Friday, 30 November 2012

Jack Snipe and a record count of Teal, Eccleston Mere

Jack Snipe 1
Snipe 1
Teal 31
Little Grebe 2 juvs.
Great Crested Grebe 10
Siskin 5
Lesser Redpoll 1
Goldfinch 50
Goldcrest 4
Treecreeper 1

It was a cold yet beautiful start to the day at Eccleston Mere. The Teal flock was the largest I have ever recorded at the mere, the previous best being 23.

No doubt about the star bird though, a fantastic Jack Snipe in the fields adjacent to the mere. I've searched long and hard for this species at the mere over the past 23 years, and at long last today it paid off. A great flight view at close range! This brings my Eccleston Mere total to 161 species.

31 Teal.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Eccleston Mere

Snipe 4 in fields adjacent to the mere
Little Grebe 3 juveniles
Great crested Grebe 11
Buzzard 1

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cetacean watching Anglesey

I was on Anglesey for the first three days of this week. The weather was grim on Monday, with lots of rain and strong winds, but by Wednesday it had cleared up quite nicely. I saw a decent selection of birds, including 4 Waxwings, adult Mediterranean Gull, several Red-throated Divers, Eider, Little Egrets, Common Scoter and lots of waders.

Highlight though was the cetaceans, with several Bottle-nosed Dolphins, a pod of about 20 Harbour Porpoise and best of all, a Common Dolphin which lept completely out of the water right behind a Red-throated Diver I was watching in the telescope. A memorable experience!

I like this combination of photos. One looks wintery and stormy, the other looks almost spring like! Hard to believe that they were taken on the same day and little more than 5 miles apart! That's the British weather for you!

Notice that each of the three boats has an accompanying gull!

It was a beautiful end to the day, the colours were fantastic. That's the moon behind the boat by the way, not the sun!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Formby Beach

It was a beautiful afternoon to be on the beach, and we almost had it to ourselves. No vast numbers of waders, but a nice selection of Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover, Knot, Oystercatchers and Curlew. In the woods we managed to see a single Red Squirrel.

Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover.

Eccleston Mere

Teal 3 (male & 2 females)
Tufted Duck 5
Cormorant 7
Goldfinch 50
Siskin 2

Just a brief stop at the mere today to see if the overnight winds and rain had brought anything in. The entire Goldfinch flock, with a few Chaffinches and Siskins, was feeding on the ground on the west side of the mere. No sign of any Mandarins, in fact the whole place had a very different feel about it!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Mandarin spectacular, Eccleston Mere

Once again the late risers missed the best part of the day! It was a beautiful, calm, crisp morning at Eccleston Mere and my reward for making the effort was one of the best sights I have ever seen on the mere.

You may recall that back in September, when the American Black Tern was around, there was a flock of 11 Mandarins on the mere for one or two days. Well today, presumably part of the same flock was back, this time consisting of 9 birds. Unlike the September version, today they were in pristine breeding plumage, and courting was very much what they had on their minds. Seven of the flock were males, two were females, one of which seemed paired up with a male and was left well alone by the other males. The second female however was not so lucky! She was definately fair game, and the remaining six males chased her everywhere, splitting their time between displaying to her and trying to drive away each other. They kept flying around the mere, circling the island, then landing in the water and displaying, tipping their heads back and raising their tails, with their sails erect as they called. They charged at each other like lecking grouse, and even flew up out of the water and hurled themselves feet first at their opponent. Then they would take off again and circle round, before landing and starting over again. Breathtaking! A really spectacular sight, and a great experience!

Where they have been since September is hard to say. I've not seen any reports from Knowsley Safari Park, Carr Mill Dam, Taylor Park, Ravenhead or anywhere else which mention more than a couple of birds at any one time. Mandarins are most active early morning, and then spend most of the day under overhanging vegetation, so I suppose that despite their spectacular and unmistakable plumage,there is an outside chance that they could avoid being seen somewhere. Whatever the answer, let's hope they're here to stay. I did wonder whether the waterlogged woodland at the south end of the mere with it's associated dead trees was starting to look attractive to this tree hole nesting species.

Mandarins are of course an introduced species in the UK, one of the few examples of an introduction which doesn't seem to affect our native wildlife. In fact, declines in the species natural range mean that the UK now holds an important percentage of the population.

Other birds seen today, a Woodcock flushed from woodland at the end of the stream, 5 Snipe in the fields adjacent to the mere, 2 Bullfinches, 10 Siskin, 50 Goldfinches and 10 Goldcrests.

Taylor Park

Coot 136
Tufted Duck 15
Mute Swan 3 (2ads & 1 juv.)

A pretty decent count of Coots, certainly far more than I've ever recorded at Eccleston Mere.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hard Fern, Eccleston Mere

This is Hard Fern Blechnum spicant growing on the side of a woodland stream at Eccleston Mere. It's a relatively common fern, which I have seen in other parts of the UK, but I've never seen it in St Helens before. The internet resource NBN Gateway shows it as recorded in the Carr Mill Dam / Sankey Valley area, but I'm not aware of any recent records. It's probably just overlooked. If you look carefully at the plant, you can see that it has two distinct types of fronds ("leaves"). The sterile evergreen fronds are the shorter more robust looking, whilst the fertile fronds look longer, thin and spindley.

Birds today included 2 Bullfinches, 2 Buzzards, 9 Great crested Grebes, Kingfisher, Nuthatch and about 30 Goldfinches.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Eccleston Mere

Teal 2
Bullfinch 2
Siskin 3
Goldfinch 50
Buzzard 2
Sparrowhawk 1
Goldcrest 2

A Turkey Tail (possibly!)

I found this beautiful fungus growing on a tree stump in a garden in Lowton today. I can't decide what it is, perhaps Turkey Tail Trametes versicolor, though it doesn't look quite right to me. Whatever it is, it's a wonderful display.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Waxwings Warrington

A flock of 60 Waxwings feeding and showing well on trees around the VW garage in Warrington this afternoon. They have been present for at least five days and at times come within a few feet. Well worth a look if you haven't caught up with Waxwing yet this autumn.

When I arrived at Milner Street, the Waxwings hadn't been seen for quite a while, and there were murmurings amongst the birders present that they may have gone for good. Three or four birders even left without seeing them. However, in my experience it's not at all unusual for Waxwings to go missing for an hour or two, and there were still plenty of berries on the trees, so I decided to wait. Sure enough, after about 15 minutes I heard a familiar call overhead and 9 birds flew in and landed in a tall tree next to the car park. A couple of minutes later, a much larger flock flew in and joined them.

After a few minutes, they flew down and started feeding on the berries, almost oblivious to our presence and the comings and goings of cars in the road. Waxwings are always exciting, immaculate birds, I've never seen a grotty one, and I don't think they have juveniles! It's always a good day when you see a Waxwing.

It was a another glorious autumnal day, we've been so lucky this year, and I just love the colours in these photographs. It did occur to me when I took the photo of the VW sign that I had chopped off part of the logo, and I took several other photos with the logo intact, but unfortunately, on balance, this is the best photo of the birds, so I'm sticking with it.

Eccleston Mere

Woodcock 1 flushed from woods at the end of the stream.
Goldfinch 40
Buzzard 1
Tufted Duck 4

This is a fungus called King Alfred's Cake Daldinia concentrica. It grows primarily on fallen Ash trees, and is quite common. With Ash die back now threatening to wipe out most of our Ash trees, it's an example of how our wildlife will be adversly affected. I would guess that we can expect King Alfred's Cake to become extremely common in the short to medium term, but once the Ash trees have disappeared, the fungus will presumably become pretty rare itself. What could be more British than King Alfred's Cake, but how many people will mourn the demise of this fungus, or even notice its passing????

There were many thousands of tiny fish in the steam today, virtually the entire width of the stream for about 50 yards was crammed tight with fish!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Old Coach Road

Pink-footed Goose 5000
Peregrine 1
Fieldfare 20
Pied Wagtail 50

The geese are a very impressive sight at the moment, but the Peregrine was the highlight today, I followed it flying very high, and then watched it stoop at breathtaking speed on a group of Woodpigeons.

Eccleston Mere

Shoveler 1 male
Pochard 2 males
Tufted Duck 6
Kingfisher 1
Goldfinch 50
Goldcrest 10

Weeping Willow and Alder Carr (in the south west corner).

A great display of Rosebay Willowherb Epilobium angustifolium, gone to seed, in the south west corner, and yet another fungus.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Eccleston Mere

Looking out of the window now, it's hard to believe what a lovely pastel coloured morning it was earlier today. I think that the weather this autumn has been almost perfect, plenty of rain yes, but also nice bright sunny days to raise my spirits, and none of those long dull, drizzley periods we often get.

It was much better for birds today, waterbirds included 7 Tufted Ducks, 2 male Pochard, 2 Little Grebes and 2 adult Mute Swans. Finches included 40 Goldfinches, 3 Bullfinches and 2 Siskins. Star bird was a Water Rail in the Alder Carr in the south west corner. Just a brief view today as it legged it for cover, but nice to see the little fella back. Hopefully it will stick around all winter.

Woodpigeons are generally unappreciated, but when you get a good look at a pristine adult, they're actually quite smart looking birds. This particular individual which was having a wash in the mere set my pulse racing for a few seconds, before I got my bins onto it!

Another photo of the as yet unidentified toadstool in the south west corner. I've included this today because it was taken without the flash, and therefore shows it's more natural colour. I'm sure that it must be a pretty common species, I just need to spend a bit less time on the blog, and a bit more time looking at my books....

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Eccleston Mere

I found this pink fungus growing in the south west corner today. It was about 4" diameter, but at the moment I'm not sure which species it is. Continuing the recent trend, it was almost birdless again, with only a single Buzzard being noteworthy. Ducks are completely absent at the moment, except for the ubiquitous Mallard.

Waxwings, but not in St Helens

Spurred on by the sight of 20 Waxwings on Tescos car park in Northwich this morning, I decided to get the bike out this afternoon and do a tour of St Helens in search of a flock locally. I went to all of the places where I have seen them previously, plus a few others, but couldn't find any today. To be honest, the only places that even looked promising were Napier Street and the apple tree between Lidl and Asda. Otherwise, there was very little to encourage me.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Eccleston Mere

Teal 1
Siskin 2
Goldfinch 40
Goldcrest 2
Treecreeper 1

Still very quiet at the mere, but it was another beautiful autumnal day. I love the contrast in the colours!

Fungi have got a bit of a bad press recently with Ash die back (Chalara fraxinea) in the news, but most fungi are extremely useful and a vital part of the ecosystem. They're also very attractive at a time of year when there are very few flowering plants to admire.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Old Coach Road

Pink-footed Goose 5000
Fieldfare 100
Redwing 30

Spectacular scenes today, with thousands of geese on the ground and flying around, and Fieldfares cackling away in the hedge. Most geese were near New Cut Lane.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Old Coach Road

At least 4000 Pink-footed Geese still present today, but not a lot else. The Pied Wagtail flock is now down to about 30 birds, and was today joined by a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits, and there were about 30 Redwings in the hedges.

Pink-footed Geese.

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