Monday, January 30, 2012

Big Garden Birdwatch plus

Saturday 28 January 
In the morning , Cuerden Wildlife Explorers/Watch club held their annual Big Garden Birdwatch. It was a very cold day, but dry and clear. We were counting blue, great and coal tits on the bird feeders when a Great Spotted Woodpecker made its alarm call right above us in a horse chestnut tree. A nuthatch made a hasty exit from the same tree and flew far away. We walked towards the Sue Ryder home and had our regular guard of honour of collared doves. One of the young people then asked me about a bird they could see. It took me a while to find it but was able to identify not one but two mistle thrushes. Cinder path is usually good for goldcrests, but not this year. As we arrived in the pinewood next to the nature reserve a couple of jays made a loud screech. Sam, our new junior leader found a fungus he had not seen before. It was Jelly Ear fungus but did not quite feel like jelly because it was covered in ice. Much of the lake was frozen, which meant the birds were in one area. Black-headed gulls, mallards, two coots and one moorhen were joined by the regular Great Crested Grebes.

 We stretched our legs a bit more to go through Dog Kennel Wood, but here too was a little quieter than expected. The roe deer were in their usual place near the wooden bridge with a grey heron standing as lookout for them. The time as usual went too quickly so we returned to the visitor centre to check our results and report them to the RSPB.

Some of the group then carried on birding further west. We shared a picnic at Mere Sands Wood LWT reserve, particularly enjoying the water rail coming to the feeder set among the reeds. Proceeding to the coast we parked in the car park at Marshside RSPB reserve. Scanning the shoreline we were able to see thousands of birds. Fortunately for us some did come a little closer. A solitary peregrine was sitting on a fence post giving us some great views. Feeding amongst the grass were hundreds of pinkfooted geese with shelducks, lots of gulls and skylarks singing above us. It was still very cold so we decided to go to one of the hides to warm up. The view from the hide was brilliant. We saw wigeon, teal, shoveler, mallard and too many lapwings to count.

 Black-tailed godwits were feeding busily close to us and a Great Black-backed Gull kept disturbing all the flocks in the nearby field. I then saw another winter visitor from the north. This time it was human. Richard Else, who used to be on Bardsey called in with his parents. He now works on North Ronaldsay and was taking his winter break from that observatory. It was good to renew acquaintance. As usual by mid afternoon, hunger pains take the place of enthusiasm, so we set off home for a hot drink and some chips. Sadly that means two days birding without anything new. My total remains at 153

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some sun - rain - sun

Monday 23 Jan promised to be a sunny day, so I set off for Martin Mere. As I travelled along Curlew Lane I could see some tiny birds on the wires. Stopping the car and opening the window enabled me to hear the unmistakeable "jingle" of corn buntings. Once at the Mere I went to see the very helpful folk at the InFocus shop. We had pinkfooted geese, whooper swans, pintail, mallards and some feral? greylag geese. Reports of a willow tit drew me to Janet Kear hide. Lots of activity here from small birds as I saw blue tits, great tits, reed buntings, chaffinches, gold finches, blackbirds, tree sparrows but no sign of the willow tit. One thing I did spot however was a female brambling right at the edge of all the other members of the finch family. Both a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker were taking advantage of the food on supply. I know the picture is a bad one, but a bad one is better than none at all

Tuesday 24 Jan. A few spots of rain should have warned me, but reports of lesser spotted woodpecker were too much to resist. There is also a re-cycling centre near this site so I took the opportunity to get rid of some cardboard. The rain increased but not enough to dampen my enthusiasm. Mute swans and mallards came to welcome us as we also kept a lookout for dipper in the River Yarrow. Some black-headed gulls and one or two common gulls roosted on the "tern raft" and a lovely male goosander swam past as well. I noticed some screens that had been erected since my last visit ( it is quite a while) and looked through these to observe the birds feeding. The usual culprits, both common tit species as well as dunnock, nuthatch, goldfinch, chaffinch and reed bunting were feeding here. It is good to see these birds starting to change into breeding plumage - spring is on the way. We continued towards the waterfall with still no evidence of the lesser spotted woodpecker, but lots of rain trickling down the back of my neck. My companion thought I had gone crazy when I started jumping up and down - no not the woodpecker, but a good sighting of the gem that is a kingfisher. Our journey had not been without reward. I am sure you are beginning to see a pattern emerging. I often do not see the bird I am searching for, yet still see something good. After my 700 challenge, perhaps a book?  "Birds I have dipped on in 2012"
The kingfisher ensured I reached 150 
Wednesday 25 Jan I will call this Deception Day. A visit to RSPB Hesketh Outmarsh to catch a high tide. In the end nothing new or remarkable here. However I walked down river and saw a group of swans feeding in a field adjacent to the footpath. One was seperate from the others and did not have as much yellow on the bill. My hoped for Bewick swan was soon recognised as a whooper with most of its bill covered in black mud. On the other side of the path in one of the pools, a cormorant with a very pale tummy and throat gave a reasonable impression of a diver. Not good enough to fool me though. That evening, I went to Cuerden Valley Park to see if we could count the jackdaws which have been roosting there. We counted in excess of 1200 

A few bonuses

On Tuesday Jan 17, I visited Brockholes  LWT reserve and as I commenced my walk a huge flock of lapwing circled the car park. I went on towards the public footpath to check out the feeding station. tree sparrow, reed bunting, blue and great tit were busy filling up with seed. I then heard a song thrush practising his song not too far away from where we have seen a song thrush anvil. On the edge of Boilton wood I paused so as not to disturb a roe deer feeding at the edge. It spotted me, and with a jump that could win a gold medal at the Olympics, was over the fence and gone. Fourteen redwings in the top of the trees there were also a delight to see and hear.

 It had been a very dull day and the wood being quite dark, I was not surprised to hear a female tawny owl. I then spotted a discarded fishing stool so I picked it up and took it back to the disposal skip. I then reversed my route on the Ribble Way to look over No1 pit. Tufted ducks, goldeneyes, pochards and  shovelers were all in abundance. I checked through the gulls and was thrilled to spot one Mediterranean Gull. There were also some great crested grebes here. this brought my total to 146
Friday Jan 20. There had been reports of a black redstart in Chorley, so I went for a search. It proved wet and fruitless. Or at least for that bird. I did have the pleasure of seeing the regular peregrine on Morrison's chimney. taxa number 147

Monday, January 16, 2012

Walk with WI

Monday 16th Jo, one of the CVP rangers and I led a walk around Cuerden for one of the local WI groups. As we set off from the Barn about 12 greenfinches were calling right above us. It was a beautiful sunny day, if a little chilly. Several magpies chattered with robins and blue tits shouting at us on our way to the cinder path. Another scolding came from a great spotted woodpecker that was within 40 metres of us. As we walked under the yew trees on the Cinder Path goldcrests, carefully hidden in the smaller branches, challenged us to see them. Most of us were unsuccessful. Nuthatches and coal tits were heard but again unseen in Cock Cabin Wood. we continued to the lake and were delighted to see not only the usual Canada geese, mallards, coots, herring gulls in winter plumage and  black-headed gulls but also a very smart male goosander  
Progressing south we walked over the WI bridge and heard a lot of noise above us. A tree-creeper on a tree not too far away and a mixed flock of siskin and goldfinch were the cause of this. Searching the field just below Cam Cottage enabled us to see several common gulls feeding. Turning right here down towards the river meant we could the walk on the river bank upstream. We then crossed Town Brow to do a circuit of the southern section of Cuerden. It was fairly quiet here until we got to the ruins at Kem Mill when a pair of bullfinches gave their short whistle. It always surprises me how something so colourful can be so difficult to see. By this time we were on our homeward trek. Making our way along the cycle path ensured the return journey was much quicker. we paused at the bottom of the new path to view some very confiding roe deer. Lunch was beckoning so we continued up the path passing two jays and returned to the car park.

Total after today 127. The goosander was my 127th

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A few days bits

A few days together here because I did not do much searching. I still have to get on with regular jobs as well but often this brings its own delights. Monday 9th Jan I was filling up the feeders just outside the Barn on Cuerden when two stunning male bullfinches waited impatiently for me to get on with it and on my return to my car a great spotted woodpecker called in alarm as I approached his tree. I went to the south end of the Park to check the water level of the river and managed to see a grey wagtail, a goldcrest drinking at the edge of the river,  and two dippers together. Could this be the start of courtship?

 On Tuesday I walked up to the Barn and saw the two regular roe deer in the field by the main path down to the river. They calmly lifted their heads as though to say " Why is this old man interrupting our breakfast ?" Several other folk have mentioned how obliging they are. I then went on that most enjoyable of pursuits - weekly shopping; (joy uncontrollable)

Wednesday I had planned to lead a walk at Brockholes and went down early to see what was around. Mainly drizzle which made observing stuff problematic in the morning. I had noticed a heron and a mute swan on Meadow Lake as I entered. They had their usual entourage of aggressive coots and noisy mallards. I then spotted an oxeye daisy still in flower. The winter really has been wierd. I walked towards the river and saw a few reed buntings at the feeder and was followed for several hundred yards up the Ribble Way by a kestrel. We had a pleasant Midweek Meander pointing out the high levels of water, the song thrush anvil, the tree sparrow block of flats and the long horned cattle. As our guests departed my brother Jim came into the office with a furry caterpillar. Conservation comes before administration for Sophie and we tried to find out what it was.However none of us were able to positively identify the beast.
Thursday I went to fill up the feeders again and called in to see Graham Jones. He very kindly keeps any moths he has caught, so I can add them to my list. He showed me a chestnut moth which I photographed and when asked, said he was confident the caterpillar from yesterday was a ruby tiger.
The chestnut made my total up to 117

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ticks and dips

Saturday January 7th was an extra trip so with this as with any others of a special "twitching" I shall be offsetting my carbon on here:- .   I saw there was a visit to Marton Mere in Blackpool by the Preston Society so I arranged with Jim to go. Unfortunately I mistakenly went for 0900 instead of 1000. The good thing was as we arrived so did the ranger on duty for the day. This meant we did not have to go searching for the long eared owl. As we approached the location we also managed to spot some long tailed tits in the bushes and two snipe which flew over. The RSPB were having a special day looking at the owls so we were able to help them set up some telescopes. Since both Jim and I recently received our badges for 20 years volunteering, we thought it was only right. There were two owls just visible, one with difficulty the other with extreme difficulty. Here is a photo taken a couple of years ago to give you a better view than we had .

We had a look over the Mere and saw teal, wigeon, several gulls, goldeneye, the inevitable coots and mute swans. There was supposed to be Mediterranian gull and Red crested pochard but by this time the sun was giving a very bright reflection from the surface of the water. This meant seeing anything was practically impossible. We decided to go to look for a black redstart reportedly at Knott End. We did see the members of the Preston Society arriving as we left. That is when I realised I had got the time wrong. On arrival at Knott End a quick scan revealed nothing. A hot drink and butties were needed to keep us going. Having consumed these we continued our search. Turnstones were feeding on the ferry slipway and in the distance oystercatchers, knot and curlew were following the tide out. An hours frustration followed. Although I was able to add scentless mayweed to my challenge list, we still did not see either the black redstart nor the twite that had been reported. Later that afternoon we heard that Blackpool had beaten Fleetwood in the FA Cup, altogether a disappointing afternoon on the Fylde
Total after today 103

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Windy on the West Coat

The west coast I refer to is the coast of Lancashire/Sefton. As part of my 700 challenge in support of A Rocha UK and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, I had planned to visit Martin Mere, but the winds meant I delayed my departure and eventually decided to give it a miss. First brief stop was Hesketh Outmarsh RSPB reserve. The track to visit here is getting worse and perhaps should only be attempted in a tracked vehicle. We flushed a Barn Owl from one of the ditches approaching the reserve but when we arrived the sea was so far out, very little was visible.

 Then to Marshside to get some respite from the wind in Sandgrounder's Hide. Hundreds of birds easily seen through the panoramic windows. Lapwing, a few pinkfeet, greylag, shelduck, wigeon, teal, coot and mallard. I scanned a little more and glimpsed a single Golden Plover. One of the other folk in the hide then spotted a water rail. It was quite close to the hide but skulking in the vegetation. It was time for lunch which we had in the car overlooking the estuary. Several hundred pinkfeet moving in the vegetation and a massive flock of starlings on the edge of the sea were spectacular. Moving on from here westwards we went on a twitch. Once at Weld Road car park we were able to see our treasure - a glaucus gull. Sadly we could not enjoy it long due to the appearance of that most ubiquitous creature, the dog walker not in control of their dog. The bird was flushed and flew away. We decided at that point to come home and passing Marshside again we saw a merlin fly right across the front of the car. All together another productive day.

Total now standing at 97

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meander around the Moss

I collected Jim from his home and we set  off to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. A diversion to Pilling enabled us to see Sparrowhawk, more pink footed geese, little egret and some linnets. There were also views of song thrush and rook on our continued journey north. As we approached Leighton we saw a number of folk with binoculars and scopes near the track heading to the Allen Pools. They were looking towards the reedbed and as we joined them we caught a view of their quarry. It was the Glossy Ibis. This again is a photo I took earlier

We then called in to the centre to wish a Happy New Year to our colleagues there. First port of call the feeding station with greenfinch, chaffinch, coal tits, bullfinches and marsh tits all delighting those of us who were there. Lilian's hide was our second stop with coots, black headed gulls, tufted ducks, teal and wigeon. A cry for help " What is this strange bird?" We had a look and were delighted to see a red headed smew. We could not stay too long and headed out towards Griesdale hide. In one section of the reeds we heard what sounded like a bird of prey in distress. Five minutes of patient waiting enabled us to get a glimpse of water rail. Further on and another surprise caught our eyes. It was a fungus called scarlet elf cup. By this time we were thrilled by what had already been observed and seeing a great white egret as soon as we entered the hide was another bonus. More teal, wigeon and mallard were disturbed by a marsh harrier flying over. It did not disturb a red deer stag with three hinds in attendance. 

Lunch beckoned which we devoured in Lilian's Hide with more good views of the smew. After lunch a walk to the public hide. Two ravens flew over and as we entered the public hide we had more coots and tufted duck in view. A pair of gadwall and another flypast by the marsh harrier made us glad we made the walk. On our return we heard bearded tits in the reeds and two marsh tits accompanied us along the roadside path. It had been a very good day. Total after today is 80

The reason I am doing this 700 challenge to support these two charities

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New year or Noah's year

This morning, to quote Mahalia Jackson from her album Newport Jazz Festival 1958 "Didn't it rain"

Started in Cuerden to fill the bird feeders. Nuthatch, blue tit, coal tit, collared dove and chaffinch. There is also some Herb Robert and Ivy-leaved toadflax still in flower. On to Brockholes to meet my brother Jim where we had a walk round to see what was in view. Mainly rain but also 3 varieties of gull, tufted duck, goldeneye, pochard, mute swan, teal, several tree sparrows, lapwing and the inevitable plethora of coot. We had an interesting view of a kestrel sheltering from the rain and hail in the cluster of Tree sparrow nest boxes.

I had lunch and then went to Martin Mere. I purchased that most essential piece of birders equipment - a 2012 tide table. Still lots of rain but quiet on the visitor front. Pintails, shelduck, shoveler, pinkfeet, whooper swans, bedraggled herons, a wood duck ( obviously escaped from the collection), wigeon, marsh harrier and after a lot of searching the green winged teal. The picture here is one I took earlier

Don't forget the reason I am aiming for 700 taxa this year to support the following two charities
Total on first (very wet) day 46