A nice cold and bright forecast meant I was out before sunrise, and off to Pennington Flash to see what was on offer. You can never fail here, at one of the North West's finest birding sites. Such a mix of habitat opens up so many possibilities. I registered over 30 different species this morning. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but it's just a joy to be out with nature at that time of the morning. One thing that did catch my eye, were the Goldeneye going through their courtship display. Most unusal, and I found myself fixated with three males trying to woo two females. They didn't seem that interested but that didn't deter the males. Maybe they needed their beer goggles.
Goldeneye (not 007)
A Pennington favourite (and my Mum's favourite too)
An early visit to Castleshaw Reservoir, Oldham, on Christmas
Eve meant I managed to see a Great Northern Diver (also known as a Great
Northern Loon) for only the second time. My first encounter was back in the spring
of 2010 at Carsington Waters in Derbyshire. On that occasion there were both an
adult and a juvenile, but sadly they stayed well out into the distance, and the
use of the scope was crucial. This time, I was much luckier as the bird came to
within 15 feet or so of the dam wall where I was standing in wait with the
camera. The largest of our UK
divers had been on the reservoir for a couple of weeks when I visited.
Unfortunately the light was not that great, so the shots aren’t the best, but
at least the rain held off while I was there, unlike the arctic wind which
nearly cut me in two.
Having waited so long to get any half decent shots of Tree Sparrows, I thought I would share some more with you. These were all from my time in Glazebury last weekend. This little chaps population has declined so much in recent years that it is on the RSPB red list. Sometimes referred to as Mutton Chops because of the black marking on the cheeks. Smaller than a House Sparrow and somewhat more nervous. It seems that the slightest movement of anything sends these birds to the nearest hedge or tree. To be fair to them, having witnessed Sparrowhawks going into the bushes for a kill, it's no surprise.
They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I like them and the fact that they make it difficult for you to watch them close up only adds to the attraction for me.
I had the pleasure of spending a good five hours in a private hide yesterday in Glazebury, Warrington. The hide is set up superbly, on farmland well away from humankind and is perfect for peaceful birding. It was a cold start with thick frost on the ground, but the sun was up first thing and soon moved into it's perfect position behind the hide. We were then treated to some fantastic bird action, with Tree Sparrows a plenty, Gold Green and Chaffinches, Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Jay, Pheasant, Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the star of the show for me, a male Sparrowhawk. Sure, these are not particularly uncommon birds, but the opportunity to photograph them at close quarters was where the excitement lay for me. Some of my best pictures are below, but to be honest I am so pleased with a lot of them that I may have to post more later. An amazing day.
I've waited a long time to get a decent shot of a Tree Sparrow.
A bird that I like to think of as a bit dumpy but very
elegant, is the Dipper. Living close to the GoytValley in Stockport
provides me with ample opportunity to see these wonderful little birds, and
they never fail to intrigue me. Watching them fly kamikaze into the river in
search of food is quite an amazing sight. Dippers can then hold their own in
some very fast flowing water, holding their heads out of the water every now
and again for breath. Probably the most well known characteristic though is the
link with it’s name and it’s ability to dip or bob. This is something that a
lot of river birds do, such as the Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. No one is quite
sure why they do this, (and I am sure there is a reason) it’s just something
for us to enjoy.
The forecast for this morning (for once) was for sunshine and no rain. So, I decided to get myself over to Pennington Flash in Leigh to try and catch up with the Scaup that had been reported recently. When I arrived at 8.30, there it was, close to the car park where previously reported. Doing what most other sane people do at that hour. Sleeping.
Light wasn't great, and then as the sun came up it didn't make it any easier really. But there is one picture below, more for record purposes. The Scaup is quite a bit bigger than the Tufted Duck although very simiar in looks. Rather than a black back, it has a greyish look, and no tuft.
There were lots of Widgeon, Goldeneye, Shoveler and Tufted Ducks. A couple of Kingfishers gave good views, proving that patience pays dividends. As usual from the Bunting Hide there were plenty of finches and a couple of Willow Tits too.
The Flash never dissapoints, and I managed to see 31 different species today.