16/09/2017 New Brighton, Wirral

Leach's Petrel: There are certain days which are truly spectacular - and today is one of them!

It's been a long while since the Wirral has had such good conditions at the right time of year to produce such brilliant numbers of these little ocean swallows.
Leach’s Petrels migrate west of Ireland between their breeding sites, on remote islands off Scotland and Iceland, and wintering areas thought to include the Bay of Biscay and farther south in the Atlantic as far as the equator. And it's the gale-force south-westerly winds apparently blew some Leach’s Petrels back north from their wintering areas into the Irish Sea.


Over the last couple of days there has been up to and possibly more than 35 Leach's spotted, they have also been spotted all the way up the Lancashire coast, from Ainsdale, Blackpool Promenade and Haysham.
After watching for about an hour i moved on to New Brighton Lifeguard Station as I wanted to get closer to the shoreline.

This was a winner, as there were two LP that were dancing on the waves close to shore, one even made a dash over the sand and rested its little legs for a while.
After getting windswept myself I decided to go meet Patrick who was at the other ed of New Brighton, which had slowed down so decided to head back to the two on the beach.
Grey Phalarope: These perfect conditions don't only bring out Leach's of the Irish Sea but Grey Pahls too! There have been reports of two individuals around New Brighton.
I saw this one next to Perch Rock as it flew in just after first light and landed in front of me, but only for a few seconds before taking off and getting blown away.
I watched one getting harassed by a some gulls and later saw this bird exhausted sitting on the sea,  between fighting the Aileen's gales and the local gulls it was bound to feel knacked.
I didn't have long as i had to get back home to collect a dilivary and had some work to crcak on with and left patrick and the rabble of birders to enjoy the rare north west experiance.
Great day, great birding, great company!

Spurn Migration Festival


Wryneck: What a weekend and what a place, this was my second Spurn Migration Festival and this time I went with some of the north west lads, Patrick Damion, Iggo and Tony Broom, unfortunately Neil was unable to attend.






I arrived a little later then the others as I was working away that week carrying out autumn bird surveys in Norfolk.
Upon my arrival I headed over to Sandy Beaches caravan Park to see the Wryneck and meet up with a Iggo and Patrick.  Here we watched the bird carry out some unusual behaviour as it flew upon to the Perennial Sow Thistle and started to eat the aphids straight from the stems.
The bird was present in this area the whole weekend.


 Long-billed Dowitcher: Apart from the Wryneck and and full of migrant birds like redstarts and Pied Flycatchers there wasn't much else to be seen and we spend a few hours searching and hoping for something great to drop in.





Black Redstart: Well our preys were answered as a heavy but small shower passed over us which allowed a Long-billed Dowitcher to drop in.






This was what everyone was waiting for as as soon as news reach us we set off to see it, along with every other person at Spurn.

We had some excellent views before heading off in search of our own finds.

04/09/2017 Smithfield Market, Manchester

Yellow-legged Gull:  After reading and seeing several images of Smithfield's Fishmarkets YLG I presume by Rob Creek, I was keen to go and have a look myself.
 I've seen several YLG in my time birding, but often at some distance at places like Moore NR and Richmond Bank, so to see one a lot closer was great.
Big shout out to the contributor's and admin who run MBF, this is a great asset and full of useful sightings and information. I didn't even know there was a huge fish market in Manchester.
Almost as soon as i arrived in the car park I spotted the bird loafing up top the main building, It remained here for about 20miniutes before flying off on to a lamppost the disappearing  in to the yonder.

I was informed that I may have been the last person to see the bird before it disappeared however it looks like its come back.
So well worth a visit for anyone who would like to see it.

Just make yourself known to the guys in reception once you have parked up, they were pretty approachable and friendly.


26/08/2017 Leighton Moss RSPB

Purple Heron: After my first visit to see the purple Heron at Leighton Moss last week I was keen to go and try my luck again, for some better images.


..........and I wasn't disappointed.





Upon my arrival the bird was in it's usual place, viewable from Greizdale hide, tucked in and obscured by the reeds on the left hand side.

Seeing the bird was made more difficult by the eight or so birders scrabbling over one another to get a better view, whenever the bird decided to lift it's head up from the reeds.
Eventually my patience paid off and the bird walked in to view revealing its whole body and legs before talking off for a short flight on to the water and out of the reeds.
I was absolutely thrilled, Purple Herons are great birds enhanced by the fact this bird should be overwintering in Africa made seeing it even better.
The bird eventually moved completely out of view and was hidden again by the reeds. I did however read via Twitter that it flew off once more, but this time it headed over to the causeway and roosted with the Little Egrets.

19/08/2017 Carnforth, Lancashire

Autumn Lady’s-tresses Orchid: (Spiranthes spiralis) The Autumn Lady’s-tresses are out now and a must see little gem of a plant. They unfurl their sprilaised flowers at the time of year when most plants have set seed.

They get their scientific name of “spiralis” which describes the arrangement of flowers that form an elegant spiral up the stem.
Autumn Lady’s-tresses flower from August to September and can be found on calcareous grasslands or sandy dunes of Jack Scout, near Jenny browns point, Cranforth. Here there is a large colony growing on the limestone hills that have short but not overly cropped grassy sward.


Up close the Orchid have crystalline petals that appear through the lens as fresh and crisp as fresh snow, these are enhanced by the pastel green stems that has short sparkly hairs on.



This is a new Orchid tick for me and I was surprised to how small they actually are, I was even told by Isabel Hardman who kindly gave me some information and directions the night before.
They grow no more than 7-20cm high when flowering they are not easy to spot. Stopping to look closer at what appears to be a short grass flower head can often lead to their discovery.
Purple Heron: From Jack Scouts I went on to Leighton Moss where I saw my first UK Purple Heron, and although it was probably the worst view of a Purple Heron I've had in my life I was happy to finally have caught up with one and have it on the list.

13/08/2017 Titchwell RSPB

Turtle Dove: Ever since I took a trip with some old birding pals of mine a couple of years ago I feel in love with Norfolk.
 
One of it's enigmatic birds is the Turtle Dove, a species under huge pressures and decline across Europe, so it's always  red letter day when you catch u with one.
This year there has been a breeding pair close to Titchwell who have taken up residence within the car park and have been seen on a regular basis, even with their youngster.
Titchweel is a great place and there is always something good to see. Along with the Turtle Dove I had five Spoonbill, dozens of waders including a Greenshank, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit and a lovely male Hobby.

25/07/2017 Devils Dyke, Cambridgeshire

Chalkhill Blue: (male) One of the perks of getting sent away to survey in Norfolk is the ability to stop at some great places to see some great wildlife!
Chalkhill Blue: (female) So when I got asked to assist in some invertebrate surveys in Norfolk I made plans to visit the famous Devils Dyke right opposite Newmarket Racecourse.
Devils Dyke is an ancient monument that stretches for seven and a half miles, and reaches a daunting 10m (33ft) in height.

This archaeological treasure is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it is a haven for wildflowers, butterflies and a range of grassland insects come spring and summer.
(female underwing) The area sits between two very different ecosystems, one a rich peaty fenland and the other a chalk escarpment. The chalk and clay earth make a unique habitat for wildlife, including flowers, birds and butterflies, including the Chalkhill Blue.
(male underwing) Almost as soon as I arrived on the ridge I was confronted by dozens of blues of which almost all were Chalkhill Blues fluttering about the wildflowers.







These butterflies are part of the genus (Lycaenidas) which includes the Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks of which the blues are particularly difficult to identify at times especially as the females tend to be brown!


Here is a classic textbook specimen with the pale blue wings going to black just before the white fringes. These can almost look white or chalky blue in bright sunlight when they are fresh which gives these stunning little butterflies their name.....the Chalkhill Blue.

Common Blue: (male) Another blue butterfly which was fluttering about on the ridge was the Common Blue.









(common blue male underwing) Although these butterflies are similar to the Chalkhill Blue you can see the darker blue of the common in flight, which catches your eye.

Once settled and sowing it's underwing you can see that the Common Blue as darker underwing, more pearls and a darker spot inside its underside forwing cell.

Chalkhill Blue: As I left the site and the sun came out and temperatures went up, even more blues were on the wing and I saw plenty of Chalkhill Blues mating on the tops of the flowers and grasses that carpet this ancient and excellent little place to visit.











22/07/2017 Arnside Knott,

Broad-leaved Helleborine: (Epipactis helleborine) There is always a perk having family-in-laws who live up in Carnforth, it means I can sneak off and go wildlife spotting up nearby Arneside Knott!
This is precisely what I did after dropping Dawn off at her dads, I headed up the knott in the heavy summer downpours. And despite the rain and the grey clouds Arnside knott was stunning.


Soon the rain eased off and then disappeared leaving way to warm weather and sunshine, then Arnside Knot looked even better. I had such an enjoyable time up there.
My main aim was to see the Broad-leaved Helleborine and Dark Red Helleborine that were both in flower somewhere on the knott.
I was also hoping to see a few decent butterflies but didn't hold out too much hope as the weather was so poor when I arrived.

It didn't take me long to find the Broad-leaved Helleborine, which was strikingly standing out on the edge of the woodland.


The most common of the Helleborines and preferring a shady location these Orchids get their name from base leaves, which are broad and rounded as the leaves develop up the spire they tend to get longer and narrower. The flowers also develop from the bottom upwards.

These unassuming plants are brilliant, just take a look at their tongue like flower petels known as the Labellum.

High Brown Fritillary: I needn't have worried about not seeing a decent butterfly - as soon as the rain stopped (and for a while I didn't think it would) they all came fluttering out.
The one I was keen to see was the High Brown, a first for me. They frequent flowery meadows, woodland edges and uplands basically the similar habitats the Pearl-boarded Fritillary and easily mistaken for Dark Green Fritillary.
The two species are most easily distinguished by their undersides, where the High Brown Fritillary has a row of brown spots known as pearls between the outer margin and the silver spangles, which are missing in the Dark Green Fritillary.
A less-reliable identification guide is that, as its name suggests, the High Brown Fritillary has a predominately brown hue to the underside, whereas the Dark Green Fritillary is predominately green.

In either case I was thrilled to see my first High Brown!




Gatekeeper: As I was heading back to the car I thought I would give the steeper slopes of the knott another going over in search of the Dark Red Helleborine and although I couldn't find it I was happy to spend a few moments watching this Gatekeeper.
With it's vibrant colours I would surmise this is a newly emerged individual who was setting up a territory and chasing away any other butterflies who fluttered past.