Sunday, 30 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Sand Martin 4
Common Tern 2 adults
Oystercatcher 2
Kingfisher 1
Nuthatch 1
Tufted Duck 2 males
Great crested Grebe 3 pairs with chicks
Coot 40 adults with at least 5 chicks

These were the first Sand Martin I have seen at the mere for several weeks. The start of a return passage perhaps??

Saturday, 29 June 2013


Common Rosefinch, Point Lynas

Common Rosefinch 1 1st summer singing male
Lesser Whitethroat 1 singing
Manx Shearwater 50
Black Guillemot 7
Chough 4
Gannet 5

Common Rosefinch, formerly Scarlet Rosefinch, is also known as grotfinch in some birding circles, presumably because its name promises so much, yet most individuals that reach our shores are immature birds in autumn, which don't look too disimilar to a Corn Bunting. They also often occur on the Isles of Scilly where they are in the company of more exciting American vagrants.

Todays bird however was quite a happy, charming character I thought, almost comical looking, and best of all he had a lovely little song. Yes he was a 1st summer male, with not much sign of any scarlet, but give the guy a break, he was doing his best.

He led us a bit of a merry dance at first, no sign of him for an hour, then he was singing but always distantly and out of view, until at last he flew up onto a wire right in front of us and proceeded to sing for us for about 5 minutes. Good job he did, because this was probably my most embarassing bogey bird of all time, and it was nice to get it on the list!

Not that the wait was too depressing, what with Lesser Whitethroat singing, Black Guillemots in the bay, Choughs on the cliffs and a decent passage of Manx Shearwaters out at sea.

Not bad, Greenish Warbler, White-spotted Bluethroat and Common Rosefinch all singing on consectutive weekends!

UK 388 (Common Rosefinch), North West 345, Year 207 (Common Rosefinch, Manx Shearwater, Puffin (at South Stack))

Who could not like this friendly little guy, singing his heart out in such beautiful surroundings? Be honest, he's no worse than lots of other birds, and in a years time he'll be more impressive than most!

South Stack

Puffin 4
Chough 5
Manx Shearwater 5
Gannet 2
Stonechat 1 male


Honeysuckle growing in amongst the heather and Six-spot Burnet Moth.

Cors Goch

Variable Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly
Azure Damselfly
Four-spotted Chaser

Lesser Bladderwort
Early Purple Orchid
Fragrant Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Rockrose

Cors Goch. Male Variable Damselfly.

Female Variable Damselfly

Female Large Red Damselfly and Lesser Bladderwort Utricularia minor. This charming plant is related to the butterworts and has no roots, just leaves which have tiny bladders that trap small invertebrates by using a vacuum mechanism. The animals are then digested for nitrogen compounds! Just to rub salt in the wounds, insects are also used to pollinate the flower!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Common Tern 3 adults
Mute Swan 3 adults
Tufted Duck 1 male
Swift 300
House Martin 50
Swallow 50
Coot 38

It was not exactly a good day to be photographing plants, but Bee Orchids are always worth a photograph. I first found Bee Orchid at the mere about 15 years ago, but this is the first I have seen for about 8 years.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Common Tern 2 adults
Grey Wagtail 1
Mute Swan 1
Swift 300
Tufted Duck 1
Cormorant 2 flew over

No sign of last nights Common Sandpiper.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Common Sandpiper 1 calling at 11pm during a bat walk around the mere this evening.
Mute Swan 2 adults
Swift 300

I've noticed that in the first part of the night at least, peak bat activity at Eccleston Mere is from about 30 minutes after sunset and for the next hour, after which it seems to drop away. So at the moment that's from about 22:00 to 23:00. I've not stayed overnight (so far!) and I've not been there before sunrise, so I don't know how those periods compare.

First bat tonight was a large Noctule, a fast flying species with intermitant glides. By the time we reached the southern end of the mere at about 22:20 there were several Noctules flying together about 8m over the water, and they were a pretty decent view through binoculars in the half light. Noctules tend to fly around the southern half of the mere from the stream outlet, around the southern shore and up the eastern shore up as far as the metal bridge. In a single night I might record 20 Noctules.

Because I follow the same route each evening at about the same time, I usually see the first Soprano Pipistrelle in the south west corner, but by the time I go home they're more or less all around the mere. Common Pipistrelle is also recorded all around the mere but is slightly less numerous. These two species are commoner than Noctule at the mere and they fly around the edges of the woodland and are small and fast flying.

Daubenton's is probably my favourite bat at the mere, and is perhaps the commonest. With a full moon glistening off the water, you can see them flying all over the mere, right out to the middle. They fly low over the water and often make it ripple as they glean insects off the surface, though they catch most of their prey in the air.

Perhaps there are other species, Serotine has been possibly recorded once, Brown long-eared is a probability, and more than likely Natterer's and Whiskered occur, but these species are difficult to identify with just bat detectors.

During the day there are hundreds of Swifts over the mere, and the scene is repeated at night, though the Swifts are replaced by bats. It wouldn't surprise me if there were at least as many bats over the mere at night as there are Swifts in the day. A truely magical sight.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Possible Serotine at Eccleston Mere

Over the past few nights I've taken a more sophisticated bat detector to the mere in order to try to record some of the bat echolocation calls. Once recorded, I can then download the data onto my computer and analyse it in software packages such as Kaleidoscope View Pro and AnalookW.

Below are a couple of sonograms produced by AnalookW based on a small part of the recordings I made on Friday evening. The two Pipistrelle species, Soprano and Common, are relatively straight forward to identify, broadcasting at 56khz and 45 khz respectively. Noctule is also quite easy (at least in this area) broadcasting on 20khz and making quite a distinct slapping sound on the bat detector.

More difficult are the Daubenton's, which belong to a group of bats know as myotis bats, which have very similar echolocation. This group also includes Natterer's and Whiskered Bats, which are possible in our area. In the case of myotis bats, other factors need to be taken into account to confidently identify them, and in this case I am confident that they are Daubenton's due to the way in which they feed low over the water, at times almost picking insects off the water.

A fifth species was possibly recorded on Friday, the much rarer Serotine bat. This is a large bat, not too disimilar to Noctule, with a frequency of about 25khz. Serotine is largely a southern species, though there are a few records from the midlands and into the North West, with one record on the NBN Gateway from Clock Face. Kaleidoscope immediately identified this species as being present, but I'm not sure about the degree of certainty. However, I've compared the sonogram with known Serotine sonograms and the results do look good for that species. I've also shown the sonograms to a couple of more experienced bat experts who seem reasonably satisfied with the identification. I'd be very interested to hear from anybody who has more experience of Serotine to get their opinion. It's all a process of learning after all.

Other bats which may be present at the mere include Brown long-eared Bat which has evolved a very quiet echolocation (hence the big ears!) so that moths can't hear it approaching. This means that it's quite difficult to pick up on bat detectors and at such a busy bat site as Eccleston Mere it gets drowned out by the louder species.

A fascinating subject!

This sonogram shows Soprano Pipistrelle at around 56khz and Noctule at around 20khz. There may also be Common Pipistrelle on the sonogram, at 45 khz.

This is the Serotine sonogram (25khz) which also has Noctule and Common Pipistrelle. Their are lots of bats at Eccleston Mere, all flying around each other and in all directions, and their calls get mixed up. In the center of this sonogram, you can see that the call drops to a little below 25khz, which could be the Serotine going lower, or it could be the Noctule going to a higher frequency. At busy sites this is one of the problems with identifying bats from their echolocation. Bats do change frequency a little depending on what they are doing, and as they get closer to prey.

I'm still very much learning about bats and their echolocation, so if anybody has any comments about my identification, or any other aspect of bat echolocation please let me know.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Birding from the M6 / M56

Yesterday there was a report of a Bee-eater over the M6/ M56 junction. Today I was stopped in heavy traffic in the same area and was entertained by a Hobby hawking for insects over the motorway!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Mandarin 1 female
Swift 300
House Martin 80
Swallow 50
Mute Swan 2 adults
Nuthatch 1
Buzzard 1

Friday, 21 June 2013

White-spotted Bluethroat, Martin Mere

Another Friday evening, another top quality bird in Lancashire! Following hot on the heels of last weeks Greenish Warbler, a fantastic White-spotted Bluethroat was heard singing at Martin Mere by head warden Chris Tomlinson after dark on Tuesday night. It was seen the following day in an area with no public access, way out on the marsh, so special access was arranged by the Trust to allow visitors to see the bird.

When I arrived it hadn't been seen for nearly 5 hours, and for a while it looked like it was going to be  a disappointing visit. However, after I'd been there for about 1 hour it suddenly hopped up onto a woodpile, and started singing, and showed well on and off for about 30 minutes. It really was a stunning bird, with red tail, bright blue throat (with a white spot!) and a distinct supercillium.

This was my first White-spotted Bluethroat in the UK, though I have seen several Red-spotted Bluethroats over the years. Thanks to the Trust for allowing access, and to all of the birders who let me have a look through their scopes!

Year 204 (White-spotted Bluethroat)

Longhorns on Woodend Marsh, Martin Mere, much more photogenic than the Bluethroat!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Monday, 17 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Gadwall 2 (male and female)
Mute Swan 2 adults
Lesser Redpoll 4
Tawny Owl 1
Swift 200

Bats: Daubenton's 50, Soprano Pipistrelle 40, Common Pipistrelle 30, Noctule 5

The swirling masses of Swifts are replaced at night by swirling masses of bats over the mere. It truly is an impressive site on a bright, moonlit night like tonight to see so many bats. I can promise you, there is no chance of them starving too death at the mere........

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Little Tern 100
Sandwich Tern 20
Ringed Plover 5 inc. pair with chick
Dunlin 5

I love the Little Tern colony at Gronant, it's a vibrant, exciting place. On the edge of a huge beach, it's one of the few places left in the UK where Little Terns, who dare to nest on beaches, have priority over humans (and dogs). This was the second part of todays walk, we dropped down from Prestatyn hill to the village of Gronant, then we walked through a couple of caravan sites to the beach, and then along the beach to Prestatyn and the car.

Year 203 (Little Tern)

Little Terns. I'm not sure what the tern on the extreme right of the flying flock is doing, but it's not really paying attention to where it's going!

Prestatyn hillside

This was my first visit to Prestatyn hillside. It's a nice bit of limestone outcrop, at the extreme north end of the Clwydian Range, and is worth another visit. Birds today included singing Garden Warbler and Raven.

The view from up here is spectacular looking over Prestatyn and Rhyl towards Colwyn Bay, Snowdonia and the Great Orme. Common Rockrose is quite common, and there is also apparently Hoary Rockrose, though I didn't see any today.

Eccleston Mere

Teal 1 male
Mute Swan 2 adults
Swift 300
Oystercatcher 2

A quiet day you may think, one Teal is not much reward, yet this was my first ever June record of Teal at the mere!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn, Eccleston Mere

Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 1
Swift 300 (at 4:30am)
House Martin 50
Buzzard 1
Kingfisher 1
Chiffchaff 1 feeding young
Whitethroat 4 singing
Lesser Redpoll 2
Pied Wagtail 2 adults with 7 juvs
Coot 24

It's gone  a bit quiet for birds at the moment, with most species concentrating on rearing young. However, that doesn't mean that there is no interest at the mere.

The fields adjacent to the mere are a superb habitat and look wonderful at the moment. They are full of buttercups and orchids (mainly Southern Marsh). They are still very wet and there is a decent population of Reed Buntings. These are the same fields which held up to 42 Snipe and at least 1 Jack Snipe in the winter, and the same fields which Barn Owls regularly hunt over.

Invertebrates are well represented, and today I was delighted to find this Longhorn beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens, which also has the English name Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn . What a beauty! It was about 18mm long not including the antennae, and it's sitting on its preferred foodplant, hogweed Heracleum sphondylium. This a south eastern species, with no records anywhere near Merseyside according to the NBN Gateway.

These fields need protecting.......

Bats at Eccleston Mere

This evening I spent a couple of hours checking out the bats at the mere, between 21:30 and 23:30. The commonest species appeared to be Soprano Pipistrelle, broadcasting on 55KHZ, and there were probably at least 50 individuals. Next came Common Pipistrelle (45KHZ) and Daubenton's (50KHZ) with about 30 individuals each. Probably the biggest surprise was the high numbers of Noctule (20KHZ). Last year I only recorded about two Noctules, but this evening there were at least 20. Finally I had a single very faint call at about 35KHZ which was probably Brown long-eared Bat.

The main concentration of the two pipistrelle species was around the woodland along the south shore, though they were all around the mere. Daubenton's was primarily from the SE corner along the east and north shores to the NW corner, and also in the SW corner. Noctule was almost exclusively along the east shore, with just a couple of records from the west shore. The Brown long-eared Bat was on the south shore.

Also this evening, a good 300 Swifts and 50 House Martins and at least 10 zillion midges.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Greenish Warbler - Turton Golf Club, Chapeltown

Greenish Warbler 1
Lesser Redpoll 5

At last! Another bogey bird bites the dust. It took a while to show, but when it did it was at close range and an excellent view. The bird has been singing for a couple of days in woodland adjacent to one of the fairways. This evening was my first opportunity, bar throwing a sicky.....

I had been there for about 90 minutes, during which time there was very little movement or sound from the woodland. With the evening progressing, heavy clouds overhead, the constant threat of rain in the air, the news that there would be no access to the fairway tomorrow due to a tournament, and most of all the brooding presence of so many previous dips hanging over me, it was starting to get a bit depressing. What were the chances of seeing such a small bird well in such dense woodland?

However, at last there was a call which I immediately recognised from the CD I had been playing constantly in the car on the way. A small warbler flew across a clearing, no one dared to breathe for a moment, and then there it was, Greenish Warbler low down in a young pine tree about 10m away. I nearly ran down and kissed it!

It performed admirably for about 5 minutes, though not always visible, during which time its supercillium and pale wing bar were clear to see. A great bird and a great North West tick. Unfortunately I didn't hear it sing, but I can live with that!

UK 387, North West 344, Year 202 (Greenish Warbler)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Quail at Hale

Quail 1 calling in fields opposite Carr Lane Pools

All records below from Carr Lane Pools.

Little Ringed Plover 2
Black-tailed Godwit 34
Shelduck 20
Redshank 2

Year 201 (Quail)

Eccleston Mere

Gadwall 1 male
Oystercatcher 1
Mute Swan 3 adults
Buzzard 1
Swift 100

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ryton Wood, Warwickshire

Garden Warbler 2 including singing male
Whitethroat 5 singing
Blackcap 5 singing

Year 200 (Garden Warbler)

200 up, 50 to go to reach my target for this year!

Burnet Companion, a moth that looks like a butterfly, and Large Skipper, a butterfly that looks like a moth!

Azure Damselfly.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Risley Moss

Hobby seen well hawking for insects over the moss. Also Four-spot Chaser dragonfly and Large Red Damselfly.

Year 199 (Hobby)

Hobby and Large Red Damselfly

Risley Moss

Eccleston Mere

Gadwall 1 male
Oystercatcher 2
Mute Swan 3 adults
Grey Watgail 1
Buzzard 1
Kingfisher 1
Swift 200
House Martin 10
Swallow 10

Lapwing chick

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Eccleston Mere

Pochard 4 males
Tufted Duck 4 (3 males, 1 female)
Mute Swan 3 adults
Oystercatcher 1

Obviously the 3rd Swan wasn't welcome, and was chased around the mere by an irate cob, despite the fact that I've not known swans to breed at the mere in any of the last 24 years!

Four Pochard.

Friday, 7 June 2013


Corfu is a beautiful, lush island, in many ways most un-Greek like, with few ancient ruins and architecture influenced by the Venetians and British. This was my second visit to the island, and I was so impressed the first time that we decided to stay in the same resort and even the same hotel this time. We stayed at the Romanza Hotel in San Stephanos on the North West coast of the island, and despite having now seen most of the famous views on the island, I think that it would be fair to say that in my opinion none surpass the view from San Stephanos, and the Romanza Hotel in particular.

Cape Drastis on the North West tip of the island is about 4 miles from San Stephanos and easily walkable from the hotel, through beautiful countryside.

Many of the Olive groves are dark, dull places, and they're not helped by the annoying practice of putting netting down around the Olive trees in order to catch the olives at harvest time. This may help them collect the olives, but I wish they would roll the nets up after the harvest to allow wildlife back in.

Here are two Olive groves with the nets rolled up (you can just make them out around the base of some of the trees). What a difference a bit of colour makes!

The Romanza Hotel is set in a spectacular location, on the edge of a cliff, with the Albanian mountains as a backdrop.

Spectacular sunsets are a feature of the hotel!

The monastery at Cape Kanoni and Corfu Town. Don't be fooled by the apparent idilic setting at Cape Kanoni, it's right next to the airport and planes almost land on the monastry roof! The start of the runway is about 100m to the right of this photo!

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