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Supplementary Pages 2020

The Butterworth's visit to Uganda.....The Spring that never was

Old KOS Bird Reports and Latest News Archive.

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Updated 27th May 2020

27/05/2020
...... A puzzle solved?
During the recent lockdown period we had numerous local records of Oystercatcher, especially at the field pool to the east of Gleavehouse farm in Mobberley. A pair were present most days with copulation noted from time to time, so it was a fair assumption that they had a nest somewhere in the area. We never located the site but an email from Geoff and Lynn Lowndes received over the weekend has perhaps shed some light on the situation. Whilst walking through the Parkgate industrial estate, they saw an adult and a juvenile Oystercatcher on the roof of the Howden's joinery building, the record shot provided by Geoff shows a well-grown youngster but not yet big enough to fend for itself. It's only about a minutes flying time from the previously mentioned pool so it's assumed these are the same birds and they have nested on the roof of the business.
Unlike other waders that can feed themselves within hours of hatching, Oystercatcher chicks initially rely on their parents to bring them food rather than finding their own, so being up there wouldn't be too much of a problem, although predation by Lesser Black-backed Gulls that were patrolling the area when I went down would be. There's an interesting article here and also in the latest Cheshire atlas click here.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire drove over to the airport to listen for the lesser Whitethroat. It was still there, along with numerous Common Whitethroats - Geoff has posted a nice video of the latter on Youtube [click here]. They had a very pleasant surprise when passing the fishing pit - a singing Cetti's Warbler - needless to say it had moved on the following day when I went down!

Bob Groom tells me he had a Hobby close to it's traditional territory, not too far from Knutsford, there have been quite a few recent reports locally so it could be a good year for the species. More Swifts have returned but the general consensus is that numbers this year are well down on normal.

We had hoped to do a Springtime birdwatch this month with the Friends of the Heath but due to you-know-what it didn't take place. Nevertheless Kevin Griffiths and his wife Terry did a survey of the nest boxes and found the majority occupied. A real success story! http://www.friendsoftheheath.org.uk/nest-box-survey-may-2020

The 2019 Rostherne Mere Bird Report compiled by Dr. Bill Bellamy has been published, covering, not only the birds but also Butterflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies found on the reserve. Steve Barber's analysis of the CBC is included as well as Malcolm Calvert's ringing data. Since 1972 Malcolm has ringed no less than 19,846 birds!
This is an excellent report and Bill is to be congratulated on producing a publication requiring such a huge amount of work so quickly. [Read it here}

Malcolm has also circulated a short account of his love affair with Reed Warblers, there's surely no one who knows this species any better then him! [Read Malcolm's account here]

Another timely report comes from Greg Baker - Marbury and Witton Flashes 2019 Bird Report - A very comprehensive account of the birds at this ornithological hot spot.



19/05/2020...... Lesser Whitethroat
The covid-19 lockdown has temporarily turned many peoples lives upside down and for some the virus has brought with it permanent, sometimes tragic, changes. Personally we're fortunate in having such good neighbours and family who have been willing to do our shopping, allowing us to successfully self-isolate for the past couple of months.
So it's really of no consequence that birding has been "different" since the end of March and I should count myself lucky that I've been able to get out and about on most days for a couple of hours exercising in the very pleasant Mobberley countryside.
I've survived so far without Goostrey's sausage rolls and many Summer migrants are still missing from my year list - I'll happily manage without most but I was hoping to hear the song of a Lesser Whitethroat before they stop singing around the end of May. It's my favourite bird.
The easing of restrictions this week has meant that I could drive to the birds' favourite areas in a few minutes rather than struggle on foot with a 7K round trip just to get to the appropriate area. No luck on Friday (15th) along Breech House Lane, their stronghold for many years, so the following day found me on the airport walk; in a clockwise direction from crash gate 11 at the end of Wood Lane - success! A bird was in song from a tangle of vegetation just before the track drops down to the Bollin tunnel, there are some convenient concrete blocks there to sit on and enjoy the performance, and currently of course - no aircraft noise.

Geoff and Sheila Blamire are still eschewing the use of their cars and continue with their daily walks from home in Mere. They're certainly racking up the miles ...... going north we're just south of Perth, going south we're swimming the English Channel heading to France!.....On most days they've taken in Cicley Mill where Cetti's Warbler has been heard in song and Grey Wagtails and Great Crested Grebes have bred successfully. The Treecreepers the couple have been monitoring in Rostherne's Wood Bongs have also fledged - Geoff has put a nice little video on Youtube [click here].

Bob Groom's been over to Tabley Park where he heard a Cuckoo on Sunday (17th) ..... Setting out for my WeBS count this morning I saw a Hobby over Queensway! Another surprise awaited at Tabley Park, a Cuckoo calling in the wood! I tracked it back and to but with the trees in full leaf and off-path vegetation impassable, the only view I got was when it flew across a corner of the mere. (Keeper) Ernie Hart had 2 calling there this time last year but he said that both were taken by a Sparrowhawk within 2 or 3 days of each other. He's recently had hobby catching insects over the mere.
Bob has been doing his monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) count for 36 years now and never missed a single month! He will be retiring in four years time - volunteers required to take over - you've got plenty of time!!

For the 17th year running the House Sparrow has come out on top of the list during the RSPB's January "Big Garden Birdwatch" despite the fact that, locally, it has disappeared from many gardens [results click here].



12/05/2020...... Cautious Optimism
The latest guidance from the government will apparently allow us (from tomorrow - 13/5) to travel by motor vehicle to our favourite locations for a spot of birding. You will be allowed to meet up with one other person who's not from your household as long as you're outside and keep at least 2 meters apart. It's a controversial move, especially with the thousands of expert epidemiologists now infesting social media outlets, we're walking on egg shells with this virus, it's not going away any time soon and an effective vaccine is our only hope for a return to normality. Air travel will be out of reach for the vast majority of people and I fear it'll be a long time before the KOS resumes it's traditional activities.

We've had to restrict our activities this Spring and lower expectations; gone are the days of Spoonbills, Little, Cattle and Great White Egrets at Burton, Black-necked Grebes at Woolston, Tern passage at Tatton and Rostherne etc. etc. These have been replaced by local rarities and highlights. Back to basic local patch bird watching; nevertheless we've made the most of things and there have been many highlights amongst the 300+ emails I've received over the past 6 weeks - Osprey over the Moor : nocturnal migration of Common Scoters over Warford and Marton: the spread of Ring-necked Parakeets : Redstarts at Bonsall and Tatton : Whimbrel over Marton : breeding Cetti's Warbler at Cicley Mill : A whole host of sightings from Marbury Park (admittedly a "hot spot" at any time!) : Ravens breeding in Mobberley : the re-discovery of the Mobberley field pool which provided us with early Yellow Wagtails and Little Ringed Plover plus Ring Ouzel and Goosander as well as numerous Wheatear sightings on the nearby paths.

I believe Geoff and Sheila Blamire's lockdown list has now reached #80, which goes to show what's available on your doorstep for those with enough energy to make the effort and who are lucky enough to live in a suitable location. My car's been on the driveway for the past 6 weeks and only been fired up occasionally to charge the battery, I estimate it's doing about 20 weeks to the gallon, so I'm looking forward to driving up to crash gate 9 rather than walking and, hopefully, hook up with a Lesser Whitethroat before they stop singing.



12/05/2020...... Making the most of the Lockdowns

26th March 2020 to 12th May 2020 During the two periods of lockdown due to Covid-19 a daily compilation of emails received from KOS members and friends was distributed and a collection of individual pages added to the website. Over 300 emails from 40 individuals were received and they can be viewed by clicking on this link.


23/04/2020...... Email compilations continue
The compilation of emails received from KOS members and other folk is ongoing and I'm hoping to continue with a daily offering for as long as I get enough material submitted. It's proving to be well received and so far 35 different people have sent me records of what they're up to during the lockdown on their local patches or memories of birding in more normal times.
Contributions have been received from as far north as Cumbria and from Blithfield in Staffordshire in the south as well as Barrie Armitt's Crosby records from the west coast.

Each days summary is also available on this website and will be a record of our activities during this extraordinary period, they can be accessed by clicking here

As far as the rest of the natural world is concerned things are progressing as normal with the departure of our Winter friends and the arrival of the Summer visitors following their normal sequence and times. Currently Terns are passing through in large numbers and we're looking forward to the arrival, in the next few days, of our Swifts. Later on, if we're lucky, waders moving through the UK to more northern lands will be seen at local "hot spots" - what about Ruff and Wood Sandpiper on the now famous Mobberley field pool!

The emails I receive are mainly just cut & pasted (with a few obvious spelling and grammatical errors corrected) and offered "as is". Within our membership we have people with a wide range of birding experience and I've not been inclined to offer any criticism or suggest changes to what I've received - things could get very messy and complicated and I like to have the latest compilation done and dusted by 8pm. Swapping emails and texts as midnight approaches just doesn't appeal!!

I think it unlikely that, with perhaps just a couple of exceptions, any KOS members will ever be submitting their sightings to any County or National "rarity committees". I've never done so in 70+ years of birdwatching but nevertheless our own County Recorder Hugh Pulsford makes some valid points in his email appended below.

Hi Tony
can you please post this on the regular news before everyone starts claiming Goshawk sightings: Not meant to being critical, but just trying to be genuinely educational.

Hi Folks
As County Bird Recorder and BTO Representative for Cheshire I just want to urge caution amongst folks of claiming Goshawk sightings locally. Firstly it is a County rarity (and therefore requires a description for acceptance into the county database.) Secondly as the individual who submits annual rare breeding records to the National Rare Breeding Bird panel, I know where Goshawks are in Cheshire, (there is a small network of Schedule 1 licenced nest finders who follow up on sightings) and more importantly, where they are not. Thirdly and please don not take this as a criticism, but they are a notorious "beginners "bird, probably the one species in the UK that is most routinely claimed, but not proven, so identification require extreme care. (this is regularly commented on in many bird ID guides)

Female Sparrowhawks are sometimes claimed as Goshawk, either dashing over a tree top height, or particularly high flying birds where size is difficult to judge. Goshawks in the UK are from the northern race, so females are at least Buzzard size or usually bigger and males larger than female Sparrowhawks, and about three times as heavy. Goshawk is not simply a big Sparrowhawk. It is a different shape, a large, powerful deep chested raptor. Wing tips are very pointed, has a s shaped curve to the back of the wing, protruding head with thick based ( so not straight,) tail and rounded tip. Pattern of the head and breast, as well as barring of tails and wings is also different. Adults perched in trees sit upright.

Your observer who mentioned them near Teggs Nose is correct. They bred near Macclesfield Forest for a while 10+ years ago, but then disappeared, and have recently returned over the last 4 years. The nearest other pairs to this area are near Helsby/ Peckforton area, so the likelihood or a random overflying sighting , especially at this time of year is extremely unlikely. The current female of the Macc Forest pair is huge. Fledged young have been noted by the foresters in autumn. These juvenile birds do disperse, (August to October) but Goshawk is not a urban bird, they do not hunt gardens or lowland open field systems (in the UK anyway), preferring dense tracts of thick woodlands, especially coniferous forests, so any dispersal is down along the eastern hill ridges into Derbyshire or Staffordshire. One other point, Goshawks are rarely mobbed when circling in the air, no avian species would be that cavalier, I have even witnessed Ravens hiding up against stone walls on the ground when a female Goshawk flap, flap, glides with deep wing beats up overhead, they really are that powerful.

Hugh Pulsford
Cheshire and Wirral County Bird Recorder
Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society ( CAWOS) www.cawos.org
Secretary National Association of County Recorders and Editors (ACRE)


14/04/2020...... Lockdown listers are coming up with some good stuff!
So far no less than 32 people have sent me emails with details of their sightings obtained locally. Currently I'm combining them into a single email which is sent out to interested parties every evening. Eventually though, when the rush of Spring migrants begins to wind down, I'll perhaps compile them every other day or even longer. I'll play it by ear!
The format is evolving as we go along but, in the main, I just cut and paste reports and do a little spelling correction (I don't think everyone uses a spell checker, in fact I'm certain they don't !!)
The compilation is then converted to HTML and placed on the KOS's website - click here.

For those uncertain about their local public footpaths click on this link it takes you to the definitive map of all East Cheshire's paths. Zoom in to your own patch and there they are. Zooming in further reveals details of individual fields and small ponds. The example shown shows a small area around the Fox Harbour area of Mobberley, including the famous "magic pool"!

When this is all over (how many times are we hearing this at the moment?) we'll assemble a list of all the species seen by observers who are presently covering this patchwork of small areas in their immediate locality without the use of motorised transport. It's a unique situation, hopefully not one we'll ever experience again but peoples' records shouldn't be lost.

The last of our Winter friends have now left for the north and are being replaced by Summer visitors. So far correspondents have recorded - Chiffchaff, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, Osprey, Wheatear, Redstart, Common Sandpiper, Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Warbler.

So we've plenty of the regulars to arrive and perhaps one or two surprises, like the White-tailed Eagle that was photographed yesterday overflying Macclesfield!

The latest update from Burton Mere Wetlands, sent to me by Sheila Blamire, makes interesting reading.

Avocets had built up to an impressive 112 at Burton Mere Wetlands by the 16th. I don't know how many heron species are attempting to breed there but we have two Cattle Egrets, two Spoonbills and probably well over 10 Great Egrets on the estuary, as well as a few hundred Little Egrets. Four Bearded Tits have been showing well at the reserve. During the high spring tide of the 12th, when the sea covered the marsh, many birds flew to BWM and the list of highlights for that day is pretty impressive: 4,000+ Redshank, 5 Spotted Redshank, 62 Avocet, 220 Black-tailed Godwit, 40 Golden Plover, 10,000+ Pink-footed Geese, 2 Mediterranean Gull, 21 Grey Heron, 8 Great Egret, 3 Marsh Harrier and 75 Shoveler.

But who needs that lot when you've got your own little local patch - stay safe team, it'll be over soon!



05/04/2020...... Keeping in touch
With group activities suspended and everyone confined to barracks for the foreseeable future, except for local periods of exercise in areas accessible without the use of a vehicle, we've been anxious that members keep in touch and some sort of continuity maintained.
To that end, members (and any other interested parties) have been sending me, by email or text, brief accounts of what they've been up to during the "lockdown". It's working well and each evening I've been able to blend them into a daily summary and post it by email to all members and others who are on our "update" email list.
I'm told they are proving to be both interesting and entertaining, and so, for the benefit of historians and infrequent or casual visitors to "ten-by-fifty-dot-com", I am putting the daily summaries onto a new webpage within the KOS website. You can read them by clicking here.
Currently, from what limited data is available, Summer migrants are arriving on time with so far, Chiffchaff, Sand Martin, Blackcap and Willow warblers on time (and in a text from Darren Morris just received as I write! Swallow [Tatton]). Winter birds are hanging on with a few Redwings about, big flocks of Fieldfare passing through and a party of 30 to 50 Meadow Pipits this morning seen by Len Mason at Mobberley SQ.

If you're spending a lot of time in the garden a good way to make your records count is to sign up for the BTO garden birdwatch scheme. It's now free for as long as the current crisis lasts - click here for details

Birdwatchers are fond of their abbreviations, Common Sand, Great Spot are commonly heard with Gropper, Lesserpecker, Blackwit etc. less so and I even remember PGtips (anyone?) being used for one species! The term vismig short for visible migration is now in everyday use with nocmig (nocturnal migration) the new kid on the block! Every year around the beginning of October migrating Redwings can be heard at night passing over in large numbers, their high pitched "seeep" calls easy to pick out. But now nocmig enthusiasts are going one step beyond with all manner of expensive electronics and complex computer programs being used to identify and quantify overflying night-time species. Locally Hugh Pulsford alerted us to the overnight passage of Common Scoters, during the first few days of the month, as they moved en masse from their Irish Sea wintering quarters to breeding grounds in northern Europe (read about it here). I spent half an hour last night sat in the garden listening for them without success. It was a great night though, no traffic - air or road and a clear moonlit sky, ideal conditions but not a peep!!
Needless to say there's already an embryonic website on the go for anyone interested click here nocmig.com

Suitably inspired, over in Merseyside, Barrie (The Lad) Armitt is giving the new technique a coat of looking at.

Saw your reference to 'nocmig. Fascinating topic. Perfect for your good self: involves setting up some kit in the back garden and then sitting at a computer checking sound files and spectrograms captured whilst asleep. None of this walking around birding - comfort of sitting room with a coffee;-) and it involves squiggles on a monitor: your sort of thing.

I've been looking into it since last year. Had a bird singing that I couldn't place so used my trusty Samsung S5 to record the song. Not a great recording but identifiable later. Made me look into better quality devices. There are better sound recording apps available for your phone and I've used one and it's an improvement but not up to 'nocmig' stuff.

This year I've set about things a more seriously. Trektellen has a 'nocmig' section that's great. Some even post their records with a 'zeno canto' link so you can hear and see a spectrogram. All very interesting. It has prompted me to buy a decent recorder and download the software for creating and analysing the audio files.

You'll be pleased to know yesterday I recorded my first fly-over and created my first spectrogram. A fitting species: Meadow Pipit lol.

You also mentioned ducks recorded at night recently. This began around the 1st of April and involves a lot of Common Scoter. The birds I count off Formby ( 10,000+) are part of a huge wintering population (100,000+) off the coast in the Liverpool/Morecombe Bay area. They migrate east overland to the north sea at an average of 33 mph so a 3 hour flight (ish).... took me 10 days to walk it and 5 days on a bike :-)

Thanks Baz let us know how you're progressing - and to you and everyone else - stay safe.



25/03/2020...... Making the most of it!
Some people do their best to embrace the Winter; even the miserable, wet affair we're just emerging from. Others struggle to derive any satisfaction from the colder months but whatever their perspective, for all birders, it's Spring they look forward to the most, and for the past few days the weather has been perfect - sunshine and blue sky with the mercury today into the mid to upper teens. Normally reports are pouring in from Tatton, Rostherne, Marbury, Woolston etc. and it can be a big job untangling them all and distilling them down for this bit of the website. Hard work sometimes but nevertheless most enjoyable. That's normally - this Spring's not normal.

At the time of writing Tatton park, Rostherne Mere NNR, Woolston Eyes, all RSPB and WWT reserves are closed for the duration, even Goostrey's bakery in Mobberley has closed - no more sausage rolls - a measure of the seriousness of the situation . We are allowed out for exercise once a day, so I've been receiving some reports from our KOS members who've been out and about locally, making the most of the conditions whilst even these limited facilities are available to us.

Before the drawbridges were raised the first Sand Martins had arrived. Jacquie Ledward was the first of our members to record them this year with 10+ over Budworth Mere last Wednesday (18th). Tatton's first came three days later (21st) when Darren Morris had a bird over the main mere as he cycled to work in the park, later in the day Bob Groom counted between 33 and 36 at the same location............. the Sand Martins were there in force, favouring mid-mere, rather than top end. No doubt the same birds that Darren had seen earlier. My counts ranged from 33 to 36 so I'll settle for 35, give or take. Lots of other good sightings, Kingfisher again at Melchett, 2 Grey Wagtails at the edge of the mere, not far from the deer fence, several Herons, Buzzards constantly in view.

As with the rest of us Derek and Jean are now restricting themselves to local strolls in their immediate locality, in their case Knutsford's Sudlow Lane .... Kestrel hovering over Northwich Road Saturday. Sparrowhawk over Academy field yesterday. Skylark singing over Northwich Road Wood Pigeon nesting in front garden again. Jean went down Sudlow lane yesterday still Fieldfare and Redwing about.

Bob's confining his activities to the area around Green Lane .... I have been up the lanes and had some nice sightings. Singing Chiffchaff I followed up Green Lane to the regular breeding place in the shrubbery of Moss Corner Cottage. 5 Buzzards up together. Several Lapwings displaying, 2+2 Stock Doves. I was just counting Fieldfares (had got up to 32) when the muck spreader swung into the field and I had to beat a hasty retreat (as did the fieldfares)! Jay, Kestrel, 2 Long-tailed Tits, lots of House Sparrows.

It appears that we'll all be doing a lot of garden birdwatching this year! Here in Bucklow Avenue we're lucky compared to many people, we have small front gardens but they're much bigger at the back (ours is 70' long) and attract plenty of wildlife. The feeders are still busy with visiting Goldfinch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit's and the occasional Great Spotted Woodpecker. All three Tit species are in song, together with a Greenfinch which sallies forth from time to time from a neighbours conifer in it's fluttering display flight . At the bottom of the garden there's a mixed hedge of holly, hawthorn and hazel plus a nice silver birch and a 30' high ash tree. Below these, the wildlife pond I dug out last year - now with resident frogs and emerging tadpoles that seem to be co-existing with the four goldfish I introduced (against everyone's advice!) At the rear of the house we have timber decking that remains out of direct sunlight until about 2pm each day and I spend many hours relaxing there, binoculars at the ready, hoping for something different to pass over. Last year I had Red Kite, Osprey and numerous Hobby sightings. I suspect this time around I'll be spending a lot more time there!!

We're living in challenging times but I'm sure binocs. will still be pointing skyward - from local lanes, gardens and even windows. Let me know how you're managing and what you're seeing so that this Spring that never was won't be wasted.

The internet is proving to be a godsend during these difficult times and many a happy hour can be passed watching ornithological webcams. I'll mention now a selection of these - there are many more and if you have any favourites let me know and I'll share them on here.

The Dfi Osprey cameras are excellent, pin-sharp HD images from a location we know so well. They are due to come online imminently

Dyfi webcams - click here

Glaslyn Ospreys. The first bird has returned and the webcam is on. Another site we're familiar with.

Gaslyn Ospreys - click here.

Loch of the Lowes webcam - now online and again one of the pair is in situ.

Loch of the Lowes webcam - click here

Kittiwake webcam from Gateshead - turn the sound down, they're very noisy!

Kittiwake cam click here

Peregrine Falcon Webcam from Leamington as recommended by Phil Rowley (thanks Phil!)

Leamington Peregrines -click here.

Well that's about all for now team! Keep smiling, keep watching, keep in touch and stay safe!


17/03/2020...... Well it's Spring but not as we know it!
As they say in Mobberley - "This virus thing is a bit of a bugger!" It certainly is and it's very difficult to come to terms with - quite surrealistic and unbelievable. We Homo sapiens are just a very small part of the natural world and, apart from us, the rest (as far as I know) remain unaffected by the current problem.

Just to prove the point, the first of our Summer migrants have returned and interestingly Chiffchaffs have appeared before Sand Martins, Tatton ranger Darren Morris and I both had what was probably the same singing bird in the park's Dog Wood on the afternoon of Friday 13th. I was talking (at a safe distance!) to a group of Manchester birders this morning and they'd heard four or five at the same location earlier and reported a probable Blackcap in song. There was a singing Chiffchaff earlier from the Rostherne obs. (probably the first of the year) but no Sand Martins there either. It was a beautiful morning, crystal clear and through the big grey binoculars, set to 40X I could see people walking up Rivington Pike - a distance of 22 miles!

On Sunday (15th) we travelled over to Pennington Flash and enjoyed what will probably be our last KOS field trip for some time. Even before we left the car park it was obvious that the water held plenty of wildfowl with Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Mallard, Canada Goose, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye amongst the first species on our day list. Goldeneye were very numerous and when they took to the air later, Bob Groom (who took an alternative route around the flash) counted 50 birds. Two fine male Goosanders floated into view as we began our walk, whilst from the phragmites reeds the explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler, a species we heard a number of times as the morning progressed. Chiffchaffs were numerous but there was no sign of the Sand Martin that had been present for the previous few days.
We had both Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, the latter now in good voice, as was a Skylark in full song, high above us as we approached the hides, beautiful, even prompting some poetry from our Hon Treasurer.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

We dined in the Teal hide, overlooking a very attractive small pool containing Shoveler, Gadwall and a dozen Goosanders in sparkling Spring plumage. Bob was able to add some new species to the list when we rejoined him, including his usual Stock Doves and two handsome male White Wagtails bringing the final total to a very respectable 53.

Due to the ongoing Corona virus problem it's been decided that, with immediate effect, all KOS activities, both indoor and outdoor meetings will be suspended for the duration. All members have been informed.

Along with everyone else we'll be keeping a low profile for the foreseeable future but I'll be hoping to do some birding away from others, including Fox Harbour in Mobberley, the quieter parts of Tatton and Rostherne where I'll be doing the breeding bird survey in Harper's Bank (an area closed to the public, even permit holders).

I hope other members and correspondents will be able to get out safely and send me their thoughts and sightings for use in this part of the website.

Species seen at Pennington Flash - 15th March 2020
Goldeneye, Coot, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Robin, Magpie, Canada Goose, Mallard, Moorhen, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Little Grebe, Mistle Thrush, Oystercatcher, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Blackbird, Goosander, Grey Heron, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Cetti's Warbler, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Song Thrush, Shoveler, Reed Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Collared Dove, Long-tailed Tit, Starling, Kingfisher, Carrion Crow, Jay, Greylag Goose, Pheasant, Skylark, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Gadwall, Teal, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Snipe, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Wren, Stock Dove, White Wagtail [53]

02/03/2020......A memorable presentation
Our small group of Knutsford birders has been going for 46 years now, meaning we've had about 320 evening presentations over the years and I've been to the vast majority - good, bad and indifferent! Last Friday's was exceptional and must rank in the top ten - Premier League stuff!
None of your birds-on-a-stick travelogues, this was real and practical ornithology as Tanya and Edmund Hoare introduced us the various organisations dedicated to the well-being of our Common swifts and their own efforts to try and halt the 56% decline in the population of the species over the past few years.
The couple have a cottage in Cumbria, which hosts Swifts every Spring and when it needed re-roofing they arranged for the rubble between the joists to be removed, creating much needed extra space for the nesting birds. click here. Behind these spaces, on the inside of the bedroom and bathroom, hatches were constructed giving access to the nest chambers (although these are never opened during the breeding season); more than 20 video cameras have been installed allowing continuous monitoring of activity in the nests - from the moment the first birds arrive back in the Spring until the last youngster fledges in August - now 2Tb of data; that's approximately one trillion bytes!!
Video footage from the cameras and a series of easy-to-follow graphics were used during the presentation, showing rarely seen activity such as "wing standing", fighting between resident and intruder birds and even the antics of the parasitic swift lousefly that live off the blood of the adults and young - ugh!
"Swifts Local Network" (SLN) has been set up. This will enable the many UK-based individuals and small groups now working on Swift conservation initiatives to share experiences and ideas more easily. Tanya suggested that a Knutsford group would be a welcome addition to the network. The Q&A session at the end of the presentation lasted twenty minutes, an indication of the interest created by our guests!

Last Wednesday's midweeker (26/2) was a long overdue visit to Woolston Eyes. It was wet, very wet! The approach road to the reserve, past the industrial units, is worse than ever and the water filled potholes have to be treated with great caution.

The paths on the reserve itself were quite treacherous too, ankle deep in muddy water, and no wonder, when we learnt this week, that last month was the wettest February since records began and the fifth wettest of any calendar month in a series from 1862.
The Black-necked Grebes aren't due back until later in the month but most of the other usual suspects were on view - Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Great Crested and Little Grebes etc.; all very wary of the fine female Marsh Harrier which took to the air and quartered the reedbeds from time to time. From the Morgan hide we watched Buzzards and a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying in the distance, returning Black-headed Gulls squabbled over the best bits of real estate and a pair of Oystercatchers flew in and landed just in front of the hide. The feeders were strangely quiet and we were disappointed not to hear any Willow Tits in song; although others heard them later in the week. Surprise of the morning was a Woodcock that flew overhead as we squelched our way back to the cars - it appears as a Winter visitor on the reserve's species list, so perhaps not as rare as we first thought. Nevertheless a new one for us!

This Friday (6th) it's the Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society's AGM which will be followed by a presentation by Dermot Smith - "Mersey Estuary's Birds". 7:45pm in St. Vincent's Church on Tatton Street.

Species seen at Woolston Eyes on 26th February 2020.
Blue Tit, Tufted Duck, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Canada Goose, Dunnock, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Robin, Mute Swan, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Great Tit, Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Little Grebe, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Coot, Greylag Goose, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Great Crested Grebe, Gadwall, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Woodcock, Long-tailed Tit, Redwing, Song Thrush, Cormorant [ ✓ 40]

25/2/2020...... Water, water everywhere.
It appears there may be a brief period of relatively dry weather for a couple of days, after the prolonged period of wet weather, as a seemingly relentless train of low pressure areas have arrived from the Atlantic.
Luckily we have hides at Rostherne and Tatton, so we do have somewhere to shelter from the rain - although it must be said, there's not a lot about! The male Stonechat remains in the park and is often viewable from the Allen hide and near the car park Siskins and a substantial mixed flock of Chaffinches and Goldfinches are feeding in the Alder trees.

The water level at Rostherne is very high; the path to Harper's Bank wood is submerged and a brown slick of suspended sand and soil, washing out of Rostherne Brook is spreading across the mere. Bob Groom and I visited the obs. yesterday (24th) when a group of workers were dealing with one of the big trees that were felled in the recent gales. Two people went into the rear door of the boathouse and as they did a Barn Owl exited through the front! It was no doubt roosting in there during the daylight hours. Also seen during the morning - Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine Falcon; a good day for predators!

Some members have ventured further - Ken and Shirley Davies have been on the road again in the camper, this time down to Slimbridge.

Ken and Shirley's motor home travels.
Shirley and myself visited Slimbridge WWT again this year on the 5th February, the weather this year was sunny, not much wind and no rain; not like last year when it was very windy and showery but we were there a couple of days before storm Ciara decided to hit our shores . The following list of birds seen as we walked around the outside of the reserve and not the captive pens.

Snipe, Lapwing, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Redshank, Robin, Magpie, Carrion crow, rook, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Crane, Starling, Peregrine, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Great Tit, Little Egret, Bewick's Swan, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shelduck, Coot, Mallard, Pintail, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, White-fronted Geese, Teal, Shoveler, Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese, Bar-headed Geese (2) (they had not come from the Slimbridge collection but were thought to be two feral birds from Holland), Wigeon, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Cormorant, Ruff, Wren, Chaffinch, Buzzard, Blackcap, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Water Rail, Pheasant, Avocet, Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit, Long tailed Tit, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail. (57)

Dave and Izzie Butterworth travelled even further south, well past Stoke, and enjoyed a holiday in Uganda!

They have kindly provided me with an account of their adventure. It's quite large so has been given the honour of a page of it's own! CLICK HERE - http://www.10x50.com/uganda.htm

Preparations are going ahead for our long weekend on the Isle of Anglesey in early June. At the moment nine members have signed up, with more to follow, depending on circumstances.
As a taster for this trip have a look at what we saw on a single overnighter in 2016 http://www.10x50.com/arc_2016.htm scroll down to 5/7/2016.
I'll be leading this trip so contact me for further details tony@10X50.com

Our next KOS indoor meeting is this Friday (28th) when Tanya Hoare will be telling us all about "Our not so Common Swifts"

See you there - same time, same place.



14/02/2020...... Tatton and the Wirral
Saturday the 8th and a good turnout of members for the February field trip around Tatton Park, ahead of approaching storm Ciara that was to cause so much damage 24 hours later throughout the UK. We followed the usual route - from the Dog Lodge layby, across Knutsford Moor, entering the park via the main gate before walking alongside Tatton Mere as far as the Allen hide and returning to the cars via Dog Wood.

We're still waiting for singing Cetti's Warbler on the Moor, it can't be long now! So for the time being we had to be content with a Reed Bunting in song from deep inside the phragmites, whilst on the water of the "back pool" Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks and a returning Gadwall. In the woodland immediately before entering the main gates we enjoyed good views of a Treecreeper and the songs of Song Thrush, Stock Dove and numerous Coal Tits, all encouraged by the bright sunshine and reasonably mild weather, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead the following day as Ciara arrived.

Tufted Ducks, displaying Goldeneye and a flock of 17 Pochard populated the southern end of Tatton Mere, whilst in the tall trees of Higmere Plantation, overhanging the mere, Grey Herons had returned to their nests; difficult to see silhouetted against the sun at this time of the morning but later views, on our return through Dog Wood, revealed that some appeared to be on eggs already. The early bird catches the worm - but also catches the winter wind and they would have done well to survive the oncoming storm. We met up with Bob Groom who was already ensconced in the Allen hide and was able to add Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush and Lapwing to a reasonable final tally of 43 species which was quite satisfactory given the time of year. Unfortunately the wintering Stonechats didn't put in an appearance; perhaps they've joined their vagrant cousin over at Ashton's flash in Northwich!

For those that don't enjoy the winter weather - and, strange as it may seem, there are some - a reminder that the average date for the return of the first Sand Martin of the year over Tatton Mere is the 14th of March - only a month to go!

Species seen on our KOS February field trip around Tatton Park. February 8th 2020
Dunnock, Jackdaw, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit,Cormorant, Robin, Canada Goose, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Buzzard, Coot, Woodpigeon, Reed Bunting, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, carrion Crow, Mute Swan, Redwing, lesser Black-backed Gull, Moorhen, Starling, Song Thrush, Treecreeper, Stock Dove, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Pochard, Grey Heron, Goldeneye, Skylark, Kingfisher, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Egyptian Goose, Common Snipe, Little Grebe, Lapwing. [ ✓ 43]

On Wednesday (12th) a small group of mid-weekers travelled to the Wirral - Burton Mere Wetlands and Parkgate for the 10M tide and strong south-westerly, conditions that always promise some spectacular birding.
The coffee in the reception building was well up to standard and I noted that if you take your own cup it's 20p off and even better value at £ 1:60! A few Little Egrets have returned but for the time being they were outnumbered by Great White Egrets with seven on the reserve and no less than 11 the previous day! The Inner Marsh hide was very busy and seemingly populated by what have been described elsewhere as "Hybrid" birders, all camera and no binoculars! Here a couple of Pintail were added to the day list, along with two Knot, the first I've ever seen on the reserve. Making my way back I met up with Frank and Len returning from the steep hill just beyond the edge of the reserve, from the top of which you get wide-ranging views across the estuary. Well no! don't get confused here - they'd been looking at it - not climbing it! There's a sheltered little spot on the return route and here, out of the wind, Blackbirds fed, a Goldcrest also busily collected food and a flock of Long-tailed Tits hawked for winter gnats, tiny pin pricks of light, visible only because of the low winter back light highlighting them and shining through the wing and tail feathers of the Tits making them appear semi-transparent. A wonderful photo opportunity missed by the photographers as they trundled off to Parkgate.

Predictably the car park at the old baths was full and so we parked a short distance away in a location I'd ear-marked on a previous visit, ready for such an occasion. The old baths were choc-a-block as we arrived, crowded with birders waiting expectantly for the high tide which was due at 1:20pm. The previous day the tide was so high that the baths and car park were flooded but no such luck today as 1:20pm came and went. Nevertheless there was plenty of activity and a Kestrel, three Marsh Harriers and a nice male Hen Harrier was added to our list. Others also reported Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Peregrine. Anxious to escape from the cold wind blowing across the estuary Len Mason scanned the fields behind the baths and reported Redwing, Song Thrush, Skylark and a flock of Linnets - quite like the old days. The tide did hold up and may even have risen further but by then we were viewing it through the windows of the Parkgate chippie!

Species seen on the Wirral. Wednesday 12th February 2020.
Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Skylark, Mute Swan, Little Egret, Teal, Cormorant, Wigeon, Coot, Redshank, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Magpie, Black-headed Gull, Curlew, Shelduck, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Moorhen, Lapwing, Pheasant, Common Gull, Mallard, Herring Gull, Shoveler, Great Black-backed Gull, Stonechat, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon, Tufted Duck, Pink-footed Goose, Dabchick, Raven, Rook, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Pintail, Knot, Redwing, Starling, Sparrowhawk, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Goldcrest, Stock Dove, Kestrel, Coal Tit, Marsh harrier, Egyptian Goose, Song Thrush, Linnet, Hen Harrier, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Lesser Black-backed Gull. [ ✓ 61]

06/02/2020...... HS2, BFBC and Tatton
All the indications are that the HS2 rail link between London and the north of England will shortly be receiving final approval, allowing you to get to the capital 30 minutes quicker than at present. The plan reproduced above shows just how close it will come to the Rostherne reserve - interesting times lie ahead!

This year I've invested in a Tatton Park entry/parking permit, through the good offices of the Tatton Garden Society; it's cheaper than applying directly to Tatton and members receive a discount at some of the local garden centres. Consequently I'm able to park at the far end of the main mere and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Allen hide, overlooking Melchett Mere, more often - this is not the most productive spot in the park for the birdwatcher, that's still Dog Wood and Knutsford Moor but it does provide welcome shelter during the wet winter months that seem to be the norm nowadays in this part of the world.
Other members also have passes so the park is receiving a bit more attention this year than in the recent past. On Saturday (8th) it's our February field trip to Tatton, meeting at the Dog Lodge lay-by on Mobberley Road at 09:00am, Tony Ellis will be our leader, so we're in safe hands!
Hopefully the pair of Stonechats will still be around and this week Derek reports Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers plus the resident Kingfisher on the Melchett Mere outlet stream.
Before then, tomorrow (7th) it's the CAWOS February meeting when Mark Sissons will be taking members on a journey through north and south America - "From Alaska to Argentina - Wildlife through the Americas". 7:45pm at St. Vincent's Church Hall on Tatton Street, Knutsford.

Today (6th) Bill Killey and I paid a visit to Shipbrook Hill Farm, Whatcroft and did a short bird survey on behalf of the owner Simon Bennett. The survey is organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and known as the "Big Farmland Bird Count". Last year 1,400 farmers took part and recorded 140 species across more that a million acres.
We recorded 21 species, one more than last year in the 30' allowed for the exercise. It's not long, to say the least, but spread over so many locations and as it says on the label - "offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation schemes currently being initiated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops."
There's a nice little cafe in the farmyard and I can recommend the bacon batches - my turn next year Bill!

Species recorded at Shipbrook Farm. 6th February 2020. 10:10 - 10:40am. maximum number seen at the same time.
Fieldfare [1], Nuthatch [1], Jackdaw [4], Carrion Crow [12], Collared Dove [3], Herring Gull [1], Blue Tit [1], Woodpigeon [16], Goldfinch [1], Robin [1], Great Tit, [1], Wren [1], Buzzard [1], Mallard [2], Magpie [1], Stock Dove [2], Redwing [3], Snipe [1], Meadow Pipit [2], Sparrowhawk [1], Curlew [6].



27/01/2020...... A busy weekend!
A busy weekend for the KOS began on Friday evening (24th) when we welcomed back Keith Offord who entertained us with his talk "Land of Contrasts - Namibia", as usual Keith produced an excellent lecture, which was enjoyed by an appreciative audience of 28 members, including two newcomers, Liz and Martin Attwood - welcome aboard folks!

On Saturday and Sunday we joined forces with "The Friends of Knutsford Moor" (25th) and "The Friends of Knutsford Heath" (26th) for their annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatches.

This year on the Moor we managed 32 species in the allotted one hour time slot, 4 more than last year, although we were disappointed not to be able to include a hunting Peregrine that appeared overhead just as we were finishing collating the data from our two groups. It would have been an all time new one for the event, as would the flock of six Snipe that flew out of the Moor's reedbed at the same time. There was no woodpecker activity this year but we were delighted to see and hear a Song Thrush, the first one I'd heard in song this year. Bob Groom continued birding after rest of us had left for home and was lucky enough to see more Snipe and the Peregrine again. The Peregrine reappeared, flying back low over the Moor and away towards Crosstown, also 6 more Snipe flew into the reedbed. As I was already in the Park I decided to visit the Allen Hide, on the way there from the car there were a small number of Siskins with a flock of Chaffinches in the alders. (No sign of the stonechats but then there were a lot of people photographing the deer.) In the Hide I had two sightings of the Kingfisher, a Green Woodpecker flying to Moss Plantation and a drake Pochard. Jayne had been watching a pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying before she joined me in the Hide and I then had a third sighting (for the day) of Peregrine! A pretty successful four hours of birding...

Here are the results of Saturdays Birdwatch on the Moor:- Blackbird 3, Black-headed Gull 104,Blue tit 4, Bullfinch 4,Canada Goose 9,Carrion Crow 3,Chaffinch 1,Coal tit 1, Collared Dove 2, Coot 2,Cormorant 3,Goldcrest 1,Goldfinch 10,Great Tit 2, House sparrow 6, Jackdaw 7, Jay 1,Lesser black-backed Gull 1, Little grebe 2,Long-tailed Tit 9, Magpie 2, Mallard 10, Moorhen 2,Nuthatch 2, Redwing 10, Robin 2, Song Thrush 1, Mute Swan 1, Treecreeper 1, Tufted Duck 8, Woodpigeon 4, Wren 1. - 219 birds seen in 1 hour. 32 species. Not included is a peregrine which was seen hunting above the Moor
Data supplied by Jan McCappin - thanks Jan.

A decent enough day on Sunday (26th) weather-wise for a repeat performance, this time with the Friends of the Heath - about 7C, overcast but the forecast rain never materialised.
The Heath covers about the same area as the Moor but the latter benefits from large areas of reedbeds and associated stretches of open water, so the Heath will always be the poor relation species-wise. Nevertheless it came close this year with 20 recorded, one up on 2019 and the organisers were pleased to see the resident species doing so well, especially the count of 11 Long-tailed Tits, the highest yet. Redwing was an all-time new bird and a handsome Buzzard perched in the woodland posed well for our party. Our thanks go to the Friends of both areas for inviting us along and to the KOS members who turned out to help - most enjoyable!

Species seen on Knutsford Heath. 26 January 2020. 11:00am until noon.Blackbird, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Robin, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren - 21 species.
Data provided by Kevin Griffiths - thanks Kevin.

Bob and I spent a couple of hours in the Rostherne Obs. this morning (27/1), there are now six Goosanders on the mere and Cormorants are returning to claim the most favourable sites. Displaying pairs were ensconced on their nests, busily re-arranging and adding to the structures. Tatton's closed to the public on Mondays at this time of the year but Ranger Darren Morris reports a Little Egret on Melchett Mere this afternoon. As far as I know only the second record for the park, perhaps a pair will set up shop amongst the small Grey Heron colony in the park's Higmere Plantation.

21/01/2020...... A most successful Wildfowl watch in Tatton!
An encouraging weather forecast on Saturday evening promised us a "proper" winters day on Sunday - something to look forward to after so much wind and rain over the past few weeks. It was certainly cold enough, the car was frozen over at 8am and the temperature never rose above 3 ° C during the morning but unfortunately there was a thick mist that made viewing from the hide a bit challenging. Fortunately this didn't put off visitors to the park, the Knutsford Drive was busy with walkers, cyclists and motorists and we had no difficulty in enticing a steady stream of visitors into the hide, a task made so much easier with the promise of free tea, coffee and biscuits supplied by Yvonne and Darren! We had to keep checking that the hide wasn't getting too busy and tried to regulate the numbers, so as not to overwhelm the KOS members inside who were dealing with the public, but at one stage Derek and I couldn't resist inviting a walking group of 16 down to the hide!

This year I tried to keep a count of visitors on my trusty dictaphone, I know I missed loads but when I played it back later I'd recorded 73 visitors, so that was the minimum and the true total this year was probably approaching 100. As well as the refreshments we were able to (almost) promise real-life views of an obliging Kingfisher that was in situ when our Hon. Chairperson arrived, during the morning the bird would leave for a few minutes before returning to one of it's favourite perches, a number of visitors were profuse with their thanks as they left "We've seen them on TV but never in the wild!".

A nice enough bird but from our point of view the star of the show was a lone Whooper Swan that appeared through the mist shortly after we'd heard it calling as it approached the mere. A few lucky people were able to see it in the 'scopes before it vanished across the far side never to be seen again - during out two hour session anyway!

We managed a modest total of 22 species, which wasn't bad under the circumstances but the morning is really about enhancing Tatton's visitor experience, introducing people to the Allen hide and perhaps raising our KOS profile. We handed out plenty of our "business cards" and amongst Sunday's visitors were regular readers of this website and it was great to be able to put faces to a few names!

Thanks go to all the KOS members who turned up to help, especially Yvonne and Darren for providing and serving the refreshments.

Another busy weekend coming up.

On Friday (24th) it's our January indoor meeting in the Jubilee Hall when Keith Offord will be talking about - "Land of Contrasts - Namibia".

The following day (Saturday 25th) we'll be helping the Friends of Knutsford Moor with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. 11am until noon. Meeting in the Moor shelter at 10:45am

On Sunday (26th) it's repeat exercise with the Friends of Knutsford Heath. again 11am until noon, meeting at 10:45 close to the junction of Stanley Road and Northwich Road.

13/01/2020......The first field trip of the new decade!

The probable Siberian Stonechat remains at Northwich's Ashton's Flash and a sample of it's droppings has been obtained. DNA analysis of this will confirm its origin (the bird's origin not the poo, as we know where that came from!), although I don't know who will carry this out and who will pay for it.
At least three KOS members succumbed to temptation and travelled over to take a look at this rare vagrant. Bob Groom was suitably rewarded for his persistence - Went over to the flashes this morning. I had a quick look at Neumann's then spent 2 hours, with other birders, looking in vain for the bird from the bund bench. I did see Green Woodpecker, Shovelers and Skylark. I was getting ready to leave as I had an afternoon meeting when the news came through that it had been located. It was a scramble through briars and branches but I made it and caught up with the rest. Really good, close views. What a little stunner it is, great to see.

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
Robin, Dunlin, Redshank, Coot, Black-tailed Godwit, lapwing, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Little Egret, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Golden Plover, Canada Goose, Starling, Curlew, Pheasant, Jackdaw, kestrel, Snipe, Great Tit, Siskin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Tufted Duck, Blue Tit, Cetti's Warbler, Gadwall, Pintail, Redwing, Buzzard, Pink-footed Goose, Magpie, Raven, Fieldfare, Herring Gull, Wren, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Chaffinch, Cormorant, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Great White Egret, Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Linnet [57]

17/12/2019...... A Record Breaking Christmas Party!
The "Birdwatcher's Yearbook 2019" has a section devoted to details of all the UK's natural history organisations, the KOS is listed alongside 100's of others. Locally CAWOS has 310 members and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust no less than 13,000; I couldn't find anyone with less than our 38 members! So a turnout of 27 for the Christmas party on Friday, representing 71% of the total membership was very encouraging. It was a most successful evening, the buffet was exceptional this year with members providing, mostly homemade, food - ranging from my simple jacket potatoes to complex examples of culinary art - meat and vegetarian chilli, creme brulee and a delicious pavlova that vanished so fast the usual suspects were denied a second helping! The Hon. sec. kept the evening on track and, in his own inimitable manner, managed to squeeze a few more quid out of members during the final auction. Len Mason won the quiz this year, mainly due to his knowledge of the topography of our Cheshire meres and the following day, Hon. Treasurer Frank told us that we made a record profit of £400. Well done everyone - a great team effort that will keep us in speakers for another 12 months!

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 at Marshside / Martin Mere 15th December 2019

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