Sunday, 31 July 2016

Fade to Black

Into the dying embers of July, so it would have been rude not to have got out onto patch for a bit. It was a generally bright and sunny afternoon, with the patchy clouds occasionally giving some respite to the harsh sunlight and haze. The blustery NW wind was actually quite cold, and meant the constant "jacket on, jacket off" scenario.

Rob Cockbain had a decent number of waders at Pickerings around the high tide mark; but Iggy had just left when I was heading out and said that it was dead, with all of the waders having dispersed further down the Mersey. With low tide fast approaching I thought I would give the Lighthouse a go. The track down to the Lighthouse produced loads of Yellow Wagtails, Linnet, Goldfinch and the odd Common Whitethroat.

Reaching the Lighthouse the first bird I picked up flying west was an (adult?) Black Tern. I fired off a few shots, but the light and haze was horrific (as you can tell from one of the only "half decent" shots I got). Anyway a very unexpected patch lifer! The light was fairly poor from the west side of the Lighthouse so I moved to the east side, where I bumped into Rob and Carol Cockbain. They had been doing their civic duty of speaking to people (I'm clearly just rude....) and had missed the Tern.

The tide was still on it's way out and small groups of Lesser Black Backed, Black Headed and the odd Common Gull were having feeding frenzies. A Little Egret joined one of the little parties, but that was pretty much the highlight. There were some good wader flocks on the far side of the Mersey, but were too distant to even positively assign to family let alone species. I attempted to scan the Score, but other than a few distant groups of Raven it was just too hazy.

I eventually managed to pick up a small huddle of 12 Dunlin west of the Lighthouse, but sadly there was nothing more interesting hiding amongst them. The barley field behind me was a lot more productive though with Yellow Wagtail, Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipits constantly dropping in. A Peregrine powered over, whilst a couple of Common Buzzard were up over the top of Hale Park. I spent a little time watching the Yellow Wagtails but with constant walkers, cyclists, runners and dog walkers it wasn't easy to get any good shots.

Moving round to Carr Lane Pools I parked up by the gate on Town Lane. There were still good numbers of Black Tailed Godwit (probably c.300 but no colour ringed birds), along with a single Little Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin feeding close in. The Egyptian Goose had decided to join the Godwits on the main Pool today, and blended in surprisingly well to start with! Despite a decent scan I only managed to pick out a single Snipe, 4 Eurasian Teal and a single Shoveler.

The flooded fields along Town Lane were crawling with birds, albeit the majority being Canada Geese and Black Tailed Godwit. However I did also manage to pick out a smart Knot, 3 more Dunlin, the Ruff with the gammy leg and a further Common Snipe. The majority of my time was then spent looking through the c.650 Black Tailed Godwit looking for colour rings (I'm starting to think I may be hooked.....).

I relocated LB-GGf which was showing well. I have found out it was ringed in the Tagus Estuary in 2013 as an adult, it was subsequently seen in Vendee (Western France) in 2013 but this was the first time it has been seen in the UK. I found a further three colour ringed birds, but due to a mixture of water level and birds standing on one left I wasn't able to get any further full combinations.

I decided to give Pickerings a look, hoping that the incoming tide might have pushed the waders up a bit further. Although it wasn't heaving there were c.400 Black Tailed Godwit, c.100 Dunlin and good numbers of Curlew and Redshank. At least 2 Common Sandpiper were feeding along the rocky edges. I decided to try and get a bit closer to the roosting waders....unfortunately a Police helicopter had other ideas as it swept low over the Mersey flushing everything (I was not best pleased).

Although the majority of waders had been flushed there were still small numbers scattered across the mud. I was joined by Iggy and we had a good scan, producing 2 Whimbrel, a few smaller parties of Black Tailed Godwit and 31 Dunlin. Sadly the waders flocks hadn't decided to return by the time I had to leave, but it is good to see that wader numbers are on the increase. Certainly something to focus the mind over the next month or so.

Friday, 29 July 2016

A Spot of Evening Bling

It felt like a very long week at work with no patch birding. The lighter evenings are already starting to draw in, but fortunately I managed to grab a few hours tonight. It was a nice bright evening, with a blustery WNW wind. It felt relatively mild to start with, but as the sun starting to drop the wind made it feel quite chilly.

I popped in briefly at Burnt Mill Farm on the way down Carr Lane, but other than a single Grey Partridge it was very quiet. Despite the hedges having had a trim, the vegetation by the flooded field is still restricting good views without climbing on the car roof. 7 Black Tailed Godwit were feeding on the field, whilst there were also 3 Common Snipe and a single Green Sandpiper. The reeds were alive with fledged Reed Warblers, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling from behind me in Great Boar Wood.

Moving round to Town Lane I met up with Iggy who had been scouring the wader flock at Pickerings (things are certainly looking up with a number of Knot, Sanderling and good Dunlin numbers - something for tomorrow I think). The main pool was relatively quiet with only c.50 Black Tailed Godwit and a few Lapwing, but little else. Fortunately the road side pools along Town Lane were a little more productive.

The Egyptian Goose was feeding among a small group of Canada Geese, and providing some of my best views this year. There were c.340 Black Tailed Godwit, single Dunlin and Ruff, but sadly the "low" high-tide (only 6.6m) had failed to push much else in. We had a good look through the Black Tailed Godwit and eventually I picked out a colour ringed bird (ringed in Portugal by Jose Alves) - LB-GG flag. I'll look forward to getting the full details in due course.

A Kestrel was hovering distantly over towards Pickerings, whilst the Cormorant numbers were again quite impressive. Hale Marsh was very quiet, but Swift and hirundines numbers were still impressive. I was getting rather cold, having decided to forego a we decided to head round to the flooded field again. We are both confident that it will produce a Crake sometime soon, we'll just have to put the hours in!

Jumping on top of the car roofs we immediately flushed a whole group of waders - 7 Black Tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and 11 Common Snipe. Iggy headed home, but I decided to give it a bit more time. A couple of Sparrowhawk went ghosting through, and a Hobby came in from the west and appeared to drop into Great Boar Wood. Common Snipe were arriving the whole time and I reckon there must have been up to c.19. As the sun started to get lower the numbers of Moorhen and Coot increased, and slight heart in mouth moment as a Water Rail crept out of the cover at the back of the Pool; not the Crake I had hoped for, but nice none the less.

As the sun dropped further a pair of Green Sandpiper came calling over my head and landed at the back of the Pool, whilst the Grey Herons were very vocal. With the light deteriorating quickly and making identification of anything near impossible I decided to head home. A Tawny Owl flying over Brodie Avenue was nice addition to the day, but well off patch boundaries.

Roll on some decent wader scouring over the weekend.....


Monday, 25 July 2016

Late evening blitz

After a fairly miserable day weather-wise it turned out to be a lovely evening. The cloud and rain had given way to dry and bright conditions, although the wind had picked up substantially (which actually made it feel a little cool at times). It was depressing to see how much daylight we have lost in the last couple of weeks though, making later night visits harder.

Reaching the flooded field on Carr Lane it was straight back on the car roof....maybe I should do what a few others have done and brought some small step ladders down?! The Glossy Ibis was still present and showing well only c.10 meters away. However the light wasn't great and again it was phone-bin pics only! The wet field also held a single Green Sandpiper, along with a few Lapwing, Coot, Moorhen and Mallard.

I was joined by Paul Booth and we enjoyed some good views of the Glossy Ibis on his step ladder (note to self, put a step ladder in the boot!). I kept scanning the edges, which look more and more tempting for a Crake of some sort, sadly despite a good search nothing appeared. With limited light available I headed round to Town Lane.

The Pools were remarkably quiet with only a single Black Tailed Godwit, the Egyptian Goose and c.50 Canada Geese. It is hard to believe that a few hours earlier (during the high tide) the area was crawling in waders. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over Great Boar Wood, and a male Kestrel was feeding over the house, but it felt very quiet.

The wet fields along Town Lane were a little more productive. A small group of duck that I flushed from below my feet including an eclipse male Garganey, along with 12 Eurasian Teal and 5 Gadwall - frustrating as they probably would have been showing very well. There were singles of Ruff, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover and a female Tufted Duck.

Two Peregrine were sat out on Hale Marsh (an adult and the presumed 2cy bird), ensuring that the Canada Geese were a little more wary. The Cormorant roost on Hale Decoy is getting more impressive by the week, with c.170 birds roosting tonight. A single Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron joined the Cormorant party, whilst good numbers of Stock Dove jostled for position.

I thought I would have time to walk down Within Way, but after a slight distraction of the Little Owl, I quickly realised that the light would have made the walk a waste of time. A number of passerines were already going to roost, with at least 15 flava Wagtails heading over towards the Barley fields. 

I decided to head back to the flooded field on Carr Lane to spend a little more time with the Glossy Ibis. It was still present and feeding well very close to the road (again from the roof of my car). There were now 2 Green Sandpiper feeding out in the open, whilst Coot and Moorhens were emerging from the reedy fringes (it seriously feels good for a Crake!!). Whilst scanning the pool I picked up a cracking Barn Owl heading up towards Burnt Mill Farm, my first on patch since the end of January. To finish off the evening Owl-fest a Tawny Owl was hooting from the woods in the direction of Ramsbrook Lane.

A very enjoyable brief visit to the patch, with the flooded field looking very enticing. Roll on the next patch visit, maybe some of the Burton Mere Spotted Crake may make the trip across the water.......


High Gloss Finish

It was another bright day, with temperatures still in the mid-20's. The variable cloud often made it feel quite muggy. The tides were fairly decent overnight with peaks at roughly 8.20m, but the day time tides were lower only reaching 7.85m. I finally managed to get out for a bit of patch birding by early afternoon, but had missed the peak of the tide.

I decided not to head to Pickerings, but instead check out Carr Lane Pools hoping that the tides may have pushed in a few more waders. I headed to the gate on Town Lane and settled in for a while. The Egyptian Goose was again present, and was feeding actively for once. 5 Little Ringed Plover (4 juveniles) were feeding on the muddy edges.

There were some impressive numbers of Black Tailed Godwits spread across the site. A Common Buzzard flew in and scattered everything, which was actually a blessing in disguise. The wheeling flock of Godwits, meant that I could give a clear estimate of c.1000 birds, the highest count so far this year. The flock of waders also contained a minimum of 5 Ruff, 9 Dunlin and a single Common Sandpiper. Sadly all too quickly everything settled down again, which meant that it was back to trying to grab views between the vegetation again.

A further scan revealed 2 Common Snipe, whilst the small party of Dunlin sadly largely remained out of sight. Duck numbers were remarkably poor with only 3 Eurasian Teal, 5 Gadwall and the usual gaggle of Mallards. A Sparrowhawk was circling over Great Boar Wood, whilst a female Kestrel was giving one of the Hobby a good going over. I decided to head along Town Lane to check out the closer Godwit flock.

The immature Peregrine (tentatively aged as 2cy - although the heat haze was shocking) was sat on the dead oaks on the decoy. Common Swift numbers are certainly increasing at the moment, probably pending their imminent departure, and today was no different with a very rough estimate of c.1000 birds in the air at one point!

I ultimately spent a long time looking for colour-ringed Black Tailed Godwits, and successfully managed to find 4 (of which I only managed to get the full combination on 2). It is surprisingly satisfying sifting through to suddenly see a colour flag. It will be interesting to see where these islandica have been seen previously. It was all Godwits though with 2 Ruff, 7 Dunlin, Common Snipe and a fly over Little Ringed Plover.

I returned to the gate on Town Lane and bumped into Rob Cockbain who had been doing a WeBs count at Pickerings. Fortunately I hadn't missed out on too much, but in total we estimated there must be at least 1600 Black Tailed Godwit in the area at present. There was little else new into the main Pools, so we decided to head round to Carr Lane.

Standing on the concrete block by the bridge I attempted to have a look into the flooded field, but could only see a small sliver of the area, and other than a few Mallard and a single Coot it seemed quiet. Walking back along the hedge to try and peer through a couple of other gaps, Rob suddenly exclaimed "That's not a Coot". The rest is history as he had found a Glossy Ibis (presumably the bird seen heading south-east from Lunt a few hours earlier). Trying to get better views or even a picture proved more problematic.....

I eventually relented and climbed up onto my car roof, which at least meant I had a bit more height. Despite this the vegetation still made things difficult! I managed to get a few poor iPhone-bin shots, but they weren't the greatest. I spent a little longer with the Glossy Ibis, but was quickly running out of time. Fortunately Iggy (thanks for the pics) was down shortly after I left and managed to get a few much better shots (below), maybe it is time for me to upgrade to a point and click camera.....