Sunday, 28 April 2013

RSPB Liverpool Rocking at the Red Rocks

On the Red Rocks, looking towards Hilbre Island - L Bimson

Another sunny Saturday saw an expanded Leasowe light brigade (16 of us today) rocking at the Red Rocks, well maybe a slow fox trot, as the weather  was a just a bit too chilly with the wind blowing in off the Irish sea, it sucked away any warmth provided by the bright sunshine.  Alas it would also be detrimental to our bird watching, as the mudflats were devoid of bird life; a few distant birds could be seen flying about Hilbre Island. 

Hilbre Island - N Prendergast
We didn’t tarry, just long enough for Chris to point out the buildings and the ringers heligan traps on Hilbre, and  the importance of  this dropping off point for migrants and feeding birds waiting for the tide to  turn. We took the path along the coast towards West Kirby, checking the scrub, marsh and reed beds, backed by the Royal golf course.

Despite the recent weather being poor and spring slow to burst the buds. Our migrants were back, chiff chaff and whitethroat sang. Swallows skimmed the marsh, swooping over the head of a single Wheatear braving the blow. An elusive sedge warbler was in fine voice in the reed bed but despite straining every eyeball, he evaded our gaze. More familiar birds were about, always a joy to behold  a skylark high in the sky, fluttering then parachuting down, all the time singing his territorial warbling song. Another melodious attractive finch is the linnet, another opportunity for Chris to point out identifying marking on its chest and tail. (Skylarks and Linnets are both on the conservation red list along with our House Sparrows)
Reed bed & Dunes - L Bimson
Other more common a garden birds, wrens, house sparrows, goldfinches and blackbirds, flitted between the neighbouring gardens and the gorse/ shrubs.
Our only birds of prey for the day were a buzzard and later a sparrowhawk smoothly gliding through from the gardens and out over the golf course.
The reed beds only other obvious occupants were reed buntings, a few snoozing Mallards and a hidden Moorhen prrp!

Exploring the nearby natterjack slacks, we came across some tadpoles but these would be the offspring of frogs, the natterjack breeding a little later in the year.

Looking out over the shore from the sand dunes, 2 shelduck were accompanied by a party of 4 white wagtails,   a little further out a mixed flock of dunlin and ringed plover busily probed the mud. Gregarious, skittish, and fast of foot, a pleasure to watch,  suddenly taking flight on mass spooked by an unseen foe,  twisting and turning  in unison until landing  on the sandstone safety of  little eye.
Busy...Ringed Plover & Dunlin - L Bimson

Returning to the rocks, waiting for the tide to race in, we took timeout to admire various early flowers, garden escapees or deliberately scattered?  Narcissi and grape hyacinths, free seeding Honesty and cranesbills. Nettles flourished along the path, Chris determined to show us white/red dead nettles don’t sting!
Sea scurvy - L Bimson
Pretty clumps of White Sea scurvy shone out, one of the first plants to flower on the marsh. The only butterflies to brave the blow were small tortoiseshells, seen sunning themselves in sheltered areas. 
Tortoiseshell - N Prendergast
We hoped the distant waders on the shoreline near Hoylake life boat station would be flushed our way by the incoming tide, however once again the wind was against us and the only birds to come our way was a solitary cormorant, a  group of 4 curlews and a large party of mixed gulls. The only bird of note, a distant Gannet further out on the horizon, past the wind turbines, travelling out to sea.
Time for home.  Not a great haul for the day, only 28 species seen, but another informative amble in the fresh sea air and a home baked lemon curd cake from Tomo to finish the day - Yummy.

Our Red Rocks Day list: 28 species
Shelduck, mallard, buzzard, ringed plover, dunlin, cormorant, curlew, gannet, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull , herring gull, wood pigeon, skylark,  swallow, meadow pipit, white wagtail, wren, wheatear, blackbird, house sparrow, whitethroat, chiff chaff, magpie,  carrion crow, chaffinch, goldfinch, linnet, reed bunting.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Trip to Lublin

They couldn’t have planned this better, flights by Ryanair departing from Liverpool to Dublin and Lublin at the same time. Could have been a problem but luckily I was awake.

Lublin Airport in Poland only opened a few months ago and its terminal is a smallish space age building with plenty of signage in English. The train station is attached to the airport, a great idea I thought until the train started, when it was as comfortable as a Russian train taking prisoners to the Gulag camps.

I took a taxi to my brand new hotel about 7 kms from Lublin. I woke early to singing black redstarts, and had an early breakfast served by the Polish girl who was also the Receptionist, who had served the evening meal. I was beginning to wonder whether she had cooked the food too. I started off my bird watching in the nice suburb of Lublin called Slawin, where there are plenty of new houses being built and new roads. I immediately saw the black redstarts, along with great tits, blue tits, chaffinch, greenfinch, tree sparrows and starlings. I saw the high fences of the Botanical Gardens and in the trees were chiffchaff, Blackcaps, wood warblers and to my delight two spotted flycatchers. After 9 am, when it opened I went into the Gardens, and found out later, through the gardener’s entrance, the sign was in Polish naturally. The gardens have over 600 species of plants throughout the world, but all signage was in Polish and Latin so I was none the wiser, so I just enjoyed them. 
Over 600 species of plants
Here I saw great spotted woodpecker, two Syrian woodpeckers, green woodpecker, nuthatch, short toed treecreeper, lesser whitethroat (which are common in Poland), fieldfare, goldcrest,  coal tits and the star of the show, a pair of pied flycatchers. Swallows were flying high. The Botanical gardens are lovely gardens spoilt a little by being close to a busy main road that was noisy to say the least. In the afternoon I went into the open air museum of the Lublin Village Muzeum Wsi Lubelskiej. I had an interesting conversation with the attendant in the souvenir shop. Her limit of English amounted to Thank you and Hello. I did manage to buy a map and (what I thought was) a fridge magnet. The buildings were from the earlier part of the 20th century but managed to get myself frogmarched out of two them, that were not in the tourist route. An easy mistake to make I thought.  There were plenty of art students painting the log cabins and scenery, but I carried on quickly not wanting to be part of arty Arabella’s dissertation. There were lots of fieldfare in the fields, starlings were mimicking them and singing warblers in the trees. I managed to see a few serin.
Next day I went to Debowka Forest, a bit further out and saw lots of woodland birds and a large bird of prey flew over, and checked later and confident it was a honey buzzard. Later a flock of birds flew high over the treetops and thought they were waxwing and later confirmed when they were fluttering about in the high branches. There were about 50 of them and I had great views. As well as the warblers I had seen the day before there were willow warblers  singing. I also saw two hawfinches and a lovely bright yellow looking crossbill feeding in pine trees  on the road leading to the Forest. It took a while to catch a glimpse. I knew they were there because they were calling.
Debowka forest
 I had a day off, sightseeing, on Thursday but saw rooks and jackdaws on the grass verges and lesser whitethroats in the bushes and on Friday before my evening flight, I went to Gorki Czechowskie and some open country land alongside. There was little in the forest and it seemed to be made out for off road bikers, not the place to attract birds, the open land was more interesting. I started off and immediately saw a common redstart showing really well. I came across my sixth warbler in Poland, whitethroat, lots of them. There were some buzzards flying over and saw more warblers; blackcaps, willows, chiffchaffs. There were many magpies and they don’t appear to be as bold as those in the UK. I had my telescope with me and was delighted to see about ten whinchats, all singing on their perches in the long grass. Also saw a female stonechat chasing off its male cousin. On the way back with some serious sunburn on my arms I flushed a grey partridge.
I discovered the entrance to the Botanical gardens and then realised you had to pay to get in. i deprived the University of 12 Zloty from my earlier visits , and I did notice I got a funny look from the attendant when leaving the day before when on a brief visit, or it could just have been my sunburnt arms standing out. (I will plead not guilty and cite Noel Coward). No new birds but I did try to seek out what shelter I could in the strong hot sun. I had a long look at the male syrian woodpecker drumming.

I ordered a taxi and the driver didn’t speak a word of English. I had to get multitasking Muriel to help me out, and hoped the translation didn’t take me to the wrong airport. After driving through heavy traffic I arrived well in time and managed to convince the Polish Customs I was on a bird watching holiday and not a spy when they discovered a telescope and binoculars in my hand luggage.


Monday, 22 April 2013

The Leasowe light brigade go Wirral birding

Looking towards Leasowe lighthouse from path to Meols 

The Leasowe light brigade (8 of us in total - not even a squad really) joined Chris bright and early on Saturday.  A wonderful cheery sunny morning with clear views across the river to the wind farm and Formby dunes.

Arriving at the car park it was obvious others had the same idea, besides the early dog walkers, a multitude of birders, telescopes at the ready where either in situ on the sea wall searching through the gulls, or beating a path to the Lingham lane area, where we were to follow. Not a sign of the Iceland gull, but really nice views of a gang to terns, commons and jazzy sandwiches!

Wheatear -Paddocks  Leasowe - L Bimson
On our way, hardly a charge but more of a spring saunter inland, were it was noticeably warmer than on the raised embankment path. The area around Leasowe lighthouse includes scrubland, areas of standing water, wildflower meadows and reedbeds.  We headed down the footpath leading to the paddocks; this whole area behind the coastal embankment is a haven for resting migrants and nesting birds. Chiffchaff and blackcaps were amongst the more common finches in the shrubs and hedges. Early swallows sweeped the fields.  Our pal Sean had visited during the week and had reported wheatear, whinchat and redstart,  so we were pleased to see the first of our targets, a striking wheatear popping  about the fields with others such as linnets, meadow pipits, skylarks and white wagtails, in fact wheatears turned out to be plentiful, over half a dozen in one paddock.  Or second quarry a whinchat was seen distantly through John’s scope further a field, but had flown by the time we got to a closer vantage point.

Moving on to Park Lane by the farm, a party of birders put us on  to the spot the redstart had been seen, sure enough a little further down the lane a couple of telescopes were trained on it! What a beauty, a striking male redstart perched in a field edge shrub, flitting down to the grass and back...marvellous.
Stonechat -N prendergast
No sign of the whinchat so we headed back towards the coastal path which gave us good views of the shore line and of the enclosed common/sandy area. This was to prove fortuitous. Whilst observing some splendid feisty stonechats, sparrows, linnets and goldfinches in a patch of flowering gorse, a whinchat was seen being mobbed by a male stonechat, not happy the other chat was on his patch!

Looking out to sea we focused our attention on a mixture of feeding waders, as well as a little egret and a curlew, no whimbrel today.

Returning through the reed bed area we discussed and observed the differences between chiffchaff and willow warbler, the legs have it apparently; chiffchaffs always dark, willow warbler more pinkish. More blackcaps recorded and a reed bunting, sedge warbler heard but not seen. As well as the migrants, the warmer weather had brought some others out to play. Peacock and Tortoiseshell butterflies flitted about, huge bumble and red-tailed bees explored the grassland, and a yellow flourish of daffodils, primroses and celandines lifted their heads to the blue skies.

Male Blackcap  at leasowe- N prendergast 
Time to leave, however a detour was in the air, a desperate twitch ensued, apparently a blue winged teal was sunning itself at the old RSPB Inner Marsh farm pools.  Well it was only 25 minutes away as the crow flies. 
Kestrel  at IMF -N prendergast

Arriving at the reserve, we were told it was showing well and had been snoozing in front of the hide for 3hrs, however our grand day out was about to end on a slightly sour note, as we approached said hide, the birding community were telling us the bird had moved, as it happened it had moved to the furthest pool from the hide, beyond binos!  An enclave of birders with telescopes packed the far end of the hide, promising if it came into view they would give is a gander, but they weren’t giving up their seats!  After 30mins or so we resignedly gave up the twitch, jobs to do, people to see…we left the enclave to their vigil.  Still the avocets and godwits were resplendent in the sunshine, and the newly arrived whitethroats were ticks for the day.

Oystercatcher and avocets IMF - L Bimson

Our Wirral Day list : 64 species

Little egret, grey heron, mute swan, canada goose, shelduck, gadwall, teal,  mallard, shoveler,  tufted duck, common  scoter, buzzard, kestrel, pheasant, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, avocet, ringed plover, lapwing, dunlin, black tailed godwit, curlew, redshank, turnstone, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull , herring gull, sandwich tern, common tern, wood pigeon, skylark, sand martin, swallow, meadow pipit, white wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, redstart, whinchat, stone chat, wheatear, blackbird, house sparrow, mistle thrush, whitethroat, blackcap, chiff chaff, willow  warbler, blue tit, great tit, long tailed  tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, reed bunting.

River Birket, Leasowe


Thursday, 18 April 2013


              Can't make Sat trip to Leasowe with Chris on Sat so popped over this afternoon for a couple of hours.
              Loads of chiffchaffs and a few willow warblers in bushes as you approach the gate to the horse paddocks.

              At first sight fields very empty with just a small flock of linnets with a couple of meadow pipits among them.
             Then in middle field a wheatear showed well, and a stunning male redstart was on the posts alongside the path. At top end of field a male whinchat flitting around.

                Whinchat.......can you see him on barbed wire?.......... click on picture for better view.

                                            Heres a close up.



Monday, 15 April 2013

Winwick puddle the return.

Now he says there are three Little Ringed plovers paddling.
Resistance was futile, after not seeing Lesser spotted woodpecker at Marbury CP yesterday I‘d had enough of not seeing little ‘uns.
Once again I found myself in the pub car park, this time a gale was blowing and the only thing alive on the puddle was a Moorhen.
Disgruntled, I went to feed the ducks at Pennington Flash, always good therapy.   Felt like a re- run of Marbury, singing Chiff chaffs, Blackcaps and Nuthatches.  Everything on the water was being battered in the wind, (couldn’t see the Yellow wagtail if it was there) More sensible birds like the huddled group of 8 Goosanders snoozed on a lagoon island. The Bunting hide was very quiet too only 2 Bullfinches, 1 Greenfinch, 3 Reed buntings visiting with the tits, no lollipops. Must all be out house renovating?
A large stretch of the grassland/woodland toward the canal was burnt black? A Male Bullfinch sitting on a twig showed up beautifully against the background! (Always a silver lining)  Hopefully the area recovers quickly.
Enough of being wind blown, time to head home for cuppa. What the hell, I’ll detour via Winwick again, hope springs eternal.
Pub car park, bino’s out...mmh..... Something small was paddling looks like a White wagtail, it was a Wagtail, but it had some mates. A fluffed up Meadow pipit AND 2 little ringed ploverish mates. HURRAY.   Managed to get some half decent shots before the gale blowing across the open fields incapacitated me, I’d like to say it was tears of joy; I could really have done with a pair of safety goggles!

Seriously titchy, only 6" long, and very nifty on their feet

And the most amazing thing of all? -  I resisted going back to the pub for pudding! 


Friday, 12 April 2013

Little Ringed Plover 0. Rhubarb and Apple Crumble 1

Winwick puddle from the pub window!

What should a girl do, it’s not raining, hairdresser hasn’t got a slot for me, the grim prospect of hoovering back home.  Too right, where’s the binoculars..Where’s Winwick?

Well Chris says the area is worth checking and is really close, so.
Fiddle i'th bag pub found, pulled up into car park, landlord putting out the bins, didn’t appear to mind, phew!

Here was a pond, part of the stables, extending out into a big puddle in the stables fields.  Little ringed Plover… yer right, nipped into another field or just got off...knew the scouse bird was coming!  Still a few paddlers were about, Mallard, Teal, fence perched Grey Heron, Moorhen, wheeling Lapwings, Pied wag, Crows.

Detour 1.  Houghton Green Flash, mmh, pretty empty for such a large expanse, (unlike its local neighbour - Pennington) noticeably exposed barren of other vegetation, shrubs etc around the flash, nowhere for the bird life to run and hide into? Great crested grebes displaying, Tufties, Mallard, 2 Oystercatcher, Black headed gulls and Crows.

Detour 2. Newton Lake/Willow Park. I quite like this little lake with its muddy silted up islands, Newton Brook flows in and out of the lake and the area has been landscaped with benches to sit on. Sadly as in a lot of out parks, discarded rubbish was evident. No hoped for Kingfisher but more of the ones that had gone before Teal, Mallard, Tufties, Moorhen, Canadian Geese, balck headed and 2 very loud Lesser Black Gulls. The wooded area of Willow Park flitted with Long tailed tits, Nuthatch and Song thrush of note.

Homeward I guess, back to Winwick puddle on the way, just in case. No luck, that sort of a day, no new arrivals but plenty of Chiff chaff and Skylarks singing heartily, Finches/Tits in the hedgerows.

Well it would be rude not to pay the landlord back for using his car park. The Fiddle, as Dave Hardy told us is something to experience...first thing you see as you walk through the door is stuffed animals, Badger, Fox... Crikey stuff everywhere, an Aladdin’s cave of antiquity, has to be seen to be believed. Books, toys from bygone years, military memorabilia, and life size mannequins propping up in the bar, various musical instruments, anamatical skeletons. If you’ve ever thrown it out, its here!
Stuffed, every nook and cranny

Consolation Rhubarb and apple crumble, and Coffee snaffled whilst sitting at the window, overlooking the puddle!  Only other visitor to the puddle was a birder with a 2ft lens, who left after a thorough scanning of the fields, he resisted the pub, obviously on a detour!        


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Birding Winwick

A mate of mine has been telling me about a pub that he goes to and I would like it. So a quick drive to Winwick and I was on Alder Lane heading towards the Fiddle Inn I'th Bag pub. Opposite the pub there is a flooded horse field which held two little ringed plover, 8 teal, lapwing and meadow pipits. The plovers are below the white piece of plastic.

I then headed up to Houghton Green Flash to see if there was any black necked grebes but there was only 4 great crested grebe, 10 tufted duck and a wigeon of note.

All this area is worth checking and is really close.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

                           FIRST SWALLOW OF SPRING.      10th April.

Returned to Frodsham Marsh this afternoon....4-7pm.

Having had great day out on Sunday visiting first Moore NR and then Frodsham with Ann (Thomo)....when we saw lesser spotted woodpecker, thought I would have another look at Frodsham.

1 ring tailed hen harrier 4pm.......dropped into reeds and not seen again, 1 male marsh harrier 5.30pm good but distant views hunting over reedbed and edge of tank,  and then just as I was leaving 1 superb male hen harrier, really close view quartering over reedbed. Unfortunately had just packed camera away !  Also 1 ruff, chiffchaff singing, 6 sand martin and best of all 1 swallow......first of the year.
All sightings over no6 tank.


                male and female great spotted woodpecker

                          female reed bunting

                shelduck and black tailed godwit



Monday, 8 April 2013

Fire destroys wildlife habitat

Staff and volunteers from RSPB Dee Estuary joined fire fighters in a bid to tackle a blaze at the weekend, which destroyed the habitat of nesting birds and wildlife.

The fire, which police believe was started deliberately, spread across Neston Reedbed and Parkgate Marsh on Sunday afternoon, causing damage to the reserve and a number of residents’ garden fences. No-one was injured in the blaze.

The incident has raised repeated safety concerns from RSPB staff as arson attacks on the site have been an ongoing problem for a number of years.

Colin Wells, site manager at RSPB Dee Estuary Reserve, said: “There is a team of volunteers who warden the area in the evenings to try and discourage people from starting fires, which has successfully prevented any for a few years, but sadly not this year. We are concerned this could lead to a more serious accident.”

The fire has had a damaging impact on local wildlife, particularly harvest mice, as many may have been killed in the blaze.

Colin said: “The last few weeks have been fine and combined with a cold easterly wind, the conditions on the marsh have been brittle and dry, which meant the fire spread quickly.

“The harvest mice will have lost their habitat and many of them may have been injured or killed. The area is an important breeding ground for birds such as reed warblers, reed buntings and water rail. They will have lost their nesting areas. This loss of habitat is devastating.”
Police are treating the fire as a potential arson case. Anyone with any information is asked to call Ellesmere Port and Neston Neighbourhood Policing Team on 0845 458 6373.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

                   SPEKE-GARSTON.     3rd April 2013.

Great numbers of black- tailed godwits feeding on shoreline of rising tide this afternoon  2-4pm.
Counted three seperate groups of 183, 361 and largest group near sailing club of 530+.  Guess they are stocking up before moving on to Iceland, Greenland. Loads of birds in fantastic summer plumage.

 Also large numbers of oystercatcher, redshank, dunlin, shelduck and quite a few knot, curlew.

Chiffchaff in woods nearest to Speke Hall, with goldcrest, long-tailed tits.

Snipe in flooded corner near road.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

April Fools on a bit of a twitch

Marsh from Denhall Lane

Whilst Chris was in Speke/Garston, Sean and I decided to go and see what was happening in Leasowe as far as migrants were concerned.  A cold easterly wind blowing, there was nothing unusual about, no doubt the cold weather holding the migrants back. A few linnets, meadow pipits and pied wagtails on the paddocks.  A bitterly cold walk along the front produced little other than a few gulls and redshanks.

On then to Red Rocks which again was quiet, a few shelduck on the sands and a solitary knot and a redshank.  A brief stop in West Kirby by the Marine Lake which only seemed to have a selection of gulls.  Were we doomed?

No, as they say no gain without pain, on to Denhall Quay, by The Harp at Neston.  We parked up where there were already a few birders with scopes lined up in search of the drake American Wigeon.  After only a couple of minutes the bird which had been quite elusive appeared.  Larger than our Eurasian one and with a cream rather than yellow stripe down the face we were in luck at last.  There was no sign of the female black redstart that had been reported in a garden near The Harp so it was on to Neston Sewage Works for the Ware Pipit.  A muddy walk in parts (wellies advisable) with a great spotted woodpecker and a few redwings on the way took us to the view point over the fence on to number 4 bed.  A selection of birds were around the sewage works including grey and pied wagtails, wren, song thrush, chiffchaff and a couple of goldcrests displaying right in front of us in a tree.  There was also a meadow pipit which we were trying to convince ourselves could be the water pipit in winter plumage until of course the real thing appeared on the metal rail in front of us in full summer plumage.  What a little stunner with pinky peach chest and a grey head with a distinct white eye stripe.  Back to the car and a short walk further up past The Harp for another look for the Yankee wigeon produced our first Wheatear of the year and another view of the wigeon.  Finally, on to Denhall Lane near Inner Marsh Farm, in the hope of a hen harrier to round up the day, found another two wheatears (male and female)here, but  no such luck on the hen harrier front unfortunately but a grand day out never the less.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Speke Garston Coastal Park

With the extended Easter break I headed down to Garston in search of some spring migrants following on from a report of a black redstart somewhere between Garston and Speke on Saturday.
Saturday had been a warm day but Easter Sunday was yet again a blast of cold.

Tide was just on the turn so it was great to see around 200 + black tailed godwit along the shore and some had started to moult into there summer plumage. A ringed plover, couple of sanderling, dunlin and oystercatchers were probing around. The redshank were bobbing u and down while the shelduck were trying to sort out who was more dominant.  

Someone has been setting fire to the grass's, bracken and reeds on the site. Lots of dog walks today and a few meadow pipits bouncing about. Mallard and teal were on the river and a buzzard cam out for the trees and headed to the lapwing breeding pools for a drink.

 3 kestrels were around the reserve and as I walked off the reserve to check if the lapwings were holding territory on the pools a peregrine flew past and dived over the bank on to the estuary in search of a meal. I soon lost sight of him and continued searching for lapwings and grey partridges but there was none around.
A grey heron flushed out of the pools and a single snipe lifted and zig zaged away.

It wont be long before these area are full of waders and birds song. Oh yer and it better warm up too.