Friday, 18 March 2016

Bushy Park

Over the last week I've spent some quality time in Bushy Park with my camera - here are photos from two days (one of which was sunny, both of which were COLD). These pics were mostly taken around the Heron Pond.

As ever, the park's heaving with Ring-necked Parakeets, and their screeches provide a constant bizarre soundtrack.

The other green kid on the block. The open areas are full of anthills and so attract lots of Green Woodpeckers.

A confiding Jackdaw.

And another, this one showing some partly white wing feathers, a sign of poor nutrition. Lots of people feed bread to the ducks here...

This Jackdaw looks OK, though was not being allowed to land on the bridge. Most of the adult Black-headed Gulls now have full hoods and will be off to breeding grounds soon.

First-winter Black-headed, in b/w. To be fair the original photo was almost monochrome anyway.

Only a few Common Gulls were here, plus one or two Lesser Black-backs.

One of the rather few Feral Pigeons here. I am pretty chuffed with the sharpness of this pic (though there were 30 more that went in the bin).

Grey Heron, poised to pounce on a slice of bread.

DUCK! Or maybe DRAKE! Male Mallard coming in to land. All the wildfowl is getting frisky, lots of 'three-bird flights' going on.

These two seemed mellow enough. The photo is a reversal of those old field guide illustrations where the male bird would invariably be shown in front of the female and partly obscuring her. I'm subverting this trope even further by having the male completely out of focus.

It was not just the ducks feeling frisky. I am not sure exactly what this Coot hoped to achieve but the Red-crested Pochard was NOT into it. After it got away it spent several minutes bathing.

That's better.

The result of a previous unconventional coupling, this Tufted x Red-crested Pochard hybrid was a startling sight. He seemed to consider himself to be a Tuftie and was consorting with a female Tuftie - clearly she admired his punky style.

Female RCP having a preen.

Male Gadwall. They are confiding here and it was nice to have some very close views, to properly appreciate those lovely scalloped and vermiculated markings.

Geese present were the predictable triptych of Canada, Greylag and Egyptian - all of non-native origin of course.

Little birds were harder to find and photograph. Here is a female Reed Bunting, one of at least three on the south shore of the lake. Also seen were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Redwing, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Goldcrest.

Oh yes, and Mistle Thrush.

And finally a couple of Red Deer stags. The rut long over and hostilities suspended, they are in their bachelor herds and several have dropped one or both antlers. The stag on the left here has broken off a bit of one of his but in a few months' time will have a shiny new set.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Dove Stone (but not really) and Etherow Country Park

The day after Frodsham, we drove east into the Peak on the assumption that the snow of a few days ago would have thawed by now. How wrong we were. The Peak was snow-tastic and the tarmac path up from Dove Stone reservoir was a slippery nightmare. The car park at Binn Grene was also a slippery nightmare (actually it was fine going in but getting out again took some serious driving skill from N).

So my hopes of finding Mountain Hares fell apart and I came away with only a pic of this smug male Pheasant and this smirking female Chaffinch.

All was not lost though as the way back took us to a place called Etherow Country Park, on the edge of Stockport, where Nick said we would find Mandarins (a year-tick for him) and Dippers (a year-tick for both of us).

Here there was much less snow, though the weather remained very dull and dark. We parked by a big lake full of manky Mallards, dodgy farmyard geese and a lot of Black-headed Gulls. The path took us along a wall-sided canal, that ran alongside an actual river.

People were feeding the ducks on this river - and most of said ducks were Mandarins - proper free-flying wild ones.

The path crossed the canal and we could finally see down to the proper river that rushed along at the bottom of a steep gorge. It looked good for Dippers, especially when we found a Dipper, standing on a boulder in true Dipper style and contemplating the rapids. A little way ahead was a rather spectacular weir.

We veered away from the river at this point and followed an uneventful looping path through hilly woodland, where we found a small party of Goldcrests but nothing else.

Back at the top of the weir we found a pair of Grey Wagtails.

The return walk didn't produce anything new apart from rain. I couldn't resist another quick go at the beautiful Mandarins though.

Frodsham Marsh and Moore

Oops, this trip was more than a week ago. Let's see if I can remember what happened. Frodsham Marsh is a great big site but we only saw a little bit of it because some paths were closed. The bit that we did see, though, was a place I have been to before... but quite a few years ago, when I was at uni in Sheffield and twitched a Semipalmated Sandpiper on the Weaver Bend. It was a quite bright but very cold and breezy day.

For me, the day was already a winner when we drove through the town of Frodsham and a Sparrowhak nipped across the road ahead of us. My first of the year, unbelievably. Nick didn't see it properly but as luck would have it we saw two more Sprawks later on.

On the way to the main part of the reserve, we found this Fox, eyeing us from across a marshy field. When it jogged away it revealed a sadly threadbare backside and tail. In the same area were Redwings, one Fieldfare, a Linnet flock and a number of Pied Wagtails, but then we found the path ahead was closed and we turned back.

On the way back towards the Weaver Bend, this Common Buzzard wheeled overhead, and a pair of Ravens went croaking past.

The path down to the river became extremely boggy and muddy as we got closer, but we battled through and made it to the riverside. The view stirred vague memories of that day one autumn many years ago, scoping a stint-sized wader on a bit of muddy shore. There was no mud today though - the water was high and birds were few. There were a number of Goldeneyes bobbing about, and on a small grassy spit Nick found a Black-tailed Godwit alongside a couple of Oystercatchers. The odd Lesser Black-backed Gull wafted by.

We were meant to be meeting Hazel and Mike here. They'd arrived before us and embarked on a full loop but from a different direction, so they didn't find the blocked path until they had already done a very long walk, and they had to retrace their steps. We arranged a place to meet in an hour's time, and Nick and I had a walk alongside fields full of sheep and newborn lambs, where we hoped to find some interesting gulls.

There were lots of Starlings enjoying the sheepy pasture, and a few Black-headed Gulls - also more Ravens.

We met H and M and escorted them back to the Weaver Bend, this time finding a slightly less soggy path.

Two more raptors on the way - Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. We also met a couple of birders who said they'd found Grey Partridge in the fields by the river. We actually flushed a couple of Red-legged Partridges as we continued but alas no Greys.

At the river we showed H and M the same birds we'd seen before, plus a flock of Redshanks that flashed by but didn't stop.

Two more Ravens to round off the morning. H and M headed home after that, while Nick and I went on to Moore Nature Reserve near Warrington.

This lovely reserve incorporates woodland and lakes, and a bit of open grassland. It is rather similar to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve, actually. Nick saw Lesser Spotted Woodpecker here recently. I wasn't so lucky - in fact we didn't see anything very exciting but had a very nice walk around nonetheless.

Male Pochard having a Timotei moment.

There is a very nice feeding station here, with a little pond (though Nick says the pond isn't always there). On this occasion, it was not only there but had Teals in it.

 The actual feeders were attended by this male Great Spotted Woodpecker, plus Great and Blue Tits, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings.

We explored a bit more of the reserve, and went back via the LSW spot - no luck again but found some Siskins demolishing what was left of the alder cone crop.