Wirral Bird Club - Archive 2009

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Hoylake, King's Gap - Saturday 19th December 2009
As the December Field Meeting is usually just a week or two before Christmas, the Committee normally makes this a more local venue, and this year was no exception with visit to the promenade at King's Gap, Hoylake. As the members congregated, the skies were becoming more leaden and a mist made it difficult to see the hills across the Dee. Undaunted, we started scanning the beach and Liverpool Bay. The incoming tide was still a little way of, and the main observation was a long line of Cormorants on the distant shoreline, all standing to attention, some with wings out-stretched in characteristic poses. Most people had not seen such large numbers concentrated before in this location.
To bring the birds closer, we started to walk eastwards towards the Mersey. The paths were icy underfoot, but we managed to stay upright. As we trekked past the new lifeboat station, it started to snow but we still persevered. If the birds can survive a bit of cold weather, we should be able to. We were rewarded for our endeavors. Large numbers of Redshank, Knot and Dunlin were edging their way towards us, pushed by the incoming tide. The birds were feeding constantly probing with their bills into the sand for the invertebrates they depend on for survival. Amongst the hundreds if not thousands of these three species, were the odd Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and a single Bar-tailed Godwit that Stan picked out. Larger, long-billed Curlews were also quite common but remained more loosely dispersed.. Occasionally, large flocks of birds lifted into the air and swirled round looking like a smoke cloud. Maybe they were nervous, perhaps they were merely dispersed by the water that was rushing in relentlessly.
As we started the return walk, the action really started. Bill found a Peregrine sat on the sand. Moments later, the same bird or maybe a second was seen chasing across the beach and disappeared underneath the prom further down. A short time later it reappeared, towered and then picked out a single wader flying over open water. Two or three times the falcon plunged onto the fleeing bird before the Peregrine finally picked the luckless bird expertly from just above the water's surface and carried it off. Incredibly a second Peregrine appeared during this chase and for a while the two birds appeared to work in unison. This second bird then flew out towards the shoreline and seemed to catch its own prey item too! Demonstrating the continuous fight for survival that all birds face each day, it was one of the most spectacular sights to witness in the birding world.
We saw just 23 species, but with 10 species of wader.
In the afternoon, it had been planned to walk across Langfields to Gilroy. However, given the inclement weather it was decided to call it a day. It would have been difficult to surpass the hunting Peregrines anyway! The visit to Langfields will be re-planned for a new date in 2010, details to be announced at the Indoor meetings.


Mere Sands Wood - Saturday 28th November 2009
A visit to Mere Sand Wood near Rufford is always a good day out, with a rich range of lakes, woods and farmland habitats providing a variety of birds in a relatively small area. Our visit in November was not to disappoint us.
In the morning we concentrated on the meres, using the excellent hides to locate the wintering duck present including Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Goldeneye. Coot were especially common. We were entertained royally by a Kingfisher which flew regularly around the edge of the main lake, perching periodically on waterside bushes and fence posts and showing well so that everyone managed to get good views. Between hides, the woods held a range of typical species such as Blue and Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits and both Wood Pigeon and Stock Dove. We had to crane our necks rather but had good views of Nuthatch and Treecreeper, much easier to spot now that the leaves had all fallen..
While eating out lunch beside the feeding station at the rear of the excellent Visitors Centre, we found Tree Sparrow, Siskin, Reed Bunting and Bullfinch.
After lunch, we made our way round the outside of the reserve, overlooking some of the surrounding farmland. Raptors were scarce, perhaps not totally unexpected given the cool grey weather, with just a single Buzzard to show for the day. A small family party of Whooper Swans flew over but gave us only a brief glimpse. The honking call of a Raven was heard first before we saw the bird high over the woods in a clearing. After much searching and with some perseverance in the gathering gloom of a winter's afternoon, we a managed to scope both the native Grey and the introduced Red-legged Partridge. Even further in the distance, several large skeins of Pink-footed Geese could be seen heading for their roosting areas. We managed to see 54 species over the day, an impressive total for the winter period. Again, this excellent reserve had provided us with a great day out.

Dee Waders, Banks Rd, Heswall - Sunday 18th October 2009
For our October field trip, we decided on the River Dee at Banks Road, Lower Heswall. This is a good spot especially on a rising tide, so hopefully we had picked the right day! I made a short walk before the allotted meeting time and saw around 500 Redwings flying quite low overhead, along the line of the estuary. Presumably these were newly arrived birds from Iceland or Greenland. As we gathered together by 'Sheldrake's', one of the first birds we saw was a splendid female Hen Harrier quartering over the reeds, the white area at the base of the tail showing up well. A Peregrine was perched on a post, a frequent sight on the estuary here. Both Pied Wagtail and Grey Wagtail provided us with a good comparison of their tail lengths, the Yellow being noticeably longer. The now ever-present Little Egrets often popped up out of the gutters and flew off before dropping down and disappearing from view again. Reed Buntings frequented the areas of rush, their call notes sometimes audible on the wind. Of the waders that the Dee is famous for in winter, we saw Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Knot, Oystercatcher and Black-tailed Godwit. The rising water pushed them off the marsh in ever increasing numbers, a spectacular sight and sound. On the river itself were loafing Shelduck, pushed slowly closer towards us as the tide came in. The day list of species was 49, and right on our doorstep!

Hale Lighthouse & Pickering Pastures - Saturday 19th September 2009
The Club's September meeting was to the shores of the River Mersey. We started off in the picturesque village of Hale, with a light breeze and sunny skies. A Starling and a Mistle Thrush were perched on the church tower above our heads as we congregated. Even higher in the sky was a slow passage of House Martins and Swallows, making their way south to warmer climes for the winter. House Sparrows and Tits flitted in the bushes. A Sparrowhawk flew fast and low across the road and disappeared into the gardens. We set off down a track through gently rolling farmland. Typical species such as Skylark, Wood Pigeon and corvids - Carrion Crow and Magpie - were seen here. The hedgerows contained Dunnock and Robin, and a single Whitethroat still to make its long migration. As we reached the banks of the Mersey, a large flock of Goldfinches flitted amongst some seed heads in a set-a-side field, until a passing Kestrel scared them off. Around the wooded areas, Jays were seen frequently, often holding acorns in their bills to store in their winter caches.
For our lunch we moved on to Pickering Pastures LNR and stopped at the picnic area. Then we walked around the reserve, initially in the wooded area and then on to a hide over-looking some pools and marshland. The most common birds here were Lapwing mixed in with Golden Plover, roosting over the high tide. Curlew and Redshank were also present. We looked in vain for a Kingfisher on the pool in front of the hide. You can't always be lucky! We totalled 44 species.

Dunsop Bridge Saturday 25th July 2009
You should not believe all the marketing hype your read! For the July coach trip to the heart of the Trough of Bowland we had been promised Hen Harriers, Merlin and Goshawk. Despite still being subject to cruel persecution, these magnificent birds of prey can all be found in this beautiful part of north west England. On the day, we did not see any of these raptor species, but I do not think anyone was too disappointed from our visit to this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. After unplanned detours to avoid low bridges and closed roads, we finally arrived in the picturesque village of Dunsop Bridge in warm sunshine. The birding started straight away with a Grey Wagtail on the river by the village green and a Dipper a short way up the valley as we followed the river upstream - two typical species of clean, upland waters. Our route for the day was a long but gentle climb up the valley on a good path, taking us onto higher ground with magnificent vistas. A pair of Oystercatchers took flight from a grass meadow and called noisily at anything that passed close by. As we gained height, Willow Warblers, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats put in appearances. Another chat, a Whinchat was also spotted. A juvenile male Kestrel then entertained us with some very uncharacteristic behaviour. We first saw the bird perched on a telegraph pole, but it then flew down to the side of the path close to where we were standing, apparently attempting to catch a prey item. It failed however, and shortly after took off leisurely and flew right through our group, at one point looking as though it might land and perch on Hugh's head! Before anyone could take it picture however, it flew off. A truly incredible close and unusual encounter. We stopped for lunch and scanned the moors and skylines for raptures, but unfortunately we only saw Common Buzzards despite the good weather conditions. Nice though this species is to see, we were hoping for rarer species. On the return journey, Swallows. House Martins and Swifts were the masters of the air. Lesser Black-backed Gulls used the thermals and needed careful scanning in case raptors were mixed in with them, but we drew a blank. A few members found a Cuckoo, sadly a scare bird now on the Wirral. When we reached the village again, we enjoyed a well earned ice cream from the local store! The species list for the day was a rather paltry 35, but for me the beautiful landscape more than made up for that.

Hockenhull Platts Sunday 28th June 2009
Hockenhull Platts is a based on a stretch of flood plain along the River Gowy near Christleton. It includes a small SSSI reserve which is divided into four main habitat areas: a herb-rich meadow, the poplar plantation, a badly drained field (currently grazed by horses) and a pond (formerly a meander of the River Gowy). The site is especially interesting for its wet meadow flora.
Our June visit coincided with a rare warm spell in what has been a rather disappointing summer so far. Around the SSSI we found Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Whitethroat. We stopped for a while at the "Roman Bridges". These are not actually Roman, but are part of the old pack-horse lane and are still scheduled ancient monuments. Kingfisher frequent this stretch of the Gowy, and Colin saw a glimpse of bright green-blue out of the corner of his eye but not sufficient to be 100% sure of its identify.
As we followed the Gowy down-stream, Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings were very common. A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was nice to hear but typically did not show itself. On the grass meadows, appropriately named Meadow Brown butterflies were everywhere. At the far end of our walk, we stopped at a good place for Grey Wagtail. There was no sign of a bird, but we were entertained by displaying brilliant blue Banded Demoiselles. Then just as we prepared to leave, a male Grey Wagtail flew in and showed well albeit briefly. Crossing a field of Rapeseed on our way back on a circular route, a small flock of Linnets flew off in front of us and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into an Oak. Large numbers of House Martins provided a spectacular aerial display above a farmhouse, presumably attracted by flies associated with the farm's cattle. A Little Grebe called from a small reservoir but we could not get access to see it. Good numbers of Greenfinch and Goldfinch were in the trees lining the lane, plus the occasional, rarer Yellowhammer.
As the day progressed, the temperature soared and at times when we sheltered from what little wind there was, the humidity also increased, making the walking rather tiring. Birds often take a siesta in the afternoon especially on warm summer days, so we decided to call it a day. Just as we got back to the cars, a Tree Sparrow flew into a tree above us. Numbers of this truly smart sparrow have plummeted across much of the UK, so it was nice tick to end the day.

AGM Thursday 28 May 2009
Read the Chairman's Report

Llangwyfan Woods Sunday 26th April 2009
The valley certainly looked quite steep, but by taking our time we managed to cover a good area over the day without too much hard work! It certainly paid of with the quality of some of the birds we saw. Above us, Buzzards and Ravens were virtually present constantly, with their respective meeuw and honk calls accompanying them all day. At one stage, a Buzzard and two Ravens engaged in some serious aerial combat, surprisingly agile for their huge size. This close encounter allowed us to see that the Raven was slightly bigger than the Buzzard, something not easily appreciated when they are seen on their own. Willow Warblers were singing their descending trills off the scrubby trees everywhere, with a smaller number of Chiffchaff's also present to allow comparison. An area of deciduous woodland looked promising but we only has a brief glimpse of a Redstart. The conifer trees had attracted up to 50 Common Crossbills, and we enjoyed watching them feeding on the cones using their specially adapted bills. In a small area where the trees had been cut, a single Tree Pipit performed its song flight before parachuting down to a high perch and giving us good views. A pair of Stonechats also showed well here. On the higher heather-covered ground, we saw several Meadow Pipits. The panoramic views from high on summit above the old Iron Age fort were well worth the effort of the ascent. As the last members were packing up their cars to leave, a Cuckoo gave just two bursts of its famous call, a fitting end to a Spring day in the Clwydian Mountains.

Marbury Country Park - Saturday 28th March 2009
The visit to Marbury Country Park at the end of March served up an excellent mix of birds. There were still some lingering winter visitors, with a flock of 20+ Fieldfares and a single Redwing. Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush almost made a full house of the British thrushes - a passage Ring Ouzel was maybe asking too much! At the same time, the first summer visitors were arriving. Swallow, Sand Martin, Little Ringed Plover and Chiffchaff were present in small numbers. Waders were further represented by Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew. On the mere, pairs of Great-crested Grebes resplendent in their breeding plumage were starting to engage in their elaborate courtship. A large flotilla of Coots mixed with Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler and Tufted Duck. From the mere hide, we had a great view of a Kingfisher flying low and fast over the water. In the woods, Great-spotted Woodpecker showed and Green Woodpecker was heard, but unfortunately no sign of a Lesser-spotted! Oh well, there's always next year!
Both Wood Pigeon and Stock Dove were seen as were a variety of Tits, Treecreeper and impressive numbers of very active and vocal Nuthatches. Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were our raptors for the day.
We ended up with 62 species for the day, our best total for a while.

Tregaron/Cors Caron - Saturday 28th February 2009

The Red Kites definitely stole the show. As we travelled by coach through Wales towards Tregaron, these birds started to make an appearance once we passed Newtown. The long wings, forked tails and graceful, buoyant flight all contributed to the charm. With some roads having steep slopes falling away right beside us, we were treated to quite close views almost at eye level as the birds used the air currents from the hills.
A detour for a road closure meant we were later than planned arriving at Cors Caron national Nature Reserve. This is said to be one of the finest raised bog systems in Britain and home to a wide range of wildlife and plants. We quickly started to explore the site, first along the line of the old railway. Blue and Great Tits, Nuthatch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting were quickly ticked off. A pair of Bullfinches were seen by a lucky few. A silent black-capped tit posed the usual identity conundrum, but we settled on a Marsh Tit. Onto the board-walk, the pools were quiet except for a few Mallard. From the hide, we added Teal, Lapwing,Buzzard and more Red Kites. A raptor flying fast and flat initially suggested the jizz of a Sparrowhawk, but when it stopped and perched on a bush it showed the black hood of Peregrine Falcon.
After lunch we moved on to the feeding site just outside Tregaron. The river held Dabchick and Mute Swan, while a small flock of Wigeon grazed on the waterside grass. On first arriving at the site, there were a dozen or so Kites circling overhead, but over the next 30 minutes the numbers increased to well over 50 birds. They did not seem too hungry, as none of them actually dropped down to pick up the meat scraps put out on the field although a few alighted in the surrounding trees. Or perhaps they were just a little wary of our presence in numbers. Either way, it was still an impressive sight. Considering that the number of Red Kites in the UK was reduced by intense persecution to just a handful of birds in Wales in the early 20th century, the natural recovery of this majestic species is a real success story

Prestatyn-Dyserth Way  - 25th January 2009

The Prestayn-Dyserth Way follows the route of a disused railway that has been turned into a wildlife corridor. The railway served the limestone quarries that pepper the area. The mix of habitats mean that mountain and moorland birds may be found alongside woodland species.

As we started our walk from the northern end of the trial, the first birds seen were typical, common species - Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw and Magpie. Great Tit, Blue Tit and Coal Tit followed. A pair of Stock Doves flew around a quarry cliff face. A Buzzard flew really low over our heads, its wing and tail pattern clearly visible through the bare tree canopy. A horse paddock had a small flock of Redwings plus Blackbird, and both Mistle and Song Thrushes.

At the furthest point of our walk, a loud croaking call alerted us to a Raven which was picked out sitting on a tall evergreen tree. On a craggy cliff-top, a Peregrine sat quietly surveying its surroundings, perhaps looking for its next meal. As we crossed the bridge over the river near the car-park, a Dipper showed on a rock mid-stream. As we paused to eat our lunches, a Sparrowhawk launched itself out of the woods and flew low and fast straight through the middle of us. I am not sure who was more surprised - us or him!

After lunch, we headed back towards home via Wepre Park. A flock of Waxwings had been present for a few days, too good an opportunity to miss! Luckily the 13 birds were still present and we were soon enjoying close views of these beautiful, charismatic birds as they alternatively flew down to a Rowan tree to feed on the berries and then roosted on nearby trees to digest their meals. Unfortunately we see this species all too rarely in our region, so it was a great treat for us and a new species for several people in our party. After over-dosing on the Waxwings, we walked further up the valley, but nothing compared to the sights and sounds of our Scandinavian visitors.

birding at king's gap© HStewart
waders at king's gap© HStewart
birding at king's gap HStewart©
birding at mere sands wood©HStewart
kingfisher at mere sands wood ©HStewart
birding at mere sands wood© HStewart
birding at banks rd heswall ©HStewart
dunsop bridge ©JMEvans walk at dunsop bridge ©JMEvans
kestrel at dunsop bridge ©JMEvans river flowing through dunsop bridge ©JMEvans
dunsop bridge lunchtime ©Hugh Stewart
mallard ducklings at dunsop bridge ©Hugh Stewart
roman bridge at hockenhull platts ©JMEvans
bridge over the river gowy ©JMEvans
bridge at hockenhull platts© JMEvans
walk along the river gowy ©JMEvans
group at llangwyfan woods©JEvans
group at llangwyfan woods©JEvans
tree pipit© BDickinson
hide at neumanns flash
marbury country park
confiding robin at marbury
view over neumanns flash
cors caron bog cors caron bog
walking to the red kite look-out red kites in the sky at Tregaron
red kite© VThompson
red kite watching at tregaron ©HStewart
along the dyserth way photo ©MHart
view across Snowdonia from the Dyserth Way photo ©Bill Dickinson
Waxwing at Wepre photo ©Bill Dickinson
Waxwings in the berry tree Wepre photo ©J Evans
watching Waxwings at Wepre photo ©J Evans