Friday, 30 September 2016

Flogging a Dead Donkey

The weather as indeed rather autumnal, with some hefty showers breaking up the generally bright skies. The wind remained a strong SSW'ly which again made finding anything difficult. As it was still meant to be Autumn I decided to again try and locate some migrants, although with even the east coast struggling I didn't hold out much hope.

With torrential rain starting just I pulled up at the flooded field on Carr Lane, I decided to wait it out in the car. Fortunately it passed relatively quickly, pushed along by the strong winds. The flood itself was very quiet with only a few Eurasian Teal and Moorhen. A Common Buzzard was sat on the hedge at the back of fields, looking rather wet and sorry for itself. A quick look over Carr Lane Pools didn't result in much more with only 3 Ruff, c.140 Eurasian Teal, 8 Wigeon, 2 Shoveler and a Gadwall. Not the stuff of dreams, or even get the excitement levels up!

I spent the next couple of hours searching Hale Park for any migrants at all. However despite some decent sized Tit and Crest flocks there was very little. I wandered around picking up c.12 Goldcrest, 5 Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Treecreeper among the flocks of Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits. There were also at least 6 Coal Tits present, clearly a bit of inward movement. The only migrant I did eventually pick up was a Chiffchaff, a very poor return for the effort! A few finches were on the move, but were clearly keeping their heads down as they got pushed around in the strong winds. 3 Siskins were the best among the Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnets.

I had a brief scan over the Score from the end of Hale Park which revealed a female Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, numerous Ravens, and a couple of Little Egret, but again it was slow going. The tide was almost fully out, and most birds were sheltering on the far side of the Mersey.

Cutting my losses I had a quick look at the flooded area along Town Lane. 5 Ruff, 14 Black Tailed Godwit and 6 Common Snipe were the only waders present. The Egyptian Goose was again present, whilst there were smaller numbers of Eurasian Teal feeding across the muddy areas. Checking across Hale Marsh was just as unproductive, with only a Kingfisher darting by (and narrowly avoiding being run over as it flew over Town Lane) and a Peregrine roosting on the decoy among the Cormorants

A thoroughly depressing visit to the patch, with little to no indication that it is Autumn. My only solace is that many other areas are not faring much better, it is clearly just a slow Autumn at the moment. With September nearly gone, let's hope that October is more productive!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

September Slog

I managed a brief after work visit to the patch tonight, trying to make sure I make the most of the remaining lighter evenings. It was dry and bright, but there was a very strong south-westerly which made it feel cool. After a quick chat with Iggy who was on Hale Shore I decided to head to Hale Park although conditions were not ideal for looking for passerines.

I watched 3 Common Buzzard over Hale Park as I drove up and parked at the end of the drive. I could immediately hear a tit flock moving through including Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tit which were high up in the sycamores, and joined by a few Nuthatch and Treecreeper. There seemed to be a lack of Goldcrest and Chiffchaff in comparison to Tuesday, probably not helped by the strong winds. Walking around the old football pitch produced a few flyover Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a single Bullfinch, but no migrants at all.

Walking back into Hale Park I tried to find some more sheltered spots, however even the noise of the wind through the trees made picking up calls difficult. I eventually stumbled upon another flock by the holly tunnel, however it again contained a decent mix of tits including Coal Tit, but nothing of greater interest. I could just about make out the calls of 3 Siskin as they passed over. Iggy put me out of my misery, letting me know that some decent numbers of waders were building below the Lighthouse. With little to no activity in the Park it gave me an excuse to leave and check out some other areas of the patch on the way down to the Lighthouse.

I walked the rough ditch from Hale Park to the shore, which can normally be quite productive. Sadly today, other than a few Meadow Pipit it was devoid of life. Hale Shore was nearly as quiet other than a few Swallow, Goldfinch, Linnet and more Meadow Pipit. I could see a couple of large swirls of waders as I neared the Lighthouse and picked out 1 Curlew Sandpiper among the masses of Dunlin and Ringed Plover.

I joined Iggy and we watched the waders as the tide peaked and then dropped again, but despite our best efforts we only managed to pick out a Little Stint among the c.600 Dunlin and c.100 Ringed Plover. Scanning across Frodsham Score produced a single Great White Egret and a few Little Egret; Ravens were feeding on some remains whilst there appeared to be good numbers of Wigeon and Eurasian Teal. A female Sparrowhawk whizzed by the Lighthouse, whilst the stubble fields around held c.80 Skylark and c.100 Meadow Pipit, presumably all waiting for the winds to drop to cross the Mersey.

With the light failing I left Iggy and had a quick dash round to Town Lane. Parking on the bridge I had a scan of the decoy, a Peregrine was roosting in the usual tree, whilst Cormorant numbers were starting to build. A few hirundines were dashing around the decoy, but the Marsh was clearly too exposed to hold any further passerines.

The flooded area along Town Lane held the usual Egyptian Goose, 5 Ruff, Black Tailed Godwit and good numbers of Eurasian Teal. A Kingfisher was calling from Ramsbrook, but remained hidden. Scanning the main Pools revealed plenty of Common Snipe, Eurasian Teal and a handful of Shoveler, Mallard and a single male Gadwall.

With poor weather systems and next to no migrants moving September is turning into a hard slog. Surely I can't go the whole month without a yeartick......

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Tale of Two Halves

With a return to work beckoning I managed to get two visits to the patch today. A heavy dew had formed overnight, and the still air had a slight chill to it. However it was dry and bright, although there was a slight mist hanging in the distance. It actually felt like there may finally be something about!

I decided to have a look at Hale Park, hoping that some migrants may finally have turned up. Stepping out of the car I could immediately hear Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Chiffchaffs, a positive start. A family party of 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers kept me entertained for a few minutes, before my attention was then refocused on migrants. The area was alive with a mixed Tit flock along with c.20 Goldcrests, 10+ Chiffchaff and a couple of Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Breaking my neck looking at the treetops eventually resulted in a smart Firecrest among the Goldcrest, my second on patch this year.

Nuthatch and Treecreeper were everywhere, both clearly having had good breeding seasons. The bushes around the football pitch continued to produce Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a single Reed Warbler. A Sparrowhawk lazily flapped over, whilst Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail and Skylark were moving overhead. Finches were also in evidence with at least 9 Siskin, 5 Lesser Redpoll and numerous Linnets and Goldfinch. Large numbers of hirundines were on the move, with many flooding across the Mersey towards Frodsham.

Reaching the carrot fields I had a quick scan of the Mersey and Frodsham Score. I picked up at least 3 Great White Egret among c.15 Little Egret, and a single female Marsh Harrier quartering the Score. The river itself held good numbers of waders (although too distant to specifically ID), and a scattering of gulls. Walking along the field edge I kicked out a Sedge Warbler and a couple of Whitethroat and Blackcap. Things were clearly moving, and it finally felt a little more like autumn!

Entering the main section of woodland again I picked up a Spotted Flycatcher by the big pool, but other than a few Goldcrest and Chiffchaff this area seemed relatively quiet. Returning to the car I came across a few decent sized Tit flocks which supported yet more Nuthatch and Treecreeper. Heading round to Carr Lane Pools, I parked up at the gate on Town Lane.

From the gate the Pools looked relatively quiet with c.60 Eurasian Teal, 2 Mallard and a single Black Tailed Godwit. There were more Meadow Pipits on the move as I walked along Town Lane. Scanning the back posts was eventually rewarded with 2 Whinchat and a female Redstart, clearly a big improvement in migrants today. A Peregrine was sat on the edge of the decoy, whilst there were good numbers of both Wigeon (c.53) and Eurasian Teal (c.60) on Hale Marsh feeding in the newly created pools from the high tides.

The flooded area along Town Lane held 5 Ruff, 36 Black Tailed Godwit and 8 Common Snipe, with a good number of Eurasian Teal. A couple of Common Buzzard were mooching around on the hedges, but couldn't be bothered to get up for a fly around. Hirundines (predominantly House Martin) were still about in good numbers and seemingly building up before making the short journey south across the Mersey. A Common Swift had me double and triple checking to make sure it wasn't anything rarer. I had promised to bring my Dad down for a patch visit in the afternoon, so I popped home for some food and before heading back.

With another decent high tide (7.9m) I decided to head to Pickerings Pasture to see what came into the high tide roost (hoping that there may be a few more waders present). The walk down to the scrape was quiet with a single Blackcap and a few Long Tailed Tit. The two local Kingfisher put on a good show (albeit through some branches a lot of the time), feeding for the entirety of our stay. Waders were again poor with 3 Ruff, 2 Common Sandpiper, 7 Black Tailed Godwit and c.300 Lapwing. A couple of Dunlin and Ringed Plover came and went but didn't settle.

The roost was being scattered regularly, and whilst scanning for the Peregrine I picked up an Osprey which flew east along Runcorn Hill; amazingly my 5th record on patch this year. 7 Little Egret were roosting on Hale Marsh, and there were very good numbers of Grey, Pied and White Wagtails feeding out on the wetter areas of the Marsh. A couple of Blackcap and a single Reed Warbler were present around the brambles in front of the screen, but there was no sign of the recent Garden Warbler.

We moved back round to Town Lane where we caught up with the Whinchats again, however passerine movement had really dropped off by now. The Pools again held pretty much the same stuff with 6 Ruff, 12 Black Tailed Godwit and 2 Redshank. The ploughed field had 4 Ringed Plover roosting, I'm not sure why they chose not to roost on the Pools or Hale Marsh?! With little else moving we decided to head home for a coffee. It was good to see that migrants are finally starting to move, it's just typical that I am heading back to work.....maybe I'll just have to put burn up some more annual leave!!



Monday, 19 September 2016

What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster (high tide)?

I managed to get out for a few hours over the big high tide (8.58m) today. It was relatively cool and overcast, but the clouds broke towards the peak of the high tide and brought with it a heat haze which made viewing problematic. Having missed the high tides over the weekend, I was hoping that it may at least produce a nice wader spectacle.

I had a brief stop along Carr Lane at the flooded field; but it was quiet with only 5 Eurasian Teal, a single Common Snipe and 2 Moorhen. There was a distinct lack of passerines around the hedges, but 5 Grey Partridge were very vocal among the Pheasants. 2 Common Buzzard were loafing around on the ploughed field, making the occasional stab for earthworms (possibly the reason for a lack of passerines).

Scanning over towards Carr Lane Pools there were a further couple of Common Buzzard and a Kestrel sat on the fenceposts - again probably accounting for a big fat zero passerines. The Pools looked relatively quiet as well with only Eurasian Teal and Mallard present. With the imminent high tide I would have expected to have seen a lot more waders present. A Great Spotted Woodpecker started to call from Great Boar Wood, but otherwise it was eerily quiet.

Moving round to the gate on Town Lane I was able to get a clearer view of the main Pools. It didn't really reveal much else other than 4 Common Snipe and 3 Black Tailed Godwit. Even duck number seemed lower with only 4 Wigeon, 160 Eurasian Teal and a handful of Mallard (no Gadwall or Shoveler anywhere?!). A Kestrel again put paid to much passerine action, although a few Meadow Pipit and Linnet were moving about.

The flooded area along Town Lane was marginally more productive, although wader numbers still didn't seem that great. A smart Curlew Sandpiper was the wader highlight which showed nicely alongside 7 Ruff, 36 Black Tailed Godwit, 3 Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank and 8 Common Snipe. The Egyptian Goose was again present among the Canada Geese. The waders soon scattered though as a female Merlin (presumably yesterday's bird) came dashing through.

With the overcast conditions I felt that I was in a good position to see anything being pushed onto the Marsh ahead of the tide. A couple of sizable flocks, totalling c.2000 Dunlin and Ringed Plover decided to give up and head down river?! My first Short Eared Owl of the winter flew out from the Weaver outflow along the ship canal and out onto the river. 2 Kingfisher were zooming around the marsh looking for a suitable post, whilst there were at least 4 Little Egret. A Green Sandpiper flew out of its hiding place ahead of the encroaching tide, but otherwise it was rather disappointing, especially once the sun emerged and produced a frustrating heat haze. A juvenile Hobby fed over Great Boar Wood as I headed back to the car.

I decided to head to Within Way to have a better view of the Marsh and check out any of the hedges for migrants. However the hedges were dead, and other than a Sparrowhawk and a few Common Buzzard the walk down to the first viewing area was quiet. The marsh held at least 12 Little Egret (presumably displaced from Frodsham Score) and 3 Peregrine which were causing the Lapwings grief. 3 Wheatear feeding on the shorter grass were the only migrant "highlight" of a rather quiet affair.

The rest of the walk down Within Way was uninspiring, with next to no migrants. A single Chiffchaff, and a couple of hefty sized flocks of Linnet and Goldfinch were the only slight distraction. I reached the end of Within Way and had a further scan of the Marsh which only threw out 2 Greylag Geese and a single Mediterranean Gull (mind-blowingly good shot below!) loafing about with the Black Headed Gulls on the river.

A scan over towards Frodsham threw up a single Great White Egret sat out on the Score, whilst a single male Marsh Harrier was quartering the near edge of the Score. A large group of Raven were gathered around some unfortunate victim of the high tide, and a group of c.100 Golden Plover were dislodged from their roost and headed upriver. With little else about I headed back up Within Way towards the car.

For some stupid reason I got it into my head that I should check out the Churchyard, expecting it to be an oasis for  the migrants that had been missing from the patch. Sadly it wasn't to be, and other than a single Chiffchaff and Blackcap it was dead (no pun intended). I know I live in the North West, which isn't known as a migrant hotspot, but it IS September for crying out loud!! Surely it can only be a matter of time before something turns up though........

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Vizmigging across the Universe

With light southerlies forecast (the best conditions for vizmig on patch) I decided to head out early to see whether I could change my recent fortunes; 50 days and counting since my last patch year tick! The harvest moon was still high in the sky when I left home, and it felt pretty damn cold the (air temperature was only 6 degrees).

A few stops driving down Carr Lane produced a yelping Little Owl near to Burnt Mill Farm, and a small group of Black Tailed GodwitCommon Snipe and Eurasian Teal on the flooded field. Low lying mist hung over the fields, and the sky was an amazing pastel colour as I arrived at Lighthouse Lane. The moon was still like a beacon in the sky, and birds were already beginning to move.

Over the next two hours I logged 213 Goldfinch, 164 Linnet, 30 Chaffinch, 1 Bullfinch, 112 Skylark, 87 Meadow Pipit, 1 Rock Pipit, 12 Grey Wagtail, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Yellowhammer, 2 Siskin, 1 Redpoll sp, 15 Jay, 16 Swallow and 2 House Martin. Not the greatest variety, but fun none the less. The Lighthouse garden had a steady stream of visitors as well with c.7 Goldcrest, 4 Chiffchaff among Coal, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tit. A Sparrowhawk was causing havoc among the finch flocks around the Lighthouse garden throughout my vigil, whilst Grey Partridge had finally started to emerge from their hiding places and gained a little more confidence by feeding out in the open.

It wasn't all vizmig though, and a few scans of Frodsham Score resulted in 2 Marsh Harrier (a female and presumed juvenile bird). There were good numbers of duck moving through as well with large flocks of Wigeon, Eurasian Teal and a few small parties of Pintail. I also picked up my first Pink Footed Geese of the winter period with 5 flying west over the Score. The best part however was the Egrets, with at least 4 Great White Egret and 29 Little Egret feeding across the marsh. The Egrets were quite mobile, and I felt there may well have been a 5th bird however I wasn't able to confirm (however the WeBS count later did).

With vizmig quietening down I headed round to Pickerings Pasture to meet up with Iggy to have a hunt for some migrants; however I couldn't drive past without a quick look at Town Lane. The Pools were still relatively quiet, but the Egyptian Goose had reappeared whilst 7 Ruff, 6 Black Tailed Godwit and 9 Common Snipe were feeding across the area. 6 Wigeon had joined the Eurasian Teal throng, and glinted in the early morning sunshine. A Kingfisher was calling from Ramsbrook on Hale Marsh, whilst small numbers of Skylark and Meadow Pipit were still on the move.

Joining Iggy we had a wander around some of the sun traps of Pickerings Pasture, hoping that something decent may pop out. The hedgerow down to the Mersey held at least 3 Bullfinch and a Blackcap, but very little else. The quieter areas produced a single Garden Warbler, 5 Blackcap, 7 Chiffchaff and a single Willow Warbler; slow going but it could be worse I suppose. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over, whilst a few Grey Wagtail were on the move. A check of the industrial wasteland produced a few more Grey Wagtail, 3 Whitethroat and a couple more Blackcap, but it clearly wasn't going to be a migrant day!

Heading home via Town Lane I called in briefly at the bridge, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a smart female Merlin sunning herself in the warm sunshine; hopefully the first of many again this winter. There was little else of note on the pools, and still no sign of any Pectoral Sandpipers. With a little overnight rain forecast hopefully a few more bits will be forced down onto the patch before I have to go back to work.......