Pennington Flash 27.11.18

Overcast, cold, with a strengthening breeze that eventually brought rain

A near, or actual record number of the Team gathered in the car park at 10am and, alive to the prospect of rain forecast for later in the morning, lost no time in getting down to the serious business of scanning the Flash to see which birds were present. And there were at least a couple treats, apart from the usual Coot, Mallard, Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Teal, Moorhen and Heron; a pair of Goldeneye were spotted first and then sharp eyes also made out a Goosander, which like the Goldeneye eventually flew off to another part of the lake, where it, or some of its fellows were spotted later in the morning.

Mindful of the need to keep moving in the chill breeze, we made our way first to the Horrocks Hide, which for once provided some shelter with the strengthening wind at our backs, rather than blowing into the hide through its open windows. From this comparative shelter we had good views along the spit where, as usual, a large number of Cormorants were resting together with a good number of Lapwing. A Posse of Herons were seen in the trees to our right, and further out across the water a dozen or so Goldeneye, some washed-out looking Great Crested Grebe and a solitary Oystercatcher were added to our list.

Making our way towards the Edmondson Hide, we noted the work that had been done along the track, here and further on, to open up views across the ponds, and it was at this point that many had the first sighting of a Kingfisher, a treat that was to be repeated for others, if not unfortunately all, during the course of the morning. From the hide itself there was little to see, so we soon pressed on towards the next hide and coffee, where, between sips of warming liquid we were treated to views of an initially elusive Little Egret and of a trio of Goosanders, a male and two females.

Heading for the view point at the top of the Flash, we were detained by the appearance of a good number of woodland birds in a sheltered corner of the woods; Goldfinch, Great tit, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Greenfinch all put in an appearance. From the viewpoint itself, we had more views of the Little Egret and the Goosander, and some Lesser Black-Backed Gull and a solitary Shelduck dabbling about out towards the spit were also spotted. Retracing our steps towards the canal, we heard the unmistakable calls of both a Cetti’s Warbler and a Water Rail, but neither bird revealed itself.

The canal and copse on the far bank proved disappointingly barren of bird life and we began in any case to quicken our pace as the odd spot or two of rain made itself felt. Back  on the track through the woods a number of birds were seen flitting back and forth, Robin and Great tit, and as we approached the golf course, across the stream, Moorhen could be seen probing in the soft turf of the greens, no doubt to the annoyance of any hardy golfers who might have been out that morning. Once again the cry of Kingfisher went up, this time however glimpsed only by a couple of our number.

At the Bunting Hide there seemed to be little on view at first, save for a good number of Moorhen (the tally for the morning must have been quite high!) and some ingenious squirrels that were working acrobatically to make the most of the food that was on offer. However, after a few minutes we were rewarded with the sight of plenty of woodland birds; Willow tit, Bullfinch (both male and female), Chaffinch, Dunnock, Great tit, Blue tit and Reed Bunting, all of which kept coming into the feeders, often so fleetingly that the only way to get a good sight of them was to leave the binoculars focussed on the feeder and wait for the birds to land there. In the tall trees behind the feeders a lucky few glimpsed a Treecreeper.

With the sound of the rain now becoming apparent on the roof of the hide, the group began to break up as people headed back towards the cars, but not before some saw Redwing feeding on the ground on the far side of the field. A dilatory few, from Pengy’s Hide, saw Shoveler, Gadwall, Little Grebe and, amongst the bright red dogwood across the pool, yet another Kingfisher that treated us to a couple of flypasts before it eventually disappeared, no doubt to seek shelter from the rain that by now had become quite persistent. Taking our cue from this wise bird, the remainder of the Team finally beat a retreat towards the cars, well content with another good morning’s birding – the last anyone will get this week, if the weather forecast is to be believed!

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Coot
  2. Moorhen
  3. Black-headed gull
  4. Goldeneye
  5. Goosander
  6. Mallard
  7. Canada goose
  8. Oystercatcher
  9. Magpie
  10. Wigeon
  11. Grey heron
  12. Lesser blacked-gull
  13. Cormorant
  14. Lapwing
  15. Herring gull
  16. Great-crested grebe
  17. Little grebe
  18. Teal
  19. Robin
  20. Kingfisher
  21. Carrion crow
  22. Gadwall
  23. Mute swan
  24. Little egret
  25. Long-tailed tit
  26. Starling
  27. Wood pigeon
  28. Goldfinch
  29. Kestrel
  30. Greenfinch
  31. Bullfinch
  32. Reed bunting
  33. Great tit
  34. Blue tit
  35. Shelduck
  36. Willow tit
  37. Chaffinch
  38. Dunnock
  39. Redwing
  40. Treecreeper
  41. Blackbird
  42. Shoveler
  43. Coal tit
     

    Photos JH and SC

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Marbury Country Park 20.11.18

Overcast and cold

A group of 15 eager TT members gathered in Marbury Park car park on Tuesday – a morning with a decidedly more autumnal feel. But the damp ,chilly air did nothing to stem the cheerful chatter amongst friends and a Great Spotted woodpecker perched on the topmost branch of a nearby tree welcomed all with its call.

As the group progressed out of the car park bird song could be heard all around, suggesting that this might be quite a productive day. A mistle thrush high in a tree was soon identified while titmice flitted about nearby. An exceptionally loud cronking raven then flew overhead only to be vociferously mobbed by a group of crows. More thrush-like silhouettes then tempted us to turn left before the toilet block and through the picnic area – new territory for many of us. Here more blue tits, great tits and a nuthatch were visiting a well-stocked bird table and the first goldcrest of the day was spotted in a conifer . Cormorants flew overhead and the thrushes were identified as redwings.

On reaching the hide overlooking Budworth Mere there were good sightings of dozens- no … hundreds of various species of waterfowl. Of particular note were the great numbers of great crested grebe- none of us had ever witnessed such a gathering -alongside many coots, mallards, tufted ducks and pochard, with a single pair of shoveler making up the numbers. Many tits-great, blue and coal were busy too at the feeding station in front of the hide. Moving round the lake the sound of curlew calling alerted the group to a flock settling on the grassy land across the mere, with Canada geese a-plenty grazing nearby. The gulls on the water were scanned but no common gulls were found- although we knew they must be there somewhere.

After a coffee break – at possibly the coldest point of the whole site – the woodland hide was visited, but not before a grey wagtail had entertained us by rooting through the leaves on the path in front of us. At the woodland hide more great tits and blue tits were the main visitors with an occasional appearance of dunnock and nuthatch, not to mention the omnipresent grey squirrels. Goldcrest and goldfinch could be heard – and indeed seen – in the trees at the back of the hide.

Next a walk through more woods brought a sighting of a bird of prey swooping in and out of the trees . We all desperately wanted it to be a goshawk- now that would have been something to brag about- but no – the final vote was for sparrowhawk which was a tad more realistic.

Our final stop was at the hide overlooking Neumann’s Flash. Here we were rewarded with views of hundreds of lapwing on the shores, with teal, shelduck and widgeon to add to our list. Lunchtime now beckoned, but as we turned to leave the hide a magnificent marsh harrier decided to treat us with a wonderful fly-past.

A fantastic finale to a great morning’s birding. (M.Ho)

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Great-spotted woodpecker
  2. Wood pigeon
  3. Grey heron
  4. Robin
  5. Blue tit
  6. Blackbird
  7. Great tit
  8. Mistle thrush
  9. Raven
  10. Nuthatch
  11. Carrion crow
  12. Goldcrest
  13. Chaffinch
  14. Fieldfare
  15. Redwing
  16. Cormorant
  17. Long-tailed tit
  18. Shoveler
  19. Great-crested grebe
  20. Coot
  21. Pochard
  22. Mallard
  23. Tufted duck
  24. Coal tit
  25. Moorhen
  26. Canada goose
  27. Curlew
  28. Black-headed gull
  29. Common buzzard
  30. Sparrowhawk
  31. Siskin
  32. Grey wagtail
  33. Lapwing
  34. Magpie
  35. Dunnock
  36. Teal
  37. Wigeon
  38. Shelduck
  39. Lesser black-backed gull
  40. Herring gull
  41. Marsh harrier
  42. Jay

Photos JH

Burton Wetlands RSPB 13.11.18

Sunny, clear blue skies with a little cloud later

Some twenty members of the Team gathered in the warm Visitor Centre on a bright, sunny morning and lost no time surveying the scene where,  besides the usual mix of ducks; Teal, Mallard and Coot, a good number of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in the shallows and, further out, a dozen or so Curlew, mostly perched on one leg, were resting on the shore of one of the lakes. A Grey Heron flew by, and a little Egret was glimpsed. Despite reports of the presence of a Water Rail nearby, this elusive bird did not show itself, and suppressing any feelings of disappointment, we headed off to walk along the trail towards the feeders and the eastern view point on the edge of the reserve. A Buzzard put in an appearance, only, as is so often the case, to be chased off by a couple of determined Carrion Crow. Some two hundred (who’s counting?) Pink-footed Geese were spotted feeding in a recently planted field, and a Kestrel obligingly came to rest on a post, not far from one of the screens, along the track. Goldfinch and a few Greenfinch were in evidence on the feeders, and looking out across the marshes, a number of what appeared to be Mute Swans could be seen.

A trek back towards Covert Hide, via the lakes, added little to our list apart from Little Grebe and Tufted Duck. Settling down for lunch and more birdwatching in the hide proved a good way to spend the next half hour or so, and between sandwiches and sips of coffee we all had good opportunity to scan the lakes in front where Ruff, Shoveler, Shelduck, Black-head Gull, a trio of Pintail and more Curlew were all present. Although smaller birds were spotted flitting about in the rushes just behind the hide, it was not possible to identify them, and eventually, lunch things packed up, we decided to strike out for the Inner Marsh Hide on the far side of the reserve.

We broke our progress to divert up to the Hillfort, on the other side of the railway, and in so doing had good views of a large flock of Linnets that were feeding in the nearby field and then flying up to the top of the tall bushes above the railway cutting. Views across the estuary were spectacular – Hilbre Island in the distance and the mountains of Snowdonia, where the clouds appeared to be thickening and darkening, to the south, but there were no good views of any birds, near or far. Recrossing the railway,  we continued our progress to the Inner Marsh Hide, our last, but as it turned out, most interesting port of call. Our first sight was of Black-tailed Godwits feeding, and quarrelling noisily, just in front of the hide, and of Lapwing that were standing in the shallow water further off. In the far distance Greylag and Canada Geese were seen as well as the Wigeon that had been heard as we had been approaching the hide. However, nearer at hand, sharp eyes, and hints from other birders present, soon revealed further treats; first of a few Dunlin that were going back and forwards along the sandy edges of the lake probing for food and then of half-a-dozen or so Golden Plover that were standing amongst the Lapwing, and which in the strong afternoon light were really living up to their name. While these might have been the icing on our cake, the cherries came in the form of excellent views, first of a Water Rail that kept dodging back and forth across a gap in the reeds off to our left and then, in front off us on the far side of the lake, of a trio of colourful Stonechat that were a real pleasure to behold in the bright sunlight as they swung backwards and forwards in the light breeze, clinging to the tops of the reeds.

Our birding appetites thus well satisfied with these final sightings, we decided to head back towards the car park, before the rain, which seemed to be heralded by the sight of a magnificent rainbow, came our way. In the end, however, the rain did not materialise and we were able to amble back slowly, taking time once again to enjoy the sight of the Linnets, as well as scanning the adjacent field where the presence of sheep churning up the soft ground, was attracting Pied Wagtail, Starlings and a couple of Jackdaw. Finally, there was a brief pause at the feeders near the VC which were now attracting plenty of titmice, before we reached our cars and headed for home after another good day’s TT birding.

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Pink-footed goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Wigeon
  7. Mallard
  8. Shoveler
  9. Pintail
  10. Teal
  11. Tufted duck
  12. Pheasant
  13. Little grebe
  14. Little egret
  15. Grey heron
  16. Common buzzard
  17. Kestrel
  18. Water rail
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Golden plover
  22. Lapwing
  23. Dunlin
  24. Redshank
  25. Black-tailed godwit
  26. Curlew
  27. Ruff
  28. Black-headed gull
  29. Herring gull
  30. Woodpigeon
  31. Pied wagtail
  32. Dunnock
  33. Robin
  34. Stonechat
  35. Blackbird
  36. Blue tit
  37. Great tit
  38. Starling
  39. Magpie
  40. Jackdaw
  41. Carrion crow
  42. Chaffinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Goldfinch
  45. Bullfinch
  46. Linnet

Woolston Eyes 06.11.18

Overcast with some bright periods thrown in

The newly completed flood defence system installed on Weir Lane had its first test when a flood of people washed up on its embankment taking up every available berth. Indeed, as the energy and enthusiasm for the Woolston Eyes autumnal visit cascaded from all attendees there was almost a moment when a breach might have occurred in these defences, but the design held up to its desired specifications accommodating Team Tuesday’s swollen ranks … just!

Then once all had steadied themselves, from the rush of greetings, coupled with a swift debrief, we checked that our day-list recorder had scribed the first half dozen species onto her notepad before we checked out the becalmed waters of the Mersey … observations being made from a ‘reet- plush’ looking quayside, which held a nod to the past with some of the old masonry still in place from when the Runcorn and Latchford Canal carried cargo to this part of the Mersey.  Tufted Duck, Mute Swan and the expected Mallard were noted along with a rather active Little Grebe, which gave but brief views before it popped beneath the ‘waves’ to grab yet another fish for its breakfast (in truth this was closer to elevenses time, but to have said this at this moment in the day might have brought a halt to our progress over to number three bed). The basin held a couple of Gadwall, and as we marched away from this area a Cetti’s Warbler using its inbuilt megaphone offered the usual refrain to our patient ears …’don’t even try to see me with your fancy optics ….. for I am the Scarlet Pimpernel of the bird world’ …we tried ….. we failed … we moved on.

Cormorant were easier to see as long as a vantage point along the bank of number two bed could be gained and soon we added a couple of flyover ticks to the list, with a small flock of Starling, a few Redwing and an obliging couple of Skylark, which although flying quite high gave themselves away by their contact calls.

Views from the footbridge over to number three bed then gave Teal, Coot and a skulking Grey Heron and all were duly logged before we gained the south scaffolding hide from which, with a touch of judicious shepherding, all managed clear views of winter plumaged Black Tailed Godwits before we trod into the centre of the bed. Greenfinch, Goldfinch and the odd Blackbird slowed our progress, but not for long as Kit-Kat wrappers and other such snacks were being tentatively tweaked as break time was upon us … and where best to enjoy this than in the comfort of the Morgan Hide.

Settled in, coffee poured, snacks enthusiastically devoured, yes it was a brief moment or two when ‘Engine-Birdwatching’ could idle for a while before it was moved into …well no more than second gear for there was no need to race because all that lay before us were species already noted –  thus we could simply enjoy the view and enjoy the moment. A Kestrel did oblige in giving excellent views as it invited us to admire it, in what of late has been its larder of ease without that tiresome need to hover, as it instead took advantage of the plentiful supply of perches from which to launch its feeding forays.

At last, it was time to ‘make the rounds’ of the bed with the winter seed crop area being our main port of call, but on this day there was little to be noted as it seems an army of Pheasant have of late stripped the ground of fallen seed, but empty handed we were not for we managed to connect with a few obliging Reed Bunting before we started the slow retreat. The footbridge ‘Billy Gruff like’ decided we must not pass until we had taken in the peerless, if understated, beauty of a female Pintail, which as befitting a bird of such refined features kept herself very much to herself … glimpses shall we say were finally gained by all … and we were then allowed to pass.

A Great Crested Grebe in icy winter plumage made an effort to be seen by a few of the Team allowing one more for our tally, which no doubt looked quite healthy by now, but as with all these wandering with TT the mindfulness Clapometer (with thanks to Hughie Green!) once more registered a decibel level the H&S executive might advise was once more at a level above the recommended safety limit … another successful jaunt then! (DS)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Coal tit
  2. Blue tit
  3. Great tit
  4. Long-tailed tit
  5. Wren
  6. House sparrow
  7. Blackbird
  8. Collared dove
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Little grebe
  11. Mallard
  12. Black-headed gull
  13. Mute swan
  14. Coot
  15. Moorhen
  16. Canada goose
  17. Lesser black-backed gull
  18. Gadwall
  19. Cetti’s warbler (heard)
  20. Cormorant
  21. Dunnock
  22. Redwing
  23. Grey heron
  24. Shoveler
  25. Teal
  26. Pied wagtail
  27. Black-tailed godwit
  28. Lapwing
  29. Kestrel
  30. Feral pigeon
  31. Goldfinch
  32. Greenfinch
  33. Common buzzard
  34. Magpie
  35. Chaffinch
  36. Reed bunting
  37. Carrion crow
  38. Pintail (F)
  39. Robin
  40. Kingfisher
  41. Great-crested grebe

(Photos DS)