Thursday, 30 January 2014

Eccleston Mere

Water rail 1 showing well in ditch along western side of mere.
Willow tit 1 in SW corner
Pochard 13 (9mm, 4ff)
Wigeon 2 (m&f) under island
Mute swan 6 (5ads & 1 juv.)
Snipe 7
Kingfisher 1
Bullfinch 2
Lesser redpoll 1
Siskin 1+ heard
Teal 2+ heard
Tufted duck 8 (5mm, 3ff)

Once again the water rail showed exceptionally well, and shows little sign of nerves, even when it's obviously aware that you are there. It seems quite happy so long as you don't make any sudden or loud movements. The biggest challenge with this bird is spotting it in the first instance. Today I first noticed some ripples behaving in an odd way in the ditch, and on further investigation it proved to be the rail.

I was only about 2m from the bird as it walked along the ditch, and it even allowed me to open my Velcro sealed camera bag, get the camera out and fire off a few shots. It's difficult to get a decent photo of the rail, it's very dark in the ditch and there's lots of bramble and branches in the way so you're constantly focusing on the wrong thing, or the camera speed is so slow that the bird is just a blur. However, here are the best I've managed so far.

Spot the water rail!

 It seems impossible to get it's whole body in focus, either that or it's head's missing or some other vital part!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The beast of Powys

High up in the Powys hills I sat alone, with the rain beating down on me and the wind cutting through me. I hadn't seen another person all day and the mist was coming down. In the distance a solitary raven croaked but otherwise there was silence, complete silence. Suddenly I became aware that I wasn't alone. I hardly dared to turn to look, but I knew that there were eyes watching me......

Through the mist I could see the shadow of a creature maybe, or was it just a rock? Then the mist cleared slightly and there could be no doubt. I was alone in the wilderness with a demon eyed, frothy mouthed monster and there could be no escape. It let out a blood curdling "baaaaa" and I fell to my knees in terror. In that moment I knew that the legends were true. I was face to face with a Torwen.

Torwen, a sheep tick for me. Well, to be absolutely accurate, it's not really a tick, because Torwens are a "race" of Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep, which I have seen before, but you know me, I'll tick anything! UK sheep life list = 5.

Badger Face Welsh Mountain. Is there a nicer type of sheep? The observant reader will notice that Torwens are the reverse of this (the nominate race??). However, this BFWM is different to any I've seen before because it has a dark band on it's back; perhaps it's a hybrid! (tick)

It's surprising what you see when you sit still for four hours! This was one of two foxes that passed by.

Disappointing, disappointing. This was meant to be an award winning photo of a red kite, with the sun catching it perfectly and a dark background behind. Instead it's a sad, out of focus also ran. This bird circled around me several times, probably waiting for me to die.

A false dawn. The sun trying to fool me into thinking it was going to be a nice day.....

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Red kite 10
Goosander 1 male
Wigeon 25
Teal 40

Pretty bleak conditions to be high up in the Powys hills today, but some decent birds to be seen. Kites are always great birds to see, it's about time we saw them in the North West, but I was more surprised to see the ducks high up on moorland pools. Wigeon? Goosander? Are these really birds you would expect to see on small pools in the hills?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Priorslee Lake, Telford

Velvet scoter 1 1st winter female
Scaup 2
Pochard 20
Tufted ducks 30

Fortunately the scoter was on a small lake right next to a motorway junction and there was a very convenient layby, allowing me to spend ten minutes watching the bird before continuing on my journey! Now that's what I call a twitch!

West Midlands

Merlin 1 male
Fieldfare 100
Redwing 100

I had a fantastic view of the male merlin as it dashed across a field right in front of me.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Curlew Lane, Rufford

Whooper swan 100
Pink-footed goose 200

Mere Sands Wood

Tree sparrow 40
Tufted duck 20
Treecreeper 1
Coal tit 5
Reed bunting 1

Leeds - Liverpool Canal, Rufford Old Hall

Pink-footed goose 500 in fields next to the canal
Shelduck 2 in fields next to the canal
Treecreeper 2

Dairy Farm Road

Pink-footed goose 5000

The Pink-foot flock was a great sight, but the weather was atrocious this morning and I didn't even get out of the car.

Moss Lane

Corn bunting 2
Yellowhammer 30
Fieldfare 5
Redwing 20

Eccleston Mere

Snipe 3
Goldeneye 1 male
Pochard 9 (8mm, 1f)
Tufted duck 4 (3mm, 1f)
Bullfinch 3
Goldcrest 1
Barnacle goose 1
Greylag goose 1
Canada goose 80
Great crested grebe 10
Siskin 1 heard

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Roa Island, south Cumbria

Black brant 1 adult
Dark-bellied brent goose 60
Eider 2 females

The black brant was first seen on Roa Island last winter as  a young bird. Now an adult, it will be interesting to see if it keeps returning for the next several years. Sixty is by far the largest flock of dark-bellied brents I have seen on the west coast. We normally get the pale bellied race as an overspill from Ireland, whereas the dark-bellied race is the common brent of the south and east coast of England. There are also pale-bellied brents in the Roa Island area at the moment, but we didn't see them. This was my second black brant in the North West following the bird at Pilling Marsh a few year back.

Black brant breeds in eastern Siberia and western North America, so it's possible for it to arrive from the west with pale-bellied brents, or from the east with dark-bellied. Either way, it's travelled a long way! Probably would have been quicker to go over the North Pole!
Perhaps it did....

Black brant (right) with dark-bellied brent goose.

Piel Island from Roa Island. It was a lovely start to the day on Roa Island, and I was very impressed with the place, this being my first visit.

Roa Island.

Rampside lighthouse, built in the 19th centaury. I think it's more of a beacon than a lighthouse. Apparently it's the only survivor of several built in the area, to aid boats into Barrow. Roa Island is in the background.

Leighton Moss

Bittern 1 in flight from Public hide
Marsh harrier 3 (male and 2 females)
Scaup 1 female
Long-tailed duck 1 (1st winter)
Marsh tit 3
Spotted redshank 2 (from the Eric Morecombe hide)

We arrived at Leighton Moss in appalling conditions, heavy rain, strong winds and dull. I couldn't imagine us seeing anything good today, but within 30 minutes it had cleared away and ended up a reasonably nice sunny day, if a little on the windy side! The birds performed really well, only bearded tits failed to show.

Male marsh harrier.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Wayoh Reservoir

Goosander 8
Teal 10
Goldeneye 3 (m & 2ff)

Eccleston Mere

Snipe 13
Shoveler 1 male
Pochard 9 (8 males, 1 female)
Tufted duck 10 (6 males, 4 females)
Teal 4 (all males)
Siskin 30
Lesser redpoll 1
Kingfisher 1
Pink-footed goose 60 over
Greylag 1
Barnacle goose 1
Canada goose 100

Moorhen feeding on alder catkins, about 30 feet up. Ok, perhaps it was also escaping from some predator, perhaps even me! But it did nibble a catkin as well!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Pensarn, Abergele

Surf scoter 1 drake
Common scoter 5000
Red-throated diver 5
Red-breasted merganser 10

We had nice views of the drake surf scoter this morning, much closer than the usual views at Llandulas. There have been up to four drakes and a female here in the past week.

An aptly named café on the beach at Pensarn. Despite the dire weather forecast of heavy rain, we didn't see a single drop all day, and in fact even watched the scoter flock in sunshine for a while!


Hawfinch 7
Blackcap 1 female
Raven 1

The Hawfinches were sitting near the top of one of the tall trees near the church yard for about 15 minutes and were a decent view through the scopes. Later they flew into one of the Yew trees in the church yard and we had them a lot closer but they were seen much more briefly and in flight. While we waited for them to show we found a female Blackcap feeding in one of the Yews.


Llanbedr-y-cennin. The Hawfinches occasionally flew between the two Yew trees in the photo.

Rhos-on-sea and Llandudno

We called in at both these places hoping to see purple sandpiper, but failed at both. We did at least see a few Fulmars already prospecting potential nest sites around the cliffs on the Great Orme, the first sign of spring, whilst at Rhos there were about 50 dunlin, 50 redshank, 100 oystercatchers and 20 turnstones.

Roosting waders at Rhos.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Knott End

At least 20 Twite on the saltmarsh at Knott End today, showing really well. Also lots of Pink-feet in the area.

Firs farm stables, Westhoughton

Glossy Ibis 1
Redwing 100

A really nice view of the Glossy ibis late afternoon in the fading light, but far too dull for any hope of a decent photo. At the moment it may seem like I'm going through the process of ticking off all of the stragglers from last year with the aim of keeping a year list, but that's just an illusion.........

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A morning at Southport

Long-tailed duck 1 juv. on Junction Pool Marshside
Twite 100 on saltmarsh just north of pier
Goldeneye 2 males on the marine lake
Black-tailed godwit 500 Marshside
Golden plover 100 Marshside
Pink-footed geese

The Twite were best seen in flight, but we did see them on the ground on several occasions, though it's amazing how they just disappear once they land!

Junction Pool at Marshside is now Junction lake. I don't recall ever seeing Marshside so flooded.

The Long-tailed duck which arrived last November is still present though.

Count the Black-tailed godwits!

Drake Goldeneye on the marine lake. No sign of the Great Northern Diver today though

An afternoon on Wirral

American Buff-bellied Pipit 1 Denhall Lane
Siberian Chiffchaff 1+ Denhall Lane
Water Pipit 1 (probable) Denhall Lane
Great white egret 1 Parkgate
Hen harrier 3 ringtails Parkgate
Merlin 2 Parkgate

The return of the Buff-bellied Pipit. This was the fourth time I have seen this bird and it showed really well on the tidal wrack at the bottom of Station Road. A warning to the unwary though, there were also at least two Water Pipits seen today in the same area. Water pipits are very similar to the Buff-bellied Pipit, except that they have dark lores and a larger bill. We saw a bird which I think was most probably a Water Pipit, but it was slightly against the light and difficult to see all of the features, especially since we had dumped the scopes in the car at that point.

We saw three harriers in the air at the same time at Parkgate.

Pale lores + short bill = Buff-bellied Pipit! Also other differences, including a more prominent eye ring, darker malar patch and less heavy streaking on the underparts.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Monday, 6 January 2014

Eccleston Mere

Water rail 1 in western ditch
Pochard 7 (5mm, 2ff)
Lapwing 100 flew over
Little grebe 1
Kingfisher 1
Buzzard 2
Bullfinch 1

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Two-barred Crossbills Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorks

Two-barred crossbill 7+ (5mm, 2ff)
Siskin 2
Red grouse 3 flying over moors near Broomhead Reservoir

I took an unexpected opportunity to call in again at Broomhead Reservoir today, and wouldn't you know it, following hours of futile searching last week, today we drove straight up to a group of birders who were watching the crossbills. Marvellous!

There were at least five stonking males and two females in the larches, mainly feeding high up, but thankfully two males came lower down for a few minutes allowing me to get a good look at them. It's been a great winter for seeing Two-barred crossbills, and it's easy to forget that these are usually extremely rare birds in the UK, in fact it took me 40 years to see my first! That was a female with five juveniles at the same location last August, but with at least five bright red  males now present it would have been a real shame not to have taken the opportunity to go back for another look. It could be 20 years before we get another invasion like the one we've experienced this winter!

Male Two-barred crossbill.

Two-barred crossbills have the smallest bills of all of the crossbill species. This is because they feed mainly on larch and other smaller cones, though they will also feed on pine.

There are supposed to be around 100 Common crossbills at Broomhead, but in three visits I've not seen a single bird! The Two-barred crossbills tend to keep themselves to themselves, probably more down to their choice of food rather than being unsociable! Common crossbill feed largely on pine cones.

Saturday, 4 January 2014


Hen harrier 1 ringtail
Great white egret 1
Barn owl 1
Little egret 10
Peregrine 1

Parkgate in the late evening sunshine.

A winter sunset over Parkgate Marsh.

Denhall Lane and Denhall Quay, Burton Marsh

Great white egret 1 (distantly from Denhall Quay)
Siberian chiffchaff 2 (1 Denhall Lane, 1 just before Denhall Quay)
Wheatear 1
Bewick's swan 2 (Denhall Lane)
Merlin 1
Peregrine 1
Pink-footed goose 500
Dunlin 1000
Canada goose 1200 (apparently!)
Little egret 40

Burton Marsh from Denhall Quay at high tide (10.1m). Hard to believe that ships used to sail up to here!

Little Egrets from Denhall Quay.

Siberian Chiffchaff near Denhall Quay. Note the very distinct supercilium.

Siberian Chiffchaff near Denhall Quay. Note the green patch on the wing, but this is generally a much browner bird than the one in Denhall Lane (see below).

Three very different Chiffchaffs. The left hand bird is a definite Siberian Chiffchaff photographed on Christmas Day in Denhall Lane. It's almost silvery with a green wing patch and distinct supercillium. It's also been heard to call. The right hand bird is a "common" Chiffchaff, photographed at Eccleston Mere last March. It's a very brown looking bird. The middle two photos are of the bird which is a probable Siberian Chiffchaff photographed today near Denhall Quay (see also photos above). It is greyer than the right hand bird but is still quite brown on it's back, but it also has the green wing patch and a distinct supercillium.

This Wheatear has gone from my latest ever to my earliest ever! There's a growing swell of opinion that this may be an eastern race Wheatear rather than the nominate race, but I think that's virtually impossible to tell in the field. Why not though? It's incredibly late / early for the nominate race and it has been in the company of a Siberian Chiffchaff and an American Buff-bellied Pipit!

Eccleston Mere

Water rail 1 in western ditch just before SW corner.
Pochard 6 (5mm, 1f)
Goldeneye 1 f
Kingfisher 1

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Eccleston Mere

Goldeneye 2 (m&f)
Pochard 6 (4mm, 2 ff)
Tufted Duck 10 (7mm, 3ff)
Kingfisher 1
Rook 50 flew over
Jackdaw 200 flew over

Rooks are not common birds at Eccleston Mere, so a flock of 50 over is a decent record.

Popular Posts