Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A few bryophytes from Pennington Flash

I feel I've neglected the bryophytes recently, so with a bit of time to spare today I decided to have a look through some mosses and liverworts I collected at Pennington Flash recently. All of these are common, the blue tits and dunnocks of the bryophyte world, but it was nice to get my eye in again and remind myself of some bryophyte field characters.


Brachythecium rutabulum. Abundant, grows in woodland at the flash, on tree trunks and stumps. Easily recognisable due to its pale tipped shoots. Note the dark brown sphore capsules. The shape and colour of the capsules can be diagnostic when identifying bryophytes.


Amblystegium serpens. A very fine moss with tiny leaves. This specimin is growing on the fence near Tom Edmondson hide.


Cryphaea heteromalla. Grows on the barks of trees and is a very distinctive moss, with its capsules on short seta and all along one edge.


Hypnum andoi. One of the distinctive plait mosses, growing on trees.


Kindbergia praelonga. One of the commonest mosses in the UK, it grows on trees and stumps at the Flash. This and all of the mosses above are pleurocarps, i.e. they have branches coming from a central stem. In the case of Kindbergia praelonga the branches are easy to see, they makes the moss look like it has fern like fronds, but in other species pleurocarps can have very short branches which are not so obvious (e.g. some of the Hypnum species). Bryophytes which aren't branched (or are very sparsely branched) are called acrocarps (e.g Ulota crispa below).


Syntrichia intermedia, typically grows on stonework with this plant on the "pier" near Horrock's hide.


Orthotricum affine. Grows on branches, in this case grey poplar.


Ulota crispa on ash tree.


Ulota crispa under the microscope. Note the capsules.


Mertzgeria furcata. This is a liverwort, i.e. a bryophyte but not a moss. It grows on trees.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool and some other stuff

Today we headed south west, into Gloucestershire to look for the penduline tits which have recently been at Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool on the east side of the city. We found the place easily enough, straight down the M6 / M5 to junction 11 then onto the A40 / A417 for a couple of miles and park in the layby opposite the Premier Inn. Even better, the birds were showing well when we arrived, a bit of a relief because they have been prone to disappearing for a couple of hours at a time. I say showing well, good decent views through the scopes and not bad through the bins, but not good enough for photography for me, and nowhere near as close as the birds we saw last year in Devon. After watching them for about 20 minutes, they flew high and away over the Premier Inn.

This was our cue to leave because we had other places to get to, including our next stop, Slimbridge WWT just 16 miles to the south. Wildfowl numbers had picked up since our last visit in November, and there were now 150 European white-fronted geese and 140 Bewick's swans (though we only saw about 68). Also here, five Greenland white-fronted geese, six common cranes, peregrine, female scaup, 600 golden plover  and thousands of wigeon, teal and lapwings. A very impressive spectacle. The Greenland white-fronted geese were with their European counterparts and weren't quite so easy to pick out as I expected. They were clearly darker birds with a more powerful orange bill compared to the pink billed Europeans, and when the flock took off they looked larger birds, but not a lot in it to my eyes.

Having seen these birds so well and so quickly, we decided to head back to Gloucester for another look at the penduline tits, and I was glad we did. Once again we were lucky because the birds had been missing for nearly two hours since we left them, but by the time we arrived back they had also returned. This time they were a little closer but spent most of their time out of view and right down at the base of the bulrushes, only occasionally popping into view. A real pain in the backside! However, eventually one did climb a little higher and I got excellent scope views before both birds flew into a hawthorn bush near the layby. They were a bit more distant here but stayed on full view for a couple of minutes allowing us to get a good look at them. Still not great for photography though.

We could have hung around longer and probably could have got some good photos eventually, but we wanted to try for the overwintering hoopoe in Staffordshire at Hinksford. Our luck held again and we  dropped right onto the bird showing at less than 10m, albeit largely obscured by long grasses. Eventually though it flew and landed for a few minutes on the fence at fairly close range, before flying again further away. An excellent end to the day.

Year: 139 (Penduline tit, hoopoe etc.)



Penduline tits.


Horsebere Flood Alleviation Pool.


Bewick's swan.



Scaup.


Common cranes.



Hoopoe.



Thursday, 21 January 2016

A couple of long stayers revisited

I flushed a couple of Jack snipe today and revisited a couple of old favourites, great northern diver at West Kirby Marine Lake and Long-eared owl at Burton Mere Wetlands.

Year: 132 (Jack snipe x2).


Great northern diver.



Long-eared owl slightly more out in the open today. Yesterday it was so well hidden that it wasn't seen at all.


Regurgitating a pellet.

I'm told that this is Chicken of the woods.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Smew, Newchurch Common, Cheshire

The redhead smew was on the south mere at Newchurch Common today along with a kingfisher.

Year: 131 (Smew, kingfisher, jay)


Monday, 18 January 2016

Hesketh Out Marsh and Martin Mere

An American wigeon and about 800 Eurasian wigeon were on the only ice free pool at Hesketh Out Marsh today. It was bitterly cold in the wind, but we managed to get down below the bank which at least offered us some relief and we were able to bear it for an hour or so before heading off to Martin Mere.

This was my first visit to Martin Mere this year, so inevitably I picked up a few new birds for the year, including barn owl and tawny owl.

Year: 128 (American wigeon, barn owl, tawny owl etc.)


Part of the wigeon flock at Hesketh Out Marsh, with the American bird at the back of the water in the middle.


Hesketh Out Marsh



Barn owl from the Ron Barker hide at Martin Mere.





To tick or not to tick? Ross's goose at Martin Mere. This bird has moved between here and Marshside every winter since 2013 and disappears in the summer. It's also unringed, but it's consigned to the category "of unknown origin", in otherwords it may be an escape from captivity. Ross's geese with much better credentials this have failed to make it onto the British list.

Here's what the Martin Mere website has to say on the subject:

"The return of the Ross’s Goose which showed well in front of the Discovery Hide is a mixed blessing. Nice to see this tiny Snow Goose even if it’s credentials looked tarnished. The bird arrived at Marshside RSPB in August of 2013 and has been disappearing from the North West during the summer and returning each autumn ever since.
We have had some better qualified Ross’s traveling with Pink-footed Geese in the past, although no Ross’s Geese have been accepted as genuine vagrants in the UK, not even the mid 1970’s Lanc’s mossland bird found with Pink-footed Geese at a time when only a handful of captive Ross’s were in Europe and none of those in the UK.".




Of course, just because it's on the mere right in front of the hide means nothing. Every other bird in these photos are wild, including the whooper swans it is swimming with here.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Quality birding in the Cowny Valley

Quality birding in the Conwy Valley today with three very special birds all seen well. We started at Llanbedr-y-cennin where the hawfinches performed much better than usual, with at least 10 birds seen, often flying around or high up in the trees, but we did see one bird on the ground. Then we moved down the valley to Conwy RSPB where a water pipit had been reported. There's been one around the reserve for a few weeks but mainly seen on the saltmarsh where it has been rather elusive. Today however we found it on one of the scrapes in front of the Carneddau hide and it showed very well.

Highlight of the day though was at least one firecrest in the reedbed from the board walk. We waited for hours and kept seeing "crests" flitting into the reeds and disappearing before we could identify them, until finally just as we were about to give up, a firecrest flew up onto the reeds right in front of us. I didn't see the eyestripe, but was reliably informed that it did have one, but the bird disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. By this stage we were frozen to the bone and the cafe beckoned so I decided to make do with that view because a cup of tea was more enticing than another long wait. We headed back, but hadn't gone more than a few paces when another (or the same) firecrest hoped onto a reed in full view and gave us both stonking views. No missing the eyestripe this time!

Year: 121 (hawfinch, firecrest, siskin, nuthatch)


Hawfinches



Water pipit - distinct eyestripe, double wingbar, white underparts, white outertail feathers.





Conwy RSPB

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Ainsdale Beach

Only fly-by views today of the long staying and now 2nd winter Caspian gull, which was a pity because I wanted a good look at it. Apart from the usual waders, an adult winter Mediterranean gull was the other highlight. Also two ravens on the beach today.

Year: 117 (Caspian gull + 2 others!)



A snow coloured bird for a freezing cold day. If you look carefully at this photo, you can see the gull is sporting a flashy red ring on its left leg, which means it was probably ringed in Poland.



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