Thursday, 20 March 2014

Short Blog - Frodsham Marshes & BMW Wednesday 19th March 2014

Decided to meet up with Paul at Frodsham, so after catching the early train from Overpool, I arrived at Ellesmere Port at 06.50am. I then caught the Northern rattler up to Frodsham and walked from the station down Marsh Lane and onto the Marshes.

It was a clear bright morning and after Sundays sighting of an overhead Glossy Ibis, I was on the lookout for anything unusual above. I could hear Chiffchaffs singing away and spotted a Pheasant in a nearby horse paddock.

Paul arrived at around 8am and we walked up the path that leads to No6 sludge tank and on the way encountered some Goldfinches in nearby bushes.

A quick glance through the scopes produced Shelduck, Teal, Mallard and a few Shoveller. A flock of about 20 Common Gulls over on the mudflats of the lagoon was the only other birds out there.

It was quite windy and a hunting Kestrel along the path up to No4 Reed Bed did it's best to hover in the stiff breeze. We flushed a hen Pheasant from the nearby track and a few rabbits also darted for the safety of their burrows. Numerous Buzzards were having their usual tet a tet with the local corvids and a couple of large Ravens cronked their annoyance!

Skylark song was all around and the odd mipit also got up calling loudly. No other small birds of note apart from the odd Reed Bunting. On the pool at the top of the path just before No4 bed we saw Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard and about eight Moorhens and a solitary Coot. No sign of the Marsh Harrier alas as we walked back down the path towards Lordship Marsh. We did spot a birdwatcher though who had climbed the embankment of No 6 tank and was on the inside of the embankment hiding behind reeds. I thought you were not meant to go over the embankment or skyline it!!

A couple of Whooper Swans remained in fields further out past Lordship Marsh but no sign of any Wheatears despite thorough scanning of rocks and mud mounds. It was very quiet so we opted for a quick trip up to Burton Mere Wetlands.

Nothing of great note to report here, but Paul managed some shots of a Little Egret and a Black tailed Godwit from Marsh Covert Hide.

On the way out of Marsh Covert Hide we were alerted to calls of Redwing and in an old dead tree we spotted several Redwing with a few Fieldfares and a Starling. With the backdrop of singing Chiffchaff it heralds the departure of the winter visitors and the arrival of our Spring migrants.


Mike Buckley
Paul Kurs (photography)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Leasowe Lighthouse - Tuesday 11th March 2014

With news of the first Spring Wheatear on show yesterday, I decided on a trip up to Leasowe. I got the train around 8am and arrived at Moreton station just before 9am. Walking down the path into Kerr Fields, I flushed 3 Bullfinch and numerous Goldfinches. A cock Pheasant was calling in amongst the tall grasses also.

When I arrived I bumped into Ken & Dave local birders who are here most days, they were also hopeful of migrants, in particular looking out for Sand Martins passing through! As I arrived at the seafront, I could see the tide was back on it's way out and the sandbanks were well exposed. A couple of Lesser Black Backed Gulls stood out with yellow legs and slate grey backs. In the background a number of Oystercatchers were on the sandbar, roughly 300 birds.

Also quite a way out was some Knot, Grey Plover, Redshank & Dunlin. Fortunately some Redshank were a bit closer and allowed me to get this shot whilst they had a nap, with a small Dunlin in amongst them!

In the channel where the tide streams through I spotted two or three Little Egret. I got this shot of one fishing for small sandeels.

There was plenty of noisy Black Headed Gulls and a few very large Herring Gulls calling noisily. This one seemed to be eyeing me up for my sandwich!

A quick look out to sea did not produce much, a few Pied Wagtails flew in, a pair of Shelduck and a few Cormorants. Some Turnstones were feeding on seaweed close in by the shore and bickering amongst themselves as they raced along the seafront.

Also out to sea was a small boat going past the 25 wind turbines that are out on the horizon. It was dwarfed by them. Got this phonescoped shot.

It was time to have a look at the horse paddocks at the back where there has been a couple of Twite spotted the last few days. These are migratory birds that winter near coasts and are just about set to return to breeding grounds further North. I was hopeful of a new yeartick. Scanning the fields I could see some Skylarks feeding at the very back and some were also up singing, a beautiful song!

I spotted a Cock Pheasant creeping along the fenceline and when he spotted me he craned his neck for a better look. Lovely colours :)

Then I spotted a couple of Pied Wagtails who had just flown over onto a nearby mound.

After pacing up and down the paddocks, no sign of the Linnet flock that was supposed to contain one or two Twite. Down at the Western Kissing Gate there is a farmyard with roosters, it was in this field area that I located the Linnets and the Twite!! I just got set up to take a picture and had a great close up photo when (you've guessed it) off they went, startled by a couple of cyclists passing through in the nearby lane! Dammit. After a long search to relocate, I eventually saw the flock a bit further back into the fields. I managed to capture some Linnet feeding near a big fat Wood Pigeon.

They flew up again and amazingly after circling overhead for a few minutes, landed quite close. I scanned the flock and bingo, just the one Twite with a darker body and yellow bill.

After watching these lbj's for a while, I went around the back of Lingham Lane to see if I could see any Wheatears in the other fields as none could be seen in the horse paddock areas or fields nearby. To be honest it is still early and usually early migrants like yesterdays male Wheatear don't stop for long, just a quick refuel and off further North.

The River Birket runs through Lingham Lane and I spotted a couple of Mallard and a Moorhen on the water. A Grey Heron flew over and three Carrion Crows were squawking their annoyance at a Buzzard rising on the thermals. This was the area where last year we had spotted a Turtle Dove. Scanning the fields, no sign of Wheatear, so it was getting near to 2pm so I decided to make a move back to the train station.

As I boarded the train I checked birdguides and saw that a Swallow had been seen in Billinge, Lancashire! One Swallow does not make a Summer, but more interestingly the first Ring Ouzel has landed at World's End in Clwyd! I will defo be making a trip back up to Leasowe in the near future as the Ouzys are known to call in on their passage through :-)


Mike Buckley (photographs)

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hilbre Island & Gowy Woodland Park - Saturday 8th March 2014

After all the bad weather we have had myself and Shaun planned a trip over to Hilbre Island. High tide was at 3.08am so when we arrived at 7.15am, the tide was on it's way out and it was safe to cross. The wind was quite strong blowing in a south-westerly direction and it was quite cold for a spring morning. Looking around the boating lake it was bleak and there was just one 1st winter Herring Gull sitting on one of the pontoons.

The walk over to Little Eye was uneventful and we never saw any birds at all, not even any flyovers! When we reached Middle Eye however we spotted a female Merlin flying low over the rocks, she then landed and enjoyed a look around. Shaun spotted another raptor nearby and it disappeared behind some rocks. It then flew out and started to fly up (flap flap glide) whilst being mobbed by some angry gulls, it was a Sparrowhawk. It flew out of sight and around the back of middle eye. The view towards Hilbre from Middle Eye.......

We saw some movement of Pied Wagtails and then I spotted a White Wagtail that had flew in a southerly direction from Hilbre and landed on some algae covered rocks. This was the first White Wagtail of the spring seen at Hilbre (later confirmed by Steve Williams from Hilbre Obs) who had also seen the bird fly over. About 6 days earlier than last years first sighting! As we walked on towards Hilbre, we flushed the Sparrowhawk from a rocky outcrop and it flew towards the main island. Shaun managed this shot as it flew away.

We could now hear and see a few Curlews on the west of the island and a small number of Oystercatchers and large gulls. As we walked up the ramp towards the obs and the houses, we could hear Meadow Pipits calling and there was quite a number about today, fifty birds at least we spotted throughout our stay.

On the rocks on the west side of the island we spotted the Pale Bellied Brent Geese, they were busily feeding and some gave the odd gargling guttural call.

No doubt they will soon be returning to their breeding grounds in Canada. One bird was a colour ringed bird with a red ring on the right and a blue on the left. Could be a bird (HDRB) that was ringed on Axel Heiberg Island in Arctic Canada in 2007?

Four Blackbirds flew over in the swirling winds as we headed to the old lifeboat slipway for a seawatch.

The slipway gave some respite from the biting wind and after setting up the scope I scanned to see what was around. Several Great Crested Grebes were feeding out to sea and small numbers of Cormorants were flying over.

Shaun spotted 3 Common Scoter just to our left, two males and a female quite close in near to the island. These are dark black birds and the males have a yellow spot on the bill which can be very striking, even from a distance!

One of the Scoters was getting in a bit of a flap as you can see in the next photo, the female sat on the rocks unimpressed.

Just then Steve Williams and a few of the guys from the bird observatory (obs) came down and after saying hello, said they would notify us later if they caught anything in the traps for ringing. We had been looking out to sea and noticed what appeared to be a shipwreck. We were advised this was the SS Nestos a greek transport boat that ran aground on sandbanks at low tide on 2nd April 1941. Affectionately known as 'The Greek' it can be seen at low tide and makes a good perch for seabirds!!

As we were watching a small group of Pintail flew in 4 male and 4 female birds accompanied by a male and female Wigeon.

Out at the front of the slipway were Turnstone, Oystercatcher and some more Brent Geese.

As we scanned the rocks we also spotted about six Knot and a couple of Purple Sandpipers! Always delightful to watch these elegant waders darting by the seaweed covered rocks and delicately picking off small food items. On the Eastern side of the Island on the tideline, we could see Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Cormorants and some Herring Gulls. We also watched two Lapwings pass over.

After about an hour watching and with no real movement of auks or sea ducks, Steve Williams came back and showed us a juvenile female Sparrowhawk they had caught and rung. This was no doubt the bird we had flushed from Middle Eye and towards Hilbre. It was lovely to see up close and we noticed the odd heart shaped patterns on the chest. They advised us they had also caught their first Goldcrest of the year. Excellent stuff and a big thanks to the obs guys for showing us the bird.

It was getting to about 11am so time to move on as we planned to go to Burton Mere for an hour. On the way back it was wind in the face time and it was not a pleasant walk back. As we got back to the van my phone beeped and it was one of the apps I have to show distance walked. It showed 11,091 steps and 6.2 miles walked. Definitely easier on the way out than on the way back!!

After stopping in Heswall for a tea and coffee to go, Shaun suggested we take a look at the Gowy Woodland Park, I had not been before so why not. Upon arrival just the other side of Mickle Trafford, the entrance to the park is off Hassall Lane. The park is good for Barn Owls, Mice, Moles, Rabbits and Newts so says the visitor information boards. I was mainly interested in checking over the Gull flocks from the nearby landfill site whilst Shaun was keen to see the Kingfisher on the River Gowy. On the way to spot the gulls, Goldfinches and Chaffinches were flocking together. We also saw large flocks of mainly Fieldfare with smaller numbers of Redwing.

As we arrived by the viewing spot to the fields with masses of gulls, the first fields flock just yielded Black Headed Gulls, but further on looked more promising!

We had barely had chance to scrutinise the Gulls when they took to the air!!

Nightmare, however most of them looked like Herring, Common, Lesser Black Backed and Black Headed Gulls. Problem we had as well before they took off they were in grass fields so the legs were obscured which would have helped with the ID. They were not going to settle so we decided to call it a day as I wanted to get back to watch the FA Cup football on TV. We did have time to observe a pair of Long tailed tits nest building with moss in beaks and flying low down in brambles. Also a bit further on down the track a curious Dunnock was wing flicking and giving us the once over!!

 Also on the way back to the van a Buzzard was displaying overhead.

As we were packing up by the van, Shaun spotted a Robin with nesting material in its beak. It was building in an old disused building, yes Spring is here!

A good mornings birding and its great to know that the first migrants of the Spring will soon be upon us. We do need this High Pressure system and some nice warm weather in the next few weeks to dry the ground up and give the water table a chance to drop down, will be most welcome.

Eyes to the skies!


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)

Link to Hilbre Bird Obs :-