Sunday, 5 July 2020

LBO - Day 99, Lunar Hornet Moth


Well here's something I wasn't expecting to see this morning! We stepped out of the front door to begin our walk and immediately found a lunar hornet moth on the ground! I took it into the garden and put it on to the willow tree. A first for me, and something I'd long hoped to see. The second species of clearwing in the garden this year. 

It's been a good weekend, I've had two additions to the lockdown garden list (is that still happening?). Yesterday morning I had a hobby over the garden and in the afternoon a linnet on next doors aerial. I've seen hobby over previously but linnet is a full blown garden tick.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Pennington Flash, sea ducks and hirundines

Photo: Two drake scaup.
A hectic morning at the flash as my lonely vigil at the yacht club was constantly interrupted by news of other birds which were being seen in the pouring rain. Two drake common scoter in the middle were joined by two drake scaup, then a family party of Egyptian geese turned up, a curlew flew over, then somebody spotted an odd looking and very pale tern which required attention and finally a curlew flew over heading south. Meanwhile a common sandpiper was on the yacht club shoreline and hundreds of sand martins were landing to take grit off the foreshore. Quite an exciting morning. Then I returned in the afternoon to find that the 1st summer arctic tern from yesterday was back.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Arctic tern and common scoter, Pennington Flash


This cracking 1st (or possibly 2nd) summer arctic tern was on Pennington Flash today. It's not a plumage I see very often so nice to get a few decent photos to enable me to have a good look at it. Also today a nice 1st summer drake common scoter, three common sandpipers, two common terns and still a few hundred each of sand martin and swift.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Red-necked phalarope, Frodsham No. 6 bed


This smart red-necked phalarope has been on Frodsham no. 6 bed for the past three days. I think it's a female but it's certainly not as bright as some I've seen. Sometimes phalaropes can be nice and close, but not this bird which today was at least 300m away.

Leucistic House Sparrow


This leucistic house sparrow near Warrington made me look twice this morning. It's a really nice bird, all of the grey and black bits that a house sparrow would normally have, including its legs, have been replaced by cream.


Sunday, 28 June 2020

Hunting hobby, Pennington Flash


This morning I was sitting at the yacht club at Pennington Flash watching hundreds of hirundines, mainly sand martins and hundreds of swifts swirling around over the water. Suddenly at head height a hobby shot past me and started hunting sand martins right in front of me, no more than 10m distant. It twisted and turned with breathtaking speed and agility, and the sand martins scattered in all directions, but too late for one of them as the hobby honed in on its prey and plucked it out of the air with terrifying ease and then shot off across the flash, leaving me breathless. An amazing spectacle and one which I have never experienced before, at least not so close. Also on the club foreshore today, two common sandpipers.


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

In the backyard

Photo: Currant Clearwing.

Great to see our resident currant clearwing moths flying this week in the glorious sunshine. Next doors currant bush spills over into our "backyard" and though it's a bit shaded by an old elder tree, we still get these fabulous moths. In the photo above, notice that you can see the moths leg through the left wing.


I spent a few hours today watching ants collecting hondeydew from aphids on the elder tree. It's fascinating to watch, the ants basically run a protection racket, give us your honeydew and we'll protect you from predators. I'm not sure I've actually seen it happening before today. It's really stretching my camera to the limit!

Friday, 19 June 2020

World Albatross Day

Photo: Salvin's albatross, New Zealand.

It's World Albatross Day and here is my contribution! My first albatross experience was way back in May 1986 when I traveled to Shetland to meet the legendary Albert Ross, a black-browed albatross who resided in the gannet colony at Saito, Hermaness from the early 1970s to 1995. Spectacular though Hermaness is, on that day Mr. Ross did not really perform for us and just sat on the cliff below and about the best we managed was to see him stretch his wings. On the positive side, he remains the only albatross I have ever seen landed on the ground. That was my first and so far only albatross experience in the UK. I would have to wait another 29 years for my next albatross encounter. However, between Australia and New Zealand I've now managed to see 11 "species" of albatross and here they are.

The Great albatrosses
These are the giants of the seabird world. At one time they were considered to be just two species, wandering and royal, but these days they are split into several species.

Snowy albatross Diomedea exulans
At 3.5m this bird has the largest wingspan of any bird in the world and is one of the group of wandering albatross. My only encounter with this species was an adult and immature from the Port Fairy pelagic, Victoria, Australia in November 2018.

Photo: Snowy albatross.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Observations of sand martins on the ground

Photo: Sand Martin on one of the yacht club
 slipways.
Throughout the first half of June I visited the yacht club on the south side of Pennington Flash on average about 3 times per day, early morning, midday and late evening. On the morning of 10th June I noticed up to 50 sand martins landing on the gravelly foreshore of the yacht club apparently feeding on invertebrates. Over the next few days I occasionally saw this behaviour repeated, always in the morning and always in dull rainy conditions.


Early morning on 18th June during a period of moderately heavy rain there were around 300 sand martins swirling around low over the water in front of the yacht club apparently feeding on flying insects. Every so often a large part of the flock would land en masse on the yacht club foreshore and appeared to be feeding on something on the ground while the remainder continued to feed over the water. I accessed the yacht club for a closer look and through the telescope I could clearly see that they were actually eating grit. On a couple of occasions I did see them eat what looked like invertebrates but that certainly wasn't the main reason why they were landing. I watched them behave like this for about 30 minutes, flying around feeding and then periodically dropping to the ground to eat grit. I had a walk over to where they were landing and couldn't find a single invertebrate on the ground.

Photo: Substrate on which
the sand martins were landing.

Sand martins are known to eat grit in order to obtain enough calcium for egg laying. According to Turner (1982), the maximum amount of time they can spend collecting calcium is about 30 minutes per day without impacting on the energy needed for egg laying.

The interesting thing is, it clearly wasn't just the females which were landing because on a few occasions I saw males attempt to copulate with the females while they were on the ground. There was no gentle courtship  ritual or display, the males just jumped on the females from behind, but every time the females shook them off. Opportunistic mating is well known amongst sand martins. Unlike swallows, both sand martin parents share the incubation of the eggs and the feeding of the young, but even so the males if given the opportunity will attempt to mate with other females who are in their fertile period. What better indication of a female in her fertile period than a bird which is landed on the ground and collecting calcium for the production of eggs? Given the time of year I guess that this must be the start of second broods.


What I can't explain is why I only saw the birds behave in this way on cloudy, rainy mornings.

Very occasionally they were accompanied by a handful of house martins but usually it was exclusively sand martins.

The main sources of information for this post were:

"A Handbook to the swallows and martins of the world", Turner & Rose, Poyser (1989)

"Timing of laying by swallows and sand martins", Turner, Journal of Animal Ecology (1982)

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Pennington Flash



A dull humid day at Pennington Flash. Hundreds of swifts and hirundines low over the water, the latter mainly sand martins. Two common terns still present and a kingfisher at Ramsdales, but best of all my first common sandpiper for nearly 5 weeks.


Friday, 12 June 2020

Rose-coloured starling, Frodsham Marsh


It's certainly true that I've seen closer rose-coloured starlings in the past but actually todays bird at Frodsham Marsh was a good as any I've seen but for different reasons.  True it was about 150m away on the other side of the Manchester Ship Canal opposite Marsh Farm, and yes it was often out of view in the long vegetation, but it was a cracking summer plumage adult and for once it was nice not have to watch it in somebody's back garden in the middle of a housing estate, and even better it was great to see it interacting with a large flock of starlings. Actually very few of the rose-coloured starlings I have seen have been with starling flocks, they have almost all been alone or with just a handful of starlings, so great to see it flying in the middle of a large flock. Yes it's not the most scenic place in the world, but it's a wild place, a proper birders place and a great place to see a rose-coloured starling, only my second ever adult.


Saturday, 6 June 2020

Pennington Flash, visitors from the high arctic


I've said it before and I'll say it again, thank god for rain! A blustery, squally day of heavy showers it might have been, and yes I may well have gotten a good soaking every hour or so, but it was the best and most positive days birding I've had for a while at the flash.

First off I was scanning the shoreline at the yacht club and came across a smart looking ringed plover. Quite dark and slim looking, it seems a good candidate for a tundra ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula tundrae, especially at this time of year. This race breeds in arctic Scandinavia.

There were hundreds of swifts and hirundines flying low over the flash as there often is in these conditions, some almost hanging in the wind as they battled their way over the water. I decided to try my luck at getting a flight photo of a swift, hopeless as this might seem. I had taken about 30 photos and was just searching for the next likely looking candidate when swoosh, a hobby powered over my head quite low down and shot over the water like a bullet chasing a swift. It missed its target and I watched it continue on its way west, past the yacht club and towards Slag lane until it was lost to sight. A breathtaking moment! Needless to say, I don't have any swift photos to post here.

Finally I returned this afternoon and managed to see one of two arctic terns which had been present this morning. I don't know for sure, but given the time of year, perhaps these birds are also high arctic breeders rather than UK breeders, just like the ringed plover.

Thank god for rain - there you are, that's one more time.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Pennington Flash, rain at last

Photo: Kidney vetch on the ruck.
Thank god for rain! Not only is the countryside bone dry and desperate for rain, water levels at the flash are very low making it easy for people to get into what's left of the nature reserve part of the flash such as the spit. On top of that, the warm sunny weather gets people off their sofas and out into the countryside in their droves, and many of these then proceed to trash everywhere leaving tons of litter lying around, setting fires to various places around the UK including reedbeds and moors, basically wrecking whatever they can and ignoring the country code. So thank god for rain.

Rain also brings birds to flash, and the highlight of today was the impressive sight of around 1000 swifts and a couple of hundred hirundines hawking over the water. A garden warbler sang at the western end, also a sedge warbler in the same area but no sign of the hoped for black terns.

I hope it rains for the next 3 months.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Red-eyed damselflies, Leeds-Liverpool canal at Lightshaw Meadows


Red-eyed damselflies on the wing today, at Sorrowcow pond, Pennington Flash and also on the canal above Lightshaw meadows. Although I've seen them on the canal above Pennington Flash in previous years, this is the first time I've seen them on the Lightshaw section.

LBO, Day 70 - Whiskered bat and other mammals.

Image: Probable whiskered bat spectrogram.
The first night of June brought a new species of bat to the garden in the form of a myotis sp., one of the mouse-eared bats. Exactly which species is a little more difficult to say. Opinion seems to be divided between whiskered and Brandt's, but Daubenton's cannot be completely ruled out either. However, Brandt's seems pretty uncommon in the Greater Manchester area, whereas whiskered does occur. Daubenton's is likely to be at Pennington Flash which is a mile away but it is a species which feeds over water so although there will no doubt be ponds in some of the gardens in the area, it is perhaps less likely over a housing estate, especially when there is such ideal feeding over the flash. So for now I'm going with whiskered. Also last night the detector recorded common pipistrelle on 30 occasions, noctule once and soprano pipistrelle three times. So with the myotis sp. that's four species of bat over the garden last night, not bad.

Monday, 25 May 2020

An art gallery full of empty frames.


It may have been a beautiful end to the day at Pennington Flash but for me it was totally depressing. There is no place for wildlife at the flash these days, two more people on the spit today in front of Horrock's hide and in the center of the nature reserve, this is a daily occurrence now. No apparent reason for them to be there, probably just went for a walk but don't tell me that they didn't realise they shouldn't be there, they had to walk past a hide, a "nature reserve please keep out" sign, climb over a fence and wade across a moat to get there. Every other day there are fishermen in Ramsdales, often canoes in Ramsdales, photographers on the spit, photographers crammed together trying to photograph kingfisher nests.  Hides get burnt down, East bay and Lapwing hide the most recent. The car park was so full this afternoon that it was closed to any more cars because they couldn't fit in, I'd love to know how much social distancing was going on but I didn't dare go near the place.

Dog walkers allowing not just one, but two or three dogs to be off the lead and to crash through habitat such as reed beds, scrub and grasslands where skylarks attempt but fail to breed every year. But don't dare ask the owners to control their dogs even if they jump up and bark at you, you're liable to get a mouthful of insults. Occasional fun fairs, iron man competitions, weekly running groups, yachts, organised swimmers going back and too across the flash until 8pm at least last night and from at least 7:30am this morning.

There's no respite, no time or space for wildlife and if wildlife does dare to show its face humans seem to go out of their way to destroy it, either directly or indirectly through selfish arrogance or self entitlement. It's a miracle there is any wildlife at the place. People tell me it does their mental health good to connect with nature, it doesn't do my mental health good, every time I go out I'm reminded of how badly we as a species have failed, how badly we trash everything we touch, how much we've already destroyed and lost, how little there is left and how little most people care. If all you know about are mallards, swans and Canada geese then yes they may appear to be thriving, but if you want to see anything else then you're already very nearly too late.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Pennington Flash, 1st summer Arctic tern 'portlandica'

Today I managed to connect with three of the 11 arctic terns which were on the flash this morning. Of particular interest, one of the three was a 1st summer bird which is a plumage rarely seen in UK since juvenile arctic terns usually head south to the southern hemisphere for their first winter and don't return until they are adults. At one time it was considered so unusual that they were thought to be a seperate species and were given the scientific name Sterna portlandica. Unlike the pristine adults with which it was associating, the 1st summer had a dark carpel patches and although it had a black cap, it's forehead was speckled white.

The only other time I have seen this plumage was when I found a dead bird on Anglesey in 2016. 

Photo: 1st summer 'portlandica' arctic tern
 Anglesey 2016.


Friday, 22 May 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 60


Lots of bat activity last night, apparently four species recorded over the garden, with common pipistrelle recorded 22 times, soprano pipistrelle twice, noctule four times and this bat which Echo meter keeps calling Nathusius' pipistrelle recorded once. I'm getting this species suggested pretty consistently now, but I'm a bit doubtful given the bats frequency (khz). It's always around 42khz but I thought Nathusius' pip wasn't meant to go over 40khz. Echo meter seems pretty convinced and there is a cluster of records from the Liverpool / Manchester, but I don't think I'll truly believe it until I get one under 40khz.


Pennington Flash


The flash has gone a bit quiet at the moment, this morning I only saw one common tern and although it's a good time of year for wader passage it just never seems to happen at the flash, just the occasional good wader. However highlight today was a grasshopper warbler reeling at the western end. This was in exactly the same bush as one reeled for a few days back in April, but that bird was last heard on 15th April. Even so I guess it's the same bird. Also today three sedge warblers singing.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Redshank


Great to see a family party of redshank locally today, two adults and four chicks. The light was poor but I'm quite happy with this photo.

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 59 - A trio of pipistrelles?

Photo: Nathusius' pipistrelle spectrogram.

Encouraged by a beautiful day yesterday I decided to do a bit of bating last night and had the detector out. Most excitingly, I recorded two fly pasts of what Echo meter suggests is Nathusius' pipistrelle, along with the usual common and soprano pipistrelles and at least one noctule. Trouble is I'm not convinced that Echo meter is correct, bat detectors tend to give just an indication of the species rather than identify them with complete certainty. With common and soprano pipistrelle that's reasonably straight forward as it is with noctule, but other species are more difficult. Nathusius' pipistrelle usually broadcasts between 35-40khz, my bat is more like 42khz and until I get a recording under 40khz I don't think I'll ever be completely convinced.

Nathusius' pipistrelle was once thought of as a vagrant to the UK but is now considered a migrant species. This is not just a new species for the garden, it's one I've never recorded anywhere before.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Back to the Cumbrian coast again


Another glorious day on the Cumbrian coast, thank goodness for this job, it really does relieve lock down cabin fever. It's getting quieter now as it does in most places at this time of year as the breeding season gets into full swing.


First up today, a wonderful singing and displaying stonechat. Not a particularly rare bird but although the call is well known the song is not something I hear a lot of so great to hear it today, and even better to see the bird displaying. Nearby both common and lesser whitethroat were singing from the gorse, and a sedge warbler somewhere in the depths of the scrub.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The easing of lockdown restrictions. Is it the green light?

Photo: Purple heron, Lightshaw Flash
 10th April 2020
The way I look at it is this, if I get the virus today it's just as bad as it would have been if I had got it two months ago. Just because some lockdown measures are starting to be lifted does not mean that the virus will affect me in a different way or that it's any less potent. It's exactly the same virus. The only things that have changed are that there MAY be less of it around in the community which MIGHT mean I'm less likely to come into contact with it and if I do come into contact with it, the NHS MAY be in a better position to help me. But they're both big gambles which I won't be taking. Actually the NHS has not been overwhelmed so far, yet even so around 30,000 people in NHS care have already died. There's only so much the NHS can do for you, even when ICU beds are free and they have the best equipment available. Therefore I'll be doing my very best to keep my distance from anybody outside my household for a long time yet, not only for my sake, but for the sake of my family, friends and everybody I come into contact with, as well as front line workers who are putting their own health at risk.

That doesn't mean I won't be going outside, I've been walking around Pennington Flash virtually everyday since lockdown began for exercise, for the sake of my mental health and because it's my nearest open space. However I take precautions. I walk there early morning when there are less people around and if I see people coming towards me along narrow footpaths I either walk the other way or go deep into the woods until they have past. I don't just keep walking towards them as most seem to do. I always assume that people coming towards me have the virus and have no intention of socially distancing. So I avoid them. In the coming weeks I may well go a little further afield but I will always try to avoid people.

As I understand it, the new guidance is that you can now drive to anywhere in England and it doesn't need to be just for exercise it can be for other reasons such as hobbies so long as you can socially distance and so long as you can get home at night. You can't stay overnight anywhere and that includes camping and sleeping in the car. You can't travel by car with somebody from outside your household because you're only supposed to meet people outdoors and you're supposed to be 2m apart. So for instance there is no law or even guidance that says that birders can't twitch a bird on the east coast, that's up to them, but they are supposed to be socially distancing. Will they travel alone in vehicles, can they get there and back safely in a day, will they stand at least 2m apart when looking for the bird, will they make sure that they don't meet more than one person from outside their household, what happens if the viewing area is small, what happens if the bird is skulking and only shows once every couple of hours, have they considered the length of time they are likely to be in close proximity to other people, have they considered viral load, have they considered the implications of having to stop at a service station or breaking down or having an accident? Hopefully yes to all of these. Personally I won't be going anywhere near a twitch for a long time yet, I don't care what the bird is.

Unfortunately, as I have experienced myself this week, some birders put seeing and ticking a bird over and above any of the considerations I have discussed above. Some people think that their right to be told about a bird and to see a bird is greater than my right to try to protect the lives of others including my family and front line workers. Photographers are the same, even at the height of the most severe restrictions back in April, when driving was only allowed for shopping, work and medical reasons, there was a gathering of photographers from all over the north west to see the osprey on the motorway bridge at Brockholes. For an osprey! I've found two myself just this year, even while I've been in lockdown. This blatant disregard by some birders and photographers for COVID-19 and social distancing guidance is one of the reasons why I'll be avoiding all gatherings of birders for a long time to come. I don't care if they open the hides at Pennington Flash, I'll stand outside the hide in pouring rain before I'll go in with 20 others. It's also the reason why I'll be carefully considering whether or not to put news out about any rarities, county or national, which I might find in the coming weeks.

None of this is meant as a criticism of the way others behave, that's up to them, but I'm scared of this virus and it's possible impact on myself and my family and wider society. We're a long way off being through this and large gatherings of people paying lip service to social distancing does not sound a good place to be to me.

At the start of this pandemic, the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern gave some good advice to her fellow New Zealanders when she said "Act like you have the virus".  As somebody else said in a less polite way: "Apply common sense & don't be a d*ck.". #COVID-19 #StayHomeSaveLives #SaveOurNHS.

Pennington Flash

Cuckoo 1 calling
Garden warbler 2 singing Tom Edmondson hide and east bay
Cetti's warbler 4 singing Ramsdales, east bay, west end, Sorrowcow
Reed warbler 6 singing inc. west end
Common tern 3

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Pennington Flash

Garden warbler 1 singing east bay
Common tern 2
Swift 50
Shelduck 3
Ringed plover 1 yacht club


Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Another day on the coast

Photo: Eiders.

Another day's work today and it was back to the Cumbrian coast. It was a fair bit quieter than it has been of late, with a moderate north westerly making it feel really chilly. Still, nice to get out of the house and see some different scenery. A lesser whitethroat was singing in a patch of gorse and about 11 eiders put on a fine show on the water below me. Waders were a bit sparse, about 500 dunlin, 80 ringed plover, 200 oystercatchers and a single whimbrel.

Whimbrel with oystercatchers.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

The flash in lockdown

Restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Pennington Flash being effectively closed to visitors from 24th March 2020 to 12th May 2020. The main entrance was fenced off and the Slag Lane car park closed and visitors discouraged from travelling to the flash. However I live just a 5 minute walk from the place and it is the nearest open space for my daily exercise walk. So most days I had an early morning walk to the flash and stopped briefly at several viewing points along the way in order to record whatever birds and other wildlife might be using the flash during this unique and unprecedented time with very little human disturbance.

Along with the Manchester Bird Forum I took took the decision not to make public any sightings from the flash during this period of lockdown. I hope that readers of the blog will understand and accept this decision. I didn't want to be seen to be encouraging people to drive to the flash at a time when the police were regularly at the entrance turning away people who had traveled by car.

However new advice given by the government on 10th May 2020 means that people can now drive to wherever they like in England in order to take exercise and do other pursuits so presumably that will include the flash. This advice may change in the future and obviously it's up to individuals to make sure that they socially distance and behave responsibly, but in the light of the new advice I can see no reason to not post my sightings from the flash. I make no guarantees that any car parks will be open and I'll be amazed if the hides open any time soon, that's up to Wigan Council!

This blog post is a summary of birds which I saw at the flash during this period. Other birders were also visiting the flash at the time but their records are not included here. 
 

Monday, 11 May 2020

Pennington Flash


Dunlin 1
Sedge warbler 1 singing east bay
Cetti's warbler 2 singing
Redshank 1
Shelduck 1
Swift 80
House Martin 300
Sand martin 80
Swallow 100
Common sandpiper 1
Common tern 2

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Pennington Flash


Hobby 1 over Mossley hall farm
Cuckoo 1 calling
Dunlin 1
Greylag 6
Swift 500
House Martin 100
Sand martin 100
Swallow 100
Coal tit 1
Shelduck 2
Common sandpiper 1
Common tern 4
Little ringed plover 3
Garden warbler 1 singing Tom Edmondson hide
Teal 1 male Ramsdales
Kingfisher 1 spit
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males east end, Westleigh brook, Ramsdales, west end
Kestrel 1 Ruck
Sedge warbler 2 singing males west end

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 47


A beautiful day in the garden, the highlight being two house martins which were new for the lockdown garden list and brings the total since lockdown began on 24th March to 51 species. Other highlights today, two rooks, two coal tits, several swift, grey heron and a robin which is making me dizzy going round and round the garden. Obviously feeding young somewhere! Still waiting for a honey buzzard.

About a week ago I added skylark to the list with a bird singing distantly. I've seen these from the garden on passage in the past but this was the first singing bird.


Pennington Flash


Cetti's warbler 7 singing males Cormorant hide, Sorrowcow pond, west end, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson hide, east bay, Westleigh brook.
Common tern 4
Common sandpiper 1 on the spit.
Sedge warbler 4 singing males, three at the west end, one at Sorrowcow pond.
Swallow 3
Whitethroat 8 singing males
Swift 10
Greylag 6
Garden warbler 1 singing male Tom Edmondson hide




Friday, 8 May 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 46

Photo: Common pipistrelle spectrogram.
Our resident bat has been flying around for a few weeks now. We see it most evenings while we are watching the telly shortly after sunset flying in front of the French doors and around the garden. To be honest it's usually a good deal more entertaining than the telly and sometimes it's joined by a second bat and we often have them swirling around together for 30 minutes or so. Tonight I decided to get the bat detector out and have a go at identifying it to species and see what else is flying around in the garden after dark.

There are around 17 species of bat in the UK and they all occupy different niches in the ecosystem. Some bats like open spaces, others like woodland and a few like lakes and marshes. Different species also fly at different times, some at sunset and some well after dark.

It's well known that bats use echolocation to find their prey which basically means that they send out sound waves which bounce back to them when they hit their target and this guides the bat to its prey. Species echolocate at different frequencies and these can be picked up by bat detectors which then use this information to identify the species in the form of a spectrogram.

Lightshaw Flash

Cuckoo 1 calling
Lesser whitethroat 1 singing next to the canal
Common tern 3
Cetti's warbler 1 singing
Shelduck 2
Greylag 6
Shoveler 4

Pennington Flash

Sedge warbler 2 singing
Common tern 4
Cetti's warbler 1 singing west end


Thursday, 7 May 2020

Pennington Flash

Black-tailed godwit 1 on the spit scrape.
Common sandpiper 1 spit
Common tern 4
Swallow 3
Swift 50
Sedge warbler 2 singing
Rook 1 over Mossley Hall Farm
Greylag 3
Redshank 2
Mistle thrush 4 Ruck, golf course and near Bunting hide.
Kingfisher 1 Ramsdales
Shelduck 1
Garden warbler 2 singing behind Lapwing hide
Grey wagtail 1 near Horrock's hide

Amazingly rook is a new species for me at the Flash. Who would have thought that it would take me 40 years and I would see 173 species before rook at the Flash? Either I must have just not bothered recording them or perhaps I didn't look properly at medium sized black birds flying over and dismissed them as crows. For a large part of that 40 years I wasn't interested in keeping a flash list so I guess that I probably just didn't bother.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Pennington Flash

Whimbrel 1 heard flying over
Cetti's warbler 7 singing  Cormorant hide, Sorrowcow, west end, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, east bay, Westleigh brook
Swift 200
Common tern 7
Common Sandpiper 2 on the spit
Sedge warbler 3 singing
Whitethroat 8 singing
Greylag 3
Redshank 1
Great spotted woodpecker 2 east bay
Garden warbler 1 east bay


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Pennington Flash

Mediterranean gull 2 adults flew over calling
Swift 100
House Martin 30
Sand martin 80
Swallow 30
Common tern 9
Greylag 3
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, east bay
Common sandpiper 2
Sedge warbler 2 singing males western end
Shelduck 2
Whitethroat 6 singing males
Garden warbler 1 singing male
Goldeneye 1 male


Monday, 4 May 2020

Pennington Flash

Swift 30
Common tern 5
Sedge warbler 3 singing males
Buzzard 1
Cetti's warbler  5 singing males western end, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson hide, Westleigh brook, east bay
Bullfinch 2
Goldeneye 1 male
Common sandpiper 1
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling behind Lapwing hide
Garden warbler 1 singing east bay


Sunday, 3 May 2020

Pennington Flash


Common sandpiper 1 at the yacht club
Common tern 5
Grey wagtail 1 male at the yacht club
Shoveler 2
Sedge warbler 3 inc. 1 at Sorrowcow pond
Lesser whitethroat 1 at western end
Whitethroat 2 singing males
Cetti's warbler 2 singing males Sorrowcow and Hey Brook bridge
Goldeneye 1 male

Saturday, 2 May 2020

King Penguin accepted as 6th record for Australia (BARC)


Take a bow king penguin!  It was fairly inevitable but still nice to get news today that the king penguin I saw on Bruny Island, Tasmania earlier in the year with Elaine has been accepted by Birdlife Australia and is just the 6th record for the country away from the breeding colonies on the sub-antarctic Macquarie and Heard Islands which are around 1500km away. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not sure how I'll ever find a better bird than a vagrant king penguin. 1500km is a long way from home for a flightless bird.


Pennington Flash

Photo: Garden warbler
Lesser whitethroat 1 singing west end
White wagtail 1 on the spit
Greenshank 1 Ramsdales then spit
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling behind Lapwing hide.
Garden warbler 1 singing on the Ruck
Cetti's warbler 5 singing Sorrowcow, Hey brook, Ramsdales, Westleigh brook, east bay
Swallow 20
Sand martin 200
Common tern 4
House martin 30
Sedge warbler 5 singing all west end except 1 behind Lapwing hide.
Shelduck 1
Whitethroat 5 singing
Reed warbler 5 singing
Common sandpiper 1
Redshank 1
Swift 30



Friday, 1 May 2020

Pennington Flash


Greenshank 2 on the Spit
Wheatear 1 male on the Ruck
Common sandpiper 3
Redshank 1
Sedge warbler 2
Shelduck 1
Whitethroat 5
Goldeneye 1 male
Common tern 8
Reed warbler 5 singing
Garden warbler 1  singing on the Ruck
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males at Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Westleigh brook and east bay
Grasshopper warbler 1 back of Ramsdales
Sand martin 300
House martin 50
Swallow 70
Swift 50

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Greenshank 1 on spit
Redshank 2
Common sandpiper 3
Common tern 8
Little ringed plover 1
Sand martin 300
Swallow 40
House martin 30
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Grey wagtail 2
Swift 100
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling near Lapwing hide.



Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Greenshank 1 yacht club
Arctic tern 2
Dunlin 2
Little ringed plover 3
Swift 50
Swallow 50
Sand martin 500
Sedge warbler 2 singing
Common tern 14
House Martin 20
Whitethroat 4 singing
Reed warbler 5 singing
Common sandpiper 1
Redshank 1
Shelduck 2
Teal 1 male
Little grebe adult with chick at Teal hide.



Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Passage on the coast

Photo: Osprey.
I've not had a lot of work during the COVID-19 lockdown but I've had just about enough to keep me sane and get me out of the house to some beautiful locations. In this post I'm not going to say exactly where I've been working today, but regular readers will have a good idea. Suffice to say that it's a coastal survey and at this time of year with an easterly wind it offers a good opportunity to see a bit of passage.

Photo: Grasshopper warbler.
As soon as I arrived today I immediately heard a grasshopper warbler reeling from the bushes just ahead of me and amazingly the bird was right out in the open, probably not much more than about 2m from me. A whitethroat was singing in the same area and as I dropped down onto the beach I flushed four whimbrel which flew calling for about 200m before landing again. I walked along the scrub covered base of a low, clay cliff and heard two lesser whitethoats rattling out their song along with the usual linnets.

It was approaching low tide and I was to spend my day watching the movements of birds as the tide came in. Wader numbers were low but I did count a fine flock of 600 pristine looking dunlin and ringed plover. Up to eight little egrets fished the creeks and channels.

As high tide approached a few ducks came into the bay, 17 eiders, five red-breasted mergansers and a pair of common scoter all in immaculate breeding plumage. Further out to sea and set against dark threatening skies I could see brilliant white gannets and up to 50 sandwich terns plunge diving in dramatic fashion, and suddenly a dark phase arctic skua flew past.

It was now high tide and looking south down the channel I noticed a large, long winged bird of prey circling high above the water. It was clearly an osprey and it was slowly heading my way. As it approached my vantage point it dropped considerably and started to fish by hovering above the water. Even in these days when ospreys are more frequent than they used to be they are still always a magnificent sight. I watched it as it drifted north and was eventually lost to view.

The final highlight was just as I was packing up to leave, a hooded crow flew across the channel and disappeared inland.

Pennington Flash

Common sandpiper 1 yacht club
Common tern 12
Shelduck 1
Little tern 1

Monday, 27 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Yellow wagtail 2 flew north over the ruck
Swift 150
Swallow 30
Common sandpiper 5
Little ringed plover 3
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling behind Lapwing hide
Sand martin 300
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Reed warbler 3 singing males
Buzzard 1


Sunday, 26 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Cuckoo 1 heard near Teal hide
Dunlin 1 yacht club
Little ringed plover 4
Common sandpiper 1 yacht club
Common tern 4
Kingfisher 1 yacht club
Shelduck 1
Swallow 1
Whitethroat 3 singing males
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Kestrel 1 female on the Ruck
Reed warbler 5 singing males
House sparrow 3
Treecreeper 1
Greylag 6


Saturday, 25 April 2020

Lightshaw Flash

Cuckoo 1 heard
Black-tailed godwit 8
Little ringed plover 1
Common sandpiper 1
Grey partridge 2 at Byrom Hall


Pennington Flash

Little ringed plover 1 at the yacht club
Common tern 3
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 2 singing males


Friday, 24 April 2020

Pennington Flash


Kittiwake 1 ad non-breeding
Little ringed plover 2
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males, Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, Westleigh brook.
Shelduck 5
Common tern 7
Sedge warbler 2 singing males
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Ringed plover 1
Reed warbler 5 singing males
Redshank 1
Raven 1 over Sorrowcow farm


Thursday, 23 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 31

Photo: Swift.
A real mega today, a garden warbler was singing in a neighbours garden at 7:30am This is the first record of the year for me, though I do hope to see and hear more at Pennington Flash over the next few weeks.

At lunch time a great tit was singing in the goat willow and a buzzard rode the thermals overhead.

Two swifts were over the garden at 13:30, these are the first I've seen over the garden this year, though they have been about locally since 18th. With the swifts several sand martins and a swallow followed about 30 minutes later. 28 species recorded today, my best day total so far and this brings my lockdown garden list to 49 species since 24th March.


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