Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Eccleston Mere

Black tern 1 moulting adult
Mute swan 6 (ad & 5 cygnets)
Kingfisher 1

Eccleston Mere has a good record for turning up black terns, this was my 20th record of the species at the mere and my second record this year.




Appleton Reservoir

Shoveler 3
Gadwall 2
Mute swan 2 adults

Dragonflies: Migrant hawkers, emperors, brown hawkers, common darters

Common darter


Migrant hawker

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common sandpiper 4
Yellow wagtail 8
Swift 1
Tufted duck 14
Little grebe 2 (ad & juv.)
Lapwing 30
Grey heron 2


Swallows getting ready to go.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common sandpiper 4
Yellow wagtail 8
Swift 2
Lapwing 13
Tufted duck 18
Little grebe 2
Sand martin 10

Eccleston Mere

Sand Martin 10
Tufted duck 8
Mute swan 6 (ad & 5 cygnets)
Coot 130

Appleton Reservoir

Mediterranean gull 1 juv.
Teal 8 (eclipse males and females)
Gadwall 3 (eclipse male & 2 females)
Tufted duck 10
Mute swan 2 adults




Monday, 25 August 2014

Flamborough Head

Barred warbler 2 juveniles
Long-tailed skua 3
Arctic skua 6
Manx shearwater 25
Gannet 500
Kittiwake 500
Fulmar 100
Whimbrel 1 heard
Garden warbler 1
Blackcap 1

Year: 273 (Barred warbler)

My first Barred wobbler for 28 years and the first time I've seen more than one. Both birds were seen together in a patch of bramble, which also contained garden warbler and blackcap.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Old Coach Road

At least four yellow wagtails still in fields near Brown Birch Farm, Clare's Moss.

Eccleston Mere

Spotted flycatcher 2
Goosander 1 imm (male?)
Willow tit 1
Kingfisher 1
Buzzard 2
Chiffchaff 1 singing
Coot 130
Mute swan 6 (adult & 5 cygnets)

At last the sleepy mere awakes from its slumbers and realises that summer is almost over.

The spotted flycatchers were in the dead wood at the southern end of the mere and were right on schedule, I could almost set my watch by them! They're almost annual in August / September in this very woodland, and I watched them flycatching for 30 minutes or so. They seemed to be uncomfortably associating with Chaffinches and Goldfinches, some of which were also flycatching in their own cumbersome way.

The goosander on the otherhand was completely unprecedented. All of my previous 48 records of Goosander at the mere have been in winter, between the middle of October and the end of April. This is my first summer record, and it didn't stay long. I watched it fly in harassed by gulls. It landed for about 30 seconds before taking off again, still with it's entourage of gulls and disappeared to the south west. I don't know why the gulls had such a downer on it, I've never seen goosanders treated like this before.

The predictability and uncertainty of birding summed up in 20 minutes at the mere!




Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Ruff 1
Common sandpiper 4
Tree pipit 2 over calling
Yellow wagtail 1
Swift 1
Pochard 2
Lapwing 35
Little grebe 2 (ad & juv)
Goldfinch 100
Tufted duck 15

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Ruff 1
Common sandpiper 2
Yellow wagtail 1
Little grebe 2 (ad & juv.)
Canada goose 31


Leighton Moss

Eric Morecombe hide
Great white egret 1
Greenshank 13
Spotted redshank 1
Dunlin 100
Redshank 50
Black-tailed godwit 200
Knot 1
Little egret 10

Butterflies: Brimstone 1

Main reserve
Water rail from Lillians
Spotted redshank 2 from Grisedale

Butterflies: 2 Brimstone, 3 Red Admirals


Greenshank.




Black-tailed godwits thinking about flying.


Black-tailed godwits flying.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Queens Park

Kingfisher 1 around the stream in Dilloway street.

Eccleston Mere

Coot 130
Mute swan 6 (adult & 5 cygnets)
Tufted duck 15
Swallow 50

There are still five cygnets on the mere. Three cygnets are with the adult swan, the other two live a solitary existence hiding in the corners of the mere or under the trees on the island, but they are definitely still there. I saw all five tonight, in the same view, but not together. The adult swan keeps driving the two lone individuals away, perhaps because he (and I'm pretty sure it is "he") can't support more than three cygnets on his own. However it's important to remember that the adult does not feed the cygnets, they feed themselves, so it's perfectly possible for the lone cygnets to survive on their own if there is enough food in the mere. They've survived for a couple of weeks alone up to now.
The reason I say that the adult is the male is because the female moulted first. The surviving adult is moulting now, which means that it can't be the female. Secondly, the knob above the birds bill is large like a typical males, and the bill is bright, brighter than I would expect on a female.

Over the car park at work, south Warrington

Hobby 1

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common sandpiper 2
Lapwing 20
Tufted duck 15
Little grebe 1

No sign of yesterdays ruff.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Ruff 1
Mediterranean gull 1 juv.
Tree pipit 1 heard calling as it flew over
Yellow wagtail 1
White wagtail 1
Common sandpiper 1
Pochard 2
Tufted duck 15
Little grebe 1 adult

Not a bad 45 minutes at Houghton Green Flash!

Applteon Reservoir

Shoveler 4
Tufted duck 15
Lapwing 10 over
Mute swan 2 adults
Sand martin 10
Swallow 50

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Marsh Gentian, Highfield Moss


Marsh gentian at Highfield Moss near Lowton, one of the few sites in North West England for this species. I first visited this site to see these plants in 1983 and it's been an annual pilgrimage ever since.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Hobby 1 hunting swallows
Black-necked grebe 1 moulting adult
Little ringed plover 2
Common sandpiper 2
Tufted duck 12
Little grebe 2

North Wirral Coast



This drake common scoter was sitting on the beach at Meols. It obviously must be sick, and it does look as though it might have something on its feathers. Also on the beach today a single little egret, lots of redshanks and about 50 turnstones.


Eccleston Mere

Common tern 1
Coot 121 (a new record)
Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 4 (ad & 3 cygnets)
Swallow 50
House martin 20


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Frodsham Marsh, No.6 tank

Ruddy shelduck 2 adults eclipse flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide
Garganey 1 f
Dunlin 2000 flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide
Ringed plover 100  flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide

Year: 272 (Ruddy shelduck)

So, where do you stand with ruddy shelduck? No discussion you might say, they're not on the BOU list so you can't count them. Well, I've spoken with my legal team, and it seems that I can count them on my year list.

Look at it this way, every year around this time there is an influx of ruddy shelduck from the continent into the UK. This isn't a mass breakout from Chester Zoo every August, it's a genuine influx, often involving small parties of birds. Ok, they might be coming from feral populations in western Europe, but 99.9% of greylags outside northern and western Scotland are feral and we still tick them.

In fact, when you read the literature, it appears that "there is no evidence of any self-sustaining feral populations existing in northern and western Europe", and the nearest self sustaining feral population of ruddy shelducks is in the Ukraine, which is at least as far, if not further than the nearest wild population.

These birds are as wild as a snow goose at Marshside, a red-breasted goose at Martin Mere and all of those Egyptian geese in Norfolk, and as for Lady Amherst's pheasant.....really? Ruddy shelduck probably have better credentials to be wild than most of that lot, they do at least breed in Europe. In fact if it helps, I've seen wild birds at a breeding site in north eastern Greece back in the late 1980's, so they are a valid tick on my European list at least. The big joke is of course, as soon as one gets accepted onto the British list, then all of the other ruddy shelducks will suddenly become tickable and nobody would hesitate to tick these Frodsham birds.

With 5000 shelduck now on Frodsham Score, it's surely no surprise that they have brought a rarity with them, just as the large flocks of winter geese bring rarities.

This was my 5th record of ruddy shelduck in the UK, and my 4th at Frodsham.

I've been experimenting with my phone over the past few weeks. I made myself an adaptor to hold the phone up to the lense on my telescope. See what you think.


This is a photo taken at 24x magnification using my Panasonic Lumix camera. I've also cropped it as far as I dare to bring the birds closer.


This photo and the two below were taken on my phone through the telescope at 50x magnification, and then also cropped, again as close as I dare without impacting too much on the quality. I'm really pleased with the results, though I think that the phone photos are a little washed out. The birds were a slightly deeper colour, more like the top photo. Also there's an almost imperceivable  dark shadow over the right hand side of the photo, vignetting creeping in I think. Still, not a bad effort considering these birds were at least 300m away and they're not much bigger than a Mallard.


Ruddy shelduck are truly lovely birds, and the sooner they're on the British list the better. The only difference I can see between an eclipse bird and a breeding plumage bird is that in eclipse they lack the black collar.





Frodsham Score

Ruddy shelduck 2 adults eclipse
Shelduck 5000+
Dunlin 2000+
Black-tailed godwit 1500+
Curlew 300+

Incredible scenes on Frodsham Score, I don't think I've ever seen so many shelduck. Everything is distant here, and a scope is essential, but it was great seeing the ruddy shelduck on the estuary with such a huge flock of common shelduck, really looking like genuine wild birds. It's like when you see a snow goose with 10,000 pink-feet, it looks wilder than when it's with Canadas!


You can see the ruddy shelduck just right of centre. If they were 300m away on no.6 tank, here they must have been more like 1.5km!

Eccleston Mere

Common sandpiper 1
Great crested grebe at least 8 chicks inc. family party with 5 chicks
Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 1 adult and 5 cygnets
Swallow 50
Coot 110

I'm not sure what's happening with the swans at the moment. When I arrived at the mere the adult was with three cygnets in the middle of the mere, but there was a fourth bird asleep with the Canada geese near the yacht pier. When I got to the south side of the mere, I saw a fifth cygnet alone in the south east corner. Finally, when I returned to the pier, the adult was with four cygnets who were all asleep amongst the geese. I initially though that the lone cygnets were sick birds, but perhaps they are simply showing signs of independence, unlikely as that may seem at this stage of the development.

Nice to see that the family of five is still thriving and growing up rapidly.


This is tutsan Hypericum androsaemum. It's a member of the St. John's wort family, and is not particularly common at the mere. I'm only aware of about three plants.


Eccleston Mere is a great place for seeing kingfishers (almost always in flight only), but a it's a poor place for photographing them. In 25 years, this is about the best photo I've managed, not great, but I like it sitting in the hawthorn hedge.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Black-necked grebe 1 moulting adult
Common sandpiper 3
Little grebe 1

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common sandpiper 5
Little ringed plover 1

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Appleton Reservoir


I've never seen a moorhen behave like this before. As I walked along the bank of the reservoir, it dived under the water and then just raised it's head high enough to watch me, clearly hiding from me. Then it dived under again and re-emerged about 2m further to the right, again with just its head out of the water. I've seen grebes and divers behave like this, but moorhens are really only occasional divers, and in any case they're usually so tame as to not really worry as you walk past within a few feet.


Eccleston Mere

Gadwall 1 eclipse male
Kingfisher 1
Coot 50

Lots of water birds dying at the mere at the moment. There are at least 5 corpses of ducks and a grebe washed up on the edge, and tonight there were only four cygnets with the remaining adult swan. A fifth cygnet was alone at the opposite end of the mere and showing worrying signs of being sick, whilst the sixth is nowhere to be seen. On a positive note, the family of 5 great crested grebe chicks seems to be thriving, and still fully intact.

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Little egret 1
Black-necked grebe 1 moulting adult
Common sandpiper 4
Yellow wagtail



It did come back after this short fly!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 7 (ad & 6 cygnets)

Nestled in between all of the excitement at Houghton Green Flash and Appleton Reservoir is Eccleston Mere. Nothing much changes, expect perhaps there were a few less coots today.Oh well, it's days like today that make the good days worthwhile.......

Black-necked Grebe Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

I found this very obliging moulting adult black-necked grebe on Appleton Reservoir today, during my lunch  break. It didn't seem in the least nervous of me. Why can't the summer plumage adults behave like this?




Monday, 11 August 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Common sandpiper 1
Tufted duck 6
Little grebe 1 juv.
Mute swan 2
Great crested grebes



Sunday, 10 August 2014

Eccleston Mere

Common tern 1 adult
Coot 119 (a new record)
Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 7 (adult + 6 cygnets)
Great crested grebe families with 5 and 2 chicks.
Swallow 50

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Stilt Sandpiper, Cresswell Pond, Northumberland

Stilt sandpiper 1 adult summer
Knot 9
Whimbrel 1
Curlew 3
Green sandpiper 1
Common sandpiper 2
Avocet 4
Dunlin 15
Ruff 5
Little ringed plover 1
Lapwing 200
Oystercatcher 2
Snipe 1
Black-tailed godwit 1 summer plumage
Redshank 5

Year: 271 (Stilt sandpiper)

This was my fourth Stilt sandpiper, following birds at Frodsham (April - September 1984), Cumbria (September 2008) and Neumann's Flash (August 2013). I suppose that the long staying Frodsham bird must have been in summer plumage, but I don't remember it being as nice as todays bird. It showed very well in the morning from the hide, in good light, but frustratingly refused to fly onto the mud in front of the hide, or the causeway pool where it had given stunning views earlier in the week. However it would be churlish to complain too much after seeing such a smart bird on a lovely day, and with 14 other species of wader.


Hauxley Nature Reserve, Northumberland

Sanderling 90
Dunlin 10
Turnstone 10 (some in summer plumage)


Sanderling and turnstones.

Coquet Island. This is one of the last places in the UK for breeding roseate terns.


There's some really interesting stuff going on, on the beach at Hauxley. As you can see in this photo, there are three layers. The sand dunes are apparently on top of an ancient peat bog, which is itself on top of clay. In this photo you can see part of a tree which has been preserved in the peat. I wonder how old it is? Well, at least old enough for about 30cm of peat to have accumulated over it (at the rate of about 1mm per year) and then for a sand dune to have formed over the peat. And how long has the sand dune been there?