Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Batten down the hatches!

With the imminent arrival of Storm Frank (seriously, who names these storms?!) I thought I would have a quick dash around the patch. It was a gorgeously bright day, but the wind was quite strong and strengthened throughout my visit.
The walk down Within Way was uneventful, other than good numbers of Grey Patridge and a few finches and buntings on the move. A female Merlin shot through the field at the end of Within Way, but surprisingly this was the only bird I saw all day after the glut of recent records.
Reaching the end of Within Way I realised that I had somehow got the tides all wrong and the incoming tide was quickly covering all of the exposed mud. Scanning the Mersey I finally picked out a 1st winter Shag and 2 Common Sandpiper. A Great White Egret flew in to Hale Marsh from Pickerings (presumably a different bird to the now regular Frodsham Score birds) and a Peregrine bombed overhead.
Walking back up Within Way I picked up the smart sinensis Cormorant amongst the 29 roosting Cormorants (I tentatively would suggest that at least 4 were also sinensis, however trying to assign to race from distance wasn't essy).
I decided to drive round to the Hale Head and Lighthouse to see whether the high tide had brought anything in.....it hadn't. However scanning Frodsham Score I picked out a further Great White Egret and at least 10 Whooper Swan. Hale Shore was quiet, not helped by the increasing strength of the wind. Sloshing about in the flooded field I eventually flushed a Jack Snipe, the first in a number of weeks.
A single female Stonechat braved the wind of Hale Shore and it was pleasing (considering the recent reports of Curlew decline) to find 197 roosting and feeding in the fields by Hale Lighthouse.
I stopped briefly at Carr Lane Pools which were depressingly quiet 107 Teal and a single Snipe the only birds on the Pools. Walking along to the bridge on Town Lane I noted 2 Little Egrets and a large group of mixed finches, which after a bit of persistence eventually threw out 2 Bramblings. A Kingfisher was again in the ditch running through the Marsh, but the hunting party put paid to any hopes of anything else. Returning to the car I picked up a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard.
So another blank visit for patchbirding year ticks and my thoughts are already turning to 2016.....maybe there is still time for one last year tick, let's see what Storm Frank throws up.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Is it Spring yet?

I managed a brief visit to the patch this afternoon, mainly to coincide with the evening Gull roost at Pickerings Pasture. Stopping at Carr Lane Pools the birds were clearly thinking it was Spring with a singing Chiffchaff and displaying Teal. The pools were quiet with only 76 Teal, 7 Redshank, 2 Wigeon and a distinct lack of anything else. I wandered along Town Lane to view Hale Marsh quickly picking up a female Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and 5 Buzzard.
A couple of Ravens cronked over and a Kingfisher sped along the ditch from the bridge, but otherwise it was quiet. Driving round to Pickerings Pasture the cloud was starting to pour in, the wind was picking up and the tide wasn't receding as quickly as I hoped, however a Tree Sparrow in the hedgerow at the entrance was a surprise.
Settling into the bank I started to scan the Gulls on the far bank, quickly realising that it was going to be difficult to pick much out and so it proved. In nearly 2 hours I only picked out 4 Yellow Legged Gull (ad and 3 1st winter) and a single adult Med Gull. Rather frustratingly I had a 'white-winger' drop onto the top of the Tesco factory, however I wasn't able to pick it out again.....that Glaucous Gull will have to wait until my next visit.
Whilst scanning the Mersey I watched at least two Peregrine coming into roost on the Runcorn Bridge, whilst a further bird was watched taking on the Starling mumeration over Runcorn train station. Spot the Peregrine competition below....
Giving up and returning to the car my mood was lightened by a group of 9 Bullfinch in the hedgerow by the carpark, the biggest group that I have seen this winter.
A brief stop at Carr Lane on the way home produced a single Water Rail squealing away, but little else. Time slipping away for any additions to the 2015 patchwork challenge, but there's always tomorrow..... Sadly not on patch, but whilst driving back from Knowsley Safari Park This morning I bumped into a Waxwing by The Rocket (M62/Queens Drive) junction. Always nice to see and hear, hopefully it will find its way down to Hale before 2016.....

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The end is nigh.....

The 2015 Patchwork Challenge is nearly at a close, but with the forecast promising a bright day I decided to get out on patch to see what I could find. The forecast was surprisingly spot on with a brilliant blue sky as I arrived at Within Way.
A scan over the marsh from my vantage point at the farm provided a nice selection of raptors including Merlin, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and 3 Common Buzzard. Hale Marsh seems to be turning into a great area for raptors, probably encouraged by the large flocks of pipits and wagtails. The fields along Within Way were relatively quiet but 50+ Fieldfare, with smaller numbers of Redsing were nice. Small numbers of Grey Patridge were hiding in the stubble, thankfully appearing to have avoided the shooting parties. The biggest surprise was a Nuthatch calling from the copse at the end of Within Way, not rare locally, but not a bird that often strays from Hale Park. Scanning the Mersey from the bottom of Within Way produced 2 Common Sandpipers feeding on the outflow from Hale Marsh, a single Peregrine on the blue topped chimney on Weston Point and 2 Ravens cronking overhead. The river itself was quiet with only a small number of waders and gulls, and surprisingly no Great White Egret.
Looking through the assembled Cormorants, failed to locate the two Shag that have been present recently; however there was a smart 'sinensis' Cormorant mid-channel which clearly felt that Spring was a lot closer.
As the tide rushed in I decided to walk back up Within Way with the anticipation of driving around to the lighthouse or Pickerings Pasture, however the raptors on Hale Marsh had other ideas! A smart ringtail Hen Harrier ghosted past me and towards Carr Lane Pools, giving me crippling but brief views. Scanning Hale Marsh again I quickly picked out a male Merlin (quite a dark slaty blue looking bird), followed by another male Merlin (a paler looking bird) which sat out on the marsh. Scanning the posts found not one, but 2 female Merlins which gave great views in the bright sunlight.
The decoy held a couple of Little Egrets and about 20+ Stock Doves, but there was no sign of the Great White Egret that had been reported 10 minutes earlier.....not sure how I missed that one! The Little Owl was showing well as I neared the farm, always great birds to see. It was clearly enjoying the sunshine, but rarely gave clear views.
A Grey Wagtail dropped into the puddle behind me and gave great views until I got chased away by a marauding dog.
No new birds for the year, but a fun morning out with all of the raptors. All the signs are looking good for a flying start to 2016.