Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Connah's Quay

I'm just back from another trip to the north-west. On Saturday, we went somewhere new - the Deeside Naturalists' reserve at Connah's Quay, on the Wales side of the Dee Estuary. This reserve is for permit-holders only but our permit-holding friends Hazel and Mike managed to get permission to bring Nick and I there before our permits have actually arrived - so thank you very much to the DNS and Hazel and Mike for that :) The day was bright and sunny, also quite windy and VERY cold. We arrived at about 9am and headed straight for the main hide.

We immediately bumped into a flock of Twites, which was nice, although they were very flighty. Then it was into the hide, and I have to say that this is one of the best hides I've ever been to. It's a tower hide and there are windows on all sides. So on one side you are looking out onto the mudflats of the Dee; on another you have an expanse of wet meadowland; on the next you have views across a pool with some reedbeds; and the fourth side looks out over... the car park. But even this proved very worthwhile in the end...

I started out looking at the mud, which was dotted with Redshanks. Now and then, they'd all fly over to one of the little creeks to bathe, before returning to the mud to feed. Among them were tiny numbers of Dunlins, also a few Teals.

Lots more Teals were opposite, on and around the little pool, and now and then they'd all take flight. This shot shows the generally industrial nature of the area - there's a power station and various other big ugly buildings right behind the reserve. Other wildfowl around included plenty of Shovelers and Wigeons, and a solo Little Grebe. Sadly the Barnacle Goose that Hazel and Mike had found among Canada Geese here two days before was not around today.

The Twites, which we'd unavoidably scared off when we arrived, came back not long after we'd settled in the hide. The flock was about 50-strong. They came down to feed in the car park...

... and gradually came a bit closer...

... and even closer. It was a real treat to watch these beautiful little finches at close-ish range.

Hazel threw out a bit of sunflower seed for them, but most of it was snaffled by this Magpie.

A female-type Marsh Harrier appeared at the back of the reedy pool, and spent a long time bobbing around here, until a Carrion Crow came along and hassled it into moving on.

The wet meadow held more geese, Curlews and the odd Shelduck, and this Rock Pipit showed up at its muddy edge.

We left the hide then and headed along the path to visit three more hides along the estuary, all of which overlook small bits of fresh water rather than the estuary itself.

From the first, a Little Egret was the only bird not to flee at our arrival, but a few Redshanks soon arrived to keep it company.

A flock of Wigeons was very active in one corner of the water, the lone female enduring enthusiastic attention from a group of males.

Flying away didn't seem to solve the problem.

A single Stock Dove was feeding on the bank, then flying off to pastures new. A few Woodpigeons also flew by.

More excitingly (though more distantly), a trio of Bewick's Swans appeared over the far horizon. There were another seven or so further off and lower down.

The next hide produced one of the day's star birds. Can you spot the Spotshank? There were at least three Spotted Redshanks among the Common Redshanks roosting at the back of the pool - you can see one of them here, third from the right.

This pool also came up trumps with three Greenshanks (the third was just out of shot to the left).

There were feeders out the front here, which attracted the usual little birds. I'm not sure about that layer of green in the feeder, but the Goldfinch didn't seem bothered.

The last hide of the three produced fewer birds, and viewing was more tricky as there was a generous stand of teasels and burdock right in front of the windows.

That wasn't all bad though, as this Wren dived into the burdocks and emerged clutching a hefty green caterpillar.

We walked back to the main hide after that, finding this Common Buzzard on the way.

Lots of Curlews flew across the path just before the main hide. We didn't see anything new from the hide and decided to head back to Knutsford, to do the Big Garden Birdwatch in Mike and Hazel's big garden. We logged good numbers and I took a few pics during the allotted hour (through glass so they're not great).

 The resident garden Grey Wagtail, known as Wilma :)
 Female Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Male and female Siskins on a HUGE feeder full of sunflower seed. These birds are spoiled rotten!
 A pretty Stock Dove.
And not quite so pretty - two Woodpigeons having a really full-on fight right in front of us. Hazel was better placed for photos of this and got some corkers - you can see the full sequence on her thread on the RSPB forum here.

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