Wednesday, April 25, 2012

'AN THEYNNNN', the Cuckoo and the Monkey-Owls...

Tuesday 24th April

Well this evening was one of those summer-feel evenings...still, bright and warm, and as a very good friend of mine was busy getting wet with a jet-spray I figured a few hours on the patch would be a suitable distraction. Surely by now there's be stuff dropping in??? Umm, yeah... there was. Read on.

The other day I'd had a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the Snipe Fields and so figured I'd drive that way to my usual parking spot near the black and yellow gate and see if it was still there and if any more had arrive. It wasn't. All quiet on the Snipe Fields save for a Common Whitethroat... and 18 Sand Martins over Triangle Field... a sign at least that things were slowly getting to the patch. Parked up and sauntered back towards the little wooden bridge by the White House. This was nice...lovely golden glow over everything... and then I heard it... a whitethroaty-esque short scratchy warble...only this sounded more like a whitethroaty-esque buzzy Sand Martin. Hmmm. Odd. Well, the bird was on one of the wires buzzing away and it looked kinda Whitethroat, but it was silhoutted and sounded wierd. Eventually though, the song changed...transformed bit by bit into the classic Whitethroat short scratchy warbler. A new arrival it would seem, simply needing to warm it's little syrinx up. Aaaw...bless.

Well that was kinda cool, but not half as cool as the CUCKOO that piped up...somewhere at the back of the 3rd Snipe Field. Happy days. Well, a Grasshopper Warbler started up on the Phrag Field too and a few more Sand Martins went over and so I figured I'd take a stroll to Norton Marsh.Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch...Lapwings on the WH Big Field. Nice stuff. Plan was to hit the hide and maybe sit awhile, listen out for Common Sandpiper and Whimbrel. That was to change. Why? Because there, floating over the far side of Tree Sparrow Field was a Short-eared Owl in the sunlight. Bloody marvellous... and what's that I hear? Sedge Warbler chunnering away. Cool beans :) So, txt up a couple of fellow patchers (Gary and Mully) to share the good news and watched as the owl flipped over the north hedge into Long Field and so I decided to follow. No cattle in there today, but f**k me it was wet! My poor old red Converse got drenched...however...there again was the owl... perched on a hummock. Great views...and then...AN THEYNNNN... another! In the air over the field...and a fox... another Sedge Warbler (still no Reed) and 2 Common Snipe.That's more like the patch I know and love. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.

Well I did catch two more views of the proverbial monkey-owls on Norton Marsh from the hide a little later and another Grasshopper Warbler... in Daisy Field... so they DO still like it there (see previous blog). Live and learn Mark. Live and learn.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Magic Mango Chicken and the one-in-five...

Sunday 22nd April

Well news this morning was that there was a Common Sandpiper on Birchwood Pool and there'd been a Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler reported from the patch too. That, combined with yesterday evening's Whimbrel from my flat overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal and the R.Mersey , boded well. A visit to the patch was in order...da da da da!

Yes well, long story (a) I'm deep in Magic Mango Chicken and (b) finding typing a wee bit troublesome since my knacked wrist (see previously) is, according to fizzishuns, broken... there was not a lot about on my breezy, though sun-tinged jauntlet to the river late afternoon. Good news was the first Common Whitethroat had arrived...brief scratchy song in the brambles opposite the Ethylene Station, but that was about it.

SO, decided to track down the aforementioned Gropper. Now these are pretty much confined to the west of the patch in various locations on Upper Moss Side (well, five usually) so figured as the sausages had still yet to arrive at Halfway House, I'd do the lot. Quite a simple little circuit really. First off Daisy Field...nope... next Balloon Hut Field...nope... the Phrag Field... nope... the Snipe Fields...yep! One reeling intermittently from the picnic tables and later heard more clearly from the first snipe field as the road leaves Upper Moss Side and enters the Moore NR part of the patch. Fifth spot is just a little way on from there... by the little wooden bridge opposite the west end of the Capped Tip... there's usually one reeling from the latter, but not today. Still 1 in 5 ain't bad tbh and that's two more warblers to add to the year list. Considered going for a third... surely the Reed Warblers must have dropped into the Eastern Reedbed by now?! But alas. Barrier was across and I couldn't be arsed yomping it. They'll keep.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fanny Fire-art and the Killer Wallaby...

Saturday 14th April

There has been a little inertia on the patch of late. Things seem to be moving slowly, held up no doubt by the poor weather of late (only got my first 5 Sand Martins of the year yesterday). So, when a very good friend of mine decided to go out on the town with the girls I decided I'd get an earlyish night and hit the patch crack of dawn. Well, I musta dropped off about 1am...

5:00am - phone alarm goes off and I'm thinking 'Are you really gonna do this on 4 hours kip?' Hit the snooze button.

5:05am - alarm goes of again. 'Of COURSE I'm gonna do this!' Drag my bleary ass outta bed and sling on some clothes.

5:10am - Weetabix and coffee.

5:15am - I'm off :)

5:35am - I'm at the patch and checking the Big Hand Ranch for Little Owl (nothing), Lapwing Lane for Tawny Owl (nothing) and Upper Moss Side en route to the balck and yellow gate for Barn Owl (nothing).

5:45am - walking past the first pier (see Roozull) and there's a fox in the undergrowth to my right. It slopes off into the woods. Dawn chorus has started up; Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff... The chiffys haven't really started up yet judging by the numbers... 2 today, 5 yesterday afternoon, bit early for them maybe, but there are about 5 Blackcap and maybe 6-7 Willow Warblers singing this morning along the track to Halfway House, so looks like the next wave have arrived. Check the Factory Horse Paddocks on the way for Wheatear (nothing) and on the MSC there's little up and about apart from the resident Mallards and Tufties and a family of 5 Mute Swan strung out in a loose line; the 3 youngsters snorting intermittently to each other.

5:56am - Set up fezzie chair at Halfway House. High tide's not for an hour or so and it's a low one (1.2m). I'm quite excited.

5:57am - 1 Canada Goose, 4 Black-headed Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Shelduck. I'm not so excited. Now come on! I have dragged my sleepy ass outta bed at stupid o'clock so there's gotta be something about! Spirits rise as the sun starts to peek through the bushes of The Prom over my right shoulder.

6:04am - decided to scope down river. 7 Shelduck, 4 Black-headed Gull, 4 Mallard over. There's a Reed Bunting singing and Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Wren, Blue Tit and Song Thrush... but visual sausage is in short supply...again.

6:08am - 2 Canada Goose over, 2 Mallard over, 1 Cormorant over. This is pretty dire. Stick with it Mark!!!

6:27am - 12 Shelduck (west), 7 Shelduck (east), 7 Carrion Crow, 54 Black-headed Gull, 1 Cormorant. Just ain't gonna happen here today is it?

6:35am - Now those of you who have read Noodle Park... and I hope at least some of you have... will be aware that my eyesight has of late been called somewhat into question. So much so in fact that i actually DID get my eyes tested and they're perfectly fine. I just need slightly stronger reading glasses. SO... when I spotted the two Giant Potoo on the roof of the factory by the MCS, I was unsure what to think :o Well, I quickly flitted mentally between small flock of Stock Dove huddled together and said Potoo, but just couldn't decide. In the end there was nothing for it but to set up the scope to settle it once and for all. That, however, was a painful exercise today. Last week I f**ked my wrist at ice hockey and so any manipulation of my rather heavy Manfrotto tripod was to say the least uncomfortable... unclip one leg... OW! then the next OW!... thene the next OW!... then turn the knob to twist scope toward Potoo / Stock Dove...double OW!! But I got there in the end. Mystery solved. It was... da.. da da.. daaaa... A pipe. Not even a f**king bird! A goddam pipe. What was I saying about my eyes?? It got worse...

6:45am - decided to head through Daisy Field... if there were any early Grasshopper Warbler about, this is where they usually drop in. None today, but a good sprinkling of Willow Warbler in the rather flush plantation that now engulfs the field thanks to the work of The Forestry Commission. Come to think of it... doesn't look anywhere so good for Gropper anymore since the trees have taken over, so maybe they WON'T drop in here this year. Grrrrrrr. Anyway, on to check for Little Owl in the sunshine of the Balloon Hut Field.

Now I knew immediately that the giant Wallaby that sat menacingly at the end of the path glaring at me couldn't possibly BE a giant Wallaby. My brain knew this... but f**k if it would convince my eyes! It just sat there. How the hell was I gonna get past the thing? I mean clearly it was intent on ripping my throat out from the look on it's face. It had already killed a Wood Pigeon !!!

Ummm. Oh but t'were true. No, not only was it NOT a Wallaby, but t wasnt even a face! It was an arse!! A sheeps arse at that... in the field at the end of the little path... Don't even ask!!!

SO, no Little Owl, but a few Skylark singing and a pair of Grey Partridge in the WH Path Field were nice though. And that was it. My short early morning jaunt to the west end of the patch complete.

Nothing left to do but grab a Maccies breakfast and get on with the rest of the day :) SO, I'm on my way down the express way to ASDA and the McDonald's when I spot it. There's a big truck in front of me with a sign on the back that says FANNY FIRE-ART... it was only when I was practically on top of it that i realised it said Fahy Freight... Oh Dear. Maybe I need to go back to the opticians :| Watcha think?

Sunday, April 08, 2012

It's sedimentary my dear Watson...

Sunday 8th April

Well today was a quiet one on the patch and so in the spirit of this quietude I shall today, say very little. Spring seems finally to have begun to... well, 'spring'... coz today the Willow Warblers started to arrive and there's now also a sprinkling of Blackcaps. Along the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC) path to Halfway House this lunchtime there were 9 Chiffchaff singing, 2 Blackcap and 2 Willow Warbler (picked up a 3rd in Daisy Field on Upper Moss Side later and there'd been one singing on Lapwing Lane earlier Gary text me.

Plan was to walk the MSC path (which I did) and catch the rising tide and look for waders (which I didn't - see below). Did bump into a chap called Dave (I learned later), along the way and had a wee chat and gripe bout photographers and LEOs.

HWH was alas, having another 'Vintage Women's and the Anti-sausage' day, probably because idiot moi had not checked the tides and the bugger had already rushed in, covering the mudflat, the latter of which has changed markedly. There used to be TWO channels either side of the main sandbank... a north channel and a south channel. The north has now vanished... in-filled by sedimentation. Wonder when THAT happened??

SO, I didn't stay long and strolled instead through Upper Moss Side...

Where, disappointingly, I saw NO BEASTS (!) despite the encouraging poster on the screen hide...

...neither was there anything from the Tower Hide... apart from Norton Marsh...

...but the Marshy Pool did 'PERCHUNG!' a couple of zigging Snipe at me...oh and a Brown Hare too...which was nice...

Apart from that though and the 10 Lapwing, 8 Stock Dove, 2 Grey Partridge and zero Wheatear... that was it... apart from the moles...

Oh, hang on tho... got a Grey Wagtail near the factories... so now on about 73...74 ish?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Well I've been back on the patch for a week now and compared to other patchers, I'm behind. But by how much am i ACTUALLY behind... relatively speaking, compared to my previous years' tallies come Chiffchaff arrival time? I mean I used to try to get the ton before the first migrant arrived, which this year I have clearly come nowhere close...fine. Thing is, got me thinking bout what I'd usually have got by now, wheter I'll get them in the second winter period, or whether they're true losses to the year list.

My conclusion? This lot should still be fairly easily gettable...

Fieldfare, Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Bittern, Goldeneye, Tawny Owl, Stonechat, Linnet, Golden Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Raven, Peregrine, Grey Wagtail, Water Rail, Wigeon, Siskin, Sparrowhawk, Redshank  20 spp

This lot maybe a little trickier...

Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Goosander, LEO, Woodcock, Jack Snipe, Ringed Plover, Pink-footed Goose, Med Gull  9 spp.

... and this lot... be lucky...

Waxwing, Meally Redpoll, Brambling

SO looking on the bright side, if I recoup the first batch I'm on 95 equivalent and if i get half the second batch, i'm pretty close to my ton...had I started january 1st.

OK... happy with that...PLUS apart from the three  Sacred Ibises... don't think I've missed much, though the fact that there are still a couple of juvenile Iceland Gulls knocking about (3rd April) means I'll be checking the pools over the next couple of days!!!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Faricand Orisene...

Monday 2nd April

You gotta love the good old Captcha. I was commenting a couple of fellow bloggers and up popped Faricand Orisene... best yet! Can't decide if it's a Frathouse Motto, a medieval Trappist chant, or part of a line from a Lou Reed song. Anyway, it loosened my brain trying to figure it out and my mind drifted to birds and so I hit the patch for a bit.

Thought I'd give the Angler's Pool a quick check (I'd missed it out on the other day's count) and check the Big Hand Ranch horse paddocks for Wheatear and the barn owl box for Barn Owl. Shock Horror! Not only had the barn owl box gone, but so had the barn and in it's place was being built a redbrick one. Not cool! And there was nothing, save horses, on the paddocks. The Angler's Pool was a little more productive...

Angler's Pool

24M + 15F Tufted Duck, pr + 4 Coot, pr Great Crested Gebes and a pr of Mute Swan on a nest.

Lapwing Lake

Just basically parked up and had a quick look to see if the Little Egret was still there. It wasn't, but there was a 2prs of Greylag Geese that I don't remember seeing the other day. AND the first Blackcap of the year piped up from the north-west corner. Good stuff!

Birchwood Pool

Bumped into a couple of excited Wirral birders (called Tony and Alan I learned later), who'd just connected with the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and gave them a quick run down of the pools and hides and then sat a while in Birchwood Pool west hide. No Little Ringed Plover or Little Gull today... but I found where the Little Egret had got to... Birchwood Pool.

pr Teal, pr Mallard, 10 Coot, pr + 7F + 6M Tufted Duck, 27 Canada Geese, pr + ad Little Grebe, pr Gadwall, pr + 1 ad Moorhen, 1 Little Egret, 20+ LBB Gull, 10+ H Gull, 2 juv GBB Gull, 1 juv YL Gull, 29 BH Gull (of which only 10% had summer hoods).

Walked back via northern fringe along the south side of the Capped Tip but picked up nothing new and so decided to head to...

Was walking the WH Path Field and noticed that WH Big Field had been recently ploughed and rolled.

Always worth checking such fields at this time of year. First off, the Lapwings like to move in... today there were 3 pairs spread across the field. Second, it's a good place to get Grey Partridge... they seem to like the field margins... today there was a pair. Third, it's a great place to look for passage Wheatear.... and today, as luck would have it, there was a cracking female Northern Wheatear. Happy days! SO, four more species for the year list... brings me to...

75 species

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Little things...

Sunday 1st April

I hadn't planned to do any birding today, but a very good friend of mine text about meeting up and so we headed out to the piers and chatted a while and then went our separate ways and I decided to check Lapwing Lake. Mully had text in the morning to say there was LITTLE Egret roosting there and although it was now late afternoon I figured it was worth a check. Lucky I did coz there in a willow was indeed a Little Egret. Cool beans :) Well that was going to be that, but for some reason I thought may as well go see if the Tawny Owl is there (knowing that it wouldn't wasn't!) and give Birchwood Pool a quick shufty as I'd left it out of the loop yesterday. Glad I did...

There was already a bloke at the west hide when I arrived and we chatted briefly until... hang on... what's that... bloody hell LITTLE Gull. A gorgeous adult not yet with its summer black hood was hawking for insects in the sunlight with elegant dips and flutters above the pool.  Smokey underwing, delicately rounded wingtips, lightest most bouyant flight... beautiful. Quickly gave Mully a ring who was down in about 5 minutes flat and who then began the round of calls and texts to other patchers. This was apparently the first Little Gull for the reserve itself, the only other records coming from Halfway House. Mike manage dto get hold of Gary who was going to head down so we kept and eye on the bird and began scanning the margins... There's a shingle spit to the left of the hide and I was casually taking a glance when Mike perks up rhetorically..." Is that  a LITTLE Ringed Plover?". Well bugger me. Yes it was. Good stuff. Things are definitely on the move through the patch it seems...

Wasn't long before Gary and his lad showed up and promptly got two for the price of one lol... All good! Although it seems this year there is some real competition listwise going on. Gary's on 80 something already, Mike's on 98 and Den it seems is also on a mission for 2012. I have some catching up to do it seems coz my year list is now just...

71 species :/

'Vintage Womens' and the Anti-sausage...

Saturday 31st March

Today was my first count day since starting back on the patch in earnest a few days ago. I had no idea what the numbers were going to look like, but I figured it would be fun to find out. Decided to adopt my old approach and start at the Eastern Reedbed and Mill Brook Pool (aka 'the lagoon'... NO! I still refuse to call it such!!), nip into Pumphouse Pool, hit Birchwood Pool, shoot past Lapwing Lake then drive to the black and yellow gate via Upper Moss Side and walk to Halfway House.

Eastern Reedbed 15:32...bit overcast and cooler than I'd hoped.

There was already another birder there...chap called Mark I learned a little later. Who proceeded to show me some rather nice digital snaps of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on his dead tree and the Ring Ousel, which apparently was still loitering among the gorse opposite the piers (it was later too, see Noodle Park). Anyway, we chatted a bit...he'd had maybe 4-5 pairs of Little Grebe on the ERB just before I arrive (eight of them together at one point), so I did a quick count.

2M Mallard, 3 Coot, pr Mute Swan (probably nesting already at the back of the reeds), 5pr + 1M Tufted Duck, 2M Pochard (the F had been about earlier), 2pr Little Grebe, 1pr, 1trio Canada Geese and a Juv + Ad Grey Heron. Songsters: Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin, Blackbird

Millbrook Pool 15:35

2juv Grey Heron, pr Oystercatcher, prLapwing, 3pr Gadwall, 1M Mallard, pr+1M Teal,  4 Coot, 10 Canada Geese (one by downy nest on the island), 1F Tufted Duck

Pumphouse Pool 15:48... F**k me the water is high, no rocks showing, no banks for ducks to loaf on, no muddy margings for feeding. Dead. Somebody needs to yank the plug and let some water out!!!

11 Coot, 3pr Gadwall
Black Fields Diggings 15:57... wow they have done some work here...BIG holes and dry flat areas. Shame use to be nice and muddily waderish...

pr Gadwall, 1M Mallard, 3 Pied Wagtail

Lapwing Lake...a little later... after skipping Birchwood Pool in favour of a north margin yomp (see Noodle Park). And who should I bump into but young Mullholland...cue catch up and birding banter. Good stuff. Lakewise tho...not a whole lot...

3M Mallard, 1 Canada Goose, 4 Coot, 2 Gadwall, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Moorhen, 1 juv Grey Heron

Well after a while I head to the northern fringe and thence to Halfway House picking up the Ring Ousel tucked under a gorse on the way. Decide to try out the voice recorder on my phone as I arrive. WTF? The place is dead... so I try to record this event on my HTC. Thing is there's also a voice recognition thingy on my phone that allows you to label your sound files without having to type stuff in and I hit the wrong button and label the file with my ramblings about there not being a sausage here. Well, the voice recognition system kicked in and aptly turned my words into text and labelled the file accordingly. Voice 'recognition' ???... yeah, if you're Yoda on crack!!! It came up with "I'm convinced sausage with vintage womens just like these devon street east total absence" Well it made me giggle. Here you go... challenge dear reader... complete this sentence...prize for the best answer.

"I'm convinced sausage with vintage womens..."

Anyway, it got me thinking bout the nature of sausage and birds or rather lack thereof and I got kinda philosophical for a bit and my mind drifted to Walter Bishop and how he would explain it all...

maybe something like this:

"I posit that the word SAUSAGE is just a socially constructed concept contrived entirely to permit the existence of the anti-sausage... Yes... In other words Asterix.... without SAUSAGE, there could be no ABSENCE of sausage... Hm"

Think he's right, coz there's not a sausage at Halfway House this evening!

Noodle Park...

I'm a little concerned. I think my eyesight is getting a little...

Now that's funny in a way and not quite so funny in another. Funny because a very good friend of mine  came round the other night and we were having just that conversation. I announced that I was having to stand further away to focus on things, to which the reply was "Why don't you just wear your glasses?" "Because," and anybody who wears glasses knows this, I said "...the more you wear them, the worse your eyes get..." After her polite "Bollocks!" said friend did GOOGLETH on her smart phone and, as is usually the case, put me straight on a few the myths surrounding spex and eyesight. Apparently these are ALL myths...

● "Although eyeglasses makes you see better, they cause vision to get worse over time.

● Eyeglasses will need to be constantly changed with higher powered one."

● "Don't wear your glasses so often, you need to exercise your eyes!"

● "Overuse of the Eye' or 'use of eye' makes vision worse"

● "Sitting Too Close to the TV Is Bad for Your Eyes"

● "Reading in the Dark Will Damage Your Eyes"

● "Eye exercises can improve vision"

● "Over the counter reading glasses hurt the eye"

● "Wearing contact lenses will prevent nearsightedness from getting worse"

● "Eating carrots can improve vision"

● "Using night light in infant rooms will make then nearsighted"

Now I was bloody surprised! I mean seriously!! So much so that I immediately spat out my carrot and binned the rest!!! So what has all this to do with birding and my initial blogged concern? Well it's this. Much as a lot of bird ID is based on call and song, you can't really get far without good eyes. Take gulls for example, I mean you can't exactly pick out different races amid the winter Birchwood Pool throng on the SOUND of their mantles! Nope. Eyesight, for me at least, is key... and here it is, beginning it would seem, to deteriorate. Combine that with my need to recently pawn my Zeiss 85 scope (beautiful...sheds tear) and get out of the cupboard my old Kowa TSN, complete with missing eyepiece lens (see below - yes I can stick my finger INTO the zoom) and it's affecting my capacity to 'bird'.
Now tbh, I'd blamed my slightly nauseating view of the other day's Ring Ousel on the fish-eye effect my current imperfect scope creates, when i eventually manage to get my eye just the right distance away from the hole where the lens used to be in order to get a sharp and centred image. Move the scope and the whole magnified world arches into view like it's been painted on a mirror ball. Kinda trippy... but not very helpful when you're trying to find a bird, let alone identify one at distance. Never is full of challenges and at some point, no doubt, I'll get the eye-piece fixed. My eyes though I'd not really considered in birding terms...until the other day.
I'd been wandering the margins of the north fringe of the patch in search of Wheatear on their way through and maybe a Grey Partridge or two in the field margins and the weather had started to close in a bit and I'd seen neither. Common Snipe though WAS an addition to the year list... which was nice. So I decided I'd head back to the old blue Megane and nip to the piers to see if the Roozull was still there (it was btw)... and happened on my way to pass the feeding station. Now I've done this hundreds of times in the past, but what struck me today was the weird sign on the bird table there. It quite clearly said "Noodle Pk"... and the worst of it was I was still trying to figure out why they'd relabelled the bloody thing and what Noodle Park meant when I took the photo at the start of this blog. Yes. I need to get my eyes tested else there are gonna be some very interesting species turning up on these blog pages this year!!! So i may need glasses. Who cares and anyway, let's face it... glasses ARE kinda sexy...