Saturday, 25 June 2016

Roll on Autumn

June is often a quiet month on patch, and the last few visits have been getting very "samey". However late June can still throw out the odd surprise so it's just a case of plugging away at the moment. The weather was at least drier today, with broken clouds and intermittent bright spells. The north westerly had picked up and felt quite cold at times, but also raising hopes that something may get pushed down the Mersey.

Starting at Town Lane I quickly picked up the Egyptian Goose in its usual corner, at least it was awake and feeding today. The pools were fairly quiet, with many of the ducks roosting in the longer vegetation making counting them difficult. There were a minimum of 12 Eurasian Teal, 7 Gadwall, 15 Mallard and a Shoveler. A single Black tailed Godwit was the only wader of note, among the Lapwing roost. A Hobby was feeding over the top of Great Boar Wood, whilst a Sparrowhawk drifted over. A male Marsh Harrier drifted over my head as I was about to walk down to Hale Marsh, presumably returning to Frodsham.

Hale Marsh was again very quiet, with only the ever present Meadow Pipit and Skylark for company. The wet fields along Town Lane look as though should be producing a few more waders at the moment, but the pair of Tufted Duck were the only real highlights. With a little time to play with before high tide I decided to have a quick scoot round to Carr Lane. 

The flooded field appears to have filled up nicely, or what I could actually see. Despite a number of different attempts to look into the flooded areas, I couldn't actually find anywhere to get a clear view. The reeds were however still alive with Reed and Sedge Warbler, whilst Reed Bunting appeared to be everywhere. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling from the edge of Great Boar Wood, whilst Blackcap and Whitethroat were calling along the back edge. 

The track down to Pickerings Pasture was again alive with various fledglings including Bullfinch, Blackcap and Long Tailed Tits among the regular Blue and Great Tits. I met up with Iggy at the Pickerings scrape, both of us hopeful that the high tide might push a Tern or Gull in. A female Marsh Harrier was hunting the back of the marsh towards Within Way. There was only a small gathering of Black Headed Gull, which failed to increase over the high tide. However there were a few entertaining bits including a male Kingfisher, a Little Egret and c.79 Lapwing.

A couple of Little Ringed Plover flew over, whilst a further bird was feeding out on the marsh. But that was about as good as the waders got, clearly the return migration hasn't quite kicked in yet. Swifts were constantly on the move again with numbers flooding north across the Mersey, but sadly there were no megas lurking in the number that Iggy and I searched through. The gull roost didn't attract anything further, and with very little on the move I decided to head home via Town Lane again.

The weather was starting to take a down turn by the time I got back to Town Lane. The Eurasian Teal numbers had increased to 37, but again there was still no sign of the Green Winged. Presumably it is either very good at hiding or is lurking over at Frodsham somewhere. A juvenile Little Ringed Plover was fresh in, but nothing else had been displaced by the high tide. Slow going at the moment, hopefully it's only a matter of time before it all kicks off again.

Post-work Drenching

It had been another long wait between patch visits due to work, but I was able to get away a little earlier finally and get some birding done. The weather had been a mix of warm sunshine and torrential downpours, with a light north-westerly. The clouds appeared a little more broken by the time I got out onto patch and I was confident I would at least get a few hours birding in.

On the drive to the patch I was amazed to pick up a juvenile Gannet flying north west over Speke Retail Park. If it had come from it's original line of direction it almost certainly would have been visible from the patch. Very frustrating as it would have been a very good patch tick! Reaching the Town Lane gate it was pleasing to see that the Pools are looking very healthy (maybe a little too healthy with the amount of vegetation which is making viewing very difficult). I quickly picked out the Egyptian Goose, along with a number of other ducks - 21 Eurasian Teal (no sign of the Green Winged), 7 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall and a good number of Mallard. 3 Little Ringed Plover and 2 Black tailed Godwit were the only wader highlights among good numbers of Lapwing (36), Redshank (12) and Oystercatcher (2).

The whole of the area was swarming with Wagtails with a minimum of 20 Pied Wagtail (with many young), 5 Yellow Wagtail. 2 Hobby were again over the back of Great Boar Wood, but were not overly showy, lifting up above the tree line occasionally between bouts of chasing hirundines. The wet areas along Town Lane held a pair of Tufted Duck, along with a good number of very messy looking eclipse Shoveler and Mallard. Hale Marsh was quiet other than the usual hoards of Canada Geese which are ever increasing. 

Having missed the high tide I decided to head around to Within Way. The clouds were starting to look a little more menacing, which should have prompted me to put on a jacket and maybe rethought my plans........or maybe not! The area around the farm held plenty of family parties including Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. A Little Owl was yelping from the first copse, whilst Swifts screamed around noisily.

Walking down Within Way produced the expected species, but the finch numbers appear to be well down on last year, with only small numbers of Goldfinch, Linnet, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Whitethroats appear to be having another good year though with birds appearing to be in virtually every hedge. Yellow Wagtail also appear to be doing well, with birds zipping around everywhere. Grey Partridge were calling unseen from the crop fields, hopefully they will continue to flourish in the area. Best of all though was a pair of Corn Bunting, fingers crossed that they are starting to expand again.

Reaching the end of Within Way I had a quick scan of the Mersey which produced 15 Curlew, a small number of Black Tailed Godwit and very little else. By now the dark clouds were starting to produce a few spots of rain, which then turned into a torrential downpour. With very little cover I only one choice of walking back in the rain.....!! Needless to say the return walk was quiet, other than an adult Peregrine soaring near to the Farm, just as the rain was starting to ease and the sun emerging again - impeccable timing clearly!

A brief stop at Carr Lane Pools on the way home to see whether the rain had dropped anything new in, only resulted in an increase of Black Tailed Godwit to 15. As I was thoroughly drenched I decided to head home to dry off.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

More of the same....

It felt like a long time since I was last out on patch; and with trips away last weekend and for work this week I was itching to finally get back out. The weather had calmed down a little from the preceding week, with dry (albeit rather cloudy) conditions replacing the near-apocalyptic torrential rain. However it felt a little cooler, with a blustery north-westerly.

The hedges and verges along Carr Lane look great at the moment, hopefully aiding a successful breeding season. Burnt Mill Farm itself was rather quiet, the paddocks only holding a large family party of Starling and a few Woodpigeon and Stock Dove. There were good numbers of Swifts and hirundines feeding over the back fields, but otherwise everything was keeping it's head down.

The recent rainfall has certainly helped to replenish the flooded field and Carr Lane Pools, with water levels on both looking promising. The one minor irritation is that the vegetation is far too high to see anything in the flooded field....unless you are about 15ft tall! On the plus side the breeding birds will have some peace and quiet. The reedy area held numerous singing Reed and Sedge Warbler, and Reed Buntings seemed to be singing from everywhere.

The lingering Egyptian Goose was feeding out on the Pools, whilst a Common Buzzard was on it's usual post at the back of the pools. The flooded paddock areas look like they could produce something soon, but they were devoid of life on today's visit. With the vegetation making viewing the main Pools difficult I headed around to Town Lane.

The Green Winged Teal was again present and showing well throughout my visit. It has already started it's moult, and seems a little more advanced than it's European counterparts. There were good numbers of other ducks with 4 Shoveler, 12 Gadwall, 8 Eurasian Teal, 17 Mallard and 8 Shelduck (with a further 8 Shelduck-lings). Waders were represented by 21 Lapwing, 24 Redshank (including a few recently fledged birds).

Two Hobby were hunting over Great Boar Wood, causing havoc among the masses of hirundines. More surprising was a female Crossbill which flew calling west over the pools and Great Boar Wood (my second on patch this year, and mirroring last years appearances). A further quick scan of the pools picked up a single Little Grebe, whilst a Sparrowhawk soared over my head.

The flooded areas along Town Lane are not looking quite so good for waders after the recent rain, but a single Little Ringed Plover remained, whilst a couple of juvenile Yellow Wagtail feeding along the drier edges. Hale Marsh and the Decoy were also quiet, other than the expected masses of Canada Geese and Cormorant.

Moving on to Pickerings, I parked up by the entrance to the United Utilities plant. The pathways are looking stunning at present with numerous wild flowers, including loads of Common Spotted and Northern Marsh Orchids (it must be Summer when you start looking down rather than up!). There were large family groups of Long Tailed, Great and Blue Tits, whilst there was also a minimum of 7 Bullfinch. A few Blackcap, Chiffchaff and a single Whitethroat, were the only other birds of note.

There was a surprisingly good gathering of Gulls on the Mersey off Pickerings, with at least 300 Black Headed, 150 Lesser Black Backed, 20 Great Black Backed, 30 Herring and a single Common Gull. Despite much searching I couldn't dig out anything of greater interest. A single Little Egret was feeding out in one of the channels, whilst there were good numbers of Raven and Carrion Crow digging amongst the debris. 

Hale Marsh was depressingly quiet (as is often the case on a low tide) with the exception of the Canada Goose hoards. The Ravens were at least good fun, with at least 15 birds feeding out on the marsh, displaying some interesting feeding techniques. Scanning across towards Frodsham resulted in the Peregrine on top of the blue-topped chimney, and at least 2 Marsh Harrier on the wing. A further scan of the Gull gathering on the Mersey resulted in a 2nd Summer Mediterranean Gull, but nothing better. With my available time running out I headed home with brief stops at Town Lane and Carr Lane, producing the same birds as earlier.

It is certainly starting to feel like it is slowing down on patch, but hopefully with better water levels on patch maybe there is a still a chance of a decent bird or two; however after such a good start to the year I think that the next couple of months could be slow going...... 


Friday, 10 June 2016

Scallys DO have their uses!!

Much cooler fresher conditions today, with some pretty hefty thunderstorms. The thunderstorms had flooded out my own road, and I was hopeful that the rain may have pushed in something to the patch; especially with news of two Red Necked Phalarope just down the road at Woolston Eyes. At least with the light nights it didn't matter that I wasn't able to get down to patch until gone 7.30pm.

I had planned to start by visiting Burnt Mill Farm, however an overturned 4x4 (presumably nicked and then ditched by some Scallys) at the end of Carr Lane meant that I had to change plans. Driving round I stopped at the bridge on Town Lane to scan the floods. Sadly there were no Phalaropes, but there were 2 Avocet and 2 Little Ringed Plover and a better selection of ducks than of late - 2 Tufted Duck, 7 Gadwall, 2 Shoveler and 12 Mallard.

Walking back to the car I picked up a juv Spoonbill spiralling down onto the decoy on Hale Marsh. Judging by the extent of black in the primaries I would say that it was probably a 1st summer. Definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time, and all thanks to the Scallys!! The decoy was overflowing with Cormorants, a few Grey Herons and a Little Egret, but sadly the Spoonbill must have landed in the decoy or too low to see.

Moving round to the gate I quickly spotted an adult Hobby whizzing around over Great Boar Wood. The Pools appeared relatively quiet, but a Little Grebe was feeding along the back edge, whilst 3 Teal were feeding along the near edge with 5 Gadwall and a few Mallard. There was no sign of the Green Winged Teal until a group of Scallys on hairdryers zoomed past, flushing everything and revealing the Green Winged Teal!!

Whilst watching the Green Winged Teal, I picked up a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over, whilst the woods seemed alive again with bird songs (clearly the rain has got them all frisky again!). Having had my fill of the Teal, which clearly has a serious case of OCD (spending at last 10 minutes non-stop preening and cleaning) I moved round to Within Way.

One of the local Little Owl's was showing very well tonight, and was singing almost constantly throughout my visit. The Blackbird's were certainly very agitated, and didn't give the Owl a minutes peace. A Peregrine was sat out on Hale Marsh, whilst the Oilseed Rape field held plenty of Yellow Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Linnet and Skylark; but there was no obvious signs of the Channel Wagtail or any sound of the Quail.

A quick return to Carr Lane produced an Egyptian Goose (my first actually on patch this year - no patchtheft from Frodders required). The only additions to the Pools were 4 more Avocet, and a single Dunlin. Clearly I failed to turn the homing device on for the Phalaropes or Terek Sandpiper! A Tawny Owl was calling from Great Boar Wood (only my second of the year on patch), and there were still plenty of singing Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Reed Warblers from the surrounding area. I spent a while listening for Crakes at the flooded field (which is wet again! Woohoo!), without success and with the rain starting to get a little heavier I decided to head home.

A really enjoyable late evening trip to the patch, but sadly I failed to locate the Eagle Owl which was seen just after 10pm. Not a tickable bird, but would love to eventually catch up with it; but it'll just have to wait until next time.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Back to Normal-ish

The day started a lot fresher than of late, with a fair amount of cloud cover and a light north-westerly which at least made it feel more bearable. However by mid-morning it had burnt off leaving another scorcher of a day with temperatures up to 27 degrees. The north-westerly had picked up though which again helped to take the edge off....and cunningly disguise how strong the sun was!

Burnt Mill Farm produced pretty much a carbon copy of yesterday's birds, minus the Wheatear. The pair of Grey Partridge were still feeding in the open, whilst the Corn Bunting was singing from the wires by the Farm and a few Yellow Wagtails buzzed about. Starling numbers seem to be building with a minimum of c.90 birds feeding in the paddocks.

The Damp Squib (formerly known as the flooded field) was again very quiet other than 4 very vocal Reed Warbler. A Peregrine bombed through scattered virtually everything in it's wake....which wasn't much! Scanning across towards Carr Lane Pools and there seemed to be very little on show other than a few rather territorial Redshank.

Moving round to Town Lane I met a few birders who were looking for the Green Winged Teal without success. It was evident that there had been a bit of clear out, with only 4 Teal remaining today, with 9 Gadwall and the usual Mallard posse. Walking along Town Lane the wet fields were very quiet as well, with only 2 Tufted Duck of note, and no waders at all. Scanning across Hale Marsh I picked up an adult male Hobby buzzing around rather very distantly, always nice to see but it would be nice if they came a bit closer!

Continuing to scan the sky resulted in a minimum of 7 Common Buzzard and hundreds of Swift clearly enjoying the warm weather. Scanning over the back of Carr Lane Pools I picked up a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and a few more Common Buzzard. A further Hobby (a 2cy bird) fortunately provided much better views, but sadly the resultant phone-scoped shots didn't really do it justice....they're just too fast!!

Walking back to the car my eyes were drawn to a large raptor drifting east over my head, the long wings and gull like look immediately made me realise it was an Osprey. This is now my 4th on patch this year, but as many as 7 or 8 birds have been recorded making it an excellent Spring. With the high tide not due for a few hours I decided to head to Within Way.

The adult Hobby followed me along Within Way and showed well throughout. There was not a peep out of any of the Quail today, but the flava Wagtails were putting on a good show. I was finally able to confirm successful breeding of the Channel Wagtails as well, with the parents feeding at least one fledgling. There were loads of Skylark, Goldfinch and Linnet on the move, but little else to keep me going so I moved round to the Lighthouse to watch the rising tide.

The light misty haze made picking out anything on Frodsham Score near impossible other than assigning blobs to colour, and even then it was a bit of a guess. Fortunately whilst scanning the Mersey I picked up 3 Common Tern moving west quite close. Given that they are a relatively common bird, with breeding birds within 10 miles they are a scarce bird on patch; this being only my second patch record this year.

I spent the next hour scanning for more terns without success. There was little else of note, and with my arms and neck getting redder by the second I decided to head home and cool down. Not a bad patch visit, but it feels like the start of the long summer when new birds are hard to come by....but hopefully there's still time for a couple of goodies.

***The Green Winged Teal appears to have relocated to No.6 Tank on Frodsham. Just as well I bumped found it on it's summer jaunt across the Mersey!!***