Cold and frosty winters morning. What bird epitomises our winter here in the UK more than any other? It's the Robin for me, and there have been plenty about. I have a window feeder on my lounge window and it has been the most frequent visitor, practically taking up residence in it.
There has been plenty of song too, with territory setting going on.
I went in search of some reported Waxwings in Warrington the other day, but they didn't show up. There were plenty of berries on the trees for them, it was mighty cold and the light perfect. Typical that they didn't want to play.
A small consolation though, were the very good numbers of Fieldfares, Mistle Thrush and Redwings. Initially a bit wary, they soon settled down to give some really very good views.
A very photogenic Redwing. Shame it wasn't a Waxwing though.
Happy New Year to you all. I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2017.
It was a very cold -3 with frost and ice on the ground as I headed out this morning, determined to get my camera back in use and the promise of some good light.
I headed to Pennington Flash with the intention of giving my fledgling 2017 year list a really good boost. I wasn't disappointed, as I rarely am when I visit Manchester's premier birding site.
A few birds had been around for a few weeks that are not your usual every day birds, so I concentrated on finding these first. Close in from Horrock's hide I found my first target bird in the shape of a Scaup. Two in fact. Similar in looks to a Tufted Duck, but without the tuft on the head and different bill. There also a tell tale white band around that bill, that is much higher than on the Tufted Duck.
I've had a couple of walks over this weekend. It was very cold on both days, but Saturday was grey, miserable and overcast. So no pictures on days like this. That said, I was mightily impressed by the numbers of winter thrushes that were on my patch in Woodford. It seemed as though every hedge, bush or tree had Fieldfares, Redwings or both in them.
So I returned today when the sun shone, and this time managed a few pictures. They were all so skittish though. Anything closer than 30 yards and they were off. So I turned to stealth mode. This meant I was stood close to, but not in, a hedge for quite some time, not moving. I was happy with the Fieldfare shots I got. Could have had a few less branches in front of it, but it's better than nothing.
Redwings were not so accommodating, and very flighty. This was taken at quite some distance.
As many of you will know, I could, and do spend hours watching wading birds. They're some of my favourite bird subjects. You know where they're going to be and there are no branches, twigs or grass in the way. That said, you can't just walk up to them and ask if they would mind you taking a picture.
Patience is key, and not frightening the birds is of utmost importance. If you stay still and low and don't look intimidating, you will gain their trust and everyone is happy. The birds can go about their business and I can (hopefully) get some got shots as they do it.
One of the many Ringed Plovers along the Wirral coast.
A Turnstone doing what Turnstones do. Brilliantly camouflaged at the same time.
At West Kirby marine lake there are always plenty of waders around and usually roosting. I came across a Cormorant though that was particularly sleepy. I wasn't sure if it had just come in from a long flight and was exhausted, or was just generally tired. I don't normally see these asleep. They're usually fishing or standing wings aloft to dry.
Still, it gave me a chance to view this sleeping beauty.
There have been a couple of Cattle Egrets around in recent weeks in the North West. One has been present up at Marshside RSPB reserve in Southport and the other has been at Burton Mere RSPB reserve on the Wirral. I've only ever seen one before, a couple of years ago, and also at Burton Mere.
When I arrived it was hiding behind a bush on an island in front of the main reception. So I made my way out towards a viewing screen a couple of hundred yards away, in the hope that I'd get a better view. Although I was further away, I could actually now see the bird, even though it seemed to want to hide away at every opportunity.
It is slightly smaller than a Little Egret and has a yellow beak as opposed to the black of the Little Egret. It does spend time in with cattle too, as did on this occasion.
So these are just record shots once again (as they were a couple of years ago). Hopefully one day I will get a little closer, in good light, with less vegetation, less haze etc etc. The agonies of photography. You rarely get all elements working in your favour, especially when the subjects are birds. Still a great bird to see and this took my year list to 187.
A distant but stunning Curlew Sandpiper was seen from the IMF hide. This took my total to 188. I'm hoping to get to 200 species this year, but time is running out.
A trip to the Wirral coast is often required for me. Good numbers of waders are always on offer. One of the most common in the area I visited was the Redshank. Thousands in fact along the bank of the Dee Estuary.
Burton Mere wetlands on the Wirral is always a good place to birdwatch. There is always a good variety of stuff about, from woodland to wildfowl and a smattering of the not so common birds. Recently there have been good numbers of waders dropping in, and as I can't resist staring at waders for hours, I took myself along to check them out.
It wasn't long before a small flock of Dunlin flew into view, accompanied by one single Ringed Plover.
A Dunlin in front of some Shoveler ducks.
Enjoying the sunshine.
Along with the Dunlin, there are four other species in this picture. How many can you see?
A bird that was in good supply at Spurn was the Linnet. There were several large flocks around and it was good to get quite close to a few of them. They are a very flighty bird, and usually when they see you coming they are off and far into the distance. The males are stunning looking birds, and for me underrated. Quite often their name is preceded by "Oh it's just a". Not for me though. Fascinating birds to watch.
The rather dull looking female, but actually a nice looking bird.
Catching the morning sunshine at the breakfast table.
While at Spurn last weekend, we visited Kilnsea nature reserve. A great little wetland spot with plenty of scrapes, pools and grassland. For such a good site, it's a shame that there is only one small hide available. There was a queue to get in on both occasions that I visited last weekend. Having said that, the birds are the most important thing and they are still there in good numbers, largely undisturbed.
There were a few Little Egrets knocking around in front of the hide. I always find them fascinating to watch as they make their way through the shallows looking for food.
In front of (and below) the Egrets were a couple of Knot, foraging.
It has been a while since I've been out and about. School holidays and other commitments do get in the way some times, but I try to make the most of the time I have when I can get out with the binoculars and camera. Last weekend was one of those special days, when weather, company and birds all come together in one place to make it memorable.
A 4:30am start saw my friend Phil and I heading to Spurn on the East coast. Arriving just after 7am we found our first good bird within minutes. A Spotted Flycatcher, which was joined briefly by a Redstart in the hedge.
Overhead was a constant stream of hirundines and hundreds of Meadow Pipits. Warblers were in very good supply, with Reed, Willow, Whitethroat, and Sedge in various places.
Some good sea watching turned up a couple for the year list in Black Tern and Red-throated Diver.
A Mediterranean Gull in a field was nice to see and there were plenty of waders on the mud flats. One that got away though was a Wood Sandpiper that was taken by a Peregrine moments before I could get into the hide. With 70 different species seen in the day though, I couldn't really complain, but I did feel a bit gutted about that Wood Sand. :(
This Sedge Warbler was in hand after being ringed and soon after released.
A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was one of many seen on the day.
Starlings were starting to gather on the power lines. A sure sign that Autumn is just around the corner.
A small party of Northern Wheatear were in this ploughed field at Kilnsea.
A Yellow Wagtail spent a lot of its preening in the sunshine.
The birds are pretty quiet at the moment, so I've decided to take a look back on one of my favourite summer visitors to these shores. The Common Redstart. Some friends and I watched this particular male bird over a couple of years, and it was exciting to see him return, When he did, it was great to watch and spend a lot of time with him, as he looked for a mate and eventually raised young.
A stunning bird.