Cannock Chase, 23 April 2017
Ten members made the trip to Cannock Chase. We visited various sites on the Chase and saw 40 species during the day. The weather stayed kind to us all day and it was quite warm when there was no cloud cover.
Meeting at the Penkridge Bank car park we took a walk on the heathland there and highlights included numerous Tree Pipits with their song display, loads of Willow Warbler, a pair of Redstart, Yellowhammer, Jay, Goldcrest and Kestrel.
Moving to Seven Springs for lunch, we had good views of Chiffchaff and Blackcap near the car park together with Raven and Nuthatch.
We had a comfort stop at the Wolseley Centre, a Staffordshire Wildlife Trust reserve on the River Trent and a short walk gave us a very inland pair of Oystercatcher and a Grey Wagtail.
We then moved to White House car park where we had Green Woodpecker calling and saw Common Buzzard and Green Hairstreak butterflies. We were unable to find any Woodlark at any of the sites.
Our final destination was Freda’s Grave where the highlights were Stonechat, Linnet, a Green Woodpecker who made three fly-pasts, Cuckoo and Stock Dove.
The migrants were very few and far between, with the cold weather in April obviously putting a brake on many travelling north up the country.
Loggerheads CP, 25 April 2017
Ten members met at the car park. Our walk along the Leet gave good views of Grey Wagtail and Dipper. However, the general cold weather delayed most migrants with only a few Chiffchaff calling.
Looking down on the river valley gave us poor views of both Spotted and Pied Flycatcher.
Moving on to Cilcain we failed to find the usual Cuckoo with just a few Willow Warblers up by the reservoir.
Although the count was low (24 species) we enjoyed the Welsh countryside and the company and we were back home before the weather broke with a brief thunder storm.
Harold and Val Fielding
Aber Falls, 9 May 2017
Nine members gathered in the Forestry Commision car park.
Despite the recent low rainfall, the Water Fall was quite full. We saw 2 Ring Ouzel below the scree and other sightings included Cuckoo, Redstart, Raven and Green Woodpecker.
We finished the day at Conwy RSPB Reserve for a quick cup of tea. It was an excellent day out with beautiful weather and scenery.
The day total sightings were 24 species at Abba Falls and 5 more at Conwy.
Harold and Val Fielding
Somerset, 18-21 May 2017
Eighteen members enjoyed a weekend’s birding in Somerset. This was only our second visit as a group to this area and as last time we stayed at The Winston Manor in Churchill, south of Bristol, and were well looked after by Andrew & Jane.
We met late Thursday morning at New Fancy Viewpoint in the Forest of Dean and highlights here included Raven, Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Blackcap and Siskin. We made our way down the road a few miles to RSPB Nagshead, where we had our lunch and then spent a couple of hours at the reserve where the highlights were Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Jay and a couple of male Pied Flycatchers carrying food to nest boxes. We then made our way back to the motorway to travel south to Somerset and a late afternoon visit to Chew Valley Lake. There were hundreds of Swift over the south end of the reservoir at Herriott’s Bridge and other highlights included House & Sand Martin, an unseasonal pair of Goldeneye, Sparrowhawk, Barnacle Goose and Great Spotted Woodpecker. After checking in early evening at the hotel, we ate at a local hostelry.
After a hearty breakfast the group travelled down to the Levels to RSPB Ham Wall. This morning was probably the highlight of the whole weekend with stunning views of Hobby, Kingfisher, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, numerous flight views of Great White Egret, Bittern and Marsh Harrier, a drake Garganey and a flight view of Glossy Ibis. We returned to the car-park for a late lunch and after eating made our way across the road to Shapwick Heath NNR. On Meare Heath scrape we saw the Glossy Ibis again together with a group of Black-Tailed Godwits,some in summer colour, together with further views of Hobby, Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk plus Gadwall and Wigeon. On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at Cheddar Reservoir. This reservoir is very open and the wind was howling and the birds were few & far between but we saw a few Swallows & House Martins and picked up the third Sparrowhawk of our trip. We all had our evening meal again at some local pubs.
After another excellent breakfast on the Saturday we all made our way south to the new Wildfowl & Wetlands Reserve on the River Parrett at Steart. Highlights here included Wheatear, Short-Eared Owl, Stock Dove, breeding Avocet and Little Ringed Plover, Yellow Wagtail, Kestrel and Peregrine. After lunch we moved on to RSPB Greylake where we had further views of Great White Egret, Hobby, Marsh Harrier plus Reed Warbler, Redshank and Common Buzzard. Our final port of call for Saturday was the Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve at Catcott Lows where the highlights were drake Garganey & Wigeon, Whitethroat and Marsh Harrier.
After yet another excellent breakfast on Sunday and saying our goodbyes to our hosts we returned to RSPB Ham Wall. Highlights of the morning included Marsh Harrier, Jay, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Cetti’s Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Hobby, Garden Warbler and Garganey and a new bird for the trip, a day-hunting Barn Owl. There were loads of Damselflies and Chasers on the wing when we took a walk around one of the pools. After a late lunch we returned to Shapwick Heath where we saw yet another Sparrowhawk, Great White Egret, Hobby and 2 Cuckoos.
We ended up with 94 species over the weekend. The weather was pretty good most of the time, our accommodation was excellent and everyone enjoyed their weekend’s birding together with good company.
RSPB Old Moor & Potteric Carr YWT, 11 June 2017The final trip of the season saw 11 members make the trip to RSPB Old Moor. We spent a long morning walking around most of the reserve and highlights included Bullfinch, Bittern, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Sand & House Martin, Swift, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet, Gadwall, Pochard, Shoveler plus a flyover Hobby
After lunch we drove the short distance to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Potteric Carr near Doncaster. Highlights here included Little Egret, Blackcap, summer plumaged Black-Necked Grebe, Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier and another Hobby.
The weather stayed fine and we ended the day on the verandah at the reserve, some with coffee & cake and others with ice creams. The tally for the day was 55 species.
Anglesey, 15th October 2017
The first weekend trip of the new season saw 6 members make the trip to Anglesey. We met at Cemlyn Bay where the highlights were Shag, Razorbill, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, an early Goldeneye and Rock Pipit. We stayed here for a short time before moving to the Inland Sea at Four Mile Bridge where highlights included Wigeon, Redwing, Red Breasted Merganser and a single Red Necked Grebe.
We then moved on to the Range, a coastal, cliff-top heathland south of South Stack where we saw Raven, Stonechat and the highlight a juvenile Dotterel. After lunch we headed to South Stack where the only bird of note in fairly windy conditions was a Chough.
We travelled to Soldier’s Point on the edge of the Breakwater Country Park in Holyhead where we saw the undoubted star bird of the day in a juvenile Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike. After everybody had their fill of this rarity we travelled to Penrhos NR where the highlights were a group of Pale-Bellied Brent Geese, Dunlin, Curlew and Bar-Tailed Godwit.
Our final destination was Malltraeth Marsh RSPB reserve near Holland Arms where we saw among other things Common Buzzard, Shoveler, Snipe and Black Tailed Godwit.
The weather stayed fine all day except for the high winds at South Stack. The tally for the day was 54 species.
Marshside, Southport and Martin Mere, 17th October 2017
After a battering from the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia on the Monday, the forecasts showed that the worst of it would be over by our planned trip on Tuesday. 11 members met at the Sandwashing plant car park at Southport and walked to the Sandgrounders hide which was warm and comfortable to look over the marsh. We got close up views of Black Tailed Godwit and lots of duck! (Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Wigeon). We had a very windy walk to Nel's hide but were rewarded by distant views of 5 Cattle Egret and a Little Stint.
We drove to Martin Mere for lunch and met up with the Aldridges. Andrew had counted the Pink footed Geese and confirmed the count at 17,000. An amazing sight, the Goose air traffic control had a hard job to avoid collisions as they whiffled down to land!! Only 2 Whoopers were seen, we thought that these 2 may have decided not to migrate due to injury. Species count for the day was 43.
Leighton Moss RSPB, 12th November 2017
Eight MCOS members turned up for a cold but sunny visit. The group moved off to the causeway where the grit trays were located for Bearded Tit. Unfortunately no birds were seen by the group but there had been good sightings earlier in the morning. Moving on to the Public hide large numbers of wild fowl were present, these included Pintail, Gadwell, Shoveller and Goldeneye. Star birds from this hide were three Cattle Egrets. On the walk down to the Lower hide there were excellent views of Marsh tit while Siskin, Bull Finch and Tree Creeper were also present. When walking back to the car park for Lunch, a Merlin flew overhead which brought the raptor species count to four.
After lunch, on the way to the Tim Jackson hide, a Water Rail dashed across the path and quickly disappeared into the reed bed. From the hide the 'bird of the day' was seen. A single Jack Snipe was showing very well and constantly demonstrated its diagnostic 'bobbing' movement.
Before moving on to the Morecambe hides Great White Egret and Little Egret were seen. From the path to the Allen hide a large flock of finches were seen feeding along the hedgerows, included in the flock were four Brambling. From the hide large numbers of wild fowl were seen including, Pinkfeet Geese, and a Kingfisher was enjoying the afternoon sun while resting along the fence line. Species count for the day was 69.
Point of Ayr , Talacre 21st November 2017
Twelve members, including 4 new members, joined us for our visit to RSPB Point of Ayr. The walk was timed to coincide with a 8.4 m high tide at 12:34 so that the waders would be pushed close to the hide and this worked well. There was a lot of wind whipping up the waves, but this didn't bother the birds! Fine sitings of a vast parcel of Oystercatchers, a herd of Curlew roosting on the saltmarsh, a flight of Cormorants, Pintail, both Godwits, Teal and Dunlin. Ian Bunker was very generous in letting us view through his scope. Back to the carpark for lunch and rewarded by a Peregrine flying above us. Off to a new reserve run by N.Wales Wildlife Trust - Big Pool Wood only 1 mile away behind a riding school and walked around the pool on a circular route through the woods. Not much seen, high winds, so this might be a better site in the Spring but very convenient for Talacre. Public loos at Talacre closed, so plan to use those at Abakhan, Mostyn ( by the big ship) next visit. 30 species total.
Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, 16th January 2018
Despite a varied forecast, we had a record 22 members join us at The Burton Mere Wetlands reserve, a new reserve for many. The visitor centre was warm and comfortable with a comforting log fire burning brightly and we saw plenty of teal, shoveler, little egret plus a Peregrine and Marsh Harrier. We walked to the Marsh Covert hide , released a trapped robin from inside the hide and saw lots of Curlew and Gadwall. Due to the high winds and windchill most didn't go as far as Burton Point, but returned via the ponds where we got Siskin. After eating our sandwiches in the visitor centre, some of us went to Parkgate Old Baths carpark where the cold and windchill made our stay short. Nevertheless we got Great White Egret, Kestrel and Hen Harrier. 42 species total.
North Wales, 21st January 2018
Elevenmembers enjoyed the first trip of 2018 to North Wales. We all met at Llanfairfechan promenade and highlights here included Dipper, both Great Northern and Red Throated Divers, Common Scoter, Eider and Bar-Tailed Godwit.
After a couple of hours we moved to the Spinnies nature reserve at Aberogwen. Highlights here included a good number of Goldeneye and Wigeon, Slavonian Grebe, a further two male Eider close to shore, Greenshank, Red Breasted Merganser, Peregrine, and a mixed flock woodland birds at the feeders including Nuthatch.
We left the Spinnies and went to RSPB Conwy where we had our lunch. It was quite breezy at Conwy with the southerly wind funnelling down the valley directly in to the reserve. Wildfowl highlights here included, Gadwall, Shoveler, Goosander, Pochard and a first winter male Scaup. Other birds of note were Stonechat, Siskin, Linnet and a Sparrowhawk.
It was a little more sheltered at Rhos Point and here we saw 4 Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Rock Pipit.
Our next port of call was Llanddulas where a Glaucous Gull was sitting obligingly on a post. Our last destination saw us at Pensarn looking offshore at the huge Scoter flock but we were unable to locate anything other than Common Scoter while a Sanderling was very close just over the sea wall. With the light fast diminishing we called it a day.
We managed a respectable 73 species on a cold January day.
Moore Nature Reserve, 13th Feb 2018
Eleven members turned out on a wet and rainy day to walk round Moore Nature Reserve which is very much under development threat from Peel Holdings who want to expand the Port adjoining the Ship Canal. Lots of Songthrushes on Dog Field. We covered Birchwood Pool and Pump House Pool in the morning and there were some good sightings. A male Goldeneye was displaying to two female Goldeneyes by throwing his head backwards and they both seemed interested! Val took us on a dodgy path at the back of Birch Wood, and immediately sighted a Kingfisher skimming low over Birchwood Pool from Fox Hide. It then perched for some time at the margins before disappearing and was our bird of the day. After our sandwiches, the remaining members walked round Lapwing Lake spotting many fine Wigeon, but on our walk back to the carpark we saw the Manchester Ship Canal bridge swinging preventing us from leaving. Sadly this proved to be a test as we hoped for the Queen Mary to sail by! We did get home! 30 species total.
Mid-Wales, 23rd - 25th February 2018
Eighteen members enjoyed a weekend’s birding in Mid-Wales. We stayed at the Marine Hotel in Aberystwyth and were looked after very well with excellent food and service.
We met on Friday morning at the Arch car-park near Devil’s Bridge but with the strong easterly wind howling decided to move down to Hafod car-park on the edge of Cwm Ystwyth. A few Red Kites had been seen along the way from the cars but here we saw our first ‘real’ ones when we took a walk down in to the valley, which was a little more sheltered. Further highlights here included Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song & Mistle Thrush. After lunch we drove down to Cors Caron and highlights here included Brambling, Nuthatch, Stonechat, Great White Egret, two over-wintering Green Sandpiper, Pintail, Little Egret, Goosander and Grey Wagtail. The cold weather put paid to our birding a little early and we all made our way to the hotel.
After an excellent breakfast on the Saturday morning we drove north to the village of Borth and to Ynyslas. The strong easterly wind on the exposed beach was biting and quite a few had to return to the cars within a few minutes. It also hampered the birding, but the highlights were Sanderling, Golden Plover, Red-Breasted Merganser and undoubtedly the bird of the
weekend, the long-staying female King Eider sitting on a sand bar at the mouth of the River Leri. In the afternoon we visited the Kite feeding station at Bwlch Nant yr Arian nr Ponterwyd, where we took lunch. The wind was still blowing quite strongly down the valley but the sun was out. An amazing number of Kites turned up to feed – well in excess of 200. We took a walk around the small lake but there were very few birds in the gusty wind. We had a warming brew in the visitor centre and then returned back to the hotel in Aberystwyth. After returning to Aberystwyth we took a walk along a sheltered, sunny promenade and picked up Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Rock Pipit, winter plumaged Red Throated Diver and completed the afternoon by watching the spectacle of thousands of Starlings coming in to roost under the Pier.
After another excellent breakfast, we said our goodbyes to the hotel and travelled up to Ynyshir RSPB reserve near Machynlleth. The feeders there were full of woodland birds including Greenfinch, Siskin and Great Spotted Woodpecker. A walk down to the Marian Mawr hide yielded Bullfinch, Wigeon, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Snipe and we then spent a little time at the Domen Las hide overlooking the river which was very productive with Goldeneye, Goosander, male and female Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Red Kite. After lunch back at the car-park, we had a walk through the woodland and highlights included Jay, Raven and a Woodcock for a few members of the group.
We ended up with 85 species over the weekend and although the weather was fine all the time the easterly wind was very cold and biting. We ended up with a list of good birds and everyone enjoyed their weekend’s birding. The two spectacles of the feeding Red Kite and the Starling murmuration at Aberystwyth will stay long in the minds.
The photographs are courtesy of Wendy Drake , Steve Barrett and Ian Barber