Marsh side and Mere Sands Wood 18.10.16

Overcast, breezy and very wet later

A small, but determined group met on a wind-swept car park at Marshside just after 10.30 and, blown along by a strong breeze, promptly repaired to the shelter of the nearby Visitor Centre. Here we were greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful pair of RSPB volunteers, who immediately directed our attention to a trio of Cattle Egrets (poking in the soft earth amongst the cattle!) and to a lone Ross’s Goose, apparently a regular winter visitor, whose white plumage was clearly visible, as was, occasionally, its bright orange beak. The chatter and general disturbance occasioned by our arrival was bemoaned (half-seriously?) by a couple of other birders, but the volunteers set them straight, pointing out that this was a VC and not a hide as such, thus some level of ‘noise’ was to be expected, at which the pair of them beat a hasty retreat for other quarters. The number of birds showing themselves on the marsh was less than on previous visits, but nonetheless we spent a rewarding hour or so scanning the landscape before us and gradually adding to our list with sightings of Redshank, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwing, amongst others.

Preparing ourselves for the icy blast coming off the sea with the incoming tide, we set off for the lower hide, pausing at the first screen on the corner of Marshide Road and Marine Drive where  a large number of Godwits were at rest facing into the wind on the far side of the pool. Pressing on, we again sort refuge from the strong breeze in the lower hide, from where we enjoyed close views of yet more Godwits, Redshank, a lone Pintail and a few Dunlins, bobbing and probing in the mud just in front of the hide.

After a while, ‘Time for lunch’ was the cry, taken literally by a raptor that had just been spotted, hunkered down on a low ridge on the far side of the pool, and which took off and swooped onto its unfortunate prey, right in front of us. It had all happened so quickly that identification was a matter of some discussion; merlin or sparrow hawk? Eventually a consensus emerged for the latter, at which point we did finally head off back towards the cars. Having decided against a session trying to spot activity along the shoreline, due to the strength of the wind which was buffeting us and a couple of Skylarks that rose bravely skywards, we headed for our next destination: Mere Sands Wood.

Lunch in the lecture room at the Visitor Centre at MSW was the usual convivial affair, but unfortunately, as we set out on our circuit round the site, the threatened rain finally arrived and for the rest of the afternoon just got heavier and heavier. Hardy souls that we are, however, we pressed on, visiting all the hides around the main lake. We added Little Grebe, Coot and Cormorant, amongst others, to our list, and at least some spirits were raised with brief views, first of a Kingfisher skimming across the water, then later of a Water Rail plodding along the reeds at the water’s edge: proof that in even the least promising of conditions there can be something to be enjoyed!

Bird List (BP)


  1. Cormorant
  2. Heron
  3. Little Egret
  4. Cattle Egret
  5. Pink-footed Goose
  6. Ross’ Goose
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Wigeon
  10. Gadwall
  11. Teal
  12. Mallard
  13. Pintail
  14. Shoveler
  15. Sparrowhawk
  16. Kestrel
  17. Moorhen
  18. Lapwing
  19. Black-tailed Godwit
  20. Bar-tailed Godwit
  21. Curlew
  22. Redshank
  23. Dunlin
  24. Black-headed Gull
  25. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  26. Dunnock
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion Crow

Mere Sands Wood

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Heron
  4. Greylag Goose
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Teal
  7. Mallard
  8. Shoveler
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Water Rail
  11. Coot
  12. Black-headed Gull
  13. Wood Pigeon
  14. Kingfisher
  15. Jackdaw

Pennington Flash 11.10.16

Cold, overcast and very still
Eleven members of the Team met up by the side of the lake with a few hats, scarves and gloves showing, to indicate a drop in the temperature for birdwatching Tuesdays. Usual suspects were soon catalogued, including Canada geese, black headed gulls, tufties, mallard and mute swans, all before moving on to the feeders by the information centre. Mistle thrush, nuthatch, magpie and great tit were quickly added before walking on to Pengy’s Hide. Here, gadwall and moorhen were soon spotted and among the distraction of falling Autumn leaves robin and dunnock were noted. At Bunting Hide the feeders provided plenty of food for the squirrels, mallard, chaffinch, willow tit, bullfinch, coal tit and moorhen, among others.
Wandering anti-clockwise, the Teal Hide lived up to its name together with sightings of wigeon, little grebe, shoveler and a grey heron and a gentle stroll along a wooded path gave frustrating views of a warbler which we were unable to identify.
A slight detour to the canal found one member of Team Tuesday within sight of a flash of blue, sadly not seen by anyone else and as the wind made itself known on this stretch we felt disinclined to linger.
Sightings over the flash added pochard, great crested grebe and a lesser black-backed gull and at Ramsdale Hide the sun beamed down on two snipe who were happily feeding in the shallows. The Tom Edmondson Hide added splashing mallards and onto Horrocks Hide which delivered delightful views of a wren and another snipe. A skein of pink-footed geese high in the sky caught our attention for five minutes as it drew nearer and nearer to the flash, would they land, they thought about it, but remained on a track heading elsewhere as indeed were Team Tuesday after a satisfying morning’s wander. (HP)

Bird List (RD)

1. Nuthatch
2.  Herring Gull
3.  Black-headed Gull
4.  Lesser Black-backed Gull
5.  Canadian Goose
6.  Moorhen
7.  Mallard
8.  Great-crested Grebe
9.  Coot
10.Tufted Duck
11. Grey Heron
12. Mute Swan
13. Woodpidgeon
14. Pied Wagtail
15. Magpie
16. Carrion Crow
17. Mistle Thrush
18. Blackbird
19. Robin
20. Great Tit
21. Dunnock
22. Blue Tit
23. Gadwall
24. Willow Tit
25. Coal Tit
26. Chaffinch
27. Bullfinch
28. Widgeon
29. Shoveler
30. Teal
31. Little Grebe
32. Cormorant
33. Pochard
34. Jay
35. Lapwing
36. Snipe
37. Wren

Photos JH

Chat Moss 04.10.16


Bright, sunny and fresh

The disappointment was palpable—it oozed in waves from the normally upbeat Team Tuesday, and I can honestly say that I have never experienced this show of almost utter dejection emanating from one of our gatherings in the twelve or so years that we have wandered about in search of birds —- “oh look over there a beautiful Pied Wagtail someone was heard to say and as all eyes turned to check this our first bird record of the day, ALL the angst wrt the cafe being closed melted away!

Thus with Motacilla alba yarrellii we launched off onto yet another mossland wander where each bird has to be gained with the maximum of effort, but all the more rewarding for being so very elusive, it is generally agreed by our stoic team.

The amble about the pools gained a few waterfowl for our tally with Kestrel and Sparrowhawk inducing our gaze away from the water and into a bright fresh blue autumnal sky.

Then it was time for the Team to keep their attention focused upon an adjacent fallow field which is at present blessed with quite a swathe of marsh, which it was soon revealed (owing to a pair of size twelve wellys and long legs to match) to be holding least twenty five Snipe plus a couple of Meadow Pipit.

Then it was time for all to enter into that comfort zone of one leg put conversationally in front of the other as we made our way out onto the moss picking up a mixed flock of titmice which were, as far as the soundscape was concerned, dominated by the Long Tailed Tit, some of which were clearly seen as they bounced across a gap in the tree-line.

Then before we knew what we were doing Raspberry Lane drew us in an eastward direction—a path we have not traditionally trod, but hey-ho Chat Moss does this to you and whatever path we were to take there was bound to be some interest … provided we gave it maximum footfall.

Goldfinch and Linnet perched upon some wires were our first distraction but the birds perhaps winning our affection for this part of our trek were the Mistle Thrush bathing in a puddle for all to see—have they no shame these handsome birds?

We then hit Fiddlers Lane down which we moved at quite a rapid pace for admittedly there was little to see apart from a few Carrion Crow and some indecipherable small brown birds (most likely Meadow Pipit and Skylark), but our direction north more or less guaranteed a few species we could note with relative ease … inspite of the abundance of stubble that enables birds to pick and choose areas that could easily be beyond our sight.

Chaffinch pink-pinked onto our total for the day as did a lone Yellowhammer which owing to this day’s blessed bright sunshine gave not the best view we have had of this iconic farmland bird nor did the Goldcrest which called enough for identification but posed not one jot for admiring views.

A flock of Lapwing then made an effort to show themselves to us as they nervously ebbed and flowed above a distant marshy area of a large field, which they shared with quite a sizeable flock of Starling, many of which by this time of the year could easily be migrants from Europe.

At this point we could easily have retreated back to base but as there was a promise of an outside chance of seeing a bird we often associate on our mossland travels all put an extra stride or so into the day, and were duly furnished with a brief encounter with a covey of Grey Partridge.

The withdrawal then took place but this proved not to be a rout for instead of turning south when we eventually hit Cutnook Lane we headed north which led us to the now defunct Peat extraction site over which I’m afraid on this visit gave nothing but open vistas to Scout Moor and Winter Hill, but at least on the adjacent pools we noted a small flock of Teal—these birds closing our list for the day thus enabling our well earned retreat to base—Chat Moss conquered once more by TT Birders. (DS)


Bird List (RD)

1. Sparrowhawk
2.Tufted Duck
12.Stock dove
13.Song thrush
16.Meadow pipit
19.Blue tit
20.Great tit
21.Long tailed tit
24.Mistle thrush
25.Carrion Crow
26.Sky lark
30.Grey wagtail
31.Grey partridge
33.Black headed gull

Photos JH