Marbury (Witton Bridge)

Bright, blue skies – plenty of sun

The Team gathered in the carpark at Witton Bridge cheered by the bright sunlight which was a welcome change to the gloomy skies of the past few days and confident(!) that a good morning’s birding was in store.  Indeed, even before we had set off, we were treated to the sight of a succession of woodland birds, robins and tits, coming in to a nearby feeder, and sharp eyers glimpsed a Great Spotted Woodpecker land on a tree just a short distance away, where it proceeded to peck at the branches giving everyone the chance to get good views of it, the colours of its plumage beautifully illuminated in the bright sunshine. Then, just as we were turning to follow the track up towards Forge Bridge, our attention was drawn to the first of many Redwings seen over the course of the morning and amongst them, to a Green Woodpecker, also making the most of the feeding opportunities in the damp ground.

Finally leaving the carpark, our progress remained slow as we stopped to enjoy more views of the Redwings, caught sight of a lone Reed Bunting and Mistle Thrush, and enjoyed the flypast of fairly dark-feather Buzzard. With time having passed – indeed it was getting near coffee time for some members of the group – our pace quickened and we headed for Forge Bridge. Here, unfortunately, there appeared to be little, if any,  activity, partly on account of the higher than usual water level, which had covered the mud edges that are usually exposed, and partly due to the distinctly cooler temperatures in the shade; the birds were all seeking the warmth of the sun and apparently uninterested in looking for food under the tree canopy. A quick detour to Hadyn’s Pool was as disappointing as on our last visit. Although the water levels were high, no birds seemed to be attracted to it. However, many of the Team took advantage of this halt to open those flasks of coffee before continuing our progress, which we did after the sighting of what was almost certainly a Peregrine, perched high up on roof of the distant Salt Works.

Neumann’s Flash made up for any disappointment we may have felt, and we had good views of a variety of ducks including Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall, all either out on the water or resting on the island in front of the hide. With the sun for once not in our eyes we were able to scan the flash and pick out other waterfowl and gulls, including Shoveler, Coot, Little Grebe, some very pale Great Crested Grebe, a couple of Lesser Black-back Gulls and some Mute Swans.  We were even able to enjoy the view, on the far bank, of a fox grooming itself in the warm sun! (Later views showed that it had lost much of its coat and was presumably going to struggle to survive many more cold nights.) Closer to us, the busy activity of a small Wren washing itself in the  shallow water next to the hide, attracted our attention and it was amazing how hard it was to make out the presence of this well-camouflaged bird amongst the branches and tree roots; only by focussing on the movement of the water as the bird washed itself was it possible to pinpoint its exact location and get just a fleeting view.

Pressing on back towards the carpark we saw little, apart from some House Sparrows flitting amongst the brambles. At the far end of the flash, however, we enjoyed good views of a pair of Red Wings high above at the top of some birch trees and a brief glimpse of a Fieldfare that dropped in on another tree not far away, before flying off again. The expanse of water on the other side of the track held no avian treats; there were just a pair of Carrion Crows wading through the shallows and prodding in the soft ground, but a final scan from the platform near the carpark picked out one, or perhaps two, Kestrel hovering, but far off, and a small flock that was circling around, but was to far away for identification.

At this point, clouds having been blown in by a freshening wind and leading to a distinct drop in temperature, it was decided to end our visit and to get back to the (relative) warmth of the cars, happy with another rewarding visit to this site with its good range of habitats.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Robin
  2. Great tit
  3. Blue tit
  4. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  5. Blackbird
  6. Mallard
  7. Redwing
  8. Green woodpecker
  9. Dunnock
  10. Song thrush
  11. Carrion crow
  12. Coal tit
  13. Magpie
  14. Buzzard
  15. Kestrel
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Peregrine falcon
  18. Teal
  19. Wigeon
  20. Mute swan
  21. Coot
  22. Shoveler
  23. Tufted duck
  24. Black-headed gull
  25. Lesser Black-back gull
  26. Great Crested grebe
  27. Gadwall
  28. Little Grebe
  29. Moorhen
  30. Herring gull
  31. Wren
  32. House sparrow
  33. Long-tailed tit
  34. Fieldfare

 

(Photos JH)

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Chorlton Water Park 21.11.17

Dull, grey and gloomy at times though warmer than expected for the time of year

15 members of Team Tuesday met at Chorlton Water Park on a wet and slightly muddy carpark. Thankfully the earlier rain had stopped and we were able to wander the paths without our hoods up. From the carpark we saw greenfinch, goldfinch, blue tit and carrion crow and this led to us voicing our hopes for the birds we would like to see. These included gadwall, kingfisher, siskin, redpoll and goldeneye but as the light was not at its best some doubts as to our success were also expressed.

From the edge of the lake we immediately saw some of the ‘usuals’, mute swan with cygnets, Canada geese, coot, moorhen, a heron hiding in the reeds, great- crested grebes, cormorants, gadwall, wood pigeon and 3 parakeets before, joy of joys, a pair of goldeneye were spotted on the opposite side of the lake in front of the island.

Feeling much cheered by this sighting we started our anti- clockwise walk around the lake where we had good views of a group of tufted ducks but nothing else new. We all looked up hopefully but only saw ‘leaf birds’ as one member described them. When we arrived at the

Mersey the river was running fast and high and the usual grey wagtail was nowhere to be seen though more mallard, Canada geese, magpies and carrion crows were around.   Common periwinkles were still flowering by the gate which added a splash of colour to the grey day.

As we continued to walk round the lake we saw and heard a very noisy black – headed gull though, as it was barely opening its beak, it took some time to identify which bird was making all the noise. A sharp eyed member then saw a kingfisher which flew from its perch on a branch towards the far bank with a black- headed gull trying to steal the catch it was carrying. Unfortunately we were unable to locate its perch on the other side. From the same location good views of a great – spotted woodpecker were seen on the top of the tall trees.

After arriving at the bridge further views of the parakeets were seen on the tall poplars by the river path before our attention was turned to the river itself, by the sighting of a bird diving under the water where the river cascaded over stones. There was prolonged discussion about whether the bird was a goosander or Red – breasted merganser as one had been seen at Alexandra Park over the last few days. However, with the evidence of a stunning photograph in front of us, there was no doubt it was a female goosander.

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We then crossed the bridge and walked along the path looking into both the orchard and field at the other side but only added jays to our list. We then turned back to finish our circuit of the lake before heading home.

However, as we walked along the path we could see plenty of small birds flitting around in the trees here and by the pond. They included a large flock of goldfinch, long tailed tits, a coal tit, great tits, blue tits, a gold crest, blackbird, robin, a song thrush foraging in the leaves, and more good views of a great – spotted woodpecker pecking for food amongst the tree branches. There were birds everywhere you looked and this felt like a joyful end to our walk after the lack of birds earlier. This wasn’t quite the end though as a few herring gulls were identified on the lake and sparrows were first heard and then seen in the carpark as well as a collared dove on a tree.

As lunch or a cuppa called we swapped our wet boots for shoes and made our way homewards before the expected rain started again. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Tufted duck
  6. Goosander
  7. Goldeneye
  8. Great crested grebe
  9. Cormorant
  10. Grey heron
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Black-headed gull
  14. Herring gull
  15. Feral pigeon
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Collared dove
  18. Great spotted woodpecker
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Song thrush
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Jay
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion crow
  29. House sparrow
  30. Chaffinch
  31. Greenfinch
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Ring-necked parakeet

 

 

Marshside RSPB 14.11.17

Heavy cloud, misty and a little drizzle at times

Having arrived in a somewhat windswept car park at Marshside, members of the Team lost no time in making for the shelter of the nearby Visitor Centre, only to find that seating space was at a premium due to the presence of another birding group who were busy scanning the very wet-looking marsh. However, a bit of tactical manoeuvring soon meant that we too had good views of the birds that were present in some number, although not always easy to spot both on account of the undulating nature of the terrain and the fact that many, including Canada, Greylag and Pink-fotted Geese, had settled on the far side of the lakes in front of us.

The sighting of a raptor sitting quietly on top of a post in the middle distance led to a good deal of discussion regarding its identification, before a consensus emerged from all present, including the RSPB volunteer, that it was a female Merlin. Later, at least one other of these birds was noted, similarly resting, presumably satisfied after an early breakfast, and offering good views even in the generally overcast conditions. The deepening gloom made difficult the identification of some Egrets whose white plumage stood out from afar. One, the nearest, was clearly a black-billed Little Egret, but three or four others, further off and only intermittently showing themselves, were harder to identify until a temporary improvement in the light levels showed a pale coloured bill on at least one of them, and their penchant for the company of the cattle grazing on the far side of the reserve suggested that these were in fact a group of Cattle Egrets, that had apparently been present on the site for some time.

Unusually perhaps for this site, there was little activity in the air; Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits occasionally rose up for a brief swirl across the sky, but seemingly just for the fun of it and not as a result of the threat of a passing raptor. Indeed most birds seemed happy either resting in the lee of some clump of vegetation or feeding in the ground made soft by the recent heavy rains.

After lunch we set off for Nel’s hide and were almost immediately stopped in our tracks, as a Stonechat was spotted perched on top of one of the bushes alongside the path and apparently quite happy for us to approach to within three or four metres before flying off. Nel’s hide brought  good views of Pintails, which were present in good number, as well as a small group of Gadwall. Further off a lone Curlew was spotted, as well as a number of Redshank that were busily probing the mud and moving to and fro in the shallow water. And almost as soon as someone had suggested that it was unusual that we had not seen a Heron, not one, but three were spotted in quick succession! A comparison of the gulls in front of the hide led to the conclusion by the Team that, in addition to Black-headed and Herring Gulls, there were also a pair of Common Gulls present, their dark eyes and black-tipped bills, clearly marking them as different from the rest.

A distinct drop in temperature – or perhaps we had opened too many of the windows in the hide in our keenness to get good views of the birds? – then suggested that it was perhaps time to call an end to what had been both a challenging and fulfilling day’s birding, enlivened, as ever, by the usual TT camaraderie. (CG)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Shelduck
  2. Wigeon
  3. Little grebe
  4. Mallard
  5. Great black-backed gull
  6. Lesser black-backed gull
  7. Merlin
  8. Canada goose
  9. Lapwing
  10. Curlew
  11. Pink- footed goose
  12. Black- tailed godwit
  13. Cattle egret
  14. Little egret
  15. Teal
  16. Shoveler
  17. Goldfinch
  18. Greylag goose
  19. Starling
  20. Mute swan
  21. Black-headed gull
  22. Herring gull
  23. Kestrel
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Robin
  26. Moorhen
  27. Stonechat
  28. Magpie
  29. Gadwall
  30. Tufted duck
  31. Pintail
  32. Coot
  33. Redshank
  34. Jackdaw
  35. Grey heron
  36. Common gull

Woolston Eyes 07.11.17

Rain – grey sky – total cloud – more rain – a tad drier later!

The time to get our Autumn Visit to Woolston Eyes under our belts didn’t quite coincide with the weather that we often conjure up in our minds for this splendid time of the year, when the sunshine dances through hues of trees bearing Gold and Copper clad leaves. Instead today, although the leaves were of that splendid autumnal patina as we parked up on Weir Lane, the other life-sustaining force of nature held sway and swept through the trees with its overbearing droplets of moisture!

The delay in setting off as waterproofs were hoisted into position was not wasted however, for about us, seemingly quite happy with this soggy day, was that relatively uncommon bird for our day list; the once super abundant House Sparrow which has suffered massive declines in its number over the past few decades. Fortunately, the jumble of hedges and feeding opportunities in this area supports quite a healthy flock of these cheerfully chirruping birds.

Then after the briefest of de-briefs, we set our feet in motion with a distant hide beckoning us to take shelter within its comfy surroundings, but being an inquisitive lot we soon paused to check out the loop of the Mersey upon which Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and Little Grebe bobbed about careless of the rain…well they would be wouldn’t they!

Strides in motion and we moved on …. at least twenty paces ….  before we simply had to pause in order to admire three Redwing which sat atop a couple of tall Lombardy Poplar trees, but fortunately for us these soon continued with their restless migration allowing us to push on through the rain.

Once more in defiance of the conditions, we paused to note a pair of Gadwall as they sat out on the waters of the basin area. Then it was full steam ahead as we passed along the bank of number two bed pausing only to note a couple of Cormorant which had ‘draped’ themselves high up in some trees along the riverbank.

We ‘stormed’ over the footbridge with every intention of invading the ‘Tranquil Isle of Three’ to impose our ‘oohs and aahs’ upon this picturesque, well-managed and bird-rich spot of land which lies within reach of the hustle and bustle of the M6 Thelwall Viaduct to the east and the ever expanding urbanisation of Warrington to the west.

The elevated South screen invited us to get a little nearer to the moisture filled clouds revealing a large number of Teal which were taking advantage of the managed lower water level to hoover up seeds out on the exposed mud. Next, after ensuring that we had also added the sighting of a lone Shoveler to our list, we hot footed – or was that mud-slid  – over to the comfort zone of the Morgan Hide.

A flock of finches tried to slow our progress, but as we knew they weren’t about to go anywhere in a hurry due to the rich pickings to be found on this bed, we valiantly ignored them and reached our sheltered spot saving them for later—phew!

A deep breath or two on noting the beautifully busy panoramic view that lay before us was then followed by (1) a rush to open coffee flasks and unwrap elevenses or (2) an equally hasty urge to note the wide variety of birds that lay before our eyes—being neutral I cannot myself say which of the two came first, but all I can say is that satisfaction lay over the Team like a comforting, and in today’s weather, waterproof blanket of peace.

Moorhen trundled about the place chucking their large footed prints all over the mud whilst a few Wigeon added a splash of colour to the exposed newly created mud banks as they came ashore to graze on the weed cover.

Grey Heron stalked the shallows for unsuspecting prey whilst a small flock of Common Snipe whizzed about the air looking for a patch of sheltered mud to land—their difficulty on this occasion seemed to be that they were spoilt for choice now that the bed has a better control of the water levels which at this time of the year needs to be as low as it was on this visit. Greenfinch delighted those watching the feeders and as each new species appeared these dedicated observers alerted the rest of the Team to these sightings thus I believe by the end of our visit all had been able to say that they had comfortably seen Willow Tit, Dunnock and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

A conversation that seemed fitting with the Grey Damp Cloud Enveloping conditions that ruled (but NOT ruined) the day then unhappily started to slide the Team towards the despairing reality that we as lovers of the natural world are all too aware of—the plight of our wildlife and their rapidly diminishing habitats BUT as there were no comforting bottles of wine around to drown our increasing sorrows — the siren call of a reserve doing its very best to offer a safe haven to this wildlife soundlessly drew our eyes and mood back to this days positivity!

A move to check the Stewardship crops which are at present drawing in a wide variety of seed-eating birds then got our legs back into action and our field skills into full throttle and as we slowly circuited round the inner section of the bed we managed to note at least 150 Chaffinch, 45 Linnet and a few Goldfinch before we headed back to our cars.

 A pause in our progress to recheck the South Platform Hide then paid off as we locked onto a lone Black-Tailed Godwit giving a sufficient spread of species for our Rainy Day bird list to enable our release homeward which was as ever completed in the ‘gentle’ hubbub of contented conversation after another day in the inspiring arms of the natural world. (DS)

Bird List (CG)

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Blackbird
  3. Collared Dove
  4. Feral Pigeon
  5. Black-headed Gull
  6. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  7. Herring Gull
  8. Greylag Goose
  9. Grey Heron
  10. Mallard
  11. Tufted Duck
  12. Wigeon
  13. Gadwall
  14. Teal
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Little Grebe
  18. Cormorant
  19. Shoveler
  20. Shelduck
  21. Greenfinch
  22. Goldfinch
  23. Chaffinch
  24. Goldcrest
  25. Pied Wagtail
  26. Dunnock
  27. Blue tit
  28. Long-tailed tit
  29. Willow tit
  30. Common Snipe
  31. Redwing
  32. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Carrion Crow
  34. Jay
  35. Magpie
  36. Robin
  37. Linnet

 

 

Martin Mere 31.10.17

Bright, some cloud and comparatively warm

Just after 10.30am, a dozen or so members of the Team turned down the chance to carve pumpkins or learn broomstick flying, or any of the other Halloween activities on offer at Martin Mere and left the shelter of the Visitor Centre to begin what turned out to be an excellent day’s birding.  The Discovery Hide afforded the usual good views across the mere with Lapwing, Shelduck, and Black-headed gulls all present in large numbers, mixed with a smaller count of Ruff and Pintail. Further off, on the far side of the water were a few Whooper Swans and rather more Greylag Geese. Stopping to scan across the water from the behind the new screens, en route to the Janet Kear hide, several members spied a Common Snipe in the mud along the water’s edge and, further on, a Goldcrest flitted back and forth amongst the bushes alongside the path. The hide itself provided plenty of interest including a small party of Tree Sparrows, a mix of tit mice, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and a pair of Reed Buntings all of which were flying back and forth onto the feeders, enjoying the food and scattering a fair amount of seed to be scavenged on the floor below by a family of rats that looked particularly well fed.

The excitement really began, however, at the United Utilities hide, where first a resting Buzzard was the focus of our attention, which was then directed towards a male Kingfisher that was apparently  taking a break and gave everyone in the group ample time to admire its electric blue coloration, before it eventually flew off. A Marsh Harrier next put in an appearance – the first of several sightings of at least two birds during the rest of the day – flying close over the marsh in front of the hide and revealing evidence of some damage to one of its wings. A final scan over the fields revealed the presence of some Pink-footed Geese which were not easy to spot as they were feeding in the long grass and only raising their heads every so often. The aptly named Harrier Hide, our next port of call, gave further views of a Marsh Harrier, but the water in front of the hide was comparatively empty of birdlife with only half-a-dozen Gadwall, a few Mallard and a solitary Little Egret on view.

After lunch, we reassembled in the warmth of the Raines Observatory, enjoying close views of Shelduck and Ruff, before setting out towards the Ron Barker hide. A brief pause at ‘Owl Corner’ proved fruitless, although one lucky (?) member was ‘annointed’ from above. A detour to Kingfisher Hide produced more sightings of Reed Buntings and also of Kestrel that appeared to swoop in, perhaps trying to take prey from the feeder. At the Ron Barker hide there was plenty to see, a pair of Mute Swan and a small group of Shoveler amongst the large numbers of Wigeon and Teal and, in the distance, large numbers of Starlings strung out along some telephone wires. One of the Marsh Harriers put in another appearance, and besides a flypast on the far side of the marsh, one of these birds landed a little way off to tear at a dead swan, watched by two or three hungry Carrion Crows who were somewhat impatiently waiting their turn for the feast.

With the light beginning to fade and a corresponding drop in temperature the group began a trek back toward the Visitor Centre and the car park to begin the journey home after a day that had been full of interest and spectacle. A few of us, however, first stopped to watch the feeding of the birds in front of the Discovery hide, always a sight worth seeing, no matter how often one might have witnessed it, and always remarkable for the way in which the different species of bird never seem to mingle, rather keeping to their own groups and producing a vivid, almost colour-coded, picture. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1c50

Bird List (MH)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Whooper swan
  4. Greylag goose
  5. Pink-footed goose
  6. Shelduck
  7. Wigeon
  8. Mallard
  9. Gadwall
  10. Shoveler
  11. Pintail
  12. Teal
  13. Pochard
  14. Tufted duck
  15. Pheasant
  16. Cormorant
  17. Little egret
  18. Grey heron
  19. Marsh harrier
  20. Common buzzard
  21. Kestrel
  22. Moorhen
  23. Coot
  24. Lapwing
  25. Ruff
  26. Common snipe
  27. Black-headed gull
  28. Herring gull
  29. Great black-backed gull
  30. Lesser black-backed gull
  31. Stock dove
  32. Wood pigeon
  33. Feral pigeon
  34. Collared dove (juvenile)
  35. Kingfisher
  36. Wren
  37. Robin
  38. Blackbird
  39. Redwing
  40. Long-tailed tit
  41. Blue tit
  42. Coal tit
  43. Great tit
  44. Starling
  45. Magpie
  46. Jackdaw
  47. Raven
  48. Carrion crow
  49. Tree sparrow
  50. Chaffinch
  51. Greenfinch
  52. Goldfinch