Woolston Eyes 24.04.18

Team Tuesday Venture forth to Woolston Eyes–AGAIN 

A busy place, it can be, on Weir Lane when Team Tuesday roll into this outskirt of Greater Warrington where sits, in seemingly splendid isolation, that pearl of the West; Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve, which in these times of the Carbon Landscape Projecthas been given some status and recognition, and is, in my opinion, regarded as the launch pad for this treasured sweep of land that from here pans out north and east covering a vast swathe of open land all the way through to Wigan and beyond. (Follow link above for further information.)

Next there was the debrief which almost required; firstly a megaphone due to a numbers of the Team who had arrived; and secondly because of the hubbub of conversation that had already started to flow as fast as the plastic phase of the lava flow after a volcanic eruption! Debrief over and all were soon on their way over to the loop of the Mersey and the Weir’s associated basin upon which sat Shelduck, Gadwall, Cormorant, Tufted Duck and our ‘ever so reliable’ pair of Great Crested Grebe which normally spend the spring season here making several breeding attempts against all the odds that are usually stacked against them owing to the ups and downs of the river based upon our atypical glorious summer downfalls!

The mini ‘master class’ in Gull recognition was passed with flying colours thus adding Herring/Lesser Black-Backed and Black Headed Gulls to our tally with an ease which is more than can be said of the Warblers we encountered on our ‘hike’ over to number three bed…..for these were strong voice (Cetti’s/Willow Warbler), but weak in appearance, although Chiffchaff and Blackcap did oblige with their impression of the ‘dance of the seven veils’ as they appeared and disappeared amongst the now rapidly emerging leaf cover which has finally started to grace the trees in this current spring starved season of 2018.

The Bridge over the reserves part of the River Mersey then led us onto the land of the Black Headed Gull colony amongst which we hoped to gain more than a handful of other bird species which in truth  seem more than content to spend their summer season in the company of their raucous neighbours—a lesson in tolerance and ‘live and let live’ for us humans to take note of perhaps…..for in ‘putting up’ with the in your face gulls there was to be gained an element of protection—for beware any unwelcome intruders to this scene for a posse of Gulls are ever ready to ride them ‘out of town’.

A diversion west to gain the Morgan Hide, owing to footpath restoration work,  allowed all to relish the effects of a typical April Day when soft caressing showers (someone been reading Chaucer? ed.)  worked wonders on our complexions. At the hide there soon arose cries of pure delight as we peered out from the Rotary Hide and revelled in the delightful  views of FOUR summer-plumaged Black-Necked Grebe which were more than happy to ignore our wall of oohs and ahhs  and continue with their efforts to bond for another much hoped for successful breeding season.

The Morgan Hide did eventually gain our presence for we were assured of further views of the BNG whilst all could (1) gain a number of other species (2) snaffle tuck bag snacks and (3) chill out in life affirming company……thus an hour was well spent within the confines of a bird hide the likes of which is hard to beat out on our Carbon Landscape wanderings. The feeders gave a whiff of Winter with an appearance of a lone Brambling, gave hope in the return of the Greenfinch after a few years of disease induced decline, and allowed all to be distracted from the ‘business’ of the Reed Clad waters before us which gave almost too much activity for our eyes to comprehend—well for a while at least. Greylag Geese gave the ‘cute’ factor with one pair already sporting seven trophies of their breeding season success, as they chaperoned their Goslings about the open waters whilst a VERY lonely male Lapwing  wished he had logged onto a better dating site, for display as he might, he had not yet met the partner of his dreams, whilst a very contentedly looking pair ofGadwall hung around together ‘knowing’ that they would introduce us all to their offspring when the time was right for them this season. Meanwhile the sky effervesced with ‘hirundine’ fervour as Swallow/House Martin and Sand Martin refuelled on insects that were emerging from the waters before our eyes..an absolute joy to see by all of our gathering of kindred spirits.

Then came the time to start the gentle Bimble back to our cars and onward for lunch which was, as ever, ‘interrupted’ by those blessed birds we all share a love of with today’s pace blocker being an elusive but by some briefly glimpsed Whitethroat, which happily shared its eclectic mix of sound which ‘surely’ said ‘Boy am I glad to be back in the country of my birth after my somewhat arduous journeying to Africa for the winter’.

At last taking a fond farewell the Team were happy in the knowledge that in only two weeks they would once be roaming about a large swathe of the Carbon Landscape for Chat Moss was to be the next step in this specially designated sweep of precious landscape. (DS)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Great crested grebe
  11. Little grebe
  12. Black-necked grebe
  13. Cormorant
  14. Grey heron
  15. Moorhen
  16. Coot
  17. Lapwing
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Herring gull
  20. Lesser black-backed gull
  21. Woodpigeon
  22. Collared dove
  23. Swallow
  24. House martin
  25. Dunnock
  26. Robin
  27. Blackbird
  28. Song thrush
  29. Willow warbler
  30. Chiffchaff
  31. Whitethroat
  32. Blackcap
  33. Blue tit
  34. Great tit
  35. Jay
  36. Magpie
  37. Carrion crow
  38. House sparrow
  39. Brambling
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Greenfinch
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Reed bunting
  44. Cetti’s Warbler (alas – heard only!)

Photos DC

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Trans-Pennine Trail 17.04.18

Breezy, a few spots of rain

A near record number of the Team gathered in the Henshall Lane car park for the first outing of the Spring/Summer season – not that the weather seemed that way inclined in the least! However, the promise of spring was highlighted by the vigorous notes of a Chiffchaff that determinedly made itself heard over the chatter and obligingly showed itself perched just a few feet above our heads. Indeed, the trees surrounding the car park seemed to be drawing in a fair number of other birds, no doubt seeking refuge from the stiff breeze and before we had even begun our progress along the old railway track towards Broadheath, we had added Long-tailed tit, Great tit, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon to our list.

Making our way along the trail we soon realised that both the breeze and the low light levels meant that spotting birds was going to be something of a challenge, but undaunted we kept scanning the surrounding fields, and caught the odd glimpse of Magpie, Carrion Crow, a couple of Lapwing and even of a single Greater-spotted Woodpecker. In the distance large flocks of Jackdaws and Starlings were seen feeding on the fields and rising up in swirling black clouds, every so often. The lusty song of a Skylark drew eyes upwards, and there high above us the bird was fighting vigorously against the wind as it tried to maintain its position. This was the first of several seen and some members saw some glide gracefully back down to earth and disappear in the long green grass that was no doubt hiding their nests. Further on, the bright colours of a Yellowhammer attracted our attention, the bird perched out in the open and offering clear views of its fine plumage.

Scanning one of the few mature trees standing in the fields along this section of the trail, a male Kestrel was spied, taking refuge from the wind in a hole in the trunk, its feathers ruffling despite its shelter as it peeped out, perhaps as we thought, looking for prey. However, the real object of its attention was revealed shortly after when sharp eyes caught sight of a female Kestrel resting in the fork of a nearby tree and enjoying an early lunch of some prey or other. With little ceremony the male bird swooped down on top of the female, with who knows what intention(!), only, however, to be determinedly rebuffed and forced to retreat to a nearby branch, whilst the female continued her feast.

The copse where School Lane crosses the trail, gave us (and the birds) a bit of shelter from the wind, which had strengthened and by this time was also carrying the odd spot of rain, and we spent some time spotting and trying to identify the numerous birds that were making their presence known through their calls and were flitting back and forth amongst the trees. Blackcap and Willow Warbler were noted and seen by several members of the group, although a Treecreeper proved more elusive and was glimpsed only by a few.

Just before we reached the furthest point of our progress along the trail towards Broadheath, a Brown Hare was spotted running across one of the fields to our left and this animal then settled down, out of the wind, its ears close to its head, and most of us got good views of it. More or less at the same spot some Mallard were spotted waddling along the side of one of the drainage ditches and a Pheasant, several of which had been heard previously, was sighted as it poked up its head briefly from out of the long grass in which it was sheltering.

Taking one last look across the fields before turning back towards the car park, we caught sight of some Stock Doves in the distance and had close views of a Dunnock and some Goldfinch that were pecking about across some puddles along the field’s edge, a reminder of just how wet it has been of late. However, by this time, thoughts of lunch were becoming harder to resist and the group turned back and made speedy progress towards the car park and, for some, the pub, where a convivial lunch was partaken, looking out at the rain that had begun to fall, almost as soon as we had sat down.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Chiffchaff
  2. Long-tailed tit
  3. Song thrush
  4. Chaffinch
  5. Carrion crow
  6. Blue tit
  7. Great tit
  8. Robin
  9. Blackbird
  10. Magpie
  11. Wood pigeon
  12. Cormorant
  13. Great-spotted woodpecker
  14. Lapwing
  15. Skylark
  16. Yellowhammer
  17. Jay
  18. Starling
  19. Jackdaw
  20. Kestrel
  21. Mistle thrush
  22. Blackcap
  23. Nuthatch
  24. Treecreeper
  25. Mallard
  26. Swallow
  27. Pheasant
  28. Wren
  29. Dunnock
  30. Goldfinch
  31. Stock dove
  32. Willow warbler
  33. Heron