Thursday, 30 December 2010

Great birds poor photos

I can only apologise to the birds concerned for the poor quality of photos today. My only excuse is that the light was so bad...

Leighton Moss
Bittern 2
Waxwing 4
Marsh Tit 1
Bearded Tit 2 heard
Water Rail 1

Preston dock
Iceland Gull 1 (1st win)

Bittern and Grey Heron (left) at Leighton Moss. Waxwing (right).

Robin (left) and 1st winter Iceland Gull (right) at Preston dock.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Bittern - Pennington Flash

I called in at Pennington Flash first thing this morning. The thaw has well and truely set in now, but the footpaths were lethal, the worst they have been this winter. They were like glass.

We stumbled (or should that be slid!) across a Bittern near Ramsdales hide. It didn't seem too conerned by our presence, probably less than 15m away from the bird. It just slowly wandered away into cover. Other birds today, about 10 Goosanders, 10 Bulfinches and two Willow Tits.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas in the Lake District

Just a few photos from a couple of days in the Lake District. Didn't see many birds, just a few Redwings and common woodland species. Scenically very pretty though.


Our hotel at Grasmere.


Sunday, 26 December 2010

Marton and Martin Mere

Another bitterly cold day, but some great birding none the less. We started off at Marton Mere near Blackpool, where there was an adult drake Ring-necked Duck, with a decent supporting cast of at least six Long-eared Owls and two Water Rails.

Then we headed to Martin Mere where the Whooper Swan flock of over 1700 birds contained at least five Bewick's Swans.

Spot the Long-eared Owl. This bush contained at least three birds, and there were three others in adjacent bushes, but you could easily have walked past and not noticed. The photo on the left was taken at 12x magnification, so imagine how difficult it would be with no extra magnification!

Two different Water Rails. The bird on the left seems to be shading the water with its wings to stop the reflection so that it can see potential prey easier. Some herons do this. I wonder what it is preying on. It looks pretty cold to me!

Bewick's Swan (left) and with a Whooper (right). It's not only the amount of yellow on the bill which distinguishes Bewick's from Whooper, there is quite a large size difference (compare the legs!), and Bewick's has a much cuter head shape. A quick look at my database reveals that as recently as 1991 there were at least 800 Bewick's Swans at Martin Mere, and even in 1997 there were over 100, but these days anything in double figures is a decent count. Since wildfowl learn how to migrate from their parents, it makes me wonder if Bewick''s Swans will ever return to Martin Mere in their former numbers, even if the winters become a lot harsher again. Perhaps as a species, they've just forgotten were Martin Mere is.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Eccleston Mere

Not officially a white Christmas, this is as close as it gets without it actually snowing! A decent couple of hours birding, with a Woodcock flying around the fields and ditches to the west of the mere, at least three Snipe and 10 Siskins.

Later two Ravens flew over Queens Park in the town centre.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Pennington Flash

The deep freeze continues, and much of the flash was iced over. A female Goosander was about the best water bird, but the bird feeders were a buzz of activity, with about 15 Bullfinches, several Reed Buntings and perhaps 30 Robins.

Bullfinches (left) and Stock Dove.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Waxwings on ASDA car park

There has been a big Waxwing invasion this winter, with thousands of birds elsewhere in the country. Only a few meagre pickings here in St. Helens, but still, it was great to see a couple on ASDA car park, and these were my fourth self found sighting of the species in the past couple of months, so shouldn't complain really! Other birds seen around the town centre today, Raven, Peregrine and Grey Wagtail.

It's easy to moan about the dire conditions out there at the moment (still -11'C at 9am!), but it's already been a Christmas to remember for me, with such glorious picture postcard scenes everywhere, and great birds to be found, with Little Egret yesterday and Waxwings today both found on walks from my house.

Raven (left) and Peregrine (right)

St Helens tundra also known as Ravenhead Greenway. These Canada Geese should surely feel at home in the Arctic like conditions, or perhaps they've just gone soft since they arrived in the UK.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Little Egret on the coldest weekend of the year

If you had to give an example of one species of bird to prove that Global warming is happening, what would it be? I reckon most people would say Little Egret, an archetypal Mediterranean species which 30 years ago was very rare in the UK, 20 years ago was quite unusual yet by 2010 there were probably well over 1000 pairs breeding in the UK. It is probably the most dramatic and well known example of the effects of Global warming on UK wildlife. So what was a Little Egret doing flying over Berrington's Lane today, with the ground covered in snow and following a night when temperatures dipped to -16'C in Berrington's Lane?

It was a most wonderful sight, the sky was deep blue and the reflection of the snow on the bird made it almost glow as it flew overhead in the direction of Carr Mill Dam, with its yellow feet dangling behind it!

Below are a few photos from the weekend. The photos from Eccleston Mere were taken yesterday.

Blue bridge at Windle Hall (left). An umbellifer sp. is restored to flower by the snow (right)!

Berrington's Lane (left) and Pink-footed Geese over Eccleston Mere (right)

Eccleston Mere. The colours might just be black and white, but look at the tree on the right especially, what a wonderful pattern.

More from Eccleston Mere.

And more from Eccleston Mere.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Monday, 13 December 2010

Friday, 26 November 2010

Waxwing, Lowton

One Waxwing flying calling over Dalesford Close Lowton first thing this morning, and later sat in a tree with Starlings.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Waxwing, Earlestown

One Waxwing flew calling over the Sankey Valley Industrial estate at 12:30 today.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Pied-billed Grebe and Great Northern Diver

Little and large! Great Northern Diver at Astbury Mere, Cheshire (left) and Pied-billed Grebe at Hollingworth Lake, near Rochdale (right). Both birds seen really well today, but no sign of the Woodlarks in Cheshire (though they were seen this morning).

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Waxwings and Great Grey Shrike

After an initial sighting of a single Waxwing at Burnley cemetry this morning, we finally caught up with a large flock at Barrow near Clitheroe. This morning there were about 70 birds in the village, but by this afternoon the flock had grown to at least 108 birds, some of which were very obliging. In between our two visits to see these wonderful birds, we called in at nearby Waddington Fell and had good views of a Great Grey Shrike.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Leighton Moss

We had an excellent day at Leighton Moss. A pair of Bearded Tits showed well on the grit trays from the public causeway, and a Cetti's Warbler sang nearby, whilst at the Eric Morecombe hide there was a superb Great White Egret, along with several Little Egrets, 10 Greenshank and five Red-breasted Mergansers.

Bearded Tits

Great white Egret

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Northumberland, Geese and Castles

A weekend to stretch every sense in your body to the very limit! It was cold and windy, and the spray lashed against your face, and the crash of the waves on the rocks was deafening. Yet when the wind died, it was warm and sunny, and it felt like the very end of summer.
Walking along Ross Back Sands in glorious sunshine, we had a three mile beach almost to ourselves, and in front of us was Lindisfarne Castle, whilst behind us was Bamburgh.
The birds were as much part of the spectacle as the scenary, with huge numbers out on the mudflats, on the sands and out at sea.
A permanent feature of the holiday was the constant stream of Gannets past every headland, probably all birds from the Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth. We caught a glimpse of that most impressive island from St Abbs head in Berwickshire, and here the fly past of Gannets was most impressive, with hundreds of birds stretching as far as the eye could see.
Every little harbour held its flock of Eider, whilst on the rocks you could almost gaurentee to find Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones. On the sea there was the occasional Red-throated Diver or Slavonian Grebe.
But as always, it was the wildfowl which stole the show. With a back drop of dramatic seas, and the ruined Dunstanburgh castle, suddenly I became aware of small flocks of Barnacle Geese coming in off the sea, sometimes just a couple of family parties, at other times perhaps a couple of hundred, yet all of them enroute to the Solway Firth, probably next stop Caerlaverock. This really was migration in action!
And then there was the Brent Geese sitting out on the sand bar beyond St Cuthberts island, with just the seals for company. Unusually for the east coast, these are all Pale-bellied birds, from the same archipelago as the Barnacles, yet these birds choose to spend most of the winter on Lindisfarne, and are undoubtably the star attraction.

Barnacle Geese (left) in off the sea at Low Newton. These birds are from the Svalbard population and are on their way to the Solway firth. We saw at least 500 birds arrive in several flocks. Pale-bellied Brent Geese (right) on Sand Eel Beds (behind St Cuthberts Island), Lindisfarne. This the single most important wintering species on Lindisfarne. Most Brents in England are Dark-bellied birds from Siberia, whilst the Pale-bellied birds which winter in Ireland (overspilling to Hilbre) are from Arctic Canada. Lindisfarne plays host to the only UK wintering population of Brents from Svalbard, and holds about 50% of the World population. Later in the day, as high tide approached, I saw the same birds from on Fenham Flats, from Ross point, and estimated that there were about 2000 birds in the flock.

Grass of Parnassus (left). Mostly over by now, we still managed to find quite a few plants in flower on the Links, Lindisfarne. The ubiquitous Eider (right), a common bird everywhere, this drake was photographed in Seahouses harbour. Also know as St Cuthbert's duck, this is one of the hardiest of all birds, riding out the fiercest storms and very rarely found on inland waters.

Purple Sandpiper, possibly my favourite wader. This bird was photographed at St Abbs.

We saw lots of dramatic seascapes these are Stag Rocks, Bamburgh (left), and St Abbs harbour (right).

Northumberland is the land of castles, and few are more dramatic than Lindisfarne (left) and Bamburgh (right).

Lindisfarne (left) from Ross Back Sands and the ruined Dunstanburgh (right) from Low Newton. Notice the Lime Kilns to the right of Lindisfarne Castle.

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