Wirral Bird Club - archived field meetings 2007

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woodpigeon ©H Stewart
stock dove ©H Stewart

Field Meeting Report:

Eastham and Shorefields - Saturday 15th December 2007
A walk round the woods at Eastham Country Park was a pleasant antidote to Christmas shopping! The weather had turned cold over the last few days, but the trees made a good wind-break, so it was quite pleasant provided we kept moving.

The feeding station behind the Visitors Centre drew the birds in, with Great, Blue and Coal Tits vying with Nuthatch for centre stage. We had good comparison views of both Wood Pigeon and Stock Dove. A female Stonechat posed nicely on some rough ground beside the Memorial Garden. Later on, a Treecreeper tumbled from a tree in front of us just like a falling, fluttering leaf - a behaviour none of us had observed before. Then a second Treecreeper appeared, followed by two Nuthatches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We didn't know which way to look! At one point, one Treecreeper was so close we could easily see its pure white belly and the delicately curved bill designed for probing insects in crevices in the tree bark. This scene was so typical of bird watching in an English woodland in winter - quiet periods with no birds, then all of a sudden a flurry of activity and enjoyment all around. Over the Mersey, four Black-tailed Godwits flew up river.

Only Mike and Hugh moved on to Shorefields to brave the bitter wind in this more exposed location on the Mersey shoreline. The light was bright though, and they quickly picked up a variety of waders on the rocky shore in front of the car park - Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Curlew and Turnstone. Pintail, Teal and Shelduck represented the wildfowl. They didn't stay long though - and were soon back home for a hot Mince Pie!


Park Hall - Sunday 25th November 2007

Well, it wasn't the brightest of mornings. Overcast, breezy and distinctly cool but not raining.

Our coach arrived at Park Hall soon after 10 o'clock and we gratefully availed ourselves of the facilities of the small visitor centre. There was an excellent bird table by the visitor centre, nothing fancy, but what a magnificent view of Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, and what we finally decided was a Willow Tit rather than a Marsh Tit. With commendable forethought our planners had arranged the services of a Park Hall volunteer who took us for a guided walk before lunchtime.

We were hoping to see owls which are a speciality of the venue and our guide lead us first of all to a spot looking across one of the 'canyons' left over from quarrying where, on the far side, he pointed out to us a distant Little Owl. Strolling on we encountered many of the commoner winter species including Redwing, Mistlethrush and Fieldfare. Several Kestrels were showing well, mostly perched. Our guide had done his homework and very shortly we were nearly falling over backwards as we followed his directions to spot the Long Eared Owl high in a small wood of Scots Pines. Fifty yards away he had another for us! High up in the trees they were difficult to find even when 'talked' onto. The telescopes' angled eyepieces certainly came into their own on this occasion allowing everyone to get a good view of a bird we don't often see. Interestingly the pines had originally been planted as visual landscaping to screen quarrying activity from nearby housing before being adopted by the owls.

After lunch and a brief glimpse of the sun, we took another walk catching several fleeting views of Goldcrests (do they ever stay still for more than an instant?), encountering mixed flocks of smaller birds and finding more 'domesticised' varieties where the park bordered human habitat. The overcast brought a chilly twilight on early and several hundred Jackdaw winging their way to a distant roost hinted that it was time for us to depart.

Take us home, driver. We've had a good day, thank you. Ah! The joy of letting someone else contend with the traffic on a dark, wet, M6.

Bird species for the day - 41.

Caldy Shore & Stapledon Woods - Saturday October 27th 2007

The morning walk was centred on the River Dee by Cubbins Green, Caldy. It was an especially high tide and the river was already well on its way in by the time we congregated on the cliff top. Massed ranks of Oystercatchers were flying in long groups to their high tide roosts on Little Eye and other favoured spots upriver. Shelduck loafed off shore, with smaller numbers also on the wing. Of particular note was a single female Eider which allowed everyone to see it in the scopes before it flew out towards the sea. A couple of white blobs on the rocks confused us initially, but turned out to be a pair of feral doves rather than the expected Little Egrets!

Walking amongst the trees and bushes on the coastal path, a white rump flashed across in front of us. It was a female Bullfinch, typically shy but eventually showing for most people to see. A party of cute Long-tailed Tits was just the opposite, showing well and calling noisily as they fed acrobatically right in front of us. A Pigeon feeding on berries needed a second look to be sure of its identification. It was a juvenile Wood Pigeon, so lacking the usual white neck patch.

After an early lunch, we moved on to Stapledon Wood. The continuing mild weather meant that the trees were still full of leaf, although many were taking on their beautiful autumnal colours. A nice flock of 60+ Curlews were on a stubble field, some feeding, others roosting. A Stock Dove made an interesting comparison to the morning's Wood Pigeon. The regular Green Woodpecker eluded us, but we found a Great Spotted instead. Blue and Great Tits were common, with Goldcrests also present even if they could sometimes be difficult to pick out amongst the leaves.

The birding may have been a little quiet today, but it still was a pleasant, local walk in good company

Hoylake High Tide - Sunday September 30th 2007

The tide was way out as we assembled on Hoylake Promenade, so we decided to walk towards Red Rocks. The weather was still and unseasonably warm, and a group of Swallows with a single House Martin were busy feeding, building up their energy reserves before their long migration to Africa. A Peregrine passed nearby but did not seem interested in chasing them. A lone Shelduck was on the sand, maybe a sick or injured bird.

Back to Dove Point, and the tide was coming in fast now. Curlew flew past on their way to roost. A mix of Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Turnstone allowed close comparison on the groyne.

On Leasowe Common, a family group of Stonechats took up typical poses on top of the gorse. Charms of Goldfinches seemed to be everywhere. An adult Mediterranean Gull was close inshore, and later flew overhead, showing off its all white wings. A little more distant was a Guillemot which initially led us a dance by regularly diving to feed and so disappearing underwater for quite long periods of time before resurfacing some distance away!

Walking back towards the cars, a male Kestrel alighted on a post no more than 30 yards away from us, and proceeded to 'play' with a dead mouse before flying off. We were not sure if it had the prey when it landed, or was returning to a cache. Either way, it was a very rewarding view of this raptor. A large roost of Curlew dozed in a field - possibly the birds we had seen flying earlier.

The wader numbers had still to build up to their winter peaks, but we more than made up for this in variety with a total of 54 species if you include the "Commic Terns" we could not identify definitely!

Aber Falls & The Spinnies - Saturday August 18th 2007

The prospects were not encouraging as we set out from the Aber Falls car park in constant drizzle and a distinct lack of birds. Bill had seen a Dipper on the river before everyone else arrived - the early bird really does catch the worm, or is that water larvae?!

As we progressed along the steady ascent up the valley, the weather finally started to brighten up a little - well, it stopped raining at least - and the birds began to materialise. A pair of Ravens crossed above our heads, occasionally performing that characteristic rolling manoeuvre that they seem to do for sheer pleasure. A second pair joined them, and the four birds slowly made their way to the far hillside.

A brief view followed of a Peregrine Falcon just above the tree-line making its way into a strong head wind. Soft "hueet" calls from the trees suggested Chiffchaff, but the warblers never showed well enough to be sure. Several other birds flitting in the undergrowth nearly all turned out to be Robins! The views of the Falls at the head of the valley were wonderful and made the walk even more worthwhile.

Back to the cars and on to Aber Ogwen (or The Spinnies). We had lunch in the car park, from where we saw Great Crested Grebe, Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Eider, around 50 Little Egrets and several skeins of feral Canada and Greylag Geese. At the first hide there were small numbers of Greenshanks and Redshanks. From the second hide, a pair of Common Sandpipers eventually came to the near shore and showed in front of us. On the far bank, a female Red-breasted Merganser had two youngsters, seemingly late in the season. Let's hope they survive.

Some members called in at Conway RSPB on the way home, and were rewarded with a good view of a Kingfisher looking distinctly bedraggled. Also on the reserve was a very low flying Buzzard, Little Grebe, Curlew and Lapwing.

After a rather dismal start, we ended up with 52 species for the day. Which goes
to show that every (rain) cloud has a silver lining!

Beeston & Peckforton - Saturday July 28th

A dozen of us turned up on a fresh bright morning, gathering to the call of a pair of Buzzards soaring overhead. The morning was a stroll northwards along the western side of Peckforton Hills through mixed woodlands. The breeze made finding the birds by sight and sound hard work but with perserverance we notched up a few. A Peregrine over Beeston Castle was predictable but distant and elusive. Bird of the morning was a quite obliging Spotted Flycatcher perching on the gable ends of a cottage close by the track.

After lunch we struck off in the opposite direction not expecting too much. How wrong we were! A Little Owl perched on a fence post at less than 50 yds, three Red Legged Patridges and then a whole family of Pheasants, all in the space of a couple of minutes. A pair of Ravens which we had heard calling in the morning treated us to a show of aerial agility and four Buzzards demonstrated just how effortless flying can be.

All this in lovely countryside with a spectacular panorama across the Cheshire Plain to Liverpool, Wirral and the Welsh hills.

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Carsington Water - 1st July 2007

A good two hour's journey by coach brought us into the heart of stunning Derbyshire countryside between Ashbourne and Wirksworth. Carsington Water is England's 9th largest reservoir.This Severn Trent Water site has a visitor centre with restaurant and shops, and a wildlife centre plus 3 bird hides on the north west side of the reservoir.

There was a good turn out of enthusiastic club members with binoculars, telescopes and rain gear at the ready, and by and large, we were quite lucky with both birding and weather.

There was lots to be seen from the Wildlife Centre: coots galore, loads of Canada geese, plenty of great crested and little grebe, some tufted duck, a pair of mute swans and one ruddy duck. Just outside the window a couple of bullfinches, several greenfinch and a female mallard ate from the bird table, with tree sparrows hopping to and fro.

After spending some time there, a walk along the footpaths on the north western shore of the reservoir gave us a nice selection of woodland birds and more water birds viewed from the hides. After all the rain, the water levels were high so waders were scarce, but we did spot one redshank and one common sandpiper bobbing about.

A late lunch - fortunately eaten on the coach during a torrential downpour - cut down on the afternoon's birding a little, and club members did their own thing, shopping, walking along the trails, or back into the Wildlife Centre.

Our thanks go to Hugh for all his hard work in preparing for the trip, leading the group, and finding and pointing out the birds.

The day's total for the Club was 51 species - excellent!

Click here for information about Carsington Water

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Annual General Meeting Thursday May 24th 2007 - Read the Chairman's Report

Field Meeting Report:

Chirk - Saturday 19th May 2007

A good number of us assembled in the car park at Chirk Station in very changeable weather, and set off through lovely countryside towards the Castle, through the woods, and along the banks of the River Cieriog. There were good numbers of woodland birds, including black cap, chiff chaff, and marsh tit, with dipper and a pair of grey wagtail on the river. Our walk back took us through the Chirk tunnel which takes the Llangollen canal under the railway. It was very dark, very long and rather scary.

After lunch our walk was across the aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford between 1798 and 1801, half in England and half in Wales it gave us stunning views over the surrounding countryside. The railway viaduct ran alongside. House martins nested by the dozen in the stone walls, as we looked down on buzzards (being mobbed by fearless crows).

A kingfisher flew by along the canal, and then we spotted a spotted flycatcher flying between its nest on the side of a house, nearby trees, and the telephone wire. What a nice surprise!

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The Dungeons & Wirral Way - Thursday evening 10th May 2007

A stroll around the green byways of Wirral on a lovely Spring evening with just a hint of chill in the air is really just what the doctor ordered!

Starting on the Wirral Way at the top of Banks Rd yielded chiff chaff, willow warbler, whitethroat, lots of woodland birds plus swallow, housemartin and swift overhead. In the fields towards Heswall several pairs of brown hares lolloped and played in the long grass while pheasants strutted their stuff looking stunning in the sunlight. Looking across to the estuary, shelduck and mallard flew low across the evening sky completing a perfect picture.

We meandered through the Dungeons and came face to face with a tawny owl obviously getting ready to find supper, but he gave us plenty of time to admire his fine plumage and markings before flying off to a chorus of alarm calls from the local birds! As if that wasn't enough, a couple of grey partridge were in the field on the right as we walked towards the Dales, calling to each other with that strange rhythmic but rusty sound that is so typical.

The sunset was superb, a beautiful coppery glow turning the clouds violet and rose pink. By this time, lesser horseshoe and pipistrelle bats were careering along the lane, missing us by inches as they chased their supper.

Absolutely wonderful We should do this more often!

Lake Vyrnwy RSPB - Sunday 29th April 2007

Bird watching doesn't come much better than this. Our late-April visit to Lake Vyrnwy RSPB combined a rich selection of birds in a magnificent Welsh setting bathed in glorious weather!

We saw 46 species in the day. The woods were alive with the sights and sounds of newly arrived Summer migrants. Amongst the first birds we saw were cute Pied Flycatchers, both males and females, flitting amongst the oak trees and exploring the nest-boxes that have been such a success story for the recovery of these birds' numbers.

Willow Warblers seemed to be singing every few yards from high vantage points, with Blackcap and a single Garden Warbler allowing comparison of their similar songs. Above our heads, early Swifts showed off their aerial skills together with smaller but equally adept Swallows. Soaring Buzzards became more evident as the thermals built up, and a Sparrowhawk carrying prey in its talons crossed the valley.

As we returned to the coach, a male Common Redstart was singing and after some frustration finally showed of his smart red, black and white colours well.
From the hide, the small size of the Siskin surprised many, yet these birds were quick to see off their much larger Chaffinch cousins from the feeders! Below the dam, a single Dipper and a pair of Grey Wagtails were found after some searching.

After a quick lunch, a pleasant walk up to Rhiwargor Waterfalls produced a real bonus - a pair of Ring Ouzels on a stony hill side feeding characteristically on a patch of short grass. This was a life tick for several members and the icing on the cake for a wonderful day out.

click here for more information about Lake Vyrnwy



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Duke's Drive, Handbridge, Chester. Saturday 24th March 2007
Spring has certainly arrived - flowers carpeting the ground, buds breaking out on the trees, woodpeckers drumming, and warm sunshine on our backs as we strolled along Duke's Drive. There were plenty of birds calling, and a strange mix really, chiff chaffs newly arrived from Europe while field fares were still very much in attendance and not yet ready to leave.

This is quite a large area of mature woodland but intermingled with open spaces, and although well used by dog walkers and ramblers the birds seemed to be quite used to all this activity and were not at all shy. Being able to bird watch without leaves being in the way is a distinct advantage, and gave us good views of long tailed tits gathering lichen to line their nests. One cheeky carrion crow led us away down the path in a bid to take over from Hugh. Perhaps he had observed from afar and thought he could do a better job! It was nice to see a couple of mistle thrushes and several jays, and two buzzards came pretty close.

The afternoon venue was Eccleston, a small sleepy village situated on the banks of the River Dee. It was a promising start as we spotted a peregrine being chased by a couple of crows and we set off in mellow mood anticipating a quiet walk along the river, but no! It turned out to be the one day of the year when the River Dee was THE place to be. The North of England Head of the River Race was taking place and 50 rowing boats (whatever the technical term is) swooshed by us with each cox bellowing instructions to their crew and in turn following instructions bellowed to them by the officials on the river bank. Unfortunately all this ensured that any self respecting bird had got itself well out of the way, and apart from one great crested grebe, a few mallards and a moorhen, not a lot was seen. We didn't mind though, it was all very interesting and quite exciting.

Total bird count for the day was 34. Not bad, all things considered.


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Field Meeting Report:
Brereton Heath LNR, Holmes Chapel - Sunday 25th February 2007

An easy ride down to Holmes Chapel in our comfortable coach started the day well. It would have been good to see more club members enjoying the trip, but never mind, we had plenty of room to spread out and relax.

The weather was cold and certainly damp, but the main body of rain held off pretty well as we struck out onto a lovely walk along the winding reaches of the River Dane into Swettenham village. Along the way the birds were not terribly forthcoming, and we had to work hard to spot them, but we were delighted to see a tree sparrow busying about among the ivy on a cottage, and then a greater spotted woodpecker which alighted on a television aerial. Four or five buzzards wheeled high above our heads as we returned for lunch.

This area is well supported by the local community and lots of activities take place in the ntre. Lessons in willow weaving resulted in various strange looking structures (see the heron below) being dotted around and some fine sculptures were exhibited in the woods .

After lunch a walk around the mere and through the woodland yielded a few more birds, with lots of corvids and a huge flock of starlings feeding in the fields around the edge. By this time though it was decidedly gloomy and the rain seemed to be setting in as we wended our way back to the coach. Not a bad day though, a total of 38 species is not to be sniffed at.

click here for information about Brereton Heath LNR


Hightown Dunes and Meadows - Saturday January 27th 2007

The car park at Hall Rd, Blundellsands resembled something out of a Hitchock movie, but this time, the birds were starlings! And extremely handsome they were, some in breeding plumage with a lovely blue green sheen to their feathers, and dotted all over with white. Chattering and squabbling like naughty schoolchildren they were highly entertaining.

Beyond the lone bronze figures of the Anthony Gormley exhibition on the shore, various distant waders could be picked out - grey plover, sanderlings (running like little clockwork toys) among the dunlin, curlew with their haunting, meloncholy cries, and a few bar-tailed godwits.

Walking along the coastal path towards the River Alt, we found a nice mixed flock of lapwing and golden plover while a pair of stonechats flitted around us.

After lunch we moved on to the Marine Lake at Crosby. By this time, the wind had got up and it became rather a battle. Peeking through the railings into Seaforth we could see dabchick, teal and heron, while a smart drake goldeneye on the Lake allowed close inspection.

The day list totalled 38 species, on a lovely bright winter's day.

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Wood Pigeon

Stock Dove

Looking for treecreepers ©H Stewart
Shorefields New Ferry ©J Evans

Looking for the Treecreepers

Shorefields - New Ferry

long eared owl ©H Stewart park hall landscape ©M Hart

Park Hall Landscape

Long eared Owl

outside the visitor centre park hall©H Stewart
park hall group ©M Hart

Outside the visitor centre, Park Hall

Park Hall Group

along the wirral way©J Evans
croft drive overlooking the estuary©J Evans

Along the Wirral Way

At the bottom of Croft Drive overlooking the Estuary

stapledon woods©J Evans
where's that bullfinch©H Stewart

Where's that Bullfinch?

Stapledon Woods

looking across from red rocks to hilbre island©J Evans
curlew in field© H Stewart
meeting at hoylake on the prom©J Evans
Curlew roosting
turnstone©H Stewart
Meeting in Hoylake on the Prom
Looking across from Red Rocks to Hilbre Island
kestrel on a post at leasowe© J Evans
lapwings turnstones and dunlins roosting on the groyne©J Evans
lunch and seawatching at dovepoint©J Evans
close up of kestrel on post © H Stewart
lunch - and seawatching- at Dovepoint
Lapwings, turnstones and dunlins roosting on the groyne
Close up of Kestrel on post
Kestrel on a post at Leasowe
meeting on the bridge in the rain©J.Evans on the way to the Falls©J.Evans
looking out from the main hide onto the kingfisher pool ©J.Evans
greenshank on the bank of the first pool©Hugh Stewart
Meeting on the bridge in the rain
in front of Aber FallsJ.Evans©
Looking out from the main hide at The Spinnies onto the kingfisher pool
On the way to the Falls
Close up of Greenshank on the bank of the first pool at The Spinnes
the spinnies mute swans on the ogwen estuary
Grey Heron on the Aber Ogwen Estuary ©Hugh Stewart

Grey Heron on the Aber Ogwen Estuary

The Spinnies, mute swans on the Ogwen Estuary
In front of Aber Falls
greenshank and little egrets at the spinnies ©J. Evans
conway rspb reserve
hedgerow browsing in the fields around Beeston©Mike Hart

Hedgerow browsing in the fields around Beeston ©Mike Hart

Greenshank and little egret at The Spinnies
Conway RSPB reserve
interesting bird in the tree©Mike Hart
view over the cheshire plain©Mike Hart
View over the Cheshire plain©Mike Hart

What's that in the tree? ©Mike Hart

looking across carsington water
birding at carsington water
Birding from one of the footpaths around the water
Looking across Carsington Water - lots of Canada Geese
carsington water
reservoir from the dam wall carsington water
The reservoir from the dam wall
Blue sky among the rain clouds
Mute swan on the bank, one common sandpiper at the side
gates of chirk castle
lush countryside walk
Gates of Chirk Castle
A walk through lush countryside
The bridge over the River Cieriog
aqueduct and viaduct
river bank walk watching for dipper and grey wagtail
there is a dipper on the boulder on the right!
Aqueduct and viaduct run side by side
River bank walk, watching for dipper and grey wagtail
A dipper is on the boulder on the right
The station approach tunnel, extremely long and dark
the dam at Lake Vyrnwy © JM Evans
male redstart ©Tony Edwards

The dam at Lake Vyrnwy

watching for ring ouzels ©HWhite


bird club group in front of lake vyrnwy dam ©Tony Edwards
leader of the pack©ICEvans

Watching for Ring Ouzels

nice pair of pink feet

Group at Lake Vyrnwy

Hugh leading the field meeting

female pied flycatcher©HStewart
rhiwargor waterfall photo IC Evans

Relaxing en route

following the birds©JM Evans

Female Pied Flycatcher

willow warbler© H Stewart

Rhiwagor Waterfall

following the birds along Duke's Drive

Willow Warbler

head of the river race ©JM Evans
normally quiet stretches of the river dee © JM Evans

a normally quiet stretch of the river dee

some of the entrants in the head of the river race

Muriel at Brereton Heath
lesser celandine © JM Evans
group at brereton heath photo ©Hugh Stewart

lesser celandine

Waiting for the tree sparrow to reappear

Muriel ready for the off

on the mere side at brereton heath © photo J.M. Evans
wooden sculpture © H. Stewart
wicker heron ©photo H. Stewart

Sculpture in Brereton Woods

Heron made from willow

By the mere at Brereton Heath

Crosby Coastal Park sign - photo J. Evans
looking for birds on the tide line - photo Hugh Stewart

Looking for birds on the tide line

Crosby Coastal Park
does he know what he's doing?
starling in breeding plumage - photo by Hugh Stewart
club members on the beach at Blundellsands - photo Mike Hart

Starling in breeding plumage

Checking out part of the Gormley Exhibition

Group members assembled on the beach at Crosby