Comfortable weather yesterday (13th) for our July outing to the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands reserve; 20
C, slightly overcast but dry. There was plenty of activity in front of us as we enjoyed a cup of RSPB filter coffee (
1.80) including close up views of a Common Tern as it patrolled the channel closest to the reception centre giving the photographers present a great photo opportunity. Simon took full advantage, as you can see. Thanks Simon that's a great image! Dozens of Black-headed Gull youngsters were packed onto the main island, amongst them, but undistinguishable, except for the fact they were being tended by their parents, Mediterranean Gull chicks. One of the wardens told me that they'd had 10 pairs this Spring, yet another indication, if it were needed, that our climate is changing - we ignore Nature's messages at our peril.
Other species have also done well this year at Burton - Avocet - 58 pairs, Redshank - 38 pairs and Lapwing - no less than 114 pairs. All very encouraging but really we need Lapwings back in the rest of the countryside and not just restricted to the small pockets provided by protected reserves like Burton.
Leaving the reception building we made our way to the Marsh Covert hide, single Cetti's Warbler and a Reed Warbler were still in song and from the hide we had good views of Reed Warblers feeding their now fledged young a few feet away in the phragmites reed bed. A female Marsh Harrier passed over causing a flurry of activity amongst the flocks of Black-tailed Godwits present in large numbers on the reserve. 12 months ago, after a visit to Burton, I took to BWP to try and understand more about the various plumages displayed by these Godwits at this time of the year - suffice it to say it's all very complicated and I'm still none the wiser. Just two species in song as we walked along the boardwalk to the Inner Marsh hide, Chiffchaff and a five second burst of reeling from a Grasshopper Warbler. More Godwits from this hide plus six Dunlin, still in Summer plumage and three Spotted Redshanks, now moulting but readily distinguished from their Common (Redshank) cousins.
As we returned to the centre a Peregrine flew through at tree top hight - absolute chaos as everything took to the air, species number 48 which increased by six when Bob Groom sent me a note with a list containing extras seen by him and David Cogger when they visited Parkgate on their way home.
Alan Booth kindly sent me details of four Common Scoters (3M,1F) he saw this morning (14th) at the north end of Tatton Mere. Bob Groom saw them later in the day and thought they could have been the four he had at Tabley recently.
species seen on the Wirral - 13th July 2019.
Hobbies were confirmed as breeding in Cheshire in 1998 when Pete Hall found a nest on his farm in Toft, the first for exactly 100 years since Coward and Oldham's 1898 nest record. Since then there has been an increase in numbers with the latest Cheshire atlas (2004 -2006) showing 37 tetrads with confirmed or probable breeding. They have nested in our area again a number of times but I suspect, for one reason or another, there's been a decrease since the Atlas survey work, so I was pleased to see another Hobby last Wednesday (3/7) in Mobberley following on from the bird hunting at the same location on 28/6. Later the same day Darren Morris had one in Tatton's deer park, perhaps the same bird as the two sites are only a short distance away, given the speed at which the species flies. A couple of days later Bob Groom spent three hours searching for Hobbies in Mobberley at the spot where we had the Yellow Wagtails recently; great views to the south from this relatively high location but he had no luck, although he did have Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel and, of course, the wagtails.
A species even rarer that the Hobby (in Cheshire) is the Red Kite, so a bird high over Mobberley yesterday (8/7) was a good record. Eventually they'll no doubt become as plentiful as Buzzards, as has been the case in the south of England, where they're apparently in constant view for travellers on the M40 motorway (although I'm not suggesting that there's any need for anyone from around here to ever venture south of Stoke. Such extreme behaviour is rarely necessary!) NB)
Olwen and I are currently trying to establish a wildlife pond in the grounds. Having received quotes for the job I ignored everyone's advice and dug it out myself - 6'X4'X2' deep with shallower shelves around the perimeter - it's a whole new world! We've been visiting the "World of Water" emporium in Timperley exploring the intricacies of liners, deep water, marginal and oxygenating plants and even solar powered air pumps! OK it looks a bit rough at the moment but given time I'm sure it will mature and we'll be providing dragonflies for those elusive Hobbies to feed on!
This Saturday, 13th July it's our field trip over to Burton Mere where there's something of interest no matter what the time of year! Leaving Lilac Avenue at 09:00 to arrive at the reserve at approximately 10:00am.
One bird missing from Bob Groom's European tick list is Northern Hawk Owl so last month, in an effort to rectify the situation, he spent a week in the far north of Finland in search of this Arctic beauty - as usual he's kindly provided a summary of his trip and you can read it by clicking here thanks Bob!
Species seen in Mobberley. Friday 28th June 2019
The miserable, wet weather this month won't have helped ground nesting species but shouldn't have affected others quite as much. We spent an enjoyable morning at Woolston Eyes on Thursday, where the Black-necked Grebes seem to be doing well. It's difficult to determine the number present but 22 adults is the latest estimate and these have produced 8 or 9 broods. We watched two pairs carrying their tiny chicks on their backs; this is the safest place for them as the reserve is having problems with Lesser Black-backed Gulls predating any youngsters they come across. Pochard have been particularly badly hit, Brian Martin told me that up to 12 broods have been lost - although yesterday two new families were seen during a survey, we saw only one Pochard during the morning. A Lapwing was incubating four eggs on one of the islands in front of the Morgan hide, they hatched successfully yesterday. Also from this hide a constant stream of Swifts feeding over the reeds, presumably birds that are nesting in Warrington, no hirundines though, with the exception of a single House Martin. There was some song from the resident warblers - Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and one Sedge Warbler. Reed Warblers could be seen feeding in the phragmites when viewed from the top of tower hide - adult birds and their wing-shivering fledglings in food soliciting mode. David Bowman has produced a nice video showing some of the avian activity during the Spring and early Summer - click here.
Bob Groom had what were probably four Common Scoters whilst doing his wildfowl count at Tabley Mere last Sunday (16th) but wasn't sure of the ID as they were in view for only a few seconds through the undergrowth. I've seen them on Tatton Mere in June on a number of occasions over the years - it seems strange but this seems to be this month that provides most inland records. Bob was disappointed to have no sightings along the Tabley bridleway of Yellow Wagtails - ground nesters so they may have succumbed to the recent bad weather. Hopefully our Mobberley Wagtails have done better and we'll enjoy their company again this coming Friday (28th) during the second of our KOS evening walks around the village, meeting up in Mill Lane Mobberley (the road down to the Bulls Head and Roebuck pubs) at 6:45pm. WA16 7HX. Leader Tony Usher.
The walk is 5.2Km, mostly along rural footpaths, no hills but some rough stretches from time to time and should take about 2 hours. For those that don't fancy the full distance a shorter route (2.5Km) is available that misses out the Springwood farm loop.
species seen at Woolston Eyes. Thursday 20th June 2019.
With such a relatively early start we arrived before opening time at the reserve, but it wasn't long before the staff arrived and got the coffee on - very welcome! The weather here wasn't too bad, some heavy showers and it was quite windy, but there was plenty of activity out on the pool in front of the reception building and beyond.
There are some very special species currently nesting or attempting to nest at Burton - "Graham Jones, Site Manager at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands said: "It is absolutely staggering to see five different heron species making their home here. The grey herons nest here each year, but little egrets only colonised the UK in the late 1980s and have been breeding here since 2005. For them to now be joined by the much rarer cattle egrets, great white egrets and spoonbills is even more astonishing. They're usually more at home breeding in the Mediterranean, so we've been dubbed the "Costa del Dee" by some visitors, who are enjoying seeing the birds from a special watch point that we have created to allow for better views. If the birds all breed it will be extraordinary and cause for additional celebration in our anniversary year."
From the reception building it was obvious that the electric fence installed around the main breeding area to deter predators had done its job, there were droves of Avocets, both adults and youngsters at all stages of development; it's a pity that this technique is not employed up at Leighton Moss where plenty of Avocets arrive each Spring but meet with little success. Black-headed Gulls hung in the strong breeze over the main island guarding their scruffy brown offsprings and amongst them two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls, the adults with their all white wings looking very smart alongside their more common neighbours.A special viewing area has been set aside for viewing the nesting Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets. Unfortunately neither species nor their nests was in view from that particular spot but I was assured that the Cattle Egrets were nesting and the Spoonbills were "trying their best"! From the Marsh Covert hide we had excellent views of a Spoonbill in full breeding plumage, it's long white plumes blowing in the wind as it fed a few yards from where we watched.
Species seen at Burton Wetlands Saturday 8th June 2019.
A great turnout of 19 members assembled in the middle car park along the valley before splitting up into two groups; one chose to tackle the steep hill behind the car park and walk along the bumpy path that runs parallel with the road the others preferred the road itself running alongside the reservoir (the road not the KOS members!).
A male Pied Flycatcher posed nicely for us before we set off up the hill where, from the top, we could hear Willow Warblers and Blackcaps in song despite the fading light - it's not a good time of the day for bird song and even perhaps a little late in the season, although I believe Tree Pipits were heard in song earlier in the week during a morning visit by some KOS members. We walked as far as the end of the woodland before descending down the steep steps to the path running alongside the River Goyt, a Curlew showed nicely as it stood on a drystone wall on the other side of the valley, a vantage point from where it could spot predators that could pose a threat to it's offsprings that were no doubt hidden in the heather below. Nothing of note along the riverside walk, but on meeting up with those that had stayed on the road, we learnt that they'd seen both Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher on their travels.
Walking past the parked cars we ended up on the concrete bridge hoping for "roding" Woodcocks; right on time at 9:25pm two appeared and gave good views. It was just past sunset and the light was poor, so Simon did well to get the record shot reproduced on the left.
Back to the transport and a short drive found us at the top car park from where we took the path through the conifer plantation as far as the cleared area at the far end. The newly planted trees are growing really fast but nevertheless there were plenty of Woodcock around and we were lucky enough to spend five minutes or so listening to the "churring" of a Nightjar. Bob Groom and David Cogger were someway behind the rest of us and actually saw the bird in flight!
As we returned to the cars and were preparing to leave some jobsworth in a pickup truck appeared and told us that the path we had used was no longer in use and we shouldn't have been in there. Well it still has a pedestrian gate and the map has it marked as a footpath! United Utilities need to lock the gate and put up some appropriate signs - It was fortunate that Mr. Jobsworth was talking to our charming Chairperson and not the Hon.Sec. - he had a lucky escape!!
On his return from Finland and a successful search for the Northern Hawk Owl Bob Groom was immediately out and about around the Knutsford area and reports a Red Kite on 31/5 at the Hobby site, a Hobby near St. Paul's church Over Tabley and Yellow Wagtails along the Tabley Hill bridleway. Bob's promised me a report of his Finland trip which I'll publish on this website.
Jude Halman and I have now finished this year's Rostherne CBC - type survey in the reserve's Harper's Bank wood. No records to set pulses racing but hopefully our work goes some way to fitting another small piece into nature's jigsaw. The 2018 report has at last been produced and you can read it by clicking here.
The Dyfi Ospreys are progressing nicely and the three chicks are looking very strong - click hereI've been watching another Osprey webcam near Loch Arkaig in Scotland, again superb images in full HD - quite amazing as, in their own words, The nearest plug socket? More than a mile away. Broadband? The other side of 2km of water. it's well worth a visit just to read and watch video of how this has been achieved! Click here.
This coming Saturday (8th) it's our field trip over to the beautiful Manifold Valley leaving Lilac Avenue at 08:30am to arrive at Ecton around 09:40am. Leaders Derek Pike and Mark Eddowes - so you'll be in safe hands!
Species seen in the Goyt Valley - Friday 31 May 2019.
Our friends at Dyfi will be pleased, the nest we saw a couple of weeks ago now contains three newly hatched chicks and all seem to be doing well - click on live streaming.
This Friday evening (31st) it's the first of our KOS summer evening walks. This one is to the Goyt Valley and beyond. Leaving at 6:30 pm from the Tatton Street car park or 7:30 pm at the second car park along the valley. You may want to bring a torch and a woolly jumper as we probably won't get back to the cars before dark.
species recorded on visit to the Fox Harbour area of Mobberley - 28th May 2019.
The 45th Anniversary holiday went very well and we achieved our target of 100 species! It's a bigger report than normal so qualifies for a page of it's own! click here for the report09/05/2019...... Hobbies back on site!
The weather forecast for next week is encouraging with a high pressure system set to bring dry and warm conditions from Monday onwards. Ideal for our KOS 45th anniversary trip to mid-Wales from Wednesday (15th) until Sunday (19th) based in Barmouth. 100 species again? We'll be doing our best!
No Swifts as we made our way back towards the Knutsford entrance, not a single hirundine either, although as we passed the Moor pool two Swallows flew over, late additions to a modest day list. So it appeared that this year Swifts wouldn't be recorded in our area on or before the first of May but help was at hand in the form of local birder Alan Booth who we encountered as we headed back to the cars. Alan told us he'd had Reed and Sedge Warblers and two Swifts on Sunday 28th April!
Late news today (2/5) in an email from Bob Groom who'd dropped into Tatton this morning on his way back from Rostherne and watched 40 House Martins and 10 Swifts zipping back and to over the main mere......the latest I can recall first seeing them for many a long year.
Species seen in Tatton Park - Wednesday 1st May 2019.
Tomorrow evening (26th) it's our KOS AGM which normally takes all of 10 minutes! no one will be press-ganged into serving on the committee as all last year's officers have volunteered to continue for another 12 months. Admission is free and after the short formalities Sheila and Geoff will be giving us a presentation entitled "Texas the Roadrunner State".
Species recorded at Neumann's Flash - 17th April 2019
We began with a climb up the sky tower, as you can imagine it was perishing up there but we were rewarded with excellent views from above of some of the resident Marsh Harriers floating over the reserve, the male birds looking magnificent as the morning sun caught them twisting and turning over the reeds. Having ticked off some of the commoner species also to be seen from the tower we made our way down and set off along the track towards the Tim Jackson hide; Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were all in song as well as the resident Cetti's Warblers exploding into action from the undergrowth, we did actually catch fleeting views of a couple of individuals but they do tend to remain well-hidden almost all the time. Also along the paths were the Marsh Tits - great views as usual of this rapidly declining species. As we approached the Jackson hide we heard our first Reed Warbler of the year - Sedge Warbler had apparently also been heard but we had just this single Reed during our visit.
All three species of hirundine passed through as we watched from the Jackson hide, just one House Martin amongst them. The Harriers were again very active, a male bird was collecting nesting material and carrying it to a location opposite the hide and another passing food in mid-air to his partner.
Following visits to the Grisedale and Lillian's hides we enjoyed a lunchtime break in the excellent restaurant before walking down to the Causeway hide where we added Oystercatcher, Great Crested and Little Grebe to the day list and watched a family of four Otters enjoying a fishing expedition in the centre of the lake. The first I've seen at Leighton Moss despite so many visits over the years. No Bitterns (only one male this year) or Bearded Reedlings, although others had heard them calling earlier in the day.
A short drive and walk found us at the coastal hides from where we had some spectacular views of the species present. The islands were covered with a rufous cloak of 100's of Black-tailed Godwits in a confusion of plumages! From time to time, perhaps spooked by a passing predator, the whole lot would take flight and a number of smaller grey birds, about 50, revealed their presence amongst the Godwits. They were Knot, apparently still in winter plumage, perhaps 2nd calendar year birds that won't attain their characteristic Summer plumage until next year. A knowledgeable local birder also pointed out three Bar-tailed Godwits amongst the flock of Black-tailed, we'd have overlooked those without his help!
Other species on view from the two hides included Avocet, Peregrine, Pink-footed Goose and Great Egret giving us a pretty impressive total of 66 for the day. You can't go wrong at a reserve like Leighton Moss at this time of the year!
species seen at Leighton Moss Sunday 14th April 2019.
This Sunday (14th) we have our April field trip to Leighton Moss. 08:30 from the Tatton Street car park or c. 10am at the reserve. A great time of the year to visit Leighton and we should have booming Bitterns and plenty of summer migrants, hopefully including the first Reed and Sedge Warblers of the year!
Species seen at Woolston Eyes 10th April 2019.
The same observer was over at Marbury Park last Thursday (28/3) and reports his first Blackcaps of the year with one seen and a further two heard. Jude Halman and I noted two on Monday (1/4) at Rostherne when we conducted the first of our 2019 CBC surveys in Rostherne's Harper's Bank Wood, just 3C, the same as last year's first visit, but thankfully no freezing rain this time! The species count in the wood is small but it is a very enjoyable exercise (on a dry day!!) the highlight for us was watching Treecreepers at two different locations carrying nest material into very likely nest sites.
The survey has been running continuously for more than 40 years and new volunteers are always welcome, you get to do a bit of "real" ornithology rather than just birdwatching (and also a Reserve key giving access to the new Whitley hide and areas normally not accessible to other permit holders!)
Our 45th anniversary holiday to Wales is just over a month away and I'm glad to report that the Dyfi Ospreys have returned and are busy refurbishing last year's nest. The link below is to the webcams overlooking the nest (now 2 cameras in full HD) I've also added links to two other sites - Glaslyn (also in Wales) and also Loch Garten. A pair at Glaslyn, but no birds so far at Garten where, as I write, the nest is under two feet of snow!
Dyfi - click here..... Glaslyn - click here..... Loch Garten - click here
Today (27th) we enjoyed a mornings birding over at Woolston Eyes and those that hadn't already done so were able to add Sand Martin (5) and Chiffchaff to their year list. A Cetti's Warbler again sang briefly from the reeds just below the first raised viewing platform from where we added the usual selection of wildfowl to the day list - Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal etc. and also the first Black-necked Grebe we'd seen this year. More Grebes were on view from the Morgan hide, so probably around six have now returned, a small flotilla of eight male and three female Pochard glided into view as we watched the Grebes (someone's going to be disappointed!) whilst on the feeders, Blue and Great Tits, Greenfinches plus half a dozen Bramblings coming into full breeding plumage reminding us that Winter can still have a cold sting in its tail. species recorded at Woolston Eyes - 27th March 2019.
A Willow Tit was calling from the area where we heard one singing on our last visit and a single Redpoll flying overhead as we returned to the cars was species #42 rounding off a very pleasant Wednesday morning.
Collared Dove, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull,Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Robin, Chiffchaff, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Gadwall, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Mallard, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Shoveler, Teal, Cetti's Warbler, Black-necked Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Pheasant, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Mute Swan, Brambling, Sand Martin, Willow Tit, Redpoll. [ ✓ 42]
species recorded at Woolston Eyes - 27th March 2019.
So it was a small and very select group that met up in Lilac Avenue for the journey west to the Wirral peninsula! Heavy rain to start with but the sun actually appeared as we approached our destination, although it was very, very windy; conditions that prevailed for the rest of the day - occasional sunshine and heavy, but short lived, rain showers.
A good start to proceedings as we drove down Puddington Lane and came across a group of 24 Egrets feeding in a sheltered field. I did a quick count and assumed they were all Little Egrets but I was later told the two Cattle Egrets were often to be found amongst them.
Staff outnumbered visitors at the reception centre but, most importantly, they'd got the coffee on, so we enjoyed a cup as we set up the 'scopes and began scanning the reserve. Most species were hunkered down due to the ongoing gale, but a female Marsh Harrier spent most of the morning quartering the reserve, her progress marked by potential victims taking briefly to the air. A passing Peregrine though caused much more consternation and generated a blizzard of activity!
Lapwings appear to be on eggs already and a number were in constant action seeing off intruders whilst the Avocets don't seem to have started yet and looked absolutely brilliant as they fed in the shallows. The head Warden told me they had at least 70 and steps have been taken to deter predators by the erection of an electric fence around the whole of the marsh- excellent!
We counted 47 Grey Herons crouched in the reeds, I assume they would be well into incubation by now but there was no sign of activity in the trees where they nest - the weather was doing them no favours. From the Inner Marsh Hide we had good views of a Great White Egret and a selection of the usual wildfowl sheltering from the wind - Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal and a large number of Wigeon.
As you can imagine small birds were taking a low profile but stands of willow afforded some protection and we were able to add species such as singing Wren, Dunnock, and Robin to the day list - not birds we'd normally struggle with! Finally on the return leg we had the briefest of views of a Bearded Reedling, low over the water flying between two clumps of phragmites. 52 species recorded, a thoroughly enjoyable morning and much better than likely!
This Friday 22nd March it's our final indoor meeting of the season before the AGM. We'll be welcoming back David Tolliday who will be telling us all about "Overseas Travel with a Wildlife Camera".
Species seen on the Wirral - 16th March 2019.
Robin , Wren, Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Redshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Crane, Lapwing, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Golden Plover, Dunnock, Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail. Bewick's Swan, Mute Swan, Shelduck, White-fronted Geese, Mallard, Greylag Geese, Black-tailed Godwit, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Twite, Starling, Linnet, Skylark, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Rook, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Curlew, Peregrine, Song Thrush, Water Rail, Cormorant, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Merlin, Blackbird (58
Collared Dove, Robin, Curlew, Blackbird, Starling, Chaffinch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Little Egret, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Merlin, Kestrel, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Hammer, Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Peregrine, Golden Plover, Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Gold Finch, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Pink-footed Geese, Grey Heron, Shoveler, Cormorant, Pintail, Scaup, Mute Swan, Teal, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Whooper Swan, Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Shelduck.
Elevenses were taken in the comfort of the Morgan hide, bolstered on the day by Jude's excellent home made picked onions - I hope you save some for the Christmas party Jude!
Plenty of action in front of the hide. No Black-necked Grebes yet but plenty of Black-headed Gulls, Little and Great Crested Grebes and displaying Shoveler on the water whilst on the well-stocked feeders Chaffinches, Greenfinches and four Bramblings.
Further round the reserve, on the track away from the Warrington Rotary hide, a song none of us is very familiar with, that of a Willow Tit, hidden away in a tangle of undergrowth. We downloaded the song from the excellent Xeno-Canto bird song website for confirmation. No such problems a further 50 yards down the track as we approached our first Chiffchaff of the year, close enough for everyone to hear - unlike the Willow Tit which was outside the range of some of the old ears amongst us!
A reminder that it's time to renew your Woolston permit or apply for one if you've never had one previously. Click here - permits.
species recorded at Woolston Eyes - 6th March 2019.
In Mobberley singing Skylarks are back along Smith Lane and Hobcroft Lane but, as yet, no displaying Lapwings although I expect them to return on schedule this coming week in the big fields opposite Smith Lane farm, their favourite location; this year growing Winter wheat - so they may stand more of a chance than last year.
In Tatton Bob Groom counted 65 Common Snipe when they were flushed from the reed bed by a photographer, no Jack Snipe this time though. Bob recently had a Peregrine from the obs. at Rostherne and I was lucky enough to get a good view of one, carrying prey, as it flew low overhead. Also there an Oystercatcher perched on the rails of the weather buoy in the middle of the mere (25/2).
In two weeks time Saturday (16/3) it's our March field trip up to Leighton Moss meeting at the reserve around 10am or 08:30am in Lilac Avenue. We'll be looking for Sand Martin, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Bearded Reedling and, of course, booming Bitten!
Please note that our April Field Trip has been changed from Saturday 20th April to Sunday 14th April to avoid the Easter weekend.
My request for volunteers to help with the Big Farmland Bird Count organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust met with a lukewarm response which was a great pity. A list of farms who had asked for help from competent birders was extensive with a large number in and around the Northwich / Middlewich area. This is an ideal opportunity to open a few doors and gain access to some new birding areas - I'll be twisting a few arms next year.
As it was, just Bill Killey and I took part, and last Wednesday (13/2) visited Shipbrook Hill Farm, Whatcroft owned by Simon Bennett and home of Riverside Organic, a family run farm, wholesalers, farm shop, and cafe. The farmland is managed as stipulated in Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship scheme.
The farm stands in a lovely location; slightly elevated with views down the Dane Valley looking towards Northwich - the survey itself is a doddle and requires that observers simply select an area "of interest" and spend half an hour identifying and counting the species seen!
Bill and I chose a field just down the road from the farm - flat and very damp running alongside the River Dane and being managed with Lapwings in mind. The first birds we saw as we approached the field were Curlews, a flock of 21 - so we started the clock there and then! An area of open water and juncus reed in the centre of the field held 6 Mallard and 13 Teal, a Song Thrush was singing from a roadside ash tree and, as we left, a Chaffinch spluttered into song - the first I've heard this year. 19 species and one Brown hare was a very satisfactory total given the 30' time limit.
Bill and I have been invited back in the Spring to see what's about during the breeding season: door open - job done!
The annual late Winter increase in visitors to our feeders is underway, the resident Goldfinches have been joined by up to six beautiful little Siskins and yesterday three female Reed Buntings. No sign yet of Redpolls or Bramblings but I'm hoping we'll get some soon - other KOS members have reported both species in their gardens recently.
This Friday (23rd) it's our February indoor meeting when Ashley Grove will be telling us all about "Trinidad and Tobago: Home of the Hummingbird". As usual 7:45pm for an 8pm start in the Jubilee Hall.
So on Saturday (9th February) Olwen and I headed west to Merseyside and the centre of Liverpool; just one navigation error when we ended up driving through the sleepy suburb of Wavertree not a place in which to linger! We finally arrived with no further mishaps at the appropriate location, a much more salubrious spot with the library sandwiched between the World Museum and the Walker Art Gallery opposite St. John's Gardens and the Bedlam Paintball Emporium!
The library itself is a lovely building having re-opened in 2013 after extensive refurbishment with all the usual facilities and a pleasant cafe serving snacks and proper coffee. The viewing event took place on the third floor, in the search room, into which we were ushered at the allotted time. A group of about 25 people who were asked to consider others during the event - not to hog the best positions and allow everyone to get a good view and take photos if they wished. This worked well, all very civilised with participants moving politely from spot to spot to examine the prints and take some record shots. The two members of staff gave interesting presentations and were happy to answer questions as they went along. The prints were beautiful and looked as fresh as the day they were completed and no one went away disappointed. I believe a further event is planned sometime this year with all four volumes available - but you'll need to book early!
Species seen in Tatton Park on 10th February
The Manchester Birding Forum reports Brambling this morning (6th) along Beech Walk in Tatton. Park ranger Darren Morris had no less than 40 Mandarin Ducks in front of the Higmere Plantation on the Park's main mere (1/2). I thought this must have been a record for Cheshire but Hugh Pulsford tells me he has previously had a flock of c.100 on the lake in Alderley park where a nest box contained 24 eggs - all of which apparently hatched out!
An interesting text today from Darren who has watched (for the past few weeks) 15 to 20 Cormorants herding young carp into the shallows of the lagoon at the north end of Tatton mere. I've seen film of Pelicans doing this but a quick search on the internet revealed that other members of the Cormorant family indulge in this cooperative exercise in other parts of the world.
So plenty to look forward to on Sunday (10th) when our February field trip will be to Tatton. Meeting up at 9:00am in the Dog Lodge layby on Mobberley Road. Tony Ellis is the trip leader.
Just 19 species the following morning on the Heath; despite the later start it was 3 degrees cooler at a chilly 5C with gale force northerly winds making it feel even colder. Although the two locations are about the same size the Heath suffers from not having an area of water within its boundaries and so misses out on the waterfowl to be found on the Moor Pool (although we "nearly" had an Egyptian Goose that passed low over the Heath without landing - that wouldn't feature on many garden lists!). Despite its limitations the Heath is a pleasant place to explore on a windy winters morning, numerous paths criss-cross the woodland making it very popular with local families walking their dogs and the shelter provided by the trees meant the small birds weren't affected by the weather and Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all in song - a gentle reminder that Spring's just around the corner (although the weather forecast gives snow for tomorrow and last year "The Beast from the East" didn't arrive until late February!Song Thrushes were recorded at both locations and again this morning I had three in song on a walk around Mobberley. Very encouraging and it looks like they're making something of a comeback after years of decline.
On Friday (1/2) it's the CAWOS February meeting at 7:45pm at the Catholic Church on Tatton Street
Our second talk for 2019 is by Mike Leach who is a superb photographer and speaker. Mike has visited us a number of times and always has been very entertaining. His talk this time is a bit of a follow up to one of his previous talks although it is by no means necessary to have attended the "Part 1" to fully enjoy his offering this time. Thoroughly recommended to ALL! Michael returns with a second helping! Those with long memories will remember his entertaining part 1 back in 2005! Further confessions of a wildlife photographer featuring advice on how to make a wild cat look more menacing and the story of working with hen harriers on a storm-swept Scottish mountain. Michael reveals how cameramen look into the secret world of underground dens and how to build a motorway in your garden shed.
NB Some people are still getting CAWOS and KOS mixed up! KOS is the Knutsford Ornithological Society our local bird club and the "owners" of this website. CAWOS is the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society - the county Society. Some KOS members are members of both.
Species seen on Knutsford Moor 26th January 2019. Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Coot, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, mallard, Moorhen, Redwing, Robin, Song Thrush, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Pochard.
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On then to Parkgate for the high tide of 10M. Many others had also made the trip and the car park at the old baths was chock-a-block, we managed to squeeze in and made our way to the sea wall where Sheila Blamire was nicely ensconced with a clear view across the estuary. The high tide was due at 12:36pm but it soon became apparent that the incoming water was never going to reach the sea wall, conditions on this occasion were just not in our favour. Nevertheless there were plenty of good birds to be found and those that appeared gave us good views. Up to five Marsh Harriers were in the air together, Male and female Hen Harriers caused much excitement as did the hunting Short-eared Owls - three at one stage with one posing photogenically on an old fence post out in the estuary, perhaps just too far away for the multitude of photographers after that killer image!!
Little Egrets were few and far between but a Great White Egret was a welcome addition to the day-list, Skylarks passed over in good numbers and two Stonechats obliged the photographers, assuming an appropriate pose just beyond the sea wall.
The Parkgate chippie was doing a roaring trade but it was again well worth the wait - great to welcome Len Mason back with us after his recent problems and in such good form - he wasn't going to miss those fish and chips!
Fieldfares have been conspicuous by their absence so far this Winter but I had 12 yesterday in Mobberley and Bob Groom counted 61 flying over Queensway at lunchtime.
A busy weekend ahead starting this evening (Friday 25th) -
Friday 25th January... KOS indoor meeting - "North Norfolk Here I Come" with Jim Almond
Saturday 26th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Moor. 9am to 10am on the Moor.
Sunday 27th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Heath 11am to noon on the Heath.
Species seen on the Wirral - Wednesday 23rd January 2019
10 members arrived to give a hand during the morning, including Yvonne and Darren Morris who once again provided tea, coffee, biscuits and a supply of hot water - essential ingredients with which to tempt people in!We were surprised that given the more agreeable weather there were so few people passing by, but nevertheless with the promise of free refreshments we were able to accompany a steady stream of visitors down to the hide throughout the morning.
Thanks to all concerned for their help in making this event such a success - we must do it again sometime!
Also in the park Roger Barnes tells me that Grey Herons can be seen perched high in the alder trees of Higmere plantation, staking out their claims to the most favourable nest sites prior to the breeding season, which is now upon us - young birds have been seen as early as February at some locations in the past. On his way to the Allen hide Alan Gillespie walked along Beech Walk, next to the golf course, and reports seeing Brambings feeding on the beech mast - the first I've heard of in our area this winter.
In Mobberley a pair of Little Owls have set up shop along Pavement Lane and this morning on Slade Lane I watched a group of 5 Bullfinches exploring an orchard and heard three Song Thrushes and two Goldcrests in song. let's hope they don't get carried away - it's mild at the moment but the weather people tell us it's going to get a lot colder - winter's not over yet!
There are some high Spring tides next week - around 10 meters on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th. The RSPB will be putting on a special event on the 23rd.
Wednesday 23rd January - Parkgate High tide Birdwatch (RSPB). 10.30am-2.30pm, Price: Free. In celebration of the RSPB Dee Estuary reserve's 40th anniversary, join us at Parkgate Old Baths for the awe-inspiring spectacle of a high tide flooding the vast salt marsh, potentially reaching the old sea wall. The marsh at Parkgate is one of the best wetland habitats in the northwest, and when flooded by an incoming tide, the wildlife which lives here is pushed closer, with chance of seeing the great range of ducks, geese, wading birds and egrets in big numbers as they are driven upstream by the rising tide. A range of birds of prey take advantage of mice and voles flushed from the grasses; hen and marsh harriers, peregrines and merlins all spend the winter months on the estuary and this is one of the best places to watch them, plus short-eared owls if we're really lucky. So why not venture out to try witness all the drama. Low pressure and a westerly wind will help push the tide and wildlife in close. There is free public parking at the Old Baths car park (CH64 6RN) at the north end of The Parade, and the Wirral Country Park car park on Station Road (CH64 6QJ). There are public toilets at Mostyn Square in the middle of The Parade, and a number of pubs and cafes. High tide (10.0m/32.8ft) at 12.36pm.
Species recorded in Tatton Sunday 13th January 2019
High tide was at 11:00am so we made our way immediately to the tower hide at the far end of the reserve, Chaffinch, Linnet and Brambling, seen from the cars, were early additions to the day list as we made our way along the track running parallel with the River Dee. Earlier in the morning we'd seen huge flocks of Pink-footed geese passing overhead as we approached Connah's Quay, a few more were seen from the hide but here Canada Geese predominated, a sizable flock grazed in front of us accompanied by a few Greylags and two difficult to find Barnacle geese.
Waders were well represented with c. 50 Dunlin feeding on the mud before the tide rolled in plus Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and, in the distance, viewable only through the bigger 'scopes, a small group of Knot.
We had a number of sightings of Little Egrets out across the estuary towards Parkgate plus one record of a single Great White Egret. A Peregrine appeared from that direction and landed for a short time on a nearby pylon, partially obscured by the structure but viewable through the 'scopes. Just four species of raptor during the day with the Peregrine, an early Kestrel, Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier seen by Bob as we walked back to the cars, bringing our final tally to a reasonable 51 species. The only disappointment was the absence again of any Twite; apparently they have appeared only intermittently in small numbers at very high tides and after heavy rain when fresh water pools, in which they were seen bathing, formed in the car park.
This coming Sunday (13th) we'll again be at the Allen Hide, overlooking Melchett mere, in Tatton Park from 11am until 1pm for the annual Winter Wildfowl Watch in conjunction with the Park Rangers. Always good fun and we're hoping that refreshments will again be available but this depends on what Darren can scrounge!!
species seen at Connah's Quay on Sunday 6th January 2019.
Our route took us from the Witton Bridge car park up to Haydn's pool, along to Budworth Mere then over to Neumann's Flash on our way back to the cars. Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits were all in song as we approached Butterfinch Bridge, no Cetti's Warbler this year but a Water Rail called briefly from deep inside the reedbed upstream from the bridge.
Haydn's Pool was disappointing; it's currently overgrown with little water to be seen, but we did tick off Stock Dove and Peregrine on the day list - the latter perched on a railing on the old ICI building, not in it's usual position on the chimney - you can't hide from the Hon. Chairman's Swarovski!
Elevenses were taken at the viewing screen overlooking Budworth Mere. More to see here, the most obvious species on view were the Goosanders - no less than 29 birds, four full adult males but mostly "red heads" one of which was fishing in the shallows, just below the screen, where Richard obtained the image shown above. A second Water Rail was heard from here whilst out on the mere good numbers of Great Crested Grebes two of which were displaying.
Over towards the sandspit were the gulls, Mainly Black-headed with a few Herring a handful of Lesser Black-backed and a single Great Black-backed. Other wildfowl included Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe with a couple of Canada Geese and a lone Goldeneye. A Kingfisher flew low over the mere as we made our way along the waterside path and into the woodland.
Approaching Neumann's we came across a small flock of finches predominately Green and Gold but alongside them a couple of Lesser Redpolls. More Wildfowl on Neumann's with Wigeon and Teal present in good numbers; across on the far side of the flash a flock of c. 200 Lapwings (but no Golden Plovers this time). Richard, Geoff and Sheila diverted to Pod's hide before returning to the cars and from there had a Snipe and great views of a Water Rail which was so close that Richard was able to capture this shot with his phone camera. In the foreground you'll see red roses left in memory of Pete "Pod" Antrobus and in who's memory the hide was erected. A poignant image and a reminder that for many people Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time.
Some up and coming dates for your diary.Friday 4th January.... The latest CAWOS meeting - Paul Hobson "Scotland" 7:45pm at the Catholic Church, Tatton Street, Knutsford.
Sunday 6th January.... Our KOS January field trip to Connah's Quay. 08:30am at the Tatton Street car park or 09:20 at the entrance to the reserve. Hopefully the Twite flock has built up again this winter.
Sunday 13th January... Wildfowl watch with the Tatton Rangers. 11:00am to 1pm at the Allen hide.
Friday 25th January... KOS indoor meeting - "North Norfolk Here I Come" with Jim Almond
Saturday 26th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Moor. 9am to 10am on the Moor.
Sunday 27th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Heath 11am to noon on the Heath.
Species seen at Northwich Woodlands. Friday 28th January 2018.Dunnock, Robin, Mallard, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Magpie, Chaffinch, Great tit, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Nuthatch, Water Rail, Carrion Crow, Peregrine Falcon, Stock Dove, Mute Swan, Jay, Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goosander, great crested Grebe, Moorhen, Cormorant, lapwing, herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, great Black-backed Gull, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Reed Bunting, Sparrowhawk, Coot, Kingfisher, Heron, Canada Goose, Long-tailed Tit, Buzzard, Greenfinch, Teal, Wigeon, Lesser Redpoll, Snipe. [ ✓ 47]
Greetings all. A lovely evening last Friday rounded off our 2018 meeting programme with festive spirits fuelled by a delicious food offering. This event is also our sole fund raising effort of the year; here is how we did on that front.A total of twenty one people attended the party; a figure lower than in previous years owing to a number of late cancellations from members felled by various bugs. Nevertheless, the evening was a great success on the financial as well as the enjoyment front, coming in the top three of KOS parties for money taken and profit recorded. The two occasions when slightly more was raised were years when we had guest lists of twenty eight. Based on the size of our gathering, it was the most financially productive party that we have ever had. Admission money at £ 7 per head raised £ 147.00 The raffle organised by Sue and Jacquie brought in £ 54.10 The bring and buy stall, followed by the end of evening auction, overseen by Sheila and Judith realised £ 54.40 Various donations totalled £ 53.00 This produced a total revenue of £ 308.50. Deducting modest buffet costs of £ 51.50 (all the offerings being subsidised in some way by the providers) gave a profit of £ 257.00 So a big thank you to all involved in our party, for supporting the raffle and the bring and buy, for providing the food and making donations. Also to Bob for organising a quiz and providing the prize. The sum raised will help keep the Society going and enable us to continue to attract quality speakers to our meetings. Frank Thanks Frank it looks as though we'll not have to post that begging letter to Jose Mourinho who's apparently leaving Old Trafford with a golden goodbye of £ 18 million!
I've not received many sightings of interest since the last update. Bob Groom was at Rostherne on 11th December and had a flock of c.100 Pinkfeet flying over. In Mobberley along Pavement Lane two Little Owls have taken over the oak tree nest site used two years ago by a pair of Barn Owls. Blue, Great and Coal Tits have been in song for the past couple of weeks and were joined over the weekend by the local Dunnocks. Not long now to the shortest day and in the garden the daffodil leaves are beginning to emerge - Spring can't be that far away - or am I being a tad too optimistic? In his weather column in today's Times Paul Simons, who correctly predicted the arrival of the "Beast from the East" at the end of February, seems confident that were going to suffer something similar in the near future, possibly as soon as late December although more likely in mid to late January. It could run through to February with hard frosts, ice and snow - you've been warned!
I've updated the trips and meetings page with three additional outdoor events. On December 28th we'll be having our Christmas walk around the Northwich Woodlands - Neumann's / Haydn's / Budworth Mere etc. meeting at the usual Witton Bridge car park at 09:45 for a 10am start.
We'll again be joining forces with two Knutsford organisations for the Big Garden Birdwatch. Friends of Knutsford Moor at 9:00am on 26th January and Friends of Knutsford Heath at 11:00am the following day.