Looked like it was going to be cooler today and maybe even damp, so, I reasoned, if I made an early start, I’d be able to hit the patch for a while before work and before the pollen took hold - happy days. SO, where to go given my limited time? Might just be able to squeeze in an hour at Pumphouse Pool AND a yomp to Halfway House, just in case anything is passing through. Sorted! Stuff in the car, hardly any traffic and within 15 minutes, give or take, I’m hearing my first patch birds of the day at the east hide; 4 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap and 1 Woodpigeon singing, 1 Magpie and 1 Robin calling. Oh... and Peacock of course – often hear the Walton Gardens birds at this end of the reserve on quiet mornings. And, no... I don’t tick them! Stuff out of the car, into the hide, coffee poured and what do we have today?
Most obvious is the naked eye stuff: 26 Canada Geese right in front of the hide (very quiet Canada Geese actually too... not a peep out of them) and the 4 Grey Herons – 1 adult, 1 sub-adult (on the rock) and 2 juvs. 3 more Canada Geese on the water by the sub-adult Grey Heron. Then there’s the 5 Magpies that are flinging themselves around the spit making a racket and disturbing the 3 Lapwing there. There's another bunch of Magpies doing the same thing on the island - what is it, mad magpie madness morning mayhem madness... or something. What else? Pair of Great Crested Grebe in close, heads under the water – fishing. Coot with two juvs left of me seems annoyed by the lone Moorhen near it that’s pottering harmlessly along the waters edge. Mind you... it IS a Moorhen... nuff sed. Further off (bins now) there are more Coots... I count another 9, all adults. The first of the morning’s Swifts silently cuts low in front of the hide and skims left out of sight. Gull numbers are low. Little bit early for them yet; 8 Lesser Black-backed, 2 Herring and 1 Black-headed is it! A Song Thrush and Wren have started up. Scoping yields 4 Mallard, a lone male Tufty, the male Pochard from the other day and a Little Grebe tucked in. Hang on... are those baby Tufties? They LOOK like they’re ‘with’ another Little Grebe but don’t look stripey... do they? Refocus, touch of zoom and... Aha – they DO actually... look stripey. Old eyes. 5 Little Grebe about a quarter grown with mum and dad... or maybe... mum and mum... or dad and dad... who knows in this modern age eh...tried sexing Little Grebe once... gave up. Anyhow... Scanning left from the grebes along the south shore and... small wader having a stretch... wings raised skyward briefly above it’s back, clear dark bordered wingbar... and relax. Bobbing resumed, it's a Common Sandpiper. Didn’t expect that. Kinda mentally given up on waders until Jul/Aug tbh, but nice surprise.
The Coot with the delinquent offspring... hang on... OK... NO spots (just needed to check that Common Sand again.. ya never know!). Where was I? Ah yes. The Coot with the two offspring (I'd guess maybe 13 or 14 years old, in coot years, judging from the incessant din) has finally lost patience with the loitering Moorhen and chased it off. 2 Swifts looping by now with 2 Sand Martins. Bit short on Swallows of late. Familiar ‘peep’ to my left tells me the Kingfisher is here again today. Perched on its favourite twig sticking out of the water- all black bill, it’s the male. The Canada Geese have now wandered off and are settled by the tern fence, preening, behind which, on the bank are 2 young Blackbirds feeding. A male Chaffinch has just whipped past the Kingfisher which, undisturbed by it, has just plopped into the water. Result! Stickleback I’m guessing... and he’s off east with it, towards Millbrook Pool. Feeding fledged young or just wanting some privacy I wonder? Pair of Pied Wagtails on the tern fence and a Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and another Blackcap have joined the small chorus of songsters.
More birds are arriving from the north... 85 Lesser Black-backs and 8 Herring Gulls washing in the pool now, and from the east...3 more Grey Herons (1ad, 2juv) have dropped in, sending the brood of 4 well grown Moorhen chicks scurrying back towards their parent. There HAD been 5 in this brood – wonder if a heron took one, hence the panic? More Lapwings arriving from the east - 4 birds. The residents on the spit take exception and start displaying towards them – dipping their heads down and raising their rear ends and wings back, calling. Long-tailed Tit calling behind me and there’s a single Little Grebe close-by – a different bird from the pair at the far end with the brood. One of the resident Common Buzzards flying low over the pool doesn’t so much as get a second look from any of the birds below – guess they’re used to it. Either that, or they've noticed too that it has a full crop.
Pasty! Well, it LOOKS like a pasty but it’s hard to tell for sure given that it’s halfway down the throat of a Lesser Black-backed that’s just landed. Whatever it is, it’s enough to have gained the Kleptoparasitic attentions of a nearby Black-headed Gull and Carrion Crow. No chance mateys – down in one! Gull numbers are still building as the Kingfisher zips past again... 370 LBBG, 10 HG, 4 BHG. A House Martin has joined the 2 Sand Martins which are now busily engaged in nuptial chases over the far end of the pool and there are now 3 Swifts feeding overhead. 2 Common Buzzards in different stages of moult are soaring over the viaduct, but as on other days of late, there’s no Peregrine to be seen. 2 Stock Dove have just landed in front of the hide and there are 3 Pied Wagtail juveniles pecking amongst the Crassula – maybe the fledged brood of the pair seen earlier. Male Kingfisher is back briefly before heading back again towards Millbrook Pool... but hold on, there’s another one flying low across the west end of the pool. Pair from the ship canal? Curious... Ho Hum, time marches on. If I’m to get to HWH I’ll have to leave now. Stuff back in car. Off.
Quick detour to Eastern Reedbed and Millbrook Pool.
MBP- 3 Grey Herons, A Coot and A Lapwing... The Lapwing standing ON the Coots nest. OK... each to his or her own... and that’s it. Oh, and shit loads of weed and some flies. THAT’S it!
ERB – 5 Grey Herons (there are LOTS of herons about today!), stalking the waterage in front of the hide and everything else is on the open water at about 2 o’clock, if you're looking straight out from the hide: 10 Gadwall (some look like juvs), 17 Canada Geese (some ARE juvs), 4 Coots (of which 2 are juvs - don't know where the other 5 have gone...) and a pair of Great Crested Grebes with, surprisingly, 2 new stripey young being carried piggy-back. Why surprisingly? Because not so long ago there was an adult here with a single very large youngster – what’s going on??? The parent carrying the young has just raised itself up on the water and wing-flapped and they’ve fallen off :-) For completeness, there’s also a lone male Tufty, at least one male Wigeon, yet another Common Buzzard perched in a tree at the back of the reedbed and a couple of Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers singing; one of the latter from a Silver Birch by the path – just looks wrong!
Manchester Ship Canal – Territorial dispute between 2 Great Crested Grebes is the first thing to attract my attention as I round the initial bend from the black and yellow metal gate; lots of cackling and braying before one of the birds is chased off in the direction of the swing bridge. Cue the arrival from downstream of another GCG which proceeds to engage in courtship display with the ‘winner’ and the arrival of another GCG from the opposite direction with 3 half grown stripey young – presumably the partner of the ‘loser’. So that’s 2 pairs. Looking downstream towards the warehouse is another pair... one of which has just caught a small fish. There are a couple of BHGs fluttering along one of the small (and infrequent) muddy bits on the far side of the canal... scope up... aha! There’s a female Tufty by them with a brood of 9 third-grown young. She ain’t happy 'bout the BHGs and soon sees them off... whilst the 2 Tufty males nearby continue to doze. There are a few Lapwing and Shelduck on this tiny beach too and something else... small, wader...ANOTHER Common Sandpiper. Well wadda ya know? Nice. Other stuff... warbler wise, just 3 Whitethroat, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff and 1 Reed Warbler along the usual BB-HWH strip today. There’s yet another pair of Great Crested Grebes (that's 4 pairs I think...) and group of Canada Geese by the warehouses (looks like 5 adults and 5 big young) and 5 Greylags too (plus the 2 white ‘domestics’). Thought it was the Greylags that had the brood of 5??? Hmmmm.
Halfway House – 80 Lapwing, 3 Oystercatcher, 5 Shelduck, 4 Mallard, 2 Cormorant, c230 LBBG, 10 HG, 10 BHG, 1 Kestrel (male), 4 Carrion Crow, 7 Magpie, 1 Sand Martin. Dead as the proverbial today... and on the way back... THERE is the Greylag brood. 5 Goslings, tucked in amongst the veggies. Good. Was beginning to doubt my sanity there for a mo... And finally, a Carrion Crow with 2 fledged young on the roof of one of the warehouses completes the 'broods' feel to this mornings' all too short jaunt.