Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Silver Lane Pools, Risley

After threatening to go to Silver Lane Pools in Risley many times without ever actually getting there, I decided to make this the first trip of my post-Scotland adventures. Spurred on by the fact that two Black-necked Grebes are present in breeding plumage and armed with maps and site location information kindly provided by Jonathan Platt (see below), I set off on a sunny afternoon to investigate.

My first choice of route ended in failure, because although Silver Lane is clearly present on all the maps, they don't tell you that the entrance is blocked with a barrier to prevent travelling folk from parking up here.  So after a quick word with the local postman, I was on a different route to the M62 roundabout at Junction 11, where I parked up ready for a walk round.

The area south of Silver Lane Pools is a former landfill area which is being turned into a nature reserve, and it's clear from the unfinished paths and locked gates that it's not quite ready for the public yet. However, there is a public right of way in the form of a bridleway through area, and it's along this recently laid roadway / path that I walked today.

As I was focused on finding the Grebes, I didn't scan the areas on the way to the pools, but I could hear Skylarks singing overhead and the reclaimed landfill hummocks seems a good place for them to nest.  I also thought there were some Meadow Pipits flitting around the path. But the first bird I really noticed was a lone Whooper Swan in a flooded field east of the path.  This bird has been here for a while now and there is some discussion about its health.

As I approached the first of the three main pools I could see many ducks on the water and these turned out to be mainly male and female Gadwall, with a few Tufted Ducks and Mallards and just one Little Grebe when viewed through my scope. The next pool had the same birds but fewer of them, and I couldn't see a way down to the water's edge although the seemed to be a path around it. By now I had realised that there was still some work to be done to ready this new reserve for the public, and many of the access routes were fenced and gates padlocked.

As I approached the large West Pool, I met two Groundwork workers who explained a little about what was going on here, and where I could walk at present.  Fortunately the path along the southern edge of the pool where I wanted to go is a bridleway and so I set off along it.

It wasn't long before I caught my first glimpse of a Black-necked Grebe and I then spent the next 20 minutes trying to refind it. I walked around the western edge of the pool but just couldn't see it, although there were at least four and possibly six Little Grebes, some Mallards and Tufted Ducks, two Canada Geese, a single Moorhen and lots of Coots.

I finally managed to find the Grebe, but for a long time I thought there was only one present.  I walked back around the southern edge of the pool to get closer views and a few record shots and eventually located the second bird, some distance away.  Whilst I was here I could hear a Buzzard overhead and it eventually came into view for a few moments - of course all my settings were wrong on my camera which had been trained on a Grebe at the time.

I spent quite a long time waiting for the Black-necked Grebes to come closer, but they never really did. I've got the best shots that I've ever taken of this bird in breeding plumage, but they're still only record shots.

One interesting thing that happened was when I noticed both birds looking upward and stretching their necks as shown in the above photo - something must be up I thought and sure enough the pool was being quartered by two Great Black-backed Gulls which stooped down towards the water every so often. All the birds on the pool were clearly alarmed by this. Well, wouldn't you be alarmed if you saw this coming for you ?!

When I'd decided that I wasn't going to get any better shots, I decided to head for home.  Retreading my steps along the way I'd come I picked up a Grey Heron flying low across one of the smaller pools and at least twenty Gadwall which had moved to the smaller pond surrounded by reeds, but which all took off as I walked past, returning to the place where I first saw them today.

I also had a male and female Shoveler on the edge of the water in the flooded field some Carrion Crows and Lapwing on the ploughed field.  The Skylarks were still singing and I'd had a great afternoon.  Oh, I nearly forgot, I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year too.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Scotland Trip Day 6 - Kincraig and Loch Garten Revisited

Bird photographers are never satisfied and so we wanted to try again for the Crested Tits at Loch Garten today.  Although I had taken my best ever shots of this bird on Sunday, I felt I could do better from what I had learnt on that day.  Hopefully you'll agree that these are better than my first set.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Scotland Trip Day 5 - Findhorn Valley and Loch Ruthven

Today was the day of the Mountain Hare. Report to follow after I've got my breath back ...

Monday, 14 March 2016

Scotland Trip Day 3 - Cairngorms

Today we went in search of the wild Rock Ptarmigan up on Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms, and from the tales I'd already heard about the snow-covered path up there, I wasn't particularly looking forward to the hike carrying my camera gear.

Scotland Trip Day 2 - Lochindorb and the Findhorn Valley

Day 2 of my Scotland Trip saw us driving to Lochindorb and picking up some close views of Red Grouse from the car.  However, we started with a quick look for the Dippers in Nethy Bridge who are currently nestbuilding in a hole in the stonework under the bridge.

After a quick chat with one of the local tour guides who had stopped there for the same reason and who gave us some useful information about the whereabouts of some Mountain Hares,  we set off for Lochindorb. For once I wasn't in the driving seat and so I could lean out of the window taking photographs of the Red Grouse which were often only a few metres off the road.