Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Three Sisters Nature Reserve

After the excitement of the Kentish Plover at Audenshaw last night, I decided to pop out to Three Sisters Nature Reserve near Bryn in Wigan today to practice a little more with my new camera body. At the very least I knew there would be the usual birds at the feeding station, but there's also the prospect of seeing the Tawny Owls there as well as a variety of spring migrant warblers.

After spending some time at the feeding station where the best bird I had was a Jay, although there were also male and female Bullfinches, a pair of Willow Tits, some Reed Buntings and the usual Robins, Dunnocks and Tits, I went for a wander through the woodland paths. I soon came upon a singing male Blackcap, but trying to pin it down for a photograph was really difficult.  However, after about a hour or so I got lucky, as it landed on a branch with a clear background.  These shots almost look as if they have been setup with a prop, but they haven't - it just perched in a great place (for once!).


I've just heard that my second Blackcap photo on this page got a 'Notable' award on Birdguides this week.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Kentish Plover at Audenshaw Reservoirs

Mega rarity alert! A stunning little male Kentish Plover is in Greater Manchester at Audenshaw Reservoirs this week.  Although access to the site is officially by permit only (and I, like many other birders who've been, don't have one), I braved the Manchester rush hour traffic, hail, rain and sudden cold temperatures to pop over there after work today.  Here's a few of the photos I took:

After a while, the sun came out reflecting blue sky and clouds in the water.

Forgive us our trespasses ...

Monday, 25 April 2016

Another Visit to Penny

To try out my new Nikon D810 camera body, I went to Pennington Flash and got these shots:

Male Bullfinch


Male Reed Bunting

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Starling Steals Nuthatch Nest

I'd recently been told that the Nuthatches were back using the same nest hole as last year down a lane in Glazebury and so I went for a look this afternoon.  When I got there I was very surprised to find the hole occupied with new tenants - a pair of Starlings.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A Garganey Pair

Garganeys are summer visitors to the UK and I don't often see one, nevermind a pair. The males are striking with their white eye stripe whereas the females look similar to many other female ducks. This is the best view that I have ever had of either sex and because they are a potential breeding pair, it has been decided (by the birding fraternity) that it is best not to disclose their North West whereabouts.

More photos to follow ...

Friday, 15 April 2016

Drake Smew at Lunt Meadows

After spotting it on Facebook last night, I went for the drake Smew at Lunt Meadows today. I've only seen a drake once before at Fairburn Ings a few years ago, so this was a must see.  Here's a few record shots I took - the light was awful and the bird fairly distant for most of the time.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Hilbre Island

The penultimate Leigh Ornithological Society fieldtrip of the year was to Hilbre Island on the Wirral with the aim of staying on the island over the high tide. As low tide was around 8:30am, we left Leigh at 7:15am to arrive at 8:15am. The walk across the sand to the islands took about an hour and the weather stayed pretty good, if a little windy at times, all day.

We saw:
  • Grey Heron
  • Curlew
  • Brent Goose
  • Eider Duck
  • Knot
  • Common Scoter
  • Redshank
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Rock Pipit
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Swallow
  • House Martin
  • Willow Warbler
  • Oystercatcher
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Cormorant
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Atlantic Grey Seal
  • Habour Porpoise

A more detailed report may follow, but for now here are few photographs from the day.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Short-eared Owl at Ashton Moss

This was another new site for me as I don't know east Manchester very well at all.  I had been drawn to visiting this place after seeing a stunning close photo of a Short-eared Owl by Mark Battersby on his Flickr pages. So, with the weather looking fairly decent, I decided today should be the day.

I arrived just after 12pm and it was a good two hours before I saw anything of note. I did a tour of the moss and found the posts at which Mark's photos had been taken. But I had to wait until Mark arrived himself before we had our first sighting, which came from the direction opposite to which were expecting.

From then on we only had short and fairly distant glimpses of the bird and so I'll have to be satisfied with these habitat shots for now.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Crossbills at Birkdale LNR

Set amongst the rolling sand dunes and affluent houses, Birkdale LNR beckoned me today because a flock of Crossbills had been reported over the bird-waves for the last couple of days. I'd never been to Birkdale LNR before as I'd always thought this area was just the golf course. However it seems that there are public rights of way in amongst the links greens where an ever present stream of dogwalkers take their pets or client's pets to do their business.

I'd got all the information about location, parking and paths from the L.O.S Facebook page, mainly thanks to Austin Morley and Janice Sutton and so, after studying a Google map on my iPad, I set off to find the mysterious Gate 29 which everyone seems to know about except me.

I made a number of false starts both at parking and then on the route to Gate 29, but with the help of a couple of the aforesaid dog walkers, I eventually found the gate and the stream where the birds drink as mentioned in the Facebook posts. This was much further and took longer than I had expected, mainly because I was tramping through sand in wellies carrying my photographic gear.

I waited for over two hours, scanning all the trees and doing little sorties along various paths that lead away from the gate, but there were no sign of any Crossbills and very few other birds.  As I looked at trees I kept thinking to myself, "This isn't where you'd normally find Crossbills, they inhabit pine trees", of which there were none at all around here.  I accepted that this must just be a watering-hole for the birds, and so they would only appear here from time to time.

So after a bit more than 2 hours I gave up and decided to walk back to where there were pine trees in the hope I would find them there.  I did (at X marks the spot on the map above) but not for long.  I saw the birds flitting around one particular tree from a distance and so I approached slowly to get a better look through my binoculars. Yes,  they were Crossbills! Baboom - Lifer! Now to get a photo.  I took out my camera and could only find a clear shot of one particular female bird, as all the males were partially obscured by branches.  As soon as I fired my shutter, the whole tree erupted and a flock of around 25-30 birds flew off into the trees around Gate 29.

I did try to follow the birds by walking back to the gate but I couldn't relocate them.  So I headed back for the car checking every single pine tree carefully along the way, but I didn't see them again. Then off to Mere Sands Wood on the way home.

Grebes at Mere Sands Wood LWT

Following on from my trip for the Crossbills at Birkdale LNR earlier today, I decided to call in at Mere Sands Wood LWT on the way home to get some shots of Great Crested Grebes and Little Grebes which a friend of mine had recently photographed here.

The birds were nesting in front of the Cyril Gibbons Hide, the only hide that I'd never visited before, so it was worth going just to get the lay of the land here. I wasn't disappointed, because within 10 minutes I was taking close-up shots of a Great Crested Grebe fishing only three or four metres away from me.

There were just two birds which were nesting in a small patch of green reeds about 15 metres in front of the hide.  Unfortunately, by this time I was looking almost directly into the sun and so it didn't make for good photographs.

So most of these shots are when the male bird swam away from the nest to fish in the area to the right of the hide, barely three metres away from me at times.

The distinctive calls of the Little Grebes were echoing around the Mere for most of the time I was there and there were at least six birds about (3 pairs).  However, for a long time they didn't come close until near the end of my visit, when I managed to get these shots.  They seemed to be building a nest under the branches of an overhanging bush to the left of the hide. Another 10 minutes and I would have gone and missed them.

Sometimes it's just about having fun!