Saturday, 29 June 2013

Little terns at Gronant

With Mersey ferry's having a problem with the ferry and cancelling our Eco and Liverbird cruises, it left a number of us with a spare day. 4 of us decided we still wanted to go birding so Chris suggested the little tern colony at Gronant.

Recently a little tern colony near Hartlepool had all its eggs robbed by an egg thief.
The little tern colony at Gronant is the only one in Wales and is now protected by Denbighshire Councils ranger service.
This colony also suffers loss due to other circumstances. Large storm tides, foxes, kestrels, humans and other things.

We walked on the raised broadwalk to the viewing platform and watched the sea coming in. The terns were flying everywhere but we were still some distance away.
So we walked down the shingle ridge and I explained that these are the UK smallest terns and when you watch them you can see how the fly more like a snipe than their bigger cousins.

Looking through the waders on the beach we noticed some summer plumaged sanderling. As we got closer to the protected zone we noticed a ringed plover. I wondered if it would do the broken wing thing but it didn't.

Laura wanted to get closer to the terns and you can, as long as you stay out of the nesting area. Nearly 200 little terns are there and it was great to see lots of birds carrying n food and calling.  There was of course the odd squabbles and chasing off others in territory disputes.

There is of course another problem for birders watching the colony and that is the terns will crap on you!! I have the droppings on my bins to prove it. Does that make them lucky bins or I will see better birds!

Its a great place to visit with the opportunity to see other things around the dunes.
We have a group walk to Point of Air on Sunday 8th September at 10am.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Giving terns a home at Preston Marina

An unusal choice? Nesting common tern - Paul Ellis
More than 80 pairs of common terns are nesting at Preston Marina thanks to a new conservation project aimed at improving breeding conditions for these declining seabirds.
Since 2009 common terns have attempted to nest on the breakwaters around the marina but despite increasing numbers, a lack of suitable nesting materials has hampered their success.  It is thought that the terns may have relocated from a breeding ground at Shotton on the Welsh side of the Dee Estuary.
Concerned about their plight, the RSPB and Fylde Bird Club teamed up see if they could help the birds and, following talks with Preston City Council, they were able to create numerous artificial nests by placing recycled tyres and gravel on the breakwaters.
As a result of their efforts, the number of terns nesting at the marina has more than doubled from last year and more birds are still arriving.
Common terns are smaller than gulls but are faster and more agile. They chase away any gulls that get too close to their nests. Terns can be distinguished by their very long pointed wings, forked tails, black caps and black tipped red bills.
Paul Ellis of the Fylde Bird Club said:  Like all things designed for great speed and agility, common terns look stunning. These good looks are the result of an evolutionary arms race with other birds. Terns need to bring fish back to their nests without losing them to gulls and other pirates and so must be able to out-fly them all.
 That s what makes common terns so spectacular to watch and it s great to be able to see them so well in a city. When common terns first started to nest at the marina they had hardly anything to nest on and we realised that it would be very easy to help them, just by putting out gravel.  Clare Reed, the RSPB s Marine Conservation Officer for North West England, said:  Despite what their name might suggest, common terns have been struggling in recent years, possibly because of declines in their food sources such as sandeels. In the North West, in particular, there has been a notable loss of them from some areas, so it is fantastic that the marina is able to give them a home.  Councillor Robert Boswell, Cabinet Member for Environment at Preston City Council, said:  To have such wonderful seabirds nesting and thriving in Preston is simply remarkable.  It just goes to show the amazing richness and diversity of our local environment.  We are delighted to have helped and hope that this colony of common terns can go from strength to strength and increase their numbers in the years to come.

And they say that wind turbines don't have any effect on small birds!!

A rare bird alert gave us news of a  White-throated Needletail  on the isle of Harris this morning.
Tonight the bird is dead. Words escape me, so very very sad. The windfarm debate goes on.

White-throated Needletail - Josh Jones


The eyes have it - Another chance to visit wonderful Woolston eyes

Black necked grebe

If you missed our trip in May. Read all about it:


Set this date in your diaries, smart phones, computers or just tie a knot in the corner of your hankie!
WOOLSTON EYES OPEN DAY is SUNDAY 30th June 2013 10:00am to 4:00pm
Admission is FREE!
Ample car parking is FREE!
Toilet facilities on the Reserve and next to the tented exhibitor stands will be FREE!
Guided tours around the Reserve and visits to the viewing hides for a spot of bird watching and observing bird ringing demonstrations with the opportunity to see birds in the hand and close up will be FREE!
A number of fellow conservation groups have confirmed their attendance and support with exhibition stalls under tented space to add diversity and interest for all. These currently include;

Colin Woolf One of the UK’s leading wildlife artists and long time supporter of the Eyes’
Butterfly Conservation
CAWOS - Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society
RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Moth Trapping Exhibit
Cheshire Wildlife Trust
Cheshire Bat Group
Wirral and Cheshire Badger Group
Hot and cold refreshments will be available on the day


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Birding with Rodders and Peaty

Our Sunny Sunday in Liverpool – 16th June, 2013!

This Sunday saw Jenny and I  tripping the light fantastic along the coast from Hale, heading towards the Lighthouse then back to the village, and no, there was no pub stop, although I nearly suggested it, but who would drive me home??

It started out as quite a quiet day for birds, and then we saw the scrawniest Robin I have seen in years, he looked exhausted trying to find food for his brood.  Shortly afterwards we saw a very smart Mistle Thrush getting enormous worms out of the ground, then taking them off to a tree.  Then 5 male blackbirds all in a very small amount of field, I was surprised there were no fisticuffs amongst them.  

We carried on along the path, the reeds and grasses at times totally obscuring our view, and the cow parsley etc., waving over our heads.  We were lucky enough to see a couple of Reed Buntings, every time we spotted one, down he would go and disappear, to then re-appear on another reed!  Why don’t they keep still? 

Whitethroat R blythe
Shortly after we heard the lovely song of a Whitethroat, who rewarded us for our patience - not a word usually in my vocabulary – by sitting on a tree reasonably close to us. 

In the distance we could see lots of Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Shelduck, Black Headed Gulls, and 5 Grey Herons, as well as Crows.  A pair of Oystercatchers decided to shout at the world and the Mallard just sat and watched, preening and feeding in the very low waters of the Mersey and a couple of Cormorant flew by.

As we walked back towards Hale village a Buzzard came overhead and was set upon by a Crow, it was great to watch the dog fight over our heads, and yes, the Buzzard won!

In the lane we saw and heard numerous Goldfinches, chit chattering away to us.  House Martins darted overhead on both sides of path, not forgetting the Meadow Pipit and the glorious song of the Skylark.  


Friday, 21 June 2013

RSPB's biggest ever campaign. Giving Nature a Home


RSPB aims to tackle housing crisis with plans to build one million homes in the UK
Nature charity needs Merseysides help with its biggest ever campaign. The RSPB has today launched a campaign to help tackle the housing crisis facing the UK s threatened wildlife. Giving Nature a Home will urge the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces.

The charity hopes to inspire people in Merseyside to help towards creating a million new homes for nature across the UK.

The launch of the campaign comes a month after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.

Many garden favourites in Merseyside were among the creatures shown to be in serious trouble including starlings, hedgehogs, some butterflies and ladybirds. All are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.
Young starlings

Getting individuals and families from Merseyside to act for nature in their own gardens is the first part of a package of actions that the RSPB is launching in response to the State of Nature. Over the course of the next few months, the charity will be outlining what businesses, communities and politicians in the county can do, as well as detailing the RSPB's own plans for saving nature.

Amanda Miller, RSPB Conservation Manager for Northern England, says:  Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. Merseyside gardens provide a valuable lifeline for species like starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, which are struggling to find homes in the wider countryside.
Hedgehog box
Although the overall problem is huge, the solution can start on a small scale, right on our doorsteps. It doesn’t matter what sort of garden you have, what size it is, or even if you have no garden at all, we need everyone to help by turning their outside space into a wildlife haven.

The more people that get involved in our Giving Nature a Home campaign the better. Our aim is to provide one million homes for nature across the UK, because if there s no home for nature, then there s no nature   it really is that serious.

TV homes expert, Linda Barker, is one of the famous faces supporting the campaign. She said:  I m getting behind the RSPB s campaign because, to me, having wildlife in your garden is the perfect finishing touch to any home.
Frogs in  garden pond
 Planting wild flowers, digging a pond or creating a log pile for bugs is not just a good way of getting creative and making your garden more attractive, but it will also benefit threatened garden wildlife at the same time. Individual actions will make a difference and start to help tackle the lack of habitats for some of our wild creatures. In my garden I’ve put up a nest box for birds and planted nectar-rich flowers to attract bees.
Red admiral on sedum
Small copper & bee
If everyone can do just one thing and gave nature a home in their outside space it would be amazing - together we can make a big difference.

To help spread the word, the RSPB has joined up with Rightmove, the UK's number one property website, to help promote the campaign to homeowners, renters and those looking to get onto the property ladder.

Bee box
Matt James from Rightmove, said:  Though we re more used to helping people find a home than helping them build one, when the RSPB told us about the parlous position of some of the UK s favourite species we felt compelled to throw our support behind the campaign. More than a million people visit Rightmove every single day looking for a new place to call home and we’ll be doing our bit to spread the word about just how easy it can be to make a difference.

To spread the word and inspire individuals from a across the country to build homes for nature in their own gardens and balconies, the RSPB is embarking on its first-ever primetime TV advertising campaign, beginning on 5 July.
Over the coming months the RSPB s Burton Mere Wetlands reserve on the Dee Estuary and the Ribble Discovery Centre at Lytham St Anne s will be running a series of events and activities linked to Giving Nature a Home. For more information, visit

The Giving Nature a Home website will give everyone access to expert advice about helping nature in any outside space - whether it s a huge garden or a small planting tub on balcony - at

By visiting this website people can get their free Giving Nature a Home starter guide, help populate a map by telling the charity when and where they ve given nature a home, and share pictures, tips and ideas with others.  You can also find out more about what the RSPB is doing to give nature a home in the wider countryside.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

RSPB Hesketh out marsh report

Sunday 9th June field trip was to RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh near Banks.
This is one of those new reserves which is being created to help manage rising sea levels, create more saltmarsh and increase the presence of the RSPB on the Ribble estuary.
This very ambitious reserve is one of the largest managed re-alignments in the UK. So what does that mean. Well originally this area used to be saltmarsh but a bund placed around some of the saltmarsh helped to turn it in to very product farmland.
The RSPB have split the reserve in half and so far they have broken the bund in 4 places, allowing the Ribble estuary to flow into the site.

Enough about the reserve more about the walk. Well for the first time the hide on the reserve was useful, you could shelter from the sun!
Some people needed to. Lime green was the colour of the day!
Looking out from the hide you could see shelduck's, avocets, oystercatchers, lapwings, redshanks, mallard and gulls. As the site is changing from farmland to saltmarsh the vegetation is still dense. Linnets, skylarks and meadow pipits were the small birds calling away and behind us we found whitethroat and heard yellowhammer. Redshank love this site and over the years I have seen lots of pictures of redshanks standing on posts but never seen them doing it. Well this is the place for it as we saw 3 birds standing on fence posts.

After watching one of these I saw a small movement and a warbler landed in a bush.
A lesser whitethroat, a new birds of for some of our band and a year tick for most of us. You can tell this site is close to managed farmland as we only saw 1 magpie and 2 crows!
A buzzard was circling in a thermal, while a few swift and a handful of swallows were after the flies.
A peregrine flew over the group and out on to the saltmarsh disturbing a shoveler. 7 tufted duck flew in and on to the deeper pool. A walk up to the farm buildings and it there seemed to have very little birdlife, shutters on all the barns meant that nothing was nesting them. A blue tit was feeding young in a nestbox which was intended for tree sparrows as there was 3 boxes together. House martin's were trying to rebuild their nests on the farm house. We did find goldfinchs, chaffinch, greenfinch and tree sparrows down one of the tracks. A text message told me that there was 4 curlew sandpipers as RSPB Marshside  so we decided to call it a day and some of headed for Southport.

 We walked in to Sandgrounders hide to see 4 curlew sandpipers and a fab ruff with a ruffled ruff!!

 Thanks to Liverbirder for these pictures.

Black headed gulls were looking after newly hatched chicks.

We soon added a few new birds for the day list and ended the day on 46 different species which wasn't so bad.

Best bird was a toss up between the lesser whitethroat, totally unexpected or the ruff. But I leave that to you to make comments!


Friday, 7 June 2013

Hesketh Out Marsh Sunday 9th June

Field trip meet at the car park at 10am.

If you don't know much about the reserve here is a quick update.
Brown hare runningThis new saltmarsh reserve is a great place to admire the gathered pink-footed geese, wigeons, teals and other wildfowl in winter, along with big flocks of wading birds like golden plovers, lapwings and black-tailed godwits. In spring the marshes are alive with the sight and sound of displaying waders, including avocets and lapwings.

When we bought it in 2006, Hesketh Out Marsh was used for growing crops. The land was taken out of the estuary in 1980 by the creation of an outer wall, but this wall was never going to last for ever.

With the climate changing and the sea level rising, the RSPB and the Environment Agency recognised the need to plan for the future and create stronger sea defences. At the same time, we also need to create new saltmarsh habitat to replace losses elsewhere.

The new reserve does both these things by the process known as 'managed realignment' and is one of the largest of its kind in the UK. We have let the seawater back in to flood some of the land, creating saltmarsh which provides more space for nature. At the same time, the new saltmarsh acts like a sponge, soaking up some of the energy of the sea before it reaches the strong, new sea defences.

By working in partnership with the Environment Agency and with funding from Lancaster City Council, and the Lancashire Rural Recovery Action Plan, the Hesketh Out Marsh project has greatly improved the local sea defences and created 150 hectares of new saltmarsh, creeks and lagoons.

Further funding from Biffa Award and Natural England has enabled us to provide facilities for visitors and for the cows and sheep that graze the marshes as well as funding research into the many changes that are taking place at this exciting new reserve as it returns to the wild.

Avocets and redshanks are among the birds that have already nested on the site and large numbers of lapwings, golden plovers, shelducks, wigeons and teals are expected to use the site in the winter months.

Opening times

From 8 am to 6 pm, or dusk if it's earlier.

Entrance charges

Free, but we'd love it if you made a donation to help us continue our work here.