Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Stop Larking About!

This little Shorelark has become a real celebrity over the last few weeks and it looks as if it's here to stay for a long time yet.  Today was my second visit to Rossall Point near Fleetwood on the Fylde Peninsula because the weather hadn't been great last time I went.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Rossall Point, Fleetwood

This was only the second time I'd been to Rossall Point near Fleetwood and I seem to remember that I had great difficulty in actually finding the 'Point' on my previous visit.  This is probably because there isn't any actual piece of land that juts out into the see I as had expected, well not that I could find anyway, and also there was no obvious signage at the time.

Anyway, today I approached from a different direction and quickly saw a new tower on the promenade which has been mentioned in other people's birding reports - I'm sure that wasn't here last time I came. Better still there is a largish free car park giving easy access to the promenade and beach - just what I like!

I was here mainly for the Shorelark which is a surprise visitor on the west coast of the UK and it's generally only found on the east coast.  It had been reported here for a week or so and so I thought I had a decent chance of seeing it myself.

There were also Ringed Plovers on the beach:

And a lovely male Stonechat on the car park as I was leaving:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Five Lifers in One Day!

Today I went to Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB on the Wirral where I saw five birds I'd never seen before, namely: Cattle Egret, Red-necked Phalarope, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and believe it or not, Whinchat.  I only got record shots of all of these except for the Whinchat which is shown below.

I also saw a Pectoral Sandpipee, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Teal, Shoveler, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Knot, Little Egret and several superb flypasts by a Hobby as well as all the usual suspects. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Osprey at Norton Marsh - Lifer!

Osprey at Norton Marsh, Warrington - (c) Martyn Jones
Not the best of photos but this is the first time I've ever seen an Osprey.  More of a report will follow soon.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Yellow Wagtail down Barrow Lane

Yellow Wagtail (c) Martyn Jones
Yellow Wagtail after a fly (c) Martyn Jones

Monday, 26 May 2014

Once Bittern Twice Shy

I had a great day at Elton Reservoir in Bury today going to see the mega rare Little Bittern which has been here since yesterday.  After dipping on the two White-winged Black Terns that were here last weekend, I decided on a fairly early start (for me anyway) and I arrived at about 7.45am to find at least 20 birders there already staring avidly at a willow bush in the middle distance. The bird didn't show until around 9:40am and then only very briefly with most views obscured by vegetation. After another wait it reappeared at 11:30am when it came out into the open giving great views for a few tantalising moments before flying back into the trees behind the willow bush.

Little Bittern (c) Martyn Jones
I had much better views than this terrible record shot suggests!

There must have 50 to 60 birders there at the peak viewing time, some from far flung corners of Northern England. Nice to see many familiar faces and meet some new ones, it was like a 'Who's Who' of GM Birding! And somehow the long wait before seeing the bird makes it even more exciting and special. There are some good photos around, but none from me I'm afraid. But like I said earlier, great day! Elton's having a bit of a purple patch at the moment and we're all wondering what's going to turn up next.

Little Bittern flying back into the trees - (c) Martyn Jones

Oh, yes - I just had to use that title as the bird has not been seen since my visit.

Photos by other people on BirdGuides:


Here's one of the best taken by Jon Lowe yesterday (taken from BirdGuides):

Little Bittern at Capstick's Marsh, Elton Reservoir (c) Jon Lowes (from BirdGuides)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pendle Hill is Dotterel City

I had a fantastic day up Pendle Hill today, one I'll never forget. Not being the fit, slim(mer) or young bloke that I once was, I had severe issues thinking about the steep climb up Pendle carrying all my photographic gear in pretty hot weather. However, with reported Dotterel sightings yesterday and good weather, I decided to go for it, thinking I'd just take my time and set myself small targets to reach along the way with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery (no, not get my breath back). This worked for me and I made it to the trig point at the top in just less than 40 minutes, a time with which I was quite happy, in spite of meeting a couple of girls walking their dog who said they'd done it in 15 minutes and set themselves a new record!

At the top it was very windy and even quite cold at times and there was nothing much about except for the odd Curlew call and plenty of singing Skylarks. Three Swifts (my first of the year) did shoot through at one point and so I thought things were looking up, but apart from some crows and maybe a couple of tumbling Ravens, I didn't see much else in my search for the Dotterel. I spoke to a bloke from Chorley Naturalists (sorry, I've forgotten your name) who usually sees the Dotterel here every year but who hadn't seen them today and he gave me a few pointers about areas they've favoured in the past. Another local birder told me he had toured the whole area and not seen them today, so things weren't looking good.

I spent an hour or so in the area around the trig point with no luck, and a couple of birders who'd come up from the Sabden path in the opposite direction to me said they hadn't seen them on the way. Whilst I was talking to them, a small bird of prey flashed past flying low over the top of Pendle Hill, which we both agreed must have been a Merlin. With this news of no sightings I was beginning to think I'd be out of luck today, so I decided to try the path along to the Scout Hut cairn which I'd been told earlier was a favoured place. However, apart from some very low flying Skylarks, some Meadow Pipits and a lone Red Grouse flying over the path, there was very little else.

Feeling a bit fed up I decided to try the trig point area again before giving up and going home, as this seemed to be where all the event reports had been. Lucky I did because quite by chance I met another local birder on the plateau near the trig point, and he told me he had just seen two and possibly four Dotterel in this area, but they had flown down the path towards Sabden. When I told him I'd never seen a Dotterel, he very kindly said he'd take me to exact place he'd seen them, which was about half a mile or more down the Sabden path in the area of the fifth small cairn on this route. We walked down the path and after a few false alarms with Skylarks and Wheatears, I eventually spotted one and then two and eventually all four Dotterel about 30 metres to the right of the path. Bingo and lifer! There were two male and two beautifully marked female birds.

We were soon joined by four other birders who were all keen like me to get some photographs. So after everyone had had a good look by observing the birds through binoculars, we slowly approached them until we got down to a reasonable distance. Then we all snapped happily to our hearts' content with the birds down to three of four metres on average. At one point we all lay down in the grass along the path and the birds walked closer and closer and eventually walked past us to within one metre, so close I couldn't focus. I knew Dotterel were pretty confiding, but I was half expecting one to jump up on my lens.

This was a truly amazing birding experience and like I said earlier, one I'll never forget. Thanks must go to the original local birder who took me to the birds and who did tell me his name, but which now escapes me. It was also nice to meet the couple from Knaresborough and Gareth Hughes and his Dad, who helped guide the birds in our direction for photos. They are some of the best bird photos I've ever taken, true frame fillers, and they'll soon be my Flickr site.


Gareth Hughes has just sent me this great photo:

I told you it was close!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Binn There, Done That!

Two-barred Crossbill feeding in the Larches at Binn Green

A great day for me at Binn Green / Dovestones with Alan Wilcox, Paul Brewster, Andy Makin, Austin Morley and many other birders all waiting for this Two-barred Crossbill to show. Unfortunately after several hours a few people left only for the bird to finally show up around 3.00pm. Looks like afternoons are best as the bird was feeding for a good 20 minutes or so on the larch cones before coming down to a pool for a drink near the feeders and then giving us a fly past over the viewing platform and down towards the reservoir.

Unfortunately the little blighter was feeding in the wrong tree for photographs, as it was looking straight into the sun. So these record shots are the best I could get today and I'm only posting them to make Austin jealous. Unlucky Austin, you just gotta put more hours in mate.

We also had good views of a Ring Ouzel on the top of the conifers as seen across from the platform, and three different male Bramblings, a Willow Warbler, male and female Siskins, male and female Redpolls, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, and at least six feisty cock Pheasants at the feeders.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Another to do list

If you regularly come here to read my blog I can only apologise for the lack of recent updates.  I've still been birding and taking photographs as usual, but I haven't been finding the time to update this blog, mainly due to work and other voluntary commitments and the volume of photographs I have to look through before deciding which ones to work on.

With this in mind I'd like to point you to my Flickr site (www.flickr.com/geekteacher) which is updated slightly more often than this blog and a Facebook group I have set up on behalf of Leigh Ornithological Society (www.facebook.com/groups/leighos). You will find some of my latest photos and comments on both these groups.

That said, I fully intend to update this blog in the near future and keep it updated as best I can.  Some of the reports that I will be writing include the following:

  • Short-eared owls in Sefton, Merseyside
  • A short trip to Dumfries and Galloway with Whooper Swans, Barnacle Geese, Great Northern Divers, Purple Sandpipers, Oystercatchers, Yellowhammers, Red Kites and a host of others
  • A Kittiwake on the Bridgewater Canal in Leigh
  • Dippers and a very close Great Crested Grebe at Yarrow Valley Country Park
  • Black Grouse lekking at World's End, Llangollen
  • Skylarks at Kinmel Bay and a Red-breasted Merganser and Stonechats at Gronant Beach

And possibly some more.  I do hope you will return to read some of my reports with photos of the birds I've seen so far in 2014.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Red Kite at Bellymack Hill Farm

Red Kite 1 by GeekTeacher (aka Martyn Jones)
Red Kite at Bellymack Hill Farm Feeding Station in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
I've just got back from a few days birding in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.  Here's one of the first photos I've processed - I've only got a few thousand more to look through!

This photo was sent to my blog from my Flickr album - Red Kite 1, a photo by GeekTeacher (aka Martyn Jones).

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Another Glossy Ibis turns up locally

After the spectacular displays given by the long-staying Horwich birds, it was quite a surprise to find that another Glossy Ibis had turned up even more locally to me in Pennington Hall, Hindley.  The weather conditions were poor and got worse, so the photos aren't that great, but it's a nice local record for me.

Whilst I was there I was approached by a couple of the locals who were very friendly and interested in what all the fuss had been about over the last week or so.  When I explained they seemed to go away happy.  Another couple of birders also turned up in the next hour.

On returning to my car I found that my battery was flat due to having left the lights on and not running it much over Christmas. This wasn't entirely without surprise as recently I'd been having an ongoing intermittent battery drain problem, but I had thought it had cured itself - unfortunately not it seems. To add insult to injury, my phone was also flat and I couldn't charge it from the car!

So this now prompted a saga of asking a passersby for jump leads and ended up with me going into the local farm to ask for help.  A very nice lady took some time to find some leads for me and another kind young lady then moved her car and gave me the jump start I needed.  During the process I had got completely soaked from the ever-increasing rainfall.

With the engine running, I  quickly thanked everyone who had helped me and set off for home in the hope I wouldn't stall on the way.