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.

New York Trip Report

American Robin: Please see the link below that will take you to my holiday and trip report section of my blog (see bottom of the page).

Here you can read my account from my visit to New York, an amazing city with lots to offer.
Yellow Warbler: You might not expect a busy city with busy parks surrounded by skyscrapers, traffic and hurly-burly of city life to be a productive birding destination. But like many cities there are some marvellous green spots that attract an eye-opening variety of birds that are drawn to these pockets of green during migration and to breed.

Cerulean Warbler: Late Spring may not be the best time of year to visit NYC as many birds in Central Park build their nests, lay eggs and raise their young at this time of year and migration halts.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: So I concentrated my efforts on five main locations, Bryant Park, Central Park within Manhattan, Jamaica Bay  located on the southern side of Long Island. Sterling Forest and Doodletown upstate in Bear Mountain State Park.

Prairie Warbler: This allowed me to see a wider variety of birds and gave me the chance to experience birding outside of the city, visiting the southern coast and the forest hills upstate.

Black Skimmer: I was also extremely lucky to make some new friends, all experts in their fields, knowledgeable and welcoming.

Janet, Alan, Gail and Tom were great and their help and guidance were out of this world.
Worm-eating Warbler: Tom Stephenson is the co-writer of  'The Warbler Guide' one of the most extensively researched identification books on American warblers.


23/06/2019 RSPB Cors Ddyga, Anglesey

Savi's Warbler: Cors Ddyga is one of Wales' largest lowland wetlands and for more than 20 years, RSPB Cymru has been transforming these pasture fields into a wetland.

And have done a fantastic job too.

Savi’s warbler is, like the much commoner grasshopper warbler, a member of the genus Locustella. Literally meaning “little locust” a name given due to the birds buzzing like call it has.

Painted Lady: I didn't have to wait long before I could hear a low, insistent buzzing ringing out from the depths of the reedbed. Similar to gropper but a very different tone.

A first for me and great to see out in the open and showing well.

Also had a turtle dove, a nice surprise and the 2nd record for the reserve, or so I've been told and this rather worn looking long distant migrant butterfly, the painted lady.

09/06/2019 Pensychnant Conservation Centre, Conwy

Redstart: I recently received a lovely email from reader of my Blog, saying that one of my reports from Pensychnant inspired him to visit the place and he loved it. 
Well,  his email inspired me to visit the place again. Pensychnant is great, for a small donation you get to see pied flys, cuckoo and redstarts.

Having journeyed from Africa and Arabia to Wales each spring, redstarts seek out holes in broadleaved trees for nesting.

The pied flys were nesting in some boxes but were too busy foraging high up in the trees and often out of range for my lens.

However there were a pair of redstarts that were much more obliging.

This pair were actively attending a nest site and were busy bringing in food for their young.

 Barn Swallow: Another migrant from Africa, I got close to a couple of swallow who werenesting in the nearby out building.
So often overlooked, these marvellous birds are stunning, full of character and another amazing migrant.

08/06/2019 Flamborough, East Riding of Yorkshire

Black-headed Bunting: Migration hotspot Flamborough Head came up trumps this weekend as on Friday a very smart looking male black-headed bunting was found along Lighthouse Road.

Upon arriving on Saturday morning there were large crowds gathering alongside the road looking in to the hedge, I waited about 10 minutes before the bird made its first appearance before melting away again and disappearing.

The bird showed two or three more time, relatively well but i was only bale to mange some  poor distant  shots.

Still a new bird for this list, so I was very pleased indeed.

Ferruginous Duck: A little further down Lighthouse road near the golf course a Eastern sub-Alpine warbler was found, this was a little more illusive as it skulked under some brambles and within a young sycamore tree.

 The weather soon changed and the rain came along with some strong cold winds so Dawn and I decided to move on and try again for the fudge duck in South Yorkshire.
This time we got lucky as the bird was relocated to Jenny Browns Common where the bird has taken to following some male tufted ducks around a large pond.

25/05/2019 Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire

Gannet: I'm almost ashamed to say that I have never been to Bempton Cliffs before. I've spent a lot of time on the East Yorkshire cost, especially Spurn but never been across to the cliffs.

Lets start with my first thoughts as we walked down to the cliffs form the visitor centre and coffee shop.

The sights of distant gannet, the sounds of calling kittiwakes and the smells of fishy bird poo!

Words like mesmerising, breath-taking, amazing, awesome all spring to mind.
This is the only gannetry in England and is growing annually.

Simply brilliant, not just the shear numbers and sights of a massive sea bird colony going about their daily business but just how close some of these bird get is brilliant.

Razorbill: With over three miles of sheer cliffs, rising to 400 feet Bempton is the best place in England to see breeding seabirds (over 200,000).
Five viewing points give spectacular close-up views of puffins, gannets, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars.
Razorbills are actually the closest living relative to the Great Auk, which is now extinct.

Kittiwake: Hanging on the wind like a puppet on strings watching the kittiwkaes float of the breeze was great.
They were also actively taking mud from the top of the cliffs, they use this mud in their nest building. 

Thir nest, which is typically placed on a narrow ledge, is a compact structure made of seaweed, mud and some grass.
Puffin: After a searching the cliffs from all five view points we finally manged to see a puffin that was close on the cliffs.

We spotted dozens on the after and flying up on to the cliffs but never in view perched upon them.
I was really keen to show Dawn the puffins,  she wasn't getting very excited over the kittiwakes or the fulmars but puffins are a bird most people swoon over.

 Guillemot: Guillemots were by far the most nemous bird on the ciffs, they choose breeding sites on long narrow ledges, usually on sheer cliffs, and will squeeze as many bird as possible onto each ledge, with nesting pairs often in bodily contact with one another.
They find strength in numbers and hope that this strategy will prevent predatory birds with larger wing spans from being able to land.

Gannet: Apart from the birds the sights of the weather beaten, eroded cliffs, the wild flowers and coves were another sight to behold.
Barn Owl: Another treat and an unexpected treat was a day time hunting barn owl over the fields adjacent to the cliffs.
Highly recommended, I loved this place and will be sure to make another visit next year.