Thursday, 20 November 2008

East Coast twitch

The first East Coast twitch for me and my buddy Alan this winter. Plans where drawn Friday night as usual, Sat nav programmed. The rest of the team alerted. The itinerary included two lifers, and some good sea birds as support. Morning could not come to soon.
7:45, Picked up Alan, the others will just have to read 'em and weep.
Between Filey and Scarborough, A Pied Wheatear, goes into hiding as we arrived. Oh good a stake-out, I like stakeouts. 55 minutes later out it comes, and performs like a goodun' for ages. Photographing was hard in the wind, but the bird came very close. Yes! Lifer number 3 for me this year.
Scarborough harbour - A Long Tailed Duck was being harassed by a Great Northern Diver. Many times the Diver tried making a 'new one' in the rear of the duck by swimming below and surfacing at the rear. Good fun to watch. Great photos taken by myself and Alan. They came really close, too close for me, and being both excellent divers, 4 seconds on the surface, 1 minute submerged, made getting good pictures a great challenge. Shame about the Iceland Gull that was present. It disappeared as we looked for it. That's what makes this hobby so fun, there are no certs.
The other lifer the Two Barred Crossbill will have to wait another day, another year, another decade.
A great day out.
Total 153 this year

Winter Skies

It seems that where ever you are in the North West of England, Pink Footed Geese are flying overhead. Rochdale, Bury, and even the City of Manchester have had skeins. Mainly seen in the morning. While arriving at college one morning, a skein of over 300 went South East.
So it was that I paid Martin Mere WWT a couple of weeks ago. And here I could see why there are so many Pink Footed Geese about. Marin Mere is having a record number of arrivals this year. They come here to summer - Winter is there summer. This usually indicate that winter is really bad up North somewhere. By the way, they don't like it too hot, the day was still cold for us. They estimate that 50 farsand have already arrived, and thats for starters. I saw one field black with them. They are fed with tonnes of potatoes donnated by local farmers.
When they are flying, you can not help but marvel at the sight and sounds. Get out here when you can.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Marbury C.P.

I have not been to Marbury Country Park at the beginning of winter before. So I went with ears and eyes open. The trees looked magnificent. Leaves of fantastic colours, constantly falling in the wind. And what a wind we had. From the North-East, it was bitter. Even in the shelter. The wood slats are no barrier. Freezing. Armed with 4 ASDA's finest steak pies, and a flask of oxo. I am here for a while.
My first 15 minutes are to declare the breakfast bar open. With the cold around me, the planets population of pies has decreased by two. I watch out for perches that are favoured by the birds today. And then setup my digiscoping gear. focus on the perch, and wait. The Tit family are well represented, Blues, Greats and Coal tits show well...snap, snap. Nuthatches are eager for a snap too. Absentees, Robin, Long Tailed Tits, Reed Buntings, Dunnocks and Bullfinches. No kingfisher or Water Rails this is Marbury in October. 146 snaps in 3 hours (3 species only), 4 pies eaten, a flask of oxo emptied, I call it a day. I am hoping to get to Martin Mere WWT this weekend, see all those geese returning. The weather is forcast milder than today. It was cold on the fingers.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Med - Duck.

Most of my time I am chasing birds...Not that kind, the feathered kind. But once in a while, a bird happens to be where I am, or is it that I attract the odd bird - No comment.
Roman Lakes, Marple. A patch of beauty in the Goyt Valley. All three woodpeckers have been recorded here, many Kingfishers zoom around the lake. I was here doing a bit off fishing, well it's my excuse to doing some wildlife watching from a tent, for a day. Later in the afternoon, A duck splashes down out of the blue. I give it a look. Hmm? funny duck...Give it another look. It's only a Red Crested Pochard. Camera out, snap, snap. This Med-Duck, is slowly colonising this country, on the quiet. Around this time of year, they start to appear, with Egyptian Geese who also turn up out of the blue. Keep your eyse peeled with the Wildfowl, now till Feb, and you may find yer own Med-Duck.

Manchester's Tern

Saturday 26th September. A day where Manchester, got a taste of summer. What a lovely morning. As I pay my quid at the gates of Heaton Park, The attendant says how busy he will be today. Car loads of families everywhere. I have fond memories, of when I was a nipper here. It was always a special treat when all the family and friends caught the two buses to get here. In them days, the parks where packed on sunny days with mill workers families ( as my parents where), finally getting out for some sunlight and fun with the kids. I also remember, coming here to do some fishing on the boating lake, playing truant, and ignoring the No fishing signs.
Today, I am here to see a rare tern. White Winged Black Tern...from behind a fence...and at distance...Grrrr! It's a fashion around here in the North-West, that If a reservoir is good for birds, then it's only open to permit holders only. These permits are as rare as finding a gold coupon in your chocolate bar. Sites that I used to have great days out at include Seaforth, Audenshaw, Prescot. All exclude birders without a permit.... But get this, at Audenshaw If you are a Dog walker, Jogger, Fishermen, Yacht owner's....It's ok!. We must be terrerorists or something. It really get's my goat. So it's thanks to Adrian Dancy for this great photo. Oh, And I had a lovely afternoon in the park, in the sun.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Birding is cancelled...

For the second year running, The sea cruise from Flamborough is cancelled. This time, I managed to get on the boat, only for the thick fog to force the captain to make the dissision to cancel the cruise. Good decision, I doubt if we would have seen anything any way. Funny thing was that the 'pea-souper', was replaced by brilliant sunshine a mile inland.
So on the way back home, we dicide to do a 'twitch' for the Black Stork that has been posing all week. 2 hours journey to the site... a nice little crowd had gathered...greatings exchanged..."where is it?".."Dunno!..Not here"..oh sugar...twitch cancelled. Still Fairburn is down the road. By contrast there seems to be a few happy birders. And so they should be, earlier, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, had passed through..It's just not our day.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tatton Park Country Fair

In Britain we have just had a Bank Holiday. So while all the Motorways are blocked up. I chose to go no further than Tatton Park for the Country fair. 72 birds of prey where on display, all close enough to get some superb portrait shots. Also it's a great way to get to know what some of them look like in the flesh - I hadn't realised just how small the American Kestrel was. And splendid to.
But for me the best show of the weekend, must go to the Chainsaw tree carvers. I guess as many as 20 carvers from all around the world, came to put on awesome display of sculpting Eagles, Bears, Fish from lumps of tree trunk. One competitor, for me, carved the impossible, A hollowed out box, with a sphere inside - unbelievable.
This event must not be missed if it come around to your neck of the woods.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

What a 'HOBBY' this is..

August..Is Wader-Time...Here in the north, We have two superb reserves for watching waders, Leighton moss in the west, and Blacktoft Sands, in the East. Blacktoft Sands is the second best wader reserve in the country (Minsmere has attracted one more species). First trip to the Wardens office for the upto the minute news. Great! plenty of waders are about. From here we check the hides out on the west. First hide and it is apparent that the Snipe have come out of hiding. Good numbers of godwits too. A scan of the bins along the fringes of the reedbeds, I find 3 Green Sandpipers. The next hide is the main hide for the waders, At the far side, a group of 10 Spotted Redshanks show off the lovely plumage, Ruff show there weird variations of plumage. Also seen Dunlin, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Heron, A single Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Little Egret. A nice selection of waders in anyones book. Marsh Harriers, Barn Owl, as support acts. But the bird of the day was a Hobby, that flew towards us from along away, right over our heads, clearly showing it's streaked under belly, and red trousers. Hobby is a falcon I haven't seen this Millennium.
Total 146.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Back on the Road again..

The foul weather at the weekends grounded me since returning from Egypt. But yesterday, Pennington had something for me to chase. As usual, today is a different matter, with no sign of Little Tern or Black Necked Grebe, but the long staying Garganey, put in an all to brief show from the Horrock's hide. About 60 pictures, mainly with it's head submerged, I find this one I like. Garganey in eclipse, can be difficult to see, they are about the size of our smallest ducks, the Teal, even look the same to an untrained eye. From the photo, you should notice the stripping from the bill to behind the eye. Garganey is another species I didn't get to see last year ( so i give it 2 points). Good to be back, I am in the mood once more. looking forward to the next trip. August is a great month for waders turning up anywhere.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Hungary for Birds.

Where else can you wake up to the sound of dozens of Golden Orioles giving there flutey calls, 100 Bee-eaters rap-rapping. You can in Hungary. Every house seems to have a resident Black Redstart.
I stayed with relations, in a small farming village south east of Budapest, called Apc.
Every morning was a joy to go birding. Red Backed Shrikes, sat like sentinels on dried out trees.
the weather is hot here in the afternoon, 36 degrees C, and not much cooler at night too.
Steppe buzzards, are the main raptor. One afternoon I saw a Golden Eagle, come gliding down the famous Apc hill. This hill is half covered in trees, and the other half is bare. Is where I was given a great freight as a Eagle Owl decided to wait till I got close too it to leap up out of long grass. It was huge. Every afternoon around the Hill, came hundreds of Ravens, checking for fallen prey.
By the small river, Great Reed Warblers croaked like frogs. White Storks, made there nests on chimney pots, supposedly giving the occupant's good luck they say.
I all a great 7 days birding. But I am glad to be back where it is a bit cooler, and getting back some lost sleep hours.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A slow day at Spurn Point

My first trip to Spurn this year. The news was that last weekend Spurn was a wash with migrants. Today we arrive at 10am on a misty, drizzling morning. First things first, we park at the Crown and Anchor pub, and declare Breakfast time. While we chill from the 130mile trip, we discuss what we may see, and what we have missed. At the picnic table I put my bins on some bird poo, not noticing of course. Breakfast over, lets do some birding. We only make it a few yards when a fellow birder tells us that a Common Rosefinch has been netted, processed, and will be released here in a few minutes. The Rosefinch, a female, resembled a streaky Greenfinch with no wing bars. Don't birds look totally different at close quarters. Good Start.
The Tide was in, so no waders to be seen. A walk (Anti-clockwise for a change), and we stop at the reedbeds and watch Reed and Sedge Warblers, Mute Swan with six cygnets. I catch a glimpse of a wader flying along the canal, Green Sandpiper, good spot. From the hide Little Grebe, And a very obliging Swallow posed for some pictures. With the tide on it's way out, we here that three Spoonbills are seen, We get them first at distance, but they flew towards us, showing that they have black wing tips, which indicates these are non-breeders for this year anyway. And that was it, A quiet day for here - should have been here last week.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

I have recharged myself for what is usually my favorite weekend of the year.
Leighton Moss - 3 Spoonbills, 33 Avocets (2 new chicks), 100+ Black Tailed Godwits.
The wind is blowing a real 'hooli'. No sign of the Pectoral sandpiper today, or sightings of the male Ortolan Bunting at Drigg. So I call in to Sizergh Castle for a picnic, and spot some of those Hawfinches. None to be heard or seen with the crowds out in force. still, I enjoyed the picnic though. Back to Leighton Moss for an hour. From Lilian's Hide ( the carpeted, central heated one nearest the visitors centre). The Black Head gulls are putting on a nice display..For the keen eyed birder, look out for the Med Gull!. Marsh Harrier over the reedbeds. Otherwise a quiet day for birds, must be the gales?
Year total 130.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Farne Islands

Where else can you take pictures of seabirds a few inches away from your feet. The Farne Islands. About 50 miles north of Newcastle you find the tiny fishing village called Seahouses. 10am Billy Shiel, runs a 6 hour trip for £25, which includes two 2 hour stops on islands (staples and Inner Farnes), stuffed with seabirds. St Aidens hotel in Seahouses is where we stayed for one night. You can't go wrong staying here, All rooms command sea-views, Staff are great, and food as good as you expect. A very short walk gets you to the Harbour. If you don't do boats (My Wife) there is a dial and ride bus service that takes you to the very impressive Bamburgh Castle.
If you fancy an opportunity to take cracking bird photo's no matter what equipment you use - even my mobile took great shots - then here in May, that's where you should come.
Year Total 129.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Flamboro Lifer

I made a late decision to make my first trip to the East coast. Great choice.
Flamborough Head TA2570
A King Eider was seen here daily since Thursday 24th a rare bird to English coasts. As I reached the car park I saw a few people doing there best impressions of Amy Winehouse (not a good sight), "not showing", one guy said. Still, I am here, may as well do some sea dogging. I head over to the 50 or so birders on the cliff. As I join them, a lady is pointing to a white speck on the sea - That's it! Lifer 2 in two weeks. My pictures don't do this stunning male justice, as we are hundreds of feet above sea level.
Bempton Cliffs RSPB, TA1974
I love taking pictures of the cliff clinging sea birds here. With a scope you can get great views. Always popular with th public. In my opinion, the Gannet numbers where down this year. I saw the Kittiwake population lessen by one, as a Grt. Backed Back Gull, pick a Kittiwake of the cliffs, drown it, then took some time opening it up from underneath. It tough living here for birds.
Blacktoft Sands
All the reedbeds are full of song - Grasshopper, Sedge and Reed warblers have arrived. Also reported today was a very early Swift. Once again I dip on Gargeney (2nd times this year, - 3 times last year). Spoonbill has gone earlier as well. My pager informs me that a Spanish Sparrow was seen at Flamborough Head, but I don't care. I have had a great day in the sun. It won't be sunny during the Bank Holiday next week.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Lytham Lifer

Lytham St Annes. SD346270..
Thursday a beautiful small gull from the Arctic was spotted on the beach. I was helpless till Sunday to get a chance to see it. But see it I did. Many years ago, this species gave me the run a round. They don't stick around these. A smallish gull, with a black gorget, and pinkish breast, a small black bill, white wings - what a pretty gull. the bird was just sat out on the beach for all the photographs any one could take( I took 141) , provided you had wellington boots on. A lifer for me - Fanfare please.
Other year listers included - Grey Plover, Knot, Common Sandpiper.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Cumbrian spring

After what seems like a second winter, with the past two weekends seeing snow. I get a chance too do some birding.
Sizergh Castle, Cumbria, SD498878
I believe this is a beautiful place to visit. From the outside it looks good. It closes Fridays and Saturdays. My reason for a trip, is to see Our largest Finch, the Hawfinch. Reports say that from the car park (open everyday), you will see 5. This I immediately did, but my ears detected many more. I estimated double that, easily. It has been many a year now since I last appreciated this bird. They appeared to be skittish at times, but never went out of view for long. This has got to be the best Hawfinch site in the North west. 30 minutes down the road.
Leighton Moss, Cumbria, SD4775
My first visit this year. Summer birds have arrived, plenty of Swallows mixed with Sand Martins from Lillian hide, also a female Marsh Harrier is building a nest, Bitterns Booming. Chiffchaff, and Willlow Warblers in the woods, Avocets, Litlle Egret, from Eric Morcembe hide. This years list got a boosting. Even an Egyptian Goose tuned up.
Warton Crag LWT, SD4972
A huge quarry cliff face. A haven for Corvids. For the first time, a single Chough has decided stay here. A rare bird for the north west. Also Peregrine, Little Owl, Buzzards are good birds to see.
Report - This year I have seen 5 species I didn't see last year, current total 86.
I manage to break my Bins again! - Dropped again! all that armour didn't save it.
Great to be out and about again. Get out yourself.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Marbury CP

Regular readers will know, that the month of March, means it's time to dip on Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Marbury Country Park. For eons now I have been coming to Marbury to get a sighting of this, for me, elusive pecker.
As is the custom at Marbury, I am greeted by others at the hide to be told, ten minutes ago it was here - and today is no exception. Still, I am here for the day, I can wait.
A very cold wind blows into our faces today. All the usual birds are here at the feeding station. Kingfishers are digging nest holes. Another secretive, bird the Water Rail, are out in the open. This has got to be the best place to see them in the north-west. A couple of early Sand Martins passed through. I sense that the birds know of the weather too come, and are a waiting for better weather before getting down to displaying.
Some great light, and some 160 shots taken. Great day out again, but no lesser pecker.
Back soon.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

It's a duck!

Great news of a second rarity this week for the North West, was a Night Heron present at Mere Sands Woods LWT reserve SD4415, and showing it's head off since Wednesday 13th. Each day I checked the bird was still reported, and praying that Saturday comes quickly. Well Saturday did come, but did the Heron? Not a chance. Book it down to another phenomenon, why do so many rarities disappear Friday midnight? Ah well Marshside RSPB reserve SD3520, is around the corner. Last year, I visited here, hoping to see the American version of our Teal, Green Winged Teal, but was unlucky each time. Today was a different matter. I managed to get a few feet away from it, showing off, (Since January I have had 4 species I failed to see last year). Other notable species included Black Tail Godwit, Stonechat, With Short Eared Owl, Merlin, and Hen Harriers showing on the beach side of the road. Wasn't it hot today?

Thursday, 14 February 2008

First twitch of the year.

As I near home returning from Marbury, My sat-nav informs me of a Cattle Egret near bye. That will have to wait for tomorrow. I pray hard that night.

Higher Poynton SJ9483 , Near New House Farm, amongst the cattle, One of a small number of migrant Cattle Egrets that have just arrived up and down the country,on a strong South Westerly, is following cattle, would you beleive. This for me, my only second sighting. The weather is absolutley continental, and the Egrete is loooking comfortable with the temperature. A few years ago the Little Egret was a very rare bird now we have farsands, Great White Egrets are staying the year too. Could the Catlle Egret take a liking to these shores. I think so.

Marbury CP

The first weekend where the sun has come out this year. And I have a couple of days off school. A day at Marbury CP SJ6576, sat in the same spot for 6 hours isn't everybodies cup of tea (in my case a flask), but it certainley gets your mind away from outside pressures. The sunlight is bright, just great to get some shots. I have just missed the Lesser 'B' by about an hour, but I have been missing it for about 15 years now, so I dont care. This is stiil my favourite places to take photos of birds. In the six hours, I have taken 566 shots, and leave only wanting more time.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Water, Water, everywhere...

It's my first chance to get the new years list started.
Fiddlers ferry, Penketh, SJ5786. A new site for me. Gulls are the quarry today, and and our gull identification has to be up to scratch. The weather isn't kind here, with only a few minutes of dry weather in the time we was there. Farsands of gulls are on an exposed sandbank of all kinds. Our first sweep turns up nothing special. Start again, more consentration needed. Alan spots the first special gull. Iceland gull. This largest, all white gull, stands out like a sore thumb the second time. It's size equals a Herring gull. While looking for the larger version of the Iceland gull (Glaucous Gull). I challenge Alan to change my positive ID of a Ring billed gull. Alan who has seen farsands of these, looks stunned, and says 'That is a Ringed Billed Gull'. ( I knew it was), not what was recorded here. I try taking some record shots, but the weather is against me, and they turnout rubbish. We get six species of gulls, and a soaking, and we head for a reserve with some hides.
Pennington Flash, SJ6499, It's like summer here. Dry, and several coats warmer than Fiddlers, also theres a lot of water about. We decide to have breakfast in the worlds best hide, (Bunting hide). My jaw drops as the floor that is usually flooded in finches and buntings, is just that..Flooded! and a couple of Mute Swans are swimming around feeding on the grain. You just don't prepare yourself for a couple of Swans at a feeding station for Bunts and finches - Weird.
The golf course has has been closed through surface water for 11 days now, and with the forcast of 7 more days of rain, the feeding station may attract Sea ducks.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

"And so..the end is here.."

So with the Christmass visitings out of the way, It's time to get back to the matter at hand. The list is balanced at 87.
28th Dec. - I have been cursing the break for a week now, not being able to follow up a report of a bird that I have only ever seen once before, 15 years ago, yet every year I spend about 100 hours trying to see one. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker! at Fairburn Ings (only the 2nd ever), has been seen every day now for a week. I am off, first chance I am allowed. 30 minutes there, and I have it. About a thousand hours of missing this the smallest 'pecker, have been forgotten. My bird of the year?, Nah, Decade?, millenium? more like. Also on the reserve, a bird I have had 2 trips to see this year, Water Pipit - got it.
Pugney's Country park - has a funny Pochard I need. Red Crested Pochard (I am not taking bread, and not listening to locals about it's origin, these are scratching times.) - Tick.
3 from 3 ticks in one day, nice.
29th Dec. - I am out with my mate Alan. I can't resist another peek at the Lesser 'pecker, so we call in, tick it, and relive our own personal failures about this species, many times Alan was with for a whole day hoping to see one.
Tophill Low Res. Two drake Smew, Great Northern Diver, 3 Greenland White-Fronted Geese, can't believe my luck. tick, tick.
30th Dec - Too much to do, so It's time to cleanup local birds only - Alan and me set off in the fog to the Pennines a couple of miles away. it's touch and go If we see anything. A brew and wait for the fog to burn off. 2 Twite appear from nowhere, but now Snow Bunting (this years bogey bird). Try another spot. While we have another brew, I spot a Peregrine, Raven, And about 20 Twite, alas no Snow Bunt. Thats' two more Ticks.
31th Dec. - Watergrove. Woodcock, very elusive, and that's how it stays for this year, elusive. The towel hits the ground - 192 So close.