Saturday 30 April 2011


Back on duty at Woolston and again another very early start (these are starting to take their toll). With a stiff wind blowing the number of nets opened was reduced and that showed in the final catch totals with just 15 birds processed. But 2 Wood Pigeons and 3 new Grasshopper Warblers more than made up for it, most surprising was the amount of variability over the 3 Grasshopper Warblers caught.

Friday 29 April 2011

Along for the ride

My plan for the rest of the day was to have a look around Frodsham, call into Moore NR and pop into Marbury CP, non of that happened? I ended up being driven over to Lincolshire for the Collared Pratincole, which had flown off 5 minutes before we arrived. With the negative news we made our way to Tetney Locks for the 7 Dotterel (3f+4m) which showed well but distantly. Fortune looked upon us as within 10 minutes of arriving back at our first stop the Pratincole flew in, hawking over the roadside flood for about 20 minutes and seemingly impossible to photograph, for me anyhow. What should have been our departure home turned into a White-tailed Eagle hunt with a chap saying "i know where it is, it will be there" yeah ok! suffice to say it wasnt and i was taken home. Always a good day when you see a Pratincole, especially when you didnt plan to.


What with the royal wedding dominating not only the TV but also my wife's day i decided to escape to the welsh hills. A 5.30am departure and an hour later i was having excellent views of lekking Black Grouse, a dozen or more were seen throughout the morning. Next stop was a very obliging Dartford Warbler that has (unfortunately) set up a territory. Obliging is probably an understatement with it at times coming to close to photograph.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Heads up?

An early finish from work meant a visit to Carr Wood in Bramhall for the male Wood Warbler that has set up territory. A very vocal bird that showed well 20' straight up! But occasionally it did come down to eye level, thank god.

Monday 25 April 2011

On the Pull

A good morning at Woolston on Saturday with an early start, yet again and for no reward, again. An early Magpie and Jay got the day off well and the first Sedge Warblers of the year were appearing in the nets with 7 caught in total. 3 Reed Warbler, 5 Whitethroat, 8 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff made up the warbler numbers with the usual fare making up the numbers. A fly over Swift was new for the year as was a singing Cuckoo and the Ring-necked Duck was on no.3.

Sunday morning i joined Hugh to check the various stages of the Dipper nesting. Fortunately 2 broods were ready for ringing with 2 nests of 4 pullus, all at varying stages of growth. We also managed to mist net ab unringed male which was colour ringed for the project.

For the third day running i was out early ringing with David Norman at Oxmoor NR, Runcorn. Not many birds to talk of but but a decent spread of species. 2 Grasshopper Warblers and 3 Willow Warblers were ringing ticks and a very feisty Jay was also processed.

Friday 22 April 2011

White, Black, Red and Yellow

After yesterdays Ring-necked Duck success i got news of an unringed White Stork that had roosted over at Fleetwood. So a 5.30 start had us heading down the M6-M55 to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park on the Wyre Estuary. As things generally go the Stork had flown off and out of view so 10 minutes prior to our arrival, but it wasn't long before i relocated it out on the fresh marsh feeding in a creek, prolonged views ensued at a distance as it was constantly harassed by gulls and corvids. After a couple of hours it fortunately flew by close enough to grab some shots though the light was poor. Initial thoughts were that this bird was a 1w/juv, the white feathers appeared to have a brownish wash to them and the black flight feathers had a contrasting white trailing edge, although i was slightly puzzled as to the lack of black on its bill. Good to meet Chris Batty who has a set of photos that he is emailing to a White Stork expert! No ring, right age and looking very wild this has been a long time coming (although i have never twitched a real one). A good supporting cast was had with Whimbrel, Tree Pipit (over) and Wheatear.

From Fleetwod we made our way back via Pennington Flash for the 7 Black Terns on offer, very mobile and distant but my favorite tern all the same. On offer from the Horrock's hide were 2 LRP, 5 Comic Terns, Common Sandpiper and the story of a puzzling bird seen from the Bunting hide

The description from various sources was of a Goldfinch sized finch, brown with heavy streaks, a yellow  breast and cap? Looking similar to Twite but not a Twite and a bill like a Warblers? The escaped cage bird theory was mooted as was the "was the black bib, yellow on the head and size like a redpoll" question, cant remember if that was answered or not. Best bet was to have a look, after a short wait the bird in question flew in to feed. Now i know now its an aberrant Lesser Redpoll but my 'eliminate the common stuff first senses' were not working and i went down the House Finch route? A phone call soon ended that and a quick look at my camera screen had me calling for a taxi! A very nice bird all the same i can only presume its colouration is due to its diet? Although this does seem to be an adult bird, will it have been this way since hatching? In which case could it be genetic?

Thursday 21 April 2011

Local Yank

After a couple of days away working in Oxford it was nice to get back to news of a drake Ring-necked Duck at Woolston, quite possibly the bird that has been touring the northwest. A turn up and tick bird although quite distant it showed well, a nice walk with the family and a corus of Whitethroat song. Fingers crossed for Saturday.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Uncomfortable Sex ?

Not quite you are expecting I'm afraid, though no doubt the title caught your attention. A enjoyable morning was had at Newsbrook Pool, nr Congleton ringing Mute Swans. 55 Swans presented themselves with just a handful needing to be rung, after a demonstration in swan capture and processing (made to look very easy) i gave it a go!

After enticing my juvenile female with bread i managed to grab and wrestle her to the ground binding the feet and wings.
Then applying a metal BTO ring to one leg and a plastic darvic (colour- code- combination)
Biometrics were taken including a skull length.
A test your strength technique was used for the weight.
Last and probably the most uncomfortable for both me and the poor swan was the sexing, thankfully no photos were taken. Sexing involved finger tips lots of pressure and a turning inside out technique?
Other than that it was a great experience with hopefully more sessions in the future.

Monday 11 April 2011

Too early

My early start Saturday (04.30) drew a blank unfortunately, note to self : check other bays! Warbler numbers are slowly increasing with my first female Blackcap caught and a few Chiffchaff, though no Willow Warblers. Back down to Woolston in the morning for hopefully Grasshopper Warbler, we did try on Saturday but drew a blank. Out yesterday morning 'Dippering', checking on nests and egg numbers. 2 birds caught on the nest were BTO ringed and colour ringed for future reference. Hopefully in 2-3 weeks we should have some young to ring. Totally un-bird related my neighbour called round with a frog so i gave it a lovely new home in our pond, probably one of ours anyway. Gave me an excuse to have a play with my new lens.

Some Shetland bird news now. John Lowrie found a smart looking Woodlark at Hamister yesterday. Not long now until my Spring return, can't wait.

Friday 8 April 2011


Even though we are basking in glorious sunshine and temperatures are in the high teens (sorry you lot up in Shetland), i couldn't helping thinking if we had entered spring or if it was still winter? Wednesday early evening, we had finished diner and were sat in the conservatory having a cup of tea when i noticed birds in the garden oak tree. I grabbed my bins and to my amazement and undoubted joy there were no fewer than 30 Waxwing's presumably picking insects from the new growth. I rushed for my camera then faffed a bit, unfortunately something spooked the Wood Pigeons in the garden that in turn scattered the Waxwings and they flew onto the golf course and briefly settled there. I did manage a shot through the trees thankfully, so at least i have a memento of the occasion. To top off the evening 6 Swallows fly over.

Managed to get finished early today  so at least i could mow the lawn for the first time this year. Whilst setting up i got a blast of song from a Blackcap,after the grass cutting exercise i managed to pin it down at the bottom of the garden showy very well indeed. Great Tits are busy nest building in the Sparrow nest box on the side of the office, in fact its the only bird that ever nested in it. Looks like an early start at Woolston in the morning with Kieran looking to do Snipe one last time, will let you know.