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Sunday, 20 August 2017

Its the early bird..

...that coincides with an overnight fall of migrants.  It was one of those days that 'felt-right' and even though nothing of spectacular note was found I spent  a very worthwhile couple of hours hedge-bashing this morning. The first evidence of a fall was within the first few yards of the set-aside, where one small bush contained a Chiffchaff and three Goldcrests - always a good sign.
Goldcrest - Photo: Keith Whitehouse

I want to make it quite clear that I am not at all anti-Semitic, but a word of warning to you - I didn't half have a problem with the dew this morning.

Going over early with soft summer shoes on is not recommended at the moment. By the time I got to the tin bridge my socks and shoes were already wetter than if I had gone swimming in them. Not much fun doing a circuit in soggy feet!

The mineral line was alive with birds but most were flying ahead of me. Aside from the copious number of Goldfinch there was a surprising number of Bullfinch with Common Whitethroat still the most prolific warbler on this area. I naturally spent quite a bit of time working the bushes around the pit mound but still the only entertainment was a family group of common Whitethroat and an immature Blackcap.
Juvenile Chiffchaff - Photo Keith Whitehouse
The best site today was the buffer zone and I stood for about twenty minutes just watching a continuous parade of birds fly past me. It was quite a bohemian selection with a mixture of Long Tailed, Blue and Great Tit accompanying dozens of Phyloscopus warblers. The majority were Chiffchaff but there were several juvenile Willow Warblers including one having a go at singing in preparation for the next breeding season. However, by the time I moved away at about 09.20 they had all vanished, presumably taking advantage of the current high pressure front to continue their southward migration?

While I was watching these birds I was joined by Dave Plant and together we shared the star bird of the day for me, a late Common Swift which dropped in to feed over the Mere, extending my latest date this year by sixteen days. In reciprocation for the Swift, Dave picked up an over-flying Cormorant to add to the day list.

We are starting to notice an escalation of migration so worth getting over at the moment although the next few days of high pressure won't do us any favours.

Have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Marsh loses a 'Tick'

Celebrating its promotion perhaps - a Common Redpoll
It may not be scheduled to happen until January but one of the most important information sites for birdwatchers has already adopted the new version of the British List that brings the United Kingdom into line with some of its European partners. This means that Lesser Redpoll (the Redpoll that occurs most frequently on the Marsh and Mere - and in Britain as a whole) has now been relegated to sub-species status with the scarce and occasional Common (Mealy) Redpoll becoming the nominate species.

The changes don't seem to affect my list particularly as the removal of Lesser Redpoll is balanced by the acceptance of Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese as separate species but as neither of those has ever been recorded on our sites it does mean that the site list drops to (by my calculation) 191 recorded species.

For other list keeping anoraks like me, it is quite frustrating that the order of species has also changed once again with Geese now taking precedence over Swans at the top of the list. 'Gordon Bennet'! I wish they would make their minds up once and for all. It is a pain in the fundament having to revise species lists every six months.

One thing that caught my attention on the new list, Red Fox Sparrow? When did one of those turn up in Britain then? It passed under my radar - Chaz

Friday, 18 August 2017

More of the same I'm afraid

Well, it was more or less a nice afternoon for it! Shame there was nowt to see. A mooch around the Pit Mound revealed a fair few Chiffchaff and a couple of Greenfinch, no returning duck on the Marsh and the highlight was probably Ian Phillips's female Kestrel hunting far and wide (but unfortunately not being harassed by a Hobby today - perhaps she knows something I don't)?
Kestrel - a bird that rarely gets star-status on the blog!
A couple of showers went through and on both occasions pushed down a southerly movement of hirundine, almost all House Martins with just a couple of Swallow thrown in for good measure.

Ah well, roll-on Autumn!

Have a nice weekend all - Chaz

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Still quiet as summer draws to an end.

It was really good to hear from one of the old Marsh regulars today as Ian Phillips put in a visit. Sadly it was not to provide any significant stuff although he did manage to connect with a species that is eluding me this year, Hobby. He also had a fly-over by a Raven, a species that seems to be less regular of the site this year after a number of years where records were increasing.

I can't remember a time when the bird life over there was less inspiring! We seem to be in the doldrums, somewhere between Summer and Autumn although passage seems to be going on apace elsewhere. We are starting to get a few more Swallow going through and in the last few days I have noted a definite fall of Goldcrests around the village. There has also been an apparent increase in calling Blackcap locally so there is some movement going through. A couple of nights ago I was in bed and was pleased to hear a regularly calling Little Owl. The old faithful from Grange Farm has not been seen this year as far as I can tell so its good to know that there are still one or two about.

As for me, all being well I will put in a dutiful visit before the weekend although to be honest I am really waiting for the kids to go back to School before really increasing the frequency of my visits. I suppose that this will have to coincide with my regular early Autumn womble to collect the various discarded items that will inevitably have been dropped all around the place during the six week break.

Anyway, Big thank you to Ian for his visit and report. Hopefully we will have the first returning wildfowl in the next few days. Usually lead by Teal but early September often produces a good number of Shoveler and Gadwall too. I will keep you posted - Chaz

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Cant get enough exotic avifauna

Another trip to Park Lime Pits today to see the Rose-Ringed (Ring-necked) Parakeets again. Three birds today , two seen and another one heard. Good to know they are still about and apparently doing well - yes?

"Wot You Looking at?" - Photo Susan Lord
These birds are causing some controversy nationally as there is no doubt that in places they are taking over nest sites suitable for other species such as Woodpeckers and Owls but personally I really can't see the conflict as anything of serious concern. Can any of you ever remember coming across this species in rural areas? Am I wrong or are the Parakeets exclusively favouring urban areas where there are plenty of bird feeders and ornamental trees to take advantage of?

Two of todays birds - Photo Susan Lord
If I am right, that leaves an awful lot of rural England in which the other species can thrive while these exotic colonists add more than a bit of colour to our Urban Avifauna?

What do you think? I ask because I suspect that inevitably battle-lines will be drawn and we will be having to decide if we support or oppose a cull on this species. We have already seen the effective genocide of the U.K. population of Ruddy Duck so the same approach to the control of feral parakeets may not be out of the question and you will then need to decide which side of the debate you support.

Just an opinion but perhaps a valid one? Until then, I suggest you go and enjoy these lovely creatures while you can. - Chaz

Lots of Birds and flutters

A lovely morning and Mrs Chaz, Susan and I did a half circuit to see what was happening today.

Lots of action although nowt to shout about from the unusual point of view, Star bird was undoubtedly a brief showing by a juvenile Lesser Whitethroat that Susan found. Most ubiquitous  bird was still Common Whitethroat, even outnumbering Chiffchaff and Blackcap, the two species that normally take the award for commonest warbler locally.

Lots of Shoreline around the Mere but despite this no waders, although at around nine o'clock I was in the garden and was convinced I heard a flight call from an over-flying Curlew, which, had I been able to confirm it would have not only been the star bird for the day but also one of the best local finds for me this year.

Butterflies today included; Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Copper, Common Blue, Peacock and unusually a male Holly Blue (scarce locally). Dragonflies included Brown Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer with a few Common Blue Damselflies thrown in for good measure.

The soundtrack to the day was provided courtesy of Common Green and Meadow grasshoppers that seemed to be taking advantage of the warmth and sunlight to give us a song.

A lovely morning walk - now Sunday Dinner! Purfec! 

Enjoy your day and have a good week all - Chaz

Saturday, 12 August 2017

My opinion has been requested, so here it is

A non-birding topic for you to ignore if you want to.

I wasn’t going to say anything…but. Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am a lifelong fan of Doctor Who – and I mean LIFELONG! I am a member of that disappearing generation who remember where they were the night Kennedy was assassinated and I also remember watching the first episode of Doctor Who the following day (and again the following week).

I thought that my silence on the selection of a woman to be the Doctor would speak volumes but several people have texted or emailed me and asked what I thought about it so, with calmness and after a cooling off period from the announcement I will say that in my opinion it is an indefensible and total debacle and I will no longer be watching the programme when it comes back next year (in fact I as things stand I am not going to bother watching the Christmas Special this year). 

Although you can say that it is just a television programme, it is one that I have been inordinately fond of and which has been a familiar theme throughout my life and I have seldom experienced such a strong feeling of betrayal as I felt over this announcement. Frankly I would rather they had finished the series rather than effectively piss over 53 years of its history in such a manner.

I feel really sorry for Peter Capaldi, I loved the guy from day-one but he never really had a chance with the role as the show runner (Steven Moffatt) had run out of new ideas several seasons before and for some weird reason, initially insisted on taking the focus off the main character and putting it onto a supporting character (who also outstayed her welcome by at least two series). In echoes of the Sylvester McCoy era, Capaldi was just making the character his own in this last series and could have gone on to be spectacular, but now it will never be. I have no personal dislike for the actress involved although she annoyed me the other day by saying that she hoped that fans would not feel threatened. Threatened? To the fans she is talking to, her feelings and opinions are probably perceived as nothing more than an unnecessary irrelevance in regard to this situation – this is just another acting job as far as she is concerned. I actually admire her courage for taking on the role; I just hope she appreciated how controversial it would be.

In my opinion this is just yet another politically correct innovation, put in to place in the hope that she will increase falling viewer numbers perhaps by appealing to the attention of teenage boys or by being a positive, heroic role model for gay women to admire (apparently two of the key demographics when deciding what should be on British television these days – I refer you to the awful Doctor who spin-offs ‘Torchwood’ and the more recent horrendous effort ‘Class’)

The new runner Chris Chibnal can’t lose. A place is established  in history for the maverick show-runner who decided that his views should take precedence over 53 years of loyal fan following (I will say very little about any ‘cronyism’ around the selection of the actress  concerned – watch Chibnal’s Broadchurch, and  make your own mind up).

As for me, am I a representative of the older generation opposed to change – yes if its change for change sake?

I am not closed minded, I had accepted that the character could (in principle), change gender – skin-colour etc. – in fact anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that as a white Anglo-Saxon (lapsed) protestant, I have been espousing the merits of Black actor Danny John Joules as my choice to play the character since even before Peter Capaldi’s tenure. The point is just because a woman is able to do something, doesn’t mean that she should. I don’t think that I am closed minded, just angry at the idiocy behind a really bad decision and suspicious that it is could be just a covert plan to let the show scuttle itself (not paranoia - they did a  similar thing in the eighties)

No – that is as much as I have to say, it was a programme that gave me much happiness and entertainment for many years and was one last tenuous link to my childhood that is no longer there.

I’m just seriously sick to the teeth of the increasing power of the P.C. liberal left in influencing everyone’s life these days, regardless of if it is a welcome interference or not ! I don’t think my feelings are unique? If we had a referendum on whether political correctness should be made illegal, I suspect that the outcome would cause as much surprise as Brexit! - Chaz

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Can you believe its been a year?

Its a celebration day at Oak Park Recreation Centre today, commemorating a whole year since the new leisure centre opened, They asked me not to go as they would be obliged to offer me face painting and apparently the council cant afford the scaffolding and polyfiller!

It must be an age thing but I still miss the old place having spent so many happy hours there and to be honest, the councils cost-cutting at the new place is beginning to show (the second replacement-set of hair dryers are breaking down, on Monday only one of the four showers in one section were working, the parking bollards are out of order and the four windows broken by vandals in the first week are still broken)!
I am not painting too dark a picture, despite all of its short comings the staff are excellent and hold the place together, something I suspect the council probably doesn't appreciate if my experience is anything to go by?

Anyway, its a fun-day or so I'm told, so if you are at a loose end, perhaps a good day for a visit?
What, me, will I be there? - I'm the anti-social Birder don't forget, I've put my visit off until tomorrow (of course) - Chaz

Monday, 7 August 2017

An unexpected but happy encounter

You find wildlife in the most unusual places, sometimes by accident. I was walking home from my morning swim today and in the gutter of Maybrook Road I could see a familiar flash of pink. Close inspection revealed it to be just what I thought it was a Small Elephant Hawk Moth.

I assumed it was dead as that tends to be the only way I get to see them these days but it was on its legs so I picked it up for a closer inspection and it slowly began to revive with the warmth of my hand. I expect it had been batted aside by the down-draught from a passing motor and had  sat there stunned waiting to be run over? There was a happy ending though, I left it perched on the leaf of a Rosebay Willow Herb where its bright pink colours would be less conspicuous.

Hawk Moths were always a bit of a passion of mine and my big regret was not going to see a Deaths-Head Hawk Moth that had been caught at Longstones during one trip to the Scillies. I was even assaulted by one! During a Moth Trapping exercise a disorientated Large Elephant Hawk Moth hit me in the forehead at some speed - Trust me, it stung! (although I don’t expect that impacting with my thick head did it much good either)? - Chaz

Friday, 4 August 2017

A quiet Friday, but a hint of change

Finally got up the enthusiasm to do a duty-visit today with little expectation of anything noteworthy and I'm pleased to say, I wasn't disappointed.

Still lazy August over there but with obvious indications of the changing season such as the eclipse Mallards that are starting to show signs of fresh plumage, the migration movement of Swallow and House Martin (with a single Swift - Yay!) and the number of young Whitethroats apparently feeding up for their mega-return journey. At least one Reed Warbler is also still present and calling occasionally from the north-east side of the swag pool.

The Mere was even quieter although I did hear the flight call of a Common Sandpiper that otherwise avoided detection

Star bird should have been Water Rail if I had managed to see it. The bird was in the heavy vegetated channel between the main swag and the Ford Brook and was continuously calling and very clumsy about moving the vegetation, all of which leads me to suspect a juvenile (but despite being less than six feet from the moving vegetation I was still unable to get a glimpse of the bird)!

Common Centaury
To be honest the star attraction for me today was more vegetative. The over-grazed paddocks south of the site are heavily infested with Ragwort which is notoriously poisonous to almost everything. The horses are obviously being kept away from this area and that has allowed for the best showing of Red Bartsia that I can ever remember seeing (its a semi-parasitic that does well on poor soils). In fact most of the bits that aren't yellow with Ragwort are mauve with the stuff. On top of that if you search carefully you will also find our only Gentian, Common Centaury, a genuinely delicate and beautiful flower that does not get paid the respect that it deserves!

Red Bartsia
Anyway, it looks like another wash-out of a weekend so that's probably it from me until next week. Only 27 days until Autumn and we can start looking for some more interesting stuff (I Hope)!

Have a good weekend all - Chaz

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Back from the Seaside

Yep - no marsh report this weekend, I was playing hooky at the seaside. Mrs Chaz, Chris, Susan and I spent a nice weekend in North Wales, based around Llandudno.

When I was a kid I hated Llandudno (and Colwyn Bay). Lets face it, if you knew someone who had a car in the fifties and sixties they were pretty posh and most of us plebs had to rely on coach trips. From Walsall. This usually involved the possibilities of Blackpool, Rhyl, New Brighton (Honest!) and Llandudno & Colwyn Bay. For a kid I don't think Llandudno ever had much to offer but it seems to have reinvented itself as a more adult orientated and sophisticated venue, not a stick of rock in sight these days.

On the way there I had picked up Fulmar for the year, as usual nesting on the rock faces above the A55 but I thought that would be it from a birding point of view. Sea watching may seem to be an unlikely pastime there at this time of the year, but Saturday afternoon was to provide me with a big surprise.

As we had a sea view I set the scope up in the window and was amazed to find a strong westward passage movement of seabirds including good numbers of Gannets (many plunge diving just off the Great Orme), a scattering of Common Scoters, some unidentifiable Auks (probably Guillemots) and most surprising of all a steady passage of Manx Shearwaters (about fifteen over a half hour period). I always find watching Shearwaters an exciting pastime, always a hope of something more unusual or exotic amongst them if you look hard enough.

Anyway, I haven't received any reports of anything exciting over the Marsh and Mere but I will get over and have a look in the next few days so 'watch this space' - Chaz