Field Meeting Reports
West Kirby and Red Rocks - 12th
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
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
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!
- 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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.