Thursday, 30 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Greenshank 1 on spit
Redshank 2
Common sandpiper 3
Common tern 8
Little ringed plover 1
Sand martin 300
Swallow 40
House martin 30
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Grey wagtail 2
Swift 100
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling near Lapwing hide.



Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Greenshank 1 yacht club
Arctic tern 2
Dunlin 2
Little ringed plover 3
Swift 50
Swallow 50
Sand martin 500
Sedge warbler 2 singing
Common tern 14
House Martin 20
Whitethroat 4 singing
Reed warbler 5 singing
Common sandpiper 1
Redshank 1
Shelduck 2
Teal 1 male
Little grebe adult with chick at Teal hide.



Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Passage on the coast

Photo: Osprey.
I've not had a lot of work during the COVID-19 lockdown but I've had just about enough to keep me sane and get me out of the house to some beautiful locations. In this post I'm not going to say exactly where I've been working today, but regular readers will have a good idea. Suffice to say that it's a coastal survey and at this time of year with an easterly wind it offers a good opportunity to see a bit of passage.

Photo: Grasshopper warbler.
As soon as I arrived today I immediately heard a grasshopper warbler reeling from the bushes just ahead of me and amazingly the bird was right out in the open, probably not much more than about 2m from me. A whitethroat was singing in the same area and as I dropped down onto the beach I flushed four whimbrel which flew calling for about 200m before landing again. I walked along the scrub covered base of a low, clay cliff and heard two lesser whitethoats rattling out their song along with the usual linnets.

It was approaching low tide and I was to spend my day watching the movements of birds as the tide came in. Wader numbers were low but I did count a fine flock of 600 pristine looking dunlin and ringed plover. Up to eight little egrets fished the creeks and channels.

As high tide approached a few ducks came into the bay, 17 eiders, five red-breasted mergansers and a pair of common scoter all in immaculate breeding plumage. Further out to sea and set against dark threatening skies I could see brilliant white gannets and up to 50 sandwich terns plunge diving in dramatic fashion, and suddenly a dark phase arctic skua flew past.

It was now high tide and looking south down the channel I noticed a large, long winged bird of prey circling high above the water. It was clearly an osprey and it was slowly heading my way. As it approached my vantage point it dropped considerably and started to fish by hovering above the water. Even in these days when ospreys are more frequent than they used to be they are still always a magnificent sight. I watched it as it drifted north and was eventually lost to view.

The final highlight was just as I was packing up to leave, a hooded crow flew across the channel and disappeared inland.

Pennington Flash

Common sandpiper 1 yacht club
Common tern 12
Shelduck 1
Little tern 1

Monday, 27 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Yellow wagtail 2 flew north over the ruck
Swift 150
Swallow 30
Common sandpiper 5
Little ringed plover 3
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling behind Lapwing hide
Sand martin 300
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Reed warbler 3 singing males
Buzzard 1


Sunday, 26 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Cuckoo 1 heard near Teal hide
Dunlin 1 yacht club
Little ringed plover 4
Common sandpiper 1 yacht club
Common tern 4
Kingfisher 1 yacht club
Shelduck 1
Swallow 1
Whitethroat 3 singing males
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Kestrel 1 female on the Ruck
Reed warbler 5 singing males
House sparrow 3
Treecreeper 1
Greylag 6


Saturday, 25 April 2020

Lightshaw Flash

Cuckoo 1 heard
Black-tailed godwit 8
Little ringed plover 1
Common sandpiper 1
Grey partridge 2 at Byrom Hall


Pennington Flash

Little ringed plover 1 at the yacht club
Common tern 3
Sedge warbler 1 singing male
Whitethroat 2 singing males


Friday, 24 April 2020

Pennington Flash


Kittiwake 1 ad non-breeding
Little ringed plover 2
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males, Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, Westleigh brook.
Shelduck 5
Common tern 7
Sedge warbler 2 singing males
Whitethroat 4 singing males
Ringed plover 1
Reed warbler 5 singing males
Redshank 1
Raven 1 over Sorrowcow farm


Thursday, 23 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 31

Photo: Swift.
A real mega today, a garden warbler was singing in a neighbours garden at 7:30am This is the first record of the year for me, though I do hope to see and hear more at Pennington Flash over the next few weeks.

At lunch time a great tit was singing in the goat willow and a buzzard rode the thermals overhead.

Two swifts were over the garden at 13:30, these are the first I've seen over the garden this year, though they have been about locally since 18th. With the swifts several sand martins and a swallow followed about 30 minutes later. 28 species recorded today, my best day total so far and this brings my lockdown garden list to 49 species since 24th March.


Pennington Flash

Whimbrel 2 on the spit
Common tern 4
Sand martin 50
Swallow 10
Swift 20
Cetti's warbler singing Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Westleigh brook, east bay
Whitethroat 2 singing
Sedge warbler 2 singing west bay
Buzzard 1
Reed warbler 4 singing
Snipe 1
Teal 8
Goldcrest 1 singing near Bunting hide.
Shelduck 2 at Teal hide



Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 30

Photo: Holly blue.
Garden birding is becoming quite tough going at the moment. It's the perfect time of year in many respects because birds are moving on their spring passage but these glorious sunny days with clear blue skies mean that everything is just passing through miles up and out of view.  What we really need is a nice cold front coming through bringing some drizzle to bring birds down.

However while we can dream of rain, sunny days do bring out the invertebrates and several species of butterfly have been seen around the garden, most notably holly blue which not only was my earliest ever, it was also my first in April. Other species have included peacock, small tortoiseshell, small white, orange tip and speckled wood.

The lockdown bird list currently stands at 46, all time garden list 57.

Pennington Flash

Grey wagtail 2
Whitethroat 3 singing males
Sand martin 50
Cetti's warbler 7 singing males Sorrowcow pond, west end, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, Teal hide, Westleigh brook, east end.
Swift 10
Buzzard 1
Sedge warbler 3 singing males
Mistle thrush 1
Skylark 3 singing males
Reed warbler 3 singing males
Redshank 2
Common tern 2
Arctic tern 1
Common sandpiper 1
Swallow 1
Sparrowhawk pair displaying Sorrowcow

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Pennington Flash


Little gull 2 ad sum & ad winter
Common sandpiper 1
Sedge warbler 2 singing males
Greylag 6
Cetti's warbler 6 singing males, Sorrowcow, west end, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, east end, Westleigh brook.
Redshank 2
Reed warbler 3 singing males
Shelduck 2
Goldcrest 1 singing male
Whitethroat 1 singing male behind lapwing
Common tern 1






Monday, 20 April 2020

Pennington Flash



Pied Flycatcher 1 female east bay
Arctic tern 10
Common tern 1
Common sandpiper 2 yacht club
Little ringed plover 1 yacht club
Sand martin 300
Swallow 10
Cetti's warbler 6 singing males
Sedge warbler 2 singing males
Blackcap 10 singing males
Willow warbler 10 singing males
Chiffchaff 10 singing males
Shelduck 1
Oystercatcher 6
Reed warbler 3 singing males
Teal 8
Redshank 2

Pied flycatcher.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 26


Under the goat willow tree in the corner of the garden we are very fortunate to have a small colony of wild bluebells growing and they give us a lovely display every spring. At times like this when we can't get to our favorite bluebell woods, these plants are a great source of comfort. Wild bluebells have long cylindrical bells as opposed to the rounder, shorter and fatter bells of the garden escape hybrid bluebells (below).



As far as birds are concerned it's been a fairly quiet week here in Lowton, not helped by the fact that I was working on Thursday and Friday which meant that there were no records at all from those days.

We might be in lockdown but nature carries on and locally many summer visitors have arrived. Here at the obs we've already seen swallow, sand martin, house martin and swift, the latter was seen today and is my joint earliest date ever for the species. I've already reported on ospreys and common scoter passing over and locally I've also recorded various warblers namely blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff, willow, reed, sedge, grasshopper and Cetti's.  No yellow wagtails, cuckoos, wheatears or ring ouzel yet, but still plenty of time, and who knows, we might get a tern or two over as well.

So today we had some rain and it produced the goods in the form of 50 sand martins going over the garden all headed south for some reason. Other birds today included at least two stock doves and a new one for lockdown birding, three mistle thrush chasing each other around for five minutes.


Pennington Flash


Swift
Common tern 2
House Martin 10
Swallow 10
Sand martin 800
Reed warbler 3
Shelduck 2
Little ringed plover 1
Teal 2 male and female
Common sandpiper 3
Mistle thrush 1
Greylag 6
Sedge warbler 2

The swift was my joint earliest ever.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Relieving the cabin fever


Earlier in the week I was offered a days work on the Cumbrian coast and I jumped at the opportunity. It's a very beautiful spot with wide open views and a chance to see some estuary birds and perhaps a bit of coastal migration with the icing on the cake, I get paid for it, which in these days of lockdown is like winning the lottery. It's also a very remote spot and once I get there I don't see another soul all day, so no problem socially isolating here.

It was high tide when I arrived but it was a neap tide so not particularly high and I had no problem walking to my vantage point. Sometimes when it's a spring tide it can be difficult to get to because the water comes right up to the cliff.

So as soon as I was in position and set up I started to scan those bits of the beach and saltmarsh which were still uncovered. The first bird I looked at was a whimbrel! Nice, my first of the year and by no means a nailed on addition to the year list this year. There were also about 30 curlew, 200 oystercatchers, 10 redshanks, bar-tailed godwit and five dunlin. I could also see about 20 shelduck and a handful of eider on the sea, normally I'd say that it was fairly quiet but after over 20 days in the back garden it seemed to be positively teeming with birds.

If I turn my attention to the north west of my vantage point I can see the open sea. It's a bit distant to be honest but high tide is about as good as it's going to get, so when time allowed I had a scan in that direction. I could see a few sandwich terns and further out still I was delighted to see gannets plunge diving. I followed a couple of sandwich terns as they came much closer in and suddenly spotted some small birds crossing low over the water, their white rumps clearly identifying them as wheatears heading north. Migration in action, eight birds in total plus a few swallows, a wonderful sight! During the course of the day I spotted several more wheatears, some crossing the beach and a couple of others on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

Photo: Northern wheatear.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Memories of black-winged stilts, Cemlyn Bay


On this day in 1993 I went to Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey with my Dad to see three black-winged stilts. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had great views of these fabulous birds.  Some time after this they turned up at Frodsham marsh and attempted to breed but unfortunately it was a very wet May and the nest was flooded and then finally predated. Nice to read Eric Hardy's account of these birds from this time.

Also on this day in 1973 I went to Hilbre Island for the first time ever with my Dad and saw my first ever wheatear.



Pennington Flash

Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling west end
Shelduck 4
Swallow 2
Sand martin 300
Treecreeper 1
Reed warbler 3
Redshank 2
Cetti's warbler 4 singing males
Little ringed plover 1
Little grebe 1
Teal 4
Greylag 4
Buzzard 2


Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Common sandpiper 3
Little ringed plover 1
White wagtail 1 male
Mistle thrush 1
Sand martin 800
Shelduck 2
Cetti's warbler 3 singing males. Sorrowcow pond, west end & Hey brook.


Monday, 13 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Grey wagtail 3
Swallow 10
Sand martin 500
House martin 5
White wagtail 1
Grasshopper warbler 1 reeling West end
Shelduck 2
Water rail 1 heard Ramsdales
Redshank 1
Cetti's warbler 4 singing


Saturday, 11 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 19


Mixed emotions here at the obs, these beautiful, warm sunny days are perfect for sitting out in the garden and chilling out, but they don't often prove good for seeing birds. So far today the highlight has been a soaring sparrowhawk, a single lapwing over and two adult chaffinches in the goat willow tree, the latter is actually quite an unusual sight in the garden.

Late afternoon two more rooks went over. I think I may have just overlooked rooks in the past, I noticed the first a few days ago and since then I've seen them every day.


Pennington Flash

Garganey 2 male and female
Little ringed plover 1
Reed warbler 2
Teal 10
Cetti's warbler 6 singing West end, Sorrowcow, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, Teal, East Bay.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Purple Heron, Lightshaw Flash


For our walk this morning and in a bid to avoid the potential of Good Friday crowds at Pennington Flash we had a walk to Lightshaw Flash. What a great decision that turned out to be!

Incredibly when we got to the western viewing screen there was an adult summer plumage purple heron complete with full breeding plumes on the marsh near the wooden bridge on the other side of Hey Brook. At first I just caught a glimpse of its head but eventually it showed very well at a distance of about 50m. Purple heron is a Greater Manchester mega, this is the third for the county but the first for many years.

It turns out that this is the birds second day, but news is not being released due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Basically I got lucky, I accidentally stumbled across a bird which was already known to be present and I was sworn to secrecy, a request I was happy to comply with in the circumstances. Sorry if this upsets anybody but my conscience is clear.  #COVID-19  #LockDown #StayHomeSaveLives  #SaveOurNHS.

Edit 14/05/2020: This bird was present for just three days and was last seen on 11th April 2020. Six birders saw this bird. No it wasn't a clique, they were the original finder plus me and four others who also accidentally stumbled across it.


My 5th purple heron in the UK and my 4th in the north west, but as a summer plumage adult this is by far the best, all of the others have been juveniles. I don't think I've even seen them this well abroad.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 17

Photo: Woodpigeon.
Almost the first bird of the day while I was eating breakfast was a new one for the garden and therefore also for this period of lockdown birding at the obs. To be honest I thought it was going to turn out to be a cormorant but thankfully I had a look through my binoculars and it was a greylag. This brings the overall garden list to 53 and the lockdown list to 43. A great start to the day!

More excitement by lunchtime, a meadow pipit flew over bring the lockdown list to 44 and I now have two coal tits in the garden. Species 45 flew over just after lunch, my first ever garden rook.

Twenty six species recorded in total today, my best ever day total for the garden.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Pennington Flash Osprey


One of the best ways to see a migrating osprey is to use your ears and listen. Not for the call of the osprey itself which is an easily learned and diagnostic whistle, but more for the calls of the irate posse of gulls which seem to follow them everywhere and which often announce the arrival of this magnificent raptor long before you see it.

I had just arrived at Sorrowcow farm near the yacht club today, when I became aware that the gulls were going mad. This wasn't just the usual aggressive calls amongst themselves, something was really bothering them. I've experienced this before and at this time of year I was pretty confident that I knew what it would be even before I looked up. Looking behind me I could see that the birds were still quite distant but fortunately they were heading straight towards me from the south.  In the middle of the gulls I could see a large shape with arched wings and a head on profile not unlike that of a huge gull. Clearly an osprey! It flew right over me and I could see that it had a missing secondary on it's left wing. For an osprey it was really shifting, it powered its way north and I watched it until it was just a dot in the distance. An awesome experience. Of course ospreys eat exclusively fish so it's no threat to the gulls but I guess that they just don't like such a big bird of prey in their area. This is at least the third osprey reported over Lowton / Landside since Saturday.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 15


Drama at the obs today when a coal tit was heard singing in the hawthorn bush in the back garden, resulting is a quick exit through the patio doors. It took a while to pin the bird down but eventually it showed well. I was just thinking that the day was going to peter out with just the usuals seen or heard, but coal tit is a new lockdown tick bringing the total species seen in the garden in the past 14 days to 42. I have seen them in the garden before but it's certainly not a regular visitor.


Pennington Flash


Little ringed plover 2 from Ramsdales hide
Common sandpiper 1 from the jetty near Horrock's hide
Willow warbler 10
Shelduck 2

Monday, 6 April 2020

Pennington Flash

10+ Willow warblers singing
10 Sand martins
Cetti's warbler 7 singing males. East bay, south side near old cormorant hide, Sorrowcow pond, West bay, Ramsdales, Tom Edmondson, Teal hide.


Sunday, 5 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 13

A very gentle day at the obs today, a buzzard and a sparrowhawk provided the best of the entertainment soaring overhead, but other than that it was all about the regulars, including this fabulous blackbird collecting inverts from the lawn.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 12

Whoa, adult peregrine straight through the garden chasing something, it had to swerve to avoid the house! Awesome sight. Garden tick and lockdown birding tick. Nice. Perhaps today will be a good raptor day 🙏. Peregrine brings the lockdown garden list to 41 species and the overall garden list to 53.

Also this morning a great tit in a neighbours garden.


Friday, 3 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 11


Spurred on by the success of last night and the scoter passage, today I decided to turn my attention to the often neglected East hide (also known as the front room, or Colin's cave).  The garden here is much smaller but the views are much wider and less enclosed and I always feel as if I'm likely to see more from here which is why I have the scope set up in this room.

Spending a few hours here has certainly paid off so far, with a new lockdown species in the shape of two kestrels as well as buzzards, raven, sand martin, grey heron and a few lapwings. In the photo above I'm looking east, so north (and Pennington Flash) is to the left and south is to the right. Almost directly east there is farm land and beyond that Hope Carr, so always a chance of movement between those places and the flash, but the downside is that birds tend to be more distant.

Late afternoon a brown shape appeared on top of a tree at the end of the road which it turns out is a singing song thrush, another new bird for lockdown birding.

This evening I had another session in the garden but failed to add any further species to the day list. Considering that we are on lockdown and told to stay at home to protect the NHS, there's an awful lot of road users out even right up to the time that I went to bed at 23.00. It's supposed to be essential journeys only, I'd love to know what's essential for most of these vehicles at 23.00 on a Friday night.


Pennington Flash

Sand martin 400
Grey wagtail 2
Wigeon 4
Nuthatch singing
Raven 1
Garganey 2 male & female
Cetti's warbler 6 singing males
Goosander 1 female


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lowton Bird Observatory, Day 10 - Huge movement of common scoter


The past couple of days have seen a huge passage of common scoter at night over North West England, probably involving birds moving from the North Wales coast and Liverpool Bay back to their breeding grounds in northern Russia. I'm glad to say that the obs shared in the experience with three or four flocks over during the course of a bitterly cold evening. The calls were quite distant except for one flock which seemed to fly right overhead. A tremendous experience and unsurprisingly common scoter is a garden tick! Just as I was about to turn in for the night a couple of oystercatchers flew over calling.


It seemed like fun at first but it turned into a battle for survival!

Not too much to report during daylight hours with just the usual species seen.

Pennington Flash

Garganey 2 male & female
Sand Martin 400
Black-tailed godwit 1
Redshank 2
Cetti's warbler 5 singing males
Wigeon 5



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Pennington Flash

Garganey 2 male & female
Sand martin 300
Redshank 2
Black-tailed godwit 1
Shelduck 4
Goldeneye 15
Goosander 2 females


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