Thursday, 31 December 2009

The end of another year

Eccleston Mere 31/12/2009
Harris Hawk - Year 231 (a festive joke! even I don't tick Harris Hawk..................)

Well, the last daylight of 2009 is rapidly fading, and it looks as though the birding is finished for the year. Another drunken evening of disgraceful excess is upon us (and that's just in my house ), and later hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fireworks will be shot into the air by the good folk of Britain, a country which is meant to be in recession. So now seems a good time to look back at they old year.

It was a roller coaster of a year for me, but from a birding point of view, it was my best for many a year. I finished with a UK year list of 231 species...... ok 230!, which included five UK lifers, Pallid Swift, Paddyfield Warbler, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern and Eastern Crowned Warbler. I was pleased to reach 230, because I didn't have a single holiday or even a long weekend in the UK, and I didn't go to Scotland, East Anglia, Cornwall, Scillies and I didn't go to the east coast apart from the one visit for the ECW. I reached 230 species by almost entirely local birding in North West England and occasionally North Wales.

The main places I went birding included Eccleston Mere (over 80 visits), Hilbre Island (31 visits), Martin Mere (28 visits), Leighton Moss (14), Marshside (13) and Inner Marsh Farm (13).

My 2009 Merseyside list finished on 171, and my 2009 Lancashire list (including Merseyside which it does in the Lancs Bird report) was 203.

Outside the UK, I had two long weekends to south west Spain and Portugal, and saw 115 species in Spain and 87 in Portugal. I got one Spanish lifer, Crested (red-knobbed) Coot.

In July I went to Sardinia, wrong time of year and too hot, but still ended up with an Italian list of 50 species, which included two European lifers, Barbary Partridge and the Sardinian version of Marmoras Warbler.

In October I went to New York, on a completely none birding holiday, but came back with 38 species, most of which were lifers for me.

In total, I saw 313 species in the World in 2009.

A very good birding year for me. Let's hope 2010 is as good. Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Ring-necked Duck and Snow Geese

First we went to Fleetwood to try to see yesterdays Ring-necked Duck, but unfortunately it had gone. Then we went to Aldcliffe marsh to see the four Snow Geese which have been there with about 500 Greylags. Also with the flock, a Dark-bellied Brent and three Barnacle Geese.

Then we found out that the Ring-necked Duck had been relocated at Preesall, near Knott End, so we dashed back and found the bird on a small fishing pool, with 12 Pochard and three Tufties. Also on a nearby pond, three Mandarins.

The photos are a bit rubbish, because it was a very dull windy day, but I quite like the photo of the Snow Geese attacking two Greylags.

Snow Goose: Year 228 (I apologise to nobody!)
Ring-necked Duck: Year 229
Mandarin: Year 230 (ok I'm sorry, I'm a charlatan)

Snow Geese and Greylags

Ring-neck Duck asleep

Ring-neck Duck awake.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Hilbre Island

A cold, dull, grey day today on the island, and the walk back in light rain was bitter! Thank goodness Santa brought me some gloves the other day!

A really enjoyable day! The Pale-bellied Brent Goose flock showed exceptionally well at the north end of the island. I got some half decent photos, but it was very dull and not easy. One of the Brents was the returning colour ringed bird from previous years. I'm not really sure what the Brents eat on Hilbre, but if you look at the attached photo, it looks as if they're eating the green plant on the rocks. I'm not sure what it is, but it looks like little more than green slime! It's certainly slippy stuff! Whatever it is, it must sustain them, because the flock is now about 140 strong, and they'll stay for a few months yet.

As we watched the Brents, I noticed a couple of Purple Sandpipers on the rocks, right below us, with several Turnstones. Really good views of them as they scurried around and fed. I love watching these birds.

Other highlights today included Rock Pipit and Shag.

This was my 31st visit to the island this year, and chances are it will be my last of the year. It's been a tremendous experience. I've seen so many birds on or around the island this year, including a lifer, Paddyfield Warbler, plus visible migration of passerines and seabirds. I just hope that next year is as good.

The Brents!

Purple Sandpiper

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Wigan Flashes

Green-winged Teal 1 male on Horrock's Flash
Bittern 1 flew onto Bryn Flash
Cetti's Warbler 1 probable calling distantly on Bryn Flash

Barrow Lodge, Clitheroe

Velvet Scoter 1 (1st win male)

The scoter showed exceptionally well, down to just a few metres. It seemed to be feeding well, and as we watched it twice dived and brought up molluscs, which it swallowed whole!

Velvet Scoter: Year 227

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day on Hilbre

Not a bad way to spend Christmas Day, on Hilbre Island. Nothing too spectacular to report today, 100 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a female Eider and a few Purple Sandpipers, but beautiful weather, and spectacular scenary.

Pale-bellied Brents

Looking towards North Wales with Grey Seals on the West Hoyle bank in the foreground

Hilbre from Middle Eye

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A few days in Donana, South West Spain

Another fantastic visit to this bird rich area. Whilst North West England was enjoying snow, ice and dark evenings, I had warm sunny days, up to 18'C, and sunset times of 18:15.
Haven't got time to go through everything, but here is a brief summary of the highlights.

Night Heron (150+)
Cattle Egret (hundreds)
Little Egret (hundreds)
Great White Egret (39+)
Black Stork (29+)
White Stork (1000+)
Spoonbill (127+)
Greater Flamingo (1000+)
Black-shouldered Kite (2)
Hen Harrier (7)
Marsh Harrier (25)
Purple Gallinule (110+)
Common Crane (2200+)
Black-winged Stilt (100+)
Avocet (30+)
Lesser short toed Lark (200+)
Calandra Lark (200+)
Southern Grey Shrike (10+)
Azure-winged Magpie (100+)
Spanish Sparrow (1000+)

Greater Flamingos - Isla Mayor rice fields

Black Stork - Isla Mayor rice fields

White Storks. Notice also the Swallows flying around - Isla Mayor rice fields

Common Cranes - Huerta Tejeda

A poor photo, but these are all Purple Gallinules! Veta Hornito rice fields.

Glossy Ibis - Brazo de la Torre

Glossy Ibis - Isla Mayor rice fields.

Night Herons - Corredor Verde

Faro beach, Portugal.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Prescot Reservoirs

Red-crested Pochard 2 (male and female)
Red-breasted Goose 1 (adult)
Barnacle Goose 60
Redshank 1
Gulls - a lot

The drake Red-crested Pochard was a simply stunning bird, the pair seen on No. 3 Res.

Red-crested Pochard: Year 226

The St Helens "black" goose flock. A Red-breasted Goose with about 60 Barnacle Geese and a single Canada Goose. Also note the hybrid goose immediately behind the Canada which looks superficially like a small race Canada. This flock commutes to Martin Mere in the winter, where the Red-breasted Goose sets pulses racing.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Leighton Moss

Bearded Tit 4 (3 males 1 female)
Bittern 2
Cetti's Warbler 1
Water Rail

It was a gloriously beautiful and sunny day, cold with ice cover, yet not a breath of wind. A day which made you feel great to be alive. We arrived at 9am and left at 3:30pm, and apart from a short break in the cafe where we warmed up with soup and coffee cake, we spent all of our time walking along the public causeway and the Lower Hide. If it was cold outside, it was bitter inside the hides, so we elected to keep moving, all be it at a slow pace.

The reeds were obviously alive with Water Rails, and there was hardly a moment when you couldn’t hear at least one squealing. Near the start of the causeway, we estimated at least five birds calling all around us, but we couldn’t see any. Eventually we did manage to see two birds quite well.

As we approached the bridge on the causeway, just past the public hide, we suddenly heard the explosive call of a Cetti’s Warbler. This species has slowly been moving north from its southern strongholds, and is now a quite regular winter visitor to North West England, and surely it can only be a matter of time before it breeds, if it hasn’t already done so. We waited near the bridge for about 45 minutes, during which time the bird called periodically, but only briefly revealed itself.

Highlight of the day was four Bearded Tits, including two stunning males, on the causeway grit trays. What a sight! It’s a long time since I saw such great views of males, and the light was perfect. Still couldn’t get a decent photo though! Over the causeway, and awesome adult Peregrine.

At Lower hide, we had decent views of two Bitterns, as well as a selection of ducks. Later we watched in awe as around 10,000 Starlings came in to roost, performing acrobatics before finally landing. Two Sparrowhawks hunted the flock.

Lots of other good stuff of course, Marsh Tits, Siskins, Lesser Redpolls, Bull Finches, Wigeon, Snipe, Curlew etc. Just a great day to be out.

Robin. Almost a great photo. Unfortunately the bird is slightly out of focus.

Bearded Tit. Never going to be a great photo!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Hilbre Island

Took a bit of a chance on the weather today, and headed over to Hilbre for the high tide, which was about 9.5m at 13:00. As it turned out, it was a pretty decent day, with just a few spots of rain starting to fall as we headed off the island at 15:30.

There are still a few Shags around the islands, with at least five seen today. The Cormorant flock is still pretty sizable at about 750, though that's down by at least 50% since last week. Waders included at least six Purple Sandpipers and 150 Turnstones, some of which were colour ringed. 3000 Oystercatchers roosted over the tide on Middle, and there were about 150 Curlew. A Little Egret flew over at midday.

The Pale-bellied Brent goose flock has now reached about 130, but they weren't so evident today, being better observed at low tide. They roost away from the main island at high tide.

Passerines included three Blackbirds, two Song Thrushes, about five Robins, two Rock Pipits and three Goldfinches. Out at sea there were at least six Red-throated Divers, 10 Great crested Grebes and about 30 Common Scoter.

A couple of hours before high tide we spotted a baby Grey Seal on the rocks. We initially thought that it was dead, but it startled us by suddenly springing into life and heading off down the rocks back and into the sea. It's been hanging around the island for a few days.


Rock Pipit

Grey Seal Pup

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