Sunday, 30 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

Sparrowhawk 2
Mute Swan 1 ad
Tufted Duck 2

I quiet day by recent standards at the mere.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Leach's Petrels and Bonxie, Hilbre Island

It was a 8.7m tide at 11:15am today at Hilbre, and with the promise of a force 6 WNW wind, it seemed like a good opportunity to see a few more sea birds. It would have been better if it had been blowing for a few days prior to today to drive them into Liverpool Bay, but even so we were hopeful of seeing a few good birds.

Almost immediately we saw a couple of Leach's Petrels battling their way against the wind at close range, and in the good light, every detail was visible. This seemed very promising, but perhaps strangely we only saw one more petrel all day.

Meanwhile small flocks of Common Scoter flew past in the distance and at closer range there were Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers. The occasional Guillemot flew past, 3 Fulmars and small numbers of Sandwich Terns.

Suddenly a cry went out "Bonxie at 11 O'Clock, mid distance!" and an impressive looking Great Skua flew past with white wing flashes glowing in the bright sunlight. We also saw several Arctic Skuas chasing gulls and terns.

As the tide ebbed, things quietend down a bit, and I went to the south end to view the waders and geese on Middle Eye. There were at least 2500 Oystercatchers, as well as good numbers of Knot and a few Curlew, Redshank and Turnstones. Also with them, 37 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

Thanks again to Phil and Colin from the obs for their hospitality!


The approaching tide at Hilbre. The black dot near the middle of the photo is a lone Cormorant battling against the wind. Gives the photo a bit of scale! Imagine now how small a Leach's Petrel would look on the same photo... The other photo is a view towards the south end of the island.


Middle Eye from Hilbre.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose 2000 Old Coach Road. Probably a lot more out of view.
Pied Wagtail 50 Old Coach Road
Goldfinch 50 Dairy Farm Road
Swallow 20 Old Coach Road


Eccleston Mere

Wigeon 1 female
Siskin 10
Lesser Redpoll 2
Swallow 10
House Martin 2
Grey Wagtail 1
Goldfinch 20
Treecreeper 1
Goldcrest 5

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

Spotted Flycatcher 2 in the dead woods at the southern end of the mere.
Swallow 1
Goldcrest 5
Tufted Duck 5
Kingfisher 1
Siskin 4

Rainford Mosslands, Old Coach Road

Pink-footed Goose 3000
Pied Wagtail 60
Swallow 50
House Martin 5
Woodpigeon 500

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

I braved the weather today and had a walk around Eccleston Mere, my theory being that at this time of year, and with the easterly winds we've had recently, there was bound to be something good on the mere..... err no, wrong again!

Swallow 8
Chiffchaff 1
Buzzard 1
Tufted Duck 7
Mute Swan 1 adult

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

Teal 2
Siskin 4
Blackcap 1
Chiffchaff 2
Swallow 5
House Martin 5
Kingfisher 1
Little Grebe 1 juv.
Great Crested Grebe 10 inc. 1 juv.
Buzzard 2
Sparrowhawk 1
Kestrel 1
Mute Swan 1 ad
Tufted Duck 10

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose 3000 Old Coach Road
Grey Wagtail 1 Old Coach Road
Swallow 40 Old Coach Road
House Martin 30 Old Coach Road
Siskin 1 Dairy Farm Road
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 Catchdale Moss

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Pennington Flash to Haigh Hall

Today we had a bike ride from Lowton to Haigh Hall at Wigan along canal tow paths. We joined the tow path at Pennington Flash, and then cycled past Plank Lane, Lightshaw Flash, Horrocks Flash, Scotsmans Flash and on to Haigh Hall.

Most of the birding was at Pennington Flash, where I saw a juvenile Arctic Tern which has been around for a day or two, as well as a great view of a Kingfisher. There were plenty of butterflies on the wing today, mainly Small Tortoiseshells, but also a few Red Admirals. Also plenty of dragonflies, with again two species dominating, Migrant Hawker and Common Darter.

Away from Pennington, there were plenty of ducks on Pearsons Flash (near Scotsmans) and near Horrocks Flash we heard singing Chiffchaff and a Willow Tit calling.


Red Admiral in a Lowton garden and Small Tortoiseshell on Michaelmas Daisy, Pennington Flash.


A couple of photos of Pennington Flash showing Horrocks Hide and the spit. The spit is all that remains of a former railway line. I first visited the flash in 1981, when it was a very different place, and from then until about 1990 it was almost my local patch until I moved to St Helens from Newton-le-Willows. I've recently started visiting again on a more regular basis, though still quite infrequently.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Western and white-rumped sandpipers, Hoylake

What an adventure today! My run of good luck continues!  News of a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Hoylake broke on Wednesday, and by Thursday it was considered by some to be the even rarer Western Sandpiper. Either of these rare North American peeps would be a new bird for me, so I decided to head onto the Wirral today.

Just to make the challenge a bit more difficult, I decided to take my bike and go on the train, also carrying my telescope, tripod, camera, binoculars and packed lunch..... it seemed a good idea at the time! I left the train at Meols and cycled down the promenade, and almost immediately bumped into Jane Turner who was scanning through a flock of mainly calidris waders. There were about 400 Dunlin, 3 Curlew Sandpipers and a few Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Redshanks and Curlews. After about 15 minutes, Jane was trying to get me onto a Curlew Sandpiper, when suddenly the peep walked out from a gutter and right into view.

Its back was similar colouration to a Dunlin, it had pure white underparts and in many respects looked like a miniture Sanderling. It was quite aggressive, running around in a Sanderling like way and bulldozing Dunlin out of the way. A really nice bird. The debate is still on going as to its identity, and may never be resolved, but for what it's worth, it's a Western Sandpiper for me, though I'm more than happy for wiser birders than me to prove that it's Semi P. My only logic for saying Western is that it looked exactly as I expected a Western to look, and looked nothing like I expected Semi P to look. Convincing or what? The bill did look a fraction long for Semi P, but the Collins Bird Guide says for Semi P "...beware some longer-billed birds with slight decurve".

I saw the bird very well on and off for about three hours as the tide approached, and the flock gradually moved west, we all presumed towards the lifeboat station where they usually roost over the high tide. However, eventually they flew right past the lifeboat station and landed near Kings Gap, which was not a problem for me, since I was on the bike. I was just approaching the bus shelter near the lifeboat station, when another birder called to me "White-rumped Sandpiper at Kings Gap!".

Two minutes later I was with a group of excited birders at Kings Gap all trying to get onto this latest unexpected arrival. White-rumped Sand is another North American vagrant, much more frequent in the UK than either Semi P or Western Sand, but still a great find and only my third ever and first for 25 years. With a bit of help from Phil Woollen and Mark Turner I was able to get onto the bird, and saw it well for a minute or two, before it flew with the rest of the flock, allowing me a decent view of its rump through the scope.

Then it started to rain and I decided it was time to go home, I didn't really want to have to battle my way onto a train with my bike at Lime Street in rush hour. A wonderful day, cost me £4.60 in total!


View over the beach from Meols and Western Sandpiper with Dunlin. This is the photo to clinch the id, the Western sand is the pale looking small bird facing right in the middle at the back (but then I guess you could tell that from the photo anyway!).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

Tawny Owl 1 calling
Chiffchaff 3
Treecreeper 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Kingfisher 1
Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 6

Also:
Daubenton's Bat 5
Noctule 1
Soprano Pipistrelle 2

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose 500 Old Coach Road
Swallow 50 Old Coach Road

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose 300 Old Coach Road
Grey Wagtail 1 Dairy Farm Road
Goldfinch 150 Dairy Farm Road

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Blue-winged Teal and Great White Egret, Marshside

A last minute descision to abort a visit to Ingleton due to the weather, resulted in us taking a detour to Marshside at Southport, with amazing results. We arrived just on high tide, which was about 9.5m and walked down the old sand winning track to the sea. There were lots of waders on the track itself, including Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Knot, and then most surprisingly there was a Great White Egret on the edge of the tideline at quite close range. It flew over the marsh and joined a group of 13 Little Egrets.

Then we made our way to Nel's hide, where there was a pale, sandy looking female Red-crested Pochard, and from there we went back to Junction Pool and discovered that a Blue-winged Teal had just been found. In the five minutes or so that I watched it, I saw it's blue wing, yellow legs and the pale spot at the base of the bill.

Also today, a couple of hundred Pink-feet and a Wheatear.


Spot the Blue-winged Teal. It's the bird on the left with the pale spot near its bill. The other ducks are Shoveler.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Bats at Eccleston Mere

Inspired by the horseshoe bats I saw in Pembrokeshire last week, I took my bat detector to Eccleston Mere this evening to see what I could find. First up, flying along the footpath on the western shore of the mere, at least 2 Noctule bats, with their very distinctive call at 20kHz. Then just a little further on I came across the first Daubenton's bat, on 50kHz. I think these are possibly my favourite species of bat, because of their habit of feeding low over the water. I saw about 10 in total at various points around the mere, and at times it almost looked like some were picking insects off the surface of the water. Finally, the third species of bat I found today was Common Pipistrelle on 45kHz. These were feeding around the trees, mainly at the southern end of the mere.

Birds this evening included a calling Tawny Owl, 2 Mute Swans, 1 Kingfisher and 8 Tufted Ducks.

Long-tailed Skua and Osprey, Hilbre Island

Following the strong winds of the past few days which brought in lots of sea birds to the Merseyside coast, today was a day of calmer winds and sunnier, warmer weather. Even so, we were hopeful that there would be a few sea birds to see, as they are often seen leaving the mouth of the Mersey early morning on the day following a storm, and so it proved again today.

It started well, within 10 minutes of arriving at the north end, we had found a juvenile Long-tailed Skua sitting on the water at reasonably close range. It stayed there for about 5 minutes, before taking off to harass a passing tern. We watched it for about 15 minutes before it drifted off west. My first Long-tailed Skua in North West England.

Other highlights today included very close views of a Bonxie, Manx Shearwater and a summer plumage Red-throated Diver, as well as Gannets, Kittiwakes, at least 10 Arctic Skuas, 200 Sandwich Terns, Razorbill, Guillemots and Common Scoter.

Then just as we were about to leave, an Osprey was spotted flying towards the island from the north. A great way to end the seawatch!


Sea watching on Hilbre and a female Goldcrest.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Eccleston Mere

Siskin 10
Swallow 10
House Martin 1
Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 9
Buzzard 1
Grey Wagtail 1

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Leach's Storm Petrel, Pennington Flash

In July 1995 I saw an amazing, once in a lifetime sight, a Leach's Storm Petrel on Pennington Flash. Today it became a twice in a lifetime event, with the news that another had been found on the flash at 9:30am. I decided to wait until this evening before I went to see it, because I was due in Lowton at 7:15pm anyway, and it seemed a waste of petrol to go there twice in a day.

I arrived at the flash at 6:05pm, had great views of the bird in flight, in excellent sunlight. It was constantly mobbed by the local Black-headed Gulls, until at 6:40pm it seemed to decide that enough was enough, gained height and headed off over the trees to the south of the flash, never to be seen again! One of my best ever views of Leach's Storm Petrel.

Eccleston Mere

Siskin 10
Blackcap 2 male and female
Chiffchaff 1 singing
Swallow 5
House Martin 7
Grey Wagtail 1
Little Grebe 1 adult
Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 7
Buzzard 1

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bosherston Lakes and Stackpole Warren, Pembrokeshire

We had a fabulous day at Bosherston Lakes and Stackpole Warren. We arrived at Bosherston Lake at 6am and were delighted to see an Otter swimming across one of the lakes. We also saw Peregrine, Buzzard and Raven.

Bosherston Lakes in the early morning sunlight. The Otter swam across the sunny bay and dived several times as we watched.


Bosherston Lakes and Broadhaven.


Migrant Hawker and Red-veined Darter. Bosherston Lakes is a SSSI partly on account of its dragonfly species, and this afternoon we saw plenty of Migrant Hawkers, Common Darters and Common Blue Damselflies. Red-veined Darter is a migrant species which has occured in St Helens in at least two years.


Common Blue Damselfly and Barafundle Bay



Stockpole Warren cliffs. Stockpole Warren has a variety of habitats, from sea cliffs to sand dunes to limestone outcrops, and has lots of short turf with a great diversity of plants.


Autumn Ladies Tresses Spiranthes spiralis at Stockpole Warren.


We found this magnificent Great Green Bush Cricket at Stockpole Warren.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Dowrog Common and St. David's airfield, Pembrokeshire

We headed over to St. David's today, to compare the established Dowrig Common with the restored St. David's airfield. Both sites are good examples of wet heath, a rare and declining habitat in the UK.


Dowrog Common and St David's Airfield. Dowrog is grazed by cattle, St. David's Airfield by Welsh Mountain Ponies.


Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata on Dowrog Common.


Yellow Centaury Cicendia filiformis is one of the star attractions of both sites. Quite an insignificant looking plant, it only opens on sunny days, which today it certainly was not!


The impressive looking spider Araneus quadratus from St. David's airfield and a Harvestman with incredibly long legs at Orielton, still awaiting id.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bats, Orielton FSC

A day spent mainly in the lab working through the catch of invertebates from the pitfall traps that we set in the dunes on Friday. Highlight of the day was watching the horseshoe bats leave their roost in the stables. Today we counted at least 20 Lessers and 3 Greaters, the latter emiting sound at 80kHZ. Amazing how close they came, at times I almost felt like ducking because they surely must hit me!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Stack Rocks to St. Govan's Head, Castlemartin, Pembrokeshire

We spent the day walking along the cliffs between Stack Rocks and St. Govan's Head, surveying the cliff top vegetation for suitability for Choughs. It was a glorious day, with a nice display of autumn flowers, and plenty of Choughs.


Castlemartin cliffs. Spot the the members of our group on the cliffs! Sea Aster Aster tripolium and (Lax-flowered?) Sea Lavander grow profusely on the cliffs. We saw the Sea Aster on the saltmarsh on Thursday.


Golden-samphire Inula crithmoides.


Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum.


The star of the show, we saw about 20 Choughs. Also a few Gannets, Fulmars and Ravens, and there seemed to be a few migrants moving through, with about 10 Wheatears, and lots of hirundines, mainly Swallows. Also a Painted Lady butterfly on the cliffs, which may well have been a migrant which had just arrived from the south.

Orielton FSC


A couple of early morning catches, an August Thorn moth and a Bank Vole.

Friday, 7 September 2012

St Govan's Head and a couple of Sopranos

An evening visit to St. Govan's Head produced 6 Choughs, including two which came and sat on the wall next to me. Also a few Gannets out at sea, and 2 Harbour Porpoise. Later, after it had gone dark, we saw a couple of Soprano Pipistrelles flying around a bridge near Stackpole.

Freshwater West dunes, Pembrokeshire

It was a scorching hot day today at Freshwater West dunes in Pembrokeshire. We spent the day surveying dune flora.


Freshwater West and Sea Bindweed Calystegia soldanella.


I don't think I've ever seen such a large patch of Sea-holly Eryngium maritimum before. Later in the afternoon we set up some pitfall traps in order to survey invertabrates of the dunes later in the week.


This morning we checked the mammal traps which we set last night, and found that we had caught Field Mice and Bank Voles. The photograph shows a Field Mouse being weighed.

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