Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Burton Mere Wetlands & Dee Marshes at Burton Point

Got a call to see if I fancied a few hours down at BMW after tea, so not having done any birding at the weekend due to cricket duties and a BBQ, I readily accepted Shauns offer.

After all the rain we had experienced over Saturday night and Sunday, the first thing that was noticeable was the water level. Where only the other week I had watched Sandpipers, Plovers and Wagtails in and around the edges on dry muddy banks, now all this was underwater. Needless to say I could see hardly any waders on the main reception scrape apart from the odd Black tailed Godwit. The light was particularly bad at around 6.15pm as the sun was directly facing, so we decided to drive round to Inner Marsh Farm.

On the lengthy walk from the car park to the hide, we noticed a distinct absence of small birds, nothing at all was spotted en route? Upon arrival at the hide, we were the only ones present. Out in front of the hide were around 100+ Black tailed Godwits (including one yellow tagged bird ringed in Iceland), in amongst the flock were some Redshank and a couple of Spotted Redshank, Lapwings but no Sandpipers could be seen anywhere.

We noticed a Buzzard flying over the nearby Wood and it made it's way across the reserve and spooked a few birds but nothing as drastic as around half an hour later when nearly every bird in front of us suddenly took to the air. We tried to see what was the cause of the sudden scare, but could not see anything amongst the sheer number of birds that had flew up.

After the birds had re-settled, we got a good close view of the Redshank and Spotted Redshank, the latter being somewhat more elegant and refined in their movements and slightly larger with the longer bill.

On the nearby Island the young Black Headed Gull chicks were begging for food and after some pecking and harrying of the adult birds a small amount was regurgitated and quickly gobbled up. Shaun spotted the female Marsh Harrier and we watched as she made her way past the reception hide and along the path near the feeders and then plonked herself down in the area between the reception hide and Marsh Covert Hide. Looking at the two or three occupants of Marsh Covert Hide, they were oblivious to all this as they were looking out towards us !!

Not a lot else was happening, other birds seen included, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal, several Greylags that flew in and these noisy Canada Geese that made a splash landing not too far away from the hide.

We decided to have a drive down Station Road and walk along the pathway towards Burton Point. Near the sheep pens, we flushed a Grey Wagtail and also saw a juv Pied Wagtail on the sandstone rocks nearby. Linnets and Goldfinches were in the gorse bushes and a Dunnock eyed us warily before flitting deeper into the bush. Just then I spotted a small bird of prey fly in low across the marsh and land on a post. It was a female Merlin, she did not hand around long and flew off quickly low to the ground and hugged the grass barely inches above it before twisting and turning and landing on a small mound of earth further out on the marsh. Excellent.

Nearer to the shooting range we scanned for any sign of Little and Short Eared Owls in their usual spots but had no luck. Dusk was approaching quickly and a Sedge Warbler was scratching away and also a Grasshopper Warbler had started it's reeling. Just then the female Marsh Harrier flew over Burton Point from the direction of IMF and we had good views of her hunting across the marsh before settling down in a spot to roost for the night.

The latter view being not so good, but all the less grand with the backdrop of the setting sun across the marsh :)

Arriving back near the van, we waited to see if we could see the Barn Owl that was known to frequent the nearby fields. It was approaching 9.45pm and after a bit of a wait, the bird appeared. Not one bird, but two were spotted. Not wishing to disclose too much info but one was a youngster :)

Great end to the evening and another first for me to add to this years ticklist now at 171.

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (Photographs)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A trip to the Lleyn Peninsula - Saturday 13th July 2013

On Saturday my birding pal Shaun had asked me if I fancied a trip to Abersoch to do a spot of birding on the Lleyn Peninsula, well who am I to refuse. As it happened, he was going anyway as he was dropping his daughter off at the Wakestock festival for the weekend. Arriving at mine at around 7am, we set off on a trip that would take roughly 2 hours. We stopped off on the way for the obligatory breakfast (although Courtney, Shaun's daughter, had requested a McDonalds) typical teenager, but I was not complaining and enjoyed my bacon and egg mcmuffin and hash brown :)

We arrived at Abersoch and the signs pointed us to the Wakestock festival and we dropped Courtney off and I'm sure she was glad to get out of the car after listening to birders going on about passage migrants and the like for hours lol. Well, did I feel old, hundreds of teenage kids were wearing their finest festival gear, which as the sun was blazing did not amount to much!! Shaun said his goodbyes and so off we set to see what was about. We followed the coastal road and after a ten minuted drive down a small coastal path, parked up and decided to walk down a public footpath towards the sea cliffs. 

It was around 10.30am and the sun was very hot, we negotiated the footpath and went past a chicken farm and across a meadow, the first birds spotted were Whitethroats, we then sighted a Great Spotted Woodpecker which seemed an unusual bird to spot in these surroundings. We watched as it flew onto a post on top of the cliff path!! On some wooden fence posts was a family of young Stonechats, conspicuous by their white wing bars. 

This area was simply stunning, with meadows suddenly dropping down onto a coastal path adorned with gorse and giant ferns. Some large bushes disguised a freshwater stream which could be heard flowing down towards the sea and I thought what a fantastic spot this would be for migrants to rest up :) I spotted something out of the corner of my eye and a Peregrine was having a tussle with a Sparrowhawk!! Most probably because the Sparrowhawk had made a kill and the Peregrines were after it's grub!!

I shouted Shaun to get ready with the camera as the birds had passed over the bushes on the cliff, but just then the Peregrine re-appeared and flew straight over our heads, simply breathtaking. 

After watching the bird for a few minutes it disappeared so we headed on down the path. The small stream was now visible running down between lichen covered rocks and just then Shaun spotted a Rock Pipit busily feeding on small insects by the water. 

The view of the bay was magical and there was a sea mist hanging over the water and it just looked like a dragons breath. The water was a deep blue and crystal clear. Some Guillemots sat on the water further out and a pair of Shags were preening themselves on the rocks nearer to the shore. A huge cave could be seen that must have no doubt been formed over the years by the erosion of the seawater on the rock.

People were enjoying the sun and sea and a few yachts were sailing along and a young couple waved up to us from their speeding jet-skis. In the fields adjacent to the coastal path, Shaun found a large pellet that must have been regurgitated by a bird of prey, he investigated Chris Packham style and after breaking it up, we could see it had beetles and small bones in it, lovely ;) A Meadow Pipit came into view and alighted on a nearby fence, three Goldfinches were tinkling in a nearby bush and a family of Linnets were singing along and the male bird looked just dandy.

I then heard the Peregrine calling and looked up to see a pair hassling a Buzzard that was circling over the cliffs, wow could this day get any better? The Buzzard looked not that bothered and rolled over each time one of the agitated Peregrines got too close. 

This was great to watch and after about ten minutes, the birds moved on further up the coast. It was getting hotter, so we decided to go back towards the car and take a trip towards Nefyn. Walking back through the meadow we spotted a lot of butterflies and a large dragonfly. The butterfly I think is a Small Heath, although will stand corrected, the dragonfly we believe is a Golden Ringed dragonfly, here are a couple of pics below

I spotted this very small butterfly and have had a look on the t'internet but cannot see what it is?? Can any one help please.

This had turned out to be a great spot to see wildlife and we will definitely be back to this spot in the Autumn to find passage migrants and maybe a Mega!! Alan & Ruth (of biggesttwitch fame) had told me to stop off at Pwhelli harbour, but the town was that busy with festival goers and holidaymakers and traffic that we sadly decided to move on to the west side of the peninsula to Nefyn. When we arrived here, it was a lot quieter and we parked up and again went down a public footpath and across some fields towards the coast. As we parked up a Kestrel was sitting on top of a telegraph pole and was being mobbed by some young crows, very funny to watch.

It was evident the crows and jackdaws were doing well here as there were hundreds of birds along the route down to the coast. When we got to the edge, the view was stunning. 

Out at the end of the shingle beach, the rocky outcrop was full of birds including Razorbills and Guillemots which were flying in and out of the rocks to and from the sea. I spotted a Buzzard sitting on the rocks down below and gave it a call in my finest Buzzard impression, to Shaun's astonishment (or embarrassment) the bird responded and called back, myself and the Buzzard kept this up for about two or three minutes before the bird had enough and flew off for a bit of peace :) A few Whitethroats and the odd Meadow Pipit, but very quiet on the warbler front today? We needed a bite to eat, so set off back up the coast road passing through Caernarfon where a considerable jam had built up in the opposite direction due to a smash at some traffic lights!!

Now we had heard of a place called The Spinnies in Aberogwen, so decided to call in as it was on our way to RSPB Conwy, where we planned to also call for the last hour. Parking up we made our way to the hides that overlook a coastal lagoon and a freshwater pond. Wow, the tide was in so we saw over 100 Mute Swans out on the lagoon

 along with, Goosander, Red Breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebes, Oystercatcher, Curlews and a small flock of Eider duck all females!!

The hide we sat in was a first for me as on one side, you looked out over the coastal lagoon and the other windows looked out over the freshwater pond where we could see Little Egrets, Grey Herons and some Little Grebes, magic :) Just before we left, a Common Sandpiper flew over to our side of the Lagoon and stayed for a while before a man with robot like movements suddenly appeared on the shoreline (which made a mockery of the hide) and scared it off !!

Time to move on however as it was late afternoon, we stopped off at Morrisons for a sandwich and some much needed water and arrived at RSPB Conwy shortly after. 

Walking through the reed beds on the way to the hides, we saw Reed Buntings and heard Reed Warblers. out on the waters edge we spotted a nice Greenshank feeding. 

A new screen has been erected at Conwy and this gives good views of the other sides of two islands which you would not get to see from the main hide, so it's nice and sheltered and produced some Redshank, Curlew and a couple of Whimbrels which are a lot smaller than the Curlew when viewed side by side. 

All in all it was a great days birding and we ticked off 72 species and could have had a lot more if we went to a woodland habitat, however it was too hot today so enjoyed the coastal breeze and the beauty of the simply stunning Lleyn Peninsula and the Welsh coast. I would recommend this area to anyone with an interest in wildlife, there is simply so much to see and so little time to do it in. We will most certainly be returning in the not to distant future. 

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Vauxhall Motors Water Treatment Plant & Shotwick Boating Lake - Saturday 6th July 2013

Last month I managed to get some decent pictures of juvenile Peregrines that were due to fledge from their man made box at Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port. This was thanks to a kind security guard who let me into the plant and took a keen interest in my fondness for birds and wildlife in general. On my way out of the plant, I encountered another guy across the road who seemed interested in my scope & tripod and enquired what I was up to. When I explained I was a birder, he kindly offered me a visit and tour of the water treatment factory opposite Vauxhalls in North Road, so this Saturday myself and my photographer colleague Shaun, paid Tony a visit.

Arriving at around 8am, we buzzed at the gate and the electronic gates opened up to the Trade Effluent & Water Treatment Plant. After a quick tour by Tony, we set off around the site, to see what we could find, first up was a man made lake that is around 20ft deep, this is used if ever their is a fire at Vauxhalls and is an added water resource, it's also good for the odd duck. We disturbed a Shelduck into flight and a solitary female Tufted Duck paddled around in the middle and a Moorhen was in the margins.

On the West side of the plant is an area that allows rainwater from Vauxhalls roofs and drain systems to cross underneath North Road and flow like a river through the plant and into the Manchester Ship Canal. This area was surrounded by trees and we saw Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Great Tit and Long Tailed Tits all around us. Down on the banks of the water, we caught sight of a family of Grey Wagtails and Shaun managed a shot of this fledgling enjoying the warm sunshine.

Tony had kindly allowed us access to the Manchester Ship Canal and we went through the plant gates out into Booston Wood which is opposite Vauxhalls and runs adjacent to the MSC. Lots of small birds were calling and a family of Nuthatches graced us with their presence and we watched as they scaled the large Oaks climbing up and down in search of insects.

We had a quick look on the Canal and flushed a Mallard with ducklings and also a couple of Common Sandpipers. Shaun spotted a Kingfisher flying low across the canal before it disappeared into low branches further up the waterway. A couple of fine tugboats powered up towards Shell and these flushed at least a further half dozen Common Sandpipers that flew in front of the boats with their comical almost clockwork toy like wingbeats :) A Curlews plaintive cry could be heard across on the River Mersey mudflats.

Walking back through the woods, we investigated a plot of land that used to be used for Motorcross and has now turned into a fabulous wildflower meadow perfect for insects and birds. Swallows and House Martins flew all around us hunting the small flies and insects that were rising in the ever increasing warmth of this gorgeous Summer Day. I spotted a lot of Whitethroats and it was evident there was a few youngsters about and Shaun got this shot of one that posed for us whilst preening.

Burnet Moths, Red Admirals, Damselflies and Broad Bodied Chasers were in abundance and it truly was a great little plot of land and a haven for wildlife in general.

We only had a few hours as Tony (plant manager) leaves around 10.30am at weekends so we thanked him immensely for allowing us to visit the site and he said it was no problem and we were welcome anytime. Always nice to leave a good impression and then you may be asked back :)

 Shaun had some business in Hawarden so we travelled across the border into Wales and then we stopped in afterwards at Shotwick Boating Lake. This can be seen from Burton Mere Wetlands reception hide, if you look out front and then over to your far left, you can make out the masts of the small boats that use the facility. I had never been before but upon arrival there did not appear to be much doing. It was not long though before the piping calls of a solitary Oystercatcher were heard and he/she was sitting out on a buoy keeping an eye on proceedings. On the very far side of the lake, some kind of training session was going on for Newfoundland rescue dogs and they were making a right old racket!!

As we walked around the lake we saw Whitethroat and Linnets on the perimeter fence and a Swallow flew onto the top of a building to see what we were up to.

Out on the lake were several Mute Swans and right in the corner was a large group of Coots who seemed to have claimed this part of the lake to themselves.

As we were leaving, we bumped into some more Common Sandpipers whom seemed to be out in force today, Shaun managed this nice shot of a bird on the rocks at the lakeside.

It was far too hot now, so we decided to call it a day and head off home for a rest and in my case a few drinks up at the Groves Club in Ellesmere Port later on in the day (much needed).

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)