Windy Bank Wood 03.07.18

Hot and sunny with a welcome breeze

With the ‘Howling of the Dog Days of Summer’ being perhaps several weeks away on the calendar of the turning seasons Team Tuesday gathered at what would normally be expected as the ‘Whimpering of the Puppies’ stage in natures ever changing cycle but this date set months ago had not the insight into what is now being seen as the ‘big brother of ’76 which today suggested that this was to be a possible ‘hot and bothered’ amble with little to see, undaunted off we set for within our collective spirit we knew ‘things’ would turn up—they always do.

Goldfinch provided the background sound as we headed off through the horse paddock whilstGatekeeper and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies caught our eye as they danced with delight about a weed strewn corner of said paddock….oh yes things of flight were to observed but perhaps not those which would populate a Day List of birds, but one which would be of equal measure and headed ‘Nature Walk Encounters’.

Glaze reached a Kestrel sat out on some wires saving itself the effort of hovering as it peered intently into another ‘overgrown’ patch of life but this neat raptor was soon eclipsed by a family party of Swallowwhich not only drew our attention but captivated our spirits as four youngsters sat out on a twig and waited hungrily for their parents to feed them..all no doubt believing that life will always be like this day. We in our wisdom chose not to share our collective knowledge of life but rather we ourselves, for this short sweep of time I feel, also believed in their premise…for such was this day and this encounter.

Sunshine cast our shadows about the track that leads to the reserve as we chatted away the time safe in the knowledge that not too many birds would be distracting us from our main purpose of just being together in a quietly beautiful area after a sometimes frenetic ‘year’ of birdwatching.

Buzzard, Magpie and Swift kept the list ticking over, but I felt that our day’s recorder felt not too challenged with scribing on this gloriously hot sunny day. Meadows had been somewhat prematurely shorn (in my opinion) of their wildflower carpet,  but there were pockets of thistle/vetches/daisies etc., which still housed butterflies adding Comma, Meadow Brown, Large White and Red Admiral to our ‘Lepidoptera’ list but more importantly these poems on the wing thrummed out vibrant rhythms to delight us as we sauntered through this now HOT summer’s day.

A Willow Warbler in alarm reminded us that our bird recognition skills through sound had paid off, as did the contact calls of a family party of Bullfinch, but at least with the latter a couple of this family did come briefly into view as did a pair of Jay, which no doubt were the cause of the previous birds constant calls for the Corvids were no doubt looking for food…and we know what eclectic eaters such birds are!

Next  a brief, but welcome plod through a sheltered area of woodland offered us a short IMG_3673respite from the pounding heat, but relax we could not for here a cacophony of alarms calls from Wren/Blue/Greatand Willow Tit told us of a potential ground predator which remained unseen but we ‘knew’ it was there..the birds certainly did!

Dragonflies next demanded our attention, and rightly so, for none could deny the majesty of an Emperor Dragonfly as it cast its shadow and good grace over our admiring eyes whilst it roamed about its domain. Four Spotted Chasers whizzed about whilst Damselflies (either Azure or Common) played in the wisps of breeze that fortunately played a part in this sun sapping day of perpetual rays. A Whitethroat called us back to birdwatching as it sang out its discordant ‘beginner-stage violinist’ scratchy song whilst to counterbalance in the richness of tone offered by one who has mastered the instrument both a Blackcap and Garden Warbler performed their best.

A Broad Bodied Chaser posed in order that we may admire its powder blue hue and admire it we did for we were well aware that this winged confirmation of the beauty of nature was only to grace the skies for but one brief summer such is the whimfulness of mother nature.

It was then time to seek the rest of summer away perhaps from most of the Team but ALL present would not be able to escape from nature as each time we lift our eyes or open our ears ‘something’ will captivate us always does…it always will.

Well, the previous paragraph could have quietly closed the day if it hadn’t have been for ‘the bridge’ for on our return trek we were encouraged to delay fond farewells by Banded Demoiselles, House Martin, Tufted Duck, Pied Wagtail and a gathering of Green Veined White Butterflies which, as if a rugby scrum, were ‘tightly’ packed about what I can only imagine was a mineral rich piece of ground …. ahh the wonderment of nature and its ability to halt a stride .. but strides did then reached and finally ‘byes’ were said … September we hope will soon be calling us to reassemble! (DS)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Tufted duck
  4. Common buzzard
  5. Kestrel
  6. Moorhen
  7. Lapwing
  8. Wood pigeon
  9. Swift
  10. Swallow
  11. House martin
  12. Pied wagtail
  13. Blackbird
  14. Whitethroat
  15. Long-tailed tit
  16. Great tit
  17. Nuthatch
  18. Jay
  19. Magpie
  20. Carrion crow
  21. Chaffinch
  22. Goldfinch
  23. Linnet
  24. Wren (heard)
  25. Willow Tit (heard)
  26. Garden Warbler (heard)
  27. Chiffchaff (heard)
  28. Blackcap (heard)
  29. Bullfinch (heard)

Butterflies: Meadow Brown; Comma; Gatekeeper; Small White; Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral

Dragonflies: Four-spotted Chaser; Common Darter; Emperor; Broad-bodies Chaser

Damselflies: Banded Demoiselle; Azure Damselfly; Blue-tailed Damselfly


Rixton Clay Pits 19.06.18

Sunny, becoming more overcast

A group of approximately 15 TT members gathered in the car park at Rixton Claypits in good spirits, the warm, dry conditions tempting even the colder-blooded to shed fleeces and shun waterproofs.

It became obvious immediately that the dense foliage was going to make bird-sightings challenging, but the group sallied forth, hoping for a bit of sunshine at least to encourage butterflies and dragonflies to appear. After a brief stop at the Visitor Centre, where a few late arrivals were relieved to find the main body of the group, having become hopelessly lost in the wilds of Rixton, TT set forth on its quest. A scrutiny of the nearby pond and fields revealed …. very little, but, undeterred, the group pressed on – some to scour the water ahead, finding coot, mallard, Canada goose and tufted duck, while others studied the beauty of the wildflower meadows  and were rewarded eventually by sightings of meadow brown, common blue, cinnabar and six-spot burnet.

Moving on along the boardwalk birdsong could be heard coming from every direction, the birds themselves proving difficult to locate. But glimpses of chiffchaff, willow warbler, wren and treecreeper were noted, along with froglets on the ground and martins flying overhead. Again the flowers were a source of wonder, including Northern marsh orchid a-plenty.

The pace now quickened (it needed to!),as the woodland paths were reached leading to the rest of the site.

A change of plan now occurred – or maybe just a wrong turning – to follow the acorn route to the further reaches of the reserve: how daring was that? With map in hand and a confusing compass, and a great deal of discussion, previously unknown paths were tried, opening up whole new areas. When did this site become so big? The wander through woods and alongside water was pleasant enough in its own right, but sightings of more chiffchaffs (no doubt this time), nuthatch, great tits and blackcap made the bird list more respectable too. On the water a swan with cygnets were spotted – then so many toadlets(?) crossing the path made walking almost impossible without fear of causing untimely deaths. Yet no such worries for the buzzard above with prey in talons, nor for the stoat (or weasel) with something large in its mouth, spotted by one of the team.

Eventually a return to familiar territory suggested that lunchtime was approaching and a now long file of weary and contented ramblers returned to the car park.

A lovely morning spent in a delightful area so close to home. The birdlife may have been limited, but flowers and foliage in abundance certainly made up for it, ensuring that no-one went home disappointed. (MHo)


Bird List (BP)

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Tufted Duck
  4. Buzzard
  5. Moorhen
  6. Coot
  7. Woodpigeon
  8. Swift
  9. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  10. Swallow
  11. House Martin
  12. Wren
  13. Robin
  14. Blackbird
  15. Song Thrush
  16. Blackcap
  17. Chiff Chaff
  18. Willow Warbler
  19. Long-tailed Tit
  20. Blue Tit
  21. Great Tit
  22. Treecreeper
  23. Jay
  24. Magpie
  25. Carrion Crow

Butterflies:    Speckled Wood; Common Blue; Gatekeeper; Meadow Brown                                                              Moths:      Cinnabar; Six-spot Burnet


Conwy 12.06.18

Warm and increasingly sunny

Clearing skies greeted some eighteen members of the Team that gathered outside the VC at Conwy RSPB on what has become an annual visit to this attractive location. Quickly agreeing a plan for the day, we set off towards the Boardwalk view point and it wasn’t’t long before the rasping notes of either Sedge or Reed Warblers made themselves heard: notes that accompanied us on and off for the rest of the day. As ever, there was plenty of scratching of heads as to which song was which, and although I for one still haven’t learnt how to distinguish the difference, by the end of the day most, if not all members of the Team had seen one or other of these shy birds.

Although birds were not present in large numbers there was plenty of interesting activity to see and from the Tal-y-fan hide several members spotted a little Grebe busily transporting its chick across the water on its back. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were much in evidence, either on the prowl or flying back and forth across the lakes probably from their huge roost on the other side of the estuary where a large tree (or trees) was decorated with lots of grey and white ‘blobs’. Making our way towards the Cameddau Hide, the wheezing of Greenfinch drew our eyes upwards and we had two of three fine views of these birds, obligingly perched out in the open. At the Cameddau Hide itself there was plenty to see including upwards of an hundred Canada Geese, Tufted Duck, Teal, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and more Herons, but our ornithological skills (such as they are!) were well and truly tested, first by a trio of waders that we eventually decided were Redshank (and of which better views were gained from the other side of the lake after lunch) and then by a second trio which, after long discussion, were pronounced to be Curlew. After such an expenditure of brainpower, all then agreed that lunch was called for and we made our way slowly back to the VC, stopping en route to admire the bee and marsh orchids that are found alongside the paths all over the site, and then pausing briefly at a feeding station that was bringing in a mixture of small birds including Greenfinch, Blue tit and Great tit.

After lunch we set out on the Grey Heron trail that runs along the estuary, from where we had more views of the heronry on the other side of the water and of Conwy Castle IMG_3572itself guarding the mouth of the river. By this time the sky had completely cleared and just being in the open air, every so often catching the strong scent of the brightly coloured wild roses, lifted the spirits, with bird song and sightings a bonus. There was plenty of activity in the bushes alongside the path where a colony of House Sparrows was much in evidence, and on the mudflats that were being progressively exposed by the receding tide, there was a growing presence of birds: Pied Wagtail along the shoreline, House Martins skimming low over the shallow water, and Canada Geese, Black headed Gulls, Shelduck and Curlew(!), further out.

From the Benarth Hide we had better views of the Redshank that had been seen earlier, one of which appeared to have lost a leg, as well as Lapwing, Morehen and Mallard. The presence of a Lesser black-backed and a Great black-backed gull in close proximity afforded a good opportunity to compare and contrast these birds.

Continuing on in a great loop round the edge of the reserve, there were few further sightings although the song of Blackcap rang out from a dense clump of brambles and there were fleeting glimpses of Whitethroat in the trees and undergrowth along the edge of the reserve. A couple of final treats lay in store, however, before we got back to the VC with a couple of team members catching sight of one of the Chiffchaff that had been heard on and off for much of the day, and more of us at last catching a brief glimpse of a Sedge Warbler that performed its parachuting trick, thereby obligingly aiding us in its identification.

In sum, a very good day, and not just from the birding point of view. (CG)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Little grebe
  2. Coot
  3. Moorhen
  4. House sparrow
  5. Starling
  6. Grey heron
  7. Feral pigeon
  8. House martin
  9. Carrion crow
  10. Barn swallow
  11. Swift
  12. Tufted duck
  13. Pied wagtail
  14. Goldfinch
  15. Magpie
  16. Little egret
  17. Mute swan
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Gadwall
  20. Reed bunting
  21. Great tit
  22. Blackbird
  23. Greenfinch
  24. Blue tit
  25. Herring gull
  26. Oystercatcher
  27. Shelduck
  28. Lesser black-backed gull
  29. Cormorant
  30. Greylag goose
  31. Lapwing
  32. Robin
  33. Blackcap
  34. Buzzard
  35. Curlew
  36. Canada goose
  37. Redshank
  38. Kestrel
  39. Sedge warbler
  40. Chiffchaff
  41. Jackdaw
  42. Mallard
  43. Greater black-backed gull
  44. Wood pigeon
  45. Whitethroat


Goyt Valley 22.05.18

Sunny, warm, not a cloud in the sky

Wonderful wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies greeted an eager group of 16+ TT birders at Lamaload Reservoir – the start of the annual Goyt Valley Tour. The first encounter of the day was with the striking redstart, thrilling everybody with its continuous singing as it moved from treetop to treetop, giving plenty of opportunity for clear sightings and photos. Reluctantly the group pulled itself away from this treasure, moving on to scan the reservoir- not particularly optimistic as past visits here had sometimes been disappointing. But not on this occasion! Canada geese with goslings first caught the eye, quickly followed by cormorant, great crested grebe and mallard in the water; a lone swallow skimming across; lapwing, common sandpiper and pied wagtail on the shores; a grey heron on the bank and pheasant and curlew in the fields beyond. And to top it all aerial entertainment in the form of raptors a-plenty: buzzards, kestrels and a sparrowhawk all putting on a good show.

But again the group had to move on (places to go, things to see and all that) – a procession of cars moving on to Pym’s Chair to see what would be offered there. First impressions; a drop in temperature of at least 10 degrees and no birds. But perseverance paid off; and a skylark was heard and seen by most, as it soared up into the heavens above. Then meadow pipit and goldfinch obligingly posed on nearby fenceposts to give everyone good views before the decision was made to move swiftly on- into the more sheltered valley and the Errwood reservoir.

At the first car park elusive song thrush and nuthatch could be heard in the trees around- then a mistle thrush sat out on a nearby tree while at the reservoir a family of ducklings explored the waterside under the watchful eye of mother mallard. More raptors flew above our heads- buzzards again- proving that not all birds are in a decline. A short drive to the next car park amidst growing excitement about imminent views of flycatchers. But not this year sadly- just more Canada geese- and a strange hybrid amongst them pretending to be a swan. A common sandpiper then flew low over the water – and  high in a tree across the river was spotted – how?-  a tree pipit. Lunch was now calling, so back to the car park for butties on a bench, noting a few butterflies, a robin and a chaffinch along the way. Fresh air certainly gives you an appetite.

Lunch over- next stop Derbyshire Bridge- where the convenience had been conveniently unlocked, much to the relief of many. Then a wander up the track to see the red grouse- and they must have known we were coming, as one of them didn’t even bother to hunker down behind the tufts of grass – just strutting its stuff for all to see. A pair of mistle thrushes showed well too- but up above more raptors filled the air (this could be a slight exaggeration.) A buzzard pretending to be a kestrel, kestrel pretending to be a peregrine- or vice versa- and a kestrel doing what kestrels are supposed to do – all very confusing as different people were giving running commentaries of different behaviours, binoculars focussed in various directions.

Now to the last stop -the Chimney, to hopefully catch a glimpse of our last target bird- the ring ouzel. However on this occasion it didn’t want to play the game of ‘here I am’, so the group had to be content- and content we certainly were- with meadow pipit, curlew, a ’big raptor’ and for a lucky few- a wheatear. The final act of the day was another mallard mum guiding her ducklings safely down a waterfall. But all good things have to come to an end, and a very satisfied group now had to wend its way home after a glorious day in peaceful surroundings in the company of a great bunch of like-minded people. (Mho)

Bird List (MHa)

  1. Redstart
  2. Coot
  3. Canada geese
  4. Lapwing
  5. Pied wagtail
  6. Common sandpiper
  7. Great-crested grebe
  8. Swallow
  9. Curlew
  10. Rook
  11. Grey heron
  12. Pheasant
  13. Willow warbler
  14. Kestrel
  15. Common buzzard
  16. Sparrowhawk
  17. Mallard
  18. Magpie
  19. Black-headed gulls
  20. Skylark
  21. Meadow pipit
  22. Goldfinch
  23. Song thrush(H)
  24. Nuthatch(H)
  25. Mistle thrush
  26. Jay
  27. Hybrid Canada goose
  28. Tree pipit
  29. Coal tit
  30. Robin
  31. Chaffinch
  32. Red grouse
  33. Peregrine
  34. Wheatear

Plus: butterflies: Speckled Wood, Orange Tip

… and Tadpoles

Photos SC & JH

Chorlton Water Park 15.05.18

Sunny, a few clouds in a blue sky, a gentle breeze. Not cold!

Around 20 TT birders met in the car park at Chorlton Water Park on a lovely day. After checking the feeders and seeing bullfinch, robin, ring-necked parakeet, dunnock, sparrow and great tit we set off down the hill and towards the lake. On the lake we saw Canada geese, mallard, coot and mute swan, including one with 5 fluffy cygnets who were following her very closely.

We then set off along the path to start our walk around the lake. There was some discussion around 2 birds we saw along the way and it was agreed that some had seen a bullfinch and others a redstart as one did not have the white patch on its rump and had a black back.

We then took a detour up the steeper path and through the trees. We saw long-tailed tits, swifts, (a first this year for some) song thrush and heard a chiffchaff singing though were unable to locate it through the leaves. We heard many such songs around the water park but did not actually see any of these birds.

We then stopped at the picnic tables for refreshments and saw many birds flitting about but they were impossible to identify as they flew for cover. Eventually we spotted 2 female and 1 male blackcap, long- tailed tits, a blue tit, whitethroat, a bullfinch carrying nesting material, a buzzard and a brimstone butterfly. Great tits were also seen taking food into a nest box in the trees.

Our next stop was the gate at the side of the river and the river itself where, though we stood hopefully, we saw only a carrion crow, another bullfinch and orange tip and large white butterflies. We then continued our walk around the lake smelling the may blossom, listening to the noisy honks of the Canada geese and identifying more butterflies such as the green-veined white.

At the bridge we saw mallard on the river, a grey heron on the bank and heard greenfinch. An eagle- eyed TT member glimpsed a grey wagtail in the stones at the side of the river. A jay gave us great views as we walked towards the orchard but we only saw carrion crow and wood pigeon when in it.

We then crossed the lane to do a circuit around the field. In the field was a peacock butterfly, 2 more bullfinches and a goldfinch and as we continued round a magpie with nesting material, a carrion crow and a wood pigeon were the only birds we saw. We could hear a lot of bird song and were pleased that there were so many birds about even though we couldn’t see them. One lucky person saw a fox as he walked ahead of the main group.

We then came to the bridge over the Mersey again where the grey wagtail flew over our heads and gave good views further up the river. As we reached thelake by the larger island we were surprised to see 3 terrapins sunbathing on a tree trunk. There were Canada geese next to them but it was unclear if they were being friendly or not. The distinctive voice of reed warblers was heard and small birds were spotted flitting around the fence by the lakeside but these turned out to be house sparrows, one very wet after a bath, and not the buntings or warblers we were hoping for.

At the pond everyone seemed to relax, some sat down and we all started to chat. Noisy crows were heard and a blackbird was seen and as we walked through the wildlife garden and back to our cars we all agreed that Chorlton Water Park was a wonderful nature reserve. (MHa)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute Swan plus cygnets
  2. Canada Goose plus gosling
  3. Mallard
  4. Tufted duck
  5. Great crested grebe
  6. Grey heron
  7. Common buzzard
  8. Coot
  9. Woodpigeon
  10. Feral pigeon
  11. Collared dove
  12. Swift
  13. Grey wagtail
  14. Dunnock
  15. Robin
  16. Black Redstart
  17. Blackbird
  18. Blackcap
  19. Long-tailed tit
  20. Blue tit
  21. Great tit
  22. Starling
  23. Jay
  24. Magpie
  25. Carrion crow
  26. House sparrow
  27. Goldfinch
  28. Bullfinch
  29. Parakeet

Plus: butterflies – speckled wood, orange tip, small white, large white, brimstone, peacock, holly blue, comma; 3 terrapins; 1 fox

Photos JH & DC

Chat Moss to Little Woolden Moss 08.05.18

Team Tuesdays Chat Moss Long Distance Ramble

Blue Skies….Sunshine…Heat…impossible, it cannot be so, something is rotten in the state of Denmark and quoting a Tennis Player of yore; “You cannot be serious” – were but a selection of the words and thoughts fleeting through the minds of Team Tuesday as they arrived at Moss Farm Fisheries in almost perfect weather – I repeat –  almost perfect weather!

Yes, this was a wander about Chat Moss that bucked the usual trend, BUT most assuredly the rest of the day fell into its usual pattern starting with several members of the Team dibbing into the delights of the food and drink on offer at ‘our’ Gem of a cafe out on Salford’s Mosslands. Then once the sun cream had been applied, water supplies loaded and the debrief by TT’s usual Kapitan was over, the taskmaster for the day outlined the arduous route  that needed to be followed in order that objectives were to be attained. This even excluded the usual wander about the lovely environs of the Fisheries grounds owing to our need for some backtracking along our ‘normal’ route during our annual late spring wander—needs must and all accepted with good grace thus we were off!

Willow Warbler sang out, as did a Chiffchaff, as we moved north up Cutnook Lane giving all cause to pause in some shaded spots in order to try and discern where these ‘leaf’ Warblers were hiding within the fresh flush of leaves that now make ‘woodland’ birdwatching a test of our bird recognition by call; for to actually see them is now almost an impossibility unless they sit atop the trees. Open mossland then brought us out into the heat of the day, but at least now we were able to see our next group of birds with ease – well that did apply to the pair of Oystercatcherwhich had a nest out on the bare peat but to note the Little RingedPloverand the Curlew … well a little more effort was required owing to the heat haze but see them we did … just.

A wander west along a lovely weed strewn and young birch growth blessed track (yes nature does it better if the landscape is a bit ‘rough and ready’) then brought us Linnet, Whitethroat and Goldfinch after which we gained views across some open pools. Lapwing, Tufted Duckand Pied Wagtail came easily into view, as did the Greylag Geese which were nosily enjoying the established, but more enclosed pooled part of this ex-Peat Milling site.

Hearts and Lungs were then subject to some aerobic exercise as we retraced our steps back as far as Twelve Yards Road along which we then proceeded once more in a westward direction. A ploughed field then drew our attention, for within its peaty brown furrows sat a pair of Yellow Wagtail which, as a young lad does with a pocket mirror,  played games with the sun, reflecting back its rays to dazzle our eager eyes. The female proved a little less co-operative moving in and out of view whilst the male thankfully, for our ‘eager-to-see-team’, sat atop a clod of soil and gave us an audience in order that we could admire his supreme beauty. Then a rather understated plumaged bird came into view adding Stock Dove to our list whilst an elusive, but brightly coloured, Yellowhammer gave more of an perfunctory performance, preferring to shun the limelight on this occasion. Then as we continued towards our next destination butterflies in reasonable number and variety flitted about our chosen route, allowing our identification skills to discover Orange Tip, Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma, thus proving once more that there is much more to being a birdwatcher once wildlife enters our souls.

Little Woolden Moss reached, and a serious bit of sky searching led us into the blue, but within it moved but fragments of cloud until a serious kerfuffle broke out over a pooled area. Lesser Black-Backed Gulls which are normally the aggressive birds on the block screeched into the air, Blacked-Headed Gulls screamed in fear, and a lone Oystercatcher threw itself into the water ALL avoiding the fervent attention of an Peregrine which on missing these prey settled on a peat bund and calmly devoured a few recently emerged Dragonflies. As this scene was being digested by us awestruck bystanders to nature in the raw, our attention was then quickly drawn skyward as a shout rang out by a determined Team member who had not given up on searching for our original raptor of the day: thus all then delighted in the mastery of the sky being blithely demonstrated by a Hobby which was taking high flying Dragonflies with aplomb.

It was then time for that wander back along that highway that always seems on the return journey to have increased in length by many a Twelve Yards. Conversation and the prospect of a spot of nice food for lunch in Henry and Yvonne’s lovely cafe,  which is set in a piece of scenery that easily morphs to a gentle bend in a slow moving reed fringed river,  made our return to Moss Farm Fisheries a mere bagatelle of sun blessed steps. (DS)

 Bird List (MHa)

  1. Blue tit
  2. Wood pigeon
  3. Chiffchaff
  4. Blackbird
  5. Mallard
  6. Canada goose
  7. Blackcap
  8. Lesser redpoll
  9. Oystercatcher
  10. Carrion crow
  11. Gadwall
  12. Little ringed plover
  13. Willow warbler
  14. Moorhen
  15. Buzzard
  16. Pied wagtail
  17. Reed bunting
  18. Greylag goose
  19. Whitethroat
  20. Goldfinch
  21. Linnet
  22. Lapwing
  23. Tufted duck
  24. Black-headed gull
  25. Kestrel
  26. Curlew
  27. Swallow
  28. Stock dove
  29. Yellow wagtail
  30. Yellowhammer
  31. Skylark
  32. Lesser black-backed gull
  33. Peregrine
  34. Hobby
  35. Wheatear
  36. Teal
  37. Magpie
  38. pheasant

Heard  –  wren, song thrush, sedge warbler, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch

Photos JH

Rostherne Mere 01.05.18

Long sunny intervals, but a chilly wind

On a bright and fairly warm May Day morning a goodly number of Team Tuesday set forth at Rostherne.  We greatly appreciate permission to go into the reserve from site manager Rupert of Natural England, thank our own John H for organising it at bluebell time,  and also Steve, one of the volunteers,  who accompanied us on this occasion, full of information.

Several birds such as goldfinch, house sparrow and blackbird, were seen on our way through the village, including a circling buzzard, as we made our way to the Observatory. Having paid our dues, with some encouragement given to become yearly members, we settled for a view of the Mere with some thermos flasks quickly being produced. The Mere showed relatively few water birds, but we had fine views of a good half dozen great crested grebes, trees laden with cormorants and a pair of mandarin ducks. Black headed and lesser black-backed gulls were further out and buzzards were taking advantage of the thermals during the morning. We had close-up views of a pair of kestrels perching on a dead tree, and witnessed a mating session reminiscent of the Trans-Pennine Trail, last week. Not to be outdone, a couple of blue tits, not far from the hide, also decided that the mating season was well and truly here. The bird table brought great tits, blue tits and a shy coal tit into view, and we also had a glimpse of a nuthatch. Finally, from the thicket of brambles a fine male bullfinch appeared, the colours of its plumage almost catching fire in the sunlight.

We next set out on our amble through the woods and fields. Chiffchaffs called constantly, but were difficult to spot due to the tree foliage. Blackcaps were singing, searched for and eventually spotted. The yaffle of the green woodpecker teased us and some sharp eyes saw it fly, and a great spotted woodpecker was drumming but elusive.
As it warmed up, the butterflies appeared and we had four species to enjoy, brimstone, peacock, veined white and several pristine orange tips. In the reed beds Steve pointed out the reeds flattened by the starlings roost and a fine male reed bunting showed. Steve then explained the difference between the songs of the reed and sedge warblers, squeaky reeds and scratchy sedges, but not one popped up to back him up.

Moving on, we walked through swathes of bluebells admiring them and some of the other spring flowers in evidence, including wood sorrel and several clumps of early purple orchids. We looked in vain for John’s bear, but may have found it’s poo! Coming back we checked the owl box for the barn owl, but to no avail. Then we called into the Bittern Hide, enjoying the comfort of the carpeted seats, but little was to be seen, even the mouse refusing to appear. As we came back up through the woods we inspected the badger holt still hearing constant wren songs and met Sheila and Dr. Ben, who had just finished their count for the day. They had seen swifts and a spotted flycatcher and were interested in our sightings of butterflies. By then it was time to leave this idyllic spot and head home. (TG)

Bird List (MHo)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Mandarin
  5. Tufted duck
  6. Pheasant
  7. Great Crested Grebe
  8. Cormorant
  9. Common buzzard
  10. Kestrel
  11. Coot
  12. Black-headed gull
  13. Lesser black-backed gull
  14. Stock dove
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Collared dove
  17. Pied wagtail
  18. Dunnock
  19. Robin
  20. Blackbird
  21. Blackcap
  22. Long-tailed tit
  23. Coal tit
  24. Blue tit
  25. Great tit
  26. Nuthatch
  27. Magpie
  28. Jackdaw
  29. Carrion crow
  30. House sparrow
  31. Chaffinch
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Bullfinch
  34. Reed bunting

Photos DC & CG

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 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

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

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