Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Eccleston Mere

Tufted Duck 130
Pochard 14
Gadwall 2
Snipe 1 (in SW corner)
Goldeneye 4 (2mm, 2ff)
Goldfinch 40
Siskin 1

To try to put the Tuftie flock into perspective, in the past 20 years, according to my database, I have visited the mere on over 1400 occasions. My previous highest count for Tufted Duck was 30 birds! Todays flock is over four times that total, and is easily the biggest flock ever recorded in St Helens away from Prescot Reservoirs.

At first I thought that maybe it was the Prescot flock, displaced or on their holidays, but a quick phone call revealed that most of the Prescot flock was still present, though viewing was difficult in the fog. However, a fisherman who was just setting up his gear, told me that he had just been to White Mans Dam in Knowsley Safari Park, and it was completely iced over. This maybe the source of the Tufties - obviously they flew over the reservoirs, decided it looked a bit dodgy, and carried on to civilisation and the comfort of Eccleston Mere. If only they could convince the Great Northern to do the same. About 30% ice cover of the mere today.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Prescot Reservoirs

Great Northern Diver 1 (juv. still on PR4)
Tufted Duck 128
Ruddy Duck 27
Goldeneye 23
Pochard 11
Little Grebe 6

A few hundred gulls, but nothing of note.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Leighton Moss

Bittern 2 (from Public hide and Lower hide)
Goosander 2 males
Marsh Tit 2
Water Rail 1

Plus lots of ducks.

The Bitterns were both excellent views.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Eccleston Mere

Barn Owl 1 (hunting the large field adjacent to the mere at 16:45)
Water Rail 1 (in the ditch in the SW corner)
Goldeneye 1 m

Following hard on the heals of the Short-eared Owl on Christmas Eve, the Barn Owl was a great sight, and was my 156th species at the mere. No sign of the SEO today.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Richard's Pipit, Green-winged Teal and much more on Wirral

Richard's Pipit 1 (Parkgate Golf course)
Green-winged Teal 1 (drake, Inner Marsh Farm)
Hen Harrier 6 (2mm, 4ff at evening roost at Parkgate)
Short-eared Owl 8 (inc. 6 flying together at Parkgate at 11:30am)
Merlin 1 (Parkgate)
Spotted Redshank 1 (Inner Marsh Farm)
Water Rail 1 (Inner Marsh Farm)
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 101 (Hilbre Island)
Purple Sandpiper 16 (Hilbre Island)
Shag 1 (Hilbre Island)
Red-throated Diver 1 (Hilbre Island)

An absloutely amazing day. We just dropped on with everything! The Green-winged Teal hadn't been reported for a few days but we re-found it. The Richard's Pipit has been elusive and mobile, going missing for hours but it was on view as soon as we arrived at Parkgate and we watched it for 15 minutes in full view, with the sunlight right on it. Amazingly, this was my fourth Richard's Pipit on the Dee estuary alone!

The scenes at Parkgate were incredible. We had six Hen Harriers coming in to roost in the evening, with Short-eared Owls hunting the marsh in every direction. Eight owls is a conservative estimate, because we had six together at mid-day, and at least 8 scattered over the marsh in the evening. It could easily have been 10, 12 or 14 owls. In the background, almost unnoticed, Little Egrets streamed down the estuary in small groups, totalling maybe 30 birds, probably heading for their roost at Inner Marsh Farm.

Hilbre was crowded with tourists, but even so, the Brent Geese showed particulalry well, and it's a long time since I counted so many Purple Sandpipers on the island.

An amazing day!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Eccleston Mere

Willow Tit 1 (on feeders in SE corner)
Kingfisher 1
Goldeneye 1 m

Bat 1 (Pippistrelle?)

Merry Christmas to everybody!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Eccleston Mere

Short-eared Owl 1
Little Grebe 2

The Short-eared Owl was hunting the fields adjacent to the mere. It was my first Eccleston Mere tick for a long time, and brings my mere list to 155.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Rough-legged Buzzard, East Yorkshire

Millington Pastures

Rough-legged Buzzard 1 juv.
Red Kite 1
Buzzard 6
Stonechat 2 (m&f)
Marsh Tit 1

It took us about an hour to locate the Rough-legged Buzzard, but once we did we had excellent views of the bird, which was a juvenle. It had very white underparts and tail, with a black belly, legs and carple patches. A very distinctive bird. We saw it three times in flight, and a couple of times had it sitting in a tree. The best view of all was when we climbed the side of a hill, and it flew and soared at eye level and at quite close range for several minutes. My first RLB for 23 years!

Thanks to Marcus Conway for allowing me to use this remarkable photo of the bird. You can visit his website here.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Great Northern, Prescot Reservoirs

Great Northern Diver 1 (juv. on PR4)

Also 5 Ruddy Ducks. Didn't have time to stay long. Today was meant to be a DIY day, but you know how it is. You have to get to see these birds while they're available. Not much point going tomorrow when it's gone!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Twite, Birkdale Beach

Twite 55 (Birkdale Beach)

Great views of the Twite as they fed on the edge of the saltmarsh just north of the car park at Weld Road, Birkdale.

Rainford Mosslands

Merlin 2 (Dairy Farm Road / Inglenook Farm)
Lesser Redpoll 10 (Dairy Farm Road)
Fieldfare 100 (Dairy Farm Road)
Tree Sparrow 40 (Old Coach Road)
Bullfinch 1 (Old Coach Road)
Pink-footed Goose 600 (Old Coach Road)

The Merlins were so intent on chasing each other, twisting and turning, that they failed to notice that I was standing about 20 metres away from them. My 5th and 6th Merlins on the mosslands this year.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Iceland Gull 1 (1st winter on Birchwood Pool)
Yellow-legged Gull 1 (adult on Birchwood Pool)

Despite the fact that it was apparently much quieter today than is usual on Saturday, there were still a lot of gulls on the water. We spent about two and a half hours in the hide, without seeing anything unusual, until at last the Iceland Gull flew in and almost immediately we also saw the Yellow-legged Gull.

For those people who don't know the set up at Moore, if you want to see the gulls, you need to go when the nearby tip is open, either on a weekday or Saturday morning.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Moore, Marshside, Martin Mere

Bittern 1 (Moore)
Tawny Owl 1 (Moore)
Glossy Ibis 1 (Marshside)
Hen Harrier 1 male (Marshside)
White-fronted Goose 2 (Marshside)
Little Egret 3 (Marshside)
Barn Owl 3 (Martin Mere)

We started our day at Moore Nature Reserve near Warrington. This is an excellent reserve which has really developed well since I first visited the place in 1983 (25 years ago!). The main reason for our visit was to try to catch up with some of the interesting gulls which frequent the place these days in winter, and especially Caspian Gull, which apparently was seen as recently as yesterday. Needless to say we didn't see anything other than the common species. (Note to self: next time you go looking for a difficult to identify bird, try to at least have an idea of the identifcation features before you go).

Anyway, we were more than compensated by stunning views in full sunlight of one of the three Bitterns which have been in the eastern reedbed recently. It walked across the ice in front on us, and then stood there in full view for about 15 minutes. A cracking bird.

Then it was off to Marshside. We hoped to catch up with Glossy Ibis, which would be a Merseyside tick for one of us. The Ibis took a bit of finding, but eventually we saw it on the seaward side of the road near the Sandgrounders hide. Quite difficult to spot, because it's a much smaller bird than you think. Also in this area we had a spectacular male Hen Harrier and two (probably Greenland) White-fronted Geese. The grass is so long out there on the marsh, that only the heads of the geese were visible when they looked around. They were quite invisble when feeding.

Finally we headed off to Martin Mere, truth to tell, just to get a cup of tea, but we decided to have a quick look around in the fading light. Glad we did, because at the Ron Barker (Millers Bridge) hide, we saw three Barn Owls hunting. Not sure I've ever seen three birds together before.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Eccleston Mere

Willow Tit 1 (on garden feeder in SE corner).
Nuthatch 1
Goldeneye 11 (inc. 3 males)
Pochard 13
Tufted Duck 13
Mute Swan 3 (ad & 2 juvs)

Good to see a Willow Tit at the mere once again. It took me 15 years to see my first at the mere, but now I've seen them for at least 4 consecutive years.

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