Saturday, 25 May 2019


A young adult spoonbill in all of it's breeding finery at Burton Mere Wetlands today. It's a young adult because it has dark wing tips but in all other respects it's in full breeding plumage and is one of three birds currently on the reserve where they are nest building and looking likely to breed.

What a turn of events this is, way back in 1981 I remember the excitement of being at Minsmere in Suffolk with my Dad and hardly believing my eyes as a spoonbill flew over and landed on the scrape in front of the hide and began feeding, bill in the water and head swinging from side to side.

These days it's hard to convey the thrill of my first ever encounter with the species which at the time was much rarer than it is today, but it's  perhaps even more amazing to recall that my first spoonbill was actually an unexpected bonus of a trip for which the primary reason was to see avocets. Avocets these days hardly raise a birders eyebrow. A week or two ago an avocet at Pennington Flash barely attracted any attention from local birders and I watched it alone in Ramsdales hide and then Horrock's hide, and the species now breeds at several locations in North West England, including Burton Mere Wetlands. Yet back in 1981 if you wanted to see an avocet, East Anglia was your best chance and Minsmere the classic location.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Stilt Sandpiper at Lunt Meadows

An adult stilt sandpiper at Lunt Meadows showed well this morning (despite what the photos may tell you!) and was my 5th following birds at Frodsham Weaver Bends (1983), Bowness-on-Solway (2008), Neumann's Flash (2013) and Cresswell Ponds (2014). It was also my 273rd species in Merseyside and my 311th in Lancashire.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Avocet Pennington Flash

An Avocet at Pennington Flash today was a site first for me. When I arrived at Horrock's hide it hadn't been seen on the spit for a while so after a wait of a few minutes I decided to head round to Ramsdales hide just in case it had moved there. Fortunately it had, and though still a little distant and slightly against the light it was still an excellent view. I watched it feeding for several minutes before it was harassed by a lapwing and flew off high over the trees. I thought that it had gone but then I heard it calling and saw it flying back and it appeared to land again on the spit. Sure enough when I returned to Horrock's hide it was standing on the end of the spit and I watched it for a few minutes more until it sat down for a nap and was lost to view behind the vegetation.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw - a working day on Mull

When I was asked if I'd consider going up to the Isle of Mull to undertake a habitat survey I immediately jumped at the opportunity even though it was only going to be a day visit and would involve two full days of driving. It was just one of those jobs I couldn't possibly turn down. We stayed in Oban for two nights and traveled over to Mull on the earliest ferry and back to Oban on the latest ferry to give us as much time as possible on the island.

Whilst travelling across Mull today we came across this magnificent immature white-tailed eagle eating a lamb on the moors below A Mhaol Mhor. At first it was harassed  by a buzzard and some ravens, but after a while the lambs mother appeared and walked around watching the eagle and eventually walked straight towards it and caused the bird to fly. Unfortunately the lamb was already dead and half eaten and well past the point of rescue and the eagle flew off with it in its claws to finish off its meal. It's hard to know if the eagle had killed the lamb or if it had just come across the animal already dead, but I guess that it hadn't been dead long if the behaviour of the mother was anything to go by.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Oban harbour

Oban, the gateway to the Hebrides, is an attractive town in its own right, with the harbour at the centre of everything, with its colourful fishing boats and impressive ferries. It was from here that I sailed to St. Kilda in a chartered ex-fishing boat back in 1986, and in more recent years I've sailed from here to the islands of Mull and Barra.  Black guillemots breed in the harbour wall and can be incredibly tame, allowing for excellent photo opportunities.

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