down for this bit of the website. Hard work sometimes but nevertheless most enjoyable. That's normally - this Spring's not normal.
At the time of writing Tatton park, Rostherne Mere NNR, Woolston Eyes, all RSPB and WWT reserves are closed for the duration, even Goostrey's bakery in Mobberley has closed - no more sausage rolls - a measure of the seriousness of the situation . We are allowed out for exercise once a day, so I've been receiving some reports from our KOS members who've been out and about locally, making the most of the conditions whilst even these limited facilities are available to us.
Before the drawbridges were raised the first Sand Martins had arrived. Jacquie Ledward was the first of our members to record them this year with 10+ over Budworth Mere last Wednesday (18th). Tatton's first came three days later (21st) when Darren Morris had a bird over the main mere as he cycled to work in the park, later in the day Bob Groom counted between 33 and 36 at the same location............. the Sand Martins were there in force, favouring mid-mere, rather than top end. No doubt the same birds that Darren had seen earlier. My counts ranged from 33 to 36 so I'll settle for 35, give or take. Lots of other good sightings, Kingfisher again at Melchett, 2 Grey Wagtails at the edge of the mere, not far from the deer fence, several Herons, Buzzards constantly in view.
As with the rest of us Derek and Jean are now restricting themselves to local strolls in their immediate locality, in their case Knutsford's Sudlow Lane .... Kestrel hovering over Northwich Road Saturday. Sparrowhawk over Academy field yesterday. Skylark singing over Northwich Road Wood Pigeon nesting in front garden again. Jean went down Sudlow lane yesterday still Fieldfare and Redwing about.
Bob's confining his activities to the area around Green Lane .... I have been up the lanes and had some nice sightings. Singing Chiffchaff I followed up Green Lane to the regular breeding place in the shrubbery of Moss Corner Cottage. 5 Buzzards up together. Several Lapwings displaying, 2+2 Stock Doves. I was just counting Fieldfares (had got up to 32) when the muck spreader swung into the field and I had to beat a hasty retreat (as did the fieldfares)! Jay, Kestrel, 2 Long-tailed Tits, lots of House Sparrows.It appears that we'll all be doing a lot of garden birdwatching this year! Here in Bucklow Avenue we're lucky compared to many people, we have small front gardens but they're much bigger at the back (ours is 70' long) and attract plenty of wildlife. The feeders are still busy with visiting Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit's and the occasional Great Spotted Woodpecker. All three Tit species are in song, together with a Greenfinch which sallies forth from time to time from a neighbours conifer in it's fluttering display flight . At the bottom of the garden there's a mixed hedge of holly, hawthorn and hazel plus a nice silver birch and a 30' high ash tree. Below these, the wildlife pond I dug out last year - now with resident frogs and emerging tadpoles that seem to be co-existing with the four goldfish I introduced (against everyone's advice!) At the rear of the house we have timber decking that remains out of direct sunlight until about 2pm each day and I spend many hours relaxing there, binoculars at the ready, hoping for something different to pass over. Last year I had Red Kite, Osprey and numerous Hobby sightings. I suspect this time around I'll be spending a lot more time there!!
We're living in challenging times but I'm sure binocs. will still be pointing skyward - from local lanes, gardens and even windows. Let me know how you're managing and what you're seeing so that this Spring that never was won't be wasted.
The internet is proving to be a godsend during these difficult times and many a happy hour can be passed watching ornithological webcams. I'll mention now a selection of these - there are many more and if you have any favourites let me know and I'll share them on here.
The Dfi Osprey cameras are excellent, pin-sharp HD images from a location we know so well. They are due to come online imminently
Dyfi webcams - click here
Glaslyn Ospreys. The first bird has returned and the webcam is on. Another site we're familiar with.Gaslyn Ospreys - click here. Loch of the Lowes webcam - now online and again one of the pair is in situ.
Loch of the Lowes webcam - click here
Kittiwake webcam from Gateshead - turn the sound down, they're very noisy!
Kittiwake cam click here
Peregrine Falcon Webcam from Leamington as recommended by Phil Rowley (thanks Phil!)
Leamington Peregrines -click here.Well that's about all for now team! Keep smiling, keep watching, keep in touch and stay safe!
Just to prove the point, the first of our Summer migrants have returned and interestingly Chiffchaffs have appeared before Sand Martins, Tatton ranger Darren Morris and I both had what was probably the same singing bird in the park's Dog Wood on the afternoon of Friday 13th. I was talking (at a safe distance!) to a group of Manchester birders this morning and they'd heard four or five at the same location earlier and reported a probable Blackcap in song. There was a singing Chiffchaff earlier from the Rostherne obs. (probably the first of the year) but no Sand Martins there either. It was a beautiful morning, crystal clear and through the big grey binoculars, set to 40X I could see people walking up Rivington Pike - a distance of 22 miles!
On Sunday (15th) we travelled over to Pennington Flash and enjoyed what will probably be our last KOS field trip for some time. Even before we left the car park it was obvious that the water held plenty of wildfowl with Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye amongst the first species on our day list. Goldeneye were very numerous and when they took to the air later, Bob Groom (who took an alternative route around the flash) counted 50 birds. Two fine male Goosanders floated into view as we began our walk, whilst from the phragmites reeds the explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler, a species we heard a number of times as the morning progressed. Chiffchaffs were numerous but there was no sign of the Sand Martin that had been present for the previous few days.
We had both Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, the latter now in good voice, as was a Skylark in full song, high above us as we approached the hides, beautiful, even prompting some poetry from our Hon Treasurer.
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Due to the ongoing Corona virus problem it's been decided that, with immediate effect, all KOS activities, both indoor and outdoor meetings will be suspended for the duration. All members have been informed.
Along with everyone else we'll be keeping a low profile for the foreseeable future but I'll be hoping to do some birding away from others, including Fox Harbour in Mobberley, the quieter parts of Tatton and Rostherne where I'll be doing the breeding bird survey in Harper's Bank (an area closed to the public, even permit holders).
I hope other members and correspondents will be able to get out safely and send me their thoughts and sightings for use in this part of the website.
Species seen at Pennington Flash - 15th March 2020
Last Wednesday's midweeker (26/2) was a long overdue visit to Woolston Eyes. It was wet, very wet! The approach road to the reserve, past the industrial units, is worse than ever and the water filled potholes have to be treated with great caution.
The paths on the reserve itself were quite treacherous too, ankle deep in muddy water, and no wonder, when we learnt this week, that last month was the wettest February since records began and the fifth wettest of any calendar month in a series from 1862.
The Black-necked Grebes aren't due back until later in the month but most of the other usual suspects were on view - Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Great Crested and Little Grebes etc.; all very wary of the fine female Marsh Harrier which took to the air and quartered the reedbeds from time to time. From the Morgan hide we watched Buzzards and a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying in the distance, returning Black-headed Gulls squabbled over the best bits of real estate and a pair of Oystercatchers flew in and landed just in front of the hide. The feeders were strangely quiet and we were disappointed not to hear any Willow Tits in song; although others heard them later in the week. Surprise of the morning was a Woodcock that flew overhead as we squelched our way back to the cars - it appears as a Winter visitor on the reserve's species list, so perhaps not as rare as we first thought. Nevertheless a new one for us!
This Friday (6th) it's the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society's AGM which will be followed by a presentation by Dermot Smith - "Mersey Estuary's Birds". 7:45pm in St. Vincent's Church on Tatton Street.
Species seen at Woolston Eyes on 26th February 2020.
The water level at Rostherne is very high; the path to Harper's Bank wood is submerged and a brown slick of suspended sand and soil, washing out of Rostherne Brook is spreading across the mere. Bob Groom and I visited the obs. yesterday (24th) when a group of workers were dealing with one of the big trees that were felled in the recent gales. Two people went into the rear door of the boathouse and as they did a Barn Owl exited through the front! It was no doubt roosting in there during the daylight hours. Also seen during the morning - Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine Falcon; a good day for predators!
Some members have ventured further - Ken and Shirley Davies have been on the road again in the camper, this time down to Slimbridge.
Ken and Shirley's motor home travels.
Shirley and myself visited Slimbridge WWT again this year on the 5th February, the weather this year was sunny, not much wind and no rain; not like last year when it was very windy and showery but we were there a couple of days before storm Ciara decided to hit our shores . The following list of birds seen as we walked around the outside of the reserve and not the captive pens.
Snipe, Lapwing, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Redshank, Robin, Magpie, Carrion crow, rook, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Crane, Starling, Peregrine, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Great Tit, Little Egret, Bewick's Swan, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shelduck, Coot, Mallard, Pintail, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, White-fronted Geese, Teal, Shoveler, Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese, Bar-headed Geese (2) (they had not come from the Slimbridge collection but were thought to be two feral birds from Holland), Wigeon, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Cormorant, Ruff, Wren, Chaffinch, Buzzard, Blackcap, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Water Rail, Pheasant, Avocet, Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Long tailed Tit, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail. (57)
Dave and Izzie Butterworth travelled even further south, well past Stoke, and enjoyed a holiday in Uganda!They have kindly provided me with an account of their adventure. It's quite large so has been given the honour of a page of it's own! CLICK HERE - http://www.10x50.com/uganda.htm
Preparations are going ahead for our long weekend on the Isle of Anglesey in early June. At the moment nine members have signed up, with more to follow, depending on circumstances.
As a taster for this trip have a look at what we saw on a single overnighter in 2016 http://www.10x50.com/arc_2016.htm scroll down to 5/7/2016.
I'll be leading this trip so contact me for further details tony@10X50.com
Our next KOS indoor meeting is this Friday (28th) when Tanya Hoare will be telling us all about "Our not so Common Swifts"See you there - same time, same place.
For those that don't enjoy the winter weather - and, strange as it may seem, there are some - a reminder that the average date for the return of the first Sand Martin of the year over Tatton Mere is the 14th of March - only a month to go!
Species seen on our KOS February field trip around Tatton Park. February 8th 2020
Species seen on the Wirral. Wednesday 12th February 2020.
This year I've invested in a Tatton Park entry/parking permit, through the good offices of the Tatton Garden Society; it's cheaper than applying directly to Tatton and members receive a discount at some of the local garden centres. Consequently I'm able to park at the far end of the main mere and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Allen hide, overlooking Melchett Mere, more often - this is not the most productive spot in the park for the birdwatcher, that's still Dog Wood and Knutsford Moor but it does provide welcome shelter during the wet winter months that seem to be the norm nowadays in this part of the world.
Other members also have passes so the park is receiving a bit more attention this year than in the recent past. On Saturday (8th) it's our February field trip to Tatton, meeting at the Dog Lodge lay-by on Mobberley Road at 09:00am, Tony Ellis will be our leader, so we're in safe hands!
Hopefully the pair of Stonechats will still be around and this week Derek reports Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers plus the resident Kingfisher on the Melchett Mere outlet stream.
Before then, tomorrow (7th) it's the CAWOS February meeting when Mark Sissons will be taking members on a journey through north and south America - "From Alaska to Argentina - Wildlife through the Americas". 7:45pm at St. Vincent's Church Hall on Tatton Street, Knutsford.
Today (6th) Bill Killey and I paid a visit to Shipbrook Hill Farm, Whatcroft and did a short bird survey on behalf of the owner Simon Bennett. The survey is organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and known as the "Big Farmland Bird Count". Last year 1,400 farmers took part and recorded 140 species across more that a million acres.
We recorded 21 species, one more than last year in the 30' allowed for the exercise. It's not long, to say the least, but spread over so many locations and as it says on the label - "offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation schemes currently being initiated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops."
There's a nice little cafe in the farmyard and I can recommend the bacon batches - my turn next year Bill!
Species recorded at Shipbrook Farm. 6th February 2020. 10:10 - 10:40am. maximum number seen at the same time.
On Saturday and Sunday we joined forces with "The Friends of Knutsford Moor" (25th) and "The Friends of Knutsford Heath" (26th) for their annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatches.
Here are the results of Saturdays Birdwatch on the Moor:-
Blackbird 3, Black-headed Gull 104,Blue tit 4, Bullfinch 4,Canada Goose 9,Carrion Crow 3,Chaffinch 1,Coal tit 1, Collared Dove 2, Coot 2,Cormorant 3,Goldcrest 1,Goldfinch 10,Great Tit 2, House sparrow 6, Jackdaw 7, Jay 1,Lesser black-backed Gull 1, Little grebe 2,Long-tailed Tit 9, Magpie 2, Mallard 10, Moorhen 2,Nuthatch 2, Redwing 10, Robin 2, Song Thrush 1, Mute Swan 1, Treecreeper 1, Tufted Duck 8, Woodpigeon 4, Wren 1. - 219 birds seen in 1 hour. 32 species. Not included is a peregrine which was seen hunting above the Moor
Species seen on Knutsford Heath. 26 January 2020. 11:00am until noon.Blackbird, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Robin, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren - 21 species.
13/01/2020......The first field trip of the new decade!
The first signs of the coming breeding season locally with The Hon. Sec. reporting Rooks in attendance and nest refurbishment underway at the small rookery next to the M6 services (31/12) and Buzzards displaying over the new building site (190) houses opposite the entrance to Lilac Avenue(10/1).
Much the same on Saturday(11th) over at the RSPB's Burton Wetlands reserve with, probably, two pairs of Buzzards and even more croaking Ravens vying for the best nest sites. The Buzzards can wait but the Ravens will hope to start laying during the first week in February.
It was a relatively warm day (12 ° C) for our first field trip of the year, very gloomy when we arrived at 09:40am but things improved as the day went on, although the wind speed increased to gale force early in the afternoon. All the species we've come to expect at this time of the year were on view from the reception building, with the addition of a scattering of Golden Plovers amongst the massed ranks of Lapwings. The high tide had perhaps encouraged more waders than usual to rest and feed on the reserve, Dunlin were numerous with a flock of c200 birds and a constant stream of Curlews arrived from the estuary, some calling as they flew in - that most evocative of bird calls, telling us of wild, lonely places in the far north.
A Cetti's Warbler sang for a few moments as we made our way towards the Marsh Covert hide from where Gadwall and a nice male Pintail were added to a rapidly expanding day list. No new species from the Inner Marsh hide, although as we walked back towards the reception centre a mixed flock of thrushes passed over, amongst them chattering Fieldfares, unlike their close cousins the Redwings, few and far between this winter.
Through the window of the Parkgate chippy we watched Marsh Harriers hunting over the reeds, a bit of a challenge for them as they struggled against the ever increasing south-westerly wind. Nothing new from our next port of call, the Old Baths, so we walked along the old quayside as far as Cottage Lane, the estuary on one side and the Heswall golf course on the other. Redwings fed on the field behind the baths, other new species en route included Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit - not rarities of course but welcome additions to the list. Highlight was a distant male Hen Harrier, a species we'd hoped to see, not good views but they all count! Returning to the Baths we met up with Bob and Len who'd been lucky enough to see a great White Egret and a Merlin, bringing the final tally to 57 species. It's worth noting that winter counts are often greater than we manage during the spring and summer!
Don't forget that on Sunday (19th) it's our Winter Wildfowl Watch in Tatton Park at the Allen hide overlooking Melchett Mere from 11:00am until 1:00pm. This has become an annual event, in conjunction with the Park rangers and all are welcome - Darren the Ranger and Yvonne will be providing tea and coffee, for us and any members of the public who feel inclined to join us in the hide!
Species seen on the Wirral - 11th January 2020
Predictably, fewer people met up on a cold and drizzly Sunday morning (15th) for our December field trip up to Marshside and Martin Mere. Just 4
C as we arrived at Marshside, although the rain had stopped and overnight snow on the distant Pennine hills provided a beautiful Winter backdrop, against which the silhouettes of flocks of Pink-footed Geese were a fine sight as they passed out towards the Ribble estuary.
The general consensus was that there were less birds about this year than on previous visits, but it's a huge area and very difficult to judge unless you're really familiar with the location. Pink-footed and Greylag geese fed close to the main Sandgrounders hide, whilst in the distance, on Crossens Marsh, flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover frequently took to the air - nervous about passing raptors, although there were fewer about this time - just a single Kestrel and a quite magnificent male Hen Harrier that was quartering the marsh as we made our way to the other hides. From Nel's hide we had good views of the usual Teal, Tufted Ducks, Shoveler, Pintail and Black-tailed Godwits plus thousands of Wigeon, the most numerous of the wildfowl species this year. There were only a few Curlew present this time around, a species that seems to be struggling more than most and a cause of great concern amongst naturalists.
The admission price for adult non-members at Martin mere is now
13.00 and a still a hefty
11.04 for concessionary entry - I think they're pushing their luck a little with those prices, especially as the area of pens containing the collection of wildfowl from various parts of the world seems to have been neglected over recent times and isn't a patch on what it was in the past.
We began by walking down to the Ron Barker hide from where we had good views of a female Marsh Harrier and a single Buzzard, the only one of the day. Most of the wildfowl were way out on the marsh, including a small flock of Whooper Swans, we didn't see any others, although they do tend to appear later at feeding time and provide great views from the Discovery hide. As it was we only spent a few minutes there, the build-up to the feed hadn't started, but around 15 Ruff were already there looking very smart in their mid-winter plumage. Our final walk took us down to the far end of the reserve where species such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reed Bunting and Bullfinch were frequenting the feeders and duly added to the day list, which finally reach an impressive 61 species after the addition of Barn Owl and Merlin, recorded by Bob Groom when he took a different route to the majority of the party.
On Monday 30th December we'll be doing what is now our traditional post-Christmas walk around the Northwich Woodlands (Neumann's, Haydn Pool, Budworth Mere etc.) meeting at 10:00am at the usual Witton Bridge car park.
So, to all KOS members and any others who happen to pass this way - have a happy and peaceful Christmas and, if we don't see you on the Christmas walk, best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.
Species seen at Marshside / Martin Mere 15th December 2019