Thursday, 24 October 2013

Walk along Burton Marshes - Wednesday Evening 23rd October

Shaun rang me and asked if I fancied the last hour or so before sunset down at Burton Point. A few minutes later he pulled up in the van and we were at Station Rd Burton for 4.45pm. The wind was quite strong when we arrived and a few Pied Wagtails were hunkered down on the tarmac path trying to keep as low as possible to shelter. We soon displaced them and they were instantly blown into Burton Marsh Farm and the surrounding sheep fields! The usual corvids were out on the marsh and a few Geese were flying over. This is a small flock of Pink Footed Geese.

Passing the cattle grid, we could hear a Robin and the odd Wren as is usual down here, also a Dunnock popped his head out to see who was passing by. Scanning the marsh, there was no sign of the Shorty, may still be a bit early. A hunting pair of Kestrels swooped overhead and we watched as they coursed the marshes looking for a tasty treat for supper.

A flock of Goldfinches took briefly to the air, then thinking better of it, they took refuge by flying into the gorse bushes at the back of the Sealand MOD Firing range (no shooting this evening)

Just then Shaun spotted a lovely Stonechat perching on a dead tree stump and manouvered himself to get the sun behind for a record shot. It wasn't shy and was a right little poser. When Shaun e.mailed me the pics later on that night, it turned out to be a cracker.......

Wow !! It was flitting about trying to catch a few insects before it retired for the night, see below......

I scanned for the Little Owls on the sandstone bank at the point, but could not see them. Walking over the long boardwalk, we could see that some irrigation work has been done on the ditches and the surrounding banks. This will no doubt help with all the rain that has fell and is forecast in the near future. Should also attract some wildfowl hopefully :) Scanning the pools over at IMF, we could see very little activity, however the fields at the back of BMW were full of Canada Geese with one Black Swan in amongst them. The very far pool contained about 8 Whooper Swans and a small number of Teal and Little Egret.

The Canada Geese took to the air and were very noisy as they passed overhead, heading to the marsh for their roosting spot.

On the walk back towards the van, a Peregrine appeared overhead and flew out across the marsh. A Water Rail was squealing from the dense reeds and trees just before the cattle grid and a female Tawny was then heard giving an alarm call somewhere above us and over by the railway line and the farm. Just then Mr Fox came into view.

I gave a few squeaks through pursed lips and he trotted down to get a closer look through the wooden fence by the farmers sheep control area! :)

He gave us the once over and after marking his territory, all along the sheep pens! moved off into the night.

Our usual scan for the Barn Owl, resulted in a good sighting of the pair. One flew down into the gorse bushes before flying back up into the nesting box to join his mate, the other just sat at the hole watching. The male (presumably) then flew out over the grass and dived down on a small mammal and fed on it!! Much to the bemusement of the other bird at the box who was probably thinking "Hey, I want half"

I bumped into Sean D an old mate from Chester Zoo who was also out looking at the Owl, small world. Behind us a Stonechat was calling and I did wonder if it was our mate from earlier who had maybe followed us back along the tarmac path?

A good few hours birding before dark.


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)

Thursday, 10 October 2013

High tide at Hoylake

I was doing some gardening at home in between the rain showers and I received a call from my friend Shaun to see if I fancied a trip to Hoylake for the high tide. It was around 2pm in the afternoon so high tide was due shortly and with the added wind factor may be good for seabirds.

We arrived at Hoylake at approx 2.30pm and the sea was very choppy indeed. I got the scope out but after 5 minutes it was clear it was not needed as the wind was that strong, I had no shelter and viewing through the scope was possible but not brilliant as I was trying to hold it still!! The waders were quite close, so back in the van went the scope and I opted for the binoculars. As the wind was right in your face from the promenade front at Kings Gap, this was tiring. We both received some reprieve by leaning on a Biffa waste bin to steady ourselves.

Dunlin, Sanderling, Plovers, Barwits, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Gulls, were amongst the many birds on the beach. Grey, Ringed and Golden Plover were visible. Watching the Sanderling is normally very entertaining as they dart along the sand and dodge the incoming tide, however today most were hunkered together in small flocks sheltering from the gale.

Just then despite the high tide and a fierce wind, a dog walker arrived and despite their being hardly any sand to walk, had to be on the beach and the dogs put the birds up!!

We drove a bit further along the prom and spotted some Golden Plover, Shaun took these nice pictures of a single bird, in between the odd ray of sun bursting through the clouds, the golden plumage on the bird looked magnificent.

We spotted a solitary Dunlin that seemed to have either something wrong with a leg, or it was having a torrid time standing up in the wind, it was constantly flapping it's wings to stay upright whilst it tried to feed :(

Small groups of Sanderling were showing well and further out we could see quite a lot of Redshank.

Not huge numbers of Ringed Plover like in late August/early Sept when as many as 1600 birds were recorded at West Kirby, however we could pick out the odd bird in amongst the flocks.

After trying various places to get the best viewing out of the wind, it was pointless as it was right at you! We had a walk across the grass by the lifeboat station, however apart from a few Pied Wagtails, no other birds were sheltering. We opted to drive a bit further up and watch from inside the van.

On the drive up, I spotted a bird on of all places a tennis court!! Stop! Go back, we reversed and a young Guillemot was sitting on the court. It was obvious it had been blown in and had been sheltering from the wind. Shaun took a picture as it was unusual to see to say the least!

We then had a chat about what to do? To leave it, would be maybe to condemn it to the fate of a wandering dog or some local scallies that may not have been very accommodating. The court was open so access could be gained by anyone or anything!! Also, could it take off from a prone position like this, we thought with great difficulty maybe just? Could it gain momentum to get high enough up and out over the court fence? We decided it would be best to help it get back out to sea. Shaun picked it up with little fuss apart from a few cries and a bit of a peck. Shaun carried it to the promenade front and released it over the edge and it took flight straight away and flew very boldly right out to sea :) A good result

We drove to a slipway by a small roundabout and started a seawatch. Quite a few Shelduck were visible in small groups and the odd Cormorant was flying past. The lifeboat was launched as were watching and boy did it struggle through the waves, somebody was in trouble somewhere out to sea.

As we were both looking out we spotted a small black bird down low near to the sea about half way out. It was a Leach's Storm Petrel!! Quite a few had gone back a few weeks ago after our first Atlantic storm of the Autumn, however today, we just spotted the one bird.

A fitting end to an afternoons birding and as always, eventful!!


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Open Day at Deeside Naturalists' Society

Saturday 5th October 

Took a trip over the border into Wales with Shaun to see what the other side of the Dee Estuary had to offer. The Deeside Naturalists were holding an open day on the mile long reserve that runs along the River Dee and the Dee Estuary by Connah's Quay power station. Met up with our scouse mate Paul and after being scrutinised on entry by CCTV and having our number plates logged (the site is managed and owned by e.on) we parked up at the field studies centre and popped in for a chat. Dr Paul Brewster manager of Focalpoint Optics was inside and after a brief chat, we walked down the paths and into the first hide.

Quite a few waders were roosting and incuded Redshank, Spotted Reds, Black tailed Godwits and a few Greenshank. As we were looking the shrill call of a Kingfisher alerted us and gave a quick fly by in front of the hide before disappearing out of view.

The odd Grey Heron and Little Egret was also present along with a few Teal and Mallard. We moved further down the road and into another hide but it was fairly quiet out on the pools in front with just a few Black Headed Gulls and a few Redshank resting up. Walking along the road that runs between the power station and the estuary, planted either side are various shrubs, trees and bushes, which give good cover to protect the birds from view. Further down the road it opened up a bit and we could see hundreds of Goldfinches forming flocks and feeding on the weed seeds on the banks of the Dee.

Overhead, Skylarks and the odd Meadow Pipit could be heard passing by. A bit further up we spotted a female Reed Bunting (we think) in a tree nearby.

The tide had not long come in and quite a few Redshank mainly were making their way up the River to their Roosting areas. The main West Hide which is two storeys was quite busy so we waited outside but had good views of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and a pair of Buzzards overhead that was joined by a Sparrowhawk circling higher above them.

When we got into the hide we could see Flint Castle and in the foreground on the banks of the Dee were mainly Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Godwits and the odd Shelduck.

On the river were quite a few gulls, including a large number of Great Black Backs and mainly Black Headed and Herring Gulls. Looking out over the river gave views of Parkgate.

After chatting with a few familiar faces and watching a Peregrine perched out on a Pylon, we made our way back to the field centre, on the way, we watched four Ravens in an aerial duel, the wedge shaped tales very noticeable. When we got back to the van, we had a bite to eat before setting off to Burton for a few hours. It was worth coming to have a look and I can imagine it being a good place to see birds especially in the winter months when the geese and wader numbers increase. Here is a link to the webiste :-

Parking up at Station Rd we had a walk along the tarmac path as far as the shooting range at Sealand. Again, large flocks of Goldfinches (mainly juvs) were nearby a manure pile at Burton Marsh Farm along with the odd Linnet and Pied Wagtail.

Dodging the cyclists and Dog Walkers (only one had a dog not on a lead), we scanned for the Little Owls with no success. Walking back we received some abuse from a fat cyclist who had somehow managed to tuck his lard ass into lycra shorts "Oh look, it's the greater spotted tit heads" he said, how funny, there's a first time for everything I suppose.

This rare bird flew right overhead, any ideas??

We then spotted a small bird on top of the reeds, it was flying up into the air from the reed almost flycatcher like and was catching insects and then flying back down. We had not brought the scopes so had to make do with the bins, but first impressions were fem Stonechat. We had seen these birds here throughout the year and it was the most likely candidate, especially when it flew off and the white wing patch was evident. Here are some pics.

Apart from a Buzzard and a female Kestrel we had seen over the marsh, no sign of any Harriers. We headed off to Inner Marsh Farm. Upon arrival it was quite busy and straight away we saw some lovely Golden Plover in amongst the Lapwings.

A solitary Greenshank was nearby and we had some good views of Snipe feeding in the reeds.

Other birds out on the scrape, included Curlew Sandpipers, Black tailed Godwits, Greylag and Canada Geese, Teal and a few Wigeon. Over on the other far pool I could make out one or two returned Pintail :)

It was getting late, but before we left we had an unexpected flyover by a Great White Egret. You could see his long neck tucked tight in and his trailing legs which stick out way past his tail.

A nice end to the night and another enjoyable day out with good company. Oh and in the car park by the RSPB buildings, I heard a Chiffchaff calling and also the manic laugh of a Green Woodpecker :)


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)
Paul Kurs (photography)

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Pec and a Dove

Thursday 3rd October

Got a call from my scouse mate Paul who asked if I fancied a visit to Burton Mere Wetlands and in particular IMF as he had never visited that hide before. No problem for me so he picked me up and we were in Burton for 10.30am.

The reserve is great at any time of year, but Autumn seems to bring an air of mystique, in that you never know what will be dropping in on Passage or has been dragged in by the low pressures in the Atlantic ( in particular Yank birds ) !! A quick scan of the scrape brought a surprising 3 Avocets, the main breeding pairs and young left a good while back so unknown where these had arrived from. A couple of Ruff were dotted about and Wigeon numbers are on the increase and a healthy number were busily feeding in and around the islands. I clocked some fantastic Spotted Redshank swimming on the surface and frantically spinning around in their search for food. One caught a fish and had a very difficult time trying to swallow the thing :)

Paul had spotted quite a few Snipe in the far grass at the back of the scrape and their must have been 20+ moving about. He also spotted some Curlew Sandpipers which were looking just fine and dandy with a lovely peach wash on their breast. Their was at least 6 on our count. 

Greylag and Canada Geese numbers continue to increase and it seemed a constant flightpath from the Dee Estuary into BMW, who at this rate will soon need their own control tower!! Usual Mallard, Teal, Tuftys, Coot, Moorhen and the odd Shelduck were also present along with a couple of Common Gulls and some Black Headed Gulls. 

We had a walk to Covert Marsh Hide and the feeders had the usual finches and tit birds, no sign of the Bramblings or Siskins just yet. On arrival at the hide, we could see just Greylags and then Paul spotted slight movement inbetween the Geese and a female Juv Ruff came into view busily feeding. I managed these phone scoped pics :)

A Buzzard flew across, the only bird of prey we saw all day. Not much else was on view so we opted to go to IMF. On the way back to the car park, we spotted a White Wagtail on top of the reception roof hunting insects. 

The weather was not forecast very good for the afternoon so we made haste and took the quick trip down Station Rd and into IMF car park. The hide is a 5 minute walk and along the way I spotted a badger carcass which looked more like a mythical beast. A Chupucabra perhaps, what do you think? 

Nobody was in the hide when we arrived so it's always with a sense of anticipation that you open the hide windows and await what lies beyond. Well, 7 Greenshank were roosting to our left, hundreds of Black tailed Godwits (some colour ringed green and blue) and a few Curlew Sandpiper. What was that though feeding on the mudflats further out? Boom, Pectoral Sandpiper with the lovely demarcation lines finishing abruptly at the breast which makes it really stand out. Only a 1* vagrant but nevertheless a good Yank peep to add to the list ;) 

Looking through the visitor book, somebody had put in they had seen a Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) on the path that leads to the hide. Interesting. A few more visitors entered the hide and then around 2pm the heavens opened and the rain came down BIG TIME! The tyew-tyew-tyew call of the Greenshanks signalled they did not like this sudden interruption to their sleep and they got off, however the Snipe all came out of the reeds and out onto the open water. It was getting difficult to view and we called it a day as the rain was coming in through the windows as we had a SE wind blowing. 

A good days viewing though and glad I took Paul up on his offer. 

Friday 4th October

I have been wanting to get the Blyth's Reed Warbler that Jane Turner had been so diligently stalking down at Red Rocks, but the hours she had put in with little reward by way of sighting put me off and hearing other birders stories of 'no shows' had made me decide on the easier option of Yellow Browed Warbler at Leasowe. Weather forecast showers with some sun later so I got the train from Overpool through to Moreton. It's about a 10 minute walk to Leasowe Lighthouse from Moreton station and the new public footpath cuts through past the brook and caravan park. I heard the hweet call of a Chiff and quite a few Greenfinches were moving along the bushes.

Going past the car park I spotted a familiar face who told me a Turtle Dove had just been spotted flying near by!! The poor guy was gutted as he had to go to work :( On arrival at Lingham Lane I spotted a few birders looking into the trees at the entrance to the lane and I thought bingo, we are in here. "Yellow Browed Warbler in there" a guy said, well as much as we looked we got the odd glimpse of a small bird now and again flitting around, but not enough to focus in on for a positive ID. Just then a couple of familiar faces from my twitter a/c turned up, Liam Langley was one and I'm stumped if I can remember the other guys name. They were looking for the turtur and moved on further down the lane. 

It must have been around ten minutes looking for this damn YBW and by this time scouse Paul had turned up and was helping me look for the irritating Phylloscopus with no joy. Just then, one of the lads came back, "Turtle Dove just by the bridge round the corner" queue mass exodus of birders around the corner. Now I can tell you, it's been a long time since I've seen a turtur, let alone in Cheshire.

Boom, Turtle Dove sitting on a telegraph/power line. It was a young bird but I believe the neck markings don't appear on juveniles and this bird had them, but the markings on the wings stood out, but were not as stunning as the adult bird. Maybe a second year dove? A veritable mega of sorts in this area and a big year tick for me I'm pleased to say of a RED listed species. It was joined by some Collared Doves and a Wood Pigeon and began to look a little unsettled, it then flew down onto some Iron girders that are just above the brook. Having moved closer, Paul managed this record shot. 

So what can I say, a great find and despite hunting for the YBW for another hour with no luck, the Turtle Dove most certainly made my day :) 

Thanks again to those birders present for info.

Small RSPB piece on the decline of the turtur


Mike Buckley (phone scoping)
Paul Kurs (photography)