Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 - a birding year at Moore: Part 1...

Thought it might be nice to summarise the seasons on the patch with a bit of a retrospective on last year’s birds. Now you have to bear in mind that this is just one bloke’s patch perspective. I’m not claiming my first and last dates are THE first and last dates various migrants arrived and departed nor am I claiming definitive breeding records or counts for the entire site. The summary below is just a record of what I came across when I was out and about and there could well have been greater numbers of any of these species at various times. But these are my tallies across the patch and I reckon they’re not far off. SO, with that in mind, here's the first installment of two...

January – Yule birds on the patch included an overwintering Green Sandpiper and a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and the Bittern (I say ‘the’ Bittern... maybe there was more than one) showed on and off until the end of the month on the Eastern Reedbed. There was a Barn Owl on Upper Moss Side, but it kept itself to itself and wasn’t seen by many. The cold weather played a role in keeping some birds away. No Kingfisher and no Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebes or Tufted Duck were seen. Other wildfowl were present across the site in variable numbers though. Max counts; 180 Coot, 47 Gadwall, 43 Mallard, 37 Shoveler, 17 Teal, 13 Little Grebe, 10 Moorhen, 5 Wigeon and 3 Pochard.

February – Another Green Sandpiper seemed to be overwintering... this one was on Norton Marsh. Of course, it’s not inconceivable that this was the same bird that last month was at the east end of the reserve... but you never know. The Bittern and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker were still around, but alas, there appeared to be no sign of the female LSW. Now, I’m SURE I heard that she’d been seen in Birch Wood very early in the year and thereafter she vanished. Males and females set up separate winter territories and my feeling is that she was predated early in 2010, leaving the male all alone. Slight snag is that i can find no independent record of said ‘female sighting’ to back this up... anybody??? Anyway, the male didn’t seem to get what was going on and was busy drumming on 20th Feb and Nuthatch, Stock Dove and Treecreeper were all in song and Willow Tit were starting to pair up. There were I reckon at least 6 pairs of Grey Partridge knocking about on Upper Moss Side too. On a more wintery note, there was a small flock (10+) of Siskin around the Feeding Station for most of the month and a female Brambling put in the occasional appearance there. A female Goosander turned up on Birchwood Pool and an adult Mediterranean Gull was a nice addition to the regular Black-headed Gulls on Pumphouse Pool. Still no Great Crested Grebe or Kingfisher about athough and the Little Grebes vanished, but Teal numbers were up to 121. The oddest February record was of a Ring-necked Parakeet! Alas, I missed it... I did get the only patch Merlin record for the year though... cracking female on Norton Marsh. Happy Days!

March – There were several good records of Woodcock on the snipe fields of Upper Moss Side at the start of the month and up to 3 Jack Snipe were around in the little ‘off piste’ damp spot that they regularly frequent during the winter months. Other winter birds included a juvenile Glaucous Gull, a 2y Yellow-legged Gull and another (the same?) female Brambling. Other winter visitors were heading off; my last date for Fieldfare, Redwing and Wigeon was the 18th. This month also saw the return of some of the species pushed off by the cold snap and the pairing off of some of the more hardy residents. The first Little Grebes and Kingfishers came back, the first Great Crested Grebes started braying, 2 pairs of Shelduck turned up (they always look interested but never seem to breed), the first Yellowhammers were singing, a few pairs of Willow Tits were noted scattered about and a pair of Peregrines took up temporary residence only to move on shortly after. By the middle of the month migrants began to arrive too; Chiffchaff (I don’t think any overwintered this year) and Sand Martin (18th), Northern Wheatear (22nd), Willow Warbler (27th) and Swallow (29th). Goodies included a reported Lapland Bunting from the tower hide on Upper Moss Side on the 25th (that I missed...) and a gorgeous Red Kite over the Feeding Station in the sunshine on the 12th (that I got!). Year tally during the first quarter, 99 species - way off my usual aimed for ton before the first migrant.

April – This month saw the arrival of the main wave of migrants and the start of spring passage. Reed Warbler (9th), Common Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Little Ringed Plover (10th), House Martin (12th), Sedge Warbler (13th), Green Sandpiper (15th), more Northern Wheater (19th),Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail (24th), Cuckoo and Whinchat (26th). This was followed to month’s end by a flurry of wader passage at Halfway House that included; 2 Avocet, 11 Black-tailed Godwits, 9 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 5 Greenshank, 5 Ringed Plover and 3 Whimbrel. During the same period a Marsh Harrier (cream crown) was seen on three dates and the last Teal and Common Snipe left for their breeding grounds elsewhere. April was also the month I have as the first date back of our Linnets... (they seem often to go AWOL during the winter) and one of two Ruddy Duck records for the patch – a male on the 26th (these are tricky birds to get at Moore these days). Year tally 116 species

May – The last of the migrants arrived and broods began to appear. I had a Hobby by Fiddler’s Ferry on the 1st, but alas I was driving to Warrington at the time and so was the wrong side of the power station when I got it. Frustrating, as I have yet to nail a patch Hobby and a fellow patcher had one over the patch around the same time. The first Garden Warbler appeared on the 3rd, followed by the first Lesser Whitethroat and Black-necked Grebe on the 7th, the same date I clocked my first Moorhen brood on the patch in a ditch bordering Upper Moss Side. Later broods included 1 Shelduck brood (5 young), 1 Greylag Goose brood (5 young), 4 Canada Goose broods (totalling 15 young – down on 2009; 6 broods, 28 young) and 6 Mallard broods comprising 32 young (<50% of the 2009 output; 14 broods, 71 young). Spring passage continued with another Marsh Harrier (juvenile) and Whinchat early in the month, a Greenland Wheatear, Common Tern and Ringed Plover on the 13th, a single Knot on the 20th with a single Sanderling and 2 Dunlin the following day. Great Crested Grebe numbers peaked at 7 and were split 2+2+1+1+1 on separate ponds suggesting 5 pairs; Tufted Duck numbers were still high at 57 (so probably not incubating yet?) and there were still 3 Pochard knocking about. 123 species.

June – A funny month... or rather a bit of a ‘cross-over’ month. On the one hand, migrants were still arriving. There were further records of Cuckoo early in the month and a Spotted Flycatcher moved through on the 2nd when an arctica Dunlin also dropped in on it’s way north. On the other hand, things were returning from early or failed breeding attempts elsewhere. 2 Common Sandpipers turned up on Pumphouse Pool mid-month, the first Wigeon returned and the post-breeding Lapwing flock (80 birds) set up shop at Halfway House. There was also a rather neat summer adult Redshank knocking about on the 18th and I still can’t decide if he was on his way north to breed late, on his way back having failed already or was a local breeder on walkabout. As far as I know Redshank don’t breed on the patch although I’ve had them singing in suitable habitat the past couple of years in early spring. Perhaps they still breed on the other side of the river at Fiddler’s Ferry... Anyway, birds that did breed on site and who showed their respective fledgling hands this month were; Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Pheasant and Tufted Duck. 124 species.

PART 2 can be found HERE... 

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