Monday, 19 February 2018

Only One Turtle Dove ...

OK, the title doesn't quite work, it should be 'Two Turtle Doves' along with the 'Partridge in a Pear Tree'. But hey, Turtle Doves are like the proverbial hen's teeth in Lancashire nowadays, despite having bred there in the not too distant past.  The photos were taken at 5:10pm in the gloom near Knott End-on-Sea, so the colours are a bit variable from one shot to another.

Apparently there was a 77% decline in UK Turtle Doves from 1970 to 1998 and the reasons are not entirely clear.  Suggestions range from migrating birds being shot in the Mediterranean, climatic change causing drought in their wintering grounds in Africa and the changes in agricultural practices which have affected many farmland birds. So they certainly were a lot more common than they are now.

Unfortunately however, there are some doubts about this bird's authenticity in being truly wild.  It's a bit too early for them to have returned from Africa, and they haven't been seen in Lancashire for many years, with most observations being in south-east England.  So some people think that this is an escapee from a collection somewhere.

But I've have just been told about a Turtle Dove currently overwintering in Sweden where it is probably much colder than here, and this bird is not at all tame so who knows?  As I've never seen one before, this is a lifer for me and will stay so until someone disproves its origin.

Whilst waiting for the Turtle Dove to reappear, I took a few other shots including sneaking up behind a hedge to see a very close Pink-footed Goose, a Little Egret feeding on the salt marsh and a Barn Owl caught red-faced on a kill.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Lunt Meadows Finally Produces (Part 2)

Late this afternoon I finally got one of the owl shots that I've been dreaming of ever since I first went to Lunt Meadows about five years ago - a close Short-eared Owl sitting on one of the fence posts.

Steve Jones and Graham Roberts, two fellow members of the Leigh Ornithological Society, were also at Lunt Meadows this afternoon but they were much further away from the bird than I, especially when I crept up a little further to a distance of around 20 metres.

So these are Steve's photos of the bird which just happen to include me in the shot as well.  I'm the one with the camera and big lens!
As these were the only decent shots I got of this bird today, I thought I'd have a go at series of cropped headshots to show off those fabulous eyes.

After waiting for this bird to appear for around two hours, the Barn Owl suddenly decided to come out at the same time and for a moment I didn't know what to shoot.  The Shortie won out, but I did manage to grab a few of the Barnie as well. The light was a little challenging by now.

So it turned out to be not a bad day at all today.

Only My Second Ever Visit to Crosby Marina

There has been a solitary male Snow Bunting in the dunes with the Skylarks at Crosby Marina near Liverpool since before Christmas, and today was the day to add it to my 2018 year tick list. The first time I came here was in 2015 when a long-staying female Long-tailed Duck was giving close views on the small boating lake.

I found the bird chasing a Skylark around the grassy rucks as soon as I arrived - the wing pattern and colours were unmistakable.  It landed briefly in a bush and then on a fence on the far side of the rucks, but then took off towards the dunes and despite several circuits of the grassy areas and the dunes, I couldn't relocate it for over an hour.

But then, just as I was completing my third circuit, I found it feeding alone on the thin sandy path at the base of the dunes.  I managed to get quite close, and then it flew towards the wire fence before landing in some vegetation.

This seemed to be its 'patch' and indeed, it's the place where it's been most often seen here.  Whilst on the fence it was always on the look out for Skylarks and eventually it took off chasing one of them and I didn't see it again.  Fortunately I had got some shots in the bag by then.

This Cormorant went over shortly after the Snow Bunting had flown off.

And I took this Common Gull on a post shot on one of my circuits of the grassy ruck areas.

As soon as I had grabbed a few shots of the Snow Bunting I put it out on the new North West Birding WhatsApp group I recently created and Paul Bennett, who I had recently met at the 'Poynton Waxwing', was just arriving at Lunt Meadows 15 minutes down the road from Crosby, and so he diverted and came here instead.  We had a chat and I explained when and where I had seen the bird and I left him hunting it down as I was heading for Lunt Meadows myself.

Paul Bennett - 'Man On A Mission'

I believe he did eventually see it, but only from a distance, so I'm sure he'll be back.  But just before I left I got some nice shots of this Black-tailed Godwit on the grassy area to the right of the lakes.

I finished off here with this shot of two Carrion Crows enjoying a quick smoke on the chimneys of one of the big posh Victorian seaward-facing houses on the seafront.  Oh, what decadence those must have seen in years gone by!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

What's This Common Scoter Doing Here?

A Common Scoter has been giving very close views on Barrow Lodge near Clitheroe for over a week now., Because this is a sea duck which normally feeds and roosts in huge rafts of similar birds way out to sea it's rare to get close to them and so this one was a must to photograph.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Solitary 'Poynton Waxwing'

Some winters are great for Waxwings whereas others aren't. Large influxes of birds like Waxwings, Bramblings and Hawfinches depend on the weather and food supply in the countries from where they originate - if the weather and food supply is good, they don't need to migrate so far for the winter.

This year has been great for Hawfinches, not bad for Brambling but mediocre for Waxwings. So when birds do appear, even just one, there is a lot of interest from the birding community as the news gets round.

I tried for a single bird in Sprotborough near Rotherham recently, because it was regularly visiting a street with plenty of cotoneaster berries.  I sat for an hour and half in the road facing someone's house waiting for this bird to arrive, and it didn't.  All I had was a solitary Blackbird where the Waxwing should have been.  I viewed never to travel more than a few miles for just a single bird ever again.

But this solitary bird was and, as I write, is still being seen regularly in a suburban street in Poynton, Cheshire, so the prospects of seeing it were good and I decided to go.  When I arrived there were three other birders present, so I just looked up and there was the Waxwing.

The birders were locals Phil Oddy, who had kept us updated on Facebook and WhatsApp almost every day since it was first spotted, photographer Paul Bennett and professional wildlife photographer and guide Ben Hall who happened to live in this very street.

We had plenty of time to chat about life, the universe and everything because the bird spent most of its time up in a bare tree and only came down very briefly for a few seconds to feed on two small Rowan tree with yellow berries.

As you can see from the photographs, the weather wasn't great and the light was very poor, but I wasn't too upset about this as I've got good Waxwing shots from previous years.  I only really came because I probably won't get chance to see another one this winter.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Looking For More Year Ticks

For the first time since I started serious birding in 2009 I have decided to keep a '2018 Year List' this year. This has been spurred on by the fact that I've started using to maintain my lists, which was first recommended to me by Gareth Hughes a couple of years I go.  I had a quick look at it then but didn't persevere.  Now I think it's the best thing since sliced bread for keeping bird lists and indeed, I've also added my 'UK Life List' and 'Greater Manchester Life List' to Bubo.  Here's where I currently stand:

So today I was off in search of more '2018 year ticks' mainly in the form of a Kingfisher at the Wigan Flashes.  I also was hoping to get some close photos of a drake Goldeneye which has been giving very good views on the canal recently.

I started off at the Hawkley Hall Feeding Station which was only a short distance from where I parked my car.  Here I was expecting to see Willow Tits, Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Robins, none of which disappointed.  What I wasn't expecting to see were male and female Bullfinches and even less so the normally very shy and elusive Water Rail, so that was a real bonus.