Wednesday, 16 November 2016

My Photo Gallery at Rare Bird Alert

I've just been asked to upload some of my Great Grey Shrike photos to Rare Bird Alert for publication in their weekly birding roundup newsletter.  This is the photo they used, not the best of my shots but quirky:

Here's a link to the newsletter:

I had to create a new account to do this and you can view my gallery here:

My Photo Gallery at Rare Bird Alert

Monday, 14 November 2016

Male Long-tailed Duck at Pennington Flash

The Leigh Ornithological Society's logo has a male Long-tailed Duck in flight on it, and so it's nice to actually see one in our recording area for once. This one has been showing well at Pennington Flash for a few days now, and even though it's not in breeding plumage with a long tail, it's still rather special.

I am reliably informed that the reason that the Long-tailed Duck was chosen as the Society's emblem was because it would reproduce quite well on photocopied newsletters when, back in the day, everything was still done in black and white.

Well, judging by these colours, this bird will still look good on those old faded sepia-toned newsletters form the 1970's!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Great Grey Shrike in Glazebury, Warrington

Just a quick post to put some photos up of the Great Grey Shrike which has been seen locally over the last few days.  A more detailed report about the day will follow soon.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Conwy RSPB in the November Sunshine

I've not been for a proper walk round the Conwy RSPB reserve for quite a while and so today I decided to do just that. The weather had been promising to be very good for a few days now and this was going to be the best day of the week. After a cold start clearing my frosty car windows, I set off into the bright sunshine.

I arrived a couple of hours before high tide, but the Conwy Estuary which borders one side of the reserve already looked full, and there were very few birds visible on it apart from a few Wigeon and the odd Redshank.

"Great", I thought, this means the reserve will be full of birds!

Curlew in Flight

Great White Egret in Flight

Little Egret in Flight
Oystercatcher in Flight
Grey Heron in Flight

Drake Red-breasted Merganser

Robin pretending to be a Reed Warbler

Monday, 31 October 2016

Hesketh Out Marsh and Marshside RSPB

I had a trip out to the Ribble Estuary this afternoon before realising that putting the clocks back on the weekend was going to make it a short visit - the light started dying around 2:30pm but for a brief spell we had golden sunshine and almost no wind.  I didn't manage to get many shots as there wasn't that much to see and none of my target birds put in a appearance.

I started by looking for Curlew Sandpiper, American Wigeon and Marsh Harrier at Hesketh Out Marsh. I think I had a brief view of a Merlin as it flew over the car park, but although there were plenty of birds about, none were my targets.

I'd been told that a Curlew Sandpiper was showing in one of the pools, and so I spent a long time looking at a very distant small wader, which in the end turned out to be a late Dunlin, possibly of the Alpina race as it had a long bill.

The only decent shot I got here was this one of a Linnet.

A marvellous charm of Goldfinches briefly appeared on the barbed-wire fence too, but I didn't get a good shot - damn that depth of field thingy!

I then moved on to Crossen's Marsh, north of Marshide RSPB where I got my best photo of the day. These Golden Plovers looked stunning in the dying light - the golden hour was very early today.

Then I went on to Sandgrounders Hide at Marshside RSPB when there was only this Little Grebe and Teal of note.

I did call in at Lunt Meadows on the way home in the hope of seeing at least a Barn Owl, but nothing was showing and light quickly faded.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Another Lifer at Leighton Moss RSPB

I went to Leighton Moss RSPB today in search of another lifer - the American Wigeon. However, before I started my quest I called in to see the famous Leighton Moss Bearded Tits.

More photos and text to follow ....

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB and Parkgate

Well, I thought the three Cattle Egrets at Marshside last week were a good record, but with five of them reported at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB this week, well I just had to go to see them.  When I first arrived the vegetation had just been cut and most of the birds had been flushed from in front of the Visitors' Centre. The Cattle Egret were in the long grass with the cattle and I couldn't really see any of them. In fact I couldn't really see much of anything!

Then a single Marsh Harrier gave a brief but good view from the Visitor's Centre and flew off in the direction of the old Inner Marsh Farm hide. So I decided to go for a walk down to the new hide in the hope of getting better views of it from there. On the way down I heard a Cetti's Warbler calling in the reeds along the footpath along  with hundreds of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead as indeed they did for much of the day.

There was not much to see when I got to the hide except for a distant Green Sandpiper which flew off when I tried to photograph it. However I did see this Kestrel being mobbed by a Lapwing of all things!

So then I went back to the Visitors' Centre in the hope of getting better views of the five Cattle Egret together, which eventually I did. The cattle had moved out of the long grass by now and the Egrets had moved with them before eventually flying off to an island to do a spot of preening.

Here they are all together - it was quite difficult to get them all in one shot with a 300mm prime lens.

The closest views were from inside the Visitors' Centre and so these shots had to be taken through the glass window as they don't open in here.

As I was watching the Cattle Egrets, two Marsh Harriers appeared and were sometimes involved in chases. They looked to be both female, with one perhaps a juvenile or immature bird.

When they had gone I decided to go down to Denhall Lane to eat my lunch where I saw absolutely nothing! From here I moved on to the old baths car park at Parkgate where I had been told a grey male Hen Harrier was frequently being seen. I was told that the bird generally comes into roost between 3pm and 4pm and so I was in good time to see it if it appeared. 

Arriving at about 2:45pm, I waited a good hour along with three other birders before it eventually did appear. I only managed a couple of record shots but I had a great view through my scope. The photographs are good enough to clearly see what the bird is and I also saw a ringtail Hen Harrier whilst I was there.

Grey male Hen Harriers are rarely seen nowadays as they are persecuted by landowners and gamekeepers who wish to protect their grouse and so-called sport of driven grouse shooting.  If things carry on like this these glorious birds will be driven to complete extinction in England - this surely can't be right, can it? A petition to ban driven grouse shooting which received over 22,300 signatures will soon be debated in Parliament and we await the outcome. Read about it here: 

This Little Egret is probably the best photograph I took today, but I did see some good birds.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Whoopers are back at Martin Mere WWT

I paid a quick visit to Martin Mere WWT this afternoon mainly to see the Whooper Swans which have now arrived back on their Autumn migration from Iceland. Up to 2000 return from their breeding grounds every year to spend winter here along with an estimated 20,000 Pink-footed Geese.

Around 300 Whooper Swans are currently present and there seem to be a few family groups with plenty of cygnets around. Naturally they are very noisy, especially around feeding time.

There was even a Black Swan present today which is said to have appeared with the Whoopers. Black Swans originate from Australia and any that are seen in the UK are usually escapes from collections which have become feral birds.

However, some Black Swans are said to have also been seen in Iceland and so the origins of this particular bird are uncertain. I don't care whether I can tick it or not, it's still a magnificent beast and with a neck like that it could probably do some serious damage.

A very nice surprise was to see ten or twelve Ruff picking up the seed scraps after the swan feed. At first I thought there were a few Redshank in there too, as they showed quite a variety of leg and bill colour. But on closer inspection they proved to be definitely all Ruff.

But the day was a day that really belonged to the Whoopers, so I'll let them have the last word.