Monday, 29 April 2013

Evening visit to Burton Marsh & Burton Point Sunday 28th April 2013

After some quite heavy April showers, I got a message from my mate Shaun saying he was going down to Burton Point for a few hours after tea, so I got my gear together and we headed off. It was still drizzling slightly but the prospect of clearer skies according to the Met Office App boded well!

Upon arrival at the bottom of Station Rd and the entrance gate to the marshes, we could see that the farmer had now put the sheep out onto the marsh. The new tarmac path was covered in sheep droppings, so after a few steps like Jack Nicholson in "As Good As It Gets", I gave up trying to dodge the mess and carried on regardless, besides, I was birdwatching, not watching my step. Not many cyclists, or dog walkers tonight, the latter will REALLY have to abide by the "Dogs On Lead" signs now the sheep are out!!

If any of you have walked the path up towards Burton Point, you will know the area I mean just before the 1st Cattle Grid, you have farm hills on the left and a lush reedbed on the right. In the reeds, we could hear Sedge Warblers and Shaun spotted this lovely Whinchat perched on top of a bush in amongst the reeds.

A female Whinchat was admiring him from the opposite banks ;)

The reedbed was a hive of activity and we also spotted male and female Stonechat. The Sedge Warbler was skulking at the bottom of the reeds and kept hopping around like a mouse on speed. Despite Shauns best efforts to get a photograph it was all in vain. The sun was trying to break through the dissipating cloud layers and golden rays beamed down over the Welsh hills. Plenty of Wheatears were still showing on the slopes opposite and were taking a keen interest in and around the rabbit burrows. Here's a pic of a lovely female.

Walking past the cattle grid and further on up towards Burton Point, there was not much activity in the gorse bushes that line the sandstone facade, however in a clearing further on we spotted two Whitethroats, both males and were in a spat over territory. We watched these chase each other around the thicket for a good 5 minutes, then Shaun spotted a leg of lamb (no he was not still dreaming over Sunday lunch) this was a half eaten leg, most probably taken by a resident Fox !!

As we approached the dip just before the entrance to the M.O.D firing range, I scanned the wood up on top of the hill at Burton Point, in the hope of locating the Little Owl we had seen a few weeks earlier. Well, needle and haystack, however bingo!! I spotted it, tucked in against a tree trunk sheltering from the North Westerly wind. I told Shaun and he said "How the hell did you spot that?" I replied "Swarovski mate, see the unseen" there is no way I would have picked the Owl out with the naked eye.

Crossing the second cattle grid and stepping onto the wooden bridge that heads up towards the back of IMF (Inner Marsh Farm) we encountered a young couple who were out birding/nature watching and had some interesting shots of what appeared to be small lizards on their camera. Well from the shots on the camera, they looked quite big, I did not realise what we would find later on would be between 10 & 15mm !

After showing them the Little Owl which they were very excited about, we headed up towards the IMF pools in the hope another rarity may have dropped in. Looking over the fence and the railway line, you can see the pools and I spotted Avocets, Black Headed Gulls and a Spotted Redshank well on the way to full Summer Plumage. Here's a shot below :)

Quite a few Little Egrets and Grey Herons could be seen squabbling over in the distance at the Heronry at Hadden Wood, some Shovelers were on a pool further up and some Blackwits were calling high overhead. It was then that we spotted this small lizard looking creature on the tarmac path. I had no idea what it was it was that small, when I got home I did look it up and from the feet thought it more a salamander or newt. A friend says it's a very young Palmate Newt. If anyone else knows please feel free to comment :-

I love this place, you just never know what's around the corner. Alas, Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl appear to have departed north to their breeding grounds on the moors, but what a start studded crowd we have been graced with for the spring/summer months ahead :)

On the walk back we heard Grasshopper Warblers reeling and saw some Meadow Pipits flitting around on the grassy banks.

Heading back towards the car as the light faded, I reflected what a truly great place this is at anytime of the day, but even more so it seems at first light and late evenings. A big credit to RSPB reserve manager Colin Wells and his staff of interns and volunteers for making this and Burton Mere Wetlands/IMF great places to visit.

I look forward to visiting again soon, but also during the pearly mists of summer dawns, when the temperature has gone up a few degrees!! Tonight it was seriously chilly.

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (Photos)

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Frodsham Birding - Saturday Evening 17.30 - 20.30pm

Decided to go for a look around Frodsham Marsh this evening with my mate Shaun . Parked up by the field next to Lordship Lane, where the model flying club play out. Scanned the ploughed field looking for Yellow Wagtails but could only see a few Wheatear dotted about and some Shelduck further back. Walking along Lordship Lane, the reedbed was very quiet and just one Reed Bunting flew out.

At the top of the rise and after me moaning about not seeing a Swift this year, two flew over No6 tank at about 5.45pm, we managed a quick snap but it's very blurred (sorry) but unmistakable shape :) It really does work if you cry about not seeing a species, I find it works anyway!

Further up and upon approaching the No4 tank, we got a distant glimpse of the Marsh Harrier, but was quite a bit away to get a good photo. The long pool that splits No3 & No4 tank normally has a few surprises, however tonight there was just a few Tufted Duck and two Greylags on No3 tank along with the White (domesticated) Goose!

Heard plenty of Pheasants calling tonight as usual and they often strut out onto the footpath cast you a curious glance and then disappear into the undergrowth. Walking further on we got about 250 yards and looked back to see the Male Marsh Harrier and two female Marsh Harriers displaying and then being mobbed by a Raven (sods law) so we decided to have a walk back but yes, you've guessed it, they vanished again!! We waited for another half an hour, heard Sedge Warbler calling and managed this snap of a Whitethroat in the bushes.

Walking the path between No5 & No6 tanks, we got views of Meadow Pipit, Lesser Whitethroat and some more Whitethroats. A reed Warbler started up close by and Shaun took a distant picture of what could have been a Tree Pipit but was hard to see properly without a scope :- see below

A couple of Buzzards were fighting the usual battles with the Carrion Crows over No5 tank and a few Canada Geese could be seen further out. Looking out over No6 tank, we had views of over 200 Shelduck, a few Teal, Gadwall, Cormorants and Moorhens. Here's a shot of a couple of Shelduck in a muddy splash landing.

Plenty of Swallows were flying over and walking back towards the Van we saw Linnets, Reed Buntings and a very noisy family with about 6 dogs yapping away :( light was drawing in, so next time we go, we may take a look up at the ICI tanks and by the Weaver Bend. Finishing on a sad note, we had heard about a Long Eared Owl that had been spotted earlier in the Year in it's roost up by Ince. We had on previous occasions, tried to locate but with no joy. Sadly a friend of Shauns, found a dead Long Eared Owl in the kerb on Ash Road, Elton, presumed hit by a car or lorry :-(

Frodsham Marshes really is a gem though to go Birdwatching and a group of dedicated people do a daily blog these guy's do a tremendous job, so please go visit soon and stick to the paths and observe good fieldcraft at all times. I finish off with a Marsh Map. See you soon.

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (Photos)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Wildlife and Birds that visit my back garden.

As I am new to the whole Blog thing, I thought I would give you some details about the area I live in and the wildlife and birds that can be seen here. I live in a small bungalow in Rivacre in Ellesmere Port. This bungalow backs onto the Rivacre Valley Country Park, so I'm fortunate in that I get a variety of wildlife that visit the garden. I always say though, no matter where you are, if you provide food and water, the birds and animals can be enjoyed by all :)

I have catalogued 61 Species of bird (including flyovers) but regularly get Stock Doves, Great Spotted & Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Coal, Great, Blue & Long tailed Tit (don't get Willow or Marsh) Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch. Goldcrest, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush & Blackbird. More seasonal visitors include, Siskin, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and Willow Warbler. Here are a few pics :-




Occasionally I have gulls in the garden, they regularly fly between the River Dee and the River Mersey, which a good roosting ground for them (Manisty Mount) is only 15 minutes walk from my bungalow! Here is a picture of a Lesser Black Backed Gull enjoying a biscuit :)

Here are a couple more having a good look around !!

It's never a dull day in the Buckley home, you just never know who is going to drop in :) I am hoping to get pictures of the Tawny Owls that nest at the back of my neighbours, they had 3 Owlets last year and you know when they have arrived because they squeak, like a dog's toy ball ....well that's what it sounds like to me :p watch this space.

Now then onto the foxes, I have had a family of foxes visiting the back for the last 5 years, they know there is food and as such visit every night. Last year Rosemary had one cub (Brad) and he came back into the garden recently after a long absence away, here is his pic.

Rosemary visits also, however at the moment I am hoping she has cubs to tend to, so here is a pic of her from earlier in the Year.

As it's getting warmer, butterflies, bees and the Wood Mice become more active. I am not very good at identifying some species, so turn to @Ryanclarkphotos for help on twitter as he knows his stuff as you would expect of a student studying Environmental Biology :) Here are a few pictures I captured last year and the Wood Mouse is from this year, I have called him Mr Bojangles as he has a poorly eye and is very tame.






My dad, when he was alive, worked hard in the garden and taught me to respect your environment, I feel the work I put in looking after the plants, grasses, bushes and soil helps attract this wildlife and therefore benefits me as I get to study it close up. Rivacre Valley Country Park is not the best place to birdwatch, as we do have a lot of dog walkers, who unfortunately disturb the birds and wildlife, so if you were planning on a visit, I would recommend early morning when the valley is alive with birdsong :)

Just a couple of parting photographs, including a gorgeous double Rainbow in the front last Autumn....

and the laughing professor Yaffle, the Green Woodpecker ( I nicknamed him that because of Bagpuss), oops showing me age!! Sorry, not a very good pic.

Well, that's a little bit about me and the garden, hope you enjoyed.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Lovely Redstart

Not done much birding this week, so decided on a trip to Parkgate. Not being mobile is a pain in the derriere, however the Number 272 poverty wagon (aka bus) rocks up in Rossmore Road West on the hour. 20 Minutes later and I'm at the cross in Neston, a quick walk down to the front past the cricket club and hey presto your on the marsh.

It was looking frazzled and this was the first time I had seen it after the fire so was quite concerned at the damage close up!! If only these yobs realise what damage they do when they mess with fire, still they will be in prison no doubt in the not too distant future.

Anyway, enough of the rabbit, first bird was a Kestrel, flying high up and circling around seeing what was on offer for the dinner table, not a lot and it flew off Southwards. Screaming Black Headed Gulls, love them or loath them, their antics never fail to amuse me, whether it's scrapping over a chip or squabbling with neighbours over space on the pool by the donkey stand, they are a bird with great character.

 Quite a few Black Tailed Godwits on the pool and also a solitary Oystercatcher. Two Lesser Black Backed Gulls have made a nest on a very small island on the pool and I think she is on eggs at the moment.

Walking further up the front towards the old baths, I saw several Little Egrets, Mallards and Carrion Crows. Two Swallows were sat twittering away on the balcony at the Boathouse and I'm sure one flew out of a window at the side of the Boathouse and may be trying to see if it can nest inside (maybe toilets) I know they have a habit of making nests inside and using open windows to get in!!

Further up I heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the marsh reedbed and then the oddest sight, a female Wheatear on the gable end of a house casting me a curious glance as I zoomed in for a better view through my 10x50's. Quite why she was up on the end of a house is a first for me?

Not much to be seen from the wall at the old baths, just several Shelduck on the pools and a few Godwits along with some gulls. Oh I do miss the Hen Harrier :( Still, at the back of the car park are some bushes and I was stalking a Whitethroat I had heard, a couple cast me a curious glance, but luckily they were fellow birders and when I located it, we all enjoyed the male bird, singing a garbly sort of sub song, not the full monty.

They were off to BMW so I went over to an old wooden gate marked "Old Bath's Fields" and was reading about the horses kept in the paddocks and what you can or cannot feed them, seriously who would want to give a horse an Ice Cream?? Anyway, scanning the field for Little Owl as I always hope for, but rarely get, I saw some Woodies, a few Maggies a Jay and then low and behold a gorgeous Male Redstart flew from the hawthorn hedge into the field grabbed an insect and flew back! This is my 1st Redstart of the Spring and I was so impressed I had to e.mail Richard at the Dee Estuary sightings :) I continued to watch the bird for a good 20 minutes, flying back and to and skipping and bobbing along the ground. I was so impressed.

I had a walk up the lane adjacent to the horse paddocks to see if I may get a Ring Ouzel in one of the fields across the way, but alas no, but still managed to see a couple of Pheasants and a Chaffinch and Willow Warbler.

Time was ticking on and so I made my way back to the bus stop and got the 3.15 back to El Porto, yes Ellesmere Port. That will be my new blog name birdmanofelporto. This is my 1st attempt at a blog, so I'm sorry if it's crap, but I will try and get better and include pics that are my own, if Shaun Hickey brings his camera.

Mike Buckley
@bucko41 on twitter