Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Time to celebrate your local meadows



Hay meadow - Andy Hay RSPB images
Date: National Meadows Day Wildflower Walk, Saturday 1 July  10 am-12 pm

National Meadows Day, dedicated to celebrating and protecting our vanishing wildflower meadows and the wealth of wildlife they support, will take place on Saturday 1 July 2017.

This year's National Meadows Day will be the biggest yet, with over 100 events taking place across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The team at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands are inviting visitors to come along for a guided walk to admire and learn all about the rich array of wildflowers on the reserve. The event takes place on Saturday 1 July from 10 am-12 pm and includes exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the reserve’s hay meadow which boasts special flowers including yellow rattle and ragged robin.

Places are limited so advanced booking and payment is essential. The walk covers some grassland and farmland so is unsuitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, and a decent level of fitness is required.

Additionally, throughout July a self-led quiz trail will encourage families to look a little closer at the colourful plants around the reserve’s nature trails. Available daily at the visitor reception from 9.30 am-4.30 pm, free of charge.


Venue: RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Puddington Lane, Burton, Cheshire, CH64 5SF

Contact: For further details visit www.rspb.org.uk/burtonmerewetlands or phone the visitor reception on 0151 353 8478 or email deeestuary@rspb.org.uk

Give us the honey?

Scorchio, a blazing June Sunday saw those of us not celebrating father’s day heading for the lakes district, un-rainy day whey hey! Our destinations for the day were Foulshaw Moss and Haybridge nature reserves, but why not take a quick diversion on the way and drop-in to Latterbarrow nature reserve, a lovely little site full of wildflowers and their nectar foragers. 
Latterbarrow
The underlying limestone of Latterbarrow supports grassland seeded with wild flowers such as columbine, ox-eye daisy, bistort, scabious, rattle and agrimony, shrubby rockrose, nettle and brambles. However this is a special site for orchids, such as fragrant, fly and butterfly orchid. Many butterfly species favour the site, including the rarer species; northern brown argus and silver washed fritillaries. 
Butterfly orchid

Black & yellow longhorn beetle on common spotted orchid
During our brief visit we managed to find 2 butterfly orchids, sadly past their best and hundreds of fragrant orchid, the fly orchid eluded us.  We were very pleased to locate a brown argus; we also saw white and green veined white, skipper, meadow brown and ringlet. 
4 spotted chaser

Our first of many dragonflies for the day was 4 spotted chaser.

Arriving at Cumbria wildlife trust's Foulshaw Moss, we were entertained by an aerial tussle between a marsh harrier and a couple of buzzards, terrific.  We were then given a talk by John the warden on how Foulshaw’s 350 hectares of peat bog had been restored, including the removal of hectares of conifers and rhododendron and the creation of new habitats including reed beds, openwater, scrub and wet grassland. It continues to develop; a further board walk was in place since our last visitor the reserve.
Ospey nest foulshaw

Foulshaw viewing platform - Neil Prendergast


Foulshaw boardwalk

Foulshaw reserve
We then took to the boardwalk. The landscape was beautiful, with the cotton grass swaying in the peat bog, water glistening in the pools. Dragon and damselflies were abundant on the reserve, zooming across the ponds. Sadly we didn’t get to see the recently re-introduce white faced darter, but we did see broad bodied  chaser and black darter along with the smaller red and blue damselflies.
Broad bodied  chaser

Black darter
The bird feeding station was visited by chaffinch, bullfinch, blue, great and coal tit. A couple of treecreepers scurried up a nearby tree. 
Redpoll
Redpolls were a pleasure to see, twittering and displaying overhead. Plenty of hirundines on site, taking advantage of the insect bounty sustained by the moss land.   By the pools, close to the boardwalk, stonechat and reed buntings were found.

There are two viewing platforms at the end of the boardwalks; these are the osprey watch points. There are 2 osprey nesting sites on the reserve. Distant but observable by telescope.  Blue 35 and the male White YW have bred at Foulshaw for the last 3yrs, fledging 8 young. The trust believes they have 2 chicks this year, confirmation hampered as the birds have nested at the newer site, which doesn’t have nest cameras!
Visitor centre watch point, Haybridge
We descend on Haybridge for lunch and a cuppa, supped in the shady veranda of the Haybridge visitor centre and watchpoint. The reserve, stretching for miles to see looked spectacular, a rural idyllic vision on a sunny day.  A cock pheasant greeted us in the courtyard, strutting proudly, with his gaudy bright dream coat.
Spotted flycatcher - Neil Prendergast
Fledgling thrush
 Luckily for us the spotted flycatchers had returned to the nestboxes on the visitor centre, so we were treated to the comings and goings of the adults feeding their hungry chicks.  Too late for the pied flys though, their nest on the moss land boardwalk had already fledged. Siskins, greenfinch, and goldfinches clamoured for their share at the niger feeder.
Siskin & goldfinches - Neil Prendergast


Grass snake
Common Lizard

Surprise sightings was an wonderful view of a common lizard sunbathing on the wall  by the veranda and we were amazed when a large grass snake slithered and wound its way across the courtyard as we made our way out to the moss’s path. Birdsong of willow warbler, chiff chaff, wren, song thrush, blackbird, and hirundines acompanied us along the path; About half a mile along  the path, the trees thin, here we heard then saw a parachuting tree pipit, another ‘hoped to see’ bird for the day.
Haybridge NR
Tree pipit on conifer

Back at the watch point we centred our search over the hillside and ridge of the Rusland valley. This is a good raptor viewpoint, and we were not disappointed as we saw osprey, common and the much sought after honey buzzard, the latter giving himself away with his special butterfly or clapping flight display, whey hey!

Another grand day out in the lakes with the gang.


Laura

(All pictures l bimson unless stated)




Inspired by our lovely day out at Foulshaw

The day was really glorious, the sun was shining bright
When we all set off for Foulshaw to put ospreys in our sight
We were very lucky they were sitting on the nest
And with the right equipment the sightings were the best
Other birds were active flying all around
Redpolls and warblers making lots of birdie sound
Let’s not forget the Stonechat seen sitting in a tree
Fluffing up his plumage for all of us to see
We then moved on to Haybridge to get some food inside
We sat on the veranda and admired the countryside
Watching siskins on the feeder and buzzards gently glide
We even saw a grass snake it really was a size
Most had never seen one so got a big surprise
And then for the finale before we got on our way
Along came a honey buzzard slapping wings in fine display.

Carole Lacey



Saturday, 10 June 2017

Berlin Birding

If you want to see a Goshawk, go to Berlin.
For some reason this elusive raptor, which hides itself away in the deepest of forests over here, is comparatively easy to see in Berlin – just check out this article from the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/13/berlin-goshawks-urban-wildlife-tempelhof-airport-birdwatching (and, bearing in mind that there’s an election next week and impartiality is required, here’s another from the Telegraph): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/germany/berlin/articles/Berlin-an-unlikely-paradise-for-birders/ ).
I’d just spent a few days in Baden-Wurttemberg visiting my brother and my German sister-in-law and had already seen such species as Fieldfare (distinctly out of place in baking late May), Serin and many, many Black Redstarts but I was now in the big city and looking to get my birding bearings.
Sparrow art



First of all, House Sparrows are everywhere and are quite forward, jumping on to your café table in search of crumbs and clearly making a mark on the local graffiti artists.
As previously alluded to, Black Redstarts are also very common, seemingly swapping places with the Robin in terms of numbers and behaviour, one’s attention frequently being drawn to their ‘electric river’ song, and the Hooded Crow rules the roost over our more usual Carrion Crow. They also seem rather territorial as I was buzzed twice by one before I beat a hasty retreat.

Hooded crow


My main Berlin birding area was the Tiergarten, a beautiful park to the west of the Brandenburg Gate. It's the former hunting park, with winding paths, islands, pondsa an as lake. On the lake mute swans and mallards were the home birds.

Queen Louise, beloved queen of the Prussians


Taking care not to be run over by the many cyclists I heard the usual warblers chff chaff and willow warbler etc but many, many ‘chipping’ woodpeckers, including one chasing another right in front of me. I thought they were all Great Spotted but this site seems to indicate that Middle Spotted may also be around https://germanybirding.com/ so a little ID brushing up may well end up paying off.
My most unusual sighting on my first visit was this little fellow who, judging by his harness, was a pet:

Pet Pig


It was very, very hot so, after being disappointed to find the English Tea Garden closed, I made for the Café Tiergarten on Altonauer Strasse, whose garden gave out over the edge of the Tiergarten, enabling me to see a GSW alighting on a nearby tree, yet more Black Redstarts and a single Common Redstart (I’ve deliberately left the tape in the photo as this part of the field seemed to be where all the action was):
  

Redstart



Another site that repaid a visit was an unexpected one – Gatow airfield is now a museum and I’d gone to have a look at their old aircraft.

I had to be careful not to make any sudden movements as it seemed the local Black Redstarts had developed missile technology:

Black Redstart


Finally, at the very end of the fighter section stood this old Sukhoi fighter:


Sukhoi


And, sat on the corner of the fence to the left was… a Grey Shrike! It stayed put long enough for me to tell it was a Grey Shrike but, though I had the Collins on me this time, not long enough for me to definitively determine that it was a GGS as opposed to a Lesser before it flew behind some containers and lorries behind said fence.
I’ve posted the question on birdforum.net and, judging by the their responses and https://germanybirding.com/ , it would appear that it was indeed another Great Grey Shrike which is my second in under three months. Crazy times!

In the end the closest I came to seeing a Goshawk was when sitting at Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station and seeing a boat called ‘Habicht’ go by. ‘Habicht’ is German for Goshawk, and it was encouraging to see that the locals are aware of nature’s goodies on their very doorstep.

If anyone’s considering a Berlin trip then I heartily recommend it – history everywhere you look and enough green spaces to break up the sightseeing, with the added attraction that, for most of us, Germany is very much an under-visited and under-watched country from a birding perspective.

Tiergarten Lake

John Doragh

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Go wild in your park with the RSPB

Aldi & RSPB Wild Parks- David Broadbent 


  • RSPB Connecting with Nature report revealed that only one in five children are connected with nature and are not spending a healthy amount of time outside.
  • The RSPB and ALDI have today launched the Wild Parks project aimed at getting families to take a step closer to nature by discovering the wild side of their city.
  • Families will be able to join an RSPB expert in parks across Liverpool throughout the summer.
 
With the amount of time children and families are spending outside in nature in decline, Europe’s largest conservation charity and discount supermarket ALDI, are challenging families to get out and go wild in their local city park this summer with the RSPB.
The RSPB Connecting with Nature report revealed that children in the UK were missing out on a wealth of mental and physical benefits from not spending enough time outside, with only one in five having a healthy connection to nature.
To encourage more children and their families to take a step closer to nature the RSPB has launched Wild Parks aimed at getting people to uncover the wild side of their city.
From now until September, families will be able to join an RSPB expert in parks across Liverpool for a range of fun and engaging activities aimed at helping families take their first steps on their own wild adventure. There are a number of activities on offer ranging from minibeast safaris and scavenger hunts to bioblitzing and national treasure hunts, which are all free and do not require pre-sign up.
Mary Breeze, RSPB Wild Parks Family Events Officer for Liverpool, said: “Families gain so much from being outside exploring and discovering nature. Summer is the perfect time to get outside and connect with the natural world. You don't have to travel far from home to embark on your wild adventure; there is loads of wildlife just waiting to be discovered in your local park. From bugs to butterflies, hedgehogs to house sparrows – it’s always a thrill to see what wildlife is making its home there.
“Getting outside and discovering nature is important whether your motivation is happy healthy children, memorable family time or to see our towns and countryside richer in nature. The opportunity to connect with nature should be a part of every child’s life and the RSPB Wild Parks project is here to help every family to explore the wild side of their city.”
Wild Parks also offers the opportunity for families to start their own wild adventure at home with the RSPB Wild Challenge. With 24 activities to choose from, the Wild Challenge will take you from your own back garden to exploring wildlife in towns, cities, woodlands and even the coast. Participants can then log their achievements on the Wild Challenge website in order to collect their bronze, silver and gold awards.
The RSPB’s ambition is for the Wild Challenge to help more families across the country reap the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Research has shown that children who have a healthy connection to nature are more likely to benefit from higher achievement at school, better mental and physical health, and develop stronger social skills.
Jonathan Neale, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: “We’re proud of what our partnership with the RSPB has achieved so far, and are pleased to help promote the importance of safeguarding the environment, while helping families get closer to nature through this new Wild Parks initiative.” 
For further information about park events happening near you, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildparks
To start your own wild adventure, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge

Friday, 19 May 2017

Calling all wildlife explorers- it's time to bioblitz Port Sunlight River Park

Looking over mersey estuary from park

Wildlife experts say Port Sunlight River Park, converted from a landfill site and opened to the public in August 2014, is now ready for its first official biological recording.
The 70-acre park perched on the banks of the Mersey is owned by national land management charity the Land Trust and managed by Wirral charity Autism Together. It boasts panoramic views of the iconic Liverpool skyline, woodlands, wildflower meadows and a lake.
There are several opportunities for community members to be involved with bioblitz activities and learn about the wildlife at the park:
river park pond
  • On Friday 26 May official wildlife recorders will be checking the park for all signs of mammals, birds, bugs and plant life. Community members are welcome to work alongside them. Anyone interested should contact the park ranger.

  • That evening from 9pm the park will host a bat walk. Families will be given hand-held bat detectors which capture the calls made by different species of bats swooping around their heads and convert them into sounds humans can hear. This event costs £3 and must be booked in advance.

  • On Saturday 27 May wildlife walks will take place as part of May's month-long Wirral Walking Festival. A bird-themed walk at 9.30am will be followed by a wildflower walk at 10.30am, then a family fun nature walk from 1.30pm to 3pm. Wildlife experts will be on hand all day to teach community members about the species now living at the site and there will be family wildlife-themed activities from 10am to 4pm.
  • All staff and volunteers are all trained in autism awareness.

Autism Together park ranger, Anne Litherland, said, "In the early days of the park, when it was still finding its feet, it was hard to believe it could ever be an environmental success. But these days we regularly spot foxes, voles, shrews and rabbits living here amongst the lovely oxeye daisies and deciduous woods, dozens of species of birds around the lake and many different butterflies, moths and mini-beasts.
"Our bioblitz weekend will be a big step forward for us. We want to prove that, given care, even an old rubbish tip can become a beautiful wildlife haven. RECORD (Cheshire's biological recording service) will be collecting all the biological data and we look forward to sharing the results with the community. Our thanks Merseyside Environmental Trust for helping to fund the weekend's activities."
View of Liverpool's cathedrals from top of river park hill
Autism Together's bioblitz partners also include Wirral Wildlife, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Chester Zoo and Friends of Ness Gardens.

Community members wanting to book places on the bat walk or find out more about the weekend's events should contact Anne on 07587 550060 or anne.litherland@autismtogether.co.uk. 

A little poem - a birding holiday with Heatherlea by Carole Lacey

Carole went bird-watching up in Aviemore
The scenery was lovely she couldn’t ask for more
Although it did seem chilly the sun it tried to shine
The hotel was warm and cosy and well stocked with wine
There was about 8 of us and much to our surprise
It included a man of 90 who was quite small in size
Although he was barely mobile he tried his very best
He knew a lot about the birds and kept up with the rest
One day we saw an eagle and little crested tits
And a flock of waxwings made us thrilled to bits
We saw a velvet scoter bobbing on the sea
And a lovely Crossbill high up in a tree
The days were quite intensive from 8 o’clock till seven
So when we sat down to supper we felt we were in heaven
But all in all the guides did well and taught us all they knew
So nice to be out bird watching and see a lovely view.