Saturday, May 29, 2010

2009 - a birding year at Moore: Part 2...

April - saw the main arrival of Trans-Saharan migrants on the patch. Not a bad year for these at all really...

2nd - First Blackcap of the year singing at Bob's Bridge this morning and there are still Iceland and Glaucous Gulls being reported from Richmond Bank.

3rd – Passage or overwintering Green Sandpiper on the Jack Snipe pool early morning and put up c50 Linnet from one of the Phragmites patches on UMS. Decided to go owling in the evening and set up with a coffee at the picnic tables on UMS about 9.00pm. Could hear very distant voices from the pub over the river. Not long before I got Barn Owl screeching from the direction of UMS Farm. Lone Whooper Swan over SE calling forlornly was a total surprise (!) and the Long-eared Owl that flew low over me and began hunting the field nearby was a real bonus. 2 Tawny Owl calling at opposite ends of Lapwing Lane completed a good few hours - not bad that, three owl species in one night.

5th – First Willow Warbler of the year.

8th - A Ringed Plover on PHP was unsual as this is usually the haunt of Little Ringed Plover. It didn't stay long...

9th – Passage Green Sandpiper today and watched a cracking male Kingfisher on MBP catch a small fish, bash it on a branch to kill it and then fly off with it. Courtship feeding a female I wonder?

10th – 2 Green Sandpiper at the east end of the reserve today and 9 Curlew, 10 Lapwing at HWH. Today saw the first of the years Northern Wheatear moving through and more Great Crested Grebe weed ceremony.

12th – There were 6 Willow Warblers singing on the BB-HWH stretch along the MSC and had my first Common Whitethroat of the year. At the opposite end of the reserve, the first Sedge Warbler was singing on the Black Fields.

13th – First Grasshopper Warbler Reeling on the Capped Tip and first Reed Warbler at ERB.

15th - Arctic and Sandwich Terns at nearby Woolston Eyes. Must have passed over Moore unseen by anybody. Bet they move through every year. My money is on them following the ship canal when I'm watching the river and the river when I'm watching the ship canal :-)

16th – 12 Sand Martins over MQ amid April showers are the highest count so far this year. Came across a male 'colchicus' Pheasant on the east end of UMS. First time I've noticed this unringed sub-species on the patch. MUCH nicer than 'torquatus'!!! 

17th – 10 Curlew at HWH were the last seen there until the second winter period.

20th – Good tally of warblers across the patch today: 16 Chiffchaff, 16 Willow Warbler, 9 Gropper, 6 Whitethroat, 5 Sedge Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler singing. Another Wheatear dropped in and a male Peregrine was perched on the railway bridge.

21st - 1st Mallard brood (7 ducklings), although I can't say I've been exactly systematic in searching for broods of anything tbh.

22nd – Saw my first House Martin over BWP, another Wheatear (3rd of the year) and the first Garden Warbler working its way east along the hedgerow on the north end of Lapwing Lane - singing as it went.

23rd - First Cuckoo (also on 25th and 27th). Over the same time (24th-26th) Common Tern at Woolston Eyes, but alas, none on the river here. HOWEVER, the first of several Black-necked Grebes arrived today on BWP.

27th - First Lesser Whitethroat, same date and place as last year. First Moorhen brood (4 young) near the feeding station and there is still a pair of Shoveler on Norton Marsh.

28th - Lesser Whitethroat still about and there were 2 Cuckoos today on UMS. Kingfisher on PHP.

29th – Common Sandpiper on MSC was a nice sign of spring passage. 2 Cuckoos again on UMS (good that they're staying around) and the years first Whinchat (a male) on Norton Marsh was a cracking bird!

30th - 3 Cuckoos calling today on UMS, Garden Warbler between BB-HWH and Raven west over the Black Fields. I saw my first Canada brood of the year (6 young) and there was a Tawny Owl calling from Lapwing Wood during the middle of the day whilst I was searching Rigby’s Wood for Pied Flycatcher and Redstart (no luck, but unsurprising as they're very scarce indeed on passage here). Missed the Hobby that hunted UMS for the day and which everybody else seemed to get - meh!

May - saw an unexpected influx of Black-necked Grebes. Numbers steadily built as birds that had been displaced by vandals from the Wigan Flashes, took up residence on Birchwood Pool. Hopes were high that they'd stay to breed...

3rd – Little Ringed Plover at PHP. Surprisingly cryptic on the stoney ground in front of the east hide. There are now TWO Black-necked Grebes on BWP!

5th - 4 L.Redpolls still knocking about. 20 Sand Martins, 1 House Martin and the first Common Swifts of the year dropped in over BWP. Elsewhere, there were hides being used - for nesting! There was a Blackbird nest with 4 eggs in the NM hide - just on the shelf inside the door! I thought somebody had found it and put it there as there were no eggs in it a couple of days before. Needless to say, it didn't last long! Neither, unfortunately did the Wren’s nest with 3 eggs in  at PHP(W) hide.

6th - Glaucous and Iceland Gull STILL being reported from the Capped Tip area.

7th - Another Northern Wheatear stopped off at BHR today and 2 gorgeous female Greenland Wheatear passed through HWH first thing, where I also picked up Whimbrel, Wood Sandpiper and 18 Dunlin (see Waders: a bit of an obsession BLOG). Between BB-HWH there were 10 Whitethroat, 5 Chiffchaff, 3 Blackcap,  3 Reed Warbler, 4 Sedge Warbler and 2 Willow Warbler singing, but no Gropper reeling today. On Norton Marsh a male Shoveler was standing guard over one of the small pools.

8th - Greenland Wheatear and Cuckoo reported in my absence today...

9th - There was a Black Tern at Woolston Eyes (why do THEY get so many good birds???), a Ringed Plover at HWH and FIVE Black-necked Grebes on BWP.

10th - 7 Wheatear reported from the Capped Tip today.

11th – Just 2 Wheatear on the Capped Tip during this morning's survey, but it did yield: 19 Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 18 Reed Bunting, 9 Reed Warbler, 26 Sedge Warbler, 3 Willow Warbler but no Chiffchaff or Gropper. The male Peregrine was agin back on the viaduct and things were hotting up on Birchwood Pool - the Black-necked Grebes were displaying!

12th - One of the pairs of Black-necked Grebes attempted mating twice today (unsuccessfully) on BWP and did some Platform Courtship. They seemed to be interested in nest material too - promising! The othe pair, however, seem 'less together, but lots of calling from the male, 'puu-ii (chk)'. Watched the female catching cased caddis in the shallows in front of the new east hide where she mkept getting repeatedly torpedoed by a male Little Grebe. He even appeared to pull at her feet from under water at one point!!! Thought she's been got by a pike or something lol.

13th – 2 Avocet at HWH! Think that could be a patch first - shame it wasn't me that found them first - doh!and even more of a shame that I missed the 2 partial summer Knot that dropped in later that day. I'd opted instead for BWP and the Black-necks. More attempted copulations / invites from PLATFORM COURTSHIP pair on the Big Island and calling from the other pair at the E end again. The nest below the willow seems to have been taken over by Coots… meh.

15th - More goodies missed today as female Whinchat, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Whimbrel all reported!

16th - Barn Owl feeding young in Tree Sparrow Field nest box!

19th – Pair of LRP and a female Wheatear with a gammy leg dropped in together on Pumphouse for about 5 minutes. It was like they'd been travelling together... aaaw, bless. Wonder if that ever happens - birds of different species tagging along together on passage? 1st Coot brood (4 young) on MQ (Angler's Pool opposite BHR).

22nd 2 Garden Warbler singing between BB-HWH this morning. BNG catching caddis below E hide again on BWP and again being chased off by Little Grebes. Despite several scoped scans, could locate no more than 3 birds today although it's possible 1 called from cover in the NE corner…

23rd – Barn Owl AND Long-eared Owl hunting UMS tonight.

29th - Cuckoo, Barn Owl and LEO hunting early evening.

June - was mostly about owls, grebes and the ocassional raptor and Stonechat...

2nd - First Great Crested Grebe of the year today on LLP. Seemed like they were never going to hatch! Two stripey young being carried by female.

3rd - Long-eared Owl seen flying low on strip side of TN at about 10pm. Relocated in scrub minutes later. Seen again flying from trees at strip end of TN. Later single young repeatedly calling from inside TN as adult flew in. Calls increased in frequency until adult flew out again (food drop?). Young bird continued to call and adult responded 2-3 times behind us with a 'wer-ek, wer-ek, wer-ek' warning call (see Roche). 2 Barn Owl chicks sticking their heads out of their nest box this evening too. One came out from time to time before being disturbed by 20+ RSPB types chattering and laughing loudly and wearing bright 'standy-out' clothes (blue and orange cagouls seemed especially popular. Thankfully the chick came back out once they'd gone! Why bring people down to see the owls if they don't even have the most basic of field craft i.e.being quiet!!!

8th - 2 Carrion Crows mobbing a Fox at MBP! One even walked right up to it before latter trotted off with 'black bird' in mouth. Had been crunching on summit for a while, so presume carrion, certainly didn't catch owt. Too small for whole young crow, could have been a bit of one I suppose, or a coot? SIX Black-necked Grebes on BWP today  - 3 pairs. A bit of calling and 1 bird catching caddis again below E hide. Also BNG chased off L.Grebe for a change!

10th - SEVEN(!) Black-necked Grebes!!! Did 50 consquetive scans, just to check. Frequencies follow: 1 bird (4), 2 birds (5), 3 birds (3), 4 birds (11), 5 birds (13), 6 birds (4), 7 birds (10). - just goes to show how tricky it can be to get a good count when they spend so much time diving!

18th - 2 Barn Owl chicks found dead below nest box, but thankfully 3 are still OK. Feelings are that there's just not enough food about or that one of the parents has got killed. Male Stonechat in Phrag field. Female Yellow Wagtail over road from stubble field opposite BHR - only one of the year I think...

23rd - The 3 Barn Owl chicks were ringed today and there are reports of adults using the triangle box to roost.

24th - 2 Kestrel chicks looking out of BHR nest box this morning and there were fledged broods of Carrion Crows and Magpies about today.

26th - Pair of Stonechat in the Phrag field and word that they have bred...

28th - Hen Harrier (ring-tail) reported N over MSC

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A blast from the past: birding at Moore... 8 years ago!

I was cooling off today (damn hot out) having just done the lawn and having just watched the Flyers go 3-1 up against the Habs in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup, when a thought popped into my head - I wonder what I saw, I thought, on my very first visit to Moore? No idea what set that train of thought in motion, but it was now... in motion... and so I had to act. Now in the olden days, before I got hooked on e-records, I used to stick everything down from my birding trips in notebooks. Brightly coloured A3 notebooks to be precise and they now sit in the bedroom in an old leather case. So, I rummaged around and began thumbing through them...

It looks like my first recorded visit was on a bright spring afternoon on 27th April 2000. I have a note that says ‘One visit previously – but no record kept’, so strictly speaking, it was my second visit, but this was my first recorded birding trip to Moore. Can’t say I kept very good records in those days, but I did keep lists. LOTS of lists :-) On that first visit 10 years ago, which later entries remind me was confined to Lapwing Lake and Lapwing Lane (I’d yet to discover Birchwood Pool and the exotic eastern side of the reserve, let alone Upper Moss Side) I saw 47 species including my first Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Cuckoo and House Martin of the year! I also met a bloke with a Harris Hawk and noted a ‘mystery bunting song’ from the gorse at the top of the hill by the reserve sign, which I described at the time as ‘chi chi chi churrrrr’ (the song, not the gorse) and ‘...a bit Ortolan like or Yellowhammer subsong-y?’ Detailed stuff, eh? Well, I never did find the bird, according to my ‘notes’, and I sure as hell can’t remember that far back, so I guess we’ll never know what the mystery bunting was, but it’ll be Yellowhammer for sure, or maybe Cheshire’s first Ortolan Bunting.

Well, this little piece of nostalgia kept me thumbing through the tattered old books until I reached January 8th 2002... and there I stopped - Page 16 of Green Book 2002 (1). Why? Because what followed was a description of my first ever full day on the reserve – dawn ‘til dusk. Captured that evening in pen and ink and reproduced below verbatim. The only thing I’ve changed is people’s names (everybody is called Dave) and I've ocassionally added info for clarity in square brackets. Apart from that, it’s word for word as written eight years ago. I suppose I should point out that at this time Moore was not my patch. In fact I didn’t have a patch! I tended instead to wander the Wirral, N.Wales and the more northerly parts of Cheshire and the more southerly parts of Lancs and occasionally Greater Manchester. How things change.

8/1/02 – So, plan set. Pensarn for first light and Snow Buntings then Little Orme for Black Redstart, Greenfield for Red-crested Pochard etc... Well, not quite. Decided to start instead at MNR [aka Moore] for Bittern THEN Greenfield, down the A55 to Pensarn and on to Little Orme, calling at Fflint, Shotwick and Neston Old Quay on the way back. Woke at 5:50, gobbled toast and tea, made a flask and was away by 7:00 – still nicely dark. Took the back road to MNR (just in case of Little Owl at the oak – no luck) and parked up at Lapwing Lane for possible Tawny Owl (no luck). Quickly decided to head straight to the reed bed [aka Eastern Reedbed] and was there for 7:25. Got various calling species – masses of Rooks at Lapwing Lane, Teal, Wigeon etc. As light began to pick up, more duck came in. I could make out Shoveler on the pond [aka Millbrook Pool]. A Grey Heronschraaked’ and dropped in there. A Snipekatch-ed’ as it flew over followed by 2 Woodcock still silhouetted against the early sky. A fox trotted into some gorse in front of the hide as the colours came up. Plenty of Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Reed Bunting, Moorhen.

Just after 8:00 an old chap with the smallest bins I’ve ever seen turned up. Told him about the fox then rambled on about the Bitterns making nest platforms – trouble was I never mentioned the word 'Bittern' so he thought I was talking about foxes! Soon cleared up the misunderstanding. Turns out he’d never seen one [Bittern!]. “Could be lucky”, I said. “Seem to come out before 8:30”. With that one flew from the reeds to the right and landed behind a few reed stalks on some ice to our left. Put the scope on it – fantastic. Hunched posture, bill pointing slightly upwards, dark beady eye. It just stood there partly masked by the reeds. Let the old guy have a look (he’d never have seen owt with those bins) and I swear there were tears in his eyes (shock of my optics I expect). He was a very happy chappy. Nice when you can share something like that. He left as the Bittern slowly stalked left out of view. My first non-flying Bittern and barely 25ft away!

For the next 15 minutes the Water Rails piped up and what with that and the Bittern I decided to stay until 9:00 before heading off. Well, 9:00 became 9:30 (just in case the Bittern re-emerged and especially as I’d had a couple of nice views of Water Rail to go with their regular squealing). Just before 9:30 scanned soggy sedge area by pool for more Water Rail [this was the NE wet flush of Millbrook Pool] – (you can never have too many Water Rails in my book!) when I noticed a wader. First thought was Redshank but when I got scope on it I was very pleasantly surprised – Green Sandpiper! Must be overwintering and to think it’s usually a quick trip to Marbury No.1 Tank [now called Haydn’s Pool] in August for these and here’s me ticking one in January! Decided to stay a little longer – half ten would still give me time to have lunch on Little Orme... Watched Green Sandpiper on an off for 30 mins whilst regularly checking the reed bed for Bittern. A Great Spotted Woodpeckercheckked’ somewhere and Jays were to-ing and fro-ing and before I knew it, it was 10:25 and Dave and Dave arrived. Exchanged pleasantries and chatted for a few minutes when who should come creeping back from whence it came but Botaurus. Cracking scoped views again and buggered if 10 minutes later it did the same thing back the way it came. Stonking! Grins all round. By this time I’d given up on going anywhere else and decided to stay at Moore all day.

At 11:00 left for the roosting Long-eared Owls on the disused section of the Latchford Canal. Found a single ear-tufty same place as last year [sadly the LEOs have long abandoned this once regular roost]. Elsewhere picked up Skylark. Trekked the birch wood for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – no luck. Scanned the gulls for Iceland Gull – no luck, but continued to add species to the day list. Checked the Tawny Owl box, but it wouldn’t stick its head out so headed back to the reed bed at 14:20. Walking up to the hide when what should pop up over the rise but a Short-eared Owl (for all of 5 seconds before dropping down again). A minute later and I would have missed it. Setting up scope when I heard Jays going barmy behind me. Scanned bush to see two mobbing a male Sparrowhawk, who was in no hurry to leave. Eventually a Carrion Crow joined in and it had enough and flew off.

For the next two hours sod all happened save the comings and goings of various Bods and Bodesses including a guy called Dave who lived just down the road from me, and of course, Dave and Dave again. All eventually left with no sign of the Bittern and, for Dave, Dave and doggy Dave, apparently no sign of the LEO – despite my detailed description of where it was i.e. "...past the 2nd bench, a few yards on there’s a stand of willow on path side of the canal. Last tree’s an oak with a few leaves on. Go six feet past the oak then look across at the willow opposite it on the far bank. Single bird is 1/3rd of the way up the tree close to the thick side branch facing away!" Being charitable – it must have moved (more likely they’re blind as bats!).

Anyway, 16:20 just me and Dave left when he shouts “That’s never the Bittern is it? In that tree?" (We’d been watching the reed bed) BUT sure enough, directly along the bank from us, 20ft up a bare willow [actually it was probably a birch] was the Bittern! And what’s more it was ‘Bitterning’!!! Neck stretched, head pointing skyward... in a tree... high in a tree. How weird is that? Seen herons do it for past time [hamd about in trees] but Bittern? Had no idea they did that and to think that my very first “out in the open”, scoped up Bittern would be in a tree!!! Dave and I just laughed – it was so comical, but absolutely amazing – what’s the chances of seeing that? Anyhow, watched it ‘settle’ presumably to roost as it resumed its hunched posture (bit like a Night Heron), looked intently at the ground below as if contemplating getting perhaps just a little lower down the tree... then yawned... YES! YAWNED and then... light failed and we left. Happy as sandboys and still chuckling to ourselves.

It's supposed to be the Bittern in the tree...

Well, I thought, if things are going this well, what the hell, let’s use what remaining light is clinging to the landscape to walk the Tawny path. Drove down Lapwing Lane and waht should fly across my full beam but Tawny Owl! Fantastic day – added nine new species for the year and had amazing views of Bittern. Brings year total to 95! That’s last January’s entire count and with only 5 more to get and plenty of easy ones left, looks like I might make the 100 before the end of the month!

So, full list for the day...

L.Grebe, Cormorant, Bittern, G.Heron, M.Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Tufty, Goldeneye, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Pheasant, W.Rail, Moorhen, Coot, G.Sandpiper, Curlew, Woodcock, Snipe, BHGull, LBBGull, HGull, CGull, Wpigeon, T.Owl, LEO, SEO, GSWoodpecker, Skylark, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, S.Thrush, M.Thrush, Redwing, Goldcrest, G.Tit, B.Tit, LT.Tit, Magpie, Jay, C.Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, R.Bunting. 52 spp.

Halcyon days :-)

As a follow up, came across this in the 2nd notebook for the same year, 2002. Hadn't realised how much of an avid lister I was in those days. SO, much calmer now (the quest for the peaceful and unhurried mind...) I feel a book coming on 'Zen and the Art of Birding' :-) Anyway... as previously, all names have been changed to Dave.

30/10/02 Moore Nature Reserve 08:00 - 12:25 Cold, overcast and occ. light showers. In search of Bittern...

After nothing off the back of westerlies on 28th & 29th at Seaforth, in need of some decent birding to round off the month. Bumped into Dave who mentioned that the Bittern was back on 25th and showing at the usual times of 10:00 and 15:00. So, too much temptation. Got Dave to to drop me in the village and marched to the Eastern Reedbed in double-quick time. Dropped off at 7:30 and was in the hide by 8:00 [yes, in those days there was a pagoda-shaped hide with a roof, until yobs burnt it down]. Bittern flew from the reeds just in front left of hide, acroos the water to tall reeds in front of willows [NW corner, now cleared] where it perched (on top of reeds) for about a minute before skulking down the reed stalks back into the reeds. Got scope on bird when it was 'perched' on the reeds - v. upright posture, facing away. That was at 8:52 (but of course the clocks went back at the weekend so it was really 9:52). Later (10:25 - 10:45) may have heard it on far side of reedbed - Heron like 'schraak' only less raucous and shorter - checke BWP, but not much use, neither are my CDs as only have 'booming' birds on them. Still, had the place pretty much to myself... [morning's tally en route to and actuall at ERB below]

2 L.Grebe,  3 Cormorant,  1 Bittern,  1 Grey Heron,  4 M.Swan,  81 Pinkfeet,  2 Mallard,  
10+ Gadwall,  11 Shoveler,  25 Wigeon,  7 Teal,  f Pochard,  3 Tufty,  4 R.Duck,  2 Kestrel
3 Sparrowhawk,  1 Buzzard,  3 Pheasant,  8 W.Rail,  3 Moorhen,  9 Coot,  200 Lapwing,  
85 Curlew,  500+ BHGull,  C.Gull,  2 Woodpigeon,  32 S.Dove,  1.C.Dove,  3 Green Woodpecker
2 GSW,  5 Skylark,  1 G.Wag,  9 Wren,  8 Dunnock,  6 Robin,  106 Redwing,  3 M.Thrush
6 Blackbird,  1 Goldcrest ,  7 G.Tit,  2 B.Tit,  10 LT.Tit,  25 Magpie,  13 C.Crow, 8 Jay
3 Jackdaw,  2 Starling,  3 Chaffinch,  7 L.Redpoll,  14 Goldfinch,  2 Siskin,  4 Greenfinch,
7 R.Bunting


It really was all about the lists in those days - lol. There's a note below the above 'table' too that reads...

"Four year ticks incl. one lifer was better than I'd thought I'd get in for Oct BUT not had a tick for two and a half weeks now and am getting restless! I know I've got my 200 BUT I need more dammit... like Purple Sandpiper and Smew for starters. What will the last two months of the year bring, I wonder..."

OMG... I was SUCH an addict!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Misty May Morning...

SO, inspired somewhat by yesterday's Knot (score!) thoughts turned to waders yet again. According to BirdMap there were sprinklings of Sanderling moving through the UK inland and according to The Beeb, the weather looked good for an early morning start. Settled then - Halfway House, as early as I can get there and try to get in a couple hours before work.

05:30 - Wake up and look out of the window. Mist? There was no mention of mist! Mind you... could be good, hold things down until I get there!!

06:15 - Arrive at HWH. Yep. Mist. Lots of mist! I can just make out a muddy spit to my left on the far side of the river, the near shore to my right and the bank in front of Cuerdley Marsh on the other side of the river. This could be interesting. Unpacking my stuff and catch movement on the spit - 2 Shelduck and 5 small waders running around! Quickly get scope up... and they are... 5 Shelduck ducklings! First brood of the year for me, but not the hoped for Dunlin.

06:20 - 1st scan of the 'river', such that it is. Apart from the Shelduck family left, there are 20 adults on the shore to my right with 2 juvenile Grey Herons and 5 Mallards. 2 Magpie are striding about above the tide line and I can just make out the silhouettes of 3 Canada Geese and 2 Tufties on the water in the mist. The resident Reed Warbler is crunching away in the reeds in front of me and over the river a Grasshopper Warbler is reeling. Willow Warbler and Wren singing behind me.

06:33 - Mute Swan just snorted on the ship canal behind me and there's a Great Crested Grebe calling there. A Grey Heron barks somewhere in the mist, a Canada Goose honks overhead and a pair of Shelduck whistle nearby. Sedge Warbler, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird have joined the other early morning songsters and a Cormorant, Lapwing and Carrion Crow wing their respective ways silently through the gloom.

06:46 - Greenfinch and Song Thrush have joined the chorus and a Pheasant coughs in the distance somewhere on Norton Marsh. 2 Stock Dove fly in and land briefly on the strand line before vanishing into the mist and 4 Canada Geese are marching to the river, necks stretched out, honking excitedly. I can hear one of the big dumper trucks trundling along the bund by Fiddler's Ferry. It's pin-drop calm. You could hear a moth breathing.

07:00 - Still misty. Blackcap singing in the distance, Reed Bunting close in. There's a Great Tit calling behind me and a Coot doing the same on the ship canal. First gulls of the day start up. Black-headed Gull calling left, Great Black-backed Gull right - I can see neither. Oystercatcher... keebeeks... and briefly emerges from the grey as it tanks down river.

07:15 - Herring Gull doing its 'seaside rooftops' wake-up call away right and 2 Long-tailed Tits are 'see-see-seeing' in the tree by me. Whitethroat alarm call. Chaffinch. Another Grey Heron swoops in right, does its bouncy landing, wings raised and then immediately assumes its hunched stalking position which seems to annoy the BHG that's just dropped in on the waters edge. Sun trying (and failing) to breakthrough now. Mute Swan throbbing wingbeats unseen over head, more braying from the GC Grebe, whilstles and chasing from the Shelduck, two car horns, the reversing beep... beep... beep of the Fiddler's trucks, first aircraft of the day over, distant voices, crocodile floating down river (OK... log).

07:36 - Can no longer see Cuerdley bank - the mist has descended further - meh. Just ears for the next half an hour. I add Goldfinch, 2 Bullfinch and 2 Swallows to the morning's tally while I ponder on what might be out there feeding on the mud. Lift dammit!!!

08:08 - Aha! Patience rewarded? Slowly clearing I think. Can see more of the waters edge now... 1, 2, 3... 14 Black-headed Gull... some mud. The tide's starting to drop more.

08:24 - 2 hirundines fast and low over the water toward me. Hang on... waders! Dropped in on mud behind the reeds. Can't see from here. Sneak around the reeds and gingerly stick my head up to see the muddy margin where the bank drops away. Dunlin! Two cracking summer birds. Head back to my fezzi chair, perched on the rise overlooking the river and wait for them to work their way out into the open. Minutes later they emerge, working right as the mist finally starts to lift. Scope them for 10 minutes whilst the mist clears. Gorgeous rufous uppers, black bellies. Yes. I am excited about Dunlin. These could well be my *ONLY Dunlin of 2010 - lol. That's what comes from patching. Contentment. Appreciation of the simple things in birding life :-)

08:45 - Mist now cleared from the river and I can do a proper scope scan of the mud. 6 Sand Martins buzzing by. Trouble is, I'm not that sure that I want to take my scope off the Dunlin in case they fly. Ah well, they look fairly settled - here goes. Gulls. Shelduck. Gulls. Wader. Wader! Reddish speckled head and upper breast, clean white underparts, spangly black brown upperparts - summer Sanderling! Oh yes!!! Ha! Think I actually chuckled to myself at this point.

Knot AND Sanderling in the space of two days. AND I'd forgotten that I needed Dunlin. Damn I love this lil bend in the river!!!

* As it turned out these two cracking little schinzii were NOT my only Dunlin of 2010 (see 'Not a bad June day at all...')

Monday, May 17, 2010

2009 - a birding year at Moore: Part 1...

Well, I thought as 2010 is not even halfway through yet that I’d do a retrospective of 2009. Having done January - March (see below) it’s surprising how long it takes to go through records, so I think I’m just going to have to add to this one a month at a time when I get a mo...

Anyway - you might find the following KEY to SITE ABBREVIATIONS useful.

ERB = Eastern Reedbed        
MBP = Millbrook Pond        
PHP = Pumphouse Pool
BWP = Birchwood Pool      
LLP = Lapwing Lake            
HWH = Halfway House
UMS = Upper Moss Side      
BHR = Big Hand Ranch (the farm before the swingbridge)

January – Well, for some reason, I never got out on New Year’s Day and so the patch list didn’t kick off until Jan 7th. Despite the hard freeze and late start though, I made a pretty good start. I usually try to focus on winter visitors and trust I’ll pick up other things along the way, rather than go all out to get a long list on the first day. So any good ducks (drake Smew has to be THE best duck in the world, but Goldeneye and/or, Goosander would do), or overflying geese (ideally Whitefronts) or swans (Whoopers, or better still Bewick’s) are great, winter thrushes (Fieldfare, Redwing) and finches (Brambling, Meally Redpoll) likewise, Bittern, of course, Waxwing, overwintering waders, early LSW, I’m not greedy :-) I like to try for 100 species before the first migrant, but that said, my usual approach early in the year is – softly, softly catchee monkey ;) SO, January birds of note were as follows:

7th -Tawny Owl (usual roost tree), Bittern (out on the ice in the sunshine), 35 Stock Dove at BHR was a good count, 1w Iceland Gull on BWP was the only white-winged gull I managed to catch up with all month.

8th - First Redwing, 35 Linnet at BHR was an early high count

13th - First Fieldfare on UMS, male Stonechat Phrag Field, 3 Waxwing NW over ERB ‘triiiiii-ing’ away were I think the only one’s had on site in 2009, Green Sandpiper (overwintering bird) and Kingfisher (typically show best during the winter) on MBP.

14th - First Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on Lapwing Lane. A Long-eared Owl out hunting at dawn as I headed out onto UMS was a real surprise. Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and a pair of Grey Partridge there started off the farmland tally nicely. 100 Golden Plover on the river with 500 Lapwing was my highest count of these species during the year, as were the 9 Common Snipe roosting on the big island at BWP - a pool high for me. An overwintering Common Sandpiper flicking past on the ship canal was a welcome surprise, as were the 3 female Goldeneye there among the Tufties – not always the easiest patch ducks to get those.

15th - A solitary (and some would say ‘dodgy’) Pinkfoot proved to be the only January Pinky for me. I don’t care if it was with the Canadas, I was having it - lol!

20th - Raven mobbing Buzzard over BWP was smashing (my favourite bird sound, Raven ‘pronking’ – forget your twittery types, Ravens deffo do it for me!). Pair of Willow Tit at the feeding station was good to see – not many pairs of these wide-ranging lil beauties around the reserve these days. Top find were FOUR Woodcock today; 1 in Lapwing Wood and 3 on the snipe fields where in addition, 13 Common Snipe flushed during my soggy yomp. There were 14 Magpies in one tree at BWP, but I only know as far as “...nine’s a kiss and ten is a bird you must not miss”, so I've no idea about 14!

27th - Brambling literally took hours to get. Finally caught up with this stonking male by the feeding station in Tree Sparrow Field. Other birds of note were a pair of Greylag Geese that circled over LLP and high counts of 30+ Reed Bunting and a veritable cloud of 45+ Yellowhammer on the stubble fields near Bob’s Bridge. The ‘hams’ were just smashing. Every so often they just exploded out of the field like a firework going off. Great sight!

February – If I get off to a good start in January, February is a good month for concentrating on finding those illusive winter birds that have yet to be bagged. Goodies included the following...

3rd – Pair of Coal Tits at the feeding station (probably about as uncommon as Willow Tits at Moore), 25 Fieldfare on the horse paddocks by BHR was a winter max, Grey Wagtail on PHP was my first of the year, Ad S Med Gull on PHP was a nice find among the hundreds of BHGs and my only gull of note in Feb, and there were 11 Wigeon on ERB (they tend to favour here early winter).

4th – 40+ Redwing in Birch Wood and half a dozen L.Redpoll were nice and I got my first Water Rail of the year calling at ERB.

10th – Everywhere pretty much frozen up and so wildfowl numbers were mostly down. Still, good numbers of Common Snipe (7) on BWP and high numbers of Coot (57) and Canada Geese (155) there. Finally caught up with Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers on Lapwing lane – 2 males, one feeding in a tree opposite the screen hide and another drumming further back. Also lots of GSW drumming and chasing today.

24th – Partial albino Carrion Crow on Lapwing Lane. I first saw this bird on March 3rd last year – only ever see it in the winter… Lots of song today; Stock Dove on Lapwing Lane, Reed Bunting, Skylark and Yellowhammer on UMS, 30+ Tree Sparrow and my first Meadow Pipit of the year there too. 10+ GSW drumming and chasing today including one bird drumming on the metal at the top of telegraph pole near Bob’s Bridge and another drumming on a nest box. Pair of Nutatch at feeding station and cracking views of a male LSW feeding in tree along lapwing Lane for a good 20 mins. At one point it was joined by a Treecreeper, which was nice. Stonechat numbers up on the Phrag field today (3 birds). End of Feb usually sees the disappearance of some species and the arrival of others, and so it was today. Caught up with pair of Oystercatcher that had been reported back 2 days ago on PHP – they’re a few days early this year and the ‘spring has begun to sprung’ feel continued with the first Great Crested Grebe braying of the year. The Wigeon though, have now gone from the pools and relocated to the river and today was the last date I saw the Bittern on ERB and any Golden Plover on the river.

March saw the arrival of the first migrants and the gradual dispersal of winter visitors.

2nd – 4 Stonechat today - a pair on Norton Marsh and another pair on the Phrag Field. No sign of the Tawny Owl though on its roost today. The Green Sandpiper was showing again on MBP and my only Ringed Plover of the year was calling away on the R.Mersey. The Great Crested Grebes on Pumphouse were engaged in some Water Courtship and the first obviously paired Canada Geese were carving out their patch

6th – still no Chiffchaff, presume none have overwintered this year but c30 L.Redpolls in the alders by PHP with a couple of Siskin nearby was nice. A male LSW was drumming on Lapwing Lane and I had my first Willow Tit in song for the year along the N path. Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were both seen displaying today. There were 6 Buzzards over east end of the reserve at the same time and I later saw oner being mobbed by 20+ Jackdaws – which I thought was a trifle excessive! 14% of the Black-headed Gulls on PHP now have summer hoods and there was more courstship from the Great Crested Grebes there today with another 4 birds spread across the site. 3 Water Rail calling from ERB was the last date I have for these in the first winter period.

11th – Male LSW drumming for at least 10 mins at the top of a dead tree on Lapwing Lane attracted quite a crowd! 25+ Redwing on the horse paddocks at BHR were a reminder that winter was only just over and a Raven over NW calling plus 2 Stonechat on UMS gave the patch an almost upland feel for a few moments. Elsewhere game birds were getting jiggy. A male Pheasant was showing off to a harem of 5 females near the Capped Tip and there were a few Grey Partridge pairs about on UMS today. Good day for gulls too with an Ad S Med Gull and 1S Glaucous Gull on BWP and an Ad S Yellow-legged Gull on PHP. Best find of the day though was the cracking little Jack Snipe I put up from one of the Juncus patches on UMS. Wader wise, Lapwings were displaying on some of the UMS fields and there were 10 Redshank on Richmond Bank. Pair of Ruddy Duck on Lapwing Lake were the only wildfowl of note.

12th – First Sand Martin of the spring over the R.Mersey, yay! And a surprise Red-legged Partridge emerged from behind some flotsam on Norton Marsh – go figure! I’ve never had RLP anywhere on the patch, so this was quite a surprise! 9 Common Snipe in one wet field at the W end of UMS were a good count.

15th – Pair of Kingfishers were the only birds of note on a flying visit to the east end of the reserve.

17th – First Chiffchaffs singing heralded a bit of a spring arrival over the next few days, whilst on the horse paddocks 7+ Redwing still clung to their winter refuge. Elsewhere waders were heading off – just 3 Curlew loitering around the river today and Lapwing numbers are down to 25 from the hundreds that spent their winters on the river. Peregrine S over HQ was a bonus bird.

19th – No sign of the Cetti’s Warbler reported at Randall’s Sluice yesterday, but plenty of Chiffchaffs have dropped in over the past few days it would seem. There was a Redshank singing on the river (wonder if it will breed on the nearby wet fields) and Willow Tit in song on Shipton’s Scrub.

23rd – First pair of Shelduck back on PHP and a pair of Oystercatchers were displaying there too – heads down, stomping along the edge of the pool, piping incessantly.

24th – Surprised to come across 3+ Redwing still hanging around in Lapwing Wood.

26th – First Swallow of the year – always a good moment and two flocks of 7+ and 16+ Yellowhammers on UMS stubble fields today. Thought they would have dispersed to the hedgerows by now.

27th – First House Martin over PHP and first White Wagtail on the grassy area W of BWP continued the pattern of spring arrivals.

29th – Common Sandpiper on Black Fields early morning. Had it pegged at the time as an overwintering bird but it was probably an early migrant.

31st – 23 Fieldfare with 4 Redwing in BHR horse paddocks today – where had they come from? Plenty of song on UMS; 7 Skylarks, 4 Yellowhammer, 1 Willow Tit and 3 Meadow Pipits were songsters of note. Flock of c800 Woodpigeon in one field near Moss Side Farm was a big count. Two Iceland Gulls today – excellent. 1S and 2S together on BWP. Had actually seen the 2S twice earlier during the day (presume same bird), once over UMS and once at PHP. Good sprinkling of waders on MBP - 9 Common Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper and a pair of Oystercatcher today. Quite a lot of snipe about today, because I tallied another 13 scattered across the site too. There were at least 6 pairs of Lapwings on territory on UMS today with display from half of them and the Redshank was again singing on the river.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Typical Sunday jaunt-let... and there's not a lot about...

In search of... Black-necked Grebes

If i can, I like to get out for an hour Sunday mornings to check the pools at the east end of the reserve (a) because it doesn't take long and I don't usually have more than an hour on site and (b) because I tend to spend most time in the week at the other end of the patch - usually somewhere between Bob's Bridge and Halfway House (see other postings). So today, typical Sunday circuit. I usually start at the Eastern Reedbed (ERB) and end up at Birchwood Pool (BWP). SO, what was about?

The track to the Eastern Reedbed

Singing as I head up the track to the hide...Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting, Wren, Reed Warbler and a distant Chiffchaff.

Eastern Reedbed (ERB)

Eastern Reedbed - The Mute Swans have finally hatched their brood of nine on ERB. Other birds? Just male Mallard and 2 Coots. No sign of any Pochard still knocking around, nor Tufties, nor Little Grebe - all of which may well be there, just tucked at the back of the reeds. Pochard stayed until 22nd May last year so it'll be interesting to see if they hang around again this year.

Millbrook Pool (MBP) sometimes called 'The Lagoon'

Millbrook Pool - 8 Canadas including a pair with a brood of three, yellow goslings feeding on the wet flush. Pair of Great Crested Grebe, couple of pairs of Gadwall, pair of Oystercatcher, 1 Lapwing, a couple of Magpie over, a Mute Swan and a few Coots are today's tally.

Firecrest Alley (FA)

Firecrest Alley and the Black Fields - 2 Raven just over, calling away... and a couple of crows. Two Common Swift high over ERB. Reed Warbler chunnering away at top end of Firecrest Alley. Wren singing. Blackbird over. Pheasant just called. Another Reed Warbler. Clouding over. No sign of the usual Blue Tits in the Hawthorn. Can hear Canada Geese. No sign of any Hirundines.Very quiet.

8:34 walking up the little rampy bit at the east end of FA on to black fields to see if there is any sign of the Buzzards today and if there’s anything on the new muddy diggings at the east end. male Pheasant just flown off. And there’s one of the Buzzards. It’s a bit soggy up ere. Sedge Warbler. Grasshopper Warbler. Common Whitethroat. And a ‘chek’ of a Great Spotted Woodpecker... surprisingly. There’s a Robin singing left and a distant Blackcap right. Willow Warbler and another Wren left. Just coming up to the scrapings and... pair of Shelduck like last time... and there they go... like last time. Scanning with the bins reveals... mud. That’s it. Oh and, some water. But not a lot of that. Double check... yep. Dead as the proverbial doornail. Now, I had high hopes for this little muddy dugout at the start of the year, especially as I had Little Ringed Plover here the first time I checked it for passage waders on April 13th. But since then? Ne pas de sausage! Oh hang on... Kestrel has just flown low left carrying a vole... and... there's the first hirundine of the morning... lone Swallow over. Only other birds apart from the aforementioned songsters are a couple of Dunnocks getting jiggy among the brambles. Otherwise very little about. Pumphouse next I think.

Pumphouse Pool - from the east hide

Pumphouse Pool - East Hide 8:50 - I really hope they don’t give these hides daft names. So much easier using compass directions. Pumphouse east. Pumphouse west. Birchwood Pool east. Birchwood Pool west. Birchwood Pool south. Lapwing Lake east. Lapwing Lake south. Lapwing Lake north – simples... assuming you know where the East (ern Reedbed) is of course. So what do we have this morning? Carrion Crow. 8:50 ... pair of Shoveler? Nope male Shoveler and eclipsing Gadwall looks like. Hmmm, thought all the Shoveler had gone. Male Mallard, Shelduck asleep and a single BHGull. Male Lapwing again, which could actually be standing sentinel I guess as he’s often here. Maybe he has a female on eggs among the veggies. Time will tell. What else have we got? Canada Goose. Coot. 2 pairs of Tufties... another Coot... another Coot... another Coot.... and... another Coot. Woodpigeon in the corner where the Little Egret was the other day... and that’s it. Nothing on the posts, which ought to hold stuff really because they look ideal for a small flock of Whiskered Terns to perch on! Scoping the bankside veggies yielded nothing else – very quiet today. Oh... here we go, big whizz of hirundiney things have just come in... 11 Common Swift (none of them Pallid), 4 Swallows (none of them Red-rumped) and 8 House Martins, which now officially becomes my biggest 2010 flock... I think... There’s also 2 Chaffinches singing, a Song Thrush repeating itself and a Willow Warbler chipping in. A couple of Jackdaws over, a Moorhen ‘kurruuuk-ing’, a Woodpigeon singing and a Reed Warbler has just started up in the small fringe of reeds to the left of the hide. That just about does it for Pumphouse I think... On to Birchwood Pool to see what the Black-necked Grebes are up to.

South path to Birchwood Pool east hide

9:04 So, park up and walk along the south path in Birchwood. Heading west towards the east hide. Wren. Chaffinch. Blackcap. Carrion Crow. Willow Warbler. Blue Tit over... but no Great Tits – which is unusual as they’re usually hooching around here. Probably feeding young. Song Thrush. Robin. A couple of Blackbirds singing and it's...

Birchwood Pool - from the east hide

Birchwood Pool - 9:11 East hide, or, in shorthand... BWP(E).  And I give you... a pair of Mallard, a female Gadwall, 3 Coots, a pair of Oystercatchers, which probably came from Millbrook... male Gadwall, a couple of Canada Geese on the east tip of the big island (BI), Mute Swan, Grey Heron, another Coot, but no obvious sign of any grebes, let alone black-necks. Hmmmmm. Time to scope! 13 Sand Martins, 7 Swallows. Pair of Mallard at W end with a brood of 5 duckings. Aha... pair of Great Crested... so there ARE grebes about. Pair of Tufties, pair of Gadwall but still no Black-necks... or Little Grebes come to that. Scope again... Little Grebe (NW corner)... and... a PAIR of Little Grebes. Good. Another Mallard brood. This time 5 bigger ducklings (probably 1/3rd grown) with their mum, just below the hide, 2 Coots on nests, another pair of Canadas on the W shore and another pair of Tufties. Right. Off to the south hide as the BNGs could be tucked in on the W side of BI, which I can’t see from here.

Birchwood Pool - south hide

9:21 arrive at south hide. Jay and a couple of House Martins have just flown in, but, still no sign of the BNGs. Pair of Shelduck just crashed in on the small island (SI). 7 LBBG there too, a Moorhen with a chick and that's about it! All quiet on the eastern front...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Waders... a bit of an obsession

Waders are always tricky to get on The Patch... well, a good selection of waders are because there's no wader scrapes. Nothing along the lines of say Sandbach, Frodsham or Neumann's. The closest we have is probably Pumphouse Pool  which has in the past pulled in the odd passage Dunlin (always a good sign) although not for a few years now and Millbrook Pool (recently renamed 'the lagoon') which has a wet flush in the north-east corner. Overwintering Green Sandpiper has become a regular here in recent years and is often one of the the first waders on the year list. You can add another five species from Halfway House in January easily enough - Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew and there's no problem flushing Common Snipe from the wet fields on Upper Moss Side (UMS) - there are dozens of them. Jack Snipe on the other hand are tricky little buggers. I've had just one on the Snipe Fields, but thankfully there are usually 2-3 that overwinter in the wet areas east of Norton Marsh. I'll say no more than that ;)

Woodcock can be another tricky patch bird. They don't rode here, so the only real chance of picking them up is during the winter when the Continental birds come over. Walking the margins of the Snipe Fields in February or March usually puts up one or two from the ditches where they feed. It's also possible during the winter months to pick up an overwintering Common Sandpiper on the ship canal, but these are not reported annualy. Mind you, it's a long stretch of water and not closely watched so who knows... Not to worry anyway, because these are one of the few spring passage waders you can be pretty sure of getting somewhere. They turn up on the eastern pools (Birchwood, Pumphouse, Millbrook) in April and May annually and less commonly on autumn passage into September.

Little Ringed Plover is another reasonably likely annual spring migrant. One or two usually drop in around April time, but rarely stay for more than a few days. Pumphouse is probably the most likely place to catch up with one, but the shingly margins around Birchwood are worth a look too.  Now those one, two, three... eleven species are pretty much all you're likely to get on this patch without working the river from Halfway House. Even then, I reckon Jack Snipe, Woodcock and LRP are pretty good patch birds and I always get a buzz out of finding one. Then it gets trickier... nothing wader wise on the patch is predictable and so detecting any kind of wader passage is quite a thrill. But, being a patch, this can be somewhat 'patchy'... pun intended. Take, for example, last year....

Nothing much happened in April, apart from a couple of passage Green and Common Sandpipers and then, during a few days in early May, things picked up. It began with a Little Ringed Plover at Pumphouse Pool on May 3rd and then got interesting over the next two weeks on the river... spring passage had begun.

6th May saw the first report of Dunlin on the river - 3 birds. This was followed next day by one of Halfway House's little 'purple patches' - 18 Dunlin, 1 Whimbrel and 1 Wood Sandpiper. I got these all in the space of about an hour from about 7.00am onwards. Funny, most stuff seems to be early at HWH...

A report of Ringed Plover followed on May 9th, followed by 2 Avocet and a partial summer plumaged Knot on May 13th, 5 more Dunlin and a Ringed Plover on May 15th and another Whimbrel on May 16th. In other words, a little flurry of passage-ness on the patch - good times. Inspired by this I decided this year to stake out HWH whenever I could - I wanted to see just how much passage wader activity there was on the river. Let's just say, it has so far been well worth the effort!!!

April 20th - 11 Black-tailed Godwit, I Curlew, I Common Snipe, 2 Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 1 Oysteratcher

April 21st - 4 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Lapwing

April 22nd - 2 Avocet, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Redshank, 2 Oystercatcher, 4 Lapwing, 1 Curlew

April 25th - 4 Dunlin*, 1 Ringed Plover

April 26th - 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Common Snipe, 1 Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 3 Dunlin*, 6 Lapwing, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel

April 27th - 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel

May 13th - 1 Ringed Plover

Pretty cool... *even if I didn't get the Dunlin... and then things went quiet. It's now May 15th. When, I wonder, will I get Knot or Sanderling???


May 20th  - 1 Knot - woot! Have hopes of Sanderling during the next week...

May 21st - 2 Dunlin, 1 Sanderling  (see Misty May Morning...)

May 25th - 3 Ringed Plover reported from HWH.

So what next I wonder? Well, Golden Plover for sure come winter time (missed these in Jan-Feb by starting the year late) but Grey Plover must be a possibility then too and maybe Little Stint... Have a feeling spring passage has given up its goodies for the year wader wise, but you never know... and Bar-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff could well turn up on autumn passage? Then there's Wood Sandpiper I guess... To be honest, I'd be happy just to detect autumn passage on the river given the buzz I've gotten from the spring birds :-) Good times!