Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Autumn (+ winter) Waders: a running total...

Yet to get one of these on the patch this year...

Thought I'd keep a running tally of autumn passage on the patch. Good to look back and see how the season has developed so far... It's a bit subjective because it reflects, in large part, where I spent my time and how long I was out for as much as anything, but it does give a feel for what's about and the various comings and goings of the patch waders :)

July 1st8 Lapwing, 2 Oystercatcher

July 8th - 1 Green Sandpiper

July 12th - 3 Green Sandpiper

July 13th - 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Curlew, 30 Lapwing, 2 Oystercatcher

July 14th - 1 Green Sandpiper

July 15th  - 4 Common Sandpiper, 1 Curlew, 4 Dunlin

July 16th - 5 Common Sandpiper, 4 Curlew, 29 Dunlin, 6 Ringed Plover, 1 Redshank, 220 Lapwing

July 17th - 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Curlew, 2 Dunlin, 22 Lapwing, 1 Redshank, 1 Ringed Plover

July 19th - 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Curlew, 474 Lapwing, 5 Oystercatcher, 1 Redshank

July 22nd - 1 Common Sandpiper, 119 Curlew, 825 Lapwing, 2 Oystercatcher

July 23rd - 52 Curlew, 965 Lapwing

Keeping my eyes peeld for one of these...

August 1st - 10 Curlew, 1100+ Lapwing

August 2nd - 5 Curlew, 580 Lapwing, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Oystercatcher

August 4th - 1 Common Sandpiper, 3 Curlew, 1 Green Sandpiper, 874 Lapwing, 1 Redshank

August 5th - 3 Curlew, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Turnstone

August 6th - 1 Common Sandpiper

August 7th - 1 Common Snipe, 109 Curlew, 902 Lapwing

August 10th - 2 Common Sandpiper

August 12th - 1 Black-tailed Godwit

August 16th - 3 Greenshank

August 18th - 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Lapwing

August 19th - 4 Green Sandpiper

August 20th - 5 Curlew, 4 Green Sandpiper, 1485 Lapwing

August 21st - 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Common Sandpiper, 13 Dunlin, 1 Common Snipe, 2 Green Sandpiper, 939 Lapwing, 3 Redshank, 1 Ringed Plover

August 22nd  - 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 96 Curlew, 1 Dunlin, 2 Green Sandpiper, 825 Lapwing, 3 Redshank, 12 Ringed Plover

August 26th - 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 11 Curlew, 1579 Lapwing

September 3rd - 170 Lapwing, 2 Curlew, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 1 Green Sandpiper

September 12th - nc Lapwing, 29 Curlew

October 2nd - nc Lapwing, 30 Golen Plover, 1 Ruff

October 5th - 1298 Lapwing, 34 Golden Plover, 9 Curlew, 1 Ruff

October 6th - 1150 Lapwing, 16 Golden Plover, 1 Curlew

October 8th - c1200 Lapwing, 23 Golden Plover, 1 Curlew, 1 Redshank

Any patchers out there got running tallies? Would be nice to get a feel for how my patch compares with others!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sun Arise!

4:45am and I'm driving along the track to Bob's Bridge - destination Halfway House to watch the sun come up. I don't usually manage to get down until after 7am on an early start and so this is a real patch treat!

I imagine that there'll be all sorts going on. Birds feeding up after a long night of fasting. Birds on the move as they look for that next stop-over. Birds leaving roosts. Birds moving through. Then again of course, things could be far less frenetic. The day may begin with a gentle stretch and yawn. Or, to put it another way, I might be treated to a light Continental breakfast rather than the full English! The point is, I have no idea what to expect and I have been looking forward to this since the other half announced she was going on a 'road trip' with one of my daughters just over a week ago. So here I am. Back where I was 6 hours ago (see Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part II), parked up, togged up (it's cooler this morning) and ready to go!

I wonder what my first bird will be. Well, I can kinda guess tbh, but lets at least wait and see, I tell myself. Yep. Sure enough... 04:54... Robin. Singing across the canal by the warehouses. Propping its little eyelids open against its floodlit dawn maybe. Then again, maybe he's just the first one up. He must have slept at some point and certainly wasn't singing last night when I walked this way. The proper sunrise is 'officially' just after 6.00am today but even now the first hint of morning sky is peeking through to the east. It's the only colour on this morning's palette so far. All else is night grey. Another Robin is singing and a third is 'tipping' nearby. I thought I might catch the silhouette of a Tufty or Great Crested Grebe, or even the palest grey of a Mute Swan on the canal, but there's nothing out there on the water that I can see.

05:10 and I'm at the river. I wondered if I'd find my stashed green fezzie chair in the dark, but it's OK - my night eyes are working. Quiet. Can't even hear a Robin now as I set up my kit, not that I'll be able to use it just yet - too dark. Ears tell me though that things are waking up out in the gloom... Lapwing, Grey Heron, Gadwall. Can't see to write in my notebook so use my phone as a proxy torch. It'll do. Mallard 'laughing'.

05:18 give my bins a go and SEE the first recognisable silhouette of the day; Grey Heron and it looks like its started looking for food already. Nearby are a variety of dark rounded blobs - gulls and/or ducks no doubt, but I can't tell you which or what even though I can now just about read what I've written without the need for my phone. Carrion Crow reversing, Song Thrush singing and... Grey Partridge? Well I didn't expect that! Looks like a fox has been out and about on the mud... footprints everywhere

05:26 and I can see enough to tell that there's not a lot out there on the mud and that the blobs are Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 4 Gadwall. I thought, judging from the number of gulls heading to roost last night that the place would be packed with them at first light. Not so. Guess they must have moved further downriver. I suppose there must be a bit of a risk of being flushed by the incoming tide in the middle of the night if you stay out on the mud. I can now see that I'm wearing green camo trousers. Of course I knew this, but I can actually see some colours now... at least close in. Common Sandpiper calling, Wren singing, 7 BHGulls low east above the water. Gadwall and Mallard calling. Lesser Black-backed too as 20 more BHGulls head right followed by a single Herring Gull. Nothing yet has broken the skyline. Everything is hugging the river. I can see the now almost continuous threads of BHGulls following the bend in the river as they fly past from downstream in groups of 10...20...30. Always just above the water. Redshank calling.

05:38 I can see colours across the river and there's enough light to use the scope despite sunrise not being for another 20 minutes! Apart from a sprinkling of gulls there are 96 Curlew out on the mud. I had no idea so many had dropped in last night, especially as there'd only been 1 or 2 knocking about during the day. Lapwing numbers are quite the reverse. Hundreds yesterday, just 10 this morning. Kestrel gets the award for first raptor of the morning as gulls finally begin to circle overhead. Sharp 'tacking' from the reeds in front of my directs me to a cracking little Sedge Warbler. Ah, so they ARE still about then. Single Great Crested Grebe is out on the water again, 2 Sand Martin over and I've got the munchies. Breakfast methinks. Cheese and Crisp Sarnies. Splendid.

06:00 SUN ARISE! Cue geese! 52 Canada Geese over starts a steady stream during the next hour in which, all told, 430 fly over together with a fistfull of Greylags. Three minutes after sun up and I get another surprise. Swift! I thought they'd long gone. It's flitting around low over the river with 4 Swallows... I mean 12... no hang on... 20... 46... 95... 120 (!). ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SWALLOWS have just decended en masse and are feeding over the water, twittering away. Long time since I've heard such a noisy bunch. And that's how it is for the next 10 minutes... the air full of Swallows... and then, as quickly as they came, they have gone. South. Bloody marvellous sight!

06:30 Pied Wagtail over. Chiffchaff and Wood Pigeon singing. Willow Warbler and Pheasant calling. Flock of 15 or so Goldfinch left. A quick scan of the mud yields just 15 BHGulls (hundreds had flown past earlier - guess they must have kept going to Richmond Bank maybe), 20 LBBGs, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Grey Heron, 32 Lapwing (where did the other 22 come from?), 2 Redshank and 5 Crows. During the next 30 minutes I add 2 Little Egret, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Whitethroat, Magpie, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackcap and Raven to the morning's tally, but have not had the flurry of wader activity that I did yesterday.

07:00 -What did I just say about flurry of wader activity? Well, the next hour saw things change! Here's how
07:04 - Common Sandpiper (same one as previously I guess)
07:16 - Jay, 2 Swift, 3 House Martin, Tufted Duck
07:23 - 322 Lapwing, 3 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper (same again...), 22 Shelduck, Bullfinch
07:41 - 6 Ringed Plover, 1 Greenshank (juvenile and sounding kinda hoarse when it called)
08:15 - 825 Lapwing, 1 Common Sandpiper (again)
08:22 - 5 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin (juv)
08:53 - 5 Black-tailed Godwit

Then as I left an hour or so later; 2 Common Sandpiper together, 1 Ringed Plover and there were still 3 of the original 5 Black-tailed Godwits hanging about. Not a bad morning at all. Oh, and to cap it all there were 2 Green Sandpipers on Black Fields again. That's NINE wader species today. Super cool. No sign of the Garaganey on Pumphouse though, but then again, when I was there late pm there was no sign of any Teal either... go figure ;)

Sun arise, she bring in the morning.
Sun arise, bring in the morning, fluttering her skirts all around.
Sun arise, she come with the dawning.
Sun arise, come with the dawning, spreading all the light all around.

Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part II

Having spent a pleasant morning staking out Halfway House (see Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part I) the plan this evening is to do the east end for drop-ins and Upper Moss Side for owls. Arrive at Pumphouse Pool to find it occupied by a couple busily working their way through a stack of beers. Chat for a bit but as there was nowt going on bird-wise decide to check the Black Fields north of the Eastern Reedbed as the new scraping had held a couple of Green Sandpipers recently. Same story tonight... in almost the same spot, but alas no Wood Sandpiper or similar goodie to add to my tally. There IS a late reeling Grasshopper Warbler though, which is totally unexpected. Not had one reeling here since April! Wonder if it's the resident or a migrant just passing through?

As it is still hours until sunset and I've done the east end rather more quickly than I'd imagined I would, I think I'll sit in the south hide on Lapwing Lake for a bit and see how many Cormorants and Little Egrets come in to roost. Quickly becomes apparent though that you can't actually SEE the roost tree from the hide, so I head instead for the bench near the raptor view point and pour a coffee. Trouble is, it's no better from here. Ah well, time to just sit and soak up the evening glow. Not a lot going on except for the too-ing and fro-ing of gulls, the odd Coot dispute, a few Gadwall unable to make up their minds about where to settle for the night and the occasional sweep of a Cormorant doing laps of the lake before finally landing on the far side of the roost tree out of view. Thankfully one or two things are calling to spice up my temporary loaf... Linnet in the willow in front of me, Willow Tit calling from the gorse to my right. Curious that. The Willow Tit. I'd had one calling this morning at HWH having not heard any for a ages. It's beginning to feel like things are getting a bit restless on the patch. Signs of birds starting to think about making a move?

19:15 and still some time to kill before it gets dumpsy and I can start looking for owls. A stroll through Hillcrest Quarry is pleasant but unproductive as far as birds are concerned and it's Bob's Bridge before I see anything of note - 49 Swallows on the wires. Numbers up from yesterday. Flock is building before heading south. Also on a different line of wires are 28 Goldfinches. Lots of juveniles among them. They flit between the wires and the thistledown in the White House Path Field. Many will stay now for the winter I think. The sun is against me here and I can see nothing. I'm relying on my ears. Brief snatch of Yellowhammer song is about the only new sound. Not long before I reach the fields by the Norton Marsh hide. The field on the right (Long Pond Field), has a muddy pond in it. Looks good for passage waders (if only the Longhorns would stop using it), but I've yet to have anything except Moorhen, Mallard and Gadwall on it. Tonight though there's a solitary Common Snipe - woo hoo!

20:00 I let the Longhorns gingerly sniff my phone (they are such softies!)...

...and decide to watch the sun set on the marsh from the hide. I can hear Lapwing close to the waters edge. Plenty of them it sounds like. They must have come in early. Curlew are arriving in ones and twos and heading towards Halfway House, calling. There are gulls there already... Lesser Black-backeds and Black-headed judging from the size and shape of their distant silhouettes. There are more pouring in from the east now... and geese too. Regular large groups of Canada Geese and smaller, occasional groups of Greylags. The gulls are silent as they drift in, the geese noisy, but it doesn't last long. They either fly over and are gone or settle on the edge of the marsh. It is SO quiet. Quiet enough even to hear the soft scratch-scratch-scratch of a wasp on the outside of the hide as it scrapes off tiny pieces of wood to chew into paper for its nest.

21:00 The light has drained from the marsh and has taken with it all trace of colour. Everything now is monochrome. As I leave the hide a Wren slips in to roost. She popped her head around the doorway twice earlier... and both times chittered scoldingly at me for keeping her up. Time to walk the fields! I use up the last remaining binocular-available light quickly, even with my Leicas, and it's not long before I'm birding by moonlight. Naked eye stuff - movements and dark shapes are what I'm after now. There's a Long-eared Owl out here somewhere and I'm determined to find it. Tree Sparrow Field... Balloon Hut Field... Lane End Field... Daisy Field... nothing. Nothing to see, nothing to hear. I cut through the short overgrown path to the ship canal track in the hope that the light from the warehouses will help me spot things. It doesn't. There are no owls out tonight. I get back to the car, hit full-beam and drive down Lapwing Lane in one last  hope of getting a Tawny Owl. Nothing. Car park and I use the headlights to illuminate the field in case of Barn Owl. Nothing. Ah well, the sunset was gorgeous and the sound of the marsh going to sleep pretty damn lovely. Home for some kip then up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to see the sunrise at Halfway House. Wonder what THAT will thow up? Can hardly wait. Why twitch when you can patch I say!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Patch Persistence, Day 4 - Part I

Day 4 and it's an early morning start today. Plan is to stake out Halfway House first thing then do the east end for drop-ins and Upper Moss Side for owls tonight. So, 7am I drop the lad at work and head straight to Bob's Bridge and park up. Very quiet as I do the familiar yomplet along the ship canal... just a solitary Chiffchaff singing.

Halfway House 07:30

It's warm, there's a slight breeze and it's pin-drop quiet. Common Sandpiper calling to my left (good start!) as I unfurl the fezzie chair and set up. Pour a coffee and it's the first scan of the day with my bins. Lots of gulls and lots of Lapwing... it usually starts like this. 65 Gadwall flying over is the biggest count here for a while as a Ringed Plover calls somewhere and I spot 4 Little Egrets feeding close in to the bank far right. VERY good start! Lapwing numbers are less than half yesterday's record count, just 939 this morning and it's a similar story as far as the Lesser Black-backeds - 700 compared to over 2000 yesterday. Black-headed Gull numbers conversely are twice as high as yesterday (736) and there are more Herring Gulls about too... I count 26 among the LBBGs. 4 Great Black-backeds is also a higher than of late count. Other stuff... 6 Grey Heron, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 4 Mallard, 103 Canada Goose, 26 Shelduck. 

08:14 and an orange 'rowboat' with an outboard has appeared upriver. There are 2 blokes in it. Looks like they're doing some kind of survey as the guy steering is holding what looks like a piece of scientific kit maybe. They chug quietly downstream. This could actually be quite useful! Who knows what's tucked in along the banks that they'll disturb as they wind their way downstream. Answer: 3 Redshank! Thought I half heard one earlier. Nice. Funny things patches. I love the way that nothing-of-any-note birds become elevated to excellent tick status simply by turning up unexpectedly. I mean where else but on a patch would a Redshank be worthy of comment? I remember a good few years back Steve White telling me that Great Tit was patch twitch-worthy at Seaforth. Ya godda luvvit. The boat chugs on. 2 waders low over the water in front of it... 2 Common Sandpipers (nice) and the Ringed Plover is calling again... insistently this time and the sound is tracking right. Pick it up in flight and watch it land on the mud. Cool.

08:42 another 'routine' scan of the Lapwing flock picks up 8 small waders. Where the hell had THEY come from? This is SO typical of Halfway House - stuff just drops in unseen - brilliant. Scope on them and... well, well, well... first juvenile Dunlin of the year! Bloody marvellous. They stay for 10 minutes and then fly off downriver. 2 Sparrowhawks have also appeared and are soaring overhead in the sunshine. Hmmm Crows. I suddenly notice there are lots of Crows out there on the mud. There'd only been 3 or 4 earlier and now there are 61 with a dozen or so Jackdaw mixed in. See? They snuck in too. It's always a state of flux here. And there are Starlings too... 33 among the Lapwing... and something else. Reddish looking wader, head under wing. Well it's definitely a Godwit, but which one? I'm hoping for Bar-tailed, but my brain already knows the legs are too long. That said, I still manage to hang on to the possibility for a few minutes before the bird lifts its head and shows off that long bill and then flutters away left a few feet, flashing its white wing bars. Cracking fresh juvenile Black-tailed Godwit (no colour rings Matt!).

Ringed Plover flies past again calling, followed by the only Curlew of the morning. This is brilliant. Patching at its best. I've lost count of how many days like this I've had at Halfway House. Dead as a doornail most of the time, then a little burst of good birds. THE place to be on the patch this morning for sure as a call from a fellow patcher confirms. "East end very quiet. Female Garganey still there though and a Green Sandpiper." Worth a quick look though I decide before I head home for curry. Pick up 3 Swallows, 1 House Martin and 7 Sand Martins mobbing a Sparrowhawk as a Raven flies by... nice little montage moment that :) Not seen any martins recently either. Good stuff.

Pumphouse Pool 10:30

Yep. There she is... female Garganey (4th consecutive day) and 1...2...3... Green Sandpiper. Looking forward to this evening's stint now... pun intended ;)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moore Groundhogging...

Day 3 of the patch quintuplet and things are... well...  sunshine, showers and a certain degree of similarity...

Halfway House 15:00

Quiet here today. The hoped for Greenshank melingering seems not to be on the cards and instead the only waders are Curlew and Lapwing - but what numbers of the latter! Max count for the year...1485! Curlew on the other hand are sparse... just five. There is only 1 Little Egret herentoday, feeding along side roosting Canada Geese. These have shot up since my last visit... there are 196 today sandwiching the group of 10 Cormorants sharing the mud-roost with them. Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers are also up (2850 today), so too Black-headed Gulls I think (355) but I count only a solitary Great Black-backed and just 2 Herring Gull. A Great Crested Grebe on the river is another new addition since last week though as are 5 Shelduck near Wigg island and there are still a couple of Swallows zipping about, but no Sand Martins.

Pumphouse Pool 16:15

Well, the news today is that there's only 1 Greens Sandpiper on the pool-within-the-pool today but the female Garganey is still in attendance. Numbers of everything else is as follows; Gadwall 12, Shoveler 4, Little Grebe 4, Coot 37 (a new max I think...), Tufty 9, Mallard 45 (up???) Moorhen 5 and Teal 16. There's also a Raven just flown north mobbed by 2 Jackdaw... hmmm.

Black Fields 17:15

3 Green Sandpiper. Well that's quite interested as the max on Pumphouse had been four but there's regularly been a single there. SO, looks like a single and a trio on the patch...nice.

Birchwood Pool 17:30

Rain has been threatening for a while (the odd spot of drizzle earlier) and is now falling as I head to the east hide. General impression is of things being similar to my last visit about a week ago maybe... 112 Coot, 3 Mute Swan, 6 Little Grebe (incl. 2 juvs), 23 Mallard, 2 Pochard, 28 Gadwall, 46 Canada Geese, 2 Greylag Geese, and SEVEN white 'domestics'... OK, maybe there are a  few things different. There are 29 adult Tuftys plus 2 broods of 4 full grown and 9 x 3/4 grown respectively... both along the west shore, 4 Moorhen (1 with a brood of 2 x 1/3grown young), 2 Great Crested Grebes and... and... that's it.

Pumphouse Pool revisited 18:00ish

Bumped into Den and Mal on way out and decided to give PHP another look and try to find the Garganey again. No problem. She actually put on quite a nice show. Also added Green Woodpecker again, Peregrine on its usual spot and a Common Buzzard. SO... all in all, not a bad couple of hours really. Early door on the river tomorrow... looking forward to that ;)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moore today...

Back to the patch this afternoon... part of a 5 day run before work on Monday. Surprise bird of yesterday was a female Garganey on Pumphouse Pool  (my first autumn Garaganey on the patch) so I was curious to see if she'd hung around. Arrived at Pumphouse about 3:30. Where yesterday there had been a single Green Sandpiper on the small pool-within-the-pool, today there were FOUR! That's the highest patch count so far this year. They seem to like to drop in to Pumphouse around this time. Last year I saw my first returning birds (3) on Aug 13th and they peaked at five on Aug 16th so it'll be interesting to see how long they hang around and if the numbers increase over the next few days. Other changes from yesterday... no obvious sign of the Garganey. There seemed to be fewer Teal about and they'd moved to the SE corner so my guess was that if she was still around she was probably tucked away on the south bank of the island with the remaining Teal. Trouble was, it's not easy to view that bit at the moment. Magpie numbers were up... 14 today... and there were a couple more Shoveler about compared to yesterday. Well, after a bit of a yomp around to try to find the Garganey, she eventually turned up with some Teal after a couple of hours and began pottering around in the small bay by the spit as yesterday - cracking little bird.


Well, I finally manage to get to the patch for a couple of hours tonight after last weekend's heavy metal mayhem and some subsequent long overdue domestic loft activity. Guess I had owls in mind as I set off on account of 3 Little Owls, 2 Barn Owls and a Long-eared Owl being reported during my absence. A quick glance left as I shot past Big Hand Ranch about 6.45 didn't throw up any dumpy blobs and it was a bit early for Barnies so I head for...

Pumphouse Pool 18:52

In the hide and straight away... wader. The water levels are dropping again (go figure with all this rain...) and so there's a small pool cut off from the rest of the pool near the now high and dry Kingfisher perch. The wader is pottering around in tight circles. The momentary flash of Red-necked Phalarope through my brain is quickly gone as I raise my bins - Green Sandpiper. Nice enough though. There seem to be a lot more ducks about tonight - all spread out across the water so it's time to sift through them. There's mostly a mix of Gadwall (33) and Mallard (20) with 11 Tufty at the far end, with a generous sprinkling of Coot (30) and juvenile Moorhens (5) scattered about. Smaller stuff too... a pair of Little Grebe with a well grown youngster and a few Teal. I decide to do a systematic scan and count everything. Green Woodpecker yaffling. Cool. It's still about. Count all the above and add 41 Canada Geese. Teal numbers are well up on my last visit. All told I count 20. There are 2 Shoveler back too, roosting on the spit - the first of the returning winter birds and something else among the Teal... head under the water feeding. Small. Head up and the stripey head markings and pale dot at the base of the thick grey bill identifies it as a female GARGANEY. Well bugger me! I did NOT expect that!! Bloody marvellous and patch year tick 127. 2 Lapwing, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Magpie and 3 Crows completes the tally and I text a couple of patchers the news. Three good patch 'G's then at Pumphouse: Green Sandpiper, Green Woodpecker and Garganey.

Eastern Reedbed & Millbrook Pool 19:39

Inspired by the PHP goodies I forgo shooting straight to Upper Moss Side and decide instead to quickly drop in to the pools at the east end. Needn't have bothered: 5 Coots, 6 Gadwall and 1 Mute Swan is all that's visible on ERB, although I do hear a Kingfisher zip past. MBP is just as bad: 3 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 1 Coot, 1 Grey Heron. Time to head to...

Upper Moss Side 19:50

Head along Lapwing Lane past the lake rather than the usual more direct route to park up at Bob's Bridge and check the Cormorant roost along the way - 15 tonight in the trees on Lapwing Lake and 2 Little Egrets. There have been recent reports of up to 5 roosting there. Something to check more thoroughly next time. In a bit of a rush now as have to pick up the missus from one of her nights out and I really want to check Norton Marsh Pool for waders and the fields of Upper Moss Side for hunting Long-eared Owl. Birds of note en route to Norton Marsh; 4 Jay, 32 Swallows (most hawking over the little copse in the corner of Tree Sparrow Field), a brood of 9 Pheasants and 2 Brown Hares. Arrive at Norton hide and...

Long story short... get soaked to the knees stalking Norton Marsh Pool for a paltry 10 Gadwall (water levels way too high after recent tides to leave any muddy margins for waders) and get coated in thistle down yomping miles of owless fields until dusk when my phone goes and it's time to play taxi. The other half is done and so am I. Do get a consolation Little Owl silhouetted on one of the pillboxes though on the way back... wich is nice. Halfway House tomorrow maybe methinks...

Monday, August 09, 2010

A fortnight's neglect...

Hadn't visited Birchwood Pool on the patch for two weeks and so figured I really needed to check it out this morning during yet another flying visit (household chores - say no more...). One of the Little Owl parents on the Big Hand Ranch roof as I drive by on the way in. Quick check of Pumphouse Pool before togging up. Male Kingfisher on his usual perch and nowt else obvious after a bin and scope scan. Slight further digression to Eastern Reedbed finds just Mike, Roy, Mike's new kit and a few Anatidae.

Right. Birchwood Pool. Park up and something biggish and white is low flapping behind the trees bordering Pumphouse. takes me a while to realise it's a Little Egret. It alights briefly in one of the low trees by the track before spotting me and flying off over Birch Wood towards the pool. Five minutes later I'm at the east hide expecting it to have dropped in on the big island. It hasn't.

Two species had dominated the BWP avifauna back end of July when I was here last; Coot and Tufted Duck so I was curious to see if they'd gone up even more. They have. 67 adult Tufty now compared to 46 then and there's an extra Tufty brood. The female with 5 ducklings is still pottering about at the far end, but there's another female with 4 ducklings in the NW corner. Coot have shot up to 139 from 95 a fortnight ago so looks like the moulting flock has probably peaked. I'll check it in another couple of weeks time. Other stuff as follows...

5 Pochard,   2 Great Crested Grebe,   7 Mallard,   20 Gadwall (looks like the 2 big broods and their mums),   3 Mute Swan,   3 Canada Geese,   2 Grey Heron,   2 Moorhen,   5 Little Grebe, including a pair with 2 well-grown young that i don't recall being there last time. Good few scopes of all shores and the big island yields nothing. I had thought maybe there's be a Snipe or two after the one dropped into Pumphouse the other day. Ah well...

SO. Heads up peeps!!! If you want to get some good stuff at Moore, best time will be Thursday 12th until Monday 16th because that's when I'm off to the BLOODSTOCK FESTIVAL. Sod's Law being what it is, it's also the time when something cracking is just bound to drop in. Happy Hunting ;)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Patch Snack...

Had a patch snack this afternoon. Just an hour. Halfway House yielded 902 Lapwing, 109 Curlew, 6 Grey Heron, 5 moulting Shelduck and a Common Buzzard hovering in the breeze. No time to count the gulls... Pumphouse Pool had 4 Common Buzzard nearby calling (2 adults, 2 juvs so probably a family party), female Peregrine over the viaduct, Kingfisher on the pool and the first returning Common Snipe of the year. Immaculate bird, so presume at the moment that it's a juv until I can check snipe moult patterns... that's it.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Well I enjoyed Wednesday's patch sarnie so much that I decided to have seconds today (Thursday). Took Ezzie with me to speed up transit between patch portions and arrived at Pumphouse Pool 09:30.

Pumphouse Pool 09:30

249 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 20 Black-headed Gull, 13 Herring Gull is the gullage on't pool this morning. Kingfisher puts in his usual appearance... today zipping along the north shoire of the island, calling. There are 5 juvenile Moorhen pottering about, 2 Grey Herons, 4 Gadwall, 7 Tufty, 1 Pochard, 4 Mallard and 20 Coot on the water. In a change from yesterday, there are 19 Canada Geese here today and no waders at all; not even a single Lapwing. On the shore there are 2 Pied Wagtails, 3 Magpies and 3 Carrion Crows. No Grey Wagtails today and no hirundines. Time to head for the river...

Halfway House 10:00

25 Gadwall fly over as I'm setting up my stuff, else things look similar to yesterday... Can't decide though where the Lapwing are at though, as they're strung out along the mud. Takes a count with my clicker to realise that numbers are up again - 874. Curlews are about the same (3) and the single Little Egret is here again feeding in the shallows. Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers are down (215), Black-headed Gulls about the same (224) as are Great Black-backed (2) and Herring Gull (12) but there are twice as many Common Gulls. Yes, there are two! There are Canada Geese and Greylags out on the mud again (12 and 10 respectively) and the 2 white 'domestics' are here again too. Don't know where the rest of yesterday's Canadas are, nor where the 3 extra Greylags came from. 31 Wood Pigeon, 5 Feral Pigeon, 2 Stock Dove, 3 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Sand Martins and a female Kestrel complete the feel of 'yesterday-ness'... UNTIL...

A Raven has just flown over calling and I'm watching the Little Egret that has just flown across the river and landed on the muddy margin on the far shore in front of Cuerdley Marsh. The wind has picked up. No rain today but the wind has a fat northerly edge to it, which tends to push things right to left from where I'm sitting, from upriver to downriver. The Little Egret has caught something. I'm hitting the x60 on my trusty Zeiss and sharpening the focus on it when there's a sharp, harsh 'teuk... teuk' close in. I look up to catch a solitary TURNSTONE blow past low along the near shore. I dash around the reeds in front of me to look downriver towards the stoney embankments and wall but can't find it again. Maybe it flipped over onto the ship canal. Either way it is THE patch bird of the year so far for me!!! Better even than the spring passage Knot and Sanderling. I really didn't think I get a Turnstone on the patch (see This week, I have been mostly eating... roasted chicken). Bloody marvellous and patch year tick 126!!!

Well, something tells me that I'm not gonna get better than that on the river this morning and so I decide to head off and check a few more spots. First off Norton Marsh Pool. There's been bugger all on here since mid-Jul and I figured with stuff starting to move through it was worth a look. Money was on, if anything, Green Sandpiper as there'd been one at Pumphouse yesterday so they were definitely about. Dump everything but my bins in the car and me and Ez are flying down the tracks on Upper Moss Side. Get to the hide in no time, lean Ezzie against the benches inside and nip out onto the marsh. Looks like Duncan's cut a path through to the pool... handy. Sneak along it through the Phrag and... Green Sandpiper up and away. Ha! Well, if there's one, there could be more. Hop on the bike and shoot around to the Tower Hide Pools, but alas, they are completely overgrown and there's no water anywhere. Upshot... no waders. Meh! SO, Pumphouse to finish methinks.

Pumphouse Pool 12:00

Pretty much the same as earlier, but minus the Kingfisher. Moorhen juvs seem to be liking the conditions - there are 10 spread around, max count that I think. Coots are clearly resting up out of sight as there's only 10 on show compared to double that a couple of hours ago. Gull numbers are about the same... OK. Just got time to check the Viaduct Pools.

Viaduct Pools 12:40ish

There are 2 pools by the viaduct separated by a bund. The larger, eastern pool which you can see through the fence from the track along the south side of Pumphouse is shallow and dries out very quickly and never really pulls much in, although finches like to feed on the slopes during the winter. The smaller, western pool holds water, is Typha fringed with muddy margins and sometimes pulls in passage stuff, like Green Sandpiper.  Worth, therefore, a check. Today the area to the west of this pool is also watery, but a soggy sedgey slosh around both yields nothing except 40 Goldfinch that erupt from the thistle - a max patch count for the year.

Not a bad way to end a sesh.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wet Dogs and Englishmen...

I quite like overnight rain. You never know what it's going to bring in come morning time, so with this in mind I grabbed a quick breakfast, filled my coffee flask and headed for the patch! Heavy showers forecast so the plan was to do a river sandwich - hit the shelter of Pumphouse Pool first whilst the rain fell, wait for a break in the clouds, leg it to Halfway House (no bike today), then head back to Pumphouse when the rain hit again. That way I'd hopefully pick up any waders that had hit the deck during last night's downpour.

Pumphouse Pool 09:30

The track to the east hide is deeply puddled with water today. Thankfully the old Volvo is a hardy beast and this doesn't slow me down. The rain is falling. Grab my gear out of the car and I'm sorted. What's about? Quick scan with the bins doesn't pick up anything unexpected, but then again I never trust much to my first bin scan as I know from experience that unless stuff's out in the open, I'll need the scope to get a true picture of what's snuck in. First thing that catches my eye is a flit of something or two to my left. Quite a flit! Kingfisher off it's perch as 2 Swallows zip past and a couple of Grey Wagtails disturb the resident Pied Wagtails by the little stream that feeds the pool. 2 Sand Martin and 3 House Martin are zapping about too as the Kingfisher stuns a fish on its favourite twig perch before flying off with it. Cool. More Lapwing today - 5 in all and 7 Moorhen juvs pottering along the the margins.

Pumphouse Pool
(If you look carefully you can just see the Kingfisher's perch where the stream enters the pool)

2 Stock Dove drop in on the spit where 3 Grey Herons (ad + 2 juvs) are slowly plodding about. On the water we have 7 Tufty, 1 Pochard, 32 Coots, 3 Gadwall, 9 Mallard and 4 Little Grebe - nothing, apart from half a dozen of the Coots, and about half of the gulls are on the shore today: Lesser Black-backed Gull 69, Black-headed Gull 6, Herring Gull 1. Rain is easing. One of the Lapwing is foot-trembling on the water's edge when a wader drops in by it. I hear it at the same time as I swing the scope onto it - Green Sandpiper. Looks like an adult and looks too like the next little flutter of passage-ness may have begun. Time for the filling in my wet sandwich methinks. To the river!!!

Halfway House 10:15

Birding with my ears on the walk from Bob's Bridge along the Manchester Ship Canal today. Quicker that way. No time to stop and look if I want to spend time on the river. Nothing much calling though, except for a Raven on the roof of one of the warehouses. It takes off and flies toward the river. I get there about 5 minutes later. Green fezzie chair today. Lighter to carry. Unpack, pour a coffee and have a quick bin scan of the mud. Nothing unusual in close. Lapwing numbers look down again though and I can only see 3 Curlew. Time for a proper scan. Eastern shore first. The tide has dumped loads of crap high up on the mudbank. Nothing scavenging among the flotsam though. Not even Magpies at the mo. Lapwing numbers ARE down - just 282 today, and I add no more Curlew to the tally. There's a bunch of Canada Geese way off, 45, with 7 Greylags and a couple of white Ferals among them - presumably the party from the Ship Canal. Gull numbers are middling; 629 Lesser Black-backed, 240 Black-headed, 8 Herring, 1 Great Black-backed and the solitary Common Gull is back. Just scanning the west shore when... 'hee-dee-dee'... Common Sandpiper flips over from the ship canal, goes low right along the near shore in front of me and lands on the mud in the SE corner out of sight. Excellent. More signs of passage.

A rainy Halfway House

Wind is starting to whip up. Usually means a shower is about to hit... and I can see it coming. Minutes later I'm under the willow sheltering from a short, sharp. Redshank calling left. Can't see it. Wipe my bins with a bit of tissue and scan the near mud. It drops in by 14 Gadwall and starts to feed. There's a Little Egret out there too, wading out a little, snapping at small stuff just below the surface. the tide is on the ebb. Shower stops and I set up shop again. Nothing towards Wigg Island today except 6 Mallard and a Grey Heron. Pronking to my right. Raven. TWO Ravens enjoying the brief respite in the weather. They fly over me calling and I lose them behind the willow. The Redshank has gone. So too many of the Lapwing - never saw them go. Rain probably pushed them off for a bit. They'll be back. Harsh 'kee-ar, kee-ar' from a Peregrine left. The Ravens have tried to land on it's pylon and he ain't havin none of it! Wind up again. More rain. Heavier. The willow isn't providing much shelter now. The Curlew have had enough and head downriver. The Little Egret is happy though to keep hunting and a group of 5 Magpies have dropped in and are picking their way along the strandline. I decide it's time to head off. Wait for the rain to subside, pack my kit and as  the sun breaks through a Kestrel appears and I start the soggy yomp back and find myself whistling Singin' in the Rain. I also bump into the only other person out and about it the rain... a bloke with 3 dogs.

Pumphouse Pool

Pumphouse Pool 11:51

Well, the river filling in my sandwich now thoroughly digested, it's time for the second slice of PHP. Wonder if anything new has dropped in. Short answer - nope! More gulls though; 144 adult and 89 juvenile LBBGs, 51 BHG and 7 HGs. 10 Magpies and 8 Crows seem to have found something of interest on the spit, else the picture is similar to earlier in the day except that the only wagtails are Pied and the only Lapwing, a single.

Eastern Reedbed 12:15

1 Buzzard, 2 Mute Swan (+9 young), 5 Coot, 1 Wigeon, 2 Tufty, 3 Moorhen, 1 Little Grebe, adult + juv Great Crested Grebe, 9 Sand Martin, 6 House Martin and unexpected... a pair of Kingfisher chase past.

Millbrook Pool 12:20

3 Coot plus chick, 2 Gadwall. That's the lot!

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed that. Not gotten a good soaking on the patch for a while. You gotta love it :-)

Monday, August 02, 2010

And the bird of the day is...

SO, day 2 with the bike. Lessons learned from yesterday meant that things went smoothly today. Leaving the bike rack on its current settings saved time fitting it to the car. Taking the centre bit out of my Manfroto and stashing it alongside the legs reduced the height of my tripod in the rucky so no Quasimodo today. And, simply slinging the rack onto the back seat when I got to the patch saved even more time that end. Upshot of all this was I hit the river in double-quick time.

Halfway House 10:30

First impressions were that things were much as yesterday, but then I began to look a little closer and, as often seems to be the case, things were actually a little different. For a start Lapwing numbers were well down - just 580 today, about half of yesterday's record tally for the year. There were half as many Curlew too, scattered across the mud, 2 upstream, 3 downstream and both Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull numbers were down (38 and 128, respectively). Grey Heron, Mallard, Little Egret and Herring Gull numbers however were as yesterday. Wood Pigeons were up - I count 40+ with 13 Feral Pigeons and a Stock Dove among them, which weren't there yesterday. So too the Raven calling now.

Time for another scan of the river. 20 Canada Geese are marching across the mud downriver and another Little Egret has just dropped in by the first. Male Kestrel low over the water - it's breezy today. Wader far off by one of the herons. Looks godwit-y through the bins. Scope. Where has it gone? It's moved... oh. Curlew. Could have sworn it was straight billed too. Ho hum... Nothing is singing. Late in the season I guess, plus the wind doesn't help. Single Swallow whisks by and 2 Buzzards are flying low on the far side of the river, keeping in the shelter of the tree line. Wader up - flying left. Bins up - and... BLACK-TAILED GODWIT. Well thank god for that. Thought my eyesight was going. I watch it fly close by through my bins. Quite a bit of summer on it but no colour rings. It climbs and heads off towards the Runcorn Bridge and I lose it over the scrap heap with the England flag on. Bloody marvellous!

Give the river an hour or more all told then get the urge to check Norton Marsh Pool. Not been there for a while and it should really have something on it soon. Cycle back to the car. Drop off everything except my bins, mount Esmerelda, my trusty steed, and I'm off to Norton Marsh hide along the foot (bike) paths. Minutes later I hear chainsaws and arrive to find Duncan and Co cutting down some willows that threaten to blow over and wreck the hide. No point checking the pool then... BUT, the cool thing about having Ezzie is that it only took minutes to get here so I'm not in the least bit peeved that the trip's a wasted one. Back I go, stick Ez on the rack and high-tail it to Pumphouse Pool in case owt has dropped in...

Pumphouse Pool 12:13

So what do we have today? Moorhen (4 juvs),  24 Coot (less than yesterday, they must be tucked away somewhere), 48 Mallard (similar to yesterday), more Gadwall... 18 today. 9 Tufty and 1 Pochard, just like yesterday but today I spot the Teal - hoorah! More Little Grebe today (pair AND the juv this time) and gull numbers are up; Lesser Black-backed Gull 317, Black-headed Gull 94, Herring Gull 3 - all briefly put up by the resident Buzzard. No Lapwing today but there's a single Oystercatcher on the spit with 5 Crows. 2 Sand Martins over, 4 Grey Herons loitering (1ad, 3juv) and 4 Magpies on the shoreline complete the votes from the Pumphouse jury.


Eastern Reedbed 12:31

30 Gadwall including a pair head bobbing already,  1 Tufty,  2 Moorhen,  pair of Little Grebe, 1 Coot,  juvenile and still stripey Great Crested Grebe,  pair of Mute Swan with their swarm of cygnets,  and a solitary Reed Warbler singing.

Millbrook Pool 12.36

3 Coot,  2 Canada geese,  1 Mallard,  1 Grey Heron (juv) - that's it! No sign of the Green Woodpecker today

 And the bird of the day?


Proper patch bird that - cracker!!!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Esmerelda and the cunning plan...

Finally!!! After a week's 'break' during which the family cat-age has been added to (care of the Wirral RSPCA), the garage has been almost purged of its mouse explored wall of boxes, the lawns have been cut, the hedges trimmed and sundry shopping chores completed I get to hit the patch. I had hoped to be out and about a lot more since taking my annual leave from work, but the river has had to wait. That IS the trouble with holidays. They tend to get filled with 'things that need doing'. Things, that as far as I'M concerned, could easily wait a month or four until the autumn passage period has gone. July to September is NOT when I want to be weeding, or painting, or pfaffing around with getting the loft done - dammit!

Now as it happens I have been thinking about how I might optimise my patch time over the hols given the inevitable 'constraints' (see above) and came up with an idea. As regular visitors to this page will know, much of my time at the moment is spent hunting for waders at the far western point of the patch - at a little spot called Halfway House (aka 'the river'). The slight snag IS... it's a good 20 minute yomp from where I dump the car... and, of course therefore... a good 20 minute yomp back. That's 40 minutes of potential patch time 'wasted'. Now add to that the 15 minutes drive TO the patch and the 15 minutes drive back home and of the couple of hours I might be able to grab here and there, more than half is taken up in travel time! So here it is - my cunning plan!

Yes. It's a bike. I figured I could stick the bike in the car and then when I've parked up at the patch cycle the 5 minutes to Halfway House on the bike instead of yomping for 20 minutes on foot. That'll give me another half hours worth of birding - happy days :-) Now all that sounds perfectly fine on paper doesn't it and so I duly went to Halford's and purchased a bike. It was at that point that a number of flaws in by cunning plan began to make themselves known...

No.1 - Bicycle helmet. I hate the bloody things. They look poncey and get in the way. Yes, yes - I know. NOT a very responsible attitude. NOT very adult one either given that they're a re proven to protect yer skull from impact BUT - I hate them. My wife, on the other hand, has a very different perspective. I tend, it's fair to say, to be on occassion a little accident prone. I shan't bore you with the details of all my visits to minor injuries, suffice to say her peace of mind required that I bought a bike hat. So now I have one. £50 bloody quid!

No.2 - Bike would not fit in car. Oh fucking brilliant! Another £70 later and I''m in the Halford's car park with a bike rack FOR the car.

No.3 - The bike rack takes 15 minutes to assemble. The rain will be here in 5 minutes and the instructions will take at least 30 minutes to decipher BEFORE I get to assembling, let alone attaching the rack. Well fuck that! I wedge the bike in the boot as far as it will go and stick the rack in on top of it. It'll just have to stick out until I get home. End up shredding a recyclable string bag that's in the boot to provide me with some string to tie the boot down. It works.

No. 4 - Putting up and taking down the bike rack. I practice this the next day. The instructions are actually not too bad when yer not flustered and I figure out what goes where pretty quickly. Attaching the bloody thing to the car though is quite another matter! It takes me 15 minutes to put it up and 2 to take down. Now at this point you may well be doing the calculations that I was, because at THIS rate it would be quicker to walk to the river!!!

No. 5 - Driving with the rack on the car and the bike on the rack. Well, it LOOKED secure enough... until I was just down the road when I could have sworn that the bloody thing moved when I went around the first bend. I pull over and re-tighten the straps. On another couple hundred yards and I'm getting paranoid. What if the whole contraption falls off and the car behind runs over it? Or worst still, SWERVES to avoid it and hits a small child... or a cat?? I stop again and check it. On to the Express Way and the bloody thing begins to hum! On top of that I can see the straps flapping. Damn thing is working loose, I just know it! Don't be an idiot! It'll be fine. It says on the box it'll hold 3 bikes, I've only got ONE loaded up... squeak... I mean what can happen... squeak... everything is pulled tight... squeak... Shit! The rubber padding is slipping down the rear window. Oh my god it's going to fall off! I pull over again as the bottom bit of the rack slips off the rear bumper and the whole thing drops. Well, I'm clearly doing something wrong as I have to re-attach and re-tighten the rack twice more before I hit the patch. 40 minutes later I finally park up and get the bike off. FORTY bloody minutes to do a 15 minute trip.

No.6 - I can't straighten my neck. OK, so I load my tripod and scope into my rucky and attach my fezzie chair, destination - the river! Tog up with my new cycling helmet and set off down the track. Now at this point my head is down as I'm working through the gears to build up speed. This is cool! Hit the straight along the ship canal, go to look up at a passing Cormorant and... CLONK! The back of my helmet hits the tripod sticking out of the top of my rucksack. I try again. CLONK! Same problem. I can't stratighten my neck because the helmet is in the way so now I'm tearing along like a bloody hunchback, whacking my bits on overhanging branches as I go because NOW I can't see properly either as the bloody helmet is slipping down over my eyes. Esmerelda!!!

Anyway. Finally get there and the birding can begin.

Halfway House 10:03

Things have shifted again since my time here a week ago. The flock of Curlew are down to 10 birds and the only other waders are again Lapwing - but I count just over 1100. Whilst the Lapwing numbers are up, the gull numbers are down... 127 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 190 Black-headed Gull, 3 Herring Gull and paradoxically a single Common Gull - the rarest gull here today, and most other patch days too unless a Glaucous, Iceland or Med Gull is about.

There are 4 Grey Herons feeding out on the mud and just 1 Little Egret today - there had been three last time. Wood Pigeon numbers are up - 21 today and there are 6 Mallards tucked in on the banks that weren't here last time I think and 2 Cormorants fishing. That's pretty much it. No sign of any wader passage today.

Pumphouse Pool 11:01

Looks like the numbers of moulting Mallard are up - 49 today, with 4 Gadwall among them but no Teal. There are about 9 Tufted Duck tucked away and a single male Pochard out on the water. Coot numbers also feel up... 36... unlike the Moorhens which seem scarce today (just 3) like the gulls (just 2 each of LBBG and BHG). There's one Little Grebe juvenile on its own... no idea where the rest are... and 2 Grey Herons are standing around. 4 Sand Martins over are the only hirundine presence.

Eastern Reedbed 11:15

Quiet. Mute Swan with 9 big cygnets. 25 Gadwall tucked right in to the reeds are presumably moulting along with the 2 Wigeon which are now in eclipse. They must have been hidden away last time as I don't recall seeing them for a while. I can see just 2 Coots and 1 Moorhen and can hear a Little Grebe, but that's about it.

Millbrook Pool 11:20

3 Mallard, 2 Moorhen, 2 Coots with a small chick, 1 Grey Heron... AND... Green Woodpecker! Patch tick 125 for the year! These are the rarest woodpecker on the patch - not even annual anymore. Think the last one I had was 2008? Anyway there's one yaffling now from the wooded area in the NW corner. Turns out it was reported yesterday too. Kestrel (male) over and Kingfisher flashing through. then more yaffling from the Green Woodpecker. This time it sounds like it's shifted towards Pumphouse Meadow. Shoot around on the bike and catch a glimpse as it flips behind some small pines. Don't relocate it though and all too soon... my patch time is done. Sort out what I did wrong with the cycle rack and have an event free trip home. No slippage. No flapping of straps. No paranoia. Just the hum of the wind through the bike frame... and the gentle pop as another cunning plan is born...