Field Trip Meeting to Woolston Eyes – 12th June 2022 – report by Jock & Mim Elliot-Smith
This Field Trip saw five of us led by Estelle Hughes to Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve. This is a permit-only nature reserve of over 200 hectares managed by a Conservation Group with the agreement of the owners, the Manchester Ship Canal Company. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
A bright and rain-free day, at times sunny but never quite as warm as one might have wished, due to a modest but cool breeze. A Buzzard being mobbed by some Carrion Crows attracted our attention in the small car park, and a Grey Heron flew under the footbridge into the reserve as we were about to cross. At the same time, we saw two Jays. The song of the Chiff Chaff seemed ever present as we made our way to the Viewing Screen, with a Nuthatch readily seen on a tree by the path, as were two Goldfinches on a dead tree nearby.
The Viewing Screen gave us our first view of the pools. Black-headed Gulls accompanied by their chicks attracted attention straightaway with their raucous calls. Difficult to count in view of the large number of reed and iris covered islands dotted around, but we were struck by the large number of Gadwall, with a lesser number of Tufted Duck and one or two Common Pochard. Mallard, too, were seen, but not in numbers, and a Little Grebe and chick attracted our attention. A singing Reed Bunting was heard and seen in the reeds, as happened in each of the hides we visited. We had frequent sightings of quartering Marsh Harriers, always female, which had to evade attacks from time to time from the Gulls, when straying rather close to their breeding platforms. We then had our first sighting of a pair of Black-necked Grebes, the species for which this reserve is particularly known, as we believe holds around 25% of the country’s breeding pairs, between 50 and 100 nationally.
A move to the Sybil Hogg hide gave us a Speckled Wood and Azure and Blue Damselflies, and some Broad-bodied Chasers, but the coolish weather did not produce many butterflies; a Red Admiral was later seen. A singing Common Whitethroat was around and we had two Blackcaps singing against each other not more than 30 ft apart.
From the Tower Hide we had Great Crested Grebe, a Greylag Goose and a party of Canada Geese. We noted that we had seen no hirundines but a few Sand Martins were seen later. At this hide we also saw three or four more Black-necked Grebes and a Kingfisher flashed past the front of the hide but did not stop unfortunately. We also came across two Lapwings. Other species seen were one or two Swifts, a Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Water Rail was heard.
A move to the John Morgan hide gave us some stunning views of four Bullfinches, all male, on the feeders. Greenfinch, Great Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker joined them. Coot had been ever present earlier, but here we saw a raft of some 40 adults.
A further walk through the meadows brought us to the last two hides we visited: The Frank Linley and the Warrington Rotary hides – a Hobby seen and a Stock Dove heard. We watched for some time some particularly aggressive behaviour between two Great Crested Grebes, sometimes moving at speed underwater. We were not sure what the issue was. Certainly one had a chick close by. A Common Pochard had four young with her, but one seemed to be a Black-necked Grebe baby which was staying close to its adopted family.
A lovely day, well spent, with 47 species of bird noted.
Weekend Field Trip Meeting to Somerset – 19th May to 22nd May 2002 – report by Sue Brealey
After 7 years, and following no weekend trips due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, a group of 13 members had booked onto this year’s return trip to the Somerset Levels, staying at Glastonbury.
On Thursday, 19th May, a group of 11 members met up at WWT Steart Marshes, at the mouth of the river Parrot, which is being used as part of the flood defences further into the Somerset Levels, and will be part of the new Somerset Wetlands National Nature Reserve which was announced on this day. The weather was clear, with some cloudy with 16ºC temperature range. The group firstly walked towards the Quantock hide, and saw and/or heard Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Warbler were noted flying around the reed bed. Once at the hide, those birds seen included Avocet with a number of chicks feeding independently, Little Ringed Plover sitting on a nest, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail, Shelduck, & Teal. A walk to the Mendip Hide provided good views of a Peregrine flying around together with sightings of Magpie, Great Black Backed Gull, with a Skylark singing in the sky, a real treat. A Marsh Harrier quartered over its territory for some time. Added to these species were included Woodpigeon, Swallow, Jackdaw, Canada Goose, & Carrion Crow. Other group members walked to the Parrot Hide and the following were added to the list as a result – Blackbird, Cuckoo, Dunnock, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Pheasant, Whitethroat, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Raven, Buzzard, Wheatear, Gadwall, Great White Egret, Linnet, Curlew, Blue Tit.
On Friday, 20th May, the group at breakfast discussed the weather which was inclement, so it was decided not to go to RSPB Ham Wall, which does not have much cover, and instead to go to Catcott Complex Nature Reserve, where there is a hide close to the car park. So the group arrived at the carpark to start birding at about 10am. The weather was wet, with drizzle & wind with the temperature being around 12ºC, clearing later. During the morning, the bird watching was good, observing over the lakes and reed beds, Canada Geese with chicks, Coot, Mallard, several Gadwall, Mute Swan, Shoveler & Teal were seen. A Marsh Harrier was seen on a regular basis, quartering the reed beds. A flock of 18 Black tailed Godwit flew in to a scrape not visible from the hide after they landed. Several Great White Egret were seen as well as Grey Heron and then a Buzzard was mobbed by Carrion Crow. This upset Lapwings. A stonechat was seen on top of a reed. The rain started to abate and Swallow, House Martin & Swift were seen flying over the reserve. Other sightings including Blackbird, Wren, Pied Wagtail. The group broke up to go towards Ham Wall, but a couple went to investigate other parts of Catcott and they saw or heard the following that could be added to the list: – Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Tit, Cattle Egret, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Cuckoo, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greylag Goose, Jay, Kingfisher, Lesser Black backed Gull, Little Egret, Magpie, Pheasant, Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler.
After the short trip to Ham Wall, people had lunch and then started into the reserve. Chaffinch was noted at the feeding station. After a short while, Cetti’s Warbler, Garden Warbler, Willow Warble, & Whitethroat were heard among the trees & Shrubs. Walking towards the bridge over a river, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Great Tit & Dunnock were noted, and from the bridge Mute Swan were seen on the distant waterways. Walking further into the reserve, a Bittern flew over the track, a great start to the trip. The group came up to a viewing area, and here the group stopped to see what would be seen. Marsh Harrier were noted quartering over the reeds, sometimes mobbed by Carrion Crow. Great Crested Grebe were seen with chicks, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Black Headed Gull flew across. Gadwall, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck & a male Pochard were noted. What was notable was that only one Grey Heron was seen, but Great White Egret were plentiful, with a few Little Egret, and a couple of Glossy Ibis flew past, a great sight. Swift & Swallow were seen flying about and later a call heard which was unfamiliar but proved to be a group of 3 Whimbrel flying around, chatting amongst themselves! They entertained everyone for quite some time. Bitterns intermittently flew around. Reed & Sedge Warblers were noted in the reed bed. The group split up to wander the reserve, As time went on the group went to the hide opposite the viewing platform, where Black Tailed Godwit were seen and Hobby was noted hunting for food on the fly. A Cormorant flew across with Moorhen feeding for young. At the end of the day, on the way back to the car park, a Barn Owl flew over the group, not seen by all which was regretted. Other sightings by the whole group included, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Lapwing, Redshank, Woodpigeon, Buzzard, Goldfinch, Coot, Jay.
On 21st May, the group gathered at RSPB Greylake, hoping to add to the existing long list. In the car park, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon were noted on the way to the route through the reed beds to the hides. Along the route, Cetti’s Warbler & Wren was heard, then Reed Warbler. Once at the first hide, Mallard, Gadwall & Greylag Goose were seen, the latter having chicks. Little Grebe and Moorhen were seen then a Grey Heron flew across the area, then A Little Egret was noted coming out of the reeds, and a Great White Egret dropped in. Cormorant flew over and then the bird everyone had hoped for was seen in the distance, a pair of Common Crane. These were studied as they moved amongst the fields behind the reed beds, so a full sighting was difficult. Later a Bittern flew over. The group moved to the other hide and from there Magpie, Carrion Crow were noted as well Marsh Harrier quartering over the reed beds, and then a Reed Bunting was seen on top a reed. House Martins & Swifts were observed. A snipe flew across and then the pig squeal of a Water Rail was heard. Other birds seen included Raven and Kestrel.
The group then moved on to the car park at Ham Wall, where lunch was eaten. After this the group walked over to Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve, which is on the opposite side of the road. The group walked along the old railway track, going past a woodland area before coming to an area of water surrounded by reedbed, where a hide was situated. In the woodland area, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Long Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Wren and Whitethroat were noted mainly by song. In the lake, Great Crested Grebe were seen with chicks, along with Mallard, Gadwall, Coot, Mute Swan, & Pochard. A couple of pairs of Greylag Geese and their families were watched, while in the background Bitterns booming echoed over from Ham Wall. Kestrel was seen hovering while hunting, and then Hobby was seen scanning for food over the water. Lesser Great Backed Gull was seen followed by a Buzzard. A large flock of Jackdaw was seen dancing around the skies. Other species seen included Herring Gull, Jay, Little Egret, Raven, Little Egret, and Sparrowhawk.
On the next day, Sunday 22nd May, the group split up to return home for various reasons. However, one couple decided to visit WWT Slimbridge and while there they added Collared Dove & Rook to the list. The group had agreed that they had all enjoyed the weekends activities and with a list totalling 86, it was judged to be a success.
Field Trip Meeting to RSPB Ynys-hir – 3rd April 2022 – report by Mim & Jock Elliot-Smith
9 members of SOS met at 10am in at RSPB Ynys-hir on a beautiful sunny, if slightly nippy, April morning.
Our arrival at the reserve was heralded enthusiastically by a calling Nuthatch, and our list got off to a good start even before we left the car park with Blackbird, Blackcap, and Chiffchaff singing in the trees, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Nuthatch and Chaffinch on the feeders, and Moorhen, Teal and Kingfisher on the pool below the picnic area. Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, and we added Dunnock, Pheasant, Bluetit, Siskin, Red Kite and Carrion Crow to the list. Our RSPB Visitor Engagement Officer, Roger, gave us a brief talk about the current situation on the reserve: a nesting pair of Red Kite and also breeding Lapwing, and reports of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.
As we moved on into the reserve, we saw a large number of Oystercatchers a fair distance way on the estuary, with Mallard, Canada Geese and Shelduck also in view. Along the trees and hedges lining the path down to the railway bridge we spotted a Robin, and while focussing in on a very close Song Thrush, also became aware of a soaring Sparrowhawk – the bright sunlight making the wings and tail appear almost translucent against the clear blue sky. In the trees, an elusive Goldcrest and Treecreeper were heard and fleetingly seen.
Further on down the path we were treated to a closer view of a male Blackcap.
From the Marian Mawr hide, facing into a cool breeze, we saw Little Egret, Coot, a few Redshank and a brief view of a couple of flying Snipe. A black-tailed Godwit was identified, alongwith Teal, Wigeon and Gadwall on the water. A Reed Bunting appeared briefly on the willows beside the water.
Outside the hide, in the warmer sunshine and sheltered from the breeze, views down to the estuary added Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Curlew to the list. Two Pied Wagtails were seen on a large dead branch, a Meadow Pipit on the willows, and a Cormorant was spotted flying over the water. Walking on to the Saltings Hide, we spotted a fidgety Wren and and pair of Reed Buntings showed themselves beautifully on the bank.
From the Saltings Hide, we were treated to further views of Teal, Redshank, Canada Geese, and Meadow Pipit. A pair of Stonechat showed themselves well on a fence, and six to eight Curlew were seen on the grass in the distance. A pair of Great Black Backed Gulls were displaying, and a Raven flew over, adding itself to the list.
Walking from the Saltings Hide back to the Visitor Centre for lunch, the distinct song of a Willow Warbler was heard. The path cutting through slate rock was edged with Navelwort and wild Primroses. Lunch was taken at the picnic area outside the visitor centre, where a Cetti’s Warbler was heard and a Buzzard flew overhead.
The afternoon route took us through the woodland, where we spotted Treecreeper, a female Stonechat and a Wheatear standing out well on the grassy area. Further on was a Heron, and a Cormorant with visible breeding patch, and a Cetti’s Warbler once again called for attention.
From the Ynys Feurig Hide there were further views of Canada Geese, Heron, and a Great White Egret added itself to the list. From here we also had our first view of Lapwing – just the one.
After leaving this hide, following the boardwalk, we saw a Rook before ascending the woodland path lined with Wild Strawberries, Violets, Wood Anenome and Lesser Stitchwort to the Ynys Hir Hide. Despite a wonderful view of the estuary, no further species were seen from here, and we returned to the Visitor Centre. A total count of 52 species seen and/or heard.
Field Trip Meeting to RSPB Leighton Moss – 20th March 2022 – report by Ian Baggley
On a glorious spring day, and having to put up with road works & lane closures for what looked like no purpose (!!), 7 members met at the car park. The group proceeded to the Causeway with a first highlight being a close and prolonged views of a Marsh Tit, followed by at least 2 Bittern booming. Other notable species seen were Peregrine Falcon, Cetti’s Warbler, and the first of many sightings of Marsh Harrier, together with lots of comer wetland and woodland species. The Group then moved on to the coastal trail where lunch was taken, and watching huge numbers of waders mainly Black tailed Godwits, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Avocet. The group then went to the central part of the reserve where Marsh Harriers performed almost constantly for everyone. Other highlights were Great White Egret, Pintail, and Garganey, a nice male that slept all the time. All told over 60 species were seen by the Group. (NB. Thank you to Ian for substituting me in leading this field trip due to health issues. Sue Brealey)
Field Trip Meeting to Wood Lane NR – 20th February 2022 – report by Sue Brealey
On a blustery day, with Storm Eunice & Storm Franklin, 3 stalwarts arrived at Colemere for the published field trip to Colemere. However, after discussion, it was felt that walking around the mere in unknown conditions if trees had felled etc with very slippery conditions, it would be safer to move the meeting to Wood Lane NR. After waiting to see if any other members would decide to come, the agreed move took place.
Once sheltered in the hide, initial species included a couple of Oystercatcher, a few Black headed Gulls, Canada Goose, a few Cormorant, Mallard, Teal, Shelduck & Woodpigeon. A Kingfisher flew through very quickly. Around the feeding station by the left of the hide, Blackbird, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Great Tit & Robin were seen. At the other side, the birds seen including Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Coal Tit were much more reticent about staying on the feeders, but then a Sparrowhawk flew through and proved why the birds were so shy. A Grey Squirrel was also using the feeders. Otherwise, the birds seen included, Lapwing, a Raven flying overhead, Carrion Crow. Moorhen & Coot.
With the weather beginning to get a bit blustery, and early finish was decided on.
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