Saturday, 28 May 2016

Operation Spoonbill

Annoyingly my teeth have been on a real go slow on coming out, so yesterday I had a minor operation to remove the remaining 5 of them. This inhibited me from taking part in any activity with a lot of action and movement needed, so sadly I could not go ringing today.

Instead I decided to go and do a bit of birding with my dad on the Wirral. We started at Leasowe overlooking the estuary, however the tide was miles out, which sadly meant the wading birds we were in search of were right out on the tide line, so way to far even for the scope. However we did get a nice close flyby of 2 Common Tern, which then started to fish in a small inlet close by.

That was all the action we got at Leasowe and as the tide would be the same all along the Wirral coast, we decided to drop in to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands.

When we arrived at the visitor center, we were greeted by good friend Dan Trottman who I have volunteered with at the Skydancer on the Dee events. It was great to have a catch up with him.

In the last couple of weeks there have been up to 4 Spoonbills located around the reserve, however they have been quite mobile and some days they have been all the way over at Burton Marsh.

Thankfully we manged to locate them resting up in a pine tree with Little Egrets; sometimes doing the odd circuit of the wood before settling back in the trees again. We managed to get great views of 3 of the birds. So did the Grey Heron just below them!

A lifer for me and my dad! And a rare bird in the North West. Whilst watching these magnificent waders, the air was filled with the song of Cettis Warbler, however sadly they didn't show, but nevertheless a great birding experience. 

As it was approaching time to leave this brilliant RSPB reserve, another bird made an appearance to finish off a superb day. When we arrived at the car park, literally right above our vehicle, there was a Spotted Flycatcher. The first I'd seen this year and a great bird to end the day.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Good Question 30 - You Cannot Be Serious!

It's quiz night Tuesday!

Tonight's challenge combines birds and one of my favourite sports, tennis.  So what you need to do is try and link a tennis player's name to a bird in some way. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Billie Jean King Eider (Billie Jean King)
Boris Wood Pecker (Boris Becker)

So over to you. I will pick the four best ones tomorrow night and put them on a twitter poll to select the winner.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A "Swift" Visit to Frodsham Marsh

On Saturday my Grandma was coming over from North Wales, so we decided to show her around one of my favorite birding sites, Frodsham Marsh (she used to live in Frodsham). We arrived on the track along side No.6 tank opposite No.5 tank, where we were greeted by a very heavy burst of rain which lasted a few minutes before finally easing off. We noticed a couple of lone scopes of the embankment overlooking the tank and soon realised that my good friend Bill Morton and Alan Chambers were sheltering in the bushes from the torrential rain that had just passed.  They hadn't found much shelter though, as they were soaked!

High tide was midday. Now that the water level in No.6 tank has decreased a bit, we were hoping for some good wader action, as the high tide pushes the birds off the Mersey estuary. As soon as I set up my scope, I immediately got on to 2 stunning summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers with a mixed Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock.

They must have just dropped in as neither Bill nor Alan had picked them out earlier.  According to the BTO Bird Atlas, Curlew Sandpiper are most frequently reported while on autumn passage in July - October and are scarce in Spring, so it was fantastic to see them.

The heavy rain brought a few migrants down with it, as literally hundreds of swifts circled our heads as we were observing the tank.

A spectacular sight; infact you could stand less than a meter away from a buzzing swarm of mosquitoes and the swifts would feed practically above our heads.  You could literally feel the air move as the swooshed past.

We continued to scan the rest of the waders roosting on the tank, however sadly they didn't stay long due to an unexpected raptor flushing pretty much everything off the tank and into the air. This raptor was a stunning Short Eared Owl, quite a late bird for mid May. We only got brief views as it flew across the tank and was lost to view due to the tree cover, scattering the small flocks of waders.

Thankfully my Grandma got to see this amazing raptor as well, whilst she was watching 3 Avocets and a Lapwing which were keeping her entertained.

It was a while since I'd been to Frodsham Marsh and it was amazing to see how far the wind farm has come. 3 turbines were already up and the parts that make up a full turbine were already in place for some of the others. 21 are going up in total. There are of course mixed opinions on the turbines; that balance between the long term tackling of climate change and the immediate impact on the local eco-system.

After such a great visit yesterday, I went back again today. The Curlew Sandpipers were still present on No6 Tank and quite a few Swifts were still circling.

The drier weather brought out more of the warblers, with Sedge Warblers being heard most against everything else.

It was also great to see the Lapwing chicks progressing well.

If you've never been to Frodsham Marsh, you really should try and get there.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Moth May-nia

Last week, due to the warmer weather, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my first proper moth trapping session of the year in. It had been 23 degrees plus in the day and at least 17 degrees over the course of the evening, which is a great temperature for moth tapping. The overnight cloud cover made it even better, as the brightest light around was the moth trap, rather than the moon. 

The first moth in the trap that really caught my attention was this striking Chocolate Tip. I caught my first back in 2014, a lovely species.

Chocolate Tip

Certainly the largest moth of the session was the Poplar Hawk-moth (and the first Hawk-moth of the year). I am looking forward to elephants appearing soon though. Poplar Hawk-moths are quite common, but always great to study up close. So much power in those sturdy wings.

Poplar Hawk-moth

The highlight of the mothing session had to be this new species for the garden; the Mullein. Quite a big moth and highly distinctive.


The final moth, and probably most eye catching was another new species for me; the Sallow Kitten. Last year we caught a similar species from the same family, Poplar Kitten. Although very similar, look how much more wavy the line at the end of the black band of the Sallow Kitten is.

Sallow Kitten

Poplar Kitten from last year

A great session and I can't wait for what's to come. And if you are busy planting your gardens at the moment, remember to create those B-Lines and plant something for these important pollinators.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Whiskered Tern

After a fantastic day out ringing at one of my favorite sites (blog to come), I got news that 2 Whiskered Terns had appeared at Sandbach Flashes only about 20 minutes from my house! Due to the birds being so close I decided to go and see them.

When I arrived just after 4pm, it was amazing to see how much attention the terns had attracted, as the viewing area was teeming with people. Being a local patch, I have birded at Sandbach Flash many times, so it was strange to see it so packed.  The viewing area is well fenced, which ensured that everyone stayed well away from the birds.

All this interest didn't stop the 2 Whiskered Terns from showing brilliantly. I stayed for at least an hour watching them and got mouth watering views, I also managed to get some decent pictures with my phone scope considering the distance and lighting.

It was great to see Elliot Montieth and Joel Tragen there, and watch these fantastic birds together.

You can find out more about Whiskered Terns by clicking here.

Wild Bird Wednesday