On my way to see the Kentish Plover I was constantly scouring the reservoir and it's banks to see what else was about. I spotted a Common Sandpiper bobbing and weaving along the shoreline, as they do. Close by were a pair of Little Ringed Plover. At first I had to make sure these weren't the Kentish variety. Then I found myself really taken with them. One was feeding along the waters edge, and one was kindly stood proudly with the sun on it's back. I can't resist these little waders. So I stopped for a few minutes and watched them.
News came through early on Monday morning that a Kentish Plover was just a few miles away from my house and where I work. I was in the office at the time, desperately hoping that it would hang around until the evening when I could dash over to Audenshaw to see it. It had crossed my mind to take the afternoon off, but I decided against it and took the risk that it might hang around.
Trains on time (for once) meant I got home and out again before 6pm. The long walk/trot to the area of the reservoir where the bird was seemed to take an eternity. At this point I am always thinking it will leave minutes before I get there. Anyway, despite stopping to look at some rather nice Little Ringed Plovers, there it was. What an absolute corking bird.
I understand it is only the third in the County, and I feel privileged to have been it's company last night
There have been good numbers of Little Gulls around the country in recent weeks. I missed them all, but I managed to catch sight of one, more by luck than judgement. I visited Woolston Eyes nature reserve on my day off, and as luck would have it, there was one there. It was nice to be able to watch it for an hour or two and on occasions quite closely.
Little Gull. An immature adult.
A good comparison for size with Black-headed Gulls.
My excitement this week has been palpable. With news of migrant birds making their way into the country, I've been itching to get out there at every possible moment. Not easy when you spend nearly twelve hours outside the house for work.
I saw the weather forecast on Monday (Who am I kidding? I am always checking it for good birding conditions) and Tuesday and Wednesday were looking very promising indeed. No clouds, just sunshine. Perfect conditions for decent photography. So I booked Wednesday off and set my alarm for 5.30am. I woke before it in excitement.
I saw so much. It was an amazing day with many highlights, but I will start with just two.
These both have travelled from their African wintering grounds to return to the UK for breeding, and are possibly the two birds I look forward to meeting up with again the most when April arrives. The Common Redstart and the Pied Flycatcher.
Enough waffle from me. I'll let the birds do the talking.
Common Redstart (male).
Pied Flycatcher (male) in the early morning sunlight.
A visit to any coastal area, at this time of year especially, will be filled with the sound of many different birds. But a couple you will no doubt hear more than any other are the sound of the Oystercatcher and the Common Redshank.
Conspicuous with its black and white colouration and bright orange bill you can't miss the Oystercatcher, and if you did, their call will make sure you pay attention to it. I find them to be great characters to observe. They're seem to be up to something all the time.
Not quite so noisy and a little duller in appearance, is the Redshank. Still, a beautiful bird and one I enjoy watching whenever I come across one. They too have a distinctive call and usually heard as they zip past you to find a new feeding spot.
The Avocet is an iconic bird. The symbol of the RSPB and a sign of all good things to do with conservation and what can be achieved if everyone pulls in the same direction. The Avocet was almost extinct in the UK, but has had a remarkable increase in numbers in recent decades. A real success story and one I hope can be replicated with the Hen Harrier. Maybe the RSPB emblem should be changed to help it.
This is a bird that I have avoided seeing my whole life. How? I have no idea. I have obviously been to the wrong places at the wrong times. I know that I've missed some by hours, but that's the joy of birding for me. You never know if you'll see what you want to see, or if something better will turn up, and sometimes nothing at all.
Phil and I stopped off in Holyhead harbour on our way to Anglesey. We were looking for Black Guillemots, as they are often seen here. Low and behold, as I peered over the harbour side there was a Shag. I double checked with Phil that it was indeed a Shag and not a Cormorant. I was delighted when it was confirmed and ran for the camera. I often wondered if I'd actually be able to tell the difference between a Cormorant and the Shag, but it was quite easy when I saw this one. It's quite a bit smaller and slender looking. It also has a lovely green colouration.
Alarm set for 4.20am and out the door by 5am can only mean one thing. A birding day trip.
With the clocks now on British Summer time, it is getting light by 6 o'clock, and when you want to travel 120 miles to North West Wales it requires an early start.
We arrived at South Stack with a grey blanket of cloud overhead. Not the blue skies we were promised. A pair of Chough greeted us in the car park, and these were one of the main reasons I wanted to come here. Unfortunately they didn't hang around but they are super birds.
We took the path down towards the cliffs to see what sea birds were about when I noticed a Peregrine sat nicely on a rock surveying the landscape. It stayed sat there for a good 15 minutes or so, which allowed Phil and I to get some decent close views and pictures.
Pipits of the Rock and Meadow variety were heard and seen with some regularity.
Peregrine Falcon keeping watch.
We went in search of Stonechats, which we knew should be in the vicinity. There is a great area of heather and gorse which is ideal for them, and after just a few minutes of looking a stunning male popped up. He was shortly followed by a female.
Male Stonechat on the gorse.
A Northern Wheatear. Probably fresh in after it's migration.
The sound of the Curlew on my patch really does signal the beginning of Spring. I also recently found out it was my Nan's favourite call from when she was younger on the farms in Ireland. Even more reason to be fond of them.
I caught up with lots of them in Norfolk. The beach at Titchwell held quite a few, and that's where I took these pictures.
The sea was the calmest I've seen it here. Usually it's blowing a gale and it's really choppy. On this day you can see the waves just gently lapping while the birds go about their business.
Well this bird had me flummoxed for a while. At Blakeney Harbour whilst walking to see the Lapland Buntings, a bird flew across the path in front of me. It dropped out of sight and down into a water outlet from one of the sluice gates. When I found it again I was pretty sure that it was a Pipit, but which one?
I ruled out Meadow Pipit. So this left me with Water or Rock Pipit as the main culprits. The location and where I had seen it seemed to suggest Water Pipit. There was a good supercilium above the eye and a grey head. Added to this, later in the day one was reported on one of the news services at the same location. Mystery solved? No, not really.
I wasn't convinced in myself, despite the various clues. So I sought help from the Manchester County Bird Recorder. This resulted in the correct identification of a Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus littoralis). A very good article can be found here Scandinavian Rock & Water Pipit on the confusion surrounding the identification of the both. I'm glad I was not alone in my quandry. Next time I will know what to look out for before making my assumption. I still might get it wrong.
Choseley drying barns are a great place to stop for a variety of birds at all times of year. Being just a stones throw, inland from Titchwell, I am never far away on my visits to Norfolk. I usually make passing visits as I move on to my next destination and have a good scan of the fields to see what's about.
The barns are used for drying grain and this attracts Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and the odd Tree Sparrow. I have yet to see Corn Bunting here, but was fortunate to see a dozen or so Yellowhammer feeding very close by.
Red-legged Partridge and Grey Partridge were seen in the fields too on what was a really rather nice warm Spring day.
The barns at Choseley. The coastal path follows the hedge line on the left hand side.
Grey Partridge. Good numbers were seen around the hedge-lined fields.