  15. Lesser black-backed gull
  16. Woodpigeon
  17. Collared dove
  18. Feral pigeon
  19. Swift
  20. Skylark
  21. Swallow
  22. House martin
  23. Wren
  24. Dunnock
  25. Robin
  26. Blackbird
  27. Sedge warbler
  28. Reed warbler
  29. Whitethroat
  30. Blue tit
  31. Great tit
  32. Starling
  33. Magpie
  34. Carrion crow
  35. House sparrow
  36. Chaffinch
  37. Greenfinch
  38. Goldfinch
  39. Linnet
  40. Reed bunting

Plus butterflies: small white, large white, brimstone, peacock, orange tip, holly blue, small tortoiseshell


Brockholes 17.05.16

Sunny intervals and getting warmer

The Team met promptly at 10.30 at the impressive Visitor CentreIMG_2308 at Brockholes, glad that the cold of the previous day was just a memory, and with many of us looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with this varied site. Having agreed to make two circuits of different parts of the reserve, one before and one after lunch, we set forth heading for the River Ribble. Here our first treat was the sight of four pairs of Goosander slowly making their way up river and whilst most of us were still taking that in, a couple of the Team were treated to the lightning blue flash of a passing Kingfisher. Unfortunately this magnificent bird did not come to rest anywhere near so this had to be our only encounter. Trees now heavily covered with foliage made sighting the woodland birds that were in full voice exceedingly difficult, but an obliging Chiff-chaff took up a prominent position allowing clear identification, a Song Thrush performed and determined eyes also made out a pair of Blackcaps and a Whitethroat.

A pause at the lower hide looking over Meadow Lake, less than inviting due to a lack of benches, showed active Lapwings, plenty of Black-headed Gulls, but not a lot else. However, during our progress along the wooded track back towards the car park (and lunch) we slowly began to add to our list of woodland birds with Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Long-tailed Tits spotted flitting from one side of the path to the other. From the Lower hide looking out across Number One Pit we had good views of a couple of Ringed Plovers, their bright orange bills showing clearly in the sunshine, and also of a solitary Redshank. Although birds were not present in large numbers, there was a good variety noted including Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Heron, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe and Mute Swan. Near the VC, a newly constructed walkway passed through the reeds at the side of the lake and here we were treated to the sound, but not the sight, of a very vocal Reed Warbler. (This particular bird, or one of its fellows, was spotted by some of the more punctual members of the group after lunch.)

For our afternoon session we picked up more or less where we had left off at The Lookout, a new and really rather comfortable hide, where two particular treats were in store: first a Common Sandpiper landed on a floating tank just feet away from the hide, before flying off and settling on a spit of land a bit further away, where it was soon joined by a Redshank and Ringed Plover, which gave an excellent opportunity to appreciate the relative differences in size of these less-than-common birds. The second treat was the unexpected appearance of a Hare which hopped round the corner of the sand martin wall and spent a minute or so ‘people watching’, perhaps only ten metres away, before deciding it didn’t like the look of what it saw and turning tail and disappearing back the way it had come. Although Sand Martins were in evidence, here as they had been elsewhere, skimming over the water, they didn’t seem particularly interested in the accommodation that was on offer, which did in truth look rather bleak and uninviting, reminiscent, at least to this writer, of some of those apartment blocks seen in former communist countries!

Continuing our progress into Boilton Wood we added little to the list, although a lusty Robin perched just near the path made sure that he was included and a skulking Pheasant made a brief appearance. There was plenty of bird song in the wood, but again sightings were few, except for a solitary Wren that was flitting about around a fallen tree trunk. Some of us glimpsed a Roe Deer passing through the dappled shade ahead of us, but it melted away and was lost from further view.

Turning back from Nook Pool, we headed once more for the river on our way back to the car park, and here we once more came across our Dopping of Gosander that had by now made their way round the big bend of the river. They seemed to be actively fishing, across the river from us, diving deep where the depth of the water was evidently greater, though with only a limited success which led sometimes to a falling out between them. There was plenty of other activity too, a Carrion Crow came down to the river’s edge for a wash, a pair of Gadwall swam past at a stately pace, yet another Heron (we had seen plenty during the course of the day, even one unusually high above us) flew past along the river before settling on the far bank, and an Oystercatcher was spotted probing for food on a shingle island out in the river.

At this point, with thoughts of rush-hour traffic in mind, it was decided to bring our day to an end, but the short walk back to the cars was marked by our first view of a Kestrel, determinedly hovering near the play area, and, for me, by a brief re-appearance of the Hare (I’d had nothing stronger than coffee all day – honest!).

Bird List (BP)

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Mute Swan
  5. Greylag Goose
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Gadwall
  8. Mallard
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Goosander
  11. Buzzard
  12. Kestrel
  13. Pheasant
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Oystercatcher
  17. Ringed Plover
  18. Lapwing
  19. Redshank
  20. Common Sandpiper
  21. Black-headed Gull
  22. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  23. Woodpigeon
  24. Kingfisher
  25. Sand Martin
  26. Pied Wagtail
  27. Wren
  28. Dunnock
  29. Robin
  30. Blackbird
  31. Song Thrush
  32. Reed Warbler
  33. Blackcap
  34. Chiffchaff
  35. Long-tailed Tit
  36. Great Tit
  37. Magpie
  38. Jackdaw
  39. Carrion Crow
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Goldfinch



Chat Moss and Little Wolden Moss 10.05.16

Overcast and poor light, with rain at the end

Having seen the start of a bird’s life-cycle a couple of weeks ago at Marshside, today were witnesses to its end as a determined female Peregrine dramatically plucked an unlucky Common Sandpiper from the shallow pools on Little Wolden Moss right before our eyes. However, this was just one moment of what, as Dave suggests in his lyrical account of our morning’s wanderings (4 miles, at a guess), was a truly memorable morning. Thanks as ever to Dave, and to Barbara and John for the list and the photos, respectively. (Ed.)

There are times (happily not so very few)

When with friends superlatives just won’t do:

This day was one such with Tuesday Crew,

When birds divine came sweetly to view.

The meet it started in ‘our’ cafe sublime,

Which Yvonne and Henry run so fine.

Brews and snacks set day off right,

Giving all an impetus to watch birds in flight.

A restlessness that Spring enhances,

Then moved attention to outside glances;

Thus open air was sought quite soon,

As Swallow awaited to make heart swoon.

The de-brief done, feet restlessly did tap

To explore the Fisheries’ myriad habitat;

Pools primarily set for fishing just right

Had been carefully designed for natural delight.

House and Sand Martin flicked about sky

As Pools and Fishermen we passed by;

Tufted Duck dived in water set quite deep

Over which a Mute Swan did serenely sweep.

This Oasis of nature in harmony with man

Then released us to follow our day’s easy plan;

Thus soon we paused at woodland quite near,

Willow Warbler, Song Thrush and Wren to hear.

Croxden Peat pools then gave two Common Tern,

Top ranking on our list did these beauties earn!

Yet soon when eyes so keen looked to the sky,

Ten Black Tailed Godwit for first place did vie.

At this point Day seemed as if so complete,

Yet there were still many a step left for our feet,

And ever westward we pushed without delay,

Whilst Whitethroat and Meadow Pipit came our way.

Next Lapwing with young hidden from sight,

Soon gave way to double Citrine delight,

For nicely in view, though quite distantly seen,

Were two Yellow Wagtail now turned Day Supreme.

Next, eyes were asked to perform a difficult task,

As we peered into stubble where a Curlew stood fast.

Ears also noted Blackcap rich song full of good cheer,

It seemed to be saying there’s yet more – no fear.

A Yellowhammer then uttered its dear ‘Cheesy’ song,

And all the while time flew as we pushed along.

A delay watching potatoes being planted with ease

Was soon overcome, when a Whimbrel did please.

Then last stop was made on Little Woolden Moss,

To see life’s balance on a single coin’s Toss,

As Peregrine in need of its next feathered meal,

Without rod a Common Sandpiper from water did Reel

Thus ended our sojourn on Mossland in Spring,

In which we had noted many a splendid thing,

A traipse in the rain was soon swept aside,

As we feasted on food that ‘our’ cafe did provide. (Dave Steel)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Grey Heron
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Teal
  7. Tufted Duck
  8. Buzzard
  9. Kestrel
  10. Peregrine
  11. Pheasant
  12. Moorhen
  13. Coot
  14. Oystercatcher
  15. Lapwing
  16. Black-tailed Godwit
  17. Whimbrel
  18. Curlew
  19. Common Sandpiper
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  22. Common Tern
  23. Feral Pigeon
  24. Woodpigeon
  25. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  26. Skylark
  27. Sand Martin
  28. House Martin
  29. Swallow
  30. Meadow Pipit
  31. Yellow Wagtail
  32. Pied Wagtail
  33. Blackbird
  34. Song Thrush
  35. Whitethroat
  36. Blackcap
  37. Chiffchaff
  38. Willow Warbler
  39. Robin
  40. Blue Tit
  41. Jay
  42. Magpie
  43. Carrion Crow
  44. House Sparrow
  45. Chaffinch
  46. Goldfinch
  47. Yellowhammer
  48. Reed Bunting

    A selection of John’s photos, plus a photo of an Edward VIII postbox, spotted by Roger and me in Cadishead en route to the birding rendezvous – like Peregrines, there aren’t many of them about!

Woolston Eyes 03.05.16

Overcast and windy at first, sunny and warm (!) later

The familiar setting of Weir Lane seemed slightly altered this bright May morning as I turned into it off the A57 for it resembled an overspill car-park, when an oversubscribed event takes place at a venue … and I just couldn’t wait to find out what this was …..

Ah then it came back to me …. I wasn’t here to saunter with ease about the Woolston Eyes Reserve as is my wont, for here assembled stood Team Tuesday raring to take me round the place … ready to offer help and advice such is their collective encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world!

In truth, I feel TT being such an accommodating and charitable group simply wished to delude me into thinking that I was once more ‘sort-of’ at the helm,  as in days of yore … I happily obliged them in their indulgence and off we marched to the weir.

Tufted Duck not yet bothering to engage with the breeding season (there is still plenty of time for them so early in May) dominated the open water of the basin, whilst a pair of Buzzard sauntered about the sky. A lone Pochard, a pair of Gadwall, a reed-hugging Moorhen and a Great Crested Grebe kept our scribe happily busy, but before the ink could dry on the ‘day-list’ we pushed on, for this Reserve had plenty more pen-draining birds to note! Whitethroat and Willow Warbler then reminded us that, despite of all assembled being clad in winter clothing, this was SPRING, and these much travelled migrants had once more pitched up on our shore ready to produce the next fresh faced generation, whatever the wondrous UK weather offered! A Cetti’s Warbler then tried its best to be heard; a feat not normally difficult for this preposterously loud yet skulking bird, but it was quite a distance away over on No3 bed, thus all considering it did what it says on the can – ‘this bird WILL be heard’. This once strictly continental bird then sparked a Positive/Negative discussion as to the fate of our UK bird population. Mr Doom and Gloom aka ‘me’ has ‘always’ been known by TT to bemoan the loss of so many birds in the UK (there should be 40 million more birds around today in the UK – and this loss is only in my lifetime) … yet here we were with a bird I had never encountered in this fair Isle when I was a lad thus in this instance we could say—phew we have a survival success whereby at least this and such as the Little Egret have expanded their range into the UK.

Lecture over, we headed to and soon gained the footbridge that leads onto No3 bed. Here we were piped on board by that most accomplished songster, the Blackcap. Several footfalls later and most of the team were able to gain views across the reedbeds of this ‘island of tranquilly’—well it certainly looked impressive, but as the air was bursting with the calls of the Black-Headed Gull breeding colony I could with ease be challenged about my description of this raucous sounding ‘tranquil’ place! The Morgan Hide then gave all shelter from that strange orb in the sky that had mysteriously appeared seemingly from nowhere this third of May … none had yet been able to ascribe a name to this heavenly body other than the fact that in the depths of our collective memories we were sure to unearth its name … one day.

_MG_0154The search was then on for more summer migrants, but first all assembled had to pause for a aw ain’t that cute’ moment as a pair of Greylag Geese paraded their goslings in front of the hide.
The call then went up that a pair of Black Necked Grebe had been noted out on the open water and all eyes moved into a ‘I must see these beauties’ mode.  Happily everyone connected with these showy birds who never fail to impress the retina with their extreme beauty.

A relaxed session of chat, snacking and sorties into bird identification then followed in which birds ranging from Little Grebe to Greenfinch were noted,with a brief pause from this being taken when Kieran, our very own No3 bed Bird Ringing expert, invited us to view a male Bullfinch that he had caught whilst carrying out his voluntary bird ringing work on this excellent reserve! (Giving a new meaning perhaps to ‘a bird in the hand’ for the Team! ed.)

Time,as it ever does, marched on, and we decided to retreat back to our cars, but this was not taken by a simple route for there was the ‘joy’ of trying to differentiate between the songs of Reed and Sedge Warbler … a lesson we all learnt from the elevated east hide! Then when it was suggested that we clear our minds (after this slightly confusing fusion of the two songs by setting a marching pace that Napoleon’s army would have been proud of when they too left a ‘difficult situation) all happily agreed, and off we set to Weir Lane – pausing for a non-event twitch – but at least we tried – and I’m sure that there will be other Whinchats! Bridge re-crossed, Team Tuesday moved happily back to base promising that they would reconvene on my Moss next week – yes one has to admit TT are martyrs to the cause! (Dave Steel)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Black-necked Grebe
  4. Cormorant
  5. Grey Heron
  6. Mute Swan
  7. Greylag Goose
  8. Canada Goose
  9. Shelduck
  10. Gadwall
  11. Mallard
  12. Pochard
  13. Tufted Duck
  14. Buzzard
  15. Kestrel
  16. Pheasant
  17. Moorhen
  18. Coot
  19. Lapwing
  20. Black-headed Gull
  21. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  22. Wood Pigeon
  23. Collared Dove
  24. Sand martin
  25. Swallow
  26. Dunnock
  27. Blackbird
  28. Sedge Warbler
  29. Whitethroat
  30. Blackcap
  31. Chiffchaff
  32. Willow Warbler
  33. Wren
  34. Robin
  35. Long-tailed Tit
  36. Blue Tit
  37. Great Tit
  38. Magpie
  39. Carrion Crow
  40. House Sparrow
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Greenfinch
  43. Bullfinch
  44. Reed Bunting

… and in addition to the butterflies shown below, a Comma was spotted.

(All photos by John Hancock)