Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Singing warblers in the rain

Had an early evening stroll around Speke Garston Coastal park with Ged Clarke from the BBC.
We were out looking at local urban wildlife sites for a possible BBC piece about local North West wildlife.
As the rain started to stop the breeding birds started to sing.
There seemed to be warblers everywhere as well as goldfinch's.
One goldfinch perched up on a stick and lacked any red around its face reminding me of a juvenile bird. Looking around there seemed to be large numbers of goldfinch's with the odd greenfinch.
6 oystercatchers were on the mud as well as 3 whimbrels, a few mallards and 6 shelducks.
It was great to see the reeds and sedges had grown back after the fires on site. A few percy sedge warblers were holding territory in the thicker vegetation and whitethroats were flying up and doing there song. No sign of any lapwings breeding. Chris

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Woolston Eyes nature reserve 26 May

Black- necked Grebe

A beautiful sunny day saw 10 of us meeting up at Woolston Eyes NR. Ann Thomson had arranged for us to be shown around the reserve by one of the volunteers who manage Woolston.
Woolston bed 3

The reserve lies on the east side of Warrington, and is between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. It covers 645 acres and comprises 4 large lagoons which have in the past been used for depositing canal dredging. It is now designated an SSI and is most well known for its breeding black necked grebes, holding 25% of the UK population.
Woolston Wanderers

Birds seen included mallard, tufted duck, gadwall, pochard, coot ( with young), moorhen, greylag goose, canada goose, ruddy duck (don't tell anyone), mute swan (with cygnets), black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, great views of 1little ringed plover  and 1 arctic tern right in front of hide, little grebe, great crested grebe, black necked grebe......fantastic views in superb summer plumage, buzzard, 1 marsh harrier hunting over reed beds but chased away by the nesting black headed gulls, lapwing, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler, whitethroat, chiffchaff (heard), great spotted woodpecker (heard), blackcap (heard), water rail.....great views by the lucky half of the group, jay, magpie, pheasant, chaffinch.
Arctic Tern

Tower hide
Little ringed plover and Black headed gull


We then had lunch next to the Manchester ship canal where  we had been told there was a good chance of seeing kingfisher........sure enough within minutes the kingfisher flew past carrying a small fish. The only problem was that the kingfishers were nesting in the bank directly below us making it impossible to see, with the overhanging vegetation. We did see it again briefly as it perched on a dead tree in the canal before it darted across to the far bank.

After lunch 4 of us continued on to nearby Risley Moss nature reserve..........part of the Mersey Forest project and a rare example of a raised peat bog. Most similar habitat between Manchester and Liverpool having been turned into farmland many years ago.

The birds seen here included..............willow warbler, whitethroat, buzzard, canada goose (with goslings), robin, blackbird, great tit, blackcap (heard), swift, tufted duck, kestrel, and best of all a distant hobby, yellowhammer (heard), .................later 2 further hobby seen distantly circling very high chasing one of the soaring buzzards. Also brimstone and meadow brown butterfly.

Large Carp in the Mersey

A great day out in lovely weather. Woolston Eyes is a fantastic reserve and if anyone wishes to visit there is an open day on 30th June, access is normally restricted to members only.

Sean.                 Photos  added! - Laura

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bratislava trip

The suburbs of Bratislava are nice green leafy areas, and plenty of forest parks. For some it is best avoiding the graffiti laden stag/hen party districts of the city. The legacy from the Soviet days, much in evidence, is crumbling concrete and tenement blocks and a curious UFO style structure above the Nový most (New bridge) over the River Danube. The public transport system is efficient and only costs buttons. Some of the buses and trams are a little old though.

Having experienced Hungary in May last year I went prepared for the insects and sun with my special edition super roll-on tropical insect repellant and factor 50 sun protection cream and sun hat, I wasn’t taking any chances. Having finished my cold breakfast, thinking when is the main course arriving, then forgetting I was in continental breakfast country, I walked towards the UFO bridge and heard and saw lots of swift screaming above and walking the bridge lots of house martins were nesting underneath. It was nice to be looking down on them.

I started at Sad Janka Kráľa named after a Slovak poet. It is also the oldest public park in Europe and is alongside the River Danube. Here I saw nuthatch, blackcap, blackbird, great and blue tit, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch and serin. There were green woodpeckers, great spotted woodpeckers and spotted flycatchers. Interestingly there were carrion crows and hooded crows in the same vicinity, jackdaws and jays too. I arrived there quite early and saw a hare and red squirrels. The best sighting was a red backed shrike on the edge of the park.

Red-backed shrike
Later I walked along the bank of the Danube and didn’t see many birds on the river, with the odd cormorant flying low and black headed gulls and a few yellow legged gulls. In the wooded area I heard first then saw a nightingale, a lovely sound. Also high up in the canopy I saw golden orioles, their song once heard never forgotten. Later there were also some common terns flying over the river. Lots of chaffinches, chiffchaffs, blackbirds, etc.

The second day I tried Horsky Park, about 6 km outside the city. It is just a wonderful park and covering 22 hectares, and just big enough to walk peacefully listening to the birdsong of the usual suspects. I came across wood warblers, a collared flycatcher and golden orioles, as well as the more common song birds.

The third day, Sunday, I tried Bratislava Forest park and so did the population of Bratislava because it was heaving. Runners, cyclists, trekkers, dog walkers, day trippers, barbecue cookers and a bird watcher were trying to make a day of it.  It covers an area of 27.3 km² and 96% is forested and much on a hill.  I went into the quieter tightly packed forest area and didn’t pass many others, and the incline seemed never ending. I disturbed some red deer whilst trying a path that led to nowhere. The temperature was 30+ and I, along with four and twenty blackbirds were being baked. The blackbirds had more than the heat to contend with as goshawks were flying high, in the odd clearing making viewing possible. I arrived at the top and came across the aptly named Altitude restaurant, with a 200m high tower that can be seen from the whole of Bratislava. I came across a middle spotted woodpecker toing and froing from its nest.

Some signs in English

The last day I went left of the new bridge towards Hungary, and after the heavy overnight thunderstorm I had to sidestep lots of puddles. A collared flycatcher was nesting and singing high up looking onto the Danube. What a delightful song they have.  Lots of singing blackcaps and chaffinches, martins and swallows catching insects. I walked quite a distance knowing I couldn’t get lost if I carried on close to the river. I then heard a golden oriole, then a few and saw lots of them flying in between trees, even on the lower branches. They are a wonderful sight. I then flushed a nightingale and the unmistakable brown colouring of the wing, I heard at least 10 singing. I then had a wonderful musical interlude. All at the same time I heard golden oriole, nightingale, blackcap, song thrush and icterine warbler singing. It was la crème de la crème, Sunday night at the London Palladium, front row seats at Carnegie Hall to see Renee and Renato.

Looking onto the Danube
I had an early flight next morning and after another cold breakfast and a lukewarm cappuccino, or was it a latte?  I made my way to the airport and just about managed to squeeze on the 61 bus during another early morning Slovakian rush hour. I was so taken in with the proceedings I forgot to mark my bus ticket in the machine. I was thankful an inspector didn't get on and tell me in a foreign language I owed a 40 euro fine.


Sixty per cent of UK species in decline, groundbreaking study finds

UK nature is in trouble   that is the conclusion of a groundbreaking report published today by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations.

Scientists working side-by-side from 25 wildlife organisations have compiled a stock take of our native species   the first of its kind in the UK. The report reveals that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

In Merseyside, experts are particularly concerned about the state of nature in farmland areas. According to the report, out of the 1,064 farmland species for which there is information, 60% of them have declined.

David Morris, the RSPB s Conservation Manager for North West England, said:  Many of the species that are in trouble live in the extensive farmland areas of the county. These range from skylarks to hedgehogs
and brown hares. If we want to reverse these declines we need to ensure that farmers are given sufficient resources and support to be able to manage their land in a wildlife-friendly way. 

In the fields and meadows of Merseyside brown hares and water voles, once abundant in this region, have suffered following the removal of hedgerows and the modification of water courses.

Anne Selby, Chief Executive for the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside said:  Our Trust has been involved in major projects to help these species recover and prosper. The region is
still a stronghold for hares and water voles but numbers are a fraction of what they used to be. Many farmers have worked with us to try to reverse these declines.

The State of Nature report will be launched by Sir David Attenborough and UK conservation charities at the Natural History Museum in London this evening (May 22), while simultaneous events will be held in
Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Sir David Attenborough said:  This groundbreaking report is a stark warning   but it is also a sign of hope.

For 60 years I have travelled the world exploring the wonders of nature and sharing that wonder with the public. But as a boy my first inspiration came from discovering the UK s own wildlife.

Our islands have a rich diversity of habitats which support some truly amazing plants and animals. We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains.

This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate. However, we have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love
wildlife. The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.

Dr Mark Eaton, a lead author on the report, said:  This report reveals that the UK s nature is in trouble - overall we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate.

These declines are happening across all countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles.
Other once common species like the lesser spotted woodpecker, garden tiger moth and hedgehog are vanishing before our eyes.

Reliable data on these species goes back just fifty years, at most, but we know that there has been a historical pattern of loss in the UK going back even further. Threats including sweeping habitat loss,
changes to the way we manage our countryside, and the more recent impact of climate change, have had a major impact on our wildlife, and they are not going away.

None of this work would have been possible without the army of volunteer wildlife enthusiasts who spend their spare time surveying species and recording their findings. Our knowledge of nature in the UK would be significantly poorer without these unsung heroes, and that knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.  

Haybridge reserve- another hidden gem to wander through

On the mosses, after tree pipit

A dozen members of the group set off for the Lakes on a damp morning that soon turned to a thoroughly wet one. But undeterred, we gathered at Haybridge, which is a privately owned nature reserve (though membership is open to anyone at £10 per year-single) in a dramatic setting on the edge of Grizedale Forest and the Furness Fells.

‘Perhaps these woods of oak and birch may teach you unawares ….truths that escape the eyes that view the world from study chairs’.

The potential for a great day’s birding was obvious, the reserve has mixed habitat with easy way marked trails, however the day we had picked to go was unfortunate.  Dreich, atrocisous –just some of the words to describe the weather endured for the first 3hrs of our visit.

The first birds we noted, from a commotion heard near to the car park, was a gt spotted woodpecker intent on mischief around a blackbirds nest, the parents attacking their adversary with all they could muster.

The morning’s walk took us through coppice wood with its charcoal burner’s hut, wonderful native deciduous woodland, much of it coppiced to retain open areas. Song thrush, willow warbler and the deeper notes of garden warbler accompanied us, and the sheets of bluebells everywhere more than compensated for the grey skies overhead. In fact wild flowers were in abundance, throughout the reserve, wild daffodil and primrose, anemones, stitchwort, ransoms, cuckoo flowers and various fungi to name a few.
Bluebell woodland

The trail took us out of the woods and lead us to open landscapes with great views of the Rusland valley and  it’s  river course. Further on we come to the white moss tarn; on the water we saw mute swans, tufted duck, mallard, little grebe and a greylag goose with her goslings.
Leaving the woods

Eventually the rain had the better of us and we returned to the visitor centre for some lunch. (Hot and cold drink facilities on site by the way)

The visitor centre /museum  has several  feeding stations, very busy stations with siskins, redpolls, goldfinch  and chaffinch vying for space  on a niger tube, whilst  various tits and a nuthatch shared a nut feeder. Further away a great spotted woodpecker was feasting on peanut feeder hanging on a tree, not much competition there!
A welcome tick of the day was an obliging spotted flycatcher seen in the trees behind the centre. Whilst an engaging pair of swallows were very busy flying in and out of the barn were they had nested.

The reserve is home to red and roe deer; here we were not disappointed a large herd of red deer, over 50 individuals wandered out of the undergrowth into open pasture.  Ears pricked, not doubt listening to every word we uttered (just as well as there were several signs of poacher alert warnings dotted around the reserve)
Red deer herd

Cheered by this company, and the eventual lifting of the weather, we headed off for a completely different habitat. The SSSI sites of Hay bridge Moss and Rusland Moss, a raised lowland bog, is edged by the intermediate Lagg Fen, a very wet area of willow and alder, thickly covered in mosses and a rich plant habitat in its own right.  
A wooden board walkway leads through the mosses, this in an area noted for other wildlife, sadly absent due to the inclement weather, dragon and damselflies, newts, common frogs and toads. Adders, slowworms and common lizards are also found on the reserve, alas no sunny spot for basking today.

A word of warning for visitors  to the reserve on wet days, please take care on the wooden bridges and boards,  these can be extremely slippy, sadly discovered by one of our party who ended up with a sore  purple rump and worse, a pair of broken binos

Nearing the wooden bridge on the trail our party had its first sighting of another good tick for the day, pied flycatcher, a fine female flitting about a nearby shrub. Further along the trail and out in the open mossland, where there was less cover for birds, a tree pipit was observed perched high in a solitary tree. This area showed obvious signs of conservation management, clearance of trees to preserve the mosslands.

The path we were on is a circular route however a little further on we had to turn back  as the ground was too sodden to continue, but not before a few of our party  had a brief view of a  red kite  swooping down from it’s lofty perch and down into the tree line. Mute swan and Shelduck grazed the fields beyond and a pheasant’s harsh call was a regular background cry.

We retraced our steps to the centre; again a pied flycatcher was espied, this time a splendid male.  Redstarts are regular breeders here on the mosses and were keenly sort after by the group , however only a couple managed the next sighting  of this elusive bird , sighted by Terry and Sean a little  further down the trial.

On our return to the visitor centre, we sat on the terrace, telescopes trained on the hillside and tops, hopeful of a sighting of Red kite, honey buzzard or osprey’s returning from fishing trips to the Duddon estuary ...  Not today... the mute swans and shelduck from earlier did a flypast and a single goosander was the unexpected bird.
In search of osprey, kite and buzzards 

All in all, despite very unfavourable conditions, we had an excellent day out, and were very grateful to Terry, who is a member of the reserve, for guiding us.

If you plan a visit don’t forget to have a look around the museum/workshop, some interesting bird’s nests, tactile mammal skins, deer antlers and exhibits on show.
Oh and if you find a sodden blue, silver flecked woollen scarf in the woodland. It’s mine!(Laura)

Bird List

Siskin, robin, crow, chaffinch, gt spotted woodpecker, blackbird, mute swan, greylag goose, tufted duck, tree pipit, lesser redpoll, gt tit, coal tit, spotted flycatcher, swallow, pheasant, swifts, reed bunting, rook, lesser bb gull, shelduck, mallard, red kite, pied flycatcher, willow warbler, wren, nuthatch, goldfinch, buzzard and little grebe

Report compiled by Anne and Laura

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Rain, wind and wonderful birds

Some of you may know I've recently been on a birding holiday to the Outer Hebrides with my favourite birding holiday firm Oriole Birding.  Here is a link to the trip report which you may be interested in seeing.

It may be a long way away but well worth the trip at least once in a lifetime.

Ann Thomson

Friday, 17 May 2013

RSPB Burton Mere - visit this spring half-term and expect a fun-filled, wild day out.

Enjoy wild family fun at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Pond dipping at BMW  - Austin Morley

Families visiting RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands this spring half-term can expect a fun-filled, wild day out.

Now the long winter is finally over, staff at the nature reserve are bringing the popular pond dipping kits out of hibernation, ready for visitors to discover the weird and wonderful creatures making their
homes in the old fishponds.

The reserve, on the Dee Estuary, is also launching its new Wildlife Explorer backpacks, which contain everything from a magnifying glass and a pair of binoculars to a pooter - a special collecting tube which
visitors can use to catch small insects and examine them more closely.   Complete with identification guides and tips on where to find things, there s everything families need to get closer to nature and learn more about what makes Burton Mere Wetlands such a special home for wildlife.

Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer for RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said:  Pond dipping was a very popular family activity here last summer, with all sorts of fascinating minibeasts being fished out.

The new Wildlife Explorer backpacks encourage families to explore the rest of the nature trails and enable you to get up close and personal with the wildlife, from woodlice to wood mice if you re lucky.

The stunning bluebell carpet along the Gorse Covert trail will still be at its best and there will be chicks hatching left, right and centre our first avocets and lapwings hatched this week.

Both activities are available to collect from Saturday 25 May during the visitor reception opening hours. There is no need to book in advance and the activities are free of charge for RSPB members. The normal admission price of  6 per family applies to non-members, with an additional charge of  2.50 per pond dipping kit or Wildlife Explorer backpack.

For more information on the reserve and its activities, please call the reserve on 0151 353 8478, or check out the website

Sunday, 12 May 2013

11-12 May is World Migratory Bird Day Theme - "Networking for migratory birds"

This year's World Migratory Bird Day theme - "Networking for migratory birds" - highlights the importance of networks of sites for migratory birds along their migration routes. The 2013 World Migratory Bird Day Poster highlights a few of the thousands of sites important for bird migration. Migratory birds travel huge distances along their migration routes, sometimes even tens of thousands of kilometres. These connected sites act like 'stepping stones' and are used by birds to migrate. They are important for resting, feeding, breeding and wintering.

Many sites that birds depend on are under threat from human activities, thereby posing a grave risk to migratory bird species.

Bird migration is so extraordinary that there seems something almost supernatural about it: the more we find out about the feats of navigation and endurance performed by migratory birds, the more amazing they seem. Tiny hummingbirds whirring across the Gulf of Mexico, Bar-tailed Godwits covering eleven thousand kilometres in non-stop flight, soaring birds spiralling in their tens of thousands over land-bridges, songbirds dropping down to hidden desert oases just in time  the abilities of migratory birds are awe-inspiring.

Coming down to earth, however, the threats that migrants face are all too real   and very often migrant birds are under huge pressure at the exact points where they are most vulnerable. Birds battling to reach the sea-shore descend into a limitless line of nets. Tiny falcons funnel through forests to be trapped in their thousands. Exhausted shorebirds find that the mudflats where they once refuelled are now a sea of concrete, or circle wearily because their roosting sites have vanished. These are just some examples that have caught attention in the last few months   indicative of the increasing challenges that migrants now face on their journeys all over the world.

The theme of this year s World Migratory Bird Day, networking for migratory birds, resonates particularly strongly for BirdLife. BirdLife itself is a network, of people and Partner organisations connected up and down all the globe s flyways   taking action together for conservation. And BirdLife has devoted much effort, through the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme, to identifying, mapping, monitoring and safeguarding the networks of sites most important for migratory birds.

However, as the examples above show, networks are only as strong as their weakest links. Migratory birds use sites and habitats along the length of their flyways: they need looking after along the length of their flyways too. BirdLife s Migratory Birds and Flyways Programme, one of nine key conservation programmes in the new BirdLife strategy, brings together the actions of BirdLife Partners at a flyways scale.
Within the programme, Partners are working with national governments and others through focused projects, such as the Migratory Soaring Birds Project, working to integrate bird conservation within key economic sectors along the Great Rift Valley flyway; or Living on the Edge, working to address threats to migrant songbirds in the Sahel.

On 11-12 May, members and supporters of BirdLife Partners around the world will once again be out raising awareness and taking action for the world s amazing and inspiring migratory birds.

Dr. Marco Lambertini,

Chief Executive, BirdLife International

Sunday, 5 May 2013

John's Cyprus adventure. A Monty or a Pallid that is the question?

So, Cyprus. I always find it interesting to see what the local common birds are compared to the UK and here there’s no contest – Cyprus is definitely Hooded Crow territory. They’re frustrating birds as, due to their size and pale breasts it’s easy to mistake them for raptors. Cetti’s Warblers were often heard (though seldom seen)  and Zitting Cisticolas and Crested Larks were also widespread. On the flip side, Cyprus has no woodpeckers, perhaps not surprising due to their aversion to flying over water, but it also has no accepted record for Blue Tit, which is more puzzling.

‘Rapt..! No, just another Hoodie’ 
Crested Lark
Hooded Crow

Despite getting up at 4:30 for a 7am flight from Manchester, our hardy band made do with a quick splash’n’dash at the hotel before heading out into the foothills around Paphos to see what we could see. We managed to see the endemic Cyprus Warbler as well as confusion species Sardinian Warbler (key difference being the red eye ring of the Sardinian Warbler). A couple of Magpies then flew up into a tree to mob an unseen bird which, as it broke cover, revealed itself to be a Great Spotted Cuckoo, which gave great views as the Magpies proceeded to harry it across the valley. Given that the Magpie is the preferred host species for the parasitic great Spotted Cuckoo their ire was perhaps unsurprising, but this was a great start to the trip. 

The next day saw us ticking Alpine Swift on the way to a water treatment plant which also provided Spur Winged Plover, before we headed off to Mandria, where a female Harrier showed extremely well. But what kind of harrier was it? Owen thought it was a Montague’s Harrier but, when we pulled alongside some other birders to confer with them, they were adamant it was a Pallid Harrier (underwing markings don’t y’know). One of Owen’s birding contacts had also seen the Harrier at very close quarters and thought it was a Monty’s, but Owen resisted the temptation to make it into the rarer Pallid and put it down as an ‘unknown’. A couple of days later we met the same birders again, who apologised to Owen - they'd since been able to check their photos and confirm that it had indeed been a Monty's. I was both impressed by this piece of birding 'honour' and reassured by the fact that even experienced birders with  a good look at a bird can still struggle with IDs like the rest of us!

As the days went by we saw other Cyprus specialities such as the Cyprus Pied Wheatear and the Chukar partridge, supposedly the only ‘pure’ Chukars, the DNA of Chukars found in Turkey etc having been analysed and found to contain DNA from other  sources such as  Rock Partridge. Horse? Can’t rule it out…

There were also plumage differences with commoner birds – Cypriot Linnets seem to be more brightly coloured than their British counterparts.

A trip into the Troodos mountains was an opportunity to see the local races of Coal Tit, Three Toed Treecreeper, Jay and Crossbill, some of which may be split in future (look out for Dorothy's Treecreeper in a future Collins Bird Guide). I missed out on the Crossbill, but, between us, we managed to see the set, as well as an impressive Masked Shrike on the climb to the Troodos.
Masked Shrike

A bird that had proved easy to hear, though just about impossible to see, was the Black Francolin. We finally managed to see a female dash across the path ahead of our car, but hoped for a better sighting, which we were lucky enough to get on our way to Akrotiri, one of our party noticing a striking male calling and displaying on top of a hummock:

Black Francolin

And, shortly after that, we were treated to superb views of a group of Hawks:
Yes, the Red Arrows were in town, based at RAF Akrotiri as they practiced for the new display season.

Of course, it's not just about ticks - we had had some great views that we're used to seeing back home:
Red Arrows display team

Oddly, normally common migrants were proving thin on the ground – we failed to see a single lesser whitethroat, which is usually the commonest migrant - but conversely, did very well on ‘hope to see birds’ that were far from guaranteed. Blue Cheeked Bee Eater isn't an annual migrant, but we were lucky enough to catch up with five of them.

Blue Cheeked Bee Eater

Baillons' Crake was a great find, and we also managed to score a flycatcher hat trick - Pied, Collared and Semi-Collared, the latter also being a 'fingers crossed' bird for the trip.

And there were raptors – many birds seem to have been named in haste, leaving us to repent at leisure that a ’better’ (or at least more accurate) name wasn’t chosen instead. This was the case with a buzzard that I initially took to be an eagle due to its impressive wingspan. Which begs the question: if a massive wingspan is its most striking feature, why call it the Long Legged Buzzard?

We saw a Bonelli’s Eagle on the climb to the Troodos mountains (of which more later), and Agia Varvara and Anarita were also good for raptors, Montague’s Harrier being frequently seen though Kestrel was the most common.  The benefits of checking every bird were illustrated when one of our party announced ‘there’s something about this Kestrel’ and, when Owen checked, it was found to be an Eleonora’s Falcon.

The search for another raptor took us to the spectacular Kensington Cliffs - our initial attempt proved fruitless, but a return visit brought us Griffon Vulture.

Kensington Cliffs

Ayia Varvara and Anarita were regularly visited in the search for raptors, with frequent sightings of Montague's Harriers and Kestrels and were one of the final spots on our desperate last-day search - we'd visited Paphos headland in the hope of finding migrants but had struck out. Nevertheless, we kept at it, and Anarita duly paid dividends, with at least 6 Red-Footed Falcon and 3 Lesser Kestrels, one of the latter being considerate enough to perch on a weed stem and show off its lack of moustachial stripe and its pale claws (Kestrels have black claws). And, of course, raptors aren't the only birds that like perching on wires:

Thanks to Kathy Towers who took the pictures and agreed that I could use them for our blog.

 John Doragh

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Speke Garston Coastal Park May update.

The promise of summer and a late spring made me thing it would be a good time for a migrant search of the coastal park. The coastal park isn't on the coast but it is 4 miles from the centre of Liverpool on the banks of the Mersey. The nice weather has changed and there was a strong wind keeping the birds down. 2 whimbrel were on the estuary with ringed plover, dunlin, oystercatcher, redshank, mallard and shelduck.

Herring, lesser black backed and a greater black backed were sitting on the sandbanks.

Linnet, reed bunting, skylark and goldfinches were all singing.

2 swallows flew over. The lapwings don't look to have breed this year by the B and M warehouse.

10 calling male whitethroats were the only migrants I could find.

Someone has been messing around with the vegetation. The local kids I guess I have been setting fire around the site.

I visited Carr Lane pools in Hale on my way home and saw the Pectoral sandpiper which was seen there yesterday. A good site with lots to see such as dunlin, little ringed plover, lapwings, redshank, oystercatcher, mallard, teal, gadwall, shoveler, shelduck and canada geese.

Swifts, house martins, swallows, 2 white wagtails but didn't see the yellow wagtail.

Its best to park your car in Curlender way and view from the gate.