15/09/2019 Lunt Meadows

American Golden Plover: The American golden plover annually performs one of the longest migrations of any American bird. This amazing migration sees them fly over the Atlantic and South America as far south as Patagonia, and most return via the Mississippi Valley. And this one instead has ended up near Crosby in Sefton.
Over the past few years this cracking little reserve has developed a reputation as being one of the best places to watch owls hunting over the flood meadows of the River Alt and is pulling in some decent scarce birds too.

01/09/2019 Fluke Hall, Pilling, Lancashire

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear: A late morning notification from BirdGuides 'pings' showing a female (presumed) Eastern black-eared wheatear along the sea defences at Fluke Hall, Pilling got the blood flowing!

A quick dash up the M6 and I arrive on a windswept bright seafront with 50 or so birders looking at a rock. No bird in sight.

As it has taken shelter right under a large boulder. With a bit of patience the bird came out and put on a good display before the rains came and the bird returned to its favourite boulder to shelter.

Notoriously difficult to identify there have only been a handful of officially accepted records of black-eared wheatear including the fabulously good looking male down in Hampshire back in May 2015, which I turned down a lift for.
So for now my fingers well and truly crossed for a confirmed notification of black-eared. I've been told that DNA has been taken so for now I will just have to wait.

Southend Pier, Essex

Mediterranean Gull: Stunning weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend saw me taking a trip down to Essex to see my mum. And when the weather is this good you just have to go down to the sea front, have an ice creme and take a stroll down the pier.
Southend Pier is a major landmark in Southend-on-Sea. Extending 1.34 miles into the Thames Estuary. The pier is famous for two things, firstly it is the longest pleasure pier in the world and secondly it is home to a large population of Med gulls.
This very warm weather seemed to affect the gulls which spent much of their time loafing about on the exposed jetty posts.

Typically back up north black-headed gulls dominate land, sea and sky. Hundreds jostle for space on the islands, bowing and posturing to one another, copulating and laying claim to nest sites.
But down here on the stretched out pier in the middle of the Thames the white wings and red bills of the med gulls seem to be the most abundant bird.

And the most splendid.

10/08/2019 Mickletown, West Yorkshire

Little Bustard: A day of mixed fortunes as I was lucky enough to connect with the long staying bustard after working away in South Wales all week, but dipped the Pacific swift over at Hornsea Mere.
The Little Bustard was feeding in the second field back from the footpath, great that is was not being disturbed but a little distant especially for photos. Through the scope we had good views.
Despite not seeing the elusive fast flying swift I was made up to get the bustard on my list having missed the new years day bird and more recently the Slimbridge bird.

13/07/2019 Ashton's & Neumann's Flashes, Cheshire

Marsh Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia densiflora): Last night Mark Payne and I attended a talk at Chester Zoo's Ceder House on orchids.

 This talk was given by Sean Cole, a top bloke whose passion for orchid outstrips my own. This talk was great, very engaging and very funny.

This inspired me to pick up my camera and get out and see some sexy orchids.
Last week I got a message from Mark with some directions to a great a sight, hundreds orchids in full flower at Ashton's and Neumann's Flashes.

Not too far from where I work and I was hoping to be able to nip down in the week, maybe on a lunch break or something.

But, alas too much survey and office work kept me busy! 
The wet low-lying areas between the flashes, slat spoil heaps and reclaimed lime beds (the more exciting areas).

Here, amongst the variegated horsetail, yellow rattle and marsh pennywort, a bright pink jewel in the parks crown can be found.
The gorgeous marsh fragrant orchid with its soft pink to vivid purple colouration's and its sweet smelling fragrance, these orchids are great.

Typically an orchid of salt marshes and dunes, these are just as happy in a old reclaimed salt mine turned country park.
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris): This is one of my favourite orchids.
The marsh helleborine has broad, oval leaves at the base of the stem, and narrower leaves higher up the reddish stem. The flower spike consists of a loose cluster of white flowers that have a white, frilly lip and reddish sepals which look like wings; they hang on reddish stalks.
Each flower contains male and female organs of reproduction. Flowers produce nectar and are pollinated by wasps, bees and Diptera.
So I was surprised to see a tiny any ant deep inside the orchids lip of the flower, presumably feeding on the nectar.
On a nice warm, not too bright day there's no better place to spend the first day of the weekend. Ashton’s and Neumann’s Flashes are part of a group of nine sites which make up the Northwich Woodlands. Created from what was once largely derelict land, the Woodlands now provides a rich and green environment to the north of Northwich town centre.

Its industrial history has left a legacy of unique site conditions that allow many unusual species to thrive; the presence of salt has allowed seaside plants to establish.

05/07/2019 Thurstaston, Wirral

Gull-billed Tern: There are some twitcthes you simply have to work for, and after turning up 30 minutes after the bird flew off as the high tide took back the mud flats, this twitch wasn't going the way I was hoping.

I was in for a long wait before the turn turns and goes back out. Still, there is no better place to while a couple of hours away.
Eventually the bird came back and put on a good show and in the mean time I had some great company from two local Leigh lads Colin Davies and John Tymon. Two cracking birders.
The bird put on a good performance as it flew across the mud flats periodically doing a u-turn in the sky before skimming food from the surface of the ground.

After dipping the gull-billed tern at Burton Mere back in 2015 I was keen to finally add it on to my British list.

A very smart little bird indeed.

Also, nice to get my images featutred in The Daily Post.


30/07/2019 Pennington Flash

Bee Orchid: I think that, if there is one plant that everybody wants to see during the warm summer months, the bee orchid.

It has been years since Bee Orchids have bloomed at penny and this yaer I have counted 20n spikes.  It is something of a mystery how bee orchids can disappear for years, and then miraculously reappear. .
It is puzzling until you know a wee bit about its life cycle.  The seeds of orchids are tiny and, unlike the seeds of other plants, they contain almost no food reserves. Their seeds do not germinate until they become infected with a soil-dwelling fungus known as mycorrhiza.

Most of the fungi in this group are saprophytic, that is they live on the organic remains of plant material that is present in the soil (humus). More rarely the mycorrhizal fungus can be parasitic, as in the case of early purple orchid and the Lady’s slipper the mycorrhiza, belong to the group of fungi known as the Honey Fungi.
Once the seeds have been infected with the appropriate mycorrhiza, germination and development are very slow. Leaves may not appear until the second, third or even subsequent years.

The variety in appearance can be considerable with differences sepal colour, from electric pink to a much softer pastel pink. The shape of the head and pattern on the  labellum can be vastly different from one individual to another.

Yet they are all the same species.