The Manchester Birding Forum has gone very quiet about the Rindle Road and Astley Moss areas, but as it was so sunny when I got home from work tonight, I just had to go out somewhere and this is closest to home. I also combined it with dropping off a geocache, but that's another blog.
I started off as usual by going down Moss Lane and on the way down a large bird of prey flew out of a tree and over the field next to 'Cobs and Plod's riding school. I didn't quite catch what it was but I suspected it was a buzzard due to its size, colour and broad wing shape.
After dropping off the cache I continued down to the bend in the road near the end of Moss Lane where I normally park up and walk back along the through the trees. It was here that I first saw a Little Owl earlier in the year. Tonight however there was a large lorry loading stuff for the new pipeline and making a lot of noise and activity, so there were no birds to be seen apart from the odd Woodpigeon. So I decided to go back to the place where I'd seen the bird of prey earlier.
I parked up just off Moss Lane and walked down a footpath on the edge of the wooded area alongside the field. After a few minutes a large brown bird with broad wings appeared again briefly overhead, barely 20 metres away. It was definitely a Buzzard and the closest I've ever come to one - a great sight, but too fast and difficult to photograph as it flew straight into the sun. Well it was worth stopping just for that view.
I then moved on to Rindle Road, parking up at the feeding station. After a quick scan around with my binoculars I first thought there was nothing of note to see, but then I noticed a large flock of what I first believed were Mistle Thrushes on the ground in a field towards the railway line.
Upon closer inspection I realised they weren't Mistle Thrushes but something else - a brownish body with a reddish brown speckled breast and lighter underparts - were they Fieldfare? Well, yes it was (later verified by Ian McKerchar of Manchester Birding Website fame). I was quite excited by now as I hadn't seen Fieldfare before and there were a lot of them. I attempted a few snaps with my camera to take record shots for later identification purposes, but they really were too far away to get anything decent, so I moved on.
I went down the path towards Rindle Woods and could here various types of Tit and then something else singing in the trees at the start of the wood. I went for a look but couldn't see anything. But as I stood at the entrance the wood and looked round I noticed in the distance that the flock of birds I'd seen earlier had taken off. At first they looked a little like a flock of starlings and then I thought their flight looked a bit like a dove or pigeon. They moved left and right in a flock of 50 or more birds - I kept wishing they would come my way for for a long while it didn't look as if they would.
But then suddenly turned and as they got closer I realised they were something new for me. I fired off lots of shots in rapid fire mode, varying the zoom to try to get some wide shots as well as closeups. I was quite surprised that in the excitement of seeing the birds, I did get one or two half decent shots as shown on this page, especially as they were quite high up and moving.
After this I walked down the path through Rindle Hedge and although I disturbed a few LBJ's and Woodpigeons, there was nothing much to see. I took a few photos of the view across the fields towards Winter Hill which looked great in the evening sunshine. But now it was starting to get cold and so I headed back to the car.
I'd put everything away and was sitting in the car casually looking down the drainage ditch to see if there were any bank voles in view. I was just about to start the engine when in the corner of my eye I noticed a splash in the water about 100 metres away and a bird fly up and sit on the nearby fence.
I reached for my binoculars off the back seat and as I was doing this the bird flew even closer and landed about 15 metres away in a Hawthorne bush. It was difficult to see it clearly in the fading light but I recognised some of the familiar features of a Sparrowhawk. I sometimes still have difficulties in separating this bird from a Kestrel when in flight, but with a close-up view there was no doubting that this was a female Sparrowhawk. As this was the closest I'd ever come to a wild one in the field, I just had to get a photo of it, but I knew it would fly off the moment it heard me or saw me move.
Very slowly I leaned over to the back seat to get my camera and then set about shooting as many pictures as I could through the car window. Sometimes the camera would focus on the window and sometime on the trees, but I managed to get a few record shots of the bird, which thankfully stayed in place for a few minutes. I thought I might as well try to get some pictures from outside the car and so I slowly opened the door and actually managed to stand up before the bird flew off! I fired a few shots off in hope as it flew low across the next field and into the distance and that was that. As I packed up for the second time I thought, "I should have just wound the window down instead of getting out of the car - I wouldn't have got any closer". Next time maybe.