Wirral Bird Club - Archive 2013

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Field Meeting Reports 2013

river clwyd rhyl marine lake rhyl kinmel bay

Kinmel Bay and River Clwyd - Saturday 7th December 2013

Rhyl may not sound the most attractive of locations for bird watching but the area can turn up some good birds. Not enough of a lure to get many members out of bed on a dull grey morning, as just 4 of us met up at the first site, the Marine Lake!  Immediately we found a good number of both male and female Red-breasted Mergansers swimming together and diving co-operatively to feed. They approached quite closely at times as they made circuits of the lake. A single female Goosander made a nice comparison of the sawbill family members. Also on the water were a couple of Cormorants and a sole Great-crested Grebe. On the island were many Lapwing and Redshank. Later, we were to see clouds of Lapwings up in the air by the river, there must have been at least 300 birds lazily flapping their distinctive rounded wings. We took the railway bridge to make our way to the River Clwyd. The bushes on the way were fairly bird-less except for the odd Blackbird and a small charm of Goldfinch. A few Redwing flew over and perched briefly in a tall tree before flying on. Once we  reached the river bank, large numbers of mostly Herring, Common and Black-headed Gulls idled on various mud banks or bathed in the river. A pair of Goosanders fed in the river and we saw the male come up with a fish which it swallowed. Wigeon fed on the bank, with Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit nearby, while Teal kept to the river's edge. A family group of Little Grebes was a nice sight.

We walked on to Brickfields Pond. The most interesting sight en route was a close view of a Sparrowhawk on a fence post. Unusually the bird was not spooked by our approach, but after a short pose it did fly across a field and then back over our heads. On the Brickfields lake itself, we added Coot, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Unfortunately we could not tick the Kingfisher - this was a sculpture, one of several decorating the lake.

After lunch we moved on a little way to Kinmel Bay. We could not find the any Snow Buntings, maybe it was still too mild for them. We noted a Common Scoter on the sea but it was difficult to pick up on the choppy water. In the river mouth a group of Turnstones roosted on a pontoon over the high tide. As we said our goodbyes back in the car park, a pair of Stonechats was spotted on a bramble patch. We discussed how often a field trip seems to finish with the finding of a good bird or a memorable sighting. Today was not an exception. A total of 42 species was not too bad for a limited habitat, and the day was certainly better than going Christmas shopping!   

Hugh Stewart


Parkgate and Neston - Sunday 24th November 2013

The weather had finally changed to more typical winter conditions over the last few

days, but on the day of our meeting in Parkgate it was not as cold as I had feared. As we congregated in the Old Baths car park, a ring-tail Hen Harrier gave us a superb fly-past. This was one of at least 3 birds present on the Dee this winter. Will the colder conditions bring more in? A Kestrel posed nonchalantly on the tree above us. On the flash were Teal and Mallard, and a single Moorhen. A distant Peregrine sat on a dead log, while far out on the river edge Cormorant, Pintail and Shelduck could just be made out. Little Egrets were everywhere, and we had a tantalising glimpse of a possible Great White Egret but it was too distant to be sure of its identity.

In the trees around the field behind the car park, several Redwing and a couple of Fieldfare gathered. Even better was a group of 7 Bullfinches working their way along the hedge. The males always brighten up a winter's day. Walking down-river along the footpath, Meadow Pipits and Skylark could be seen over golf course and the marsh.

Walking up Cottage Lane, the call of a Curlew drew our attention to a sizable flock feeding in a grassy field. When they started to fly off, a pair of Jays were seen foraging on the field edge. Walking beside the golf course, a Sparrowhawk sped past and was soon from sight. A male Great-spotted Woodpecker allowed us good views.

After lunch, we walked upriver along Parkgate promenade. At the Donkey Stand flash, a few Lapwings rested. There were several Black-headed Gulls and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull. A male Merlin was found perched out on the marsh. Flocks of Pink-footed Geese and Canada Geese were far out but occasionally took flight. One or two members sampled the local ice cream, but it was too cold for me!

Walking back along the Wirral Way, we noticed several Snipe apparently roosting in short grass in a couple of inland fields, not something that I have observed before. In the same area we saw Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit, it was difficult to know where to look first! On returning to our cars, the temperature was dropping and the light was just beginning to fade, so we decided to call it a day. A total of 52 species was a good reward.

Royden Park & Thurstaston Common - Saturday 26th October 2013

Thirteen members turned out for the October meeting to Royden Park and Thurstaston Common. We bumped into Mike plus hound - it was great to see him but he could not accompany us. We started our walk in the nearby walled garden, a sheltered spot that often attracts birds. Sure enough, a female Blackcap was discovered amongst the hedges and bushes, although it proved somewhat elusive. With the weather still unusually mild, it is difficult to know if this was a late breeder still to fly south, or a bird from the continent newly arrived to spend the winter here. Other birds included Blue and Great Tits, and Blackbirds feeding on some fallen apples.

We moved on into the woodland, but started to note a scarcity of birds, even the common species you might expect to see. Again, was this something related to the weather? With perseverance we added Jay, a bird that becomes much more conspicuous in the autumn when they are busy collecting acorns for storage to sustain them over the winter months. On the small fishing lake there were just a few Mallard! With the trees still largely in leaf, Great-spotted Woodpeckers were heard calling from time to time but were difficult to spot amongst the foliage. With the lack of birds, we started to take more notice of the numerous fungi on the rotting silver birch wood.

Returning to to car park,  we came across a tree that held a range of species - Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Coal Tit were all ticked in a short time. That's where they had been hiding! We spent a bit of time here, getting stiff necks from looking up high into the canopy. A trek across Thurstaston Common was even less productive, although the autumn colours were starting to develop.

In the afternoon, a few members went on to Thurstaston Visitors Centre. The feeding station there had more squirrels than birds! But luckily there was more action looking over the Dee from the cliffs. The incoming tide pushed huge flocks of Knot into the air, forming twisting clouds of ever-changing patterns - an avian spectacle that never disappoints. Other waders included Oystcatcher,  Redshank, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit. A Kestrel used the updraft from the cliffs to hover in front of us at eye-level. 
Today was not the best for birds, with a paltry tally of just 26 species from both Royden and Thurstaston, but that's birding. The fungi were good though - at least  they keep still! 

Red Rocks and King's Gap - Sunday 22nd September 2013 

A beautiful morning for this field trip with just seven members in attendance but a 90% increase on the last one.The highlight of the day was not a bird but the sighting of a natterjack toad and some toadlets.

We had a bird count of just 23 – disappointing but again we did not have a scope between us and otherwise would have been much higher. The species with the highest counts were oyster catchers,cormorants and knot. Dunlin, redshanks, b.t.godwits,various gulls, curlew and one injured guillemot which covered a massive distance in the sea but could not fly.

Overhead we saw tree pipits &meadow pipits, plus skylarks. Also one sedge warbler and one reed bunting. We had lunch on Red Rocks in the warm sunshine and viewed the tide rushing into a glittering Dee estuary.

On a day like this birds mattered but not that much. How lucky we are to live on the Wirral Peninusula. The next two field meetings are local so let’s hope for a larger attendance

Barry - Leader of the Pack


Heswall Shore – Sunday 28th July 2013

The continuous overnight heavy rain ceased before we set off.  Sadly only four members appeared for the walk which included Heswall fields and part of the Wirral Way.  Matt Thomas, the Club meeting speaker two evening earlier, was spot on about redshanks being everywhere.

High tide was around 2pm and thus the huge flocks were a long way off and we did not have a scope with us, so we were somewhat handicapped.  However great white egrets outnumbered the group and little egrets numerous.  We had a debate why the one nearest to us had green legs!

Curlews and a couple of whimbrels were in the gulleys and huge numbers of crows, herring, lesser black back, two great black and lots of black headed gulls were out on the mud flats.  Odd oystercatchers were seen but did we see a spotted redshank?  Maybe.

The sun warmed us as we ascended the steps to the fields and a skylark was seen and heard and a tree pipit parachuted down.  Beside a pond a beautiful male linnet was having a drink.  A few woodland birds were about but nothing you would not see in your gardens.

We sat on a seat for a snack and looked out towards Hilbre Island and could just the the tide beginning to appear but also very dark clouds were coming up from the south.  We calculated that heavy rain would reach us before retreating multitudes of waders so we made our way back down to the shore.

A pied wagtail was seen and then two jubenile wagtails (wehich confused us because of their size and colour).  Research concluded that they were yellow wagtails (flavissima).  They appeared to have a retreat under a rotting wooden boat.

Sop a pleasing end to the stroll on the last field trip of the 2012/2013 Club calendar.

Barry – Pam – Bet and Graham (the four self appointed leaders of the group).


Anglesey - Saturday 29th June 2013

For our coach trip to Anglesey we made straight for the cliffs of South Stack RSPB and the birding started immediately. From the car park we saw a male Stonechat and one of the specialities of the area – a pair of Choughs calling and tumbling in the air overhead.

Moving on to the Ellin Tower, we took in the incredible views of the masses of breeding birds on the cliffs spanning out before us. Jet-black Razorbills and slightly browner plumaged Guillemots seemed to be crowded cheek to jowl on the ledges. It was pleasing to see lots of young birds amongst them. Higher up the cliffs were dainty Kittiwakes with their lemon-yellow bills, together with a few Fulmars. The highest, flatter ground was reserved for the larger gulls, mostly Herring and Lesser Black-backed. All the time there was a continuous movement of birds leaving and returning to their nest sites, accompanied by the raucous noise of hundreds of calling birds. A single Shag perched by the waters edge. Above us a trio of Ravens flew past, and we enjoyed more views great of Choughs, their red bills and legs standing out well.

We walked along the cliff-top path, seeing both Rock and Meadow Pipit. Gannets flew by powerfully with seemingly minimum effort, while further out to sea a steady passage of Manx Shearwaters made their way eastwards.  On the path down to the famous lighthouse we had good views of Puffins – they must be one of our most odd but still cute birds. Small flocks of Linnet included smart red tinged breeding males.

After lunch we moved on to Penrhos Coastal Park. Looking out into Beddmanarch Bay we found a single Red-breasted Merganser on the water. A Common Tern and a few Sandwich Terns flew towards the Inland Sea. From the hill summit we identified a small flock of Curlews roosting on an off-shore rocky island. More distant – about 1 mile away in fact – a couple of Black Guillemots could just about be made out on Holyhead Harbour wall, the black wing patches contrasting with the otherwise black plumage. No chance of picking out their red legs though!

Returning to the coach, a final scan of the gulls on the pebble beach yielded a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, one an adult and one 2nd year bird with diagnostic black markings on the primaries.

The final count for the day was 52 species, including all the target birds. But the whole spectacle of the comings and goings of the seabird colonies was without doubt the highlight of the day.

Hugh Stewart


Beeston Castle and Canal - Sunday 19th May 2013

Phew, what a scorcher! After a long, cold winter and spring we were finally blessed with a warm, sunny day for our visit to Beeston. It was amazing how a little sun cheered everyone up. From the Shady Oak car park where we met we heard Blackcap singing while Swallows and House Martins wheeled over-head. As we stopped on the bridge over the canal a Whitethroat sang from the top of a tree on the tow path. It took off on its song-flight and landed in  a hawthorn bush on the opposite side of the canal. Walking up the road to towards Beeston Castle we saw the more common Blue Tit, Robin, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Bill picked out a Kestrel perched in a tree in a field. A Lesser Whitethroat in the hedgerow was more elusive than his more common cousin. On the Castle summit lots of Jackdaws and one or two Ravens soared, and a single Stock Dove was spotted on the grass. No sign of the Peregrines though. Walking back towards the canal across the fields we saw more Swallows plus Goldfinch and Pheasant. Then a typical raptor call drew our attention skywards, just in time to see a Peregrine flying purposefully away from the castle. Although we see this species regularly on the Dee, it is always a joy to watch these majestic birds.

After a pleasant lunch enjoyed in sunshine for a change, we set out eastwards along the footpath. A Heron fed earnestly by the lock, allowing us to get quite close before it flew off with a noisy bark. A Grey Wagtail also favoured this spot. A small patch of reeds held - can you guess? - a male Reed Bunting! Further on we reached a pretty blue-bell wood. They were still in flower, unusual late because of the cold spring. We failed on the Kingfisher that frequents this spot, apart from a very brief view for one lucky member (no names!). However some compensation came in the form of a Spotted Flycatcher that fed with characteristic sorties from prominent perches. At the far end of the walk we added Swifts and Collared Dove. Walking back to our cars following the Sandstone Trail we discovered a small flock of Yellowhammers on the edge of a field. There were at least 2 males with their bright yellow heads standing out like beacons in the sunlight. A beautiful end to a lovely summer's walk in the Cheshire countryside. We listed 45 species - not including the pair of Black Swans seen on a garden pond on the drive home!

Hugh Stewart

Brockholes – Saturday 11th May 2013

Following a really interesting and enthusiastic talk from the lady who had designed and created the Brockholes reserve from what was previously a gravel quarry, I was reallylooking forward to our visit. However, our unlucky run of bad weather on our fieldmeetings was to continue. This may explain why only 3 plucky members were at the Bidston B&Q rendezvous! The rain that was forecast started while we were en route and it was still teeming down when we arrived in the car park. We made a quick dash to the impressive floating visitors centre to take shelter.

From the warmth of the café we could scan the surrounding pool in comfort and we soon found a Little Ringed Plover, one of the success stories for the reserve. More of these dainty little waders were seen later. Other species were typical of wetlands – very appropriately – Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Heron, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. Black-headed Gulls dropped in to bathe. A distant Redshank was picked out through the rain drops.

Having enjoyed these birds, supped an excellent Hot Chocolate from the café and taken an early lunch, the weather still looked gloomy. We were just on the verge of calling it a day, but then the clouds appeared to lift a little. Swifts started to appear, flying low over the water. Swallows were next - surely a good sign that the weather was improving finally.

The rain stopped, the sky brightened and we decided to explore the rest of the reserve. A larger second lake yielded Great-crested Grebe and Cormorant. Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers and Whitethroats were in the surrounding vegetation. We

walked on into a lovely bluebell wood. A number of conspicuous tall trees with white blossom were later identified as a wild cherry. On to the banks of River Ribble and the sun was finally out! Sand Martins fed over the river then disappeared into nest-holes in the bank. A male Kestrel flew past.This was turned int to a really pleasant stroll. such a contrast to the morning.

Given the awful conditions at the start, our day count of 41 species was pretty

impressive – far more than if we had gone home at lunchtime!

 Hugh Stewart


Coombes Valley RSPB - Sunday 28th April 2013

At least it was dry for our coach trip to Coombe Valley RSPB reserve near Leek

. The journey gave us lovely views of the nearby Peak District. On arriving at the site, we were given an introduction from one of the wardens about the reserve. After this we began the walk down the valley. The birds were initially quiet and sparse, and we soon realised how cold it still was for the end of

April! It seemed that many migrant birds were still not back on territory. A Blackcap could be heard singing but did not show. Willow Warblers started to appear along the path and were probably the most numerous species seen in the woods.  Robin, Dunnock and Blackbird were added. The path reached the river below it, but the Dipper we were told was present could not be found. As the ground levelled off, we saw one female bird and then a pair of Pied Flycatchers, one of the specialities of this site. They performed well for us, showing off their smart uniforms. Several other birds were

seen over the day, so these summer visitors at

least had made it back to the UK. We walked up through the wood land but these were so quiet for the time of year – normally they would be alive with singing birds. A

Nuthatch played hide and seek in the tops.

We returned to the coach for lunch and took shelter in a barn. After the rest, we found it was actually warmer outside! We returned down the valley, feasting again on the flycatchers. Finally, we found pair of Redstarts, distant but unmistakable. The males are stunning birds but the quivering red tails on the brown females are still very diagnostic. A few Swallows and a single House Martin swirled over-head but soon moved on. Buzzards were also spotted but they must have struggled to find thermals

– except the ones we were wearing!

Back to the car-park, there was just time to look at the feeding table again. This was a good decision, as a Sparrowhawk flew in for a meal, chasing a Great Tit round and round - but unsuccessfully on this occasion. The warden told us that a Willow Tit had been taken the day before!

Our total of 32 species was pretty poor for this time of year, but several members said they would return again, hopefully when the weather was more welcoming.

Hugh Stewart

Shropshire Meres - Saturday 23rd March 2013

When we are blessed with fine weather on a field trip, I put it down to expert planning by the Committee. When the weather is inclement then of course it is in the lap of the gods! Well, for the second time in 3 months, snow blighted our programme and the visit to Ellesmere was cancelled.

The furthest I travelled on the day was into my back garden to fill up the bird feeders. One bonus of the snowy conditions was the presence of a Fieldfare which took up territory for a couple of days. It fed off the apples I had put out and was quick to chase off any other thrushes that dared to venture too close. Numbers of the more usual garden species increased as they sought vital food sources to help them survive the cold spell.

Hugh Stewart

Tatton Park - Sunday 24th February 2013

It has to be admitted that the trip to Tatton Park in February was not the most productive, with just 33 species seen over the day! It started off reasonably well, with Magpies and Jackdaws in the trees where we parked. Blue Tit and Wood Pigeon were soon added. We walked into the Estate itself and found an obliging Nuthatch. Then it started to go downhill! A Great Spotted Woodpecker led us a merry dance. We could hear it drumming and some people had fleeting glimpses but we found it difficult to pin it down.

We gave up and walked on down the Beech avenue. This usually holds flocks of Chaffinches in the winter with Brambling regularly seen amongst them. Well, we struggled to find a Chaffinch, let alone one of their rarer cousins. Maybe the beech mast that they feed on had failed this year. Another Great Spotted Woodpecker was equally elusive despite knowing it was in a large tree right by the path.

We lunched in the courtyard and were entertained by a cheeky Jackdaw looking for crumbs under the tables. After lunch we moved back into the parkland and found a herd of Fallow Deer grazing distantly. The group included a couple of bucks sporting some magnificent palmate antlers. 
You could tell the birding was dull when the group became hysterically excited by a Mallard hiding in the reeds on Melchett Mere. We rested in the hide overlooking the mere and had close views of Nuthatch on the feeders. On to the larger Tatton Mere and the bird count rose a little, with Snipe, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Cormorant and Heron added to the list. Arguably the best birding was at the park pond at the southern end of Tatton Mere on our way back to the cars. Here we added Pochard, Jay, Reed Bunting and displaying Great-crested Grebes.

For me, we had enjoyed a nice walk in the parkland and woods, even if the day was a little disappointing in terms of the birds seen. You win some, you lose some!

Hugh Stewart

Pennington Flash - Saturday 26th January 2013

So we waited 35 minutes, looked at each other and started walking.  We assumed everybody had cried off, but we had no trouble getting here and it was a beautiful day, everywhere so picturesque covered with snow.  It was warm enough for us to eat our picnic in the middle of the park.  I was sorry I had not brought the camera as it was just one of those glorious days begging for a photograph. 

It was pleasant walking alongside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, also iced up. We, and particularly me, are not the most astute of bird watchers, and there were times when I lapsed into a meditative pose, just strolling, watching the kids sledging and stroking dogs until I realized we had work to do. There were the usual suspects around the car park – blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, robins, blackbirds, a song thrush and later on a mistle thrush. 

Around the park we saw greenfinches, goldfinches, chaffinches and on the bird table numerous bullfinches, a stock dove and a reed bunting as well as the aforementioned.  We spotted a wren and a jay and half a dozen heron sitting on a hedge.Although it would have been great to have a telescope the lake was iced up in the middle which drove the birds further to the edge so we were able to have a good view.  There were plenty of mallard and Canada geese (surprise, surprise), many mute swans, moorhens, coots, lapwings, and quite a few cormorant and knot.  Also there was golden eye, tufted duck and a little grebe.  Later on we were lucky enough to see the male and female goosander and I swear it was kingfisher flying low and straight by the bank. 

Walking by a stream we spotted the silhouette – the sun was directly ahead -of a what?  It was very small and we reckoned it was a bird of prey – it looked smaller than a pigeon.  Ah must be a merlin, a hobby (wishful thinking).   It flew across the golf course and was mobbed by a group of crows – probably a Kestrel but it did look small.

We returned the next day as being Big Bird Watch weekend there were a few things going on.    We walking right round the lake (a substantial distance – enough space for a sailing club) with a small group led by one of the locals.  In addition to many of the birds seen the previous day we saw a willow tit, great crested grebe, a buzzard hovering for ages and pochard.  We spotted half a dozen redwing in a tree but when they flew off there must have been at least forty.

Being Big Bird Watch weekend a girl brought some a barn owl (foreign – smaller than our species), a tiny owl, what looked like our long eared owl (both foreign) and a lanner falcon.  Sorry about my ignorance but needless to say we didn’t have notebook and pencil.  I think she said she kept them, along with numerous other birds at Haigh Hall and Country Park, Wigan, which offers a couple of walks and various facilities and activities. Pity the group weren’t there.  I’m sure we would have seen more and the bird of prey would have been identified.

Pennington Flash is well worth a visit, with lots of walks, numerous hides and apart from the big flash, smaller lakes, doesn’t take too long to get there and is easy to find.

Bet Carbery

rhyl river clwyd
rhyl marine lake
parkgate HStewart parkgate HStewart
parkgate HStewart parkgate HStewart
parkgate HStewart parkgate HStewart
irby quarry HStewart royden park HStewart
royden park HStewart royden park HStewart
royden park HStewart royden park HStewart
Red Rocks Hoylake HStewart
Red Rocks HStewart
Red Rocks Hoylake HStewart
Red Rocks Hoylake
puffin at south stack
lighthouse south stack
south stack wirral bird club group wirral bird club south stack
penrhos wirral bird club
penrhos wirral bird club group
coombes valley
March snow
Snowy bench
Snow in March ©H Stewart
Fieldfare in Hugh's garden
Hugh's garden bench ©H Stewart
Fieldfare in Hugh's Garden ©H Stewart
tatton park mere
wirral  bird club at tatton park
Mute Swan on Tatton Mere© Hugh Stewart
Bird Club group at Tatton Park© Hugh Stewart
tatton park group
mallards on tatton mere
Lunchtime at Tatton Park© Hugh Stewart
Mallards on Tatton Mere© Hugh Stewart