Risley Moss 20.03.18

Calm, generally overcast, but a few sunny intervals

A good number of the Team gathered in the car park at Risley Moss for a return visit to a site we had not been to for some time. Conversations and the awarding of the prize for the Christmas Quiz (congratulations Mike, and thanks to Hilary and John) were interrupted, first by the sight of a lone buzzard being harried by a crow and then, soon after, by the appearance of one, two, three and finally four of these graceful raptors, enough surely to justify the use of their collective term: a Wake of Buzzards.

Having decided to follow one of the trails round the reserve, we headed first for the Woodland Hide, some catching sight en route of a small flock of starlings and others of a pair of Ravens that flew over us. At the hide the feeders were drawing in a number of birds, all looking very fresh in their spring plumage; Nuthatch, Coal tit, Blue tit and both a male and a female Bullfinch. On the path behind the hide the cheeck, cheeck of a woodpecker drew eyes upwards, but catching sight of what proved to be a male Greater Spotted was not easy, at least until it flew off in its usual undulating way. Jay and Magpie were noted and pressing on to the now sadly vandalised Observation Tower some Goldfinch were sighted in the trees alongside the path.

With the sunshine having broken through the clouds, the picnic tables overlooking the moss suggested it was time for coffee, but there was little to entertain us, apart from the usual friendly chatter amongst the Team, until a solitary Reed Bunting was spotted, more or less straight in front. Despite our best efforts, little else, apart from a pair of Mallard, was revealed and we decided to head for the Mossland Hide. Along the way, although we could hear plenty of birds, catching sight of anything other than Robins proved difficult. In front of the hide itself, although there had been a welcome effort to clear vegetation that had previously obscured the view, all was quiet, save for alone duck that quickly made itself scarce before anyone could identify it!

Our onward progress was briefly halted by a glimpse of a shy Moorhen taking cover, from which it determinedly refused to move, under the overhanging bank of a small pond more or less adjacent to the path, and by the activities of a Treecreeper that briefly teased us with its antics before flying further off into the woodland. Gulls, probably Herring, were seen circling high overhead, but by this time, the cloud had thickened and, in the increasingly gloomy conditions, the former noise of bird activity seemed to have died down, apart that is from the noisy call of a Wren (heard but not seen!) and the cross-sounding alarm calls of a number of Great tit, which we came across just as we approached the Visitor Centre.

In the centre itself there was a display showing photos of the mindless destruction of the Observation Tower, as well as plenty of information about the history and ecology of the site, which, during the Second World War, housed a Royal Ordnance bomb-making factory. A Nuthatch was making a show on the feeders in front of the VC, and its bright colours afforded a suitably pleasing memory to take away with us after our morning’s unusually quiet, but nonetheless enjoyable, birding.

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Nuthatch
  2. Buzzard
  3. Robin
  4. Blue tit
  5. Blackbird
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Bullfinch
  8. Long-tailed tit
  9. Great-spotted woodpecker
  10. Dunnock
  11. Starling
  12. Raven
  13. Jay
  14. Magpie
  15. Goldfinch
  16. Wood pigeon
  17. Mallard
  18. Carrion crow
  19. Reed bunting
  20. Great tit
  21. Canada goose
  22. Moorhen
  23. Tree creeper
  24. Herring gull
  25. Coal tit

Photos DC & CG


Mere Sands Wood 13.03.18

Overcast at first, clearing later

Despite the less than promising skies, a good number of the Team met outside the Visitor Centre at this Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve and quickly decided upon splitting our visit into pre- and post-lunch sessions. Setting off first towards the Cyril Gibbons hide, we were soon scanning the tops of the trees where a variety of tits and finches were flitting about making the most of feeding opportunities. Blackbirds and Robins flew back and forth across the path in front of us, and as we approached the hide the unmistakable whining of a Little Grebe was heard. However, from the hide itself there was no sight of this bird, but we were treated to good views of a couple of pair of Goldeneye, numerous tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler and a Great Crested Grebe which was looking its very best in fine breeding plumage. Pressing on round Mere End, some of the group caught sight of a Treecreeper, others of a Collared Dove and Mistle Thrush, whilst all were treated to good views of some Nuthatch, which first attracted our attention by their noisy calls. One pair appeared to be readying a nesting hole in one of the trees, or at least one of them did, whilst the other (the male or the female?) preened itself in the warm sunshine that was beginning to break through the clouds by this time. Looping back round on the path towards the VC and lunch, Shelduck were spotted feeding in the stubble fields just adjacent to the reserve, and a Grey Heron and Coot were added to our day list at Heath Lake and End Lake.

Lunch was taken in the Visitor Centre, by kind permission of the site manager, and suitably refreshed we dallied for a while behind the screens at the VC watching a variety of birds coming in to take advantage of the well-stocked feeding trays: Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Dunnock and even a Pheasant, which jumped up rather awkwardly onto one of the tables. Our afternoon circuit, taking in Marshall and Ainscough hides, was made in increasingly sunny, almost spring-like conditions, and we had good views across the Hollow of Cormorants, a Little Egret, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, a couple of Herring and Black-headed Gulls and a pair of Oystercatchers.

From Redwing hide, despite determined scanning, we were not able to add anything to our list, but, undaunted, we pressed on to  Rufford hide where we had clear, but only partial views of a Sparrowhawk, perched on the far side of a pile of logs, evidently enjoying the sunshine whilst it digested what must have been a fairly substantial lunch, since not even the antics of some Magpies that dropped in appeared to be able to disturb it. The sunshine was now lighting up the view in front of us and the colours of a number of Teal resting amongst the reeds positively sparkled.


Sadly we had at last to drag ourselves away from this pleasing spectacle, but there was just time for a few of us to make a final detour down to Heath Lake, where at last we caught sight of a Little Grebe busily diving, looking for, and, one one occasion, finding food. A pleasant stroll back to the carpark rounded off a very successful trip to a site that is always attractive.


Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Shelduck
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Shoveler
  7. Teal
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Goldeneye
  11. Pheasant
  12. Great crested grebe
  13. Little grebe
  14. Cormorant
  15. Little egret
  16. Grey heron
  17. Sparrowhawk
  18. Common buzzard
  19. Moorhen
  20. Coot
  21. Oystercatcher
  22. Black-headed gull
  23. Herring gull
  24. Stock dove
  25. Woodpigeon
  26. Collared dove
  27. Dunnock
  28. Robin
  29. Blackbird
  30. Mistle thrush
  31. Long-tailed tit
  32. Coal tit
  33. Blue tit
  34. Great tit
  35. Treecreeper
  36. Nuthatch
  37. Magpie
  38. Jackdaw
  39. Carrion crow
  40. House sparrow
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Bullfinch
  44. Reed bunting

Photos HW and CG

Pre-Spring Woolston Wander 06.03.18

Cool, but little wind and distinctly milder than of late! 

Of late, due to the severely cold weather which rode upon an icy easterly airstream, there have been a number of waifs and strays searching for food and shelter with Golden Plover and Ruff out on my mosslands, Brambling and Blackcap in my garden and today at the tail end of the awful weather I found a gaggle of souls wandering aimlessly about Weir Lane—for these I felt they needed gathering together asap and leading to the comfort zone of the nearby Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve….a task not too easy as it turned out….

All moved as one towards the Weir with relative ease noting House Sparrow aplenty along the route but once the river was encountered splinter groups started to occur as Tufted Duck, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen were carefully observed after which a re-grouping took place at the weir crossing for here Goldeneye were to be admired. Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe and Grey Wagtail then demanded our attention before we once more set off for number three bed moving slowly along the west bank of number two bed where summer plumaged Cormorant and a sentinel Grey Heron etched themselves onto the day list.

A Marsh Harrier was clearly noted by one of the team but this lingered not quite long enough for good views to be gained, but most of our eyes settled, all but too briefly, upon this raptor which disappeared into number three bed, which was then carefully scanned from our viewpoint but all we could turn up was a Buzzard—oh and a flock of Black Headed Gulls which were now back for the breeding season.

The pace then picked up and soon all were safely across the footbridge and onto the pathways of this splendid ‘island’ sanctuary but as expected a pause or two was built into our progress with the south scaffolding hide being the first of these and from this vantage point Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal were noted, boosting the wildfowl count for the day. En-route to the Morgan Hide Snowdrops and emerging Wild Garlic were noted reminding us that spring was almost upon us and as if to confirm this Greenfinch and Song Thrush were offering up their courtship song as we negotiated some of the ‘slightly’ mired sections of the pathway.

Destination reached and a chorus of contented ahhs then rang from within the auditorium that is the Morgan Hide as all settled down to admire the open water and reedbeds that hummed with life. Team Wirral (Kenny, Colin and Stewart) along with Woolston stalwarts Dave Bowman and Alan Warford were in situ and keen to point out the bird activity out on this ever-changing backdrop of life that lay before us. An Oystercatcher hurried about the bed, but couldn’t find anywhere to settle: with luck as the season progresses it may choose to breed out on the shingle isle that was created last year—fingers crossed. The bird feeders were not without their own whirl of activity as Chaffinch, Bullfinch and both a male and female Brambling managed to draw eyes away from the reedbeds in order that these too could be admired and of course tallied onto an ever growing day list.

A Lesser Black Back Gull then reminded us that nature is as raw as last week’s winds for one individual, which we surmised was full of breeding season territorial hormones, set about passing Black Headed Gulls with vicious intent and for those of the team who were of a stoic nature a video of a kill made by this gull, several hours earlier, could be viewed…

A patient wait to try and gain views of the Harrier, noted earlier, then took place with the time being happily spent catching up with our Wirral Wanderers, snacking through elevenses and plans for possible future birdwatching trips being discussed, but the bird remained stubbornly out of view thus just as the cool was starting to creep in we moved off for a circuit of the bed. Not too much was added to the tally for the day, but views of another Brambling was gained whilst Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldfinch kept our scribe for the day in gainful employ.

Then it was time to make a steady move over to the weir and onto our cars with the book being closed once Herring Gull had become our final bird noted for the day. (DS)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Greylag goose
  3. Canada goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Shoveler
  8. Teal
  9. Pochard
  10. Tufted duck
  11. Goldeneye
  12. Pheasant (heard)
  13. Little grebe
  14. Great-crested grebe
  15. Cormorant
  16. Grey heron
  17. Marsh harrier
  18. Common buzzard
  19. Coot
  20. Moorhen
  21. Oystercatcher
  22. Black-headed gull
  23. Herring gull
  24. Lesser black-backed gull
  25. Wood pigeon
  26. Collared dove
  27. Great-spotted woodpecker
  28. Grey wagtail
  29. Dunnock
  30. Robin
  31. Song thrush
  32. Blackbird
  33. Wren
  34. Great tit
  35. Blue tit
  36. Long-tailed tit
  37. Magpie
  38. Carrion crow
  39. House sparrow
  40. Chaffinch
  41. Brambling
  42. Goldfinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Siskin
  45. Bullfinch
  46. Reed bunting

Photos JH



Wirral Winter Wander 20.02.18

Bright with clearing blue skies, stiff breeze

Pre-walk duties carried out on clear views, sun blessed and north wind caressed morn led me back to the Team who had arrived in reasonable force for the 10 am start on Denhall Lane. Distractions aplenty delayed Team Tuesdays move north towards Neston Quay for inland, Stock Dove requested an entry on our day list, marshland flaunted a ‘pair’ of Great White Egret and, roadside, our almost deified Wirral hosts Kenny, Colin and Stewart were holding court to mesmerising effect, but nonetheless we managed a break out and off we ambled upon another Wirral extravaganza.

Activity aplenty out on the marsh managed to break up deep and meaningful conversations which seemed to range in any and every direction other than birdwatching, proving as Rag and Bone Man sings (we) Are Only Human after all ….then birds DID win through. Skylark song drifted through the air bringing nature’s angelic chorus into our souls whilst Curlew offered their haunting calls as Linnet and Reed Bunting paused for photographers to attempt image-capture these delightful smaller passerines.

Decca Pools area reached and all gained the slight incline to gain more sweeping views of this wondrous salt marsh area over which distant flocks of Starling, Pink Footed Geese and Gulls including Great Black Backed milled about during the frenzy of another day in their collective survival. The foreground from this vantage point gave with ease a lone drake Pintail, numerous Teal and Wigeon plus an elusive Little Grebe. Then after a visual acuity test, in which I am happy to report all passed with flying colours, resting Common Snipe were scraped onto our recorder’s list.

A move onward was then soon halted for a ‘Ring-Tail’ (Juvenile/Female) Hen Harrier was brought to our attention by our Raptor spotter of the day—this bird didn’t help the viewing by all of the Team for it was taking full advantage of the strong Northerly ‘breeze’ to move rapidly over the marsh, but happily I believe all connected with it to some degree or other…just!

We then decided that this was a good time to retreat towards the comfort zone of Burton Mere RSPB reserve for an early lunch and without further ado we about-turned to our cars, but the pace wasn’t set at too greater speed as we had a lot to chat about and there was a pair of Raven to admire, just to keep the ornithological element of the day topped up!

A rather busy Burton Mere Reserve was totally unfazed by the influx of our Team and with ease it absorbed us into its welcoming arms giving plenty to view whilst lunches were absorbed with comfortable ease. The Accountants cold and precise Double Entry Bookkeeping or the more subtle humanistic view of Henry Reeds – ‘The Naming of Parts’ – incremented the lunchtime part of the list with Avocet, Black Tailed Godwit, Shoveler, Redshank and Gadwall to name but a few birds that graced our comfy viewing point before we set off for an hour’s bimble about the site. Tufted Duck, bustling Goldfinch and a resting Little Egret lined the way to our next hide from which a flighty Stonechat and a carefully observed Cetti’s Warbler were noted before we decided that a final push for the day would lead us to Parkgate.

A brief drive later and most of the Team were ready to absorb a little more of the days dominant Northerly air flow which kept its promise to chill unlike a certain Owl species that in not putting on a show failed to thrill. Disappointment then ended this splendid day OR DID IT?—NEVER! for here a Marsh Harrier chose to make our acquaintance, Lapwing Galore spilled about the sky, a lone Brambling, sensing our ‘need’ to add another relatively elusive bird to our tally, perched atop a nearby tree, young Peter (Kenny’s lad) turned up helping to reduce the age average of our team, whilst finally a mini flock of Fieldfare and Redwing allowed views unlike a clearly calling Green Woodpecker!

Then it was time to bid a fond farewell to the Wirral, its Wildlife and our much appreciated Wirral Triumvirate. (DS)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Great White Egret
  2. Jackdaw
  3. Stock dove
  4. Wood pigeon
  5. Nuthatch (H)
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Little egret
  8. Starlings
  9. Dunnock
  10. Common buzzard
  11. Reed bunting
  12. Linnet
  13. Mallard
  14. Moorhen
  15. Long- tailed tit
  16. Pink-footed goose
  17. Raven
  18. Shelduck
  19. Carrion crow
  20. Meadow pipit
  21. House sparrow
  22. Lapwing
  23. Blue tit
  24. Teal
  25. Great tit
  26. Chaffinch
  27. Skylark
  28. Curlew
  29. Lesser black-backed gull
  30. Coot
  31. Pintail
  32. Wigeon
  33. Redshank
  34. Snipe
  35. Black-headed gull
  36. Little grebe
  37. Kestrel
  38. Hen harrier
  39. Cormorant
  40. Avocet
  41. Black-tailed godwit
  42. Canada goose
  43. Shoveler
  44. Grey heron
  45. Tufted duck
  46. Marsh harrier
  47. Gadwall
  48. Coal tit
  49. Robin
  50. Greylag goose
  51. Magpie
  52. Stonechat
  53. Cetti’s warbler
  54. Great black-backed gull
  55. Brambling
  56. Pied wagtail
  57. Green woodpecker (H)
  58. Pheasant
  59. Fieldfare
  60. Redwing
  61. Wren

Photos DC/CG


Chorlton Water Park 06.02.18

Light snow, turning heavier for a time – cold!

A determined group of some fifteen members of the Team met in the car park just before  10am. Early arrivals had been enjoying the sight of a mix of small birds around the feeders and also of a Ring-necked Parakeet that was muscling in, much to the discomfort of the smaller birds. With the snow just beginning to fall, however, we lost no time in making our way down for a first view across the lake, where we saw fair numbers of Canada Geese, several pairs of Mute Swans, with large cygnets in attendance, as well as the usual groups of Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot and Black-headed Gull. More determined scanning revealed the presence of a small group of Pochard in the distance and the first of several Great Crested Grebe that were seen at various times over the course of the morning, all of which, however, looked  very ‘washed out’, still in their winter plumage.

Setting off, for a change, on a clockwise circuit of the lake, we paused at the pond area where patience was eventually rewarded with the sight of quite good numbers of Goldfinch, some Siskin feeding high in the trees, a Treecreeper making its almost frantic way up the trunk of one of the tallest trees, and, a bit further off, the glimpse of a roosting Buzzard that was being given a hard time by several Magpies, before it eventually flew off.

Moving on towards the river and Kenworthy Woods we saw little new – the height of the Mersey seemed to be discouraging the usual wagtails that had been seen along the banks on previous visits, and the old orchard seemed almost strangely quiet. However, just as we were leaving the orchard something put up what turned out to be a flock of twenty or so Redwing that circled round before coming to rest again a bit further on, and allowing us to get some good, relatively close-up views. Heading across into the woods, on the other side of the track we were lucky to pick out a couple of pairs of Bullfinches that were feeding enthusiastically in the hedge, the males now obviously coming into their bright spring plumage.

Further on, having just spotted a lone Herring gull out on the playing fields adjacent to the path, its profile clearly distinguishing it from the accompanying Black-headed gulls, the call of a Song Thrush teasingly attracted our attention. Its repetitive notes were clear and loud, but locating it proved somewhat of a challenge, especially as several Redwing were present and confusingly much easier to spot. Eventually, however, the singer was located and we all enjoyed the sight of this determined harbinger of spring, in which role it was having to work especially hard on this particular morning!

Coffee break taken, with the snow becoming a little heavier, we began our longish trek back through the woods and towards the lake. Little attracted our attention, however, apart from a small flock of Long-tailed tits just as we left the woods and, on the far side of the lake, a pair of Gadwall that were glimpsed through the falling snow, that was becoming distinctly wetter with each passing moment. After a final sortie onto the river bank, we all turned back towards the car park. However, as some determinedly strode ahead, others were distracted and their progress slowed, first by the raucous calls of Jays, then the sight of one of the few Robins seen during the course of the morning and finally by the sight of Siskin feeding in the trees just above the path. But while some were focusing on the latter, others spotted out on the lake, what, after much consultation of handbooks, common agreement eventually decided was a lone female Red-breasted Merganser. This bird swam back and forth across the lake for some time, before eventually taking off and disappearing from view.

The snow had more or less ceased by this time, but with a penetrating cold having replaced the dampness, no one now delayed in the final few steps back to the cars after what had turned out to be quite a satisfying morning of birding.

 Bird List (MH)

  1. Blue tit
  2. Great tit
  3. Starling
  4. Ring- necked parakeet
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Sparrows
  7. Wood pigeon
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Black-headed gulls
  10. Blackbird
  11. Pochard
  12. Cormorant
  13. Mute swan
  14. Canada goose
  15. Coot
  16. Mallard
  17. Tufted duck
  18. Moorhen
  19. Great-crested grebe
  20. Magpie
  21. Siskin
  22. Treecreeper
  23. Buzzard
  24. Dunnock
  25. Wren
  26. Carrion crow
  27. Redwings
  28. Bullfinch
  29. Robin
  30. Jay
  31. Herring gull
  32. Song thrush
  33. Long-tailed tits
  34. Gadwall
  35. Collared dove
  36. Red-breasted merganser

(Photos DC)

Astley Moss 23.01.18


Overcast – grey – fresh

There are those genteel and civilised visits to the Moss starting and finishing at the Fisheries Cafe (the norm)…and then there are those once in a while curve-ball wanders when the challenge is to negotiate rather a lot of mire whilst straining for each and every elusive species of bird that may lie just within the field-view distance of our binoculars but once each bird has been incremented onto the day list the sweet taste of victory would ride well on our taste buds … this was such a day!

Rindle Road offered just about enough room for our parking and once all were safely gathered in we set off in an easterly direction for a short wander — yes this was to be a day of stop start walks – three in all.

This first sortie gave Pheasant aplenty – well it is after all a rough-shoot, keepered area –  a party of Long-Tailed Tit, several camera shy House Sparrows and had the added bonus of a couple of Hares which showed well in a stubble field.

A retracing of steps then led us westerly, towards the Astley Moss Special Area of Conservation and it was immediately obvious that there had been an almost 100% success rate in preserving mired pathways! Undaunted, we slowly negotiated these mud-pie tracks and were soon distracted by a distant flock of Finches, Woodpigeon and the odd Stock Dove.

In a more open area, we just about connected with a flock of Chaffinch which were on edge at the edge of a field and no doubt this was due to the presence of a watchful Sparrowhawk which was noted by one of the Team. Thus here we saw the balancing act shown by the smaller birds between gaining some grain whilst avoiding being grabbed for the final flight of their lives!  We than heard the sue-sue-sue song of an elusive Willow Tit and the high pitched contact call of a Treecreeper, which was moving through a light stand of woodland along with Blue/Great and Coal Tits.

In order to win views across the rare habitat of an inland raised peat bog, which has over the last 20-30 years been carefully restored by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to its natural sphagnum pooled state, a careful ballet of delicate footfalls had to be enacted through peaty porridge before the wintry golden sweep of purple moor grass interspersed with heather and made inaccessible by deep and spongy sphagnum pools came into view.

A distant flock of Lapwing gave movement to this tranquil bird-free area, but on closer examination not quite so quiet for soon at least fifteen Snipe took to the air and zigzagged their way into and soon out of our view. (Urged on by a tall gentleman well-known to some of us. Ed)

The third and final wander then awaited our footfalls thus we carefully returned to Rindle Road, negotiated the Railway crossing and headed south for an awfully big adventure over to Chat Moss, the air above which was soon busy with large flocks of Woodpigeon, Starling and Jackdaw.

 An elusive pair of Grey Partridge then occupied our attention for a while for in spite of these birds being out in the open on a winter wheat crop they proved to be more than a match for our Team but happily all finally connected with these birds.

Photo DC

Redwing then became the headline birds as a small flock of these milled about the air landing long enough in some tall trees to give all a view unlike the three Mistle Thrush which only revealed themselves to a few of our number before they moved off.

Astley Road then required our last push for a pace or two but only as far as Olive Mount Farm for in this area and on a stubble field opposite the farm birds aplenty were ready to round off our day in style … if we were prepared to work hard for them! Effort put in by all then gained us Grey and Pied Wagtail, the odd Fieldfare and for those who happened to have their binoculars resting on the right spot after a lot attempts captured images of a couple of Brambling.

 It was time to retreat from this corner of our Moss safe in the knowledge that we had worked hard, been amply rewarded for our foot slogging and were assured that sleep would come easy this coming night! (DS)

Bird List (CG)

  1. Herring Gull
  2. Lesser Black Back Gull
  3. Greater Black Back Gull
  4. Black-headed Gull
  5. Grey Heron
  6. Lapwing
  7. Pheasant
  8. Grey Partridge
  9. Blackbird
  10. Starling
  11. Chaffinch
  12. Brambling
  13. Dunnock
  14. Long-tailed tit
  15. Blue tit
  16. Great tit
  17. Coal tit
  18. Robin
  19. Treecreeper
  20. Carrion Crow
  21. Jackdaw
  22. Magpie
  23. Pied Wagtail
  24. Grey Wagtail
  25. Fieldfare
  26. Redwing
  27. Mistle thrush
  28. Woodpigeon
  29. Stock Dove
  30. Collared dove
  31. Common Snipe
  32. Mallard
  33. Buzzard

Pennington Flash 16.01.18

Strong wind, wintry, squally showers

A hardy dozen of the team gathered in the car park just after 10am and wasted no time in making their way to the shelter of Bunting hide. There, we were rewarded with the sight of plenty of woodland birds making the most of the feeding opportunities, and, given that Spring cannot be too far away, beginning to look their brightest and their best in mating plumage. Blue tits, Willow tits, Reed Buntings, Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Robins were all in evidence, joined on the ground by Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove and Moorhen, the latter two species present in good number. We even had a brief sight of the Water Rail that frequents this corner of the reserve, before a sudden hail shower sent all the birds scurrying for cover.

With the cold beginning to penetrate and a promising, but alas only temporary clearing of the skies, it was decided to head on towards our next objective, Teal hide. Pausing briefly to admire a couple of Song Thrushes, we pressed on, but progress was suddenly halted by the sharp eyes of one of our number who had spotted the electric blue of a Kingfisher perched on a low branch overlooking a small pool three or four metres from the path. Although the bird did not emerge from cover, most were able to get a view, before it dived and then flew off further back into the undergrowth, no doubt to devour whatever it had caught, away from prying eyes! Setting off once again, our attention was next drawn to the tops of the alders alongside the path where there was plenty of activity. The light at this point made identification difficult, but eventually some clarity (both of mind and light) led to the identification of these birds as Redpoll.

At Teal hide, the hight water levels had attracted a fair mix of waterfowl and given the brightness, we had good views of male and female Goosander, Gadwall, Coot and Teal. Careful scanning of the island directly in front of the hide eventually revealed a lone Snipe whose colouration made it extremely difficult to pick out on the rocky water’s edge until it moved.

A longish trek to Ramsdale hide saw us crossing paths with a couple of late arrivals who had chosen to do the tour in the opposite direction and from the hide itself we had views of Goldeneye, a good number of great Crested Grebe, more Goosander, and, after a lot directional instructions, of a pair of Little Grebe that were actively fishing way over towards the far bank of the flash. At Edmundson hide a Little Egret was present and we also admired the antics of Shoveler, some of whom were circling round and round, no doubt to disturb food from the bottom of the pond, and others whose bobbing head displays appeared to have more to do with the approaching mating season. Our final, and brief stop was at Horrocks hide, but the northerly wind was blowing straight into the hide (doesn’t it always?) and after adding Herring Gull and Lapwing to our morning’s list, it was decided to call a relatively early end to what, despite the weather, had turned out to have been a rewarding first trip of our 2018 season (… and we had avoided the showers!)

Bird List (DL)

  1. Goldeneye (M&F)
  2. Blackbird (M&F)
  3. Robin
  4. Coot
  5. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  6. Herring Gull
  7. Black-Headed Gull
  8. Dunnock
  9. Shoveler (M&F)
  10. Canada Goose
  11. Mute Swan
  12. Mallard
  13. MoorHen
  14. Pied Wagtail
  15. Stock Dove
  16. Wood Pigeon
  17. Great Tit
  18. Blue Tit
  19. Willow Tit
  20. Chaffinch (M&F)
  21. Bullfinch (M&F)
  22. Reed Bunting (M&F)
  23. Water Rail
  24. Kingfisher
  25. Redpoll
  26. Magpie
  27. Gadwall (M&F)
  28. Goosander (M&F)
  29. Tufted Duck (M&F)
  30. Heron
  31. Little Egret
  32. Teal (M&F)
  33. Snipe
  34. Great Crested Grebe
  35. Little Grebe
  36. Cormorant
  37. Lapwing
  38. Mallard (M&F)

Dunham Park 05.12.17

Cloudy, dull and cool but not as windy as forecast

Sixteen birders met in the carpark at Dunham Massey for the last trip of the year, with everyone looking forward to a delicious lunch at the end. It was cloudy and not very bright, but no rain was forecast.

In the trees around the carpark we saw redwings, carrion crows, jackdaws, magpies, collared doves, wood pigeons, jays, for some a tree creeper and the first of several nuthatches flitting amongst the branches. Some thought we had seen enough to support a plan to go straight to the pub!

However, we carried on through the Visitor Centre to the lake where, sadly, no kingfisher was to be seen. We saw black-headed gulls, mallard, moorhen and tufted ducks and these ‘usuals’ were present on all the pools we later visited.

Walking along the Smithy Drive some heard the yaffle of a green woodpecker, but couldn’t locate it and so carried on towards the Smithy pond. Here, an eagle eyed member of TT then saw the green woodpecker, on the ground at first and then flying away. On the pond, as well as the ‘usuals’, were a lone Canada goose, coot and, in a tree close by, a gold crest and wren that had us circling the tree in order to catch a glimpse of them.

We then did a circuit of the outer path around the estate, but didn’t see many more birds. A flock of jackdaws flew in and rested on the trees opposite, though we couldn’t see anything that may have caused them to take flight. Another gold crest flew across the path, but was hard to see in the tree it landed in; a great-spotted woodpecker flew across behind the trees; and large numbers of fallow deer of many different shades were present on both sides of the path, mostly ignoring our presence and continuing to feed.

From a gate along the path two male pheasants were seen in the distance, but closer in, on the trees to the left, there were good views of a flock of tits which included coal, blue and long-tailed. On some tree branches we saw bright yellow jelly fungus (Tremella Mesenterica) which looked like gelatinous blobs.

As we walked back towards the house, the pond on the right had a grey heron on its bank but by now most were thinking of lunch, and so we stepped up and over the stile to walk along the path towards Little Bollington.

On the way were two more herons on the banks of the stream, and rooks and pied wagtails on the field. A buzzard was seen briefly flying towards a tree behind the wall in the distance. As we crossed the narrow bridge over the Bollin, some had good views of a kingfisher diving in to the river, but it then flew upstream and out of sight (of those following up! – ed.). On trees close by were seen chaffinch, house sparrows , goldfinch, blue tit and a robin.

At the Swan with Two Nicks two more members of Team Tuesday we waiting for us and having studied the menu, we all chose our food. As all the different tables made noisy conversation, Hilary gave out her Jolly Christmas Bird Quiz 2017 to keep us all ‘bird- nerding’ over the Christmas break.

We also showed Clive our appreciation for all his planning and organising with a small gift to say thank you, and, finally, we wished each other a very merry Christmas and happy New Year, looking forward to being back with TT on January 16th 2018. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Tufted duck
  4. Pheasant
  5. Grey heron
  6. Common buzzard
  7. Moorhen
  8. Coot
  9. Back-headed gull
  10. Wood pigeon
  11. Collared dove
  12. Kingfisher
  13. Great-Spotted Woodpecker
  14. Green woodpecker
  15. Pied wagtail
  16. Wren
  17. Robin
  18. Blackbird
  19. Redwing
  20. Mistle thrush
  21. Goldcrest
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Treecreeper
  27. Nuthatch
  28. Jay
  29. Magpie
  30. Jackdaw
  31. Carrion crow
  32. Rook
  33. House sparrow
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Goldfinch

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)

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.


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