Leighton Moss 21.06.16

Overcast at first, but increasingly sunny and warm as the day progressed

A baker’s dozen of the Team met up in Lilian’s Hide at the start of our annual visit to this RSPB site, some having first tried out the new Skytower which affords good views across the marshes and allowed sightings of Reed Buntings in the vegetation below. With little to see from the hide itself, apart from a small group of Teal, eventually identified by their size as much as colouration at this time of year, it was decided to press on to the Causeway Hide. A new boardwalk through the reed beds yielded plenty of bird song, for example with a Willow Warbler giving a lusty performance, but no sightings until our attention was drawn skywards by the cries of three or four Buzzard which were wheeling overhead with at least one of their number coming under attack from some crows.

From the Causeway Hide we had good views of a pair of Mute Swans sailing elegantly across the water with their family of five or six cygnets all in a neat line. We had distant views of one of the site’s Marsh Harriers patrolling the reeds and also of a lone Kestrel perched on a tree across the lake and brightly light up by the sun that was now breaking through the earlier heavy cloud. Our attention was next drawn to a solitary wader on one of the islands. After much squinting down binoculars and consulting of books, it was eventually decided that this must be a Green Sandpiper. A Commotion of Coots then crossed purposefully before us, looking for all the world as though they were about to gang up on some poor unfortunate victim, but before anything transpired most of us decided to strike out for the Lower Hide as a final destination before lunch. Whether the 800m trek was worth it was a matter of debate. Both along the track and then through the woods we could hear a constant chorus of birdsong, but due to the height of the reeds and the dense foliage of the trees sightings were few and far between. It was a good test for the ear, however, and both reed and sedge warbler were identified and later Chiffchaff, Pheasant and Wren were similarly noted.

At the Lower Hide there was little new to see, although a Great Crested Grebe sitting on its nest at the edge of the reed bed was spotted, and after a fairly brief sojourn the party set back off towards the VC and lunch. Lunch in front of the feeding station was a companionable affair in many senses, with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Nuthatch and others taking their fill from the well-stocked feeders and a solitary Robin boldly trying to share some of the Team’s heartier food.

Pressing on after lunch, we headed for the Grisedale Hide which at first seemed as though we would add nothing to our count; so empty did the pools and roadbeds appear. However, having settled down, patience was eventually rewarded as a Marsh Harrier was spotted doing a fly-past over the reeds. The same (?) bird returned a few minutes later flying even closer to the hide and affording us magnificent views of its bright orangey-gold head. A third and final appearance ended with the bird dropping on to some small prey, (unfortunately?) out of our sight. For several minutes nothing more was seen, until the bird briefly bounced up to hover over the kill, which by this time had attracted a couple of Carrion Crow in search of a few scraps. Eventually, the Harrier departed and our attention was drawn to less majestic examples of avian life as determined efforts led to the identification of both Reed and Sedge Warblers that were seen flitting up and down amongst the bushes and reeds. The sight of three deer that seemed to rise up out of the marsh completed a half-hour session that had turned out to be remarkably rewarding and filled the group with enthusiasm for a last sally to the Eric Morecambe Hide.

IMG_2364Here our rewards were almost immediate: a Little Egret, Redshank and Oystercatcher were all seen more or less upon entry to the hide and before long Bar-tailed Godwits (in large numbers), Shelduck and Black-headed Gulls were added to our list. Continued scanning of the expanse of water before the hide eventually revealed the presence of a pair of Avocets and soon afterwards these stately birds rose up and flew across in front of the hide, calling as they went.

With time beginning to press, there was some discussion as to whether to call in at Warton Crag in search of the Peregrine that usually has its nest there. Most of the Team decided to do so and were rewarded with excellent views of an adult bird and two youngsters who were preening themselves on the very edge of their nest, some ten feet or so down from the top of the crag. This turned out to be an excellent conclusion to what had been in the end a very rewarding day in all respects.

Bird List (BP)

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Little Egret
  5. Grey Heron
  6. Greylag Goose
  7. Shelduck
  8. Teal
  9. Mallard
  10. Tufted Duck
  11. Marsh Harrier
  12. Buzzard
  13. Kestrel
  14. Peregrine
  15. Pheasant
  16. Moorhen
  17. Coot
  18. Oystercatcher
  19. Avocet
  20. Lapwing
  21. Bar-tailed Godwit
  22. Redshank
  23. Green Sandpiper
  24. Black-headed Gull
  25. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  26. Wood Pigeon
  27. Swift
  28. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  29. Swallow
  30. House Martin
  31. Pied Wagtail
  32. Wren
  33. Dunnock
  34. Robin
  35. Blackbird
  36. Sedge Warbler
  37. Reed Warbler
  38. Whitethroat
  39. Chiffchaff
  40. Willow Warbler
  41. Long-tailed Tit
  42. Great Tit
  43. Blue Tit
  44. Nuthatch
  45. Magpie
  46. Jackdaw
  47. Carrion Crow
  48. Chaffinch
  49. Goldfinch
  50. Redpoll
  51. Bullfinch
  52. Reed Bunting

Windy Bank Wood 14.06.16

Team Tuesday abandons the Arc and wanders about Windy Bank Wood…

It was plain to see that for once, and only once, in the Twelve years since the formation of Team Tuesday that we would have to abandon a planned wander about the byways for the rain fell in almost biblical proportions as we gathered in the car park at Bents illustrious garden centre—yes it looked that Windy Bank Wood, our chosen venue for the day would have to be left to its own devices!

A quick discussion led to a clear majority vote for a de-brief in the pets’  corner cafe rather than continuing with the walk…. yet even as the rain was washing away our sensible option for the day there were rumblings that perhaps some of our gathering may yet choose a rain-blessed trundle about a certain person’s blessed Moss-land territory!

Coffee, conversation and the odd scone then took precedence whilst the rain pounded down from Atlantic-enriched clouds, which seemed utterly determined to rob even those who might yet have chosen to take their binoculars out into the equivalent of a super efficient car-wash.

Then, as our gathering are well aware, the old adage came into play ‘Time is a Great Healer’ –  thus after but one half-hour all but three of our party found themselves outside and before any change of heart could even think of touching our horizon we were off…OystercatcherSwallow, Pied Wagtail, Cormorant, Collared Dove, etc. were then soon being scribed into the memory of our day’s chosen recorder…showing that a double figure tally was within our grasp—whatever the weather!

The bridge over the Glaze then gave a reasonable vantage point for our now fully enthused group of birdwatchers and from here House Martin, Song Thrush and Lapwing rapidly moved our list into double figures.

We then set off along the track that leads to the hidden gem of Windy Bank Wood noting Kestrel, Sand Martin and perhaps more importantly we realised the fact that the rain had stopped! – not a particularly blazing day in June I admit, but certainly by then a DRY one!

The now maturing plantations of trees carefully created by the Forestry Commission (whose site this is) looked lush and healthy whilst the wildflower meadows brimmed with IMG_2356a wide variety of plants that no doubt served a healthy insect life—although admittedly on this soggy day we were not blessed with the usual show of Dragonflies and Butterflies that we have encountered on such visits in the past. (The positive taken from this being that we also did not encounter those rascals of summer—Horseflies—‘every cloud…..’).

Willow Warbler song, although at this point in the busy breeding season not in abundance, was still carried in the air by the odd songster whilst a few Common Whitethroat thrashed away at their scratchy tune thus giving an assurance to us humankind that inspite of the weather our summer migrants were stoically soldiering on with their efforts to bring on the next generation.

We also gained the odd snatch of song from a couple of Blackcap and as a real bonus a Garden Warbler, although proving determinedly camera shy (when are they not some were heard to say), gave enough of its repertoire to allow a compare and contrast session betwixt these similar sounding sylvan Warblers.

We then ambled onward and soon regained our point of entry into this tranquil reserve after which we plodded on back to base pausing on the Bridge from which we happily noted our seasonal dragonfly treat — a number of Banded Demoiselle which gave a much needed blaze of colour to what had been a leaden-skyed day.

Fond farewells then rung in the air as the ever resilient ‘TT Birders’ celebrated the end of another great little amble about someone’s local patch. (DS)

Bird List (DS)

  1. Mallard
  2. Comorant
  3. Pheasant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Buzzard
  6. Kestrel
  7. Moorhens
  8. Oystercatcher
  9. Lapwing
  10. Black-Headed Gull
  11. Lesser Black-Back Gull
  12. Feral Pigeon
  13. Stock Dove
  14. Wood Pigeon
  15. Collared Dove
  16. Swift
  17. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  18. Sand Martin
  19. Swallow
  20. House Martin
  21. Pied Wagtail
  22. Song Thrush
  23. Chiffchaff
  24. Great Tit
  25. Blue Tit
  26. Wren
  27. Dunnock
  28. Robin
  29. Missile Thrush
  30. Garden Warbler
  31. Blackcap
  32. Willow Warbler
  33. Whitethroat
  34. Coal Tit
  35. Long-tailed Tit
  36. Magpie
  37. Jackdaw
  38. Carrion Crow
  39. Starling
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Linnet
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Jay
  45. Goldcrest
  46. Blackbird

Conwy Nature Reserve 07.06.16

Mainly overcast, warm and humid, sharp shower later

A large group of the team, plus a few friends, gathered at this very easy-to-find RSPB site – a first visit for some – and, after a short parley to agree a route to take in the numerous hides, set off for the Ty Gwylio (The Look Out) which gave views across the western lake. The incoming tide had not yet begun to move birds onto the reserve and at first they were not present in such large numbers as later in the day, so for the moment we had to content ourselves with the odd oystercatcher, canada geese, coots, mute swans,  shelduck and some rather washed-out looking tufted ducks. However, there were distant views of the heronry on the far side of the estuary, which seemed largely to have been taken over by little egrets now that their original occupants had fledged their young, a small number of starlings were seen in the distance and, all of a sudden, we became aware of a couple of hares that we staring out from the vegetation on the far side of the lake.

Pressing on along a broadwalk through the reed bed, the raucous song of reed warblers was heard, but sightings of these elusive birds were made only by a lucky few of the group. _MG_0017At the large Tal-y-fan hide we were entertained by the sight of a Great Crested Grebe feeding one of its young, distinctive with its black and white, almost zebra-like colouration up its neck. Egrets, herons, teal and oystercatchers were present, but a solitary, resting wader attracted attention, as we and one of the site volunteers sought to identify it. After much discussion, the consensus settled on common sandpiper, although a white-ringed eye continued to suggest that perhaps it just might have been a green sandpiper: if only it had stood up before we left!

Enroute to the Carneddau hide, we noted art works, woodland birds drawn in by some feeders, and flora, including a spectacular bee orchid _MG_0084which really lived up to its name, looking for all the world like a flower on which a bee had settled. From the hide itself we had good views of more water birds, including a solitary(!)  black-headed gull, and a trio of curlew did a fly past. However, with clouds beginning to build up, both to the east and west, we decided to take an early break for lunch back at the visitor centre.

After lunch we set off on the path along the estuary, where the sandbanks noted by some members of the group earlier in the day were now completely covered by water, and with a fine, but now misty view of the castle behind us. Along the track there was plenty of activity, both on the land-side, with sparrows flitting back and forth in the undergrowth and coming out on to the path to peck at grit, and on the water-side where a pied wagtail was spotted feeding its youngster. At the Benarth hide we had excellent views of large numbers of oystercatchers, all now chased off the estuary by the tide, as well of herons, both young and mature birds, and little egrets moving elegantly through the shallow water, their long plumes blowing in the breeze. Our attention was drawn away from paper or plastic bags (left by cormorants or shags? – see Christopher Isherwood Poems Past and Present, 1959) to a redshank hopping awkwardly along the shoreline. The awkwardness was eventually explained by the realisation that this unfortunate bird appeared to have lost one leg. Thankfully its disability didn’t appear to have affected it too much, as it seemed to be feeding well and without great difficulty. A threat, unseen by us, put all the oystercatchers and even several of the herons into the air, and a solitary snipe also flew across in front of the hide at the same moment.

At this point, the lake before us showed the unmistakable signs of the coming of rain, which soon became quite heavy. This caused the group to split into two, with the ‘wise’ reaching for their waterproofs and to set to continue their circumnavigation of the reserve, whilst the ‘others’ beat hasty retreats back towards the carpark. Pressing on along the Ganol trail, at one point through a meadow of orchids, we paused only at the Vardre viewpoint, noting large numbers of canada geese on the shore and a few ducks sheltering in the lee of the island in front of us, before we finally reached the visitor centre, more or less as the rain ceased.

Light refreshments in i siop goffi before the journey home completed, for many of the team, an excellent day out at a site well worth a return visit.

(All photos above JH)

Bird List (BP)

  1. Great crested Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Little Egret
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Greylag Goose
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Teal
  10. Mallard
  11. Pochard
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Moorhen
  14. Coot
  15. Oystercatcher
  16. Lapwing
  17. Snipe
  18. Curlew
  19. Redshank
  20. Common Sandpiper
  21. Black-headed Gull
  22. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  23. Herring Gull
  24. Feral Dove
  25. Woodpigeon
  26. Swift
  27. Swallow
  28. House Martin
  29. Pied Wagtail
  30. Dunnock
  31. Robin
  32. Blackbird
  33. Song Thrush
  34. Reed Warbler
  35. Chiff Chaff (heard)
  36. Willow Warbler
  37. Great Tit
  38. Blue Tit
  39. Magpie
  40. Carrion Crow
  41. Starling
  42. House Sparrow
  43. Tree Sparrow
  44. Greenfinch
  45. Goldfinch
  46. Reed Bunting

Butterflies: Speckled Wood, Cinnabar Moth