Latest news, views, gossip etc.

Supplementary Pages 2023

Old KOS Bird Reports and Latest News Archive.

Back to Knutsford Ornithological Society Homepage

Joining the KOS

KOS programme - 2023 / 2024

Enter the 2023 Sand Martin Competition - click here

7th June 2023............... Late migrants and breeding success
Swifts are one of the Summer migrants that have been a little behind this year. The first birds arrived right on time with two on the 29th April but since then numbers have increased only slowly. Better late than never though and I was pleased to count 12 Swifts over the Shaw Heath area of Knutsford over the weekend. With its 1930's houses, the estate offers plenty of spots under the eaves for the birds to nest.

Black Terns once nested in Britain in large colonies, but these disappeared as wetland areas were drained; it is now only an annual visitor from Europe but they do appear on passage in varying numbers. The easterly winds that have predominated over the past couple of weeks brought a number of records over the past few days. 21 were at Wigan's Pennington Flash on 31/5, three at Acre Nook SQ on the same day followed by one at Rostherne last Thursday (1/6). Bob Groom caught up with the terns at Acre Nook and also bagged his first Spotted Flycatcher of the year at the same time........."Paid a visit to Acre Nook today. As soon as I stepped out of the car I saw the Spotted Flycatcher, first of year for me. Very pleasant in the wood, female Great Spotted Woodpecker and a youngster making a continuous racket. Don't think the marauding jay would manage to predate a woodpecker.. At the viewing point there were still 2 Black Terns and they were quite reasonably close. Great. There is also a Black-Necked Grebe, refugee from Woolston Eyes? Usual Buzzards, Lapwings, Oystercatcher, also Raven and 2 Swifts"............
A Spotted Flycatcher was seen from the Rostherne obs. on Saturday (3/6), where Bob and I watched a distant Hobby catching insects on the wing on Monday morning (5/6). Phil Dell, one of the dedicated Rostherne volunteer wardens, watched a Tufted duck with 9 chicks on the mere this morning (7/6), this is the second year running that Tufties have nested at Rostherne, after a gap of 25 years.
So species that begin nesting early are showing signs of successful breeding. Grey Herons are among the earliest, with eggs being laid from February onwards, sometimes even earlier and fledged youngsters are appearing now at various local waters.
Our Mobberley Lapwings have had a hard time with modern farming methods (previously mentioned in this part of the website) leading to the unintended destruction of nests containing their precious eggs.
Geoff and Sheila Blamire report a different scenario over at High Legh, a location they cover frequently on their daily walks ........."We found our another site for successful breeding Lapwings this time High Legh/Millington where we observed 6 adult Lapwings and at least 4 young chicks – the trouble was they were are a long way away and the maize plants obscured our vision. Which means - Mere: 2 pairs and at least 5 chicks (different ages); Rostherne: 6 adults and at least 13 chicks (different ages including couple very small ones); High Legh/Millington: 6 adults and at least 4 chicks; then High Legh 2 pairs but no sign of young but the wheat field is too high to see any Lapwings (this is where they were seen mobbing Pheasant to drive it off). Other sites we've seen regular Lapwings, including display, but no chicks. So far, we can't prove the chicks have/will fledge but no reason why not – fingers crossed!".............G&S also report the first juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker in their Mere garden.

More good news from Bob, this time breeding success at Tabley ........" Taking advantage of the settled weather I brought forward my Tabley count and was delighted to see that the resident Mute Swans have bred after all, now accompanied by 5 young cygnets. I was a bit worried as there was another pair of adults present, which the resident cob seemed to ignore. Eventually there was some mild intimidation but I suspect he was being careful so as to avoid the youngsters getting injured in any confrontation. Two pairs of Great Crested Grebes with a little display but no sign of breeding. Two Oystercatchers racing back and to over the Mere, calling but not clear if a pair or rival males. Probably the latter. Two young Herons on nests and three adults at mereside. Just four migrant species - 2 Swallows, 1 Swift, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Close Tree Creeper. Many Coot!".........

This coming Sunday (11th June) it's our KOS field trip to the RSPB's excellent reserve at Burton Mere Wetlands. I've been told that the new cafe is not yet open; so you may want to take butties, although I think some may have plans to move on to Parkgate and the chippie!

28th May 2023............ The trips to Norfolk and the Goyt Valley.

It doesn't serve any useful or scientific purpose but keeping an overall group tally of the species seen during a birding holiday or day trip does act as an effective "team builder" and, over the years, I've noticed that it does seem to add to peoples' enjoyment of our outings. We have a simple rule - any bird seen or heard by any member of the party - it's led to some interesting records of course but you'll remember the oft-quoted adage "it's only birdwatching no one dies".
So we set ourselves a target of 100 different species for the four day KOS trip to north Norfolk. We passed the ton with time to spare and finished with 114, perhaps we'll set a more challenging goal next time!

You can read the full trip report here It's worth a look, if only for the brilliant images produced by Colin and Simon and Geoff's videos.

It seemed we'd only had time to unpack and enjoy a cup of tea before we were off again! This time, on Friday evening (26/5) to the Goyt Valley on the first of our Friday evening walks.
12 members met at the middle car park along the valley and took the usual route up the road in the direction of Derbyshire Bridge before returning along the top path overlooking the reservoir.
It was relatively quiet, the birds are, by now, well into the breeding season but there was some song, especially from Willow Warblers, they seem to be everywhere, quite a difference from down on the Cheshire plain. There is an explanation for their shift to cooler locations as climate change causes warmer Spring and Summers. Ex KOS member Mark Eddowes has done a lot of good work on the subject and will be explaining his findings on October 27th at the second of our Autumn indoor meetings - " Climate change impacts on passerine migrants: insight from citizen science data". I notice that Mark is now a member of the BOU council (I also noticed the photo used in his pen portrait was taken from this website. As I recall it was taken on a trip to RSPB Conwy!).
Back then to Friday; other Summer migrants recorded were Common Sandpiper, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Cuckoo plus good views of a singing Tree Pipit that performed well from the top branches of an ash tree.
Family parties of Canada Geese and a nice male Mandarin floated on the reservoir and a little further up, on the River Goyt, Grey Wagtails flitted from stone to stone.

We were determined to wait for roding Woodcocks but had to wait until 9:45pm for the first one to appear. A bit late, unlike the International Space Station that passed silently over us, bang on time at 21:43 UTC!

Our next get together comes on Sunday 11th June when we'll be visiting the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands Reserve. 09:30 am in the car park. Our leader for the day will be Bob Groom, if you intend to go along please let him know before the day

Species recorded on the evening walk to the Goyt Valley - Friday 26th June 2023.
Goldfinch, Skylark, Kestrel, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mallard, Jackdaw, Blackcap, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Pheasant, Canada Goose, Common Sandpiper, Mandarin, Grey Heron, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Siskin, Wren, Cuckoo, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Goldcrest, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Nuthatch, Tawny Owl, Song Thrush, Curlew, Woodcock, Pied Wagtail [ ✓ 37]

18th May 2023......... The Manifold Valley.

Pleasant weather last Saturday (13/5) for our May KOS field trip to the Manifold Valley. It's a journey of about one hour from Knutsford, up past the Cat and Fiddle before picking up the A53, left turn at the "Winking Man" pub, down to Warslow and you're there.
En-route, from the car, we had Lapwing and Curlew; others spotted Stonechat, Short-eared Owl, House Martin and Wheatear - none of which were seen subsequently. A group of 14 arrived at the Ecton car park and, right on time at 10am, set off on the circular route alongside the River Manifold.
Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were in full song although this year there were fewer records of Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler than in the past. Also missing this year Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and just one singing Redstart. We lunched at the excellent Wetton Mill tearooms before returning to the cars along the path that runs alongside the east side of the river, picking up the Redstart and a single Whitethroat on the way. So, a bit disappointing on this occasion but the weather was kind to us and on the way home came the highlight of the day. We had a close encounter with two Hobbies that were feeding on insects over the heather moorland next to the narrow road leading from the A53 to the Cat and Fiddle. Superb views of the pair, close enough to see the red "trousers", Moustachial stripe and bold streaking on their breasts. One bird caught what we assumed was an early dragonfly which it devoured on the wing leaving the insects wings to flutter down to the ground.

Bob Groom was out and about again the following morning (14/5) doing his monthly WeBS count at Tabley mere ......." Taking advantage of the good weather I did my count at Tabley a.m. All was not well, however, three Mute Swans suggested no breeding, four Great Crested Grebes the same. {{No activity in the heronry. Don't think the Herons have had a good season.){ Blackcaps, Tree Creeper and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering off bark (presumably not yet breeding). Reed Warbler going at it. I then visited Holford but had no luck. There well over an hour. Whitethroat and 2 Blackcaps singing. Another close Tree Creeper. Buzzard but no other raptor. A rather surprising absence of butterflies considering the warmth.
Three Swallows only. Two Swifts over Lilac Avenue the only ones seen all day."
.......... I presume these were the Swifts reported by Derek Pike on the same day, the species continues to have a difficult time in Britain.

At the same time as Bob was doing his WeBS count I enjoyed a stroll on the west side of runway 2 at the airport, looking and listening for Lesser Whitethroats. No luck I'm afraid but I did have numerous Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, two species that seem to be doing well at the moment, plus single Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. The Merlin app picked out the latter and, using the Audacity program, added a bit of amplification and filtering to produce a passable recording click here

A couple of days later 16/5 over on the other side of Cheshire, Colin Butler went in search of a Pectoral Sandpiper on Carr Lane Pools, Hale and in the process discovered another rarity! .........."While I know that you like to keep reports local to Knutsford I thought the following may be of interest.
This morning I went to look for the Pectoral Sandpiper that has been reported close to me at Carr Lane Pools in Hale.
While I was photographing the bird I noticed a much smaller wader close to it which I immediately identified as a Stint.
I had not taken my telescope so was unable to allocate it to a specific species there and then.
When I arrived home and looked at my photos I identified it as a Temminck's Stint.
Whilst not a major rarity it is however a locally rare bird."

Thanks Colin and well done! Reports from KOS members are welcome no matter where they're birding!!

Park Ranger, Darren Morris, tells me that local ringer Roy Leigh successfully ringed three Tawny Owl chicks earlier this week in Tatton and examination of a Barn Owl box revealed that it contained 5 eggs and two small chicks (as well as a mound of dead voles - a gruesome sight!). In time they too will be ringed.
Darren has kindly sent me a copy of the park's Summer News Letter - you can read it here - thanks Darren.

Species recorded on the trip to the Manifold Valley - 13th May 2023
Buzzard, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Curlew, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Short-eared Owl, Robin, Wren, Blackcap, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mallard, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Dipper, Woodpigeon, Wheatear, Treecreeper, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Swallow, Raven, Kestrel, Pheasant, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Redstart, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Hobby, Stonechat, House Martin, House Sparrow. [ ✓ 42]

12th May 2023......... A pleasant surprise in Tatton.
It was a long wait but Bob Groom finally connected with his first Yellow Wagtail of the season on a trip out to Mobberley on Saturday (6/5)............" Assuming that fewer people would be out dog walking today I headed for Mobberley and had a successful walk. Good to see lots of House Martins and Swallows at Blackthorn Farm (in contrast to Brookdale), also Linnets etc. The wheatear field had been ploughed so the Skylarks and Lapwings must have had to start again but I was lucky enough to get close views of a male Yellow Wagtail (my 1st of year) and a bright female Wheatear in it. A Kestrel and Buzzards also seen. After lunch Elaine, Matt and I headed for Acre Nook. Lovely views of a Common Tern, dipping to the water back and to, also lots of House Martins and a few Sand Martins and Swallows. Single Oystercatcher, several Cormorants, 6 Shelducks and 6 Swifts. Still a surprising number of Great Crested Grebes. Just one Buzzard and Kestrel."..................

A pity about the Lapwings on our Mobberley fields but they have plenty of time to try again. Geoff and Sheila Blamire report that "their" birds have been much more successful. This from the same day at Mere ........"We did out Rostherne/Mere walk this morning:
Little Mere: the pair of Great Crested Grebes busy building another nest in the middle of the Mere after their first attempt failed, pair of Grey Wagtails on the outlet, 1m Mandarin, pair of Mute Swans not showing any sign of breeding (weird), 1 Egyptian Goose, Coot still sitting on their nest.
Rostherne Obs: usual birds including male Blackcap and male Bullfinch.
Field next to Pioneer, Chester Road: 1 pair of Lapwings with at least 3 young chicks, the 2nd pair still sitting on their nest, 5th Lapwing still around and helping to see off Carrion Crows. "

Also in the same area on the 9th and 10th May, an early brood of Mandarins!......."Little Mere:
Mandarins – 2 males on 9th, then on 10th 1 female with 8 tiny ducklings. The female was repeating attacking a couple of Coots which were too close to her ducklings for her liking. She was ferocious!!! This is the first time they have nested here.
Great Crested Grebes – the female has started to incubate, whilst the male still bringing nesting material in. Hope this second nesting attempt is successful. Last year they reared two broods.
Egyptian Geese - pair
Canada Geese - 2 pairs with brood of 3 goslings, the other with 5 goslings.
Coot – at least 2 nests with adults sitting tight.
Oystercatchers – flew over Mereside Road towards Little Mere.
Small number of House Martins and Swallows.
Reed Warbler – first time we've heard this year (song regularly heard last year).
Goldcrest – singing in conifers. "

Yesterday I paid an overdue visit to Tatton Park's Dog Wood and was pleased to discover a singing Redstart........"I parked at Dog Lodge, walked through Dog Wood as far as the outdoor centre (where they keep the boats). Returned to the entrance then down onto the Moor.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in abundance on the way down the path, Nuthatches very vocal and a number of Treecreepers. G.C. Grebes, Mallard and a few Tufted Ducks on the Mere. Approaching the jetty I heard a Redstart singing. It became louder as I followed the path up to the centre and the Merlin app picked it up each time it sang. I never saw it as it remained in the canopy of the oak trees and was constantly moving around. Back in the 1970s a pair nested at this location.
Walking back through Dog Wood a Garden Warbler showed well and there was a second one on the walk down to the Moor. I sat on one of the benches on the Moor, no Reed Warblers heard from there but there was a Cetti's and a Swallow, the only hirundines all morning."

There's a busy couple of weeks coming up for KOS members!

Tomorrow (13/5) it's our field trip to the Manifold Valley and the weather forecast is good. It's the perfect time of the year for this location and we should have species such as Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Common Sandpiper and a whole host of other goodies!

A week on Sunday (21/5) and we'll be on the road to North Norfolk for a four day extravaganza! Sheila has produced a packed itinerary featuring iconic locations such as Wheeting Heath, Lakenheath, Titchwell, Cley and Frampton Marsh. 100 species? No problem!

But there's no rest for the wicked and, two days after returning from Norfolk, it's the Goyt Valley and the first of our summer evening walks. All for twenty quid a year!
4th May 2023........ The first Swifts.

Sam Peers was a Mobberley birder with notes and memories going back to the 1920s. He's long gone now but I always remember him telling me that the first Swifts always return in time for the Knutsford May day celebrations, which traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in May.
Bang on time Jude Halman had the first returning birds last Saturday (29/4), with two over St. John's Road. The next day (30/4) Karina Stanley had two over Bexton Road and Bob Groom counted at least 30 flying low over Tatton Mere. This year, for the first time in its long history, Knutsford May Day has been put back a week due to the coronation but, presumably, the Swifts were unaware of this.

Last Wednesday (26/4) I recorded my first local Whitethroat of the season, on a stroll alongside the west side of Runway 2 at the airport; other firsts for the season - Speckled Wood butterflies and St. Mark's flies (one day late as St. Mark's Day is the 25th April!).
We'd seen Lesser Whitethroat on the North Wales trip last weekend but I was hoping for my first local bird, it wasn't to be but a couple of days later Peter Dawson had more luck ..........."I haven't done any local walks for a while so this morning I decided to go over to Gleave House Pool with the optimistic hope of finding three target species - yellow wagtail, garden warbler and lesser whitethroat. I knew that the first one should be easy enough but the other two a lot more difficult.
I went via the bushes adjacent to Booths Mere where in the past I've found both garden warbler and lesser whitethroat. Today, no luck with either. Plenty of blackcaps and chiffchaffs but not even a common whitethroat.
The walk along Pavement and Gleave House Lanes produced the usual tree sparrows and swallows but nothing else of note.
Reaching the fields by GH Farm I found my first target with at least three yellow wagtails. Also a single yellowhammer. Two lapwings were in the field just over the hedge from the Pool. At the pool itself there were two pairs of shelduck. Neither with any young. A female mallard was accompanied by approximately seven ducklings. A couple of swallows and house martins were flying around and a pair of reed buntings were in the hedges.
Carrying on past the pool and over the stream I followed the path past Rooney's and the large, modern barns nearby. In the newly ploughed field on the right, two new pools have been created. A cormorant, Canada goose and mallard occupied one whilst a lapwing flew over. Carrying on towards Spring Wood farm I stopped at the small pool by the "crossroads". I've had a sedge warbler here in the past but this time I was very pleased to hear the rattling of a lesser whitethroat! Target two! Carrying on towards the farm I was met by a hare coming directly towards me. It suddenly worked out I was there, stopped and hastily ran back from whence it had come.
There was nothing of note on Booths Mere, except a pair of Egyptian geese.
So, I was very pleased to find two out of three. I'll have to wait for another day for a garden warbler!"

Anxious to find the Lesser Whitethroat, on Tuesday (2/4) I took myself off to the area of Mobberley where Peter had seen the bird last weekend. It wasn't to be found at the pit, just a female Reed Bunting on show there but a short distance away, walking towards Wayne's World, came the unmistakable rattling song of my favourite bird! Thanks Peter. This is an area where back in the early 80s we had breeding Corn Bunting, Curlew, Snipe, Lapwing, Skylark and Yellowhammer but on Tuesday practically deserted, just acres of sterile grassland and discarded plastic bottles of herbicide. Says it all really.
Moving on to Gleavehouse Pool I enjoyed a Goostrey's sausage roll and a can of (diet) Pepsi whilst watching a Mallard with 6 young, a drake Shelduck (perhaps on guard duty as it saw off a drake Mallard), a Yellow Wagtail was heard but not seen. The field on the other side of the hedge from the pool was the scene of much activity. This is where Lapwings had been watched incubating their eggs last week but now the only occupants were a muck-spreader criss-crossing the field and a disc harrow standing by to finish the job. I don't know enough about current farming practices to make any comments but it does seem a pity.

On Sunday (29/4), and on a more positive note, Geoff and Sheila Blamire came across a flock of Whimbrel that had stopped by on their journey north ......."Superb morning around Plumley and Holford. Along the railway, after the level crossing: 1m Yellowhammer and Skylark singing. Walking up the Holford track: pair Kestrels, 1m Yellowhammer singing, then further on pair Yellowhammers, Skylark singing, few Swallows hunting over the grass. Around the Inovyn Offices: Common Whitethroat calling and brief song, Lesser Whitethroat singing, pair Oystercatchers on a field pond. Buzzard being mobbed from 1 Oystercatcher, Shelduck, c18 WHIMBRELS flew overhead and landing out of sight – eventually caught up with 9 in a field with sheep."............ Thanks team, Geoff's picture of the Whimbrel can be seen at the top of this update.

Yesterday (3/5) found a small group of mid-weekers paying a long-overdue visit to Northwich's Neumann's Flash. On a nice sunny morning, with a temperature of about 17C we made our way around the perimeter of Ashton's and Neumann's flashes before ending up at Pod's hide. Singing warblers were much in evidence all morning - Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Reed, Sedge, Cetti's, Garden and Willow Warblers. Eight Warbler species in all; perhaps next time, with the addition of Lesser Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler we'll make double figures. Bob Groom had taken a different route from the rest of us and was able to add more excellent sightings - Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Whimbrel and Swift, bring us up to a total of 47 different species in three hours.

Simon Smith and Lyn Graves would normally have been with us on a Wednesday but they'd decided in advance to try the Goyt Valley.
........."apologies for not joining yesterdays walk around the Flashes. We’d already decided to try our luck with the summer migrants up in the Goyt Valley.
We watched two pairs of Pied Flycatchers occupying the nest boxes beside the road just past the car park and finally tracked down a pair of Redstarts who were nesting in the quarry further up the road. A good opportunity to study the females, see attached."
Thanks Simon, lovely images. We hope to have both these species a week on Saturday (13th May) during our monthly field trip, this time to the Manifold Valley. Jude Halman will be our leader and you should let her know if you intend to come along.

The AGM, our first since April 2019, took place last Friday (28th April). It went very smoothly and was done and dusted in a record 8 minutes!! After which Sheila Blamire (with Geoff's help) gave a very polished presentation about their trip to Africa and the Zimanga game reserve located in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.

The programme for the rest of 2023 and into 2024 has been finalised you can read it here. It ends with our KOS 50th anniversary trip to Dumfries and Galloway in June 2024.

I've updated the procedures for joining the KOS #1 for the first time - using an online form with no paperwork involved and #2 renewing membership when it's due.

Species recorded on a visit to Neumann's / Ashton's Flashes Wednesday 3rd May 2023
Chiffchaff, Robin, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Song Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Blackcap, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Carrion Cow, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Woodpigeon, Mute Swan, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Tufted Duck, Willow Warbler, Goldfinch, Buzzard, Greenfinch, Reed Warbler, Coot, Moorhen, Chaffinch, Little Grebe, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Jay, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Whimbrel, Long-tailed Tit, Swift, House Martin, Swallow, Lapwing, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Shelduck, Dunnock = 47 (8 warblers)

25th April 2023 ...... The trip to North Wales.

Last Thursday evening the KOS Treasurer Frank Dearden and I attended a meeting of the Wincham, Pickmere & District Astronomy Group, held in the Wincham Community Centre, to hear a presentation by our American birding friend Derek Richardson. Derek's talk was an update on NASA's DART project in which he played an important role.
The venue was crowded with a mixture of local people and amateur astronomers (so many in fact that the organisers had to bring out extra chairs, for the first time ever!). Derek's presentation was pitched at just the right level for his audience; not too technical but technical enough for the astronomers present to sit nodding their heads in obvious approval.

Fast forward two days to Saturday the 22nd April and Derek - "Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Maryland, specializing in computational astrophysics with an emphasis on problems in planetary science" became Derek the birder, travelling with us to North Wales anxious to add at least one new species to his all time list. (ATNO - all time new one!).

After an easy drive down the A55 we stopped off at Rhos-on-Sea to begin our day-list before driving through the centre of Llandudno, a place Derek had never been to, and on up the centre of the Great Orme to the tram station before dropping down to the Marine Drive (so avoiding the toll booth close to the pier!). We met the other members of the party at the small car park overlooking the limestone pavement; there were a dozen of us, which was more than expected with so many regulars being unavailable.

Trip leader Sheila Blamire soon had us on the move, heading towards the limestone pavement where we hoped to find a Ring Ouzel, one of the three species on Derek's list - Lesser Whitethroat and Arctic Tern being the other two. One had been seen earlier in the morning but we failed to locate it, nevertheless there were other birds present - and lots of them! There'd been a fall of Wheatears and they were everywhere. In a field just over a dry stone wall we counted 16 whilst on the near side a dozen or more, together with a superb male Redstart. Meadow Pipits displayed overhead, Stonechats and Linnets perched on the gorse bushes and, in the distance, a Chough fed on the short grass of the Orme. Swallows and House Martins passed through in small numbers making the most of a beautiful Spring morning, as did a female Blackcap - ticked off as we made our way along the path to the area overlooking St. Tudno's church.
It was then downhill, past the church and on to the Marine Drive, pausing on the way to watch a Whitethroat, not Lesser unfortunately but a new species for the day (and year for most of us). We then began the long trudge up the drive as far as the "Rest and be Thankful" cafe, just past the lighthouse. A few Gannets, Shags and Cormorants flew over the sea below us but the majority of birds were to be found on and around the cliffs just below the lighthouse. Guillemots and Razorbills (some members of the party had seen a Black Guillemot earlier) were present but in much smaller numbers than we've seen on previous visits as were the Kittiwakes, easily identified from above with their ink-black wing tips that shade from white to grey on the mantle.
We finally arrived back at the cars just before the allotted time of 1pm after a walk of 5.18 Km (3.24 miles) and a total hight gain of 106 meters (348') - more than enough for some of us (me anyway!) Bob Groom had taken a different route to the rest of us and had been lucky enough to see a Short-eared Owl on his travels. We were forging quite an impressive list.

We enjoyed lunch up there on the Orme before driving down to the RSPB's Conwy reserve at around 1:30pm. The new cafe or should it be restaurant? looked great from the outside as we passed by on the way to the hides. We didn't linger as it had started to rain - heavily! Derek was in his element as we scanned the reserve from the first big hide; different terrain altogether from the Orme of course, with an almost complete change of personnel! The rain had brought down passing hirundines and the Swallows and House martins had been joined by Sand Martins. Below, on the water, a whole range of waterfowl - Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Little Grebe,Tufted Duck, Teal, Great Crested Grebe and even a male and two female Red-breasted Mergansers. Other species seen from the hide included Curlew, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Egret and six Dunlin. Derek was very impressed with the reserve, remarking that nothing like it existed anywhere in the USA. Nevertheless we were aware that our guest had provided us with his short list of possible ATNO's and so far we'd not come up with the goods; however this changed shortly afterwards as we continued around the reserve. Approaching an area of mixed sallow and hawthorn and from a distance of only a few yards came the unmistakable rattling song of a Lesser Whitethroat - bingo! Derek had the Merlin app running on his phone and the song was so loud I feared a case of "rapid unscheduled disassembly" (of the phone, not Derek) although he was delighted with his latest lifer!
My preliminary day-list stood at 68 but, after a series of late night emails, we squeezed out a few more from participant's note books and ended up with a final figure of 79 species - good going team. A trip to remember!

Meanwhile back at home Geoff and Sheila Blamire were out and about early the following morning (23/4) and were rewarded with a Red Kite flying over Lostock Gralam........"We did our Plumley/Holford/Lostock Green 11+km walk this morning. Nothing new except RED KITE! Slowly circled from Lostock Gralam direction over towards railway level crossing, Plumley, catching insects in the air and eating them on the wing,"..........

Yesterday found the couple on the go again ............"We did our 12km walk this morning taking in Mere and Millington. The 'usual' Yellowhammers, Skylark, plenty of hirundines (3 species). Buzzards (including 1 pair being mobbed by 2 Carrion Crows), and on Little Mere: a pair of Teal (first time recorded here), pair of Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, 3m Mandarins, etc. But the best sighting of all, was 2 pairs of Lapwings which are nesting opposite Moss Farm, Peacock Lane, when all 4 Lapwings mercilessly attacked a male Pheasant who had the audacity to wander into the field. One time a 5th Lapwing joined in. One of the Lapwings even did the ‘broken-wing’ display just in front of the Pheasant (seen in photo 1 and 2). The attack went on for almost 10mins! Hopefully Geoff’s video will show some of the action - "............ Thanks Geoff, the Lapwings were giving the Pheasant a hard time!

A reminder that this coming Friday it's our KOS AGM, the first since April 2019. I'm sure the formalities will be completed in less than 15 minutes after which Sheila will be giving a presentation entitled " THE MIRACLE OF ZIMANGA". The meeting starts at 8:00pm and, as it's the AGM, entry will be free.

Breaking news! I'd just completed this update when there was a knock on the door and there stood an excited Paul Leigh with the news that he'd just had an Osprey flying over Tatton Mere! For those that remember that far back Paul, his brother Sam, Barrie Armitt and Garry Healy were all members of our KOS junior section in the 1970s - all are still birding!....... you only have to sow the seeds.

Species recorded on the KOS trip to North Wales on 22nd April 2023
Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Starling, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Buzzard, Common Redstart, Stonechat, Chough, Black Guillemot, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Mallard, Grey Heron, Raven, Common Sandpiper, Wheatear, House Martin, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Pied Wagtail, Whitethroat, Razorbill, Shag, Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Rock Pipit, Short-eared Owl, Robin, Chiffchaff, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Reed Bunting, Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall, Sand Martin, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe, Teal, Dunlin, Long-tailed Tit, Little Grebe, Curlew, Little Egret, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Eider, Sandwich Tern, Ringed Plover, Fulmar, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Skylark, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Great Tit, Black-headed Gull, Magpie, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Chaffinch [ ✓ 79]

20th April 2023.........Some good records from Rostherne

One of last Thursday's Wheatears, seen by Bob Groom close to Gleavehouse farm in Mobberley, was still there a couple of days later when I followed the same route........"10°C this afternoon but it felt a lot colder due to the strong westerly wind blowing in over the Badlands of Shaw Heath. It wasn't obvious at first but I persevered and found one of Bob's Wheatears in the last field before GHP. I had only intended to go so far but as I was so close I continued to the pool. A pair of Goosanders, Oystercatcher, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Swallows and a House Martin."...........

It was nice to see the hirundines again, Bob had one or two more at Tatton!..........."At last (for me) a huge gathering of hirundines over Tatton Mere. They were literally end to end so I'm guessing at at least 800, possibly 1,000 birds. Apart from a few Swallows they were all Sand Martins. That said at that point the light wasn't great for seeing white rumps and I couldn't make any out, despite careful scanning.
Eventually the wind defeated me (shame my favourite seat has gone) and I retreated to the Allen Hide for some shelter from the blast. Female Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders. Green Woodpecker heard. There were a few more Sand Martins and Swallows over Melchett Mere. Usual Herons, Cormorants, Buzzards. Unfortunately the remaining 'hobby tree' is still in the water, which can't be doing it any good."

On Saturday (15/4), parking at the top of Wood Lane in Mobberley, I paid my first visit this Spring to the path along the side of the airport's runway 2. .........."A pleasant morning after two days of almost continuous rain. I drove to the top Wood Lane and took the perimeter path towards the airport.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps very prominent. As usual I struggled to differentiate between the Blackcaps and two Garden Warblers in song. Merlin came to my aid and pinpointed a Garden Warbler that eventually appeared for a few seconds.
My first Willow Warbler performed well over the path, so no problems with that!
First Orange Tip floated past.
I feared that I wouldn't be able to walk as far as the concrete blocks as that path, where it crosses a field, is always very wet but I was pleased to find that a thick layer of screed has been laid and it's very easy going. No Lesser Whitethroat though."

On Friday (14/4) Geoff and Sheila Blamire dropped into the Rostherne obs. on their daily walk and had a pleasant surprise!............"We decided to do a repeat visit to Rostherne this morning because the forecast was for rain, and more rain! We still got rather wet on our 10km walk.
Ciceley Mill Lane: we found a plastic bag containing 3 sandwiches and a small pork pie – obviously someone dropped it! Because no one was around and because it was close to Ciceley Mill pool we decided to put the contains out for the Mute Swan. We left him tucking in with great relish. (on the way back nothing was left).
Rostherne Brook leaky dams: a family of Mallards – 1m 1f c12 small ducklings.
Rostherne Obs: not much to report other than the ’usual’ birds, including 1m 1f Goosanders, singing Cetti’s Warbler, etc, until I picked up a female Marsh Harrier flying past Cormorants’ nests, then over Doll’s Meadow and then it flew close to the edge of the mere towards the direction of Bittern Hide and then out of sight. "

Our small Monday morning team also had a spot of luck this week (17/4) with a distant Black-necked Grebe, fortunately we've become quite familiar with the species during our visits to Woolston Eyes, to where this bird will no doubt have made its way........." Cetti's were singing all morning, f. Goldeneye hanging on, no hirundines. A Black-necked Grebe was the day's highlight - not easy to ID with our limited fire-power as it spent its time just off the Mere Covert reeds but the light slowly improved and, through the 40X big binocs., the salient features were just discernible. It was very active, taking insects from the surface of the mere - it was so quick it looked for all the world like a phalarope, sometimes spinning round in its own body length!
Fortunately it was still around when Bob arrived, so he had reasonable views through the binocs."

Sheelagh Halsey has kindly sent me a copy of Bill Bellamy's latest Rostherne quarterly revue, covering the period January to March 2023. You can read it by clicking here.

Yesterday (12/4) Jude Halman took us to one of her favourite local birding spots, just a short distance from Knutsford town centre........." Starting at Yewtree Farm and "Bexton Hall Hamlet" a place full of barking dogs and security cameras (home to a Mafia boss?). An excellent location, a bit windy today as we made our way along the paths FP2 and FP3 to Toft Hall farm and then on to the start of the lake, as shown on the map. Easy going and some excellent birds. Lapwings, 2 Wheatears, Song Thrush, 3 Yellowhammers, Buzzard and a pair of Grey Partridge (the first I've seen locally for decades). We ended with a food-carrying Mistle Thrush in the middle of an estate somewhere. Jude will know where we were. - 31 species."........... Thanks Jude, for an enjoyable mornings birding. I see the path eventually leads to The Schoolhouse where Pete Hall used to live, before he moved to Wales.

Talking of Wales we'll be heading there on Saturday morning for our April field trip, taking in the Great Orme and the RSPB Conwy reserve. The latest weather forecast that I've seen predicts a dry day until late afternoon. That will be fine, as the Orme on a rainy day can be a bit challenging - to say the least!
We'll be joined on the trip by Derek Richardson who, you may remember, enjoyed a days birding with us to Burton Mere in August last year. This evening (13/4) Derek will be giving a presentation to the Wincham, Pickmere and district astronomy group about the outcome of NASA's Dart mission, a project in which he was heavily involved. Frank Dearden and I will be going along.

11th April 2023..... A game changer?

As a birdwatcher one of the most difficult skills to learn is the identification of birds by their song or calls. Starting at a young age makes the job easier but it becomes a more difficult task with increasing age. Even then, as I know to my cost, over the years hearing can deteriorate and eventually many birders struggle to pick up birds that others can hear clearly!
But fear not, as I believe help is at hand with a smartphone app from the Cornell University called Merlin. Jude Halman recommended that I try it as we were sat in the Rostherne Obs. drinking tea and eating Ken's sausage rolls. I was sceptical at first but having tried it over the past few days I must say it's very impressive! For folk who are just getting to grips with bird song and calls it's an invaluable asset whilst those who's hearing wasn't what it was will be amazed by what the app. picks up and what they would otherwise have missed.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire already had a copy of the app on one of their phones, although they hadn't used the sounds facility but gave it a try on Monday morning (10/4) during their daily walk from home ..........." Today: confirmed 3 sites for Yellowhammer, 2-3 sites for Skylarks, 2 sites for Lapwings (4 pairs), 2 sites for Reed Buntings, etc. Watched a Chiffchaff taking a feather into a tussock of grass to line its concealed nest. We’ll try keep an eye on this.

We downloaded Merlin app whilst in South Africa (to ID SA species), but haven't used the sound. So Geoff tried it on Chapel Lane – Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Chiffchaff, plus Goldcrest! How on earth did it detect with the racket going on. So we tried it along Mereside Road by a wood, because we saw/heard Goldcrest there 2020 and 2021, but not 2022 and so far this year. The app didn't pick up Goldcrest (plenty of species) but did pick up Willow Tit!!! "

Peter Dawson has a copy on his phone and he seems to have been using it for sometime ........"I went for a wander around Knutsford Moor this morning along to the reedbed and decided to use the Merlin sound app to see what it picked up. I use it quite often. Although it's not great, it can be helpful.
There was at least one cetti's singing but possibly as many as three. It was difficult to know whether it was a single bird moving around or different birds. I also heard two blackcaps although the app didn't pick either up. No willow, reed, sedge or grasshopper warblers yet but it's still early so I'll have another go in a few days"

At the same time that Peter was on the Moor I was in Dog Wood and was impressed that Merlin picked out both Goldcrest and Treecreeper singing at the same time. It also flagged up Common Redstart but I was unable to see or hear one; they have nested here in the past and Mark Eddows tells me they've already returned to his study area at Bonsall, up in the Pennines.

Heavy rain and gales are forecast for tonight (11/4) but for the first three days of the Easter break the weather was very pleasant; it was dry and relatively warm and settled. Not wanting the hustle and bustle of Tatton Park I spent three mornings (7,8,9 April) locally in Mobberley, walking from home to Gleavehouse Pool. I was hoping for my first Wheatear, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail or House Martin. No luck on Friday (7/4) but the following morning my first Swallow dipped past as I approached Blackthorn Farm and at the pool I was delighted when a House Martin flew in, did a few circuits of the area and finally landed on the pool side to collect a beakful of mud for nest building - a local bird.
The following morning there were four Swallows at the pool and also three House Martins, three Oystercatchers were having a noisy altercation but not loud enough to drown out the sound of the year's first Yellow Wagtail dropping in. (The Merlin app. picked it up too!)
The following morning, before the rain, local birder Wendy Stratford ticked off the Yellow Wagtail too ........."Walked to the pool early this morning to avoid the rain – very nice. Others were doing the same – buzzards spiralling lazily upwards over Bentleys and constant skylarks between GH gates and the pool. I saw 7 different skylarks, including one, unusually, perched on a hedge (crest up – lovely) and 2 fluttering close over the crop before dropping out of site – nesting already? There were lapwings on the ground in 3 different fields, and lots of acrobatic displays and calling. At the pool there are cows in the north side (but not the south) so only the coot pair were visible, and one oystercatcher arrived as I was leaving.
As I walked back across what was until very recently the cow field I saw some movement on the ground some way off. It was a pied wagtail feeding, but then a flash of yellow revealed a yellow wagtail doing the same only a few feet from the pw! Didn't see any swallows or martins though. "

Yellowhammers seemed to have vanished from this particular area, although they are about as Jude Halman found on a walk in the fields around Toft hall ........"My first Yellowhammer this morning by Toft Hall flew down for a drink, no Blackcap yet, otherwise I had a very good count of 23 species."..........

KOS Secretary, Karina Stanley was out and about before dawn! and was also rewarded with views of a Yellowhammer and a cock Linnet that prompted a vivid and almost poetic description!......."I did a quick pre-sunrise walk this morning down the railway line. Delighted to report my first Blackcaps of the year and a pair of nesting Tree Sparrows. Dismayed to see the Yellowhammer’s favoured mass of Blackthorn has been grubbed up although a pair were still flitting about. Another highlight was the searing colour on a male Linnet which matched the sunrise in front of me as the moon set behind!"........ Thanks Karina, we were there with you!

Bob Groom now has his car back and, despite the weather, used it to good effect this afternoon (11/4) with a visit to the area around Gleavehouse Farm ........"Another very unsettled day. Met Office says "no data" so just a guess - Min 6C Max 10C. Tomorrow there is a weather warning for gales. Just about to leave in the car when a party of Redwings with a few Fieldfares flew over the cul-de-sac, so still around. Parked as usual on Gleavehouse Lane. Single Swallow back at Blackthorn Farm. Usual Tree Sparrows. Pair of Linnets. Couple of Buzzards. Two Pied Wagtails. As I'd rather hoped saw 2 bright cock Wheatears in the second field going east from Gleavehouse. Walking back they were in the top of a tree and then flew off. Two Skylarks were up singing, despite the showery weather."............ Nice one Bob, with a bit of luck they may linger with us for a few days.

5th April 2023... The first Swallow, Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Blackcap

Last Wednesday (29/3) I walked over to Mobberley's Gleavehouse Pool, my first visit of the Spring, hoping for early Yellow Wagtails or Little Ringed Plovers. I was probably being a tad optimistic, the first wagtails normally arrive a bit later (2020-7/4: 2020-12/4: 2022-22/4) with LRPs (2020-8/4: 2021: 10/4)........."Lapwings appear to be on eggs as they weren't too pleased with my presence. Skylarks singing overhead in good numbers; very encouraging. The final field before the track to the pool has cattle on it and it's very muddy, you have to stick to the narrow path between the hedge and electric fence. perhaps best to walk from Mill Lane if coming by car.
At the pool 2 noisy Oystercatchers, a pair of Teal, Coot, Mallards, Egyptian Goose and a drake Shelduck. A female Kestrel was chased by three Jackdaws as far as High Lake Manor (ancestral home of Lord Rooney). A Chiffchaff singing as I left."

On the same morning Darren Morris was having more luck on a walk through Tatton Park and he sent me a series of texts as his day got better and better" ........."The first text came as I was having breakfast - Goosander on the Moor followed by Oystercatcher on the jetty and, later, Egyptian Geese with three young. Finally, as I sat freezing next to the pool - Sand Martins and a Swallow - Tatton Mere!"...........

Two days previously (27/3) Darren made his way up to the park's Mill Pool and was rewarded with the first Wheatear of the year. It was a female, which is quite unusual as the male birds are normally this first to be seen.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire were also out and about on the 27th .........12km walk around Millington including a new area.
Chapel Lane: 2 Yellowhammers, 2 Skylarks (singing), flock of c30 finches and buntings, Chiffchaff singing (after that we didn't count Chiffchaffs – too many!).
Peacock Lane: Yellowhammer, 2 pairs of Lapwing nesting in a cereal crop, 1m Reed Bunting overgrown field pond, pair of Buzzards (sitting very close to each other!).
Froghall Lane (new lane): 1f Kestrel sitting in a small tree, Buzzard sitting on a low hedge, 4 Jays squabbling over food.
Millington Lane: 2 Skylarks (singing), 2 Buzzards.
Little Mere: 3m 1f Mandarins – 3 males trying to mount the female with a lot of fighting and almost drowning the female, she tried to fly off but couldn't get away.
Sheila also reports their first Willow Warblers, at Neumann's Flash and a Blackcap at Ciceley Mill, Rostherne. The Brambling you see in the picture was taken in their garden last week. They do seem to hang on and can be found in Dog Wood into the first week of May.

Bob Groom is without his car at the moment so confined himself to a short walk along the lanes close to home ........" Green Lane/Moss lane this afternoon - a Bat (!) flying towards the Cemetery, my first Brimstone of the year, 2 Chiffchaffs, Buzzards circling, 3 Lapwings displaying, Stock Doves, Heron, Oystercatcher flying over..".........

Our next KOS outing is to North Wales on Saturday 22nd. April when we'll be walking the Great Orme before finishing off with a visit to the RSPB's Conwy reserve. Sheila will be our leader for the day and members are reminded to let her know if you will be going along.
The following Friday, 28th April it's the AGM when Frank our treasurer will be pleased to receive your annual subs and in return will issue you with a shiny new membership card.

Finally great news from Mobberley - the Mobberley Village Bakery (AKA Goostrey's) will be re-opening next Wednesday (12th April), some proper unadulterated bread at last!

27th March 2023........ The first Chiffchaffs!

The first of this year's Chiffchaffs arrived in Tatton Park's Dog Wood on the 18th March, just two days after our first Sand Martin. There were probably two or three birds, although they were very active and, because they were moving quickly from tree to tree, you could be forgiven for thinking there were more.
Peter Dawson was out and about over the same weekend and also found his first Chiffchaffs on the 18th. ............"Walk on Saturday morning from home to Gleavehouse Farm via Booths Park and Pavement Lane - highlight was a nice male stonechat in the hedges near the donkey sanctuary. Other birds of note - two singing chiffchaffs in Spring Wood, tree sparrows and linnets along Gleavehouse and Pavement Lane and two oystercatchers still at Booths Mere. Total species approx 45.
Walk on Sunday morning from home via Toft Wood and Ash Farm and back via Sandy Lane. The highlight was finally finding a yellowhammer near Sandy Lane just as I had given up hope of finding one. Other birds of note - goldcrest, egyptian goose, linnet, reed bunting, kestrel, teal and four singing chiffchaffs in various locations. Total species approx 45 again!"
On the same day (18/3) Wendy Stratford also walked up Gleavehouse Lane but carried on to Gleavehouse Pool ............" Walked to the pool this morning – lovely. Tree sparrows in GH Lane, at least 4 skylarks up and singing between GH and the pool. On the track down to the pool a yellowhammer was perched on the top of the hedge – great view. Goosander pair on the pool, one oystercatcher and two coot. Lapwings were calling and flying over the pool, and two were performing aerial acrobatics over the cow field behind the obs. Tree sparrow in small thorn hedge opposite obs was flying up and returning to the hedge, presumably feeding although I couldn't see anything.
Walking back I accidentally flushed 2 skylarks twice! They flew off but quickly returned to the crop cover. Two more oystercatchers flew, calling, over the SQ in the direction of the pool, and a kestrel was hunting."
Thanks Wendy and Peter, lets hope that the Little Ringed Plovers return to the pool again this year. There are already some in the country.

Bob Groom was on granddad duty last Wednesday (22/3). It's a good job the kids enjoy their birding!........."Leaving aside the unpleasant strength of the wind, not too bad a day with the rain holding off in the afternoon, contrary to the forecast. Min 8C Max 13C. Sunshine and showers tomorrow and still mild. (But going colder at the weekend.) Called at Acre Nook en route to feed the ducks and geese. Saw a Sparrowhawk and 3 Buzzards plus Teal, Shoveler etc. but now nowhere for waders (except for two Oystercatchers flying round). Excellent views of the female Red-Breasted Merganser at Redesmere, also 6 Goldeneyes and 8 Sand Martins. Rooks in the field (3+ rookeries in a short distance along Chelford road totalled c.30 nests.) plus usual Greylags and Canadas. Heron flying over as we dropped off the kids. Kestrel hovering over Tabley Road. 8 Stock Doves from Moss Lane and c.60 Meadow Pipits seen from Green Lane. Clearly a spring movement.."........

Following their visit to Rostherne's Ciceley Mill Geoff and Sheila Blamire took to BWP!......."This morning we saw the complete pre-copulative display, mating, following by post-copulatory behaviour as described below and the attachment!!!
From BWP: “In pre-copulative display, both birds alternately dip head beneath water, preen or rub back or flanks, and occasionally up end, gradually activities become synchronized and, between Head-dips, neck held upright and close together for moment or two. Wings held low, often dragging on water, and male pushes neck feathers and body over female's until mounted on her back, grasping her neck feathers in bill. Post-copulatory behaviour also stereotyped. Male slips off, both birds often utter hoarse, muted calls, and rise half out of water breast to breast with necks extended and bills pointing first up, then down, and finally from side to side, Usually, both birds then bathe, preen, and tail-wag.” "

On the subject of swans I'd just set off on a walk to Gleavehouse Pool yesterday (26/3) when Tatton Ranger Darren Morris sent me a text "34 Whoopers Tatton Mere"! So the walk was abandoned and I hurried home, grabbed my camera and set off for the park hoping they'd hang about until I got there. I was lucky - they were still there. They seemed quite wary and kept to the centre of the mere but I managed to get some decent record shots of the flock, one of which is reproduced at the beginning of this update. They'd moved on by 10am this morning when the park opened.

Ospreys are returning to their nest sites and the usual excellent webcams have been set up ready for their fireside birding fans. Links to three of my favourites are appended below.
Loch Garten -
Dyfi -
Poole Harbour -

Incidentally a ringed Scottish Osprey has been discovered in the West Indies - now that's quite a journey!

17th March 2023...........The First Sand Martin
Perhaps it's the talk of global warming and early Springs etc. that persuaded the majority of entrants to chose an early date in this year's KOS Sand Martin competition; the first few days of March were popular, with some even going for late February! The cold winds coming from the north over the past weeks put paid to their chances though and it wasn't until yesterday (16/3) that Alan Gillespie recorded Tatton's first birds of the year .........."I saw my first Sand Martins this year today at 13:31 flying both high and low over Tatton Mere mainly around mid-mere near the scout boat launch area. The best I could count was seven(7). I did a good scan for about 10 minutes but that was the best I could come up with. I had to get back to work."............ Thanks Alan, it's a good job you decided to take a break!

Derek Pike and I had both been in the park earlier, without success, so the birds must have arrived after we'd left. Anyway no one guessed the actual date, the closest were Frank Dearden and Jane Storey who both chose the 14th (and exactly the same time of 14:15!) and Colin Butler with 11:01 on the 18th. I wasn't looking forward to the calculations required but help was on hand from this website which told me that the winner was Colin who was 2,730 minutes out compared with Jane and Frank (2,886' out). So well done Colin who wins a copy of the 2023 Birdwatcher's Year Book.

Time spent in Tatton in search of Sand Martins is never wasted though and over the last few days I've had Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker and even a Common Scoter that was floating in the middle of the mere. The walk through Dog Wood can be rewarding with Woodpeckers drumming and good views of Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Nuthatch. It's this wood that we'll be concentrating on next week in anticipation of the first singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

Although the first Summer migrants are beginning to appear our Winter friends are still with us in good numbers, especially Redwings and Fieldfares as Geoff and Sheila Blamire found on their daily walk last Saturday (11/3)........""We did our usual Mere/Rostherne walk this morning. Much warmer than yesterday! Lot of bird song – good to hear.
Little Mere: both Great Crested Grebes were present – one time the male surfaced with some weed but the female had disappeared and eventually he dropped it. We were hoping for some display! 12-14 Tufted Ducks.
Cicely Mill Pool: 1 Mute Swan (his partner seems to have gone AWOL), plus 6 Gadwall.
The field on New Lane, just before Rostherne village, held 50-60 Fieldfares (could have been more), and few Redwings and Starlings.
Rostherne Obs: 9 Shovelers (7m, 2f); 4 Buzzards interacting over Mere Covert; 4 Goldeneyes (1m, 3f); trilling Little Grebe by the boathouse; plus the usual other species.

The following morning (12/3) found us at Wigan's Pennington Flash for our March field trip. There'd been some heavy rain overnight but the day remained dry, although it was very muddy and quite challenging in places. The usual species started the day-list and, from the car park, we began with Canada Goose, Mallard, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck etc.
A little further round the flash a feeding table had been set up where we noted Blue, Great, Coal and a fleeting glimpse of our first Willow Tit of the day. The species is apparently declining here too: one of it's strongholds.
Reaching the far side of the flash, whilst watching a small group of Goosanders, we were joined by 104 greyhounds! (you wouldn't have been happy Derek!) They were from the Makanto Greyhound Rescue organisation on one of their 10th anniversary walks. Dogs and handlers all polite and well-behaved, preferable to the bell-less cyclists we normally encounter on our trips!
The area around the hides was very busy as the good people of Wigan enjoyed the first warm(ish) day for sometime but the hides themselves were relatively quiet and from them we added Little Egret, Teal, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Reed Bunting, Shoveler and Water Rail to the list bringing us up to 50 species for the day.
We were looking forward to visiting the newly opened visitor centre and cafe but they'd had to close it, temporarily, due to a power cut. It looks good from the outside though, with both indoor and outdoor seating available.

Len Mason continues to make a good recovery from the Achilles tendon problem that curtailed his activities last Summer. On Thursday last (9/3) I paid him a visit and sat by his back window as he finished his beans on toast. He'd just had a Brambling which I missed by a few minutes but loads of finches. Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, 6 Siskins and his first Redpoll of the Winter.

On the same day, just up the road from Len, Jayne Davies had what must have been the same Brambling in her garden. She also braved the conditions and walked over to Gleavehouse Pool........."Interesting to hear about the visitors to Len's garden. I've seen a Brambling in my garden today, first this year, and about 10 Siskins. No Redpolls yet, but I did have a visit from a Reed Bunting this morning, a rare sighting in my garden.
I had a cold, grey stroll round some Mobberley footpaths on Wednesday. It was generally very quiet, but Gleavehouse Pool had livened up a bit since my last visit a few weeks ago: two Shelduck, a pair of Oystercatchers, Mallards, Canada Geese and half a dozen Lapwing which flew away as I was approaching because a dog walker was passing through. Also a Snipe flew over while I was there. "
..........Thanks Jayne I think we're all ready for the warmer weather and walking up to Gleavehouse pool again - Wheatear, Quail, Yellow Wagtail, Yellowhammer and Little Ringed Plovers!

Don't forget that next Friday (24th March) it's our March indoor meeting when Ashley Grove will be talking about Crane Spotting in Sweden ........."The Lake Hornborga area of Sweden plays host to one of the most incredible bird spectacles to be seen in Europe, with over 25,000 Common Cranes stoping here to feed on their journey to more northerly breeding grounds.
This talk centers around these birds, but includes other wildlife that make this area so special to visit in the early Spring. All five European Grebe species can be seen at this time and top birds like White-tailed Eagle, Hawfinch and Capercaillie are other highlights."
The meeting will be held in the usual Jubilee Hall, Stanley Road, Knutsford. WA16 0GP. Doors open 7:15pm for an 8:00pm start. Non-members will be made most welcome.

Species recorded on the trip to Pennington Flash. 12th March 2023.
Canada Goose, Mallard, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Goldeneye, Oystercatcher, Goldfinch, Moorhen, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Coot, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Kingfisher, Wren, Stock Dove, Gadwall, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Cormorant, Lapwing, Dunnock, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Pheasant, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Goosander, Little Egret, Teal, Grey Heron, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Reed Bunting, Shoveler, Water Rail = 50

7th March 2023....... Spring's just around the corner!
February this year was one of the driest on record (stand by for another drought!) but we've now reached the start of the meteorological Spring (1st March). Looking at the latest weather forecast it seems that Winter hasn't finished with us just yet and we're promised a few days of cold, snowy weather before warmer, and probably wetter, conditions arrive over the coming weekend.

It may well be officially Spring but, as all KOS members know, it's not really begun until the first Sand Martin appears over one of Tatton's meres and, despite our best efforts, none have turned up so far.

Bob Groom was on the lookout last Tuesday (28/2).........."Good visit to Tatton but was puzzled by the flooding of part of the marshy area with overflow from Melchett Mere. Suspect it's connected with the work in the channel. Several Snipe were along the new edge and a Green Woodpecker flew across to Moss Wood, perhaps puzzled by the changed geography.. Heron stalked the marsh. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed near the outflow stream. Mistle Thrush singing and a Raven calling. Two Siskins just above me at usual trees. Great views of the pair of Stonechats chasing and perching in the reeds next to the head-of-Tatton Mere 'pool' where several Pochard. Jays were also well in evidence as there were few walkers."...............

Park Ranger, Darren Morris explained that the problem with the water level was caused by a blocked culvert that takes the overflow from Melchett and directs it into the main mere's outflow stream. It's now been sorted using a strong chain and lots of manpower!
Darren reports at least one Brambling with Chaffinches along the Knutsford Drive (3/3) and either a Willow or Marsh Tit near the Mill Pool last Thursday (3/3), unfortunately he didn't have his binoculars handy at the time. He's also kindly sent me a copy of the Tatton Spring Newsletter [click here to read it]. Thanks Darren.

Elsewhere Rostherne is proving a popular venue for a few hours birding in relative comfort. John Patterson had a male Common Scoter on the 24th February and the previous day Bob had a nice flock of Golden Plover amongst the local Lapwings .........".... then on to Rostherne. It was only 6C in the Observatory but after yesterday's trial by wind at Parkgate it was just about acceptable. Several Buzzards constantly in the air, a Raven was harassed by a Carrion Crow over Mere Covert, at least 90 Wigeon on the mere and a couple of drake Goldeneyes but the highlight was a flock of well over 100 Golden Plovers flying close to an even bigger flock of Lapwings (300+) on the other side of the mere!".......... Golden Plovers were much more common at one time, as there was a daytime feeding/roosting field at nearby Ashley; it's not been used since the field was dissected by the M56.

Ken Davies and I spent Monday morning in the Rostherne Observatory; a Cetti's Warbler was in full song from the reedbed on front of the obs. and, apart from "singing" Stock Doves, that was the only sign of Spring. 95 Wigeon remain on the mere, with four Goosanders and five displaying Goldeneye; none yet ready to move north. Ken had brought along four large Morrisons sausage rolls, remarkable value for only £1:75! Goostrey's remain closed but I noticed replacement windows have been fitted and the whole exterior repainted, so they should be reopening soon but I fear four large ones will be a lot more than £ 1:75!

Ken and Shirley have just returned from a couple of nights on the Wirral ........""Shirley and myself have just spent two nights at the Wirral Country Park Caravan and Motor home Club site, just above the Dee Sailing Club. At low tide the wader numbers were too great to even estimate, the main ones being redshank and dunlin with curlew black-tailed godwit, oystercatchers and turnstone . The highlight for Shirley being a large number of pintail (60+) Six Brent Geese, feeding on the slipway as the tide went out on the Sunday morning .On the Wirral way we had Goldcrest ,Bullfinch, Song Thrush Blackbird with the usual Blue tits ,Great Tits ,Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and plenty of Robins.
Our next trip will be to Dumfries and Galloway can't wait

I've taken the short walk from home down to Mobberley's Pavement and Gleavehouse lanes over the past week. Some evidence of birds on the move with a huge increase in the number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls joining the usual Black-headed. The horse paddocks are nicely churned up, just right for the expected Wheatears that will stop off there in the coming weeks. Peter Dawson passed that way too on his walk from home in Knutsford .........""I did a walk through Booths Park to Gleave House Farm this morning. Birds of note:
•Two pairs of goosanders and good numbers of shoveler are still present on Booths Mere.
•In the fields by the Mere there were pairs of both shelducks and oystercatchers and a small group of fieldfares. 2-3 buzzards circled overhead calling incessantly.
•A few linnets were in the trees by the bridge at the bottom of Pavement Lane.
•Approx. 6 meadow pipits were in the "little owl field". Once again no sign of the owl.
•Tree sparrows were chirping from the hedge by Gleave House Farm. Not sure how many, possibly just a pair. A single skylark was singing somewhere around the farm.
I finally had a brambling visit the garden a few days ago. Luckily I happened to look out of the window at the right time to see it as it only stayed for a couple of minutes before disappearing, never to be seen again! Also, a couple of nights ago I had good views of a tawny owl sitting out in a tree just over the back fence.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire have, of course, been taking their morning constitutionals. This being the latest from Monday (6/3) ...........""Monday: we did our Mere/Millington 11.5km walk this morning. Chosen 6 species to highlight:

Little Mere – pair of Great Crested Grebes – thought they were going to start their display but they had second thoughts.
Peacock Lane – pair of Yellowhammers (new pair).
Peacock Lane – 13 Lapwings in 1 field and next field 2 Lapwings. Been there for ages, with some display, but always spread out across the field – reminds me of nesting Gannets keeping a bill-length away from neighbours!
Millington Lane – Skylark singing, just after I said “I need to hear a Skylark to give me a lift” (I was flagging……)
Newhall Farm – Brown Hare (or Buzzard if you want 6 bird species).
Chester Road – male Kestrel which we kept flushing.

Finally (and weather permitting) on Sunday (12th March) it's our March field trip to Wigan's Pennington Flash. Our hard-working Secretary, Karina will be leading the trip and has sent out the following missive -

Pennington Flash on Sunday 12th March 10 am.

Our trip next Sunday is to Pennington Flash.

They've upgraded the place (£2.7m grant to spend) and so far they have put in a new visitor centre and café.

The Hide Coffee House and Café opened on March 3rd. It'll be a welcome pit stop, especially if it's a bit chilly out there next weekend. Open 9am-4pm at this time of year. They will open 'til 7pm as from April.

Car parking has gone up, is contactless, and is now £2.50 per day. The main entrance is situated on St Helens Road opposite Leigh Fire Station. For Sat. Nav. users the postcode is WN7 3PA.

I'll be leading and will see you there at 10am. Last year we had splendid views of Willow Tit and saw 54 species. It would be good to know if you're planning on coming. karina[dot]stanley[at}

23rd February 2023...... A high tide at Parkgate.
A small group of mid-weekers made their way over to the Wirral peninsula yesterday (22/2) to enjoy the spectacle of one of the highest tides of the year (10.4M) as it swept in over Parkgate's reed beds. We weren't disappointed, as a strong north-westerly wind helped to push the water right up to the sea wall but it made the temperature of 6C seem a lot lower and standing out in the open for two hours was a bit of a challenge!

The old baths area was already crowded with birders when we arrived at 10:45am and we were fortunate to locate the last remaining parking spot. We joined Geoff and Sheila Blamire who'd arrived before us and bagged a decent view point overlooking the marshland with the Welsh hills in the background.

It was two hours before the high tide at 12:50pm but there was already plenty of activity. Great White and Little Egrets showed prominently, five Great Whites and, I believe, 38 Little were counted. Marsh Harriers floated over the reeds, from time to time scattering the wildfowl - Teal, Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail and Wigeon all present in varying numbers. Pink-footed Geese constantly passed overhead, there must have been 100s if not 1000s in the area. A Kestrel patrolled the marsh looking for small mammals forced out of cover by the incoming tide, a Peregrine powered over but didn't linger, unlike a fine Short-eared Owl that landed in the reeds a short distance away, giving everyone spectacular views through the 'scopes. Waders were represented by good counts of Lapwings, five Greenshanks, just a single Black-tailed Godwit plus flocks of Dunlin and Oystercatchers well out over the estuary. We saw only one Grey Heron, on past visits there were many more but, of course, it's now their nesting season and they are no doubt fully occupied elsewhere. As the tide began to ebb we migrated to the Parkgate chippie; a small fish and chips £5:80p, more than enough and as good as ever!

Our "usual" correspondents have been out in the field again and sent me their valued contributions. During the first covid lockdown, in the Spring of 2020, no less than 39 different people sent me records so there's plenty of room for more and any reports or records would be most welcome!

Two reports from Geoff and Sheila. The first from Monday this week (20/2)......."We decided to do our Millington patch this morning and we were very pleased we did!
Chapel Lane: Yellowhammer singing with the female perched further down the hedge (same area from last year). First of Lesser Celandine blooms out.
Peacock Lane: 12 Lapwings displaying and some soliciting in 2 cereal fields (same area from last year).
Millington Lane: Skylark singing over cereal field (heard on 15 Feb as well). "

The following morning (21/2) found them out at Plumley ........"Yesterday we did our Plumley/Holford/Lostock Green walk. Started off well with 2 Yellowhammers singing, flock of 27 Linnets, 200 Starling and flock of 50 winter thrushes (approx 25 Fieldfare, 25 Redwings).But them came across 4 Brown Hares in a grass field – very close. They were very nervous of us then the testosterone over-ruled their wariness. We spent ages watching the 3 males chasing the female. We saw boxing, fur flying, jumping over each other, and 1 time a brief mating. They run across the road and into another field. By then the female disappeared having shaken off her pursuers. Definitely the best ever sighting:"............

I spent a couple of hours at Rostherne on Monday in the agreeable company of Jude Halman, Ken Davies and Bob Groom. Not much about - 87 Wigeon, 3 Goosander, c.80 Lapwings, 13 Shoveler, 5 Buzzards but it was nice to be out in the fresh air again after the previous weeks 'flu bug! Bob had more luck after we'd left .......""Another spring-like day, Min 7C Max 14C. A trip over to Rostherne Observatory was rewarding. The female Great Spotted Woodpecker was again drumming on the split lime. About 150 Lapwings put in an appearance. Buzzards were numerous, up to 8 in the air at once at one point. But the highlight was a really spectacular encounter over Mere Covert. A Raven appeared and was displaying - somersaults, rolls, dives, wonderful but a Buzzard took exception to this big bird showing off over its wood and went for the Raven. A prolonged dog fight ensued with lots of Jackdaws as spectators. Neither bird came out as the winner but eventually they disengaged. I checked the corner field from the village and like G & S noted scores of Fieldfares and Redwings but just then someone appeared at the gate and they all went up into the trees and then a helicopter went over and they departed into the distance, as did the smaller birds (which could have been linnets) with them. All a bit frustrating but the Raven was the day's star bird. .........

Remember tomorrow night it's our February indoor meeting. A Gordon Yates film night - "Pennine Birds" (55 minutes) with an interval followed by "The Wildlife of Spitsbergen "(25 minutes). Non-members will be most welcome.

Species recorded at Parkgate 22 February 2023
Teal, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Tit, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Curlew, Shelduck, Redshanks Mallard, Dunlin, Greenshank, Dunnock, Lapwing, Pink-footed Goose, Chaffinch, Stonechat, Starling, Canada Goose, Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Skylark, Kestrel, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Blackbird, Oystercatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Pintail, Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey Heron, Stock Dove Short-eared Owl, Moorhen, Cormorant, Wren, Blue Tit, Robin, Pheasant, Water Rail, Knot, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Red-Breasted Merganser, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Reed Bunting, Herring Gull [51]

17th February 2023......... The Tatton Trip and SMC '23 entries

One of the few good things to come out of the covid pandemic was the fact that common colds and influenza took a back seat for the duration. I hadn't had a cold since 2018 but this temporary respite came to a sudden end last Friday (10/2) when Olwen and I both went down with a particularly nasty bug; it was my birthday too! So I was unable to lead the Tatton Trip the following morning, fortunately Sheila Blamire was still at home when I rang and she kindly agreed to take the reins. They did very well too, 45 species during the morning was good going. Thanks Sheila!.........."12 people met up in Dog Wood layby for our annual walk around Tatton Park. Spring was definitely in the air. The first bird we heard was a Song Thrush singing behind the Crosstown Community Orchard. On the moor pool a Moorhen was collecting nesting material. Entered Tatton Park via Knutsford Gates and were greeted by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Then we arrived by the Higmere Plantation and counted 10 occupied nests in the heronry. Several Pochards and Goldeneyes were on Tatton Mere but no Great Crested Grebes – we had to wait until we saw just one on Melchett Mere. But the pair of Stonechats didn't disappoint - they posed very nicely for us by the mere. And a Kingfisher flew down the length of the mere – just a glimpse of an electric blue dart. All in all, a lovely walk."..........

The Rostherne observatory continues to attract a steady flow of KOS members, it's not the most exciting locality for the birder of course but it's a pleasant place in which to spend a couple of leisurely hours. Bob Groom was there on Tuesday (14/2) and again watched a female Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming........"" Still a Southerly airflow. Noticed the Saharan sand on our cars? Despite the mild spell I felt uncomfortably cold in the Observatory when I went over to Rostherne for a couple of hours. The female Great Spotted Woodpecker made 3 visits to the top of the split lime for drumming sessions in the time, All very intriguing................
Geoff and Sheila also noticed the woodpecker ........."We were there earlier and saw the female GSW drumming in Wood Bongs (as well as top of the elms). Almost like she's seeking a male GSW! I spotted her drumming branch – the sound was very loud. But then she moved to the top of branch (much thinner) and her drumming was more high-pitched. From the obs we had 2 female Bullfinches, 5 Goldeneyes (3m 2f) and 2 Goosanders (1m 1f), etc.
The corner field between New Road and Rostherne Lane in the village was covered in Fieldfares! Conservative estimate was 130+ Fieldfares, and 12+ Redwings and also Linnets but more difficult to count them because of the terrain and because we didn't want to spook the Fieldfares."
........... Bob and I have seen female GS Woodpeckers drumming in Tatton's Dog Wood in previous Springs. It's a well-known phenomena and apparently the birds can recognise each other by their individual drumming rhythms.

The closing date for entries to the 2023 KOS Sand Martin competition was on Wednesday (15/2). 35 entries this year, 8 more than last. Estimates cover a whole month, from 23rd February through to 24th March! The most popular choice is 2nd March with 4 people choosing that option; four dates each had 3 people's backing - 7/3, 8/3, 11/3 and 14/3. You can see all the runners and riders by clicking here.

Finally, next Friday (24th February) it's our monthly indoor meeting and you're in for a real treat! We have obtained permission from wildlife film maker Gordon Yates to show two of his videos in public for the first time. We will be featuring "Pennine Birds" and "Polar Bears and other Wildlife of Spitsbergen". Non-members will be welcome to come along and enjoy some of Gordon's finest work. The venue is the Jubilee Hall, Stanley Road, Knutsford, WA16 0GP. We will be there from 7:15pm for an 8pm start.

Species recorded in Tatton 11th February 2023
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Nuthatch, Starling, Blackbird, Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting = 45 species.

9th February 2023.......The lad's done well!
Perusing the KOS's records, with Treasurer Frank Dearden, we noticed the name - Master Armitt from the days when we had a junior section! That self-same Barrie Armitt is now more than old enough for a bus pass but still birding. We must have been doing something right as a number of juniors from that era are still out in the field!
I wrote (on 26th October 2022) about his visible migration (viz-mig) activities and the amazing count of 122,600 Redwings passing his vantage point in Crosby on 19th October 2022. This dedication caught the eye of Birdwatch magazine and he has been rewarded with a pair of Celestron Nature DX ED 8X42 binoculars - "Local birding movement of the year" - Nice one Baz!!

Still over on the west coast Ken and Shirley Davies paid a recent visit to Southport in their motor home............. Shirley and myself away again in the motor home, this time to Southport......."Not one of our best trips as Shirley decided to practise her dancing skills and didn't see a small slope on the way out of the shop falling and severely spraining her ankle ,and we only went shopping for a new strap for my binoculars (so it was my fault).
Didn't go far from the site but I did leave her with a full kettle for a brew . The only birds of note was a singing Song Thrush as I left the site with several Stonechat on the coastal path.
Sunday morning we drove to Marshside but this time I left Shirley with a good book. Just past the entrance to the RSPB hide, looking out to the estuary, I was helped by local birders in spotting Merlin, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and a Buzzard, with nothing of note on the marsh only Snipe. The list of birds more or less as seen on our visit just two weeks earlier"
............ Thanks Ken, nice to see chivalry alive and well in Middlewich!

On Monday morning (6/2) a small group of KOS members gathered in the observatory at Rostherne Mere for tea or coffee, a sausage roll, a chat and a bit of birding. In the continuing absence of Goostrey's sausage rolls, Ken provides the same items from Morrison's. A lot cheaper and quite acceptable but when the Mobberley bakery re-opens (in March apparently) we'll probably switch back. A cool morning, just 2⁰C , and nothing special but, just after Jude Halman and Geoff and Sheila Blamire had left, we were pleased to have excellent views of a black-necked Grebe. Bob Groom summed things up nicely........""Joined the gang at the Observatory. A productive visit and I stuck it for over 2 hours before giving in to the cold. The star bird was a Black-Necked Grebe that appeared near the boathouse and then quickly disappeared into the reedbed, not to be seen again. Unusual for Rostherne an Oystercatcher had been seen earlier on, flying round, calling. Phil had also seen a Snipe and a Woodcock. Entertaining the KOS contingent, two Sparrowhawks interacted and 4 Buzzards just qualified as a kettle. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker did some drumming, well recognized in the literature and presumably territorial. Approx 260 Lapwings put in an appearance beyond the mere, as usual. Two drake Goosanders vied for the attention of a female. Wigeon, Shoveler and a couple of Goldeneyes on the mere. Near the NE car park I got surprisingly close to a sunbathing male Reed Bunting. Also seen a Kestrel and a party of Goldfinches, but again no Linnets.............
The Grebe was a tatty looking individual, I thought it was a first Winter bird and would have expected an adult to have regained it's breeding plumage by now.

The Oystercatcher was one of a number that have been recorded recently, prior to the breeding season. Peter Dawson had one at Booths Mere, a couple of weeks ago ............"" A single oystercatcher was back at Booths Mere today. In addition to a good number of shoveler there were also a few pochard about. Unfortunately it's hard to count anything on the Mere because viewing is so restricted wherever you are looking from. No sign of either owl from Pavement Lane.
After some months of not hearing any tawny owls from Sanctuary Moor they reappeared again about a week ago. I haven't managed to see one yet but they are calling/hooting most mornings and evenings at the moment.
Brambling reported again in Tatton Park this morning in the usual area.""

Geoff and Sheila missed the Black-necked Grebe on Monday, just a short stay on their daily slog but they are accumulating some good records. This from the previous morning (5/2)........"We did our 11km walk around Plumley/Holford/Lostock Green, parking on Cheadle Lane, near Keeper’s Cottage. Can’t list all the birds it will take me too long! So just the highlights: Cheadle Lane: 300+ Starlings, 40 Fieldfare and 31 Curlews flew over. Little Egret in the horse field – been there since 1st Jan! Past Keepers Cottage: 10 Pied Wagtails with sheep feeding on harvested swede. Set-aside field before the bridge over the railway: 200+ finches - 50% Chaffinches/50% Reed Buntings and a few Lesser Redpolls (I know it adds up more than 100%!). And a Kestrel. Patmos Lane: male Yellowhammer – first one seen this year. Also on the walk: several smaller flocks of Starlings, Fieldfares and Redwings. And 7 Song Thrushes (6 singing) and a Mistle Thrush. "............. Thanks team, you're doing well for Song Thrushes still none in song around here.

Also amongst the Thrushes Jean Brooks and Derek Pike, on Monday morning (5/2) .........."We went to the Lovell Quinta Arboretum this morning to have a look at the superb display of Snowdrops. Between 30000 to 40000 have been planted and they are expected to last about three weeks,
In adjacent field was the largest number of Fieldfare/Redwing we have ever seen I estimated between 600-700 hundred in top of field and a further 100 or so in bottom of field and bushes plus some in Arboretum, fantastic!
Other birds of note G S Woodpecker drumming one short song from Song Thrush. Several Buzzards, Kestrel.
Lovely tranquil place to visit £2.50 for none members, plenty of leaflets to show you the way round. Swettenham Arms next door closed for refurbishment

This coming Saturday (11th February) it's our KOS walk around Tatton Park. We'll be gathering in the usual Dog Lodge layby at 09:30am. The weather looks good and, although we're unlikely to see this year's first Sand Martin, there are Bramblings about and Jayne Davies tells me that the Heronry in Higmere Plantation is already a hive of activity.

You may want to let me know if you're coming along on Saturday, as I'm the trip leader.

1st February 2023.............. The Big Garden Birdwatch.

Yesterday Defra published a revised version of the plan, originally created in 2018, to restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitats, create 25 new or expanded nature reserves and restore 400 miles of river. It's a 25 year plan that will ensure that all households will live within a 15 minute walk of a "green space" (apparently a green space can mean a playing field, a disused railway or an allotment!)
The BBC has a good piece about the plan click here with a graph showing the change in abundance of 149 priority species since 1970.
It's a nice simple graph and I wondered where the data used to draw it came from. I suspect if they relied on professional ecologists (who normally make their money counting newts on proposed building sites) it would cost a fortune. Perhaps they rely on cheap data generated by organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, BTO, RSPB and others.
Last year 700,000 people took part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch recording 11,000,000 individual birds - plenty of data to look at there!. Citizen Science in action!

We did our bit over the weekend when we assisted the Friends of the Moor (Saturday) and The Friends of Knutsford Heath (Sunday) with their counts.
On Saturday the weather was much kinder than last year, when we had to contend with storm "Malik", and we managed to record 26 species and 143 individuals (total of the maximum number of each species seen at any one time). 3 more species than last year but 9 short of 2016's record of 35.
Similar conditions the next day, on the Heath. Just 17 species and 45 individuals but there's no water on the Heath and the habitat is not as diverse. Still it was nice to see Treecreeper and enjoy prolonged views of a Goldcrest, in bright sunlight, hovering in the branches of an oak tree, picking off insects. Thanks to the two organisations for inviting us along and thanks to all KOS members who helped out.

In Mere Geoff and Sheila Blamire did the BGBw in their own garden but not before they stretched their legs earlier in the appropriate manner......"This morning we did our Rostherne area walk. Most notable:
The field on the right before the crossroads in Rostherne on New Road: c150 Fieldfare, 3= redwings, 25+ Starlings, c80 flock of finches (30 Chaffinches, 30 Goldfinches, plus other species) – all in harvested wurzels!
Rostherne Lane: c70 Redwings (but on the reserve side).
Observatory: 3 Goosander (1m), 3 Goldeneye (1m), 6 Long-tailed Tits appeared on the bird table as we were to leave.
This afternoon we did our Garden Birdwatch: 19 species actually seen in the garden – 18 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Blackbird, 2 Robin, 2 Dunnock, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Chaffinch, 4 Goldfinch, 4 Jackdaw, 2 Magpie, 1 Pheasant, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Wren, 5 Woodpigeon, fem Siskin (very briefly), pair Bullfinch (again briefly) and 1 Sparrowhawk – twice!!! Total birds = 59, 19 species. "

KOS secretary Karina Stanley is one of only a handful of members still gainfully employed and, on her way to work at The Christie, has seen a Barn Owl in her car headlights whilst driving through the Ashley area, during both morning and evening commutes. Last Monday (23/1) she had a quick view of an even bigger owl but was unable to stop safely, so that one will remain an intriguing mystery for the time being.
On the subject of Owls, Tatton Ranger Darren Morris sent me the image you see on the left; it's the skull of a Great Spotted Woodpecker that he found in a Barn Owl pellet he was examining - a member of the Knutsford Nature Notes Facebook group said ..........."Wow interesting! Trying to think of a time and place when those 2 species would cross paths!"...........

Don't forget to enter the Big KOS Sand Martin Competition before it's too late. It's open to anyone, there's no entry fee, it's easy, you can complete it in 60" and there is a small prize for the winner! click here.

25th January 2023......... Rostherne Cormorants
As the name implies, the "tick list" in the Rostherne Mere observatory is a binary affair - 0 or 1; tick or no tick. It doesn't indicate the number of each species, just whether or not at least one individual was present on a given day. Perhaps not as useful as the monthly wildfowl counts or the CBC and BBS surveys but, over a period of years, the simple and easy to understand tick list can show long term fluctuations in our bird populations.
There are some species that are recorded on the tick list every day, amongst these is the Cormorant. Until the end of the last century it was just a Winter visitor but in 1999 they remained on the reserve and nested for the first time. In 2021 the colony, located in the mereside trees of Harper's Bank, held 173 nesting pairs. Reading the appropriate literature it appears that tree colonies never become permanent as the guano generated by the birds kill off their host trees. This has happened at Rostherne; the trees are dead but, despite this, the Cormorants have returned and, once again, begun nesting. Ken Davies and I were in the obs. on Monday (23/1) and, with the aid of Ken's Swarovski, spent some time observing the comings and goings. Male birds sat on their nests with wings quivering, heads pointing upwards and cocked tails spread upwards and backwards. Established pairs stood side by side, in one case sharing a piece of nesting material jointly in their bills. Fascinating stuff, about which there is little online, so I had to dig out volume one of BWP!
The wildfowl were mostly hidden away amongst the mereside vegetation, so trying to count them was impossible. The previous day (22/1) a monthly count had taken place revealing 157 Teal, 134 wigeon, 110 Mallard, 32 Mandarin, 20 Shoveler, 49 Canada Geese and 3 Goosanders.
The bird table was very busy, we saw a small group of five Siskins and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming; a sure sign of the warmer weather to come.

On a walk around the lanes of Mobberley last Sunday (22/1) there was a woodpecker drumming in Spring Wood, clearly heard from the best part of a kilometer away. I headed in that direction, on the way passing a field of c.100 corvids - Jackdaws and Rooks (the rookery in Shawheath is just a short distance away) and, in another field, c. 200 winter thrushes, 95% of which were Redwings. I didn't find the woodpecker but at the confluence of the Marthall and Pedley brooks, where they become the Birkin, I came across a Little Egret only the second I've ever seen in the village!

Just across a couple of fields is Booths Mere, a spot that Peter Dawson keeps an eye on. This from last Wednesday (18/1)........."Once the sun had come out and the snow had started to disappear, I had a wander around Booths Park early afternoon. Of note, there were approx a dozen mandarin on the Mere, mainly males. I've seen them there before but only the odd one or two. Also about the same number of shoveler, a mix of male and female, and 3-4 pochard. Otherwise just the usuals. Still no brambling in the garden. I haven't seen many reports from anywhere of them this winter. However they often don't turn up until Feb or March so there's still time yet.".......... Thanks Peter, no Bramblings (or Siskins) for us yet either but, as you point out, they'll appear eventually.

The warmer weather hadn't arrived by last weekend but the continuing cold snap didn't deter Bob Groom (18th Jan) ..........."Whatever happened to the mild Southerly air we were promised for this weekend? It seems it slowed down when it reached the south-west and instead we are stuck with the ice and snow and low temperatures - Min -6C Max 4C - and it will be midweek before milder air replaces the frosty air. Elaine and I had to cancel our trip into Tatton with the road still closed and Moss Lane was too icy so we had a productive walk on Green Lane (which had been gritted) instead. Close views of Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Only a few Redwings and a single Fieldfare. 44 Lapwings at a distance and another bird flying with them that might have been a Golden Plover. The ditches were full to the brim but frozen solid and covered in red grit."............

The Blamires too remain determined to get out and about whatever the weather and Mondays walk took in the Rostherne obs............" Mereside Road: 100+ Fieldfares. Rostherne Brook area: 2 Lesser Redpolls (with Goldfinches), Song Thrush singing, Wren investigating the leaky dam , female Bullfinch.
Oxhey Meadow: 22 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing.
Obs (with Tony and Ken): Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming (good to hear) and just as we were leaving Tony spotted c5 Siskins. "

The Sand Martin Competition now has 30 entries, from as far away as Maryland (USA), Auckland (New Zealand) and Warrington! So get your entries in NOW before you forget. A reminder that it's open to everyone, not just KOS members. click here.

Members will be having a busy weekend, starting on Friday ((27/1)

On Friday 27th January it's indoors at the Jubilee Hall when Mike Watson will be telling us about the Northern Territory of Australia. Doors open at 7:15pm for an 8pm start

The following day (Saturday 28th) we're on the Moor with the Friends of the Moor helping with their "RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch" - 11am start, meeting at the shelter on the Moor

On the Sunday (29 January), were on the Heath with the Friends of Knutsford Heath for their "Big Garden Birdwatch" - again it's an 11am start at the information board on the heath. Close to where Stanley Road meets Northwich road.

The KOS committee will be meeting next week to discuss the programme for 2023/2024 and preliminary discussion will take place about how we celebrate the society's 50th anniversary!!

I believe that only three current members were at that first meeting, on the 29th April 1974, when Colin Istead suggested the possible make-up of the first committee. This was voted on and his suggestions accepted by those present. The first "proper" meeting took place the next month when Bill Mulligan introduced the speaker, Sidney Bunker who entertained us with his bird song recordings on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder!
18/01/2023...... The trip to Marshside & Martin Mere

We're enjoying another cold(ish) snap at the moment with a mid-morning temperature of 0⁰C in the back garden. It will be over by the weekend and get nowhere near the -6⁰C we experienced in the run-up to Christmas.
My weather station measures the temperature once every minute and analysis of the data produced showed that the overall average in 2022 was 0.8⁰C warmer than 2021 ( 11.2⁰C v 10.4⁰C )

A bit wet to begin with on Saturday, (14/1) for our January field trip up to Marshside and Martin Mere but the rain soon moved off, leaving a dry but very windy day.
We'd not left the car park at Marshside before eagle-eyed Bob Groom found us a splendid male Hen Harrier, close in, flying slowly into the wind over the shoreline - an excellent start to proceedings. Number #1 on the day-list that eventually grew to 60 different species.
As it was still drizzling we walked to the RSPB's hide/information centre and set up shop overlooking the marsh, which was heaving with wildfowl and waders. Wigeon, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Pink-footed Geese, Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Pochard, Teal plus Lapwing, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Oystercatcher. All in a constant state of flux; I don't know how they are ever counted but they must be as the RSPB's website gives target figures for the different species ..........."We aim to ensure that black-tailed Godwits and ruffs remain present through the breeding season and that breeding wildfowl numbers are stable. Meanwhile, our October-March targets for non-breeding birds include 1,650 black-tailed Godwits, 700 pink-footed geese, 6,000 wigeons, 1,800 teals, 140 shovelers, 500 golden plovers, 700 oystercatchers, 1,500 knots, 1,500 dunlins and 300 curlews."..........

We learnt that Nell's hide, further up the marsh and a normal stopping point for us, had been vandalized and was closed. Instead we headed into Southport as, earlier in the morning, Colin Butler had seen a flock of Twite and a Snow Bunting close to the pier. On a more benign day it would have been an easy stroll along the promenade up to the appropriate spot but the gale force wind on Saturday made it a bit more of a challenge. Anyway, with coats flapping, hats flying and eyes watering, we all made it and had reasonable views of the flock of c.40 Twite but, unfortunately, the single Snow Bunting had moved on - however it has been included on the list as Colin was part of the group and the rule is "any bird seen or heard by any member of the party"! Of course this has led to a few contentious additions in the past but, as we all know, "it's only birdwatching, no one dies"

On then to Martin Mere. The prices in the restaurant seemed quite reasonable; I paid £2:50 for a large americano and joined others from the party outside on the veranda as we'd brought our own food. It was a cool spot and, given the conditions, one of the staff invited us to sit inside. A nice gesture and one which was readily accepted!
Out on the reserve five Marsh harriers floated over the reedbeds and a Peregrine quartered the area from time to time but on the whole we thought numbers, especially Pink-footed Geese, were down compared with previous years. From the Ron Barker hide a Great White Egret and a Grey Heron sheltered from the wind at the waters edge in the lee of the reeds. Making our way down to the Janet Kear hide I noticed a Little Egret in the pool in front of the flamingo enclosure, it was unconcerned by visitors walking by and posed nicely for the camera.
Around the Kear hide Treecreeper, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird and Goldcrest all helped to swell the day-list. A useful and, most importantly, up-to date record of species present at Martin Mere is kept on the website. click here.

Back in Cheshire the colder weather brought a sprinkling of snow overnight, in fact a few places had some yesterday. This from Sheila Blamire after returning home from their daily meander........"It’s snowing here as I’m typing!
Did 11.5km around Millington area this morning – a little icy in places! Difficult with the poor visibility but a lot of winter thrushes: Mereside Road – 60+ Fieldfares; Peacock Lane – c40 Redwings, c10 Fieldfares plus c20 Starlings. Also Buzzard."

Birding webcams abound during the breeding season but there are fewer in Winter. One of the better ones is situated at Loch Garten, up in Speyside. As well as the usual, Coal and Great Tits, from time to time a Crested Tit will appear plus Great Spotted Woodpecker and Red Squirrel. Well worth a look. click here. If it's currently night time just click back on the red time line for earlier footage.

Only 20 entries so far in the Great 2023 KOS Sand Martin competition, so you're in with a chance! Open to all click here. Done and dusted in 60"!!

Species recorded on the KOS trip to Marshside and Martin Mere. 14th January 2023.
Hen Harrier, Black-headed Gull, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Gadwall, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Pochard, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Herring Gull, Teal, Starling, Great White Egret, Cormorant, Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Redshank, Coot, Moorhen, Pink-footed Goose, Little Egret, Twite, Snow Bunting, Peregrine, Ruff, Robin, Curlew, Pintail, Whooper Swan, Marsh Harrier, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Buzzard, Grey Heron, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Stock Dove, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Tufted Duck, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk, Skylark, Carrion Crow, Mute Swan, Great Spotted Woodpecker [ ✓ 60]

13th January 2023......... More signs of Spring.

Finch flocks are building up locally. Last Saturday Sheila Blamire spotted a Siskin in the garden at Mere, the first since April 2022. In Knutsford Peter Dawson has Siskins plus Redpolls on his feeders and Sheila and Geoff had 60+ Siskins at Rostherne on one of their early morning walks. Here in Mobberley we've not had either species so far but there's plenty of time as they don't normally turn up until mid-February.

On Sunday (8/1) KOS Secretary Karina Stanley added a new species to her year list with a visit to Chelford for the Smew on Lapwing Hall Pool..........."A quick diversion to Lapwing Lane en route to Northwich for food shop. Nice views of The Smew [✓] and other wildfowl were available. Close encounter with a female sparrowhawk as she flew low across the grass and watched enthralled as a male kestrel hovered a few yards away, strategically going lower and lower, before successfully diving for a mouse snack. Great view as he flew triumphantly away with his prey and nipped its neck. "...............

Not to be outdone, we hastily organised a mid-week morning to same location! There was plenty to see on the Acre Nook lake, just a few yards up from the Lapwing Lane car park. Unfortunately the island has now vanished but there were still large numbers of Lapwings on the far bank, where a Great White Egret stood guard in the shallows. On the water a nice selection of water fowl - Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe and Coot.
Our time 'scoping the lake was brought to an end by a short, sharp shower of ice cold rain; so it was off to the sheltered lane leading to Lapwing Hall Pool. En route, growing on a birch tree, we noticed the bracket fungus you can see on Geoff's picture at the top of this update. This engendered a certain amount of discussion but with 15,000 species of fungus to go at we were floundering! Anyway, after consulting an expert, it seems that both are examples of Birch Polypore and the green appearance of the upper example is caused by algal growth. There's a whole new world out there!
We didn't have to look too hard for the male Smew, it was floating in the inlet, close to the entrance gate. Poor views though as this stretch of water is obscured by dense shrubbery. Further round the lake good views of other occupants, including more Wigeon and nine Goosanders (5♂ and 4♀), looking splendid in their fresh Spring plumage. A single Snipe leapt up from the edge of the pool and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming in the distance. We finished off with excellent views of a Goldcrest, feeding low in moss-covered hawthorn, too quick for our cameras unfortunately!
Fortunately the hazel catkins were moving slower than Chelford's Goldcrest and I was able to get a decent image. It looked great - one of the first signs of Spring - of which we've had further examples, as well as the drumming woodpecker, Sheila and Geoff report singing Mistle Thrushes at three different locations and Bob Groom had a Song Thrush in song on the morning of our recent trip to Budworth mere.

Don't forget tomorrow (14/1) it's our field trip to Marshside and Martin Mere, meeting up at 10:00am at RSPB Marshside from where we'll be making our way over to Martin Mere for lunch and then onto the reserve for ducks, geese, swans and harriers (hopefully)

Remember also to enter our world famous Sand Martin Competition. Do it NOW by clicking here it's open to anyone, not just KOS members. You can do it less than a minute!

Species recorded at the Chelford sand quarries 11th January 2023.
Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Woodpigeon, Cormorant, Goldeneye, Teal, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Lapwing, Pochard, Carrion Crow, Smew, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Goosander 9+6, Snipe, Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming), Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Shoveler, Kestrel, Pheasant, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Magpie = 33.

6th January 2023........Drake Smew at Chelford and the 2023 Sand Martin Competition

It's often said that the one good thing about waking up with a hangover is that the rest of your day can only get better. I find that, even without the aid of alcohol, you can normally induce the same effect by listening to the "Today" program on Radio four. A bit of a letdown this morning to discover that, despite the ongoing strikes and Putin's war in Ukraine, the focus was on the continuing royal family soap opera. Perhaps the BBC think we've had enough bad news over the past few months and we needed a little bit of comedy to start the day.
Of course the rest of the natural world, of which we're just a small part, carries on regardless. This morning a Dunnock was going full belt from the silver birch at the bottom of the garden, whilst below it the daffodils are pushing through nicely, ready to bring a splash of colour in just a few weeks time, a reminder that Spring's just around the corner.

Regular visitors to this website will know that, in this part of the world, Spring officially begins with the appearance of the first Sand Martin over Tatton Mere and this year I'll again be running the KOS Sand Martin Competition, in which visitors are invited to estimate (guess!) when the first Martin will be recorded. The competition is not just for KOS members, anyone can enter and there will be a small prize for the winner. The average arrival date in Tatton is the 14th March, last year it was the 8th March and Cheshire's earliest record is the 16th February, so the closing date is the 15th February. Remember it's not you that has to see the bird, there will be plenty of KOS members (some of whom work in the park) keeping a daily watch from mid-February. You can enter by clicking here, it will only take a few seconds of your valuable time!

I spent a couple of hours in the Rostherne Obs. on Monday morning (2/1) just 3⁰C but crystal clear visibility and through the big binoculars set to 40X, I could make out people walking along the skyline next to the tower on Rivington Pike, about 22 miles away!
Most of the wildfowl were hidden away around the edges of the mere but a small flock of Teal were very active and a group of Mandarins appeared, 7 birds - six males and a lone female, the boys were most vigorous in their attempts to impress the young lady.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire began the year, as they left off, with a muddy trudge around one of their favourite locations on Sunday morning (1/1) ........." We did our 11km walk around Plumley, Holford and Lostock Green this morning, which turned out to be wet and muddy, with a lot of flooding, but bird wise a good start to 2023!!!
Holford: 136 Curlews (opposite Hame Farm), 1 Kestrel (Holford track).
Plumley: 71 Curlews and 1 Kestrel (Cheadle Lane) and a Little Egret! First time we've seen an egret in this area - it was in a field with horses. "

Last Winter we enjoyed a mid-week visit to the Chelford Sand Quarries and were lucky enough to come across a female Smew on the Lapwing Hall Pool. This year there are two females and they've been joined by a male - a striking looking bird that we used to get annually on Tatton Mere. Naturally it's attracted a lot of attention and amongst the visitors was our own Bob Groom! ............"" A better day than forecast and still lovely and mild - Min 8C Max 12C. Went over to Lapwing Lane. Inevitably there was a twitch on and parking was at a premium but I did manage to get the last space. Cracking views of the drake and accompanying female Smew (eventually) that had arrived yesterday and later saw the other female that had already been in residence. I chose the route through the wood and kept on walking round. Lots of Wigeon, Goosanders etc. Also male Goldeneye and hovering Kestrel. I was lucky to catch the m/f close in at a point where there was a gap in the trees. Later saw them again en route to the gate but more distant. Walking back down the road saw the usual Tree Sparrows and Nuthatches. Great White Egret, hundreds of Teal and Lapwings, many Cormorants and yet more Goosanders at Acre Nook. At one point a Sparrowhawk powered across. A very successful visit.................

Late news 6th January 2023 - Phil Dell recently sent me details about a large flock of Pink-footed geese (he estimated about 5,000) that were roosting in fields close to his house in High Legh. I travelled there yesterday (5/1) but they failed to appear. It was a different story today though! Via the Rostherne Mere WhatsApp group he alerted me to the fact that the birds had appeared at 2:30pm. I therefore abandoned this update and made my way to the recommended spot, along Crabtree Lane - close to Lilac Farm. At first I could hear them well enough but they were out of sight in an adjoining field. Eventually though they took to the air and vanished, flying north - a great sight and sound. I managed a few seconds of video and some still pictures - thanks Phil, great stuff!

30th December 2022.......... The 2022 Christmas Walk.

Welcome to the last update of 2022. This year we managed a full program of KOS outdoor field trips and in September, after 2½years, we were able re-start our indoor meetings. Trips and indoor get-togethers, up to April 2023 are listed on this website's trips page. The committee will be meeting shortly to draw up plans for the Period May 2023 through to May 2024 (which will be the 50th anniversary of the KOS!!). I know that Sheila Blamire has already set the wheels in motion for a 4 day holiday to East Anglia in May next year. All members should have been sent details via email.

We were lucky yesterday (29/12) with the weather for our annual Christmas walk around the Neumann's Flash / Budworth Mere area of Marbury Country Park. 13 members arrived at the Witton Mill Bridge car park at the allotted time and, as we were enjoying some of Jude Halman's homemade sloe gin, a flock of about 20 Pink-footed geese were spotted in the distance - a good start.
The trip leader for the day, Sheila Blamire, led us along the old Warrington Road, as the normal route alongside the extensive reed beds was "wellies only" due to heavy overnight rain. A pity, as this is where we would have expected Cetti's Warbler. As it was the species doesn't appear on the day list, hopefully they've survived the extremely cold weather at the beginning of the month.
Elevenses were enjoyed at the park's picnic area where we met up with Bob Groom before moving down to the new viewing screen. Geoff Blamire hurriedly set up his 'scope and everyone was able to take a look at the cobalt blue Kingfisher, perched just below the screen, a few feet above the water of the mere.
It's a regular visitor to that spot explained Stuart Jackson, a local photographer, who spends a lot of time capturing images of the mere's wildlife. He has kindly sent me the image you see on this update; it was taken during the recent cold spell. A fabulous picture - thanks Stuart!
Further out on the mere, Mute Swans, Tufted ducks, displaying Great Crested Grebes and no less than 14 Goosanders. Has there been an influx lately? I hear that Rostherne had nine yesterday.
Over the far side of the mere, telescopes revealed 100s of Coot and a large flock of wintering waders, mainly Curlews and Lapwings, plus more wildfowl - Shoveler, Canada and Greylag Geese, Teal and Goldeneye.
Cutting back up through the woodland and over the canal we arrived at Dairy House Meadow where a Barn Owl, sheltering at the back of it's nest box, was added to the ever growing list. Neumann's Flash was unusually quiet but, from Pod's Hide, we had Shelduck and Wigeon bringing the grand total to 52 species, one more than Christmas last year!
Derek and Jean had intended to join us but there was a mix-up with times, so they ended up at Tatton where they too had excellent views of a Kingfisher ......."I could have been there for 10:00am then realised it was 9:30am never mind I hope you all had a pleasant morning. We went into Tatton for an hour or so.
Superb, prolonged views of a male Kingfisher on the small tree on the side of the overflow stream from Melchett, it then flew towards us and landed twenty feet or so away posing, then across the road to the overflow stream from main mere, landed then flew down stream towards where a branch goes across stream landed again.

Best views for a long time in Tatton "

Our next field trip is on Saturday 14th January when we'll be visiting RSPB Marshside and WWT Martin mere.

Two weeks later there follows a very busy weekend!

On Friday 27th January it's indoors at the Jubilee Hall when Mike Watson will be telling us about the Northern Territory of Australia.

The following day (Saturday 28th) we're on the Moor with the Friends of the Moor helping with their "RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch"

And, on the Sunday (29 January), on the Heath with the Friends of Knutsford Heath for their Big Garden Birdwatch!

Species recorded on the Christmas walk.- Thursday 29th December 2022
Black-headed Gull, Pink-footed Goose, Woodpigeon, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Goldfinch, Jay, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Buzzard, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Jackdaw, Magpie, Greenfinch, Goldcrest, Mute Swan, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Kingfisher, Cormorant, Lapwing, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Curlew, Common Gull, Shoveler, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Teal, Chaffinch, Treecreeper, Barn Owl, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Fieldfare, Redwing, House Sparrow, Shelduck, Wigeon, Grey Heron, Coot, Bullfinch, Siskin, Song Thrush. = 52

21st December 2022...........The Winter Solstice
Today is the shortest day of the year; the start of the astronomical Winter - the Winter solstice. Only a few weeks to wait before the first Sand Martins are seen over Tatton Mere, marking the beginning of the KOS Spring!

The spell of cold weather came to an abrupt end over the weekend; in the early hours of Friday morning (16/12) my weather station recorded a low of -7.3⁰C . The official Met. Office station at Rostherne recorded -9.5⁰C but the temperature then began to rise rapidly and reached +14⁰C on Monday (19/12) as a plume of warm, humid air pushed up from southern Europe.

The temperature in the obs. at Rostherne Mere on Monday morning was 8⁰C but it was 12.5⁰C outside and, as a consequence, the windows were dripping with condensation, the log book was damp and the monthly "tick list" sodden! Quite remarkable. Volunteer warden Phil Dell told me he'd never seen anything like it, in all the years he's been visiting the reserve.
It was pretty gloomy, we managed to count a few species loitering near the boathouse but a big flock of finches remained largely unidentified........."47 Wigeon, 25 Pochard, 3 Goldeneye, 32 Lapwings, m&f Goosander, Grey Heron (survived the cold spell). Too gloomy to ID c.120 finches in the mereside alders, I did make out some Goldfinches the rest probably included Siskins and, perhaps, some Redpolls"............

There are some Redpolls about, Geoff and Sheila Blamire came across some during their Friday morning workout .........."We did our 10km walk to Rostherne on Friday 16 Dec - boy it was cold!
Highlights include: Rostherne Brook (seen from Rostherne Lane) flushed 2 Snipe and 8+ Mallards; Rostherne Mere 1m 1f Goosanders; below the Obs 1 Lesser Redpoll feeding amongst the brambles; seen when we left the Obs 8+ Lesser Redpolls feeding in the Silver Birches and 1 Song Thrush; Ciceley Mill Lane, Grey Wagtail feeding along in the leaf litter (same as in 14 Dec)."

Bob Groom managed to do the monthly WeBS count over the week and was pleased to encounter a Bittern as he progressed around Tabley Mere. .........." I decided to do my Tabley count, with the now benign air making it quite pleasant. Nonetheless I found Tabley Mere still 95% frozen so everything was concentrated in one corner. 128 Teal were so nervous that they were constantly flighting ( and burning up fuel, but a lovely sight). Otherwise the rest of the wildfowl seemed happy enough - 75 Mallard, 6 Wigeon, 7 Canada Geese, 5 Tufted Ducks, 2 Cormorants, 2 Coots. A Heron put in an appearance and a Buzzard winged low across the water but the highlight was a Bittern flying across the mere. Great view! Small birds in the wood included Tree Creeper, party of Long-Tailed Tits, Nuthatches, Goldcrest, Wren, Robin... Fortunately the rain largely held off until after I'd left."................

Birder Bill Morton forsook his beloved Frodsham marshes last Thursday (15/12) and enjoyed a stroll around Tatton Park where he came across the park's first Bramblings of the Winter......."I was out from dawn till dusk birding along the banks of the Mersey and that was chilling to the marrow. I've been to Tatton Park today where it was people free and managed some Bramblings along the beech walk alongside the golf course. "......... Thanks Bill!

Of course the highlight since the last update has been the KOS Christmas party, our first since December 2019! There was good turnout of 21 members and friends, slightly less than three years ago, but I know the current 'flu bug that's doing the rounds meant that some regulars couldn't attend. Nevertheless more than 50% of our current membership were able to enjoy a most successful evening. Our secretary Karina Stanley, ably assisted by Jude Halman, set out the tables during the afternoon and, as you can see from the picture, these were rapidly filled with a delicious selection of temptations as people arrived with offerings of, mainly, home cooked dishes.

Treasurer, Frank Dearden did the appropriate calculations and was able to announce a very useful profit.

Many thanks to everyone for your contributions to last night's party; a lovely and relaxed gathering.
Along with the enjoyment we raised an important sum for the Society's funds, as follows:

Admission £ 152.00
Raffle £ 76.00
Bring&buy £ 59.60
Donations £ 50.00 from absent friends
= £ 337.60
Bought in food items came to £ 55.00 giving a net contribution to KOS funds of £ 282.60

Karina's off for a Christmas get-together with her family in Dubai but left us with a lovely email message before she left.

It was a very special evening enjoyed by all the members and friends. So good to be able to share time after the Covid restrictions of recent times. A great team effort indeed - thank you all so much.
Looking forward to next year's party and hoping even more members will be able to come and join the fun.
Happy Christmas!

13th December 2022 .......... The cold spell continues....

The trip up to Leighton Moss on Saturday (10/12) had to be called off at the last minute. At 7am the temperature was well below freezing and it had started to snow, this was to continue for the next five hours and resulted in Manchester Airport being closed to both incoming and outgoing flights. Fortunately only 10 people had signed up for the outing, so a quick series of phone calls and everyone was made aware of the cancellation. Everyone that is except Frank, our Hon. Treasurer, who must have left his hearing aid out and who, despite numerous attempts, couldn't be raised. And so it was that at 07:40 he fired up the trusty Saab and headed north!
In the event he did quite well and seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed himself!

............"No Bearded Tits in view from the walkway when I was there. Otter I saw from the Causeway Hide on the fringes of the one area of standing open water on the reserve.

Yellow-browed Warbler was on the reserve day list, having been seen by staff at first light by the track leading to Lower Hide. I headed there as soon as I entered the reserve to find three likely looking birders staking out a clearing. So I joined them and gave it thirty minutes before moving on to the Lower Hide itself, which was the only viewpoint on the reserve with decent views of wildfowl. Caught up with the Yb birders later and, in response to my questioning eyebrow, they shook their heads and said "no".

Despite this, the Lower Hide and track to it were clearly the most productive part of the reserve in those conditions. I spent the whole morning in the vicinity. A small mixed tit flock there included two Marsh Tits. But Birds of the Day for me, on account of their confiding nature and prolonged views, were two Treecreepers navigating a large Silver Birch.

After a winter warmer lunch in the cafe, I headed for the Jackson and Grisedale Hides. Both were empty of birders and similarly of birds apart from two Pied Wagtails skating on the ice which covered both stretches of water. Passerine sighting was better from the approach tracks though parts of these were treacherous and I could move only slowly. One other couple I saw on the footpath gave up halfway.

So difficult conditions but the cold atmosphere and frosted surroundings made it a delight to be there. In hindsight I'm glad I didn't hear that phone call from Tony. "
................ Thanks Frank; I'm glad we're still on speaking terms!

I went over to Rostherne later in the day, it was looking very picturesque (see image above)......"I waited for the snow to stop and had an early lunch before going over to Rostherne arriving at 12:15pm. The temperature was 2.7C and it had dropped to 2.4C an hour later when I left. The thermometer in the obs. showed a minimum recorded temperature of -5.6C; I assume this was overnight on Thursday/ Friday of this week. I didn't re-set it.
Predictably the bird table was very busy, a Cetti's Warbler sang from near the boathouse and a Little Egret flew low over the mere heading towards the Bittern hide."

Earlier in the week (Weds. 7 December) Geoff and Sheila Blamire included the reserve in their daily walk ..............""We decided to go to the Rostherne Obs via Cheery Tree lane - 12km in all. Quiet birdwise along Cherry Tree Lane until a Buzzard flew up from one of the fields and perched in a dead tree by the wood with the sun behind it forming a highlight around the bird - beautiful. Every time it called you could see its breath in the freezing temps. When it finished its meal (vole?) it flew to another dead tree to use a lookout perch. Continued along Marsh Lane, across the two fields then passed in front of Wood Bongs and saw another Buzzard in a dead tree by the mere. When we arrived in the Obs the outside temp was 0⁰C , the inside temp was 2.5⁰C ! No other birders had braved the cold. The "usual" Mallards, Wigeons, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Goldeneyes (2f 1m) etc , but good to see a female Goosander fly in. Continued to Ciceley Mill Pool and 3 Buzzards flying low together - all the time calling. The pool was almost frozen over. The same with Little Mere.
The last time I saw a Woodcock was earlier this year when we disturbed one from Wood Bongs and it flew the length of the field beside Marsh Lane and disappeared over Marsh Lane farm - just as we were walking along the field!

Bob Groom also went to Rostherne the following day but took in Tatton Park on the way ........."According to the Met Office it was -5C at midnight and -6C through the early hours. Definitely the coldest night that we've had for a very long time. The maximum for the day was forecast to be zero C so again the coldest day in yonks. In the event it crawled up to +2C but still brutally cold. I went into Tatton. To my surprise Melchett Mere was mostly unfrozen , which was good as the 'pool' at the head of Tatton Mere was hard frozen (so no gwe). Cormorant and Heron shared the half-dead tree and there were 3 more Cormorants. 3 Wigeon, 3 Egyptian Geese, a few Pochard and Gadwall. There was a brief duck panic, which spread to a big tit flock in the trees but it wasn't a raptor. Another Heron had taken off from a treetop..

Two small birds beyond the mere were probably the Stonechats but hard to tell with the vegetation covered in hoarfrost. A few people were photographing the winter wonderland but the park was pretty quiet considering.

I carried on to Rostherne and met Phil Dell in the observatory. I got him on a departing Little Egret but he missed a Woodcock flying past, my second in two days! He's e-mailed me this evening to confirm. It was apparently disturbed by Rupert and Bill doing survey work in Doll's Meadow. (A lot of Teal also came out.) There were 5 Goldeneyes with the drakes head shaking! Also 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Herons, GSW, LTTS...."

I'm sure it's not needed but a final reminder that this coming Friday (16th December) it's our annual KOS Christmas Party. The food will be as good as ever, despite the "Great Mobberley Disaster of December 2022" when a lorry backed into Goostrey's Bakery - demolishing a wall, dislodging three ovens and severing the gas supply! I believe Karina has sourced another supply of meat pies but, of course, this of little comfort to the villagers of Mobberley who are having to somehow survive this freezing winter weather without Goostrey's sausage rolls!

On the 29th December it's our annual Christmas walk and, as usual, we'll be taking in Budworth Mere and the Neumann's Flash area. 9:30am at the Witton Bridge car park.