Thursday, 11 August 2016

Widdop Resevoir.

While at home in June I managed to visit a number of different areas in out locality.  It rapidly became clear that I was only scratching the surface of what is in our area and a brief scan over the maps and a search of the Birds of Lancashire highlighted a huge number of possible sites to visit.  So I got started.  My first visit was to Widdop Reservoir, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, a small lake around a mile and a half long.  OK its a tiny bit over the county line but a nice spot in Yorkshire but I won't hold that against it ;).  On the day I visited it was overcast but mostly dry which made for a reasonably comfortable walk.   Just looked it up on my browser and found the attached youtube vid., there are some fabulous looking boulders about which I think attract the rock climbing community, though on the day I was there were only 2 cyclists.

As you might have guessed from this there was some work going on at the dam end of the reservoir.

Virtually every tree in the place had a very active Goldfinch and that the southern edge there was a flock of 15 or 20 of these chasing each other around the bushes.

Yes I know its not exactly a bird but I have not seen many frogs about so thought I would share the image.  I'm no expert on these things but I think its a Common Frog.

A couple of Sandpipers were feeding around the edge of the lake though all were very difficult to get anywhere close to.  They were also very noisy.

I only spotted a single pair of Blackbirds at the lake, they were close to a small group of houses at the southern end and seemed to be pretty settled in that spot.

I was watching a flock of around 35 to 40 Canada Geese who were feeding by the lakeside when I thought to myself, look closely, there might be something else in the flock.  Sure enough a pair of Greylag Geese were right in the middle.
A small breakaway group of Canada Geese at the north end of the lake.

All around there were Meadow Pipits singing in the brush but I really only got a good view of this one, if you listened to the video above you can hear them, and lots of other birds,

A moth I spotted in the grass while on my walk, I am still looking into what it is but a lovely looking thing.
Another Sandpiper.

Overhead there were a good number of Barn Swallows and I did manage to get some photos which I will load up as soon as I can.  This was my first visit here and I did not have a lot of time, there is definitely a lot more out there so its on the cards for another few visits when I get back.

© Bernard Bracken

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Martin Mere a walk on the wild side

My visit to Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Martin Mere was long overdue, its only an hour or so from where I live in the UK so was about time I got a visit in.   In an earlier blog I shared a collection of photos from the display side of the operation.  However, there is also a long walk on the Mere side of the operation which has 5 or 6 specially built hides where you can view the wildfowl out on the wetlands from the relative comfort of a sheltered building.  If anything this was more exciting to me than the display birds allowing very good views of a whole host of wild birds.   I would encourage anyone to pay it a visit, it is worth the £11 entrance fee.  So on with the birds;

This map gives you an idea of the site layout, to the left are the display pens while running right up the centre and out to the right is a long path with the observation points dotted along.

Right in front of the first hide I entered was an artificial nest site which was being used by the Black Headed Gull and a single chick.  There were a good number of chicks around the site but then it was mid June.

A slightly closer view of one of the Black Headed Gull chick.

All over the site were good numbers of Moorhen.  These were also in the display area, I am not certain if they are actual exhibits or have wandered in there knowing they will get fed!

Snoozing Black Headed Gulls.

There were quite a few Eurasian Wigeon around the site

And a heck of a lot of Shelduck, I love the gelled hair look on this one, -- the wet head is not dead lol.

A visit to petty much any water in the UK will get you a Coot for your list.  At the far end of the path I noticed one of these building a nest which surprised me as I would have thought they would have been finished or very nearly by this time of year.

A duck I had not seen before is this Northern Pintail.  There were quite a few of these around the site, a nice bird, although nicer when they have their feathers smoothed back.
And another view of this lovely bird.

I thought this was a Starling, but will have to go back through the photos again as I'm not sure now I look again.

Scattered all over the area were small groups of Northern Lapwing which were feeding in the wetlands.  I discovered a large flock of these up on the Lancashire Moors on another outing, more of that anon.

At the far end of the long path I was sitting in one of the hides when this guy just casually walked in to pinch seeds dropped from the feeders.  The Pheasant is a fairly common sight around the county, though usually a little more wary.

A bird you don't often see at the feeders is a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  They are reasonably common around the area but I must confess this is the first time I saw one this close.

The Chaffinch is an absolutely gorgeous bird and very common around the area.  They are very regular visitors to the feeders both here at Martin Mere and at those I have out at home.

There was a single pair of Mute Swans taking it easy by the waterside.  I thought there would be more about but maybe they are out in some of the inaccessible areas of the Mere.

Over the entire site I saw about a dozen Oystercatchers feeding out in the shallows, another very pretty bird.

As with all of the places I visited over the past few weeks there was a small number of Greylag Geese to be see, ok well 2 in this case.

A couple of Grey Heron were also on site although a little shy.  For the entire time I was there they stayed in the reeds.

There were a good few Tufted Duck around the pools.

At one end of the mere was a nesting Great Crested Grebe, its mate was swimming about the pond where the nest was.  At the main hide beside the entrance to the park were a small group of 5 juvenile Grebes unfortunately I did not get any printable photos of these zebra coloured youngsters.

A fine specimen of a Little Egret, I took about 20 photos of this bird but this was all that was usable.  It had spotted a small fish in the water and was running up and down the shoreline trying to catch it.. result 19 blurred photos!

A Goldfinch at the feeder.  Again a fairly common bird around this area but really pretty don't you think?

A common Woodpigeon putting his best foot forward.  When I was young I used to thing these were Cuckoos because of the cooing sound they make.  Of course that lasted until I heard a real Cuckoo which it turns out sounds nothing like these lol

A cute little Robin also taking a turn at the feeder.

Almost the last bird I saw on my walk was a Great Cormorant which was busily preening outside one of the hides.

As I mentioned before I had not been to Martin Mere before but would certainly recommend it. Other birds seen were a small flock of Avocet and a single Turnstone.  All in all a really fun day out.

© Bernard Bracken

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A week cruising the Shannon

My parents were celebrating a very special anniversary this year so at the end of June the family hired a boat on the Shannon in the West of Ireland and we spent a week cruising.  Needless to say along the way there were some birds and I managed to get a few photos;

At the very start we had a visit from this Mute Swan with the family, including one catching a lift on mum or dads back.
Dotted all along the river were our old friend the Grey Heron.  These amazing birds seem to be everywhere.
And another!

A long distance shot catching a couple of Tufted Duck and Black Headed Gulls.  All along the river there are small islands that are packed with birds.
Just so you know there is other wildlife, this I think is an Irish Hare, a good deal redder than those seen elsewhere.  Maybe this is where the red haired Irish comes from.
A Red Breasted Robin singing sweetly in the trees next to the monastery ruins at Clonmacnoise.
This I think is a Greenfinch.  I have enhanced the photo a good deal, it was very overcast and raining at the time, all I could see looking at it was a blackish bird.
Great Black Backed Gulls were all along the river and are actually very large birds when you see them up close.
And another!
On a couple of occasions I heard the Pheasant in the distance but only managed to see this one.

Cormorants (Great) were also pretty common all along the river.
Another very common bird all along the river was the Hooded Crow.  These were to be seen singly and in small groups pretty much everywhere.

The Black Headed Gull were also a common sight, this one actually tackled a Great Black Backed Gull for access to this fish and won, well for a short time!

And another.
Also dotted along the river were some Whooper Swans, these are showing as rare in the area for the time of year around this area but I have to say they were not rare at all during my visit.
And another
I visited the ruins at Clonmacnoise, an ancient Irish monastery  , to catch up with a bit of my countries history, but as I was walking up the hill from the river was this Thrush seeking out lunch in the grass
All around the ruins were pairs of Jackdaws.  Many appeared to be nesting in gaps in the walls of the ruins.
Actually, something I have never noticed before, who knew they had blue eyes!!
A small group of Starlings perched on the top of the round tower.

A very camera shy Chaffinch in the trees near Banagher.  He was singing loudly, but did not like me taking photos.
Also near Banagher was this female Blackbird with a little breakfast.
OK a rubbish shot but it was taken from a moving boat!  There were quite a few Reed Buntings along the river but very difficult to get a decent shot of them.
A Redshank along the bank, there were also quite a few of these spaced out along the river.
I am not great on juvenile Gulls but I think this is a 2nd winter Great Black Backed Gull.
The Pied Wagtail was another very common bird along the river, I counted 18 in one particular spot chasing each other around the shoreline.

At Lanesborough I notices a good deal of high speed bird activity which initially I thought were Swallows, however on close inspection I saw they were almost all House Martins.  Later on I found a group of 5 nests at the roof line of a riverside building.  There were young in there but could not really get a good view.

At the rear of the building there was one pair still in the process of building their nest.

And yes, there were some Barn Swallows too, I was not totally off the mark.  These are nesting under the bridge with 4 young.  There were others but further along the bridge.

Behind the building with the Martins, as a field with scrub which was very much to the delight of this Redpoll, feeding on the seeds.
As was this Bullfinch.

And this Goldfinch.  There were not many of any of these three birds , although the field was large so there may have been more.  By now it was raining so I did not stay.

Can you see me??
Usually easier to hear than see, the Wren was very well represented all along the river.
The Great Tit was a  common sight along the river also.

Some were still feeding young.
I did not see very many Blue Tits along the river until Dromad where there were quite a lot.

Modern cameras are really wonderful things.  It was almost twilight when I took this and all I could really see was a black bird on a twig but having brightened and cropped it a bit, turns out to be a beautiful Greenfinch.

Not spent very much time birding in Ireland, but definitely thing it is on the agenda for another visit soon.