Saturday, 31 August 2013

Stilt sandpiper Neumann's Flash

Stilt sandpiper 1 adult summer, moulting
Ruff 2

Year 231 (Stilt sandpiper)

The Stilt sandpiper was my third in the UK and my second in Cheshire (the last Cheshire Stilt sand was at Frodsham in 1984). Superficially, Stilt sands are similar to Curlew sandpipers, with long bills and white rumps. However this was a cracking bird, an adult in an advanced state of moult, but still with signs of summer plumage, with a nicely marked back and barring on the flanks and breast. It also had nice long legs and a bill nowhere near as curved as a Curlew sandpiper.

Richmond Bank

Yellow-legged gull 1+ adults, 1 possible 1st summer
Herring gull 1000
Lesser black-backed gull 1000
Buzzard 1
Year 230 (Yellow-legged gull)
There have been up to 12 Yellow-legged gulls at Richmond Bank recently, and there may have been 12 today (though I doubt it!). I find Yellow-legged gulls very difficult, especially if they are not adults, so it was a relief to find a nice adult standing on the mud in good light, surrounded by Herring gulls and Lesser black-backs.
Fiddlers Ferry and the River Mersey

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 1
Mute Swan 2 adults
Buzzard 2
Sparrowhawk 1
Swallow 20
House Martin 30

It's tough going at the mere at the moment, especially when I think back to this time last year when we had an American Black Tern and lots of excited birders. Still, even last year it was pretty quiet in the run up to the appearance of the ABT, and I suppose it's times like these which make me appreciate more the good times and the appearance of unusual birds. I still visit the mere almost daily, in fact I've been twice today, but there doesn't seem a lot of point in reporting the same old things day after day. I wonder what the next good bird at the mere will be. Perhaps it will appear tomorrow.......

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Blithfield Reservoir

Osprey 2
Great crested grebe 70+
Common tern 1
Ringed plover 10

Year 229 (Osprey)

I really thought I was going to miss Osprey this year, but travelling home from Hampshire this afternoon, a last minute decision to leave the M6 at junction T4 and take a "short cut" across country just for a break from congested motorway driving, led me to Blithfield Reservoir in Staffordshire. I don't have a permit, but Newton Hurst road  goes right past Tad Bay where two Ospreys have spent the past four or five days. I immediately saw one bird sitting in a dead tree, and after about 10 minutes a second bird flew over carrying a fish. Then I continued on my way and rejoined the M6 at junction 16, with the congestion far behind. Not a bad short cut, and better than a service station break!

Robin's Pin-cushion

This is Robin's Pin-cushion, a Dog rose gall produced by the Bedeguar Gall Wasp Diplolepis rosae. It was on the edge of an arable field in Hampshire.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pig Bush, Beaulieu Road, New Forest

Goshawk 1
2 (male & female)
Stonechat 2

Year 228 (Goshawk)

Just a few short hours in the New Forest late afternoon and evening, but the weather was good and I was able to catch up with a few species I haven't seen for a while.

Beaulieu Road Station, New Forest

Dartford warbler 1
Redstart 2 (male & female)
Stonechat 5
Whinchat 5
Year 227 (Dartford Warbler)
Emerald Damselfly

Keeled Skimmer.

Acre Down, New Forest

Honey Buzzard 1
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Peregrine 1
Buzzard 1

Year 226 (Honey Buzzard, Spotted Flycatcher)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Rainford Mosslands

Wheatear 1 Clare's Moss, Old Coach Road
Yellow Wagtail 1 Dairy Farm Road
Swallow 100 on wires Dairy Farm Road, 100 Mossborough Hall.
Buzzard 3 Old Coach Road

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Frodsham Marsh

Marbled duck 1
Black-necked grebe 2 (adult winter & juv)
Ruff 3

Just a very brief visit this morning. Generally a lot less birds around, but most will probably be back as the high tide pushes birds off the estuary.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Frodsham Marsh

Marbled duck 1 adult presumed escape
Curlew sandpiper 3 (2 adults 1 juv)
Little stint 1
Black-necked grebe 2 (1 adult non-breeding, 1 juv)
Marsh harrier 1 juv
Little egret 1
Sanderling 1
Ringed plover 1500 (!)
Dunlin 500
Black-tailed godwit 1
Curlew 10
Lapwing 100
Back in the 1980s I used to visit Frodsham as often as I go to Eccleston Mere now (nearly), but circumstances change and I needed a patch which was a bit more local. Days like today make me wonder if I should go back to more regular visits. After an initial bleak, drizzly start, it cleared up nicely and everything was seen well.
Year 224  (Little stint, Curlew sandpiper).
The view over Frodsham no.6 tank. Impressive.....

Should I count you??? Will I lose all credibility if I do??? Do I care??? Ok, I won't count it this time, but if I hear just the slightest suggestion of the Spanish putting red rings on their Marbled ducks, it's going straight on the list......

Inner Marsh Farm

Spotted redshank 5
Greenshank 7
Hobby 1
Avocet 1
Ruff 6
Black-tailed godwit 500
In the middle part of the day I had a little interlude from Frodsham and nipped to Inner Marsh Farm for a couple of hours. There was a nice selection of waders on show, and it was particularly pleasing to see species which I hadn't seen at Frodsham, such as spot red, greenshank and Avocet.
Two spotted redshanks.

Two different spotted redshanks.

I saw this impressive toadstool growing at the side of the footpath. It' not far off the size of dinner plates!
I've heard that eventually there will be a footpath from Burton Mere Wetlands to the Inner Marsh Farm hide. I'm sure that will be a good thing, but it would be nice to still be able to access IMF from the old car park, because the walk over the hill and down to the hide is a real pleasure, with great views over the reserve.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Frodsham Marsh

Cattle egret 1
Teal 300
Little ringed plover 2

Year 222 (Cattle egret)

I first saw the cattle egret sitting on some scaffolding around one ot the towers on no.6 tank, then later it was in a field with cows at the end of no.6. I didn't see the marbled duck which has been on no.6 since yesterday, but apparently it has a red ring and is a presumed escape.

Cattle egret on scaffolding with a grey heron......

and in a more natural looking pose!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bonaparte's Gull, Heysham

Bonaparte's Gull 1 adult moulting into non-breeding plumage
Little Gull 1 2nd winter
Mediterranean Gull 10+ various plumages including adult and juvenile.
Curlew 200
Oystercatcher 1000

Year 221 (Bonaparte's Gull)

Finally today I caught up with the long staying Bonaparte's Gull at Heysham. It's only been there since before I went to the Hebrides, so it's about time you might say. Today it was sitting on the rocks at Red Nab, right below the nuclear power station and it was a pretty decent view. It's now moulting out of summer plumage and has a speckled head instead of a black hood, and already clearly has the diagnostic grey neck. This was my 5th Bonaparte's Gull.

Around one of the outfalls I saw a Little Gull. In most respects it was like a non-breeding adult, with dark underwing and very white upperwing, but it had a few dark shafts on its primaries, making it a 2nd winter bird. Apparently there has been up to 30 Mediterranean Gulls at this site recently, and I didn't really spend too much time counting them, but I saw at least 10 individuals.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Eccleston Mere

I found a couple of Broad-leaved Helleborines growing at the side of the mere this evening. The flowers were long over and the plants were in seed. I don't know how I've missed them previously, they're right at the side of the footpath and grow to a height of about 45cm, and very distinctive. The only other place I've seen this orchid in St Helens is in woodland at Prescot Reservoirs.

Still very quiet for birds, one adult Mute Swan, Kingfisher and Buzzard were the highlights.

How did I miss you?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Eccleston Mere

Common tern 1 adult flew over
Swift 10
House martin 80
Buzzard 4
Barnacle goose 58 flew over then headed towards Prescot Reservoirs
Canada goose 100
Greylag 2
Mute swan 2 adults
Kingfisher 1
Tufted duck 4

Feral geese starting to move around in good numbers now, but I couldn't pick out the red-breasted goose with the barnacles.

Q. When is a weed not a weed? A. When it's a Red Data list species - Inglenook Farm

Yellow Wagtail 1
Curlew 1
Growing at the side of the path from the farm to Dairy Farm Road I found a few specimens of large-flowered hemp-nettle. This is the first time that I have found it growing in St Helens, though it may well occur elsewhere. It's a so called arable weed, but I think that's a bit of an insult to such a stunning plant. It's also a UK Red Data list species, though it's not particularly rare. I suppose it's the botanical equivalent of the Skylark, it thrives on arable land but modern farming methods are having a drastic effect on its population.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Dairy Farm Road

Yellow Wagtail 1
Swift 15
Swallow 20
Greenfinch 30

I thought it might be worth a look at the conifer plantation in Dairy Farm road in the light of the current Two-barred Crossbill invasion, but to no avail, it was very quiet. However, the birds in south Yorkshire can go missing for six hours or more, so there's still a chance that they might be there. No larches though, which seems to be their preferred food source.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Eccleston Mere

Swift 30
Mute Swan 2 adults
Tufted Duck 3
Kingfisher 1
Buzzard 1
House Martin 30
Swallow 20

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Two-barred Crossbill South Yorkshire

After 40 years of trying, today I caught up with not one but SIX Two-barred Crossbills. An adult female and 5 juveniles have been feeding in larches near Broomhead reservoir, South Yorkshire, for at least the past couple of days, prompting speculation amongst birders present that rather than being part of the recent invasion into the UK, these may be locally (or at least UK) bred birds. There are also 120 Common Crossbills in the area, though I didn't see any of those! I suppose the theory goes, how likely is it that a family party of one adult and five juveniles would get here together from north eastern Europe? I'm not sure, perhaps it happens all of the time or perhaps they're not really a family party, just a group of travellers who have joined up and stayed together. Certainly their numbers seem to be going up with almost every new report.......
UK 391, Year 220.
Bogey birds are falling like dominoes this year, first Greenish Warbler, then Common Rosefinch, then White-tailed Eagle, now Two-barred Crossbill! And all in the past 9 weeks! What next?? No sooner does one become the new bogey bird than it gets ticked and another takes it's place! I'm not sure what my bogey bird is at the moment. Things are moving too fast......
Digi-scoped adult female Two-barred Crossbill.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 2
Mute Swan 2 adults
Nuthatch 1
Great spotted woodpecker 1
Buzzard 1
Swift 2
House Martin 20
Swallow 10

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Friday, 9 August 2013

Eccleston Mere

Teal 1
Kingfisher 2
Mute Swan 2 adults

A bat walk this evening produced the usual Soprano and Common Pipistrelles, some excellent views of Noctules, but less than usual numbers of Daubenton's. Also a few more unusual calls which need further analysis.

Gosford Bay, Firth of Forth

Red-necked Grebe 10 adults summer plumage
Velvet Scoter 10 males
Common Scoter 2
Eider 200
Common Sandpiper 2

Year 219 (Red-necked Grebe)

A chance encounter with a local birder at Musselburgh first thing really paid off, with some good advice to head for nearby Gosford Bay while it was still high tide. Gosford Bay is the best place in the UK for seeing Red-necked Grebe, and it didn't disappoint today, with at least 10 spectacular summer plumage birds. This is a great coast for seabirds, whilst I was scanning for the grebes I kept seeing small flocks of Velvet Scoter and Eider, with plenty of Gannets, sometimes close inshore, and good numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns. This trip has really been a revelation.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Musselburgh, Firth of Forth

Another visit to Scotland this week, this time to the east coast and Musselburgh on the Firth of Forth, next door to Edinburgh. Musselburgh Lagoons have turned up some national rarities in the past, so I was very excited to visit the place for the first time yesterday.
On the lagoons there were quite a few waders, especially Dunlin, Redshanks, Lapwings, Curlew and Oystercatchers, but also Ruff, Greenshank, Common Sandpipers and Snipe. No sign of the recent Wood Sandpiper though. A few Sandwich and Common terns dropped in for a wash, and a couple of Roe Deer were at the back of the pools early morning today.
Out on the sea this morning, I was delighted to find seven drake Velvet Scoter quite close inshore, whilst other sea birds included up to 500 Eider,  60 Red-breasted mergansers, 20 Gannets, 200 Mute Swans and lots of terns and gulls. On the mud, Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstones and Ringed Plover.

Musselburgh lagoons

A spectacular sunset over the Firth of Forth last night, with Edinburgh in the distance.

Drake Velvet Scoter.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Black Darter

Teneral Black Darter on a Scottish bog. Ternerals are newly emerged dragonflies which aren't quite mature and don't have the full colouration of the true adults. They look very similar to females, but usually have this silverish sheen to the wings and look a bit fluttery in flight. This is probably because the wings haven't dried out completely yet. A full adult would have completely clear wings.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Hebridean tour

Taking advantage of the reasonably settled weather over the past few weeks, we set off on a camping holiday to the Hebrides on July 20th. We were booked in for five nights at Craignure on the island of Mull, but after that we were completely flexible, with the intention being to go wherever the weather looked best! In the end we used seven ferries and two boats to visit 12 Hebridean islands and had many fantastic experiences on what can only be described as the holiday of a lifetime.
We camped for 11 nights at four campsites on Mull, Skye and North Uist. On Mull we were still in the heatwave, with sunny days and temperatures in the mid 80's. When it broke, we were on the tiny island of Lunga, surrounded by hundreds of Puffins. It was the experience of a lifetime to be there in the middle of a dramatic thunderstorm! When it cleared, we headed to Staffa and Fingals Cave, and heard a Corncrake calling from the top of the island! After that, the weather was generally good, typically sunny with light winds, with just the occasional morning of rain. Perfect for camping.
My favourite campsite was at Balranald on North Uist, which was right next to the RSPB reserve. We had Corncrakes calling at  night right alongside our tent, and lots of other great sights, including Hen Harrier and Merlin over the campsite. It was just a few yards from miles of machair and silver sand beaches, and had the best showers I've ever experienced on a campsite. Wonderful place.
Below is a rough map of the route we took.

Birds of the Hebrides

From a birding point of view this holiday far exceeded my expectations. In total I saw 106 species during the two weeks, including one lifer (Great Shearwater), one UK tick (White-tailed Sea Eagle) and eight year ticks (Great Shearwater, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Corncrake, Black throated Diver, Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Hooded Crow),. Most pleasingly, all of these birds I found for myself, including Great Shearwater and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Below is a list of all of the species we saw with a brief comment.

My UK life list is now 390 and my 2013 year list is 218.

Red-throated Diver


A fairly common species, seen at several sites throughout the Hebrides.

Black-throated Diver


Two on Harris

Great Northern Diver


Adult summer plumage and juvenile on the sea at Berneray.

Little Grebe


Pairs with chicks seen at several locations, especially on the Outer Hebrides.



A fairly common species at sea.

Storm Petrel


Five at sea from the Uig, Skye to Loch Maddy, North Uist ferry.

Manx Shearwater


Seen in small numbers from various ferries.

Great Shearwater


One from the Tarbet, Harris to Uig, Skye ferry on 29/07/2013.



A common species at sea.



A few at various coastal locations



A common coastal species.

Grey Heron


Common in small numbers.

Mute Swan


Common, with the largest numbers on the Uists.

Whooper Swan


One summering at Balranald, North Uist.

Greylag Goose


A common breeding species.

Canada Goose


Two flocks on Mull.



Five at Balranald 29/07/2013.



Two Balranald, North Uist.



Common in low numbers.



A few at Balranald, North Uis.

Tufted Duck


Fairly common on the Outer Hebrides, with several females with chicks seen.



Common around the coasts of most islands.

Common Scoter


30 at sea from Berneray.

Red-breasted Merganser


Seen mainly around the coast of Skye and Mull, with 30 at Loch Sligachan, Skye.

Hen Harrier


Ringtail over Balranald, then flew over the tent 28/07/2013.



One over the campsite at Craignure, Mull on 22/07/2013.



Common in small numbers.

Golden Eagle


Adults with juveniles seen on Mull on 24/07/2013 and at the Quiraing, Skye on 26/07/2013.

White-tailed Eagle


Adult with juvenile at Loch na Keal, Mull, 21/07/2013.



Small numbers seen on Mull and North Uist.



Two on South Uist on 28/07/2013, and one from the campsite at Balranald, North Uist on 29/07/2013.



One from campsite at Craignure, Mull 20/07/22013.



One calling next to Iona abbey 22/07/2013, one calling on Staffa on 23/07/2013 and at least five birds calling at Balranald, North Uist, including three calling all night right next to the tent 28 & 29/07/2013!



Very common around all coasts.

Ringed Plover


Small numbers on most beaches on the Outer Hebrides.

Golden Plover


20 on Mull on 22/07/2013 and 40 on Berneray on 29/07/2013.



Fairly common on Outer Hebrides.



Two in summer plumage on the beach at Balranald 28/07/2013.



100 on the beach at Berneray on 29/07/2013, small numbers elsewhere in the Outer Hebrides.



Up to 200 on the beach at Balranald, North Uist. Small numbers elsewhere.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper


I found an adult in summer plumage on Berneray with Golden Plovers on 29/07/2013.



Several at Balranald 28 & 29/07/2013.



Several at Balranald 28 & 29/07/2013.

Black-tailed Godwit


Eight at Balranald 29/07/2013.

Bar-tailed Godwit


40 on the beach at Balranald, North Uist 29/07/2013.



One calling from the beach at Balranald 29/07/2013.



50 at Loch Scridain, Mull on 21/07/2013, and 20 at Balranald on 29/07/2013. Small numbers elsewhere.



Fairly common along , most coasts.



One on Mull24/07/22013 and one flew over the campsite at Balranald, 29/07/2013.

Common Sandpiper


Fairly common around most coastlines.

Arctic Skua


One on the sea at Lunga, Treshnish Isles 23/07/2013.

Great Skua


Low numbers seen on most ferry crossings. Two at Lunga on 23/07/2013 and two flying along the cliffs at Staffin, Skye 26/07/2013.

Black-headed Gull


Mainly on Mull in small numbers.

Common Gull


Perhaps the commonest gull, especially inland.

Lesser Black-backed Gull


Two at the campsite at Craignure, Mull.

Great Black-backed Gull


Common at coastal site in small numbers.

Herring Gull


Common at coastal sites.



Common at sea and pairs breeding on Lunga.

Common Tern


A family party of two adults and two juveniles  in the Sound of Harris 30/07/2013.

Arctic Tern


Small numbers around various coastal sites, most numerous in the Sound of Harris and at Lerverburgh, Harris.



Very common on the sea on most ferry crossings. Up to 6000 pairs on Lunga, Treshnish Isles, 23/07/2013.



Common on the sea on most ferry crossings, perhaps up to 500 pairs on Lunga 23/07/2013.

Black Guillimot


Common in small numbers around the coasts, especially around harbours (e.g. Uig, Tarbet, Loch Maddy, Berneray).



Common on the sea on most ferry crossings, with up to 2000 pairs on Lunga, Treshnish Isles 23/07/2013.

Rock Dove


One on Lunga 23/07/2013 and two at the Quiraing, Skye 26/07/2013.



Present in small numbers, especially Mull.

Collared Dove


Present in small numbers, especially Mull.

Tawny Owl


One hooting near the campsite at Craignure, Mull.

Short-eared Owl


Three seen on North Uist 29/07/2013.



A few seen on Mull.



Two at Balranald, North Uist 29/07/2013.

Sand Martin


16 on Iona 22/07/2013.

House Martin


Small numbers seen throughout.



Small numbers seen throughout. Breeding on the campsite at Craignure, Mull.

Meadow Pipit


Common everywhere.

Rock Pipit


Common around rocky coasts.

Pied Wagtail


Small numbers seen throughout.



Two on Lunga on 23/07/22013 and one on Berneray, 29/07/2013.



One at the campsite at Craignure, Mull.



A few on the campsite on Mull.



Small numbers seen throughout, especially on the Outer Herbides.



Common in small numbers everywhere.



A few at the campsite on Mull.

Song Thrush


A few at the campsite on Mull.

Mistle Thrush


One at the campsite on Mull.

Sedge Warbler


Several singing on Iona 22/07/2013.



Several on Ulva 21/07/2013.



Small numbers throughout, especially at the campsite at Glen Brittle, Skye.

Willow Warbler


Small numbers throughout.



Two singing at the campsite at Portree, Skye.

Blue Tit


Small numbers throughout.

Great Tit


Small numbers throughout.



A few at the campsite at Portree, Skye.



A few at the campsite at Portree, Skye.

Hooded Crow


Common throughout.



Common in small numbers throughout.



Common throughout.

House Sparrow


Common throughout.



A few seen throughout.



A few on the campsite at Craignure, Mull.



A few on the campsite at Craignure, Mull.



Small numbers seen on Ulva, Eriskay and Skye, with 30 at Balranald, North Uist 29/07/2013.

Lesser Redpoll


A few at the campsite on Mull.



Two seen on the campsite at Portree, Skye.



One on Mull.

Corn Bunting


Up to 5 singing at Balranald, North Uist.

Adult White-tailed Eagle, Mull.

Adult and juvenile White-tailed Eagle, Mull. Magnificent birds, we saw these on our first day on Mull and I expected to see a few more, but they were the only Sea Eagles we saw in the holiday.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle, Mull.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper with Golden Plover, Berneray. I was delighted with this find. I was scanning through a flock of Golden Plover feeding on the machair, when suddenly I saw a small wader walking amongst them. I knew what it was straight away, but wanted to get the scope on it just to be 100% certain. It was a fantastic bird, this and Pectoral Sandpiper are amongst my favourites of all waders.

I didn't think it could get any better than this, but the following day it did! We were on the Tarbet to Uig ferry, and I spotted a large shearwater fairly close to the boat. I could hardly believe it when I saw that it had a dark cap, and its upperwings were mid brown, with noticeably darker brown primaries. My first ever Great Shearwater!

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