Thursday, 30 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 36
Tufted duck 24
Shoveler 2 males
Teal 1 female
Kingfisher 1

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Denbigh Moors, North Wales

I was out on the Denbigh moors this morning checking out the extent of an area of moorland for a local farmer, when a ghostly male hen harrier drifted past at close range. It was no more than about 30m away when suddenly it dropped down after prey, but missed and then carried on its way.  Such great views of male harriers are always special, and it was a pleasure to be on the moors on such a lovely sunny day, especially following the downpour of yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 24
Tufted duck 20
Shoveler 1 male

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Black Spleenwort, St Helens

Whilst pulling out a few weeds from the wall today, I came across this fern which I didn't recognise. It's very leathery with large brown sori (spore producing structures) on the underside. Following a bit of research it turns out it's black spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, which amazingly is a species I've managed to avoid seeing in the past, and is therefore unsurprisingly the first I have seen in St Helens. I suppose it does occur elsewhere in the borough, but not if you believe the NBN Gateway, which has no records of the species in St Helens.

Not bad, a new species for me and possibly St Helens whilst weeding! It just goes to show that it's always worth keeping your eyes open even in the most unlikely circumstances. This takes my wall fern list to five, the others being maidenhair spleenwort, hart's-tongue fern, wall rue and male fern. The black spleenwort is still there by the way, but I'm surpressing the exact location because I don't want a mass twitch.......

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Eccleston Mere

Snipe 2
Pochard 2 males
Pink footed goose 70 over north
Little grebe 2
Tufted duck 35
Redwing 10
Goldfinch 100
Goldcrest 1
Kingfisher 1
Grey wagtail 1
Mute swan 3

Good to see a couple of snipe in the fields, but nothing like the numbers of a couple of years ago when there were also a few jack snipe. The fields where much wetter then though.
I'm in the middle of some serious decorating at the moment, finished the hall, stairs and landing last week, half way through the yard this weekend (painted walls - yuk!) and still have the kitchen to do. Hence the lack of exciting birding recently, but normal service will be resumed soon (not soon enough!).

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Southern Scotland

Jack snipe 3
Snipe 40

Wet heath. The yellow / green shrub is bog mrtyle.

Red Grouse, Winter Hill

I just found this photo on my camera of a red grouse on Winter Hill from a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Shoveler 7 (4 males)
Gadwall 29
Tufted duck 8

Monday, 20 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 6
Redwing 10
Kingfisher 1
Grey wagtail 1
Tufted duck 6
Mute swan 2

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Eccleston Mere

Willow tit 1 in SW corner
Tufted duck 22
Coot 154
Black headed gull 150
Herring gull 20
Lesser black back gull 1
Treecreeper 1

Just a quick look around the mere today and not much has changed, except that there was a relatively large number of gulls on the water.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 14
Tufted duck 10
Grey wagtail 1
Mute swan 2 adults
Redwing 2 over

A big drop in duck numbers over the past few days, and not even the excitement of winter thrushes passing over in numbers today. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Pink-footed goose 150 over west
Fieldfare 50 over south
Redwing 100
Grey wagtail 3
Bullfinch 3+
Gadwall 20
Shoveler 2 (m&f)
Tufted duck 10
Little grebe 1

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Eccleston Mere

Wigeon 1 female
Mute swan 5 (ad male & 2 cygnets + 2 adults)
Coot 158
Tufted duck 25
Buzzard 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Meadow pipit 15
Skylark 20 over heading SW.
Chiffchaff 2

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 87
Wigeon 2
Shoveler 6
Tufted duck 10
Mute swan 2 adults
Chiffchaff 1
Bullfinch 2

The gadwall gathering at the reservoir keeps increasing and has now reached quite impressive numbers for a lake which is half the size of Eccleston mere.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Shoveler 9
Gadwall 20
Tufted duck 10
Chiffchaff 2

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Hilbre Island

Little egret 5
Pale-bellied brent goose 5
Goldcrest 1
Turnstone 20
Oystercatcher 500

Eccleston Mere

Little grebe 1
Kingfisher 1
Grey wagtail 1
Coot 150
Tufted duck 15

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Grey Phalarope Morfa Madryn, Llanfairfechan

Grey phalarope 1 1st winter
Little egret 10
Wigeon 200
Goosander 4
Redshank 40
Curlew 5
Teal 20

Year: 276 (Grey phalarope). This time last year I as on 236.

This is not me by the way!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 55
Wigeon 5
Shoveler 4
Grey wagtail 2

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Wigeon 4
Teal 3
Lapwing 30
Little grebe 1 juv.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Eccleston Mere

Coot 146
Tufted duck 15
Grey heron 3

It can be a real struggle at the mere at this time of year. I still visit the place three or four times a week, but there are only so many times you can report on 140+ coots. Still, it's the quiet times which make you appreciate the good days!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 2
Tufted duck 17
Coot 140

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 66
Wigeon 4
Shoveler 3
Tufted duck 15

Dragonflies: Migrant hawker 10, brown hawker 1, common darter 5

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 50+
Wigeon 9
Tufted duck 15
Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 2 adults

Monday, 29 September 2014

Eccleston Mere

Tufted duck 35
Pochard 1 male
Coot 140
Kingfisher 1

Possibly the largest flock of tufties I've seen at the mere this year.

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Gadwall 56
Wigeon 12
Shoveler 9
Tufted duck 15
Chiffchaff 2 calling
Mute swan 2 ads

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Leighton Moss

Great white egret 3 (2 at Lillian's hide, 1 at Eric Morecombe hide)
Little egret 30
Little stint 7 (5 at Lillian's hide, 2 at Eric Morecombe hide)
Curlew sandpiper 3 (Eric Morecombe hide)
Greenshank 1 (Eric Morecombe hide)
Cetti's warbler 1 (singing near Eric Morecombe hide)
Snipe 20

Eric Morecombe hide

Eric Morecombe hide

 Lillian's hide (with a little egret in the background!)

Second great white egret at Lillian's hide.

Jenny Brown's Point, Silverdale

Great white egret 1
Little egret 13
Black-tailed godwit 500
Redshank 200
Curlew 50
Oystercatcher 500

Lots of birds on the sandbank at Jenny Brown's Point just after the high tide today, including yet another great white egret.

Cyclamen, Silverdale

I found a small group of wonderful cyclamen growing on the edge of some woodland near Silverdale. Cyclamen are not native to the UK, but they are members of an exclusive club of plants which take my breath away when I see them. Other plants in this club include wild crocus, gentians and most tiny alpine plants. Way back in September 1989 I found wild cyclamen growing on a large boulder on the island of Thassos in the Aegean sea. It was a bulb about 3cm diameter, from which a leafless culm grew with a single, beautiful purple flower. It was hard to see where the roots went or how the plant got it's nutrients perched in it's precarious position, but it was just a stunning sight and these plants today brought back memories of that day.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common sandpiper 1
Teal 2
Little grebe 1

Burton Mere Wetlands

Cattle egret 1
Little stint 3
Spotted redshank 5
Water rail 2
Ruff 5
Pink footed goose 50
Little egret 1
Wheatear 1

Friday, 26 September 2014

Eccleston mere

Kingfisher 2
Chiffchaff 2
Tufted duck 20
Grey wagtail 1
Coot 140

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

More from an Irish bog

Red grouse 8
Golden plover 5

At one time Irish red grouse were considered to be a different race to those in the rest of the UK, but I believe that recent research has found no evidence to back this up.

 Just a few short weeks ago I was admiring Devil's bit scabious on dry, limestone grassland on the Burren, where it grows to a height of 1m. Yet here it is in full flower, no more than about 5 cm heigh, growing on the edge of an acid blanket bog in the company of sphagnum, bog bean and bog asphodel! I guess it's actually just another Burren oddity. The plant normally prefers acid soil, but it certainly also thrives on the limestones of the Burren.

The ochre coloured sphagnum at the bottom of this photo is the very distinctive, Sphagnum papillosum.

Here it is a bit closer.

This is my NVC quadrat. NVC surveys are plant community surveys, which involve identifying every plant in the quadrat, including all forbes,  but also grasses, mosses, sedges, rushes and lichens etc. The composition of the plants in this quadrat when taken in associaton with other quadrats allows a community type to be assigned. Plant communities form the basis of habitat conservation and protection. I'm currently working on a mosaic of bog and heath communities in Ireland. Really interesting stuff!

I was quite surprised to find this lone bog asphodel in flower. Most of the rest are well over.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Larne Lough, Northern Ireland

Greenshank 5 (Glynn station)
Kingfisher 1 (Ballycarry bridge)
Little egret 5
Curlew 20
Red breasted merganser 30
Hooded crow 15
Redshank 10

From an Irish bog

Red grouse 10
Wheatear 1
Raven 10

Sphagnum palustre.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Appleton reservoir, Warrington

Wigeon 3
Gadwall 50
Shoveler 7
Tufted duck 12
Mute swan 2 adults

Butterflies: 7 red admirals, 1 comma

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A mega day at Spurn

Masked shrike 1 juv
Great grey shrike 1
Red breasted flycatcher 1
(Siberian? ) lesser whitethroat 1
Yellow-browed warbler 1 (Easington)
Jack snipe 1
Pied flycatcher 1
Spotted flycatcher 1
Garden warbler 1
Redstart 1
Tree pipit 1
Dark bellied Brent goose 6

UK life: 401, year: 275 (masked shrike)

Having returned from Scotland just yesterday, I decided that today I was just going to potter around locally. However as usual, before I left for Eccleston Mere at 9:45, I checked the Birdguides app on my phone. My attention was immediately drawn to a report of an olive backed pipit at Spurn, which would be a new bird for me, but I didn't seriously consider going for it, even with a supporting cast of a woodchat shrike, because all I wanted was a nice quiet day, and I really couldn't face that drive. I continued to the mere.

By 10:30 I was racing back to my car. I had abandoned my visit to the mere even before I got to the south west corner; Spurn was suddenly back on the agenda, and it was the pipit that was now the supporting cast because the woodchat shrike had been upgraded to a masked shrike, only the third record for Britain! I wasn't certain if I'd misread the original message (a trait of the elderly) or if it had genuinely been originally reported as a woodchat shrike, but that didn't matter, because there was no doubt about the message on the app now.

I called in at ASDA and filled up with petrol, then shot home, made up a few sandwiches, a flask of coffee and grabbed my scope and just before 11:00 I was on my way to Spurn, 140 miles away on the east coast, cursing shrikes and pipits alike, and the fact that it was now almost midday and the journey would take two and a half hours even in good traffic conditions, giving me at best half a day at Spurn.

Fortunately the M62 was pretty clear and with no major hold ups, I arrived at the Crown and Anchor at Kilnsea near Spurn, at 13:30. There was a line of cars at the side of the road and I just pulled into the first available space and jumped out. There were two groups of birders. One group was watching the masked shrike, the other was watching a great grey shrike! I lifted my bins, and there was the great grey showing well, perched on a wire. And that was about as long as I spent watching it for now. My priority was to join the other group who were watching the star attraction.

Immediately I saw it, the juvenile masked shrike perched on a wire fence about 100m away. A bit distant, but it was a good view through the scope and at least I'd seen it. I breathed a big sigh of relief, two minutes after getting out of the car and I'd seen two species of shrike! I could now relax and I settled down to watch it for a while.

I could see why it had initially been reported as a woodchat shrike, but it was clearly a smaller bird, with a slim bill and a relatively longer tail. For most of the time it kept a good distance away on the fence, but it did once make its way down the hedge near to where we were standing and came quite close for a while, though it was often hidden from view and we had to wait for it to fly down to the ground and then hope that when it returned to the hedge it would land in a more prominent position, which it didn't often do. Apparently that's a feature of masked shrike, they don't perch so prominently as other shrikes.

Eventually I had seen enough and headed off to see some of the other goodies on offer. First stop was the canal pool hide, where there was a very obliging jack snipe bobbing away on the edge of the pool. Probably the best view I have ever had of the species. Then I walked towards the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust shop where they had a migrant convulvulous hawkmoth on show, but not before stopping off to admire a probable Siberian lesser whitethroat (my second of the year).

Convulvulous hawkmoth. This individual was about 2.5 inches long.

Jack snipe.

Walking back along the sea embankment towards the Crown and Anchor, I could see directly down the masked shrikes favourite fence, and was amazed to see both the masked shrike and the great grey shrike in the same bush! I set up my scope and watched for a while in awe as the much larger great grey shrike had go at its smaller cousin. I half expected to see the masked shrike meet its end, impaled on a thorn! Thankfully though it fought its corner and survived!

Continuing on to the Crown and Anchor I waited patiently with a small group of birders, hoping to see a red-breasted flycatcher in the pub garden. A pied flycatcher flitted about, and a spotted flycatcher put in a brief appearance, but no RBF. I started to walk back towards the car, but immediately bumped into another group of birders who were watching a red-breasted flycatcher at Cliffe farm! It was that kind of day, groups of birders everywhere and each watching their own scarce migrant! At times I didn't know which direction to walk for the best.

It had been a dull, misty, drizzly afternoon on the east coast and by 17:30 it was getting dark so I decided to call it a day, but not before I called in at Vicars lane in Easington to see a yellow-browed warbler. I was home for 20:15. What a day!

I have seen masked shrike once before, a stunning male in North East Greece in 1987. Like last week at Burton Mere Wetlands, it just shows what a good year I've had when I can go to Spurn on a day like today and return with just one year tick! Oh, and what of the olive-backed pipit I hear you say? Apparently it was seen flying south before I got to Spurn, so nobody was really looking for it. A pity really, because it was seen again in the same place the following day, so clearly hadn't flown very far south! Oh well, one for another day.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

From a Scottish Bog

Wild cranberry. I've seen the plant before, but this is the first time I've found the berry.

Marsh violet, leaves and seeds.

Sphagnum magellanicum..

Sphagnum cuspidatum.

Sphagnum fallex.

Toadstools. No idea what they are!

Monday, 15 September 2014

A few toadstools from southern Scotland

Shaggy inkcaps.

Fly agarics.

Boletus sp.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Martin Mere

Curlew sandpiper 5
Little stint 2
Ruff 70
Dunlin 5
Pink footed goose 500+
Marsh harrier 1
Kingfisher 1

No sign of yesterdays pec sand, but it has apparently been elusive. Nice to see a good selection of waders and the returning pink feet.

Eccleston Mere

Tufted duck 17
Coot 140
Kingfisher 1
Mute swan 6 (adult male & 5 cygnets)
Chiffchaff 1 Singing

Very quiet again.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Burton Mere Wetlands (Inner Marsh Farm hide)

Red-necked phalarope 1 juv
Cattle egret 1
Curlew sandpiper 1
Little stint 2
Spotted redshank 14
Ruff 7
Snipe 10
Black-tailed godwit 20
Pintail 50
Little egret 7
Wigeon 100
Teal 500

Year: 274 (Curlew sandpiper)

Curlew sandpiper added to the list at last, but to be honest the year list has shuddered to a halt recently, to such an extent that I now no longer expect to get to 300. It's not surprising really when you look at the great list of birds from Inner Marsh Farm today and then realise that only one of them was a  year tick.

Red-necked phalarope with teal.