By Brian Roberts
This is a summary of the places visited in this country and also the birds seen during the year 2001.
New Years Day coincided with the start of the year long survey that I am undertaking of the Greenfield Valley and New Years Day saw Sue and I in the valley undertaking the first of the surveys, a new bird for the valley soon appeared with four Oystercatchers landing on one of the pools, also there on a stone was the first of three sightings of Dipper during the morning, also seen was the resident Tawny Owl (in the owl box) together with a striking male Bullfinch, a good mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare was also nice to see. A total of 38 species were seen. En-route to Seaforth a few days later to pick up the long-staying Long-billed Dowitcher, a drake Smew was seen on Shotwick Lake, at Seaforth a surprise was a Ring-billed Gull which was much admired by the people in Hide A, also seen was a large number of Golden Plover. On to Marshside where there were large flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, but no sign of the Green-winged Teal seen the day before. Mere Sands Wood produced views of Mandarin Duck, but little else, we did however meet at this location a couple we had last seen whilst in Trinidad and Tobago last year. Martinmere added the usual Pink-footed Geese, and one Greenland White-fronted Goose, Barnacle and Greylag Geese were also present as were a large number of Ruff. The Whooper Swans numbered over 1400 but sadly the Bewick’s numbered only two, since the remaining 70-80 had flown about 30 minutes before we arrived, the Goldeneye were resplendent as usual.
Next visit was Fairhaven Lake to see the Drake Ferruginous Duck, which after some searching gave itself up, also present was a Scaup, the numbers were increasing I was now on 69 species. January 7th saw us visiting Woolston Eyes reserve with the RSPB, Chester group, we saw about 300 Pochard, as many Tufted Duck, Ruddy Duck and a delightful pair of Stonechats.
Our next visit saw us arriving at Kinmel Bay to view over 60 Scaup, but no sign of the Snow Buntings reported the previous evening, but there was compensation in the form of Slavonian Grebe and Red-throated Diver, the two fellow birders from Seaforth and myself were absolutely positive that the four birds travelling south some way off shore were Eiders, this seemed to be confirmed when one of the Seaforth lads pager indicated four Eiders passing Llanfairfechan, next was a visit to Llanfairfechan to try for the Black Scoter, but the visibility was not good and no views were obtained however a Black-necked Grebe and a Black-throated Diver were ample compensation. Nearby is the Sewerage Works where the previous day a Firecrest had been reported, however to the assembled group no view was obtained however, Goldcrests galore (each one checked many times for the correct head stripe) Grey Wagtail, Treecreeper and most surprising five Chiffchaffs (probably giving evidence if needed that some of these Warblers do over-winter in this country)
A visit to Caerhun Churchyard did not produce the hoped for Hawfinches, but on returning home we again called in at Kinmel Bay and met up with our Seaforth friends who said three Snow Buntings had been seen a few minutes before, within five minutes we were standing only a few feet away from seven of these delightful birds (where are the Shore Larks this year). So ended a wonderful days’ birding.
Saturday 27th January dawned a beautiful clear cold day so we made our annual pilgrimage to Park Hall Country Park in Staffordshire to seek out the Long-eared Owls, only one was able to be discovered, and nobody had seen that day the resident Little Owl in the quarry. A flock of over 100 Golden Plover was a good sighting and was made even better when they took to the air. Sunday 28th saw Sue and I taking a lunchtime walk at Rhosesmor and good views of Peregrine were obtained also surprising was the sight of two Fieldfare near the car, and unusually for Rhosesmor a Grey Heron. Monday 29th saw Sue and I going to Gronant in what was to be a vain attempt to see if there were any Shore Larks, however we did flush a Snipe and we saw Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Linnet. When we arrived home a wonderful sight was awaiting us, in the garden were no less than 21 Goldfinches, this is the largest number we have ever had in our garden, they have now displaced the Greenfinch as the most numerous bird to be attracted to our feeders. The final bird of the month came on the 30th as Sue and I walked from home to Holywell through Greenfield Valley when a Sparrowhawk lazily flew past us, we also had a Fox run across the path just in front of us.
SPECIES FOR YEAR TO DATE:- 101
The first trip of the month was to Llanfairfechan Promenade where the last of the three Divers for the year was spotted a Great Northern Diver, together with Red Throated Diver, and to the delight of all who were there, the Black Scoter showed well not too far off shore. The surprise of a Mediterranean Gull amongst the Herring Gulls ended a short but very productive visit. On to the Sewerage Works to look for the Firecrest, which eluded me last month, but again no sign, but a nice view of a Dipper by the level crossing, was another nice surprise. The final visit of the morning was to Rhos Point where we had heard from people at the sewerage works that there were four Purple Sandpipers, this time we were not disappointed with a good view of two specimens, also present were many Turnstones and Redshanks.
The survey of Greenfield Valley continued with additional species of Green Woodpecker, Dunnock and Lesser Black-backed Gull being added to the valley list for the year.
The High Tide at Parkgate on the 10th was the next highlight of the month with spectacular views of up to seven Short-eared Owls, also seen were Jack Snipe, Water Pipit, Dark-Bellied Brent Geese, and also a titanic battle between a L.B.B.Gull and a Water Rail which escaped from the mouth of the gull and then evaded another attack to fly off to safety. Although the wind was in the wrong direction the water did come up to the wall along the promenade at Parkgate but not quite up to the walls of the baths. Good numbers of Skylarks were also seen, but where are the Yellowhammers and the Brambling?
The next day saw me leading the trip to North Lancashire and immediately at Knott-end on Sea Eiders were seen and then at Fluke Hall a small pool surprisingly produced Whooper and Mute Swans, whilst hundreds of Geese were seen flying overhead, no big flocks were located on the ground. At Pilling Lane Ends I spotted a small flock of Geese which were grazing at some distance and when somebody asked where they were, that well known wag Brian Webster remarked "just this side of Ireland" indicating my predilection for spotting birds at long distance. The group also spotted Snipe Goldeneye, Red-legged Partridge, together with large numbers of Common Scoter. Glasson Dock produced a very co-operative Reed Bunting and Merganser. Then on to what was to be the highlight the high tide at Hest Bank, this however was somewhat of a disappointment, very few birds on the sea and even fewer on the shore.
However after leaving Hest Bank, Brenda Legard remembered that there was a place on the promenade of Morecambe where Purple Sandpipers had been seen, and sure enough on a rocky outcrop Eiders, Mergansers Redshanks and yes two Purple Sandpipers.
However the miss of the day came when I went for Petrol at Sainsbury’s at Great Boughton after returning from the trip when I saw a man looking through some binoculars near the petrol station, we did not think much of it until when I got home and went into birdguides.com (a useful site for bird news) that I saw that 15 Waxwings had been opposite the Calday Valley Church that day near the Petrol Station!!!!!
The next highlight of the year was the flight over Our Garden of a Green Woodpecker, which completed the set of three for this year. The next day I was in Greenfield Valley and went to the pool, which is closest to the lower coast road and to my utter delight perched on a branch overlooking the pool was a female Kingfisher, which I was able to watch for ten minutes as the bird took in the all too rare sunrays this year.
A visit to Caerhun Churchyard on the 16th produced stunning views of two Hawfinches, and at the Sewerage Works at Llanfairfechan both Firecrest and Reed Bunting gave good views together with a single Chiffchaff.
The final days of February were spent in Kent where a visit to Lade Pit produced at the second attempt the much-hoped for Canvasback and the astonishing sight of 8 Smew (5 Drakes and 3 Red-heads), with two Black Redstarts perching on fences for the assembled bird-watchers who had come to see the Canvasback. One of the sights of the trip was an enormous flock of Golden Plover, near Pegwell Bay I was reliably told by a local birder number over 1000. Again with the help of some local birders Iceland, Glaucous and Mediterranean Gulls were seen. Due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak nearly all Nature Reserves were closed, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was the exception where good views of Sanderling and Ringed Plover were obtained, but not the hoped for Bittern.
SPECIES FOR YEAR TO DATE:
At the beginning of March we were still in Kent, despite the lack of Nature Reserves open we still managed to see the Smews again at Lade pit. A super view of a Green Woodpecker at Rye Harbour and a Velvet Scoter finished the week off in Kent. A visit to Rhos on-Sea on the 10th where due to the very high tide, the sea came up to the wall, produced a Red-throated Diver and Kinmel Bay gave us about 40 Sanderling and three Ring Plovers. The Foot and Mouth outbreak continues to limit severely the options for bird watching. The continuing survey of the birds of Greenfield Valley was also affected by the closure of two of the transects but good views of Mandarin Duck, good numbers of Pochard and best of all a drake Scaup were good to see. The resident Tawny Owl was still seen, and so some bird watching was possible, although limited. Further visits to Greenfield Valley produced Willow Warbler and Common Raven and Buzzard. The Mandarin Duck continued its presence on the Main Pool, together with large numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck, but the Dipper was not able to be located during the month. Hearing that Martinmere W.W.T. reserve was open Sue and I visited on the last day of the month, and just missed a reported sighting by the Warden of Sand Martins, however we did see Tree Sparrow, Whooper and Bewick Swans and just outside the reserve at the farm along the lane, a wonderful view of Little Owl nestling in a tree from the rain. However the stars of the day at Martinmere were the migrating Toads, which were along one of the paths of the reserve.
SPECIES FOR YEAR TO DATE: - 145
With Foot and Mouth still with us the first week of April was devoted to Birdwatching in Greenfield Valley as part of the ongoing survey this resulted in good views of Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, also seen was a Common Toad. On the 7th we went to Llanfairfechan Promenade for the High Tide and saw Gannet, Great Skua, Common Terns, Goosander, Mergansers and a good number of Great Crested Grebes. As we were returning home via Rhuddlan we had a Kingfisher fly across the car. The next day (8th) saw the first House Martin over the house, newly arrived presumably from Africa. Later in the day in our garden we saw the largest number of Goldfinches to date 27 together with 3 House Martins flying above-is summer here? not by the look of the rain battering down-the House Martin must wonder why they didn’t stay in South Africa.
Later in the month whilst again undertaking the bird survey of Greenfield Valley, a
Honey Buzzard was spotted, also viewed were Bullfinch. Blackcap, Willow Warbler,
Chiffchaffs, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and the ubiquitous Mandarin Duck, together with the first House Martins this year in the valley.
A visit to Conway RSPB produced nice views of White Wagtail and also Gadwall.
Towards the end of the month Sue and I paid our annual visit to Scotland-would the weather be as good as in previous years? it certainly did not look so when we headed North, we had rain, sleet and some snow by the time we got to our destination of Charlestown of Aberlour. There were however consolations as we visited Leighton Moss and saw Marsh Tit, Marsh Harrier and Bearded Tit.
Beyond Edinburgh lies RSPB Vane Farm which last year produced some memorable sights such as 100’s of Drake Goldeneye, this year the reserve was quiet with only some late staying Pink Footed Geese, a Black-tailed Godwit and a few Goldeneye.
However the excitement was to be later in the journey north, we were approaching Kingussie when we saw the traffic slowing down, we then saw why, on the central reservation of the dual carriageway on the A9 was a Male Black Grouse boldly walking along the road, we had hardly had time to take our breath from that sight when Sue spotted a raptor descending on the carcass of a dead Deer, the bird came near the car and in the sunlight we could both see it was a Red Kite, what a few minutes.
The next day we went to Loch Garten and saw the Ospreys, with Redstarts scrambling around the bottom of the nesting tree. Red Squirrel was also seen together with splendid views of Crested Tit and Siskin, and a point-blank view of a Treecreeper but no Crossbills, Willow Warblers were calling everywhere Goosanders and Goldeneye were on the Loch. Sand Martins and Swallows were seen en-route to Loch Garten and as we were returning to our base we saw several people looking into the sky with scopes and binoculars, we stopped and there was a Golden Eagle flying around. Also seen on the moors was a Mountain Hare still in its white colouring.
A visit to Ythan Estuary was made the next day to see the Eiders and hopefully to see the King Eider which has visited this site for many years, the Common Eider numbers appeared to be down on last year-just 3000-4000!!!! – but there was no sign of the King Eider, and that was to be the case for the whole of the trip there had been a sighting earlier in the year and also 2 sightings at Spey Bay –of which more later, but birding groups we met during the trip had also had no luck in finding the bird. Interest however was shown by many people in the Goshawk roosting in a tree near the estuary. Four species of Terns were seen at the estuary, Common, Arctic, Sandwich and best of all 6 Roseate Terns. Sand Martins and Swallows were present in reasonable numbers. Also at Ythan were 3 Harbour Porpoises and 2 Grey Seals.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE:- 172
At the beginning of the month we were still in Scotland and on May Day we went back to Loch Garten for an early morning Capercaillie watch: on the way to which a Deer jumped across the road just in front of the car!!! One ‘Capper’ was found in a tree, also Scottish Crossbill was seen, after a hearty breakfast in Aviemore we headed towards Fort William along a beautifully scenic route which took us past Loch Laggan and the location for "Monarch of the Glen" the house can be seen clearly across the Loch from the main road, any way back to the birds, Fort William produced Black Guillemot and Yellow-legged Gull. Loch Insh was partially closed but we were able to find Brambling, Teal, Hooded Crow, Sand Martin, Swallow, and also a Brambling.
Spey Bay was our venue the next with exceptional views of both Red-throated and Black-throated Divers in breeding plumage as were the Long-tailed Ducks, several of the Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns attacked an immature Arctic Skua and succeeded in sending it on its way. Eiders were also present in small numbers. A Red-Breasted Goose was found in a flock of Pink-Footed Geese near the bay.
RSPB Culbin Sands did not provide the expected Yellowhammers but further views of Black Guillemot were obtained together with some butterflies:- Green-veined White
On the way home via the moors a Red Grouse was seen near the road, as was a Grey Partridge.
At Lossiemouth Harbour two Purple Sandpipers were seen as was a singing Rock Pipit.
Further visits to Spey Bay produced more good views of Black-throated and Red-throated Divers. In excess of 100 species were seen during the week in Scotland.
Following our return from Scotland we launched back into the Greenfield Valley survey and during the week of the 7th we saw Wood Warbler (heard Garden Warbler) Swift, House Martin Swallow, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and then two superb views of Tawny Owl, firstly an adult standing at the edge of the nesting box and secondly an adult standing again at the edge of the box BUT WITH AN OWLET, wonderful views. Butterflies seen during this week have been Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Small White and a profusion of Orange Tips (well compared with previous years).
A visit to Llanymynech Quarry gave views of 8 types of butterfly including Grizzled and Dingy Skipper and Small Copper and also seen was a Whitethroat. Whilst undertaking some examination invigilation at Deeside College I saw my first Yellowhammer of the year fly past the window where the examination was being held. As I was watching House Martins, Swallows and Swifts from the Dining Room window suddenly they scattered to every point the reason being an incoming Hobby which then proceeded to chase them at times coming over Our Garden, later that day Sue and I went into Greenfield Valley to continue with the Bird and Butterfly survey and saw a pair of Hobby’s again chasing Martins Swallows and Swifts. About a year ago Sue and I saw a similar sight in the valley.
The next day saw us going to South Stack for our annual visit to see the Puffins, Guillemots Razorbills and Choughs, all of which we saw together with a passing Peregrine, the surprise was a highly twitchable Black-headed Bunting which was in full summer plumage, we also tried for a Corncrake at Bull Bay Golf Club but as with the other dozen or so people looking for it, we only heard tantalisingly close.
Towards the end of the month a four-day trip to Norfolk was undertaken, the main object being for Sue to see Swallowtail Butterflies, our first visit was to Hickling Broad where views of Bittern Marsh and Hen Harrier and yes views of two Swallowtails, also Hobby was seen and Cuckoo heard. Reed and Sedge Warblers were everywhere around this splendid reserve. The next day a visit to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen gave up more views of Swallowtails, also Garganey, Willow Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler and Hobby were seen, as were lots of Dragonflies and Damselflies. Weeting Heath produced the expected Stone Curlews and Woodlarks, our visit to a new site- RSPB Lakenheath you won’t find it in the books, gave us Cuckoo, more views of Hobby, a Montague’s Harrier (almost dismissed by the locals!!!!) Yellow Wagtail, Marsh Harrier and best of all, a fleeting view of a Golden Oriole (My 300th bird on my British List). Titchwell gave us Avocet, wonderful views of a Water Vole, but no sign of the Black-winged Stilt. Holkham gave us Egyptian Geese and Spoonbills (2). We visited Thornham and after a long search we finally tracked down, with amongst others, a member of Chester RSPB, the elusive Savi’s Warbler.
Cley although quite quiet gave good views of Avocet and Marsh Harrier and yet another Hobby. On our way home we called in at Nottingham to try and find the Little Swift but it had gone. But how can you complain when the only bird in Norfolk that we really missed was the Stilt and we hope to catch up with that in September when we return for a further week to this wonderful area.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 227
An abortive visit to RSPB Marshside to find the Red-Necked Phalarope culminated in a visit to W.W.T. Martinmere where a Little Ringed Plover was `scoped` sitting on eggs close to the Miller’s Bridge Hide. The highlight of the middle of the month came when doing a further bird survey of Greenfield Valley when the following were observed, Dipper, Grasshopper Warbler, Tawny Owl, a further view of Hobby, the two Cygnets with parents on one of the pools, and best of all a singing Cuckoo, it is quite a few years since this was both heard and seen in the valley.
A visit to Whixall Moss with Butterfly Conservation gave us great views of Hobby, one sitting in a tree, we also saw the Large Heath butterfly and the White Faced Darter, together with several varieties of moth.
A visit to a site near West Shore at Llandudno produced over sixty Silver-studded Blue butterflies (including the North Wales sub-species), Common Blue together with Grayling, Large Skipper and Meadow Brown. On the bird side a single Chough was seen together with Peregrine. A visit to RSPB Conway later in the day produced two Twite and a large number of Six-Spot Burnet moths.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 230
A quiet start to the month was enlivened by a visit with Butterfly Conservation to the Aberduna Reserve near Mold when good views of the nesting Peregrines in the nearby quarry were obtained, also seen were Red Admirals, Small Heath and Brown Argus butterflies together with a Southern Hawker dragonfly. Our annual visit to Nercwys Mountain produced two sightings of Nightjar much to the enjoyment of a gentleman from who had travelled from Wigan to see his first Nightjar, also seen was Tree Pipit, Buzzard, Linnet and a solitary Woodcock.
Later in the week I was the leader for a walk in Greenfield Valley for the Friends of the Valley Association, Bullfinch, Water Rail and Goldcrest were seen, and at the end of the evening (after a drink in the local hostelry) as we were walking home with two friends who had been on the walk, a badger walked out in front of us- quite a finish to the evening.
A further visit to Aberduna Reserve on a sunnier day than the previous visit produced the hoped for views of Small Pearl Bordered and Dark Green Fritillary butterflies. Also seen was a male Bullfinch and also one of the local Peregrines that nest in the nearby quarry.
On Monday 16th Sue and I, acting on information gleaned from the gentleman from Lancashire, regarding butterfly sites near Leighton Moss, headed for Leighton Moss and as we arrived we met him again, he gave us local directions to the first site-Arnside Knott, where we saw about 30 High Brown Fritillary butterflies, at the next site he had mentioned Warton Crag, we saw Northern Brown Argus (3) together with numerous, birds included Marsh Harrier Bearded and Marsh Tit at Leighton Moss. On one of our regular visits into Greenfield Valley a lady drew our attention to a bird sitting on a branch-it was a Redstart.
During the weekend of 21st and the 22nd a neighbour and myself went to Calais on the Ferry to get some wine, along the M-40 north of Stokenchurch we had views of 4 Red Kites all flying near the motorway. Leaving Dover to cross The Channel I met up with a seasoned `ferry birdwatcher` and in a magic hour we spotted Manx, Balearic and Cory’s Shearwater, together with Sabine’s Gull (however the Gull and the Cory’s could not count to my British List as they were seen as we were about to dock in Calais, as for the wine trip, Chateau bottled wines from about £1.50. The car was much heavier on the return trip than when it came.
On the 26th of the month Sue and I visited Moore Country Park and whilst birds were at a premium and a singing Sedge Warbler was appreciated the real stars were the butterflies where literally hundreds of Gatekeeper and Meadow Browns were seen, in total eleven species of butterfly were seen including the delightful Small Copper and a Holly Blue. Talking to one of the rangers she told us that a proposal to have a visitor centre at the park was now being considered.
Maddryn Reserve near Llanfairfechan also held large numbers of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns but also Common Blues and one Wall Brown. As with Moore birds were difficult to find the Mute Swans on one of the Pools had two Cygnets.
During the final week of the month Sue and I continued with the butterfly and bird survey of Greenfield Valley and during this week with the spotting of a Holly Blue the 16th butterfly for the valley and Sue’s 30th butterfly of the year. As far as the birds were concerned new birds for the year were Peregrine and Merlin, a fitting finale to the month was the sighting of three Common Buzzards flying over the valley.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 233
The month started with a visit to the recently opened Inner Marsh Farm where we met Brenda and Janet from the Chester Group, Gatekeeper butterflies were as abundant here as everywhere else, a Peacock and a Large Skipper were also seen. The birds included a good flock of Goldfinches, Godwits, Little Ringed Plovers, Marsh Harrier and several Common Sandpipers, but alas no Green Sandpiper which had been reported earlier in the week. Early in August we had a new resident in Our Garden (or President as Brian Webster says) it was a Racing Pigeon that had gone astray, so it was nicknamed "George W."
The butterfly survey went on apace and in one visit to Greenfield Valley 11 species were seen. The lull in the bird activity in the valley gave Sue and I the opportunity one afternoon to study the Top Meadow area and to our delight we found an Oak tree with 3 Purple Hairstreak butterflies flying around the top. We had been told many times that it was likely that they were in the valley but it took some time to locate the `host tree`, this was the first time we had seen this butterfly and for Sue it was her 31st butterfly of the year. Another good sighting in the valley was of the Kingfisher flying quickly (don’t they always) over the Meadow Mill Pool.
On Sunday the 12th there was a rare bird alert by email from Birdguides to say that there was a Great White Egret at Flint Castle. I was unable to go on the Sunday but Monday morning saw me watching the bird in a Gully to the east of the Castle, this is the first time that I have seen this species in Wales.
A further visit to Greenfield Valley in connection with the Bird and Butterfly survey produced 13 species of butterfly including Painted Lady, Large Skipper, Purple Hairstreak, Small Copper, Common Blue, large numbers of Peacocks and even larger numbers of Gatekeepers. The birds seen included Willow Tit, Peregrine and a very low flying Merlin.
Our next visit was to the Bird Fair at Rutland Water where together with Brian and Joyce Webster we met friends and fellow birdwatchers from bird trips around the world, including Goa and Trinidad and Tobago and also had a good chat with ex Chief Executive of RSPB Barbara Young who is still a bubbly as ever and enthusing about a recent trip to Belize, we also reminisced about that Concert in Chester Cathedral, it was so nice to see her again, on Rutland Water itself there was Osprey, 2 Spoonbills and countless Cormorants and the ubiquitous Egyptian Geese.
The next day saw Sue and I making our way to Ringwood for a week’s holiday, we made a divert of about 2 miles from our route to see a Sabine’s Gull at Farmoor reservoir, which gave superb views of down to 10 Metres as it floated on the water totally oblivious of the attentions of about 50 birders. A Black Tern was also present at the reservoir.
Whilst at Ringwood we visited RSPB Arne where good views were obtained of Dartford Warbler (after quite a search), then came for me the sight of the week from the Lookout Point on the reserve we saw a tree on the border of the marshes and this tree contained no less than 40 Little Egrets-it was like being in a different country.
Visits to Butterfly sites such as the superb Martin Down and Durleston Country Park were very profitable with the following species being added to Sue’s year list: Adonis and Chalkhill Blue, Marbled White, Silver-washed Fritillary, Lulworth Skipper and after a blindingly good spot by Sue (how she spotted it I will never know) a Silver-spotted Skipper finally showed itself. Sue’s list for the year is now 38. Whilst at Durleston we had superb views of Hobby. However the sight of about 50 Brimstones flying in front of us at Martin Down was spectacular and one decided to land on Sue’s Binoculars!!!, all in all a superb trip for birds and butterflies-so much so that we are going back next year.
At the end of each day it was nice to enjoy the lovely weather and have drinks on the patio to reflect on the sightings of the day.
As a final flourish to the month as Sue and I were returning from visiting her father in Helsby and coming along the approach to the New Bridge over the Dee near the Shotton Paper works a Hobby flew across the road.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 237
This month started with a continuation of the Bird and Butterfly survey and straightaway despite the weather Small Copper, Common Blue and Painted Lady butterflies were seen in the valley and so far as the Birds were concerned a pair of Goshawk were observed together with quite a large feeding flock of Long-tailed Tits, the two cygnets born earlier in the year are now growing fast and are at nearly adult size.
In Our Garden the second flowering of the buddleia brought Painted Lady and Red Admiral butterflies on to the bush. However the sighting from my Computer Room occurred on Wednesday 12th when I received an email from Birdguides to say that there were 6 Leach’s Petrels in the vicinity of Flint Castle I started scanning from the window and saw two of them making their way back to the mouth of the estuary, quite a sight from one’s house.
I had been asked by Richard Smith who runs the deeestuary website if I could take two Canadian birders out on a days birding around the Wirral. This produced a list of 63 species including Curlew Sandpiper unfortunately we missed 3 Leach’s Petrels and a Sabine’s Gull at New Brighton by 1 hour. Tina Macdonald and her husband Duncan were delightful and it was pleasure showing them some of our birds.
Further sightings of Leach’s Petrels from my Computer Room occurred on 16th when three were observed near to Greenfield Dock, one then detached and headed towards Flint, later in the day I heard that there were eventually nine ‘Leach’s’ at Flint Castle together with the long-staying Great White Egret.
Our annual Autumn visit to Norfolk was a visit which was marked by the birds we missed rather than the birds we saw, on our way down we saw Green Sandpiper at Rutland Water and at Welney W.W.T the first of what was a good number of Little Stint
The long-staying Black-winged Stilt at Titchwell was nice to see again, at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen Cetti’s Warblers were calling at several places, a short drive from the reserve lies Buckenham Marsh where the first of the Bean Geese had arrived, however the sight which we beheld when we drove from Strumpshaw to Buckenham was one of the sights of the year, the road, the fields adjoining the road and the gardens were literally full of Red-legged Partridge and Common Pheasants, they were everywhere, we saw, in the course of about a mile over 300 birds-absolutely amazing.
At Reepham where we stayed we saw the local Barn Owl. Cley itself was relatively quiet, apart from Hen and Marsh Harrier, but at nearby Blakeney Point birders were making the long walk out to try and re-locate a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler which had been seen over the weekend we decided that the walk was rather long if the bird was not going to be there, however those that did go, did find a Barred Warbler, and whilst we were walking around near the Beach at Cley we missed a Red-backed Shrike by a matter of seconds, a birder told us it was sitting on a fence and when he turned round to tell us where it was it had gone. There was also no Golden Pheasant this year at Wayland Wood probably due to the renovation work being undertaken there. However at Holme Dunes we `spooked` a Short-eared Owl about 5 yards ahead of us and got the best views ever of this bird that usually is seen at distance at Parkgate. Also at Holme Dunes Sue asked if I knew what was on my head?, it was a Red Admiral (I think I will now start a `Head List`-since at Cley another Red Admiral nearly landed on me from a bush that contained in excess of 20 of these lovely butterflies). At Bressingham Gardens Red Admirals, Commas and Small Tortoiseshells were all seen in good numbers.
An indication of how the week went is shown by the fact that on Friday afternoon at the end of the week we went past the Salthouse Pools and I casually remarked to Sue that they do get some rare birds there, very prophetic this was as we later found out that a Hoopoe had arrived an hour after we passed.
At the end of the week however we had seen nearly a hundred birds including thousands of Geese, lots of Little Stints but those Partridge and Pheasants on that lane was the sight of the trip.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 244
The month started as with others with a continuation of the Bird and Butterfly survey of Greenfield Valley, and this brought the re-location of the Dipper which had been missing for over a month from its usual haunt, and the discovery of a Scaup on the main pool of the valley. We also saw large numbers of Red Admirals in the Garden (8), also the Small Copper remained on the path near our house. We visited Frodsham Marsh and saw a Grey Phalarope that had avoided us at Snettisham during our Norfolk trip. This bird represented my 245th species of the year-the highest number I have ever achieved in one year in the United Kingdom. The morning of the 8th dawned with a sight of two Nuthatches feeding on the trays (they are extremely intermittent visitors to our garden) and the Coal Tit and the first of the returning Goldfinches joined them. A tumble that I had during the middle of the month severely limited the Birdwatching, however a visit to the Greenfield Valley resulted in a wonderful view of a Kingfisher and also an unexpected visitor in the form of a Hobby. The Nuthatches continued to feed in the garden, and the visit by a male Sparrowhawk threw all the birds into panic but all escaped thanks to the buddleia bush in which they hid.
On the 30th of the month Sue spotted a Comma butterfly in Greenfield Valley, possibly the last sighting of the year.
The Mandarin Duck returned to the valley and further views of the Dippers were obtained, they produced two youngsters this year.
On the final day of the month a flock of Redwings and Fieldfares arrived in the garden to start to eat the berries.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE:
Still suffering from the tumble in October the month started quietly, the Nuthatches together with Great, Blue and Coal Tits continued to visit the feed tables at home. I started the November survey of the valley noticing a large build up of both Tufted Ducks (50+) and Pochards (30+). The Tawny Owl was in his usual box.
A visit to Martinmere produced the expected views of Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, the `dubious Ross’s Gull` had gone but a nice surprise lay at the end of the day when a visit to my home valley produced a female Red-Crested Pochard and the drake Mandarin Duck, both on the same pool. Earlier in the week the Pochard had been seen together with a Goldeneye (three really good ducks in one week!!!!).
Another "Booze Cruise" to Calais gave me the opportunity to sea-watch from the ferry across the channel and during the trip, Cory’s Shearwaters were seen together with a Sabine’s gull.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR TO DATE: - 246
The Red-Crested Pochard continued to give wonderful views, as did the returning Goldeneye, in the garden at home the Nuthatch continued to visit throughout the month with the added attraction of a Blackcap.
Views of the Dipper in the valley were a welcome sight.
A visit to RSPB Conway on the 15th produced a rather confiding female Reed Bunting within 3 feet of us feeding in the reed bed near the visitor centre. We heard that Ian the warden of Conway is moving back to Blacktoft Sands and Alan Davies is taking his place as warden.
At Rhos on Sea a Red-throated Diver and many Turnstones were very acceptable sights on a day that was extremely cold.
We finished the first survey for December for the valley with views of G.S.Woodpecker, Mandarin Duck, Dipper, Treecreeper and of course the Red-Crested Pochard.
An early Christmas present on the 22nd was the American Wigeon at Rhuddlan on the river between there and Rhyl.
Also seen that day was a "Cronking " Raven above the house and on a visit to RSPB Conway a pair of Stonechats a Song Thrush and several Twite were seen.
Shortly after Christmas Sue and I started our final survey of the year-long bird survey of the valley and the highlight was only the second ever sighting of Oystercatcher in the valley, also seen were the female Red-Crested Pochard, Tawny Owl, Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest and Fieldfare.
The final day of a wonderful birding year saw Sue and I completing the year long survey of the birds of Greenfield Valley with wonderful sightings of a pair of Dippers.
SPECIES FOR THE YEAR 247
All together a wonderful year
which produced for Sue her highest number of butterflies seen in a year(38)
and for me the best ever total for birds (247)