Sunday, 29 April 2012

Eccleston Mere

Common Sandpiper 1
Swallow 4
Willow Warbler 5
Chiffchaff 2
Blackcap 2
Mute Swan 2 ads

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Eccleston Mere

Swift 1
Swallow 20
Sand Martin 5
House Martin 1
Gadwall 2 m & f
Kingfisher 1
Mute Swan 2 ads
Coot with 2 chicks

A common roadside plant in full flower at the moment, this is Garlic Mustard. Try crushing a leaf in your fingers!

At this time of year, not everything that is blue is a bluebell. This is one of my favourite plants, Wood Forget-me-not.

Rainford Mosslands

White Wagtail 5 Inglenook Farm
Wheatear 6 Inglenook Farm, 3 King's Moss, 4 Old Coach Road, 1 Catchdale Moss
Shelduck 2 Dairy Farm Road
Willow Warbler 3 singing Berrington's Lane, 5 Old Coach Road
Tree Sparrow 4 Reed's Brow, Rainford

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pennines birding

I've been away for a few days, doing some Breeding Birds Surveys at various sites in the Pennines. Really tough going at times, but some tremendous birding. It's just wonderful to see birds like Golden Plover, Curlew and Snipe calling and displaying at close range, and also good numbers of Ring Ouzels and Short-eared Owls. Lots of Red Grouse of course, but the highlight was two male Black Grouse.
Wood Anenome, here growing at about 450m with not a tree in sight. It always seems slightly strange to see an ancient woodland indicator species growing in a place like this, but it seemed to be thriving.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rixton Clay Pits

Today we visited Rixton Clay Pits, just south of Warrington. It's a SSSI largely on account of it's large population of Great Crested Newts, and this is one of the best sites in the North West (and possibly the UK) for the species.
Great Crested Newts are an endangered and protected species, and it's illegal to disturb them in any way. This particular individual was in a pond quite close to a viewing platform, and though the water always makes them diffficult to photograph, you can at least get an idea of what it looks like. This is a large species, which can grow up to 18cm long. This individual was about 15cm. There were also Smooth Newts in the pond, and these reach about 10cm.
This looks like a Chironomidae species emerging. Also known as non-biting midges, there were lots of empty cases floating on the surface of the water, and we watched as adults emerged from others.

Eccleston Mere

Common Sandpiper 1
House Martin 2
Swallow 20
Sand Martin 20
Blackcap 4 singing
Chiffchaff 2 singing
Willow Warbler 4 singing
Lesser Redpoll 2
Tufted Duck 4

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Old Coach Road

Wheatear 10
Willow Warbler 5 singing
Chiffchaff 3 singing
Blackcap 2 singing

Strangely, 7 of the Wheatears flew out of the remains of a fallen tree by the side of the road as I cycled past! It was either good shelter or they had found a good food source. All of the Wheatears today were males.

Eccleston Mere

Swallow 20
Willow Warbler 2 singing
Whitethroat 1 singing
Chifffchaff 1 singing
Blackcap 2 singing

I've never seen the mere as low as it is at present. There's a nice delta forming at the point where the stream enters the mere! Hopefully it will keep going down and give us chance of a decent wader or two over the next few weeks! Not such good news for  the grebes though, one of the nests is about a foot out of the water already, yet there is still a bird sitting. Perhaps it can't get off......

Billinge Hill

Ring Ouzel 1 male still on old landfill site near stone circle. View from the beacon.
Whitethroat 1 singing in scrub near horse paddocks
Willow Warbler 10 singing
Chiffchaff 1 singing
Blackcap 2 singing
Yellowhammer 5 singing
Grey Partridge 2

Friday, 20 April 2012

Billinge Hill - Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel 1 male on the site of the old landfill "stone circle". Best viewed from the Beacon.
Willow Warbler 2
Chiffchaff 2

This is a cracking bird. Hopefully it will stick around over the weekend. Get to see it if you can.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Arnside Knott

Within striking distance of the Lake District and some wonderful south Cumbrian nature reserves, and close to Leighton Moss and Silverdale, it's hard to imagine a more perfect place for a naturalist, Arnside Knott has some excellent wildlife and some spectacular views.


Teesdale Violet Viola rupestris at one of only four locations at which it occurs in the UK. Watch this space, I'm hoping to get up to Teesdale soon to see a few more. Interestingly, in Teesdale this violet is actually blue.


Southern Wood Ants Formica rufa.


Rare Spring Sedge Carex ericetorum.


Blue Moor Grass Sesleria caerulea. In Britain this species occurs mainly in a band from Cumbria to the Yorkshire Dales.


Morecambe Bay from Arnside Knott

Monday, 16 April 2012

Old Coach Road

Wheatear 7
Corn Bunting 1
Curlew 2

Catchdale Moss, Green Lane

Yellow Wagtail 1 stunning male on ploughed field. First of the year.

Eccleston Mere

Whitethroat 1 singing. First of the year.
Willow Warbler 2 singing
Chiffchaff 2 singing
Blackcap 2 singing
Lesser Redpoll 2
Mute Swan 2 ads

No hirundines and no Tufted Ducks!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dunsop Valley, Bowland

So after a week in the metropolis of New York, it was back to the rolling countryside of the UK, and what a struggle it proved to be! It was a very pleasant walk, if slightly chilly, but the birding was so difficult compared to New York.

This place is one of the best in the UK for raptor watching, yet we walked for about 8 miles and the best we could muster was 4 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels. A Common Sandpiper was a welcome sight, my first this year, and Dippers are always good to see.

Oh well, back to reality.......


Brennand in the Dunsop Valley

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Eccleston Mere

Sand Martin 70
Swallow 20
Chiffchaff 3 singing
Willow Warbler 2 singing
Blackcap 4 singing
Lesser Redpoll 3
Mute Swan 2 ads
Tufted Duck 18
Kingfisher 1
Buzzard 1

Friday, 13 April 2012

Eccleston Mere

Yellowhammer 1 (my first at the mere since 2006!)
Lesser Redpoll 2
Willow Warbler 2 singing
Chiffchaff 3 singing
Blackcap 3 singing
Sand Martin 1
Mute Swan 2 ads

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Birding Manhatten

I've just had a very busy week in New York, we went to all of the usual attractions, and it wasn't really a birding holiday, but there are just so many birds in and around New York City that you can't really fail, especially if like me, you don't get to North America very often.

Central Park is an oasis in the middle of Manhatten, and just a leisurely stroll around will produce a good selection of birds, most of which seem oblivious to people. On no occasion did we deliberately set out to go birding, and the photos here are just birds and wildlife we came across on our walks through the park, often on our way to other places.

It's not all about Central Park. There are other smaller parks with a good selection of birds, and the Staten Island Ferry takes you past the Statue of Liberty, with plenty of birds to see as well. Species we saw from the ferry included Double-crested Cormorants, Ring-billled Gulls, Laughing Gulls and a single Red-throated Loon (Diver), whilst around the shore there were small groups of Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

However Central Park is the main birding location in the city. The most obvious species (apart from Starlings and House Sparrows) are the American Robins, which are everywhere and very tame, and the White-throated Sparrows. Perhaps more unexpected are the Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures.

The feeders in the Rambles are a good place to see a lot of species without trying too hard, whilst the reservoir, lakes and ponds of Central Park hold a good selection of waterbirds. During our stay this included at least 8 Buffleheads, 2 Hooded Mergansers, 1 Common Loon (Great northern Diver), 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 1 Wood Duck, 20 Ruddy Ducks, numerous American Coot and Double-crested Cormorants and a single Snowy Egret.

Even the train journey from Newark airport to Penn station New York had some birding interest, with a Night Heron and a Belted Kingfisher amongst other birds seen on the numerous ponds and marshes.

Non-birding activities included the Lion King on Broadway, the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Centre Memorial, plus visits to the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as lots of shopping time! We sampled Spanish, Japenese, Etheopian, Italian, Greek and American food. A very enjoyable if slightly hectic visit. Everyday was like a week!


The Financial District of Manhatten from Brooklyn.


Strawberry Fields in Central Park, not far from the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot.


Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn.

Woodpeckers of Central Park



Downy Woodpecker, with a pair displaying. The commonest woodpecker in Central Park.


Northern Flicker. Not a great photo, but a great bird.


Likewise, this is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Water birds of New York

Most of the photos below were taken in Central Park, with the exception of the Brent Geese which were on the East River near Brooklyn Bridge.




Perhaps the star bird of the holiday for me, there were about 8 Buffleheads on Central Park Reservoir.


Hooded Merganser, a new bird for me. This is a female.


There were lots of Double-crested Cormorants, many with very obvious crests.


Quite a rarity in the UK these days, a Ruddy Duck in a place where it is still welcome. Ruddy Ducks have of course been culled to almost extinction in the UK for the sin of being an alien species, yet if we're going to talk about aliens, what shall we say about the two commonest species in Central Park, Starlings and House Sparrows, neither of which should be there, and both of which probably compete with native American species, at least for breeding sites?


Common Loon (Great northern Diver) on Central Park reservoir. Not a great photo, but a bird I was very pleased to see. Although it's the same species, I've always wanted to see a loon rather than a diver, and on this holiday I managed to see both Common and Red-throated Loon.


American Coot



Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the East River at Brooklyn Bridge. Confusingly, the Americans call this species Black Brant, but they are actually Pale-bellied Brent. What UK birders call Black Brant (e.g. the bird I saw in Norfolk in February) is the race / species of Brent which occurs on the Pacific coast of North America and in eastern Siberia. Like most birds in New York, they were amazingly approachable. I don't remember ever getting this close to Brent Geese in the UK. There were also a couple of 1st winter Buffleheads on the river here.

More New York park birds

All of these birds were pretty common park birds. They were all photographed in Central Park, except the kinglet and the junco which were photographed in Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village.


White-throated Sparrow, a very common bird in Central Park.



Red-tailed Hawk with prey. This is the equivelent of a Buzzard. It was eating it's prey about 20 feet above one of the busiest thoroughfares in Central Park. There were probably about 100 people just below it, either photographing it, walking past or jogging as I took the photo. Quite disinterested in the people, it just kept on eating. As you can see from the state of the prey, it would have been a very easy task for the hawk to fly with it's lunch to a more private location.


Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the US equivelant of the European Goldcrest. This was a lucky photograph, I didn't even know what the bird was when I took it, I was photographing juncos, saw a movement, snapped and realised that it was a kinglet, nicely framed in amongst the blossom!


Mourning Dove


Hermit Thrush. Here's another case in point of birds in New York being approachable. I've never seen Hermit Thrush anywhere before, but I'm told that they are quite shy and skulking birds. This bird was almost walking over my feet as I photographed something else, and when we moved down a few paces, it followed me. And it wasn't the only one, several Hermit Thrushes behaved in this was during our stay in the city. This bird was almost too close for decent photography, you can see my shadow creeping into the photo. I'd have preferred it if I could have stepped back a bit, but it just kept following me!



Dark-eyed Junco


Chipping Sparrow


Blue Jay

American Robin

American Robins are very common birds in New York parks, and at any one time there could be 20 in view in Central Park. They are about the size of a Blackbird. I'm not sure how easy they are to see when they turn up in the UK, but you could easily get within 5 feet of the birds in Central Park. Again, almost too close for photography. Most of the photos here were taken without the need to use the camera zoom.




Metallic Common Grackles

A few more photos from New York, this time all of Common Grackle. At first glance quite a dull black bird, but if the light hits them right, really quite spectacular. Photographed in Central Park and the World Trade Centre Memorial




Other Manhatten wildlife




There are lots of Red-necked terrapins in Central Park, which I assume are the same species which are frequently (and annoyingly) introduced into lakes in the UK. I'm not sure if they are native here, or just an introduction.


This is a Callery pear tree growing at the World Trade Centre memorial site. It's known as survivor tree, because it survived the wreckage of Ground Zero.


This is some type of violet, I don't know which.


There are lots of very tame Grey Squirrels in Central Park. This is a dark form.

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