Well if nothing else this lockdown period is certainly making me really appreciate the diversity of my local patch more and more.
I had a lovely early morning walk today, accompanied by Meg, to Marbury. There were plenty of hirundines on Budworth Mere (House Martins, Swallows and some Sand Martins). I continued through Marbury Big Wood and I heard the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker. The Blackcaps were in fine 'voice' against a cacophony of Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff -to name but a few- and the Goldcrests were very vocal too.
I continued on over the canal bridge and headed towards Dairy House Meadows (I did have great views of a Lesser Whitethroat on Sunday but it didn't put in an appearance today and I meant to email you but time seems to run away with me ). I continued on to Neumann's Flashes and as I approached the pathway (near to Old Warrington Road), I suddenly saw flashes of two white rumps nearby. The birds eventually settled on the wooden fence and to my delight, it was a male and female Bullfinch! While I was looking through my binoculars at the Bullfinch, I had one of those 'perfect' birding moments as I heard the call of a Cuckoo. It seemed to be coming from the Marbury end of Neumann's Flashes . What more could you want Bullfinch and Cuckoo? Well I could be greedy and want to have them both in view but hearing one in my local patch is just as good. I continued rather hurriedly to Neumann's Flashes in the hope of seeing it (well one can hope!). I visited Pod's Hide and had another treat as a Water Rail 'squealed' nosily in the reeds close to the pathway down to the hide. I spent some time trying to peer through the reeds and thought I had it in sight but it turned out to be a 'stick bird'....
The Cuckoo had gone silent at this point so I was unable to locate its whereabouts and I decided to try my luck via Witton Brook. As I was walking towards the wooded area the Cuckoo called again and it sounded like it had gone towards Ashton's Flashes (typical!) as that was where I had just come from. Apparently the Cuckoo has been seen/heard in the area over past couple of days, so let's hope it has decided to stay.
I headed back to Budworth Mere and I was rewarded with views of hundreds of hirundines hunting for insects over the water. The majority were House Martins but there were some Swallows and two Swifts. There were three enthusiastic birders also standing by the mere edge (at a socially isolating distance of course) which was lucky for me as one spotted a Peregrine Falcon circling over the mere. Its presence caused some consternation to the hirundines and they began rise up from the mere. The Peregrine stayed for a few minutes before flying off towards Great Budworth.
This morning I decided to Ronseal the timber gates and one of the sheds, while I was applying the Ronseal I was being serenaded first by a Skylark, then a Goldfinch and last but not least right at the top of a dead tree a Blackcap as someone once said “It just doesn't get any better”! All the usual stuff were about Robins, Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Great Tits, Blue Tits, a flypast of around 12 Starlings, Woodpigeons, Collared Doves.
Now after having my meagre lunch I was going to go out again to continue hopefully to listen. Of course it has started raining which maybe a blessing in disguise it will save me from myself overdoing it my arms started to be a problem, never mind I had a good morning very lucky to live here with a garden. Some people are in a high rise flats. Well the weather changed to a beautiful sunny afternoon from around 4pm just as forecast so I started work again this time accompanied by gulls, and a Oystercatcher giving me the once over!!
We set off at 9am for a nearly 10km walk! Back to Rostherne with the Sedge Warbler still singing at Little Mere even though it was cold and windy! Decided not to go via the usual walk to Cicley Mill Pool because it's usually little boggy and a bad stile to negotiate balancing on sunken logs before rain - after rain we didn't want to risk it. So we went up Cicley Mill Lane, called in the angling pool, walked quickly passed Cicley Mill Farm to avoid the farmer, onwards to Rostherne Mere. About 20-30 Swallows over the reed bed and more hirundines further out. Using our small spotting scope managed to pick up 1 Sand Martin but no House Martins. Every time we've been, the Cetti's Warbler(s) very vocal - so nice to hear. Back along Cicley Mill Lane, to The Swan (shame we couldn't call in for a pint!), along old A556, up Warrington Road and back home. Still quite a few Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, but no Willow Warbler, just hope they eventually arrive. Every walk we hear numerous Song Thrushes - one of my favourite singers.
Cheers.... Sheila and Geoff
I did the regulation Mobberley 5K on an overcast and cool morning and basically recorded nothing of interest! No new species and only the usual Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Swallows representing the Summer migrants. Apart from meeting Wendy Stratford on her way down Smith Lane during her return journey from the field pool the only other highlight came along Town Lane just after leaving home.
A struggling jogger finally ground to a halt as I approached and, removing his headphones, asked me about some green parrots he'd seen in Dunham Park. I explained that they were Ring-necked Parakeets, still not found in Mobberley but they would eventually spread this way. We chatted about local wildlife in general, he seemed quite interested and, having recently moved to Mobberley, would be paying more attention in future. He said he'd lived in Cheshire for 10 years but still not lost his scouse accent. As my dad was brought up on Liverpool's Scotland Road and dropped dead on the Kop, we found that we had some things in common! It turned out he played in the Premier League for Liverpool, played for England U-21s and was, on one occasion, part of the senior England squad. His name is David Thompson and he now works as a pundit for Radio Merseyside. so with Wes Brown, Wayne Rooney and now David Thompson living locally we have the makings of a half-decent football team!
At the bottom of the Lockdown index page I've started a list of species seen during the lockdown period starting on March 26th. These are just the 69 I've recorded and if you have any to add send them to me by email and I'll add them to this list. click here.
There is nothing useful or scientific about this as our 36 correspondents come from all over the place! Staffordshire in the south, up to Cumbria, down the west coast to Crosby, east to Greater Manchester and of course a cluster around the Knutsford / Northwich area.
Perhaps in the future someone will find it of interest, probably not ornithologists - more likely psychiatrists !!
Mull - the North and back to Craignure
We will return to drive alongside Loch na Keal, checking the cliffs as we descend again for Raven and Peregrine. Before reaching the small junction at Gruline there is a path to Loch Ba, this is a walk well worth undertaking, not least for the number of Common Sandpipers alarming as you walk along and always the chance of a WTE. But onwards to the Ulva ferry jetty, too small to call it a port!
From there it is a drive North up the West coast of the island watching wherever for the different species. As you drive along there are some fantastic views out towards the Treshnish Isles. Eventually we get to Calgary Bay, this is a beautiful area and can be seen descending the road down. The problem with that is it's a magnet for visitors and has enormous pressure is put on the dunes and machair. People camp here so makes for difficult but rewarding birding. There can be Great Northern Diver in the bay and fishing Gannets, the dunes and machair hold a host of passerines. Very special though is the Sand Martin colony within the dunes.
Following the road to Dervaig over the hill road we enter the realms of Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier and if lucky Red Grouse. Approaching Dervaig we reach Loch Cuin and it is well worth driving slowly, stopping where safe, sitting and checking for waders and if you're lucky Otter.
Moving on to Tobermory road and a side turn to Loch Frisa, where the RSPB had the original WTE hide but I'm not sure it is still located there. The Mishnish Lochs will have a variety of wildfowl but onwards to the Town. Tobermory must be one of the most photographed places with the multi coloured properties surrounding the harbour. Otter can, or could, be seen the harbour, there are other distractions here as well in a distillery and there is (well was) a really good bakery on the front. Ferries can be caught here to Coll (never been there apart from the ferry to Tiree docking) and Tiree. On the road back to Craignure there is the Forestry Commission park of Aros, this has mixed woodland, water and waterfalls and holds most of the expected migrants. The grounds around the loch and waterfalls have the possibility of Dipper and Grey Wagtails.
The road then returns to Craignure and the ferry. For me Mull has some of the best birding in UK, an area that I have always enjoyed. I have spent more time birding the Southern end of the island but anywhere can be superb. My last visit was based at Loch Don and this was wonderful for waders, we had a Grasshopper Warbler in the back garden. A large Red Deer stag frequented the Lochside in front of the house. An evening drive to look for Short-eared Owl also brought Whinchat on fences. The other direction was to watch the Otter family at the head of Loch Scridain in Loch Beg. Personally, I would always base myself in this area. A day up North is quite a long drive so needs to be planned in to maximise the day.
There is no doubt I will have missed some of the key birding sites but hopefully there's been a taste of Hebridean birding. To me Mull has a great all round birding interest, especially in Spring. Whereas Islay is Autumn, Winter and Spring for the geese and excellent raptors. Anyone planning a visit to either I'm happy to help if wanted.
Maybe as we carry on in Lockdown I'll write something about Islay next.
I've not had any complaints Phil - so stay calm and carry on!