Saturday, 30 April 2016

What! No Twitching??

With news filtering out of a White Crowned Sparrow at Woolston Eyes, it was nice to be relaxed about whether to go for it or not; having seen the Cley bird in 2008. Obviously in 20 years time when I start looking at my Cheshire list maybe I'll regret not having gone for it......

The weather was an improvement on yesterday, with generally bright sunny conditions which got better as the day went on. There was still are rather stiff north-westerly but the sun compensated for the chill.

Starting my circuit at Burnt Mill Farm the paddocks held 7 Wheatear and 2 singing Corn Bunting. There were a few more Buzzard on the wing than of late, and a Sparrowhawk and Peregrine joined them for a little while. A Lesser Whitethroat was rattling from the garden of Burnt Mill Farm, but despite a reasonable look it stayed hidden.

Driving down Carr Lane towards the bridge I noticed a raptor circling quite low just off to the west of the road; a Red Kite. Fortunately it gave me long enough to stop the car and set up the scope and fire off some good shots (for me) of it, before it drifted off south-east towards Pickerings Pasture. An unexpected bonus, and only my second on patch this year.

The flooded fields held the usual selection of ducks - 5 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler and 4 Shelduck. The Little Grebe were again very vocal, hopefully they'll actually show a little bit once the youngsters emerge. Despite the good looking conditions there still seems to be a lack of waders with only the regular Redshank and Lapwing.

Scanning across Carr Lane Pools there appeared to be very little on show, but there appeared to be a good number of White and Yellow Wagtail. Looking back along the fenceline I came across a female Redstart, in the same bush that the male had taken up residence. This is now my 3rd on patch this year (and possibly the 6th on the patch this Spring), clearly a good year! The bushes were full of warblers, mainly Whitethroat, Blackcap and a couple of Chiffchaff.

As I was about to get into the car I heard a Pied Flycatcher calling from the sallow/willows which run alongside Ramsbrook. I managed to get a few brief views of the bird which appeared to be a female, before it flicked up into the bigger trees on the edge of Great Boar Wood. A couple of Sedge Warbler at least kept me entertained whilst I waited for it to reappear.

Moving round to Town Lane it was again rather quiet on the wader front, but there were 2 Whimbrel roosting (I don't recall ever seeing them on the Pools previously) and a single Common Sandpiper. There were still very good numbers of White Wagtail, along with 4 Yellow Wagtail (but again no sign of the Channel). 4 Teal remain on the Pools, surely it can't be too long before they head off. 5 Wheatear were scattered across the rough fields between the Pools and the new flash by the road. There was again a good movement of hirundines with the Swifts coming through very low. 

Hale Park was again quite productive with a Grasshopper Warbler showing, albeit VERY obscured. I initially picked the bird up by call, something that I haven't heard in a long time and had me desperately trying to access the memory banks! The surrounds of the football pitch held 6 Chiffchaff, 4 Willow Warbler, 8 Blackcap, 4 Whitethroat and a mix of the typical species including Nuthatch and Treecreeper.

As I was returning across the field and about to enter the Icehouse Woods again a Ring Necked Parakeet came screeching across the field from Church Lane, heading towards Hale Village. Almost certainly the bird that I had briefly the other evening, but at least positively ID'able tonight.

A nice end to the month, which leaves me on 159 for the year (14 ahead of this time last year!). Hopefully May will produce the goods like last year, but then maybe hoping for another Corncrake is a little too ambitious.......  

Friday, 29 April 2016

Freezing Friday

Although the snow missed us in Liverpool, it remained cold with frequent heavy rain and hail throughout the morning and early afternoon. The wind seemed slightly stronger than yesterday and had shifted more to a north-westerly. Fortunately the sun did decide to put in an appearance during the afternoon.....before the heavy rain and hail returned.

I decided to start at Hale Park, hoping that there may be another good selection of migrants. The woodland held a couple of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, whilst there were a few singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Whilst searching the bushes surrounding the football pitch I bumped into Rob Cockbain. After a bit of a run around we relocated a Grasshopper Warbler, which gave some good flight views and was vocal, but again failed to sit out in the open. A Lesser Redpoll flew west over, whilst the bushes held a few more Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler; but there had been a bit of a clearout from yesterday.

With the strong winds and high tide just having passed, I thought I would check out Pickerings Pasture to see whether any terns or gulls had been blown in. The path down to the hide was depressingly quiet with only a few Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Reaching the hide there was also a distinct lack of gulls, but I did manage to find a nice 2cy Yellow Legged Gull among a small group of Herring and Lesser Black Backed.

Although there was no high tide roost there was a good number of Dunlin (23) and Ringed Plover (83), and 3 Little Ringed Plover feeding in the muddy areas. There was also good numbers of alba wagtails with at least 40+ White Wagtail. A Peregrine was soaring over the marsh, but otherwise it was relatively quiet.

Viewing Hale Marsh from the bridge on Town Lane I picked up at least 4 Wheatear, and about 15 White Wagtail. A couple of Canada Goose goslings were waddling around further out on the marsh, the first of many by the looks. I flushed a single Snipe from the wet area just to the east of the bridge, my first for a couple of weeks.

The clouds were looking rather ominous and it didn't look like it would be long before it started raining again. Stopping at the gate on Town Lane I was surprised to find a big flock of Dunlin (137) and 3 Ringed Plover; presumably pushed over on the high tide. The flock was very skittish and didn't settle for long, but I did manage to pick out a Little Stint (presumably the same bird that has been reported at Pickerings recently). A single Common Sandpiper fed at the back of the pools, but there was no sign of any Black Tailed Godwit for the first time in a while.

The surrounding fields held at least 6 Wheatear, 5 Yellow Wagtail and c.35 White Wagtail. A Sparrowhawk drifted over Great Boar Wood and a Kestrel was hanging in the wind. A further scan across the Pools and 2 Teal swam out into an open area of water (apparently the last two remaining birds).

The flooded fields held a further 3 Wheatear and 4 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall fed quietly at the back of the wet area. The Little Grebe were again quite vocal, but there were few other birds singing by this time; probably anticipating the next deluge.

Stopping briefly at Burnt Mill Farm before the heavens opened I managed to count 12 Wheatear spread across the paddocks. A single Corn Bunting was singing from the back of the paddocks, whilst a good number of finches were on the move including Linnet, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. I just managed to get back into the car as the hailstones started pelting the car, good timing!

The weather isn't looking too appetizing for the weekend, but hopefully there may still be some migrant movement.....


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Baltic Birding

It certainly felt Baltic on the patch today, but on the plus side it was at least dry. The early sunshine gave way to overcast conditions and drizzle as the morning went on, and I was glad to be at home by the time the heavy rain and hail arrived. The winds were still moderate, but had now swung to the west (finally moving away from the blocking northerlies).

The paddock at Burnt Mill Farm held 6 Wheatear and a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets, whilst up to 3 Corn Bunting were singing from the back fence. A couple of Buzzard were on the wing, and small numbers of Swallow were buzzing around. The wires leading down to Carr Lane held 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Skylark and another 2 Wheatear.

Parking at the bridge on Carr Lane I gave the horse field a quick scan and immediately picked up a smart male Whinchat. Patrick Earith turned up seconds later and we both watched the bird for a few minutes before Patrick had to head off. There seemed to be a slight increase in passerines with my first Garden Warbler of the year (a difficult bird on patch), Lesser Whitethroat and more Blackcap (at least 7), Whitethroat (6+), Sedge Warbler (2), Chiffchaff (10+) and Willow Warbler (4+).

The flooded fields held 2 Shoveler, 5 Gadwall, 6 Lapwing and 2 Redshank, whilst I could hear (but not see as per usual) calling Grey Partridge, Water Rail and Little Grebe. It is surely only a matter of time before a decent wader decides to stop off on these pools.....I just hope that I see it! The back fields were alive with Skylark and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into Great Boar Wood.

Moving round to Town Lane, I bumped into Rob Cockbain and spent a while catching up and scanning the Pools. Wader numbers aren't as impressive as last year but there were still 46 Black Tailed Godwit, 2 Ruff, 4 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Avocet and 8 Redshank. Duck numbers have seriously plummeted (despite the weather) with only 7 Teal, 4 Shoveler remaining. There was a decent number of mixed alba Wagtails, but surprisingly only 3 Yellow Wagtail (and no sign of any Channels). The fields held a minimum of 5 Wheatear, including one very peachy looking Greenland bird.

Hale Marsh was relatively quiet, although the blackthorn bushes held a number of Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. The Cormorants still looked busy with nest building, and on the latest count by Rob on the decoy there are 43 active nests - amazing to consider that they only nested for the first time last year!

Moving around to Hale Lighthouse the recently ploughed field and hedgerow down to the Lighthouse were alive with fresh migrants. The ploughed fields look ideal for a Dotterel, sadly it wasn't to be but they did hold 17 Wheatear, 5 Skylark and a mix of Linnet, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting. The hedgerows held a number of Blackcap (5), Whitethroat (7) and Chiffchaff (3), not bad going considering.

The Shore held some impressive numbers of Dunlin (400+) and Ringed Plover (150+), but they were difficult to view properly due to the rocks they were feeding amongst and the ledge of the mudflats. Despite a fairly good grilling I failed to pick out anything more interesting. 3 Whimbrel flew over east calling as I headed back to the car.

With good numbers of migrants elsewhere I decided to give Hale Park a bit of a go. The entrance was full of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, along with the regular Nuthatch and Treecreeper. Walking around the football pitch I was surprised to hear a familiar "chip-chip" call as 2 Crossbill flew north-west over my head, my first of the year but a rather unusual record. Walking on and I could hear a reeling Grasshopper Warbler from the area of scrub between the Football Pitch and the houses on the back of Church Lane. Even better as I got closer, was that I realised that there were in fact 2 birds. Great to see (albeit poorly) and hear, especially given their decline over the last couple of years.

Continuing round I flushed a female Redstart from the edge of the football pitch; this is now the 5th bird seen on the patch this Spring! Scouring the edge of Icehouse Woods and the scrubby areas I found a further 2 Garden Warbler (amazing given their scarcity on patch), 9 Blackcap, 5 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and a plethora of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler

By now the light drizzle had turned into more persistent rain, so I headed home. Given the cold and apparent poor conditions for migration, today turned into one of my better days this Spring. Long may it continue, and fingers crossed for more of the same (although a bit of warmth wouldn't go a miss).


Sunday, 24 April 2016

You make your own luck

The weather wasn't particularly great today, showery bursts between grey skies, and feeling rather cold again. Despite this I decided to do a bit of multi-tasking patching taking the kids to the park, including a few tactical stops to look at the horses (which happen to provide good views of Carr Lane Pools).

Stopping at the bridge on Carr Lane produced a single singing Sedge Warbler, whilst the flooded pools held 2 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and 2 pairs of Lapwing and Redshank. A few Whitethroat were singing from the hedgerows, but the colder weather was clearly having an effect on birds wanting to mark their territory.

The horses at Carr Lane Pools were showing very well, much to the delight of the boys. Whilst the Pools themselves held a single Common Sandpiper, Ruff and little else during a very quick scan. A Grey Partridge scuttled along the edge of the paddock into the rush/sedge beyond. 

Stopping at the gate by the end house along Carr Lane I had a quick scan and couldn't quite believe that the Glossy Ibis was there! After yesterdays debacle I hadn't held out much hope that it would return quite so quickly, but you clearly make your own luck, and if you don't look you don't find. It was happily mooching around in the grassy field, whilst I quickly got the news out and got my lad onto his first Glossy Ibis. However the tractor ploughing the field on the opposite side of the road clearly spooked it and it took off towards Town Lane, where it appeared to drop.

Hale Park was quiet other than a few Nuthatch and Treecreeper, and it wasn't long until the heavens opened and we retreated to the car again. Then again it meant that I could have a quick drive-by of Hale Marsh. A quick drive through didn't result in the Ibis sadly, and the rain became heavier and more persistent. With two rather grumpy children in the back of the car I thought I best leave.

That's the sort of multi-tasking patch birding that I enjoy, and it was great to catch up with the Ibis after the disappointment of yesterday. Roll on the next patch visit!!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Right Place, Wrong Time

Well it wasn't quite arctic conditions forecast on patch, but there was a ground frost and the wind made it feel that bit colder. Despite this the sky was an almost unbroken sea of blue and the sun was warm (when you could get out of the wind).

I arrived at Burnt Mill Farm at just after 6am, and was surprised that the Wheatear were already awake, with at least 3 birds hopping around the paddocks. A single Corn Bunting was singing away from behind the farm, whilst a few Whitethroat could be heard singing from the surrounding hedgerows.

I was due to meet Iggy at about 6.30, but was early (for once these days), so I spent a while mooching around the flooded fields and along Carr Lane. 2 Sedge Warblers were singing away from Ramsbrook, whilst Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap sang from Great Boar Wood. The flooded field held 2 Teal, 4 Gadwall, Shoveler and a few Lapwing and Redshank. A Water Rail was squealing from it's hidey hole within the reeds, whilst the Little Grebe were again very vocal.

A fox was in the back fields, the first I have seen for a while (and probably not great news for any ground nesting birds). Carr Lane Pools held a couple of Yellow Wagtail, a single Wheatear and very little else from my position. By now Iggy had arrived and whilst discussing where to go I discussed how good the flooded field looked at the moment and it is surely only a matter of time before it pulls something decent in )maybe my Spider-sense was just a little out). We decided to head to Withins Way to have a wander around looking for migrants.

The Little Owl was yelping from the first copse along Within Way, probably spooked by the early departure from John Lennon Airport. The rest of Within Way was quiet except for good numbers of Whitethroat, a single Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few Skylark, Linnet and Goldfinch. A single male Wheatear in the end field, was the only potentially "fresh" migrant in. Scanning the Mersey from the end of Within Way produced a female Marsh Harrier over Frodsham and 25 Black Tailed Godwit, but otherwise it was depressingly quiet.


As I had plans for the day which meant a shorter patch visit I left Iggy to continue walking around to the Lighthouse, whilst I decided to pay a quick visit to Carr Lane Pools again. Not much change to previous days though with a slight increase in Black Tailed Godwit (now up to 64), 2 Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, 2 Wheatear and 2 Yellow Wagtail. I called in again at the bridge on Carr Lane, but there was little change to earlier species. I headed home safe in the knowledge that nothing else would be found today as it was clearly a bird free zone today......................


At about 13.30 I received a text from Rob Cockbain saying that he had found a Glossy Ibis on the flooded fields by the bridge on Carr Lane. Unfortunately I was miles away in Southport, and was unable to get away quickly enough. A few of the Hale regulars (and even some foreigners from Frodsham) managed to get there in time to watch it give a brief flyby before heading off over Hale Marsh and the Mersey beyond. Gutting does not quite sum it up, and it may well join the list of other good birds that I have already dipped on patch this year (Twite, Eider, Little Stint etc). Hopefully my luck hasn't deserted me totally, and at least tomorrow is another day......

Friday, 22 April 2016

Final remnants of Spring

Well if the weather forecast is to be believed we will probably be seeing Penguins on the patch this weekend. The afternoon started bright, sunny and relatively warm, but deteriorated into a rather dull, grey and cold evening. Maybe the forecast isn't going to be far off.....

The paddocks at Burnt Mill Farm produced 6 Wheatear, singing Corn Bunting and a single Swift zooming around. 3 Common Buzzard were on the wing, but numbers are well down at the moment (presumably many birds will now be incubating?). It was fairly quiet though, so I decided to head down to Carr Lane.

The reeds by the bridge held at least 3 singing Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler and a Whitethroat. Great Boar Wood sounded alive with Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap, whilst hirundines (with good numbers of House, Sand Martin and Swallow) were everywhere. I picked up a small falcon chasing a small group of hirundines; my first Hobby of the year. A single Yellow Wagtail was in the long sedge by the Pools, whilst the flooded field held 4 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and 4 Lapwing.

Carr Lane Pools held a smattering of waders including 36 Black Tailed Godwit and a Common Sandpiper. Wagtail numbers seemed well down on recent visits with only 15 White Wagtail, 10 Pied Wagtail and a further Yellow Wagtail, and 2 Wheatear feeding close to the gate on Town Lane. Teal have also cleared out with only 9 now remaining.

Hale Marsh was quiet, with only a single Little Ringed Plover remaining in the wet areas. 2 Little Egret fed further out on the marsh, and Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were ever present. A Sparrowhawk swept through, as did small numbers of Swift, but there was little else to hold my attention or even spend time scanning through.

Walking back to the car I picked up a Channel Wagtail (this appeared to be a new bird, with slightly darker ear coverts and greener back/nape) and a Ruff also flew in and started to feed. Just goes to show that at this time of year birds are constantly on the move. I spent a little time trying to get some decent pictures of the Channel Wagtail.....I really don't know why I bother at times!!

By the time I reached Within Way, the clouds had rolled in and the wind had picked up making it feel a lot less like Spring. The majority of birds had also stopped singing; never a good sign! The walk down to the end of Within Way only producing 2 Grey Partridge, a couple of Yellow Wagtail and 4 Whitethroat (none of which were singing). The Mersey was quiet with next to no waders, but a smart female Merlin flew over from Frodsham and perched up quite nicely (at least it wasn't a totally wasted walk).

The walk back to the car was quiet, but there were good numbers of displaying Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet, whilst a Lesser Redpoll was singing from the tree behind the church. Driving round to Carr Lane to catch up with Iggy, I had a Parakeet sp. of some sort flying north east over Hale village. Despite my best emergency stop and jump out of the car I was too late to get a definitive view.

It felt more like winter by the time I reached Carr Lane, but there were still a few birds about. A singing Sedge Warbler didn't seem quite as upbeat as it had earlier, but a few new Wheatear were in, whilst there were about 6 Yellow Wagtail (including the Channel which Ian picked up) and the Common Sandpiper was mooching around. The Ruff  was still strutting about, and was shortly joined by 2 Little Ringed Plover and 47 Black Tailed Godwit. The cold wind was starting to get to me, damn you Spring for lulling me into a false sense of security (and less layers of clothing!), so I decided to head home to warm up. At least tomorrow I'll be prepared and put my polar expedition gear on!