Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bitterns and Owls

I had a great day out with John Conway from the 'Bring Nature To Life Forum' and his friend Steve today firstly at Mere Sands Wood and then at an undisclosed place fairly nearby to see the Bitterns and later the Short-eared Owls.

From Rufford Hide at Mere Sands Wood LWT one Bittern showed well at times (well, the longest and best views I've ever had) although it was a little too far off for me to take any worthwhile photos. All John's Bittern shots on the forum are way better than any I took today, but I wasn't disappointed as I had good views and learnt a lot about digital photography from both John and Steve.

If it wasn't for the nearby reserve staff trying to meet their grant quotas for removing unwanted vegetation, sometimes with a chainsaw, the bittern would probably have come a lot closer - it's a shame they didn't work on something else whilst the Bitterns are showing. John did briefly see a second Bittern today, but I missed it. There were also Goosander, GC Grebes, Coot, Teal, Moorhens, Grey Herons, Mallards, some distant Gulls and a Sparrowhawk around the pools, but unfortunately no Kingfisher today.

Then we went on to see the Short-eared Owls. For a long time they were a 'no show' and unfortunately Steve had to go before two eventually appeared, quartering the field for prey. Although the light was starting to fail, It was well worth the wait just to view them through my binoculars. They stayed around for a quite a while and flew past several times, but I only got a few record shots as I'm still learning how to shoot such fast moving birds. A little later a third bird briefly showed. Finally, we moved up the field to get some more views of the SEO's which had reappeared a little further away, and we were treated to a good few minutes of a couple of Barn Owls flying around - the icing on the cake!

Many thanks to John and Steve for a great day out - they were both very friendly and helpful to someone who is keen to learn about birding and bird photography (me!)

Cheers lads, hope to see you again sometime.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Weekend in North Wales and Anglesey

Sarah and I had a great mini-break to parts of North Wales and Anglesey this weekend, at times meeting up with members of the Leigh Ornithological Society. Over the two days we visited the following places:

Spinnies Nature Reserve, Aberogwen, Bangor - a fantastic little place
  • 2 Buzzards over as we drove towards Penrhyn Castle
  • Red-breasted Merganser (lifer), Shelduck, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe and rafts of Wigeon on the estuary in front of the car park
  • A single lost Tundra Bean Goose (lifer) in a nearby field amongst a load of Greylags
  • Several Redshank in the same field
  • Two Little Egrets flew over the field
  • Snipe, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Mallard, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, and Great Tit from Kingfisher Hide (but sadly no Kingfisher)
  • Much the same at the Bird Hide with the exception of Snipe and with better views of a Little Egret and at least 3 Grey Herons
  • Redshank on the edge of the water along the beach
Bangor Harbour Area - just a quick stop
  • Single Greenshank
  • Lots of Oystercatchers and Shelduck
  • Greater Black-backed and Herring Gulls
  • Mute Swans with juveniles
Red Wharf Bay South Side, Anglesey - another quick stop
  • Lots of Curlew
  • Oystercatchers
  • Shelduck
  • Distant Gulls (various)
Point Lynas, Anglesey - a fabulous location
  • Male and female Stonechat (lifer) in gorse field on the approach road to the lighthouse
  • Kestrel on telephone wire
  • 2 Shags (lifer) and a single Cormorant on the sea
  • Various Gulls, but mainly Herring and Black-backed Gulls
Holyhead Harbour, Anglesey - a very short morning walk
  • A Song Thrush and a Chaffinch singing away in trees
  • House Sparrows going inside the ruined old 'house'
  • Lots of feral Pigeons in the old disused 'fort' building
  • Not much else about on the harbour
Penrhos Nature Reserve, Holyhead, Anglesey - a brief stop on the way to Conwy RSPB
  • Quite a few Bar-tailed Godwits along the water's edge
  • Many Oystercatchers and Curlew on the mudflats along with some Shelduck
  • Various Gulls
Conwy RSPB, North Wales - a good walk round which got better after a slow start
  • Water very low in front of the coffee shop and nothing much about
  • A pair of singing Dunnocks and a Robin in the Gorse along the paths but no Firecrest :furious:
  • Red-breasted Merganser, Little Egret, Lapwing, Moorhen, Canada Goose on the larger pool seen from Carneddau Hide
  • Many House Sparrows and Tits around the feeders near the gate to the car park
  • Two Buzzards over the picnic tables
  • At least 40-50 Curlew on the island in the larger pool (seen from viewpoint on the estuary)
  • At least 30 to 40 Redshank in the same place
  • A few Oystercatchers on the islands
  • Not many Canada Geese
  • A pair of Gadwall
  • A small group of Teal singing on the estuary along with 20-30 Shelduck and a raft of around 10-15 Wigeon
  • Around 20-25 Redshank on the shallow 'spit' on the Estuary
  • Various distant Gulls on the river Conwy
  • A single Grey Heron over
Great Orme, Llandudno (free car park halfway up)
  • Lots of Jackdaw about
  • A single Carrion Crow bowing and cawing on the picnic tables
  • A small flock of Greenfinch around the Gorse bushes
  • Not much else, although the wind was making it quite cold
Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales
  • A beautiful pair of Eider Duck resting on one the rocky breakwaters
  • Many Turnstones around the same rocks
  • There were a few Oystercatchers about and a raft of 20-30 Wigeon whistling on the sea
  • 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 2 Pied/White Wagtail and 2 Rock Pipits on another breakwater
  • Many distant Gulls on the golf course with a couple Coot on the ponds
  • A small flock of Twite (lifer) (or perhaps Linnet, we couldn't decide which) was also flying around the golf course entrance
A great end to a fabulous weekend with my dearly beloved, who is now gradually getting into this birding lark. With a few others on the way, we saw a total of 57 species and 5 lifers (for me) over the short break.


After reading Henry Cook's post on the Manchester Birding Forum, it seems the Twite are more likely to be Linnet now, which means I only got 4 lifers this weekend - nevermind, I can live with that.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Moore Nature Reserve, Warrington

With the prospect of some better weather today, I paid my first visit to Moore Nature Reserve in Warrington. As well as a general recognisance visit to learn the lay of the land, I had three target birds in mind:
  • Tawny Owl
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  • Bittern

These birds have all been reported recently on the Manchester Birding Forum thread for Moore.

On my way round today I saw the following birds:
  • Greenfinch
  • Treecreeper
  • Robin
  • Magpie
  • Wigeon
  • Tufted Duck
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Gadwall
  • Coot
  • Moorhen
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Grey Heron (juvenile)
  • Herring Gull
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Oystercatcher
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon
  • Shelduck
  • Little Grebe
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Buzzard
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Teal
  • Water Rail (heard only)
  • Raven
  • Cormorant
  • Crow
  • Goldfinch
  • Jackdaw
  • Tawny Owl
  • Reed Bunting
  • Jay
  • Chiffchaff
  • Oh and the back of a beautiful light brown fox as it ran away from the feeding station.
So 37 species on my first visit and one of my three target birds spotted - I can't be too disappointed with that can I?  But I'll be back .....

Friday, 17 February 2012

Note to Self

I need to write up the following trips:
  • Horwich Moors and Moss Bank Park, Bolton
  • Rixton Clay Pits Nature Reserve
  • Captive and Ornamental Ducks outside Forester's Arms, Glazebrook

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

'Where-2-See Birds' Website Changes

After giving it some thought, I've decided to change direction slightly with my 'Where-2-See Birds' website. Instead of making it a place in which anyone can contribute their bird sightings by pinpointing them on a map, I'm going to use it to provide locations and useful details (such as suggested parking places and walking routes) purely for the entries in this blog.

From now on, many posts in this blog will have a link to the relevant map page in 'Where-2-See Birds'. So, if you want to know the location that a particular post is describing, just click on the location name in the body of the post (not the title) and you will be instantly transported to the map page.

Why not try it on the post below this one, or click here for a quick look at the Pennington Flash page for an example. But please note that 'Where-2-See Birds' is still under development and only some locations have fully completed maps at present - it's still a work-in-progress as they say.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Moss Lane and Rindle Road

As it was cold but sunny today, I decided to pop out mid afternoon to Moss Lane and Rindle Road, which is only ten minutes from where I live. I parked up at the last but one bend on Moss lane where there were at least 200 Jackdaws in and over the fields at around 3pm.  Large groups would regularly take off and head westwards, off to a roost somewhere in that direction.  

Whilst I was there I met another birder from Manchester in search of Grey Partridge.  We chatted for a long time about birds in the area and he gave me some good pointers to locations a little further afield, such as the pontoon which is covered in waders at New Brighton (Wirral) at high tide, and where and when to se the Hawfinches at Sizergh Castle car park. I did ask his name, but I'm afraid I've forgotten it - that's senility for you.

Whilst we chatted a female Sparrowhawk flew out of the trees and low over a field and there were quite a few Wood Pigeons around. We didn't see the Grey Partridge but a Mistle Thrush was in the field next to 'Cobs and Plods' riding school on the way to Rindle Road.

There was another large group (100+) of mixed Corvids (mainly Jackdaw) at the corner of Rindle Road and Nook lane, before they took off and landed in the trees behind.  As I drove down Rindle Road a Kestrel was sitting on the telephone wire outside Moss Bank Farm.

At the Rindle Road feeding station there were less birds than usual, but there were still some Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, two Robins, a Great Tit and two Blue Tits - no Willow Tits though. I walked through Rindle Wood and around the SSSI trail but saw nothing of note. On the way back towards Rindle Hedge a group of 20 or so Linnets flew out of the hedge and into the ploughed field.  A Jay also flew over the field next to the ploughed field in which there were also three Pheasants.

But the best was left until last - a Treecreeper was showing well in the trees around the entrance to Rindle Wood. I've only seen one once before and have often looked for them to no avail, in spite of visiting many times.  This just shows you what birding is like - go for a nice walk and if you happen to see some birds that makes it even better!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Leighton Moss and Hest Bank

I took advantage of the sunshine and went up to Leighton Moss today.  I had a number of target birds to see and managed to see most of them, including:
  • A Glossy Ibis in the field next to the one facing the chimney (not seen first thing in the morning but went back late afternoon and got it.)
  • A Bittern which did quite a long flypast at the Public Hide
  • A Redhead Smew showing quite well at Lillian's Hide
  • A Little Egret at Griesdale Hide
  • Marsh Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper in the woods to the right of Lillian's Hide (I've only seen them on the feeders previously)
  • Two very tame Robins posing for photos
  • Several Fieldfare in the woods on the way to the causeway
  • I had distant views of two Otters playing in the pool to the left of Lillian's Hide.
  • Lots of Greylag Geese about, especially in the field near the level crossing where there must have been 200 in the late afternoon
  • Three Oystercatchers in another nearby field
  • There were not so many of the usuals around except at the Public Hide - 2 Mute Swans, 1 Pintail, 1 Cormorant in the usual place, lots of Tufted Ducks and Coots, some Mallards and Moorhens - there's probably something I've missed
         The only thing I didn't get to see today were the Bearded Tits.  I didn't visit the Lower Hide or the Eric Morecambe and Allen Hides today.   

On the way home I paid a short visit to Hest Bank where I saw:
  • Curlew
  • Oystercatchers
  • Many Redshank
  • Sanderling
  • A Grey Heron
  • Lots of Lapwing
  • Shelduck
  • A Black-headed Gull treading mud and catching shrimp
  • A large group of House Sparrows chattering away in the tree-tops

A good day out to what is becoming one of my favourite regions for birding. Some pictures to follow...