Thursday 16th April 2020
First out of the blocks today was Karina Stanley. 5:30am - crickey! - but her reward was our first local Common Whitethroat.
Inspired by the recent KOS postings,
I ventured out bright and early today at 5:30, before all the dog walkers and joggers. I was well rewarded with lovely views of a singing whitethroat in the scrub along the railway line with yellowhammers, a willow warbler, chiffchaffs and blackcaps joining in the fun. Well worth the effort!
The M6 was very busy with lorries and only a few cars. The truckers must be enjoying this lockdown!
Over in Crosby Barrie Armitt
continues with his vismig activities
and is racking up his species list.
Hirundines thin on the ground (in the sky) round here as well - re the Barbers - Wheatears also remarkably scarce - more Ospreys moving through here than Wheatears!. Warblers arriving in numbers over last couple of days - 14 Willow Ws, 16 Whitethroat and 12 Grasshopper today - though they arrived overnight and had largely moved on by mid-morning. Will be interesting how many of the Grasshoppers stay - 5-6 breeding pairs last year. New 2020 arrivals today: Sandwich Terns 10 birds 'kerricking' of-shore with 68 counted 6 miles up the coast also new arrivals. The high pressure blue skies and sunshine very pleasant once it warms up. -1 C start in a chilly easterly yesterday - but overhead vismig suffers as birds are moving high and out of sight. The birding 'action' is at ground level and the birds that have arrived overnight with the clear skies. Exotic 'oddity' of the day: 6 Rose-ringed Parakeets in high speed mode over Blundelsands.
All the best
In Tatton Darren Morris was getting quite excited over a Gropper!
Rather a busy few days in the park, even though there are no visitors there is still plenty to do. Last year's lambs have been over-wintered and used as conservation grazers, this week, three groups have been moved back to the main flocks for the summer.
At the Mill Pool today the swan was sitting on its substantial nest, in the background I heard, what has got to be one of the best sounds of spring, a willow warbler, my first for the year.
Time allowed me to do the weekly butterfly transect. Brimstone, small tortoiseshell, large white with peacock being the most numerous today.
During the walk it was good to see a hare and a little later a fox . Both in the deer enclosure. Also while over there, there were two splendid male wheater. No whinchat yet this year, a species which I have seen around this time for the past couple of years.
Tawny owls calling outside the mansion (Maria's) and out in the farmland too.
I have just actually darted over to the back of the Old Hall while writing this as I could hear a grasshopper warbler there where I found one many years ago.......turned out to be a squeaky bearing on a tractor harrowing the field behind!
I made it as far as the Rooney's new mansion this morning; all on our well-marked public footpaths of course. It's now surrounded by a 6' fence and supports are in place for CCTV equipment. A huge area of ground has been cleared at the rear of the building, presumably for landscaping, ensuring more privacy, although I believe the plans include a full-sized football pitch. Anyway good luck to the lad, he kept us entertained for a long time at the Theatre of Dreams. (Who can forget his overhead kick to put the noisy neighbours in their place in 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpSwJWr-hMI
I was in the Stretford end for that one and even today it still sends a shiver down my spine whenever I see it! )
I passed the field pool twice this morning. a single LRP, Shelduck, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Canada Geese, Yellow Wagtail, 4 House Martins collecting mud, the local Ravens were still seeing off any intruders and my lockdown list increased by one to 64 when I flushed a Common Snipe from a small muddy pool, just south of bigger pool.
Geoff and Sheila have found the Cheshire East footpath map useful. It is good.
Today we did a 8km walk to and around Rostherne. We found Tony's website with footpaths marked very useful. Our walk included a lot of permissible paths as well as signed footpaths. We walked over fields, some fallow, some cereal crops. We walked through and past several woods where we heard many Chiffchaffs and several Blackcaps, but no Willow Warblers - where are they?! Still no House Martins and Sand Martins. No new species but some quality birds and sightings, including many pairs of Lapwings and loads of House Sparrows which is a treat for us. Also fabulous weather - though the wind was rather chilly at times.
One thing I forgot from yesterday we were amused by a Jackdaw that was picked over horse dung to find any 'tasty' bugs.
Derek Pike has found the Winter wheat unproductive for birds. Although here in Mobberley it's being used by a large number of Skylarks.
Here in the west of our lockdown nothing new, no Swallows. I decided to walk the field margins instead of Sudlow Lane, not ideal for walking, you can't look for birds and walk you have to stop and look. Headed down the lane and turned left across field to line of fir trees. Some local history now, the fir trees were planted so that the landed gentry at Tabley House could not see the Workhouse chimney, similar in early 1960's M6 built in cutting across their land to lessen the noise!
I hoped to see or hear Goldcrest in firs, no luck. The best sighting I had was a displaying Wren 20feet away in the foreground and in the background, flying past low down, a Buzzard "Little and large"
The views of Cheshire are tremendous from these fields, the fields useless for birds all winter sown cereals. I realise I will have to get up and out a lot early than 10:00am like today to avoid the maddening crowds.
Steve and Gill Barber have discovered a local Little Owl and pose a question.
Hi Tony, we walked west along a different Marton lane this morning and found a couple of Swallows over one farm and a singing Willow Warbler nearby. A lone Meadow Pipit called as it headed east but still no further spring arrivals here. Best though was a Little Owl perched on a fence post. It moved into an adjacent tree pretty sharpish as a Buzzard headed low in its direction. Apparently on seeing this the Buzzard too changed its direction and perched on a pole nearby. We would be interested to hear if any of your readers have seen a Little Owl taken by a Buzzard.
In answer to your question Steve. It seems not. https://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/article_files/V69/V69_N04/V69_N04_P144_154_A030.pdf
Last but by no means least we have more great memories from Phil Hampson.
More from the Highlands and Islands, 25 years ago!
The reserve I worked on was 1600ha and consisted of mudflats, tidal loch, moorland and farmland. A fantastic reserve with such diverse habitats, the mudflats and loch were the overnight roost for Barnacle Geese and the Greenland White-fronts keeping to the rough margins. Of course intermingled with the geese were many waders of a number of species. Habitat work was done for Redshank, many Snipe the list goes on. The moorland was outstanding for Hen Harriers, 11 nests, Short-eared owls (can't remember the numbers).
Surveying was done alone and to sit for hours watch Hen Harriers sky-dancing and performing food passes is something I will never forget. Pinpointing the actual nests to go and check the youngsters was a 2 man process, one guiding the other one in and you always wore a hat as female HH are vicious in attack!
Winter roost count was amazing but could be so cold sat there watching them dive into the heather. Sadly we had 2 incidents of arson and major fires on the moor, that was the hardest work I have ever done in my life, many hours walking with a large piece of rubber on a pole and beating the fire. Then the aftermath of dead snakes, adders were common. In Spring I had Skylark surveying, sounds nothing but walking a line for x metres sounds nothing apart from the holes and things with many falls. Barn owls were very common and many of the old farm buildings had a pair, likewise Chough in barns.
Then of course we had "Tourist Eagles" aka Buzzard, the one thing I learnt about Buzzard there was the variation in plumage colours from almost white to very dark. Another responsibility was the weekly guided walk. These were so enjoyable, being able to pass on local knowledge and of course the common question was will we see a Golden Eagle, they were relatively widespread but rarely were very co-operative on the walks but when they were seen people were in awe and then they realised the difference between the raptor sat on a telegraph pole and the real thing.
Islay is not an easy place to get to from the NW but I would recommend it to anyone for a weeks Spring or Autumn birding, quite simply outstanding.
I've put a new webpage on 10X50.com that will contain links to copies of these emails, so they're saved for posterity. Future historians won't believe it!