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Supplementary Pages 2022

Updated  27th January 2022

27/01/2022......The 2022 KOS Sand Martin Competition
On our January field trip last weekend to Pennington Flash we recorded 54 different species; I've never visited the location during the Spring but I don't think we'd get many more than that. The Winter months can provide excellent birding opportunities but, of course, it's the Spring that many folk regard as their favourite season and, at this time of the year, March and April are eagerly anticipated!

For Knutsford birders Spring begins "officially" with the appearance over Tatton Mere of the first Sand Martins. There's always a certain amount of friendly rivalry as KOS members and friends search for the first bird of the year. It's been a long time now since I organised an annual "Sand Martin competition", when people were asked to predict the date and time the first bird would be recorded over the park (normally Tatton Mere itself but once over Melchett Mere). We've decided to begin running it again this year and everyone is invited to submit their carefully considered estimate (commonly called a guess!!).

Anyone can enter, not just KOS members (a chap in the USA won one year) and you can do so by clicking here. Only one entry per person please and entries can be submitted up to and including the 15th February (Cheshire's earliest record, as far as I know, is the 16th February)
The person who estimates the time and date closest to the first record will win a small prize!

Always remember - "it's only birdwatching - no one dies!"

Bob Groom recently enjoyed his monthly WeBS count at Tabley Mere.........."It was an excellent count as no work going on (though the fencing still in position) and the water level reduced by about 20%, giving muddy margins. (Could be good for waders in Spring if it stays like that.) At least 400 Lapwings were present and 103 Teal, more than I've seen there in a very long time. 2 Shelducks, 9 Herons, 5 Cormorants, 3 Shovelers, 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Mute Swans, a Great Crested Grebe plus usual Canada Geese, Mallard ,Tufted Ducks and Coot."............

This weekend it's the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch and we will again be helping out two of our local organisations with their count.
On Saturday 29th, we'll be out with "The Friends of the Moor" on Knutsford Moor - 11am until noon. Meeting up at the pavilion on the Moor.
The following day (Sunday 30th) we repeat the exercise with the "Friends of Knutsford Heath". Again 11am until noon. Meeting by the information board close to the junction of Stanley Road and Northwich Road.

Anyone is welcome to join us.

25/01/2022......The trip to Pennington Flash
Despite the absence of some "regulars" 19 folk arrived at Wigan's Pennington Flash for our January KOS field trip. Any potential shortfall being made up by newer members and returnees, making it a very encouraging turnout.

Due to the high pressure still sitting over the UK it was overcast but dry, with little wind and a temperature of 7 ° C. as we set off on the 5Km circumnavigation of the flash.

As usual the good people of Wigan were being very generous with their left-over meat pies and it was much appreciated by the Canada geese, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Black-headed Gulls, crowded along the shore.
Further out the Goldeneye and Cormorants seemed uninterested, as did the Goosanders we came across, a short distance along our route, the males with a salmon-pink, early Spring flush to their flanks, looked very handsome. We were disappointed not to hear any Cetti's Warblers this year, the phragmites reedbed bordering the flash is an ideal place for them and previously could be relied on to host one or more singing birds, long before we'd become familiar with them in the Knutsford area.
On a spit of land across the other side of the flash we could make out a single Oystercatcher and a Little Egret, the only one we saw all day. The various paths then merged into just one as we headed towards the sailing club; very muddy, despite the recent dry spell. A field alongside us held a flock of wintering Redwings and some of the party had relatively good views of a Kingfisher, hidden away in an overhanging willow.
Following the unavoidable short walk along a busy road we turned right and down towards the north-western end of the flash, where we added Greylag Goose, Sparrowhawk, Pochard, Pheasant and Shoveler to the day's tick list. The route than became a bit muddy again but we were soon onto firmer ground and Herring Gull, Common Gull and Little Grebe were revealed by the 'scopes. We arrived at the wetlands area, with it's hides, at 12:30pm, so that was 3 miles in 2 ½ hours - a good, steady, birdwatching pace!
Considering it was a weekend the hides were sparsely populated; a Water Rail showed well from Pengy's hide (see Richard's picture) and, from the Bunting hide, close-up views of Reed Bunting, Stock Dove, Moorhen and Long-tailed Tit were enjoyed. A short distance away an enterprising (probably photographer) had baited some fence posts with food and this was attracting Bullfinches, Coal Tits and, at last, the reserve's speciality, Willow Tits - excellent views!
We ended the day with 54 different species, a good effort and most enjoyable!

Bill Bellamy has kindly sent me the results of Sunday's WeBS counts at Rostherne and Tatton......."Attached are the results from the first WeBS Count for 2022.
Some interesting sightings. Eighteen Whoopers which seemed to come from the Tatton direction descended on Rostherne but it was only a passing visit as they flew on. Several Cormorants have started nest building already. Two Ring-Necked Parakeets were very vocal in Wood Bongs and seemed to be prospecting for a nest hole. Times are a changing!
The total Goldeneye count between the sites was a healthy 29. There was a good Mallard count on Melchett (157) and nice selection of different species. There were 20 Pochard feeding at the Knutsford end of Tatton Mere, mostly males. Canadas remain low at each of the sites. It is strange day when you see more Whoopers than Canadas! "
Apparently the event attracted no less than 14 participants, including Mobberley birder Wendy Stratford, on her first visit on the day of a count........"It was a great experience - so nice to get nearer the water! There were 5 of us including Phil our guide. The Whooper Swans were quite close - we were on the far lake shore. Also Siskin, Ring-necked Parakeets and heard Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler".........

Species recorded at Pennington Flash on 22nd January 2022
Coot, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Robin, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Goldeneye, Cormorant, Buzzard, Little Egret, Goosander, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Wren, Lapwing, Redwing, Kingfisher, Carrion Crow, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Chaffinch, Greylag Goose, Nuthatch, Teal, Pochard, Pheasant, Shoveler, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Stock Dove, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Water Rail, Blackbird, Willow Tit, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Dunnock. [ ✓ 54]

21/01/2022......A trip to the coast and more Bramblings
They weren't taken locally, I know, but I couldn't resist using Simon Smith's images of Snow Buntings and Sanderlings in this latest news update!..........."We took a trip out to Wallasey Shore this morning, to see the Snow Buntings that have been residing there since mid-December. There were 5 of them in the dunes by Derby Pool and they were very confiding. Also had fun watching a small flock of Sanderling, scuttling around at the waters' edge."..........Thanks Simon, beautiful shots!

Meanwhile, nearer to home, Geoff and Sheila Blamire's route on Sunday (16/1) took them past the sunflower meadow in Lostock Gralam I described in the previous update........We did our "usual" 11km Sunday walk around Plumley and Holford - no other birdwatchers spotted during the morning! Actually not many people seen at all!

At the start there was a decent flock of finches and buntings between Holford Hall track and railway bridge - Reed Buntings, Chaffinches and Yellowhammers. Nothing of note until we saw c30 Lapwings Hame Farm, Holford. Then continued towards the sunflower field and from the lane we had c150 Fieldfares and Redwings plus 'loads' Starlings. By the bridge flock of finches - mostly Bramblings. Visibility was rubbish but still good to see them in the gloom. Came across couple of Buzzards 'worming' in the wet fields. We walked back through the lanes and came across c60 Curlews in the 'usual' field. In the end a good walk.

On the same morning Bob Groom set off to Tabley Park to do his monthly wildfowl count but was forced to abandon the exercise......."I attempted to do the Tabley Count this morning but for the first time ever I wasn't able to do it. I met Ivan and he told me that the contractors wouldn't now be finished until well into February! He advised that even they (shoot) weren't risking going down to the mere at the moment. I pressed on but the combination of slippery, uneven rubble, mud and water made the tracks very hazardous and in the end I was forced to go back. (The rain mist didn't help either.) The worry is whether they (contractors) are going to leave the tracks in bad condition. I left rather disgruntled and ended up on the Tabley Hill Bridleway. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk (but unusually no buzzard), 250+ Lapwings (a fine sight), Heron, Pied Wagtail, lots of Starlings and Jackdaws but only 5 Redwings.".........It must have been bad, as I know Bob has carried out the survey for nearly 40 years!

KOS Secretary Karina Stanley was anticipating a bit of a scrum at the Lostock sunflower meadow and, instead, chose the tranquillity of a site closer to home!.........."Just one Brambling for me today! Couldn't face the crowds over there in Lostock land? so we walked across the fields behind Toft Hall.
Two very large flocks of intermingled Fieldfare and Redwing with teams of Starling setting the pace were just gorgeous. Before we reached the Bells of Peover, we stopped to look at a noisy charm of Goldfinch only to spy a single Brambling and a couple of Chaffinch as well!
An acrobatic Goldcrest, a few Siskin and a very startled, unsuspecting Buzzard (which flew towards us as we were stopped watching the finches ) were other highlights. "

The following day (17/1) found Derek and Jean on Sudlow Lane, enjoying the current spell of dry, sunny conditions,........."Had a walk down Sudlow lane earlier on this beautiful sunny afternoon, as forecast, not a lot about but some highlights a Grey Wagtail, a covey of Partridge and a Buzzard sat on top of a newly cut hedge plus a few Fieldfare.

It felt like Spring: well it would be all the layers I had on! "

I spent the morning of the same day at Rostherne - Just 4C in the obs. when I arrived at 09:45am. The wildfowl didn't co-operate and remained hidden away around the edges of the mere. There seemed to be a lot of Goldeneye and there were certainly 6 Goosanders: 4 males.
A big flock of 61 Greylags flew in at 11:30am, a great sight - I thought they were Pinkfeet as they approached the reserve! A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming as I left.

It's our KOS January field trip tomorrow (22/1) when we'll be doing a circumnavigation of Wigan's Pennington Flash. Hopefully we'll have the increasingly rare Willow Tits and singing Cetti's Warbler.
Normally it's quite muddy underfoot and I suspect it will remain so, despite the recent lack of rain.
10:00am in the car park - WN7 3PA

As we've now left the European Union, the common agricultural policy has been replaced, in the UK, by the sustainable farming initiative. ........"The Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is the first of our three new environmental land management schemes. Through this scheme, we will pay farmers to produce public goods such as water quality, biodiversity, animal health and welfare and climate change mitigation, alongside food production."..........

........"For decades, farmers have received area-based payments where the driving force has been size and scale to the detriment of our natural environment. These first standards in the SFI scheme set a new direction that will reorientate farming practices away from a production-at-all-costs mindset to delivering environmental return under public money for public goods."......

Perhaps it means that, in future, we'll see more of the small parcels of land such as the sunflower meadow created in the parish of Lostock Gralam (see map) that was "discovered" by Geoff and Sheila Blamire during their daily walks in the Cheshire countryside.
They visited the location again on Sunday (9/1)......."Fabulous morning today, these are the highlights:
8 Curlews flying, then 1 single Curlew, then c100 Curlews flew into a field (as before on early visits). Might be more because the field is very undulating, so difficult to count.
Sunflower field: few Reed Buntings and Chaffinches, but then - drum roll - at least 30 Bramblings!
Support cast: flock of c100 Redwings (plus smaller flocks elsewhere), 1+ Yellowhammers, 12+ Long-tailed Tits (plus smaller flocks elsewhere), 1+ Goldcrests. "

Bob Groom followed in their footsteps on Tuesday (11/1)....."I went this morning, via Lostock Green. I found the bridge easily, thanks SB, TU, DP. When I parked there were birds in trees near it but there was a surprising number of vehicles back and to along the lane (considering it's a no through road) and they quickly moved further away. My first estimate was about 60 Bramblings but then another flock came in and when a Jay gave its alarm call and they all went up into the trees at the back of the sunflower field I reckoned over 100 birds, almost all or all Bramblings; a fine sight. A flock of Redwings flew past but didn't stop. I headed back via the lanes but didn't spot any curlews. ".......

I couldn't resist the temptation and went over yesterday (12/1), meeting up with Derek and Jean, who'd arrived earlier. We recorded Brambling, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Linnet in the flock, that we estimated to be at least 200 strong. A fine sight and a demonstration of how valuable the creation of this sort of habitat can be. Later as I stood on the bridge a chap in a JCB pulled up and asked what I was looking at, as he'd seen others there, similarly equipped with binoculars and 'scopes. He did contract work for the farmer and all he knew was that it was only to be mown once a year, so I assume that it was created as part of a stewardship scheme.

Joy Jones was in Tatton on Saturday (8/1) ........"On Saturday I saw a flock of about 50 Siskin in the alders at the far end of Tatton Mere. The experienced birdwatching friend who was with me at the time (and who got very excited about it) said that it was worth reporting to you! We also saw a couple in Anderton Nature Reserve the next day, so they're around now, and I shall keep a lookout for them - lovely to see when the sun catches them."..... Thanks Joy, that's a favourite spot for the Siskins and, especially after windy weather, they come down to the ground to feed on the alder seeds.

Just across from there, on Monday 10/1), Tatton Ranger Darren Morris, was watching early display from the Great Crested Grebes on Melchett Mere......"Two Great Crested Grebes today on Melchett Mere, reared up in the water head shaking with weed in their bills".....

Derek Pike and I spent a couple of hours in the Rostherne Observatory on Monday morning; not much to report but we did have a flock of Pink-footed Geese in the distance, just before noon. Apparently there was a movement of pinkfeet during the day with many reports from all over Cheshire. I managed to get a shot of the flock and there were 230 birds. The coloured dots are to assist counting when viewed in large scale on the computer screen!
The Rostherne Observatory will be closed for redecoration between the 21st and 25th February. Lulu Lytle won't be involved!

06/01/2022......A warm start to the new year
Bob Groom tells me that a Swallow was seen at Sandbach on Christmas Day - a late or an early record? It has been unseasonably warm though, on New year's Eve a temperature of 15.8C was recorded at Nantwich. This was an all-time record for December 31st, as was the 16.3C the following day in London.
As I write though, things seem to returning to normal for the time of year, the temperature on my weather station shows 2.3C and it's snowing!

The birds seemed to appreciate the short spell of milder weather, on a walk along Pavement Lane in Mobberley I noticed that one of the Little Owls was perched alongside the nest site used in previous years and the local Robins had been joined in song by Coal Tits and Dunnocks. Sheila Blamire reports a Song Thrush tuning up and even a singing Redwing in Marbury Big Wood!
Our garden feeder, containing sunflower hearts, is busy from dawn to dusk; currently good numbers of Green and Gold finches with the occasional Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch. We usually have to wait until later in the Winter for Siskins and Redpolls, although the latter are around and KOS Secretary, Karina Stanley, managed to obtain a decent shot of one in her Knutsford garden.
It was interesting to read recently that the latest research reveals that the various species of Redpoll should now be considered as just one - the Redpoll Hopefully the same will prove to be the case with Herring Gulls etc.!

On Monday (3/1) I spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the Rostherne observatory. I arrived at 10:10am and had just finished opening the windows and putting out some seed when a flock of Pinkfeet appeared flying south from the direction of Altrincham. Unusually low, great sight and sound: about 50 birds.
The wildfowl again moved towards the centre of the mere, away from the edges (fox or something?) 80 Wigeon, 93 Teal, 2 Greylags, 8 Goldeneye, 4 Pochard, 3 Goosander and a lone Shelduck.
7C ultra-bright sunshine. Cup of tea and cold toast; food of the gods (Goostrey's bakery was closed - so no sausage rolls!).

The next WeBS count on the reserve takes place on Sunday 23rd January, anyone who'd like to take part should contact Bill Bellamy Again, all are welcome to take part, any help is always appreciated.

Other dates for your diary -
Friday 7th January - CAWOS Zoom meeting at 7:30pm - Seabirds and Marine Conservation - Jonathan Green. All CAWOS members will have been sent an email with details.
Saturday 22nd January. KOS field trip to Pennington Flash - details to follow.
Saturday 29th January RSPB "Big Garden Birdwatch" with the Friends of Knutsford Moor.
Sunday 30th January "Big Garden Birdwatch" with the Friends of Knutsford Heath.

29/12/2021......The KOS Christmas Walk
Despite a less than encouraging weather forecast, 13 hardy souls gathered at the Witton Mill car park yesterday (28/12) for our annual Christmas stroll around the Northwich Woodlands; taking in Budworth Mere, Dairy house Meadows, Neumann's Flash and Ashton's Flash [map].
It was certainly wet to start with, the roads in Mobberley were awash and in Lostock Gralam, we had to proceed carefully through flood water a foot deep!

Fortunately as we set off, after a briefing by our trip leader and KOS Chairperson Sheila Blamire, the rain had all but stopped and didn't re-appear until we were heading for home four hours later.

There was plenty of activity in the car park with Blue and Great Tits on the feeder, male and female Reed Buntings fed below and the subdued Winter song of Robins accompanied us as we headed towards Butterfinch Bridge. It was here, some years ago, that we heard our first Cheshire Cetti's Warbler. Nothing for us but Karina Stanley, who was initially some way behind us, reported a bird in song as she passed.
Heading towards Budworth Mere a pair of croaking Ravens flew overhead, perhaps a sign of Spring (or wishful thinking) already, the birds begin nesting in mid-February - just 6 weeks away!
Elevenses were enjoyed in the covered picnic area before moving on towards the Mere, pausing to watch our first Redwings of the day as they fed in the yew and holly trees next to the Ranger's complex.
The viewing screen overlooking the Coward reedbed is no more, succumbing to old age and rotting timbers but still a good viewpoint and we added most of the usual suspects to the day-list - ducks, geese and gulls. Further on, good views of a Kingfisher that perched, obligingly, next to where we stood.

Good views of a number of Goldcrests from the screen next to the woodland feeder, optimists in the party looked carefully for a Firecrest, without success. The leucistic grey squirrel pictured is apparently the offspring of an even whiter parent and a normally coloured partner - very attractive!
Legs were starting to ache a little by the time we'd passed through Dairy House meadows but our trip leader was just getting into her stride and we dutifully followed right around the perimeter of Neumann's Flash, as far as Pod's hide, where a good selection of "new" species were added - Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall, amongst others. A Buzzard was added as we scanned Ashton's Flash, the only one of the day, and we rounded off with a Great Spotted Woodpecker back at the car park. Species #51 - a commendable total, given the time of year and weather.

Derek Pike had a nice flock of Lapwings in the field next to the new Redrow housing development (confusingly called Tabley Park) along Northwich Road, in Knutsford ...."180 Lapwings in field adjacent to Tabley Park (Redrow)entrance "....... This is probably the same flock seen, on Christmas Day, by Bob Groom and the Blamires ........"Nice count. We (G & S & self) had a big flock yesterday too and they came from that direction. I counted c.110 Redwings in the 'horse field' on Moss Lane, along with about 30 Goldfinches, a few Chaffinches and a couple of Buzzards. Also about, a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel and G & S counted 10 Pied Wagtails in a field."......
Geoff and Sheila were in the Plumley area again on Boxing day and again found plenty of finches......"We went to Plumley/Holford area yesterday - gosh was it muddy, and where it wasn't it was flooded!
The number of birds on the sunflower seed heads drastically reduced, probably to c100 (from 300-400 on 19th Dec). Still a mixture of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Reed Buntings and Bramblings, but they were feeding on the plants furthest away from the road so really need a scope to see them well. Also saw a pair of Yellowhammers on an overhead wire before they dropped into a field and lost in view.

This will be the final update of 2021, another year we'll not get back! In January the vaccination programme had just started and strict covid restrictions were still in force. At the beginning of April it was announced that up to six people could meet outside and, by the middle of May, groups of up to 30 were allowed. We were able to resume our KOS field trips and Wednesday mid-weekers. So called "Freedom day" was the 19th July when almost all restrictions were lifted.

There followed a period of optimism, but "the best made plans of mice and men.. etc" springs to mind! I see tonight's grand total is 183,000 new cases in the past 24 hours - you couldn't make it up!!

Anyway the current plan is for any survivors to meet up on Saturday 22nd. January 2022 - 10:30am at Wigan's Pennington Flash for our first trip of the year. Have a good one!

species seen on 28th December 2021 - Northwich Woodlands.
Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Jay, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Lapwing, Reed Bunting, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, Raven, Nuthatch, Redwing, Cetti's Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, Goldeneye, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Sparrowhawk, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Water Rail, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Dunnock, Teal, Wigeon, Kestrel, Wren, gadwall, Shoveler, Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker. [ ✓ 51]

22/12/2021...... Latest news from Rostherne, Tatton and beyond.
Yesterday (21st) was the Winter solstice, the shortest day, and we can look forward to lighter nights and, eventually, the first Sand Martins of the year over Tatton and Rostherne meres. Just a couple of months away now but a lot could happen before then!

Last Tuesday (15th) I spent the morning in the company of Bob Groom in the Rostherne observatory. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, perfect viewing weather and, for some reason, the wildfowl were spread out in the centre of the mere, rather than hidden away under the banks and mereside shrubbery, as is usually the case. Using the big binoculars I was able to do an accurate count - Wigeon 124, Goosander 5, Shoveler 15, Teal 47, Little Grebe 1, Goldeneye 7. Stock Doves were displaying and "in song". Bob also added Kingfisher, Kestrel, 2 Jays and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

A couple of days later (17th) Bob was in Tatton and found a Kingfisher in what's become a favourite location, along the Melchett Mere outlet stream....." Siskins and Chaffinches in the trees again but no egrets. Usual Heron, couple of Buzzards, 7 Cormorants and a pair of Wigeon. Walking back to the car I saw a glint of blue and sure enough there was a Kingfisher, low down in the tree on the channel where we have seen them before in winter. I watched it for quite a while, at one point, while it was preening, it was surrounded by Long-Tailed Tits, Siskins plus a Wren. It flew out briefly at one point, possibly to catch an insect, then re perched".......

Peter Dawson has also been in the park, as well as the Tabley area ........" Last Thursday I did the Green Lane-Moss Lane-Swains Walk route. I haven't been over that way for some time so I was interested to see what was about. It was a sunny and mild day. Highlights were a kestrel, meadow pipits and Siskins along Green Lane, tree sparrows, redwings, grey wagtail and a very large group of starlings at various points on Moss Lane and fieldfare, mistle thrush and a singing(!) skylark from Swains Walk. Back home I heard both a song thrush and a great tit also both singing.

A fairly brief check of the Knutsford end of Tatton Mere on Friday morning produced approx 12 mandarin - a group of about 10 males/female types plus a separate pair. I've only ever seen the odd one or two there before. I was in the park again today but it was pretty quiet birdwise. A skein of approx 80 pink footed geese flew over and a single male stonechat on the west bank were the highlights. There was a report on the Cheshire Bird WhatsApp group chat late last week saying that a probable crossbill had been heard near the Knutsford gate but unfortunately no sight or sign for me during the two visits."

Derek Pike also had Pinkfeet flying over, this on Monday (20th). Rather than the usual rough guess Derek used his own unique measure of flock size! ....."A large skein of Pinkfeet flew over south to northwest at 1:00pm, hard to tell how many but skein must have 60-70 yards across."...... A rough calculation on the back of a Woodbine packet came up with c.60 birds. I still prefer counting the legs and dividing by two - (yes, the old ones are always the best!)

Geoff and Sheila Blamire were out and about in the fog last Sunday .......We spent the morning in fog! As we walked through the fields and the mud between Plumley and the railway crossing the fog seemed to lift slightly but as we walked around the lanes around Holford it descended again. But when we reached the sunflower field (SJ704734) we were so pleased we'd made the effort. There were 100s Reed Buntings and finches - probably 300-400! One time, there was a small tree by the bridge over the stream which held 40 finches - I counted 4 Chaffinches and 36 Bramblings! I walked slowly towards the tree and got within about 16ft of the Bramblings - what a sight!..........

Sheila will be leading our annual post-Christmas walk on Tuesday 28th December. We'll be walking from the Witton Mill car park, taking in Budworth Mere and Neumann's Flash. 9:30am start from the car park

Simon Smith ventured out as far as the Dee Estuary yesterday and had some success with the Short-eared Owls....."It appears to be a good year for Short-eared Owls on the Dee Estuary. Yesterday afternoon, I went down to the marshes at Neston and spent an hour watching 4-5 Owls hunting & squabbling in the area between Neston Old Quay and the Neston Reedbeds. I arrived at 1:30, but there was talk about them being out from 12:30 on some days. There were the usual number of dog walkers out on the marsh and even a few photographers! However, the Owls just floated around them and weren't unduly perturbed by the activity, making for some good viewing through binoculars and even a few photos when they got near to the edge of the marsh "........
Thanks Simon - well up to your usual high standard!

13/12/2021......Marshside and Martin Mere
Grim, murky weather yesterday morning (12/12) as we drove along the A5209 and over the top of Parbold Hill on the journey to RSPB Marshside. Luckily it cleared as we descended and, by the time we reached our destination, visibility was good with just a light drizzle to contend with. A group of 14 had assembled at the car park, including the adventurous Ken Davies, who arrived on his bicycle. No he hadn’t pedaled all the way from home in Middlewich! He and Shirley were staying in their camper a short ride away in Southport. Well done anyway Ken, I think that’s a first.
Another, larger, group of birders arrived at the same time as us but they set off straight to the Sandgrounders’ hide, so there was no conflict of interests.

We began, as usual, at the Junction Pool viewpoint, where we’d normally spend 10 minutes or so but, on this occasion, it was the best part of 40 minutes. The wildfowl were close in and we enjoyed excellent views of Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler and Tufted Duck. They were sharing the marsh with huge flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover. Curlew, Snipe and a single Ruff were also picked out from within the larger aggregations.
Passerines too were added to our rapidly expanding day-list, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks passed overhead and a pair of Stonechats showed well in the reeds as we walked up in the direction of Nel’s Hide.
A Peregrine passed through, low over the marsh scattering the birds in all directions, before settling on driftwood way out in the estuary. Pride of place though went to two male Hen Harriers, picked out by the ever alert Phil Rowley, as they flew over the reedbeds across the other side of the Marine Drive - great views!
We didn’t stay long in Nel’s Hide, the sun was out by then, making for uncomfortable viewing; looking right into the light.
By the time we reached the main Sandgrounders’ hide the other group had moved on. We added a few new species, bringing the total up to 44 before we said goodbye to Ken and moved on to Martin Mere.
The car park at the reserve was quite full but it’s a big place and there’s plenty of room for the required (again) social distancing. Trip leader Frank Dearden had done a full recce two weeks previously and recommended that lunch be taken in the Ron Barker Hide or on the veranda outside the restaurant. I joined Frank, Geoff and Sheila on the veranda and watched as Santa’s elves ferried kids across to the great man’s island - "Sail to Santa" at £ 15 a time!
Walking down to the Ron Barker hide we noted the first Redwings and Tree Sparrows of the day, others had Treecreeper, Bullfinch and Goldcrest as well. Great views from the hide of four Marsh Harriers; one feeding on an unfortunate gull of some description, the others floating gently over the phragmites reedbeds. Only a few Whooper Swans in view this year on the reserve and I had the impression that Pink-footed Geese were also down in numbers. The Janet Kear Hide was quiet but we manages to add Reed Bunting and Coal Tit to the list.
A peregrine flew over the area as we walked back to the Discovery Hide for the 3pm feed. It spooked many of the birds, including the flock of Ruff and the single Black-tailed Godwit you see in the image, captured by Simon, at the top of today’s update. I was stood with Simon at the time and watched the birds through binoculars: there is no way my camera is capable of producing an image like that at such long range - good work Simon!!
We watched the birds being fed from the Discovery Hide - the usual free-for-all! Disappointingly the Ruffs didn’t appear but I managed to capture part of the scrum on video
We headed for home just after 4pm with a good list of 67 species recorded during the day. Our thanks go to trip leader Frank and all who came along and contributed to such a very enjoyable day!

Ken and Shirley have been out and about in their camper again. Their latest trip found them at the WWT’s parent reserve - Slimbridge.
......."Our recent visit to Slimbridge on the 1st /2nd December favoured us with not bad weather but a cold chill the birds a little scarce with very few waders but plenty of geese and I found out that there are only 28 Bewick’s swans at the moment:
Lapwing ,Mute Swan, Pied wagtail, Bewick’s swan, Crane(8), Teal ,Magpie, Pochard, Rook, Mallard, Jackdaw, Pintail, Carrion crow, Wigeon, Blue tit, Moorhen, Coal tit, Tufted duck, Woodpigeon, Greylag geese, Water rail, Shoveler, Collared dove, Coot, House sparrow, Black-headed Gull, Peregrine, Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese, Ross’s Goose, White-fronted Geese, Blackbird, Robin, Curlew, Dunnock, Redshank, Golden Plover, Grey heron, Great tit, Buzzard, Chiffchaff, Great White Egret, Starling, Cormorant, Shelduck, Oystercatcher I make that 46 again could have been better let’s hope Southport turns up a few surprises
. "

Thanks again Ken. I think the biggest surprise on Sunday was the sight of you on your bike, looming into view through the drizzle!

Of course there’s no need to go all the way to Southport for Pinkfeet, as Geoff and Sheila Blamire demonstrated last week!........."Our 11.7km this morning took us around Mere and Rostherne. Most notable were c50 Chaffinches in the field next to the Natural England car park, then the next field alongside Marsh Line there were 30+ Redwings and 10 Fieldfares, then finally a skein of 60+ Pink-footed Geese flying south from Millington direction."...........

Next year the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place between the 28th and 30th January 2022 - full details here. Perhaps we can get together with friends of the Moor and Heath once more. Then again we may be in the middle of the latest lockdown!!

Species recorded on 12 December 2021 at Marshside and Martin Mere
Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Curlew, Starling, Lapwing, grey Wagtail, Wigeon, Pink-footed Goose, Blackbird, Teal, Wren, Stonechat, Pintail, Shelduck, Mallard, Redshank, Goldfinch, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Skylark, Little Egret, Moorhen, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Golden Plover, Greylag Goose, Hen Harrier, Carrion Crow, Robin, Meadow Pipit, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Peregrine Falcon, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Ruff, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant, Gadwall, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Cormorant, Coot, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Redwing, Tree Sparrow, Collared Dove, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Whooper Swan, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Grey Heron, Reed Bunting, Pochard, Goldeneye, Coal Tit, Magpie, Little Grebe [67]

07/12/2021......A visitor from the east.
I visited Knutsford Moor last Thursday (2/12) to check whether the Little Egrets and Goosanders were still present. The Goosanders had moved on but I was pleased to see a Little Egret, looking quite settled, in the reeds on the far side of the Moor pool.
This is a popular spot with Knutsfordians, who wander down to feed the birds, so there are always a few Black-headed Gulls hanging around in the hope of a meal.
I noticed some of the gulls sported darvic rings (those long coloured plastic ones with large letters) as well as the metal BTO type. I wandered amongst them and over a short period I photographed six bearing rings and was later able to read the numbers from the images displayed of the computer at home - 275B : 2S92 : 239A : 248A : 2S99 and 2P74 all blue with white letters.
A bit of research lead me to this website By following the instructions I was able to enter the appropriate numbers and, almost immediately, the details of each bird were available via a pdf file. Knutsford_Moor_BHGs.pdf.
I assume they were all ringed on the Moor during the Winter, so where they spend the Spring and Summer isn’t available from those data.

I had more luck though the following day in Tatton itself, when I noticed a Black-headed Gull on the boat launching jetty with a yellow ring. This is the bird shown at the top of this update. The "grainy" inset shows the number to be TPL6 and, again, a trawl through the internet eventually lead me to this website - I entered the details and after a couple of days received this file Polish_ring_details.pdf So it appears that the bird was ringed, as an adult, at breeding colony near Neilbark in Poland on the 1st June 2018 and spends the Winter months here with us in Cheshire.

The water level on Tatton Mere continues to drop, as preparation continues for the repair work needed on the sluice at the north end of the lake. I’m told this work could take some time and it may mean draining the north lagoon completely - potentially it could be good for waders in the Spring of next year!
The shallow water is proving attractive to both the little Egret and it’s Great White cousin; texts this afternoon from Roger Barnes and Darren Morris report both present in the shallows. The record shot I’ve included shows just how shallow the mere is at that point!

Despite the current spell of inclement weather Geoff and Sheila Blamire continue with their daily rambles; on Sunday (5/12) it was Plumley and Holford Moss....."Gosh - it was windy, cold and very muddy plus a big tree had come down across the footpath didn’t help (had to climb over trunk), but so pleased we did the walk!
Just past Keepers Cottage there were 2 Yellowhammers and further on, just before the bridge over the railway, c30 Redwings and a single Fieldfare. In a field at Langford Farm SJ704742 (opposite Hame Farm), Holford there were 35 Curlews with sheep. When we reached the sunflower field there was a finch flock of about 80 - mostly Chaffinches, some Greenfinches, Bramblings (counted 8 last time we were there) and a single Yellowhammer. Nearly back to the car we came across c150 Curlews in a field SJ719742 along Cheadle Lane, Plumley. Difficult to count them because the field is undulating. Turning up the track that leads to Keepers Cottage could see some of them but the track is too low to get a good view. So we retraced our steps back to the car. "

On the same day Bob Groom went over to Tabley Mere, where he’s finding it’s tough going with all the repair work going on ......."Not pleasant conditions but very successful for birds. That field off Cheadle Lane is where I used to see big numbers of curlews so good to know that they are using it again. used to peer through a small hole in the hedge near the triangle (road to farm). I visited Tabley Park where Ivan, on the electric vehicle, stopped to warn me that conditions were very treacherous. He wasn’t wrong. Contrary to what I had thought the contractors hadn’t been using the main track but instead had taken over the side track that I usually follow to and alongside the mere and had put down inconsistent hardcore etc. and erected plastic fencing on both sides. Very hard going and will be for me in the future. Ivan thought they may have finished by the month end. I couldn’t face going back the same way so took a short cut to the main track that I knew once I’d negotiated the fence and got back in half the time. Surprising amount on the mere, considering, including 14 Mute Swans, 2 Shelducks and a Little Egret.. 16 Long-Tailed Tits near Keeper’s cottage, Buzzard, Kestrel, Nuthatches"..........

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