Martin Mere 30.10.18

Cloudy at first, but bright later

A good number of the Team gathered in the Visitor Centre at Martin Mere, ready for our annual wander round this interesting site and excited by reports of the recent arrival of a small flock of Bearded Tits, seen from the newly opened reed bed walk. Thus, without further delay, we made our way to the central Discovery Hide for a first view over the main lake and were almost overwhelmed by the number and variety of the birds in view: Teal, Cormorant, Shelduck, Black-headed Gull, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Coot, Goldeneye, Greylag Goose, Whooper Swan, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Shoveler were all present in varying number, many of them really close to the hide and offering good opportunity for close-up views. After a good half-hour or so, we at last tore ourselves away from the comfort of the hide and its avian spectacle, and made our way towards the Harrier Hide and the start of the reed bed walk. Cloud had suddenly thickened as we began our perambulation of the lakes in front of the hide, and although we heard an occasional call from deep in the reeds, no sightings were gained, apart from those of a couple of overflying Jackdaw, the occasional Black-headed Gull and, for a few at the head of our ‘caravan’, a Marsh Harrier that drifted past. Happy to be breaking new ground, however, we pressed on and were finally rewarded with the sight of a small flock of a dozen or so small birds that took off from the tops of the reeds in front of us and soared into the sky. Although we had good views of the silhouettes of these birds, the low light levels at the time meant that we could see no colour. Hence a long (and learned?) discussion took place over what they might have been. The habitat, their size, their long thick tails, clearly visible in flight, and the earlier reports of sightings, all lead us to the conclusion (80%(?) positive) that these were indeed Bearded Tits, but unfortunately there were no further sightings, so definitive confirmation had to be withheld.

Completing our walk through the reed bed, we then headed for the Utilities hide which turned out to be not as rewarding as on previous visits, due to the presence of a tractor that was  cutting grass along the nearby track. However, with lunchtime fast approaching plans were made to re-group later and we went our separate ways, although splinter groups briefly paused at the Gladstone hide and its feeders to enjoy the sight of a variety of woodland birds, Chaffinch, Blue tit, Great tit, Greenfinch and Robin all making the most of the bounty on offer.

Meeting up in the Raines Observatory – and enjoying its warmth – we were treated to the sight of large numbers of Ruff, adult and juvenile which were busily feeding right in front of us. We had ample opportunity to study the variations in the colour of their legs and indeed their bills, as in the background more Whooper Swans and Shelduck glided back and forth. There were plenty of Greylag geese in evidence on the shore off to our right, but determined scanning could not detect any of the large numbers of Pink-footed geese that had been reported to be present.

A visit to the Ron Barker hide was somewhat spoilt by the same tractor that had been encountered earlier, but eventually the mowing was finished and the tractor disappeared leaving us to some peaceful birding. Large numbers of Teal and Wigeon were noted far off on the lakes in front of the hide and a solitary Pink-footed goose appeared, grazing alongside a pair of swans. The skies had by now cleared, and in the sun the temperature had risen, high enough to entice a couple of dragonfly into the air around the hide and it was while some of us were trying to catch sight of these, that sharp eyes caught a glimpse of a raptor sitting on a metal gate in the middle distance. With several pairs of binoculars eventually trained in the right direction, the bird was finally identified as a juvenile Peregrine, looking fairly contented with its lot and not in the least hurry to procure its next meal.

This proved to be the main highlight of our time in the hide and most of us next made our way back to the Discovery hide to enjoy the spectacle of the daily feed, which brought in the usual carpet of birds, with Shelduck and the larger ducks literally swamping the smaller Ruff that only began to appear once the larger birds had had their fill. And, as the light was at last beginning to fade, on the far side of the water a substantial number of Pink-footed geese finally appeared, back to the safety of the reserve after a day spent no doubt grazing in the nearby fields. With that, our day was complete and we set off back to the car park, and home.

Bird List (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Whooper Swan
  4. Pink-footed Goose
  5. Greylag Goose
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Shelduck
  8. Wigeon
  9. Gadwall
  10. Teal
  11. Mallard
  12. Pintail
  13. Shoveler
  14. Pochard
  15. Tufted Duck
  16. Goldeneye
  17. Marsh Harrier
  18. Buzzard
  19. Kestrel
  20. Peregrine (juvenile)
  21. Pheasant
  22. Moorhen
  23. Coot
  24. Lapwing
  25. Ruff
  26. Black-tailed Godwit
  27. Black-headed Gull
  28. Feral Dove
  29. Woodpigeon
  30. Pied Wagtail
  31. Dunnock
  32. Robin
  33. Blackbird
  34. Great Tit
  35. Blue Tit
  36. Coal Tit
  37. Magpie
  38. Jackdaw
  39. Carrion Crow
  40. Starling
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Greenfinch
  43. Goldfinch

Photos DC


Marbury (Witton Bridge) 16.10.18

Overcast at first, bright (and warm) later

A group of some eighteen or so members of the Team (including a Blue Peter badge holder on the 60th Anniversary of that popular BBC Children’s TV programme!) gathered in the Witton Bridge car park and almost immediately began seeking out views of a Song Thrush and a  couple of Redwing that were splashing about in a puddle just a few yards away – a first sighting of the season of the latter for many of us. A few titmice were visiting one of the nearby feeders and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker (the first of several sighted during the course of the morning) overflew our group.

After all this excitement, the first stop on our circumnavigation of Neumann’s Flash proved rather disappointing. What had been on past visits a waterlogged expanse was now covered in bright green grass, and where usually a few ducks and the occasional wader had been sighted there was nothing to be seen at all, save for a Buzzard spotted on a distant pylon, a few geese, probably Canada, flying overhead and another Woodpecker resting on a the top of a dead tree. Our next stop, however, provided much more of interest, although the relatively low water level of the flash itself was evidenced by a couple of Heron standing way out from the shore, in what had previously been much deeper water. Besides these two graceful fishers, there was plenty of activity along the shore with Moorhen racing about, some Teal gliding lazily along and, in the distance, a large number of Lapwing at rest half in and half out of the water. Amongst the later were a small number of Black-headed Gulls, a couple of lesser Black-backed Gull and a solitary Redshank, busily probing in the soft mud for food. In the other direction, we were afforded a lesson in the comparative size of water birds with Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler all in close proximity.

A walk along the track on the eastern side of the flash, in summer full of bird song, was quiet and largely uneventful, although there were plenty of Goldfinch and House Sparrows in evidence, and even a couple of Greenfinch, all taking advantage of the plentiful supply of food in the small trees and undergrowth. Reaching the hide at the northern end of the Flash, we had good views again of the Lapwing and Gulls that had been seen earlier from the south, but on this occasion, taking our time to survey the gulls slowly, the presence of a single Common Gull was confirmed, clearly different in dimension and colouration from the more numerous Black-headed gulls by which it was surrounded.

With time passing, the skies clearing and the temperature (at least out of the shade) rising, it was decided, after some discussion, to press on finally to Haydn’s Pool, despite the disappointments of recent visits. On arrival, the signs were not good, rather than a pool, a better description would have been ‘puddle’ – almost all the water had drained away. However, a bit of determined scanning of the tree line and distant industrial buildings revealed, first, a good view of a Buzzard sunning itself, no doubt after a good meal, and second, a reasonable view of a Peregrine perched high on a handrail of the distant salt works.

With these delights our visit concluded, and we all made our way back to the car park – carefully avoiding a wooly bear seen crossing the path in front of us. Before we finally left, however, a good few minutes were spent once again watching the Redwing that were still enjoying themselves in the puddles in the field adjacent to the car park, accompanied now, not only by a couple of Blackbirds, but also by Dunnock, the first sighted all morning.

Bird List (BP)

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Wigeon
  6. Teal
  7. Shoveler
  8. Sparrowhawk
  9. Buzzard
  10. Kestrel
  11. Peregrine Falcon
  12. Moorhen
  13. Lapwing
  14. Redshank
  15. Black-headed Gull
  16. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  17. Common Gull
  18. Woodpigeon
  19. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  20. Robin
  21. Blackbird
  22. Redwing
  23. Great Tit
  24. Blue Tit
  25. Jay
  26. Magpie
  27. Carrion Crow
  28. House Sparrow
  29. Greenfinch
  30. Goldfinch

Photos JH

Hilbre Island 9.10.2018

Sunny with SW breeze…balmy conditions

Oh Island in the Sun…Some of you may pick up on this popular cultural reference from the 1950’s (song sung by Harry Belafonte) …others may simply ask ‘What Island are you referring to? As they obviously wonder what this scribbler was musing about with reference to today’s slightly under-populated but ever so enthusiastic wander by those who still have the time and energy to undertake the Team Tuesday odyssey that is…..Hilbre Isle.

Yes this was today’s Splendour,  splendour everywhere (thanks to Sir John B for that line) venue within which a tightly knit Team created a day that would match the beauty and intricacy of one of the best Fair Isle Sweaters…which might have had a unique pattern of joy that seemingly didn’t require much reference to birds!

Rolling back to the start of this Seven Miles (oh how enslaved we have become to our personal pedometers) journey all were happily gathered together outside the Men’s Toilets (it’s merely a useful landmark!) at Kirby Marina under the wings of our Mother-Hen hosts (Kenny/Colin/Stewart) who set the course for the day in such a way that all were soon happily wandering off across the pooled sandscape that leads to the distant isle which would soon be enveloped by one of its twice daily moats of serene isolation.

Fresh air being plentiful enabled lungs to have the ample capacity to both carry our strides with ease whilst supporting plenty of easygoing chat that led us to Middle Eye within twenty or so minutes…here a touch of birdwatching gave Shelduck, Oystercatcher (by the hundred) and Cormorant galore but soon all were in the capable hands of our faultless guides as they negotiated our route through seaweed clad rocks and pools leading us safely to elevenses at approximately 0930 within the comfort zone of the ‘Obs’ .

Regaled by the conversation master (KMc) all seemed to be happy to spend the rest of the day in the comfy ‘armchair of the Obs’ but fortune had it that some of the conversations started to refer to birdwatching trips taken by Kenny and Dave in the past over which the veil of discretion was rapidly drawn as it was elected that we journey over to the slipway to experience a nine point plus high tide.. Phew saved by Liverpool Bay’s rushing waters!

Steady steps taken whilst the sun and a SW breeze denied all the reality of the normal season allowing the Team to stand in one of the most exposed areas of the Isle as we noted Rock Pipit, Common Scoter and a lone Red Throated Diver before we moved over to the slipway which, if the tide had really got its way, could have been flooded but unlike Canute we kept our feet dry as we admittedly struggled for extra species to add to our moderate bird list.

Grey Seal appeared from time to time to seemingly ponder as to why our assemblage were wasting time on fruitless searching on what was obviously one of those ‘quiet’ birdwatching  days. We countered this with our appreciation of such a splendid view through which waves cascaded with the pull of gravity and the lively breeze that dominated this day.

Dunlin, Turnstone and Great Black Backed Gulls were noted allowing us to wander back to the obs for an early lunch with some pride that our day list would at least be in double figures whilst happily accepting that our quotient of contentment in the day would always overshadow the number crunching!

Lunch-Chat-Relaxing, in this day’s comfort zone, took care of an hour or so after which most took in the awe-inspiring sight of thousands of birds preening/sleeping/idling/grumbling away the high tide out on Middle-Eye…a treat to experience some sign that in spite of all humanity has done to deplete our world of wildlife there are still spectacles to be grabbed and stored in the memory before these too are lost to ‘development’ (the mantra of the wildlife blind).

A final wander down to the slipway gave close views of some of the wading birds as they re-found land that the now receding tide had surrendered back to them whilst yet another Grey Seal or two peered above their watery home paying as much attention to us as we to them.

Then it was back to the Obs for a Bird log/De-brief and general tidy up before we set off back to civilisation…the walk at first was quite tentative owing to the slippery traps the tide had left upon the rocks between the isle and Middle Eye but with the lavish care, attention and guidance of our three hosts all were safely delivered onto the sands where the railway lines of chat led all safely back to Kirby Marina — another superb Hilbre Day carried home in hearts and minds…… (DS)

(NB With many thanks to Dave Steel, Kenny, Colin and Stewart for their guidance, expertise, organisation and humour)


Bird list (MHa,MHo,TG,SC)

  1. House sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Kestrel
  4. Lesser black-backed gull
  5. Greater black-backed gull
  6. Common gull
  7. Black-headed gull
  8. Herring gull
  9. Little egret
  10. Grey heron
  11. Redshank
  12. Cormorant
  13. Curlew
  14. Oystercatcher
  15. Turnstone
  16. Dunlin
  17. Common scoter
  18. Red-throated diver
  19. Guillemot
  20. Great crested grebe
  21. Brent goose
  22. Shelduck
  23. Pied wagtail
  24. Wren
  25. Meadow pipit
  26. Rock pipit
  27. Linnet
  28. Skylark
  29. Starling
  30. Carrion crow
  31. Feral pigeon

Transpennine Trail, Dunham 3.10.2018

Overcast and breezy

On a gloomy morning which had promised rain a select band of TT Birders congregated at the Henshall Lane car park for a foray eastwards along the Transpennine Trail, a route which had in the past yielded some productive autumn mornings.  However early signs were not as promising as we picked up a single crow and then, very slowly, sightings of black-headed gull, robin, great tit, magpie, dunnock, goldfinch and blackbird. Distant sightings of a jay by some proved equally frustrating. Finally a flock of starling were observed feeding on berries in a row of trees across the fields to the north; it was concluded that many had the brownish appearance of young starlings possibly interspersed by thrushes.

Then at last our interest was alerted by significant numbers of jackdaw and crow rising in agitation from distant trees to the south clearly disturbed by a threat of some sort.  This proved to be a young buzzard which was seen perched on top of a nearer hedgerow with, surprisingly, a single crow sitting nearby clearly keeping its eye on this source of potential danger.  The young buzzard rested there for a long period either disconcerted by the attention of the corvids or feeling replete after an early lunch.

And this was followed in the next field by an acrobatic chase of a kestrel by a group of 5 crow, all performing a series of pirouettes and loop-de-loops before the former shook off his pursuers by disappearing into nearby woodland.

The morning ended with a good spot of 3 grey partridge in the next field along before the group decided that perhaps an earlier pre-planned pub lunch was to be preferred to a rather unproductive morning. (SC)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Grey partridge
  2. Common buzzard
  3. Kestrel
  4. Black-headed gull
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Dunnock
  7. Robin
  8. Blackbird
  9. Blue tit
  10. Great tit
  11. Starling
  12. Jay
  13. Magpie
  14. Carrion crow
  15. Goldfinch
  16. Collared dove