Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Glossy Ibises and a surprise YBW

I was continuing my Great Crested Newt translocation project at Cottam and was surprised by the amount of calling Chiffchaff's on the site (as well as a Tree Pipit and plenty of Meadow Pipits) there had obviously been a decent fall of migrants last night. Within the Chiffchaffs I picked out the distinctive call of a Yellow-Browed Warbler, a classic Autumn migrant which is turning up everywhere at the moment, it eventually flitted across the canal on to the University of Central Lancashire's athletics ground, I am next in the area on Thursday, maybe it will stick around. There is also one showing well at Leasowe, Wirral today. No Great Crested Newts today but Smooth Newts and a Bank Vole in a pitfall trap!
After the Newt work I headed for Horwich and the four juvenile Glossy Ibises that have been seen intermittently for the last few days. I couldn't believe how close they allow birders to approach them (see the photo and mobile phone video upload), these birds have no doubt been pushed to the UK by the recent Eastern winds that also result in the appearance of Yellow-Browed Warblers. As I left the site at 11:20 they flew over the road and out of sight, but no doubt are still in the area and well worth a visit! I then took the opportunity to catch up with the female Black Redstart that has been seen nearby for the last couple of weeks, with time pressing I only managed brief views of the bird, yet it did show off a bit; fly catching off the dry stone walls on the edge of the moorland.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Harriers and Hogs

Hedgehog, Cottam, 28/9/13
Great Crested Newt, Cottam, 28/9/13
I have been really busy of late as I have been carrying out ecological survey work day and night! Over the last couple of weeks this has led me throughout the North-West, Midlands, and North-Wales. I have spent a great deal of time at a Great-Crested Newt site at Over-Peover near Knutsford, apart from the Great-Crested Newts we have found Common Buzzard, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, a regular pair of Raven, 5 Nuthatch, and singing Chiff Chaffs. A Bat survey in Telford resulted in Common Pipistrelles, and Brown Long Eared and being startled by a Badger as it made its way across a field of corn at night, and a Great Crested Newt survey near Preston on Saturday came up trumps with a Hedgehog rescued from a Newt pitfall trap! Also on this site I found two female Great Crested Newts, 47 Smooth Newt, and a Brown Hawker Dragonfly.

juvenile Little Grebe, Sefton Park, 27/9/13
More locally Little Grebes are showing well on Sefton Park Lake, with one adult bird feeding a striped plumaged juvenile; this must prove that they have raised two broods in the park this year, with two ages of juvenile on show on the lake, other birds included 4 Grey Wagtails, Chiff Chaff, 15+ Swallows, and family of Nuthatches near to the café, the family of Mute Swans with four surviving young, and a female Tufted Duck. Nearby I had 4 Common Buzzards over Camp Hill on Saturday, continuing their colonisation of the suburbs, and 2 Ring Necked Parakeets, and 4 Mute Swans at Greenbank Park.

Little Grebes, Sefton Park, 27/9/13
I have been involved in a Pink Footed Goose survey on the mosslands over the last week, which has turned up some fantastic birds, from my situated vantage point to the East of Haskayne I have seen a pair of Marsh Harriers on each visit since last Monday looking towards Downholland Moss, female Merlin, female Peregrine, 2 Little Owls, and a juvenile female Sparrowhawk pursued and killed a Red Legged Partridge last Friday and continued to pluck the bird in full view for over an hour, other birds have included 3 different Kestrels, another Sparrowhawk, plenty of Common Buzzards, Wheatear, my first Redwing of the Autumn, 90+ Goldfinch, 45+ Linnet, 250+ Red Legged Partridge (with one covey this morning holding over 60 birds) and best of all an Osprey this morning which left its overnight roost in trees towards Plex Moss shortly after first light. Apart from these great sightings the Pink Footed Geese put on a great show as they left their roosts, with the majority of birds feeding just outside our survey area on Plex Moss which held 5000 birds this morning and smaller numbers of 650 near to my vantage point at Haskayne.

Little Grebe, Sefton Park, 27/9/13
Things are really starting to heat up in the North-West now with a Blyths Reed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, loads of Yellow Browed Warblers, Lesser Scaup, and Glossy Ibises seemingly everywhere and this is only today! A little road trip may be required.

Hedgehog, Cottam, 28/9/13

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Martin Mere

During a family trip to the Martin Mere "Bird Zoo" today I managed to sneak off for a quick look around the real reserve, the best sightings were 6 Curlew Sandpipers and a Little Stint from Millers Bridge hide and a daytime calling Tawny Owl near to the observation tower: a round-up follows:-
Whooper Swan - 2
Pink-Footed Geese - 40+
Curlew Sandpiper - 6
Little Stint - 1
Tawny Owl - 1
Marsh Harrier (juv) - 1
Common Buzzard - 1
Chiff Chaff - 2
Tree Sparrow - 5
Ruff - 20+
I took my eldest son Dylan (6) canoeing in the reedbeds on the reserve and we were lucky enough to spot a Water Vole swimming alongside us under a bank before it clambered up into cover, Dylans first Water Vole...lets hope they recover from their long decline so it is not his last! Also in the reedbed area we had at at least 6 Migrant Hawkers and many Common Darter Dragonflies.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Straining The Eyes!

Stilt Sandpiper, Elton Hall Flash, Sandbach, Cheshire

I am working at a site near Nutsford, Cheshire this week undertaking some Great Crested Newt consultancy work, this involves early morning starts, but, more importantly early finishes! Which yesterday provided me with the opportunity to catch up with Cheshires STILT SANDPIPER (first for me!), the bird has been present at Neumans Flash since Saturday but yesterday was flushed by a Sparrowhawk and relocated further south in the county at Sandbach Flashes. After a mad dash to the site I soon found the bird roosting on one of the spits on Elton Hall Flash, unfortunately with the heat haze and the long distance I could only manage a photo that insults the term record shot (I promise you that's the bird to the left of the Lapwing)! But still, LIFE TICK!
Grass Snake, Private Site, Cheshire
After this I visited a private site in the county which boasts a population of Grass Snakes which are being monitored, I was lucky enough to find three first year animals, also on the site were 10+ Bullfinches, 2 Buzzards, 20+ Common Darters, Black Darter, 7 Southern Hawker, and a Brown Hawker.
Lesser Scaup, Pennington Flash
Today I managed to see the drake Lesser Scaup off the south shore of Pennington Flash which may well be the same individual that has been seen at the flash on two further occasions over the last few years, the bird showed very well compared to yesterdays Stilt Sandpiper but rarely woke and raised its head as it constantly bobbed along roosting on the open water with Tufted Ducks and Pochards. I didn't have the time for a look around the main reserve but an impressive 27 Great Crested Grebes could be seen from the Car Park area, and both Bullfinch, Chiff Chaff, and Willow Warbler could be seen off the footpath along to the Grebe.
Lesser Scaup, Pennington Flash
Today as I continued with the Great Crested Newt work I found 2 Raven, 2 Common Buzzard, Chiff Chaff, 2 Nuthatch, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a fearsome looking Great Water Diving Beetle which landed in a Newt pitfall trap.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

That Itchy Feeling

The pull of South Yorkshire's Two Barred Crossbill's at Broomhead Reservoir became irresistible especially when a trip to Frodsham Marsh was thrown in to pick up a Cattle Egret and potential MEGA Marbled Duck.
2 Juv. Black Necked Grebes, Frodsham No.6 Tank
Cattle Egret, Frodsham No.6 Tank
First stop Frodsham Marsh No.6 tank; the Cattle Egret showed well albeit distantly roosting on the scaffolding surrounding one of the towers on the western bank (sorry about the dodgy record shot). This bird was in stunning summer plumage which I have rarely seen in this country with previous sightings being in winter or of summer individuals in non-breeding or 1st summer plumage.
2 juv. Black-Necked Grebes, 13 Golden Plover (with 6 in resplendent summer plumage), juv Little Stint, and the days MEGA Duck turned out to be a female Ruddy Duck........my first for years after the eradication program was implemented; and what of the Marbled Duck?......It was spotted flying out towards the estuary sporting a whopping great red ring on its leg, reducing its wild credentials to zilch! Even after an evening of clutching at straws on the Internet I couldn't find a colour ringing programme for Marbled Ducks using red rings....never mind! The bird is still knocking around Frodsham at the moment if anyone is interested, but this doesn't help the claims of wild Marbled Duck in the future. A Ruddy Shelduck was later found which is still present today, again the dury is out over its origin!

Cattle Egret, Frodsham No.6 Tank

male Two-Barred Crossbill, Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorkshire
After Frodsham I headed to Broomhead Reservoir to the clearing in the conifer forest plantation where the birds had been appearing for some time now. I arrived around 2:30 and the birds hadn't been seen for a couple of hours, after scanning the areas conifers for around half-hour a large flock of Crossbills (around 200 where present in the forest) flew over with a smaller flock loosely associated with them flew calling a noticeably different call.....Two Barred Crossbill.....LIFE TICK.....they then landed in the larches above the clearing and began to feed on cones. I have to admit I haven't enjoyed seeing a new species as much as this for some time, the flock consisted of at least 7 birds (they are hard to count in the canopy) including two stunning males (I know the record shots do not do them any justice). Male Crossbill's are an attractive bird but nothing prepared me for the male Two-Barred; the colour of them is a stunning deep wine-red colour.....fantastic birds! They stayed for no more than a minute or two before dispersing deeper into the forest. Luckily I stuck around on the chance that they may reappear and I was in luck, around an hour later the flock again flew into the Larches in the clearing and this time the two males began calling......a remarkable trumpet like bugle which seemed almost mechanical in its sound, most different from their contact calls I had heard previously, again this was unexpected and finished the day off nicely, if they stick around I could be tempted to visit again! Last but not least I photographed a massive female Wood Wasp egg laying in the clearing, what a stunner the photo doesn't reveal how big this thing was....enormous!
Wood Wasp, Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorkshire

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Little Bit Of Effort Results In Rich Rewards

I visited the Central Lakeland Fells during the week for a mighty circular route that encompassed Tarn Crag, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Thunacar Knott, Pavey Ark, and Harrison Stickle; starting and finishing in Grassmere. From Grassmere I headed up through Easedale and the Sour Milk Gyll to Easedale Tarn, then turned North to the steep climb up to Tarn Crag which is were I caught up with my main target for the day..... Mountain Ringlet. The Mountain Ringlet is an extremely rare species in England, with the population consisting of just a small number of locations in Cumbrian high plateaus, coupled with this its numbers can fluctuate widely from year-to-year, warm sunny days are needed to to persuade them to fly (which can be in short supply in the Lakes), and the adults only have a very short flight period; leading to this species being very 'hit-and-miss', however, I timed it just right and ended up finding very good numbers. On Tarn Crag alone I must have found 60+, with many more on plateaus around High Raise, Sergeant Man, and Thunacar Knott; all-in-all at least 110 could be seen (probably the most I will ever see in a day). They proved very difficult to photograph as the females were busy egg laying in the tightly packed grasses and the males wouldn't alight for long before they were off chasing rival males that entered their territory, in-fact the best chance to photograph one came from finding one with a damaged wing! A fantastic little butterfly that lives in one of the most stunning areas of the country (see the photos!).
Apart from the Mountain Ringlets, 3 Dark-Green Fritilary, 2 Pearl-Bordered Fritilary, Black Darter, 2 Golden-Ringed Dragonfly, 20+ Four-Spotted Chaser, Round-Leaved Sundew, Butterwort, Heath-Spotted Orchid, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, 3 Redstart, and a Dipper. Some great sightings and one of the best walks I have done in a long time. 
Heath-Spotted Orchid - Easedale

Sour-Milk Gyll, Easedale

Easedale Tarn

Codale Tarn from Tarn Crag

Tarn Crag

Perched Boulder on Pavey Ark

Stickle Tarn and Pavey Ark
Mountain Ringlet
Mountain Ringlet

Harrison Stickle from Pavey Ark

Round-Leaved Sundew

Kestrel - Harrison Stickle

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Anderton Nature Reserve

Common Darter - Anderton Nature Reserve
I was down in Alsager near Stoke-On-Trent yesterday morning carrying out a hedgerow survey on an area to be affected by development, nothing amazing to be found there yet nesting Blackcaps and Greenfinch were nice finds, as was Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, and Meadow Brown Butterflies. Also Sparrowhawk carrying prey, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, and singing Chiff Chaffs nearby added to the mornings tally. 

Four-Spotted Chaser - Anderton Nature Reserve
On the way home I stopped in at Anderton Nature Reserve near Marbury Country Park, to check for Dragonflies and Butterflys (I haven't been for a couple of years but it is a good site), and I wasn't let down; best of all was a Purple Hairstreak, it is getting to the optimum time of year for this species now and they can be found more locally at Liverpool Cricket Club off Aigburth Road. It is a great little site which has a great amount of potential and is connected to other areas of natural importance nearby by a series of footpaths.

Anderton Nature Reserve
Common Darter - Anderton Nature Reserve

Brown Hawker - 9
Emperor - 1
Southern Hawker - 1
Common Darter -12
Four Spotted Chaser - 3
Common Blue Damselfly - 30+
Azure Damselfly - 15+
Blue-Tailed Damselfly - 7
Emerald Damselfly - 2
Purple Hairstreak - 1
Gatekeeper -35+
Meadow Brown - 10+
Red Admiral - 1
Comma - 1
Speckled Wood - 4
Small Tortershell - 9
Grey Wagtail - 6
Common Buzzard - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Pied Wagtail - 3

Small Tortershell - Anderton Nature Reserve

Damsels, Skimmers, and Emperors!

Sefton Park Main Lake
Common Buzzard - Greenbank Park

During this amazingly warm period (we have been waiting five years for it!) certain species can be easy to find, especially Dragonflies, in Sefton Park I have recently viewed at least 250 Common Blue Damselflies on the main lake, which in-turn have attracted the magnificent Emperor Dragonflies that prey upon the Damsels; at least four males and two females can be seen patrolling the main lake plus a pair on the the first pond. By far the best record is that of Black-Tailed Skimmers; with three males holding territory along the South-East shoreline of the main lake, at least two females were at the site during the weekend, so breeding may well  be confirmed this year. This species is a relatively new species in the region, over the last few years they have spread North and can now be found on the Sefton Coast and South-Lancs, and with the ecological improvements to Liverpool's Parks resulting in increasing biodiversity this species looks like it may become a regular now.
Black-Tailed Skimmer - Sefton Park
Great Crested Grebe family - Sefton Park
Apart from Dragonflies the Great Crested Grebes seem to have been through a bit of turmoil, only the female bird remains from the breeding pair and only two chicks remain, however the chicks are growing fast and hopefully should be to large for Gull attacks soon. The showy Great Crested Grebe that allows very close approach is still present and usually can be found fishing close to the shore. I couldn't find a Little Grebe nest but I would love to be proved wrong! If anyone knows what happened to the male Great Crested Grebe and the other chick please let me know, as well as the Mute Swan story too, as the family party is now back up to four juveniles; did two birds get taken into care by the RSPCA and then reintroduced? Two Herons have been fishing around the Band Stand and two have been in Greenbank Park too, Gulls numbers are starting to build up again (see photos on the right), with juvenile Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls starting to return for the Autumn (bit of irony in this weather!), when the Common Gulls start returning Autumn migration is just around the corner!

In Greenbank Park a Common Buzzard has been making regular appearances during the mornings especially over the North-end of the park and Gorsedale Road; regularly circling at only treetop height before being harassed by Crows and Gulls and driven away. The Ring-Necked Parakeets are regular as is a huge Red-EaredTerrapin that suns itself on the islands.
Grey Heron - Sefton Park

Great Crested Grebe - Sefton Park