Friday 1 January 2016

We go again....

A new year, a new challenge. Not only that, but the new weather was a shock to the system with a ground frost and a biting cold SE wind making a change to the milder conditions of late. Starting off at Burnt Mill Farm on Carr Lane, I quickly added a number of year ticks, the best being a lingering Corn Bunting (unusual for this time of year as they have normally dispersed into the feeding flocks elsewhere). Grey Wagtail and a number of commoner birds got the list ticking over nicely.
Driving along Carr Lane I stopped by the bridge at the corner of Carr Lane Pools, adding a few specialities including Jack Snipe and 7 Grey Partridge. A Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were the first raptors seen for the year, on a day where raptors were in short supply. Carr Lane Pools were quiet, but a single Little Egret was nice to see.
I met Ian Igglesden here and we decided to give the patch a good grilling, moving onto Hale Park to complete a full loop of the eastern half of the patch. Hale Park was relatively quiet producing the expected woodland birds including Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Siskin. Moving onto Hale Shore we had a good scan of the river and Frodsham Score, picking up our first Great White Egret and Whooper Swans of the year. A Rook picked out on the Frodsham side saved the embarrassment of having to wait three months for my first one of the year like 2015. Walking along the shore we kicked up at least 12 Common Snipe and 1 Jack Snipe. We flushed one rather intruiging looking Snipe with dusky underwings, but sadly were unable to relocate that got away? A male Stonechat sat on the reed fringes briefly but quickly disappeared, probably blown away by the strengthening winds. Reaching the lighthouse we tried to find a more sheltered spot to scan the river and Frdosham Score again, picking out a flock of 39 Pink Footed Geese, a smart adult Yellow Legged Gull and a few expected yearticks.
Continuing along towards Within Way a Merlin bombed across the back fields, and Ian somehow picked out one of the Peregrines roosting on the Runcorn Bridge. There was no sign of the Shag today, but there were at least 3 sinensis Cormorants roosting on the sandbars.
Hale Marsh was unproductive, but a Peregrine sat out on the Marsh looking fairly miserable in the biting cold be fair Ian and I didn't probably look much happier! A small flock of Fieldfares with smaller numbers of Redwing were feeding in the fields, but the rest of the walk up Within Way was uneventful. Walking back through Hale Village past the Childe of Hale a few feeding stations in the gardens of Church Road caught our eye. A male Blackcap and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were nice additions to the yearlist as a result. Adding a detour around the fields of Hale Park we picked up a single Lesser Redpoll in the Linnet flock, whilst the Buzzards looked particularly miffed at the stiff breeze.
Stopping at Carr Lane Pools on the way to Pickerings Pasture we had a few call only records of the Water Pipit (last reported on the 29/12 but clearly still lingering and getting even more elusive!), and our only Shoveler of the day. By the time we had reached Pickerings the tide had rather quickly covered most of the mud (schoolboy errors once again), but we added a few new year birds before I had to head off. Bypassing Carr Lane on the drive home I was able to add a squealing Water Rail and one of the local Kingfishers zoomed past, a nice end to the day. Although the birding was hard going today I was pleased to have seen or heard 86 species....only 97 to go to beat last years score!

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