Friday, 28 December 2012


Christmas Palm House

Why is it that the minute you walk out into the cold you need a pee!  Fortunately for me my local destination of  Sefton Park is well facilitated!
Today was a recce to check out the 3 RSPB bird tables in the Palm House Grounds.  They were foodless but structurally ok for our next event the  ‘RSPB'S BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH’   on Sunday 20th January 

Needless to say they were stocked when I left… Mixed seed, peanuts and a bit of stale bread. Woodpigeon was down first, won’t take him long to shift that lot. One of the tables is being swamped by Rhododendron some maybe the little un’s will stand a better chance there!

On to the feeding station behind the Palm house. The feeding line was well stocked by some kind soul.  Lots of visitors Great, Blue, Coal and Long tailed tits, Chaffinches, Robins, Nuthatches, Jays, Magpies and 2 squeaky dog Ring necked Parakeets.   Squirrels and pigeons everywhere of course.
2 of 9 Little Grebes

Onward to the Lakes, for a spot of duck feeding, I can’t help myself I just love having the palm of my hand tickled by tiny and not so tiny beaks!!   As usual there where  hundreds of raucous black headed gulls  and an army  of Coots,  plenty of  Moorhens, Mallards, Canadian Geese and of more  22 Mute Swans,  9 Little Grebes, 1 male Pochard,  and a female Mandarin Duck.
Gorgeous Female Mandarin
2 of 22 Mute Swans

Recce over, didn’t rain, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Laura over and out

Newsham Park 27/12/12
2 Male Tufties & 

Female Pochard (better let that male know at Sefton!)
Peculiar Muscovy's!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Year Walk

If your New Year’s resolution involves getting closer to nature, then make a date with RSPB Marshside.
Hit the ground walking on New Year’s Day with RSPB staff and volunteers on a free guided walk around this wetland wonderland. At this time of year the reserve is teeming with wildlife, including wading birds and wildfowl.
You may be even luck enough to see a Peregrine or a Short Eared Owl hunting across the great carpet of saltmarsh.
Alex Pigott, RSPB warden at Marshside said: “This is a perfect start to the new year, whether you need to walk off that extra Christmas pudding, clear your head, or just enjoy the great outdoors and the amazing wildlife and views at Marshside”.

The free walk starts at 11am at the visitor centre (Sandgrounders’ Hide) on Tuesday 1 January.
Booking is essential – please call the Ribble Discovery Centre on 01253 796292 to book your place.
For more information about the event, please visit

BTO Blackcap Survey

Male Blackcap

Step up with the BTO!
I’ve had both male and female Blackcaps in the garden this month, a female just this afternoon. They like my homemade fat cake at the moment!

Garden Blackcap Survey - welcome!
Blackcaps are becoming increasingly regular visitors to garden feeding stations during winter, their numbers having risen remakeably since the 1970's  Our garden offerings seem to be supporting a change in the migratory behaviour of those Blackcaps that breed in central Europe and traditionally wintered around the Mediterranean. If you spot a Blackcap in your garden during January 2013, please let us know what it's eating, if it's male or female and whether it's chasing off other birds.

Blackcaps are an increasingly common sight at garden feeding stations during winter and are spotted most often early in the New Year. The foods that we provide seem to be having a profound effect on the ecology of these birds, changing their migratory patterns and subsequent nesting habits.
With your help, we want to find out more about the behaviour of Blackcaps in winter gardens. Choose one day this January to help us answer these three key questions:
1  1)      Which foods are Blackcaps eating?
2)  Are there equal numbers of male and female Blackcaps?
3)  Are the Blackcaps aggressive with other, similar sized birds?


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Wishes

When as you sing of Christmas cheer and welcome in the bright New year,
and feast and laugh and dance and play  and open gifts on Christmas day,
 Pause as you hear the angels’ words and don’t neglect the little birds.
                                                      Anon  1909


Monday, 17 December 2012

The quest

Sunday dawned bright and the Moore 6
Moore 6
were up early on a mission to try and help Ann get to her target 200 UK birds for the year, 3 to get. Our target birds were Smew, Short eared Owl and Purple Sandpiper.
Moore nature was part flooded,part tundra, the reserves lakes   frozen around the edges despite the recent rain and upturn in temperature. There were plenty of skating teal and squabbling coots but the Smew if it was still there, kept itself well hidden.


2.5 hrs later we decided to decamp to New Brighton to the marine lake by Perch Rock. Fortunately the seadogs  had not been out in their boats and subsequently  not hauled them out on the pontoon are waders roosted on.  Here we found a mixed flock of waders cuddling up against the bitter wind. Mainly Turnstones and Redshank, some Dunlin and 16 Purple sandpipers.

Mixed waders on pontoon roost

That's a tick and we rewarded ourselves with a restorative cup of hot coffee and a wee cake. Well..needs must!
Purple Sandpipers

Onward to Parkgate...not before eagle eyed Tyno spotted a hooded crow flying overhead  as we departed, sadly Ann already that ticked.
On arrival the Parkgate twitchers informed us they had see up to 8 shorties earlier in the day scouring  the marshes..promising. Scanning the marsh we could see plenty of  whirling  waders on the shore line,  and 2 Gt white Egrets were hanging out with several of their smaller relatives.
We trudged down the path towards Thurstaston, observing Finches and Fieldfare on the golf course. The time passed and we were treated to all kinds of raptors a pair of hunting Hen harriers and a solitary ring tail,  and then a Peregrine and Merlin perched on posts, but not a sniff of a Shortie.

Shoreline Hunter - Hen Harrier   c. N Prendergast

As the light faded in the west we had to call it a day, 2 out of 3  had eluded us. But it has been a grand day out and Ann still has 2 weeks to reach her goal -   although I don't think she will be too  disheartened to have reached  a measly 198! 


RSPB disappointed by marine wildlife proposals for Irish Sea

The RSPB has responded to proposals unveiled last week (Thursday 13 December) for the protection of Englands coasts and seas.

Clare Reed, Marine Conservation Officer for North West England said:
The announcement by environment minister Richard Benyon is hugely disappointing. These proposals risk selling short the huge numbers of people who have shown their support for the creation of a network of marine protected areas around our shores.

A process intended to protect our seas through the establishment of a coherent network of marine conservation zones has drifted dramatically off course when measured against the scale and urgency of the threat they face. Less than a third of the sites proposed in the Irish Sea have been put forward for designation in 2013, and there appears to be no clear commitment to any further rounds of designation.

"Furthermore, the areas that have been put forward for designation will not deliver the protection we had hoped for. We are particularly disappointed that black guillemot has been removed as a feature of the Cumbria Coast recommended Marine Conservation Zone. St Bees Head, on the West Coast of Cumbria, is home to 10,000 of breeding seabirds, including the entire English breeding population of black guillemot.     
St Bees cliffs

The coalition Government s commitment to achieve an ecologically coherent network of marine protected areas now looks undeliverable. The RSPB will now be examining the consultation in detail, including the lamentable attention given to the protection of seabirds and other  mobile species .    

The Defra press release announcing the new Marine Conservation Zones can be found here -

Details of the  recommended marine zones including Sefton Coast/Hilbre island/Cumbria Coast.
Copy link, paste into search engine

Sunday, 16 December 2012




I'd like to send my thanks to all our members who purchased seed & buggy bites at last Monday's indoor meeting. £25 profit was raised and has been donated to the Bird of Prey appeal. 


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Shorties at Altcar rifle range

I was lucky enough to be working in Hightown today and decided I need a 20 minute break from work.  I love Hightown beach and the Alt estuary as it is really quiet and you can get quite close the birds. There is a downside and the clue is in the post title. The rifle range was firing but it did allow me great views over the Alt river of 2 short eared owls.  The birds were quartering the sand dunes while shooting was going on.


Sunday, 9 December 2012

If you build it, they will come!

Sunday 8.30 am.
So there I was at the kitchen sink filling the kettle, watching the Blackbirds popping about the lawn.  When Whoa  ‘What’s that?’ there in my little Cherry tree…. a Cresty head, Yellow little tipped tail…..Waahh Waxwing. Laura running to the patio window....

Waxwing in Cherry tree

My decision to make a cuppa instead of jumping into the shower first thing was  to prove  a fortuitous one.  Looks like the RSPB’s tip of  hanging/putting out apples has paid off.
Two hungry Waxwings, pecking at the leftover  apples in the nook and in the neighbours apple tree. Note - Berries out already?
Only managed a couple of pics in the dim light, before  they left in a rain squall, but I’ll be watching- every opportunity I get from know on.

Waxwings & Apples


Saturday, 8 December 2012


Volunteers from the Friends of Pickering's Pasture are offering 2 guided walks to the Hale Duck Decoy on 28th December 2012 and 5th January 2013.  At time of writing (Saturday 8th December) there are 10 places still available for both dates.  Book soon to avoid disappointment.

For full information of this opportunity to visit this Ancient Monument of birding interest see: Friends of Pickering's Pasture Hale Duck Decoy walks


Friday, 7 December 2012

Save our hen harriers say Lancashire schoolchildren

Schoolchildren in Lancashire are calling for urgent action to save England’s rarest breeding bird of prey, the hen harrier.
Rpsb image.
Children supporting the Skydancer project.

This year has been the worst breeding season in almost half a century for the English hen harrier. There were no breeding pairs in their traditional stronghold in Bowland for the first time in several decades and only one nest in the entire country.
Evidence suggests that there is enough suitable land for at least 320 pairs of this upland bird of prey but that illegal killing and disturbance associated with grouse shooting is severely limiting its numbers.
Pupils from six Lancashire schools within the Forest of Bowland are so concerned about the plight of the hen harrier that they have collectively created 320 white hen harriers to symbolise each pair that should be breeding in the English uplands. 
These birds were brought together on Saturday 17 November at Hornby St Margaret’s Primary School to create one giant white hen harrier - playing on the symbol of a white dove of peace. This display was a rallying call for people from all walks of Bowland life to come together to save this beautiful part of our natural heritage and ensure that hen harriers remain a living icon of Bowland for generations to come.
The hen harrier is so iconic locally that it features on the logo of the Bowland Area Of Outstanding Beauty.
Over the past year, the children have been visited by the RSPB to raise their awareness and understanding of this magnificent upland bird of prey in the context of the local landscape, as well as ensuring its conservation.
Blanaid Denman from the RSPB has been working with the children. She says: “It has been a terrible year for hen harriers in Lancashire and beyond.  An already precarious situation has become critical, with the future of this species in England hanging by a thread.
“Hen harriers have always been an iconic feature of the Forest of Bowland and their absence this year is nothing short of a tragedy. However, it is really heartening to see that so many children are concerned about the plight of what they see as “their” birds and are making a stand to appeal for their protection. They want to be able to enjoy the spectacular display of a skydancing hen harrier when they grow up and have children of their own.

“We use the Forest of Bowland in so many different ways – farming, shooting, walking, birdwatching – and it’s vital that all these activities are carried out in a sustainable, complementary way, working together not just for their own benefit but also for the benefit of the wildlife that depend on this landscape.”


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat, please put some berries in the Mistle Thrush's hat

Apologies for the delay in posting this Blog. As I now can appreciate that instant information is paramount to help spotting and the taking of photographs of birds and wildlife in general and before they move on to greener pastures (no pun intended) which is and can be very annoying, especially when you have just missed the last bus (as it where). Reading reports and seeing photos of these beautiful visitors made me want to be close and photograph them for myself.

During the past weeks I have unfortunately just missed (the last bus) the flocks of birds in many locations around Liverpool even driving out to Jodrell Bank (but to name just a few). So on Sunday I ventured further afield to Rhuddlan North Wales, where I found a flock of 200-plus birds still feeding on the berry trees along the path of the small nature reserve there - which is located on the A424, St. Asaph road and junction / roundabout on Station road (A547) which actually runs over the river into Rhuddlan town itself with the castle in the background. You will find the small reserve car park which only holds about ten vehicles opposite the KFC near the roundabout.

While there I was informed by an avid twitcher that the area was sheer bedlam the previous, sunny day (1 Dec) as the whole reserve path was packed out with twitchers and photographers which tended to keep the birds up in the near-by trees - only briefly swooping down to feed, then quickly away again and not settling on the branches feeding freely without being disturbed. Although the weather and light conditions on the Sunday had deteriorated quite a bit. I was fortunate enough to be able to take some reasonable and clear photos between showers. With only a few photographers and onlookers there the birds were quite bold and we were able to approach within 5 or so meters of them by not making sudden movements and talking quietly.

Some bird information:
They will basically feed on berry bushes until the last berry had been eaten unless spooked, but will flit from tree to tree without warning as their fancy takes them. A bit like shopping trolleys with sticky wheels really. They tend not to feed on laden berry trees if there isn't a high vantage point tree near by. As they use this for safety reasons and also can digest their food in peace - which usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes depending on which type of berry they are feeding/digesting on at the time as some have more sugar and moisture content than others.
It was observed that the birds would test each berry by squeezing them in their beaks and if too hard and not ripe enough, would immediately drop them to the ground and then to try and eat another six. Talk about insatiable appetites wasn't in it!

As you can appreciate, their plumage looks as if it has been sprayed on by a professional, as it is so silky and sheer looking and of course that majestic crest on their heads sets the bird off from all other ones in the UK. Also the brightly coloured flecks on the wing edges, tips and tail feathers says it all. Just a magnificent bird of colour and refinement (which is very pleasing to the human eye and, of course, to the camera lens as well)
but from a Mistle Thrush's perspective to a Waxwing's at this time of year while raiding and eating their winter food larder ...

Bah! Humbug! and a sarcastic Merry Christmas to you all, comes to mind.

Last but not least.

Three Santas came riding by (as they do) while we were taking photographs . They had been on a near by charity run or cycle in this case and were on their way home.

I thought it rather apt to include them, as it is that Panto time of the year.
So does that well known term of phrase ... " They're behind you" .... come to mind here ?  ;-)

PS. I returned there again today 5 Dec and only saw six birds  ;-( but there is always next year.

Neil ....

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Pyrrhula pyrrhula?

Male Bullfinch

Saw a male Bullfinch in Huyton Lane  wetlands today, lovely!!


Newsham Park 1/12/12

I found a spare 10 minutes on Saturday and thought I would go and see if the Pochard have arrived back at Newsham Pk but they hadnt! There used to be a small wintering flock that liked this lake. Mallard, canada geese, coot, moorhen, some dubious mixed species were being watched by a grey heron.


A walk round the main lake and I found a greylag goose in with these canada geese's but the real surprise was 5 muscovy ducks.  Here is 3 of them. A lady with her children got a bit worried by them.

There was plenty of grey squirrels but a great spotted woodpecker was knock bits out of a branch. The other lake had a solitary greylag goose which was honking for any passing friends.

Keep looking for the pochard.

Marshside   2.12.12

Cold but clear. Great day out, highlights included...... Sparrowhawk(fem), distant peregrine, very distant great white egret, lovely close up views of black tailed godwits including 2 with colour rings, 3 fieldfare, wigeon, teal, shoveller, pintail, gadwall, pochard, little grebe, snipe, great view of water rail next to hide.

And the grand finale..........18 waxwings in grounds of Southport hospital. Great views feeding on berries in trees above ambulances.......20 yds away.