Conwy, Tuesday 23 September 2014

Fifteen members met at Conwy RSPB Reserve at 10.00 a.m. for our first mid-week meeting of the season.  The weather was dry but misty with showers by late afternoon.

The high tide around 11.30 a.m. flooded the estuary and pushed all the birds onto the reserve, giving very high counts of common waders.  Careful watching also picked out Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper and Greenshank amongst the Dunlin.  Five Red-breasted Merganser joined the duck together with Herons, Little Egrets and a Little Grebe with young.

After lunch we headed to Aberogwen and The Spinnies, here the tide was out but we had four Goosander on the river.  Several woodland birds came on the feeders boosting our total to 45 species.

Harold Fielding

Mere Sands and Martin Mere, Tuesday 14 October 2014

Eleven members met at the Lancashire Wildlife Trust Reserve at 10.00 a.m.  The reserve, a good mix of woodland and wetland provided the usual range of birds, with Tree Sparrows, Long-tailed Tits and Nuthatch on feeders and a good selection of duck on the lake.

Working parties on the reserve ensured we didn't see the hoped for Kingfisher but we did see a Water Rail.

Three more members were waiting at Martin Mere.  The big event was the 25,000 Pink-footed Geese, with the number still building.  The first Whooper Swans had arrived, with around 100 feeding on potatoes and small flocks moving on and off the reserve.

The pool edges proved attractive to waders with Ruff and Snipe showing well amongst the Lapwings.  Buzzard and Kestrel were on the reserve together with a wing-tagged male March Harrier from Norfolk, giving excellent views.

A good days birding with a total of 55 species recorded.

Harold Fielding

Anglesey, Sunday 11 October 2014

Six members enjoyed a warm, sunny day on a trip to Anglesey.  The day was spent looking for rarities but sadly we missed out on them all but ended up with 57 species for the day.  We started at Cemlyn where the highlights included Gannet, Shag, Little Egret, Stonechat, Rock Pipit, Raven, Chough, Linnet, Wheatear, Turnstone, Golden Plover and Greenshank.

We moved on the Breakwater Country Park for lunch followed by a circular walk and highlights her included a number of Common Bussard enjoying the warm thermals around Holyhead Mountain, further better views of Chough plus Little Owl and a flyover Peregrine.

Our next destination was Valley Lakes RSPB reserve where the good wildfowl numbers included Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler plus Little and Great Crested Grebe.

Our final port of call was Maltraeth Marsh RSPB reserve, a new location for MCOS trips.  The highlight here was a single Kingfisher flying down the river Cefni.

The warm sunshine brought out a few butterfly species including Comma, Small Copper, Meadow Brown and Peacock.  The 'rarities' we looked for and missed were Short-toed Lark at Cemlyn (present for a few days and seen 10 minutes before we arrived at the field), a Yellow Browed Warbler found in the morning at the country Park and a Glossy Ibis that had been present for a few days at Maltraeth Marsh.  Better luck next time!

Ray Evans

Point of Ayr, Tuesday 11 November 2014

Seventeen members braved an uncertain weather forecast and met at Talacre at 10.00 a.m. and were well rewarded.

Initially, we explored the scrub and sand dunes and failed to find any migrants but did tick Raven and Stonechat.  We then walked along the embankment to reach the new RSPB hide as the incoming tide pushed the waders and duck towards us.  The flocks of Knot, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Black-tailed and bar-tailed Godwits were spectacular, whilst a good selection of duck came in on the tide, including two Brent Geese and a single Merganser.

Our total of 42 species also included a Greenshank, Merlin and Buzzard.

Harold Fielding

Leighton Moss, Sunday 16 November 2014

Fourteen members turned up for the meeting.  We recorded 64 species.  Highlights were: excellent views of Bittern from the Public hide, Bearded Tit from the Causeway grit trays, Otter swimming in open water from the Lower hide, Great White Egret from the Eric Morecambe hide.  Other species of note: Spotted Redshank, Kingfisher, Golden and Grey Plover, Marsh Tit and Marsh Harrier.

Graham Haspey

Crosby Marina & Marshside, Sunday 14 December 2014

Six members met at Crosby Marina in the dull grey light with the highlight on the marina being a winter plumaged Long-tailed Duck.  A selection of gulls were also present with Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Heron to name but a few.  We continued on foot towards Seaforth where we looked though the fence and had views of Goldeneye, Pochard, Teal plus a fox eating some unfortunate creature.

By now, the rain had set in and we headed for Marshside and the hides where we had lunch.  We had the hides to ourselves as everyone seemed to be Christmas shopping or knew something we didn't.  A Ross's Goose and two Barnacle Geese of unknown origin were present.  A number of Pink-footed Geese and Graylags were also there.  A flock of Golden Plover were very nervous and continually put birds into the air.  Two raptors were seen on the reserve, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.  The Pintails were in spectacular plumage.

Paul Kenyon

Pennington Flash, Tuesday 13 January 2015

Despite a poor weather forecast and a cold wind, 7 members gathered at 10.00 a.m. on the Reserve car park.

At the Bunting Hide feeding station, which always produces a good list of birds, we had Willow Tit, Bullfinch (up to 8), Greenfinch, a flock of Reed Buntings, several Stock Doves visited and a single Water Rail fed briefly with the Moorhens.

The pools and lake held a good selection of water birds, including a total of 30 Goosander, 30+ Gadwall and two pair of displaying Goldeneye.  However, the high water levels restricted the waders to a flock of around 50 Lapwing.

Our final count totalled 41 species, a good start for our 2015 bird lists.

Harold Fielding

N Wales, Sunday 11 January 2015

Thirteen members enjoyed the first trip of 2015 to N Wales.  We all met at Llanfairfechan promenade and immediately proceeded to Foryd Bay a tidal bay south west of Caernarfon.  Skirting the minor road to the west of the castle at Caernarfon brought us to the Menai Straits and eventually the northern end of Foryd Bay.  We mad a few stops along the bay and highlights included up t 6 Great Norther Dives with some them very close inshore, a block of Brent Geese that over-winter in the bay, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit together on the foreshore, Little Egret, Rock Pilot and sizeable flocks of Wigeon and Pintail.

After a couple of hours we travelled back to the Spinnies nature reserve at Aberogwen.  Highlights here included sizeable numbers of Great Crested Grebe and displaying Goldeneye, a female Eider Duck, 4 Greenshank and a roosting Peregrine.

We then returned to Llanfairfechan for our lunch.  Highlights here included further, more distant views of Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Black Guillemot plus Dipper and Grey Wagtail in the stream.

We then proceeded to Old Colwyn to view the Scoter flock in the bay which was a few thousand strong but we only managed Common Scoter and were unable to find any Velvet or the over-wintering Surf Scoters,

Our final destination was a small working sand quarry between Afonwen and Bodfari on the A541 Mold-Denbigh road.  However, we failed to find the reported over-wintering Black-necked Grebe or Mandarin Duck and added only Tufted Duck and Coot to our list for the day.

We managed 49 species on a cold, very blustery day with poor light.

Ray Evans

SW Scotland, Friday-Sunday 6-8 February 2015

Over the weekend 16 members enjoyed a weekend's birding S.W. Scotland.  We stayed at The Bruce Hotel in Newton Stewart and were well looked after.

We met on Friday lunchtime at RSPB Mersehead on the Solway in fine weather and highlights here included hundreds of Barnacle Geese, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, female Hen Harrier, a large mixed flock of Skylarks, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting and the first of our drake Green-winged Teal.  After a late lunch, we travelled a short distance back east along the coast to Southerness where the highlights among the waders were a single Purple Sandpiper, Knot, Turnstone, Golden and Grey Plover, a skein of Pint-footed Geese flew over and a Harbour Porpoise in the Solway entertained us for a while.  We then proceeded to Newton Stewart to check in to our hotel and enjoyed an excellent evening meal.

After a sumptuous Scottish breakfast on the Saturday we drove to Wigtown for a short walk along the marshes and highlights included a large flock of Pink-footed Geese, Snipe and Rock Pipit.  We then proceeded towards Stranraer and birded a few different points around Loch Ryan.  The weather was sunny but with a keen wind.  Highlights included both Red-throated and Black-throated Divers, Black Guillemot, Eider, Scaup Wigeon, Goldeneye, Hooded Crow, Brent Geese, Slavonian Grebe, Common Scoter and a very confiding  Twite.  We then travelled south of Stranraer to Sandhead and Luce Bay where we saw another distant Slavonian Grebe together with more Scaup, Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser.  The final destination for the day was West Freugh where the highlights were Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Raven.

We woke up Sunday morning to thick fog and after another filling breakfast and schecking out, we set off east towards RSPB Ken-Dee.  Even though the fog lifted on the way, by the time we got to our destination we were enveloped again.  This fog remained with us the rest of the day and hampered our birding slightly.  On the minor road down to Ken-Dee we saw numerous Red Kite and a Dipper and a walk at the reserve yielded a few woodland birds including Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.  We saw a few Canad and Greylag Geese but were unable to see the majority of the geese because of the fog.  A short stop at Calingwark Loch in Castle Douglas didn't give us any new birds and we carried on to Caerlaverock WWT reserve on the Solway.  Highlights here included Whooper Swan, another drake Green-winged Teal, Treecreeper, Yellowhammer and a Water Rail.

We ended up with a list of 105 species and everyone, despite the fog on Sunday, enjoyed an excellent weekend's birding.

Ray Evans

Burton Mere Wetlands, Tuesday 17 February 2015

Twelve members met at the RSPB reserve visitor's centre in bright, breezy weather.

Views across from the centre included the expected duck, geese and waders - highlights being a Water Rail being chased across open ground by a Moorhen and a single Greenshank.

The next hide had excellent views of several Stonechats.

From here we took the recently opened path to the old Inner Marsh Farm Hide.  There was no sign of the Long-eared Owl reported to be roosting near the hide.

Finally, we visited Burton Point, a newly opened area across the railway line, with panoramic views over the Dee Estuary.

Our total bird count was 45.

Harold Fielding

World's End & Clocaenog, Sunday 15 March 2015

Seven members turned up at World's End despite it being Mothering Sunday and a very cold misty one at that.  Travelling over the moor we came across a lek of 9 Black grouse as we headed to our meeting point.  The purpose of the day's visit was to see moorland and woodland birds as it was too early for migrants.

The area where the car park used to be was awash with Redpolls and Siskins with a large flock of Chaffinches too.  We then followed the path across the moor where the Dartford Warbler used to reside and came across another lek of Black Grouse and also a couple of Red Grouse.  All the time there were calls from Ravens who are early breeders and many juveniles were flying.

We then walked along the Offa's Dyke path in search of an elusive Great Grey Shrike which proved even more elusive but we did see Stonechats and a female Hen Harrier.

We then headed to Clocaenog and the picnic area at Bod Petrual but before leaving the moor we found a male Wheatear.  Lunch was taken whilst watching Crossbills feeding young.  Goldcrests were abundant as were Siskins and Nuthatches and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker were also seen.  We then headed for an area where Goshawk has been seen but alas no luck.  A low species count but quality not quantity.

Paul Kenyon

Thurstaston & Parkgate, Tuesday 17 March 2015

Sixteen members met at the Wirral Country Park Centre on a cold gloomy day.  A brief visit to the public hide gave us a 'woodland bird start', including a pair of Bullfinches.

Down on the beach in poor visibility, we had excellent views of 2 large flocks of Knot and a small flock of Dunlin being pursued by a Peregrine.

We returned along the Wirral Way with no sign of early migrants.

On to Parkgate with good views of 2 ring-tailed Hen Harriers over the misty marsh and a Peregrine and Merlin way out in the mist.

Despite the poor tide and bad visibility we still logged 40 species.

Harold Fielding

Llanfairfechan and North Wales Coast, Tuesday 14 April 2015

Eleven members met at the beach car park.  The weather was colder than back in Cheshire, with a biting cold wind.  With the tide well out a flock of Sandwich Terns fed on the tide line, with distant views of other waders and gulls.

As we walked along the coast to Morfa Madryn, newly arrived swallows struggled in the wind.  From the shelter of the hides we picked up more birds including Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Oyster Catcher and nesting Lapwing.  A single Goosander was on the far lagoon.

A drive to the Spinnies at Aber Ogwen proved to be more sheltered, with woodland birds on the feeders.  The estuary held a few Egrets and a pair of Goosander but few waders.

In all we saw 42 species and despite the wind we enjoyed the backdrop of the Carneddaus.

Harold & Valerie Fielding

RSPB Ynyshir, Sunday 26 April 2015

Seven members enjoyed a day trip the RSPB reserve at Ynyshir, south of Machynileth.  The weather was fine but with a slight breeze.

On the journey there, over Llandegla Moors, we picked up Red Grouse and Red-legged Partridge.

At Ynyshir, we picked up a few migrants including Pied Flycathcer, Restart, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, House and Sand Martin and we heard Grasshopper Warbler.  Sadly, there were no Wood Warblers around although one had been reported but not confirmed the week before.  We saw a few common woodland birds in Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit and down at the estuary hides, birds included Common Sandpiper, Brent Goose, Little Egret and Stonechat.  Raptors included Common Buzzard, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk.

On the journey home we called at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve (Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust) where from a splendid new 'hide' we saw the resident female Osprey on the nest.  Cuckoo was heard and at the feeding station near the visitor centre we saw Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Greenfinch.

We managed 62 species on a very enjoyable day in Mid-Wales.

Ray Evans

Loggerheads & Cilcaen, Tuesday 12 May 2015

Eleven of us gathered on the windy car park at 10.00 a.m. for this visit to North Wales.  A walk along the River Alyn gave good views of Grey Wagtails and Dipper but few other birds in the windy conditions.  However, Derek was kept busy as we looked for flowers as well as birds.

Our route back to the car park gave excellent views of the Clwyd Hills across the valley.

After lunch we drove to Cilcain, parking at the water works.  As we began our walk towards Moel Famau we had a surprise encounter with a badger in full view in an open field across the stream.  Continuing up the track past the reservoirs gave us Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Meadow Pipit, with a Cuckoo calling from the windy hillside.

Although our bird list was only 25 species we enjoyed the scenery, the flowers and the company.

Harold & Valerie Fielding

Blacktoft Sands & Fairburn Ings, Sunday 17 May 2015

Ten members visited Blacktoft Sands and Fairburn Ings.  Shortly after arriving at Blacktoft, whilst looking out across the reed bed from the reception centre, the group were treated to exceptional views of a male Montagu's Harrier.  The reserve warden commented that these were probably the best views he had seen of this bird since its arrival.

From the hides further views of the male, together with the female Montagu's Harrier were seen.  There were also fairly continuous sightings of male and female Marsh Harrier, some hunting wile others were seen to be carrying nesting materials.  Good numbers of breeding Avocets were present with young chicks seen venturing out into the  open.

Wildfowl present included: Mallard, gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Shelduck, Greylag and Canada Goose.  Views of singing Blackcap, Sedge and Cetti's Warbler were limited due to the cold and windy conditions.  Waders were few in number with only Ringed and Little Ringed Plover noted.

After leaving Blacktoft Sands the group moved on the Fairburn Ings where Spoonbill, Ruddy Shelduck and Ruddy Duck were the main birds of note.

Surprisingly, only one Whitethroat and one Common Tern were seen during the day.  The days total of species seen was 51.

Graham Haspey

Dorset, Thursday - Sunday 11-14 May 2015

Sixteen members enjoyed a weekends birding in Dorset.

We met on Thursday morning just before lunch at Ham Wall RSPB reserve on the Somerset Levels and highlights either side of lunch there included long flight views of Bittern, Great White and Little Egret, Marsh Harrier and Hobby.  We then proceeded  to Swanage and after checking in at the guesthouse, went out for our evening meal.  After eating we drove to Studland where we heard two or three Nightjar churring but no sightings.

On Friday, after a hearty breakfast, the group travelled up to the New Forest where our first port of call was Acres Down.  The weather  was warm but overcast and highlights included Woodlark, Linnet, Stonechat and Tree Pipit.  Lunch was taken here and we then moved on to Boldenwood where the best birds were Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and Common Buzzard plus a herd of Fallow Deer.  Our last destination was Eyeworth Pond near Fritham and highlights here were Nuthatch , Redstart, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Mandarin Duck.  It started to rain steadily and a decision was made to have an early evening meal at a local hostelry.  The rains was still falling after our meal and we had a good hours drive back to Swanage.

On Saturday, after another excellent breakfast, we travelled the brief distance to Durlston Country Park on the outskirts of Swanage.  The weather was fine but with a strong onshore breeze. Highlights included Gannet, Fulmar, Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Shag and Rock Pipit and we also found some Bee Orchids.  We drove the short distance to Arne RSPB reserve at the other end of Purbeck, had our lunch, and then did a circular walk on Coombe Heath down to Middlebeare Lake where we had excellent views of Dartford Warbler carrying food to a nest, two Spoonbills in the channel along with Little Egret, Linnet and Stonechat plus Sika Deer.  We had a short refreshment break and then walked the other half of the reserve down towards Shipstal Point where highlights were Green Woodpecker, Mediterranean Gull, Redshank, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit and Hobby.  After our evening meal, a few of us returned to Arne where we successfully saw the Barn Owl and Tawny Owl.

After another great breakfast on the Sunday, we said our goodbyes to the hotel and travelled to Weymouth and on to Portland Bill where we spent the first part of the morning.  Highlights here included Peregrine, Kestel and more seabirds including auks and Fulmar plus a Marbled White butterfly.  On the way back to Weymouth we stopped at Ferrybridge and had flight views of Little Tern in extreme heat haze conditions.  Our last destination was Radipole RSPB reserve in Weymouth and highlights included Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Common Tern, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting.  The rarest species of the weekend was seen here where a group of entomologists were surveying an area for a rare spider, the Wicken Fen Vanishing spider.  This spider had not been seen for about a 100 years until one was found in the last couple of years at Radipole and they found 6 that afternoon very close to one of the paths.

We ended with 92 species and all agreed that it had been a great weekend's birding.

Photos courtesy of Simon Smith and Graham Haspey.

Ray Evans
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