Sunday, 27 March 2011

Rindle Road

Spring is the best time for birding in my opinion with lots going on.  The skies are full of new visitors and the residents are starting new families.  One thing I've learnt during my first full year of birding is how quickly things change.  A bird can be here one day and gone the next and the vegetation and landscape can make it easy or difficult to see them depending on the time of year.

With this in mind, I've decided I'll go out to my local patch at Rindle Road as often as I can this year, because I missed a few birds last year just by thinking "Oh I'll go tomorrow".   Having said that, there's not much about yet, but today I met Dave Thacker once again, who confirmed that in two or three weeks it will be full of activity here.

I started off by going down Moss Lane but only saw a distant Kestrel (it might have been a Sparrowhawk) sitting on the telephone wires at the far end of the road.  The ground was very dry around here today and the furrows in the newly ploughed fields looked quite desiccated. As I headed off to Rindle Road a large Carrion Crow flew over my car and landed in a field where another crow had something in its beak.  I stopped briefly but couldn't make out what it was, maybe a snail or something.

I went on to park up at the Rindle Road feeding station and I talked to Dave for a while before heading off into Rindle Wood.  After he left two Oystercatchers flew over me making their familiar call just as I ducked under the gate and on to the path.

At the feeding station there were a several Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and a Chaffinch as well as pair of Mallard feeding on the grain and seed remnants.  I always mean to bring some bird food when I come here and somehow always manage to forget.

I walked along Rindle Hedge where there was absolutely nothing about until I got to the end where I disturbed three or four Mistle Thrushes that were in the ploughed field.  When they saw me they quickly shot off into the nearby trees.  I walked back along the hedge and into Rindle Wood in the hope that I might see another Treecreeper like I did earlier this week.  No luck there !  All I saw were a two Blue Tits, a Chaffinch, a Yellowhammer and two Goldfinches (see postscript).

Walking back to the feeding station, I spent quite a while waiting for a good photo-opportunity but it never really came.  I took some photos of a Reed Bunting and some Tree Sparrows before returning to my car.  I did see a Bank Vole swimming in the drainage ditch and it made a big splash to disappear underwater when it saw me coming.  I also took some close-up pictures of a butterfly on a dandelion head.

On the way home I stopped off on a side access road to take some pictures of a soaring Buzzard - the conditions were quite good for photography: it was sunny if a little hazy and the sun was behind me.  The bird was fairly low down at first and moving slowly in a circle.  I should have been able to get at least one decent photo from the twenty or so I took, but I didn't - if you've read my previous post you'll see what I mean about being disappointed with the quality of the results I'm getting at the moment.

When I got back in the car it was a lot later than I thought as the clocks had gone forward an hour today.  So I headed off for home to see if anyone else in the family had got up yet.


Whilst looking though my pictures at home, I noticed a bird that I thought was just a Chaffinch when I was taking the photos.  On closer inspection it clearly isn't a Chaffinch, but what is it?  My best guess is either a Redpoll or a Linnet but the photos aren't clear enough for me to be positive.  If you have any suggestions, please write them in the comment section at the bottom of this post.  Cheers !


It seems that the bird has been identified as a Lesser Redpoll by none other that the main man at the Manchester Birding Forum, Ian McKerchar.  It wasn't the same for everyone however as you can see in the comments under this post which I've transcribed from the Forum thread I started on it

Moaning About My Camera

I know I'm not the world's best photographer, but I really don't think I'm as bad as some of my recent pictures make out.  They just don't seem sharp at all even after processing them in Photoshop.  I really need to check out the focusing on my Nikon D90 camera because what seems pin sharp in the viewfinder rarely looks the same on the computer.

I've always suspected that my Sigma 50-500mm zoom lens wasn't as sharp as it could be.  I know you only get what you pay for but it was still quite expensive for a hobby and I really can't afford a Nikon prime lens with the same range.  I nearly always use this lens fully extended because that's what you buy a lens of this size for, isn't it?  I'd say 95% of what I shoot is rubbish and even the 5% of good shots are seldom crystal clear.  The lens is generally OK with closer or larger objects than birds.

So I'm going to do some testing with a few focus charts I've printed off the internet and I'm also going to try my lens on another Nikon camera body (my daughter Cathy has a D3100).  If I can prove anything from these tests I'll be looking at buying another lens (probably the new Sigma 50-500mm with OS) or perhaps having my camera serviced.  Watch this space for further developments.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Pennington Flash

When I got home from work tonight the sun was shining yet again and so Sarah, Cathy and I went for a stroll round Penny from the Slag End car park end for a change.  The first birds we saw were some Skylarks singing and displaying high up in the air before dropping down to the grass on Ramsdale's Ruck.  They were very difficult to spot even with binoculars, but their song was incredibly loud and tuneful - wonderful!  A solitary Great Crested Grebe was in the Lagoon water neat here, but as it was diving frequently it made viewing quite difficult.

As we approached the Flash I used my scope to view the Spit and here we saw the following birds:
  • Oystercatcher
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Teal
  • Cormorant
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Coot
  • Tufted Duck
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
We then walked round to Ramdale's Hide where there more of the same birds on the Spit as well a single Redshank and some Lapwing.  I looked for the Little Grebe that I'd seen here earlier in the week, but didn't find it tonight.

Then we walked on to Tom Edmonson's Hide where there were four Grey Heron, some Shovellers, Teal, Tufted Ducks and a large goose in amongst the Canada Geese which I am yet to identify.  It may be a Bar-headed Goose, a Greylag variant of some kind or a farmyard escapee.  I asked a lady birder who was also in the hide but she wan't sure either.

By now I could sense that Cathy was getting bored, which she indeed said out loud to Sarah hoping I wouldn't hear. And as the very cold wind blew in off the Flash through the viewing slats at Horrocks Hide, I knew they were coming to the end of their session with me.  In fact they only stayed about ten minutes before heading back to the car, arranging to meet me on the main car park about half an hour later.  This was a shame because I really wanted Sarah and Cathy to see the birds closeup at the Bunting Hide feeding station where Cathy could take some photographs, but it wasn't to be. They did manage to see three Redshank close up before they left here though.

As soon as they'd gone I spotted the Black-tailed Godwits at the end of the Spit through my scope, as well as a single female Goosander and all the birds I'd seen earlier from the other side of the Flash.  I was joined by the lady birder who I'd met at Tom Edmonson's Hide earlier and I showed her the Godwits thorugh my scope as they were a little far for her binoculars to pick out.  After a quick chat about the lack of Great Crested Grebes here for this time of year, I left for my last stop tonight at Teal Hide.

I did pop in to Pengy's Hide on the way to Teal, but there nothing much about.  At Teal Hide there were more female Goosanders and a single Male resting on the shell island in the middle of the water, as well as all the regulars. But the main event was quite unexpected: 30 to 40 Sand Martins were whizzing around over the water presumably picking off insects in flight.  They were quite a spectacular sight in the early eveining sunlight.

No sooner had I got there than a warden drove up to lock up the hide.  I told him I'd only just arrived and wanted to look for the Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper that had been reported here this week.  He very kindly said he could drive round and lock all the other hides before coming back to this one at the end - nice bloke!

I spent another 10 minutes trying to take some pictures of the Sand Martins, but the light was fading and they moved very quickly. so no pictures worth displaying today I'm afraid.  And I never did find the Green Sandpiper or Ringed Plover either, but all in all I'd had a very pleasant session.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Rindle Road

As the sun was shining when we got home, Cathy and I went out to Rindle Road this evening to take some photographs.  Cathy wanted to try out her new digital SLR camera and I was looking for any birds that were about.  We had a quick look along the fields at the top of Rindle Road near the railway line before venturing into Rindle Wood and walking round the Astley Moss SSSI trail.

The highlights for me were a pair of Lapwing on territory displaying their tumbling flight one of the fields followed by my first ever sighting of a Treecreeper in the woods.

Here's the best of the pictures I took tonight:

Pair of Lapwing


If you want to see Cathy's more 'arty' pictures I'm sure they'll be on her blog soon.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Irlam and Barton Mosses

This morning I went birding with Steve Nelson who left this report of our sightings on the Manchester Birding Forum:

A good morning's birding on Irlam and Barton Mosses 9.30am-12.45pm with Martyn Jones delivered a couple of surprises

Female Marsh Harrier hunting over Croxten and flushed 5 Teal (2m and; 3f) and a pair of Mallard. Could it be the same bird seen last year at Astley Peat Pools area?

2 Whooper Swans (adult and cygnet) still in f8. They have been here for over 3 weeks now A Mute Swan flew over from west, circled over f8 as though checking out the Whoopers then flew off over the railway.
  • 4-5 Buzzards
  • 2 pairs of Grey Partridge
  • 1 Red-legged Partridge
  • A few Pheasant
  • c. 21 Tree Sparrows (16+ on track between f9 and 10, 7+ Woodbarn Farm)
  • 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from Dixons Wood
  • 1 Snipe - Croxten
  • Siskin over - heard only
  • Collared Dove
  • 5 Skylark
  • Blackbird
  • c.6 Reed Buntings
  • 5 Yellowhammer
  • c. 40+ Linnet including a flock of c.30
  • A few Goldfinches and Chaffinch
  • 3 Pied Wagtails
  • 4 Grey Herons
  • Numerous pairs of Lapwing on territory
  • 5 Herring Gulls over
  • 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls over
  • 2 Canada Geese over
Plus the usual Blue, and Long-tailed Tits, Woodpigeons, Magpies, Carrion Crows.

I couldn't really improve on this excellent report by Steve so I've left it more or less as written.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Marshside RSPB, Southport

Today Sarah and I took my new spotting scope to Marshside RSPB in Southport for a try out.  A full report will follow later but for now here are the birds we saw:
  • Oystercatcher (on the way, near Ormskirk)
  • Skylark
  • Shelduck
  • Mute Swan
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Mallard
  • Canada Goose
  • Avocet (lifer)
  • Pintail (lifer)
  • Ruff (lifer)
  • Golden Plover (lifer)
  • Little Grebe
  • Redshank
  • Shoveller
  • Lapwing
  • Curlew
Here are some of the better pictures I took today:

A Pair of Avocets
A Pair of Avocets
A Pair of Avocets
Four Avocets
Five Avocets
Black-tailed Godwit
A Pair of Black-tailed Godwits
A Pair of Pintails
A Male Teal
Little Grebe
Little Grebe