Saturday, 31 January 2009

Eccleston Mere

Goldeneye 12 (5mm, 7ff)
Tufted Duck 18 (12mm, 6ff)
Pochard 9 (5mm, 4ff)
Teal 3
Great crested Grebes 15
Little Grebe 1
Kingfisher 1

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Inglenook Farm, Rainford

Pink-footed Goose 1600 (on fields behind the farm)
Grey Partridge 8

Quite a few geese around today, even flying over the town centre at 14:30. Looks like they're returning from Norfolk, so keep you eyes open for the return of the Ross's Goose.

Eccleston Mere

Raven 2 (flew over east at 3pm)
Peregrine 1 (adult flew over east at 3pm)
Willow Tit 1 (on feeders in SE corner)
Buzzard 2
Coal Tit 2

Monday, 19 January 2009

Dee Estuary

Pink-footed Goose 150 (flushed by dog walker from sands behind Little Eye, Hilbre at 9:45)
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 118 (Hilbre)
Dark-bellied Brent Goose 2 (Hilbre)
Red-breasted Merganser 1 (drake, Hilbre)
Purple Sandpiper 1

Twite 13 (Thurstaston Shore)
Peregrine 1 (Thurstaston Shore)
Oystercatcher, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank 15,000+ (Thurstaston Shore)
Pintail 600+ (Thurstaston Shore)

Peregrine 1 (Burton Marsh)
Short-eared Owl 1 (Burton Marsh)
Bewick's Swan 14 (Burton Marsh)

Whooper Swan 31 (Inner Marsh Farm)

Another tremendous visit to Hilbre.

It was a gloriously sunny morning, though there was a stiff, cold wind.As I approached Little Eye at about 9:30, a flock of about 150 geese went up from the sands behind the island. At first I thought that they were the wintering Brents, but such thoughts were immediatly dispelled because the call was clearly Pink-foot. The light was perfect, and they flew right in front of me and then away north towards Southport. I've never seen Pinks at Hilbre before, and presumably these were Norfolk birds returning north to Lancashire. A wonderfully atmospheric sight.

On the main island, there were about 120 Brent Geese, mainly Pale-bellied, but there were at least two Dark-bellied. The usual 1st winter Shag was sitting on the rocks, but the real surprise was a wonderful drake Red-breasted Merganser which swam past the north tip of the island. A genuinely stunning bird, green head with a scarlet red bill and eye, an orange breast and a body / upperparts which was a subtle combination of grey, black and white. And such a wild, reptilian looking bird. I really could imagine that this was descended from dinnosaurs! Is there a more beautiful bird on the British list?

After leaving the island, I decided to head south down the Dee. My first stop was Thurstaston shore, near the Wirral country park visitor centre. It took me a while to get onto the flock of 13 Twite which have been hanging around Tinkers Dell steps, but the wait was worth it, with thousands on waders, and hundreds of Pintail on the estaury, and a Peregrine periodically spooking the lot. It's difficult to say exactly how many waders there were of each species, but there must have been 15,000 birds in total, mainly Oystercatchers, but also thousands of Knot and at least 1000 Black-tailed Godwits.

The Pintail were magnificent, hundreds of them hauled out on the bank, as I watched, the tide was coming in, and was forcing them to fly, a real spectacular sight!

Next I moved down to Burton Marsh. Here I saw a magnificent adult Peregrine powering its way across the marsh, until suddenly a Short-eared Owl rose from the ground and made the Peregrine swerve away. The falcon rose high, and then swooped at the Owl, which narrowly avoided its assailant. Also here, a flock of 14 Bewick's Swans.

Finally, I ended the day at the RSPB reserve, Inner Marsh Farm. It was fairly quiet, I even had the hide to myself, but just as I was about to leave a flock of 31 Whooper Swans flew in and landed. They all raised their heads high, then lowered them to drink some water, then raised them again. They did this continoulsy for about 5 minutes, before they relaxed and started preening. The end of an excellent day!

Eccleston Mere

Pochard 22
Tufted Duck 7
Goldeneye 3 (m&2ff)
Raven 1
Buzzard 1

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose 1000+ (flying over in flocks of between 30 and 300)
Corn Bunting 3 (Mossborough island, Rainford Bypass)
Fieldfare 20 (Old Coach Road)
Redwing 50+ (Old Coach Road)

Generally very quiet.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Warrington Waxwings

Once again Gainsborough Road has a nice flock of Waxwings. Today I was on a flying visit, and could only spare a maximum of 30 minutes looking for these birds, so given their well known mobile nature, I wasn't too confident of success.
However, once again I was lucky, and saw a a nice flock of 17 birds within less than 5 minutes of arriving. Great stuff!

Eccleston Mere

Tufted Duck 43
Pochard 20
Goldeneye 2 males
Bullfinch 3

Once again good numbers of diving ducks on the mere, despite the fact that it is still around 90% iced over.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Another day on Wirral

Cetti's Warbler 1 (Neston sewage works)
Hen Harrier 1 (male, Parkgate)
Black-tailed Godwit 1700 (Thurstaston)
Pintail 1000 ((Thurstaston))
Peregrine 1 (Thurstaston)
Oystercatcher 9000 (Thurstaston)
Jack Snipe 11 (West Kirby Saltmarsh)

It was a bitterly cold day at Neston, where we spent two hours standing in one spot waiting for the Cetti's Warbler to show. Oh, well, it could have been worse - I nearly went for the Glaucous-winged Gull instead. :-)

Amazing numbers of waders at Thurstaston, I don't think I've ever seen so many Black-tailed Godwits. Meanwhile, at West Kirby, Jack Snipe were flying up from everywhere. Some of these birds were almost flying up from under our feet. A great experience, with Hilbre as a backdrop.

Eccleston Mere

Pochard 21
Bullfinch 2
Snipe 1
Buzzard 1
Little Grebe 2

A suprisingly good count of Pochard since the mere was 95% iced over.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Monday, 5 January 2009

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Martin Mere

Barn Owl 3

One of the Barn Owls landed on a post right outside the Ron Barker (Millars Bridge) hide. A fabulous view.

Birkdale and Marshside

Twite 50 (Birkdale beach)
Green-winged Teal 1 (male at Marshside)

The GWT was so close to the hide it was very nearly under it. Easily the closet view I have ever had of the species. If only I'd had my camera with me....

Hilbre Island, Red Rocks and West Kirby

Hilbre

Pale-bellied Brent Geese 130
Dark-bellied Brent Goose 1+
Purple Sandpiper 2
Shag 1

Red Rocks

Snow Bunting 1

West Kirby Saltmarsh

Jack Snipe 2

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Eccleston Mere

Bullfinch 3 (inc. 2mm)
Snipe 1
Little Grebe 1
Pochard 1

The mere was 98% iced over.

A few thousand gulls too many

Prescot Reservoirs

Great Northern Diver 1 juv.
Herring gull 3000+
Tufted Duck 140
Goldeneye 23

There were horrendous numbers of gulls of the reservoirs today, mainly Herring Gulls and Black-headed.

Moore

Tawny Owl 1
Willow Tit 1
Gulls 1000's

I went to Moore to try to see the Bitterns, but for some reason I just can't explain I ended up in a freezing cold hide working my way through 1000's gulls, and as expected, I left with nothing. I wouldn't mind so much if I hadn't just done the same at Prescot this morning, with equally fruitless results.

As usual, the day I went was the worst day in living memory for finding rare gulls at Moore, despite the fact that the water and ice were covered in the commoner species. I actually don't believe that Caspian Gull exists. At least 20% of all adult Herring Gulls have white heads in winter, 5% have dark eyes, almost all of them have pear shaped heads and lots of them have long bills (especially when the feathers on their heads are wet). Long legs, the way they sit in the water and slightly darker mantles are completely subjective and the latter dependant on many things, especially the light conditions at the time.

Why can't we just be happy with Herring Gull, LBBG, GBBG, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls? We don't need any more species.....

Friday, 2 January 2009

Llanbedr-y-cennin

Hawfinch 4 (Llanbedr-y-cennin)
Short-eared Owl 9 (Parkgate marsh)
Hen Harrier 1 (female, Parkgate marsh)
Merlin 1 (Parkgate marsh)

I'd been thinking about going for the Hawfinches in Conwy for several days, and today seemed the ideal opportunity. I was on the road at 7:30am, driving in the dark and through freezing fog, but at least the roads were empty. Not many other fools were heading for North Wales at that time on this New Years Day. For many miles I was driving through a dark, misty and frozen landscape, with the frost so heavy that it looked like it had snowed all night. I passed Holywell and still there was no let up in the murk, until at last, as I reached the top of the Clwydian ridge, the road turned west and ahead I could see hope. Brightness through the murk! Within 5 minutes my depression was forgotten, and I was driving in bright morning sunshine, and looking west, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was now a gloriously bright and crisp winters day, and suddenly the effort seemed worthwhile! Behind me, a huge wall of blackness hung over the Clwydians, but all of that was forgotten now.

I reached Llanbedr-y-cennein at 9am, and Robins and Dunnocks were singing, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming. It was almost like spring, except it was -2'c. Almost before I had parked the car, I saw a large finch like bird flying to the top of one of the high trees, and there it was, a fabulous Hawfinch! It was a great view, right on the top branch, with blue sky behind it and the sun shining right on it. And then it was gone. Unfortunately, I hadn't even had time to get my scope out. I hung around for another two hours, and had a reasonable though somewhat obscured view of a bird on the ground. I left at 11am feeling a little disapointed. My plan now was to head back to the Wirral via Conwy RSPB, but that was all stuff which could wait until tomorrow. Was it worth rushing back to the cold and gloom just to see a grotty Black Redstart? I spent an hour walking along the estuary at Conwy, trying to decide what to do. At 1pm I was back at at Llanbedr-y-cennin, and by now it was pleasantly warm.

This time I based myself in the church yard. Viewing was a bit restricted, and I couldn't see the tops of the trees, but it was much closer, and I had a hunch that the Hawfinches were actually spending more time low down or even on the ground than they were in the tops of trees.

The hunch paid off. Within minutes I had located two birds in a low bush and in full view, about 20 yards distant. They looked like male and female. The "male" had its back to me, but kept looking round in my direction, and after about 5 minutes it decided that it would be more comfortable to turn round and face me. In total I watched these fabulous birds for about 10 minutes, a real good experience. A few days ago there were 11 Hawfinches reported from this site.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Eccleston Mere



Tufted Duck 130
Pochard 14
Gadwall 2
Snipe 1 (in SW corner)
Goldeneye 4 (2mm, 2ff)
Goldfinch 40
Siskin 1

To try to put the Tuftie flock into perspective, in the past 20 years, according to my database, I have visited the mere on over 1400 occasions. My previous highest count for Tufted Duck was 30 birds! Todays flock is over four times that total, and is easily the biggest flock ever recorded in St Helens away from Prescot Reservoirs.

At first I thought that maybe it was the Prescot flock, displaced or on their holidays, but a quick phone call revealed that most of the Prescot flock was still present, though viewing was difficult in the fog. However, a fisherman who was just setting up his gear, told me that he had just been to White Mans Dam in Knowsley Safari Park, and it was completely iced over. This maybe the source of the Tufties - obviously they flew over the reservoirs, decided it looked a bit dodgy, and carried on to civilisation and the comfort of Eccleston Mere. If only they could convince the Great Northern to do the same. About 30% ice cover of the mere today.


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