Thursday, 29 May 2014

Peregrines on Patch - Sunday 18th May 2014

Sunday morning, I decided to have a walk around Rivacre Woods and the locale and see how our Peregrines were doing. Upon arrival at the site, I noticed three chicks doing well and the parent bird shortly flew in to keep an eye out. This is just a few shots and a short video clip.

Peregrine Chicks  (CLICK ON LINK)

Nearby I saw a pair of lovely Goldfinches.

A bit further on and as I suspected, I came across Lesser Black Backed Gulls displaying all the signs of courtship and most probable nesting!! Here are some shots.

Main emphasis for this quick spin around the patch was to check on the falcons, however other birds seen included Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Gt Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove and Great Spotted Woodpecker :)


Mike Buckley (photos)

The Great Orme & RSPB Conwy Bank Holiday Monday 26th May 2014

Late on Sunday evening, I made the decision to take the train to Llandudno and do some birding up on the Great Orme. I suppose I was still cheesed off after having the possible Subalpine Warbler last June (small greyish bird in gorse with 'tekk' call), but only a day later, one was spotted and photographed by a local birder and confirmed as a SubAlp. So my mission was to get one for myself...haha asif. Passing Deganwy railway station was a gorgeous bay :-

Arriving at Llandudno from Chester at 8am, it had been raining quite heavily and the pavements were soaked. I walked through town and arrived at the Pier and made my way up past the Grand Hotel and into Happy Valley Park, what a lovely place.

Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Great Tit were singing and a Robin and Dunnock were having a spat (as they do) nearby. As I made my way up the steps towards the ski-lift and the limestone pavement, Goldfinches and a pair of Blue Tits were calling from a nearby tree. Walking up the steps I had a good view out across the pier.

I had not brought my scope as planned on doing a fair bit of walking and it is quite heavy so these pics are just from my Samsung Galaxy S4, so apologies for those photographers who take superb photos :/ As I turned a corner past a few rabbits and jackdaws I flushed a Dotterel!! Bugger me that was not expected and it flew out towards Little Orme, too late to get a quick parting shot :(

I walked back around towards the Alpine Lodge on the other side and did my best pishing to see if anything emerged. Sadly, just a couple of curious Goldfinches and a young Crow cawed it's dismay at my feeble efforts! I did however hear the familiar sound of young Great Spotted Woodpeckers and sure enough located the nest behind the cabin. Walking further up towards the summit I spotted about six Wheatears and a family of Stonechat with youngsters. Mipits called all around me and there was quite a few Linnets. As I walked further on towards St Trudos Church and Graveyard, I spotted a pod of around 20 dolphins just of the cliff edge and not far from shore, say about 400 yards. Brilliant to watch.

In the churchyard I saw a Pied Wagtail and a few Goldfinch and could hear a Chiffchaff. After a while I came to the cliff edge by the 'rest and be thankful cafe' and sat down for a drink and a sandwich. Looking out on the cliffs I could see Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag and a calling Chough flew over. As I was eating I attracted an audience and the jackdaws fancied a few crisps :- see small video clip below

Cheeky Jackdaws

After a rest, I saw a solitary Puffin fly past and a lot of Sandwich Terns were noisily making their way past also. A party of Kashmiri Goats went past and it's amazing how they cling to the rocks and cliff face. This one had been left behind and looked knackered!

I decided to walk down the road back to Happy Valley, on the way down the path I saw nesting Fulmars (great noises they make at the nest)

A hangout of Cormorants on a large slab just near the shoreline :-

More Stonechats with young in brambles just over the wall :- poor record shot, apologies.

Beautiful Red Valerian (thanks Liam Langley for ID) and some lovely Thrift & Birdsfoot Trefoil (thanks Joe Dobinson for ID)

The sea was flat calm and the wind turbines were not operational.

There was a curious structure that blended in with the limestone. Thinking this is probably an old pilllar box for sea defences?

When I reached the bottom, I decided not to watch Punch & Judy as everybody else seemed to be doing on the seafront, but opted to get the train to Llandudno Junction and have a look around RSPB Conwy. Upon arrival I saw a Coot with young and a pair of Great Crested Grebes on nest. Singing Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers could be heard. On the way to the Benarf Hide, I saw a Lesser Whitethroat which after observing had a mate on a nest in nearby bramble, again the sharp 'tekk' giving it away! I walked out of the reserve and down the estuary and saw Grey Heron, Shelduck, Little Egret, numerous Gulls, a Buzzard overhead and a Wheatear on the rocky shore. Also a great view of Conwy Castle.

Train back to Chester and Merseyrail back to Overpool, I arrived in at 7pm and slept like a log. A very enjoyable Bank Holiday birding day out.

Mike Buckley (photos)

Frodsham Marsh - Thursday 29th May 2014

Having been earlier in the week, it was only right to take another look at the stunning Red Necked Grebe and the Lesser Scaup. My brother in law Gary was keen to see the RNG in it's stunning summer plumage and a bird rarely seen on the west coast let alone locally, but more regularly in winter on our East coast. So an opportunity not to be missed :)

Arriving in the Landrover we drove up towards Redwall Reedbed and parked up and donned in suitable attire (wellys) it was very muddy after many birders had slugged through the mud, we made our way down towards the River Weaver. I set the scope up and straight away could see at least five Great Crested Grebes, some Shelduck, Tuftys, Coot and Mallard. No sign, hmm, had it flown? Walking a bit further up, eureka, the Grebe emerged from the depths not more than six metres in front of us!

What a stunner!!! The bird was feeding and was regularly diving down for fish. These images are not the best but were taken phonescoping so best I could do given the light (very poor) at 7.30pm.

A bit of neck extending and a shake of the feathers and then down to catch another small fish :) Success, Yummy.

The little tufts that could be seen on the back of the head were so cool and the bird really was a show off, tonight there was only me and our Gary, a couple of other birders and Mr Bill Morton himself. Forgot to ask Bill, but I'm sure they have had a May Red Necked Grebe before, but back in the late 80's early 90's? If anyone can recall.

After a while watching with which our Gary was chuffed as the bird was a lifer for him, we moved on to try and see the Lesser Scaup (or Little Bluebill) on No6 tank. Walking up the track to No6, it was literally seconds before we spotted the Lesser Scaup. I had seen a much closer Lesser Scaup at Burton Mere Wetlands last year, but still great to see the North American *vagrant but quite a way out. I managed a couple of record phonescope shots before the gloom descended.

This fine drake bird has a small tuft on the hindcrown and a whitish grey back with darker vermiculations. You can just make out the black nail at the tip of the bill in this next shot.

And a final shot before the bird moved closer to the bank and out of sight. The bird had been diving down and feeding and prior to presumably going to a quiet spot to roost, was joined by a pair of Tuftys.

Two more ticks, to go to my adding yearlist, which not even into June and I have already surpassed last years total of 210.

Happy days and an excellent evening with other birds spotted including Avocet, Red Legged Partridge, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and a Kestrel and Peregrine resting on a Pylon!


Mike Buckley (photos)
Gary Chidlow
Bill Morton. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Red Rocks & BMW Saturday 10th May

Been a while, but got a call from Shaun to go and do a bit of birding down at Red Rocks. Those that know Red Rocks will have seen some great finds by local top birder Jane Turner. After the Easterly winds brought a Wryneck, Tawny Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Spotted Crake and a cracking Little Bunting on Hilbre Island. Wow, some patch ticks there!! So with that in mind we were optimistic but not hopeful of any rarities as the North Westerlies had arrived :( good for a seawatch though maybe?

On arrival at West Kirby, the beach was pretty quiet and most of the White Wags have moved on to breeding territories. Near the steps up to the walk along the Golf Course I could see a Whitethroat characteristically flying up from a bush and calling away. In the dunes on the front were numerous Skylarks & Mipits. A Wheatear flew up and the white rump very visible then settled down to allow a pic.

Further up an acro was calling after listening to scratchy song, defo a Sedge Warbler :) snapped by Shaun.

It really does look quite different and a shame seeing missing Poplars and some scrub near the front. Poor Mistle Thrushes will have to nest elsewhere! A few Goldfinches were flying over and some nice male Reed Buntings were calling nearby however which cheered me up.

Up onto the red sandstone rocks the tide was well on it's way out but the mudflats between RR and Hilbre were covered in thousands of Dunlin & Ringed Plover, a few Sanderling also. About twenty Cormorants were out on the tide edge.

Looking out to sea was difficult as I never took my scope today, just bins, but did not seem to be much on the move. A Black Tern had been spotted by Jane at Hoylake, but alas no sign and we were prob a little late arriving for that. After enjoying the stream of Dunlin and Plovers, we made our way back onto the boardwalks and I was hoping to hear the whip whip whip call of a Spotted Crake (dream on mostly heard at night), stay optimistic! In the next few months the Open golf starts and the stands are already built in places.

Another acro, this time a Reed Warbler calling from the vast reedbed. More Reed Buntings and another Whitethroat but not much else on show. Walking further up the boardwalks and scanning the golf course for Hoopoes as I do (one day I will see one here), nothing, very quiet. Shaun suggested we have an hour down at Burton Mere Wetlands so we set off and were hoping to see the Wood Sandpiper that was reported early doors on Birdguides. So after an enjoyable hour or so we set off.

Upon arrival at BMW we saw some local birders including Roger from Chester Zoo who said the Wood Sand was seen early morning but right out in the flooded pools beyond reception main scrape! Damn, and no scope. Still the gen consensus was the bird is still around but had not been seen for a while. A couple of Garganey were on view as well as plenty of Godwits and the Avocets. Walking up to IMF hide we heard Chiffchaff and Blackcap and the bubbling calls of the breeding Little Egrets! No Cuckoo sightings yet, won't be long I suppose. Only one person in the hide when we arrived and she had not seen the Wood Sand :( plenty of noisy Black Headed Gulls had prime nesting positions on the island and a couple of Redshank were on the muddy fringes of the pool.

After a while all the birds got up a way out, including Godwits, Lapwing, and corvids. A young Peregrine was spotted by Shaun just below the main group of circling waders. Just then it made a dive low and across the fields at the back, putting yet more birds up. They may come our way and indeed the Black tailed Godwits arrived but a different high pitched call alerted me and the erratic flight of a Sandpiper! It was our Woody and it flew around in circles for a while before disappearing over the hide and that was that! Flushed by the Peregrine. Suppose we would not have seen it otherwise so thank you Peregrine :)

The Black tailed Godwits looked stunning in summer plumage and the more drab immature birds mixed in. There were some islandica mixed in the flock as well as you can see the deeper rufous colours extending right down the breast. Spot the Dunlin (not Curlew Sand as one watcher suggested)

Wow, a great spectacle and a joy to watch. It was about 1pm and we had been out since 8.30am so stomach was rumbling and it was time for home and dinner. On the way back to the car park a Buzzard flew overhead.

An enjoyable mornings birding and with Shaun going away for a few days with his lovely wife Gillian next weekend, we may just get one more outing in this week after work somewhere (hint hint).

Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photography)