Windy Bank Wood 27.6.17


Wet and overcast

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

Precipitation preceded our wander about this sweetly quiet backwater that sits on the most north-westerly part of my Mossland patch and most assuredly this ‘Gardeners Delight’ made every effort to accompany Team Webbed Feet aka TT throughout our late June amble about the site ensuring a comforting continuity of soggy visits that go ‘way-back’—well at least as far as last year anyway!

Deterred we were not and this year as there was a lessening of outpourings from the sky at the stroke of ten we made a rush away from the fleshpot of Bents and its warm inviting cafes and shops but not before we had carefully started our list with Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Song Thrush oh and not forgetting the Woodpigeon…for on this trip every little helps our meticulous recorder who at times at this venue struggles to gain a tally of twenty species!

Soon the Rubicon (the Glaze) was crossed and once more we were in the comfort zone of Greater Manchester where we added Mallard and Canada Goose …at this point the two members of the team who had recently returned from Switzerland where they had been feeding their breakfast scraps to Alpine Accentors were heard to say ‘the birdwatching here is so much more superior to those distant Alps’—well I think that’s what they said as they sighed!

Then as the clouds went into free-flow mode we peered across to a nearby and well established hedgerow (now there is a rarity these days) and along its leeward side skimmed at least twenty five Swallow which were seemingly unaffected by this poor weather once they had adopted their clever feeding strategy for in such relatively sheltered spots whole hosts of insects hide from the rain—-but not the hirundines’ gapes!

Then it was time for a Farming Today interlude as a couple of cows and their calves were encouraged not to trample our assemblage but to instead be gently persuaded to wander into a nearby field…at this point I would like to thank my able Assistant Rancher Alan who held the gate!

Chiffchaff song emanated from cover (well let’s face it who would be so foolish as to be exposed in such inclement weather???) which indicated that these plucky migrants were prepared to have a go at producing a second brood of young whatever the weather.

We were then onto the ‘Reserve’ proper with its well appointed paths which run through a mixed swathe of wildflower meadows and stands of relatively new plantations all with a backdrop of more mature trees giving pleasing aspects which I’m afraid at first seemed relatively devoid of birdlife—-this being emphatically disproved by Team Tenacious, for slowly but surely we kept our dedicated recorder on her toes.

Whitethroat tried their best to give us glimpses of themselves as family parties flitted about in their efforts to grab some insect-Fayre whilst Willow Warbler still persisted in their cascading song of delightful summer days with one even allowing our gathering to see it as it sat atop a tall Birch.

A trio of calves were also encountered as we ambled about these pathways but as they had seeming heard of the antics of the duo of ‘Gil Favor’ and ‘Rowdy Yates’ in a recent episode of ‘Rawhide’ they swiftly retreated before anyone could utter ‘Head ‘em up, Move ‘em out and Move ‘em on’!!!!

Then came the audiology test as a couple of Grasshopper Warbler reeled out their own song of celebration of dank places to which these birds fly thousands of miles from Africa in order to raise the next generation of these enigmatic ear testing and eye yearning birds.

Once all had happily passed their hearing test for yet another year we moved on in happy relief that the world of nature was still audible, a point most emphatically made when we then encountered a family party of Nuthatch which could ‘almost’ out-decibel my dulcet tones!

A Garden Warbler then decided to test our ability to decipher our Chromatic Scales as we ‘compared’ its song to that of the more familiar outpourings of the Blackcap which sits more easily in our memory than that of this elusive and rather plain looking bird —-well it is in my opinion rather attractive when it allows itself to be viewed!

Then after a wander through a section of birch woodland we emerged almost back at the start of the Reserve picking up Mistle Thrush and Stock Dove as we moved into a more open aspect.

Swift swept about the sky as did a Kestrel as we headed for the bridge in what we could only describe as ‘balmy’ conditions compared to what we had experienced for most of the morning (well everything is relative as they say).

Then after pausing to note a few Banded Demoiselle from this ‘Border Crossing Bridge’ we headed off into Cheshire and bid farewell for the Summer with a large proportion of Team Tuesday ‘having’ to formally end another year of great birdwatching with firm friends (old and new) by indulging in a visit to the comfy environs of Bents Restaurant!

*—yes I know I used this on last year’s write up but using the analogy  ‘if the cap fits’…!

(the unmistakable and unmissable words of DS)

Bird list (MH)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Gadwall
  4. Cormorant
  5. Grey heron
  6. Common buzzard
  7. Kestrel
  8. Moorhen
  9. Lapwing
  10. Black-headed gull
  11. Lesser black-backed gull
  12. Stock dove
  13. Wood pigeon
  14. Collared dove
  15. Feral pigeon
  16. Swift
  17. Swallow
  18. House martin
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Song thrush
  22. Mistle thrush
  23. Willow warbler
  24. Chiffchaff
  25. Whitethroat
  26. Goldcrest
  27. Blue tit
  28. Nuthatch
  29. Jay
  30. Magpie
  31. Carrion crow
  32. Chaffinch
  33. Greenfinch
  34. Goldfinch

Brockholes, near Preston 20.6.17

Sunny and very warm day

As the June heatwave continued, an enthusiastic group assembled at the Visitor Village hoping the sunshine would bring out the birds and minimise the expenditure of energy by group members.  It was wisely decided to target the hides on Number One Pit throughout the morning and reserve a relatively short walk along the River Ribble for the afternoon.

Setting off through the reedbed along the northern edge of Meadow Lake, the group were enticed by the song of warblers which remained frustratingly hidden from view. However more expansive views across the lake revealed moorhen, lapwing, black-headed gulls, coots, a grey heron and a single oystercatcher accompanied by its single fast maturing chick.  Reaching The Lookout hide, views across Number One Pit revealed a wider range of birds – a reed bunting and (immature?) grey wagtails on the near shoreline; coot, mute swans, mallard, oystercatchers, a little grebe and a great crested grebe on the water; a redshank and a single starling along the far shoreline; and sand martins swooping over the water (although no sign of their usage of the sand martin wall).

A walk down to the next hide yielded more sightings of a pied wagtail, redshank, common sandpipers, oystercatchers, starlings and the great crested grebe on and close to the central island. To everyone’s delight, a nearer small shingle/rocky island hosted a rare sighting of a close congregation of oystercatcher, common sandpiper, redshank and ringed plover allowing informative comparisons of shape, size and colouring.  Onward down and around the southern tip of the lake revealed little of note – the scratchy song of a hidden whitethroat; a perfect view of a highly illuminated hovering kestrel; (for some) a small weasel scurrying across the footpath; and a fine view of a difficult to identify member of the finch family, possibly a female or immature linnet.

After a hearty picnic lunch in the increasingly warm sunshine, the group sauntered eastward from the Visitor Village to the bank of the River Ribble and headed northwards towards the weir.  The shallow slow-moving river was home to a scattering of black-headed gulls, mallard, a single oystercatcher, carrion crows, a single lesser black-backed gull, and a single grey heron which, for reasons best known only to them, was being vigorously worried by the gulls. And then, a flash sighting of a kingfisher by one member of the group which led to a thorough visual search of the far bank, and, hey presto, the male kingfisher appeared to all, dived majestically to nab a small fish, perched on an exposed branch to show off its electric plumage, and then raced along the river to show off its turn of speed.  The final stretch up to the weir allowed good views of sand martin burrows in the eroded banks and sand martins obligingly swooped overhead, but unfortunately no goosanders! With a final view of a distant kestrel and a goldfinch feeding assiduously off a lone thistle on the far bank, the group returned to the car park.

Comparing notes post event, chiffchaff, whitethroat, long-tailed tit, and a common tern were also sighted by keen-eyed members of the group, as were an impressive list of butterflies (meadow brown, ringlet, common blue, speckled wood, red admiral, large skipper) and a day flying moth (narrow-bordered five-spot burnet) and numerous dragonflies and blue and red damsel flies – clearly a very productive and enjoyable day! (SC with help from DC and MH)

Bird list (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Great crested grebe
  5. Little grebe
  6. Grey heron
  7. Common buzzard
  8. Kestrel
  9. Moorhen
  10. Coot
  11. Oystercatcher
  12. Ringed plover
  13. Lapwing
  14. Common sandpiper
  15. Redshank
  16. Black-headed gull
  17. Herring gull
  18. Lesser black-backed gull
  19. Common tern
  20. Woodpigeon
  21. Swift
  22. Kingfisher
  23. Sand martin
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Blackbird
  26. Sedge warbler
  27. Chiffchaff
  28. Whitethroat
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Great tit
  31. Starling
  32. Magpie
  33. Jackdaw
  34. Carrion crow
  35. Goldfinch
  36. Reed bunting

Conwy Nature Reserve 13.06.17

Overcast at first, brighter later

Some fifteen members of the Team met for our now regular annual visit to this varied wetland reserve and after a quick discussion, to decide on the route for the morning so as to have the best chance of seeing the movement of birds due to the incoming tide, we headed off in search of Whitethroats, both Common and Lesser, whose presence had been noted on the sightings board inside the VC.

Chiffchaffs and Greenfinches serenaded us as we passed through the wooded edges of the reserve, but mostly they kept out of view and a few of us were beginning to think that the same might be true of the Whitethroats. However such despondency was soon dismissed as movement was seen amongst the grasses and bushes a few metres from the side of the path. After a number of half glimpses, at last we had clear sightings of what was apparently a small family of Common Whitethroats that must have been nesting in one of the larger bushes; a pair of adults and two or three fledglings, the latter thoughtfully staying in one place long enough for some members of the team to get good photos of them. Some passing Long-tailed Tits were quickly seen off by one of the adult birds and we had more views of the fledglings that were pursuing their parents demanding food. Determined scanning of other bushes and trees resulted in some members of the team actually catching sight of the Lesser Whitethroat as well, but this bird was much more skulking in its movements, and many of us failed to catch any sight of it at all.

Eventually moving on, we made our way down towards the estuary where the incoming tide was just beginning to push birds off the sandbanks. Shelduck, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Canada Goose and Curlew were all noted, as well as a mix of Gulls: Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed. At the Benarth Hide we enjoyed the sight of a mix of water birds, including Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, a Common Sandpiper and a Teal that was hunkered down behind a rock and almost impossible to make out, but the highlight was the sighting of a Merganser resting on one of the islands in front of the hide. Good views were enjoyed too through the screens on either side of the hide (a welcome feature on this reserve) and Coot, Starling, Greenfinch, Pied wagtails and a lone Barnacle Goose were all seen. Interestingly, there was a mix of adult and juvenile birds and careful observation solved an avian puzzle that had presented itself earlier: a brownish bird with black beak, about the size of a blackbird that had been hopping about on the path, turned out to be a juvenile Starling!

Our progress back along the path by the estuary towards the VC (and lunch!) was briefly interrupted, first by the sighting of a solitary Wheatear that perched for some time on top of one of the information boards along the side of the track, and then by the spectacle of a Cormorant hungrily devouring a rather large flat fish of some kind, and reminding us of those pangs of hunger that we beginning to make themselves felt.

Al fresco picnics or a snack in the cafeteria were followed by a trek round the reed beds and onto the Redshank Trail. Warblers were heard in the reeds, but only a few of us caught sight of them. Sound and sighting of a family of Little Grebe was easier from the Boardwalk viewpoint and from the Tal-y-fasn hide Little Egrets, Black-headed Gulls and a Merganser – or was it a Pochard? – were seen. We also spent some time consulting handbooks and deciding on the precise identification of a wader that dropped in on one of the islands across from the hide. At our last destination of the afternoon, the Carneddau hide, we had unambiguous sightings of the Merganser which took to the water making it easy to admire its punk hair style and long bill; a suitable conclusion to an excellent day’s birding, notable both for the number of species spotted and the interesting challenges we had faced (successfully?) with regard to the identification of a few individual birds seen.

Bird List (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Barnacle goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Mallard
  7. Gadwall
  8. Teal
  9. Pochard
  10. Tufted duck
  11. Red-breasted merganser
  12. Great crested grebe
  13. Little grebe
  14. Cormorant
  15. Little egret
  16. Grey heron
  17. Common buzzard
  18. Moorhen
  19. Coot
  20. Oystercatcher
  21. Common sandpiper
  22. Redshank
  23. Curlew
  24. Herring gull
  25. Black-headed Gull
  26. Great black-backed gull
  27. Lesser black-backed gull
  28. Rock dove
  29. Feral pigeon
  30. Woodpigeon
  31. Swift
  32. Swallow
  33. House martin
  34. Pied wagtail
  35. Wren
  36. Dunnock
  37. Robin
  38. Wheatear
  39. Blackbird
  40. Sedge warbler
  41. Reed warbler
  42. Willow warbler
  43. Chiffchaff
  44. Whitethroat
  45. Lesser whitethroat
  46. Long tailed tit
  47. Blue tit
  48. Great tit
  49. Starling
  50. Jackdaw
  51. Carrion crow
  52. House sparrow
  53. Chaffinch
  54. Greenfinch
  55. Goldfinch
  56. Linnet

Photos DC