Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Caspian Gull, Bolton


This magnificent 4th calendar year Caspian gull was at Cutacre Country Park today, landing on the fence alongside Kennys Waste Management centre and occasionally roosting on land on the nearby country park. It has a really impressive looking bill, if anything perhaps a bit too impressive for Caspian gull and a small head with a small, dark beady eye. It's also quite long legged, slim and long winged. I guess that we'll never know for sure how pure these birds are since they do hybridise with herring gulls, particularly in Germany which is I think about the nearest breeding site and from which many birds which visit the UK are known to originate, but this bird ticks all of the boxes for me. I should mention that there was a Caspian gull at Cutacre on Monday but this is apparently not the same bird and I can't comment on it's identity having not seen it for myself.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Broad-leaved Hellobrine, Pennington Flash


A couple of weeks ago I found a few broad-leaved helleborine growing at the Slag Lane end of the Flash and finally now they're in full flower. The first I have seen here.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

St Helens Bird Report 2006

In 2006 as secretary of the St Helens Wildlife Recording Group I collated over 21,000 bird records from the borough of St Helens submitted by 30 observers and produced the 2006 St Helens Bird Report. It was a mammoth effort by all concerned with records received from 362 days in the year of 153 species from 144 locations. As I wrote in the report, whilst there is always room for improvement, it’s difficult to imagine how a landlocked, industrialised area with no major bird reserves could received much more coverage.

I distributed it to many of the people who had submitted records plus a few others including the Lancashire Bird Recorder, but generally it just sits on my computer gathering digital dust. However I've recently found a way of publishing it on my blog which makes it far more accessible and I thought that I would publish it here. Obviously it's a bit out of date now but it may at least be of interest as a snapshot of how things were all those years ago. With Prescot Reservoirs and Eccleston Mere now more or less out of bounds to birders, we may never see the like of 2006 again.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor


In many respects the first hour or two of the journey home from Strontian was possibly the most scenically stunning part of the whole week. The first part of the journey took me along the northern shore of Loch Linnhe to the Corran ferry, a five minute crossing but which cuts out many miles of torturous roads, beautiful no doubt, but not when you already have a seven hour drive in front of you. I then crossed the bridge at North Ballachulish and approached Glen Coe....

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Strontian hybrid - Possibly


After an enjoyable day on Ardnamurchan I made my way back to the village of Strontian and checked in for the night at the Strontian Hotel. I've stayed at some beautiful places during my travels but this is surely amongst the best. What a location, what a view. However despite not booking the place myself, I hadn't arrived here by pure chance.

Ardnamurchan

Photo: The telephone box at Kilmory, Ardnamurchan.
So ignoring the SatNavs advice to take the non-existent Drimnin - Kilchoan ferry I was left with two options in order to get to my job today on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The first was to drive 11 miles to Lochaline, take the ferry to Fishnish on Mull, drive up to Tobermory and take the ferry to Kilchoan. The alternative was to  ignore the  ferries and drive through Morvern to Strontian and then across Ardnamurchan.   There didn't seem a lot in it especially when you take into account queing up for the ferries so I decided to take the latter option since I'd never been that way before.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Across to Morvern


Such was the late notice for this job that Mull was completely fully booked by the time we got round to booking accommodation and one night on Tobermory was all I could get. I ended up staying on the mainland in Drimnin estate about 11 miles from the ferry terminal at Lochaline which takes you across to Fishnish on Mull. It was a great experience though, all the better for the fact that I'd never been to Morvern before, and such a remote spot.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

A day on Mull


My job takes me to some amazing places and offers me some fabulous experiences. This was my second visit to Mull this year and it's true that if it wasn't for work I probably would not have had opportunity to visit the island even once this year. However the fact that I am actually here working does mean that I can at times be frustratingly restricted in what I can do and where I can go. Imagine for a moment being on Mull and not being able to go to your favourite places and not being able to get to see all of that fabulous wildlife which you know is there and which you might not get another opportunity to see, but you just can't get to it because you're here to work. So close yet so far away. Still, there are opportunities if I can just accept the inevitable compromises.....

Friday, 19 July 2019

Early summer at Hope Carr

Photo: Black-headed gull X2VA ringed in Germany.
With the Blyth's reed warbler now a distant memory I've spent most of my time at Hope Carr birding alone. Early summer has been fairly uneventful though interesting enough for me but nothing exceptional. Birding highlights included a pair of garganey for a few days at the end of May and several sightings of little ringed plover which I suspect bred or attempted to breed somewhere on the sewage works. A single cuckoo was on site at the end of May and around the same time there was a reeling grasshopper warbler present for a few days at least. A barn owl hunting over the beds on 5th June brought my Hope Carr total for 2019 to exactly 100 species for the year.

An adult Mediterranean gull was present on the sewage works on several dates during the period, associating with the small flock of black-headed gulls though not always present. In July the gull flock included a black-headed gull with a black leg ringed, apparently ringed in Germany and also in July there was a small but noticeable build up of herring and lesser black-backed gulls.

I suspect oystercatchers bred on the sewage works, as did grey wagtail and for a while I thought that a pair of ravens might attempt to breed because they were hanging around one of the larger buildings for a week or two. At least one pair of lapwings bred at Hope Carr, with a single chick seen on one of the beds.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Gull-billed tern, Thurstaston


The gull-billed tern at Thurstaston eventually performed very well today, finally showing up at about 15:40 after a four hour wait. It seems to be very much a low tide bird, picking crabs or other invertabrates off the exposed beach rather than diving into the sea for fish as you might expect from a typical tern. In fact for the past two days it has gone missing for long periods over the high tide and must either just sit out the tide somewhere or perhaps even moves inland or hunts over the saltmarsh. Also today three Mediterranean gulls flew down river, two adults and a juvenile.

It was just a beautiful day at a great location in good company. Great to watch the ebb and flow of the tide and the calls of the curlew alone were worth the visit!

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Widdybank Fell

Photo: Scottish Asphodel on Widdybank Fell.

Photo: Mountain Everlasting, a male plant.

Cronkley Fell and Widdybank Fell lie on opposite banks of the River Tees just a few miles west of Middleton-in-Teesdale at Upper Teesdale. These fells are blanketed by peat bog and are home to an array of flora and fauna associated with this type of habitat, and birds include golden plover, redshank, curlew, short-eared owls, merlin and black grouse. However where the rocks do break through those interested in the geology will find that it is a unique rock which is found nowhere else in Britain. Sugar limestone is a crystalline limestone formed by metamorphism of the rock and it is largely thanks to this that the area is renowned as one of the finest botanical sites in the UK and certainly the best in England.  Here a variety of limestone loving species such as the very rare and fabulous spring gentians can be found, in places growing abundantly in close proximity to typical acidic loving bog plants such as common cotton-grass and the rare Scottish asphodel. Similarly this area is no respecter of altitude with plants such as yellow mountain saxifrage and alpine bistort often growing alongside more typical lowland species such as sea plantain. This week I've been working just 3 miles from Widdybank Fell and the opportunity to spend lunch breaks and evenings in this wonderful area was just too good to be missed.

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