Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A Quick Visit to Doffcocker Lodge

This afternoon I nipped over to Doffcocker Lodge ion Bolton to see how the Terns were doing. These birds breed here and so it's always been a good place to see them fishing, but sadly they've been decreasing in numbers even since I've been coming. Last year the floating gravel rafts put out for them to use to breed seemed to have lost their anchorages and were drifting around the lodge, but I've read that this has now been fixed for this year.

The Terns here are Common Terns and I could only count eight of them spread out amongst the three rafts today.  However, it was difficult to be sure as there was a lot of vegetation growing on the rafts which obscured the low-sitting birds from sight. Eight birds would probably mean four breeding pairs.

Most of the birds stayed quite distant with only a few flights and none where I saw a fish being caught or carried.  The best moment was when two of the birds starting squabbling in the air, but as I was talking to a very nice bloke from Yorkshire at the time, I didn't manage to get any shots.

Just as I'd decided to leave, one bird came quite close and sat on a 'No Fishing' sign for several minutes. Getting a photo of a bird perched on this sign whilst eating a fish is the 'holy grail' of shots for me at Doffcocker, so I hung around for another half hour waiting to see if this would happen - it didn't.  But here's a shot just to prove that Terns can't read:

And here's a bit of video to finish off with ....

Saturday, 27 May 2017

My Photo Galleries

Just a quick post to let any readers of my blog know that I also have some photo and video galleries on other sites. Here's a link to each of them:
I tend to get behind in posting to all these sites from time to time, and then have a spurt in updating them. If you happen to visit any of them or if you read this blog, it would be great if you would leave a comment so that I don't think I'm the only one that reads my posts or sees my photos.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Grasshopper Warbler at Bickershaw

This morning I went on a short 'Warbler Walk' around the former colliery site in Bickershaw with member of the L.O.S. and led by founder member Dave Wilson.  Dave is very keen to spread the word that so-called 'brownfield sites' such as Bickershaw are not derelict deserts devoid of life. They have their own ecology and are often teeming with animal and plant life and so should be valued by planners and the public alike.

The highlight of the trip for me was finally seeing a Grasshopper Warbler clearly as it sang its distinctve reeling song, so-called because it sounds like a fisherman reeling in his line. I've heard these birds many times in the past, but I've never really seen one clearly until today.

I decided not to take my camera on the trip so that I could focus on enjoying the birding, but as soon as we'd found this bird I knew I'd made a mistake and would have to return!

So after a really nice three hours in which we also saw an Osprey, Sedge Warblers, countless Reed Buntings and many other birds, I went home to have lunch and then returned with my camera gear.

Although it wasn't quite in the same place, it was fairly easy to locate as it was still singing. I also managed to take some video of the bird with the main aim of recording its song.

It was great to see this elusive bird showing so well and I've finally banished it as bogey bird from my life list and got a decent photo to boot. Smiles all round :)

Monday, 22 May 2017

'Dipper' at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB

It was another classic 'you should have been here yesterday' or 'I'll go tomorrow' incident for me today. A Buff-breasted Sandpiper had been showing at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands over the last few days and intended to for it yesterday, but after discussing a day out in our old motorhome with my wife Sarah, we mutually agreed to leave it for a day (well, she told me we agreed).  Bad decision!

As soon as we arrived I was asking about sightings only to be told that it had been chased off by a Peregrine last evening and hadn't been seen again today.  Oh well, it might return during the day I thought, but unfortunately it never did - hence the title of this post.

So we had to be satisfied with a Great White Egret and a few Black-tailed Godwits, which was nice to see but not what I was really looking for.  It's a mistake I've made a few times to my cost and I should have learnt by now that if you have any chance at all of going you should take it, as birds can fly you know!

We did actually have a very nice day out however as we took our bikes in the motorhome and I fulfilled a long term ambition to cycle along part of the Chester Cycleway from Denhall Lane to the Harp Inn at Neston, where we had a pint sitting outside in glorious sunshine whilst overlooking the saltmarsh.

We then finished off the day by cycling back to Burton Point where I picked up a pair of Stonechats (always very reliable for good photos here) before cycling back up the hill to the RSPB car park. So although we dipped on the target bird, we had a good day out.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Trip to Blacktoft Sands RSPB and North Cave

Today was the final field trip for Leigh Ornithological Society (L.O.S.) and we were off to east Yorkshire to visit a couple of nature reserves there.  We started at Blacktoft Sands RSPB where the main attractions are the Marsh Harriers which roost and breed there and they didn't disappoint.

A female Montagu's Harrier was also seen here today, but unfortunately not by me. This bush clearly belonged to the Dunnock as he was singing from the top of it every time we passed by.

This Willow Warbler was unusually quiet however.

There were Tree Sparrows galore around much of the site.

I didn't see as many Little Egrets today aa I have done in the  past, but there were some about.

It was great to see these Spotted Redshanks in breeding plumage, even if they were a little distant.

There were more Swifts than you could shake a stick at, there's been a huge influx in the UK this week.

Large Grey Heron incoming ...

This is probably my best photograph of the day - an Exocet, sorry Avocet, mobbing the Grey Heron. Who says 'Size Matters'?

You're going down!

I'm never sure about whether we count Greylag Geese or not, as most that we see are descended from captive populations, unlike the ones on Mull which are regarded as being truly wild.

We then moved on to North Cave which was just a little further up the M62 motorway. This was a new site for most of us and I think it's fair to say that we were impressed with the variety of birds and habitats here, even if it is still being developed.

This Grey Heron was seen in one of the first pools.

There were even more Avocets here as well as two Little Ringed Plovers and a male Ruff coming into breeding plumage.

It was also nice to see four Common Tern here.

So a good trip with some great birds. Much better than I expected actually.

Friday, 5 May 2017

First Trip to Venus Pool in Shropshire

Following on from my successful day visiting the Night Heron in Shrewsbury, I decided I might as well have a quick look at Venus Pool which was only another 20 minutes or so away. I wasn't really expecting to see much and so it was more of a reconnaissance trip.

I'd heard about this place quite a lot from a Facebook friend called Meurig Garbutt and indeed it was he who gave me the directions to get there.

Venus Pool is a largish lake with a variety of habitats including gravel islands, shallow mud areas and a few reeds.  The area is surrounded by fields and arable farmland. There are three hides which are easily accessible from the small free car park, one of which is a feeding station and I believe several others around the opposite side of the pool, but which require a bit of a walk.  Unfortunately there isn't a circular route all the way round.

I didn't have time to walk to the far hides today, so I concentrated on the three hides near the car park.  Here I saw mainly the 'usual suspects' with the addition of a Yellow Wagtail and Common Sandpiper.

As I left the feeding station hide I met a bloke who turned out to be none other than the 'Shropshire Birder' himself, Jim Almond. We had a brief chat about the site before I realised who he was.  When I did, I introduced myself and told him that he was coming to give us a talk at Leigh Ornithological Society next week. It's a small world isn't it?