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Latest News - 2018

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Supplementary Pages 2018

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Updated 17th February 2018

...... Hawfinch at last!
Having ticked all the boxes in the I-Spy book of birds it soon becomes apparent that to progress further, access to a telescope will make birding a lot easier! Luckily when out and about with the KOS it's not a problem as some of the more active members have 'scopes (at least six people have those top-of-the-range Swarovski instruments) and are more than willing to help out when viewing species out of binocular range. I have struggled over the years with an old Kowa, kindly donated by John Sommerville when he upgraded, but decided recently to look for a more modern piece of kit for use when out on my own. A couple of years ago Derek lent me his Swarovski to take over to Hilbre Island for the day - a wonderful 'scope but oh so heavy! I went instead for one of the new generation mini-scopes, a Nikon ED50, these weigh in at only 470gms with a length of just 207mm; they're quite expensive but I found a mint example on a well-known auction site for £ 300 complete with 20X eyepiece and robust stay-on case - less than half the price of a new set up (body + eyepiece). It's easy to carry and can be hand held obviating the need for a cumbersome tripod although I did acquire a handy hide clamp at Geoffrey's General Goods Emporium in Mere!
[2:30pm and the whole house has just shook - I've felt earthquakes before!]

I spent a couple of hours in the peace and quiet of the Rostherne observatory on Tuesday (13th) evaluating the combination of 'scope and clamp; they performed very well, although the magnification is only 20X the 'scope lets in a lot of light and, compared with my 8X binoculars, I was able to identify the various wildfowl species at the mouth of Rostherne brook (including a female and 2 male Mandarin ducks), determine the sex of a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the split lime and identify a group of Goosanders at the far end of the mere, the best part of a kilometer away - all impossible with just the binoculars.

In the early days of the KOS we used to travel down to Shropshire for Goosanders but this winter there are plenty locally with birds at Rostherne, Tatton, Marbury and on Thursday (6th) Bill Mccaig had six on Shakerley Mere - thanks Bill.

I had hoped to see one of the Rostherne Hawfinches on Monday but had no luck, nevertheless I was cautiously optimistic on Wednesday (14th) of seeing my first of the winter as we made our way over to Marbury where there had been a flock of no less than 19 the previous day! It was hard work as we huddled in a group at the appropriate spot in a temperature of only 2 ° C but eventually the sharp-eyed Bill Killey spotted one flying into an ivy-covered tree; it showed well through Derek's Swarovski.
A good count of 44 species during the morning at Marbury although the two Bitterns didn't put in an appearance - it was great to hear a Song Thrush in full song close to where we stood, there was also one in Bucklow Avenue during the week and last Wednesday (7th) a flock of c. 150 Pink-footed Geese passed overhead in a north-westerly direction - sure signs that Spring is just around the corner. (cue another cold spell)

Species seen at Marbury Country Park 14th February 2018
Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Buzzard, Robin, Hawfinch, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Mallard, Chaffinch, Moorhen, Reed Bunting, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Curlew, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, great Crested grebe, Lapwing, Coot, Cormorant, Starling, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Nuthatch, Dunnock, Jay, Magpie, Greenfinch, Goosander, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Woodpigeon, Heron, Lapwing, Wren, Teal, Jackdaw, Siskin, Mute Swan, Collared Dove. [ ✓ 44]

06/02/2018...... February field trip to the Wirral peninsula
Apparently it rained for most of the day in Knutsford on Saturday (3rd) when we were over on the Wirral for the high tide, we had some early light drizzle but it was mainly dry for most of the day.
We began at the at Parkgate old baths where we enjoyed a fly past by two Great White Egrets immediately after our arrival followed by a Sparrowhawk that perched nicely on a convenient post, showing well through the 'scopes; it turned out to be an immature male bird. A few Skylarks and small flocks of Linnets passed overhead whilst in the surrounding fields and trees a good selection of passerines were added to a rapidly expanding day-list. Back on the marsh a huge flock of 1,000+ Lapwings, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, a Peregrine falcon and Marsh Harriers but pride of place went to a fine male Hen Harrier that floated slowly past heading up-river towards Burton.

By now it was approaching noon and as the high tide wasn't due until 1pm we decided to walk along the quayside up to the Parkgate chip shop, this is a fine establishment - one of our members - an iconic figure in the world of dominoes and crown green bowling who likes to keep in shape for these extreme activities eats fish and chips only once a year - always at the Parkgate chippie - he wasn't disappointed and neither were we!

The high tide was a bit of a let-down and apart from a single Snipe I don't think we saw any new species as the incoming water remained just a grey streak in the distance.

On then to the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands Centre, busy with people arriving from Parkgate but quite a disappointing species count after reports seen online over the past few weeks - Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail and a pair of Stonechats were probably the highlights; apart from the fact that you can now buy a very nice cup of filter coffee from the reception centre for £ 1:60!

Species seen at Parkgate / Burton Wetlands - 3rd February 2018
Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Great "White Egret, Moorhen. Carrion Crow, Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Starling, Skylark, Little Egret, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, curlew, Heron, Dunnock, Greylag Goose, Redshank, Linnet, Green Woodpecker, Lapwing, Reed Bunting, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Cormorant, Shoveler, Pied Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Pink-footed Goose, Sparrow Hawk, Blackbird, Wren, Song Thrush, Redwing, Stonechat, Herring Gull, Hen Harrier, Shelduck, Canada Goose, Blue Tit, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Peregrine, Kestrel, Snipe, Wigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Nuthatch, Jackdaw, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Coot, Kingfisher, Gadwall, Grey Wagtail, Jay, House Sparrow. [ ✓ 62]

30/01/2018...... The Big Garden Birdwatch X 2
Contrasting weather conditions for our weekend activities; cool and cloudy with steady drizzle on Saturday (27th) when we joined forces with the Friends of Knutsford Moor for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch but much more pleasant the following day with the Friends of Knutsford Heath - dry and bright with the temperature a balmy 14 ° C.
On Saturday, and unsurprisingly given the weather, we managed only 25 species during the allotted one hour time period, six down on last year and 10 less than we managed in 2016. As usual Black-headed Gulls were the most numerous (60) but good numbers of Canada Geese (25) Jackdaws (30) and Mallard (25). A flock of 20 Siskins fed high in the trees at the northern edge of the area we cover with more birds further towards Dog Wood. Interestingly on neither day did we see a single Starling - a species in steep decline despite the well-publicised winter "murmurations" that must consist mainly of winter visitors from continental Europe.

species recorded on Knutsford Moor 27/01/2018 11:00am - 12 noon. counts are maximum seen at any one time.
Blackbird(2), Black-headed Gull(60), Blue Tit(2), Bullfinch(1), Canada Goose(25), Coot(2), Dunnock(3), Goldfinch(7), Great Tit(1), House Sparrow(5), Jackdaw(30), Jay(1), Long-tailed Tit(15), Magpie(2), Mallard(25), Moorhen(2), Redwing(3), Robin(2) Siskin(20), Song Thrush(1), Mute Swan(2), Treecreeper(1), Tufted Duck(4), Woodpigeon(8), Wren(1) [ ✓ 25]

I don't have a full list of birds seen on the Heath but I know we had 22 species this time, an increase of 5 from last year. Fewer than the Moor as, although they cover about the same area, there isn't the mix of habitats on the heath. Few species were using the wide open spaces but the woodland area was very busy with Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit and Great Tit. The last two species were in song and will no doubt be using the nest boxes provided. Apparently last year 16 of the 20 boxes were occupied which must be very encouraging for the group.
Just a couple of hours but most enjoyable and great to see some youngsters involved; we're just a tiny part of this huge exercise - the biggest example of citizen science on the planet - well done everyone!

On Friday (2nd) it's the CAWOS (Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society) February meeting when Brian Anderson will be presenting a talk entitled "Stinkers, Pintados and Mollymawks". 7:45pm at St. Vincent's Church Hall, Tatton Street.

The following morning (3rd) it's our KOS February field trip over to the Wirral Peninsula for the high tide, Parkgate to begin with then over to Burton Mere Wetlands Centre (via the Parkgate chippie!). Meeting up in Lilac Avenue at 08:50am ready to leave at 9:00am prompt.

22/01/2018...... Winter days with the KOS
The weather forecast for Saturday (20th) was most encouraging with the Met. Office promising dry and sunny weather all day right through the preceding week. Unfortunately on Friday evening they had to admit they'd got it wrong - very wrong and conditions would be less than ideal for our trip over to the Deeside Naturalists' Connah's Quay reserve.
Volunteers Bob Lee and his wife Betty met us at the entrance to the reserve and directed us to the information centre that had been opened so that we visitors could use the facilities. After a quick introduction to the reserve and the birds we could expect to see we set off towards the west hide at the far end of the reserve, pausing at the three other hides we passed en route. Shelduck, Redshank and Wigeon were the most obvious species out on the marsh, a few small birds were using the feeding station - Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch etc. whilst on the adjoining fields large numbers of Curlew and Lapwings were feeding accompanied by a single Golden Plover - apparently quite a rare visitor with only one record during 2016 in the reserve's latest annual report.
By the time we reached the west hide the drizzle we'd endured on the walk up had abated but it was still perishing - a maximum of only 1 ° C all day! Visibility remained poor throughout, we could make out flocks of geese over towards Burton and Parkgate, too far away to identify properly but in all probability Pinkfeet. A flock of 130 Dunlin were pushed off the mud as the tide came in and a Common Sandpiper was an unusual sighting given the time of year. Inland we were very disappointed that the Twite failed to appear for us this year; apparently it's something to do with their favourite pool (I think it's called the fly ash lagoon) where they drink and bathe being polluted with salt used to kill off invasive New Zealand pigmy (yes it's spelt correctly) pond weed and they now spend their time over towards Flint Castle.
We ended the day back at the information centre where Bob and Betty provided hot drinks to help us thaw out! Our thanks go to them and the other members of the Deeside Naturalists' who made us so welcome.

Species seen at Connah's Quay - 20th January 2018
Dunnock, Herring Gull, Heron, Shelduck, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Robin, Redshank, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Teal, Great Black-backed Gull, Blackbird, Mallard, Little Egret, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Wigeon, Cormorant, Chaffinch, Starling, Magpie, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Woodpigeon, Curlew, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Dunlin, Wren, Coot, Moorhen, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Shoveler, Dabchick, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Greenshank, Jay, Buzzard, Geese [sp.], Black-headed Gull. [ ✓ 46]

Another cold one the following day (Sunday 21st January) when we again joined forces with the Tatton rangers for the annual Winter Birdwatch in and around the Allen hide. Yvonne and Darren Morris once more provided "the makings" for hot tea and coffee and had things set up when the rest of us arrived; nine members in total - a good turnout considering the weather. By kick off time at 11:00am the early rain had changed to heavy snow and Melchett Mere had taken on a magical appearance, so different from its usual drab winter garb!
Some good birds too Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Goldeneye - all to be expected plus three Pintail and a Barnacle Goose amongst the Canadas and a mobile flock of 34 Snipe who put on a fine display as they circled the mere in the early whiteout. Our first visitor of the day was Alan Gillespie a local birder who'd been to all the previous events and it was he who discovered a female Goosander, bird of the day!

The weather was obviously keeping people at home and we had fewer visitors than last year although once again the promise of free drinks was enough to tempt a trickle of folk over the two hours we were open. During the past couple of weeks members have reported a Kingfisher perched nicely over the outlet channel where Melchett overflows into Tatton Mere's own overflow stream. It was there again on Sunday and we were able to point visitors to the spot where they could see it - it's amazing how many people have never seen one "in the flesh"!

Thanks to all who attended and contributed to such a successful and entertaining session

Don't forget that this coming Friday (26th) it's our January indoor meeting when Jim Almond will be telling us all about Springtime in New England.

Species seen from the Allen Hide 21st January 2018
Goldcrest, Coot, Moorhen, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, green Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Mallard, Teal, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Snipe, Heron, Goldeneye, Redwing, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Black-headed Gull, Nuthatch, Buzzard, Goosander, Magpie, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Little Grebe, Kingfisher, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Wigeon. [ ✓ 33]

16/01/2018...... Hobbling into the New Year
A happy and healthy New Year to all KOS members and any others who pass this way from time to time. Apologies for leaving things so long since the last update but, like many others, I've been struck down by one of this season's 'flu bugs and in addition I pulled a calf muscle running for the metro after United's last match of 2017 and recovery is taking quite some time!

A few people have been out braving the elements - up to 6 Hawfinches remain at Marbury Park, they were seen at the end of December by Sue Middleton ( a new species for Sue), Darren Morris and Bob Groom , Derek Pike had 47 Lapwings on the big fields opposite the entrance to Lilac Avenue on 26th December, increasing to 112 on New Year's day - this is less than half a mile from Knutsford town centre and the site earmarked for a development of 260 new homes as part of the local councils "Vision for Cheshire East in 2030". Derek and Jean spent some time in Tatton over the new year and on the 7th January had two Green Woodpeckers calling and two Ravens displaying - the latter are very early nesters so hopefully they'll be setting up shop in the park once more. Tatton Ranger Darren Morris tells me they had 10 Woodcock in Hanging Bank on the 7th and whilst cleaning out nest boxes (they have 30) found that 90% had been used in 2017. It's hoped to attract Pied Flycatchers to the park and to this end some boxes are plugged until mid-May to prevent members of the Tit family from moving in before the flycatchers return.
Roger Barnes reports a Barnacle Goose and two Greylags on Melchett Mere; Bob also saw these as well as 7 Wigeon, a Kingfisher and a flock of Siskins in that area so we may have something to show the public this coming Sunday, the 21st, when we team up with the Tatton Rangers between 11am and 1pm for the annual wildfowl watch, Darren tells me that refreshments will again be available, probably only tea and coffee as last years scones were a bit of a bonus!.
The following weekend on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th we'll be joining forces with the Friends of the Moor (27th) and Friends of Knutsford Heath (28th) for the Big Garden Birdwatch; each event will last for an hour beginning at 11:00am. All welcome - the more the merrier!

Later this month our KOS committee will be meeting to discuss the programme from May 2018 through to May 2019. Last year as well as the normal indoor and outdoor events we enjoyed the Scottish week in June and Lindisfarne at the end of September, perhaps we'll have another weekend away later this year and no doubt due consideration will be given to the possibility of a week abroad to celebrate our 45th anniversary in 2019!

Input from members is always welcome regarding any of the Society's activities - indoor or outdoor - praise or constructive criticism, your wish is our command!

30/12/2017...... Seasonal conditions for the Christmas walk
It would appear that whilst members appreciate ice and snow on their Christmas cards when it comes to the real thing they're reluctant to leave their firesides for a bracing walk around the Northwich Woodlands! So it was only a small group of stalwarts [noun: a loyal, reliable, and hard-working supporter of or participant in an organization or team] who braved the elements for the Christmas walk (29/12). It was pretty bad though I must admit! Heavy rain overnight that changed into wet snow at around 9:00am with a temperature of only 1 ° C as we set off from the car park next to the Stanley Arms. The path alongside the River Weaver was a bit tricky; frozen compacted mud with a topping of melting snow - eyes down rather than scanning the landscape for birds. Teal, Cormorant, Mallard, Moorhen and a single Great Crested Grebe were all noted on the river before we took the steep steps up from the path to Haydn's Pool. The pool was pretty much deserted just a couple of Snipe and in the distance, surveying it's domain from the top of one of the old ICI chimneys, a lone Peregrine.
A bit more of interest in the woodland adjacent to Budworth Mere and on the mere itself where the highlight was a group of Goosanders - 2 fine males and 7 female/immature birds in a flotilla close to the mereside opposite the sailing school. The usual mix of woodland species - Jay, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Nuthatch as we made our way to the viewing screen where Blue, Great and Coal Tits were feeding; both Great Tits and Coal Tits were in song during the morning. Up to six Hawfinches have been seen in the Old Hall area but once again we missed out although we did have a quick scan before making our way back to the cars; 3 hours in total which helped to blow the Christmas cobwebs away.

Passerines seemed to be down in numbers this year, I'm guessing that many species are taking advantage of garden feeders. We have two, one of which was designed and built by a friend and features the usual wire mesh front but which additionally curves round underneath at the bottom. It's filled with sunflower hearts and is attracting large numbers of Green and Goldfinches, especially the latter with up to 20 at any one time. The seeds are also dislodged from the bottom mesh onto the ground where they're consumed by Blackbirds, Dunnocks, House Sparrows, Chaffinches and recently 4 Bramblings.

There's a three week break now before our next KOS group activity beginning on the 20th January with the trip to Connah's Quay followed the next day by the Tatton Wildfowl Event in conjunction with the Tatton rangers. On the 26th it's the January indoor meeting with Jim Almond followed by the Great Garden Birdwatch on Knutsford Moor (27th) with the Friends of the Moor group and finally on the 28th we repeat the Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of Knutsford Heath.

Species seen on the Christmas walk, 29th December 2017.
Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Mallard, Magpie, Buzzard, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Cormorant, Woodpigeon, Great Tit, Great Crested Grebe, Goldfinch, Teal, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Carrion Crow, Peregrine, Snipe, Wren, Jay, Treecreeper, Redwing, Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Curlew, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Goldeneye, Goosander, Nuthatch, Collared Dove, Coot, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Song Thrush, Pheasant, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Green Sandpiper, [ ✓ 44]

19/12/2017...... A record breaking Christmas party!
A busy weekend for KOS members with the annual Christmas party on Friday (15th) followed on Sunday (17th) by the trip up to Marshside and Martin Mere.
The party went very well and, as our treasurer Frank Dearden reports in his email, we made a welcome profit during the evening.

I am pleased to report that, in addition to a very enjoyable evening yesterday, we also had a very successful fund raising.
The total profit realised was just short of £ 300.
This is a record and beats the previous best year (2015) by more than £ 20.

The table below gives the detailed breakdown.

Attendance £ 224.00
Raffle and bird lottery £ 67.00
Bring and buy/Auction £ 41.80
Total income £ 332.80
Expenses £ 36.40

Profit £ 296.40

Twenty-four people were in attendance on the night but some who could not be there sent in donations to compensate so the attendance money is equivalent to twenty-eight persons. Securing quality speakers for our small society is an expensive business and we, quite reasonably, want to offer the best lectures we can to our members. The average cost for a lecturer is currently £ 120 per visit so the profit generated by yesterday's efforts buys us 2.5 speakers. That is approaching half of a whole season's expenditure on lecturers and reinforces how important the Christmas party is in generating funds to keep the Society going in its current format. To all those who contributed their time, effort or funds to staging last night's event, and to those who came and opened their purses/wallets, a great big thank you from the man who takes care of the cash.

Merry Christmas, Frank

Thanks Frank, as efficient as ever, we were all glad to see you back in circulation and in such good form!

On Sunday Marshside lived up to it's reputation as being one of the coldest places on earth! Dry as we left Knutsford but when we reached our destination it was raining heavily and the temperature was reluctant to rise above only 3 ° C. so it was off immediately to the shelter of the Sandgrounder's hide. It wasn't much warmer in there but at least it was dry.
The usual mixture of Wildfowl - Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shelduck, Gadwall, Shoveler plus Canada and Greylag Geese. At one point, in the far distance, a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese passed over towards the Ribble estuary - many thousands - quite extraordinary we'd never seen that many before. Waders were well represented with Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plovers but just a single raptor braved the elements - a tiny male Sparrowhawk that landed on a fence post just up from where we watched - it looked quite dishevelled and miserable.

Given the time of year there weren't many people at Martin Mere although a few brave kids seemed to have persuaded their parents to "Sail to Santa" across the water in front of the reception building where we ate our lunch before moving to the restaurant for a coffee.

The highlight of the afternoon came as we sat in the Ron Barker hide and watched five Marsh Harriers quartering the reedbeds. Apparently, earlier in the day, there were seven in view at the same time! There was the usual scrum at feeding time with 1,600 Whooper Swans and a sea of Shelducks hoovering up the grain but we saw only a couple of Ruff this time despite a count of 83 during the morning.
As the light began to fade the Pinkfeet returned (there are 15,000 on the reserve [thanks Marcia]) settling noisily at the far side of the main lake.

A reminder that this year's Christmas walk will take place on Friday 29th December meeting up at the public car park next to the Stanley Arms in Anderton at 09:45am. Derek has a 4.3 mile walk planned which, with stops, should take us about three hours.

species recorded at Marshside / Martin Mere on 17th December 2017.
Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Wigeon, great Black-backed Gull, Lapwing, Teal, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Pintail, Mute Swan, Little Egret, Redshank, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Starling, Tufted Duck, Snipe, Sparrowhawk, Gadwall, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Herring Gull, Golden Plover, Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Robin, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Whooper Swan, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Grey Heron, Song Thrush, Ruff, Blackbird, Pheasant, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Marsh Harrier, Tree Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Stock Dove, Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Reed Bunting Treecreeper, Collared Dove, [ ✓ 55]

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