Glaucous Gull, Southport Beach – 2nd January 2012

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I spent myfirst day birding of the year at Southport beach with the intention ofphotographing the Gaucous Gull that has been reported from there for a whilenow. Reading on the internet and chatting to a few local birders suggested thatthe bird was ill but after catching up with it after a 2 hour search mythoughts are rather different. I’d been told it was very approachable and as Iwas able to get within 15m of the bird without causing it any due distress I’dagree which would maybe suggest there was a problem with the bird. As thephotographs show the bill is rather red suggesting it has recently fed andthere seemed to be no problem with it as it took to the air joining a throng ofother gulls as an ignorant dog walker flushed it TWICE!!  I wouldn’t mind but it was quite obvious thatabout 10 birders with a variety of scopes, binoculars and cameras were lookingat a large Gull that was on its own sat on the grass as she trundled throughflushing the Gull and not satisfied with that she let her dog off within metersof were the Gull had landed thus flushing it again! I don’t tar all dog walkerswith the same brush, most stayed away or even took an interest, and one coupleeven photographed it with their phone. Rant over.
 GLAUCOUS GULL - 2ND WINTER ACORDING TO MY HELM GUIDE
 BELOW TAKING FLIGHT FOR THE 2ND TIME
BELOW BLACK-HEADED GULL
Whilstsearching for the Glaucous I came across a single Sanderling which seemed tohave signs of oil on its underside. It didn’t seem to hinder the bird as it preened,fed and flew without any signs of a problem.
 ABOVE SANDERLING PREENING OIL PATCH, BELOW FEEDING
 
As I left alarge flock of Twite (some ringed) fed near to the Weld Road car park, I estimatednumbers of between 80 – 100 but have been corrected with a count of 122 byanother birder who was there at the time.
PART OF THE LARGE FLOCK OF TWITE FEDING NEAR THE CAR PARK

2 ticks and updates – 16th December 2011

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With 2 birds showing well in North Lancashire that I neededfor my life list I spent the first day of a long weekend off work in search ofthem. The first stop was Leighton Moss RSPB and it didn’t take long to find theGlossy Ibis feeding at the edge of a flooded field near to the car parkentrance of the Allens Hide. Scope views were good but only record shots wereobtainable as the autofocus kept picking up the branches when I tried photographingit through a nearby hedge.
 ABOVE & BELOW GLOSSY IBIS



Next stop was Heysham Docks were a small number of Twitewere feeding in the usual place. As I pulled up on the north side of theharbour. A quick scan along the edge as I walked up the entrance of the harbourbrought 2 juvenile Shag and a Turnstone on the walk back. I found the GlaucousGull at one of the outlets on the south side so views through the scope weregood but no chance of any photographs. These views were disrupted as a dredgerbegan work and I was unable to locate the bird for the remainder of my visit. 3Little Gulls were a nice addition as well as c30 Kittewake.

 JUVENILLE SHAG

 ABOVE & BELOW KITTEWAKE - NOT SURE OF AGES




Even though the blogs been quite I have managed to get outon a few occasions mainly to Crossens-out Marsh with the hope of getting some photosof the Short-eared Owls but though I saw them the weather conditions madephotography difficult. A tick with 4 European White-fronted Geese made thetrips worthwhile.
Local patch additions included Fieldfare, Redwing and on the17th December a flock of c20 Siskin which was a nice addition.Buzzard have been showing well recently with 2 giving good views again on themorning of the 17th. The disappointment has been the lack of thelocal Tawny Owl, it had been calling regularly up to a few weeks ago and I hadseen it several times at dusk and dawn but things have been quite of late.


Wall Farm Nature Reserve, Shropshire – 4th November 2011

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A call on Monday from Mike Foley prompted this trip down toWall Farm near to Telford. A Steppe Grey Shrike had been reported from there(firstly identified as a Great Grey) and Mike managed to get down on Tuesday andas my work didn’t take me anywhere near I managed to take Friday off and takethe 2 hour drive down to this small nature reserve. I must say I was a littleworried as first as my trips to Shrikes have mostly proved fruitless over theyears and as Bird Guides had reported the bird before 8.00 most of the week andit wasn’t until after 10.00 that it showed up on the report today. Afterparking up in the farmer’s field and dropping my £3.50 (all being donated tothe British Legion) in the bucket I took the 10 minute walk down to the edge ofthe ploughed field from where the bird could be viewed.  It was quite distant at first, approximately600m and though well out of range for photography it was easy to pick up withthe scope. For the first 2 and a half hours it stayed at the bottom end of thefield but stayed mainly in view occasionally dropping to the ground beforereturning to the hedgerow or to a high point on a bush or tree. Eventually itstarted to move closer and spent about half an hour around lunch time at about400m where I was able to obtain a few record shots. I must admit with these orany other photos I’ve seen I’d struggle to distinguish it from the Great GreyShrike and even looking in my reference books and the internet I’ve failed togain any real knowledge about this species, a copy of Shrikes of the world ison its way. After about 4 hours I decided to head home happy that I’d added theSteppe to my Shrike list having only seen Great Grey and Brown I’ve still got along way to go.
 Above the ploughed the Steppe Shrike could be viewed from, it didn't even make it down as far as the two large trees in the centre of the photograph.
 Above you can just make out the white wing pattern, much larger than on the Great Grey Shrike


Banks Marsh & Marshside RSPB – 22nd October 2011

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Another weekend trip up to the Ribble Estuary but this time my first visit to Banks Marsh where I met up with Nick Green. I didn't get far along but managed some nice species including a late Curlew Sandpiper.
    ABOVE CURLEW SANDPIPER BELOW WITH A RUFF

Other birds of intrest included Golden Plover, Widgeon, Teal, Lapwing, 2 Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and 6 Little Egret.
TOP BLACK-TAILED GODWIT BOTTOM A FLOCK OF ABOUT 20 GODWITS WERE PRESENT WITH A FEW RUFF
After Scanning the area with the hope of getting a Short-eared Owl (none present today) e headed off to Marshside in perticular Nels Hide. Black-tailed Godwit were present in larger numbers and more dropped in over the hour we were there. 2 Drake Pintail showed well as well as a small number of Shoveler but Teal just about outnumbered everything across the pool. The odd Golden Plover were intermingled with the Godwit as well as numbers of Lapwing. 3 Little Egret flew across as well as a Grey Heron and there were several Gull species including Common and Greater Black Backed.
 ABOVE DRAKE SHOVELER BELOW FEMALE
  ABOVE DRAKE TEAL BELOW MORE BLACK_TAILED GODWITS
ABOVE ONE OF SEVERAL REDSHANK ON THE POOL



Hesketh Out Marsh to the River Douglas – 15th October 2011

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With the weather being so nice I decided to spend the day on the south side of the Ribble Estuary mainly at Hesketh Out Marsh but I did manage a walk down to the River douglas for the first time. A few passing Redwing passed over at HOM as well as numbers of Skylark and Meadow Pipit. 4 Little Egret were feeding on the nearby pools and 4 Snipe dropped in whilst I was watching with another 2 over. A Kestrel was hunting along the enbankment and I flushed 4 Grey Partridge as I walked west along the reserve. A worrying sight was a single Avocet which surely should have headed south by now, it was sat on the end of one of the nearby pools to the west of the reserve. Walking East towards I brought Linnet, Starlings a further 2 Kestrel,  A Buzzard, Carrion Crow and on the walk back a Marsh Harrier and Merlin.
ABOVE SNIPE IF I HADDN'T SEEN THEM DROP IN I PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE SEEN THEM AT ALL
 ABOVE LITTLE EGRET AND BELOW A MEADOW PIPIT  


My first visit to the River Douglas was a little disappointing as I was hoping you could get nearer the river and explore its embankments a liitle more. I watched what is the mouth of the river as it joins the Ribble with Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank in large numbers as well as well as Cormorant a mix of Gull species including GBB. A Buzzard tried to find the thermals in the distance and 2 Raven croaked as they passed over. As the tide came in a few fishing boats started to pass through flushing a large flock of Canada Geese which included a Greylag and a small number of Widgeon. The best view though and worth the wait was a Peregrine as it flushed the Curlew and Lapwing. I didn't see it at first but as the Lapwing rose into the sky as one I knew something must have flushed them and I watched for 2 minutes as it chased round dropping low over the Douglas chasing a Curlew. On this occasion it was unsucsessfull and I last saw it dropping low into a distant field further up the river. 
ABOVE WIDGEON
NOT THE BEST PHOTO BUT I NEVER TIRE OF WATCHING PEREGRINE IN ACTION (click the photo to make it larger)

Slavonian Grebe at Fairhaven Lake – 8th October 2011

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I saw my first Grebe at the age of about 12 on a lake (MountFarm I think) in Bletchley. It was a Great Crested or at least they were asthey went through their ritual dance and ever since then I found the species adelightful one to watch and find them even in winter plumage a beautiful bird.
After missing out on the Solitary Sandpiper at Nateby,Reeces rugby and a slight hang over on the Sunday and working from the officefor the rest of the week, I decided to head up to Fairhaven Lake to try andcapture some photographs in the poor light and rain of the Slavonian Grebe thathas been resident there for most of the week.
Upon arriving there was no sign of it which happened thelast time I twitched (or dipped!) a bird at Fairhaven. Thankfully the bird wasjust diving and soon appeared from around one of the boats moored at the sideof the lake about a meter away.  Iwatched with several other birders in the slight drizzle not needing a scope oreven binoculars as it bobbed along on the choppy water.   

Brockholes LWT – 01st October 2011

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With the weather being so nice (26 degees in October!!) Reece and I decided to have a wander around Brockholes for a couple of hours to see if anything good was anjoying the sun. In birding terms a Little Grebe, 4 Buzzard and a single Kestrel were about all of interest that we saw but Dragonflies were out in force. There were more species seen on the day by others but the main species we saw were Common Darter and Migrant Hawker which I'd first identified as a Common Hawker and there were possibly some present as in flight they are hard to tell apart (at least for me). As shown in the photograph below the Migrant Hawker has a a yellow triangle at the base of the abdomen.
ABOVE PAIR OF MIGRANT HAWKERS EGG LAYING BELOW THE YELLOW TRIANGLE OF THE MIGRANT HAWKER
Common Darters where in larger numbers both on the pools and sun bathing on the paths.
 ABOVE MALE & FEMALE COMMON DARTER IN A COPULATION WHEEL, BELOW MALE COMMON DARTER










Grey Phalarope, Ribble Ribble, Preston – 20th September 2011

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It all started last week when I missed out on the Grey Phalarope at Fairhaven Lake. I'd been working away and didn't get chance to get over their until Friday afternoon at which time it had moved on (it had been reported on the RBA light map on Friday morning). A second Grey Phalarope was seen by Bill Aspin on the River Ribble in Preston from the A59 bridge (near Penwortham), a bridge I crossed on the way back from Fairhaven!
With a busy weekend I wasn't able to get up to see it until tonight after seeing it reported at lunchtime on the Ribble Estuary facebook page by Colin Bushell.
I turned up about 18.00 parking in the car park by the alotments and headed upstream to where Colin had seen it earlier. Unlike other trips out to add to my life list I found the bird pretty much straight away feeding on the south shore about 100m infront of the bridge. I spent about an hour watching it as it drifted downstream towards the bridge before flying 300m upstream and returning back with the returning tide.

Adonis Blue at Aston Rowant NNR

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I haven't had much luck this year in adding to my Butterfly list but in the first week of September I called back in at Aston Rowant with the hope of seeing one of the most vibrant blues seen in the UK. The Adonis Blue is only seen in small numbers here and after switching on my camera on only to find the battery flat I wasn't holding out much hope. Most of the plants were putting to seed but there was a small patch were I found several mostly worn butterflies feeding and amongst them a Male Blue Adonis. Luckily my smart phone had packed in and I was using my trusty old sony C905 and with a 8.1M camera, with a little patience I managed to get a few shots. I counted 3 males during my hour visit along with 1 Siver-spotted Skipper, 6+ Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Painted Lady, Brown Argus and Common Blue.
Blue Adonis
 Above Painted Lady
 Above Brown Argus Below Common Blue

Aston Rowant NNR – 2nd August 2011

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I managed a second visit to this wonderful butterfly site in just over a week and what a difference. The temperature was around 25C  with very little wind and though it was cloudy the number of butterflies was treble the amount I saw on my previous visit.
Chalkhill Blue were flying in large numbers and were certainly the predominant species. Small Heath ans Small Copper numbers were up and I saw at least 10 Silver -Spotted Skippers which were not flying on my previous visit.

 Above the Silver-Spotted Skipper is common during its flying season at Aston Rowant and can be distinguished from other UK Skippers by the silver spots on its under wing.
 Above Essex Skipper below Large Skipper
The Large and Essex Skippers can be distinguished by the Essex Skippers black tip to the antenna.
  Above Small Copper below Small Heath
 Above Common Blue, below female Chalkhill Blue, bottom male Chalkhill Blue
 Top Small Tortoiseshell, above Speckled Wood below female Brown Argus