20/09/2016 My Garden, Abram, Wigan

Willow Tit: Over the past few weeks I have been treated to not one but two Willow Tit regularly visiting my garden feeders.

More than 10 per cent of the UK’s Willow Tit population live in the area around Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and Chorley.
Goldfinch: This is critical as nationally the UK population has fallen by 90 per cent in the past 30 years placing it on the red list of species of conservation concern!


I will make sure to keep the feeders topped up over the colder winter months to help these little beauties along.


Another welcome bird that brings a bit more colour are Goldfinch, I have good numbers visiting that swell in Winter.

I do really enjoy my garden and watching the visitors on the feeders - a real joy.


15/09/2016 High Rid Reservoir, Bolton


White-winged Black Tern: My second WWBT but this time a juvenile bird and a little cracker!

Looking at some of today's reports the bird didn't appear on High Rid until around 11.30am so I wonder where it was?
You never know, I might pick one up at Houghton Green Pool one day, or a Black Tern. To be honest I would be happy with a Dunlin with the site being very hit or miss.

Unfortunately the bird was busy feeding on the wing on newly hatched caddis fly and stayed at least 5-10 metres away from my lens.

If the bird sticks around until the weeknd I will be sure to try again for some better pics.

10/09/2016 Spurn Migration Festival

Kentish Plover: Despite the dreadful weather producing constant driving rain we had a brilliant start to the weekend with Spurn's 17th Kentish Plover, 1st since 2000 and a lifer for me!



After getting gripped off with the recent Manchester bird, due to working away in London I was thrilled to finally get this bird in the bag.







Curlew Sandpiper: I attended the event with a good friend and fellow ecological consultant Tom and decided to camp, we also bumped into many friendly faces including Ian Igglesden and Scott Reid.
These gents  shared more than a couple of drinks with me on the Saturday night in the Crown & Anchor pub and subsequently paid for it on the Sunday morning with one big hangover!

Spurn is a truly special place with it's geographical location and position, it is famous for the way birds funnel through Spurn during their migration.


Dunlin & Curlew Sandpiper: The festival is a celebration of the spectacle of bird migration from Spurn and around the world. Offering guided walks, bird ringing demos and plenty of expert talks.
Dunlin: Tom and I saw two cracking talks one from Mark Pearson about the work of Filey Bird Obs that was full of brilliant images and stories of finding some rare birds and what Filey has to offer.






Wood Sandpiper: The second talk was from Bjorn Malmhagen and David La Puma about their own migration hotspots, Cape May Bird Obs and Falsterbo Bird Obs. I thoroughly enjoyed this talk, the two blokes were brilliant, informative and  engaging
For me what makes Spurn Migration Festival so good and an event to attend again and again is Spurn itself and the offer of some great birding to be had.
Wood Sandpiper & Ruff: This is a good comparison between Ruff and Wood Sand. Kilnsea Wetlands was the place to be on the Saturday we had two Curlew Sandpiper, plenty of Dunlin, Common Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit, plenty of Yellow Wagtail and the bird of the weekend the Kentish Plover.

On the Sunday we were treated to cracking views of a single Wood Sand foraging in front of the hide.  

We also had some good vis mig (visible migration -birders love using their own language) with reports of over 5000 Meadow Pipit moving through although we only saw a small fraction of this. 
This was the second time I have attended Spurn Migration Festival and it keeps on delivering and remains a highlight of the birding calendar, I look forward to next year.

For more info see below:

www.spurnmigfest.com

www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk

09/09/2016 Houghton Green Pool


Yellow Wagtail: After a very early 3.30am start for a bat survey and then battling the M6 during rush hour, I decided to spend the rest of my early morning at Houghton Green.








Almost as soon as I entered the arable field of which contains a large oat crop I could hear  the distinct call of Yellow Wags coming from within the crop.

I was really hoping I might get lucky on this site, espceislaly as there has been several Curlew Sandpiper and Wood Sands in the nearby-ish Manchester Mosses.
But alas, no sign of anything scarce, just the usual Greenshank and this time 4 Green Sandpiper and no sign of the Ruff which as been on the pool for a few weeks.

Other highlights included 7 Grey Partridge and 2 Teal.
However I did get a chance to get up close and photograph this splendid Yellow Wagtail who as happily foraging around the edge of the pool.







There has been a few local lads keeping a close eye on this site recently so I will keep my fingers crossed one of us will pick something exciting up here, it's a modest site but has some potential.

01/09/2016 Houghton Green Pool

Green Sandpiper: Another pleasant morning spent on the flash, every time the flash emerges from over the hill I am always hoping I'll find something rare!


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Black-tailed Godwit:  Although there was nothing rare I did pick up a small flock of 13 blackwits, a new bird for me on Houghton Green which was good.







Greenshank: The usual suspects still remained, plenty of Yellow Wags,  a single Greenshank, a single Ruff and two Green Sandpiper.
The last time I was here the water levels were very low, so low I could see large fish swimming and gasping for air in the muddy pool.
By the time I packed up and left the site was becoming really busy with several dog walkers, one of which spooked the Ruff and blackwits which disappeared.
Grey Wagtail: Rare, maybe nextime....








27/08/2016 My Garden, Abram, Wigan

Common Dor Beetle:  (Geotrupes stercorarius) Today Dawn goes to let the cat out into the back garden and says 'Austin, what's this weird beetle on our garden step?' I went to take a look and I was surprised to see a dung beetle.


Excited, I grabbed my camera and macro lens and snapped away, this was a UK first for me and a brilliant, welcome addition to my garden.
The Dor Beetle is one of the largest members of the Family Scarabaeidae (Dung beetles) and are important because they get rid of a lot of animal faeces, breaking it down and incorporating it into the soil, so helping in the recycling of nutrients.



This also makes the world a less smelly place to live in and reduces the numbers of other insects like flies which would otherwise breed in it.
This individual also had a large colony of mites living on its coxo, abdominal segments and across it's thorax. Apparently this is common for Dor Beetles but was pretty weird to see.

02/08/2016 Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk

Western Purple Swapmhen: I've seen these massive blue coots in Spain but never thought I would have one over here.

Otherwise known as a purple gallinule or its less-scientific “blue chicken” or “swampy” if this bird gets accepted it will be a first for the UK.




The case put forward for it to be a genuine vagrant consists of timing and location. Its after breeding season so the birds are moving further afield, at this time of year in  Spain their traditional ponds and lakes are drying up.





The bird is a western race, so its range is closer to Britain than other forms of swamp-hen which have been known to escape into the wild from captivity. Also there are other westerns swamphens way out of their range in France at the moment. All of which may makes the Minsmere bird more credible.

Other highlights included Bittern over the reedbeds close to where the Swamphen was loafing and two adult Stone Curlew accompanying a single chick just past the visitor centre on the grassland.