Saturday, 30 November 2013

Eccleston Mere

Goldeneye 2 (male and female)
Pochard 4 (2 males, 2 females)
Gadwall 3 (male, 2 females)
Teal 1 female
Little grebe 2 - 3
Willow tit 1
Grey wagtail 1
Kingfisher 1
Buzzard 1
Jackdaw 100 coming into roost
Grey heron 5

Common gull.

Pennington Flash

Water rail 4 (1 seen at Pengy's, 3 heard)
Wigeon 1 male
Willow tit 1
Goosander 13 (6 males, 7 females)
Goldeneye 10
Pochard 12
Lapwing 100

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Leighton Moss

Long-tailed duck 1 juvenile from Lilian's hide.
Kingfisher 1 sitting on a bulrush at close range near the Public hide.
Marsh tit 1

Jenny Brown's Point

Dunlin 1000
Wigeon 500
Pintail 30
Red-breasted merganser 2 (m & f)

Saturday, 23 November 2013

North Fylde coast

Eider 136 Rossall Point, 10 Knott End in the mouth of the Wyre.
Purple Sandpiper 3 Rossall Point
Twite 50 Cocker's Dyke
Peregrine 1 adult Cocker's Dyke
Red-breasted merganser 4 males Rossall Point
Common scoter 7 females Rossall Point
Sanderling 20 Knott End, 20 Rossall Point
Knot 20 Knott End, 40 Rossall Point
Dunlin 1000 Knott End to Cocker's Dyke
Pink-footed goose 200 in fields behind Cocker's Dyke, 1500 flew up distantly towards Fluke Hall.

I walked to Rossall Point and then onto Fleetwood where I caught the ferry to Knott End and then continued on to Cocker's Dyke and Fluke Hall on Pilling Marsh, and then back to the car the same way. It was a really impressive day, with lots of waders, but I was particularly pleased to see the Eider flock at Rossall Point. It was a calm day and the air was full of the sound of the males "whoooooing" the females in display, and they're in fine plumage now. On the rocks there was a nice selection of waders, including three Purple sandpipers.

At Cocker's Dyke, a flock of 500 Dunlin suddenly took to the air in panic and wheeled around, changing direction and height in perfect formation, like one large living organism. Looking up I spotted an adult Peregrine just as it started its stoop. It dropped like a rocket into the middle of the flock and without too much difficulty emerged carrying an unfortunate victim. It flew about 50m more before landing on the beach with its meal. A crow landed alongside it and the Peregrine flew off again with it's prey and was lost to sight, sparing me the gruesome detail of its table manners! Meanwhile on the saltmarsh in front of me, a nervous looking flock of Twite scurried around and occasionally flew up and called out their name, "tveeiht".

Purple sandpiper and Turnstone. Perhaps surprisingly, Purple sandpiper is a Lancashire (including North Merseyside) tick for me. I suppose though, there is not a lot of rocky shoreline between Liverpool and Arnside, so perhaps it's not so surprising after all.

Pink-footed geese.


Little - the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry.

Large - the Heysham to Ireland (?) ferry, with Coniston on the other side of Morecombe Bay.

Blackpool from Bispham.


Pink-footed goose 3000

Starr Gate, Blackpool

Common Scoter 400
Red-throated diver 10
Eider 2 (male and female)
Great crested grebe 5

Friday, 22 November 2013

Bob Dylan, Blackpool Opera House

Bob Dylan is back in town at the moment, and tonight I saw him in Blackpool at the Opera House. Each time I go to see him (and this was the third) I go with high expectations, but I'm always a little nervous that as he gets older he may not be able to fulfil them.

I needn't have worried, tonight he was as good as ever. He's 72 now, but his Never Ending tour which began in 1988 shows no sign of slowing down, with Dylan averaging 100 shows a year over the past 25 years. His back catalogue consists of over 35 studio albums from the past 50 years, and he's surely unique in that much of his recent work stands up well alongside the classics from the distant past. He's never been one to rest on his laurels, and could never be accused of being a greatest hits artist, and tonight he virtually ignored the first 35 years of his career, and sang a selection of songs largely from his more recent albums, and in particular last years "Tempest".

In fact only three songs survived from the 60's, She Belongs to Me, All Along the Watchtower and Blowin' in the Wind, and the latter was changed so much as to be almost unrecognisable. The 70's fared even worse, with only  Simple Twist of Fate and Tangled Up in Blue included, and again the latter was changed so much that it might as well have been a different song. Of these early songs, All Along the Watchtower rocked, and I loved the new version of Blowin' in the Wind.

The more recent songs were the highlight though, especially Love Sick, one of the stand out tracks from the Time Out of Mind album, Pay in Blood from Tempest and Forgetful Heart from Together Through Life. Forgetful Heart was a real surprise to me, and this was probably the best version of the song I have heard. The audience loved it, young and old, male and female they all lept to their feet and gave him a standing ovation for that performance.

Dylan alternated between standing at the piano or simply standing at the mic, occasionally playing the harmonica, but not once picking up a guitar. As usual, his band were superb, but it was hard to take your eyes off the living legend, hard to believe that you're in the same room as somebody of that stature.

It was such a good show that my immediate reaction on leaving the auditorium was to head straight for the ticket office and try to get a ticket for tomorrow night. Unfortunately for me, he's sold out.

Set list
Things Have Changed
She Belongs To Me
Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
What Good Am I?
Duquesne Whistle 
Waiting For You
Pay In Blood
Tangled Up In Blue
Love Sick
High Water (For Charley Patton)
Simple Twist Of Fate
Early Roman Kings
Forgetful Heart
Spirit On The Water
Scarlet Town
Soon After Midnight
Long And Wasted Years
All Along The Watchtower
Blowin' In The Wind


Sunday, 17 November 2013

Tatton Park

Pochard 30
Tufted Duck 100
Raven 3
Nuthatch 2
Great crested grebe 15

Fallow deer.

Fallow deer.

Red deer.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

250 up with a Long-tailed duck - Marshside

For the past few weeks I've been putting off going to Leighton Moss for the long staying Long-tailed duck. First I didn't want to meet the Autumn watch team, then it was the weather, then something else would come up, I just couldn't get round to going.

Then on Thursday I saw the semi p at Knott End which put me on 249 for the year, and I decided that I just had to go this weekend to avoid the risk of not reaching 250 this year. I was all set to go, then news came out yesterday of a Long-tailed duck at Marshside. Thankfully it was still there this morning, and saved me a long drive! A nice little bird, it was constantly diving. Also at Marshside, at least 500 Black-tailed godwits and a few thousand Pink-footed geese and wigeon, plus the 1st winter Ross's goose..... 251????

Year 250 (Long-tailed duck)

Juvenile Long-tailed duck on junction pool. It always surprises me how small they are, those are Pintail up-ending in the background and even though you can only see half of them, they are still clearly much bigger than the Long-tailed duck. This was my second LTD at Marshside but the previous one was 31 years ago, on 12th December 1982, on my first ever visit to Marshside with my Dad. That bird was also on Junction pool, and there has been at least one other on the same pool which I did not see. There's clearly something about the pool they like!

I'm not sure what that is sticking out at the back of the duck, but I promise you it's not it's tail! Only adult males have long tails, this is a juvenile. Perhaps it was stretching its wing when I took the photo. The Pintail seemed to be permanently up-ended, on just about every photo I took today they looked like this!

Eccleston Mere

Pochard 5 (3 males, 2 females)
Gadwall 5 (2 males, 3 females)
Tufted duck 6 (1 male, 5 females)
Snipe 1
Grey wagtail 1
Great spotted woodpecker 1

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Semi-p at Knott End

I was back on the Fylde this morning, checking up on a Pink-footed goose mitigation scheme. There were thousands of geese in the area, and also at least 200 Whooper swans.

Just as I was packing up to head back to the office, I got a text from the boss telling me that there was a Semipalmated sandpiper at Knott End, just a few miles from where I was! I immediately headed for the esplanade where I found a group of about ten birders watching the bird on the sands with a group of Dunlin and Ringed plovers!  Only my second semi-p, or perhaps it was my first! The "first" was the disputed bird at Hoylake last year. Looks like I'll be coming down on the side of Western sandpiper with that bird then!

Year 249 (Semipalmated sandpiper)

A family party of Whooper swans on a flooded field. Notice the white bills of the juveniles and the mud around the base of the bills of the adults. Unlike passerines, all wildfowl migrate in family parties, and the juveniles are taught where to go by the adults. That's why feral geese are mainly resident even when they mix with their wild counterparts on their wintering grounds such as here in Lancashire, and it's also why fit and healthy wild birds will remain in this country over the summer if one of their parents gets injured over the winter and cannot return north.

I wonder if one of the consequences of this behaviour could be that species might forget about particular wintering grounds over a period of time. Take for example the Bewick's swan. Twenty years ago there were more Bewick's at Martin Mere than Whoopers, with up to 800 regular in winter. These days it can be a struggle to get them on your year list, largely due to milder winters, which mean that the Bewick's tend to stay on the continent rather than come here. Since the swans are taught where to go by the adults, could it be that over time, even if the winters became colder again, the species might simply forget about Martin Mere and might never return in such big numbers?

More Whoopers.

Birders on the beach watching the semi-p.

Knott End

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lytham to Blackpool

We parked at Lytham station, near the windmill, and walked the nine miles or so along the coast to Blackpool Tower. On the way we walked over sand dunes, saltmarsh, beach, rocky shores around Fairhaven Lake and through the illuminations.

Birds included 2000 Knot and some very approachable Sanderling and Redshanks.

Lytham windmill.



Partial alibino Jackdaw, or, as I prefer to call it, a partially melanistic Daurian Jackdaw!


The Ribble Estuary.

Looking south from Blackpool Tower.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Dairy Farm Road

3000 Pink-footed geese in the field with the cattle. As always, a great sight, but not much else of note in driving hailstone.

Eccleston Mere

Tawny owl 1
Kingfisher 2
Gadwall 6+ (2 males, 4 females)
Little grebe 1
Pochard 1 male

Friday, 8 November 2013

Pennington Flash

Cetti's warbler 1 Ramsdales
Water rail 2 heard in Ramsdales
Willow tit 2
Goosander 1 redhead
Goldeneye 5
Nuthatch 1 on the feeders

I had a brief lunchtime visit to Pennington Flash and was rewarded with two new ticks for the place, Cetti's warbler and Nuthatch. The Cetti's was in Ramsdales reedbed and was heard singing several times, but was a bit of a so-and-so to see. Eventually though I did get a good, if brief view of the bird, singing in a wild rose bush about 5m in front of me. Cetti's warbler is one of those birds which has really spread in recent years, at one time they were a bird you had to travel to East Anglia for, or the south coast, but todays bird wasn't even a Greater Manchester tick for me.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Eccleston Mere

Tawny owl 1
Kingfisher 2 chasing each other around the mere
Teal 1
Tufted duck 2

A poor selection of waterfowl today, no doubt as a result of a yacht and speedboat on the mere.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Frodsham Hill

It turned out to be a lovely autumnal afternoon. We had a nice woodland walk from Frodsham hill, and were treated to some spectacular views over Frodsham marsh and the Mersey estuary. Birds today included Raven, Buzzard, Nuthatch and Goldcrest, and there were lots of fungi in the woods, especially earthball and birch polypore.

The Weaver bends and the Mersey estuary.

No. 6 bed and the Mersey estuary.

Eccleston Mere

Chiffchaff 1
Gadwall 11 (5 males, 6 females)
Teal 6
Little Grebe 2 juvs
Cormorant 5
Great Crested Grebe 12

A chiffchaff overwintered in 2005, and that is the only other Chiffchaff I have recorded at the mere in November. It's been a good year for Gadwall at the mere with record numbers.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Eccleston Mere

I had a walk around the mere with Damian this afternoon, when we recorded:

Chiffchaff 1
Gadwall 5 - 7
Tufted Duck 7
Kingfisher 1
Sparrowhawk 1

Banks marsh

Great White Egret 2
Little Egret 30
Marsh Harrier 1 juv. / f
Merlin 1
Peregrine 1
Dunlin 5000
Grey Plover 80
Golden Plover 100
Knot 100
Wigeon 5000
Teal 1000
Pink-footed Goose 500

Year 248 (Great White Egret)

Fabulous scenes at Banks Marsh over the high tide, with particularly impressive numbers of waders and egrets. Year ticks just keep coming, I keep thinking that they must slow down soon, but they don't, and I've seen 13 new birds for the year since the end of September. I'm in unknown territory at the moment, I've never been past 245 before and with two months of the year still to go, there's time for a few more yet.

Hesketh Out Marsh

Smew 2 redheads
Goosander 1 redhead
Goldeneye 1
Greenshank 3
Little Egret 5

I'd completely forgotten that these Smew had been at Hesketh Out Marsh for the past few days, and I only called in because I was in the area. They were a great sight and an unexpected bonus, though it was nearly so different. All of the birds listed above were on the same pool, a little distant, and initially I walked past them and didn't even notice! I could easily have left Hesketh Out Marsh thinking that there was nothing there. The Smew seemed to be loosely associating with the Goosander, perhaps picking off fish which the larger bird was scaring.

A couple of digiscoped images of the Smew and Goosander. Give me a break, it was pretty dull at the time and the birds were distant, in fact even through the bins they were just dots.

Exapate congelatella in Lowton

Never swat a moth! I rescued this little guy from certain death from a bathroom in Lowton two days ago. It's a micro moth and one of the tortrix species, this is Exapate congelatella. Amazingly, there have only ever been three records in St Helens, two of which were from my backyard, and according to the NBN Gateway there are no records from Great Manchester! In fact, if you can believe the NBN map (and it is usually pretty accurate when it comes to moths), the three records from St Helens are the only records from anywhere in SW Lancs, Merseyside, North Cheshire or Greater Manchester! So like I said, never swat a moth....

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