We've "enjoyed" some atypical weather since the last update a week ago. Last Thursday (25/7) an all-time UK record high temperature of 38.7
C was recorded in Cambridge (south of Stoke I know but it still counts!) Cooler up here, my weather station gave a maximum of 30.8
C on the same day, with a more comfortable 23C at 6:30pm on Friday evening (26th) for the third and last of our Summer evening walks this year - this time around Rostherne Mere National Nature Reserve.
Our guides for the evening were volunteer wardens Phil Dell and Dr. Bill Bellamy who took us first to the main A.W. Boyd Observatory where we spent some time scanning the mere and surrounding woodlands from this high vantage point. Kestrels have nested successfully this year in an old alder tree down near the boathouse and the parents and their three young were showing well for us. Cormorants were still present in good numbers; no less than 176 pairs nested this Spring in Harper's Bank wood on the shores of the mere. More chicks per nest survive at this inland site than equivalent sites on the coast, probably due to less predation by Gulls.
Leaving the obs. we made our way down the steep path and into the belt of trees leading to the boathouse and the newly completed hide that will be opened at September's book launch (see below), it will be dedicated to the memory of long standing Rostherne volunteer Dave Clarke who sadly died earlier this year. As you can see from the photo it's a substantial affair and was constructed entirely by Dave's volunteer colleagues.
Our party then split into two, Phil took some members over to the Bittern Hide whilst the rest of us followed Bill on a walk around the perimeter of the mere starting in Harper's Bank, through two rutted fields (one of which hadn't been grazed this year, knee high grass which made it hard going [for some]!) and, eventually, into the shade of Mere Covert, the long wood that stretches along the north side of the mere. The light was beginning to fade as we reached the comfort of the Bittern Hide (padded benches!!), a substantial murmuration of c. 300 Starlings built up and eventually the birds dived into the safety of the phragmites reedbed. They were followed shortly afterwards by c.50 Swallows that were also going to roost in the reeds.
A few spots of rain appeared as we made our way up through Wood Bongs and back to the cars; the short heat wave was coming to an end and on Sunday (28th) parts of Manchester had over 100mm of rain. My rain gauge showed 51mm (about 2") but it's not calibrated so I take any rainfall readings with a pinch of salt!
Our thanks go to Phil and Bill for guiding us around the reserve and for their hard work as part of the volunteer warden team.
Rostherne used to have a full-time warden, Tom Wall held the post in the 1970's and 80's and has been working on a book about the reserve for a long time. Apparently it grew and grew and as a consequence, and with the help of other contributors, has now been published as two separate volumes. The two books will be launched at a ceremony on the 28th September at Rostherne Church beginning at 11:00am. I'm told there will be a promotional barbeque and visits to the Observatory and the new hide - anyone will be welcome whether a member or not.
250 pages, paperback, colour throughout, more than 60 pieces of original artwork, numerous photos and figures, comprehensive text.
Birds of mere and margin
One hundred and thirty years of observations
Steve Barber, Bill Bellamy & Tom Wall. Principal illustrator: Ray Scally.
Published 28 September 2019,
23.50 inc p&p)
Aspects of a wetland nature reserve
Wildlife, people and science through time
Edited by Tom & Gisele Wall
385 pages, paperback, colour throughout, numerous illustrations, photos and figures, chapters contributed by twelve leading experts.
Published 28 September 2019,
28.50 inc p&p)
23/07/2019......Mobberley hits the headlines!
Species seen at Rostherne Mere 26th July 2019
Pheasant, Wren, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Mallard, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Canada Goose, great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Heron, Mute Swan, Mandarin, Blackbird, Kingfisher, Willow Warbler, Greylag, Goose, Buzzard, Robin, Song Thrush, Starling, Swallow, Moorhen, Reed Warbler, Coot, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Stock Dove.
[ ✓ 33]
If you're lucky enough to see a Cuckoo at this time of the year it will be a juvenile bird, satellite tracking by the BTO shows us that by now all the adult birds will be on their way back to Africa. Swifts will be following them soon, they normally leave us in August and it's unusual to see them any later. They were late arriving this year so I don't know what sort of a breeding season they've had but they're starting to move already, Bob Groom had a flock of 65 over Tabley hill on Saturday (20th). The following day, at the same location, Bob had a post-breeding flock of 200 Lapwings which is most encouraging, that's a sizable gathering for a species under such serious threat. In Tatton on Monday (22nd) Darren Morris had three Common Sandpipers on the concrete boat jetty that juts out into the main mere, we see them there every Spring but they're less common later in the season. What could be the same wandering Red Kite that I saw recently in Mobberley appeared again yesterday (22nd) when Jayne Davies spotted a bird high over Pavement Lane. Also in the village, I had quite a shock on Wednesday (17th) as I walked down Slade Lane alongside Mobberley Brook, a route I've taken hundreds of times before, glancing at the stream I was amazed to see a Dipper! It saw me, as I saw it and away it went - all over in a split second, I didn't have time to even reach for my binoculars before it vanished.
The latest Cheshire Atlas does mention records from the lowlands but as far as I know it is a first for Mobberley, County Recorder Hugh Pulsford kindly sent me some more up-to-date information regarding the species in the county - Having done a lot of work on the Dipper population in the eastern hills above Macc for the last 10 years we have found that a few adults do move about post breeding, I have had birds go to Sheffield, several sites in Derbyshire, perhaps predictably along the River Dane, and one flew into a window (being chased by a Sparrowhawk) in Bramhall! Understandably the owner couldn't ID the bird as it's not on the RSPB garden bird poster (but the BTO ring and colour ring combination told us all we needed).
Far more likely are roving Juveniles which get pushed out of Mum & Dads patch and follow river and stream systems to new locations.
I once had one in August at Alderley Park by Radnor Mere, so they will fly across land if they have to.
A nice sighting.
Mobberley again made the headlines last week - this time featuring on the TV news when a tornado swept through the village!! It was very localised as my wind recorder in the back garden didn't show it, but only a mile away along Broad Oak Lane huge branches were torn from mature oak trees, a marquee was left draped over a tree in Smith Lane and the roof of the Railway Inn was badly damaged. By a strange co-incidence Tony Davies, landlord of the said hostelry, was sat in an aeroplane that was waiting for the storm to pass before it was safe to take off! - As we sat on the plane at Manchester airport waiting to take off the pilot announced that there would be a slight delay as a weather front was passing through. After a few minutes off we went, flying out over my pub the Railway Inn where beneath us just a few minutes previously the building had been devastated by a freak tornado and half of the roof slates torn off!!
Hopefully the weather will have calmed down somewhat by Friday evening (26th) when we have our final evening walk of the year. We'll be paying a visit to Rostherne Mere NNR, meeting up at the Natural England car park at 6:30pm. This is an opportunity for those that have never visited the reserve to see the facilities on offer at the observatory, to have a look at the other two hides (including the new one dedicated to the memory of long time volunteer warden Dave Clarke) and, for those with enough energy, walk right around the perimeter of the mere - about 90')
14/07/2019...... Burton Wetlands and a good record from Tatton
Comfortable weather yesterday (13th) for our July outing to the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands reserve; 20
C, slightly overcast but dry. There was plenty of activity in front of us as we enjoyed a cup of RSPB filter coffee (
1.80) including close up views of a Common Tern as it patrolled the channel closest to the reception centre giving the photographers present a great photo opportunity. Simon took full advantage, as you can see. Thanks Simon that's a great image! Dozens of Black-headed Gull youngsters were packed onto the main island, amongst them, but indistinguishable, except for the fact they were being tended by their parents, Mediterranean Gull chicks. One of the wardens told me that they'd had 10 pairs this Spring, yet another indication, if it were needed, that our climate is changing - we ignore Nature's messages at our peril.
Other species have also done well this year at Burton - Avocet - 58 pairs, Redshank - 38 pairs and Lapwing - no less than 114 pairs. All very encouraging but really we need Lapwings back in the rest of the countryside and not just restricted to the small pockets provided by protected reserves like Burton.
Leaving the reception building we made our way to the Marsh Covert hide, single Cetti's Warbler and a Reed Warbler were still in song and from the hide we had good views of Reed Warblers feeding their now fledged young a few feet away in the phragmites reed bed. A female Marsh Harrier passed over causing a flurry of activity amongst the flocks of Black-tailed Godwits present in large numbers on the reserve. 12 months ago, after a visit to Burton, I took to BWP to try and understand more about the various plumages displayed by these Godwits at this time of the year - suffice it to say it's all very complicated and I'm still none the wiser. Just two species in song as we walked along the boardwalk to the Inner Marsh hide, Chiffchaff and a five second burst of reeling from a Grasshopper Warbler. More Godwits from this hide plus six Dunlin, still in Summer plumage and three Spotted Redshanks, now moulting but readily distinguished from their Common (Redshank) cousins.
As we returned to the centre a Peregrine flew through at tree top hight - absolute chaos as everything took to the air, species number 48 which increased by six when Bob Groom sent me a note with a list containing extras seen by him and David Cogger when they visited Parkgate on their way home.
Alan Booth kindly sent me details of four Common Scoters (3M,1F) he saw this morning (14th) at the north end of Tatton Mere. Bob Groom saw them later in the day and thought they could have been the four he had at Tabley recently.
09/07/2019......Hobbies and a Red Kite
species seen on the Wirral - 13th July 2019.
Swallow, House martin, Sand Martin, Swift, Avocet, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Lapwing, Wren, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Common Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Mallard, Shelduck, Magpie, Teal, Canada Goose, Mediterranean Gull, Stock Dove, Coot, Skylark, Greylag Goose, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Gadwall, Buzzard, Grasshopper Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Pied Wagtail, Peregrine Falcon, Rook, Greenfinch, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting, Tufted Duck, Ruff.
[ ✓ 54]
July is probably the quietest month of the year for the average birdwatcher, Bill Mulligan, our first president (in 1974), recognised this fact and it was in July each year he took Mrs. Mulligan on holiday! Despite this lull in proceedings as the year reaches a tipping point gardens are busy with successful family parties, here in Mobberley House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Starlings, Blue and Great Tits seem to have done well this year. There's little in the way of song now, the usual 5K walk around the lanes of Mobberley produced only single Goldcrests, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Coal Tit and the usual Yellowhammer along Hobcroft Lane.
Hobbies were confirmed as breeding in Cheshire in 1998 when Pete Hall found a nest on his farm in Toft, the first for exactly 100 years since Coward and Oldham's 1898 nest record. Since then there has been an increase in numbers with the latest Cheshire atlas (2004 -2006) showing 37 tetrads with confirmed or probable breeding. They have nested in our area again a number of times but I suspect, for one reason or another, there's been a decrease since the Atlas survey work, so I was pleased to see another Hobby last Wednesday (3/7) in Mobberley following on from the bird hunting at the same location on 28/6. Later the same day Darren Morris had one in Tatton's deer park, perhaps the same bird as the two sites are only a short distance away, given the speed at which the species flies. A couple of days later Bob Groom spent three hours searching for Hobbies in Mobberley at the spot where we had the Yellow Wagtails recently; great views to the south from this relatively high location but he had no luck, although he did have Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel and, of course, the wagtails.
A species even rarer that the Hobby (in Cheshire) is the Red Kite, so a bird high over Mobberley yesterday (8/7) was a good record. Eventually they'll no doubt become as plentiful as Buzzards, as has been the case in the south of England, where they're apparently in constant view for travellers on the M40 motorway (although I'm not suggesting that there's any need for anyone from around here to ever venture south of Stoke. Such extreme behaviour is rarely necessary!) NB)
Olwen and I are currently trying to establish a wildlife pond in the grounds. Having received quotes for the job I ignored everyone's advice and dug it out myself - 6'X4'X2' deep with shallower shelves around the perimeter - it's a whole new world! We've been visiting the "World of Water" emporium in Timperley exploring the intricacies of liners, deep water, marginal and oxygenating plants and even solar powered air pumps! OK it looks a bit rough at the moment but given time I'm sure it will mature and we'll be providing dragonflies for those elusive Hobbies to feed on!
This Saturday, 13th July it's our field trip over to Burton Mere where there's something of interest no matter what the time of year! Leaving Lilac Avenue at 09:00 to arrive at the reserve at approximately 10:00am.
30/06/2019...... Mobberley's Yellow Wagtails successful despite the weather
Summer seems to have arrived at last with a blast of hot air funneling up from Africa covering most of Europe. Too hot for some though and a temperature of 45.6C over the weekend was the highest ever recorded in France - in any month of the year. More manageable for us in the UK but it was still a very warm 26C on Friday evening at 6:45pm for the second of our Summer evening walks, this time around the Fox Harbour area of Mobberley.
Despite the absence of some regulars there was an excellent turnout and 20 members set off from Mill Lane for the 5Km journey through the village bad lands! I had given assurances that, after my earlier visits, we were certain to see Yellow Wagtails - I wasn't disappointed and neither were the troops as, within a few minutes of heading into the fields, the birds appeared. It was difficult to estimate how many were present but there were probably six or seven, perhaps more. Certainly there was a family party with two juveniles and the parent birds plus further birds as we moved on. Again they'd nested in the huge potato field next to Gleavehouse farm and would have enough time to raise two broods before the healthy looking crop was harvested - the Yellow Wagtail used to go under the name of the "potato setter" - not without good reason.
Looking to the left of the track we could see good numbers of Tree Sparrows in the tall hawthorns across the wheat field, above which Skylarks hovered and from the from the far side the song of Yellowhammers one of which posed nicely on top of the hedge allowing time for good views through the 'scopes.
Reaching the bottom of the fields and next to the deserted Sand Martin colony, we turned right and walked parallel with Pedley Brook as far as the bridge that carries the driving lane up towards Ollerton. Little in the way of song, it's getting a bit late now, but we did hear Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. The air was heavy with grass pollen as the farmers took full advantage of the dry spell to do some hay raking - Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls following the machines as they moved quickly through the fields. We split into two groups at the bridge with some preferring the shorter route with no stiles giving a walk of about 2.5K - far enough on such a warm evening, whilst the remainder took the lane as far as the now disused fishing pit before swinging west to Springwood farm. It was here the law of diminishing returns kicked in! We were pleased though to see a solitary Lapwing calling anxiously as it slowly flew over a nearby field - a sign that it had young somewhere below. Springwood Farm was teeming with Swallow this time last year but I don't think there were any this time, nor any sign of previous years Spotted Flycatchers. Disappointing. A Red-legged Partridge along Pavement Lane was the first I've seen along there for sometime, we had a Buzzard soaring overhead but the Barn Owl nest box isn't in use this Summer. A little male Sparrowhawk powered past us as we moved along the path overlooking Mobberley SQ but it wasn't a good night for raptors, especially as I'd had a Hobby hunting over Bucklow Avenue earlier in the day!
Just 32 species on my list but the evening was about quality not quantity and the first half mile with the Wagtails, Skylarks and Yellowhammers made it memorable for all the right reasons!
One bird missing from Bob Groom's European tick list is Northern Hawk Owl so last month, in an effort to rectify the situation, he spent a week in the far north of Finland in search of this Arctic beauty - as usual he's kindly provided a summary of his trip and you can read it by clicking here thanks Bob!
22/06/2019...... Tempus Fugit
Species seen in Mobberley. Friday 28th June 2019
Goldfinch, House Martin, Swallow, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Chaffinch, Skylark, Carrion Crow, Pheasant, Buzzard, tree Sparrow, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Yellow Wagtail, Magpie, Common Whitethroat, Lapwing, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Blue Tit, Red-legged Partridge, Sand Martin, Mallard, Robin, Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk, Wren, House Sparrow,
[ ✓ 32]
It certainly does! Yesterday was the Summer solstice; the longest day of the year. Today (22nd) will be 2 seconds shorter, tomorrow 8 seconds and in a weeks time we'll be loosing 49 seconds per day. It'll soon be Christmas!
The miserable, wet weather this month won't have helped ground nesting species but shouldn't have affected others quite as much. We spent an enjoyable morning at Woolston Eyes on Thursday, where the Black-necked Grebes seem to be doing well. It's difficult to determine the number present but 22 adults is the latest estimate and these have produced 8 or 9 broods. We watched two pairs carrying their tiny chicks on their backs; this is the safest place for them as the reserve is having problems with Lesser Black-backed Gulls predating any youngsters they come across. Pochard have been particularly badly hit, Brian Martin told me that up to 12 broods have been lost - although yesterday two new families were seen during a survey, we saw only one Pochard during the morning. A Lapwing was incubating four eggs on one of the islands in front of the Morgan hide, they hatched successfully yesterday. Also from this hide a constant stream of Swifts feeding over the reeds, presumably birds that are nesting in Warrington, no hirundines though, with the exception of a single House Martin. There was some song from the resident warblers - Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and one Sedge Warbler. Reed Warblers could be seen feeding in the phragmites when viewed from the top of tower hide - adult birds and their wing-shivering fledglings in food soliciting mode. David Bowman has produced a nice video showing some of the avian activity during the Spring and early Summer - click here.
Bob Groom had what were probably four Common Scoters whilst doing his wildfowl count at Tabley Mere last Sunday (16th) but wasn't sure of the ID as they were in view for only a few seconds through the undergrowth. I've seen them on Tatton Mere in June on a number of occasions over the years - it seems strange but this seems to be this month that provides most inland records. Bob was disappointed to have no sightings along the Tabley bridleway of Yellow Wagtails - ground nesters so they may have succumbed to the recent bad weather. Hopefully our Mobberley Wagtails have done better and we'll enjoy their company again this coming Friday (28th) during the second of our KOS evening walks around the village, meeting up in Mill Lane Mobberley (the road down to the Bulls Head and Roebuck pubs) at 6:45pm. WA16 7HX. Leader Tony Usher.
The walk is 5.2Km, mostly along rural footpaths, no hills but some rough stretches from time to time and should take about 2 hours. For those that don't fancy the full distance a shorter route (2.5Km) is available that misses out the Springwood farm loop.
09/06/2019...... Costa del Dee
species seen at Woolston Eyes. Thursday 20th June 2019.
Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Wren, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Blackbird, Swift, Mallard, Mute Swan, Reed Bunting, Woodpigeon, Blackcap, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Coot, Black-necked Grebe, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Common Whitethroat, Magpie, Reed Warbler, Cormorant, Buzzard, Jay, Moorhen, Lapwing, Teal, Bullfinch, Song Thrush, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Shelduck, Dunnock, Pochard, Sedge Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Robin, Carrion Crow.
[ ✓ 46]
The scheduled KOS field trip to the Manifold Valley yesterday (8/6) was abandoned; the weather was just too bad for such a location, high up in the Pennines with so little cover. The forecast gave a 100% chance of rain at 10:00am so, after some late evening and early morning phone calls, texts and emails, it was decided to again head over to the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands reserve where there would at least be the hides and some shelter from the elements.
An important point here. details of all our trips and their individual trip leaders are available on this website and also in the printed programme handed out when annual subscriptions are paid. It would be helpful if members would let the leaders know in advance if they intend to attend, especially if they will be going straight to a venue, rather than meeting up beforehand in Knutsford, either Tatton Street or Lilac Avenue.
With such a relatively early start we arrived before opening time at the reserve, but it wasn't long before the staff arrived and got the coffee on - very welcome! The weather here wasn't too bad, some heavy showers and it was quite windy, but there was plenty of activity out on the pool in front of the reception building and beyond.
There are some very special species currently nesting or attempting to nest at Burton - "Graham Jones, Site Manager at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands said: "It is absolutely staggering to see five different heron species making their home here. The grey herons nest here each year, but little egrets only colonised the UK in the late 1980s and have been breeding here since 2005. For them to now be joined by the much rarer cattle egrets, great white egrets and spoonbills is even more astonishing. They're usually more at home breeding in the Mediterranean, so we've been dubbed the "Costa del Dee" by some visitors, who are enjoying seeing the birds from a special watch point that we have created to allow for better views. If the birds all breed it will be extraordinary and cause for additional celebration in our anniversary year."
From the reception building it was obvious that the electric fence installed around the main breeding area to deter predators had done its job, there were droves of Avocets, both adults and youngsters at all stages of development; it's a pity that this technique is not employed up at Leighton Moss where plenty of Avocets arrive each Spring but meet with little success. Black-headed Gulls hung in the strong breeze over the main island guarding their scruffy brown offsprings and amongst them two pairs of Mediterranean Gulls, the adults with their all white wings looking very smart alongside their more common neighbours.A special viewing area has been set aside for viewing the nesting Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets. Unfortunately neither species nor their nests was in view from that particular spot but I was assured that the Cattle Egrets were nesting and the Spoonbills were "trying their best"! From the Marsh Covert hide we had excellent views of a Spoonbill in full breeding plumage, it's long white plumes blowing in the wind as it fed a few yards from where we watched.
Reed and Sedge Warblers sang from the reeds as we progressed along the boardwalk towards the Inner Marsh hide, along the way three or four singing Cetti's Warblers and good numbers of Common Whitethroats, leaping into the air in song flight. From this far hide we added Greenshank to the day list; Swallows, Sand and House Martins with a few Swifts sped past and a flock of 30 or 40 Black-tailed Godwits roosted, safe in the centre of the lake. 57 species recorded, a good total and compensation, if it were needed, for missing out this year on the Manifold Valley.
Closer to home Darren Morris tells me he discovered a brood of three Barn Owl chicks when checking one of the Tatton nest boxes and a Mandarin Duck on eggs in a nest hole, also in the Park. Across the road from Tatton, in downtown Mere, Geoff and Sheila Blamire are being visited by both male and female Siskins, they suspect the pair are nesting nearby. This will be an excellent record for the area if confirmed as it's a rare breeding species in Cheshire. Our Hobby correspondent Bob Groom continues to have a magnetic effect on the species and reports that this morning (9/6) he watched a bird hunting for insects over Rostherne Mere. Hopefully it'll stay around, I've yet to see one this year!
Species seen at Burton Wetlands Saturday 8th June 2019.
Jackdaw, Rook, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Mallard, Greenfinch, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Avocet, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Mediterranean Gull, Starling, Dunnock, Sand Martin, Swallow, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Woodpigeon, Mute Swan, Spoonbill, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Pheasant, Reed Bunting, Stock Dove, Long-tailed Tit, Teal, Swift, House Martin, Buzzard, Greenshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Kestrel, Skylark.
[ ✓ 57]
02/06/2019...... The Goyt Valley
When driving from Macclesfield to the Goyt Valley via Rainow it's always a good idea to stop on the way at Pym Chair, at the top of the hill just after Jenkin's chapel. It's possible here to pick up species like Skylark and Red Grouse before dropping down to the Goyt. We did this on Friday (31/5) before meeting up with the rest of the KOS for the first of our three Summer evening walks. No Grouse but we did have Skylark and Meadow Pipit as well as wonderful views across the Cheshire Plain. The weather was bright and clear and in the distance we could see Liverpool cathedral (40 miles as the crow flies) with the naked eye and, with the aid of binoculars, the wind turbines out in Liverpool Bay.
A great turnout of 19 members assembled in the middle car park along the valley before splitting up into two groups; one chose to tackle the steep hill behind the car park and walk along the bumpy path that runs parallel with the road the others preferred the road itself running alongside the reservoir (the road not the KOS members!).
A male Pied Flycatcher posed nicely for us before we set off up the hill where, from the top, we could hear Willow Warblers and Blackcaps in song despite the fading light - it's not a good time of the day for bird song and even perhaps a little late in the season, although I believe Tree Pipits were heard in song earlier in the week during a morning visit by some KOS members. We walked as far as the end of the woodland before descending down the steep steps to the path running alongside the River Goyt, a Curlew showed nicely as it stood on a drystone wall on the other side of the valley, a vantage point from where it could spot predators that could pose a threat to it's offsprings that were no doubt hidden in the heather below. Nothing of note along the riverside walk, but on meeting up with those that had stayed on the road, we learnt that they'd seen both Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher on their travels.
Walking past the parked cars we ended up on the concrete bridge hoping for "roding" Woodcocks; right on time at 9:25pm two appeared and gave good views. It was just past sunset and the light was poor, so Simon did well to get the record shot reproduced on the left.
Back to the transport and a short drive found us at the top car park from where we took the path through the conifer plantation as far as the cleared area at the far end. The newly planted trees are growing really fast but nevertheless there were plenty of Woodcock around and we were lucky enough to spend five minutes or so listening to the "churring" of a Nightjar. Bob Groom and David Cogger were someway behind the rest of us and actually saw the bird in flight!
As we returned to the cars and were preparing to leave some jobsworth in a pickup truck appeared and told us that the path we had used was no longer in use and we shouldn't have been in there. Well it still has a pedestrian gate and the map has it marked as a footpath! United Utilities need to lock the gate and put up some appropriate signs - It was fortunate that Mr. Jobsworth was talking to our charming Chairperson and not the Hon.Sec. - he had a lucky escape!!
On his return from Finland and a successful search for the Northern Hawk Owl Bob Groom was immediately out and about around the Knutsford area and reports a Red Kite on 31/5 at the Hobby site, a Hobby near St. Paul's church Over Tabley and Yellow Wagtails along the Tabley Hill bridleway. Bob's promised me a report of his Finland trip which I'll publish on this website.
Jude Halman and I have now finished this year's Rostherne CBC - type survey in the reserve's Harper's Bank wood. No records to set pulses racing but hopefully our work goes some way to fitting another small piece into nature's jigsaw. The 2018 report has at last been produced and you can read it by clicking here.
The Dyfi Ospreys are progressing nicely and the three chicks are looking very strong - click here I've been watching another Osprey webcam near Loch Arkaig in Scotland, again superb images in full HD - quite amazing as, in their own words, The nearest plug socket? More than a mile away. Broadband? The other side of 2km of water. it's well worth a visit just to read and watch video of how this has been achieved! Click here.
This coming Saturday (8th) it's our field trip over to the beautiful Manifold Valley leaving Lilac Avenue at 08:30am to arrive at Ecton around 09:40am. Leaders Derek Pike and Mark Eddowes - so you'll be in safe hands!
29/05/2019...... A pleasant morning in Mobberley
Species seen in the Goyt Valley - Friday 31 May 2019.
Pied Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Meadow Pipit, Willow Warbler, Pheasant, Goldfinch, Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch, Wren, Kestrel, Rook, Jackdaw, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Curlew, Woodpigeon, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Blackcap, Grey Heron, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Canada Goose, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, Song Thrush, Tawny Owl, Cuckoo, Woodcock, Nightjar.
[ ✓ 35]
I paid a long overdue visit yesterday (28/5) to the little known or visited area of Mobberley to the south of Town Lane known as Fox Harbour (shown as such on 19th. century maps). KOS members will be more familiar with it than most as it's been the venue for one of our Summer evening walks for the past few years.
I began at the white cottage at the top of Mill Lane where the gate to the track now bears a new notice informing us that this is "Private Land. No public right of way". Well I've been using it for more than 70 years so I'm not about to stop now!
The first big ash tree on the left held a noisy family party of Tree Sparrows where we've seen them in previous years, albeit a month later in the season, perhaps these are second or even third clutches. I was hoping to see the now red listed Yellow Wagtails in the potato fields a little further on and I wasn't disappointed. A male and female were feeding on a manure heap in the corner of the first potato field, at the same time a second male was fluttering over the centre of the field, a further pair were perched on the boundary hawthorn hedge and another two birds, one carrying food, hovered over the wheat field on the left. Very encouraging and I hope they're still there when we have our walk in June.
The wheat field also seemed popular with the local Skylarks, two were high in the sky singing, with four others interacting lower down over the crop.
The Sand Martin bank was unfortunately deserted again but the rest of the swampy area next to Pedley Brook held some good birds with Chiffchaff, Linnet, Common Whitethroat, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Wren, Blackcap and Robin all in song. No Willow Warblers though and just a single Yellowhammer singing from the electricity cable alongside the track leading up to Gleavehouse Farm. Reed Buntings and Chaffinches were feeding young at the (ex) fishing pit but no Moorhens this year, also missing, Spotted Flycatchers at Springwood Farm, perhaps the building work taking place was putting them off, although they are few and far between this Spring - I've yet to see one. Along the road leading up to Pavement Lane farm a pair of Yellowhammers where we saw them last Summer and just beyond the farm a Little Owl flew out of a roadside birch tree over towards the oak trees where they're no doubt nesting.
36 species in a walk of 5.2K, not bad but I can't help but reflect on the ones that are no longer with us - Curlew, Lapwing, Corn Bunting and Snipe; will the Yellowhammer be added to this list before too long?
Our friends at Dyfi will be pleased, the nest we saw a couple of weeks ago now contains three newly hatched chicks and all seem to be doing well - click on live streaming.
This Friday evening (31st) it's the first of our KOS summer evening walks. This one is to the Goyt Valley and beyond. Leaving at 6:30 pm from the Tatton Street car park or 7:30 pm at the second car park along the valley. You may want to bring a torch and a woolly jumper as we probably won't get back to the cars before dark.
23/05/2019...... Latest news from Rostherne & Tatton plus the Mid-Wales Holiday
species recorded on visit to the Fox Harbour area of Mobberley - 28th May 2019.
Blackbird, House Sparrow, Starling Collared Dove, House Martin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Swallow, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Grey Heron, Chiffchaff, Linnet, Pheasant, Common Whitethroat, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Dunnock, Wren, Blackcap, Yellowhammer, Robin, Buzzard, Stock Dove, Magpie, Swift, Little Owl.
[ ✓ 36]
The Arctic Tern flock at Rostherne increased from 7 to 30 during the afternoon of 8th May; 9 remained the following day. Darren Morris reports that none were seen at Tatton on the 8th. I checked the park on the 10th and was lucky to see a Common Tern on a buoy in the centre of the main mere, in Dog Wood a Garden Warbler showed well and a male Grey Wagtail was watched collecting food near the concrete jetty. Today (22/5) Darren told me that he'd seen a female Mandarin Duck with 5 chicks on a stream in the deer park.
The 45th Anniversary holiday went very well and we achieved our target of 100 species! It's a bigger report than normal so qualifies for a page of it's own! click here for the report
09/05/2019...... Hobbies back on site!
It was well into the breeding season last year before Bob Groom was able to confirm that "his" Hobbies had bred again at their site not far away from Knutsford. No problem this time though as he saw the pair last Friday (3/5) from the usual viewpoint - most encouraging - well done Bob!
Lesser Whitethroats have also returned to their favourite locations; on Monday (6/5) a male was in full song along Breach House Lane in Mobberley, showing well as it moved through a roadside oak tree above the tangled undergrowth, where it will no doubt build trial nests in the hope of attracting a mate. A brief drive away at the airports crashgate 9 another was heard in the distance rattling away as I began a short walk along the perimeter paths as far as the last of the dwellings, where the view opens up to reveal the whole of the airport. Summer migrants in the form of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Common Whitethroats were present in good numbers along with three singing Willow Warblers - not many about this spring apparently. We normally hear many Skylarks along this route, the 1000's of acres of grassland that border the two runways are perfect nesting sites, unfortunately the grass has to be kept short for reasons of safety and a large mowing machine was in action doing its stuff. It seemed to be set quite high, leaving a few inches of grass showing but it had four big wheels and the mower six at the rear so this probably takes its toll every year. only one Skylark was heard.
The cold spell continues, yesterday (8/5) the temperature only reached 10.5C with an easterly wind and periods of drizzle making it feel more like December. I spent a couple of hours in the obs. at Rostherne where small groups of Swallows and House Martins fed low over the mere picking newly hatched insects from the surface. They were joined from time to time by single Swifts - they are late this year with Jude Halman and Derek Pike both reporting zero sightings so far around their favourite spots in Knutsford. My optimism was rewarded at 11:15 am when a flock of seven birds arrived from the south-west - Arctic Terns! I had a reasonable view as they flew in but subsequently they moved to the eastern end of the mere and were only in view fleetingly through the trees but I was pretty certain of their identity.
The weather forecast for next week is encouraging with a high pressure system set to bring dry and warm conditions from Monday onwards. Ideal for our KOS 45th anniversary trip to mid-Wales from Wednesday (15th) until Sunday (19th) based in Barmouth. 100 species again? We'll be doing our best!
02/05/2019...... Plenty of good records from Tatton
Tatton Ranger Darren Morris has sent me details of some nice birds he'd seen recently in the park. On Tuesday (30th) he had Whinchat and Wheatear in the deer park and on the 25th April two Hobbies were hawking for insects over the main mere, I think these were the first Hobbies recorded in Cheshire this year. Encouraged by Darren's sightings a small group of mid-weekers enjoyed a walk around Tatton yesterday (1/4) hoping, amongst other things, to see the first Swifts of the season - they're late this year and by tradition have always returned in time for Knutsford's annual May Day festivities, this year taking place on Saturday 4th.
We took the usual route - Knutsford Moor, Dog Wood, the Allen hide then back along the west side of Tatton mere. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing as we made our way down towards the Moor where a newly returned Reed Warbler was in full song from the reed bed. Climbing up from the Moor towards Dog Wood more Blackcaps and a Common Whitethroat although we were disappointed that there was no sign of the Garden Warblers that can often be found here with its mountains of bramble and convenient song posts.
Dog Wood was unusually quiet given the time of year as was the main mere, just a few Great Crested Grebes, Mallard and a late female Goldeneye, although we were delighted when a Common Sandpiper flew up from the waters edge and settled on the far bank - a new bird for the year for most of us. A second Common Whitethroat was in song as we approached the Allen hide and a Grey Wagtail called as it passed over, whilst from the hide itself we were surprised to see a pair of Egyptian Geese with three small youngsters in tow. Darren told me some time ago that a pair had hatched five young from a nest near the mansion with another pair seen with offsprings on the Toft estate.
No Swifts as we made our way back towards the Knutsford entrance, not a single hirundine either, although as we passed the Moor pool two Swallows flew over, late additions to a modest day list. So it appeared that this year Swifts wouldn't be recorded in our area on or before the first of May but help was at hand in the form of local birder Alan Booth who we encountered as we headed back to the cars. Alan told us he'd had Reed and Sedge Warblers and two Swifts on Sunday 28th April!
Late news today (2/5) in an email from Bob Groom who'd dropped into Tatton this morning on his way back from Rostherne and watched 40 House Martins and 10 Swifts zipping back and to over the main mere......the latest I can recall first seeing them for many a long year.
25/4/2019...... A good selection at Neumann's
Species seen in Tatton Park - Wednesday 1st May 2019.
Goldfinch, Starling, Jackdaw, Chiffchaff, Woodpigeon, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Blackbird, Moorhen, Magpie, Coot, Mallard, Robin, Canada Goose, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Reed Warbler, Reed Bunting, Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Long-tailed Tit, Common Whitethroat, Stock Dove, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Collared Dove, Treecreeper, Goldeneye, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mute Swan, Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Egyptian Goose, Pied Wagtail, Nuthatch, Buzzard, Green Woodpecker, Shoveler, Swallow, Sparrowhawk.
[ ✓ 46]
The spell of warm weather we were blessed with over the Easter weekend came to an end yesterday afternoon (24th) with an intense thunder storm at around 3:30pm. We'd spent the morning enjoying the final few hours of the nice weather around Neumann's Flash in Northwich, a good turnout of 15 mid-weekers for a gentle stroll around the perimeter before moving on to Haydn's Pool in search of summer migrants - about 2 miles in total.
Three warblers in song before we'd left the car park with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Common Whitethroat all doing their stuff, whilst a couple of hundred yards along the embankment two or three distant Sedge Warblers and a Cetti's. Blackcaps seemed to everywhere and we thought we'd heard a Garden Warbler deep in the undergrowth but couldn't be certain, nevertheless the species was added to the day list as Bob Groom had one in song along the different route he'd taken, along the path running in between Neumann's and Ashton's Flash.
A pleasant surprise awaited us as we met up at the big hide on the far side of the flash - a Cuckoo calling; I didn't hear one in Cheshire at all last year! Also in that area Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers whilst on the water in front of the hide, amongst a fair selection of wildfowl, a Whooper Swan that, for one reason or another, had not migrated north to Iceland for the summer. Hirundines were in short supply with only a couple of Swallows passing over, additionally no Swifts so far this spring, there are normally a few around by now, it looks as though the recent spell of bad weather over Spain and Portugal has held them back during their journey up from Africa.
Making our way towards Haydn's pool Reed Warblers were singing from the phragmites at the side of Neumann's and we added Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush and Goldcrest to the day list. Very little water at Neumann's unfortunately, the only species of note was a Sparrowhawk circling over the old ICI works in the distance.
Tomorrow evening (26th) it's our KOS AGM which normally takes all of 10 minutes! no one will be press-ganged into serving on the committee as all last year's officers have volunteered to continue for another 12 months. Admission is free and after the short formalities Sheila and Geoff will be giving us a presentation entitled "Texas the Roadrunner State".
15/04/2019...... A good day at Leighton Moss
Species recorded at Neumann's Flash - 17th April 2019
Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Willow Warbler, Robin, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Greylag Goose, Magpie, Mallard, Blue Tit, Wren, Sedge Warbler, Mute Swan, Buzzard, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Starling, Carrion Crow, Canada Goose, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Dunnock, Lapwing, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Black Headed Gull, Gadwall, Shoveler, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Reed Warbler, Swallow, Cormorant, Chaffinch, Stock Dove, Tufted Duck, Jay, Garden Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Redshank, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Whooper Swan.
[ ✓ 55]
Another cold day on Sunday (14th) for our April field trip - up the M6 to the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss. The temperature never reached double figures all day and a strong easterly wind didn't help matters, although once in the shelter of the reed beds it felt pleasantly warm.
We began with a climb up the sky tower, as you can imagine it was perishing up there but we were rewarded with excellent views from above of some of the resident Marsh Harriers floating over the reserve, the male birds looking magnificent as the morning sun caught them twisting and turning over the reeds. Having ticked off some of the commoner species also to be seen from the tower we made our way down and set off along the track towards the Tim Jackson hide; Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were all in song as well as the resident Cetti's Warblers exploding into action from the undergrowth, we did actually catch fleeting views of a couple of individuals but they do tend to remain well-hidden almost all the time. Also along the paths were the Marsh Tits - great views as usual of this rapidly declining species. As we approached the Jackson hide we heard our first Reed Warbler of the year - Sedge Warbler had apparently also been heard but we had just this single Reed during our visit.
All three species of hirundine passed through as we watched from the Jackson hide, just one House Martin amongst them. The Harriers were again very active, a male bird was collecting nesting material and carrying it to a location opposite the hide and another passing food in mid-air to his partner.
Following visits to the Grisedale and Lillian's hides we enjoyed a lunchtime break in the excellent restaurant before walking down to the Causeway hide where we added Oystercatcher, Great Crested and Little Grebe to the day list and watched a family of four Otters enjoying a fishing expedition in the centre of the lake. The first I've seen at Leighton Moss despite so many visits over the years. No Bitterns (only one male this year) or Bearded Reedlings, although others had heard them calling earlier in the day.
A short drive and walk found us at the coastal hides from where we had some spectacular views of the species present. The islands were covered with a rufous cloak of 100's of Black-tailed Godwits in a confusion of plumages! From time to time, perhaps spooked by a passing predator, the whole lot would take flight and a number of smaller grey birds, about 50, revealed their presence amongst the Godwits. They were Knot, apparently still in winter plumage, perhaps 2nd calendar year birds that won't attain their characteristic Summer plumage until next year. A knowledgeable local birder also pointed out three Bar-tailed Godwits amongst the flock of Black-tailed, we'd have overlooked those without his help!
Other species on view from the two hides included Avocet, Peregrine, Pink-footed Goose and Great Egret giving us a pretty impressive total of 66 for the day. You can't go wrong at a reserve like Leighton Moss at this time of the year!
11/04/2019...... Record number of Tatton Sand Martins
species seen at Leighton Moss Sunday 14th April 2019.
House Martin, Dunnock, Jay, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Wren, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Woodpigeon, Cetti's Warbler, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit, Pheasant, Robin, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Teal, Coot, Mute Swan, Nuthatch, Marsh Harrier, Treecreeper, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Marsh Tit, Moorhen, Reed Warbler, Pochard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gadwall, Swallow, sand Martin, Grey Heron, Magpie, Great Black-backed Gull, Water Rail, Shoveler, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Snipe, Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Oystercatcher, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit,Bar-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Redshank, Peregrine Falcon, Long-tailed Tit, Great White Egret, Cormorant, Pink-footed Goose, Jackdaw
[ ✓ 66]
So far April has been colder than March and days of adverse weather conditions over the past week caused a build up of summer migrants at suitable locations as they paused in their journey north. Bob Groom had what must be a record count of Sand Martins over the Tatton meres last Thursday (4th) .......... I paid a visit at lunchtime and there were Sand Martins literally from one end of Tatton Mere to the other. It was mesmerizing watching them, a rough guesstimate would be 1,500 birds. There were 5 Swallows over the Head-of-the-Mere 'pool', didn't see any others but then visibility wasn't good. Also 66 Sand Martins over Melchett Mere. I headed home when the wind got stronger and the rain even heavier. Just hope there were enough insects for them all!. Tatton ranger Darren Morris reported 100's of Sand Martins the previous day plus the first House Martin of the year over Melchett Mere; Darren also counted 12 occupied Herons' nests in the park's Higmere Plantation. I had a look on Saturday (6th) and there were well-grown young on view but some birds seemed to be on eggs - perhaps replacement clutches after problems caused by the gales in March.
In Dog Wood I had 4 singing Chiffchaffs and 6 Blackcaps but no Willow Warblers, although the previous day (5/4) David Cogger had one fly into his house through an open door; he managed to catch and positively identify it before sending it on it's way! Darren heard one singing in the deer park in Tatton on Monday (8th) but the rest of us had to wait until Wednesday (10th) for our first of the year when two were in song at Woolston Eyes.
It was fine and sunny at Woolston but only 8C with a biting easterly wind - scarves and gloves still the order of the day! Other summer visitors included Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and small parties of hirundines that were passing quickly through - still mostly Sand Martins with a few Swallows and just a single House Martin.
All the usual wildfowl were present - Mallard, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Greylag and Canada Geese, Teal, Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall, Pochard, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Little and Great Crested Grebes plus the reserve's speciality - Black-necked Grebes of course! 17 had been counted earlier, it took us sometime to locate any but eventually a pair were located in the reeds opposite the Morgan hide from where we also noted the nesting pair of Lapwings on one of the small islands just below the hide - the female bird was incubating three eggs. Just a single Brambling remained under the feeders, two further pairs of Black-necked Grebes showed well from the Frank Lindley hide from where a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly as we left.
This Sunday (14th) we have our April field trip to Leighton Moss. 08:30 from the Tatton Street car park or c. 10am at the reserve. A great time of the year to visit Leighton and we should have booming Bitterns and plenty of summer migrants, hopefully including the first Reed and Sedge Warblers of the year!
03/04/2019......A good record from Tatton and the first Blackcaps
Species seen at Woolston Eyes 10th April 2019.
Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Cormorant, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wren, Carrion Crow, Great Crested Grebe, Chiffchaff, Tufted Duck, Blackcap, Robin, Rook, Willow Warbler, Black-headed Gull, Canada Goose, Teal, Coot, Gadwall, Little Grebe, Shoveler, Lapwing, Buzzard, Jay, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Pheasant, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting, Greylag Goose, Magpie, Song Thrush, Shelduck, Mallard, Mute Swan, Brambling, Black-necked Grebe, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Moorhen, Kestrel, Cetti's Warbler, Pochard
[ ✓ 50]
Butterflies - Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Speckled Wood
Tatton's not a place for most waders - there are no large areas of mud to attract them, so a Redshank seen from the Allen hide at the side of Melchett Mere by Bob Groom was a nice record for the park. In the past the water level of the main mere was lowered every winter to give access for the removal of bottles etc. near the old bathing area exposing large areas of mud which attracted Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank etc.
The same observer was over at Marbury Park last Thursday (28/3) and reports his first Blackcaps of the year with one seen and a further two heard. Jude Halman and I noted two on Monday (1/4) at Rostherne when we conducted the first of our 2019 CBC surveys in Rostherne's Harper's Bank Wood, just 3C, the same as last year's first visit, but thankfully no freezing rain this time! The species count in the wood is small but it is a very enjoyable exercise (on a dry day!!) the highlight for us was watching Treecreepers at two different locations carrying nest material into very likely nest sites.
The survey has been running continuously for more than 40 years and new volunteers are always welcome, you get to do a bit of "real" ornithology rather than just birdwatching (and also a Reserve key giving access to the new Whitley hide and areas normally not accessible to other permit holders!)
Our 45th anniversary holiday to Wales is just over a month away and I'm glad to report that the Dyfi Ospreys have returned and are busy refurbishing last year's nest. The link below is to the webcams overlooking the nest (now 2 cameras in full HD) I've also added links to two other sites - Glaslyn (also in Wales) and also Loch Garten. A pair at Glaslyn, but no birds so far at Garten where, as I write, the nest is under two feet of snow!
Dyfi - click here..... Glaslyn - click here..... Loch Garten - click here
27/03/2019...... Visible Migration
I sometimes refer in these updates to visible migration (viz.mig.) normally when we're in somewhere like Tatton and flocks of hirundines and even species such as Lesser Black-backed Gulls can be seen passing through the area. They don't spend long with us, arriving in waves before moving on almost immediately during their Spring and, to a lesser extent, Autumn journeys.
I knew one or two people partook of this rather esoteric aspect of our hobby but I didn't realise how popular it has become until Monday (28th) when Bob Groom and I met up at the Rostherne reserve with Barrie Armitt, ex-Mobberley resident and a product of our KOS junior section back in the early days of the Society. Barrie lives now in Crosby Merseyside and almost every morning from 7:00am, sometimes earlier, can be found ensconced at the top of a sand dune recording the passage of (land-based) birds along the coast - species and numbers thereof. These data are then entered onto a rather splendid website devoted solely to viz.mig - https://www.trektellen.nl. Barrie's personal data can be seen by clicking here. Different strokes for different folks!
Barrie is hoping to join us on one or two of our trips - especially to Lunt Meadows - only a few miles from his home. He plans once again to go camping in the Shetlands during October in search of rare vagrants and hopefully he'll be sending us emails of his autumnal adventures. They were well received last year Baz!!
Today (27th) we enjoyed a mornings birding over at Woolston Eyes and those that hadn't already done so were able to add Sand Martin (5) and Chiffchaff to their year list. A Cetti's Warbler again sang briefly from the reeds just below the first raised viewing platform from where we added the usual selection of wildfowl to the day list - Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal etc. and also the first Black-necked Grebe we'd seen this year. More Grebes were on view from the Morgan hide, so probably around six have now returned, a small flotilla of eight male and three female Pochard glided into view as we watched the Grebes (someone's going to be disappointed!) whilst on the feeders, Blue and Great Tits, Greenfinches plus half a dozen Bramblings coming into full breeding plumage reminding us that Winter can still have a cold sting in its tail.
18/03/2018...... A wild day on the Wirral
A Willow Tit was calling from the area where we heard one singing on our last visit and a single Redpoll flying overhead as we returned to the cars was species #42 rounding off a very pleasant Wednesday morning.
species recorded at Woolston Eyes - 27th March 2019.
Collared Dove, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull,Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Robin, Chiffchaff, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Gadwall, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Mallard, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Shoveler, Teal, Cetti's Warbler, Black-necked Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Pheasant, Pochard, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Mute Swan, Brambling, Sand Martin, Willow Tit, Redpoll.
[ ✓ 42]
It's not often that we make last minute changes to our field trips, I can't remember more than a couple of occasions over the past 45 years but on Saturday (16th) the weather forecast for the southern Lake District was so bad that we decided to, re-schedule Leighton Moss for April and instead travel over to Burton Mere Wetlands. This meant that we avoided the worst of the impending storm and also a total of at least 3 hours travel time there and back, mainly on the M6. Additionally we already knew the paths at Leighton were flooded in mid-week so they could only have become worse (right).
So it was a small and very select group that met up in Lilac Avenue for the journey west to the Wirral peninsula! Heavy rain to start with but the sun actually appeared as we approached our destination, although it was very, very windy; conditions that prevailed for the rest of the day - occasional sunshine and heavy, but short lived, rain showers.
A good start to proceedings as we drove down Puddington Lane and came across a group of 24 Egrets feeding in a sheltered field. I did a quick count and assumed they were all Little Egrets but I was later told the two Cattle Egrets were often to be found amongst them.
Staff outnumbered visitors at the reception centre but, most importantly, they'd got the coffee on, so we enjoyed a cup as we set up the 'scopes and began scanning the reserve. Most species were hunkered down due to the ongoing gale, but a female Marsh Harrier spent most of the morning quartering the reserve, her progress marked by potential victims taking briefly to the air. A passing Peregrine though caused much more consternation and generated a blizzard of activity!
Lapwings appear to be on eggs already and a number were in constant action seeing off intruders whilst the Avocets don't seem to have started yet and looked absolutely brilliant as they fed in the shallows. The head Warden told me they had at least 70 and steps have been taken to deter predators by the erection of an electric fence around the whole of the marsh- excellent!
We counted 47 Grey Herons crouched in the reeds, I assume they would be well into incubation by now but there was no sign of activity in the trees where they nest - the weather was doing them no favours. From the Inner Marsh Hide we had good views of a Great White Egret and a selection of the usual wildfowl sheltering from the wind - Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal and a large number of Wigeon.
As you can imagine small birds were taking a low profile but stands of willow afforded some protection and we were able to add species such as singing Wren, Dunnock, and Robin to the day list - not birds we'd normally struggle with! Finally on the return leg we had the briefest of views of a Bearded Reedling, low over the water flying between two clumps of phragmites. 52 species recorded, a thoroughly enjoyable morning and much better than likely!
This Friday 22nd March it's our final indoor meeting of the season before the AGM. We'll be welcoming back David Tolliday who will be telling us all about "Overseas Travel with a Wildlife Camera".
Ken and Shirley Davies have recently enjoyed two trips away to WWT reserves in their camper prior to leaving later in the Spring for four months in Scandinavia - living the dream!
Species seen on the Wirral - 16th March 2019.
Collared dove, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Little Egret, Great Tit, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Shoveler, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwit, Mallard, Teal, Cormorant, Skylark, Redshank, Starling, Gadwall, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Jackdaw, Pheasant, Robin, Blackbird, Little Grebe, Cetti's Warbler, Wren, Wigeon, Pied Wagtail, Rook, Long-tailed Tit, Pintail, Redshank, Bearded Reedling, Raven, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Curlew, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Egret.
[ ✓ 52]
Thanks for your reports Ken.
Our trips to WWT starting at Slimbridge on the 7th of February the weather was overcast and windy thankfully no rain unlike the day before and the day after it rained a lot and was windier. It did not deter us from seeing the following birds.
Robin , Wren, Collared Dove, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Redshank, Snipe, Dunlin, Crane, Lapwing, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Golden Plover, Dunnock, Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail. Bewick's Swan, Mute Swan, Shelduck, White-fronted Geese, Mallard, Greylag Geese, Black-tailed Godwit, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Twite, Starling, Linnet, Skylark, Fieldfare, Meadow Pipit, Rook, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Curlew, Peregrine, Song Thrush, Water Rail, Cormorant, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Merlin, Blackbird (58
Ten days later we visited Caerlaverock WWT 17th/18th Feb . Not having much luck with the weather, raining windy and a bit cool again, out we went and had a reasonable two days birding.
10/03/2019...... Sand Martin in Tatton
Collared Dove, Robin, Curlew, Blackbird, Starling, Chaffinch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, Little Egret, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Merlin, Kestrel, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Hammer, Pied Wagtail, House Sparrow, Peregrine, Golden Plover, Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Gold Finch, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Pink-footed Geese, Grey Heron, Shoveler, Cormorant, Pintail, Scaup, Mute Swan, Teal, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Whooper Swan, Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Shelduck.
Winter returned with a vengeance today. Gale force winds and heavy rain to begin with, followed in the afternoon by sleety snow and eventually a flash of lightening ushered in a fierce hail storm as the temperature dropped rapidly from 7.0 to 2.5C. This though didn't deter the indefatigable Bob Groom who's persistence was rewarded with Tatton's first Sand Martin of the year over the main mere! .......... I was amazed how it kept flying in the atrocious conditions. I retreated into my car during the worst of it but as the sun came out again, there it was still criss-crossing the mere. Just hope it manages to find enough insects to survive this extreme weather........ This follows on from Bob's first Sand Martin of the season at Woolston Eyes and a count of no less than 25 yesterday over Marbury Park's Budworth Mere. So, despite the conditions, it's officially the first day of the KOS Spring!
7/3/2019...... A great morning at Woolston Eyes
Ignoring a less than encouraging weather forecast a small group of seven mid-weekers travelled over to Woolston for a couple of hours birding on Wednesday morning (6th). Crossing over the bridge onto the reserve we were greeted by a Song Thrush in full early Spring song perched in the bare branches at the top of an ash tree - beautiful and a good start to the day.
From the raised viewing platform all the usual suspects plus a Water Rail scuttling across the wide ride that's been cut through the reedbed opposite whilst just to one side the explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler - now quite commonplace here at Woolston with a number of breeding pairs - perhaps someone could send us a couple over to Knutsford Moor. Please!
Bob Groom was a little behind the rest of the party as we walked to the Tower hide and, when he caught us up, was justifiably quite delighted to report that he'd had a Sand Martin as he'd made his way over. The first for any KOS member and a first this year for the reserve - nice one Robert!!
Elevenses were taken in the comfort of the Morgan hide, bolstered on the day by Jude's excellent home made picked onions - I hope you save some for the Christmas party Jude!
Plenty of action in front of the hide. No Black-necked Grebes yet but plenty of Black-headed Gulls, Little and Great Crested Grebes and displaying Shoveler on the water whilst on the well-stocked feeders Chaffinches, Greenfinches and four Bramblings.
Further round the reserve, on the track away from the Warrington Rotary hide, a song none of us is very familiar with, that of a Willow Tit, hidden away in a tangle of undergrowth. We downloaded the song from the excellent Xeno-Canto bird song website for confirmation. No such problems a further 50 yards down the track as we approached our first Chiffchaff of the year, close enough for everyone to hear - unlike the Willow Tit which was outside the range of some of the old ears amongst us!
A reminder that it's time to renew your Woolston permit or apply for one if you've never had one previously. Click here - permits.
03/03/2019...... More early Summer visitors
species recorded at Woolston Eyes - 6th March 2019.
Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Mallard, Cormorant, Robin, Blackbird, Greylag Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Song Thrush, Gadwall, Wren, Greenfinch, Carrion Crow, Canada Goose, Teal, Shoveler, Coot, Pheasant, Shelduck, Water Rail, Little Grebe, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Heron, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Siskin, Sand Martin, Chaffinch, Pochard, Brambling, Moorhen, House Sparrow, Willow Tit, Buzzard, Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing.
[ ✓ 47]
By the time you read this it's possible that storm Freya will be upon us as it powers in from the Atlantic Ocean, not good news for the very early migrants that arrived during the recent mild spell when a temperature of 21.2C was recorded in the south of England - the warmest Winter day ever recorded in the British Isles!
Wheatears, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs have been seen already in places such as Anglesey, Burton Mere and Marbury; none at Tatton or Rostherne as far as I know but KOS member Karina Stanley heard a singing Chiffchaff yesterday (3/3) by the River Mersey in Didsbury.
In Mobberley singing Skylarks are back along Smith Lane and Hobcroft Lane but, as yet, no displaying Lapwings although I expect them to return on schedule this coming week in the big fields opposite Smith Lane farm, their favourite location; this year growing Winter wheat - so they may stand more of a chance than last year.
In Tatton Bob Groom counted 65 Common Snipe when they were flushed from the reed bed by a photographer, no Jack Snipe this time though. Bob recently had a Peregrine from the obs. at Rostherne and I was lucky enough to get a good view of one, carrying prey, as it flew low overhead. Also there an Oystercatcher perched on the rails of the weather buoy in the middle of the mere (25/2).
In two weeks time Saturday (16/3) it's our March field trip up to Leighton Moss meeting at the reserve around 10am or 08:30am in Lilac Avenue. We'll be looking for Sand Martin, Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit, Bearded Reedling and, of course, booming Bitten!
Please note that our April Field Trip has been changed from Saturday 20th April to Sunday 14th April to avoid the Easter weekend.
19/2/2019...... Very early Summer migrants
We're enjoying spring-like weather at the moment as strong southerly winds sweep up all the way from Africa bringing us daytime temperatures as high as 14
C. A Red-rumped Swallow and one of our own Barn Swallows were both seen in South Wales last week, a House Martin was recorded today (19/2) on Anglesey and Bob Groom tells me a Sand Martin on Saturday (16/2) was the earliest ever recorded in the Cheshire and Wirral recording area!
My request for volunteers to help with the Big Farmland Bird Count organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust met with a lukewarm response which was a great pity. A list of farms who had asked for help from competent birders was extensive with a large number in and around the Northwich / Middlewich area. This is an ideal opportunity to open a few doors and gain access to some new birding areas - I'll be twisting a few arms next year.
As it was, just Bill Killey and I took part, and last Wednesday (13/2) visited Shipbrook Hill Farm, Whatcroft owned by Simon Bennett and home of Riverside Organic, a family run farm, wholesalers, farm shop, and cafe. The farmland is managed as stipulated in Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship scheme.
The farm stands in a lovely location; slightly elevated with views down the Dane Valley looking towards Northwich - the survey itself is a doddle and requires that observers simply select an area "of interest" and spend half an hour identifying and counting the species seen!
Bill and I chose a field just down the road from the farm - flat and very damp running alongside the River Dane and being managed with Lapwings in mind. The first birds we saw as we approached the field were Curlews, a flock of 21 - so we started the clock there and then! An area of open water and juncus reed in the centre of the field held 6 Mallard and 13 Teal, a Song Thrush was singing from a roadside ash tree and, as we left, a Chaffinch spluttered into song - the first I've heard this year. 19 species and one Brown hare was a very satisfactory total given the 30' time limit.
Bill and I have been invited back in the Spring to see what's about during the breeding season: door open - job done!
The annual late Winter increase in visitors to our feeders is underway, the resident Goldfinches have been joined by up to six beautiful little Siskins and yesterday three female Reed Buntings. No sign yet of Redpolls or Bramblings but I'm hoping we'll get some soon - other KOS members have reported both species in their gardens recently.
This Friday (23rd) it's our February indoor meeting when Ashley Grove will be telling us all about "Trinidad and Tobago: Home of the Hummingbird". As usual 7:45pm for an 8pm start in the Jubilee Hall.
12/2/2019...... A weekend of contrasts
Over the years I've slowly built up a modest collection of bird books, almost all concerning British birds. I have travelled abroad a few times but never been able to work up much enthusiasm for the species to be found in those far flung places. We've been to New Zealand five times but I've never seen a Kiwi! I'm never happier than when I'm out birding in the UK - especially the leafy lanes of Cheshire. So, naturally, it's the books of Thomas Alfred Coward that I value most and I have all his published works. They're not expensive, I think my copy of "The Birds of Cheshire" published in 1900 cost the most - about
Despite this narrow spectrum of ornithological interests I've always found other people's books, if not their birds, fascinating; especially rare antiquarian examples and none more so than Audubon's iconic "Birds of America" - the four volume "double elephant" portfolio published in the mid 19th century each measuring 39"X26" with a total weight of 200lbs!. They're worth a little more than any of Coward's! In 2010 a set of the four volumes were auctioned for $11.5 million, equivalent to $13.2M today.
I knew that the Liverpool Central Library owned a set and one was always on display in a glass case, each volume in turn and a new page revealed once a week. It was always my intention to travel over for a look but never got round to it, but when it was announced a few weeks ago that a special series of viewings were being arranged of not one but two volumes - out of their glass cases and laid out in front of you with staff on hand to relate the story of their arrival in Liverpool and answer questions about their conservation (past and future) it was an opportunity not to be missed.
So on Saturday (9th February) Olwen and I headed west to Merseyside and the centre of Liverpool; just one navigation error when we ended up driving through the sleepy suburb of Wavertree not a place in which to linger! We finally arrived with no further mishaps at the appropriate location, a much more salubrious spot with the library sandwiched between the World Museum and the Walker Art Gallery opposite St. John's Gardens and the Bedlam Paintball Emporium!On then to Sunday (10/2) and back to the day job, our February KOS field trip to Tatton Park, a reasonable turnout of 11 members and one pooch ably led my our leader for the Day Tony Ellis. We met up at the Dog Lodge layby, down Moordale Road and onto Knutsford Moor. A Song Thrush was singing at the bottom of Moordale but there was little of interest until we entered Dog Wood (when will we have a singing Cetti's on the Moor?). From a position looking across to the Higmere Plantation we were pleased to see the Mandarin Ducks were still present - 25 Males and at least 9 females, probably more, the boys were displaying furiously - perhaps a few nest boxes would be useful! 12 Herons perched high in the waterside alders watched the goings on below with haughty indifference. A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed intermittently, Nuthatches called and a Green Woodpecker's yaffle was heard a couple of times.
The library itself is a lovely building having re-opened in 2013 after extensive refurbishment with all the usual facilities and a pleasant cafe serving snacks and proper coffee. The viewing event took place on the third floor, in the search room, into which we were ushered at the allotted time. A group of about 25 people who were asked to consider others during the event - not to hog the best positions and allow everyone to get a good view and take photos if they wished. This worked well, all very civilised with participants moving politely from spot to spot to examine the prints and take some record shots. The two members of staff gave interesting presentations and were happy to answer questions as they went along. The prints were beautiful and looked as fresh as the day they were completed and no one went away disappointed. I believe a further event is planned sometime this year with all four volumes available - but you'll need to book early!
Just a single Lesser Black-backed Gull further up the mere and a few Goldeneye, there's been no late winter build up as yet. Elevenses were taken in the Allen hide overlooking Melchett Mere whilst watching a small gathering of waterfowl including Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, a dozen or so Wigeon and a pair (or is it two) Egyptian Geese. Our return route took us around the far side of Melchett close to the reedbed where Tony E. and Patch diverted into the reeds themselves and managed to put up a few Common Snipe and no less than 10 Jack Snipe that flew only a few yards before diving back into the reeds in their characteristic manner, unlike their bigger cousins that invariably "tower" away and leave the area completely. We left the park via "Beech Walk" and were lucky enough to bump into the previously reported mixed flock of Chaffinches and Bramblings.
A respectable total of 49 species during a very pleasant mornings birding - thanks to all who were able to come along and help me celebrate my 75th birthday!!
Species seen in Tatton Park on 10th February
Dunnock, Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Wren, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Magpie, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, great Tit, Carrion Crow, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Mandarin Duck, Redwing, Grey Heron, Canada Goose, Pochard, Siskin, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Goldeneye, Coot, Moorhen, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wigeon, Egyptian Goose, Starling, Jack Snipe, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Brambling, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Common Snipe, Coal Tit.
[ ✓ 49]
6/2/2019...... Cold snap brings us more Winter visitors
Topsy-turvy weather over the past couple of weeks, 7
C yesterday and 6.5
C today, in marked contrast to last week when the temperature remained below freezing on Thursday (31st) and dropped to -5
C in the early hours of Monday this week (4th).
More Redwings and Fieldfares have appeared in our area, Jayne Davies tells me that she had large numbers of Redwings on Sunday (3rd) when driving into Tatton Park and the following morning (4th) a large mixed flock of Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings fed amongst the sheep in a field along Smith Lane in Mobberley. Also in the village singing Song and Mistle Thrushes, the latter were very active defending their chosen nest sites from one another - nice to see more than one pair of these early nesters. Goldcrests are in song, hidden away in the conifers surrounding Mobberley Church and some of the village's larger gardens.
We welcomed back the first Siskins of the Winter to our feeders last Saturday when a male and female appeared on the sunflower hearts. Certainly not the first though, Geoff and Sheila Blamire had Siskins and Redpolls in their Mere garden on Sunday the 27th during the Big Garden Birdwatch. Steve Collins hosted both species two weeks previously in his Knutsford garden.
The Manchester Birding Forum reports Brambling this morning (6th) along Beech Walk in Tatton. Park ranger Darren Morris had no less than 40 Mandarin Ducks in front of the Higmere Plantation on the Park's main mere (1/2). I thought this must have been a record for Cheshire but Hugh Pulsford tells me he has previously had a flock of c.100 on the lake in Alderley park where a nest box contained 24 eggs - all of which apparently hatched out!
An interesting text today from Darren who has watched (for the past few weeks) 15 to 20 Cormorants herding young carp into the shallows of the lagoon at the north end of Tatton mere. I've seen film of Pelicans doing this but a quick search on the internet revealed that other members of the Cormorant family indulge in this cooperative exercise in other parts of the world.
So plenty to look forward to on Sunday (10th) when our February field trip will be to Tatton. Meeting up at 9:00am in the Dog Lodge layby on Mobberley Road. Tony Ellis is the trip leader.
28/01/2019...... The Big Garden Birdwatch
Cool but dry weather over the weekend when we again teamed up with The Friends of Knutsford Moor (Saturday 26th) and The Friends of the Heath (Sunday 27th) to lend a hand with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. 8C at 9:00am on Saturday morning as we gathered on the Moor. There was a good turnout of Knutsfordians together with three visitors from Stockport, it was just a pity that there were more people than birds! Still it was rewarding to be able to point out species such as Redwing, Nuthatch and Goldcrest etc. to folk who'd never seen them before. 28 different species in all, 3 up on last year but 7 less than in 2017. All recorded in one hour - the time allotted for the annual exercise.
Just 19 species the following morning on the Heath; despite the later start it was 3 degrees cooler at a chilly 5C with gale force northerly winds making it feel even colder. Although the two locations are about the same size the Heath suffers from not having an area of water within its boundaries and so misses out on the waterfowl to be found on the Moor Pool (although we "nearly" had an Egyptian Goose that passed low over the Heath without landing - that wouldn't feature on many garden lists!). Despite its limitations the Heath is a pleasant place to explore on a windy winters morning, numerous paths criss-cross the woodland making it very popular with local families walking their dogs and the shelter provided by the trees meant the small birds weren't affected by the weather and Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all in song - a gentle reminder that Spring's just around the corner (although the weather forecast gives snow for tomorrow and last year "The Beast from the East" didn't arrive until late February!Song Thrushes were recorded at both locations and again this morning I had three in song on a walk around Mobberley. Very encouraging and it looks like they're making something of a comeback after years of decline.
On Friday (1/2) it's the CAWOS February meeting at 7:45pm at the Catholic Church on Tatton Street
Our second talk for 2019 is by Mike Leach who is a superb photographer and speaker.
Mike has visited us a number of times and always has been very entertaining. His talk this time is a bit of a follow up to one of his previous talks although it is by no means necessary to have attended the "Part 1" to fully enjoy his offering this time. Thoroughly recommended to ALL!
Michael returns with a second helping! Those with long memories will remember his entertaining part 1 back in 2005! Further confessions of a wildlife photographer featuring advice on how to make a wild cat look more menacing and the story of working with hen harriers on a storm-swept Scottish mountain. Michael reveals how cameramen look into the secret world of underground dens and how to build a motorway in your garden shed.
NB Some people are still getting CAWOS and KOS mixed up! KOS is the Knutsford Ornithological Society our local bird club and the "owners" of this website. CAWOS is the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society - the county Society. Some KOS members are members of both.
25/01/2019......Winter on the Wirral
Species seen on Knutsford Moor 26th January 2019. Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Coot, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, mallard, Moorhen, Redwing, Robin, Song Thrush, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Goldcrest, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Pochard.
[ ✓ 28]
Species seen on Knutsford Heath 27th January 2019. Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Nuthatch, Robin, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Wren, Kestrel, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker
[ ✓ 19]
A cold start to the day for our mid-week trip over to the Wirral on Wednesday (23rd), -0.3C at 9:00am with a maximum of only 1.1C during the afternoon. The car park at Burton Mere Wetlands was a sheet of ice and quite treacherous so it came as no surprise that the paths were closed to visitors, even the short stretch to the first viewing screen where we'd hoped to find the Bearded Reedlings.
Despite this disappointment, and the fact that the main pool was also iced over, we spent the best part of an hour in the reception building enjoying crystal clear views across the reserve to the Connah's Quay power station and up to the snow covered Welsh mountains in the distance. The RSPB wardens had the wood burner going full tilt and the filter coffee on offer was most welcome - all very civilised!
Pink-footed Geese passed to and fro high over the reserve whilst in the distance a small flock of Whooper Swans grazed alongside more Pinkfeet, Greylags and Canada Geese.
On then to Parkgate for the high tide of 10M. Many others had also made the trip and the car park at the old baths was chock-a-block, we managed to squeeze in and made our way to the sea wall where Sheila Blamire was nicely ensconced with a clear view across the estuary. The high tide was due at 12:36pm but it soon became apparent that the incoming water was never going to reach the sea wall, conditions on this occasion were just not in our favour. Nevertheless there were plenty of good birds to be found and those that appeared gave us good views. Up to five Marsh Harriers were in the air together, Male and female Hen Harriers caused much excitement as did the hunting Short-eared Owls - three at one stage with one posing photogenically on an old fence post out in the estuary, perhaps just too far away for the multitude of photographers after that killer image!!
Little Egrets were few and far between but a Great White Egret was a welcome addition to the day-list, Skylarks passed over in good numbers and two Stonechats obliged the photographers, assuming an appropriate pose just beyond the sea wall.
The Parkgate chippie was doing a roaring trade but it was again well worth the wait - great to welcome Len Mason back with us after his recent problems and in such good form - he wasn't going to miss those fish and chips!
Fieldfares have been conspicuous by their absence so far this Winter but I had 12 yesterday in Mobberley and Bob Groom counted 61 flying over Queensway at lunchtime.
A busy weekend ahead starting this evening (Friday 25th) -
Friday 25th January... KOS indoor meeting - "North Norfolk Here I Come" with Jim Almond
Saturday 26th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Moor. 9am to 10am on the Moor.
Sunday 27th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Heath 11am to noon on the Heath.
15/01/2019...... The Winter Wildfowl Watch 2019
Species seen on the Wirral - Wednesday 23rd January 2019
Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Mallard, Goldfinch, Pheasant, Pink-footed Goose, Starling, Redshank, Black Swan, Greylag Goose, Heron, Carrion Crow, Canada Goose, Reed Bunting, Whooper Swan, Moorhen, Lapwing, Teal, Little Egret, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Curlew, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Marsh Harrier, Black-headed Gull, lesser Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Snipe, Shelduck, Meadow Pipit, Short-eared Owl, Pied Wagtail, Oystercatcher, Hen harrier, Skylark, Shoveler, Kestrel, Great White Egret, Herring Gull.
[ ✓ 44]
It was a real Winters day last year (21 January 2018) for our annual Winter Wildfowl Watch at the Allen hide - overlooking Melchett mere in Tatton Park. More benign conditions for this years event on Sunday (13th) with a temperature of 10
C, although a very strong westerly wind made it feel a little cooler.
10 members arrived to give a hand during the morning, including Yvonne and Darren Morris who once again provided tea, coffee, biscuits and a supply of hot water - essential ingredients with which to tempt people in!We were surprised that given the more agreeable weather there were so few people passing by, but nevertheless with the promise of free refreshments we were able to accompany a steady stream of visitors down to the hide throughout the morning.
Amongst the 31 species seen or heard there was nothing unusual but, with the use of member's 'scopes, things like Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, Coot, Mallard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Pochard, Goldeneye and Common Snipe could be pointed out to our guests. Alan Gillespie, a long time friend of the KOS, again paid us a visit and alerted us to the fact that, as last year, a Kingfisher was on view along the channel connecting Melchett and the outlet stream from Tatton Mere. A 'scope was quickly set up there and passersby were able to view a species they'd previously only seen on TV!
Most visitors were local to the area and from the positive comments received I suspect we may see some of them again at one of our coming indoor meetings or outdoor field trips.
Thanks to all concerned for their help in making this event such a success - we must do it again sometime!
Also in the park Roger Barnes tells me that Grey Herons can be seen perched high in the alder trees of Higmere plantation, staking out their claims to the most favourable nest sites prior to the breeding season, which is now upon us - young birds have been seen as early as February at some locations in the past. On his way to the Allen hide Alan Gillespie walked along Beech Walk, next to the golf course, and reports seeing Brambings feeding on the beech mast - the first I've heard of in our area this winter.
In Mobberley a pair of Little Owls have set up shop along Pavement Lane and this morning on Slade Lane I watched a group of 5 Bullfinches exploring an orchard and heard three Song Thrushes and two Goldcrests in song. let's hope they don't get carried away - it's mild at the moment but the weather people tell us it's going to get a lot colder - winter's not over yet!
There are some high Spring tides next week - around 10 meters on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th. The RSPB will be putting on a special event on the 23rd.
Wednesday 23rd January - Parkgate High tide Birdwatch (RSPB).
10.30am-2.30pm, Price: Free.
In celebration of the RSPB Dee Estuary reserve's 40th anniversary, join us at Parkgate Old Baths for the awe-inspiring spectacle of a high tide flooding the vast salt marsh, potentially reaching the old sea wall. The marsh at Parkgate is one of the best wetland habitats in the northwest, and when flooded by an incoming tide, the wildlife which lives here is pushed closer, with chance of seeing the great range of ducks, geese, wading birds and egrets in big numbers as they are driven upstream by the rising tide. A range of birds of prey take advantage of mice and voles flushed from the grasses; hen and marsh harriers, peregrines and merlins all spend the winter months on the estuary and this is one of the best places to watch them, plus short-eared owls if we're really lucky. So why not venture out to try witness all the drama. Low pressure and a westerly wind will help push the tide and wildlife in close. There is free public parking at the Old Baths car park (CH64 6RN) at the north end of The Parade, and the Wirral Country Park car park on Station Road (CH64 6QJ). There are public toilets at Mostyn Square in the middle of The Parade, and a number of pubs and cafes. High tide (10.0m/32.8ft) at 12.36pm.
Species recorded in Tatton Sunday 13th January 2019
Jackdaw, Redwing, Starling, Brambling, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Coot, mallard, Shoveller, Kestrel, Wigeon, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Pochard, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Tufted Duck, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Kingfisher, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Snipe.
[ ✓ 31]
07/01/2019...... January field trip to Connah's Quay
I'd sent out an email to members with the postcode for the Connah's Quay reserve, the venue for Sunday's first field trip of the year on Sunday (6th). It must have been correct as everyone arrived with time to spare. Everyone except me and Frank that is. A combination of old age and finger trouble on the satnav found us still on the A55 at the allotted time heading for Conwy and Llandudno!
Luckily Frank was in his usual unflappable mode and soon had us back on track. We were late but only by a few minutes. 75 years ago chaps like him would have been sat in the tattered remains of the fuselage of a crippled Lancaster bomber calmly guiding the pilot back to safety at some aerodrome on the flatlands of Lincolnshire! Anyway, suitably embarrassed, we eventually landed to hoots of derision from the rest of the KOS Crew!!
High tide was at 11:00am so we made our way immediately to the tower hide at the far end of the reserve, Chaffinch, Linnet and Brambling, seen from the cars, were early additions to the day list as we made our way along the track running parallel with the River Dee. Earlier in the morning we'd seen huge flocks of Pink-footed geese passing overhead as we approached Connah's Quay, a few more were seen from the hide but here Canada Geese predominated, a sizable flock grazed in front of us accompanied by a few Greylags and two difficult to find Barnacle geese.
Waders were well represented with c. 50 Dunlin feeding on the mud before the tide rolled in plus Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and, in the distance, viewable only through the bigger 'scopes, a small group of Knot.
We had a number of sightings of Little Egrets out across the estuary towards Parkgate plus one record of a single Great White Egret. A Peregrine appeared from that direction and landed for a short time on a nearby pylon, partially obscured by the structure but viewable through the 'scopes. Just four species of raptor during the day with the Peregrine, an early Kestrel, Buzzard and a Marsh Harrier seen by Bob as we walked back to the cars, bringing our final tally to a reasonable 51 species. The only disappointment was the absence again of any Twite; apparently they have appeared only intermittently in small numbers at very high tides and after heavy rain when fresh water pools, in which they were seen bathing, formed in the car park.
This coming Sunday (13th) we'll again be at the Allen Hide, overlooking Melchett mere, in Tatton Park from 11am until 1pm for the annual Winter Wildfowl Watch in conjunction with the Park Rangers. Always good fun and we're hoping that refreshments will again be available but this depends on what Darren can scrounge!!
species seen at Connah's Quay on Sunday 6th January 2019.
Chaffinch, Brambling, Linnet, Robin, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Kestrel, Great Tit, Curlew, Buzzard, Raven, Shelduck, Lapwing, Teal, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Dunlin, Reed Bunting, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen, Cormorant, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Barnacle Goose, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Greenfinch, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Harrier, Dunnock, Wren, Mallard, Peregrine, Mute Swan, Redwing.
[ ✓ 51]
30/12/2018...... Christmas Walk
A pleasant enough day on Friday (28th) for our annual Christmas walk around Budworth Mere / Haydn's / Neumann's etc. - overcast but dry with a maximum temperature of 12
C. It was nice to see our Hon. Sec. Derek back out in the field and in great form! and also Hon. Treasurer Frank who survived a 10 hour drive up from Kent the previous day - sheer weight of traffic with cars queuing in the slip roads up to the services on the M25 and M6; how on earth are we to cope in the future when all these vehicles need their batteries charging when we're all electric?
Our route took us from the Witton Bridge car park up to Haydn's pool, along to Budworth Mere then over to Neumann's Flash on our way back to the cars. Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits were all in song as we approached Butterfinch Bridge, no Cetti's Warbler this year but a Water Rail called briefly from deep inside the reedbed upstream from the bridge.
Haydn's Pool was disappointing; it's currently overgrown with little water to be seen, but we did tick off Stock Dove and Peregrine on the day list - the latter perched on a railing on the old ICI building, not in it's usual position on the chimney - you can't hide from the Hon. Chairman's Swarovski!
Elevenses were taken at the viewing screen overlooking Budworth Mere. More to see here, the most obvious species on view were the Goosanders - no less than 29 birds, four full adult males but mostly "red heads" one of which was fishing in the shallows, just below the screen, where Richard obtained the image shown above. A second Water Rail was heard from here whilst out on the mere good numbers of Great Crested Grebes two of which were displaying.
Over towards the sandspit were the gulls, Mainly Black-headed with a few Herring a handful of Lesser Black-backed and a single Great Black-backed. Other wildfowl included Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe with a couple of Canada Geese and a lone Goldeneye. A Kingfisher flew low over the mere as we made our way along the waterside path and into the woodland.
Approaching Neumann's we came across a small flock of finches predominately Green and Gold but alongside them a couple of Lesser Redpolls. More Wildfowl on Neumann's with Wigeon and Teal present in good numbers; across on the far side of the flash a flock of c. 200 Lapwings (but no Golden Plovers this time). Richard, Geoff and Sheila diverted to Pod's hide before returning to the cars and from there had a Snipe and great views of a Water Rail which was so close that Richard was able to capture this shot with his phone camera. In the foreground you'll see red roses left in memory of Pete "Pod" Antrobus and in who's memory the hide was erected. A poignant image and a reminder that for many people Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time.
Some up and coming dates for your diary.Friday 4th January.... The latest CAWOS meeting - Paul Hobson "Scotland" 7:45pm at the Catholic Church, Tatton Street, Knutsford.
Sunday 6th January.... Our KOS January field trip to Connah's Quay. 08:30am at the Tatton Street car park or 09:20 at the entrance to the reserve. Hopefully the Twite flock has built up again this winter.
Sunday 13th January... Wildfowl watch with the Tatton Rangers. 11:00am to 1pm at the Allen hide.
Friday 25th January... KOS indoor meeting - "North Norfolk Here I Come" with Jim Almond
Saturday 26th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Moor. 9am to 10am on the Moor.
Sunday 27th January - Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Heath 11am to noon on the Heath.
19/12/2018...... The KOS Christmas Party
Species seen at Northwich Woodlands. Friday 28th January 2018.Dunnock, Robin, Mallard, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Magpie, Chaffinch, Great tit, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Nuthatch, Water Rail, Carrion Crow, Peregrine Falcon, Stock Dove, Mute Swan, Jay, Coal Tit, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goosander, great crested Grebe, Moorhen, Cormorant, lapwing, herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, great Black-backed Gull, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Reed Bunting, Sparrowhawk, Coot, Kingfisher, Heron, Canada Goose, Long-tailed Tit, Buzzard, Greenfinch, Teal, Wigeon, Lesser Redpoll, Snipe.
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Our 44th Christmas party went very well on Friday evening (14th). Despite fewer attendees than last year, as Frank Dearden our Hon. Treasurer reports, the society's finances received a very welcome boost.
Greetings all. A lovely evening last Friday rounded off our 2018 meeting programme with festive spirits fuelled by a delicious food offering. This event is also our sole fund raising effort of the year; here is how we did on that front.
A total of twenty one people attended the party; a figure lower than in previous years owing to a number of late cancellations from members felled by various bugs. Nevertheless, the evening was a great success on the financial as well as the enjoyment front, coming in the top three of KOS parties for money taken and profit recorded. The two occasions when slightly more was raised were years when we had guest lists of twenty eight. Based on the size of our gathering, it was the most financially productive party that we have ever had.
Admission money at
7 per head raised
The raffle organised by Sue and Jacquie brought in
The bring and buy stall, followed by the end of evening auction, overseen by Sheila and Judith realised
Various donations totalled
This produced a total revenue of
308.50. Deducting modest buffet costs of
51.50 (all the offerings being subsidised in some way by the providers) gave a profit of
So a big thank you to all involved in our party, for supporting the raffle and the bring and buy, for providing the food and making donations. Also to Bob for organising a quiz and providing the prize.
The sum raised will help keep the Society going and enable us to continue to attract quality speakers to our meetings.
Thanks Frank it looks as though we'll not have to post that begging letter to Jose Mourinho who's apparently leaving Old Trafford with a golden goodbye of
I've not received many sightings of interest since the last update. Bob Groom was at Rostherne on 11th December and had a flock of c.100 Pinkfeet flying over. In Mobberley along Pavement Lane two Little Owls have taken over the oak tree nest site used two years ago by a pair of Barn Owls. Blue, Great and Coal Tits have been in song for the past couple of weeks and were joined over the weekend by the local Dunnocks. Not long now to the shortest day and in the garden the daffodil leaves are beginning to emerge - Spring can't be that far away - or am I being a tad too optimistic? In his weather column in today's Times Paul Simons, who correctly predicted the arrival of the "Beast from the East" at the end of February, seems confident that were going to suffer something similar in the near future, possibly as soon as late December although more likely in mid to late January. It could run through to February with hard frosts, ice and snow - you've been warned!
I've updated the trips and meetings page with three additional outdoor events. On December 28th we'll be having our Christmas walk around the Northwich Woodlands - Neumann's / Haydn's / Budworth Mere etc. meeting at the usual Witton Bridge car park at 09:45 for a 10am start.
We'll again be joining forces with two Knutsford organisations for the Big Garden Birdwatch. Friends of Knutsford Moor at 9:00am on 26th January and Friends of Knutsford Heath at 11:00am the following day.
Back to Knutsford Ornithological Society Homepage...........2018 Archived pages