Wirral Bird Club - Archive 2010

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Field Meeting Reports

West Kirby and Red Rocks -
12th December 2010
A crisp frosty morning attracted a number of members to West Kirby and our numbers were swelled by an explosion of Santas - men, women and children, who were taking part in a charity Santa Dash.

An immediate scan of the Marine Lake revealed male and female goldeneye and delightful red breasted mergansers with their punk like crest standing up after their frequent dives in the water for food. The lake was very calm, too calm for the single dinghy that was waiting to launch, but this allowed for the black headed, herring and great black back gulls to slowly bob about on the water. A couple of redshank also sat on the lakeside to add to the number of species but there were no grebe that have been observed here in the past.

The view from the lake perimeter walkway across the mud/sand flats was very photogenic as low mist hung over the distant water channel. Two stationary heron were observed as well as curlew, dunlin and knot with the occasional black tailed godwit. On the far water's edge were a large group of oystercatcher that took flight as a couple ventured far out and disturbed them. A solitary shelduck made its weary way across the mud to add some colour to the feeding birds and a golden plover was sighted by a couple in the group.

Emerging from the Santas, about to dash, the group walked along the boardwalk to Red Rocks. We were delighted to be accompanied by a solitary meadow pipit and a male stonechat that sat on the fence dividing the reserve from the golf course, and these were joined by a noisy wren. This is bird watching at its easiest and a couple of local birdwatchers that we chatted to later said that there were 4-5 stonechats in the area and that they nested there.

Towards the end of the boardwalk there was a shout from one of the group as a jack snipe flew low over the golf course grassed dunes and disappeared from view. The sighting was confirmed by another regular local birder who we chatted with at Red Rocks. The jack snipe is distinguishable from the snipe by its shorter beak and its habit of fast darts from cover to cover. This sighting, together with the stonechat, was a highlight of the day.

Other than an excellent view of Hilbre, there was little more to see at Red Rocks but we watched as a couple of dunlin and redshank flew over our heads and we headed back to our cars. After the group had gone their several ways, a few of the group observed a group of 12 turnstone, standing close in on a promontory in the Marine Lake. They soon moved as an inquisitive couple of walkers edged closer to them for a better view.

It was a lovely day out with the added attraction of seeing Santa and his sleigh. A Happy Christmas and a good bird watching New Year to all our readers.

Waxwings on Wirral - December 2010
This winter has seen a major influx of Waxwings into the UK. They arrived all along the East coast in late October and early winter and have been working their way steadily westwards across the country. These beautiful, crested birds are one of the highlights of a winter's birding, so I was hoping to catch up with them at some point during the winter. Birds had been reported in North Wales and briefly in Neston and West Kirby.

Last Friday, 3rd December, I looked out of our landing window and saw a flock of birds fly into a tall tree at the top of our road. My initial thoughts was that they were Starlings, as there have been higher numbers of this species around locally this winter than in recent years. But something about the jizz made me have second thoughts, so I got my binoculars to take a closer look. I was stunned - Waxwings! 25 of them. And a house tick!!
I threw a coat on, collected my camera and ran up the road. I re-counted them and made it 26 birds, settled in the top of the tree in a back garden. After a while, they flew down out of view in an adjacent road on our small estate. Following the path round, I quickly re-located them feeding on a small, white-berried rowan. They fed quickly before returning to the original tree to digest their meals. A lady came out of her house and told me that they had been there the day before too!
On the Saturday, there was no sign, apart from a brief view of 5 or 6 birds. Unfortunately by the time I got back up to the spot, they had disappeared, never to be seen again.
It was short but memorable experience to enjoy these birds righ on my door step.
(Hugh Stewart)

Crosby Marine & River Alt - Saturday 27th November 2010

Winter had arrived early and with vengeance when we had our field meeting at the end of November, so it was hardly surprising that just 3 members braved the bright but bitterly cold conditions at Crosby Marina!

As we wrapped up to set off around the marine lake, we noted a wintering Chiffchaff in the scrub by the car park. A small flock of finches silhouetted against the sky proved elusive when they disappeared inside a fenced-off area. Were they Greenfinches or Linnets? I am still not sure. Goldfinches were definitely seen though. On the main lake, good numbers of both male and female Goldeneye brightened the scene. Some of the males were arching their heads back in display - a reminder that duck species can start to pair off well before the spring. Tufted Duck, one or two female Red-crested Mergansers and a single Great-crested Grebe also swam and fed actively. Peering through the fence into the Seaforth nature reserve area was difficult as we were looking into the low sun. I did pick out a Little Grebe however. On the beach a sprinkling of waders peppered the tide line, including Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin. A few Turnstones perched on the end of a groyne. On the boating lakes, we had close views of more Tufted Duck, and also Canada Goose, Mallard and Coot. Despite scanning the Black-headed Gulls, we could not find any Mediterranean Gulls that are sometimes present here. A Black-tailed Godwit loitered in a small patch of reeds. A Mute Swan checked us out to see if we had any bread!

We returned to the cars and decided that we would call it a day rather than risk frost-bite on the River Alt at Freshfields. I think the day count was 28 species - I stopped taking my gloves off to write them down!


Mawddach Valley - Saturday 30th October 2010
As the coach approached within 30 minutes of our destination at Penmaenpool, the heavens opened and I started to get a bit concerned. There is not much shelter on the Mawddach Trail! However, as we descended towards the river valley the clouds cleared and we arrived in bright sunshine. The autumn colours this year are particularly spectacular, and the view across the old toll bridge to the hills climbing above the river was just wonderful.

We started the walk in the direction of the estuary mouth. One of the first birds was a nice Little Grebe dive-feeding continuously. Then there were the common tit species, House Sparrow and Chaffinch. Robins were singing well. In the fields, we saw a pair of Mistle Thrushes and many Meadow Pipits. I picked out a Kingfisher sat on a fence-post overlooking a small stream, but it immediately flew into a rather distant tree. No the best of views, but most people managed to see it in the scopes before it flew again, this time for good.

There was a good number of Red-breasted Mergansers feeding on the river, all females interestingly. They swam along in a tight group with their heads under-water, presumably looking for fish, then gently submerging underwater to catch their prey. We decided to stop for lunch by a bridge over a larger stream that flowed into the main river. Immediately, we saw a Dipper on a stone right under the bridge. It sat obligingly for quite some time before flying away. Then incredibly we saw two birds. They were uncharacteristically obliging, flying and perching in front of us with no apparent fear. A dog even jumped into the river by one bird but did not scare it off. What a great way to spend our lunchtime.

We did not have time to get to the estuary mouth, so we turned back after lunch. A lovely Goldcrest performed for a few of us, showing off its bright orange crest as it dangled upside down from a fine twig. Waders were unfortunately scarce, with only Curlew and Redshank seen during the day. There were lots of Canada Geese on the banks, with three hybrid birds (two white-headed geese and a Barnacle-type bird) that caused the usual merriment! Groups of Starlings and Wood Pigeons, plus Rook, Carrion Crow and Jackdaw were all added to the day-list. Surprisingly Magpie was almost the last species to get ticked.

We did get a bit of rain later on (leading to some more fair-weather birders retiring to the George III Hotel for a drink)! But this did not spoil a great day spent in a beautiful setting, and with 38 species. 40 with the funny geese!        (Hugh Stewart)

Point of Ayr - Sunday 26th September 2010
For the end of September, we were pleasantly surprised by the glorious blue sky and mild temperatures as we congregated in the car park at Talacre. Our first scan across the marshes looking towards the Point of Ayr picked out starling, meadow pipits and skylarks. A short walk along the path we found a male kingfisher quietly preening on a small lake. In the scrub lining the path, a late chiffchaff fed amongst the ivy, along with dunnock, a family of long-tailed tits and a single female reeed bunting. On one of the gas refinery towers a peregrine perched obligingly. We also saw buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk during the day.
On the incoming tide we enjoyed the masses of waders congregating on the marshes. Most numerous were curlew with a supporting cast of dunlin, redshank, knot, bar-tailed and black-tailed godwit. On the water were dozens of shelduck.
After lunch we added little grebe and mute swan on the roadside lakes, while a group of swallows meandered overhead.

Annual General Meeting - 27th May 2010
Read the Chairman's Report

Banks Road, Lower Heswall - Saturday 8th May 2010
An intrepid 11 members turned at Banks Road up for the early morning walk along the Wirral Way. The weather was more suited for a winter walk than spring with a cold northerly wind blowing, but once we were on the footpath we were a bit more sheltered. Song birds were still vocal, with Robin, Blackbird and Song Thrush all ticked off. Numerous Collared doves were initially the most vocal birds. The main focus was on warblers though, and the most common were Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. The latter was the most obliging giving several good views of the white throat and chestnut wings. The fluty song of the Blackcap was also much in evidence, but these birds tended to be more secretive apart from fleeting glimpses. Finally, a single Lesser Whitethroat called two or three times from deep in the undergrowth but was characteristically impossible to see. Swallows were seen in two or threes. From the cliffs, a good number summer plumage Grey Plover looked really smart on the mud flats, and some of the (Red) Knot were moulting into their red breeding feathers. A few Whimbrel were picked out amongst the more common Curlew allowing nice comparison. Also present were Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Ring Plover.
As we returned to the car park, a group of Swifts and House Martins appeared from nowhere wheeling overhead. These were the first sightings of the year for several of us. The species total was 53.
After a late breakfast, a small party moved on to Langfield where a party of 3 Whinchats and a single Wheatear were working their way along the line of a wire fence, pouncing down onto the ground to catch food items and then flying back up onto the fence. Also of note were a number of Skylarks, a single Pink-footed Goose with Greylags at Gilroy, and at least two Sedge Warblers.
The combined number of species across both sites was 62, good for a cold morning. Now if only it would get a bit warmer!

Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve - Saturday 24th April 2010
Leighton Moss, premier birding site of the RSPB in the north west, did not disappoint. A beautiful warm sunny day and for starters, Greenland white fronted goose and a kingfisher on the approach to the Allen and Morecombe hides. On the Allen pool, spotted redshank and avocet showed well, with several little egret behind. A peregrine was seen from the footpath.
After a hot walk back to the reserve, lunch was very welcome and gave the opportunity to check small birds at the feeding station. Bullfinch, coal tit, great tit, greenfinch were all ticked off before we made our way out to the hides.
Two little gulls outside the Lilian hide were a special treat, and from the Grizedale hide a male and female marsh harrier looked stunning in the afternoon sunshine. At the far end of the Reserve, a tawny owl, although very hard to spot, sat patiently in the willow trees, crytically concealed to all but the sharpest eyes.

Blackcaps were plentiful and there was lots of bird song and activity throughout the wooded areas of the Reserve. As we walked back to the coach a pair of marsh harriers displayed above the reed bed and brought the birding day to a fitting close.
Total species for the day 83

Conwy Valley - Sunday 27th March 2010
Searching for the elusive hawfinch in the villages of north Wales is a time-consuming job which involves a lot of standing around. The largest of the finches, with a huge beak and distinctive outline, does not like hanging about and is never in one location for more than five seconds. Llanbedr y Cennin is a pretty village, plenty of mature trees, surrounded by beautiful countryside. Our group meandered up to a likely spot, scrutinising every chaffinch along the way, then we waited. There was one fleeting glimpe of a possible hawfinch then nothing. Ravens were calling overhead, buzzards were wheeling over the hillside, house sparrow, chaffinch, greenfinch and goldfinch were in abundance. We had virtually given up on the hawfinch - half of the group had walked away, when yes! a hawfinch arrived and gave us wonderful views.

The ancient church of Caerhun by the side of the Conwy river was a pleasant place for our coffee bread and the start of the walk to the bridge at Tay y Cafn.Marsh tit and numerous chiffchaffs were found in a delightful small wood, great and lesser black back gulls, shelduck and red breasted merganser were on the river.

Conwy RSPB reserve was as always, and rounded off a pleasing birding day out.


Anglesey - Sunday 7th March 2010
A brilliant sun in a clear blue sky was to be with us all day although the overnight frosts remained where the sun didn't reach. Our coach reached Anglesey by 10am and dropped us off at the northern edge of Newborough Forest. A short walk through the pines, where Robins dominated and Woodpeckers could be heard drumming, took us to the wildlife pond with a wonderful variety of waterfowl including Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall and Pintail. We continued out of the forest onto the path along The Cob with a pair of Buzzards displaying their effortless soaring skills. The sun was warming our backs as we were watching Redshank, Curlew and Shelduck on the seaward side while the cob pools provided excellent views of more Redshank and Dunlin, elegant Pintail and several Snipe probing in the mud at the edge of the water. In the distance the heights of Snowdonia shone white with snow against the cloudless sky.
At Malltraeth an easily spotted Little Egret lead the eye to a less obvious Greenshank nearby. Here, also was our coach, waiting to take us to Penrhos on Holy Island. There we let our lunches settle while we scanned the inlet, finding Great Crested Grebe, Red Breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye in the distance. A stroll up to the viewpoint revealed a dozen Brent Geese dabbling around the small bay. We returned through the woods carpeted with Snowdrops. Arrival back at the coach didn't mean the birdwatching was over. A pair of Water Rail drew attention to themselves by their squealing loudly and off the beach the flock of Brent Geese increased in number steadily as we watched with an end count of c120. A great day out.


Little Budworth Country Park - Saturday 30th January 2010

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, but it was oh so cold when we gathered in the car park of Little Budworth Country Park. There were plenty of small birds - including goldcrest - flitting through the surrounding trees, apparently not at all disturbed by the manic sounds of motor racing from the adjacent Oulton Park circuit.

At the beginning of the walk, several nuthatches showed well and two great spotted woodpeckers gave stunning views with the sun highlighting their dramatic colours. Bullfinches flew across the lane in front of us, and again, their colours were superb - both male and female.

Walking further down the lane a buzzard was being harassed by crows before settling in a tree opposite. A little later three buzzards were wheeling and calling overhead. Little grebe, heron, teal and mallard were on Little Budworth Mere and goldeneye, tufted duck and canada geese on the Mill Pool.

Beautiful countryside, good weather and plenty of avian activity combined to give a great day's birding.

Barrie's CoffeeBreak©JL
Bird Club Group by Santa's Sleigh © J Little
Barry's Coffee Break© J Little
birding at the Marine Lake©JEvans
Checking out the Goldeneye © J Evans
Red Rocks Birding © J Little
Dee Lane Santas assemble for Dash©JLittle
Santas Ready to Dash © J Little
waxwings in heswall ©hugh stewart
waxwings in heswall© hugh stewart
crosby marina ©hugh stewart
mute swan at crosby marina ©hugh stewart
coot at crosby marina ©hugh stewart
tufted duck at crosby marina ©hugh stewart
mawddach valley group©JLittle
mawddach valley©JLittle
bridge over the mawddach valley©JEvans
mawddach estuary©JEvans
point of ayr birding©HStewart
point of ayr birdwatching©HStewart
thurstaston shore©JMEvans
whitethroat© HStewart
wirral way©JMEvans
leighton moss ©JMEvans leighton moss ©JMEvans
leighton moss reed beds ©JMEvans
conwy river ©JMEvans
caerhun church©JMEvans
conwy rspb reserve©JMEvans conwy castle across the river ©JMEvans
anglesey's alps©MHart
brent geese at penrhos©MHart
penrhos©MHart snowdrops©MHart
little budworth country park ©JMEvans little budworth country park©JMEvans
little budworth mere ©JMEvans