Sunday, 27 December 2015

Short Eared Owls at Frodsham Marsh

Frodsham Marsh is one of my most favorite places to go birding, not just in Cheshire, but out of all the places I've ever birded. It is in my opinion one of the best. Due to a sudden break in this awful weather we have been hit with, I decided to spend a full day at the marsh with my dad. We arrived at about half past nine and immediately noticed how flooded all the fields were because of the recent heavy rain, however the gulls were making good use of that feeding opportunity and plenty of Pied Wagtails also patrolled the edges of the floods.

As soon as we arrived, Bill Morton pulled up next to us, a great mentor to me and a faithful marsh birder (there most days).

We started off at No.6 tank in hope of seeing the Green Winged Teal, however making it out amongst so many Eurasian Teal was almost impossible due to the light which was in front of us making everything silhouetted. We decided that we should come back later and give the Teal chance to come further out in to the middle of the water rather than staying put near the daisy beds.

So our next stop was a place I've never visited before on Frodsham Marsh, and this place was Frodsham Score. We had a great vantage point opposite the Manchester Ship Canal and viewed the grazed grass and salt marsh. We immediately saw the mixed Swan flock of Mute and Whooper feeding alongside Holpool Gutter. We counted 18 Whoopers of which were all adults. No juveniles might suggest that they may not have had a good breeding season.

After further inspection of the score we soon picked out 2 Great White Egrets and numerous Little Egrets scattered all across the edge of the tide. Also on the tide line were hundreds of Canada Geese with a few Pink Footed mixed with in them. Sadly there was no sign of the 2 Dark Bellied Brent Geese that had been seen the last couple of days. Due to the visibility being so good we all got a great panorama of the whole of the score.

And one of the main reasons we were here was because of it being a relatively high tide, so we were all expecting a good show from the wading birds, mainly Dunlin (my phone video will only play sideways when uploaded, does anyone know how I can rotate a phone video).

Before all that action kicked in, we were joined by Frank Duff, also a regular birder at the marsh. We all stood together despite the cold, and waited for the Dunlin to rise in the air, and when they did it was utterly amazing; at least 15,000 birds were in the air, and performed something called the Mersey snake where they murmurate in a snake like shape because of the sheer quantity of the birds. This spectacle carried on for another hour at least before the birds finally settled as the tide retreated. I also learned that when huge flocks of birds are performing in the air you often see them twist and turn and at the same time see the flock going dark and lighter colors, this terminology is called stroboscopic.

As the tide continued to push in, it seeped onto the edges of the score, pushing all the birds in as well and allowing some great views of a Merlin and all the wading birds.

 After a great proportion of the day spent at the score, me and my dad decided to head back to No.6 tank in search of the Green Winged Teal. When we arrived, most of the Teal had retreated back to roost in the daisy beds, however just before we were about to leave some very kind people pointed out that there had been a Short Eared Owl around this area.

 We soon latched onto it and found that there was not actually one but two Short Eared Owls quartering no.5 tank, putting on the best show I have ever seen them do. An absolutely incredible experience, and I also managed to get some great phone scopes.

I got 6 species of bird of prey today including, Kestrel, Buzzard, Short Eared Owl, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Merlin.


By the time we left it was getting onto 3:30pm. I must say a massive thank you to Bill for giving me such a great day at the marsh and I'm sure I'll be back down there before the New Year with more great bird species to tell you about.

I will leave you with a short video of the two owls.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Good Question 28 - Who Said What in 2015?

Firstly, a massive thank you to everyone who has had a go at the quizzes this year.

It is the last Quiz Night Tuesday of 2015 (so I am posting it a bit earlier than normal), and for today's quiz you need to match up the following quotes from 2015 with the people who said them.  So all you have to do is match the quote number with the correct person letter. Good luck. I will post the answers on Christmas Eve. I have switched on comments approval on so you can't be influenced by each other. I will post all you answers on Christmas Eve as well.

The is now closed, so here are the answers of who said what and when.

Well done to the winner, Keith (Holding Moments) and thanks to everyone who had a go.


1.  There's no such thing as bad publicity
G. RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke speaking at Hen Harrier Eve 2015

2.  What I'm discussing is a barbecue on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5000km length of Indonesia
E. George Monbiot  - Guardian column 30th October 2015

3.  From my point of view, re-wilding Britain represents a real, brave, imaginative and intelligent solution to so many of our problems
D. Chris Packham – Rewilding Britain online magazine 22 Jul 2015

4.  England has a diverse range of habitats resulting in a wonderfully rich and varied wildlife
J. Director BTO Andy Clements – Report on how to improve Natura 2000 sites – 21 May 2015

5.  This is a scandal, the scientific process appears to have been deliberately manipulated to agree with the environment secretary's views
A. Chief Executive of Buglife Matt Shardlow – New Scientist – Neonicotinoids -  27 March 2015

6.  I'm not going to drop my opposition to the badger cull because of the NFU
H. Kerry McCarthy shadow Environment minister – Bristol Post September 2015

7.  Have courage in your decision making to think 500 years ahead not just 5 years ahead. Do what you know is right.
I. Findlay Wilde - teenager

8.  All this is, is a minor technical amendment allowing the exemptions which already allow hunting with two hounds to be extended to conditions very similar to Scotland
B. Former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson – SKY  NEWS  with Dermot Murnaghan and Dr Brian May debating the watering down of the Fox Hunting ban – 12 July 2015

9.  This review shows the gruesome extent to which birds are being killed illegally in the Mediterranean. Populations of some species that were once abundant in Europe are declining, with a number even in free fall and disappearing altogether
K. Patricia Zurita Ceo of Birdlife International  - The Guardian 21 August 2015

10.  Earth, the most beautiful and life filled planet we know- why are we vandalising it?
F. Mark Avery – blog – January 7th 2015

11.  Conservationists say there is no ecological reason for this wipeout – no habitat loss, no food shortages, no killer disease – only a conflict of interest between a lucrative business and one of our most impressive predators.
M. Patrick Barkham – The Guardian 13 January 2015

12.  Which is the most important: nature conservation or renewable energy?
C. Peter Marren – Guest blog on Mark Avery's blog 26 January 2015

13.  We’re not running out of hedgehogs because we flatten them. We’re running out because we’ve taken away their livelihood, their food, their commuting routes, their foraging grounds and their residences.
L. Simon Barnes – The Spectator 3rd October 2015


A. Matt Shardlow - CEO Buglife
B. Owen Paterson - Former Environment Secretary
C. Peter Marren - Wildlife writer 
D. Chris Packham - Naturalist and broadcaster
E. George Monbiot - Writer
F. Mark Avery - Bird Watch Magazine's Blogger of the Year
G. Mike Clarke - CEO of RSPB
H. Kerry McCarthy - Shadow Environment Minister
I. Findlay Wilde - teenager
J. Any Clements - Director of BTO
K. Patricia Zurita - CEO Birdlife International
L. Simon Barnes - Journalist and author
M. Patrick Barkham - Natural History Writer for The Guardian

Sunday, 20 December 2015


About a week ago now, I came across a bird in the garden that I had only ever recorded once before (and that was quire a few years ago now when it was very cold). So it was a delight to see a female Brambling feeding on the tray of our large sunflower heart feeder, travelling in with the mixed flock of Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. 

This particular bird came in to the garden after the first real frost of the year last weekend, and stayed for a couple of days. However, I haven't seen it since, so I think it was that snap of cold weather that brought it in to feed in the garden.

Bramblings in the UK are migrants, they winter here south of the breeding range and in varying numbers depending upon the availability of beech mast, which is there prime food source. It is only really in poor mast years, with bad winter weather that any numbers can be seen feeding in British gardens. 

According to the BTO 2007-11 Bird Atlas, Brambling winter distribution has increased by 21% across England, Wales and Scotland since the 1981-84 Bird Atlas. The distribution maps also show more abundance of Brambling sightings round areas like the New Forest where there are denser amounts of beech trees.

So fingers crossed for some colder weather.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, 7 December 2015

When Santa came to Look For Hen Harriers!

On Sunday I was volunteering with the RSPB at Parkgate overlooking the fabulous Dee Estuary; a favoured site for wintering Hen Harriers. The aim again was to raise awareness with the public about the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers and their decline.

Because of the awful weather recently, I didn't expect there to be to many people about, however fortunately the weather cleared up during the afternoon, so the promenade was quite busy.

I was volunteering with Elliot Montieth alongside Katy from the RSPB, who were all really good to catch up with.

 It was also fantastic to see Hugh Brazier who had come down to the Wirral to try and locate his great great Grandparent's grave and old house, which I am delighted to say he succeeded in doing.

It was great to see Hugh, and I must say a massive thankyou to him for coming down to Parkgate as it was fantastic to watch Hen Harriers together. One ringtail (female Hen Harrier) in particular showed really well on at least 4 occasions. It is reassuring to know that they are still around the Dee, as they hadn't been seen for quite a few weeks after the last time I had been volunteering.

Female Hen Harrier from previous visit to Parkgate

Of course it wasn't just the Hen Harriers, there was also a female Marsh Harrier seen and 3 Great White Egret were counted.

The promenade at Parkgate was already full of Christmas spirit with the tree up.  But all of a sudden a strange festive flock of people dressed in a mix of costumes came cycling down the road (must be all the Hen Harrier action drawing them in)!

It was another fantastic event at Parkgate and I can't wait for the next one, especially in February/March when there should be some high tides flooding the marsh as well. A perfect recipe for a raptor feeding frenzy, so come along if you can.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Top of The Naughty List

It is becoming a bit of a tradition for A Focus On Nature to run a series of Advent Calendar guest blogs throughout December. The year's theme for the guest blogs is "the gift of giving" looking at all the ways in which nature gives to us.

I was delighted to take part again and flipped my guest blog to talk about the gift of giving in terms of what we can and should give back to nature. Here is a short extract from it:

"Unfortunately nature can’t tell us what to do, but it certainly can tell us that it is in trouble and it is shouting this message loud and clear. Nature’s tears are building into the worst floods and storms ever seen, Nature’s silence can be heard, yes heard, in the barren waste lands we are leaving behind, Nature’s pain can be heard in the species slaughtered in the name of sport."

There have been some great posts so far and I am looking forward to seeing the ones still to come, but just out of interest, I would really like to hear, what are the gifts that nature has given to you?