Saturday, 18 April 2015

Up north - day 1

On Saturday Paul and I went up to Knutsford for a few days of birding/wildlifeing with Hazel and Mike. Over the few days we went to lots of different places and I took LOTS of photos. Sadly I didn't have room in the bag for a landscape lens so I can't show you any scenics, just the wildlife. Probably the best way to handle this is to do a day-by-day breakdown. So day 1, which was very breezy and sunny - we arrived at Macclesfield at about 9.45 (yes, it was a very early start from Sevenoaks) where H and M picked us up and whisked us straight off to the wonderful Woolston Eyes.

This is a rather special reserve. The land's owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Company, and the reserve is managed by a very committed and organised group of volunteers. The habitats include woodland, meadowland and a nice stretch of reedy wetland with shallow bits for the waders. It's permit-only but we went as H&M's guests. The early arrival was with a view to catch the ringers who are here each Saturday morning before they pack up, which we did, but they had nothing to show us - too windy for much little-bird movement. So we wandered round and visited the hides instead.

Here's the star of the show. My photo barely does it justice but they were all a long way off. Several pairs of Black-necked Grebes breed here - it's the premier site in the UK for the species, and presumably the presence of this vulnerable bird is one of the reasons the site is permit-only and you need to unlock two massive gates to get in. We saw six or seven of these gorgeous grebes.

The other top bird was this Med Gull, one of a pair that 'yowked' their way overhead.

Moments after the Med Gulls went over, my first 2015 Orange-tip appeared, and eventually settled briefly on a dandelion before racing off again. Butterflies in general were abundant when the sun was out - the usual early spring species involved with Peacocks most numerous.

The place was full of Chiffchaffs, many showing really well.

This reserve has one large, fancy hide, and several smaller ones which are basically shipping containers balanced on scaffolding. This was taken from one of the latter - a Grey Heron that obligingly came to fish right in front of us. Other birds on the water included Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Lapwings and plenty of Black-headed Gulls.

The afore-mentioned Little Grebes. Pity the Black-neckeds didn't venture this close!

A Woolston Willow Warbler. Good to hear them again. Other summer visitors singing included Blackcap, and a couple of hesitant phrases from a shy Sedge Warbler. There were lots and lots of Sand Martins about and a handful of Swallows.

We went back to H&M's frankly amazing house after that, and spent some time in their amazing garden, photographing the many birds that come to sample the array of bird foods that H&M generously provide. I'll put the garden pics in the next post, as that is otherwise a bit thin on photos. In the late afternoon, we walked to nearby Tatton Park and made a leisurely circuit of the main lake there.

This is a deer park. If you imagine a flat Knole Park with a lake in the middle, that's pretty much Tatton Park. The first bird of interest was a Kestrel on the edge of an area of woodland. I got pics of it in a tree and then on the ground, but liked this one of it ninja-ing its way between the trees best (even though it's not super-sharp).

Here, as at Woolston, there were lots of Sand Martins, plus a few Swallows.

There wasn't a lot on the lakes - Mallards/Tufties/Great Crested Grebes, but after serious scanning I found a pair of Goldeneyes, then a bit further around three more.

The park has Red and Fallow Deer. We saw no Fallows (though I did on the last day when I went for a run through the park), but eventually found a bachelor herd of Reds near the way out. Most have dropped their antlers and are growing new ones, and so look faintly ridiculous with these fuzzy bumps on their heads.

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