Friday, 18 May 2018

White-winged Black Tern, Budworth Mere (Marbury Country Park) 18th May 2018

An adult summer plumaged White-winged Black Tern was reported from Neumann's Flash this morning, but had disappeared by lunch time. However, the bird reappeared not too far away at Marbury Country Park on Budworth Mere a short while later. This is the nineteenth record for Cheshire & Wirral.

I made my way over to Marbury, arriving mid-afternoon. I met one other birder on the walk from the car park to Budworth Mere. We both made our way along the path eastwards & soon picked out the White-winged Black Tern perched on part of the fence running down into the water on the northern bank about half way along at Kid Brook Spit. The bird stayed there for a while before setting off feeding to & fro in typical marsh tern fashion, giving myself & two other observers a real thrill as the black & white plumage flashed in the sunlight. We all watched for a while as the White-winged Black Tern repeated this behaviour several times; returning to the fence for a rest before setting off again on a few circuits of the mere. A new Cheshire & Wirral bird for me.

Previous records:
1971 Frodsham, adult summer, 27th May (E. J. & R. J. Abraham, D. Woodward). New Brighton, adult winter, 30th August (F. H. Linn).
1973 Weaver Bend, 23rd to 25th June (E. J. & R. J. Abraham, D. Woodward).
1974 Elton Hall Flash & Railway Flash, Sandbach, 30th June (P. F. Atherton, J. P. Guest).
1979 Frodsham, juvenile, 16th to 19th September (M. Barlow, A. Guilfoyle, S. W. Holmes).
1980 Bebington, juvenile, 17th September (M. A. & T. C. Roberts).
1981 Frodsham, juvenile, 13th to 14th August (C. Murphy, R. Harrison, M. Wotham).
1982 Hilbre, juvenile, 2nd to 3rd October (D. R. Coan, C. M. Poole, S. A. Stirrup). Frodsham, juvenile, 2nd to 8th October (C. A. Darbyshire, N. Tasker).
1986 Woolston Eyes, adult, 13th July (P. Antrobus, I. Clark).
1992 Neumann’s Flash, second-summer, 8th May (P. E. Kenyon).
1993 Inner Marsh Farm, adult, 20th to 21st July (N. Friswell, C. Wells). Neumann’s Flash, Pickmere & Budworth Mere, juvenile, 7th to 10th September (J. Gregory, P. E. Kenyon, D. M. Walters).
2000 Frodsham, 21st May (R. Cockbain).
2003 Hilbre, adult, 9th July (N. & N. Dixon); same, 13th July (G. Broad); same as, Hoylake, 13th July (J. E. Turner).
2006 Neumann’s Flash, moulting adult, 9th August (P. Antrobus).
2010 Inner Mash Farm, juvenile, 14th to 18th October (C. E. Wells).
2016 Burton Mere Wetlands, 17th June.

An Eastern Subalpine Warbler appeared at Flamborough Head in Yorkshire on Wednesday 16th May 2018. Although a subspecies it was still worth the effort of driving over there yesterday for a new bird. I arrived on site mid-afternoon with the bird having not been seen for just about the entire time I'd taken to drive there. There were about half a dozen birders present. We all waited patiently for a couple of hours until one chap found the bird about 75yds beyond Old Fall Plantation in Old Fall Hedge. Unfortunately, no one else managed to see the bird. A short while later I saw a movement deep in the hedge about 50yds beyond the wood & managed to briefly see the small red bib, moustachial stripes & white underparts as the Eastern Subalpine Warbler looked straight at me. Although I called the others, I stayed on the bird, but had lost it before the others arrived. I think a couple of them did manage brief views a few moments later further along the hedge, but I had no further views. Two Bonxies & quite a few Gannets passed by offshore whilst we waited for the warbler to show. A male Yellowhammer on the walk back to the car was very pleasant.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler at Flamborough photo by Tony Dixon

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Ring-necked Duck, Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB 10th May 2018

Cheshire & Wirral's eighteenth record of Ring-necked Duck was found by Ivan Clarke at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB on the Bridge Pool last Thursday afternoon.

I made my way over to BMW for my second evening visit in recent weeks. Upon arrival the bird showed well in the centre of the pool. However, by the time I'd got fully set up it had drifted to the right in poorer light conditions, in pursuit of a female Tufted Duck to which it subsequently started displaying. Eventually, the drake Ring-necked Duck came back around the island into the centre of the pool again, giving pretty good views, although it was diving frequently & spending little time on the surface. Quick action payed off with my first Ring-necked Duck for Cheshire & Wirral. It had gone the next day. Highlights of a leisurely walk back along the boardwalk were, a short blast from a Cetti's Warbler in a bush right next to me the other side of the boardwalk screen & two Swifts wizzing over, my first of the year.

Previous records:
1978 Rode Pool, male, 1st to 7th May (D. Allen, M. Arrowsmith).
1980 Billinge Flashes, male, 1st to 8th June; presumed same, 27th August (J. P. Guest).
1983 Frodsham, male, 30th October to 24th December (D. Wheeldon, M. R. Whiteside).
1984 Woolston Eyes, male, 26th May to 16th September (B. Martin, R. Taylor), presumed same as 1983.
1985 Woolston Eyes, male, 25th June to 30th July (R. D. Riley), presumed same as 1984; presumed same, Frodsham, male, 22nd to at least 24th August (M. S. Garner).
1986 Woolston Eyes, male, 14th June to 9th August (G. Baker, S. Kennedy, D. Riley), presumed same as 1985.
1991 Woolston Eyes, male, 5th to 8th February (J. Walsh); same, Rostherne Mere, 9th, Chorlton, 16th to 14th March (per A. M. Broome).
1994 Woolston Eyes, adult male, 10th to 12th June (D. Riley, S. Kennedy).
1996 River Dee south of Eccleston, first-winter male, 10th November (C. Jackson).
2001 Marbury CP, male, 10th to 11th April (D. Wild, P. Brewster).
2005 Wigg Island near Runcorn, adult male, 2nd April to 21st April (F. Duff, W. S. Morton); same, Astmoor, 17th April & 1st May.
2009 Astbury Mere near Congleton, adult male, 1st November (J. Spottiswood).
2011 Woolston Eyes, adult male, 21st to 23rd April (M. Baron).
2012 Frodsham, No. 6 Tank, male, 4th to 6th June (F. Duff, W. S. Morton).
2014 Neumann’s Flash, male, 15th May (P. Antrobus).

There's been a few good local birds recently.

As previously mentioned, I'd visited BMW a couple of weeks earlier on the evening of Friday 20th April to see & hear a singing Wood Warbler located at the start of the Woodland Trail, next to the car park. I'd missed the one at Leasowe the previous Sunday, so was keen to see my first for Cheshire & Wirral. It took a while to get adequate views since the bird wasn't always singing & tended to stay in the upper storey, only venturing lower a couple of times as it moved around its circuit. The Wood Warbler stayed for a week & was last reported on Thursday 26th April.

Whilst at BMW I took the opportunity to go in search of another first for Cheshire & Wirral for me. Cetti's Warbler. I've seen many Cetti's Warblers but for some unfathomable reason never locally. They're one of my favourite birds. Incredible song & skulking behaviour, allied to subtle tones of rich brown in the plumage are some of the reasons I like them so much. I expected to hear the loud, strident song somewhere along the boardwalk on the way to IMF, but I didn't. However, half way down the path to IMF I heard the unmistakable song almost right next to me in dense scrub. It took a while, but eventually the Cetti's Warbler popped out giving brilliant views.

Cheshire & Wirral's third record of Iberian Chiffchaff was found by John Gilbody at Thustaston on Tuesday 1st May 2018.

At first it was only a probable, as these birds often are until the song is confirmed as the full monty, which it was during the next couple of days. I headed over to Thustaston on 3rd May. After finding the directions rather confusing & having wandered around Thurstaston Hill for a while, a quick phone call pointed me in the right direction. I could hear the Iberian Chiffchaff as I approached the clearing half way between the end of School Lane & Benty Farm. The bird performed constantly, singing loudly & frequently as it made its way around a circuit of the clearing. The bird is still present at time of post.

Iberian Chiffchaff at Thurstaston photo by Elliot Monteith

Iberian Chiffchaff, Thurstaston, Cheshire from Colin Davies on Vimeo.

Previous records:
2004 Dibbinsdale, male in song, 29th April to 20th May (P. Brewster, P. S. Woollen).
2017 Kelsall, male in song, 30th May to 28th June (L. Ozsanlav-Harris).

The next day, Friday 4th May 2018, a second Wood Warbler of the Spring was found at Leasowe by Allan Conlin, along the start of the Nature Trail before reaching the pond. I headed over there & after a bit of searching the Wood Warbler was relocated & gave excellent views as it foraged, although not singing whilst I was there.

Wood Warbler at Leasowe photo by Graham Connolly

Thursday, 15 March 2018

BBC World Hacks - The Bird Rescuers

BBC WORLD HACKS - THE BIRD RESCUERS (96kbs-m4a/16mb/23mins)
BBC World Service broadcast: 13th March 2018

One of every five bird species could be extinct within the next century. Whether it’s down to the shiny glass office blocks materialising all over cities or the trawlers sailing ever-further out to sea to feed our growing population, our birds are seriously under threat.

This episode looks at two particular successes when it comes to helping the world’s feathered friends: how Toronto has become a world leader in making cities bird-friendly; and how a group of enterprising conservationists has almost eliminated the deaths of albatrosses as a result of deep-sea fishing.

Image: Pair of albatrosses on the nest
Credit: Shutterstock

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Desert Island Discs - Chris Packham

DESERT ISLAND DISCS - CHRIS PACKHAM (320kbs-m4a/40mb/43mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 18th October 2013

Kirsty Young's castaway is the naturalist, Chris Packham.

TV presenter, filmmaker, writer, photographer, every bit of his work revolves around wildlife. If he's not busy telling us why we should love midges he's enthusing about the hearing capacity of a barn owl. His passion for animals is clear, what they think of him remains a little more uncertain; he's been attacked by a baboon, charged by lions and bitten by a puff adder.

His obsession with the natural world began early when a predictable boyhood fascination for tadpoles and ladybirds grew to encompass mosquito larvae, lizards, snakes and bats. As a teenager he collected badger droppings by day and pogoed with electric blue hair at Clash gigs by night.

These days he distinguishes himself by his impressive knowledge of his subject and his outspoken views on everything from countryside culls to the problems with cat owners.

He says, "I'll never rest until I've tried to do my own small bit in terms of changing the environment so it's a better place. I won't do it for my grandchildren because I won't have any and I won't do it for yours. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do."

Producer: Cathy Drysdale.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Desert Island Discs - Eric Hosking

DESERT ISLAND DISCS - ERIC HOSKING (47kbs-m4a/3mb/9mins)
BBC Radio 4 broadcast: 4th June 1962

Roy Plomley's castaway is ornithologist Eric Hosking.

Favourite track: Nimrod by Edward Elgar
Book: Field guide to the island's birds
Luxury: Camera and film

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Iberian Chiffchaff, Kelsall 3rd June 2017

The second record of Iberian Chiffchaff for Cheshire & Wirral was found by local birder Luke Ozsanlav-Harris at Primrose Wood, Kelsall on Wednesday 31st May 2017. I made my way over to Kelsall this morning.

Upon arrival a couple of birders just about to leave informed me the Iberian Chiffchaff was located beyond the second, sharp bend. A short distance along the main path beyond the bend, a smaller path headed off to the left up a bank, just before a sign about forestry work being carried out. The path quickly opened out into a small glade where the bird was located. There were three other birders on site when I arrived & the Iberian Chiffchaff soon showed in the small Birch in the centre of the glade. It was too close for me to focus my bins on, so I edged back further up the hill.

The Iberian Chiffchaff moved about the whole area, circling round, but returned to the Birch several times, giving excellent views. Most of the time it was singing, although not always the full song, sometimes leaving out the final trill.

Video by Pete Hines.

Previous record:
2004 Dibbinsdale, male in song, 29th April to 20th May (P. Brewster, P. S. Woollen).

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Science In Action - Counting Birds From Space

BBC World Service broadcast: 5th May 2017

For the first time conservationists can monitor and count birds from space. Using the next-generation Earth observation satellites, scientists count Northern Royal Albatrosses on their breeding grounds on the remote Chatham Islands, off New Zealand. Many of these large, majestic seabirds are threatened, not least by long-line fishing. But they are rarely on land, and often nest in difficult to get to places. But because they’re big and white, high-resolution satellite images can spot them.

Insect Flight
With wings that flap up to 600 times per second, watching the precise movements of mosquitos in flight is impossible for the human eye. Somehow, these and other tiny insects are able to fly through the heavy turbulence of wind and rain. Research out this month has uncovered unexpected aerodynamic techniques that keep the miniscule creatures airborne, the understanding of which can aid the development of smaller and better drone technology. But how do you film a 4mm mosquito’s individual wing beats in slow motion?

Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Secrets
20 years ago the Cassini-Huygens mission set off to Saturn, the gas giant with its iconic rings. Since its arrival in 2004, Saturn, its moons and its rings have been revealing their secrets to NASA-ESA’s ‘Discovery Machine’ which bristles with instruments and scientific equipment. Among the main discoveries are ice-plumes erupting from the moon Enceladus, and the identification of rain, rivers, lakes and oceans on the Earth-like Titan. From its launch to its bitter-sweet grand finale, the Cassini-Huygens mission will have racked up a remarkable list of achievements.

Image: Bobbie Lakhera © BBC

Presenter: Bobbie Lakhera
Producer: Fiona Roberts