Dee Marshes - Saturday
13th December 2008
Although it was on the schedule, we didn't quite make it to The Harp
for a lunchtime drink. The birds on the Dee Marshes for our December were
so exciting we decided to pass the opportunity of liquid refreshment!
The real highlight was the splendid show that the wintering Hen Harriers
put on quartering over the flat marshland trying to spook and catch the
next meal. We reckon we saw at least 3 female or immature "ring-tail"
birds. The rather grey skies made the white patch at the base of the tail
stand out really well against the birds otherwise brown plumage. There
was also a male bird with its handsome grey colour and contrasting black
wing tips. It also showed a few specks of brown on the wings, suggesting
it was not a full adult. The harriers passed really close to us on occasions,
as good a view as I have had on the Dee. A supporting cast of Short-eared
Owls added to the excitement, with their more bouncy flight helping identify
them even at a distance. This seems to have been a really good winter
for Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls on the Dee estuary, hopefully a
sign of a successful breeding season. Reed Buntings also seemed to be
particularly abundant amongst the reeds and bushes, both male and female
birds. A large flock of Lapwings took the to air, always a wonderfully
evocative sight to me. Often this is a sign of an approaching raptor but
we could not pick out any menacing Peregrines or Merlins in the area.
Large numbers of Oystercatchers were flying to their traditional high
tide roosts, with the occasional Redshank and Snipe. Both Grey and Pied
Wagtail were found, but unfortunately no sign of the regular Water Pipits
at Neston Old Quay. We were lucky to find a Stonechat which showed well
in characteristic pose on the top of various pieces of vegetation in between
forages onto the ground for food. Robins and Blackbirds were much in evidence
as is often the case in winter when 'our' birds are supplemented by migrating
birds from further north or even from the continent. Surprisingly for
this time of year though, we did not find any winter thrushes, the Fieldfare
or Redwing. The total species count for the day was 45.
Pen Y Ball Top and
Flint - Sunday 30th November 2008
The day started cold and
foggy at Pen Y Ball Top but within half an hour the sun burned through and
it became bright and sunny - which was good for us, and for the birds.
The scrub around the top of the hill held numbers of small birds including
stone chat, wren and song thrush, but as the gorse gave way to open fields
it was lovely to see a sizeable mixed flock of redwing and fieldfare with
the occasional mistle thrush. There were stunning views over the coast, right
the way across to Wirral from the meadows at the edge, a couple of raven flew
past, and buzzards were very visible.
The estuary was rather
bleak as we moved to Flint for lunch, the tide was pretty well full in, with
a sharp wind blowing through. It was hard work birding but careful scanning
revealed great crested grebe, redshank, teal, dunlin, cormorant, and assorted
gulls with a little egret showing well.
A total of 46 species
for the day - our thanks to Bill for leading in Hugh's absence.
Corwen - Sunday 28th
September is a month when winter migrants are beginning to arrive, in small
numbers to start with, while at the same time a few summer visitors still
The morning walk for the meeting at Corwen took us first along a hedge lined
path towards the summit of Caer Drewyn, an iron age fort. The early morning
mist and drizzle made finding the birds difficult, with fleeting views of
tits and Dunnocks. We slowly added to the day list with corvids aplenty -
Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Magpie and Jay. Robins were very evident
the whole day, their mournful autumn song providing an almost constant chorus.
How many of these were continental birds supplementing our own birds for the
winter? A Willow Warbler was a late stayer, yet to make its long migration
to the sub-Sahara. Meadow Pipits inhabited the higher levels. As the grey
weather finally started to lift, a Buzzard was spotted on a telegraph pole,
and more were seen later as the air temperature rose. Another passage migrant,
an elusive Pied Flycatcher was only seen by Muriel along the old railway line.
A single House Martin flew over Corwen itself, apparently left behind by its
fellow martins and swallows that would have nested in and around the town.
After lunch, we moved on to the Corwen-Cynwyd Railway Line at Stamp. At the
historic Llangar Church, we disturbed a mixed flock of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes
and Mistle Thrushes feeding on an old Yew. Slowly, they started to return
as we left the area. On the River Dee, Bill saw a fleeting Kingfisher disappear
into a bank-side bush but it failed to reappear for the whole group to see.
Cormorants flew off from their inland roosts. A small party of members made
a final walk along the path of the railway, with a Bullfinch calling but frustratingly
not seen. We soon came across a large and active tit flock however. A Goldcrest
performed well in a Hawthorn bush in front of us and Barry picked out a Marsh
Tit, a nice bird to end the day.
Hilbre Island. Saturday
30th August 2008
hosts hundreds of terns at this time of year, with Sandwich and Common Terns
in abundance. Giving them continuous grief were several Arctic Skuas. Often
working in pairs, these klepto-parasites harried the terns forcing them to
disgorge their food. Very common, either feeding on or flying over the water,
were Cormorants, plus a single, immature Shag. Unusually, quite a few Gannets
were observed on the sea, while others were seen in characteristic plunge-dives
for food. More distant views were had of Manx Shearwater, Great-crested Grebe,
Common Scoter and Guillemot. Grey Seals are always inquisitive of visitors
to Hilbre and as they were pushed off the Hoyle Bank by the incoming tide,
several come over to investigate us.
Wader numbers had
not risen to their winter peak yet, but we had excellent views of Oystercatcher,
Curlew, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone in varying plumages,
Ringed Plover and a single Knot as the tide pushed the birds to roost.
On the island itself Linnets
fluttered noisily around the seed heads and Meadow Pipits also were evident,
both these species being resident on Hilbre. A female Wheatear had stopped
off on its way south, while above our heads a slow stream of Swallows were
also making their long journey to South Africa.
The last species for the
day was a fly-by Peregrine as we walked back across the sands to West Kirby.
It swooped low over Hilbre putting up all the birds that had been feeding
and roosting on the receding tide line, but did not seem to make a concerted
effort to pick out a prey item. Instead it climbed high and loafed off towards
Staying on Hilbre over
a high tide is one of the bird watching events in the North West of Britain.
We saw 40 species in total, but there was so much more to the visit than just
seeing the birds, good as they were. The whole experience is unique, being
totally at one with nature, isolated not just physically from the mainland
but also from the trials and tribulations of modern life.
Ellesmere and Wood
Lane NR Saturday June 28th
visit the Shropshire Meres in the winter looking for ducks, Kingfisher and
occasional oddities such as Goosander and Smew. For a change, a summer trip
was arranged to see what we could find in a different season.
Starting at The Mere in
Ellesmere, we were immediately tripping over Canada Goose and Mallards coming
for bread that day-trippers frequently throw out! On the water, families of
Mute Swans and Mallards kept a more discreet distance. Post-breeding Coots
congregated on the far side of the Mere. On a quieter stretch of water, a
flock of Great Crested Grebes floated serenely.
We walked through the
parkland surrounding The Mere, the trees in full leaf, and slowly ticked off
typical species such as Treecreeper, Nuthatch, and the common Tits. A different
call brought our attention onto a single Marsh Tit, but it soon moved on and
disappeared into the foliage. Blackcaps could be heard but were more difficult
to spot. A gentle climb onto Castle Hill gave great views over the Mere and
surrounding countryside, and also delivered Chiffchaff, Great-spotted Woodpecker
and a very obliging Jay.
After lunch we moved onto Wood Lane. The highlight here was the Sand Martin
colony. Numbers were perhaps past their peak, but enough birds were still
flying in and out of their excavated nest holes in the man-made sand bank
to make an impressive sight. Swifts, Swallows and House Martins were also
seen during the day.
A Sparrowhawk made a spectacular attack on the feeding station by the hide,
but failed to hit its target. It sat dejectedly on the peanut feeder for a
few moments before flying off. The Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches could relax
again for the time being at least. Sedge Warbler, Oystercatcher and Lapwing
were spotted around the small pools together with Moorhens, Tufted Duck and
So I think we can say the June visit was a success. The weather was kind to
us for once this summer, and we clocked up 45 species for the day.
AGM Thursday 27th May 2008
Read the Chairman's Report
River Churnet Valley
Saturday May 17th
Once we gave the coach driver the correct site details, we finally made it
to Consall Nature Park!
In keeping with this Spring's weather, it was a little cool and overcast,
but just the odd spot of rain. An unusually tame Great-spotted Woodpecker
entertained us at the Visitors Centre, along with Robin, Dunnock and Nuthatch.
The trees were getting quite full into leaf, making seeing the birds more
difficult, and putting our song and call identification into practice.
Song Thrushes seemed to be calling everywhere, plus Blackbird and Mistle Thrush.
Warblers were also plentiful, with Chiffchaff, Willow, Blackcap and Garden
Warblers all present.
Crossing the River Churnet and on into RSPB Booth's Wood, it was unfortunately
really quiet but Paul finally found us a dapper male Pied Flycatcher. We returned
to the Visitors Centre for lunch - and the best bird of a day. On first glance
it was called as a Buzzard, but the large, broad-winged, soaring bird soon
turned into a superb Goshawk. This was a first sighting ever for several members,
so a real bonus. It slowly drifted effortless away out of view behind the
tree line, so we moved on for the afternoon walk.
We followed the canal path north with Swifts, Swallows and House Martins feeding
busily overhead. Dragging ourselves past the Black Lion, we noted a pair of
Grey Wagtails feeding underneath the weir. A stop at Consall Station allowed
a bit of train spotting and a frustratingly brief view of a Dipper! Pheasants
were plentiful, presumably the result of local rearing.
We had 39 species for the day, and we only explored a fraction of this beautiful
valley site, so we have a good excuse to return.
Saturday April 26th
For the end of April, the weather was still cool but at least it remained
dry for us. In the village car park, there were plenty of House Sparrows but
surprisingly no House Martins. Following the River Elwy, Chiffchaff were calling,
our first summer migrant.
As we climbed into slightly more scrubby habitat, the Willow Warbler replaced
its cousin. A male Redstart showed briefly then frustratingly disappeared
before everyone had good views. Above a field with a herd of cows, many Swallows
and House Martins plus one or two Sand Martins fed constantly, no doubt keen
to refuel on the insects.
As we neared Bont-y-Gwyddel, a stop on a small bridge provided excellent entertainment
as a Dipper flew back and forwards over our heads! A Grey Wagtail was another
typical bird of this habitat. The stop for lunch on a stone bridge gave another
chance to study Dippers and a pair of Grey Wagtails close up. A Kingfisher
was less obliging. An accidental game of Pooh Sticks with a seat mat completed
the stop! Thank you to Viv for retrieving it from down-stream!
On the return journey, Pied Flycatchers seemed to be everywhere, both males
and females, although we could not find another Redstart. As we neared the
end of the walk, a pair of Goosanders flew off from the river. As Wirral birders,
we are more used to seeing these birds on the coast in the winter, but of
course they move onto rivers in the summer to breed.
We clocked up 45 species, with the returning migrants especially pleasing
to see again. Surely the weather must improve soon!
Leasowe Common Evening
Walk Thursday April 10th
Spoonbill, Great Grey Shrike, Garganey - we didn't see any of these birds
at the evening meeting on Leasowe Common!!! As we congregated in the car-park
by the lighthouse, the clouds gathered and darkened, the heavens opened, and
we were pelted with torrential rain and hail accompanied by claps of thunder!
It did not take long for the group to agree to cancel the event. Pity the
migrants that we had hoped to see having to battle against the elements in
their effort to reach their breeding areas. However, the species mentioned
at the start of this article were all seen locally in the following couple
of 2 days, indicating that such inclement weather only delays the inbred migratory