The first signs of the coming breeding season locally with The Hon. Sec. reporting Rooks in attendance and nest refurbishment underway at the small rookery next to the M6 services (31/12) and Buzzards displaying over the new building site (190) houses opposite the entrance to Lilac Avenue(10/1).
Much the same on Saturday(11th) over at the RSPB's Burton Wetlands reserve with, probably, two pairs of Buzzards and even more croaking Ravens vying for the best nest sites. The Buzzards can wait but the Ravens will hope to start laying during the first week in February.
It was a relatively warm day (12 ° C) for our first field trip of the year, very gloomy when we arrived at 09:40am but things improved as the day went on, although the wind speed increased to gale force early in the afternoon. All the species we've come to expect at this time of the year were on view from the reception building, with the addition of a scattering of Golden Plovers amongst the massed ranks of Lapwings. The high tide had perhaps encouraged more waders than usual to rest and feed on the reserve, Dunlin were numerous with a flock of c200 birds and a constant stream of Curlews arrived from the estuary, some calling as they flew in - that most evocative of bird calls, telling us of wild, lonely places in the far north.
A Cetti's Warbler sang for a few moments as we made our way towards the Marsh Covert hide from where Gadwall and a nice male Pintail were added to a rapidly expanding day list. No new species from the Inner Marsh hide, although as we walked back towards the reception centre a mixed flock of thrushes passed over, amongst them chattering Fieldfares, unlike their close cousins the Redwings, few and far between this winter.
Through the window of the Parkgate chippy we watched Marsh Harriers hunting over the reeds, a bit of a challenge for them as they struggled against the ever increasing south-westerly wind. Nothing new from our next port of call, the Old Baths, so we walked along the old quayside as far as Cottage Lane, the estuary on one side and the Heswall golf course on the other. Redwings fed on the field behind the baths, other new species en route included Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit - not rarities of course but welcome additions to the list. Highlight was a distant male Hen Harrier, a species we'd hoped to see, not good views but they all count! Returning to the Baths we met up with Bob and Len who'd been lucky enough to see a great White Egret and a Merlin, bringing the final tally to 57 species. It's worth noting that winter counts are often greater than we manage during the spring and summer!
Don't forget that on Sunday (19th) it's our Winter Wildfowl Watch in Tatton Park at the Allen hide overlooking Melchett Mere from 11:00am until 1:00pm. This has become an annual event, in conjunction with the Park rangers and all are welcome - Darren the Ranger and Yvonne will be providing tea and coffee, for us and any members of the public who feel inclined to join us in the hide!
Species seen on the Wirral - 11th January 2020
So the Witton Bridge car park was choc-a-bloc yesterday morning when we arrived for our traditional Christmas walk. Not being inclined to join the crowds of folk up on the embankment looking for the rarity - we'd take our chance on our return, if it was still there - we set off on the normal route up to Haydyn's Pool. The weather was beautiful, around 5
C and not a cloud in the sky, great conditions and a couple of Reed Buntings duly obliged, posing nicely for all our group (of 14 members today) to enjoy prolonged views and for Simon our photographer extraordinaire to get the cracking image shown on the left! A Peregrine was resting on one of the distant chimneys, as viewed from Haydn's, but the area in front of the hide is now overgrown and we rarely see anything of note from the hide. There's apparently not much that can be done to improve the situation, as they are down to a single Ranger and a small group of volunteers, who must see to more important tasks which use up the available resources.
The Buzzard in Simon's second shot watched us as we progressed from Haydn's along the old road as far as the information centre and eventually the viewing screen. Apparently at one stage it dropped down from it's perch and returned a few seconds later with a hapless rodent which was swallowed in one go, Simon has the pictures but they may be too graphic for our sensitive readers!
There was no sign of the Bittern in the Coward reedbed opposite the viewing screen but we added plenty of new species for the day list. The usual Tits on the feeders, whilst on the mere Great Crested and Little Grebes, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Canada and Greylag Geese, together with a total of five fine male Goosanders. Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls rested on the distant sand spit with a small group of Curlew just behind them feeding on the shore line.
We enjoyed elevenses at the screen before making our way back through the woodland to the Witton Bridge car park where we met up with Bob Groom who'd taken a different route which took him to the last known location of the Stonechat. The bird had been seen earlier, prior to our arrival, but not re-located - much to the disappointment of a number of people who'd travelled considerable distances to add it to their year / life / British etc. lists. They must have persevered though as it was found again later in the day and they'd be able to breath a sigh of relief as they filled in that little blank square on their list(s)!
Ken and Shirley Davies have been off on one of their campervan trips again and recently visited the RSPB's Frampton Marsh reserve........ "a rather belated report on our recent visit to RSPB Frampton Marsh near Boston Lincolnshire , the weather was a little cloudy but thankfully not much wind.
Blackbird ,Golden Plover ,Lapwing ,Kestrel ,Avocet ,Redshank ,Black-tailed Godwit ,Ringed Plover ,Starling ,Wren ,Little Egret ,Turnstone ,Dunlin ,Pied Wagtail ,Woodpigeon ,Collar Dove ,House Sparrow ,Cetti's Warbler ,Reed Bunting ,Blue Tit ,Great Tit ,Wigeon ,Teal ,Brent Geese ,Greylag Geese ,Shoveler ,Little Grebe ,Shelduck ,Mute Swan ,Canada Geese ,Golden Eye ,Coot ,Moorhen ,Mallard ,Cormorant ,Black-headed Gull ,Herring Gull ,Lesser black back Gull ,Pintail ,Gadwall ,Grey Heron ,Pochard ,Whooper Swan ,Red-legged Partridge ,Pheasant ,Carrion Crow ,Rook ,Magpie ,Greenfinch ,Curlew ,Buzzard ,Goldfinch ,Chaffinch ,(53) a site well worth a visit the Brent Geese and Golden Plover were present in their thousands"........ Thanks Ken, I'm guessing that plans are well-advanced for next Spring's adventures!
Some dates for your diary
Friday 3rd January - CAWOS - "BEYOND 66.5 DEGREES NORTH - ARCTIC NORWAY" by Richard Steel
Saturday 11th January - KOS - Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB - field trip, meet in Lilac Avenue, Knutsford 9am Leader: Bob Groom.
Sunday 19th January - Winter Birdwatch, Allen Hide, Tatton Park 11am to 1pm. Joint venture with Darren Morris, Tatton Park Ranger. Leader: Frank Dearden.
Friday 24th January KOS indoor meeting - 'Land of Contrasts - Namibia' by Keith OffordSaturday 25th January 11am until noon - RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch with the friends of Knutsford Moor,
Sunday 26th January 11am until noon - RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch with the friends of Knutsford Heath,
Finally, the 2018 Rostherne Mere report has now been made available. It's a splendid publication and well worth a read. You can download a FREE copy by clicking here here.
Species seen on the 2019 Christmas Walk.
Predictably, fewer people met up on a cold and drizzly Sunday morning (15th) for our December field trip up to Marshside and Martin Mere. Just 4
C as we arrived at Marshside, although the rain had stopped and overnight snow on the distant Pennine hills provided a beautiful Winter backdrop, against which the silhouettes of flocks of Pink-footed Geese were a fine sight as they passed out towards the Ribble estuary.
The general consensus was that there were less birds about this year than on previous visits, but it's a huge area and very difficult to judge unless you're really familiar with the location. Pink-footed and Greylag geese fed close to the main Sandgrounders hide, whilst in the distance, on Crossens Marsh, flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover frequently took to the air - nervous about passing raptors, although there were fewer about this time - just a single Kestrel and a quite magnificent male Hen Harrier that was quartering the marsh as we made our way to the other hides. From Nel's hide we had good views of the usual Teal, Tufted Ducks, Shoveler, Pintail and Black-tailed Godwits plus thousands of Wigeon, the most numerous of the wildfowl species this year. There were only a few Curlew present this time around, a species that seems to be struggling more than most and a cause of great concern amongst naturalists.
The admission price for adult non-members at Martin mere is now
13.00 and a still a hefty
11.04 for concessionary entry - I think they're pushing their luck a little with those prices, especially as the area of pens containing the collection of wildfowl from various parts of the world seems to have been neglected over recent times and isn't a patch on what it was in the past.
We began by walking down to the Ron Barker hide from where we had good views of a female Marsh Harrier and a single Buzzard, the only one of the day. Most of the wildfowl were way out on the marsh, including a small flock of Whooper Swans, we didn't see any others, although they do tend to appear later at feeding time and provide great views from the Discovery hide. As it was we only spent a few minutes there, the build-up to the feed hadn't started, but around 15 Ruff were already there looking very smart in their mid-winter plumage. Our final walk took us down to the far end of the reserve where species such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reed Bunting and Bullfinch were frequenting the feeders and duly added to the day list, which finally reach an impressive 61 species after the addition of Barn Owl and Merlin, recorded by Bob Groom when he took a different route to the majority of the party.
On Monday 30th December we'll be doing what is now our traditional post-Christmas walk around the Northwich Woodlands (Neumann's, Haydn Pool, Budworth Mere etc.) meeting at 10:00am at the usual Witton Bridge car park.
So, to all KOS members and any others who happen to pass this way - have a happy and peaceful Christmas and, if we don't see you on the Christmas walk, best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.
species seen on 15th December 2019 at Marshside and Martin Mere.