Monday, 26 August 2013

Rivacre Valley Country Park - Bank Holiday Monday 26th August 2013

I could not sleep, so decided to venture out at 5am to see what wildlife was about whilst it was still dark. Heading out with only my nightsearcher commander torch (pocket sized but packs 700 lumens) to guide me, I headed off into the woods. Down the track, I spotted a Tawny Owlet sitting on a branch up in an Oak tree.

Sorry about the quality but when your holding a torch and trying to take a photo in the pitch black, you cannot expect good results. This bird looks fairly small and still had a fair amount of down, so think they may have had another brood as the 1st two Owlets were spotted in March!!

Moving further on into the wood as I did not want to disturb the Owlet too much, I heard a couple of foxes and then heard some rustling in the undergrowth and spotted a large toad making it's way from the brook into the wood.

A three quarter moon shone down at me through the trees and Jupiter was also pretty bright in the Eastern sky, however I could hear Gulls crying out overhead so knew they were on the move to the Dee from their roosting site over on the Mersey and it would soon be sun up.

As dawn broke I could hear mainly blackbirds and robins and through the gloom of the woods, could just make out their sillouettes on the paths as they searched for food. Coming out of the woods and into a clearing, it was now very light and there was a mist shrouding the pathways and bushes, overhead a Buzzard came into view and glided over the clearing before disappearing over the trees.

Now I could hear, Blue tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch and Wren whose explosive song certainly woke me up!! As I approached the Ranger station I could see some small warblers flitting in and out of the branches of a birch tree and as I looked could see it was a family of Blackcaps. I watched for at least 10 minutes as they frantically searched for insects and hovered almost hummingbird like at times to try and get small flies.

The ranger station is a small non-descript building almost like a cabin in the woods, it acts as a base for the Valley rangers and as a visitor centre.

Now in the bushes at the back of the building, I could hear Bullfinches calling but could not pin them down, I waited patiently and was pleasantly surprised to see a family of Bullfinches, I counted at least 5 birds including the adults, always great to see and a favourite of mine as I also have them visit my back garden especially in winter months.

It was now around 6.30am and I saw a dog at the head of the footpath and thought great just what I need dog walkers to disturb my birding, only then did I realise it was a small fox looking at me and it eyed me warily for a few minutes before darting off to its left and into the undergrowth :)

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jays, Nuthatch, Magpies and Wood Pigeons were all heard over the next half hour as I made my way down towards the Rivacre Road Bridge.

I heard the distinct call of a Raven and saw one bird flying overhead towards Rossmore. This road bridge is good for Grey Wagtails as the brook runs down a small weir and I regularly see them here. Sure enough there was at least three or four birds on the gravel banks and seen in flight.

Near to the road bridge is the old Borwell No2 pumping station that was owned by the Bridgewater Paper Company, this building has ivy all over it and is a magnet for small birds that use it regularly in their search for food.

Walking back through the woods you come across some strange characters pulling tongues and this one reminded me of the trip to Moel Famau, great carving :)

All in all a good few early morning hours well spent out on my local patch, other birds seen included Long tailed tit, Coal tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Jackdaw, Stock Dove and Dunnock.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Woolston Eyes and a quick hour at Burton Mere Wetlands Thursday 22nd August 2013

Thursday morning saw the chance of a few hours at Woolston Eyes, my mate Shaun had dropped the good wife and daughter off at a local hotel and spa for some pampering, whilst we headed off for a brekky then onto Woolston Eyes.

Unlocking the gate to No3 reedbed, we crossed the bridge and one of the first things we noticed on the track up to the hides, was a Jay that quickly flew into the farther trees. The amount of butterflies on the Buddleia were out in force and put in a great show in the warm sunshine alongside numerous dragonflies. Shaun took some pics, here is a quick selection :-

Common or Adonis Blue ?

Red Admiral


Climbing the steps up to the first hide, we were disappointed looking out as all we could see were a couple of Gadwall and a Lapwing. Moving swiftly on, we reached the Tower Hide and now we could see a lot more birds in view, a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls were sunning themselves on one of the man made floating Islands and quite a large number of Lapwing and young were showing well, I guestimated at least 100 birds. Teal, Tufted Duck with young, Little Grebes, Mallard and Shoveler could be seen. A female Kestrel flew over and quite a way out Shaun spotted a group of birds that turned out to be Snipe, we counted at least 16 birds, some roosting and some feeding. Just then a flight call alerted us to a Green Sandpiper and we watched as it flew out and made it's way across the water to a more quieter part of the reserve.

In the next hide along, a rare sighting of two other birders!! You don't see many bods at this reserve. A Buzzard flushed the Lapwings and landed on a nearby branch of a tall Silver Birch and was pestered constantly by a cheeky young Magpie. Good shot here of the Little Grebe and also some Greenfinches that were on the feeders at the end of the hide. It's good here for Willow Tits as well :)

This juv bird poked it's head out at us, now could be a young Willow Warbler? You decide

On the path back to the car we could hear the lone hweet calls of a Chiffchaff and a Robin was clicking away in the undergrowth. A few more butterflies and dragonflies were snapped :-

Ruddy Darter

And finally a speckled Wood Butterfly

Not a great variety of birds at the moment, but I'm sure as winter approaches and the wader scrapes take shape, it will pick up. We decided on a quick hour at Burton Mere Wetlands so took the short trip back down the M56. Upon arrival at BMW the sun was quite blinding so viewing the birds from the reception hide was difficult, we could make out a lot of Black Tailed Godwits and a Black Swan that was on the far side. Moving over to Marsh Covert Hide was better and easier viewing. Colin Wells had been out and about earlier in the day cutting the grasses, so viewing the birds was a lot easier and there was a lot of Greylags and Canada Geese enjoying this freshly cut area.

I spotted a Green Sandpiper fairly close in feeding on a shallow strip of water about 100 yards in front of the hide, lovely birds to watch and they have a great flight call.

Just then all hell broke loose and over at Inner Marsh Farm hundreds of Black Tailed Godwits took to the air, one assumes trying to evade a predator, although we could not see the said perpetrator in amongst the sheer numbers. Apparently 750+ had been counted that afternoon.

So the end of a fair days birding, not much of note, but nevertheless good to be outdoors and taking in fresh air and enjoying nature.

NB. This afternoons trip to BMW (23/08/13) produced 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Green Sandpiper and a Barnacle Goose in amongst the Canada Geese !! Most likely a feral bird.

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)