Rostherne Mere Fieldtrip - 15th December 2013

Our last trip of 2013 was to Rostherne Mere, the largest of the Cheshire Meres and an English Nature site. On arriving we were met by some volunteers that were going to show us round the area so on the payment of £1 each we were soon walking through a small wooden area where we had Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a few of the Tit family and Nuthatch. Redwing and Fieldfare were flying over, some of which landed near the top of the trees as did a few Goldfinch a little later.

There were some good sized trees in this wood, some of them having Ivy growing up them and I noticed one particular tree where the main stems of the Ivy coming from the ground were at least three inches in diameter so even that had been around for a few years.

We soon reached a small hide and because of the limited space inside we were split into two groups, one to go in the hide and the other to walk part way round the mere to where there was another wooded area. In their return we would change over so everyone had done the same things. Once in the hide we were told of a Bittern that had been seen in the reeds just by the side of the hide but we were not lucky enough to see it this time. Most of the ducks were quite a distance away towards the middle of the mere but we did manage to pick out the different species such as Goldeneye, Teal, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Wigeon. On the far side of the mere we could see a group of Cormorants perched in some large dead trees and were told that these trees are where the Cormorants usually nest each year and some members also spotted a Heron not far from these. We heard Water Rail squealing in the reeds not far from the hide and the other group had a good view of a Marsh harrier that they disturbed as they walked round. The bird flew towards the hide but dropped into the reedbed on one side before all of us in the hide managed to see it and it didn’t show itself again after this.

Eventually it was our turn to walk round and as we approached the other wood I saw a Bullfinch in some bushes and we could see Woodpigeons keep flying up from the tops of the trees. A little later we found out why when we spotted a Buzzard flying round over the trees. As we walked by the side of the water we saw both Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe and the other group had seen Reed Bunting.

As we walked round I spotted the last remaining flower on a Red Campion plant and up in one of the trees a Grey Squirrel’s drey. We had earlier seen a Grey Squirrel in the smaller wood running along the thing branches of the trees much faster than we were walking on the solid ground.

We met up back at the small hide so we could all walk out from this area but had one last stop off in their observatory from where we had views across the whole mere. From here we saw a number of birds we had already seen but also saw a Kestrel that landed near to the building and watched 2 Ravens flying over the water as they flew towards each other they would tumble, twist and turn in their flight.

This finished our visit off nicely and thanks must go to the volunteers for showing us round and for all the information they gave us. Thanks also to Al for setting up this trip and to Martyn for my lift.

Jeff Hurst

Marshside Fieldtrip - 19th January 2014

It was a dull start to the day as we set off from Leigh, but as we got nearer to Southport the sun was starting to show through so as we were travelling along the coast road towards Marshside the low sunshine gave a golden glow to the dead stalks of the saltmarsh grasses that it was now lighting up. Even at the car park the sun was showing a group of small birds off well as they perched on the bushes round where the old sand works used to be. I counted more than fifty birds and on a closer check we found they were mostly Goldfinch and Greenfinch with a few Reed Buntings and Linnets mixed in.

Once at the Sandgrounder’s Hide we could see Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shoveler plus Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and a Ross’s Goose that has now been there for the last few weeks. As we came outside a few Pink-footed Geese flew past but our attention was soon drawn across the road to the saltmarsh where someone had seen a male Hen Harrier. We managed to find it but it was a very distant view, whenever it flew up we could see its lighter underside, pale grey back and black wing tips then it was soon down again. On one occasion when it flew up we could see a second Harrier also in the air which was much larger and this turned out to be a female Marsh Harrier. At the same time we could see a Peregrine Falcon perched on an old tree branch and although this was also way out on the saltmarsh it wasn’t quite as far because through the telescopes the markings on its breast were shown up well in the sunshine, and when I had a look I could see it preening its feathers.

While we were on the edge of the saltmarsh we could hear Skylark and Curlew and a Snipe was seen to fly up, the odd Cormorant flew past, Kestrel was seen and way in the distance a cloud like shape we could see was actually a large group of waders that would most likely be Knot or Dunlin. Checking towards the water’s edge we could also see a good number of Shelduck.

It was decided to leave Nel’s Hide until after we had made a visit to Hesketh Out Marsh in the hope that the sun would have moved round a little by then so we could see what was there. On our way to Hesketh Out Marsh we passed a large group of swans in fields not far from the road and these turned out to be both Whooper Swans and Mute Swans. At the viewing area we could see that the Shelduck numbers also continued along to this area plus some Teal, Redshank and Curlew was seen as was a Buzzard, Little Egret, PheasantMeadow Pipit as well as a distant Peregrine Falcon.

Female Long-tailed Duck - (c) Martyn Jones
On returning to Marshside we walked to Nel’s Hide where we saw good numbers of Pintail, there was a large group of Black-tailed Godwits, a lot of Lapwings and David saw a few Turnstones. There were also a lot of gulls that were mostly Black-headed but a closer look through them gave us Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Earlier in the day the odd Great Black-backed Gull had also been seen. On our way back to the cars we stopped to have a look through the viewing screen on the corner of Marshside Road where very appropriately for us our last new bird of our visit to Marshside was a Long Tailed Duck but you had to be quick to see it as it would soon dive again. In fact I think it was under the water much more that it was on the surface.

Short-eared Owl - (c) Martyn Jones
Our visit to Marshside had come to an end but the day wasn’t quite over, we had seen some good wildfowl and five species of birds of prey so we were well pleased with that but we didn’t know what was waiting for us at another site nearer to Liverpool where Short Eared Owls had been seen, as we were reasonably close to the area we were going to have a look.

Short-eared Owl - (c) Martyn Jones
Not long after we arrived in the late afternoon we saw our first Short Eared Owl, with the setting sun now low in the sky and showing off the birds colours perfectly. As we watched we then saw other owls a little further away and eventually we counted at least four different birds flying in different places.

Barn Owl at Dusk - (c) Martyn Jones
As the light began to fade a Barn Owl was seen in another area but it was thought there were two Barn Owls as another bird was seen way over to one side to where the first bird was seen a few times. A Kestrel was hovering not far from us and at dusk we had one more surprise when a ringtail Harrier was flying in at right angles to us. Eventually the bird saw us and turned again to fly away from us and out of sight but as it banked over on its side as it turned we could see all the marking on its wings in the last remaining bit of light.

Barn Owl at Dusk - (c) Martyn Jones
We had been standing still for some time and we were now feeling the cold so as soon as we had seen the Harrier two of our members made their way back to their car. A little later we all caught up with them when they took great delight in telling us they had just disturbed a Little Owl and watched it fly away and out of sight as they got back to the car. I can’t bring myself to say their names but you know who you were! How could Teresa and Eric enjoy seeing a Little Owl so much when they knew all the other members hadn’t seen it? What a way to finish our day as dusk was closing in and all the good light had now gone.

Thanks to David for leading this trip (keep off your skate board Al) and to Martyn for giving Joan and myself a lift.
Jeff Hurst