Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mink and Merlin

I did my regular walk in the Kem Mill area of Cuerden and the first thing I saw was a mink on the west bank. I continued down stream and heard pheasant, several wrens, goldfinch, mallard, greenfinch, and blackbird. A sparrowhawk soon caused alarm amongst all the other birds with Jays and blackbirds making most of the noise. Moorhen, magpie and long-tailed tits were present but the dog mercury for which I was searching was still not in flower. There was however a daffodill just exposing its trumpet to announce spring. A dipper was also on the river. At Woodend there were several siskin and at least 20 bramblings.
Later in the day I visited RSPB Hesketh Outmarsh. Shelduck were the overwhelming bird species present with a few mallard, curlew, linnet and wigeon. Raptors seen were Marsh Harrier, merlin and a kestrel by the car park. Large clouds of waders were too distant to recognise except for the lapwing flock, ( I still do not have my scope). The cold was just getting to my bones when I was delighted to see the bird I had come to find - tyto alba

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Biodiversity

I have just been to Northampton for the A Rocha UK 10th anniversary conference. We did take a break and had a walk in the nearby Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve. Mainly birds but someone did see a fox and the inevitable grey squirrel. Collared dove, goldfinch, greenfinch and scores of crows and woodpigeon were our first group of avian observation. We passed a field with several yellow meadow ant mounds, so were not surprised to hear the unmistakeable yaffle of the green woodpecker. A flock gulls nearby on the field contained common and black headed, some of which had their heads just starting to change to dark chocolate brown. As we were scanning the higher trees for a successful view of a great spotted woodpecker a lesser black backed gull passed in front of our binoculars. A song thrush was getting in some good practice and a goldcrest tested our patience by being elusive. Signs of spring were also evident botanically with snowdrops and lesser celandine being observed. Our break passed too quickly and we returned to our venue for a hot cup of tea. .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ups and Downs and ups again

On Tuesday I received a report of White Letter Hairstreet (butterfly) eggs having been spotted on several elms on Cuerden Valley Park. This put me in a good mood for a day birding with my brother. We went to Sizergh Castle but dipped on the hawfinch. Undeterred we then went to nearby Foulshaw Moss managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. A semi-circular walk took us to a viewing platform which gave us good views of the reserve. 3 Buzzards soared above the woodland but we were distracted by a raven harrying a hen harrier (role reversal). Skylarks, siskin and sparrowhawk made sure we saw them. Ever onwards to Warton Crag where another raven was establishing a nest. The best was yet to come as a male peregrine flew over our heads to join a female up on the cliff. On our journey home we called in at Scorton picnic site and were able to hear and see two dippers on the swollen river. It was also really good to see the plethora of snowdrops at this popular venue

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lows and highs

I discovered that one of the problems with my Saturday in the rain was condensation on the inside of the eyepiece of my spotting scope. The use of a hairdryer and lounge radiator failed to resolve the problem so off to InFocus at Martin Mere where Andy sent the diseased eyepiece off to the eyepiece hospital. I did however hear about a smew just down the path from swan link hide. It only took five minutes to find, so the journey to the 'Mere was worth it. Calling in at Cuerden on the way home, I saw a song thrush singing his heart out and three great spotted woodpeckers in heated debate on the ownership of one of the trees.... spring is not far away

Catch up

A few days together here. Friday 4th spent most of day preparing for the Watch meeting, which was a walk around Kem Mill looking for winter birds. I saw both a single daisy in flower just outside the Barn and a lesser celandine a little further away.
Saturday started cool and cloudy.I arrived at Kem Mill and had a look for the dipper, but the river was very full and muddy. A mistle thrush was singing at the top of one of the trees and I should have remembered that it is also called the storm cock. By 10.00am 4 children had arrived so we set off to feed the Jacob's sheep which are in that area. Then the rain started. Despite this another 6 children arrived to join the fun. Several robins, blue tits and blackbirds scolded us and two pairs of mallard seemed to be laughing at our sodden (not sudden) appearance. We were encouraged to continue by good views of long tailed tits and several redwing. Crows were also very evident but only a single great spotted woodpecker. We completed our walk soaked but happy. One of my fellow leaders asked me to give her a lift to her sisters who lived nearby, whose house overlooked the Park. She took us into her conservatory where we could see several bird feeders. Greenfinch, chaffinch, another woodpecker, two male bullfinch, goldfinch all helped to warm our chilled bones. Our host asked us to be a little more patient and then some bramblings appeared. Eventually we had about 26 or 27, more than I have seen ever before in my life. A fantastic end to a grim day  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two days out west (West Lancs)

Wednesday to HOM then Marshside. Whooper swans still between Guide Road and HOM lots of shelduck around as well. Linnet, skylark, curlew, were also present but a very quiet time.
At Southport I had tufted duck, pochard, blackwit, teal, shelduck, pinkfeet, mallard, coot, wigeon, merlin, peregrine and little egret.

Thursday at Martin Mere with Jim. The mere itself was very full of whoopers, pinkfeet, greylag, pintail, shelduck, cormorant and mallard. At the Janet Kear hide Jim had brambling. The snowdrops were just beginning to appear as we went to Ron Barker hide. Here we saw lapwing, blackwits, wigeon, shelduck getting frisky, moorhen, buzzard, crows, at least one raven and two marsh harriers