Friday, 30 December 2016

Last Lifer of 2016

Today I went to the little city of St. Asaph in North Wales to see the Black-throated Thrush that has been showing there recently. St Asaph is on the River Elwy in Clwyd and with its ancient cathedral is the second-smallest city in Britain.

After playing hide and seek with the little blighter for nearly five hours in the field, this is the best photo I managed to take when it returned to its favourite hawthorn bush in the paddock behind the New Inn.

It was a very difficult bird to locate and photograph, so I'm fairly pleased with what I've got. Here's the best of the rest:

This is a first-winter female bird, which doesn't have the distinctive black throat of the adult male.

 Like many other birds including Waxwings and winter thrushes, this bird has flown in from Siberia, probably because food is scarce there now.

Completely blurred, but included to show the underwing:

Having dipped on the Dusky Thrush at Beeley in Derbyshire twice this month, I was really glad to get this one.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Hooray, the Waxwings are Back!

Waxwings have been appearing all over Greater Manchester and indeed the rest of the country this month and so this was to be my first trip out for some time. I decided to go for the Bolton birds as these were being updated the most frequently on the internet, but I could have gone locally to Wigan, Salford and Warrington.

I've spent most of the last month digging out a draining ditch and footings for a small retaining wall in my back garden. I've been knee-deep in horrible, sticky mud and clay throughout this time which has made the going very tough, especially I filled an 8-ton skip with the stuff and there was still more. I shifted everything by hand in a wheelbarrow and worse still, it all had to go through my house as it's  link-detached with no way around it. There was mud everywhere just before Christmas.

These wonderfully photogenic birds don't appear in the UK every year, so when the are about photographers tend to fill their boots, so to speak.

Other Birds are Available

Once Waxwings have been sighted in an area the attention of most birders is focused entirely on them, and so other birds are often overlooked. These photos are just some of the other birds usually found wherever Waxwings are about, because they all like berry trees and particularly Rowans.

After the Waxwings, Redwings are probably be the next in line for photographs.

Mistle Thrushes always seem to be in the vicinity of Waxwings where they aggressively defend 'their' berry trees from all-comers.

And finally, the humble Blackbird - couldn't leave this one out.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Quick Trip over to Merseyside

Just a quick trip out today to blow away some of the Christmas cobwebs.  May target birds were to be  the reported White-fronted Goose and Bewick Swans in amongst the Whoopers near Hesketh Out Marsh and the Blue Morph Snow Goose at Marshside, both of which I dipped on.

However, I managed to rescue the day from total failure by calling in on the regular Little Owl at Gravel Lane, Banks and a Short-eared Owl at Lunt Meadows.  The light was great at first, but then a grey haze slowly descended to cover the sun and banish it completely by the time I got to Lunt.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

NOT a Dusky Thrush

The photograph is not the bird I travelled a second time for nearly two hours through the madness of Stockport and Hazel Grove stop-start traffic jams to see - it's a Fieldfare, one of our regular winter thrushes. On my first visit to the picturesque little village of Beeley on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire I didn't see the target bird, but with better light today, I was more hopeful.

Normally I'd be pleased with a shot like this, but not today.  Like many others I'd gone to Beeley today to see a rare bird called the Dusky Thrush which has only been reported on these shores on 12 previous occasions. In birding jargon it's known as a Mega - i.e. very rarely seen, if ever.  And so, as you can imagine, I was very keen to see it as it had been reported frequently since first being sighted a week or so ago.

The bird comes from it breeding grounds in Siberia and has been blown off course by the strong autumn gales we've had this year. It's probably been around for a lot longer, but no-one had identified it until now.  A local birder who lives in the village took a photo of it from her back garden and realised it was a bit different to our normal Thrushes and especially Redwings. She had it identified by an expert and then the mad rush started.

People have been coming from all over the country to see this bird, and even some from abroad, it's that rare, and today it was supposed to be my turn.  The bird had been showing well feeding on apples in a small orchard in the village, next to a charity centre known as Duke's Barn. It had also been seen in other fields feeding on the ground as well as other apple trees. And therein lay the problem - where to go?

I started by joining birders looking over a broken drystone wall (I do hope birders didn't do that) in to a field with fallen apples beneath a tree. This is where I took the Fieldfare photograph above.  It would have been perfect for the distance and light if the target bird had been present, but it wasn't.  Instead there were plenty of Redwings, Blackbirds, Robins and Fieldfares all feeding on the falling bounty. Suddenly, someone had a phone call saying that the bird the bird had been seen in the top field behind the village - the crowd rapidly dispersed!

However it was a false alarm, as half way to the field a second phone call said that it was just a Redwing. I decided to keep on going anyway. I spent a good hour or more looking over a wall at a Hawthorn hedge where the bird had been seen earlier in the afternoon, but to no avail.  I later decided to go and spend some time in the Duke's Barn orchard where another crowd of photographers and birders were staring over a wall at some fallen apples, but that was all.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker did put in an appearance at the top of a conifer tree as well as some Chaffinches and Tits, but not much else.

The light was fading fast and so dejected I returned to my car in the early evening gloom. I'll have to go back I thought.

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.