Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Billinge Hill ramblings

Woodpigeon 1400 over south between 8am and 8:30am.
Pink-footed Goose 5000 including 1000 heading east.
Fieldfare 300 over SW
Redwing 300 over SW
Corn Bunting 4 on wires below beacon.
Chafffinch 50 in hedge near Beacon Farm.
Blackbird 10 in hedge near Beacon Farm.

Pink-footed Geese over St Helens, heading south east.

Woodpigeons passing over beacon.

Plenty of Woodpigeons passing over today, but if you weren't up early you would have missed it, with almost no passage after 8:30am. Also a reasonable passage of thrushes, with the most spectacular sight being a single flock of 150 Fieldfares low over the beacon heading south west. The majority of the thrushes went over between about 8:30 and 9:30. Four Corn Buntings on wires just below the beacon would have been resident birds, perhaps just moved from local farmland.
I can't work out what is happening with the Pink-feet. A large flock of easily 5000 birds went up from the Holiday Moss area of Rainford. Most of them landed in the same area, but at least 1000 headed off south east again, and I watched them until they were dots in the distance over Manchester. I don't know of any Pink-feet feeding areas south east of Billinge Hill, and the logical conclusion is that they are on their way to Norfolk, but I've seen so many head that way in the past few weeks, that you would think that there would be none left here by now, yet there are still at least 6000 birds in the Rainford area, and my guess is nearer to 10,000.
I don't usually see very many flying in the opposite direction, but today there was the odd flock in the distance flying north west, only small groups, but perhaps they don't go to Norfolk to stay, perhaps they just go for a day or two and then come back.
These geese seen from Billinge Hill are an extreme example of a classic recording dilema. Standing next to the beacon, I can see geese flying miles away. I can see right over to Southport and all of the SW Lancs mosses, I can see right down to Liverpool and beyond, to Moel Famau and on a clear day the Great Orme and even Snowdonia. Over to the east I can see the Cheshire plain and the Peak District, including the distinctive shape of Shuttlingsloe where I was on Sunday, and I can see all over Manchester, including Pennington Flash, and north east to Winter Hill. I can even see Blackpool tower and the Ribble estaury, perhaps even Pendle Hill to the north.
Geese are very distinctive and they fly in large flocks, and so are easy to see and easy to identify, because although there may be occasionally other species, the vast majority of the large flocks in the north west are Pink-feet. Therefore, when I say 5000 Pink-feet Billinge Hill, what I really mean is, 5000 Pink-feet from Billinge Hill. It's possible that most of them might be miles away, and might never come near Billinge. Yet my records say 5000 Pink-feet Billinge Hill. What else can I put? If I see a flock flying in the distance, I don't know exactly where it is, it's just a flock in the distance. If I tried to say where each flock was, it would get ridiculous. I'd have to specify about 25 locations, and even then, most of them are flying, so are constantly changing location. The flock which left Holiday Moss and headed south east today I watched for about 10 minutes as it flew over Holiday Moss, Crank, Carr Mill Dam, Haydock Newton-le-Willows, Pennington Flash etc. Do I need to say 1000 Pink-feet at each of those locations? Much simpler to say 5000 Pink-feet from Billinge Hill!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Queens Park

Redwing 270 over SW
Fieldfare 80 over SW
Kingfisher 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Siskin 2 over SW

Another decent passage of thrushes. There may well have been a lot more, I didn't really have much time to keep checking this morning.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Macclesfield Forest - Shuttlingsloe - Wildboarclough

Crossbill 1+ heard and then seen in Macclesfield Forest.
Siskin 10 Macclesfield Forest
Lesser Redpoll 5 Macclesfield Forest
Raven 1
Buzzard 2


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Old Coach Road

Pink-footed Goose 6000

At least 6000 geese on Simonswood moss. The photo below shows just part of the flock.

Queens Park

This immaculate Comma butterfly was basking in the warm sunshine on my backyard wall this afternoon. There are still a few butterflies to be seen, though most that I have seen have been Red Admirals. This is the latest Comma I have ever seen by three weeks.

Billinge Hill

Wheatear 1 on midden pile below beacon.
Crossbill 2 over beacon W calling
Pink-footed Goose 1000 flying east
Fieldfare 70 flying SW
Redwing 100 some flying S others just generally in the area.
Lesser Redpoll 3
Yellowhammer 20
Bullfinch 2
Reed Bunting 1

The Wheatear was my latest ever in the North West, by five days. I do have two records from elsewhere in the UK which are later still. On 23/10/1997 I saw one at Machir Bay on the Scottish island of Islay, and on 27/12/2007 I saw one at Cromer Point near Scarborough. This latter bird was associating with a Desert Wheatear, and I don't think that I'm ever likely to see a Wheatear later than that. It was only 5 days away from being my earliest ever!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Billinge Hill

Pink-footed Goose 6000; 6000 birds in the air together at 8:15am, 2000 broke away from the rest and flew away east, 2000 landed on fields below the hill and 1000 headed west towards the Old Coach Road.

Fieldfare 60
Redwing 20
Skylark 20
Meadow Pipit 20

There was no obvious passage today, most of the above birds appeared just to be moving around the local area.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hilbre Island

It was quite an experience walking across the beach in the dark, towards the shadowy silhouette which was Little Eye, and then on to Middle and Hilbre itself. I arrived at Niffy Bay at 7:30am, and it was still pretty dark, yet even so I was convinced that yesterdays Red-flanked Bluetail had gone. The weather felt wrong, the wind had changed, it was cold and it had been clear overnight. Sure enough, the only passerine I could find was a Wheatear, and I then had to content myself with listening to tales about the bluetail from two obs members who joined me on the island a little later in the morning. All very interesting yet depressing stuff. I did however manage to see a Merlin and a Peregrine.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Billinge Hill - Richard's Pipit

Richard's Pipit 1 flew calling over horse paddocks at 8am. Probable reported again at 11am.
Fieldfare 50
Redwing 50

The day started very dull, misty and drizzley, and there seemed very little bird activity when I arrived at 8am. However, when I reached the horse padddocks, my attention was immediately drawn to a bird flying over with a familiar sounding call, which I couldn't quite place at first. A harsh, House Sparrow like "pshee". Then I saw it, a large looking pipit with a longish tail, and I realised why the call was so familiar. I'd heard it yesterday on Hilbre island, and it belonged to a Richard's Pipit! Unfortunately it disappeared into the mist. However later I received a text from a friend who told me that he had seen and heard what was presumably the same bird flying SW over Brownlow Wood. I should be feeling great about this, but I'm not because I've just been told that they caught a Red-flanked Bluetail on Hilbre today. Why couldn't it have been there yesterday??? Never happy I suppose........

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Hilbre Island

A fantastic visit to Hilbre started well with the news that the Firecrest which had been on the island yesterday was miraculously still present despite the clear skies and full moon overnight. This wonderful little bird seemed determined to show itself and kept popping up all over the island, and eventually caught itself in a heligoland trap. This was the highlight of the day for me, but from a Hilbre point of view the star bird of the day has to be the Richard's Pipit which dropped in at about 9am with a couple of Meadow Pipits. It landed briefly on the south end of the island, before flying off calling in the direction of Red Rocks, where it was later heard but not seen. This is a species which seems to favour the Dee, and amazingly it was my 5th Richard's Pipit on the estuary. Perhaps equally surprising, the Firecrest was my first for the Dee estuary!

Other highlights today included my first Hilbre Shoveler, 80 Linnets, Short-eared Owl over the sea from Middle Eye, Peregrine over the sea from Little Eye, Gannet, 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Red-breasted Merganser, Razorbill, 1 Wheatear, 5 Wigeon,, 2 Goldcrests. Grey Plover and about 3000 Oystercatchers. Interestingly following yesterdays passage over Billinge Hill, not a single Fieldfare and only 5 Redwings.


Hilbre Island from Middle Eye

Pale-bellied Brent Geese

Dairy Farm Road, Rainford

3000 Pink-footed Geese on fields alongside Dairy Farm Road today. Also at least another 1000, possibly a lot more, on Simonswood Moss from the Old Coach Road.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Billinge Hill - Fieldfares and Redwings flood in

8:00am - 9:45am

Fieldfare 1200 over S or SW in groups of up to 100.
Redwing 2200 over S or SW in groups of up to 200.
Lesser Redpoll 2 over S.
Skylark 50 over SW.
Meadow Pipit 50 over SW.
Swallow 1 over S.
Pink-footed Goose 80

There was obviously a big movement of Fieldfares and Redwings today. I had seen 3 flocks totalling over 300 birds from the car near Carr Mill, flying from the Billinge direction before I had even arrived at Billinge Hill, and these are not included in the totals above. I couldn't get out of the car quick enough when I arrived, there were so many birds going over.

Wave after wave of birds went over, all flying south or south west, in mostly mixed flocks of between 10 and 200 birds. Counting was quite difficult, the figures given are absolute minimums, I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 3000 Redwings and 2000 Fieldfares. By the end of my visit I could hear their calls overhead, but I was almost ignoring them as I searched for other things. How many I ignored I couldn't say.

The passage seemed to be slowing when I left, but as I sit here typing this blog entry, a flock of 80 Fieldfares have just flown over from the Billinge Hill direction, so perhaps there are more still to come. Tremendous to see visible migration like this in St Helens!

The photos aren't brilliant but it was a dull misty start to the day, and most of the action was early on, when it was very poor light for photography. At least they give an idea of the spectacle.

A mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwings from the beacon.

Redwings (left) and Fieldfare (right) over Billinge Hill.

Penkford, Sankey Valley

Green Sandpiper 1
Teal 9
Fieldfare 5
Redwing 5

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Passage over Queens Park

It just goes to show that if you keep your eyes open at the right time of year, you don't have to go very far to see some decent birds. In a four hour period this morning, whilst working on my computer and waiting in for a plumber, I recorded 36 species of birds, many of which were passing over and heading south or south west. Some of these species were really only identifiable by call, and others were quite high up and could easily have been missed. Even so, a remarkable total given that I don't have a garden, just a small yard near the town centre. Here are the highlights;

Crossbill 3 over SW at 8:45
Goosander 2 (male and female) over NE at 10:30
Fieldfare 87 over SW in two flocks of 57 and 30 at 10:00
Redwing 2 over SW at 9:45
Buzzard 3 drifted south at 12:15
Swallow 4 over S at 9:00
Skylark 22 over SW in dribs and drabs
Meadow Pipit 25 over SW also in dribs and drabs
Lesser black back Gull 100
Sparrowhawk 2
Grey Wagtail 2
Coal Tit 1

Also: Kingfisher 1 seen on stream which runs into park at 15:15. Species number 37.

Also: 1 Red Admiral Butterfly, 1 Small Tortoiseshell

In the middle of all this activity, I was also receiving texts from a friend on Billinge Hill, who had 14 Crossbills over, 1 Redwing and 19 Fieldfares, all of which were heading in my general direction! A very exciting morning. The Goosander were quite low down and I would guess were flying from Eccleston Mere or Prescot Reservoirs to Carr Mill Dam.

Although the list is impressive, it does make me wonder what I must have missed, given that I wasn't exactly gazing up at the sky all morning.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Eccleston Mere

Wigeon 6
Raven 2
Siskin 10

It would be interesting to know exactly how many Ravens there are in St Helens. They certainly seem to cover a wide range.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Billinge Hill

Pink-footed Goose 1000 - 200 over beacon heading SE at 8:30am, 800 distantly over Old Coach Road.
Raven 2 (see photos)
Lesser Redpoll 3 over beacon S
Meadow Pipit 40 mainly over beacon S
Skylark 50 over beacon S, including one flock of 20.
Bullfinch 1
Goldcrest 3
Coal Tit 1
Buzzard 1
Yellowhammer 30

It was a much better start to the day than forecast, quite mild and sunny at times, and even the wind wasn't much more than a stiff breeze. Passage was better than yesterday, but still a bit slow, and there was no sign of any Wheatears today, let alone the hoped for Ring Ouzel or Crossbill. It's always pleasing to see Redpolls passing over though.
At 8:30am I spotted a large flock of geese distantly over the Old Coach Road (about 5 miles away as the goose flies). I watched them for a few minutes, and saw a flock of about 200 break away from the main group and head towards me. Eventually they flew right over the beacon and away south east, eventually crossing over Pennington Flash and then were lost to view. Lancashire Pink-feet are known to commute to Norfolk, and perhaps that's where these were heading, but it seemed a little odd that part of the flock should break away like that. On the walk back to the car, near the horse paddocks, a harsh croaking alerted me to two Ravens.
No sign of Merville du Jour in the trap this morning, just Common Marbled Carpet and Angle Shades. Perhaps tonight.....

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Billinge Hill

Merlin 1 juv. male
Wheatear 2 one on field near beacon, one near horse paddocks (see photo below).
Meadow Pipit 10
Skylark 10
Goldcrest 2
Great spotted Woodpecker 1

It was a grim, dismal morning, and a much quieter day for migration than yesterday, with virtually no pipit or Skylark passage whilst I was at the beacon, though I must admit, I didn't feel inclined to hang around too long in the dank conditions. On the walk up to the beacon a superb Merlin darted across the road and away over the horse paddocks. I identified it as a juvenile male due to its small size, which was about the same as a Mistle Thrush. Merlins are always exciting birds to see. It's also pleasing to still be seeing Wheatears. Todays birds, which were both 1st winter, were the 2nd latest I have ever seen in St Helens, but they still have someway to go to beat the record, which was of a bird I saw in Newton-le-Willows on 17/10/1983.
A warm night is forecast, so I've just put the moth trap out in anticipation of a migrant or perhaps the mythical Merveille du Jour. Looking out of the window now, I think I might consider myself lucky if I have any moths tomorrow morning. Watch this space........

Friday, 7 October 2011

Billinge Hill

Crossbill 1 south over beacon.
Meadow Pipit 300+ south over beacon in groups of up to 10 in 90 minute period this morning.
Skylark 100+ south over beacon in groups of up to 10 in 90 minute period this morning.
Wheatear 1 in horse paddocks.
Swallow 1 south over beacon.
Siskin 1+ over beacon.
Chaffinch 50 south over beacon.
Lesser Black Back Gull 50 south over beacon.
Buzzard 2
Sparrowhawk 2
Goldcrest 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2 flying around beacon.

It was a very impressive morning on Billinge Hill, with huge skies, giant clouds, a stiff breeze and heavy squals. Through it all there was an almost constant stream of Meadow Pipits passing over the beacon in small groups, all heading south. The pipit passage had already started when I arrived, but it took the Skylarks a little longer to get going, but once they did they were nearly as numerous. Plenty of other birds apparently passing over as well, such as Chaffinches, Lesser Black Backs and a single Crossbill.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Solitary Sandpiper Nateby

Solitary Sandpiper 1

I'm not sure how many records there have been for Solitary Sandpiper on mainland Britain, but there can't be more than a handful, and probably most of what there have been are from Cornwall. I couldn't resist the opportunity to add this species to my North West list and what a great little bird it was, a bit browner than I had expected, and it was indeed solitary, being the only bird on a flooded field at Nateby near Garstang.

This is the 33rd accepted record of the species in Britain, and most of the others were on islands, especially the Isle of Scilly. Unsurprisingly it is the first in Lancashire.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Billinge Hill

7:45am - 9:15am

Crossbill 1 over beacon south
Pintail 9 over beacon south west
Siskin 10+ over beacon south west
Meadow Pipit 50+ over beacon south
Chiffchaff 1
Goldcrest 4
Bullfinch 3
Yellowhammmer 30
Skylark 50
Song Thrush 5 over beacon south
Jay 5

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Billinge Hill

Lesser Redpoll 1 over the beacon
Skylark 60 mainly in one flock around the horse paddocks
Meadow Pipit 50 including 30 in a flock near the horse paddocks
Chiffchaff 1
Yellowhammer 40 mainly flying around the beacon
Tree Sparrow 20
Goldcrest 3
Linnet 40
Bullfinch 1
Jay 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 over beacon
Nuthatch 1

Migrant moths

I had a couple of species of migrant moths last night, Silver Y (2) and this Dark Swordgrass. Hoping for a migrant hawkmoth tonight!

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