03/04/2016 Birkdale NR, Southport

Common Crossbill: Third time lucky, a phrase which is too familiar amongst us birders and I've even experienced fourth, fifth and even sixth time lucky!
It was mid March when Patrick Earith and I dipped and again more recently; last weekend on a dank drizzly day with Dawn.
Today started off with that similar sinking feeling, no sign and no sound of any xbills, I even bumped in to some local birders who were waiting at gate 29.
I waited with these guys until I got hungry and decided to go for a wander.
This proved to be a very bad mistake as when I caught up again with these locals they told me I had just missed 31 xbills that came down to drink in the stream next to gate 29.

I was livid with myself.


Once I had composed myself I decided to go back to gate 29 and wait, it was here I bumped in to Eddie Jennings followed by Bill and Ruth Gorton.









Eventually the birds reappeared, they seemed to have come from the golf course pines and were just loafing around in the willows and birch trees in the clearing next to gate29.










Take a look at the awesome bill, these birds were well worth the wait.

The birds showed incredibly well, giving me great diagnostic views, from the females uniform colouration from olive to grayish, with greenish or  yellow chest and rumps. Their wing feathers blackish brown, without wingbars and blackish brown tail.
And the males with their large head and body painted deep brick red to reddish yellow. Wing feathers blackish brown again without wingbars!


These stocky finches have been in the area for ages and well worth a visit and as I was driving home I saw on BirdGuides there is now also a Black Redstart in the area too!



27/03/2016 Ainsdale Beach, Southport

Caspian Gull: After eating my fill of chocolate easter eggs, Dawn and I decided we should walk off the excess calories and go take a look at Birkdale's Crossbills.

After a long walk in the rain we found gate 29, where the birds had regularly been seen and after a short wait we didn't see or hear any so moved on to Ainsdale Beach.
The  2nd-winter caspo was sitting in full view right opposite the burger van waiting for the day trippers to share their lunch.


Something you don't see everyday - the gullet of a caspo.
This must have been my 5th visit to Ainsdale in search of this bird since originally seeing it back August 2015.

Back then the bird had both its legs!




 It's sad to see that it has twine wrapped around its good leg! This might be catastrophic to the birds health as gulls can live a good, normal life with one leg but I don't think it will survive with no legs at all.



Here is a closer look at the gulls problem, I have a soft spot for gulls and wish this particular gull all the best and hope I don't see a post in the near future saying 'found dead'.





Sandwich Tern: Another bird to note was a single Sandwich Tern close in, off the shore but it was unable to settle down due to the dog walkers disturbing the bird.








I watched it fly around the burger vans and towards the RLNI watch-out before landing on the tideline itself and again getting spooked by a passing dog walker.

19/03/2016 Trafford Park Hotel, Trafford

Black Redstart: After dropping Dawn off in Manchester I had a free pass for an hour, so I decided to pick Jon up and head across town for the black red that was found yesterday by Steve Burke on the disused Trafford Park Hotel.
Trafford Park Hotel is a lovely looking brick red Grade II listed building with a bit of checkered past, it's had a number of squatters occupy its derelict rooms and has even been used as a small Cannabis growing factory back in 2011.
The black red didn't seem to mind the piles of rubbish, broken bottles and full black bin liners that adorned the hotel grounds. However the bird was happy feeding amongst the trash and posing on the industrial structures of Trafford Park Hotel, a fitting scene.



While Jon and I enjoyed the views of the bird we heard someone galloping around the corner, a young lad with a huge grin on his face. This was very enthusiastic and very keen birder Joel Tregan.




It was an absolute pleasure to meet Joel and his mum who were both lovely to talk to, keep the good work up.



Great find Steve.


18/03/2016 Crabtree Lane, Burscough

Corn Bunting: With a very foggy start to this mornings bird survey and visibility down to less then 200 metres all I could do was listen out for my target birds and get treated to the Spring songs of Yellowhammer and Corn Bunts.
Once the fog had lifted a little and I finished my survey I grabbed my camera and found a large flock of Corn Bunts feeding in the fields and warming themselves on a huge dung pile off Crabtree Lane.
This was a typical view as the birds were difficult to get close to on foot.
The light was awful, to a point were it was not worth taking any pictures and although the fog had lifted and the visibility improved the cloud cover was thick and grey making for some poor images.
There were plenty of Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow in the area too.



Yellowhammer: As I approached the railway crossing on Crabtree Lane I stumbled upon a tree with five hammers, a beautiful sight to end the morning on.

10/03/2016 Sandbach Flashes

Herring Gull: A day spent with Dawn shopping ended with a quick twitch for a gull. I was originally hoping to see Patrick Earith's adult glauc which he took some awesome images of -the brute.

Unfortunately the adult was long gone when I arrived but I was treated to some nice views of a juvenile Glaucous Gull instead.



However there were some people who thought this bird was a pale looking Herring Gull, but looking at its bill structure and wing length along with its pale biscuit-primaries I thought I was spot on.


But like a lot of these Viking gulls there is a chance they hybridize and with the help from the Pete 'Gull Man' Kinsella I have downgraded the bird to a Northern Herring Gull "argentatus" or more likely a possible hybrid Glauc x Herring.


07/03/2016 Ainsdale Beach



Sanderling: Toady I was hoping to follow in the footsteps of Neil Gordon who struck bird-gold yesterday at Birkdale Golf Course finding a flock of 50 Common Crossbill and managed to get some cracking pics too.





I know these birds regularly frequent the pines of the dunes in this area and I have tried twice in the past to find these elusive birds without any luck.



I met up with Patrick Earith and we set off in to the dunes finding Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit and Goldcrest but no Crossbill, no sign or sound of them.


From Birkdale I decided to go check out Ainsdale Beach for 'stumpy' the one legged Caspian Gull, but it was looking like one of those days; the kind when you don't see the birds you are hoping for, the kind I regularly have!
The tide was quickly retreating when I arrived and after a long fruitless search for the Caspo I happily got distracted by this feeding Sanderling that put on a good show.
Common Scoter: It was also brilliant to watch several hundred Common Scoter flying and bobbing up and down off shore.
They were very flighty, I only wish I had my scope with me so I could scan the flock and look for some of the more rarer Scoter.
Grey Plover & Knot: Despite not seeing either of my target birds it was a stunning day with some good company and good supporting cast of birds.

25/02/2016 Banks, Southport

Little Owl: After three previous visits and approximately eight hours waiting, the Banks Little Owl finally gave up and came out to get it's pic snapped.
I arrived mid morning but the Owl still wasn't fully awake and was even yawning as it warmed itself in the sun.

The bird was happily perching and beautifully framed by the barn door until a dog walker came out of nowhere and spooked the bird.

The bird eventually reappeared on the roof, not often a dog walker does me a favour, usually they obliviously get in the way and let their dog run amock.


This is probably the most photographed Little Owl in the North West and there are tons are great pictures out there particularly on:

www.facebook.com/groups/leighosnaturephotos

www.facebook.com/groups/330737625441

Well worth a look.