Monday, 12 April 2010

Weekend update

Zilch Alley to Pipit Slab and back
– to clear for any grounded stuff. Reading Fleetwood Birders notes we see that he had a good deal more than us which perhaps suggests that a lot of migration goes not along the coast but rather across the back of the town over the countryside – can’t think of any other explanation for us both being out at the same time and recording such widely differing numbers of stuff.

38 Meadow Pipits over in dribs and drabs
Sand Martin way out to sea but just close enough to identify unlike a second hirundine.
40 Redshank fed along the margin of a gutter but we passed by two flocks of about 50 going to the boating pool to roost.

Plenty of gulls on the boating pool wall too.

The two adult adults are exactly the same colour in life but the angle they are stood at makes them appear very different shades of grey.

A flurry of finches started comprising of a small flock of a few Linnets, a flock of four Lesser Redpolls and flock of four Goldfinches. Mixed in between these were six individual ‘alba’ Wagtails of which none had landed on our ‘salt marsh’.
Two flocks of Knot went past going south, totalling about 44 birds.
A scan of the sea produced a distant Grey Seal being investigated by a number of gulls – it soon dived to avoid their attention. A Great Crested Grebe was still on the sea. A Kittiwake went past, as did a distant auk. A couple of small ‘strings’ of Common Scoters headed north on the horizon.
A Shelduck went the other way.

The afternoon session saw the safari visiting our local reserve in very pleasant summery sunshine. First up were Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, they were to prove very numerous throughout the afternoon. A Heron fished in one of the shallow ponds, hope it wasn’t finding any of our Great Crested Newts! Our first Willow Warbler sang from the adjacent area of scrub. Chiffchaffs, however, were plentiful, it seemed as though one singing from almost every tree. Blackcaps weren’t quite so numerous but their musical song could be heard all over the place.
Our target species for the afternoon was Cetti’s Warbler and only a minute or so after sitting at the viewing platform we heard that unmistakeably loud explosion of a song. At least two more males were heard during our visit.
Best bird of the session was undoubtedly the 1st winter Mediterranean Gull that has been hanging around fro about a week and is attracted to the periphery of the ‘bread flock’, bringing it just within range of the safari’s camera.

Three Snipe and a trilling Little Grebe also sullied the notebook along with a good selection of the ‘usual’ waterfowl. Plants are starting to show now and we had a few Cowslips

and Snakes Head Fritillaries.The Blackthorn was a joy to behold

– wish we had smell-a-vision for you as the scent of Almonds was heady!
Time ran out and we headed back to the Land Rover with several pages filled and a blunt pencil. It was going to be an all nighter downloading the pics off the camera!

Patch 1 delivered very little apart from our first walking tick Willow Warbler, just the one and no other migrants – they seem to be giving this site a miss this spring.
After loading the butty box with Wifey’s goodies it was time to point the Land Rover due south and leave safari-land for the day – yes we crossed the River Mersey. Meeting up with the safari’s co-founder, Haddy, we then joined Widnes’s finest naturalist and all round bon viveur, Anno, for a stab at Moore nature reserve’s Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. Not been to this site for many a long year and it is looking very, very good. Bullfinch has become more common here in recent months and was the first bird we saw. Jays also added a touch of colour. A quick look over the first pool gave us a little snatch of Reed Warbler subsong, a little half hearted but still the safari’s first of the year. Bizarrely, the feeders are placed in a small lagoon - to protect them from Grey Squirrel invasion. The wet woodlands in this area are home to a thriving population of Willow Tits but could we find any – nope not a sniff! (no pun intended as their call sounds a bit like a sneeze). Marsh Tit is the scarcer of these two similar species here – we got that one! We spent a good hour hanging around the feeding station and heard Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling and tapping for grubs but could we get a glimpse of the stripy little blighter…a Blackcap had us going when, against the light, it did a very good impression of a trunk-clinging little woodpecker.
Several Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were singing away but ‘Bird of the Day’ had to be a toss up between Buzzard and Little Grebe – plenty of both all over the place. Hirundines on the other hand were notable by their absence – all that water and only two distant Swallows seen. The thin calls of a solitary Goldcrest were heard high in the canopy of some tall Silver Birches, but the bird wasn’t seen– seemed to be theme of the day, not seeing only hearing the day’s year ticks.
The site is noted for is gulls but today there were only a handful of Great Black Backs and a sickly looking Herring Gull, not as sickly looking as the seriously extinct Great Auk lying on its back on the edge of one of the islands. The adjacent tip held thousands of gulls but more rubbish must have been being dumped as all the activity was over the tip and none were coming in for a wash and brush-up.
Down at the far end of the reserve a few Long Tailed Tits played at being Bearded Tits for several minutes but they couldn’t quite match the maestro’s mastery of clinging to wobbly Phragmites heads.
Two Ladybirds were found together and have now had their tentative identities revealed as one of the invasive Harlequin Ladybirds, now confirmed as of the form succinea.

The other is a native 10-Spot Ladybird.

'It’s a 10 spot of the chequered form decempustulatus'. Thanks to Jeff Clarke for the ID’s
Back at the car park at lunch the weather provided a spectacle – the safari’s second Willy-willy of the year – this one bigger than the one we had on the fells a couple of weeks ago – whipping across the field throwing dust, grass, leaves and twigs tens of feet into the air.
Leaving Moore we set off in convoy for Wigg Island on the inner Mersey estuary. On route we noticed what was probably a House Martin, but it didn’t reach the notebook, there will be plenty of other opportunities to claw this one back.. Wigg Island is another site full of invisible Willow Tits. We chanced upon a falconry display, similar to the one we didn’t take the camera too earlier in the week. We took advantage of the Tawny Owl

and this pic of the Eagle Owl might save us a hike to their breeding area in the fells in a few weeks time.

The extremely impressive Golden Eagle wasn’t on show as there were too many small dogs about…too much temptation…so no photo unfortunately. A showy Brimstone butterfly fluttered along the path.
We were lucky enough to be allowed to use the observation tower overlooking the estuary – an excellent raptor watching vantage point, or at least Buzzard watching vantage point.

Sadly, no Ospreys, Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards or White Tailed Eagles, not even the local Peregrines – (you’d have thought the falconer’s Saker x Peregrine x something else might have got them going – maybe they were scared of it; it was a male and at least as big as a female Peregrine!) going over this afternoon. A Cetti’s Warbler sang from a small patch of reeds below us, possibly another further away too. A Grasshopper Warbler had been in the same patch the previous day. a few flocks of Sand Martins dropped in from time to time.
Out on the estuary a very shimmery haze didn’t prevent the ID of Shelducks and Curlews, earlier in the day a Whimbrel had gone past. Over the other side of the river a pair of Ravens mooched around in the sky doing nothing much in particular. Lapwing and Skylark sang off the salt-marsh in front of us but not in great numbers, anno explained that some grassland management was needed on it, grazing probably to regain the former mix of sward heights that ground nesting birds prefered; at the moment it has become too rank and uniform.
A totally excellent day’s safari-ing in super company. Conservation might be a serious business but safari-ing doesn’t get more frivolous and entertaining as this, we had a great chuckle all day.

Another Walking Tick succumbed on Patch 1 this morning – Great Spotted Woodpecker (#72) – heard then seen just below last year’s nest site which the Grey Squirrels vandalised. Nothing else of note on the Patch, not a sniff of a migrant
No early Patch 2 visit but at lunchtime there must have been substantial shoals of Sprats or Sand-eels at the surface as there were large flocks of gulls spread all over the shop. Surprisingly no Kittiwakes, Gannets, terns or skuas had been attracted to this feeding frenzy. At the closest hub of activity we counted a disparate flock of 32 Guillemots and just two Razorbills.
Where to next? There has to be something of note on Patch 1 tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know how good your excursion beyond your outback boundary was last weekend.


Craig said...

Hi Dave,

Enjoyed your post, and im pleased you had a great time.
May i please ask a question off topic.....I heard the eagle owls are nesting again this year at Dunsop valley, you know if its the same area that can be seen from the path which is about
half a mile from the farm?
I watched them in 2007, therefore, i was wondering if its the same spot again?

best wishes,

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Craig - - Same spot under the overhang I believe - not quite the same place as last year.

Monika - - I'll throw the 'Great Auk' open to guesses...I have an idea of what it might be.



Craig said...

Thanks Dave...ill do the twitch in a few weeks.

best wishes,

Monika said...

"Zilch Alley" - love it! I've got one (or several) of those too.

I love all the blog posts that cover birds, flowers, and insects - spring is such a lovely time of year!

That eagle owl is impressive.

I don't know on the great auk....looks almost like an albatross or something??