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Supplementary Pages 2021

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Old KOS Bird Reports and Latest News Archive.

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Updated 23 February 2021

23/02/2021
...... Good times ahead!
News of Tatton's Hooded Merganser eventually found its way onto social media. Predictably there was some whingeing from certain quarters. ..."A poor excuse by the rangers and whoever else made the call in my view...It is a public park with no restriction on viewing...and a park full of ordinary public who had probably come further than would-be twitchers....just another example of the self-righteous covid police. "... On the whole though there was a positive reaction and agreement with the action taken. "Good decision. Twitchers would have travelled for this for sure. Stunning bird - will settle for the photo !".

Peter Dawson tells me that Oystercatchers have returned to the area with two birds on the flood water along Chelford road, along with two Shelduck (22/2).
Peter's also walked into Tatton and added to his Tatton year list. "I had a walk round the park yesterday, the first time in a while. Very quiet on the bird front and no sign of the merganser. Notable sightings were a pair of grey wagtails on the stream by the Old Hall and eight wigeon on Melchett Mere with a pair of stonechats in the marshy area to the south. There was also another pair in the marshy fringes on the west bank of Tatton Mere. There are still a few goldeneye around on both Meres. Down towards the southern end of Tatton Mere the usual lesser black backed gull was in amongst the black headeds, whilst looking at that I noticed a male goosander some distance away. First of the year for me. It was the Knutsford side of the "fence" so I think that makes it Knutsford Moor rather than Tatton Park?"
As I understand it Peter the park's southern boundary is the reedbed of Knutsford Moor so the Goosander can be safely added to your list!.

Park Ranger Darren Morris has kindly sent me a copy of their 2021 Wildlife Newsletter - you can download a copy from here - Tatton Park 2021 Spring Newsletter - it's well worth a viewing, if only for the stunning Stonechat picture!!

Geoff and Sheila Blamire continue with their daily yomps and last Monday (15th) came across an unusual aggregation of Reed Buntings .. " Our 11km walk consisted of Mereside Rd, along the length of Chester Road, continue to Cherry Tree Lane, up to Rostherne village, along Cicley Mill Lane and back along Mereside Road.
The 'usual' field along Cherry Tree Lane (with Rostherne Mere in the background) held c40 Greylag Geese. Then just pass Cherry Tree Farm 2 Skylarks singing!! in a field with a mixture of lank grasses and sedges. In the next field (stubble) were c40 Reed Buntings with no other species amongst them (I was looking out for Yellowhammers!).
"

Bob Groom followed their footsteps a couple of days later (not the whole 11km) "Long time since I've been that far down and the lane was a bit busier than expected.(Birkinheath lane was closed due to cable work/ tree trimming.) But the birds were great. Quite a few Chaffinches but fewer Reed Buntings than you had ( about ten or a dozen) but still grateful to see so many. 4 Yellowhammers on the dividing hedge between the two stubble fields. The 2 Skylarks put in an appearance while the sun shone. Long-Tailed tit plus several Great & Blue Tits. 4 Lapwings, 3 Goldfinches. At least 4 Buzzards, a Kestrel and great views of a circling Peregrine that came from the direction of Bowdon Church, headed towards Rostherne Mere, then went higher and veered off. Party of Redwings. Nuthatch. Bullfinch. Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Also Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush. Jay en route. Really good. Will definitely go back there for another session."

Closer to home Tony Ellis reports that he now has up to a dozen Lesser Redpolls visiting his garden feeders and they've recently been joined by a pair of Blackcaps.

Here in Mobberley Jayne Davies now has two Bramblings in her garden - "I'm still seeing a brambling in the garden most days, and occasionally I have seen two, both females. Today there were four lesser redpolls and a siskin in the garden too.
Down Pavement Lane yesterday, the two little owls were both in front of the nest hole, see photo.

Spring is coming! Let's hope we'll all soon be able to go out and about a bit more
"

A sentiment shared by each and everyone of us Jayne! It appears that all being well groups of up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors from the 17th May. That's the week before what is normally the date of the first of our Friday evening summer walks - Goyt Valley anyone?


14/02/2021...... More questions than answers
Tatton Park recently played host to a remarkable little visitor. First seen on the 20th January and a second time on the 2nd February, in poor light on both occasions, it was eventually re-discovered on the 4th February and identified as a Hooded Merganser - a first winter male.

The official British Bird List is maintained by the BOU, the British Ornithologist's Union. https://bou.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/British-List-2019-02-01.pdf I was surprised to find that a bird that is quite common in wildfowl collections, with escapes bound to occur, is included on the list, based on a female of the species seen in October / November 2000 on North Uist.

The BOURC's announcement accepts that this decision was not straightforward. It was acknowledged that there are large numbers in captivity and known escapes have occurred, and the BOURC states that it remains of the opinion that the majority of birds in Britain and Ireland are derived from a captive origin. Conversely, numbers of the species in the Nearctic are increasing, and there have been several recent records from the Azores, implying that transatlantic vagrancy is certainly a possibility. Weather conditions in autumn 2000 also appeared conducive to natural vagrancy, and the bird arrived at the same time as a number of other Nearctic ducks.

From the BUBO website........Some birders may wish to count other individuals. For example, up to four birds were at large in the 1996/97 winter. The way BUBO Listing operates, British birders can add any Hooded Merganser to their list if they wish to do so. Some will wish to wait for the BBRC to pass judgement on a record before counting it. Others may feel that any bird that doesn't display obvious signs of captive origin is acceptable. It's up to you. Remember, however, that your record will be open to scrutiny to any other birders, so make sure you feel you can argue its case!

As far as I know only 9 KOS members know about this bird and, much as we'd have liked to publicise it's presence, we were, and still are, in the middle of a global pandemic. This country has a higher death rate / per capita from covid than any other on earth so we're obliged to follow the government regulations. Including - "You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area. You should maintain social distancing." So, reluctantly, and in conjunction with Tatton staff the decision was made to suppress the news until the bird had moved on. It was thought that too many people would have been tempted to travel outside their local area to "tick" it off on their various lists, just in case it was eventually accepted as a genuine vagrant from North America.

During it's stay the bird favoured Melchett Mere but, with the very cold weather recently, both meres froze over and it has moved on, perhaps to the coast. Apologies to all you listers but, on this occasion, we really had no option!



11/02/2021...... Firecrest in Dog Wood
I think Darren Morris was after Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for his 2021 Tatton list on Thursday last week (4th) on a visit to Dog Wood. No woodpecker but he was rewarded with a real bonus for his list in the form of a Firecrest, the first in the park for a long time. Geoff and Sheila Blamire were in Tatton at the same time and Geoff managed a record shot of the rare little visitor.
Darren has also added Pink-footed Goose (50 over -> NW yesterday) and a Ring-necked Parakeet over in the deer enclosure, bringing him up to 75 species already.

It appears that the current cool spell will last for a few more days, -3.5 ° C last night here in Mobberley, before the waiting Atlantic low pressure systems take over from the present continental high.
Lots of activity on the feeders, with four Lesser Redpolls regular visitors amongst the usual Green and Goldfinches. They were joined yesterday by a fine cock Siskin and today we welcomed a female Brambing in the wildlife area at the bottom of the garden; presumably this is the same bird Jayne Davies has been watching in her garden, just a couple of hundred yards away.

Also in Mobberley one of the Little Owl pair has been showing well along Pavement Lane, perched next to the nest hole they've used in previous years.

Along Smith Lane Wendy Stratford was watching a Buzzard feeding in the field opposite her house; after it left the scene she went across to see what the prey was, expecting a rabbit, she was surprised to find the remains of a drake Mandarin Duck!

Bob Groom and other KOS members have also been keeping an eye on goings-on in the park. Bob had a rewarding time on Tuesday (9th)........"Highlight was close view of a Peregrine that came from the direction of the Gardens. A Buzzard and later a Heron swept low over the marsh but no snipe came up, perhaps not surprising as there had been several birders in there earlier. A male Stonechat showed itself on the tussocks. Two sightings of a Kestrel. A Raven called and displayed. 10 Wigeon and about 4 Goldeneyes (male, sub-adult male, females) on Melchett Mere (about 30% ice). A male Mallard was amorously pursuing a white duck, obviously full of spring fever !"
Yes indeed, Spring fever - it's only a month now before we're welcoming the return of our first Summer migrants. Last year, unusually, it was Chiffchaff but by the 20th March we should have recorded them and also the first Sand Martins skimming low over Tatton Mere.

Of course this begs the question - "when will be able to get together as a society once again?". The general consensus is that, given a following wind, it will be outdoors at first and eventually we'll be able to resume indoor meetings. Our Summer evening walks, on the fourth Friday of the month, take place in May, June and July so perhaps these dates could be pencilled in as possibilities. What about an outdoor AGM sat on the big hill overlooking Mobberley's Fox Harbour?

02/02/2021...... The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch
Last year over half a million people took part in this, the UK's biggest Citizen Science project. Given our current circumstances this year's will be even more popular and hopefully include records from KOS members who had set aside an hour over last weekend.

Here in Mobberley the feeder had been replenished the previous day and early in the morning I "ground-baited" with bread, dry meal worms and some out-of-date Booths ginger cake.
Anxious to have Lesser Redpoll on the list I waited for the first to appear before starting the clock!
I did quite well and ended up with a total of 18 different species; the highlight was a Song Thrush. They can often be heard singing in the Spring but this was the first I'd ever seen actually in the garden.

As I explained in the last update, in the interest of continuity, it would be good if Knutsford Moor and the Heath were covered as in previous years. Bob Groom and Hon. sec. Derek Pike stepped up to the plate. Bob covered the Heath and Derek the Moor.

As in the past, with a larger range of habitats the Moor was more productive,.

"January 31st 2021 RSPB Big Birdwatch start 9 30am weather high cloud (forecast sun) temperature 2c.

I went early to miss the crowds of young families, One problem two women feeding the birds on Moor pool try counting BH Gulls when they are fighting for bread!!!
Birds - 10 Jackdaws, 2 Moorhens,3 Carrion Crows, 7 Tufted Duck, 3 Coot, 50+Black Headed Gulls 1 in Summer plumage, 5 Mallard all male, 4 Blackbirds, 5 Magpies, 1 Coal Tit Drury Lane end, 4 Blue Tit, 2 Dunnock, 2 Robins, 1 Great Tit, 1 House Sparrow, 10 Woodpigeons, 7 Canada Geese.
And the star bird 1 Goldcrest in hedge and flitting to trees opposite Swinton square. Not a lot of small birds about I should think saving energy because of the temperature!"


Meanwhile on the Heath Bob was disappointed with his haul ......" You beat me by two species! I had hopes of 20 but in the event only scored a measly 15 - no finches, woodpecker, not even a wren! Wood pigeon/Jay/Blackbird/Jackdaw/Collared Dove/Magpie/ Blue, Long-Tailed, Coal and Great Tits/Nuthatch/Carrion Crow/Dunnock/Robin/Black-Headed Gull.."
Counts of zero can be just as significant as any other Robert!!

Over in Mere Geoff and Sheila Blamire managed a modest list but it did include Siskin and Brambling!
"Brambling, Siskin, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great, Blue, Coal, Long-tailed Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Magpie, and Sparrowhawk = 16 species. Some flyover species but can't count them. In the past up to 20 species oh well.... "

Maria Freel's Tatton list for 2021 has reached 66 already - half way to the 125 target. Latest additions include Water Rail, Brambling and Goosander. The Rail on Melchett is a good one - they nest on the Moor but that's outside the park's boundary so any there won't count!
Darren Morris hasn't updated me with his latest list but yesterday he had no less than six Stonechats in the deer enclosure and a male and female Goosander on the Birkin.
It's turning out to be a good Winter for Goosanders, Tony Ellis has eight whilst walking around Shakerley Mere on Sunday (31st).

Roger Barnes reports four occupied Herons' nests at the Higmere Plantation heronry. Roger tells me he's just purchased a Panasonic bridge camera identical to mine so, as he walks through Tatton every day, I'm looking forward to some spectacular images for this section of the KOS website!

Incredibly I'd just finished this update and was about to upload it when I received a text from the above mentioned Roger Barnes informing me that he was sat at the side of Melchett Mere watching a female Smew!! We used to get one or two each Winter but I've not seen one in Tatton for many, many years. Did he get a picture? sadly no, it was raining and he'd left is new all-singing, all-dancing camera at home. Lets hope the bird stays for a few days!!

18/01/2021...... Busy Gardens
The newly formed Knutsford Medical Partnership was quick off the mark with the covid vaccines, last weekend (9th & 10th) they inoculated 1200 of the area's most vulnerable, followed this week by c. 500/day folk aged 75+. This seemed to include quite a few KOS members, including me!
I was in at 1:40pm and left 20' later clutching the all-important card with dates and details of the vaccine now coursing around my body - it was the Pfizer variety. Of course this is not a passport to freedom giving the bearer carte blanche to do as they please. It's a small but very significant step on a long road and it's still incumbent on us all to continue following the guidelines which, by now, we're all very familiar with.

Until then our gardens will provide plenty of interest, especially as we've experienced some cold weather lately with further snow forecast later this week. Here in Mobberley the sunflower hearts are vanishing at an alarming rate with visitors every morning from first light. The usual Goldfinches have been joined lately by what appear to be family parties of Greenfinches and up to four Lesser Redpolls and two Siskins; species we don't normally see until later in the winter. Hugh Pulsford tells me the juvenile Greenfinch was about 7 months old when the picture was taken and is probably a female.

Tony Ellis also has Redpolls in his Knutsford garden - "......... I had one of the best days for garden birds today: Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Coal Tit,
And then the more usual: Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin
........"

Over in Mere, Geoff and Sheila Blamire have been doing quite nicely too "....In our garden today: Lesser Redpolls (2m), Siskins (2m 3f), Bullfinches (1m 1f), also Goldfinches and Chaffinches (no Greenfinches), GSW, etc. And a male Sparrowhawk scaring everything away!!!!!"

In Sale John Somerville is lucky enough to have a female Blackcap visiting the garden whilst back in Knutsford Darren Morris has a male!

Roger Barnes reports a Jack Snipe at Melchett Mere on Wednesday afternoon (13th). A species ticked off by Darren on an early morning tramp around the park...."I had an early start today again and saw 48 species in total and took the year tally to 63.
New additions today were two that I targeted: Jack snipe (2) and woodcock (15) others included mandarin and two ravens getting very agitated over Shawheath Plantation. Still no brambling!
"

The RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch" takes place from Friday 29th until Sunday 31st this year; normally we would be joining forces with the "Friends of the (Knutsford) Moor" and "The friends of the Heath" on two of these days for an hour or so in our capacity as "experts"!
It won't be possible this year but, in the interests of continuity, perhaps an individual or couple could use the locations for their hour's daily exercise sometime during the weekend and send the results to the two organisations. Having said that I read in the week that Northwich police attended Acton Bridge station where people who had been seen train spotting received an appropriate warning!!



11/1/2021...... Lockdown #3
The guidelines from the official government website tell us that, during the current lockdown, and until otherwise advised.

✱ You should minimise time spent outside your home.
✱ You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of recreation or leisure (e.g. a picnic or a social meeting).
✱ This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
✱ You can exercise in a public outdoor place:

As usual these are somewhat nebulous and open to individual interpretation by the general public and those charged with ensuring compliance.

I'm sure it's OK for Knutsford residents to walk into Tatton Park for their daily exercise but I'm not comfortable doing the same having driven from Mobberley, although it's less than 3Km from home to the park's Dog Lodge entrance.

So for the time being I'll just stick to walking from Bucklow Avenue in much the same way as I did during the Spring lockdown and leave our Knutsfordian members to keep an eye on proceedings in Tatton.

One of the Little Owls along Pavement Lane can be seen during daylight hours roosting in the oak tree, directly opposite the new wooden gate 100 meters north of Pavement Lane Farm, whilst, from just in front of the old farmhouse, Peter Dawson has seen a Barn Owl in the nestbox that they used successfully last year "On a couple of occasions before Christmas I saw what I thought was part of a barn owl in the box in fields between the lower section of Pavement Lane and Knutsford Rd. I couldn't see enough to be sure so didn't include it in my "Lockdown List". I had a look again this morning and an owl was sat outside the box in clear view! It can be seen from the metal gate by the donkey pen." Flocks of up to 20 Meadow Pipits can be seen from the same spot, feeding amongst the sheep in the field that runs across to the owl box.

The recent cold spell seems to have prompted some movement amongst our Winter thrushes with small numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares perched in the roadside oaks on the track down to Springwood Farm. Overhead occasional Skylarks have been heading west and the local Ravens, presumably from the Damson Lane nest, have become very vocal. They should be laying eggs in a month or so.

Tatton Park ranger Darren Morris and Maria Freel, who is lucky enough to have a flat in the mansion, are keeping lists of the number of species they record in the park this year. I think the all-time count is around 200 different species but that includes Knutsford Moor; Darren and Maria will only be including those seen within the park's boundaries, so any records from the Moor won't count. We were asked what's reasonable figure to aim for and plucked a figure of 125 from thin air! Many years ago we managed 75 species in a single morning and Garry Healy managed no less than 82 in a day in response to my challenge! So 125 should be easily achievable!

Maria has so far reached 39 species - Out walking out usual circuit today (past the ice pond, towards Rostherne, around to millennium wood, between Tatton and Melchett meres, then back to the mansion) and along with the usual suspects we spotted a massive group of approx 200 redwing mixed with about 50 or so starling at the large clump of trees by the old deer sanctuary. The Raven was disturbed by a buzzard down by the millennium wood pond. 2 Little grebe on their own at mill pond. Heard a green woodpecker get disturbed from swan clump at the old hall. Plus there's still a good presence of pochard and goldeneye on Tatton mere. Overall a pretty good day leading my total to 39 for the year so far, 20 of those from today! Off to a flying (excuse the pun) start.
Darren though has 10 more with 49 ticked off after an early morning visit on Thursday (7th). - I went in for 8am again and saw kingfisher and a few snipe, plus two stonechat. I'm up to 49 for the year.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire also include Tatton in their catalogue of winter walks - Geoff and I went into Tatton Park yesterday for a 9km local walk. The conditions were challenging - well for me anyway now I can't wear my snow boots and of course we walk into other places that most normal people don't go to. Good though - one time we followed some fox tracks until they disappeared under the fence into Millennium Wood. Also the Stonechats and a pair of Goldeneyes gave very good views.

Bob Groom's never been a fan of Winter but you can't keep a good man down and he's been braving the elements in Tatton, Plumley and Mobberley - this from Thursday (7th) .....Certainly been a cold one today - min -5C,max +1C but by mid-week it will be up near 10C. Frosty scene may be very atmospheric, as it certainly was in Tatton today with the Stonechats, but personally I'll be happier when my fingers don't tingle.. Just hoping the snow forecast for the early hours doesn't put us back to square one, temporarily.
Lots of Fieldfares and Redwings in Plumley yesterday and in the paddocks off Gleavehouse Lane, Mobberley the day before. I think there has definitely been a further influx...


03/1/2021...... The cold spell continues

What does Tatton Ranger Darren Morris do on his day off? Well he goes for a walk in Tatton of course!......

Having a day off and knowing how busy the park is recently I headed out early this morning. Walking through Dog Wood just as it was coming light at 8am. By the jetty I could make out the silhouette of a kingfisher bashing a small fish against the branch it was perched on.
Snow was still underfoot and a scan of the mere revealing 6 mandarin, 5 little grebe, several goldeneye and a teal. Tufted duck and pochard plentiful.
It was great to see 6 whooper swans, 4 of which were 1st winter birds too further along the mere towards the public jetty.
On Melchett there were 8 wigeon and 31 snipe in the rushy corner, these were flushed way away from them on the path so I don't think there were any Jack's among them.
No brambling along beech avenue though.


Darren alerted me to the presence of the Whoopers on Tatton Mere in a text message, so I was in the park by 10:15am, just after the gates were opened to traffic. Unfortunately the whole length of the main drive, from the Knutsford entrance to the mansion, was closed due to snow and ice and I had to use the main car park before walking down to the mere. Sadly the swans had moved on but the opportunity to photograph a male Stonechat for the first time was a bonus, as was meeting Roger Barnes who'd had a pair on the far side of Melchett Mere at the same time as I was watching the two in the reeds of Tatton Mere - so confirming that at least two pairs of Stonechats are wintering in Tatton, something we'd suspected for some time.

The following morning, New Year's eve, Wendy Stratford followed Darren's example and was in Dog Wood before the crowds built up.

I went into Tatton via Dog Wood just after 8am today and spent a wonderful hour or so on the lake side in the snow (it was snowing!).
There was some ice by the far bank, and the middle of the mere was starting to freeze in places - frail ice? But the bank I was on was clear and the majority of the birds were feeding there.
The squadrons of geese were slowly but steadily moving towards Knutsford, and several groups took off and headed further away (Booths Hall maybe?). A pair of great crested grebes were starting their pairing dance on the far side - synchronised swimming towards each other, then away, repeat! Also swimming with neck and head low on the water and wings slightly raised. Lovely. 3 or 4 other gc grebes further up the mere feeding together. Saw 8 little grebes (3 together, 2 together and 3 alone). The pair were right next to a coot briefly, which really demonstrated how small they are. In the trees there were mixed tit groups, a nuthatch moving from tree to tree exploring the bark and song thrushes (one in Dog Wood stayed still in a bush close to me - great view).
No swans to be seen at all, but I didn't walk right up the north end. As I was walking back by the jetty a kingfisher flew right to left and landed in the fallen tree by the Dog Wood fence, flashing brilliant turquoise.
Great tip from Darren to go in early - only saw a couple of runners, but as I was nearly at the gate on my way out there were quite a lot of dog walkers.


The current spell of freezing weather hasn't deterred Geoff and Sheila Blamire from continuing with their daily outings - the 30th December....The wildfowl managed to keep the strip of water open in the Little Mere - there were c45 Mallards and c35 Coots, but with half of them standing on the ice rather than on the water! We walked to Rostherne this morning. Cicely Mill Pool was completely frozen over - of course the whole pool is very shallow. We couldn't see Rostherne Mere because of the fog. All the fields had a blanket of fog as well which give the whole area an atmospheric feel.

And to start the new Year .....Our 9.2km walk this morning to us to Holford area. Highlights included: the "usual" field held 160+ Lapwings, then 80+ Curlews flew in but settled in a field out of sight (no idea whether they joined other Curlews already there); almost back to the car we came across another field with sheep held 80+ Lapwings with 4 Curlews, then c100 Curlews flew in along with c50 Lapwings, then c70 Pink-footed Geese flew low overhead. So - 3 quality species, with their evocative calls. Not bad to the start of 2021.....

Bob Groom finally managed to travel over to Tabley for the December WeBS count last Sunday.... Fortunately the weather was more clement than the M.O. forecast and although there were treacherous bits the paths were much better walking than I had feared. A highlight was several views of a couple of Tree Creepers in bright sunshine. The Mere was busy with wildfowl, including 300+ Canadas. For once Shovelers and Gadwall outnumbered Mallard and Tufted Ducks. Still 25 Mute Swans.. Just a single Goldeneye, they always seem to favour Tatton over Tabley and Rostherne.
I often used to see curlews in the fields to the right heading past the farm along Cheadle lane but not so much more recently.



01/01/2021...... A remarkable Lockdown List.
One of the few positives to come out of the pandemic has been the realisation that it's possible to enjoy birdwatching without the need to travel more than a short distance from home. Here in the Knutsford area we're luckier than many people as, on our doorsteps, we have such a good mixture of open countryside that's criss-crossed by well-maintained and well-marked footpaths.
During the first lockdown from the end of March until the beginning of May KOS members were out and about, on foot, within a few miles of home, enjoying the excitement of the Spring migration combined with a spell of beautiful weather http://www.10x50.com/covid_index.htm.
As lockdown regulations were eased we were able to travel a little further, using motor transport, rather than being restricted to Shanks's pony and most folk ended their lists. One person who didn't was Peter Dawson who continued right through to the end of 2020 and he's kindly summarised his activities over the nine months since the first lockdown in the article below.

I'm fortunate that my Knutsford house backs onto woodland, with plenty of water about, so I always see a decent number of interesting birds without going anywhere! I keep an annual list and usually see between 50 and 60 each year from the house. In a "normal" year, I wouldn't usually go on many walks from the house. Like most birders I suppose, I would generally go out in the car to sites where I thought that there was a much better chance of seeing some more uncommon birds. That all changed this year. According to my records, Lockdown 1 started on March 23rd and, at that time, we were told to stay at home and only go out for daily exercise or if necessary for work, essential shopping etc. Consequently, I started daily local walks from the house. As always, I would take my binoculars with me although sometimes only the "mini-bins" which are not great for seeing things but are much easier to carry! These walks were usually three main routes - Chelford Rd-Ollerton-Radbrook Hall-Toft Rd, Toft Wood-Seven Sisters Lane-Manor Lane and also through Booths Hall down to Pavement Lane.

When out and about in the early days, I met a few birders and stopped for a chat. The couple (apologies but I can't remember their names) that I met in Moss Lane told me about Swain's Walk and also that you were posting daily updates of local sightings on the KOS website. From this information I expanded my walks to include Swain's Lane and also to Mobberley Field Pool where a number of interesting sightings had been reported. In the early days, access into Tatton Park was not possible. As time progressed, the number species increased due to summer migrants arriving, To add a bit of interest, I decided to keep a "Lockdown List" comprising of birds seen and/or heard whilst out walking from the house. By the time that Lockdown I ended, in mid May, my list total was 86. I was pretty pleased with what I considered to be a good number so decided to carry on and see whether I could get to 100 by the end of the year. I thought that it was definitely possible but I would need to get a few unexpected ones in order to reach my target. On October 20th, I managed to get there by seeing a pair of wigeon on Melchett Mere.

By the end of the year, my list had increased to 106. I was very pleased with the final total and amazed at some of the species that are local to the area. In particular, there are three that I have trouble finding every year anywhere in the UK - yellow wagtail, grasshopper warbler and black redstart - so to find these so close to home, and in the case of yellow wagtail breeding - was very surprising (to me anyway)! Below is a summary of the "best" birds that I found and where they were.

Site Bird
Home/Sanctuary Moor tawny owl, sparrowhawk, brambling, lesser redpoll, pink footed goose, siskin, little grebe, peregrine, green woodpecker
Knutsford Moor/reed beds reed warbler, grasshopper warbler, raven
Tatton Mere kingfisher, black necked grebe, goldeneye, egyptian goose, common tern, curlew, grey wagtail, wigeon, stonechat, green woodpecker
Mill Pool redstart
Melchett Mere egyptian goose, wigeon, snipe, stonechat, teal
Chelford Rd floods mandarin duck, shelduck, oystercatcher
Toft Wood-Seven Sisters Lane garden warbler, lesser whitethroat, red legged partridge, fieldfare
Lower Moss Wood-Radbrooke Hall yellow wagtail, yellowhammer
Gleave House Farm area/Field Pool yellow wagtail, wheatear, little ringed plover, raven, red kite, egyptian goose, sedge warbler, oystercatcher, yellowhammer, pink footed goose
Tabley Rd-Swains Walk yellow wagtail, grey wagtail, hobby, tree sparrow
Tabley House cuckoo
Booths Hall/Mere shoveler, grey wagtail, pink footed goose, mandarin duck, raven, teal, black redstart, egyptian goose, goosander, collared dove, snipe
* Heard only.

I should make it clear that not all of these were found by me - I was told about some by others so many thanks to all those who provided the information about both the birds and the walks. Also, many thanks to you for all your hard work in providing regular updates on the website.

If anyone wants any more information about when or where particular birds were then please feel free contact me.

A happy and healthy New Year to all!

Regards

Peter




26/12/2020...... Little & Large
The Firecrest in the Big Wood at Marbury Country Park continues to attract a steady stream of visitors, including some KOS members and it appears that all have been successful, it just requires a little patience and determination, as Bob Groom found.
......."I went over to Marbury with high hopes and had an excellent visit. The ringtail hen harrier that had been there on the Sunday (and at Neumann's the day before) was too much of a long shot so my aim was to see the diminutive rarity in Big Wood. En route I met up with Geoff and Sheila and just afterwards at the hide three birders came past who had just been watching the Firecrest! Following their directions and trying to ignore the brambles scratching my legs I joined another hopeful birder scanning the two big yew trees at the back. After half-an-hour he had to give up and go back to Crewe and I was considering leaving myself when birder-with-bike arrived from the other direction (a much easier route) and within minutes we were watching the little gem as it came out into sunlight near the top. What a lovely bird! Also seen the pair of Wood Ducks, pair of Goosanders, drake Pintail and when there was a disturbance at the far side of the mere 200 Curlews and 500 Lapwings (rough counts) went up. Great....." My thanks to Mark Jarrett for giving me permission to use the image of the Marbury bird (he refers to it as a record shot - some record shot Mark!)

Peter Dawson has been spending more time at Booths Mere recently, where he too had Goosanders......"The Black Redstart was still about yesterday when I was there. Another birder I met had seen it and I got a glimpse of what I think was it. There was also a report of it on Birdguides later in the day when it was back on the office roof.
There are also a few Goosander on the mere, a Pink-foot amongst all the Greylags and 10 Egyptian Geese and a pair of ravens over.
I'm going over there quite regularly now but haven't always seen the BR. Preferable to Tatton Park where there are so many people and dogs running around all over the place! ......."


Understandably in the current circumstances Tatton is getting a little crowded at times but it doesn't seem to affect the wildlife, on Thursday (24th), on his daily walk, Roger Barnes counted 150 Greylag Geese on Melchette Mere plus an interesting duck which, from his description, was, perhaps, a female Common Scoter.
At this, the other end of the size scale from the Firecrest, Pinkfeet have been passing over our area. Last Sunday (20th), whilst doing some essential maintenance in the garden, a flock I estimated at 400 to 500 passed over, heading due south and on Christmas Eve Len Mason had 400 flying west. There's no finer sight and sound, natural or man-made than these flocks of Pink-footed Geese.

The temperature on my weather station dropped to -2.5 ° C in the early hours of Christmas day and there followed a cold but sunny morning. Members took full advantage - even the Hon.Sec. and Mrs. Brookes!".........Years ago Jean and I had an Xmas walk down Sudlow Lane; well, we decided to go this morning being glorious sunshine, no wind and the temperature just above freezing. We hoped to see a Brambling no luck.
The highlight of our walk must have been GS Woodpecker drumming shows we are on upwards turn towards spring. Other birds below.
Blue, Great, L T Tit, Nuthatch, several Redwings flying and scuffling about in the leaves. 1 Fieldfare, Tree creeper, Jay, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Carrion Crow, Rook, Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Magpie, Kestrel, Buzzard, Dunnock, Black-headed Gull"
.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire went over to Moore........."Our Xmas morning walk - set off at -3C with some sunshine and little wind. Fortunately the mud and enormous puddles were frozen to make it easier going.
Moore NR: started with Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, etc. 2 brief visits of a Willow Tits at the feeders, plus Coal, Blue and great Tits, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, etc.
Upper Moss Side: small flock of Reed Buntings.
Canal towpath: flushed a Woodcock!
Mersey River towards Wigg Island: usual gulls, etc, plus 21 Curlews and 100s Lapwings (at low tide).
Back to Moore NR: superb male Bullfinch.

A Good morning all round.............."

over in Marton Steve and Gil Barber also took advantage of the good weather......." We had c90 minutes out along a local lane. Ponds were frozen except one with a little open water which held a few Mallard and Teal. It was good to see that the field flood which provided lockdown LRPs in spring was back though iced over. Highlights were 7 Buzzards on the Lapwing field (but no Lapwings) and a Raven flushed from an item of food in another field. Anything smaller than a thrush was very thin on the ground! "

Thanks for your reports folks and to everyone who sent in their sightings over the past year.

This will be the last of 2020's updates. It's no use me trying to summarise the events since March, they'll be talked about and analysed by all and sundry for decades to come. Long after we're all gone. Lets just hope that 2021 proves to be a little less stressful for one and all.

We're now passed the shortest day, Derek mentioned a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on Christmas day and the Dunnocks are singing in the garden - things can only get better!!


16/12/2020...... The Black Redstart is still around
The Black Redstart remains in the vicinity of Booths Hall Farm and the Booths Park business complex but it appears to be giving just fleeting views, so I was probably lucky last Sunday to obtain a couple of record shots. Bill Bellamy apparently caught a glimpse of it on Sunday (14th) on his way home from doing the Tatton and Rostherne WeBS counts, details of which he sent to Tatton Ranger Darren Morris......Well it was a challenging Sunday regarding the weather. I'm hoping you weren't working but the rain did seem to keep the crowds away. I've attached the counts from Rostherne and Tatton. The rain and wind probably moved quite a bit of waterfowl to more sheltered sites. I did notice on my way home that there were 500+ Canada Geese on Booths Mere at the other side of Knutsford where there was also a flighty Black Redstart!
Highlights at Tatton included 4 Little Grebe and 12 Snipe with good numbers of Mallard overall (124)
............ You can access the latest counts by clicking here.

The following day Bob Groom also went in search of the Redstart, he didn't find it but he did have what must be a record count of Greylags!........ As I couldn't go into Tatton I used my hour off to check Booths Hall in case the BR was still around. I didn't see it, perhaps moved on in the week, and only a few birders around also having no luck, so I concentrated on Booths mere. As Peter mentioned a huge amount of wildfowl, more species and bigger numbers than I've been having at Tabley recently and more than I can remember being there when I used to check it way b back. Must definitely keep monitoring it. A few Redwings around also. Surprisingly all the Greylags went up (140+) at one point (and all the ducks!) when a Buzzard went over and their calls echoed off the buildings. True stereo effect!

I've been in Tatton a number of times since the last update, it's busy at weekends of course, but in mid-week you can always find a quiet spot, especially up past the Old Hall towards the Mill Pool. New birds this week were a couple of Siskins in the alders next to the Melchett car park. Geoff and Sheila Blamire have recorded Siskins in their Mere garden, but no Lesser Redpolls yet this season. So we beat them to it in Bucklow Avenue where I saw two on the sunflower hearts last week but they flew off when I went inside to get the camera and haven't re-appeared!
The two Stonechats have been frequenting the big juncus reed beds at the north end of the park as well as the reeds along the western edge of Tatton Mere, this is where I found them last Friday(11th) where they were joined by a third party - the little weasel shown above (I also obtained my best photo yet of the female Stonechat but I've been told the world doesn't need any more Stonechat pictures, so it will have to remain on file!)

Today I walked as far as the conifer plantation hoping to perhaps locate a Firecrest (they've been recorded here in the past and there's one currently in the Big Wood at Marbury Park) Plenty of Goldcrests, seen and heard but they were high up and against the light, so no luck.

A little further up, just beyond Higmere Plantation and you're on Knutsford Moor where Hugh Pulsford and the South Manchester Ringing Group do much of their valuable work although, because of the virus, activity has been restricted this year.

We have been a bit restricted this year for obvious reasons but also the contractors responsible for "attempting" to clear the Himalayan Balsam encroaching along the waterways into the Moor. Their technique was originally to simply clear the entire area , cutting all the phragmites in one go, yes all 11 hectares!!

but I managed to step in and stop that reminding them and Tatton Estates that the breeding birds need last years reed stems to build their nests on. Amazing what environmental consultancies don't know. I also had to remind them that as a SSSI on botanical grounds, the ground flora was a balance of the entire area and below the phragmites were "interesting sedges and bog plants".

They were also too late in the season, so touching any plant led to an explosion of seeds etc. I gave them contacts at Woolston Eyes and RSPB folks who are savvy with HB clearance techniques and they have upped their game to a degree, but it is a one man band with a couple of helpers, which as we all know is useless against an invading plant like that.

So they have been clear felling in quarters of the bed earlier before the plants set seed, (although this has reduced the breeding number of Reed warblers using the area). They don't have the resource of the weed touch killing techniques or the ability to pull the plants earlier in the season which is very manpower intensive but highly effective.

I have had to juggle net lanes and catching areas over the last two years, although it is still a dangerous place to set foot in. The contractor tells me his workers have disappeared up to their arm pits on several occasions just stepping off a fox path not 20 yards from the road, and needed rope and tackle to get out!. there are no natural paths or walkways into the bed.

(I of course only send my trainees in!)


I've added a couple of sound files to the website this week.

The first is from the "Today" programme and is about nocturnal migration [click here]

The second is a tribute to Eric Hardy, first broadcast on Radio Merseyside shortly after his death in 1992. [click here]. It's quite long but very entertaining as the great man rails against authority!

Encouraging news from founder member John Somerville this week. His oft-postponed heart operation finally went ahead on Monday, he's back on the ward and anticipates going home tomorrow (Thursday 17th). It's been a frustrating time for JS but hopefully in a couple of months time, like the rest of us, he'll be out and about again visiting our favourite biding spots - Tatton, Woolston, Burton Mere and, John's favourite - Lunt Meadows.