Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Houghton Green Flash

Little Ringed Plover 1
Shoveler 4 (2 pairs)
Goldeneye 2 (m&f)
Wigeon 8
Teal 3
Mallard 10
Tufted Duck 4

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Sand Martin 20
Tufted Duck 9
Kingfisher 1
Mute Swan 2
Great Crested Grebe 14

My first ever sand martins were at Appleton Reservoir on 17th June 1979.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Sometimes surveys are really dull, but todays was great, not only did I find three badger setts with associated latrines etc., I also found a small heronry and a couple of roe deer. Great stuff!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Chasewater, Staffordshire

Third time lucky today as we finally caught up with a ring-necked duck, a drake on Chasewater in Staffordshire, following failures at Tittesworth Reservoir and Glastonbury earlier in the year. It was an immaculate bird, well worth the wait. Also today four swallows and a house martin with at least 100 sand martins, and two Sandwich terns.

Year: 180 (Ring-necked duck, swallow, Sandwich tern)

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Hirundines at Pennington Flash

There were some torrential rain showers this afternoon, and even a short ferocious thunderstorm with hail stone, but in between it was quite a pleasant day for a bike ride! It was well worth the effort, there were 40+ sand martins over the flash, my first this year, and even better a single house martin, my earliest ever in the UK and my first ever in March. Other birds included two singing chiffchaffs, 13 goldeneye, 11 goosander and kingfisher.

Year: 177 (House martin, sand martin)

Sand Martins.

Little Ringed Plover, Houghton Green Flash

A quick visit to Houghton Green Flash just before the thunderstorm produced my first little ringed plover of the year. Wigeon numbers are down to six birds, but they had been joined by a pair of gadwall, an adult little grebe and a pair of tuftted ducks. If water levels would remain as they are at least it would offer some hope of seeing some decent birds over the spring.

Year: 175 (Little Ringed Plover)

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Knot on the Wash

Today I was over at Skegness with Josh, and we called in at Gibraltar Point for a couple of hours. Despite the time of year and the east coast location, there was no sign of any migrants, not even a wheatear or a chiffchaff. Two firecrests were reported but we didn't look for them. Still, there were about 1000 brent geese on the saltmarsh, whilst on the mudflats at the end of Millenium Ridge there were lots of waders, especially knot, but also dunlin, redshank, grey plover and curlew.

Knot on the Wash mudflats. It's latin name is Calidris canutus, named after the king who tried to hold back the sea.

The old visitor center (on the left) was flooded during the tidal surge of December 2013 and has remained closed ever since. Two and a half years later the new center is nearly ready to be opened. Notice that it's on stilts!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Pennington Flash

I cycled all of the way around the Flash this afternoon in the hope of picking up a sand martin, but in the end I didn't even hear a chiffchaff. Still, it was a nice ride once I escaped the crowds around the car park and temporary funfair.

Goldeneye 14
Pochard 2 (m&f)
Tufted duck 50+
Redshank 3
Black-tailed godwit 1
Oystercatcher 6

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Black Spleenwort

Black spleenwort growing in the wall of the bridge over the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire. I've never seen so much of it. Unfortunately I had to use my phone camera!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Appleton Reservoir

Goldeneye 1 m
Chiffchaff 1 singing
Great crested grebe 15

My first singing chiffchaff of the year, and my first goldeneye at the reservoir.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Sherwood Forest

I spent a few hours first thing this morning in Sherwood Forest, brushing up on my woodlark surveying skills ahead of an imminent survey.  Woodlarks are only just arriving back in the country, but I had some insider information that they were already back and singing in Sherwood Forest, and I managed to find at least four birds singing. I don't see (or hear) a lot of woodlarks so a few hours watching them and listening to them at a known breeding site can prove invaluable refresher training rather than simply relying on recordings of their song. There were lots of yellowhammers, siskins and lesser redpolls in the area, and a green woodpecker was calling, but no sign of any crossbills. Still, a goshawk over was a good compensation!

Year: 174 (Woodlark, goshawk, lesser redpoll)

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Moel Arthur to Pen-y-cloddiau

We parked at Cilcain and walked the Offa's Dyke footpath from Moel Arthur to Pen-y-cloddiau, a good 10 mile round walk. It was a beautiful spring day and there was plenty of bird activity.

This red kite was the first I have ever seen in the Clwydian range, but it wasn't popular with the locals, being mobbed by five buzzards, two ravens and a kestrel.

The ravens were not that keen on the buzzards either. These two photos really show the large size of the ravens.

This raven was on the footpath at the summit of Pen-y-cloddiau and allowed quite close approach.

Not too close though!

This green woodpecker was calling in the valley to the north of the ridge.

Looking towards Pen-y-cloddiau from Moel Arthur

Larch in flower. The pink flower in the male, the green is the female.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

A visit to the east coast

We were over on the east coast today, starting off at Flamborough Head where there has been a couple of Richard's pipits at North Landing We managed to find them pretty quickly and they showed well in the long grass.

There were three here for a short while earlier in the year, but for most of the time it's just been the two.

Next we headed up to Filey Brigg to look for the 1st winter surf scoter which has been present for a couple of months. The bird was in the middle of Filey Bay and took some finding, but it was the only scoter present and eventually we got onto it and it was a decent enough view through the scope.

It was now approaching high tide and we decided to go next to Scalby Mills just north of Scarborough for a drake American Wigeon which has been showing best over the tide from the Sea Life Centre with about 200 Eurasian wigeon.

We ended the day at Bempton Cliffs where there are already quite a few seabirds back on the ledges, though there was no sign of any puffins yet.

Year 171: (Richard's pipit, American wigeon, gannet, kittiwake, razorbill)

Friday, 18 March 2016

Lesser spotted woodpecker

I spent my lunch break looking for lesser spotted woodpeckers today and following several recent failed attempts, finally nailed them for the year. I could hear the bird drumming as I walked down the lane and fortunately there were a couple of birders watching it when I got there, who immediately got me onto it. A good view through binoculars of a drumming male, but almost impossible to get a decent photograph through the predictable tangle of branches and usual lighting problems associated with photographing a small bird high up in a leafless tree on a dull day. Still, a photograph is always a bonus rather than the goal. Always a endearing little bird it's such a shame that they are now so rare in the North West.

Year: 166 (Lesser spotted woodpecker)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

March hares

Lots of brown hares about today, I counted eight in one field including six which were chasing each other around. Several also on the edge of the saltmarsh and two or three in the scrub. A beautiful day for watching them.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A bryophyte wall in Silverdale

Thank goodness for bryophytes! For a large part of the year they bring the majority of colour to the countryside.

This photo is from North Wales and illustrates well the colour bryophytes bring to a winter woodland.

Here is a typical bryophyte wall in Silverdale, north Lancashire. I can't put a name to them all yet, but there is a large diversity of bryophytes on every wall. Below is a sample of the species I found. Other species which I found but neglected to photograph include the liverworts Marchesinia mackaii MacKay's pouncewort and Plagiochila porelloides bfid crestwort.

Thuidium Tamariscinum common tamarisk-moss.

I'm fairly certain that this is Ctenidium molluscum comb moss, except that my book says it only rarely has captules. This clearly has a few. Perhaps I just got lucky.....

Neckera crispa crisped neckera.

Atrichum undulatum common smoothcap.

Calliergonella cuspidata pointed spear-moss.

The liverwort Plagiochilla porelloides lesser featherwort.

Wild daffodils Narcissus pseudonarcissus. Regular readers will know just how much I love the daffodil family, I've seen some crackers across Europe, notably in the Picos de Europa mountains of Spain here and more recently in Cyprus here and here. The problem in the UK is that there are so many garden escapes or deliberate planting of non-native species, that it's actually quite difficult at times to know if you're looking at a wild plant or not. However, wild daffodils have pale yellow flowers with a darker central trumpet and grey green leaves, and are more beautiful than most garden plants.

Snowdrops Galanthus nivalis

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