Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Warrens Hall

Work was bugging me big time yesterday, so as the sun was shining at lunch time I headed out up the canal to Warrens Hall Country Park. I took the camera and bins even though I didn't have a lot of time and it's a good 20 minute walk from home.

I was delighted to see my first Redwings of the season, although they didn't let me get close, nowhere to sneak up for a closer view! But I did get a shot:

Was surprised to find this on the Bumble Hole Lake:
along with 4 Little Grebe who wouldn't keep still and kept disappearing before I could get a shot! Maybe something to do with a Buzzard flying over the Lake.

Two Herons were obliging though, Heron number 1 being patient:

 Heron number 2, thinking he's a sparrow:
Must be somewhere to perch around here

This will do!

Made it!
So enough, back to work. (Adding a Sparrowhawk on the way)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Dowles Brook or a Walk in the Forest

Having decided we needed to stretch our legs and take advantage of the sunshine on Saturday I looked for somewhere we could walk, but with the chance of seeing some feathered friends as well.

We then received an email from the National Trust (members of that as well!!) promoting the "Big Walk" so I had a look at what they were suggesting that wasn't to far away and one that came up was a 4.5 mile circular walk around the Wyre Forest taking in Dowles Brook, so as I know there are allegedly Dippers there, decision made! This was a first visit so we didn't know what to expect, but armed with Coffee, Hot Water and snacks we set of from Dry Mill Lane Car Park.

The weather was great if a tad cold, but we soon warmed up walking, the first half of the walk was along one of the cycle routes before dropping down to the brook. There wasn't a great deal of activity, though we did pick up a Jay and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. We were also sure we could hear Crossbills, but couldn't find them. We still haven't had any good sightings of Crossbills in the UK, just a fleeting glimpse once up in Scotland and hearing them occasionally... One day!

Once down in the valley and walking alongside the brook, we kept our eyes peeled for Dipper. On a couple of occasions we thought our luck was in but every time it was Robin darting around the banks of the brook. Can we claim a Red-breasted Dipper!! We have had plenty of Dipper sightings in the past up in Scotland but never locally... One day! (Or is that two days now)

Despite not seeing a dipper we had a great walk and did pick up a Willow Tit near the end which was great, so our small list for the walk was:

Blackbird, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Crow, Great Tit, Willow Tit, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Wood Pecker, Jay, Robin, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon and 4 Buzzards on the way there.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Weekend at Cresswell

We were invited up to Cresswell in Northumberland to join Tina's Sister over the weekend, staying in a caravan only 5 minutes drive from Cresswell Pond NWT. We had the pleasure of sleeping in the smallest beds ever invented,  but we coped.  As a reward we added 5 species to the year list of which 3 were firsts! This was totally unexpected but very welcome.

We visited 4 NWT sites whilst up there, Druridge Pools, East Chevington, Hauxley and Cresswell Pools. Cresswell though was by far the most productive and accounted for the 3 lifers. The nice thing was that they are all pretty close to Cresswell, so driving was kept to a minimum.

Druridge Pools
We paid 2 shortish visits here on Friday and Sunday, visiting a couple of hides. Wellies were essential as some of the paths were flooded. There was very little activity though, saw very few species, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, a Heron and a couple of Snipe flying around.

East Chevington
Just one visit here on the Saturday, a lovely reserve, with quite a bit going on. However the hides are terrible!  They seem to be converted containers, opening the doors and windows makes a hell of a noise, its a wonder we saw anything with all the racket. They are also the most uncomfortable hides, the windows seem to be at the wrong height, just terrible. We were much better off leaving the hides and going up to the platforms on the track. It did mean though that you needed a scope to see anything. The best sightings here were Goldeneye, the briefest glimpse of a Merlin and a wonderful Short-eared Owl.

Again just one visit here on the Saturday, but it's a great reserve, with good hides and access down to the beach. We asked the warden as we arrived what was about and apart from what you'd expect he told us amongst all the Greylag was a single White-fronted Goose this would be a first for the year if we could find it.

We worked the hides on the northern side of the reserve, the south side was closed due to flooding. Here's a couple of pics from the hide looking at to sea.

Really love Tree Sparrows!

Rats! No you can't have any!
We then moved on to the last hide closest to all the geese. But they were all very inactive, with heads tucked away chilling out, so there was no way we were going to find a white front! That is until a noisy model aircraft being flown down on the beach came a bit close and got them all up, even then we didnt think we'd find it as they were all settling down pretty quickly. But after scanning hundreds of geese we found it!
I couldn't get a good photo before he tucked up again but for the record:
The top of it's white face can just be seen if you look closely!
Just a few others from Hauxley
Greylags on finals

Curlew touchdown

Coquet Island, went there in 2010 to see Roseate Tern
Cresswell Pond
The star of the weekend. We visited 5 times there was just so much going on. On the Friday we kicked off with lifers 1 and 2. The first was easy a Jack Snipe in front of the hide, he stayed in the same place the whole three days, only venturing out once when it was to dark to take a pic, so here's the best I could do:

The second was much more difficult, a Long-tailed Duck, unfortunately this was a scope job, so no photo, but made up none the less, he appeared on most visits, but was difficult to find amongst all the other waterfowl.

Apart from the Jack Snipe, I have never seen so many Snipe, I counted at least 30 at one time, but the board in the hide said 54! We spotted our 3rd lifer on Sunday; Golden Plover in the morning we found just the one, but on our second visit there were four.

We had some pretty mixed conditions ranging from glorious sunshine to mist and fog, both of which at times made photography tricky! But here's a few anyway! (There's some more in the gallery)


Little Grebe with Lunch

Red Breasted Mergansers

Spot the Snipe

Golden Plover

Great Crested Grebe showing a paddle!


Short Eared Owl fly-by

The mist rolling in

Heron in the fog!


Goldcrest on the path to the hide

Pink-footed in a field near Cresswell......

........ along with some Swans

Other than the reserves, we popped into Newbiggins on Sea for Tea and added Ringed Plover to the list, (until the fog rolled in  and we couldn't see a thing), Druridge Country Park for a Cuppa (Found out that a Slavonian Grebe was there, but after we'd left and didn't get chance to go back) and Cresswell Foreshore for an Ice Cream and Dolphins!

So the lists:
Druridge Pools:

Black-headed Gull, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Coot, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Lapwing,  Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Snipe, Wigeon & Wren.

East Chevington:

Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Coot, Cormorant, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Great Black-backed Gull,
Great Crested Grebe, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Merlin, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pochard,
Short-eared Owl, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck & Wigeon.


Bar-tailed Godwit, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot.
Cormorant, Curlew, Eider, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, House Sparrow,
Lapwing, Little Grebe, Mallard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Redshank,
Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, White-fronted Goose & Wigeon.

Cresswell Pond:

Barn Owl, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-headed Gull, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch,
Common Sandpiper, Coot, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Goldeneye,
Great Crested Grebe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron, Grey Partridge, Greylag Goose,
Herring Gull, Jack Snipe, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Magpie, Mallard,
Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pheasant, Pink-footed Goose (in nearby field), Pochard, Red-breasted Merganser,
Redshank, Robin, Rock Dove, Rook, Scaup, Short-eared Owl, Snipe, Starling, Stonechat, Teal,
Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Turnstone, Wigeon & Woodpigeon.

Carrion Crow, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Starling, Turnstone & Woodpigeon.

Cresswell Foreshore:
Dolphins, Cormorant, Eider, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher & Redshank.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

It's All Gone Quiet Over Here...

On Tuesday, I managed to get out at lunch time and get up to Haden Hill, to see if I could see the Kingfisher and check if any Redwings had turned up yet.

I hastened down to the lower pool and hung around for a while but sadly no sign of the Kingfisher. In fact the pool was really quiet as was the reserve, unless of course you wanted to see Woodpigeon or Magpie!

The pool had about 50 Mallard, 3 Canada Geese, 1 Black-headed Gull, plus some Coot and Moorhens, that was it!
Where have all my mates gone?

Just about managed to get all 3 in one shot!
Walking around the only other birds to be seen were a couple of Blackbirds, a Blue Tit, Rook, Crow and a low flying Buzzard that I nearly missed. That was it!

So I took a photo of a Crow and some fungi just to prove I'd been there

The following day after doing some shopping up Blackheath I returned home via the Powke Lane POS and Canal with an even worse result than the day before, nothing on the canal, nothing in the fields apart from Magpie and nothing through the Woodland back to the house, I did hear some Sparrows but that was all.

Just hope this weekend  isn't as bad!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Aqualate Mere (It was a Coot!)

Whilst on our NT visit to Attingham last weekend we got chatting to a couple who'd noticed we were birders. (Birders cricked neck syndrome from staring up into the trees!)

They mentioned to us nearby Aqualate Mere, where they had recently seen a Bittern, plus their description sounded pretty interesting, so we decided to go there on Sunday.

It was pretty straight forward to find just off the A518 near Newport (Salop).
The walk to the hide was very pleasant with woodland on the one side and boggy meadows on the other, although apart from a pair of fighting Robins, who were really going at it playground style rolling around in the dirt and Crows we didn't see much, although we heard a lot.

The final boardwalk up to the hide was flooded in places, so there goes the chance of any waders. The hide itself was coay, with plenty of cushions to support my prominent posterior! (I was told this by a tailor many years ago, when being measured for my wedding suit) Anyway I digress as usual.

The view over the Mere was great although everything apart from what seemed like thousands of coots were right down the other end. About a mile away, so even with the scope identifying anything other than the geese and swans was difficult. Because the Mere is privately owned, even though the hide side is an NNR, there is no 'legal' way to get to that end of the lake.

So we had to be content with whatever wandered down our end:
Just needed a stretch

Run Away!

Shoveler, hiding

One of many Tufted Duck

A few GCBs about
A Kingfisher did fly across the hide and land on a nearby post, but didn't hang around for more than a few seconds before he was off again.

So our list for the reserve:
Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tit, Robin, Kingfisher, Coot (100s), Moorhen (1), Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Pheasant, Kestrel, Buzzard, Hobby, Crow, Rook and of course Woodpigeon.

The record book in the hide showed for the last few days a Black-necked Grebe was about but we couldn't find it.

We had a wander around the reserve as it got very cold in the hide and we needed to warm up, so here's a couple of snaps of a few other things:

We finished up having a cuppa on the only bench overlooking one of the meadows and were treated to a Kestrel, Hobby and Buzzard all within a few minutes of each other, none got close enough for a decent photo though.

Bye for now.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Attingham Park, Shropshire

Taking advantage of the fine weather again on Sunday, we went for a National Trust day and visited Attingham Park in Shropshire, where we know there are great woodland walks, river and a deer park.

Despite being an aviation 'enthusiast; the afternoon was somewhat marred by a low flying helicopter circling the park for I would guess nearly an hour, it nearly drove us berserk! As a result there was nothing to see in the wood, everything was keeping it's head down.

There were some interesting fungi in the woods to make up for it:

Finally after the helicopter departed and we had been walking a while we came across some pheasant both in the woodland and then out in the deer park:

In all we must have seen upwards of 30.
Otherwise it was just Corvids around the deer park. Nearing the house again there were a few Mute Swans on the river
and a large number of Pied Wagtail on the lawn in front of the house.

We then went to the courtyard tea room and indulged in a slice of treacle tart with a pot of tea. It was here we had our best birding encounter of the afternoon. Nothing exciting but a good show by, Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Chaffinch and a splendid Nuthatch:

Hoping for decent weather again next weekend, I feel an Upton Warren visit is called for! Although if we have good weather in the week a lunch time walk around Haden Hill or along the canal to Warrens Hall NR might be on the cards.