Sunday, 30 November 2014

Rainford Mosslands

Whooper swan 1 adult Dairy Farm Road
Pink-footed goose 5000+ Old Coach Road (to the north of Dairy Farm Road)
Corn bunting 1 Dairy Farm Road
Corn bunting 10 Moss Lane
Raven 2 Moss Lane

Despite the close proximity of Martin Mere, whooper swans are pretty scarce in St Helens.  In January 2006 two adults spent about three weeks in fields alongside Dairy Farm Road. A flock of seven were on Clare's Moss alongside the Old Coach Road on 18th November 2005, and I've had two flyovers at the same location, involving three and two birds in 2004 and 2006. I've seen whoopers three times at Eccleston Mere, all in late November / early December, with the largest flock being nine which landed on the water for 10 minutes on 13th November 2005. The largest flock I know of from St Helens is 33 adults which spent at least seven hours at Prescot reservoirs on 14th March 2002.

Meanwhile, the pink-footed goose flock along the Old Coach Road was a very impressive sight, best viewed from the railway bridge.

Corn bunting Dairy Farm Road

Eccleston Mere

Woodcock 1
Snipe 10
Tufted duck 42
Little grebe 1
Mute swan 1
Great crested grebe 10
Herring gull 5
Black headed gull 100
Grey heron 5
Buzzard 2
Cormorant 3

Please note the new sign at the mere if you're planning on visiting. Many of the "informal" entrances have been blocked.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Bits and Pieces, Dalton Crag, Cumbria

We called in at Dalton Crag in Cumbria to see if we could see yet another great grey shrike. We failed in this attempt, but were compensated by three flushed Woodcock, and some interesting flora.

The trig point on Dalton crag. This is the general area where the shrike has been seen, but it is apparently quite wide ranging and elusive at times, as it proved today.

Dalton crag is covered in limestone pavement, with very deep grikes in places. Limestone is soluble and over the years rain water carves out deep valleys and holes in the rock, which can also become very smooth and slippery, making walking on it very treacherous at times.

However the grikes offer protection to plants from both grazing animals and the extremes of the weather, as well as being almost permanently damp, and so can hold lots of interesting plants.

The grikes are an ideal habitat for many species of fern. This is soft shield fern.

This is the underside of a soft shield fern frond, showing the sori (brown structures for holding spores).

The upper side of a soft shield fern frond. Notice that the uppermost "leaf"  on each "branch" which is closest to the stem is bigger than all of the rest and in combination with the same leaves on each of the other branches this makes it look like the frond has a parallel line of leaves running either side of the stem.  This feature shows up particularly well on the underside photo above, and makes soft shield fern quite easy to identify.

This is the limestone loving moss, Neckera crispa. I love the fan shaped branches.

Mouse-ear hawkweed, a relative of the dandelion, but much smaller and slightly paler yellow. Notice the small un-notched leaves with long white hairs.

Grindleton Fell, Forest of Bowland

Great grey shrike 1
Red grouse 3
Bullfinch 3

My fourth great grey shrike of the year after I struggled so much to see one last winter. This was the second time I have seen the species at Griddleton, the first was in February 2010.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Capel Gwyn, Anglesey

Purple heron 1 juv.
Stonechat 2 m & f
Raven 2
Greylag goose 40

After a depressing wait of around 3 hours on a chilly and showery morning, the sun finally came out and the purple heron decided to show itself. When it did it was initially just its head, then it flew and finally it showed exceptionally well in the bright sunlight. My first purple heron in the UK and another bogey bird bites the dust!

UK life: 402; Year: 279 (Purple heron)

The bird has been limping very badly. Take a look at it's left leg and see how thin it is compared to the right.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Lytham Moss

Great grey shrike 1
Stonechat 2

Not the big dipper today!

Lytham Crematorium

Ring-necked parakeet 6

Year: 278 (Ring-necked parakeet)

Hesketh Out Marsh, Ribble Estuary

Merlin 1
Whooper swan 50
Pink-footed goose 3000
Little egret 8
Curlew 50
Redshank 50
Goosander 1 female

Baxters farm, Banks Marsh, Ribble estuary

Great white egret 1
Wigeon 3000
Ruff 1

Curlew lane, Martin Mere

Pink-footed goose 5000
Whooper swan 200

Fantastic scenes in Curlew lane, with thousands of pink-footed geese and at least 200 whooper swans feeding on the fields. A farmer walked around the edge of the field and all of the geese took to the air in a deafening spectacle, yet strangely the swans didn't fly. No sign of the snow goose, though it was seen to fly over Martin Mere earlier in the afternoon.

Friday, 14 November 2014


Green-winged teal 1 male
Barnacle goose 7000
Whooper swan 60
Black-tailed godwit 60
Wigeon 500
Teal 900

Barnacle geese

Green-winged teal with Eurasian teal.

Green winged teal displaying to a female Eurasian teal.

Notice the wigeon with the patch of white on it's head. Behind the teal.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Monday, 10 November 2014

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Mandarin  1 female 
Shoveler 2 males 
Teal 1 female 
Tufted duck 19
Gadwall 13
Mute swan 2 adults 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Snow Goose, Downholland Moss

Snow goose 1
Pink-footed goose 500
Buzzard 1
Golden plover 50
Lapwing 100

Year: 277 (Snow goose)

My first proper snow goose (e.g. one with wild pink-feet) for 18 years. My last was also on Downholland Moss, in November 1996.

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