22/02/2017 Martin Mere WWT

Brambling: It's been ages since I have been down to Martin Mere, but despite the poor weather and a very surly man on the reception desk I had an enjoyable afternoon.
My main reason for going was to see the long staying Brambling that has been frequenting the bird feeders at the Janet Kear Hide, the fact I was surveying in the area was just a nice coincidence.
This smashing male didn't disappoint, after only a short wait of around 30 minutes the bird appeared on the right hand side of the hide.
Shame about the cage over the feeders, but never mind it's not everyday you see such a stunning bird.


Black-tailed Godwit: After having my fill of the Brambling I walked down to other hides and made sure I checked the grassy bank between the Janet Kear and the Gladstone Hide as there had recently been a show Woodcock.

Unfortunately I was unable to relocate the Woodcock but as a little bit of a brucy-bonus I spent a while watching some BTG up close and personal.

From the new Swanlink Hide there were around eight BTG and four Ruff foraging around the rocky edge of the shoreline.


Two of the Godwit put on a brilliant fighting display, where they hunched down low and flared their black tail, raising it above their heads while calling. It seemed that if this display didn't work they would fly at each other and one would be pushed away.
I love Godwit, particularly BTW, they remind me of the Dee Estuary and the time I spent working at Burton Mere Wetlands. Good memories.
Ruff: Even the Ruff were fighting, however they were just aggressively displaying and they didn't actually come to fisty-cuffs.
I must make the use of my membership more often and make more regular trips to this lovely nature reserve.

16/02/2017 St Helens

Glaucous Gull: Thanks to the on going excellent efforts of some great local birders who have found and tracked some local Viking gulls, I have been able to add a few new birding sites to my local list.
One of which is Lyme Wood Pits Country Park and Landfill site and Penkford Flash near Haydock. Where I have been a few times this week without seeing any white winged gulls until today.
Mediterranean Gull: As soon as I arrived at Penkford Flash there were hundreds of gulls, however there is very little cover and the flash is pretty close to the pathway so inevitably the birds were flushed and didn't reappear. I still had time to fire away a couple of record shots of the juvenile Glauc before it disappeared with the rest of the flock.
Following the gull flocks there is usually a large mixed flock at Haydck Island near the fields past the Shell Petrol Station. Viewing is difficult as suggested it would be best on the West carriageway in a layby, but then your viewing across two busy lanes of traffic and over a hedge.
Still you can get a half decent view of the flock from here and although this time there where no Iceland or Glaucous Gulls amongst the flock I did mange to pick up an adult Mediterranean Gull in the stubble field right next to the layby.

13/02/2017 Yarrow Valley Country Park, Chorley

Kingfisher: Looking at the weather and seeing that it was going to be a bright and milder day than yesterday, I decided to go see the famous Yarrow Kingy.

This bird is probably the most photographed Kingy in the county and I can totally understand why, the bird isn't shy.
The bird can be found at the back of the park between the two lakes in a little outlet, here the bird is sheltered, has plenty of fish to feed on and feels safe.

This bird was a male, as told by its all-black bill, females have a red patch on the base of their lower bill.


While there I heard some shocking stories of a well known local photographer setting up a fish pond beneath one of the birds perches and setting up a rigged automatic flash to capture the perfect image. This is *totally* unnecessary, could the flash disturb the bird? Could the bird injure itself on the glass frame of the tank? All good possibilities.
If you view from the footpath and don't enter the fenced area the bird will be fine. There are tons of dog walkers, children and other people passingby along with a dozen birders and photographers who were chatting, and not in a hushed tone, and the bird was fine.





It was pointed out that Kingfishers breed early in the season and are prone to disturbance and can even suffer in cold weather, more so than most other birds. So if you view from the path the bird will be fine. This is a well established viewing area of which all the locals and the park ranger all keep a close eye on.

12/02/2017 Fylde, Lancashire

Todd's Canada Goose:  Yesterday I was back on the Fylde goosing and this time I had lady luck on my side as I saw all the geese I was hoping for.
After reading Dave Craven's Twitter post giving some direction to a very large flock of pinkies and the location of the Todd's I decided to go straight there and spent two hours in the freezing cold wind scanning through the tons of geese.
Barnacle Goose: The Todd's showed well within the flock and was easy to pick out, however it was best viewed from Gulf Lane, just past the goat farm.

The flock also contained two Barnacle Geese and three European White-fronted Geese, but I was unable to pick out any Bean Geese, the wind was frustrating me and the grass was pretty tall obscuring their legs.
Pink-footed Geese:  This part of Lancashire is brilliant at this time of year, there is nothing better than spending a couple of hours goosing.
Snow Goose: Not only did I finally catch up with the Todd's I also caught up with the blue morph Snow Goose by Woodlands Country Park caravan site.
The Snow Goose was showing incredibly well within a large flock of Greylag Geese.
This bird is generally thought to be an escaped bird, however I read it had come in with a flock of pinkies and moved in with the Greylag as both birds like to eat grass.
After dipping this bird on several occasions I was made up to have finally seen it, despite its origins its a cracking bird to see.
From Woodlands Country Park I headed to Scronkey, a little village near Skate Pool, here I not only caught up with the Red-breasted Goose but Freestyle 'Fred' Fren and Simon Smethurst kindly pointed me in the direction of the RBG.
I watched the RBG weave in and out of the other geese and get lost between the fence posts and undulating ground.

The RBG was pretty distant, viewed from Lancaster Road and was with 7 Euro White-fronted Geese and about 80 pinkies.

08/02/2017 Cumbria, Bowness-on-Windermere

Iceland Gull: Finally got myself up to Windermere to see this little beaut. I was also able to drag Dawn and Yogi, Dawn's friends cute little dog who we are looking after for a couple of weeks.
Despite the promises of a nice winters walk with the dog and a spot of lunch beside the lake I had my mind set on seeing a white winged gull!
This 2nd winter bird has been hanging around the ferry landing stage for a few weeks now and is well worth a visit to see, it's a stunner.


This is a very distinctive looking bird, its almost pure white, unlike the many 1st winter individuals that I have seen which have more fine brown barring throughout it's plumage.
Also note the 2nd Winter birds eye colour, which is brighter than the 1st winter birds iris that are typically darker.

Iceland is distinctly smaller then a Glauc, being roughly the size of a Lesser Black-back Gull and with it's rounded head, sleek features and long primaries it still obviously stood out as a large gull amongst the very smaller black-headed Gulls.
The bird seemed to spend much of it's time perched upon the landing poles that face the sitting area next to the ferry booking terminals where it's bright white body stands out like a beacon.

It occasionally took off and flew out of sight, but not for long and soon reappeared upon it's favoured perches. The bird also came down to feed with the local Black-headed Gulls, Swans and Geese who were being fed by the day-trippers.


This image shows nicely that the Iceland Gull has long, tapered primaries that project well beyond the tail, producing an attenuated look to the rear end. Unlike a Glauc which have relatively short, blunt primaries.


Goosander: After I got my fill of the Iceland Gull I turned my attention to the other birds on the lake where amongst the usual suspects was this red-head Goosander.


This bird seemed to have taken a fancy to steeling bread from the other birds and wasn't shy about it, as on several occasions came right up to my feet, on the waters edge.








In the end Dawn, Yogi and I had a really nice day, a lovely walk, some questionable food but were thrilled to see such a great gull up close and personal.

05/02/2017 Fylde, Lancashire

White-fronted Geese: Today myself and Patrick embarked upon a proper wild goose chase, and chase we did!

We were hoping to see the long staying Snow Goose and Red-breasted Goose that has been frequenting the fields around Nateby and Pilling.

Unfortunately we didn't see our target geese, not helped by the fact that no information was put out on the news service until 12.48, stating that the Red-breasted Goose had been seen at 09.00 in a nearby field. By which time it had long gone!

I took solace in the fact it was a stunning day, if a little cold and we got some cracking views of some really nice White Fronts.








We had a total of six white fronts in a field and several hundred pink-feet in the surrounding fields, however it was stated that there are less now then there had been.
Pink-footed Geese: We chased flocks of geese all over this area and kept checking the fields that both birds are known to have been in. For example the Snow Goose favors the field next to the entrance of Woodlands Country Park and we kept a close eye on this field.
Greylag Goose: Although there was no sign of the Snow Goose, which is probably an escapee anyway there were plenty of Greylag, one with a neck ring 'PZT'.

Black Redstart: It was also good to catch up with the long staying Black Redstart that has taken up residence in one of the most popular wintering Black Redstarts sites, at Knott End, Pilling.







Not to worry as I'm sure the Red-breasted Goose is still in the area and the Snow Goose was reported back in its favored field so tomorrow I will make the most of the sunshine and head out again on another wild goose chase.

23/01/2017 River Witham, Woodhall Spa, Lincs

White-billed Diver: What a day and what a superb bird. First let talk about the fog, yes the fog, this is now my third recent twitch hampered by fog. First it was the Dusky Thrush at Beeley then the Blue Rock Thrush at Stow and now this WBD.

When I arrived it was clear crisp day, but when I actually relocated the bird the fog drifted in and it was a white out!



The bird was ranging from right up to Kirkstead Bridge to about 5 miles North of on the River Witham. This is a relatively narrow river, so your guaranteed crippling views wherever the bird is found.


I remember when I used to kockabout with some young guys who they invited me on a twitch down to Devon to see a WBD in Brixham Harbour. At the time I turned this offer down and since then I thought I would only ever see a WBD at some distance in Scotland and never thought I would get such good views.

Here is one of my images I took through the fog before it thankfully it cleared up!

In the fog you couldn't really get to see how big and imposing this bird is, with it's sword like bill it is simply magnificent.