Monday, 15 November 2010

Dark clouds looming in nature

Starling roosts to spread across UK skies.

The RSPB is warning that there are dark clouds forming overhead this autumn. But thankfully rather than meaning something foreboding they form part of one of the UK’s most incredible wildlife spectacles.

Hundreds of thousands of starlings will turn the sky black around the UK in the next few weeks, as they come together in huge clouds, wheeling and swooping in unison.

The jaw-dropping wildlife exhibition, known as a ‘murmuration’ can be seen on many of the RSPB’s nature reserves and other sites, and the wildlife charity is organising up close and personal viewings.
One of the most popular sites to see starlings is RSPB Leighton Moss, Silverdale, Lancashire.
Many of the autumn roosts are already forming well, and more and more will flock together as the weeks go on, with numbers swelling to around 100,000 in some places.

Early evening, just before dusk, is the best time to see them as they choose their communal night time shelter.
The huge gatherings are at their largest in winter, as they are boosted by thousands of migrant birds visiting from the European continent for Britain's milder Atlantic climate.

They join forces for safety in numbers in case of predators and to keep warm at night. They also exchange information, such as good feeding areas. They often feed miles away from where they roost and return each evening. On many sites you can almost set your watch by their arrival.

But despite the incredible size of the flocks, these numbers are just a fraction of what they used to be.
Crashes in the starling population of over 70% in recent years mean they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk.

The decline is believed to be because of loss of permanent pasture, increased use of farm chemicals and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK.

Johann Holt, RSPB Visitor Services Adviser says: “The starling roost is one of the most incredible natural spectacles we enjoy here in the UK and they are so easy to see. In many cases they are like clockwork – you know that at certain time in the evening the sky will start to turn black and its mesmerizing watching the flock grow and grow.”
Of course the best local place for us is the Runcorn Bridge. Chris

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Waxing lyrical in Lancashire

Nature lovers are waiting with bated breath to see whether recent sightings of waxwings turn into an influx this winter.

The striking birds flood to the UK from Scandinavia every few winters and in between you would be lucky to see one at all.

Their colours mean they wouldn’t look out of place in a tropical rainforest, with a prominent crest and small black mask around their eyes with yellow and white in the wings and a yellow-tipped tail.

But in the coming weeks, you could see them much closer to home in places like supermarket car parks, shopping centres, local parks and RSPB nature reserves.

In recent days, reported waxwing sightings have already come from around Lancashire including Burnley, Barrow (near Clitheroe) and Rishton (near Blackburn).

Waxwings are bold birds which don’t mind feeding close to humans and the RSPB is hoping that seeing the unusual birds will move people to help other migrant birds that may visit their gardens this winter and have a tough time in the cold weather.

And as waxwings feed on berries, the wildlife charity is also urging gardeners to avoid cutting any hedges with the last berries of autumn still on them until they have all been eaten.

They don’t breed in the UK, but are erratic winter visitors. When they come over in larger numbers, it is called an irruption, or ‘waxwing winter’ among nature lovers. They come to the UK when the population on its breeding grounds gets too big for the food available or their preferred food of berries dwindles.

Experts believe that there has been a poor berry crop in the Scandinavian countries they originate from so far this year.

2008 was a fairly good waxwing winter, but the last major influx was in the winter of 04/05.

Ian Hayward, RSPB Wildlife Adviser, says: “Waxwings are really unusual, beautiful birds, and we are getting lots of calls from people asking what the strange bird with the funny crest on its head is.

“They are all over the place at the moment, which suggests a bumper year for waxwings. This will be a treat for everyone as they are easy to see, sometimes in large flocks in excess of 300 birds.

“We hope that in seeing these amazing birds, people will be moved to help other migrant birds that will need their help in their gardens.

Redwings and fieldfares have also travelled thousands of miles, and some blackbirds are also migrant visitors that have come to the UK for our help.

“The reason these birds come to the UK is because they can’t find enough food at home, and as the weather worsens, it will become tricky to find it here too. We can make all the difference by putting out extra food and holding back on cutting hedges with a few last berries still on them.”

RSPB Director of Conservation Mark Avery says: “Waxwings only visit the UK very erratically and every winter we wait expectantly to see if this will be the year.

“At the moment we are wondering if it will be a flood or a trickle, but the reported sightings certainly suggest that we could be in for a treat this winter and we hope it will inspire everyone to do their bit for all wildlife as it starts to get really cold.”

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Last winter, the nation helped garden birds survive record freezing temperatures. Now, the RSPB is urging people in Merseyside to help wildlife again as the cold weather sets in.
The RSPB’s Feed the Birds Day on 30 October is a reminder that garden wildlife needs our help during the colder months of the year.

As the clocks go back and winter arrives, the extra food, water and shelter we provide for birds and other creatures could be the difference between life and death for many species.
If natural food becomes covered in snow and ice, it is impossible to get to and birds begin struggling to find the food they need to survive the winter.

The RSPB is asking people to keep feeders and bird tables topped up with calorie rich-foods like mixed seed, nyjer seed and peanuts, as well as kitchen scraps like grated mild cheese and bacon. A supply of water is also essential for bathing and preening.
If you do some or all of these things, the cold weather could bring all sorts of birds to your garden.
Besides well-known species like blackbirds and robins, your garden may also play host to more unusual species such as blackcaps, reed buntings, woodpeckers and yellowhammers. They may forage over wider areas of the countryside, but can sometimes be attracted to gardens with good supplies of natural and supplementary food.

Carolyn Jarvis, the RSPB’s People Engagement Manager for Northern England, says: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that gardeners in Merseyside saved the lives of thousands of birds last winter by throwing them a lifeline when the weather got really cold.”
“Those lifelines were a mixture of foods, and we’re pleading with everyone to try and do the same again this year.
“There is no better time to step up your feeding and you will soon reap the benefits of a garden full of wildlife. And not just your more common species – you never know what you might attract.
“It really doesn’t matter whether your garden is tiny or huge, there are options for everyone and you will make a difference.”
The RSPB is hosting over a hundred events to get everyone involved in the annual celebration, which marks the clocks going back and the arrival of winter.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Inner Wet Marsh Farm extensions

The group were very lucky today to have a behind the scenes trip to the new extensions at RSPB Inner Marsh Farm at Burton. If you thought watching the rain at the Ryder Cup was bad then this trip was ideal for wadering birds.

We were met by Jeff the deputy warden who quickly showed us the new wader scrapes and the site for the new hides. Over 100 snipe were wheeling around with lingering swallows and house martins.

This new extension or what used to be Burton Fisheries has now created a huge reserve, which links Parkgate all the way round to Point of Air.

The plan for a 3 mile boardwalk around the site will be fab but we will have to wait till 2012 for the finished reserve. This new extension and plans will create a reserve that we will all want to visit time and time again.

Thanks to Laura for organising it and Jeff for turning out and showing us round. We will be back!!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Birdwatching By Bike

I have in partnership with the Cycle Speke/Garston officer led a couple of birding by bike trips down to the Speke Garston Coastal park.
Its a pleasent place with a varied habitat of estuary, saltmarsh, rough grassland and commerce park!
These 2 hour rides are getting very popular now and the birds have been quite good too.
Yesterday we got to see a great skua on the Mersey. Another juv look at the last post for a picture of what that means.

Next Birding by Bike will be on Saturday 20th November at 10am meet at the car park.


Wednesday, 15 September 2010


Ainsdale beach still has passing leech's storm petrels during the winds but this afternoon this great skua was sat on the beach eating his tea!!
Made a change from hassling terns for sandeels.
I think it was an unfortunate auk.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


The Liverpool Bay is famous in September for the chance to see a Leech's Strom Petrel as they move south for the winter. The only problem is you need westerly winds and North Westerly are better. So today while working my lunch at 4pm I was watching the sea at Ainsdale. Look at the black blob in the middle of the picture.

Razorbills and guilliemots were fighting their way through the wind to stay out at sea.

Gannets and manx shearwaters were also having a good time in the blow.

Little black dots arent the best way to look at these fab little birds and later this bird came in close to shore and tried to feed on the beach but the crow thought he was having a flying lunch!

This is a better picture of a leechs.

Hope you get out and see one. The best places are Hall Road, Crosby, Crosby Coastal Park or New Brighton in the bus stops as the birds come out of the Mersey river mouth.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

RSPB Mersey Mud Matters

An invitation to a special evening

Date: 09th September 2010
Time: 7.30pm
Cost: Free
Venue: Liverpool University Rendall Building

The Mersey Estuary is an amazing place. It's been vital for the economic prosperity for the area, an iconic part of our history and always stunning for wildlife.
One of Europe's top wildlife sites, the RSPB has worked with residents for decades to keep its natural heritage at the heart of local decision making. Development pressures still exist though, and current discussions about options for energy production, including barrages, could spell an uncertain future for this wonderful wildlife site.
We want you to be involved in shaping its future – to make sure the Mersey remains a real asset for future generations.
We would like to invite you to a special RSPB evening to hear about the Mersey's natural heritage, the challenges it faces and what role you can play.
Dr Tim Melling, a Senior Conservation Officer for the RSPB, whose involvement with the estuary goes back 21 years, will give you a behind-the-scenes insight into the conservation history and wildlife of this very special place, illustrated by stunning photographs gathered over lifetimes of patient study.
Dr Peter Robertson, RSPB's Regional Director, will then take you on an inside track discussion about the issues that need to be addressed to ensure that Mersey's wildlife is protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. In particular he will outline the latest position with the ongoing debate around the Mersey Energy project and discuss ways you may like to be involved in the future.
So I do hope you can join us for a fascinating evening about our Mersey heritage. The event will start at 7.30 pm and is in Liverpool University's Rendall Building. Parking is available in University Car Parks off Myrtle/Chatham Road.
This web site takes you to a map.

We will be providing tea and coffee so could you please let me know if you will be able to attend? I'd also be delighted to answer any questions you may have about this evening's event.

I look forward to seeing you on the evening.
Andy Bunten
Mersey Project
0191 233 4316

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Coastal Birds

Sorry we havent been posting this year but I hope to improve this now.

Today, the group's outdoor walk is a beginneers guide to estuary birds. We met at Crosby Coastguard station at 9.30am. These beginneers walks are very popular with new and old members. Lots of waders as you would expect and even better in various plummages!
We started with a summer plumaged bar-tailed godwit, what a cracking bird. It was in the wet pools at the front of the picture with the black headed and the herring gulls. Quickly a redshank was added with oystercatchers in the same pools. Other waders species were further out such as curlew, knot, sanderling and dunlin.
We walked north towards the Alt and added linnets, meadow pipits, swallows and starlings.
Chris Arnold spotted a grey plover which is my favourite wader on the coast and then 2 black-tailed godwits flew down the coast. Lapwings, golden plover and turnstone's were on the rocks. 3 wigeon's flew down the coast as did 2 teal, shelducks and mallards. The birds were quite flighty today due to the numerous microlites flying but then we were graced by a young peregrine which flew around terrorising the beach. After failed attempts the young bird sat on the beach.
White and pied wagtails moved down the coast and a a family of stonechats showed off with the odd wheatear. We carried checking the gulls and added greater andlesser black backed adn common gull. The grey heron in the river Alt was catching fish and doing better than the men on the coast disturbing the waders.
A good day to be out. Next walk is Saturday 11th September meet at Tesco's Formby for a walk with Dave Hardy around Altcar.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bittern sighting

Coming back from a couple of nights away in Keswick we stopped off at Leighton Moss. The reserve was totally frozen except for one small stream near the members hide and after waiting for some 30 mins or so we got the most fantastic sighting of a bittern which walked down the stream and past us at about 8 foot distance. Managed to get the attached photo.

Phil & Bren Antrobus

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Looking for birds in the snow!

Welcome to 2010 and better bird watching!

Well the group walk around the Black Woods and the adjoining Childwall Woods and Fields in the snow looking for for woodlands birds was very quiet. Most of the birds must of moved out of the woods and into peoples gardens cos it was very quiet. Small flocks of blue, great, coal and long tailed tits tried to find insects in the trees.

Treecreeper did its usual and went around the tree once you found it. The grey squirrels were much in evidence. The Black Woods is a small area of woodland which is left to do its own thing and that is great cos too much cutting down doesnt always benefit wildlife.

We crossed over Woolton rd and checked out the other side which recieves lots of management. It was still quiet but then if your a bird and the trees look like this then wouldnt you move on to garden feeding.
The next walk is Saturday 16th Jan along the Sefton Coast meeting at Hightown Station for 10.45.