Sunday, 27 November 2016

Fireworks at the Death

I managed a late afternoon Bonfire Night visit to the patch. The weather was fairly pleasant with broken clouds allowing for some nice bright afternoon sunshine to creep through. It was a relatively mild afternoon, but the temperatures quickly dropped as the sun started to set.

Starting at the flooded field on Carr Lane I was disappointed that it was very quiet, although given that the landowners have started to shoot on the Pool maybe it isn't too surprising. A few Moorhen, and 2 Eurasian Teal were the only birds present, but even passerines seemed to be in short supply. Carr Lane Pools weren't much better with only 14 Black Tailed Godwit, 3 Redshank and a single Snipe among smaller numbers (than of late) of Eurasian Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. 2 Mute Swan were again present, presumably enjoying a little trip away from their usual haunt on Frodsham Score?

With the tide being quite high I decided to park up at the end of Church Lane and have a scan of the Mersey and marshes. 2 Great Crested Grebe were the only birds on the Mersey other than a few small rafts of Gulls. It has been a really poor year for windblown seabirds, hopefully 2017 will prove more successful. A single Great White Egret was feeding on Ince Marshes, whilst up to 9 Little Egret were scattered across the Score and Marshes. A Merlin was being mobbed by 2 Carrion Crow, and a Peregrine scattered the roosting ducks, but it was painfully quiet otherwise.

I had a quick wander along Within Way, but it too was very quiet. The marsh held a few small groups of roosting waders and up to 36 Cormorant. But with light quickly failing I decided to call it quits and head round to the bridge on Town Lane to see what came into roost on the decoy.

Fortunately it seemed to be a better decision. 5 Little Egret were feeding on the Marsh, presumably stocking up on food before heading to roost. A scan of the Marsh revealed 2 Merlin sat on the fenceposts on the west side, and a big female Peregrine came towering over me before settling somewhere on the decoy.

A Stonechat was feeding actively among the weedy section of the marsh, whilst a scan of the c.400 Black headed Gulls in the field at the back revealed a nice adult Mediterranean Gull. As the light started to fade the first of the Egrets started to head towards the decoy. I eventually picked up a Great White Egret heading in from the west which flew into the decoy, but sadly didn't do the decent thing (like the Grey Herons) of sitting out in the open.

With the light almost gone, I headed round to Carr Lane briefly where I could immediately hear some Water Rail. I heard what I thought was a brief snippet of Cetti's Warbler chattering, but sadly it didn't decide to call again. It was almost dark, and most of the birds appeared to have already gone to roost so I headed home. However that wasn't quite the end of it.....

Pulling onto Higher Road from Carr Lane I noticed a big lump sat on the fenceposts along the road. Half expecting it to be a Common Buzzard, I was shocked when I could suddenly see two large ear tufts sticking up from it's head. Slamming on the brakes (a controlled emergency stop honestly!) I was gutted as the Long Eared Owl flew away from me over the fields and towards Ramsbrook Lane. A very frustrating episode as it was only about 200 yards off my patch boundary, and even worse that it flew away from me and didn't have the common decency of flying onto patch. A missed patch lifer, but a cracking bird nevertheless.....I just hope it reappears on patch.

Wapits, Ropits and Mipits

A very frustrating week with reports of good birds almost daily - Waxwings, Temminck's Stint(?!), Water Pipit, Cetti's Warbler showing well and with a mixture of dark evenings, work and family commitments I wasn't able to get out until today. A fairly overcast and grey day on patch, but at least it was dry (considering the heavy rain during the week). I met up with Iggy on Carr Lane, and had a good catch up whilst birding the patch.

The flooded field on Carr Lane had filled up rather a lot after the recent rain, and certainly doesn't look as enticing for ducks or waders as it once did. However at least 2 Water Rail were calling from the reedy areas, but sadly weren't too showy. 22 Pink Footed Geese were sat in the ploughed field, but were spooked and headed off towards Hale Marsh. A Kestrel was perched up on one of the bushes, but otherwise it was fairly quiet.

Moving across the road we had a good look for the Water Pipits. A Grey Wagtail was sat on the old bath, and after a bit of searching we eventually found a Water Pipit feeding at the edge of the Pools, but it was very distant. The Pools held a couple of Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Common Snipe among the normal mix of ducks. Fortunately at this point all of the Pipits and Wagtails got up and flew around, spooked by some unseen force. At least 2 Water Pipits could be heard, so I decided to head further up Carr Lane to view the fenceline.

As it turned out I got some cracking views of a Water Pipit as it decided to perch up nicely on the fence. A couple of Meadow Pipits, Pied and Grey Wagtails joined in the fenceline fun, until a Common Buzzard drifted over scattering everything again. Walking back to the cars we again could hear the Water Pipits moving about, and they dropped into the flooded section of the paddock, again allowing some good views. I really can't remember ever seeing Water Pipits perform so well?

I had a quick scoot round to the bridge on Town Lane where I picked out a smart Merlin sat out in the marsh, and a Kingfisher zoomed along the ditch towards Pickerings. The flooded field along Town Lane was quiet with only a small number of Eurasian Teal and a single Common Snipe. Before heading to Within Way I had a drive around Hale village, checking out all of the berry trees hoping to catch up with the Waxwings. Sadly there was no sign, but on the plus side there are still plenty of bushes with lots of berries on.

The walk down Within Way was very quiet, but stopping to scan Hale Marsh I picked up a female Merlin sat in one of the bushes. Iggy and I were joined by Mike Roberts and his wife, and we had a quick chat and scan. The Egyptian Goose was again present, whilst a couple of Golden Plover were calling from the field behind us. Leaving Mike we continued on down towards the Mersey. Nearing the metal gates I picked up a very pale looking Chiffchaff, however on closer inspection it only turned out to be a nominate collybita.

The Mersey was relatively dead, other than a few Rock Pipits flying around over our heads, and a very distant Peregrine sat up on the Runcorn Bridge. We headed back up Within Way and at least talk of birding holidays it at least made up for the lack of birds about today! I had limited time left, so despite some good numbers of waders appearing to be off Pickerings I decided to head back to Carr Lane to have some seconds of the Water Pipits.

The Water Pipits were again performing well, and it was good fun checking through the Meadow Pipits that were also present. Water Rails appeared to be everywhere, and at least 5 birds could be heard calling/squealing from the flooded field and the back of Carr Lane Pools....if only they actually showed themselves for once! Hearing the Cetti's Warbler calling I walked towards the bridge on Carr Lane where I for once got some good views of it sat in the sallow before a Dunnock took a disliking to it and chased it into cover once again. With time up I left Iggy and headed home, pleased with a fun (albeit fairly quiet) morning on patch.

Water Pipit pics 1-3 (c/o and Copyright Mike Roberts) 

Mike Roberts was kind enough to send me the above pictures of the Water Pipits from Carr Lane - rather impressive compared to my poor pictures. Maybe I should be writing to Santa to request that camera instead of writing up my blog..........

Sploshing about on Patch

Another long break between patch visits, these dark evenings are a real pain! Fortunately the heavy midweek rain had cleared leaving a bitterly cold, but dry day. There were small amounts of broken cloud around which unleashed a few torrential downpours, but otherwise it was a fine bright morning before the more persistent cloud decided to roll in by early afternoon.

The recent heavy rain had clearly given the patch a bit of a hammering, with a lot of Carr Lane under water. The flooded field looked more like a lake rather than a nice muddy scrape, and Carr Lane Pools were exceedingly wet. The flooded field was still productive though with the Cetti's Warbler fairly vocal, and a Kingfisher zooming through. A couple of Water Rail were squealing from the deep cover, and a female Merlin dashed through towards Ramsbooke Lane.

7 Pink Footed Geese flew in from the west and pitched into the ploughed field, and a further 3 flew NW over Carr Lane whilst I was scanning. Pipits were very much in evidence today, and stacks of Meadow Pipits were on the move. I could hear at least one Water Pipit from the wet paddock in front of Carr Lane Pools, so I spent nearly an hour scouring the Pipits to make sure there was nothing rarer hiding in amongst them.

The Pipits were all performing well, with many coming up to sit on the small bushes and wire fencing which run down to Carr Lane Pools. Despite a thorough search through the c.50 Meadow Pipit and 3 Water Pipit I could find nothing rarer....surely there must be a Buff-bellied hiding in there somewhere. I retreated to the car as a heavy shower headed my way, so I had a slow drive around Hale village listening for Waxwing again, but failed miserably although I did get a few funny looks from the locals......

The rain was still torrential so I parked up on the bridge on Town Lane where I could at least have a scan of Hale Marsh. Clearly the birds had all decided to seek cover, as there were only 3 Little Egret, a  few Moorhen and a couple of Eurasian Teal braving the elements. As the rain started to ease and the sun broke through again I headed round to Within Way to have a wander down to the Mersey.

It was a bitterly cold walk, and I bumped into Mike Roberts who was staking out the Marsh in hope of the Merlin. Sadly it wasn't playing ball today, but we had nice views of a couple of Peregrine sat out on the Marsh, along with the Egyptian Goose, 2 Stonechat and a Sparrowhawk. I left Mike and carried on to the end of Within Way who clearly was more successful with the Peregrine as it decided to give him a close flyby (obviously his Camera skills are far superior to mine!!).

Perergine Falcon (c/o and Copyright of Mike Roberts)

I reached the end of Within Way where I quickly picked up a couple of Rock Pipit bouncing about. A Common Sandpiper was feeding on the rocks to the east of the point, but quickly scarpered as soon as I put my Scope up. A new Stonechat was feeding along the fenceline on the edge of Hale Marsh, whilst a few Meadow Pipit and Skylark were moving over. There were stacks of waders off Pickerings, so I decided to head back to the car and move round to get a better view.

I had clearly timed my visit to Pickerings just right as the tide was on the rise and pushing many of the waders down towards me. There were c.5000 Dunlin, 700 Golden Plover, 800 Lapwing all close to my position. A thorough look through the Dunlin was rewarded with at least 4 Little Stint, a relatively good bird for this time of year. I also picked up a few Grey Plover, a single Knot, and loads of Redshank. The tide quickly pushed through though and the waders all retreated to no-mans land.

I had a quick stop along Carr Lane on the way home, where there was not a single Pipit present. A quick scan provided a possible reason with a Kestrel perched up on the hedge looking a little mischievous. With time running out I headed home, pleased with a relatively good mornings birding.