Friday, 31 August 2012

American Black Tern still Eccleston Mere

The American Black Tern was back on Eccleston Mere late this afternoon and all observers seemed happy with the identification. It was earlier seen on Prescot Reservoirs. I've attached another couple of photos from today. If you go to see this bird, please be aware that it is a privately owned site.

It's hard to describe the elation of finding a bird like this at a site like Eccleston Mere. I've been visiting the site relentlessly for 23 years, and though I have occasionally seen species such as Black-throated Diver, Smew and Black-necked Grebe, nothing comes close to this bird in terms of rarity. It's about the sixth ever in the UK. Have a look back at 25th August or 14th August to see what a walk around Eccleston Mere is more usually like.......

Thanks to Steve Young for allowing me to use this fantastic photo of the American Black Tern. You can see more of his photos of this bird and others by clicking here.

More photos of American Black Tern from yesterday

A few more photos of yesterdays possible American Black Tern at Eccleston Mere. Seen at Prescot Reservoirs (no access) early afternoon today.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Possible American Black Tern Eccleston Mere

There was what I thought was a juvenile Black Tern on Eccleston Mere this evening. However, having looked at the photos, they clearly show grey flanks, which is a major feature of American Black Tern, a mega rarity in the UK. The jury is still out, but there is a thread discussing it's identity on Bird forums here. Anybody like to comment here??

Also on the mere today, 9 Tufted Ducks and 2 adult Mute Swans.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Regent's Park, London

I had an appointment at the Natural History Museum in London today, and with a bit of time to kill before my train home, I wandered around Regents Park for an hour or two. The weather wasn't great, but there were a few nice birds, notably about three pairs of Little Grebes with chicks and several female Tufted Ducks with chicks, including the birds in the photos.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Monday, 27 August 2012

Eccleston Mere

There was an eclipse drake Mandarin on the mere today, only the second I have ever seen at the mere, the last being nearly 19 years ago.

Also today:

Swallow 40
House Martin 80
Tufted Duck 5
Mute Swan 2 ads
Buzzard 1

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Swallow 200+ around Clare's Moss, Old Coach Road
Grey Partridge 4 Old Coach Road
Canada Goose 50+ Old Coach Road
Greylag 1 Old Coach Road

Eccleston Mere

Mute Swan 2 ads
Tufted Duck 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1

Dreadfully quiet at the mere at the moment. No migrant activity what-so-ever, no hirundines, no terns and almost warblerless.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Curlew 1 Old Coach Road
Tree Sparrow 12 Old Coach Road
Greylag 1 Old Coach Road
Canada Goose 60 Old Coach Road

Monday, 20 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Raven 2 Old Coach Road
Canada Goose 67 Old Coach Road
Buzzard 1 Old Coach Road
Lapwing 50 Dairy Farm Road
Swallow 100 Dairy Farm Road

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Lapwing 50 Dairy Farm Road
Grey Partridge 8 Old Coach Road
Swallow 150 on wires on Clares Moss, Old Coach Road
Buzzard 1 Old Coach Road

I had a report of 9 Tree Pipits over Billinge Hill this morning.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Lapwing 100 Dairy Farm Road
Canada Goose 120 Old Coach Road
Barnacle Goose 10 Old Coach Road

Billinge Hill

Willow Tit 1
Willow Warbler 10
Whitethroat 1

All in the vicinity of the beacon. Otherwise, very quiet, no passage overhead except about 100 Lesser Black Backs heading south east.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Sunday, 12 August 2012


There were some impressive jellyfish washed up on the beach today. They seemed to belong to two species, Lions Mane jellyfish Cyanea capillata and Compass jellyfish Chrysaora hysoscella. Lions Mane is the largest known jellyfish in the World, and can grow to a diameter of over 2m and have tenticles of over 40m long, considerably longer than the Blue Whale, making it the largest (or at least the longest) living animal in the World! The specimens we saw were more like 45cm diameter. Lions Mane has a very severe sting and can still sting long after being stranded on the beach. The Compass jellyfish were about 20cm, though some were much smaller.

Formby is an excellent site for Sanderling and this is a great time of year to see them. We also saw lots of Sandwich Terns and a single Gannet.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Marshside Bioblitz

I was asked to help out with a bioblitz at Marshside today, specifically with the terrestrial invertebrates. The weather was perfect for sweep netting and collecting and we identified a decent number of species. Highlight of the day for me was Short-winged Conehead cricket, which I had never seen in the North West before, and which only colonised Marshside in 2002. Today we saw about 20 of these beautiful crickets.

Before the bioblitz, I had a quick look at a Pectoral Sandpiper which had been found on the marsh in front of Nels hide yesterday.

Rainford Mosslands

Lapwing 100 Dairy Farm Road

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 2
Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 5
Buzzard 1

Friday, 10 August 2012

Hilbre Island

It was a beautiful day on Hilbre Island today, though that did have the downside of attracting a few too many people and too few birds. There were two Wheatears on the west side and a scattering of Turnstones around the island, including one in summer plumage, as well as good numbers of Sandwich Terns, but it was very much a day to spend botanising. Rocky coastlines are a pretty scarce commodity in this part of the UK, and it's difficult to think of many between Morecombe Bay and Llandudno, and as such Hilbre has several species of plant which are rare in the North West. These include notably Rock Sea-Lavender  Limonium binervosum, Rock Sea Spurrey Spergularia rupicola and the fern Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum.


Rock Sea-Lavender Limonium binervosum is a rare plant throughout the UK, and the race which grows on Hilbre occurs at only five localities in the UK. It's also a frustratingly difficult plant to photograph!

Harebell Campanula rotundifolia and Rock Sea Spurrey Spergularia rupicola.

Sheepsbit Scabious Jasione montana and the fern Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum. I'm quite a fan of ferns, and Sea Spleenwort is a particularly interesting species. Unlike other ferns it has a very leathery feel (like many coastal plants) and it requires salt spray for its survival.

Spear Mint Mentha spicata (although it's possibly a hybrid) and Seaside Centaury Centaurium littorale.

Grayling and Grey Seal. Graylings always land with their wings closed and sit in such a position as to minimise their shadow, as this one is demonstrating perfectly! They're so confident in their camoufalge that they can be quite approachable.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Queens Park

Holly Blue butterfly 1 flying high up through trees.

Rainford Mosslands

Siskin 10 adults and juveniles in Dairy Farm Road
Lapwing 70+ Dairy Farm Road
Corn Bunting 1 singing Dairy Farm Road
Buzzard 1 Old Coach Road

It would be great to think that the Siskin are local breeders. There certainly seems to be some good habitat for them near Dairy Farm Road.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Eccleston Mere

Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 6

Still very quiet at the mere.....

Walking around the mere this evening I noticed quite a lot of freshwater Swan Mussels Anodonta cygnea in the water. I've seen Common Scoter on the mere swallow them whole in the past, and once watched a Velvet Scoter at close range on an inland lake swallow three in 45 minutes! They can grow quite large, and the photo above (taken about 4 years ago) is quite typical. The scale on the rule is inches of course. Occasionally there is a "wreck" and lots of them get washed up on the shore.

Rainford Mosslands

Swift 20+
House Martin 30 +
Swallow 10+

All over Clare's Moss, Old Coach Road.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Rainford Mosslands

Lapwing 70 Dairy Farm Road
Corn Bunting 1 singing Dairy Farm Road
Yellowhammer 2 singing Dairy Farm Road
Goldfinch 20 Dairy Farm Road

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Eccleston Mere

Buzzard 1
Tufted Duck 4
Mute Swan 2 adults

Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum and Square-stalked St. John's-wort Hypericum tetrapterum.

For those of you that know your plant communities, this is a nice bit of fen in the south-west corner of the mere. It's community S28b and has the following species:

                                        Domin score
Alnus glutinosa                         1
Angelica sylvestris                    2
Anthriscus sylvestris                 1
Arrhenatherum elatius              2
Cardamine flexuosa                  2
Carex acuta                              9
Chamerion angustifolium          2
Epilobium hirsutum                   4
Equisetum arvense                   1
Galium aparine                         1
Holcus Mollis                             2
Iris pseudacorus                       4
Juncus effusus                          2
Persicaria amphibia                   4
Phalaris arundinacea                 4
Rumex obtusifolius                    2
Salix alba                                  1
Scutellaria galericulata              1
Solanum dulcamara                   4
Stachys palustris                       2
Typha latifolia                           4
Urtica dioica                              2

The most interesting thing about this community is that it is dominated by the sedge Carex acuta (Slender Tufted Sedge), which is unusual for two reasons. The first is that the sedge here grows in tussocks, and the second is that it is very unusual for this sedge to dominate a community as it does here.

Roadside flowers

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, it's not due to lack of effort, I just haven't seen much worth reporting in the past couple of weeks. I have however noticed lots of beautiful roadside flowers on my bike rides around the mosslands.

I suspect that most or all of these plants are only there because they were sown in a batch of widlflower seed at some time, but does that matter? I'm not sure, I can think of good arguements for and against, but one things for sure, they're a spectacular sight at the moment.

Chicory Chicorium intybus growing along the East Lancs between Windle Island and Knowsley.

Field Scabius Knautia arvensis growing at the side of the Rainford bypass between the bypass and St Helens road.

Nettle-leaved Bellflower Campanula trachelium, a single plant growing next to the East Lancs, and Perforate St. John's-wort Hypericum perforatum also growing at the side of the East Lancs. The latter differs from the more common (in St Helens) Square-stalked St. John's-wort Hypericum tetrapterum in many ways, but perhaps most notibly in its round stems and petals with black dots on the edges.

Bird on the mosslands are few and far between at the moment, but there were a few:

Corn Bunting 1 singing Dairy Farm Road
Great-spotted Woodpecker 2 Old Coach Road
Buzzard 2 Old Coach Road
Tree Sparrow 2 Old Coach Road

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