Monday, 23 April 2018

Possible Eastern Common Tern, Pennington Flash

Possible Eastern Common Tern Sterna hirundo longipennis, Pennington Flash 22/04/2018 - Photo © John Tymon
A text from John Tymon alerted me to the presence of a black billed tern at Pennington Flash today. It was a grim morning, pouring with rain from about 9am until noon and very dull. I was hoping for a roseate but John's message didn't suggest that species and when I arrived at the hide the bird was sitting on the spit and just looked like a common tern with a black bill. Except that there were differences. The bill looked a bit too fine, black with perhaps a hint of crimson at the base, the legs were long and black or very dark red and it's underparts were greyish contrasting with very white cheeks. This last feature was even more obvious when it flew, at which time its common tern like primary pattern could be seen. The bird was so dark and it flew in such marsh tern like way that for a moment we even considered and then dismissed whiskered tern.

Click here for a video of the bird in flight

However it was obvious that it wasn't a marsh tern, but what was it?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Possible grey-bellied brant, Banks marsh


Preparations for our now imminent departure to Aus combined with a desire on my part to work as many hours as possible before we go have been somewhat all-consuming in recent weeks and have prevented me from doing much birding. However news of a possible grey-bellied Brant on Banks Marsh just north of Southport peeked my interest and with an unexpected free day today I decided to go and have a look.  Grey-bellied brant is a bit of an enigma, nobody really knows what it is or how to identify it, and even less people have actually seen one. Actually, that doesn't include me, I have seen grey-bellied brant before and it's already on my UK list having seen one at Dundrum, Northern Ireland about five years ago. For what it's worth, this blog post contains a few of my thoughts on the Banks Marsh bird.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The grey willow at the bottom of the garden


At the bottom of the garden we have a self seeded grey willow tree which is probably now at it's full height of about 6m tall. It dominates the garden, it's a beautiful tree much nicer than the ornamental trees which adorn most other gardens in the neighbourhood, and at this time of year it has glorious yellow flowers which are an important source of pollen for early flying insects. It's a real joy to behold and good evidence if any where needed that you don't have to rip out all of the natives and replace them with aliens in order to have a beautiful feature in your garden. Not bad for a free gift from nature.


The last icy blast of winter


Spring might be all around us now, with 200 swallows and 1000 sand martins at Pennington Flash yesterday, and today there was a chorus of at least three singing willow warblers, 15 chiffchaffs, five blackcaps and three Cetti's warblers, whilst at other local sites today there were also little ringed plovers, yellow wagtails and common terns, yet even so, the bird of the day was a hang over from winter. The stunning yet often elusive adult Iceland gull was again in Warrington town centre and showed well on top of the roof of a retail unit. A beautiful bird, it really is brilliant white and has a smart red orbital ring. One of the best Iceland Gulls I've ever seen.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Woodpigeons bathing


I was working near Martin Mere today, so during a break took the opportunity to call in. The weather was pretty awful, but I still managed booming bittern, Mediterranean gull, barn owl and a few avocets. Perhaps best of all, I watched two woodpigeons bathing at close range on the car park. Really smart birds when you see them well, apart from preening and splashing around in the puddles, these birds habitually raised their wings and held them up for up to 30 seconds at a time. I assume it was some kind of bathing / cleaning ritual but I'm not really sure what they were doing.


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