Field Trip Reports 2016

Pennington Flash – Sunday, 11th December 2016 – Report by Sue Brealey

A small group of 4 people arrived at Pennington Flash, a country park situated at Leigh near Wigan. The weather proved to be dry but there was quite a cold wind blowing which made itself felt in exposed areas. After ensuring no more people were going to arrive, and having had a welcome bacon butty (!), the group started to walk anti-clockwise around the area where various hides are located.

Initially the Flash itself was inspected, a large area of open water where at the far end there is a yacht club, with a few hardy souls out enjoying themselves. Bird-wise, it proved to be Coot heaven with a goodly number about, followed by Black headed Gulls, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose in the area by the car park, plus at least 3 pairs of Goldeneye, a welcome winter visitor. Further round at Ramsdale’s Flash, there were quite a few Great crested Grebe, and although missed by the group, amongst these birds was a Long tailed Duck. A pity to have missed it, but easily done with their plumage looking much the same during the winter period. But also Wigeon, Teal, Grey Heron, Carrion Crow, Cormorant were noted, plus Mute Swan.

At Kidney Pool, via a hide, really good views of a perched Sparrowhawk were noted. It was a real treat to actually study this raptor which of course is usually seen at great speed during a raid on small birds. After the Sparrowhawk flew off the group resumed their walk. Along the path the group saw Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch amongst the trees.

Continuing the walk there was stretches when few birds were seen, but at the Teal Scrape, from a hide a number of Goosander were noted looking in very fine plumage, plus some Gadwall, Lesser black backed Gull, Moorhen, Lapwing , Little Grebe, Shoveler and Wigeon. A further walk took the group to the feeding station hide. This is probably in the writer’s opinion, one of the best around. Initially at least 6 Stock Dove were busy feeding in the company of about 8 Grey Squirrel, but as the squirrels started to move off, other birds started to gain the confidence to make an appearance. This included a couple of pairs of Bullfinch looking lovely and bright in the grey weather conditions, then a Nuthatch quickly came through but didn’t stay long. Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Greenfinch, a couple of Jay, and then probably the bird of the day, at least 3 Willow Tit flashed in and out to feed. It was really great to see this rarely seen bird.

Then the group went into the last hide overlooking the Pengy’s Pond. To the right hand side there was another feeding station and Long-tailed Tits were noted in the trees, and then although mistakened as a Moorhen initially, a Water Rail came out of the bushes and the group were able to get really good views of this illusive bird. Other birds seen included Reed Bunting, Woodpigeon, and Robin. Then to the left of the hide a Kingfisher was seen perched in a shrub looking really good. It then flew around the pond again perching but this time in the red branches of a large Cornus Shrub. The contrast in colour between the bird and shrub was really magnificent. It then flew further around the pond obviously changing position frequently in order to hopefully getting a better chance at feeding well.

After a further viewing over the main Flash, hoping to see a reported Scaup, unsuccessfully, the group decided that the cold was getting the better of them, so after a really successful day with a list of at least 42 birds, everyone departed for home and warmth.

Kingsbury Water Park & RSPB Middleton Lakes – Sunday, 16th October 2016 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of eight intrepid members drove through driving rain across to these reserve near Tamworth, in the hope that they would not be alone and that the rain would clear. Fortunately for all, the weather cleared as the group met up and the rest of the day proved dry, if windy at times, with good light to see the birds.

The group collected at the Broomey Croft part of Kingsbury Water Park, which is placed between the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, and started a circular walk around Broomey Park & Canal Pools, with hides overlooking another lake with scrape areas. From the car park, a great spotted Woodpecker was seen flying into a nearby tree, but soon flew off. The main pools were scanned and these showed a great many Coot, Mallard, with plenty of Great crested Grebe, especially with juvenile individuals. Canada Goose, Widgeon, Gadwall, Black-headed Gull were amongst those seen. Walking further round Tufted Duck were seen, and amongst the trees surrounding the lake, groups of Long-tailed Tit, with Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock added to the list. At the first of three hides the group was able to add Cormorant, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Pied Wagtail, Wigeon, Teal and Little Grebe to the list. On further inspection of a mudflat area, a Lapwing was seen with two groups of three Snipe huddled together. Onto the bushes near the hide a pair of Reed Bunting were noted, as well a couple of Chiffchaff. At the second hide, giving a different view of the same area a single Lesser black-backed Gull was seen as well as a Grey Heron and a couple of Little Egret. A kestrel flew over and waited in a nearby tree for possible prey, and a Buzzard flew across, the only raptors of the day. A third hide was visited but although the views were just as good, there were no more new sightings. The group walked further round joining up with the towpath of the local canal, and turn off the circular route to go to the fourth hide on site. The walk along the canal did not add any new sightings, but on the path to the hide, a skylark was seen and a Green Woodpecker was heard. The hide over the Otter Pool showed more Lapwing with Shoveler being added to the list. It was noted that all the duck were still in stages of eclipse and looked rather grubby. Walking back to the car park via the canal again added Wren & Chaffinch to the list.

After some lunch, the group moved off and drove around to RSPB Middleton Lakes, which is situated only a couple of miles away, and to the north of Kingsbury. Half the group had not been to this reserve, still in the process of being developed into a major reserve for the RSPB. The walk towards the main part of the reserve through a wood brought Coal Tit, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, and Greenfinch to the list at the feeding station. The walk through the woods didn’t add much to the list and once on the main part of the reserve having inspected the canal while crossing its bridge, it was disappointing how quiet it appeared. Inspection of the first lake did not add anything to the list, except a Water Rail called out in its usual manner but wasn’t seen. A further walk brought the group to the first screen/hide and although it was really good to hear a few calls from a Cetti’s Warbler in the bushes, again not seen, everything appeared just as quiet. As such the group decided to turn in for the day and start the drive back to Shropshire.

It was agreed that having had such a bad start to the day, in fact the birding side of the matter had been very successful, with in fact about 45 species seen.

Scottish Highlands 1st – 4th June 2016 – Report by Jim Almond

Fifteen members assembled based at the Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-Spey for a five-day break in the Scottish Highlands. A full daily itinerary was planned taking in most of the nearby ‘hotspots’ which would hopefully produce a good number of the local specialities?

Slavonian Grebe (Jim Almond)

Slavonian Grebe (Jim Almond)

We certainly hit the ground running on the first day (Wednesday) starting with a quick stop at Avielochan, which produced cracking views of Slavonian Grebe, plus Common Sandpiper, Little Grebe, Goldeneye and plenty of hirundines. The rest of the morning was spent near the small village of Laggan where an Icterine warbler continued to show extremely well, often perched on the top of the small birches, singing its heart out – a UK first for everyone! On the opposite side of the road, a female Cuckoo was also present on overhead wires, every now and then launching off to catch unsuspecting caterpillars. A speculative drive around some nearby lochs produced Ringed Plover, Teal and Wheatear before heading over to Kincraig for lunch; a grassy bank in bright sunshine was the perfect setting whilst we watched the antics of a pair of Ospreys. They were clearly prospecting for fish at times and although the plunge never quite happened, no-one was complaining.  The afternoon was spent initially on the Loch Mallachie loop trail where ‘canopy views’ of Crested Tit, were the pick

Icterine Warbler (Mim Elliot-Smith)

Icterine Warbler (Mim Elliot-Smith)

of a quiet woodland session. We then drove around Lochindorb where we added 15 new species for the trip including great views of Red Grouse, Common sandpiper and Redshank but sadly no sign of Black-throated Diver. An after dinner drive to Dava Moor continued the flow of quality birds with Short-eared Owl, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier and Woodcock. A further 10 Woodcock were then viewed much closer from near the caravan park in Grantown-on-Spey.  With over 60 species for the day, this had been an excellent start to the trip!

FR16_2016_05_30_Cuckoo Laggan 30 5 16 FA1A0692_Jim Almond

Cuckoo (Jim Almond)

Fuelled by a hearty Grant Arms breakfast, Thursday’s first call was at Lochindorb with many repeats of the previous afternoon but fortunately this time one of the Black-throated Diver pair was showing reasonably well. So too was another Osprey, this time diving repeatedly but without success. Our main destination for the morning was the Findhorn valley where we saw Common Tern and Grey Wagtail on the drive in. No Eagles had been seen that morning but once again the group struck lucky after about 20 minutes on site with a distant subadult Golden Eagle giving acceptable telescope views. Raven and Peregrine were also seen much closer. After lunch we drove up the Farr road and amazingly encountered another 2 distant Golden eagles on the initial climb, forcing an impromptu emergency stop! Siskin, Tree Pipit and Spotted Flycatcher were our only rewards from a couple of stops hoping for (but not seeing) Crossbill. Loch Ruthven predictably produced more Slavonian Grebe and a lone Red-throated Diver. Several Hooded Crows seen on the return journey completed another successful day.

Crested Tit (Sue Brealey)

Crested Tit (Sue Brealey)

The emphasis for Friday’s birding was on the coast and with a forecast of heavy rain, an acceptance that some of the action would involve getting wet! Our first call was at the Roseisle forestry commission reserve. The conifer plantation extends to the beach and we checked out this area first. Red-throated Diver, Eider, Guillemot and Shag were the notable birds viewed out to sea but the star performers were a family of Crested Tits which appeared out of nowhere showing extremely well from the beach at the edge of the conifers!  The short drive to Burghead for a seawatch didn’t produce any birds of note but Gannet, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Sandwich Tern and

Rock Pipit were all new for the trip. The heavy rain arrived early afternoon and after a lunchbreak we moved on to the Lossie estuary. This is a haven for gulls but the Glaucous Gull which had been frequenting the area recently failed to show. Common Terns and a lone Little

Osprey (Jim Almond)

Osprey (Jim Almond)

Tern were active once the tide started to drop plus Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling busy feeding. It was interesting to see both Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander on the same stretch of water and once again, an obliging Osprey kept us amused, hovering and plunging for fish on two separate occasions. Stonechat and Yellowhammer were present in the dunes. We called it a day later afternoon with rain falling once again and due to lack of visibility an evening session was abandoned.

The final (full) day was devoted to Cairngorm and with low cloud a real problem we had two stops at likely sites during the drive up, checking out for Crossbills.  Our second stop against all odds, produced a large vociferous and mixed flock of Crossbills, primarily Scottish with one or two Parrot amongst them.  We had opted to join in with a ranger led ‘Walk to the top’ in the hope of finding Ptarmigan and Dotterel. It proved to be a bit of a disappointment with only a few of the group managing to glimpse a rather skulking Ptarmigan behind the distant ridge and Dotterel conspicuous by their absence! There was still time to finish on a high note and this was provided by a pair of Ring Ouzels present in the Ski station rock garden. With small mouths to feed, they were constantly in and out of the area carrying food and showing really well.

The SOS party on the Cairngorm summit (Jim Almond)

The SOS party on the Cairngorm summit (Jim Almond)

Ring Ouzel (male) (Jim Almond)

Ring Ouzel (male) (Jim Almond)

It had been a really productive trip with Capercaillie and Dotterel the only target species missing from the final tally of of 96 birds seen. It was great introduction to birding in Scotland for some of the party and even the ‘old hands’ were reflecting on how well we had tracked down so many of the ‘trickier’ species for such a short trip.

RSPB Dearne Valley – 6 March 2016 – Report by Sue Brealey

This coach trip was cancelled as it was felt to be financially not viable as only 17 people booked a place, and it would have caused a large loss to the Society. This money could be better spent on any of the relevant and important surveys being carried out throughout the county.

The North Wales Coast – 14 February 2016 – Report by Sue Brealey

A group of 5 members braved the weather to meet at the seafront in Llanfairfechan to start this field trip. The weather in fact proved good with blue skies, a few clouds, no rain, excellent light but with a brisk cold wind, certainly from the Arctic direction! The tide was on its way in, but sea watching proved difficult due to the very choppy seas. On the sandbanks though lots of Oystercatcher & Curlew were noted, plus the usual Gulls ie Black headed, Herring & Great Black backed. At one point a Peregrine flew over, but was only seen by a couple of the group. On the boating pool Mallard & Mute Swan were noted. When using scopes to see further out a Cormorant was seen flying past as well as a group of Pintail, which were difficult to identify at first due to the distance involved. After about an hour it was decided to move to the next port of call.

The group drove round to the small cark park near a sewerage works at Morfa Madryn. The group down to the works in the hope of wagtails but to no avail. However in the field opposite Blackbird, Mistle and Song Thrush were noted. There were several Robins about in the woods going towards the railway line. Within the woods several birds were seen including Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Wren. Having negotiated the railway, very busy with trains passing, the group walked around to the first of the three hides located in the area. While having lunch the group enjoyed flocks of Dunlin flying around, a Little Egret landing then disappearing up a channel, more oystercatcher, and some Shelduck. From the other hides, a pair of Greenshank were seen trying not to be associated with small flocks of Redshank, with a smart pair of Pintail & Shoveler, a Moorhen, some Canada & Greylag Goose, and finally a pair of Little Grebe feeding vigorously around the pools. There was also a considerable flock of at least 300 Wigeon feeding on the backs of the pools.

A further short drive moved the group to Aber Ogwen (The Spinnies), situated just under the imposing Penrhyn Castle. With the cars parked just by the sea shore, the group watched the incoming tide, including a small flock of Common Scoter, as it wretched its height before walking down the lane towards the 2 hides situated within the reserve. At the first, Great & Blue Tits were feeding at some feeders with Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Robin, and Nuthatch. Across the water a small flock of Redshank were seen as well as about 4 Little Egret starting to roost in the tresses. A Grey Heron was seen to one side, and the group stayed for some time in the hope of seeing a Kingfisher but again to no avail. On returning to the road a very large flock of Curlew were noted in the field across from the reserve, which considering its red status was gratifying although they were probably winter visitors only. Another short walk brought the group to the main hide for the reserve. On the inland side on a spit of land going into the lake, Greenshank were noted besides, Redshank, Little Egret & Grey Heron. Nearer to the hide at a feeding station, Chaffinch Great Tits, Blue Tits, and House Sparrow were seen as well a very tidy looking pair of Bullfinch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew through without stopping, and Little Grebe were seen as well. On the seaward side, Mallard & Teal were seen as well as quite a few Goldeneye. A small flock of Dunlin flew past. After seeing such good birds, the group walked back to the car park along the beach being careful as the tide although turned was still quite high up the beach.

The group then drove to RSPB Conwy in the hope of getting a well-earned hot drink. Before getting onto the A55, everyone noted a Buzzard flying over, only the second raptor of the day. Once at Conwy a quick drink was had just before closure but Coot and Tufted Duck were added to the list. Having had a break the group broke up to start the drive back home. In conclusion it was felt to be a very good day (not wet!!), and the list came to about 48, which was really quite good.

The Wirral – 17 January 2016 – Report by Sue Brealey

On an extremely cold day, with blustery winds, but thankfully no rain, a miracle for this winter, a group of 13 people bravely arrived at the meeting point at the Leasowes at the north end of the Wirral. Unfortunately the tide was well out so any sea watching was not possible, but along the beach several groups of birds were noted including the usual types of Gulls including a Common Gull which flew overhead. A large flock of Curlew were seen, plus Red-breasted Merganser, Lapwing, Redshank and quite a few Turnstone picking their way along the rockier edges. A Little Egret flew in and on a good scan with telescopes a Grey Plover and Greenshank were seen. A brisk walk up to a group of rocks was undertaken in the hope of seeing Purple Sandpiper which, disappointingly, were not present. But Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Ringed Plover and Shelduck were included in the list.

A short journey was made to Hoylake, but with the tidal situation this proved very disappointing, so the journey continued to West Kirby. It had been suggested that there was a Great Northern Diver present at the Marine Lake. In very windy conditions and using the telescopes, this was observed very well, diving a lot to feed. Also on the lake was a Great Crested Grebe and a pair of Red-breasted Merganser plus a few gulls. Despite the cold, the group continued the journey south, this time stopping at Parkgate. Conveniently we were able to park facing the saltmarsh, and so it was decided to have a lunch break, birding at the same time. On arrival a raptor was noted and this proved to be a female Marsh Harrier quartering the area looking for prey. Again with the tide being out there was great difficulty in seeing birds which were hiding down in the channels, but plenty of Mallard were noted, as well as Lapwing, and a Great White Egret flew in. Then another raptor was seen, but this time happily it was a female Hen Harrier. This quartered the area for a time and then sat on a branch sticking out of the marsh so all the group got excellent views of this rare bird. A large flock of Pink-footed Geese flew in.

After having viewed the area well it was decided to journey to the final destination at RSPB Burton Mere. On arrival the majority of the group started out to walk towards the old Inner Marsh Farm Hide. Happily, after walking through the trees and over the bridge, the group was greeted with an excellent view of a roosting Long-eared Owl, perched on a branch in the open. It was difficult to see it at first but once one’s eye was in, it was a really good view. A Kestrel was also noted hovering, looking for prey. Having enjoyed this excellent spot, the group travelled on to the hide only to find that the lake in front on the hide was devoid of birds – a real surprise! Several duck were noted on a lake on the extreme right, which included a Goldeneye (male) amongst Shoveler, Mallard, and Teal. Returning to the reception centre at the feeding station, smaller birds such as Chaffinch, Blue & Great Tit, and Dunnock were feeding there as well as the usual Grey Squirrel. Back in the centre, on the mere in front a lot of Teal & Wigeon were noted as well as Cormorant, Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen, Shoveler and Redshank. Then the crowning glory for the day was a Water Rail which was skulking around some reeds right in front of the hide.

By this time the light was going and so it was decided to start on the journey home. So after taking the weather into consideration, the group were lucky to have seen around 40 species with some of them being really good spots.

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