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.


  1. eileen & peter williams.22 July 2010 at 16:26

    very interesting reading & just wish we lived a bit nearer to Moore.
    still we can meet our friends John & Vera there & make a day of it.
    so much to see you need a good few trips to see it all.
    even then you will miss some.

  2. It's a splendid site for sure! A 'Dusk til Dawn' day is what you need :)