Marbury Country Park (Witton Bridge)

A mizzle? A drizzle?  – Fine rain.

 Group numbers waxed and waned on this Tuesday outing reaching a total of 18 at one point. For early arrivals to the car park a piece of delicious cake started the day with joy amidst birthday congratulations.

First stop was the viewing point overlooking Ashton’s Flash where Coots were immediately spotted, Mute Swans too. Team Tuesday had to work hard to find a Lesser Black-backed and a Herring Gull among the Black-headed variety. A lone Buzzard perched on a leafless tree and a Magpie were more easily recognised. A short walk along the path only stopping to have a close look at a common frog and to ensure it reached the safety of the long grass brought us to a different view of Ashton’s Flash where Long-tailed tits, and Goldfinch were added to the tally.

The rain stopped, but the air was warm and very still, and we started an anti-clockwise wander around Neumann’s Flash. At the first hide views were restricted by the high reeds but Pochard were identified despite the poor light. The next hide revealed Gadwall, Mute Swans, a Little Grebe and more Coot, definitely the bird of the day for sheer numbers and a Cetti’s Warbler was heard alarming.

Robin and Dunnock were soon spotted and then began the wander down the long straight path where unfortunately for us and possibly for the birds too the growth at the sides of the path was being strimmed. The noise and petrol fumes marred the quiet peaceful stillness we had been enjoying and the chance of adding any other small birds to the list. However at the next hide views across the Flash were better and the list of ducks soon lengthened, adding Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted and last minute views of Teal. Back along the path spindle bushes (Euonymus Europaeus) displayed their bright pink berries while small birds continued to elude us although a “warbley shaped” bird flew from a bush. Then suddenly a wren was seen, and a froglet leapt down a bank, and to remind us that big birds count too, just as its absence form our day list had been noted, a heron flew by.

Walking along the path towards Water Rail Bridge as Team Tuesday call it, some seasonal beefsteak fungi was noted high on a branch. (The latest issue of the RSPB magazine has an illustrated article on 7 types of fungi to look out for.)  Haydn’s Pool revealed very little except Jays, Magpies and the song of a Robin except for, could it possibly be a Peregrine perched on an industrial chimney in a known favoured spot? Too far away to be sure but we were pretty certain!

Sounds from the reeds at Water Rail Bridge on our return to the car park caused more uncertainty, not quite like a Water Rail but something different? Long-Tailed Tits greeted us as we reached the cars after a very satisfying seasonal circumambulation. (HW)

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Wigeon
  4. Mallard
  5. Gadwall
  6. Shoveler
  7. Teal
  8. Pochard
  9. Tufted duck
  10. Little grebe
  11. Grey heron
  12. Common buzzard
  13. Peregrine falcon
  14. Moorhen
  15. Coot
  16. Black-headed gull
  17. Lesser black-backed gull
  18. Wood pigeon
  19. Wren
  20. Dunnock
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Song thrush
  24. Long-tailed tit
  25. Blue tit
  26. Jay
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion crow
  29. Goldfinch

Photos (DC)


Marshside RSPB 08.10.19

Bright with a strong southerly wind

A group of nine  hardy TT members decided to brave the elements and meet at Marshside car park. On the approach to Southport there had been some heavy downpours, but fortunately they passed over and, apart from a strong wind, the weather remained pleasant for the rest of the day.

From the car park a Kestrel could be seen hovering above the marshes; a few small birds- Meadow Pipits perhaps- flew over and a Little Egret -the first of many- gave us good views.

It was decided the Visitor Centre should be our first stop so off we headed in that direction, noting Long-tailed Tit and Great Tit in the nearby bushes and skeins of geese – mostly Pink Foot – flying overhead before settling on the distant marshes. Our stay at the VC was very brief however, as another group – Formby U3A – had arrived before us and were occupying all the window seats. So after a quick scan we decided to walk to Nell’s Hide before returning to the VC later for lunch.

The view from the corner screen was somewhat disappointing . A pair of Shoveler and a Grey Heron were the only initial sightings, but then a Cattle Egret was seen in amongst a herd of cattle further along, so we made our way to the Half Way screen. On closer scrutiny we realised it was not just a single Cattle Egret – a total count of seven were seen. Feeling more hopeful now, we carried on to Nell’s Hide and were rewarded by an abundance of birdlife. A Grey Wagtail was the first spot on a nearby island, followed by many Black-Tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Gadwall, Starlings, Shoveler,  a couple of Pintail in the distance and a lone Shelduck. The Kestrel continued to hover at different vantage points, but then we became aware of a great flurry of activity over beyond the Visitor Centre. Thousands of birds had taken to the air, wheeling around in flocks. Looking closely, the source of this disturbance was found – a Marsh Harrier hawking back and forth in the distance.

The arrival of the Formby group at Nell’s Hide reminded us that lunch beckoned so we set off back along the road. As we fought our way back in the wind, we were entertained by the magnificent Marsh Harrier just across the road. We all had close views of this beautiful creature as it cruised back and forth low above the marshland searching for its own dinner.

While eating lunch there was still much to see: Teal, a Little Grebe, Wigeon, Pink Footed Geese in their hundreds and a small group of Greylag Geese, two of which had rather uncomfortable looking orange collars round their necks. Then again, panicking flocks rose into the air – this time due to the arrival of a Peregrine Falcon swooping and diving in their midst – and again we were rewarded by close views of this wonderful creature as it flew past close to the hide several times.

But now it was time to move on to our second destination of the day-  Hesketh Bank. After parking the cars, we climbed up on to the bank, where at first it was hard to focus on anything at all , as holding binoculars or telescope still in the battering wind was quite challenging. But we persevered, adding Great White Egret, Curlew and Redshank to our list. Time to return to the cars, after another satisfying day of birding. (Mho)

Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Pink-footed goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Canada goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Mallard
  7. Gadwall
  8. Pintail
  9. Shoveler
  10. Wigeon
  11. Teal
  12. Pochard
  13. Tufted duck
  14. Little grebe
  15. Cattle egret
  16. Little egret
  17. Great egret
  18. Grey heron
  19. Marsh harrier
  20. Kestrel
  21. Peregrine falcon
  22. Coot
  23. Moorhen
  24. Lapwing
  25. Redshank
  26. Black-tailed godwit
  27. Curlew
  28. Black-headed gull
  29. Herring gull
  30. Greater black-backed gull
  31. Lesser black-backed gull
  32. Feral pigeon
  33. Wood pigeon
  34. Meadow pipit
  35. Grey wagtail
  36. Great tit
  37. Long-tailed tit
  38. Magpie
  39. Jackdaw
  40. Carrion crow
  41. Starling

Photos DC

Trans-Pennine Trail 01.10.19

Wet, but dry by the end – just!

A baker’s dozen of the Team gathered in the Henshall Lane carpark for the first outing of the new season and although the weather can only be described as discouraging, nonetheless decided to set off along the trail in the Altrincham direction. The first thing sighted was not a bird, but a rabbit that beat a hasty retreat into the shelter of the undergrowth. Indeed bird sightings were few, and for a time it was feared that our list would not reach double figures. However spirits were lifted, first by a charm of goldfinches that were noisily feeding in the bushes overhead, then in fairly quick succession by the sight of a apparently despondent – even more so than the Team – kestrel resting on one of the hay rolls in the adjacent fields, a heron stalking its prey close to a hedgerow and finally, for a very lucky couple, by the briefest of glimpses of a kingfisher flying low across a field, not far from the track, but some way from what might be considered its typical haunt – the large expanses of water lying in the fields after the recent rains, might have confused it into thinking it was actually at the side of a lake!

With that, and following some determined scanning of the paddocks in the middle distance that eventually led to the spotting of a pied wagtail, but not much else, we decided to head back toward the Rope and Anchor, catching sight en route of some long-tailed tits and a couple more kestrels that, with the rain now having given off, were once again airborne and no doubt looking for their lunch with as much anticipation as we were!

Bird List

  1. Robin
  2. Starling
  3. Carrion Crow
  4. Magpie
  5. Jay
  6. Woodpigeon
  7. Pied Wagtail
  8. Heron
  9. Pheasant
  10. Goldfinch
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Mute Swan
  13. Long-tailed tit
  14. Kingfisher

Windy Bank Wood 09.07.19

Overcast, some bright spells

The end of the season of sailing about the northwest landscape came once more for Team Tuesday at our usual berth; the Mecca of the garden centre experience … Bents, but as ever we were interested in trying to achieve a count of maybe twenty species of birds, rather than the shopping experience, although a retreat into the hallowed food hall may have been on the minds of a few of our gathering ONCE those blessed birds had been noted.

An effort was made by one of our number to start the list off with Pied Wagtail, but at this point, although numero uno for our intrepid list keeper was welcomed, all were more interested in thanking the regular leader for yet another super successful year of birdwatching and offering praise for the ‘other chap’s’ ability to gain the worst of weather on each of his patch wanderings, which ensured that the rest of the trips were enjoyed under sunny skies.

The insistent calls of family parties of Goldfinch drew us out of the car park directly into the path of a twittering Swallow or two ensuring that our conversation and company would have a reasonable set of interruptions from the natural world. The open aspect of the Glaze bridge kept all busy as a Whitethroat set about the score of its disjointed song whilst a Kestrel or two took their ease out on a couple of perches as Jackdaw noisily filled the air with their squabbles….it was time to wander into more peaceful surroundings.

Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper Butterflies quietly lifted us into the tranquillity of this backwater haven along which we were then transported on a wave of relaxed chat, where enquiring minds found plenty to enjoy … including the odd bird which was welcomed if only to keep our recorder reasonably busy. Blackcap sang from deep within the woodland, as did Chiffchaff meaning that our list was now tipping on the side of birds heard, yet in truth a Jay or two flitted by, whilst a Male Reed Bunting ensured that we admire his handsome plumage from most angles as he gathered food for his young … the list of birds seen was growing!

A search for Dragonflies proved difficult as the sun was idling away behind a dense cover of cloud, but with effort a Blue Tailed and Azure Damselfly did just about crawl onto our mixed wildlife list. The reverie with the dragonflies was then broken by the brief appearance of Buzzard which was no doubt drawn to our weakening team as lunch was becoming a need rather than a desire – thus off we headed back to base.

The open aspect of the Glaze area then offered all a chance to admire the graceful sweeps and passes made by a goodly flock of Swallow which were joined by a few House Martins ... some Swifts then decided to put in an appearance giving a demonstration of low level flying that made the efforts of the Red Arrows seem somewhat pedestrian!

A raptor was then all but briefly noted and as with such sightings it left quite a debate in its wake, but its flight pattern coupled with its warm brown plumage left the list maker with a dilemma … but as for me, as it is my patch I was happy to place Marsh Harrier upon my list.

Then came the farewells for summer and the promises of a reforming of the team in September, as team Tuesday ambled off into midsummer. (DS)

Bird List (CH)

  1. Common Cormorant
  2. Mallard
  3. Tuften Duck
  4. Marsh  Harrier
  5. Common Buzzard
  6. Kestrel
  7. Pheasant
  8. Moorhen
  9. Lapwing
  10. Lesser black-backed Gull
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Stock Dove
  13. Woodpigeon
  14. Collared Dove
  15. Swift
  16. Swallow
  17. House Martin
  18. Pied Wagtail
  19. Dunnock
  20. Wren
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Blackcap
  24. Whitethroat
  25. Blue tit
  26. Reed Bunting
  27. Greenfinch
  28. Goldfinch
  29. Linnet
  30. Starling
  31. Jay
  32. Magpie,
  33. Carrion Crow

Heard: Oystercatcher; Greater Spotted Woodpecker; Willow Warbler; Chiffchaff; Great tit; Nuthatch; Chaffinch; Bullfinch

Butterflies and Insects: Meadow Brown; Small Skipper; Gatekeeper; Small Tortoiseshell; Blue-tailed damselfly; Azure damselfly

Last year (03.07.18) the bird list was slightly shorter, but the latter list was somewhat longer: Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Comma, Skipper, Six-spot Burnet moth, Azure damselfly, Black-tailed Chaser, Broad- bodied Chaser, Four spot Chaser, Brown Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Banded Demoiselle, but this year the cloudy skies and the rampages of dogs were not in our favour.

Photos DS

Conwy RSPB 02.07.19

Sunny intervals, but with the occasional cooling breeze

A dozen eager TT members gathered near the Visitor Centre at Conwy in relatively mild and dry weather, looking forward to whatever sightings were to be offered at this magnificent reserve.

Immediately several members of the group were drawn to the wonderful array of wildflowers as Bee Orchids were among the species to be seen.

House sparrow, Starling and Feral Pigeon were first on the bird list as they greedily fed from nearby feeders. Next from the Lookout a Moorhen with young could be seen contentedly grazing, while uncharacteristically Blue Tit, Goldfinch and House Sparrow perched on the reeds and Starlings bathed in some shallow water. Then in the far distance across the estuary the ‘egretry’ was noticed with at least 20 Little Egrets perched high in the trees alongside a lone Grey Heron. Moving on along the boardwalk to the viewing point, we could hear the scratchy sound of warblers coming from the reeds and were soon rewarded by fleeting views of an adult Reed Warbler flying back and forth to feed its young. We had decided to complete the Redshank Trail before lunch so walked on towards two more hides, pausing at the feeders to watch hungry families of Great Tit and Blue Tit, a young Robin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and eventually a Bullfinch, while Long-Tailed Tits flitted through the trees above.

At Tal-y- fan Hide there were a great many Black-Headed Gulls resting in the water but on closer scrutiny other species could be seen – several Little Grebes , Curlews, Cormorants, a Little Egret, a couple of Oystercatchers and a Lapwing. At Carneddau Hide great numbers of Canada and Greylag Geese were just hanging about waiting to moult, Redshank and Black-Tailed Godwit were on the mud bank opposite and a lone Great Crested Grebe could now be added to the ever-growing list. A few House Martins flew above the water feasting on the airborne insects. Now it was lunchtime,  so back to the Visitor Centre, but not before more butterflies had appeared in the warmer sunshine – Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and a superb Ringlet.

Lunch in the sunshine was a pleasant social affair – with tasty barra brith for some, but soon it was time to set off on the longer Grey Heron Trail. Several warblers burst into song along the way, giving food for thought, but sightings and therefore positive IDs proved elusive until Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler made fleeting appearances. Then a Grey Heron, easily seen, easily identified, flew down into the adjacent stream. The tide had now gone out so it was hoped that more would be seen on the mudflats and certainly there were Curlews , Godwits and many gulls – including the Lesser and Great Black-backed varieties. A few keen-eyed members saw a Grey Wagtail, while a Carrion Crow probed the mud and found itself a tasty crab for lunch. Waders could be seen roosting on the pools at high tide, but were now becoming restless as the saltmarsh was beckoning them to return.

The walk back along the estuary path may have been bereft of new sightings , but the stunning views of Conwy Castle more than made up for that as a satisfied group returned happily to the cars and the journey home. (M.Ho)

 Bird List (M.Ha)

  1. Goldfinch
  2. Little egret
  3. House sparrow
  4. Starling
  5. Grey heron
  6. Robin
  7. Wren
  8. Moorhen
  9. Blue tit
  10. Long-tailed tit
  11. Herring gull
  12. Curlew
  13. Wood pigeon
  14. Reed warbler
  15. Lapwing
  16. Gadwall
  17. Coot
  18. Black-headed gull
  19. Oystercatcher
  20. House martin
  21. Barn swallow
  22. Greenfinch
  23. Dunnock
  24. Great tit
  25. Swift
  26. Canada goose
  27. Greylag goose
  28. Mallard
  29. Mute swan
  30. Tufted duck
  31. Cormorant
  32. Lesser black-backed gull
  33. Common buzzard
  34. Chiffchaff heard
  35. Redshank
  36. Black-tailed godwit
  37. Great-crested grebe
  38. Little Grebe
  39. Bullfinch
  40. Feral pigeon
  41. Whitethroat
  42. Sedge warbler
  43. Blackcap
  44. Carrion crow
  45. Grey wagtail
  46. Hybrid duck
  47. Sand martin
  48. Greater black-backed gull
  49. blackbird

Butterflies: Painted lady, meadow brown, speckled wood, large white, ringlet comma, red admiral,

Flowers: Bee orchid, cornflower, foxtail clover, pyramidal orchid

Aviation: Lockheed Hercules

Photos DC (including a Silver-Studded Blue – seen nearby, but not at Conwy)

Goyt Valley 25.06.19

Rain at first, drier later

The rain seemed to get heavier as the last quartet turned off the Macclesfield Road (having spotted the goats in an adjacent field!) and headed down the single track road towards Lamaload Reservoir, where they met up with another half-dozen hardy members of the Team. Initial gloom (both metaphoric and actual) lifted after about ten minutes and we eventually emerged from the cars and made our way down towards the reservoir. The day’s first group of Canada geese were easily spotted and with a bit more effort we soon made out other species usually associated with this location; Great-crested grebe, Moorhen, Mallard, Grey Heron and Coot. Hirundines were seen skimming  low over the water, and with the rain now apparently beginning to ease off,  we spent some time trying to catch sight of the warblers that were loudly making their presence known, but all we got were a few tantalising glimpses. A Jay and a Pheasant were much more obliging in showing themselves, before we decided to set off for our next usual stopover on this annual pilgrimage; Pym’s Chair.

Although a large number of birds – Meadow Pipits? – were disturbed on our arrival, we were unable to make out where they had flown to, and the rain and wind discouraged a prolonged stop. Spirits were lifted, however, as we were about to return to the cars, as a Skylark soared overhead singing its heart out for our pleasure – or so we liked to think!

By this time many of us were beginning to think it was indeed going to be a short trip and with only a brief pause at the Street carpark, where nothing of interest was noted, we went directly to the Errwood Hall carpark for an early lunch break. At last, however, the rain eased off and the clouds in some places even began to thin, so after half-an-hour or so we began to walk up the road along the lake. Sharp eyes spotted a Redstart determinedly hunkered down in the middle of a large bush, a Herring Gull circled overhead and then a Common Sandpiper was spotted on the far bank of the fast-flowing stream feeding the reservoir. Sadly, the nesting boxes along the side of the road appeared unoccupied, but there was more of interest as we headed back towards the carpark along the woodland footpath: a Tree pipit was seen doing its parachuting act, Buzzard and Swift were spotted high overhead, and just as we reached the carpark again a Goldfinch was seen loudly proclaiming its presence from the top of a small conifer.

Our penultimate stop at Derbyshire Bridge produced a couple of the day’s highlights. Two or more birds were glimpsed flitting between the trees and bushes of the small copse and although they didn’t remain still enough for absolutely clear sightings, the habit and appearance (as far as it could be made out) suggested they were flycatchers, and a subsequent consultation of books pointed to at least one of them being a female Pied flycatcher. The other highlight was the sighting at last of a pair of Curlew, whose haunting call had been echoing across the moor for some time and whose presence had been confirmed by a couple of passing walkers.

With the gloom growing heavier by the minute, we pushed on to the Chimney and and final destination for the day. Here, although we spent twenty minutes of so scanning the side of the hill, there was no sign of the Ring Ouzels, but we all enjoyed good views of a pair of Stonechat and some caught sight of a Grey wagtail on the banks of the stream.

At last it was decided to call an end to our expedition, and it was generally agreed that what had at first threatened to be a thoroughly disappointing day, had finally turned out to be a satisfying, if not spectacular, day’s birding in a location that always seems to offer something of interest.

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Pheasant
  4. Great crested grebe
  5. Cormorant
  6. Grey heron
  7. Sparrowhawk
  8. Common buzzard
  9. Kestrel
  10. Coot
  11. Lapwing
  12. Common sandpiper
  13. Curlew
  14. Herring gull
  15. Lesser black-backed gull
  16. Woodpigeon
  17. Swift
  18. Skylark
  19. Swallow
  20. House martin
  21. Tree pipit
  22. Meadow pipit
  23. Grey wagtail
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Wren
  26. Redstart
  27. Stonechat
  28. Blackbird
  29. Chiffchaff
  30. Pied flycatcher
  31. Jay
  32. Carrion crow
  33. Rook
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Goldfinch
  36. Bullfinch

… and, of course, goats!

Brockholes Nature Reserve 18.06.19

A group of 10 keen TT birders met up at Brockholes at 10:30, relieved to find that no waterproofs were needed- and that the sun looked likely to make a very welcome appearance from time to time throughout the day. Even a few Common Blue butterflies ventured out to show themselves in the wonderful wildflower meadows around the car park.

An initial cursory look across Meadow Lake revealed Mute swan, Canada goose, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed gulls and Grey Heron before the group headed along the boardwalk through the reeds towards the Lookout. The usual ‘Reed or Sedge’ Warbler discussion took place until one of the latter flitted briefly into view, while Reed Buntings perched up high, clearly visible. Before entering the Lookout some members of the group were treated to a stunning performance by a singing Whitethroat- the first of several such displays to be enjoyed. From the hide itself there were excellent views of nesting Common Terns on the two platforms, and of many Sand Martins using the nearby manmade nesting site, while a Pheasant wandered nonchalantly along the grass. After wondering for a while at the flying acrobatics of the martins, the group sallied forth and were immediately treated to magnificent views of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. A visit to the next hide overlooking Number 1 Pit- what an imaginative name!- brought sightings of a nesting Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Lapwing -and good views of a Ringed Plover as it walked back and forth along the edge of the facing island.

It was now decided to head back to Boilton Wood, before returning to the visitor centre for lunch. A small common frog proved a distraction for some- and Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Goldfinch and Robin could now be added to the list. The rising temperature also helped the list of butterflies to grow- Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and a pair of Small Skippers, to name but a few, enjoying the spring sunshine at last.

But now lunchtime called and a stroll through the colourful wildflowers took us back to the centre for a welcome break and food in the sunshine.

Feeling reenergised it was now time to head towards the banks of the River Ribble. A Kestrel hovered above as we walked along in the now HOT sunshine. On reaching the fast flowing river it became obvious that the high water levels would make it impossible for waders to be accommodated , but a fisherman across the water entertained us with a very impressive catch, while Sand Martins and a Common Tern flew to and fro. On the river a Mute Swan, Canada Geese and goslings and Mallard seemed to be all that we would see- until in the distance two female Goosanders were spotted- the final sighting of a very pleasant day at an interesting and varied site.

Then back to the cars and home, tired but satisfied with the day’s events. (M.Ho)

Bird list (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Mallard
  4. Tufted duck
  5. Goosander
  6. Pheasant
  7. Great-crested grebe
  8. Cormorant
  9. Grey heron
  10. Kestrel
  11. Coot
  12. Moorhen
  13. Oystercatcher
  14. Ringed plover
  15. Lapwing
  16. Black-headed gull
  17. Lesser black-headed gull
  18. Common tern
  19. Woodpigeon
  20. Sand martin
  21. Swallow
  22. Robin
  23. Blackbird
  24. Song thrush
  25. Sedge warbler
  26. Whitethroat
  27. Blue tit
  28. Great tit
  29. Magpie
  30. Jackdaw
  31. Carrion crow
  32. Chaffinch
  33. Goldfinch
  34. Reed bunting

plus butterflies: painted lady, small tortoiseshell, common blue, small white, speckled wood, small skipper, small copper; and common blue damselfly, banded demoiselle.

Little Woolden Moss 11.06.19

Rain + rain + s touch of DRY

A host of House Martin swept about our parking spot for today’s wander onto Little Woolden Moss with this highly active and agile flock of up to forty five birds happily remaining within view whilst the last of our number arrived and togged up for what promised to be another challenging day of weather.

We bade farewell to this life filled section of the sky and as the weather was obviously going to keep its damp promise we had a good idea that these birds would still be present on our return as the only source of insects they might catch would be in the lee of these trees. Chiffchaff made bird call identification easy whilst Blackcap and Goldcrest offered more of a challenge but before too many questions could be asked of our eager Team distraction came when a few Sand Martin flicked over the Glaze…our attention to birdsong then being put into abeyance. A pair of Curlew moved us into ‘shiver down the spine’ mode as they filled the air with their haunting moorland call…who needs to climb a hill when the moss holds such treasures but 28 metres above sea level! A Blackbird then jumped up onto some telephone wires as if to check us out then as if to confirm his disdain refused to utter a note of his sweet song leaving the airwaves free for a nearby Yellowhammer, which obviously approved of our presence by uttering his a little bit of bread and no cheese refrain.

A steady walking pace was set and after a relatively uneventful ten minutes or so we arrived at Platt House Farm which holds a nice jumble of artefacts that show a long service in the cause of farming…Treeand House Sparrowalong with Blueand Great Titentertained us as they vied with young Starlingfor a spot on the feeders that the Farmers wife fills daily…a brief conversation with the farmer then followed…me taking advantage of his presence to both praise and thanks him for his caring approach to wildlife upon his land; when ploughing he pauses his tractor and moves to safety any Lapwing nests he encounters … a rare breed of the old school of farming in my opinion.

The open fields lay a short distance onward and as the clouds opened up to allow a steady flow of rain to fall we happily dashed along the far track to see if we could find anything that too had chosen not to take shelter. “Brown Hare”was the cry as we scanned a harvested turf field which on further scrutiny also hosted Linnet, Lapwing, Song and Mistle Thrush all partaking of the easy access invertebrates that harvesting creates…they never miss an opportunity these birds … they survive on instantly exploiting such changes to their environment, ours is to appreciate such sightings … whatever the weather. Then over to a part harvested Coriander field which kindly offered easy viewing of adult and juvenile Pied Wagtail whilst teasingly giving and taking quick glimpses of Yellow Wagtail that were gathering food for their young which were in their nests in the adjacent Barley crop.

A determined wander over to the Reserve brought parachuting Meadow Pipit, ether hugging Skylarkwhich threw their song into/at the now steady rain. A positive step or three onto the peaty surface of the Reserve followed but this was the time to realise the law of diminishing returns for the rain endured … we slowly turned about for our amble back to the dry.

Topics of conversation kept an umbrella of warmth about us to shield our attention from the rain with a flock of ten or so Swallow holding our steps for a few minutes before we took in the final lap to our cars…the House Martin then counted us back safely and let us go on our way with memories of day of inclement weather that defeated us not. (DS)

Bird list (M.Ho)

  1. Mallard
  2. Cormorant
  3. Grey heron
  4. Kestrel
  5. Oystercatcher
  6. Lapwing
  7. Curlew
  8. Black-headed gull
  9. Herring gull
  10. Woodpigeon
  11. Collared dove
  12. Skylark
  13. Sand martin
  14. Swallow
  15. House martin
  16. Meadow pipit
  17. Grey wagtail
  18. Yellow wagtail
  19. Pied wagtail
  20. Wren
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Song thrush
  24. Mistle thrush
  25. Long-tailed tit
  26. Blue tit
  27. Great tit
  28. Starling
  29. Magpie
  30. Carrion crow
  31. House sparrow
  32. Tree sparrow
  33. Chaffinch
  34. Goldfinch
  35. Linnet
  36. Yellowhammer

…and several brown hares!

Woolston Eyes 04.06.19

Overcast, bright …. some rain to finish

An unpromising sky saw Team Tuesday gathered beneath it, ready for our late spring jaunt onto this gem of a Reserve and just as the last members of today’s number arrived the sun came out, as if to reward the bubbling/brimming enthusiasm that is ever present within this company.

Tufted Duck still holding their crisp black and white plumage in breeding season mode bobbed about the Mersey whilst a boisterous group of Lesser Black Backed Gulls took time away from their inland nesting duties and bathed in the waters of the basin.
An ever so optimistic pair of Great Crested Grebe had once more managed to attach their precariously balanced nest upon the merest anchorage that could be found, yet were looking quite sanguine considering the number of ways that nature has managed to thwart their nesting attempts in previous years. Grebes admired we stepped along the right of way at a pace that fitted in trying to see a Whitethroat which gave happily of its song but chose not to appear onto the stage, preferring to keep in the wings …. Blackcap and Cetti‘s Warbler were equally ‘obliging’ turning this open air concert of song into a radio play … leaving their images to our imagination.

River crossed onto number three bed or was it? Well actually not quite, as an obliging family party of Grey Wagtail unlike the previous species mentioned were happy to dance before our eyes … a round of applause in the form of sheer delight shown by their audience still hung in the air as we moved over to the next stage. The south scaffolding hide then almost completely arrested our progress as we took in views across a very busy reed-bed which offered a whole sweep of species all of which  could be seen quite clearly and were more than enough to gain our approval and applause but out strode upon this stage, set before our eyes, a show stopping principal act.  This centre of attention then drew all eyes to the starlet’s which were being aired out in the public domain, upon the stage for the first time … yes the Black Necked Grebe  family just knew how to wow the crowds and ‘putty like’ in their plumes we paid them avid and adoring attention … for quite a while.

It was time to go seek the largest auditorium where all could take their ease and with luck catch the matinee performance from the Morgan Hide. A few of the Team did manage to catch a couple of street performers along the way and once due homage had been paid to the singing Sedge Warbler and relatively quiet but visible Whitethroat all settled into the Hide. Lapwing on its nest, Black Headed Gull (ever so cute chicks) plus more views of Black Necked Grebe, all vied for top billing in this lively variety performance that unfolded before our eyes and were enjoyed whilst picnics were happily devoured.

Time flew by, as ‘oft happens when enjoying a riveting show, leading us to happily wander from our front row seats and start the steady retreat back homeward. A check of the winter seed crop area only spoke of birds to see in the coming autumn whilst the wildflower Meadow still boasted of summer as we slowly progressed along the pathway that led us over to the footbridge. The basin area still looked busy with life out of which another species for the day was finally nailed onto our list and as the ink dried on Herring Gull the notepad was put away before the long promised rain could make it run, for just to prove that the weather can sometimes be kind to our wandering s this had just arrived as we were departing. (DS)

Bird List (M.Ho)

  1. Mute swan
  2. Canada goose
  3. Greylag goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Mallard
  6. Gadwall
  7. Pochard
  8. Tufted duck
  9. Great crested grebe
  10. Black-necked grebe
  11. Cormorant
  12. Moorhen
  13. Coot
  14. Oystercatcher
  15. Lapwing
  16. Black-headed gull
  17. Lesser black-backed gull
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Woodpigeon
  20. Swift
  21. Grey wagtail
  22. Wren
  23. Dunnock
  24. Robin
  25. Blackbird
  26. Sedge warbler
  27. Whitethroat
  28. Blackcap
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Blue tit
  31. Jay
  32. Magpie
  33. House sparrow
  34. Chaffinch
  35. Greenfinch
  36. Goldfinch
  37. Reed bunting

Photos DS

Hale Head and Pickering Pasture 14.05.19

Sunny, blue skies and warm!

The team could hardly have picked a better day for a return visit to Hale after a gap of almost three years. Gathering near St Mary’s Church and the towering statue of John Middleton we were greeted by the noisy chirpings of house sparrows and, as we waited for a few stragglers to join us, a collared dove, some starlings, cormorants, martins and a noisy 747 all flew overhead.

Setting off down Within Way we soon found ourselves serenaded by skylarks from either side of the path and entertained by the colourful flitterings of a variety of butterflies that the warm sunshine had brought out; orange tip, tortoiseshell and small white being the most numerous. There was plenty of birdsong, but spotting the singers was not so easy in the dense hedgerows, although some caught sight of blackcap, greenfinch and whitethroat.  One downside of the warm weather soon made itself apparent as we scanned the distant meadows – a heat haze that scopes and binoculars only served to magnify! Thus it was some difficulty that we made out a couple of little egrets amongst the Canada geese that were present in some number.

Arriving eventually on the banks of the Mersey Estuary, we were greeted by the rumbling song of reed and/or sedge warblers and it was only after some determined and patient scanning that these elusive birds were eventually glimpsed. On the rocks and mudflats that were slowly appearing as the tide receded, oystercatchers were seen and heard, a few lesser black back gulls showed and, out on the water a solitary gadwall seemed to be having a hard time swimming against the flow. A flash of bright yellow drew our attention away from the water and we were rewarded with a brief glimpse of a yellow wagtail on the green meadow behind us. Carrying on towards Hale Head and its lighthouse, a trio of grey partridge were spooked by a crop sprayer, skylarks continued to soar into the blue sky trilling excitedly and the song of the reed warblers continued to tease us, while we admired yet more butterflies, a day-flying moth, the Silver Y, and a selection of wildflowers –  including red poppies and blue cornflowers, their brightness set off amid the deep green of the long grasses. From the vantage point at the lighthouse we saw a couple of curlew wandering back and forth along the shore and a lone swallow swooped down, circled the lighthouse and disappeared before some of us had chance to catch sight of it.

Moving on to Pickering Pasture for lunch and a post-prandial wander, we had ample time to watch a small tanker edging slowly up the ship canal and to admire the industrial landscape on the far side of the Mersey, but bird-wise there was not a great deal of interest; all that seemed to be present on the wide expanse of mud were lesser black back gulls (in some number), shelduck and a few oystercatchers. Still, making our way along the track beside the water we found plenty else to appreciate and comment on, including some heavily scented dog roses and, eventually, a common blue butterfly, which, as was pointed out, is in fact anything but common, at least in our neck of the woods!

In sum, a very pleasant day’s outing with good opportunities to study and enjoy a varied offering of flora, fauna and lepidoptera.

Bird List (M.Ho.)

  1. Canada goose
  2. Shelduck
  3. Mallard
  4. Gadwall
  5. Grey  Partridge
  6. Cormorant
  7. Little egret
  8. Grey heron
  9. Common buzzard
  10. Oystercatcher
  11. Lapwing
  12. Curlew
  13. Herring gull
  14. Lesser black-backed gull
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Collared dove
  17. Skylark
  18. Swallow
  19. House martin
  20. Yellow wagtail
  21. Pied wagtail
  22. Wren
  23. Dunnock
  24. Robin
  25. Blackbird
  26. Sedge warbler
  27. Reed warbler
  28. Whitethroat
  29. Long-tailed tit
  30. Blue tit
  31. Great tit
  32. Starling
  33. Magpie
  34. Carrion crow
  35. House sparrow
  36. Chaffinch
  37. Greenfinch
  38. Goldfinch
  39. Reed bunting

Butterflies: Small white, large white, green-veined white, red admiral, peacock, brimstone, common blue, holly blue, small tortoiseshell




Photos DC & CG