Sunday, 31 May 2015

Around the patches

Pennington Flash: drake Garganey still from Ramsdales hide, also 7 common terns and 2 shelduck on the mud at the western end.

Lightshaw Hall Flash: redshank, pair of shelduck with 3 chicks. 

Lowton Common: yellowhammer, 5 stock doves, buzzard.

Houghton Green Flash: Nothing!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Red-necked Phalarope, Sandbach

Who needs to go to the Outer Hebrides when you can go to Cheshire? Hot on the heals of yesterdays corncrake, today it was a summer plumage female red-necked phalarope at Sandbach flashes. A cracking little bird frantically feeding on surface insects, it was dwarfed by mallard ducklings.

Incidently, exact details of the corncrakes location are now being put out on Birdguides, I suppose it was inevitable that news would start to leak out, and really I can't see that there's any harm since it's easily viewable from a public road. Just park sensibly folks....

Year: 223 (Red-necked phalarope)

Friday, 29 May 2015

Corncrake, Cheshire

I never expected to hear let alone see a singing corncrake in the North West but that's exactly what happened today. The bird has been present for several days apparently but for a variety of reasons exact details of its location have not so far been released, not least because it's a Schedule 1 breeding bird and no matter how unlikely it may seem, there's the possibilty that it might be breeding.

However, I think I can say that it's in Cheshire given that it's been reported once on Birdguides and several photos have appeared on twitter.

The bird was seen well on several occasions over a 30 minute period and once seemed to have a disagreement with a grey partridge.

Also tonight, corn bunting and grey partridge.

Year: 222 (Corncrake); North West: 355

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Around the patches

Generally pretty quiet around the patches at the moment, the best I could muster was the following.

Houghton Green Flash: Two male yellow wagtails.

Pennington Flash: Drake garganey from Ramsdale hide where there was also a Cetti's warbler singing and a pair of lapwings with 4 chicks. About four common terns over the flash and a couple of hundred swifts, but low numbers of hirundines. Two shelduck were on the mud at the western end. Presumably the garganey is the bird which was at Lightshaw, because,

Lightshaw Hall Flash: no sign of drake garganey but a pair of shelduck still with 3 chicks, oystercatcher and cormorant.

 Garganey Pennington Flash.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Around the patches

I had a tour around my new local patches this evening, starting at Houghton Green Flash. This can pull in some great birds even in it's present poor state, e.g. sanderling last week, but when it's quiet it's really quiet, and today was certainly the latter. The only birds of note were two yellow wagtails.

Then I moved on to Lightshaw flash, just a 15 minute bike ride from home. The drake garganey was still present and the family party of shelduck was on the water.

Finally I came home via Pennington Flash. It's been a bit quiet recently, but even so there was a Cetti's warbler singing in Ramsdales where there was also a kingfisher. Two shelducks were at the western end on the mud.

Wood horsetail and a few flowering grasses

I've never seen this before, this is a fertile stem of wood horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum in the Peninnes today. Quite a bizarre and prehistoric looking plant, the horsetails are related to ferns.

It's the time of year when grasses start to flower, as hayfever sufferers including myself know all too well. It's easy to dismiss grass flowers when compared to other vascular plants, but actually on close inspection they can be quite beautiful, as is this sweet vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum.It's even got a pleasant scent, smelling mildly of vanilla.

This is Timothy Phleum pratense.

Sheep's fescue Festuca ovina.

Even ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata looks nice at this time of year. Nature's sparkler, the white rays move up the flower and then go out!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Lightshaw Hall Flash

The drake garganey was still on Lightshaw Hall Flash today, along with a family of shelducks, common tern and a kingfisher. It's a beautiful place, but the viewing screens are a fair distance from the water and a scope is almost essential.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Three Queens in Liverpool

The three Queens were in Liverpool today, Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria. We walked from Leasowe lighthouse right along the coast to New Brighton and beyond, a round walk of close on 12 miles, but we had wonderful views of the ships. Birds included two wheatears, a few common terns and several sandwich terns.

Lightshaw Hall Flash

Drake garganey on Lightshaw Hall Flash this evening. Also a Cuckoo calling and a pair of shelduck with 3 chicks.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

White-winged Black Tern, Martin Mere

A cracking summer plumage white-winged black tern enticed me back to Martin Mere today, for what I believe is my first visit of the year. At one time I was never away from the place and I volunteered on the reserve for a while, but circumstances change and you move on to other things. Great to be back today though, and the tern though somewhat distant on Woodend marsh was still a great sight as it hawked for insects. This was the first summer plumage bird I have seen in the UK, though I did once see a flock of about 200 in Northern Greece.

Also on Woodend marsh a Temminck's stint and a little stint. At one time Martin Mere was just about the only place where I saw Temminck's stint and I could rely on them here almost every spring. However a combination of me not going as often and the species becoming a little less reliable at the site made this the first I have seen at Martin Mere since 1999.

Year: 221 (White-winged black tern)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Devil's Kitchen, Cwm Idwal

Cwm Idwal is a very spactacular place, and home to Snowdon Lilly which was the reason for our visit today. We failed to find it, but still, hard to be disappointed when you're in a place like this. I saw one ring ouzel and heard another singing but couldn't locate it.

Marsh viloet.

Alpine clubmoss.

I've never seen such a hairy fern, this is beech fern Phegopteris connectilis.

Moss campion.

Glaucous shears on moss campion near the top of the Devil's Kitchen.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Pennington Flash

Fairly quiet at the flash this evening, the highlights were a singing Cetti's warbler near the leaning posts at Ramsdales and a singing garden warbler near the Lapwing hide. Two grey wagtails were from Horrock's hide, a family of lapwings with young chicks in front of Ramsdales hide and about five common terns over the flash. There were few hirundines this evening, mainly sand martins, but there were perhaps a couple of hundred swifts.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bits and pieces

Two yellow wagtails the only highlights from Houghton Green Flash this morning.

Four-spot chaser, the first dragonfly I have seen this year.

Meadow fescue Festuca pratensis

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

I was at the flash for 5:30am today and was delighted to find three summer plumage sanderling. The flash may be much reduced in size and hold only a fraction of its former birdlife, but the mud looks great for waders and it feels like anything could be seen there at the moment. Also today two male yellow wagtails and two grey partridge.

Water Scorpion

We found this water scorpion in a pond in St Helens today during a great crested newt survey. The first I have seen since I was a kid.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Pennington Flash

At least one, perhaps three Arctic terns on the flash this evening, as well as two summer plumage turnstones and two shelduck at the western end. Also lots of swift and hirundines.

Revised year: 220 (Arctic tern)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

A single ringed plover at the flash today, the 9th species of wader I've seen there in the past month or two, albeit most have been singles. Also today oystercatcher and yellow wagtail.

An oystercatcher with two chicks was on fields adjacent to Winwick road near Lane Ends on the way to the flash.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Montagu's Harriers, Blacktoft Sands

We set out today to see the pair of Montagu's harriers which have made their home this spring at the RSPB reserve of Blacktoft Sands near Goole. However, when we received news early doors that there was a Temminck's stint at nearby North Cave Wetlands, we decided to call in there first, the logic being that the harriers seem to get reported around lunch time most days, so we had plenty of time to call in for the stint.

It took a while, but eventually we found the stint, not from the hide but from a viewing screen along the track where the bright sunlight worked in our favour rather than obliterating everything on the scrapes as it did from the hide. It was a nice bird with a few specks of dark feathering on its back.

When we arrived at Blacktoft the harriers had been seen, but not for about three hours. There were loads of marsh harriers in the area, with the males at times looking very slim compared to the females, but when eventually the Monty's appeared there was no comparison. Montagu's harriers look very slim, long tailed and falcon like compared to hen and marsh harriers. The male appeared first, closely followed by the female, they quartered the reedbed distantly but unmistakably, and at times mobbed the passing marsh harriers and buzzards. A tremendous sight, the photos below of the Montys were taken at 24x and are heavily cropped, but hopefully they do at least capture some of the atmosphere of the morning.

This is the female. Look how falcon like it looks, slim winged and long tailed.


The male mobbing a buzzard. Again look how falcon like it looks.

Marsh harrier.

Next it was onto another RSPB reserve, Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire. You wouldn't believe it could be so difficult to find a spoonbill on a marsh, but struggle we did until evetually we found it roosting in a tree in amongst the cormorant colony on the moat. While we were watching, a lesser whitethroat rattled nearby.

It was still not mid afternoon, so next we carried on to Anglers Country Park near Wakefield, where there has been a drake lesser scaup reported for the the past few weeks.This is a species which has gone from mega rarity a few years ago, to expected annual tick on the year list. It's been a bad year if you don't see a lesser scaup these days, and this was my second of the year already. The interesting thing about this bird is that it sports an impressive looking Portuguese nasal ring, something I've never seen on a bird before and something which I'm not too keen on seeing again. Still, it didn't seem to worry the bird too much.

Is this really necessary?

Still only 4pm and now only an hour from home, we decided to extend the day by heading for Carr Lane Pools at Hale, near Liverpool. There was a truely impressive array of waders here, many in summer plumage. In amongst the 100 or so black-tailed godwits and 50 dunlin, there was a spectaular summer plumage curlew sandpiper, little stint, at least 6 knot and one of the best looking red ruffs I've ever seen.

Five year ticks today bringing my total so far for 2015 to: 218 (Montagu's harrier, Temminck's stint, spoonbill, curlew sandpiper, little stint)

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