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Supplementary Pages 2024
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February 18th 2024 ...... Tatton walk + Sand Martin Competition entries.
A dry and mild morning yesterday (17/2) for what's become our annual stroll around Tatton Park before the arrival, in a few weeks or even days time, of the first of our Summer migrants.
A good turnout of 17 Members for the morning's birding, including new member Alison on her first outing with us. She's new to the KOS but an experienced birder and I've no doubt she will be a great asset to the society.
We followed the usual route from the meeting point at Dog Lodge, down onto Knutsford Moor, up though the park's Knutsford entrance then along the side of Tatton Mere to the Allen hide for elevenses before returning via Dog Wood; a distance of about 5½Km but quite a bit longer for Frank and Derek who had walked all the way from Lilac Avenue to join us. The day list began with a Sparrowhawk that the pair had seen en route and an overflying Oystercatcher from our parking spot. Down on the Moor, the usual collection of water birds - Canada Geese, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen and Mallard were joined this year by the four Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that have generated some interest on local social media sites!
Then through the park's main gates and down to the side of Tatton Mere adding Siskin to the list on the way, the Grey Herons in Higmere Plantation were very active, I'd counted nine occupied nests earlier in the week with some of the birds incubating early clutches of eggs.
On Tatton Mere Great Crested Grebes, displaying Goldeneye, three Little Grebes, 12 Pochard and a single Cormorant.
The stand of conifers close to the shore proved quite productive and gave us Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit and a pair of Mistle Thrushes dealing unceremoniously with an intruding Magpie. Further along the mere a smart looking Stonechat posed nicely for us and from the direction on Beech Walk we heard the yaffling call of a Green Woodpecker.
Elevenses were enjoyed in the Allen Hide from where Wigeon was a new species, as were the Snipe that proved difficult to see until they were spooked by incoming Herons and, on one occasion by a hunting Kestrel, another new one. We ended a very pleasant morning with a total of exactly 50 species, not a bad total given the time of the year - some good birds and excellent company.
Walking my usual route around the lanes of Mobberley this morning, along Smith Lane I noticed that a pair of Lapwings had returned to their favoured field to the west of Smith Lane Farm; unfortunately I don't hold out much hope for them and any others that attempt to nest here, as their nests and eggs will almost certainly be trashed during agricultural activities later in the Spring.
The 2024 Sand Martin competition attracted 35 entries, the same as last year. A big range of guesses with over a month between the earliest and latest dates: 18th February and 20th March!
The favourite date is the 10th March (6), closely followed by the 8th March(4) and the 14th March(5). You can see the entries by clicking here
This Friday, 23rd February, it's our monthly indoor meeting when we have a special showing of two Gordon Yates videos - "The Wildlife Gems of Islay" and "A Bird for all Seasons". Gordon has kindly allowed us to use these videos free of charge.
The venue is the Jubilee Hall, Stanley Road, Knutsford WA16 0GP. KOS members will be there from around 7:15pm - non-members are welcome to come along and join us, parking is free at the next door Booths car park (you can park there free any time after 6.00pm Friday through to 8.00 am Saturday). Admission is £ 3 for members and £ 6 for non-members.
Only one week to go before closing date for the 2024 Sand Martin competition - do it now before you forget - it will take less than a minute!
It was back in 2017 when we last hosted Waxwings in our area, a late flock of 52 birds spent a week on two cotoneaster trees along Town Lane in Mobberley. The trees are still there and are again laden with berries that, so far, remain untouched. There are Waxwings about though, Maria Freel discovered three birds on Old Hall Lane in Tabley whilst driving home on Friday evening (2/2) and many people have taken advantage of their proximity during the past few days. They were still there late this afternoon (8/2), lets hope they re-discover our Mobberley treasure trove.
On Sunday (4/2), during a walk around the lanes of Mobberley, I heard my first singing Chaffinch of the year - just about on schedule, looking back through my notes the average date over the past few years has been the 7th February. It was the usual spluttering start but probably enough to prompt other into song and we'll soon get fed up of hearing them!
Further signs of the advancing season from Mere where Geoff and Sheila Blamire watched displaying grebes ........."Little Mere: the Great Crested Grebes were displaying this morning, including doing the ‘weed’ dance – fabulous. So Skylark singing 24th January in Millington. What’s going to be the 3rd event? Perhaps the arrival of Sand Martins….."...........
There's still plenty of time to catch up with our Winter visitors, Bob Groom and daughter Elaine finally added Bittern to their lists on a visit to Marbury Mere .........."This afternoon we had great views of the Bittern, a female Scaup and 6 Goosanders, plus long views of a Kingfisher. Redwings, lots of Long-Tailed Tits. ".........
We had hoped for Bitterns yesterday (7/2) at the RSPB's Burton Mere Wetlands when a group of 15 retirees enjoyed the first mid-weeker for quite some time. Two birds had been seen the previous day but we had no luck with them, despite some folk spending a considerable time at the viewing screen on the path to the Marsh Covert hide.
Species from the reception centre included the usual waterfowl - Canada and Greylag geese with substantial flocks of Pinkfeet overhead. On the water - Moorhen, Coot, Shoveler, Mallard, Wigeon and good numbers of Teal, resting in front of the reedbeds as we searched for Snipe.
Grey Heron, Little Egret and a Great White Egret passed by, as did a pair of Marsh Harriers, a male and female, lets hope they stick around and nest again. Leaving the reception centre and heading for the Marsh Covert hide we took a detour into the excellent new cafe where, due to an imminent and significant upcoming birthday, I treated the troops to an early morning coffee or pot of tea (I wondered why so many had turned up!!) The cafe is a good addition to the reserve, the vegetation in front had been cleared giving far-ranging views that can be enjoyed from inside or the seating area on the outside patio.
We didn't spend much time in the Marsh Covert hide, it was very quiet, before moving on to the Inner Marsh Hide where some took elevenses outside in the weak but surprisingly warm Winter sunshine.
Some new species were added to the list as we made our way back to the Reception Centre, including Treecreeper, Greenfinch, Siskin and Grey Wagtail. All in all we found the reserve quieter than in the past at this time of the year but nevertheless we accumulated at list of 57 species; I've no doubt we'll be returning to Burton Mere a few more times in the coming months (but next time you'll have to buy your own drinks!!)
Our next get together is on Saturday 17th February when we'll be having a stroll around Tatton Park, meeting in the Dog Lodge lay-by (off Mobberley Road) at 09:15am. I'll be leading this trip and you may want to let me know if you intend to come along tony@10X50.com
Again please don't forget to enter the 2024 Sand Martin Competition - it's open to anyone click here it will only take a few seconds.
Any KOS member who fails to enter will be hung upside down over a picture of Donald Trump (other politicians are available)
A good showing of KOS members over the weekend as we helped out with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, joining forces with the Friends of the Moor on Saturday and Friends of the Heath the following morning.
The Moor woodland seemed quieter than in the past, with neither sight nor sound of woodpeckers or the Siskins that can normally be found feeding in the alders at the edge of the recording area. So the number of species was a little down at 24 recorded in the allotted 1 hour period although the total number of individuals seen was up at 192 (mainly due to 80 Black-headed Gulls on the Moor pool). Four Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were an all-time new species for the Moor's Big Garden Birdwatch.
There's no area of water on the heath so, naturally, fewer birds are recorded every year, but not by many this time with 72 individuals and 19 different species, which included good views of Goldcrests, Treecreepers and a singing Song Thrush.
Thanks to both organisations for inviting us along - we must do it again sometime!
Geoff and Sheila Blamire had a disappointing count due to the attentions of a Sparrowhawk during their one hour ..........."We just had 13 species (39 birds) in our Garden Birdwatch – very low count compared with previous years (no finches at all!). Best were 2 male G S Woodpeckers at the same time (we had a female GSW earlier). The male Sparrowhawk came in 5 times during the hour!"............
13 species for me too, in Bucklow Avenue. I hadn't intended to do a count but as I was waiting to leave for the Heath I noticed a Lesser Redpoll and two Siskins on our lone feeder - this encouraged me to start the clock. Just 31 individuals including a count of eight Goldfinches and five Greenfinches. I look forward to including Ring-necked Parakeets on next years list!
G&S later paid a visit to Northwich's Neumann's Flash hoping for a good Starling murmuration - they were given a fine display ........."Then this afternoon we went to Neumann’s Flash hoping to witness the Starling murmuration – we weren't disappointed. There must have been 40,000 in total. If you haven’t seen a murmuration recently do go. There was also a Sparrowhawk hoping for a late snack. Finally, the final Starlings came into roost just in front of us – brilliant."........... Geoff took some video footage - you can see it here.
The Slavonian Grebe that's caused some interest at Mere Farm Quarry in Chelford seems to have moved the short distance to Redesmere. Bob and Elaine came across it last Wednesday (24/1) ........."This afternoon Elaine and I had reasonable views of the Slavonian Grebe at Redesmere. It tended to hug the bank as both Coots and Mallards seemed to have a go at it. They obviously recognized it as a stranger! There were at least 7 Goosanders and 4 Goldeneyes present, also the usual Herons and Cormorants. Several Buzzards seen en route."............
I spent a couple of hours in Dog Wood yesterday morning (30/12). As on my last visit, walking down the path Blue, Great and Coal Tits in song, along with Wrens and Robins. Nuthatches and Jackdaws were very active, joined today a by Stock Dove. No woodpeckers.
This time I remembered the herons, they have returned and I counted 7 occupied nests, each with one or both birds standing guard.
Well, it's that time of the year again and our thoughts are turning to the coming Spring. As you may probably know by now the KOS Spring is a moveable feast and the first day of the new season occurs when the first Sand Martin of the year is recorded in Tatton Park. Again I am running the annual KOS Sand Martin competition - it's open to anyone and all you need to do is
January 24th 2024 ...... Snow, ice and another two storms.
Geoff and Sheila Blamire took advantage of a free offer and had an enjoyable morning in Tatton last Tuesday (16/1)......."We took advantage of half price vehicle entry and free admission into the gardens, booked online on Sunday – so was a quite surprise when woke up with snow today! But it was lovely. We explored the gardens and the maze (over 4km) then walked up to Melchett Mere. The hide was open and on the mere there was a stunning male Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Tufted, Mallard, Cormorant, GC Grebe, etc . Then we walked on and I spotted male and female Stonechats – very confiding. Much shorter walk (7.6km) than we usually do but it was enjoyable"..........
Following the snow the temperatures dipped sharply and on Thursday Morning (18/1) Derek Pike's thermometer, in Lilac Avenue, registered -7.7⁰C prompting a visit by two Tree Sparrows, the first for a long time.
Here in Mobberley my weather station showed -7⁰C and we were pleased to see our first Siskins and Redpolls of the Winter on the feeder.
With the imminent arrival of storm Isha forecast I decided on a walk in Tatton was in order. -1⁰C as I set off but rising quickly to 6⁰C by 2pm.
In Dog Wood Wrens, Robins, Dunnocks plus Blue, Great and Coal Tits were all in Song, Nuthatches and Jackdaws were also very active. Tatton Mere was almost completely frozen over but I could see wildfowl on some clear water across the other side, so decided to walk all the way round. Melchett Mere was also nearly ice-bound but I could make out a few Tufted Ducks and two Mute Swans.
It was easy walking along the main driveway as it was closed to traffic because of the ice; salt and grit can't be used as the mere is a SSSI. The wildfowl were concentrated in the ice-free section, which was about 200 meters long and 30 meters wide. Mallard, Goldeneye (c.15), Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes (c.5), Pochard (c.40), Canada geese, Gadwall(2), Pintail (2f). Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Common Gull (1). Raven croaking over.
Also on the 18th. Bob and the family paid their usual visit to Redesmere and Chelford's Acre Nook sand quarry ........."The former was 95% frozen and yet throbbing with birds, the latter 90% unfrozen but few birds apart from gulls , Cormorants and a couple of Great Crested Grebes.
On just a couple of narrow patches of clear water at Redesmere there were at least 900 Canada Geese and about 600 more in adjacent field (where also a Mistle Thrush), not to mention hundreds in a field en route. There were 2 Black Swans, 4 Goldeneyes (3 were drakes_), 4 Goosanders, several Shovelers, 4 Herons, Cormorants, a few Greylags and Tufties. Quite a sight. The usual customers - domestic geese, Coots, Mallards galore, gulls - were absolutely ravenous so were glad of our visit. Lovely sunset on the way back..".............
On Sunday (21/1) Bob did his monthly WeBS count at Tabley Park accompanied by Pete Kelly who has volunteered to help Bob with the task, at least until June (Bob's 40th anniversary) and eventually take over when Bob decides to retire completely. Well done Pete!
........"We were lucky with the weather this morning. Pete enjoyed his first visit with me and helped with the count. Tabley Mere was still at least 70% frozen, which obviously limited the amount of wildfowl. About 40 Mallard. Only a few Coot. A Little Egret put in several appearance. Usual pair of Mute Swans, Single Heron and Cormorant. 50+ Canada Geese. Lots of small bird activity, c.40 Siskins, party of Long-Tailed Tits, Tree Creeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrests, Coal Tit. Several Buzzards flying round, calling and interacting, but no other raptor. No sign of any grebes this time..".........
The following morning (22/1) a small group of KOS regulars met up in the Rostherne observatory for a couple of hours birding, gossiping and enjoying tea/coffee and Goostrey's sausage rolls. The wintering Wigeon, as usual, were hidden away amongst the mereside vegetation but something disturbed them and we counted 84 when they left cover and gathered in the centre of the mere. A scattering of Teal, 8 Goldeneye and that was about it. One thing we did notice was that the Cormorants have begun nest building/refurbishment, probably about 20 pairs staking their claims to the most favourable bits of real estate. Darren Morris told me a couple of weeks ago that Ravens were displaying in Tatton's deer enclosure. Perhaps they're already on eggs - Spring's just around the corner!
Don't forget that this Friday (26/1) it's our January indoor meeting when we'll be welcoming Keith Offord back to talk to us, this time about "The land of geysers and Gyrs".
Vast expanses of wild country comprising rugged mountains, volcanoes and lakes make Iceland one of the most scenically interesting countries to visit. During summer it is the breeding ground for a sumptuous array of bird species such as Red-throated and Great Northern Divers in vibrant summer plumage, Red-necked Phalarope, Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Whooper Swan, Snow Bunting, Gyr Falcon, a host of waders and seabirds, not forgetting a plethora of flowering plants. All this is set against one of the most geologically impressive backdrops imaginable and this photographic exploration cannot fail to whet the appetite.
Keith's talk will begin at 8:00pm but the Jubilee Hall will be open from about 7:15pm, allowing time for members and visitors to do some catching up and socialising. Non-members will be made most welcome!
Activity too on the following two days - It's the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of the Moor, Knutsford on Saturday 27th January. 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the pavilion on Knutsford Moor. The following day we repeat the exercise with the Friends of the Heath. Again it's 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the information notice board on the west side of the Heath, close to Northwich Road.
January 17th 2024...... Mere Sands Wood & Lunt Meadows
Our first field trip of the new year, on Saturday (13/1), began well when Pat Sponder spotted a Barn Owl quartering the fields as she approached the day's first port of call, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Mere Sands Wood nature reserve. #1 on our day list that eventually reached a respectable 61 species, shared between Mere Sands and Lunt Meadows.
Trip leader, Karina, lead a group of 13 KOS members along the reserve's Blue route, it's easy going, along the well-maintained footpaths that are shared with dog walkers. The reserve is advertised as dog-friendly and there were plenty of them, all, without exception, on leads. How different from Tatton Park's appropriately named Dog Wood where dogs on a lead are the exception, rather than the rule!
Spring was in the air - a Song Thrush was heard from the car park and all along our route Blue, Great and Coal Tits were in song and in the distance a Great Spotted Woodpecker hammered out it's early-season territorial message.
The various pools and scrapes held a good selection of wildfowl with Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Canada Geese, Wigeon and Goosander. Pink-footed Geese were prominent overhead with good numbers feeding in the fields alongside the paths through the woodland, A Kingfisher provided more colour as it flew to an overhanging shrub, giving excellent but distant views. Approaching the end of the trail I noticed that a brass plaque on one of the seats was dedicated to the memory of Eric Hardy, arguably one of Britain's most influential, and perhaps controversial, conservationists. It's nearly an hour long but I would recommend this tribute to the great man, broadcast on Radio Merseyside some years ago "........Boyd was driven round in a chauffeur driven car - I went round on a bicycle........."
Arriving back at the visitor centre we enjoyed our lunchtime butties - some dined al fresco; Hon Treasurer Frank and I sat in the warmth of the splendid reserve cafe and enjoyed tea and coffee - once the very pleasant and patient young lady had showed us how to use the vending machine!
Mere Sands Wood is an excellent reserve, good in Winter, as we found on Saturday, and I'm sure it's an equally enjoyable place to visit later in the year when the Summer migrants have returned.
On then to Lunt Meadows, a drive of about 30' for part 2 of trip. We had hoped that by going later we'd perhaps see the Short-eared Owls that roost there but we were unlucky in that respect, although we did have a nice surprise later in the afternoon. Setting off from the car park we were met by a party of Greylags grazing peacefully alongside the perimeter path and just a little further on a Cetti's Warbler blasted out it's song from the middle of a bramble bush. Reaching the first viewing screen some new species were added to the day list including, Goldeneye, Little and Great Crested Grebes and a small group of Whooper Swans that made a fine sight as they flew off over the River Alt into nearby fields.
Moving on we met a young man by the name of Jacob Gill (I'm guessing he was about 10 years old) who was out birding with his parents, he certainly knew his birds and was pretty handy with a camera too and proudly showed us the images he's just obtained of a male Smew that was attracting the attention of a gaggle of birders a little further on. It was heartening to see such knowledge and enthusiasm from one so young, let's hope he keeps it up! The Smew showed well for us, albeit at a distance that precluded anything but blurred record shots. By now it was beginning to rain so we headed for the reserve's covered hide where we had our only Marsh harrier of the visit and good views of what we were told was a Cackling Goose (B. h. hutchinsii), a close relative of the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) that we're all familiar with. The cackling Goose is found in North America and the far east of Asia, individuals ringed in North America have been seen in Britain. Apparently there are five sub-species of the Cackling Goose - a minefield!
Needless to say Geoff and Sheila were out and about the next morning and also on Monday when we met them on the obs at Rostherne ..........."Sunday 14 Jan, 12km walk around Plumley/Holford/Lostock Green: c95 Curlew and 1 Oystercatcher (Patmos Lane), 40 Redwings (Cheadle Lane) and 50 Redwings plus a few Fieldfares and male Yellowhammer (Trouthall Lane) and Buzzard, Jay, etc.
Monday 15 Jan, 10km around Rostherne area: 2 Egyptian Geese, 70+ Fieldfare and 10+ Redwings (Martin’s Field), c200 Pink-footed Geese (flew over Rostherne Lane, then over the reserve towards Manchester), pair Mute Swans and 10 Gadwall (Ciceley Mill Pool on a sliver of open water, rest was frozen), met up with Tony and Jude in the Obs and a superb male Sparrowhawk perched briefly on the split limes before flying towards Harpers Bank Wood, earlier we had a Buzzard. "................
Geoff and I had a quick view of a raptor as it vanished over towards Harper's Bank wood, it wasn't the Sparrowhawk and it could well have been the Peregrine Falcon that Tatton ranger, Darren Morris had seen hunting over the park's deer enclosure the same morning.
Darren also tells me that he heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in Dog Wood early last week. Our next field trip is to Tatton on Saturday 17th February - more details in due course.
Before then our January indoor get together will take place on Friday 26th January when Keith Offord will be giving a presentation titled "The Land of Geysers and Gyrs". The lecture will begin at 8pm and the doors of the Jubilee Hall will be open from 7:15pm.
Activity too on the following two days - It's the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of the Moor, Knutsford on Saturday 27th January. 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the pavilion on Knutsford Moor.
The following day we repeat the exercise with the Friends of the Heath. Again it's 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the information notice board on the west side of the Heath, close to Northwich Road.
Another of our winter storms, this one storm Henk, arrived on the 2nd. January bringing with it an immense amount of rain. The south of England bore the brunt and the storm caused widespread flooding but we suffered too, and as Mike's picture shows, a huge amount of material from Rostherne Mere's catchment area was washed into the mere via Rostherne Brook. Eventually this run-off may affect the water quality, due to the dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen it contains, and this will have a detrimental effect on its flora and fauna. I did turn to Tom Wall's excellent book " Rostherne Mere - aspects of a wetland nature reserve", published in 2019 for relevant information; there's plenty in the 91 pages devoted to the water quality of Rostherne Mere - both current and historic but I found it a bit hard going!
One of the main problems is blue-green algae that can give the mere the appearance of pea soup during the Summer months; it can be dangerous to waterfowl, fish and domestic animals. In fact, in 1978, blue-green algae is thought to have caused the death of three cows, out of a herd of 40, that had access to the mere and was their only source of water. "Rostherne Mere achieved the unfortunate distinction of being the location of what may have been the first case in Britain of cattle deaths caused by the consumption of blue-green algae"
Water quality samples are taken from the mere and it will be interesting to see if they contain an increase in nutrients caused by this run-off; if this is the case we may see a spectacular algal bloom later in the year at Rostherne and also nearby Tatton Mere.
Geoff and Sheila Blamire weren't going to let a bit of rain spoil there morning stroll and made for the Rostherne observatory to dry out a bit, before heading for home................. "We braved the weather do our walk to Rostherne area – by the time we got back we were completely drenched!! Not surprised that no-one else was in the Obs. Highlight was a Lesser Redpoll – made 3 very brief visits and one time landed on the bird table but was too scared to stay. Difficult to see what was on the Mere – visibility was atrocious. Unfortunately, I couldn't focus the big bins which I can usually do. On the way in Redwings were on the Holly tree (no Mistle Thrush!) but walking back home there were c50 Fieldfares and Redwings on Martin’s Field (50:50) plus c100 Starlings. Second highlight was bumping into Darren who was driving back to Tatton after filling up with diesel (not sure what sort of vehicle!). He was disappointed to miss the Christmas party – the social highlight of the year.
I've decided to keep a year list – not going for specific birds, just species seen on our walks, KOS trips and garden. 2 days – 44. Missed quite a few species I should have seen, but will get to 50 very soon." ................. Of course listing is normally frowned upon here, it's the domain of plane spotters and gricers, but, given the parameters, it's acceptable - I suggest a total of 180 should be aimed for.
Bob Groom was on grandad duties the following morning - Redesmere seemed OK but Chelford's Acre Nook not so ..........."We visited Redesmere for the usual duck/geese feeding. A small skein of Pinkfeet went over, actually my first of the winter locally. On the mere - 6 Goosanders, c.4 Goldeneyes, 3 Cormorants and 2 Herons. Acre Nook was a write-off as a rain mist had descended so nothing was visible.."...........
A reminder from Sheelagh Halsey that Rostherne subs. are due and also the dates of this years wildfowl counts.
Hopefully you have renewed your permit via CAWOS as the door code will change on 1st February.
The duck count days for this year are shown below:
14th January... 11th February... 10th March
7th April... 12th May... 9th June
21st July... 18th August... 22nd September
20th October... 17th November.... 15th December
Normally we would walk around the reserve to flush the duck from the margins, but it is incredibly wet at the moment so this won't be possible this month. We will be going to the bittern hide though for people wanting to do this. The count starts in the observatory at 9am.
A reminder that this Saturday (13th January) it's the first field trip of this,our 50th anniversary year, when we'll be visiting Mere Sands Wood and Lunt Meadows. Secretary Karina will be the leader and, like Frank last month, has done a recce - you can read her plan here.
December 29th 2023 ..... The Christmas Walk.
Well, the strangely-named Storm Gerrit came and went overnight, taking with it some house roofs in Stalybridge as it morphed into a T5 tornado during the early hours of Thursday (28th). Fortunately things had calmed down by 9:30am when a hardy group of 13 KOS members gathered in the Witton Mill car park ready for our annual Christmas walk around Neumann's Flash and Marbury Mere. Sheila Blamire was our trip leader for the day; she and Geoff had done a recce the previous day, so this year we began by taking the path between Ashton's and Neumann's flashes towards Pod's Hide. Ashton's was very quiet but an overflying Curlew was a useful addition to the day list that we'd started in the car park, where eight species were using the bird table including Jay and Bullfinch.
A decent selection of wildfowl from Pod's Hide, including Shelduck, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Shoveler sharing the flash with Black-headed, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls. In the distance, out of earshot, a substantial flock of Pink-footed Geese headed south.
What had been a dry morning became a lot wetter as we passed through Big Wood and down to the shores of Budworth Mere, so we didn't hang about but made quick progress to the welcome shelter of the covered viewing screen.
Up to 19 Goosanders have been counted recently on the mere, there seemed to be fewer on Thursday but those that were present gave great views as they fished just below the screen where we sat enjoying elevenses. Pride of place though must go to three Kingfishers that provided an ever-changing kaleidoscope of cobalt blue as they perched right in front of their audience fishing and taking short flights out towards the centre of the mere before returning. Two's company and three's a crowd - I think Spring was in the air!
The rain held off as we walked back to the cars, there were no new species, except for a Cetti's Warbler's quick burst of song as we passed over Butterfinch bridge on Marbury Lane bringing the total count to 44 species during a walk of 7.25Km (4.6miles)
Bob Groom rounded of his monthly wildfowl counts on Tabley Mere on Sunday 17th December ......"An ideal morning for my WEBS count at Tabley Mere, lovely and mild - Min 9C Max 11C - if a bit breezy. Buzzards constantly circling and 'talking' to each other. Male Great Spotted, Goldcrest with the Long-Tailed Tits, Sparrowhawk, Redwings in the wood. Water Rail (heard), Little Egret, 2 Herons, 5 Cormorants. The most noticeable thing was the absence of Coots. A few months ago there were hundreds; barely double figures today. In contrast 12 was a good count for Great Crested Grebes there (many more at Rostherne and Budworth meres, of course). 27 Greylags (but again no Canadas) ,4 Wigeon, 2 Goldeneyes, 36 Mallards, 20 Tufted Ducks, just 2 Mute Swans. Not at all bad underfoot but very slow progress."........
So there we are, Bob's final count of the year and my last "Latest News" update of 2023 - 46,000 words this year! I can recall my favourite trips and indoor lectures but, of course, everyone will have their own favourites - let's hope that 2024, our society's 50th anniversary year, will provide just as many, if not more, for all. Happy new year!
. December 17th 2023...... The Christmas Party!
Arriving at the Jubilee Hall on Friday evening with the baked potatoes Len and I were delighted to find that during the afternoon Jude, Karina and her husband, David had been hard at work decorating the hall and setting out the tables in preparation for the annual KOS Christmas party!
Gradually more people arrived with their offerings - all the usual favourites - Goostrey's pork pies, specially flown in from Mobberley, sausages, cooked meats etc. and a table full of puddings, ready to challenge the self-discipline of those who should really be watching their glucose intake!
The annual quiz proceeded in the traditional manner, I stuck the pictures up around the hall and people could then peruse them at their leisure during and after the meal. This year it was a close run contest and three people ended up with 41 out of the possible 50 points; Bob, Sheila and Hugh - the three pre-race favourites! So a tie-break was called for and each of the three were given the same picture, positioned face down on a table and on the word "go" they were turned over to reveal the tie-breaker. This year's bird was a White's Thrush, Sheila took the honours and won a large box of sweets that of course were then shared around the room - it's the taking part that counts!
My proof and sensitivity reader (those that need to know, know!) has insisted that I put this picture, kindly taken by Jude Halman, on this update, as I normally never appear due to me always taking the people images myself. So it should appear on the right.
For various reasons numbers were down for this year's party but nevertheless it was a most enjoyable evening and our thanks go to Karina, David and Jude for preparing the room, for those that provided the food and/or brought along articles for the raffle or bring and buy. Great value at £8 and I'm sure we have made some money to pay for the ever increasing cost of speakers for our indoor lectures.
Meanwhile, back at the coalface, Bob Groom and I were in the Rostherne observatory on Monday morning (11/12)
......."Just 8°C this morning when Bob and I arrived at the observatory. The overnight rain continued and it was a gloomy outlook, with a thick mist making it impossible to see the far side of the mere.
After half an hour or so the rain slowly began to clear and the sun appeared giving rise to a rainbow that reached right down to the surface of the mere.
The rain had cleared the atmosphere and as the sun became brighter viewing conditions were excellent. 31 teal were very active over towards Gale Bog, also there c.16 Pochard, a single male Goosander and 3 drake Mandarin. Four Goldeneye and possibly more were scattered across the mere, whilst on their floating island 2 Green Sandpipers had returned after a couple of weeks absence.
The bird table was busier than recently with Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits recorded as well as 2 Bullfinches and a Goldfinch. A big female Sparrowhawk caused panic as it shot through in-between the obs and the bird table!
Phil Dell had been down to the Bittern Hide and heard at least two Cetti's Warblers. He also obtained some excellent video of one of two Water Rails in front of the hide.
Bill Bellamy had done a count yesterday and recorded 39 Mandarin and 109 Wigeon, we could see there were plenty of the latter about but they were well hidden in the mereside vegetation."............
The following morning (13/12 Geoff and Sheila were out and about on their daily perambulation ........" We did our 12km Plumley, Holford, and Lostock Green this morning. It was disappointing with only 1 Curlew in one of the fields next to Inovyn offices and 4+ in the maize stubble field behind Ridgeway Farm, but the sunflower field made up for it: 50-100 finches (very difficult to count!) mostly Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and a few Bramblings. Could be more species but the light was atrocious. Need someone else to put more time there…
Yesterday in Martin’s Field, Rostherne 3 Egyptian Geese and 50+ winter thrushes – mostly Fieldfare. Ciceley Mill Pool: pair Mute Swans, 4 Gadwall and Cormorant. Female Goosander still on Little Mere along with 4 Cormorants and the usual wildfowl. ".........
Geoff has been keeping a record of their walks, that began during the first covid lockdown and the stats. are very impressive - 12,459km or 7,787miles in 1304 days (9.55km or 5.97mls per day). The map shows the distances involved!
Tatton's a bit under-watched at the moment but Bob's a regular visitor. This from Tuesday (12/12) ......." A decent enough day - Min 7C Max 10C - but the park was almost deserted. The Stonechats (2m 1f) were down by Tatton Mere. A f Great Spotted called frequently as it foraged in the trees and a Mistle Thrush sang strongly, just as if it were spring. A lady who asked advice about some small birds she had just seen (probably Goldfinches but a Kestrel scattered them before I got close enough) had watched a green woodpecker flying through. There were at least half-a-dozen Pochard [or 'pokkard' as T.Hedley Bell would have it] but surprisingly few ducks overall. Usual Heron and 2 Cormorants at Melchett Mere.".........
Darren Morris has kindly sent me a copy of the park's Winter news letter - you can read it here - Thanks Darren.
Just a few more days now until the Winter solstice after which the days slowly become longer and we can anticipate the arrival of Spring!
So here are a few dates for your diaries -
On Thursday 28th December it's our Christmas Walk around Neumann's Flash and Budworth Mere, meeting at 09:30am at the Witton Mill Bridge car park. Sheila will be leading this trip and you may want to let her know if you intend to come along - email@example.com
Our first field trip of 2024, which of course is the 50th anniversary year of the founding of the KOS, is to Mere Sands Wood and Lunt Meadows. This will take place on Saturday 13th January 2024 (more details later).
It's the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch with the Friends of the Moor, Knutsford on Saturday 27th January. 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the pavilion on Knutsford Moor.
The following day we repeat the exercise with the Friends of the Heath. Again it's 11:00am until noon. Meeting at the information notice board on the west side of the Heath, close to Northwich Road.
** Late news just in from treasurer Frank Dearden**
Thank you for your support in raising £261 for the Society on Friday last. The breakdown was as follows:
Bring and buy £29
A very useful contribution which will pay for two of our speakers.
December 6th 2023........ The trip to Marshside and Martin Mere.
Only 1⁰C , but there was some birding to be done and the day began well as, before we left the car park, Bob Groom found us a Peregrine being mobbed by a selection of corvids out towards the sea. A second raptor quickly followed, with a Sparrowhawk looking for breakfast over the Sandgrounder's hide. It felt even colder once the windows in the hide had been opened revealing a tundra-like vista with just patches of open water, being kept ice-free by the movement of the wildfowl - Mute Swans, Mallard, Teal, Shoveler and a few gulls. We didn't linger too long.
Across the other side of the busy road we added Marsh Harrier, Great and Little Egrets to the day list before moving on to the newly re-built Nell's Hide. More water here and new birds included Pintail, Gadwall, Wigeon, Coot, Moorhen and Greylag Goose. Bob had taken a different route and was able to announce ring-tailed Hen Harrier and Stonechat seen from the corner screen.
On then to Martin Mere; except for Colin and Don who chose to join us later after going in search of a Red-breasted Goose that had been spotted during the week. After a long walk they caught up with the bird and they now have the tricky problem of deciding whether or not it was a genuine wild bird or an escapee from someone's wildfowl collection - I always find with "listers" that if it's not on their list already then it's definitely wild, otherwise it's just an escaped bird!
The car park was full at Martin Mere and the reception building, shop and restaurant were very busy; groups of kids and their parents were again being ferried by Santa's elves across to an island to meet the great man himself. No life jackets and this year the elves were having to push back encroaching sheets of ice as they made their way slowly across the lake!
After lunch in the restaurant we went onto the reserve proper, making our way first to the Ron Barker hide; along the way, close to the feeders, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch were added to the list and Blackbird, Fieldfare and Redwings were also welcome additions.
A couple of Marsh Harriers floated over the reedbeds in front of the hide and incoming Whooper Swans were a reminder that feeding time was rapidly approaching. Frank takes the role of trip leader very seriously, so much so that, earlier in the week, he'd driven up to do a recce! He'd walked past the United Utilities hide to a newly opened part of the reserve and found a group of 12 Cattle Egrets amongst the English Longhorn cattle, they were still there on Sunday!
Waiting in the Discovery hide for feeding time we had the usual excellent views of wintering Ruff, joined this year by a Black-tailed Godwit and a Redshank whilst out on the water Whooper Swans, Pochard and a single male Goldeneye. As I added the latter to my list on the dictaphone (much easier than writing the list in a notebook) I was overheard by one of the locals who became mildly excited. Apparently it's a rare sighting at Martin Mere, he'd never seen one there before despite numerous visits over the years. It promptly went out on their local WhatsApp group! We ended up with 62 species, 5 less than last time we did this trip, which was in 2021. Considering the weather, a commendable effort.
The following morning we had the sad task of saying a last farewell to John Somerville at the Altrincham Crematorium. Barbara is still recovering from a broken hip and was worried about having to use a wheelchair, but I'm pleased to report that she managed the ceremony unaided. The minister read the eulogy and Frank read out a short tribute from all his many friends in the KOS. It's been suggested that this tribute be published on the website, you can read it here.