Sunday, 27 September 2009

Inner Marsh Farm - Another Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher 2 juvs.
Water Rail 1
Green Sandpiper

So yesterday we assumed that the dowitcher at Inner Marsh Farm was the same as that at Marshside the day before, and possibly even the same as one near Fleetwood last week. The jigsaw seemed to fit together nicely, an American wader moving south and being seen at various locations. So where does the second bird fit in to the equation? Who can say? In my opinion, having seen the bird yesterday, and having seen photos of the Marshside bird, I think that they are the same, and todays bird is new.

In the photo below, the (new) dowitcher is the middle bird. It's not a great photo, but it does show how small it is compared to the Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwit.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Inner Marsh Farm, Dee Estuary

Long-billed Dowitcher 1
Hobby 2
Hen Harrier 1
Greenshank 2

We arrived at Marshside to discover that yesterdays Long-billed Dowitcher had not been relocated by 10am, and with the Southport airshow threatening to disturb every bird in the area, it seemed that we were unlikely to connect with the American wader today. We were just about to walk down to Nels hide, when a text from a friend had us dashing back to the car – the dowitcher had been relocated at Inner Marsh Farm on the Dee.

Ninety minutes later we were in the hide watching the bird. It was a well marked juvenile, with a distinct supercillium. It’s 10 years since I saw my last dowitcher, and I had forgotten how small they are compared to the nearby Black-tailed Godwits. In fact it was nearer to Snipe size.

The supporting cast was excellent, with two Hobbies spectacularly hawking for dragonflies over the marsh, at times quite close, and a ringtail Hen-Harrier occasionally scattering the Lapwings right in front of the hide.

Long-billed Dowitcher Year 217

Long-billed Dowitcher


Sunday, 20 September 2009

Leighton Moss

Great White Egret 1 (Year 215)
Little Egret 45
Little Stint 3 (Year 216)
Curlew Sandpiper 1
Spotted Redshank 1
Greenshank 2
Bittern 1

A beautiful September day, and the light was perfect for viewing the egrets and waders on the Eric Morecombe and Allen pools. When we arrived at the hide, the Great White Egret was flying in amongst a whole flock of Little Egrets. Amazing numbers of these birds in the North West at the moment. There were hundreds of waders on the Allen pool, with my favourites being the Little Stints. On the reserve we had a good flyby view of a Bittern from public hide.

Little Egret

Little Egrets!

Even more Black-tailed Godwits.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

52 mile tour of SW Lancs on the bike

Today I decided to have a break from Hilbre and get on my bike. I left home at 9am and returned at 4pm, having completed my longest ever bike ride, 52.5 miles. There's no way I was taking my camera on such a long ride, so I only have a handful of camera phone pictures to record the event!

I set off down the Rainford bypass, went through Bikerstaffe and Aughton, and headed towards Halsall. Then I headed south for a short way until I reached Plex Moss lane, at which point I turned west towards Southport. There were about 500 Pink-footed Geese on Plex Moss, and a few Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers.

Next I arrived at the traffic lights at the end of Plex Moss lane, at the start of Southport Marine drive. I rode along the marine drive, until I reached the Birkdale roundabout. Here I abandoned the bike temporarily and had a walk along the edge of the saltmarsh. It was about an hour before a very high tide (9.74m) and thousands of waders were being pushed closer and closer by the rising tide. It's difficult to say exactly how many there were, because they stretched away into the distance, but the majority were Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot, with good numbers of Sanderling, Curlew, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. Most spectacular of all were the amazing Grey Plovers, many of which were still in full summer plumage, with jet black bellies, breast and faces, contrasting greatly with white head and neck and silvery back. A most beautiful bird, and what a shame it is stuck with the name Grey Plover! Silvery Plover, or Pied Plover would be better.

Shortly after leaving Birkdale, I arrived at Marshside, which seemed strangely quiet given the approaching tide. However I did count 15 Little Egrets and about 2000 Pink-footed Geese. Little Egrets have become so common these days that even 15 of them together is not unexpected.

From Marshside, I continued to head north and decided to try my luck at Banks Marsh. The ground was hard and I had no difficulty in cycling along the bank, until I reached the pools near Baxters farm. Here there were another 18 Little Egrets, and lots of waders, but many were too far out for my binoculars.

My final stop was Martin Mere. By the time I reached here, I had already completed 38 miles, so despite the fact there had been a Red-necked Phalarope yesterday, my initial interest was in a cup of tea and a scone! No sign of the Phalarope today, but lots of Pink-feet on and around the reserve, and perhaps the highlight was a white phase Gyr Falcon on display as part of the animal magic event. An awesome looking bird, it dwarfed a Kestrel on the next stand!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Hilbre Island

A glorious morning on the island, and a complete contrast from last week when it was windy and squally and the emphasis was on sea birds. Today it was sunny and hot, and I was hoping for a few migrants in the light winds. Although migration was slow, amazingly I did at least see a few new species, with Raven (2), Grey Wagtail, Whitethroat and Snipe (3) all additions to my personal Hilbre list. Also on the island Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Whimbrel, two Little Egrets (in the gutter) and an adult Peregrine. A Stonechat eluded the traps and nets.

Meanwhile moth trapping last night produced a few nice moths, including a new species for me in the form of Feathered Ranunculus. Other moths included many Silver Y, Autumnal Rustic, Setaceous Hebrew Character and Flounced Rustic.

The best day of the summer in the middle of autumn!



Silver Y

Feathered Ranunculus

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Traeth Dulas, Anglesey - Baird's Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper 1 juv.
Curlew Sandpiper 5
Mediterranean Gull 1 adult
Dunlin 100
Ringed Plover 50
Little Egret 5

The Baird's Sandpiper was, perhaps surprisingly, only my second ever and my first for 25 years. It showed very well on the saltmash at Traeth Dulas (near Moelfre), and there was a strong supporting cast, with five Curlew Sandpipers and a Med Gull. This was just a quick visit to Anglesey, we only left home at 1pm, and we were back in St Helens by 7pm.

Curlew Sanpiper and Baird's Sandpiper bring my year list to 215.

Traeth Dulas

Dunlin (left) and Curlew Sandpiper (right).

The bird on the right is probably the Baird's Sandpiper!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Hilbre Island and a diversion to Meols

A fabulous visit to Hilbre, started in the best possible manner, before we had even reached Middle Eye, when a phone call alerted us to the fact that an Osprey was flying over the West Hoyle. All of the gulls which roost on the bank were in the air and calling, and suddenly there was the bird, flying in amongst them. We watched it for a few minutes as first it seemed to be heading away into Wales, and then it came back and began hovering over the sea. Suddenly it dropped into the water and seconds later emerged with a large fish. It flew towards the sand bank, landed and proceded to eat the fish.

It was still in the same place when we arrived at the main island, but now the water was much closer to it, and soon it was forced to fly to higher ground on the bank with its prey. A Peregrine briefly mobbed it. Still we continued to watch, as once again the water closed in on the bird, and eventually, with the water seemingly around its ankles, it was forced to fly to even higher ground on the bank. An approaching shower made visbility very poor over the West Hoyle Bank and when we finally lost the bird in the murk, it was still sitting eating its prey.

After all of the seabird activity over the past few days, I awoke this morning with high hopes and expectations, but these were soon apparently dashed by the almost complete lack of wind when we arrived on the island at 8am. However as it turned out, there was a lot more activity than expected.

Star bird was the Hilbre speciality, Leach's Petrel. Breeding far to the north, in such remote places as St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, where I have watched them entering their breeding burrows, Leach's Petrel is the one species which regularly draws birders from far and wide to North West England. It surely should be our "national" bird!

They are small dark grey birds, with a white rump and relatively long wings for a petrel, they glide and flutter across the surface of the water, sometimes pattering their feet on the surface, apparently uneffected by the ferocity of the storm. Not that there was much of a storm today, but at least by midday it was up to about force 5. There are few more evocative, or hardy birds than Leach's Petrel. We saw about 12 Leach's Petrels.

There were good numbers of skuas to be seen, I counted at least 25 Arctics and seven Bonxies. Quite a few Gannets on the horizon, and maybe 20 Manx Shearwaters went past, some quite close. Fulmars and Kittiwakes were seen, and small flocks of Common Scoter flew past, perhaps numbering 100 in total. Terns were mainly Sandwich, with a few Common and Little.

At least two Whimbrel are still on the shore, with a few Turnstones and Knot. Seven hours on the island today, five of which were spent sitting in one spot, but what a day!

The only bird I missed on Hilbre was a juvenile Sabine's Gull, but fortunately what was probably a different bird was on the beach at Meols in the late afternoon, and I was able to call in there and see it on my way home.

Thanks again to everybody at the obs for making me so welcome (and making me a cup of tea!).

Bonxie, Leach's Petrel and Sabine's Gull were all new for the year, putting me on a feeble 213.


This is a photo of a yellow buoy on the beach at Meols, with lots of waders around it. It was never meant to be a photo of the Sabine's Gull, which just happened to sneak into view (in front of the buoy)! One day I'll learn to get the horizon horizontal!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Jenny Brown's Point - Autumn Ladies-tresses

The last flowering orchid of the year, standing at a height of about 2 inches, Autumn Ladies-tresses may not be as exciting as Ladies Slipper or even Fly Orchid, but the location it chooses to grow in is surely one of the most beautiful spots in the North West. The photo below has Morecombe bay in the background, and you will just have to imagine the smell of the sea and the piping of hundreds of Oystercatchers and the cries of other waders in the background.

Conder Green

Osprey 1 (flying over at about 15:30)
Spotted Redshank 2
Greenshank 3
Common Sandpiper 4
Ruff 1
Kingfisher 1
Goosander 1 female
Peregrine 1
Lapwing 400

I was really impressed with this site, lots of nice waders at close range on the river and on the pool. Very scenic and atmospheric, we were compensated for missing a Wood Sandpiper by spotting and Osprey flying over quite low down. I expect to be back here a few times in the future, on my way to Leighton Moss.

Leighton Moss

Eric Morecombe pools

Greenshank 4
Redshank 200
Marsh Harrier 1 juv.
Little Egret 10

Main reserve

Bearded Tits heard at the far end of the causeway. Also Water Rail.

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