RSPB Middleton Lakes – 8th September 2013 – Report by Sue Brealey
Six members met at Middleton Lakes, near Tamworth where a great deal of work has been going on to improve facilities there. A new hide has been constructed plus two viewing screens in the Wetland area.
Blue skies with a brisk wind welcomed us as we explored the reserve. A few common species started off the day list at a nearby feeder station followed by plenty of hirundines, mainly House Martin and Swallow on our walk to the main reserve. The woodland was fairly quiet with just a few warblers including Chiffchaff and Blackcap. As we reached the canal bridge, we had timed it to perfection with a Kingfisher flying by and Hobby overhead. A scan of the first lake turned up a Little Egret and Grey Heron, together with a good number of eclipse ducks: Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon. In addition to Little Grebe, there was a pair of Great Crested Grebe with two very young chicks, presumably a second brood? These were still small enough to be hitching a ride on one parent’s back. There were no waders on the islands sadly, other than Lapwing and Common Snipe.
The walk to the first viewing screen turned up quite a few Dragonflies and Butterflies still on the wing, including Common Darter, Common Blue Damselfly, plus Small Copper and Speckled Wood. It was mainly flight action from the screen, with a small group of Black tailed Godwit dropping in. These were followed by three Hobbies, two adults and a juvenile, which entertained us whilst we had lunch.
We made our way to the new hide after lunch which was a bit of a disaster as a working party was busy preparing this and the adjacent area for a ‘grand opening’ the following week! Peregrine and Nuthatch were added to the list however on our walk back to the car park. Bad weather was closing in but it had been an enjoyable day as we finished the day on 40 species.
Forest of Dean – 19th May 2013 – Report by Sue Brealey
A disappointing turnout of three members travelled to the Forest of Dean in the hope of some good birding. Our first stop was New Fancy where we enjoyed a woodland walk up to the viewpoint, which offers spectacular views across conifer forest towards Cinderford. There were no surprises in store however, just Willow Warbler on the walk and Common Buzzard from the viewpoint! As suspected, it was not a good time of year to see Goshawk.
We moved onto RSPB Nagshead, which has a good reputation at this time of year. After checking into the visitor centre, we made our way towards the Lower Hide, where we enjoyed Raven calling and then entertaining us with a display flight. A Spotted Flycatcher was heard on our walk through the woodland but not seen. From the hide, we had good views of Treecreeper and Nuthatch, soon followed by a male Pied Flycatcher. The birding was proving to be quite hard work!
We made our way to Campbell Hide, enjoying more Pied Flycatchers on the way but disappointingly no Redstart. Eventually we heard and then had good views of a target species, Wood Warbler, showing well in the canopy.
The birding might not have been that brilliant but we came across some Victorian Tearooms near Cinderford to end our day with a Cream Tea involving excellent scones, a lovely end to a very pleasant day!
Cotswold Water Park – 28th April 2013 – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 10 members turned up at the main Visitor Centre for this complex venue. With cold winds and showers forecast, a coffee break was taken whilst we discussed the order of play for the day. The visitor centre overlooked the lake where a Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck and Mute Swan were on the water. Sedge Warbler were also singing in the reed-bed.
Our first destination was an area where Nightingale had been reported. The area quite easy to find and having parked, we walked into an area of likely looking scrub. All we found initially was a Sedge Warbler but eventually, we caught a brief burst of Nightingale song. We located the bird, clearly buried deep in the bushes and despite giving it several minutes, we had to be content with ‘heard but not seen’! Walking on further we arrived at a large lake, where we found a Hobby flying overhead, soaring quite high and then feeding on the emerging insect life. Kestrel were also seen nearby. Walking around the lake a Garden Warbler eventually showed itself and more warblers were seen in the scrub where the Nightingale had been heard including Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat.
During a lunch break, we added Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler to the warbler list and Grey Heron near a small pond over the road. We then moved on to another area of the water complex where we bumped into some local birders who had recently seen Whimbrel and Whinchat. We followed their directions and found a pair of Whinchat working along a fence line but sadly, there was no sign of the Whimbrel. A small gravel pit nearby produced Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing plus Green Woodpecker in flight.
Our final stop was at the area known as ‘Twitcher’s Gate’, which proved to be a good vantage point to scope the nearby lake and check out a nearby viewing screen. We added quite a few more birds to the visit here, including: Cormorant, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal. Waders were seen on the shoreline included Redshank, Dunlin and Common Sandpiper. A final walk along the nearby lane produced Pied Wagtail and there was a nice end to the day, Cuckoo was heard!
The cold windy conditions hadn’t helped but it had been a pretty good day with a diverse range of birds seen.
RSPB Leighton Moss – 17th March 2013 – Report by Sue Brealey
An unexpected snow and ice storm overnight didn’t deter a group of 8 members from making the journey to Leighton Moss! Welcomed by much better weather conditions, we checked the Allen & Eric Morecambe hides first.
These two hides have recently been replaced and both are much improved with increased space. Plenty of waders were noted; the highlights including two Spotted Redshank, with paler and longer bill, compared to nearby Common Redshank. At least nine Avocet were present, together with plenty of Black tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Dunlin. Wildfowl included: Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, a few Gadwall and Shoveler. We also saw Greylag Geese, Mute Swan, Little Egret, Herring Gull and Black headed Gull. A Female Merlin gave everyone excellent views as it flew nearby, landing on a gatepost. Reed Bunting and Skylark were seen on the way back to the cars.
We returned to the main reserve for lunch, as we watched the birds at the feeder station, where Marsh Tit, Nuthatch Bullfinch, Brambling and Siskin etc. were added here. More Gulls and ducks were seen from Lilian’s hide including at least four female Goldeneye, with a displaying male. We moved into the reed bed paths but didn’t manage to see Bearded Tit, brief views of a Marsh Harrier flying over were managed though. Cormorant and Great Black backed Gull were seen here and then a pair of Great-crested Grebes entertained us with their mirror dance routine, lots of weed being offered as gifts! Cetti’s Warbler was heard in the reeds and Green Woodpecker nearby.
We walked on to Grisedale Hide, which had also been renewed, admiring a pair of Marsh Tits on the way. A female Marsh Harrier was seen, perched in a distant tree and a kingfisher flew by. Tom Jackson, hide gave wonderful views of a few Common Snipe plus a Little Egret. It was interesting to note how the Egret, disturbed the pond floor with its feet in order to find prey.
As the light began to fade, we decided to call it a day, despite the snow and ice early on, it had been a really good day. The group as a whole saw between 50 and 55 species.
RSPB Old Moor – 17 February 2013 – Report by Sue Brealey
32 members met at the Shirehall, for a 2½ hour coach journey to RSPB Old Moor, near Barnsley. This was the second visit for the Society and the weather forecast was for clear blue skies and not too cold. On arrival, we were met by a volunteer, who gave us an introductory talk about the reserve. One key bird we were told to look out for near Bittern hide was a ‘Redhead’ male Smew!
The majority of the group started the day at the screen near the visitor centre, where we had excellent views of at least a dozen common species, including Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow and Reed Bunting. We made our way along the muddy paths to Bittern hide, with Kestrel seen on the way, to enjoy plenty of birds on the water. Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon and Greylag Geese but sadly no sign of the Smew.
After visiting other hides and not adding to the list, we headed off to the other side of the reserve, stopping off at a picnic area to have lunch. Our next stop was at the Family hide, where Teal, Pochard, Lapwing and Lesser Black-backed Gull were added to the list, followed by Cormorant and Shoveler nearby. At the next hide where a Redshank was feeding close by, a couple of Oystercatcher, Common Gulls, Goldeneye, Little Grebe plus at least five pairs of Goosander, engaged in courtship. Finally, we picked out the star bird of the day on the far side of the scrape, the Smew! This was quite mobile, feeding quite vigorously within a few feet of the shoreline. Our next hide yielded Golden Plover amongst a flock of Lapwing.
Our final stop was at a hide overlooking a feeder station near to the visitor centre, where Bullfinch and Brambling put on a wonderful display. The Bullfinch continued with their antics, continuing the display as we boarded the coach. It had been a lovely day with at least 50 species seen!
Deeside – 13 January 2013 – Report by Estelle Hughes
Nine members met at Connah’s Quay reserve, managed by the Deeside Naturalists’ Trust and leased from the power company E.ON. We were met by Helen Simpson, for an introductory chat, at the comfortable visitor centre.
A welcome cup of coffee helped warm us up as we watched Curlew, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Black-tailed Godwit and a hunting Kestrel out on the estuary pools. Unfortunately, the pool in front of the centre was frozen. This is normally a good spot for Kingfisher but we had a fleeting glimpse of one from East hide as we made our way along the reserve. Teal, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull and Peregrine were added here.
Some members decided to walk to the North hide, passing the feeder hide and adding Bullfinch, Great and Blue Tit, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Rook, Mallard and Sparrowhawk. We finally arrived at the North hide for the high tide roost and it was a very high one with roosting areas fast disappearing. The Webs counters had estimated over 3000 Oystercatchers, 200 Lapwing and 2-300 Dunlin with a few Shelduck, Cormorant, Mute Swan and once again, a Peregrine creating panic among the flocks.
Across the estuary substantial skeins of Pink-footed Geese were flying, with Great and Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls and on the inland pool: Coot, Moorhen and two Common Snipe rounded off the morning.
We left Deeside to cross over to the Burton Wetland Centre, where the pools were mostly frozen, but we were greeted by a female Merlin which flew in front of the hide to land on a post. A Buzzard was the only other bird of prey seen. Beside the hide, a Water Rail gave good views, accompanied by two very portly rats taking advantage of the liberal supply of seed and nuts. Burton Marshes was the last port of call where we’d hoped for Short-eared Owls and Harriers, but no luck. A bonus was all the thrush species feeding in the field and Great Egret and Golden Plover on the marshes. With the light fading and the weather closing in, we headed for home, having recorded some 53 species and having had a cold but enjoyable day.