I was pleased to hear, last week, from Simon and Lyn over in Warrington...." We've been getting out occasionally. Went to the Lovell Quinta arboretum at Swettenham last week (
2.50 donation for entry, free to RHS members) and saw plenty of winter thrushes, goldcrests, tree creepers & nuthatches; as well as the usual suspects. The trees were excellent too and will probably improve this week & next, so we may return. The arboretum abuts Cheshire Wildlife Trust's 'The Quinta' nature reserve, which we noted to have a look at come Spring.
We had our first showing of winter thrushes here this morning, especially Redwings - picture attached. "
By coincidence, the next day I was in Tatton heading towards the Mill Pool, when I bumped into the pair, they'd been in the mansion gardens photographing the autumn scenery. As the three of us made our way back from the Mill Pool we chanced upon Jude and Brian, that made five KOS members together, probably for the first time since mid-March, a reminder of how things have changed and just what we've been forced to accept in the past few months.
Geoff and Sheila Blamire continue with their daily walks, keeping in trim for their proposed holidays in 2021. On the 18th it was Holford / Plumley and again they recorded big flocks of Curlew "
A very good morning (9km walk):
In the original field near Home Farm (SJ704744), or close by, 70+ Curlews and c90 Lapwings.
Further on 10 Long-tailed Tits (great to see), 1 Fieldfare (though loads of Redwings from many places) and pair of Stonechats!
Almost back to the car when a flock of Curlews flew over and landed in a field - probably 90.
Don't know whether we saw 70 + 90 Curlews or........"
Darren Morris has forwarded the results of the latest WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey)carried out by Bill Bellamy at Tatton and Rostherne on Sunday 18th October. It appears they recorded one of Tatton's Stonechats and, at Rostherne, 36 Mandarin Ducks and no less than four Cetti's Warblers! [you can see the updated spreadsheet by clicking here.]
The Stockport Birdwatching Society have again chanced a field trip; this time to Spurn Point - I think we'll be waiting until next year! [report here]
A few Fieldfare records have filtered through over the past few days with birds seen at Plumley by Sheila and Geoff Blamire and a flock over Knutsford Little Heath seen by Derek Pike. Redwings are now widespread and being seen throughout the area but the brief Summer / Winter overlap seems to have passed with the final Swallow of the year seen by Bob groom flying south over Tabley yesterday (17th) .
Tatton's juvenile Black-necked Grebe appears to have moved on, as has the youngster from Neumann's Flash. Hopefully when the Tatton bird returns in the Spring it'll remember it's time in the park and drop in, resplendent in its striking Summer plumage - who knows it may remain longer, the south end of Tatton mere would be an excellent place to breed!
The Grebe's three week stay in the park generated a certain amount of interest and attracted a steady stream of birders, some of whom I'd not met for many years and, of course, the sight of telescopes or big-lens cameras attracted the curiosity of members of the public, giving a chance to do some PR work for the KOS and the handing out of our "business cards" - you never know!
On Friday (16th) and, by way of a change, I had a walk through Dog Wood; it was a cloudy day and, with the trees still in leaf and a paucity of birds, a gloomy few minutes ensued - things only brightened up when the Blamire's appeared, on their daily workout!
I walked on as far as the seat overlooking the old bathing area, not much about - a few Skylarks passed over heading west and a Kingfisher gave good views near the deer fence mid-way through Dog Wood as I made my way back to the park entrance.
Geoff and Sheila though continued with what turned out to be a long trek.
"Our 8.7km walk today took longer than expected - so many distractions.
Dog Wood was very quiet (not too many dog walkers either) but arriving at Tatton Mere - our first distraction - ACU!
Having caught up with the news we ploughed on.
Tatton Mere: loads of Pochard and Little Grebes and the usual "suspects". No sign of the BNG. Far end a big stag with his harem were disturbed by people. Half of the harem went into the mere whilst the rest and the stag moved closed to the wood. The hinds eventually managed to get out of the mere on the far side when the people gave them enough room. A very disgruntled stag was left behind with only half of his hinds. It could have been very nasty....
Mill Pond: on the fence was a Green Woodpecker and a female Stonechat.
Deer Park: another Green Woodpecker. Kestrel and Buzzard.
Millennium Wood: close to the wood was a big stag with his harem - about 100 hinds!! There were quite a few "lesser" stags on the periphery hoping to get a look in. (Wish we had a camera with us!)
Melchett Mere: 6 Egyptian Geese and at least 12 Snipe flew into the reeds.
Tatton Mere: Pair of confiding Stonechats on the bank/small path where we usually find them. 2 female Goldeneyes.
Back out of Knutsford Gate.
I asked Geoff what was the highlight of the morning. I was expecting, Tony or Stonechats. But his answer was "getting back to the car"!
During the month of the first "lockdown" Tatton's deer left the confines of the deer park and roamed more freely in the rest of the park, and they've remained there since, giving some good opportunities for the many photographers who could be found daily stalking them in the reedbed next to Melchett mere. My effort is of a stag that lounged next to the driveway as Bob Groom and I walked slowly past. He seemed quite a docile chap (the stag that is!)
Great to see that the Stonechats seem to have returned for the Winter months, although the deer stalkers probably won't notice them.
Despite the onset of colder weather some Summer birds are still hanging on. The Blamires had 8 House Martins last Friday (9th) at Allostock and, in the same area, 13 Swallows the previous day and three yesterday (11th).
Over in Merseyside Barrie Armitt continues with his daily visible migration counts from his vantage point on the Crosby sand dunes. Just 4 hours this morning - no staying power these youngsters!
Last Sunday (27/9) Five Whooper Swans appeared at Northwich's Neumann's Flash, Derek Pike counted 70 Pink-footed Geese flying north over Knutsford and the first Redwings were seen in Warrington. Meanwhile a few Swallows remained with us - Derek had a single bird over Lilac Avenue (25/9), Geoff and Sheila Blamire watched five over Cicely Mill on the 27th and Bob Groom had eight the following day at the same location. Later in the day Bob was delighted to find two Chiffchaffs in his small Queensway garden, feeding on Holly and Rowan berries.
The juvenile Black-necked Grebe remains on Tatton mere, Alan Gillespie watched it this morning (4th), showing well, close to the west shore; also there a female Goldeneye and a huge number of geese - including 23 Greylags.
As well as the Tatton bird there's a juvenile Black-necked Grebe at Neumann's Flash but it's more difficult to see, unlike the park's confiding youngster. I couldn't locate it on the 29th but I did see a Cattle Egret on the island at the side of the flash; it's commuting between there and the Dairy House meadow and it was there when Bob finally managed to get across to see it after a morning in the company of the gas man! ".......... When the engineer left at lunchtime I weighed things up and decided birds came before food so off I went to the layby. It was certainly a long haul but it was well worth it with great views of the very active Cattle Egret over the gate. When the sun came out the bullocks lay down and the CE actually plucked ticks (or whatever) from their heads without them flinching - shades of east Africa......"
Burton Mere Wetlands is open again and is providing some good sightings, including Pectoral Sandpiper and recently, 39 Great White Egrets! [ Click here for full access details]
C today as we descend into an uncertain Winter, Swallows are moving south but there are still a few lingering on, Derek Pike had 12 at Fryer's Nursery on Monday (21st) and 8 the following day in Plumley. Cold weather birds are beginning to appear, Geoff and Sheila Blamire have Siskins back in their Mere garden, Darren Morris had a flock of 70 Pink-footed geese flying west over Tatton at 5pm this evening and earlier in the day as a Grey Heron landed in the reeds at Tatton's Melchett mere it flushed a Jack Snipe.
It won't belong now before the Winter thrushes appear, Redwings are normally the first, arriving in the first week of October. During the latest wildfowl count last Sunday (20th) Bill Bellamy recorded the first Goldeneye of the Autumn as well as a White-faced Whistling Duck!
Bob Groom continues to attract Hobbies, his latest encounter came on Monday (21st) at Ashton's Flash After a stint at Pod's Hide chatting to Glynn, a birder from Crewe, we headed down to Ashton's Flash. Soon after arriving at the seat I spotted a juvenile Hobby which proceeded to entertain us off-and-on for nearly 2 hours! Wonderful views. Back and to, over and around the flash, often close, also perched for quite a while, despite the unwelcome attentions of 2 Jays At one point there were 4 raptors present, the hobby, a Kestrel, a male Sparrowhawk and 2 Buzzards together on a pylon! Counted 66 Curlews as well. Great..
Ex-KOS members Mark Eddowes and Alison Lea have been doing a lot of work with their local Nightjars since the easing of restrictions.
The worst of the lockdown restrictions ended in time for Alison and I to get out to enjoy our local Nightjars in the Matlock Forest area - estimated 15 territorial pairs based on our records combined with those of a few other locals. Most pairs seemed to have fledged young, according to the records of one enthusiast who was still following them in early September. We didn't manage to see any young but plenty of adults were still around towards the end of August so we expect that they had young. We have found them also at other recently felled conifer plantations at Redmires and Burbage Brook this year in the Sheffield recording area. I understand two churring males were found in the Goyt this year which is not far at all from Macclesfield Forest. Is anybody looking out for them there?We made an unexpected observation of Nightjar wing clapping during one of our visits. In good visual conditions watching the birds fly directly away, silhouetted against the bright sky shortly after sunset, it was quite clear that the wings do not actually meet so the sound is not a clap as such. We had never realised this before. Looking at the literature we found Coward's note in British Birds from 1928 (see attachment) describing this observation but it appears that his explanation is not universally accepted. Once you have seen it there can be no doubt but, since the lighting conditions encountered when wing clapping is encountered are often poor, many observers maintain the misperception that the wing tips touch in a clap. We recorded the wing claps on a phone and the sonograms show two closely spaced but quite distinct beats for each wing clap which we understand to be the sounds generated independently by each wing by a flicking action without any contact between the primaries of the two wings. Our own recordings have been followed up with sonographic analysis of recordings on xeno-canto of the European Nightjar and other nightjar species. Were any of you aware of this? Nobody that we have spoken to about it seems to have known what Coward pointed out over 90 years ago.
Mark has written a paper for publication, with their permission, I hope to put it on this website when it's complete.
Sheila and Geoff Blamire included Swains Way in their morning walk last Wednesday (9th) and were lucky enough to find a Wheatear that had paused on its journey south. It had moved on by the 14th when Bob visited the location but he did have a late Yellow Wagtail (I hadn't see one there all summer, though I know others had, and my good views had all been at Mobberley).
Over in Merseyside Barrie Armitt continues with his early morning visible migration activities; his most recent Swift was on the 6th, although this is still early at Crosby - last year the final record came on 6th October!
The following morning (7th) and the first real sign of Autumn when he had 1180 Pink-footed Geese, we should have some overflying our part of the world in October as they make their way over to the east coast for the Winter.
Yesterday (18th) I paid a long-overdue visit to Northwich's Neumann's Flash, spending a couple of hours in Pod's hide. The light was good and I was able to get some good shots with the new camera, especially of the Little Grebes that came within a few yards of the hide. Further away were Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal and Shoveller, most still in dull post-moult plumage. A Water Rail called from the surrounding reeds and a Cetti's Warbler burst into song from time to time. Geoff and Sheila stopped by on their travels and it was Sheila who spotted a Great White Egret across the far side of the flash.
The next visitor was an interesting character by the name of Malcolm Curtin who'd been alerted as to the presence of the GWE and was anxious to tick it off on his Marbury / Neumann's year list. Malcolm seems to like his lists https://bubo.org/View-user-profile.html?user=3881 ! In his own words Previous life as a publican raising kids etc meant just occasional twitching but been pretty full on for the last 10 years including 3 years of fairly manic year listing 2005-7,I'm better now though,
The previous day (17th) had been quite a busy one for Malcolm - up at 2:00am - drive to Oban arriving at 8:00am - flight to Tiree in 8 seater light aircraft - tick off the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (a first for the western Palearctic) - fly back to Oban - drive home to Comberbatch by midnight.
Different strokes for different folks!
The Stockport Birdwatching Society have actually had a recent field trip! They visited Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire on 12th September !! http://stockportbirders.blogspot.com/2020/09/frampton-marsh-rspb-reserve-12th.htmlDifferent strokes for different folks!
Within our ranks we have many good birders, well able to identify, by sight or sound, the majority of species we're likely to come across. Nevertheless, despite our title, I don't think any amongst us would actually claim to be an ornithologist! That's not to say we don't come close at times, in particular during the fieldwork for various atlases - national and local, ongoing breeding bird surveys and wildfowl counts.
We had another encounter with one of the more advanced sides of ornithology on our excellent overnight trip to North Wales in 2016. Our final stop on the return journey was at the Gronant Little Tern colony, where one of the images of the terns, taken by Sheila Blamire, showed the identification letters on a colour ring attached to its leg - XAC [click here]. Subsequently we learnt that the bird had been ringed in 2009 by Cheshire ringer, Professor David Norman, who recently sent Sheila an update on its progress.
You probably remember taking an in-flight photo of Little Tern XAC over the beach at Gronant a few years ago. I had originally ringed this bird as a chick in 2009 and added the colour-ring when we started trapping adults in 2015.
When I fitted geo locators to 15 of the incubating adults last year, this happened to be one of them and the attached image shows her at her 2019 nest, cropped from a Go Pro nest camera placed near the nest. You can just about see the device on the tibia (above the "knee") on her right leg.
We deliberately chose birds with a Gronant history to maximise the chances of their returning to nest again because the bird has to be recaptured for removal of the geo locator to retrieve the data. Unfortunately the corona virus intervened and we were not allowed to visit the colony this year. Although the device's battery will have run out, the hard memory should have stored the data and, all being well, we'll get her in 2021!
Some of my colleagues did some reading of colour-ringed birds on the beach and XAC was seen at Gronant again on 6 July this year.
I know she is a female bird because, with a "special methods" permit, I removed a couple of flank feathers and paid Martin Collinson's Aberdeen laboratory to do DNA analyses of sex.
So there we are - a bit of "real" ornithology!
Locally, Swifts are still moving through; at the moment the birds seen by Bob Groom and Geoff and Sheila Blamire at Neumann's Flash on Friday (4th) are the latest so far, although Barrie Armitt had one this morning (6th) at Crosby on Merseyside. I've no doubt there are more to come!
We moved into the meteorological autumn on September 1st. The day before, and a sign of the changing seasons came at Neumann's Flash, when Jacquie Ledward had a Short-eared Owl. On Friday (4th) I had Meadow Pipits passing over Mobberley - the first of the Autumn. I also saw four Swallows moving through but they were heading steadily north! By coincidence, the same morning, Barrie Armitt noted 10 going in the same direction at Crosby. What's going on there? Answers on a postcard please.
Following on from the decision by the WWT not to accept any adverts from anyone who promotes air travel, more wildlife wokery, this time in the well-respected "Birdwatch" magazine, who recently published an article by it's founder suggesting that the 800 species whose names recognise those involved in, linked to or honoured by their discovery should be scrutinised (and presumably, changed to something more appropriate if the suggested committee of worthies consider the person concerned undeserving in some way.) "[quote].........I'd prefer to see a joint committee established by the AOS and the IOC to draw up objective criteria against which all such names can be assessed.........".
You can read it by clicking here. If you're a bit busy, perhaps leave it until 1st. April. NB
A Chiffchaff was in song somewhere in the undergrowth, Sheila and Geoff Blamire heard one at Cicely Mill last week and I've heard the species at three different locations this week when walking around Mobberley. Why do they sing at this time of the year? Answers on a postcard please.
Returning to Melchett Mere we met up with Bob Groom, who had (naturally) two Hobbies in view across the far side of the mere, an adult and a juvenile; they were perched on the two dead trees over that side of the water, swooping down from time to time to catch passing dragonflies.
Ranger Darren Morris joined us during his lunch break and he told me that during the WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey) on 23/8 Bill Bellamy had an early female Goldeneye, 242 Tufted Duck and 32 Pochard.
Not a million miles away at "his" Hobby site Bob has now determined that two youngsters have fledged......... We had four Hobbies in the air several times and watched the 2 youngsters in the dead tree, perched and chasing.........
Jacquie Ledward and Susan Middleton have been up in the Pennines doing a bit of twitching. A practice normally frowned upon in the KOS of course but they're only young and they'll no doubt grow out of it eventually!!
Sue and I decided to go in search of the Bearded Vulture last (Sunday 23rd August). We parked at Crowden Car Park and had planned a circular walk around the area where the bird had been sighted.
When we arrived, the hills were already obscured with low lying clouds and it had begun to drizzle. Undeterred, we began our walk with thoughts of seeing the bird and great hopes of wonderful views.
Soon into the walk we encountered numerous enthusiastic birders with 'scopes aplenty and we were lucky enough to have a sighting of the bird, sheltering from the rain, perched on a distant craggy.
As we continued on our walk, the rain descended and the clouds dropped even further obscuring our views. We walked past Laddow Rocks and decided to admit defeat as the weather became worse. We turned back and soggily trudged on battling with the driving rain.
What kept us going was the thought that there was still a chance of seeing the bird. As we dropped down from the hills into the lower valley, the weather began to clear and we met a group of birders who were looking up at a different crag. They said that the bird had just flown over and was sheltering in an old Raven's nest site . Views of the of the bird were very clear and I could see it in my bins without needing a scope. Then it began to move around and stretch its wings. All the while during the walk Sue kept insisting the bird was regularly seeing flying around at 3pm. Suddenly (at 2.50pm! ) the bird took off and flew right over our heads, giving us fantastic views and it "floated" overhead, displaying its huge wingspan for a good 20 minutes, all the while being mobbed by a couple of Ravens.
At one point we had views of a Kestrel, Buzzard and the Vulture in our bins. It looked like one of those pictures in the bird books used to illustrate the difference in size. Priceless!
During the walk also saw a small flock of Ring Ouzels, numerous Meadow Pipits and a very perturbed Red Grouse which flew off calling loudly.
A very satisfying day!
Great to hear again from Phil Rowley who'd had late Swifts over Belvide reservoir last Friday (21st) and the previous morning he'd enjoyed excellent close-up views of a Hobby hunting dragonflies as he fished a small pit at Warford, near Alderley Edge.
Jacquie Ledward has heard a Hobby calling over Comberbatch, a location where they are thought to have nested last year and the birds at Bob Groom's site, near Knutsford, have not yet dispersed having been watched by Geoff and Sheila Blamire on one of their recent morning workouts.
It was on one of these walks that our dynamic duo found a Common Sandpiper at the outlet from Mere mere, along Mereside Road. Sheila has sent me a record shot taken on her phone; it was still there 3 days later.
Swifts are still passing through on their way south, Bob Groom saw 3 at Neumann's Flash last Wednesday (19th) and following Phil's birds on the 21st I went into Tatton hoping to catch one or two over the mere on what was a blustery afternoon. No luck but I did count 15 Pochard and a substantial flock of 144 Tufted Ducks.
Across in Merseyside Barrie Armitt noted just one Swift yesterday during his four hour visible migration stint in the Crosby sand dunes. https://www.trektellen.nl/count/view/1769/20200824 Keep up the good work Baz - although I don't know what the Dutch organisers will make of the phrase .... 'nuff said!
Wendy Stratford tell me "her" three Barn Owl youngsters have successfully fledged and left their owl box, all three were ringed by members of the Mid- Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group.
The adult birds were seen on numerous occasions (by birders as well members of the public) hunting over a rough pasture bordering Broad Oak Lane in Mobberley. It's this pasture that you may have read about or even seen in a piece on the BBC's North West News last night (24th). It's been taken over by a group of "travellers" who have set up shop. They've bulldozed the roadside hedge, stripped the meadow of grass and replaced it with hardcore and tarmac. All this despite the serving of a High Court writ ordering them to stop!
Having decimated the whole field they have now submitted a retrospective planning application.
You can read it here https://doc.cheshireeast.gov.uk/NorthgatePublicDocs/08213166.pdf unbelievable - literally!
It brings to mind a Russian word that has no English equivalent - Vranyo. "You know I'm lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes."
I'm not receiving many reports from other KOS members at the moment but the stalwart Bob Groom is, of course, very active. On Sunday (16/8) he did the monthly wildfowl count at Tabley....... Went over to Tabley Park after the rain. Limited range of species but some good counts - 23 Mute Swans, 140 Coot, 100 Mallard, 32 Tufties, 4 gt.cr.Grebes, 4 Herons, Cormorant... At least 50% of the water surface covered with pond weed, concentrating the wildfowl. Very steamy (and gloomy) in the wood with the high humidity.........Bob tells me the local Hobbies are still around but there is some question about how successful they've been this year. All we know for certain is that there is at least one young bird and two adults at the moment.
News from Burton Mere Wetlands; Sheila Blamire tells me that one adult and two juvenile Spotted Crakes have been seen recently, so it seems they've bred there again this year.
The latest edition of CAWOS' Bird News has details of forthcoming indoor meetings, beginning on the 2nd October with a talk by Jeff Clarke entitled "Why they flock (and other intriguing behaviours)" Announcements will be made nearer the time on the CAWOS website and via emails to members.
Species seen at Woolston Eyes on 11th August 2020.
I headed for Woolston this morning (3/8) complete with my new camera, hoping for some close up shots of birds feeding close to the Morgan hide. The birds were there in front of the hide - Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Reed Buntings plus my first Common Sandpiper this year feeding on the muddy water margins. So I was quite optimistic as I switched the camera to the on position, only to be greeted by the on-screen message "No SD Card". Oh dear - or words to that effect! I'd left it in my PC after yesterday's excitement (see below).
Still, I'd remembered to take along a Goostrey's sausage roll and there was plenty going on, as well as the Sandpiper and the expected wildfowl a couple of Black-tailed Godwits dropped in and a party of four Swifts passed through heading purposefully south. The only thing missing today was company! Normally Woolston is one of the regular venues for our ad-hoc mid-week outings, with anywhere between 5 and 15 KOS members turning up with news, gossip and general banter - the sooner this nightmare is over, the better.
Yesterday (2/8) I paid my first visit this year to Bob Groom's Hobby site just a few miles from Knutsford. I wasn't disappointed, the birds are thought to have well-grown young by now and I was treated to plenty of activity as one of the birds patrolled the area, seeing off any intruders.
The still images I took left a lot to be desired but, after consulting the manual, I managed to get some passable video footage of one of the pair persuading a Buzzard to vacate the area. (It should appear below!!)
Bob was there in the afternoon, so I'll leave it to him to describe some of the goings on!......... The male Hobby was on guard as I arrived. As a buzzard started calling the female flew out and round but at this point the big bird wasn't visible. The two hobbies perched side by side briefly and the size difference was noticeable but not appreciably significant, unlike say sparrow hawks where the female is a third larger than the male and has a different menu. The male then went off hunting and came back with prey which it took into the big tree before resuming guard duty. Considering it was on watch it didn't take much notice of the buzzard racket whereas the female kept coming out to investigate and have a fly round. As a Peregrine circled both Hobbies sat tight, the female at the edge of the nesting tree and the male at his lookout. This seemed sensible to me, a buzzard is no real threat to an adult hobby but a peregrine could be a different story. Once it had departed the male Hobby flew off. A little while later it arrived back and there was a lot of calling, which I interpreted as the female telling off the male for only bringing in insects!
Wendy Stratford tells me that the Barn Owls that have bred a short distance from her house were ringed on the 19th July (3 chicks). Also seen during the ringing process Buzzard and Hobby, with a Sparrowhawk later in the back garden.
On the same day I wandered over to Broad Oak Farm, between the lane and the railway line (I was actually looking for evidence of a demolished railway bridge, to settle a Facebook argument with the owner of a motorcycle workshop in Austin Texas, who was trying to tell me something about the history of Mobberley - but that's another story!!). Two huge fields of Oilseed Rape were "buzzing" - literally. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of bees and/or hoverflies with butterflies around the perimeter.
Two Lapwings seem to have successfully raised a very late brood, they were very agitated when I approached, three others flew up from the rape (perhaps youngsters) but the adults still flew overhead complaining.
Although the farmhouse is empty and up for rent a large number of Swallows were in attendance. It's a traditional site, so they seem to be managing without the cattle to attract insects.
This week the latest edition of "Waterlife", the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's magazine dropped through the letter box. They will now publish just three editions a year (four currently). Perhaps they're looking to offset the loss of revenue that will surely result as a consequence of their decision to "no longer take advertising from companies that promote air travel". If the data is available, I'm sure they'll see that the majority of members are the sort of people who have the necessary time and money to take one or two foreign holidays each year. Exactly the audience the travel companies want - talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!
Despite this decision I notice that the magazine contains full page ads. for "Huskies and the Northern Lights" by rail but also includes four flights! Also The Grant Arms Hotel in Speyside (where we stayed in 2017) is still touting flights to Inverness from all over the UK by Loganair, Easyjet, BA and even KLM from Amsterdam!!
As usual it was Treasurer Frank Dearden who summarised the current situation in his own inimitable manner "Sheila's concluding comment that no one has renewed their subscriptions and therefore we technically have no current members is correct. And we have no programme because it is suspended. And we, ourselves, are not members. So the KOS does not exist. So what are we worrying about and why am I writing this email..... " A man of few words our Frank!
Personally I think it unlikely that we'll be meeting indoors again for a long time but there's a chance for some outdoor get-togethers, should the current restrictions on group sizes be relaxed a little.
Some good news from Woolston Eyes where the reserve is to re-open but groups won't be allowed.
We are pleased to announce that Woolston Eyes Reserve will be re-opening for Permit Holders from Saturday 25th July, with certain provisos.
We will be limiting the capacity of all five hides, so there will only be seating for ten people at any one time. In the light of this we will not be able to accept group visits for the time being. Wardens will also be asked to give seating priority to visitors.
All hide doors and windows MUST be kept open when hides are occupied and hands should be sanitized after handling locks, gates etc. so please bring hand sanitizer with you, though we will also provide a sanitizing station below the Morgan Hide.
Whilst we are not requiring face masks to be worn in the hides, we would appreciate people wearing them. However, if in the coming days Government rules that masks must be worn in enclosed spaces then please ensure that you follow those rules.
There will be a one-way system in operation for the path inside the bed, so please respect this.
Please be aware that the toilet may be closed.
Thank you for your support
Members are still getting out and about, despite this being the quietest time of the year for birdwatchers. Geoff and Sheila Blamire continue with their very impressive daily hikes and have now covered 525 miles (840Km) since the start of the lockdown - that's taken them now to just short of the Orkney Islands!
Last week found them in Tatton where they discovered not one but two juvenile Redstarts!
For a change we ventured into Tatton Park this morning, parking at the Dog Lodge layby. A mixture of mist and drizzle and some rain, but the conditions were perfect with very few people about!
We walked to Mill Pond area but didn't expect to see the juv Redstart because we don't linger on our walks. Went to the fence on the left of the gate (not the bench side) and spotted a Green Woodpecker (female) on one of the fence posts. Then on the next fence - there it was - juv Redstart! Within a few minutes of arriving!! Got closer (so boggy there) and watched it fly down to the tussocks and back on the fence with the 'usual' quivering red tail. Then a Chiffchaff landed next to it, followed by another bird. We couldn't believe it - a 2nd juv Redstart!!! They were always on the fence, some distance from the gate. The Green Woodpecker was always around and the same area as the Redstarts. What luck!The unflagging, indefatigable birding machine that is Bob Groom continues to come up with the goods and sends me almost daily reports - here's a typical example from last week on a visit to Mobberley
Perhaps a slight change in emphasis here in Bucklow Avenue. Olwen has bought me an all-singing, all-dancing Lumix FZ-1000 camera for our 49th wedding anniversary, it comes with a 96 page basic manual! I don't know if she's concerned that I'll not last another 12 months but it'll take until our 50th to plough my way through that manual anyway! Still it's a nice piece of kit and I'm looking forward to providing some record snaps of my own for this bit of the KOS website.
Has anyone been up to the Pennines to twitch the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) that's been hanging around for a few days and has been seen as far east as the Goyt Valley? There's a good report here.
The first of the two Dyfi Osprey chicks fledged yesterday (Tuesday) and it's worth watching today for the second to take it's first flight, expected sometime today [click here]
A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare - W.H. Davies.
Bob tells me "his" Hobbies are back at their now traditional site just a few miles from Knutsford, Geoff and Sheila Blamire also saw them at the same location, so we may see more of them later in the season. Last year it was well into October before the final sighting of the year.
I swapped emails today with Simon Smith, he reports that all is well with he and Lyn over in Warrington.......... We're spending a lot of time working in the garden and consequentially are seeing a few unusual moths in daylight - the attached Small Magpie made a nice portrait........ Thanks Simon - you're not loosing your touch!
Malcolm Calvert kindly sent me details of a remarkable Reed Warbler that was controlled (re-trapping of a previously ringed bird) recently at Rostherne Mere
Recent trapping has produced information of much value in the study of
Reed Warbler longevity with two birds from 2015 and two from 2016.
On 17 June the appearance of Y782074 established the near 8 year survival of a bird ringed as a juvenile on 31 August 2012.
Today Y782236, first encountered as adult on 21 June 2013, also claimed a lifespan of at least 8 years.
We were well pleased with our findings prior to John reading out inscription X659589 which relates to a nestling which I ringed near the boathouse on 11 July 2010.
This is indeed a special bird, the third oldest recorded on the reserve. In another 18 days it should join an elite band of 29 British-ringed Reed Warblers which have carried their rings in excess of 10 years.
All three of these 'golden oldies' are males.
Thanks Malcolm and keep up the good work!
We ventured into Tatton Park this morning.
We parked in the layby, waked through Dog Wood (a lot of bird song), beside Tatton Mere (5 Egyptian Geese on the jetty), walked to the Mill Pond, over to Millennium Wood, back via Melchett Mere, along the side of the mere to Knutsford Gate, by the moor (Great Crested Grebes with their 3 large humbugs) and back to the car. Good walk 8km.
So pleased we went to the Mill Pond - no, we didn't the Redstarts (if they've fledged there was an awful wood for them to disappear into!), but in the wet area by the fence found 4+ male Banded Demoiselles and a Small Skipper. Well pleased....
I spent the rest of the afternoon (after the heavy rain - boy was it heavy!) filling up the green bin ready for Friday's collection.
Rather tired now!!!
A bit of excitement this afternoon from the decking, as a tight group of five high-flying birds passed over heading west. Initially I thought they were gulls but when I got the binoculars on them I could see they were waders with long straight bills. Presumably Black-tailed Godwits heading for Burton Mere Wetlands, where a substantial flock start to build up at this time of the year.
Some members have been further afield, Neumann's Flash in Northwich has been a favourite spot and continues to come up with the goods. Geoff and Sheila Blamire have kept me up to date with their visits.
Some highlights from today:Neumann's Flash: Avocet (breeding attempt failed, probably due to predation at egg stage) and 3 Little Ringed Plovers on Stilt Island. 2 Oystercatchers on the island (now shrinking and overgrown, with a dead swan) - 1 appeared to be on a nest. Plus Cetti's. Ashton's Flash: pair of Shelducks with 8 ducklings, 2 Redshanks, 2 Little Ringed Plover. Plus Cetti's. Dairy House Meadows: great view of Cuckoo at top of a tree, calling continuously, then I was distracted by a Buzzard flying very low overhead carrying a vole disappeared into the wood! After a few minutes the Buzzard reappeared (minus vole) and flew towards the Cuckoo which made the Cuckoo fly - straight towards us and perched next to us on a small tree and started calling with increased vigour! All the time there was a Cetti's singing nearby. Further down the track set up the scope to look into a Barn Owl next box. Before, there were always 2 Stock Doves, but now a Barn Owl was in the entrance while 1 dove was on the top of the box with the 2nd dove looking at the owl in the entrance trying to decide what to do!! Budworth Mere: Great Crested Grebe female on a single egg in a very flimsy nest, while the male was being extra sticks to increase the height of the nest. Kidbrook Spit: Oystercatcher and 2-3 Ringed Plovers. Big Wood: always hear Goldcrests - from different areas, including some paths which are rarely walked. A great walk - just over 8km.
Bob Groom has also visited this local hotspot.
Walking to Neumann's I was advised that the Spoonbill was there but asleep but when I got to Pod's hide it was busy feeding and gave great views right through the morning. Later it flew across to the sandy area to the right where it preened, standing seemingly as tall as a nearby Heron (one of three). Ken Davies joined me in the hide and we stayed undercover during the prolonged heavy rain (not forecast) as others came and went. A Little Egret gave good views, as did the sole Avocet. There were 2 Redshanks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers and 4 Pied Wagtails (3 of them juveniles). Pair of Shelducks had 8 young with them. A dozen Gadwall flew off. Little Grebe with 2 sizes of young. 3 Swifts, 2 Swallows and half-a-dozen House Martins. Buzzard the only raptor. Cuckoo heard. Saw a tiny young Water Rail (all black with a white beak) briefly before it scuttled back into the reeds. Another birder had seen 3 together on the path down! Walking back a Green Woodpecker flew across and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from a little bare tree.
Still on the garden bird theme both Jude Halman and Bob Groom have added new species to their lists - Red Kite! Jude on the 28th May and Bob on the 3rd June; what was probably the same bird as the one seen by Jude passed over Mobberley a short time later, seen by Len Mason who had the same species two days later at the same location. Derek phoned the Gauntlet bird of prey centre to see if they'd lost one - they do have a Red Kite but it was safely ensconced in it's quarters at the time, so we assume the bird seen by our members was genuinely wild.
As the tentative easing of the lockdown continues Tatton Park has re-opened; just the parkland for the first week but from Monday both the park and gardens - from 10am until 7pm. Park ranger Darren Morris has kindly sent us a copy of their Summer news letter [click here}
Bob Groom was first off the blocks and was straight into the park on Thursday (4th).........Pretty much the first bird I saw was the Red Kite, almost as if it had been waiting for me! It was flying low, along the line of trees leading to Moss Wood. Third sighting in a few days, having seen it (I'm presuming the same roaming bird) in Plumley and then from my garden yesterday. There were many House Martins low round the trees and within the hour an impressive gathering of 60+ Swifts over Melchett Mere. Quite a sight. Tatton Mere itself had 100+ Swifts but there was probably some overlap. Also at least 2 dozen House Martins (but not a swallow to be seen), some at head height! At the mereside there was a sudden sharp shower and a Hobby flew across the south end of Tatton Mere to round off my visit nicely.........
Next in, yesterday Geoff and Sheila Blamire ...... We parked in Dog Lodge layby and walked through into Dog Wood. The wood was so green, so overgrown - brilliant. Walked to the mere then the heavens opened. The upside was the literally hundreds of Swifts and House Martins descending to feed over the water. This was something to be repeated over the full circuit. I saw at least 2 Swallows and 1 Sand Martin (!). I was surprised about the number of Coot nests very close to the path - hope the increased number visitors and dogs doesn't put them off.
After sheltering under a lonesome tree for a particularly heavy shower we walked towards Melchett Mere. I spotted a Little Egret on the bank - great.
We walked around Melchett and our efforts were rewarded with some very close and prolonged views of a Green Woodpecker foraging on a couple of "humps".
Continued around Tatton Mere - again enjoying Swifts and House Martins flying around us. It was great to have a conversation with a family after they asked us what were they? Continuing we stopping to watch Coal Tits feeding recently fledged youngsters. Or if you've been watching Springwatch - the term is now "provisioning". Silly word? What's wrong feeding? Anyway.....
The only raptors we saw was Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk. But we really enjoyed watching the Jackdaws doing their acrobatics in the blustery wind.
Finally, through Knutsford Gate, via Hillcrest Road (had a chat with the man with the 'scope in an upstairs bedroom) back to the layby and home.
7km walk, got rather wet at times, but brilliant !
Tomorrow it will be three years since our KOS trip to Speyside [join me in looking back by clicking here] - Happy days!
Geoff and Sheila Blamire drove over to the airport to listen for the lesser Whitethroat. It was still there, along with numerous Common Whitethroats - Geoff has posted a nice video of the latter on Youtube [click here]. They had a very pleasant surprise when passing the fishing pit - a singing Cetti's Warbler - needless to say it had moved on the following day when I went down!
Bob Groom tells me he had a Hobby close to it's traditional territory, not too far from Knutsford, there have been quite a few recent reports locally so it could be a good year for the species. More Swifts have returned but the general consensus is that numbers this year are well down on normal.
We had hoped to do a Springtime birdwatch this month with the Friends of the Heath but due to you-know-what it didn't take place. Nevertheless Kevin Griffiths and his wife Terry did a survey of the nest boxes and found the majority occupied. A real success story! http://www.friendsoftheheath.org.uk/nest-box-survey-may-2020
The 2019 Rostherne Mere Bird Report compiled by Dr. Bill Bellamy has been published, covering, not only the birds but also Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies found on the reserve. Steve Barber's analysis of the CBC is included as well as Malcolm Calvert's ringing data. Since 1972 Malcolm has ringed no less than 19,846 birds!
This is an excellent report and Bill is to be congratulated on producing a publication requiring such a huge amount of work so quickly. [Read it here}
Malcolm has also circulated a short account of his love affair with Reed Warblers, there's surely no one who knows this species any better then him! [Read Malcolm's account here]
Another timely report comes from Greg Baker - Marbury and Witton Flashes 2019 Bird Report - A very comprehensive account of the birds at this ornithological hot spot.
Geoff and Sheila Blamire are still eschewing the use of their cars and continue with their daily walks from home in Mere. They're certainly racking up the miles ...... going north we're just south of Perth, going south we're swimming the English Channel heading to France!.....On most days they've taken in Cicely Mill where Cetti's Warbler has been heard in song and Grey Wagtails and Great Crested Grebes have bred successfully. The Treecreepers the couple have been monitoring in Rostherne's Wood Bongs have also fledged - Geoff has put a nice little video on Youtube [click here].
Bob Groom's been over to Tabley Park where he heard a Cuckoo on Sunday (17th) ..... Setting out for my WeBS count this morning I saw a Hobby over Queensway! Another surprise awaited at Tabley Park, a Cuckoo calling in the wood! I tracked it back and to but with the trees in full leaf and off-path vegetation impassable, the only view I got was when it flew across a corner of the mere. (Keeper) Ernie Hart had 2 calling there this time last year but he said that both were taken by a Sparrowhawk within 2 or 3 days of each other. He's recently had hobby catching insects over the mere.
Bob has been doing his monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) count for 36 years now and never missed a single month! He will be retiring in four years time - volunteers required to take over - you've got plenty of time!!
For the 17th year running the House Sparrow has come out on top of the list during the RSPB's January "Big Garden Birdwatch" despite the fact that, locally, it has disappeared from many gardens [results click here].
I believe Geoff and Sheila Blamire's lockdown list has now reached #80, which goes to show what's available on your doorstep for those with enough energy to make the effort and who are lucky enough to live in a suitable location. My car's been on the driveway for the past 6 weeks and only been fired up occasionally to charge the battery, I estimate it's doing about 20 weeks to the gallon, so I'm looking forward to driving up to crash gate 9 rather than walking and, hopefully, hook up with a Lesser Whitethroat before they stop singing.
Each days summary is also available on this website and will be a record of our activities during this extraordinary period, they can be accessed by clicking here
As far as the rest of the natural world is concerned things are progressing as normal with the departure of our Winter friends and the arrival of the Summer visitors following their normal sequence and times. Currently Terns are passing through in large numbers and we're looking forward to the arrival, in the next few days, of our Swifts. Later on, if we're lucky, waders moving through the UK to more northern lands will be seen at local "hot spots" - what about Ruff and Wood Sandpiper on the now famous Mobberley field pool!
The emails I receive are mainly just cut & pasted (with a few obvious spelling and grammatical errors corrected) and offered "as is". Within our membership we have people with a wide range of birding experience and I've not been inclined to offer any criticism or suggest changes to what I've received - things could get very messy and complicated and I like to have the latest compilation done and dusted by 8pm. Swapping emails and texts as midnight approaches just doesn't appeal!!
I think it unlikely that, with perhaps just a couple of exceptions, any KOS members will ever be submitting their sightings to any County or National "rarity committees". I've never done so in 70+ years of birdwatching but nevertheless our own County Recorder Hugh Pulsford makes some valid points in his email appended below.
can you please post this on the regular news before everyone starts claiming Goshawk sightings: Not meant to being critical, but just trying to be genuinely educational.
For those uncertain about their local public footpaths click on this link it takes you to the definitive map of all East Cheshire's paths. Zoom in to your own patch and there they are. Zooming in further reveals details of individual fields and small ponds. The example shown shows a small area around the Fox Harbour area of Mobberley, including the famous "magic pool"!
When this is all over (how many times are we hearing this at the moment?) we'll assemble a list of all the species seen by observers who are presently covering this patchwork of small areas in their immediate locality without the use of motorised transport. It's a unique situation, hopefully not one we'll ever experience again but peoples' records shouldn't be lost.
The last of our Winter friends have now left for the north and are being replaced by Summer visitors. So far correspondents have recorded - Chiffchaff, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, Osprey, Wheatear, Redstart, Common Sandpiper, Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler.
So we've plenty of the regulars to arrive and perhaps one or two surprises, like the White-tailed Eagle that was photographed yesterday overflying Macclesfield!
The latest update from Burton Mere Wetlands, sent to me by Sheila Blamire, makes interesting reading.
Avocets had built up to an impressive 112 at Burton Mere Wetlands by the 16th. I don't know how many heron species are attempting to breed there but we have two Cattle Egrets, two Spoonbills and probably well over 10 Great Egrets on the estuary, as well as a few hundred Little Egrets. Four Bearded Tits have been showing well at the reserve. During the high spring tide of the 12th, when the sea covered the marsh, many birds flew to BWM and the list of highlights for that day is pretty impressive: 4,000+ Redshank, 5 Spotted Redshank, 62 Avocet, 220 Black-tailed Godwit, 40 Golden Plover, 10,000+ Pink-footed Geese, 2 Mediterranean Gull, 21 Grey Heron, 8 Great Egret, 3 Marsh Harrier and 75 Shoveler.
But who needs that lot when you've got your own little local patch - stay safe team, it'll be over soon!
Birdwatchers are fond of their abbreviations, Common Sand, Great Spot are commonly heard with Gropper, Lesserpecker, Blackwit etc. less so and I even remember PGtips (anyone?) being used for one species! The term vismig short for visible migration is now in everyday use with nocmig (nocturnal migration) the new kid on the block! Every year around the beginning of October migrating Redwings can be heard at night passing over in large numbers, their high pitched "seeep" calls easy to pick out. But now nocmig enthusiasts are going one step beyond with all manner of expensive electronics and complex computer programs being used to identify and quantify overflying night-time species. Locally Hugh Pulsford alerted us to the overnight passage of Common Scoters, during the first few days of the month, as they moved en masse from their Irish Sea wintering quarters to breeding grounds in northern Europe (read about it here). I spent half an hour last night sat in the garden listening for them without success. It was a great night though, no traffic - air or road and a clear moonlit sky, ideal conditions but not a peep!!
Needless to say there's already an embryonic website on the go for anyone interested click here nocmig.com
Suitably inspired, over in Merseyside, Barrie (The Lad) Armitt is giving the new technique a coat of looking at.Saw your reference to 'nocmig. Fascinating topic. Perfect for your good self: involves setting up some kit in the back garden and then sitting at a computer checking sound files and spectrograms captured whilst asleep. None of this walking around birding - comfort of sitting room with a coffee;-) and it involves squiggles on a monitor: your sort of thing. I've been looking into it since last year. Had a bird singing that I couldn't place so used my trusty Samsung S5 to record the song. Not a great recording but identifiable later. Made me look into better quality devices. There are better sound recording apps available for your phone and I've used one and it's an improvement but not up to 'nocmig' stuff. This year I've set about things a more seriously. Trektellen has a 'nocmig' section that's great. Some even post their records with a 'zeno canto' link so you can hear and see a spectrogram. All very interesting. It has prompted me to buy a decent recorder and download the software for creating and analysing the audio files. You'll be pleased to know yesterday I recorded my first fly-over and created my first spectrogram. A fitting species: Meadow Pipit lol. You also mentioned ducks recorded at night recently. This began around the 1st of April and involves a lot of Common Scoter. The birds I count off Formby ( 10,000+) are part of a huge wintering population (100,000+) off the coast in the Liverpool/Morecombe Bay area. They migrate east overland to the north sea at an average of 33 mph so a 3 hour flight (ish).... took me 10 days to walk it and 5 days on a bike :-)
Thanks Baz let us know how you're progressing - and to you and everyone else - stay safe.
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