Field Trip Reports 2014

Northumberland – 15-18 May 2014 – Report by Sue Brealey

This weekend trip was originally organised for Somerset. But, after the dreadful winter weather, the subject was discussed amongst those who had booked onto the trip, and the decision was made to change venues to Northumberland. As a consequence, the group was booked into the Hogs Head Inn, on the outskirts of Alnwick, which proved very convenient, and the group used the facilities for all evening meals while staying there.

On the Thursday, the group of 13 arrived at RSPB Fairburn Ings, which is an excellent bird watching reserve but also a good break in the journey north. This reserve has resulted from a conversion of gravel extraction pits alongside the River Aire. There are 3 trails, but, given the time, the group followed the Riverbank Trail, which is in total about 4 miles. However, once the group had observed the furthest lagoon, they returned back to the centre to prepare for the journey north. However the number of birds seen was really good, especially as the warblers were in full voice. One joy was the number of Tree Sparrows present, but included in the count were Chaffinch, Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff (heard only), Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Linnet and tits of various sorts. On the lagoons, the highlights were Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Common Tern, Avocet, and Little Egret. Other highlights were a very brief glimpse of a Kingfisher, seen by only a few of the group, Nuthatch, and a Cuckoo which was heard distantly. In all about 55 species were seen. Not bad for a short stopover!

On the Friday, the day’s weather started with good clear skies, so anticipation was high, as the intended destination was really the highlight of the visit – to get to the Farne Islands. The group was hoping to get there easily, but also realised that it depended on the weather. However, the sea was really calm, so having paid their way, the group went on the Bird Watcher’s trip. Within the harbour, lovely views of Eider Duck were obtained, and on the nearby beach, Ringed Plover & Oystercatcher were noted. The tide was very low when the boat started out, so the captain took a trip around the islands and there were plenty of opportunities to take in the abundance of wildlife these islands hold, especially during May.

On the way to the first stop at Staple Island, the boat visited the cliffs of various islets and there were plenty of Grey Seal, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Puffin, Shag, and Razorbill to be seen. Although the quantity of species was small, the actual numbers of birds was impressive. Gannet were seen flying past, and, at one point, a Purple Sandpiper and then a Turnstone were noted, looking a bit solitary. Brief glimpses of Harbour Porpoise were seen by some of the group. Eventually the group landed on Staple Island, a rather a rocky island, and it provided the group with excellent views of plenty of Shag, a great many on nests, looking splendid in their iridescent plumage and punk-like crests. One of the extraordinary views on the island were the breeding Eider Ducks, where the camouflage of their plumage made them nearly invisible.

After two hours on the islands, whre lunch was eaten, glimpses of Rock Pipit & Wheatear were welcome, and on the beach waiting for the boat, a Pied Wagtail was seen. The group then travelled to the Inner Farne Island. It was here that the group were hoping to see plenty of Puffin and Terns. However the timing was a bit off, as the great numbers expected had not yet arrived. However what was there was splendid, with lovely views of Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern and some Common Tern. These behaved as expected, especially if anyone got too near the nest, but to see these experts of flight maneuvering around the sky was really something to see. The number of Puffin especially was disappointing  However, compared to what can be seen in Anglesey these days, there were plenty of these characterful birds around. Some took flight, and the difference between these and the Guillemots compared to the terns was comical. Again there were plenty of breeding Eiders about, plus Shag, Cormorant, Swallow, some rather friendly Mallard (!).

The gulls included Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed & Herring. After a 2 hour visit which included looking round the 7th Century church where some swallows were nesting, the group started to assemble for the return trip to the mainland. The return boat ride proved a bit choppier, but nobody minded as the day had been totally up to, and in the majority of cases, exceeded expectations. Everyone concluded that it had been a wonderful day. The total number of bird species seen during the day was approximately 34.

On Saturday, 17th May, the group used the day to look around the reserves of Druridge Bay. These are all looked after by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust. The first visited was Hauxley, which has been created from a former open-cast mine. It holds several hides and also views overlooking the North Sea. The group then travelled further south to visit Druridge Pools and finally, Cresswell Pond.

At Hauxley, there were the usual suspects seen, such as Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Shelduck, Curlew, Snipe, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Arctic Tern, Gadwall, Lapwing and Oystercatcher. Amongst the woodland and scrub surrounding the pools were Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Tree Sparrow and Dunnock, with a Chiffchaff being heard only. Moving to other hides, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Moorhen, Sand Martin and Swallow were noted, plus Herring Gull, Teal, and Little Grebe. Another short walk added Blackcap, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and Whitethroat to the list.

After some lunch some of the group returned to the first hide visited and spotted a Spoonbill which was visiting the various reserves along the bay area. Another unusual sighting was a feral Swan Goose, which was seen by a few of the group. During the afternoon the group carried on to the other reserves and, apart from birds already seen, sightings included Magpie, Lesser Whitethroat, Wheatear, Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, Linnet, Great Crested Grebe, Willow Warbler, Stonechat, Skylark and Yellowhammer. By the time the group returned to the hotel, the list for the day was about 67 species seen.

On Sunday, 18th May, having paid and booked out of the hotel, the group went their separate ways. However, the majority did as the programme suggested and journeyed over the Pennines to have a break at RSPB Leighton Moss, just south of the Lake District. On the journey, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Woodpigeon and other species were noted. A visit to the Eric Morecombe and Allen hides added to the list Black-headed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush, Mute Swan, Mallard, Shelduck, Avocet, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Pintail (unusual at the time of year) Little Egret, a flight of 8 Redshank, and on returning to the car park, a Buzzard. On arriving at the main hide of the reserve, Pochard, Greylag Goose, Swallow, Collared Dove and Coal Tit were added. Considering the length of the journey to come, the group left early for the drive down the M6.

In all the weather was good, and the group enjoyed a variety of different reserves during the time away, which appeared to be enjoyed by all concerned and about 98 species seen among the group as a whole.

Venus Pool – 11 May 2014 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of 9 members turned up on a day which threatened rain, and which proved patchy and a bit windy at times. For the start of the day either a Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler was seen on one of the shrubs in the car park, but it couldn’t be decided which it was as it refused to sing!

The group moved up into the field, walking along the hedge line towards Cound Stank. On the way, a Yellowhammer was heard singing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. Goldfinch and Robin were also seen. There did not appear to be many birds feeding on the crops, but Woodpigeon were present, plus Linnet. On going through the gate at the top of the field, some Red-legged Partridge were seen running into the crops, and, on the other side, a Pheasant was seen. Once through the gates the group stayed by the bridge for some time hoping for, but not seeing, Kingfisher. However, there were good views of Wren and Blackbird. On moving back onto the reserve, the group moved up towards the quarry, and along the way, Dunnock were seen plus the first views or the year for many of the group of Swift. Swallow and Sand Martin also flew overhead. Not much else was seen on the walk down towards the oak.

The group started across towards the Fen Hide, and were delighted with the meadow flowers seen (mostly Buttercup and Campion, but there were plenty of Green Winged Orchids as well, although they were a bit past their best). Whileobserving these flowers, a Carrion Crow burst through the bushes from the pool, carrying prey, which looked like a chick of some sort. Jackdaws were around as well. A Sedge Warbler was heard within a bush and, with patience and a little time, the bird climbed out into view, giving a really excellent sighting of this migrant bird. A Reed Bunting flew across with nesting material. From the Fen Hide, not much was seen except a Coot. The group walked around to the end of the reserve and looked over the reserve from across the marsh. However there were no more sightings so the group returned to the Pool to see what was on the water.

Initially viewing took place from the Memorial Hide, and then from the Main Hide. As the trip was a half day one only, some of the group left but in the meantime on the pool among the birds seen were Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Pied Wagtail and also a Common Sandpiper. A later view from Lena’s Hide found Greenfinch.

The visit ended at about 1pm and about 39 birds had been seen, and everyone who came appeared to have enjoyed themselves.

Rutland Water – 27 April 2014 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of 24 people arrived at the Shirehall, and the coach started off promptly for the journey to Rutland Water. The weather forecast showers so all were hoping that these would not occur. On arrival at the and after paying the entrance fee to the reserve at the Egleton Reception Centre, the group split up to look at this very large reserve with many hides.

As everyone went their own way the reporter can only mention those areas which she visited starting off with the Sandpiper Hide which overlooked Lagoon 4. Before the walk to this hide the feeding station was looked and here Blackbird, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow & Pheasant were noted. Once at the hide Mute Swan, Shelduck, Coot, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Great crested Grebe were some of the commoner birds seen. But there was also a Sanderling, a couple of Ringed Plover, an Egyptian Goose, Common Gull, Whimbrel, Dunlin, and a short glimpse of a Linnet. On a final look round some Wigeon were noted and Oystercatcher.

Unfortunately the Shoveller Hide overlooking Lagoon 3 was not visited but other group members did go there and Black Tern and Garganey were the highlights. Visits to the Osprey, Grebe and Redshank Hides overlooking Lagoon 2, proved interesting with an artificial Sand Martin Bank, which was fully occupied by plenty of Sand Martin. The only other hirundine present were Swallow. Also present were Black Headed Gull, Common Tern, Pochard, Teal, Little Grebe and 2 Stove Dove landed to rest. In between the hides and on the walk back to the centre, having had lunch in one of the hides, Sedge Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler were seen but a Wood Warbler was heard.

At this point, the group travelled in the coach round to the Lyndon end of the reserve. At a feeding station, Tree Sparrow were seen to the delight of all plus Chaffinch, and Goldfinch. Then the group slowly made their way to the Waderscrape Hide, where there were good views of Osprey. On the way, Red legged Partridge, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Rook, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler were seen. Other birds seen at the Waderscrape Hide Lapwing, Pheasant, on the opposite bank, Great crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Reed Bunting, Grey Heron, Common Tern, Moorhen and Coot. To the delight of the group, a Water Vole kept passing between the scrapes. It was great to see this endangered animal.

On the way back some of the group visited the Tufted Duck Hide, where there was not much to see, and then came to the Deep Water Hide. On the way, Buzzard was seen flying, a Dunnock seen and Wren heard. At the hide Gadwall were noted and it seemed that that was that. But then a very sharp eyed member saw what was another bird of the day, a Great Northern Diver, nearly in full summer plumage.

Back at the centre, great fun was had at the feeding station where Robin and Kestrel were seen, by a Bank Vole which was housed under the bird table which came out every so often at blistering speed before returning to its nest.

This proved a fitting end to an enjoyable day had by all, where the rain did keep in abeyance, only coming down on the journey back.

Other birds seen by the group included Shoveller, Marsh Harrier, Arctic Tern, Lesser Whitethroat, Greenfinch. The total species seen could be between 55 and 60.

Ynys Hir – 30 March 2014 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of about 18 people arrived after driving from Shropshire to this popular reserve on the banks of the river Dovey. The weather was clear, if a bit chilly at times.

It was decided to walk the Salt Marsh route for the morning and so this was started after having looked at the feeding station by the reception centre. Here Siskin, a welcome observation, Chaffinch, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit were noted. On the pool below Canada Geese and Mallard were noted. On walking through the wooded area there were good views of Magpie and a very busy Jay, with Chiffchaff, plus Treecreeper. On arrival at the Marian Mawr Hide, there were good views over the recently worked areas bellows. A great many trees had been taken down leaving a quite bare area, but the group were rewarded with good views of a couple of Wheatear, a Little Grebe on the pool, Little Egret further out. Having decided that there was not much else to view, the group started off towards the Saltings Hide. The path can be closed due to flooding, but it was clear on this occasion.

From this hide, the salt marsh was further studied and Barnacle Geese, Shelduck, Herring Gull, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Great black backed Gull, Black headed Gull, Curlew, Cormorant, Redshank, Widgeon and Red headed Merganser were noted. On the other grassland, Pied Wagtail and Pheasant were noted. Having had such a good morning, the group returned to reception centre to have lunch at the picnic area. While observing the feeding station again Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldfinch and a very smart Redpoll were added to the list.

After lunch the group started going trough the wooded area towards the Ynys Hir Hide which gives such lovely views over the reserve, but it was rather quiet there so the group moved on to the Boardwalk trail. Along here Meadow Pipit were noted as well as Brimstone and Peacock butterflies. At the new Ynys Feurig Hide, Teal, Mute Swan, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, and Blackcap were noted. After walking back towards the reception centre Blackbird and Buzzard were seen. Some members of the group saw Goldcrest, Coal Tit, and Nuthatch. A Raven flew overhead.

The group arrived back in order to start the journey back to Shropshire having had a really good day out. Approximately 50 birds were seen.

Pennington Flash Country Park – 12 January 2014 – Report by Sue Brealey

On a bright but cold day, a group of 6 members turned up at Pennington in the hope of some good birding. Although familiar to some members it was not to others so made a nice change.

On arrival some members noted Goldfinch, Collared Dove, & Woodpigeon. Firstly a scan over the lake itself from the car park brought in quite a few species including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Black headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black backed Gull with a few Mute Swan. There were a great many Great Crested Grebe, 28 were counted at one point, mostly in winter plumage although one individual was seen in early summer plumage. The other bird in very good numbers was Goosander, with at least 43 counted, which was terrific to see.

After this session the group moved to the circular walk around the wooded area where the majority of the hides are positioned. The first hide proved interesting overlooking a spit of land dividing the flash itself from a small bay. Again there were plenty of Goosander and Great Crested Grebe, but also seen were Grey Heron, Little Grebe, plenty of Cormorant, Lapwing, Moorhen and Coot being added to the list. Also there were excellent views of both male and female Goldeneye. Onto the second hide overlooking the bay but from a different angle, which proved really good, giving yet more excellent views of the Goosander and Great Crested Grebe, but also of a particularly cold looking Grey Heron looking all hunched up, and then while scanning the area one member spotted a Snipe and in the end 4 were noted, looking good in the sunshine present at that point. On one of the reed covered islands Shoveler were seen feeding. There were good views of Jay flying from tree to tree, and a Carrion Crow, which in the light initially looked as if its back and tail feathers were dark grey in colour. This was quite deceptive.

On the recommendation of a local birder, the group moved further up the path and then turned left going up a short hill that divided the park from the Flash and the Liverpool Canal. However this did not give up any birds of note except for a Kestrel, but it was good to get an overview of the site. The group then walked around the north end of the wooded area, where the disturbance from dog walkers did not give any birds of note. A visit to another hide proved difficult as it was very crowded, but very good numbers of Gadwall were noted. The group moved onto the next hide which was very small and over looked a frozen lake, so there was no birdlife except a couple of Magpie and a Wren, but an excellent place to stop for a bit of lunch.

After lunch the group moved to the next hide which proved to be one of the best feeding stations seen. There were about 5 square caged feed tables, although these did not stop Grey Squirrels getting through!! Also there were three hanging bags of peanuts, a couple of pools and plenty of old logs, which were good for insect feeding. Here the bird list nearly doubled in number. The common species expected were noted such as Great & Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, with several males seen quarrelling, Dunnock and a Wren looking for insects in the dead wood, but there were also others such as excellent Bullfinches both male and female looking really good as well as Nuthatch and at least 3 Stock Dove. It was great to really study these pretty birds and note the differences from Woodpigeon. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was noted working its way up a tree and quite difficult to see depending on the angle of view. A Redwing was briefly noted and a family of Long Tailed Tits took advance of the Peanuts. However one of the top birds was a Willow Tit which was continually coming to the feeders. There could have been about 3 or a single one making frequent visits, but it was lovely to see this usually elusive bird.

The next hide overlooked a largish lake but except for Mallard, Tufted Duck and Grey Heron nothing was really noted until a flash of turquoise indicated the presence of a Kingfisher. This was initially seen and then it flew off but returned to perch amongst some red dogwood bushes, and the contrast of colours made the Kingfisher stand out in an exceptional way. After this it was noted that the clouds were beginning to gather in the west, and the wind was getting up. However at the car park another quick view over the main Flash brought another highlight of the day, a juvenile Kittiwake amongst the Black Headed Gulls, looking very sorry for itself all hunched down in the cold, and in totally the wrong place. But it proved a really good final spot.

The group then dispersed home having had a good day’s birding, being thankful for the clear weather, and with a list of about 52 species.

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