Friday, 28 February 2014

Leighton Moss

Bearded Tit 2 (male and female)
Cetti's Warbler 1 singing from the Public Causeway
Long-tailed Duck 1 from Lower Hide
Marsh Harrier 1
Water Rail 10+ heard only

Year 156 (Bearded Tit, Cetti's Warbler). At the end of February last year I was on 138.

I was walking along the causeway when I spotted the Bearded Tits in a bush right alongside the path. They didn't call and were completely silent. If they had been 2m further into the reeds I would have walked past them and not known they were there. Fortunately they were completely unconcerned by my presence, being preoccupied with each other, the male displayed to the female by fanning his tail and fluttering his wings. I've never seen Bearded Tits so well, and certainly never experienced this type of behaviour before. 

The reedbeds were alive with the song of Reed Buntings and the squeals of Water Rails, whilst in the woodland Wrens and Robins were in full song. It was a real pleasure to be at Leighton Moss on such a perfect morning!

Male and female Bearded Tit. What a great sighting!

The Public Causeway at dawn. It was the perfect weather to be at Leighton Moss.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

More from Moore

It was back to Moore at lunch time, where I found the male Lesser Spot still hard at his excavations. A great sight, I've never seen Lesser Spotted Woodpecker so well.

A video of the action on YouTube.

If you wonder why some of these photos look out of focus, it's mainly because the bird is constantly moving. Just look at the spray of wood chippings flying off the tree in this photo for an indication of how fast it is moving!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

At lunch with the Peckers

Perseverance finally paid off! It took me eight visits this month before I finally saw the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Moore yesterday, but far from calling it quits, today I pushed my luck and went back in my lunch break for another dose. Miraculously I saw them again almost immediately, but much better than I ever dreamed.

With surprising gusto for such a small bird, the male was excavating a hole in a branch in full view for about 15 minutes. Apparently he's done this before already this year, and it doesn't necessarily mean they will breed in this hole, it's just an exploratory hole. Whatever, there were wood chippings flying in all directions. Meanwhile in the background the unseen female called.

Must be nearly through to the other side! I'm surprised that the branch doesn't break in two.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Three woodpeckers at Moore, plus a Kite

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 2 (m&f)
Green Woodpecker 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Red Kite 1 on outskirts of Moore village

Year 154 (Lesser Spotted Woodpecker)

At last! It was great to see all three species of woodpecker at Moore at my 8th attempt this year. They were all in the small wood to the left of Lapwing lane when walking from the car park (i.e. where the lesser peckers were mainly seen last spring). The male and female lessers were chasing each other around for a while, at quite close range, but constantly on the move, and then later I saw them feeding high up in the trees. I also heard them drumming.

The Red Kite was an unexpected bonus as I left Moore village. I just had time to stop the car, get my camera out and get one shot before it disappeared over the trees.

Green Woodpecker.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Quite difficult to photograph because they were constantly on the move and there was always a branch in the way for the camera to focus on.

Red Kite.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Eccleston Mere

Water Rail 1 in western ditch, about 50m from the SW corner.
Oystercatcher 1 flew over. First of the spring.
Siskin 30
Gadwall 2 (m&f)
Pochard 6 mm
Grey Wagtail 1
Black-headed Gull 200
Common Gull 30
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Iridescent Grouse at World's End

Black Grouse 32 (30 males, 2 females)

Year 152 (Black Grouse)

What morning on the moors above World's End! We arrived at the first Black Grouse leck site at 7:15am, and immediately saw three males flying at fairly close range. Then we got onto the leck itself which was a good kilometre away from the road, making a scope essential, and here we counted at least another 11 males lecking.

Next we drove down towards the World's End car park, and on the way spotted another handful of males, including one quite close to the car, before reaching the woodland just before the car park where we found a second leck on the hillside in the distance, which contained another nine males. I believe that this leck has contained up to 40 males in the past week! Finally we rounded off the day with the unusual sight of two "greyhens" not far from the second leck. Greyhens are much more difficult to spot than the showy males.

Just in case you don't know, World's End is between Wrexham and Llangollen.

Male Black Grouse. It might look like I'm peering over a clump of heather having creeped up on this bird, but all photos are taken from the car.

Prior to today I didn't realise how iridescent the males are. In fact in this light they're anything but black!

At about 8am all 11 males flew from the first leck site.

This is a view over the leck site. In fact there are 11 males lecking in this photo! They're the little white dots in the middle of the photo. This is the kind of view you get of the leck through binoculars!

Again this is looking towards the leck site. You can see a hide in the distance, which the RSPB use when they take parties out to view the leck from Llandegla Forest. I assume that they still do organised viewings of the leck. I went on one back in 2009, and although the hide might look closer, in reality it was still pretty distant.

Craig Bron-banog, Clocaenog Forest

Goshawk 3 displaying

The climb up Craig Bron-banog in the middle of Clocaenog Forest proved worthwhile, as we saw two displaying Goshawks a little distantly, and then a third bird flying within 100m of us. This last bird was seen to have particularly impressive pure white undertail coverts.

Year 153 (Goshawk)

Looking over Clocaenog Forest towards Moel Famau from the summit of Craig Bron-banog.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Wildboarclough revisited

Dipper 2
Raven 1
Goldecrest 2

My first ever Dipper was at Wildboarclough in the Peak District, an incredible 41 years ago on 8th July 1973, so it was a real pleasure to see them in the same place again today!

Also today, I saw an incredible 50 Mandarins on a pond in a small arable field in Derbyshire! If only I'd had my camera ready, 50 Mandarins in flight against a bright blue sky.... what a sight!

Year 151: (Dipper, Mandarin). I know I said that I wasn't going to keep a year list this year, but last year was my best ever and it took my until the first week in April to get to 151! Who knows where this will end.

These Dippers were displaying. Notice that the closest bird is colour ringed,


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Waxwings, Blackburn

Waxwings have been very hard to come by this winter, in stark contrast to the large invasion of 2012/13, so today on my way home from Cumbria I called in at Blackburn, to have a look for four birds which have been on a town centre car park in Mincing Lane.

The weather was pretty awful while I was there, with dark skies and heavy hail showers, and the birds weren't easy to photograph. However, just as I was about to give up, a cracking male perched up high in a tree with a dark sky for background and allowed me to fire off a few half decent shots.

Also today I flushed a Jack Snipe in Cumbria.

Year 149: (Waxwing, Jack Snipe)

Even by Waxwing standards, this is a stunning male.

Eccleston Mere

Goldeneye 1 m
Pochard 8 (7mm, 1f)
Gadwall 1 m
Kingfisher 1

No sign of the Kittiwake.

I guarantee there is a pot of gold under this rainbow....

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Savouring Salacious Sawbills

Smew 2 (male and female)
Goosander 2 (male and female)
Red-breasted Merganser 3 (male and 2 females)
Goldeneye 50
Pink-footed Goose 150 flew over

Year 147 (Smew)

The air was completely still, and a light mist rolled over Derwentwater, its mirror like surface disturbed only by the occasional gentle ripples of diving ducks searching for food. It was dawn, and in these conditions my hearing was enhanced, with the early spring song of Robins and Wrens seemingly amplified in the woods, and even the gentle calls of Goldcrests and Treecreepers seeming louder than normal. In the distance  I could hear the calls of Goldeneye, and watched as the drakes threw back their heads in display to their females. An idyllic, romantic scene perhaps, in the heart of the beautiful Cumbrian mountains, yet all was not quite as it seemed, and this was actually a story of betrayal, rejection and forbidden love.

I'm not sure that I've ever seen all three species of sawbill on the same lake before, and it was great to see males and females of each species. I choose my words carefully, and do not say "pairs of each species", because whilst the mergansers and Goosanders were clearly paired up, the male and female Smew, were not, and kept a good 200m apart. Perhaps they'd had a row. If so, the drake had already moved on, plenty more fish in the sea as they say, because he now seemed to be paired with a female Goldeneye. Not only did he follow her around, he also chased off drake Goldeneye and at one point even joined in with a group of drakes that were displaying. I suspect he was trying to make the female Smew jealous!

Below are a few images of Derwentwater this morning.

The mountain in the background is Skiddaw.

Spot the Smew! I'm not sure that the people in the Derwentwater ferry knew anything about it, but they passed close enough for a decent view.

I'm trying to hide the fact that I haven't got a decent photo of the Smew by showing all of these quirky photos. Here it is in the wake of the boat! A much more interesting photo than simply a close up of the bird, I'm sure you must agree.... Make the most of it, this was my first drake Smew for 17 years!

A sawbill that did perform, a drake Goosander.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Beddmanarch Bay, Anglesey

Great Northern Diver 1
Slavonian Grebe 3
Greenshank 1
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 100
Red-breasted Merganser 5
Bar-tailed Godwit 50
Grey Plover 1
Dunlin 200

Year 146 (from all locations today): (Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Green Woodpecker, Ringed Plover, Greenshank + A. Another)

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