WWT Martinmere – 3rd December – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 34 arrived at WWT Martinmere, after a coach journey from Shrewsbury. The weather was cold, with low clouds, threatening with rain, so all were wrapped up against possible adverse conditions but in fact anything bad waited for another day. A few decided to have a coffee before braving the elements.
It had been a few years since the last coach trip to this reserve, and in the meantime several changes were found to have taken place. The old long Swan Hide which had been looking its age, and had been demolished and replaced by a couple of screens. However another large hide had been built to the right of the Focus Optics hide. Two thirds were enclosed and heated, and a third open. This was a great addition to the reserve.
From this new addition the Swan Lake was looked over, and amongst the birds noted were plenty of Whooper Swans, Greylag Geese, some Canada Geese, Mallard, Wigeon, Pintail, Shelduck, Shoveler, a few male Pochard, Coot, Cormorant, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff. Amongst the gulls present were Black headed, Great Black-backed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, and also single examples of Common Gull & Mediterranean Gull. A walk was taken towards the large Harrier hide, and along the way, some of the birds noted were Carrion Crow, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, and Great Tit. At the hide where a feeding station was placed Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Long-tailed Tit were feeding while Moorhen & Pheasant picked up the scraps. A short walk to the Harrier hide, showed a difficult view due to the light, the sun being ahead, but on the pools Gadwall, Tufted Duck, and Goldeneye were viewed, together with a few Little Grebe. From the next hide, while having some lunch, a Marsh Harrier was seen quartering the reed beds, and then a couple of Buzzard were noted, perched on fence posts. A Sparrowhawk flew across the fields. In the ditches, a Little Egret was seen, and ten a Kestrel was seen hovering looking for food.
The return walk didn’t really give up any more notable birds. A return visit to the new hide brought views of quite few Pink-footed Geese grazing in a far field. A walk towards the Ron Barker hide proved quiet but at one of the hides, around another feeding station, were some Tree Sparrow which were really good to see, and a Wren. Once at the Ron Barker hide, a Mute Swan was seen in the ditches. A Kingfisher was noted perched in a large bush, and was seen fishing using another bush as a second perch. Also a Water Rail was seen briefly in the ditch in front of the hide. Returning to the new hide, the group appeared to have come together in order to enjoy the Swan Feeding time, always enjoyed by all. As the time neared 4pm, people began to return to the coach, for the journey home. On the way, flights of Pink-footed Geese where seen returning to the reserve for roosting having fed in the nearly fields during the day.
Amongst the birds other members of the group had seen included Teal, Grey Heron, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Stock Dove, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Fieldfare, Jackdaw, Starling, Reed Bunting, Merlin, Redwing, Rook, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Stonechat, Treecreeper. This brings the approximate number of birds seen to 65.
It was concluded that another enjoyable day had been had by all.
Tregaron/Cors Caron Bog – 12th November – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 5 intrepid members arrived on time at Cors Caron Nature Reserve, with a weather forecast which was changeable to say the least. On arrival, heavy showers including some hail, stopped a start to the visit to this unique boggy area.
However, after a patient wait and with the weather appeared to be clearing up, the group wrapped up warm against the cold wind and started to walk along the old railway line, northwards towards the Bird Hide. As the group walked along the first birds observed were a Great Tit, Nuthatch and Coal Tit feeding amongst the trees. As they approached a farm, a couple of dogs started barking harshly, but against that a group of House Sparrows were heard and then seen in a bush, then a little bit further on a small bird was noted going through the bottoms of the trees, which turned out to be a Goldcrest, and really good views were seen by all. A large group of Redwing and Fieldfare were noted flying through the trees ahead of the group, but in one of the fields alongside the path several Blackbirds were seen as well as a Mistle Thrush. A Jay was seen looking for food on the path before flying off, but other corvids seen were Jackdaw & Carrion Crow. Overhead, Red Kite were seen, not unexpected, especially in the part of Wales being visited. Also on the path a male Stonechat was seen, while its mate was perched on some reed. Then a screech was heard from a ditch, and so a Water Rail was added to the list. The walk of approximately a mile to the hide was nearly over but with some dark clouds coming, the group moved onto the hide to hopefully miss any heavy shower. Once there a series of pools plus a stream was noted, although not that many water birds were initially seen. But a Cormorant flew over and then a few Mallard and a single Teal were noted. A Buzzard also flew through very quickly and quite close to the hide and all its plumage was clear to see, while more Red Kite were seen. A Whooper Swan was seen on one of the further pools, and then a Grey Heron flew in and landed to start fishing. The dark clouds were cleared off by the brisk wind, so the group started on the return to the car park and lunch. Other birds seen on the return walk included Blue Tit, Chaffinch, and Dunnock with a Pheasant being heard in the distance.
While the group were eating their lunch, a Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker were noted as well as a couple of Twite. Having refuelled, the group started off the Bog Hide, which was about another ½ mile from the car park, mostly by boardwalk. It was noted that the bad weather had moved off, and the walk was enjoyed with blue skies and sunny periods. Initially a group of Long tailed Tits fly through a group of trees, and then a Song Thrush was seen. The boardwalk was rather twisty, and ended coming to a hide of an unusual design with very good vistas. While on the walk, a pair of Bullfinches were seen, plus a Magpie, Robin, and Wren. Once settled in the hide, initially everything appeared rather quite on the pools which were in front of the hide, but then a group of Teal were seen, then about three Little Grebe were seen. The neck and face of a Grey Heron was noted, a Raven through over, while a Meadow Pipit was seen on some spare wood on the far side of the pool. Then from the left a male Hen Harrier was seen, quartering over the bog, looking really lovely with its, grey, black & white plumage. The bird was followed right across the bog with enthusiasm, but then another Hen Harrier came from the left again and this time is was seen to be a juvenile male, as it was not displaying the full plumage of an adult. This bird quartered over the bog going towards the first bird and then disappeared into the vegetation. Feeling really pleased to have seen theses rare birds, the group had an encore of a female Hen Harrier which it flew over the bog on the right of the hide.
After this the group felt they had had a rapturous day, especially the number of Buzzards, Red Kite and Hen Harriers seen, and with dusk coming earlier and the long journey home, a return to the cars was decided. On the walk back, a Reed bunting was added to the list. At the end of the day, the group felt the risk of attempting to ignore the weather had been well worth it with a total list of 40 species.
The Wirral – 10th September – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 11 members gathered at the Leasowes Lighthouse for the start of this trip to various sites on the Wirral. The tide was showing a high tide for about 12noon, so there was a hope of good things to come. As people were getting ready a juvenile Stonechat was noted amongst the bushes by the car park. Having walked up onto the walkway by the shore, the sands were scanned as the water started to move towards the shore. At first various gulls were seen, including Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and amongst them some Common Gulls. Amongst the waders seen were some Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, a couple of Dunlin, groups of Oystercatcher flying in with the tide, a few Redshank and then a group of at least 30+ Ringed Plovers. On the rocks near the walkway about 10+ Turnstone were seen feeding. Then a Bar-tailed Godwit was noted and a little time after that a Peregrine was noted standing on the sands, mantling a piece of prey, thought to be a pigeon, from the attentions of Carrion Crows. After feeding for some time, the Peregrine appeared to be too full to fly away, so it moved away from the prey leaving it to the corvids, and waited to digest its meal. It was really good to observe this piece of bird behaviour. Amongst other birds seen were quite a few Little Egret, Grey Heron, and Cormorant.
The group decided to move onto Parkgate in the hope that the tidal prospects would bring some really good birding during the high tide. However, having arrived, and while having a nice picnic, the tide did not rise as much as was anticipated, so the usual vegetation was hiding a large number of birds. However Little Egret was in attendance, some Lapwing flew past, as well as a few Stove Dove and a Buzzard. A couple of Kestrel were seen hovering quite close. But on the whole it proved rather disappointing, so a decision was made to go onto RSPB Burtonmere for the rest of the day.
Once arrived the group gathered in the reception centre. The weather was beginning to turn, with threats of rain coming. The light was very flat, with the sun in front of the viewing area, making it difficult to see the birds easily. However on looking over the nearer area, there were large numbers of Canada and Greylag Geese, and on really looking through them a single Barnacle Goose was noted. Amongst other species seen in this area were Coot, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Moorhen, and Shoveler. The ducks were still in eclipse so it was quite a challenge to distinguish them especially in the light. After a brief shower, the group started to walk around to the Inner Marsh Hide, stopping at the feeding station where Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit, and Robin were noted. In one of the fields, amongst some grazing cattle a Cattle Egret was seen. Once at the hide, at first sight there did not appear to be much about. But on closer inspection, Swallow, Sand Martin & House Martin were seen flying around, a few Great crested Grebes were noted, but the highlights were a Ruff, a Greenshank, a few Black tailed Godwit and then the controversy of the day. Some small waders were seen, and there was quite a discussion about whether they were Dunlin or Curlew Sandpiper. The light was very flat and the birds’ feathering was difficult to distinguish as they were moulting between breeding and winter plumage. However, in the end Dunlin won the day. As the light was really beginning to go, the group started back to the car park, having agreed that this had been another delightful day, especially as we had missed getting wet!
Upton Warren Nature Reserve – 19 August – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of three arrived at the Moors Pools Car Park of this reserve run by Worcestershire Wildlife Reserve. While in the car park Magpie, Woodpigeon and Willow Warbler were noted. A walk was taken along the path straight ahead from the car park. Although not many birds were seen along the path, from the first hide, many were seen including plenty of Black headed Gulls, together with a Common Tern, Cormorant and Coot. From the feeding centre set near the hide, Dunnock, Bullfinch, quite a few Greenfinch, Blue Tit, and Great Tit were seen together with Moorhen picking up droppage on the ground. A further short walk brought us to the next hide with its elevated views over Moors Pool. From here Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan were easily seen, but other species included Oystercatcher, a fair few Swift, plus Swallows and House Martins. Tufted Duck, Mallard and a very brief view of a flying Kingfisher were seen by a couple of the party.
The Group then decided to walk around the pool to the elevated hide near to Amy’s Marsh. Not many birds were seen on the way, although a Robin was heard in a bush but was not actually seen. From the hide giving its different views of the pool, amongst the water birds were seen Gadwall, Teal and Shoveler all well into their eclipse phase of plumage. A couple of Grey Heron were amongst the reeds, Lapwing, Lesser Black backed Gull, at least 8 Little Grebe, and hiding amongst the geese an Egyptian Goose was seen, very well disguised due to its position and being asleep as well. On return to the car park, a few Linnet were seen as well as a Jay. Back at the carpark a picnic lunch was enjoyed and during this time a Buzzard was seen flying past.
After lunch, the group drove round to park at the Sailing Club, before walking past the Sailing Pool towards the Flashes. On the trail, the masts to the right were inspected but no Peregrine were seen. A couple of the party stopped at the first hide, but from the final hide great views were seen of a variety of different birds. There was an Avocet with its juvenile offspring, about 3 Black tailed Godwit, a Ringed Plover, plus about 10 Curlew roosting and quite difficult to see initially. But the highlight were the Sandpipers. Near the hide a Common Sandpiper was noted and then a Green Sandpiper. Having scanned the back of the Flashes a Wood Sandpiper was noted and in the end the group felt there had been at least 4 Common, maybe 3 Green and at least 2 Wood Sandpiper. It was really good to have the opportunity to study the differences in plumage and size of these waders. A goodly number of Lapwing were around as well. A Goldfinch was seen near the hide feeding on thistle heads. In the fields across from the Flashes, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow was seen feeding on a recently harvested field. On the far side of the Flashes as well at least 4 Stock Dove were noted, and nearer the hide a Pied Wagtail was seen. Also flying all around the water Swallows, Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins were seen feeding. Then as a final find, a Snipe was seen feeding along a sand bank. The group began to get concerned as the clouds were threatening with a very short shower giving an impression that the weather was about to break. It was decided to return to the cars. On the way back a Hobby was briefly seen flying by. Once back at the Sailing Pool, this was inspected and an Arctic Tern was noted resting on a buoy, and then a couple of Great crested Grebe, sleeping on the pool. As a finale a few Long tailed Tits flew past and a Wren was heard, but not seen.
It was decided that this had been a great day out with an approximate total of 55 having being seen, a really great total for a single day’s birding. And the group escaped the weather as well. All good.
Weekend in Pembrokeshire – 1 – 4 June – Report by Sue Brealey
A group of 16 Society members, travelled to south west Wales for a long weekend of birding in Pembrokeshire, on Thursday, 1st June. The majority of the group had not been to the area for birding purposes before so everyone was looking forward to the change. The weather forecast looked good but with some showers. Not unexpected for Wales.
The group travelled to Strumble Head, not far from Fishguard. There the group took in the local features while enjoying a good sea watch from the old gun emplacement not far from the lighthouse. Amongst the birds seen at sea were Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot, Oystercatcher, Great black backed Gull, Lesser black backed Gull & Herring Gull and Shag. A Peregrine was noted flying across the bay. Lunch picnics had also been enjoyed during this period. It was decided to start a walk around the headland to see what could be enjoyed. And so some of the party started along what proved quite difficult in parts but the walk proved enjoyable with lovely views all around. Amongst the birds seen were good views of pair of Chough who were nesting in a cliff cave. Added to that Dunnock, Jackdaw, Raven and Stonechat were added to the list. Having returned to the cars, everyone gradually drove towards to Haverfordwest, where the group were booked into the local Premier Inn. Once booked in, and after a rest the group had a really good meal at the Lost Coins, the restaurant attached to the Inn.
The following day, Friday, 2nd June, proved to be rather grey looking with rain showers being forecast. However, with optimism, the group drove out to Lockley Lodge, where tickets to land on Skomer Island were bought. After a bit of a wait, the group boarded the boat for the brief trip over to the island. By some fortuitous luck, as the boat arrived, the rain showers started to dwindle and by the time the group had started the steep walk up the steps to the island plateau, the skies were brightly blue and the rest of the day proved to be glorious.
The group split up a bit. Some of us walked towards the centre of the island using the facilities at the farm building, during which various birds were noted including Oystercatcher, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Skylark, and Woodpigeon as well as a Black Rabbit. A Peregrine was also seen flying over the lovely fields full of blossoming Red Campion, looking like huge pink blankets. We decided to walk north from the farm buildings, and it was during this walk, the group had the really amazing views of at least 4 Short Eared Owls obviously hunting a great deal to provide for chicks, resting in nests on the ground. These were the best views which even very experienced birders had seen over many years watching these lovely birds, and were as far as many of the group felt were definitely one of best birds for the weekend.
After these lovely views, the group went on towards the cliffs ahead. From this there were some Guillemot, Razorbill and a first Puffin. A Shag was also seen preening on a rock. The group found the area so nice it was used to have our picnic lunch. After this the group decided to return to the farm buildings, and then on further towards the south. After the group walked over a hill, where they found a path going east/west, and going west, more cliffs were found, but here there were great numbers of Guillemot and Razorbills, together with some Fulmars. But the real bonus were the numbers of Puffin, walking around the feet of various birders. It was really enjoyable to see these charming birds so close. Having enjoyed this delectable place, and realising that time was beginning to run out the walk was taken towards the steep steps down toward the returning boat. In all about 29 birds were viewed over the day and other birds seen included Blackbird, Buzzard, Canada Goose, Jackdaw, Kittiwake, Linnet, Pheasant. Pied Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Swallow, Wheatear, Willow Warbler, and Wren together with Herring, Great Black Backed and Lesser Black Backed Gulls. The boat ride back was very pleasant. A further walk was taken at Dale Bay & Lagoon and here Cormorant, Mute Swan, Sedge Warbler, Shelduck, Teal & good views of some Whimbrel were seen. Afterwards the group convened at the Griffin Inn at Dale, where a really nice meal was had by all. It was concluded that a really good day had been had by all.
On Saturday, 3rd June, the group went on Pembroke towards the Stackpole area, but the first stop was at Freshwater West Beach. The landscape was lovely, but there were not many birds. However, Rook & Skylark were noted and then after some exploring a Sand Martin nesting bank was found and it was lovely to see some of these lovely birds flying around catching food for their chicks. After this, the group went along the coast road and turning off through a military firing ranch to a car park, for Elegug Rocks. This area proved much better, beginning with a cuckoo sitting in a tree near the car park. Further exploration showed the rugged coastline with 2 stacks full of auks, including Guillemot and Razorbill, with Fulmar. A Buzzard flew overhead, together with Great & Lesser Black backed Gull. There were lovely views of the Green Bridge as well, which could be viewed from a platform. It was here that the group decided to have their picnic lunch. After lunch the group moved further east and spent the afternoon at Stackpole Quay. Some went for a walk along the cliff edges, but some decided to have a rest in this lovely area. Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch Great Tit, House Sparrow, Robin, Swallow and Pied Wagtail were added to the list. Towards evening the group went towards Pembroke, where a lovely meal was had at the Waterman Arms overlooking the river and Pembroke Castle.
On Sunday, 4th June, the group had breakfast and booked out of the hotel. Then they went their separate ways, some deciding to visit RSPB Ynys Hir and others Abergavenny Gardens or the National Welsh Botanical Gardens, even though the weather had at last caught up with us all.
All in all, approximately 50 odd species were seen. Amongst those that may have not have been mentioned were Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Canada Goose, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Pheasant, Sedge Warbler, Wheatear, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, and Wren. Other species may well have been recorded by others in the party.
In conclusion, it was felt that the weekend had been a success, and that the area was well worth the visit. And for Wales, well the weather proved to be on our side for a change.