Leighton Moss 28.03.17

Bright, sunny and warm of the time of year, rain later

Earlier in the year than usual the Team gathered outside the Visitor Centre at this premier RSPB just after 10.30am. First impressions were aural; the call of the first of many Chiffchaff, the whirring of a Greenfinch and the raucous song of a Robin all struck our ears, but eyes soon took over as Collared Dove, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and a solitary Redwing all presented themselves for our enjoyment in the vicinity of the feeding stations. Progress towards the Causeway Hide was slowed by attempts to spot another Chiffchaff high in the tree tops and, much lower down, to seek out a Cetti’s Warbler whose song burst out of a dense bush as we passed. Overhead, a Peregine circled, and on the reeds, a Reed Bunting dutifully presented itself.

In Causeway Hide we were treated to the first flypast of the day by a Marsh Harrier and some enjoyed the spectacle of a Great Crested Grebe that was having some difficulty in disposing of a rather large fish that it had caught, before it was apparently robbed of its prize by an aggressive Cormorant. Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Teal were all in evidence and a Little Grebe was glimpsed some distance off. Having decided to proceed onwards to Lower Hide, our progress was delayed by the reported sighting of Bearded Tits, busy at this time making their nests amongst the reeds, but sadly only a few were lucky enough to glimpse these elusive birds.

In twos and threes we pressed on along the woodland path, more Chiffchaff, friendly Pheasant (cock and hen) and Marsh Tits all showed themselves. At Lower Hide, a Marsh Harrier again performed for us, Lapwing displayed, a solitary pair of Canada Geese appeared, a Grey Heron flew in, a motionless Snipe was spotted at the edge of the reeds, and a pair of Goldeneye went through a bizarre mating ritual. Whilst the female watched, her head level with the water, the male circled round, twisting back his head and neck, and puffing out his chest. Then, in what seemed to be the climax, the male grabbed the female by the head, spun her round in the water a couple of times before mounting the by now giddy creature who disappeared momentarily beneath the water.

Exhausted just by watching this energetic spectacle, and beginning to feel pangs of hunger, the Team headed back to the VC for lunch. Collecting sandwiches from the cars, some of us heard the distinctive call of a Green Woodpecker, but this bird was evidently somewhere on the adjoining golf course and remained hidden from view. Post prandial visits to the Grisedale and Tim Jackson Hides afforded good views of more Shoveler and Teal, a lone Black-tailed Godwit, a Pintail and, fleetingly, of a Great White Egret. However, the most intriguing sight perhaps was that of a Little Egret fishing in the shallows: moving slowly forward, it jigged one of its legs about to stir up the mud and disturb prey which it then attempted to catch plunging its long beak forward into the water.

With time now beginning to press and sky darkening with the threat of rain, it was decided to drive on to the estuary hides. There further treats were in store, with views of Redshank, Oystercatcher and Avocet, and, for the second week running, of Mediterranean Gulls, with two birds  presenting themselves in virtual isolation on one of the small islands in front to the hides.

The first drops of rain falling on the windows of the Eric Morecambe hide prompted our departure, but even though the rain was becoming heavier, one final stop at Wharton Crag in search of the Peregrines that make their nest there was decided upon. At first only Jackdaws in considerable number were in noisy evidence, but just as some of the less stout-hearted had already got back into cars, movement was spotted and sharp eyes then made out a lone Peregrine whose blue-grey plumage blended in with the grey rock face, almost to the point of invisibility. Suitably buoyed, we did then at last head for home after a truly satisfying day’s birding.

Bird list (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Canada goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Pintail
  8. Shoveler
  9. Wigeon
  10. Teal
  11. Pochard
  12. Tufted duck
  13. Goldeneye
  14. Pheasant
  15. Little grebe
  16. Great crested grebe
  17. Cormorant
  18. Little egret
  19. Great white egret
  20. Grey heron
  21. Marsh harrier
  22. Common buzzard
  23. Peregrine falcon
  24. Moorhen
  25. Coot
  26. Oystercatcher
  27. Avocet
  28. Lapwing
  29. Redshank
  30. Black tailed godwit
  31. Snipe
  32. Black headed gull
  33. Mediterranean gull
  34. Lesser black backed gull
  35. Wood pigeon
  36. Collared dove
  37. Sand martin
  38. Dunnock
  39. Robin
  40. Song thrush
  41. Redwing
  42. Blackbird
  43. Cetti’s warbler
  44. Chiffchaff
  45. Goldcrest
  46. Wren
  47. Great tit
  48. Coal tit
  49. Blue tit
  50. Marsh tit
  51. Willow tit
  52. Long tailed tit
  53. Bearded tit
  54. Nuthatch
  55. Treecreeper
  56. Magpie
  57. Jackdaw
  58. Carrion crow
  59. Chaffinch
  60. Goldfinch
  61. Greenfinch
  62. Bullfinch
  63. Reed bunting

Mere Sands Wood and Marshside 20.03.17

Sunshine and a brisk wind
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and Team Tuesday were in fine spirits after negotiating the tight confines of the car park and the free thinking of the car park payment machine. At the feeding station a pheasant on one bird table and a mallard on the other were an unexpected combination, but it wasn’t long before reed buntings took over the breakfast menu and Team Tuesday were off.
The lakes at Mere Sands Wood were created from sand extraction during the 1970s and a woodland path surrounding them, with diversions to various hides was the planned route for the morning. At Marshall Hide an “army of cormorants” guarded the far flank although two little egrets could be seen, with shoveler, teal and shelduck showing as well. Two greylags flew in to join the Canada geese, tufted ducks and little grebe.
Looking out to the fields from the woods two red-legged partridge were spotted with their exotic markings showing well in the sunlight and in Redwing Hide the light proved to our advantage again giving close views of shoveler. At Kingfisher Hide the star turn was a . . .kingfisher. In no hurry to disappear it showed off its fishing skills, banging the fish against a branch before swallowing it head first. Herring and black-headed gulls were also added to the list.
On through the trees keen eyes spotted treecreeper, sparrowhawk and a great spotted woodpecker and at Mere End a male goldeneye dived for food as did Team Tuesday as they headed towards lunch. Venues were split between al fresco picnics, car park comforts and Marshside Visitor Centre’s welcoming chairs.
Re-convening at Marshside, we were greeted with a warm and knowledgeable welcome and soon avocet, pintail, and black-tailed godwit were being admired against a chorus of black-headed gulls while a keen eyed member of the group picked out the Mediterranean gull from the crowd. Along the front near Nell’s Hide a small group of pink-feet caught our attention and from the hide itself curlew and snipe rounded off a fine day’s birding. (HP)

Bird List (MH)

Mere Sands Wood

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Shelduck
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Shoveler
  7. Teal
  8. Tufted Duck
  9. Goldeneye
  10. Pheasant
  11. Red-legged Partridge
  12. Great crested Grebe
  13. Little Grebe
  14. Cormorant
  15. Little Egret
  16. Grey Heron
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Moorhen
  19. Coot
  20. Blacked-headed Gull
  21. Herring Gull
  22. Woodpiegeon
  23. Collared Dove
  24. Kingfisher
  25. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  26. Dunnock
  27. Robin
  28. Blackbird
  29. Long-tailed Tit
  30. Coal Tit
  31. Blue Tit
  32. Great Tit
  33. Treecreeper
  34. Jay
  35. Magpie
  36. Carrion Crow
  37. Jackdaw
  38. Chaffinch
  39. Goldfinch
  40. Bullfinch
  41. Reed Bunting


  1. Mute Swan
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Greylag Goose
  4. Pink-footed Goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Widgeon
  7. Mallard
  8. Gadwall
  9. Shoveler
  10. Pintail
  11. Teal
  12. Tufted Duck
  13. Pheasant
  14. Great Crested Grebe
  15. Little Grebe
  16. Little Egret
  17. Moorhen
  18. Coot
  19. Avocet
  20. Otstercatcher
  21. Lapwing
  22. Black-tailed Godwit
  23. Redshank
  24. Curlew
  25. Common Snipe
  26. Black-headed Gull
  27. Greater Black-backed Gull
  28. Mediterranean Gull
  29. Herring Gull
  30. Woodpigeon
  31. Skylark
  32. Starling
  33. Carrion Crow

(Photos DC)

Woolston Eyes 14.03.17

Overcast, mild with a splash of rain and a dash of sunshine

Quite a while before our ‘official’ start time most of the Team were on Weir Lane and more than ready to face this ‘Cusp of Spring’ visit to that hidden gem of a Reserve that lies but three miles from the heart of Warrington. Thus at the stroke of ten all happily trundled down to the basin area noting House Sparrow, Herring Gull and Collared Dove along the way. Then views out over this loop of the Mersey gave Tufted Duck, Pochard and a pair of Great Crested Grebe all species ensuring that our Woolston list would be of the ‘usual’ pen draining total.

The ‘climb’ to the bank of number two bed led us to panoramic views of Greater Warrington but Church Spires and Cooling Towers were not the object of our observations for just at the moment that we were gaining good views of a pair of Shelduck a voice rang outSand Martin hawking for insects above number Three Bed’ leading all to peer high into the cloud-rich sky and find our first migrant of Spring! A Cetti’s Warbler and several Chiffchaffs also indicated that this new season was gaining ground but these two species managed to remain out of view but ‘we knew’ they were about (two more on the ears/eyes list). The river which offers plenty of shelter for a variety of wildfowl in the winter months was today, apart from a pair of Gadwall, a bird free expanse and as such it too was indicating the season for those which had wintered here were now off to their breeding grounds either on or quite far from the reserve.

We then plodded onward being drawn to the ‘Cacophony Party’ being held on number three bed by at least three hundred Black Headed Gulls which have happily returned to liven up the area for the next few months…well I LOVE the sound of them anyway! (Well except for the fact that it confirms that yet another year has zipped by!). Footbridge negotiated and once more we had stepped through the back of the Wardrobe and into Narnia ready to indulge ourselves in the almost make believe world of Reedbeds/Lagoons/Woodland Fringes and open Meadows that conspire to make this area a magnet-like attraction for a whole series of birds and other wildlife but it was the birds we could surely hear but as yet not quite see hence we quickened our steps to gain vantage points; the first being the South Bank Scaffold platform which allowed views right across the North Bank.

Passing into the open area that sits within the centre of the bed, we noted stands of Snowdrops and soon to flower Ransomes (Wild Garlic) on our way to the majestic Morgan Hide, which inspite of its generous proportions, just about managed to fit our number on this well attended trip. The view was taken at our ease, but in reality this was not the time to sit back and settle down for our elevenses as there was some serious searching to be done first for word was out that this very Reserve’s emblematic bird had returned for the summer. Soon enough a Black Necked Grebe was spotted—to the initial frustration of quite a number of the Team for said bird would insist on diving under the water in its need to feed up after its migration flight back ‘home’, but after plenty of helpful instructions as to which clump of Reed and its surrounding water to concentrate upon, all could relax and take in this vision of feathered finery.

Snacking, chatting and relaxed birdwatching then mingled gaining us quite a few more birds for the day including Buzzard, Lapwing and Oystercatcher over and about the bed whilst Greenfinch and Willow Tit graced the feeders.

A gentle circuit of the bed, with a pause at the Rotary hide to gain great views of this time a pair of Black Necked Grebe and a pair of Little Grebe’ then led us back to the Footbridge from which we bid farewell to our island of nature…until next time. A male Sparrowhawk managed to stall our progress back to the cars as it moved effortlessly about the now clear and bright sky, under which we finally pushed on and bade our goodbyes back on Weir Lane. (DS)

Bird List (DS)

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Greylag Goose
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Teal
  9. Pochard
  10. Tufted Duck
  11. Black-necked Grebe
  12. Little
  13. Grebe
  14. Great Crested Grebe
  15. Cormorant
  16. Buzzard
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Moorhen
  19. Coot
  20. Oystercatcher
  21. Lapwing
  22. Black-headed Gull
  23. Herring Gull
  24. Lesser Black-baked Gull
  25. Woodpigeon
  26. Collared Dove
  27. Sanmd Martin
  28. Pied Wagtail
  29. Wren
  30. Dunnock
  31. Robiun
  32. Blackbird
  33. Goldcrest
  34. Great Tit
  35. Blue Tit
  36. Long-tailed Tit
  37. Magpie
  38. Carrion Crow
  39. Starling
  40. House Sparrow
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Greenfinch

Clockwise from the top left: Spring flowers; scarlet elf cup; ringed black-headed gull (Thames Valley); the Team; and Yes, it’s definitely Spring!

Sale Water Park 7/03/2017

Generally overcast but relatively mild (and muddy)

Following the washout of the previous week which led to a disappointing abandonment of the trip to Burton Mere, there was a good turnout of TT members hoping for much better weather, which was duly delivered with a definite feel of Spring in the air.

Starting at the feeding station by the “Visitors Centre”, the group found a rather disappointing selection of blue tit, great tit and chaffinch despite the efforts of one member in topping up the food supply on one bird table. But things looked up as we sighted long-tailed tits flitting about in the treetops along the lane to the lake and then a goldcrest and a grey heron standing alone in the marshy area alongside the lane.

Reaching the lake, 6+ gadwall were sighted among the normal mix of black-headed gulls, canada geese, mute swans, and coots. Further across the lake were a pair of courting great crested grebe and cormorants resting on buoys. Skirting around the lake to the north a little grebe, a lesser black-backed gull, an immature herring gull and a goosander in flight were spotted. And then the first sighting of a kingfisher racing over the water towards Broad Ees Dole.

Reaching the Dole, the group were immediately greeted by the rare sighting of a buzzard on the far bank tearing apart prey as a mid-morning snack watched cautiously by a pair of mallard close by. Moorhen, a little grebe and mallard also mooched about and then a pair of teal hoved into view out of the low branches on the left bank. To our great delight, the group were treated to a pair of kingfishers racing about the Dole with one deciding to show of its brilliant plumage by perching on a bare bush on the central island in full view of the group. This was followed by a very keen-eyed member spotting a snipe beautifully camouflaged amongst the trees and undergrowth on the left bank. And this was joined by an incoming grey heron who stood statuesquely in the shallow water showing off its bright plumage in high definition.   Moving on to the pool to the west, the group were treated to further sightings of the kingfisher as well as several grey heron standing in the vegetation on the far bank.

A quick foray up to the bank of the River Mersey close to Barfoot Bridge revealed little of interest apart from a buzzard circling high above and a solitary drake mallard flying fast along the river. A slow return along the motorway side of the lake precipitated a debate about a lesser black-backed gull and an immature herring gull (first year? second year?).

Finally the group returned to the woodland hoping for treecreepers and nuthatches but had to content themselves to blue tits and robins and yet another brief glimpse of a kingfisher racing along the stream. High above the woodland a carrion crow was spotted furiously (but unsuccessfully) trying to chase away a sparrowhawk, and two buzzards lazily circled above the treetops. Back to the feeding station but little of note was spotted before the departure of all but a small luncheon club who were able to add nuthatches and willow tits to the list. (SC)

Bird list (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Gadwall
  8. Teal
  9. Mallard
  10. Moorhen
  11. Coot
  12. Snipe
  13. Black-headed Gull
  14. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  15. Herring Gull
  16. Goosander
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Buzzard
  19. Kestrel
  20. Woodpigeon
  21. Kingfisher
  22. Wren
  23. Blackbird
  24. Song Thrush
  25. Dunnock
  26. Robin
  27. Goldcrest
  28. Long-tailed Tit
  29. Blue Tit
  30. Great Tit
  31. Willow Tit
  32. Nuthatch
  33. Jay
  34. Magpie
  35. Carrion Crow
  36. Chaffinch