Peek-a-boo and Mystery Guest

There are a few broken down buildings around the north and west side of Billinge which always mean that there is good chance of catching up with an owl or two given the amount of good hunting habitat.

I started with a quick view of the Barn Owl nest at Fir Tree Farm on a TV screen in the barn.  Happy to report their are 3 healthy looking chicks and 1 much smaller .... will it survive its siblings attentions and competition for food???

But I have been meaning to catch up with the fella  in the photo for some time however and despite the cloudy, grey conditions he played a game of hide and seek with me!  I think I won as the phot below shows but I'll let you judge ......

A few minutes later co-incidentally I met a man who worked the farm for a long time and he said these Little Owls and their offspring have been present for about 40 years!  Here's to another 40 years of occupation

After catching up with a few of the other locals (kestrel, buzzard, yellowhammer)  I made my way to the small Scots Pine copse to chance my arm for a few crossbills .... and maybe even a two-barred crossbill.  No luck with those but I was happy to see the coal tits and goldcrests

However, I was nicley surprised to see a Grey Wagtail feeding around a small muddy pond in the copse with a few chaffinches.  Then my attention was drawn to the hedge by a familiar "churp" which turned out to be a 40 strong flock of Tree Sparrows which were feeding on spilt grain along the path, including many young ones

Despite several promising breaks in the cloud the weather was doing its best to keep birds sheltered as the relative hive of activity of a couple of days ago - Red Barn Lane was surprisingly quiet.  A dozen or so pied wagtails flitted about on the golf course but there was no sign of any yellow wagtails as in recent days.

At least a few swallows are still feeding young in the stables but the berry laden bramble and elder were deserted.

For some reason my attention was drawn to scan the fencelines and fields perhaps in the hope of a wheatear or two when this caught my attention ....

And on the back of the camera it looked worse but by watching it go back and forth to a regular perch I deduced that this could be interesting so I crept a little closer and closer and closer until i could take this ...

A lovely fresh looking Whinchat .... just goes to prove if you get out there and have a good old rummage you'll find something worth writing about :)

Newton Lake

Thursday, Newton Lake, 1 Common Sandpiper, 110 Canada Geese, 3 ad. 1juv Little Grebe.

Canada geese

On Havannah flash at 6am this morning and watched a large skein of Canada geese approaching from the direction of Fiddlers ferry power station, as they came overhead they split into two groups one headed towards Newton and the other towards St. Helens. I wondered if these geese are the one,s which are  on Newton lake and the Retail park in St. Helens , making this journey every morning? over the past few days I have seen Canada geese flying over The Flash in different directions.

Billinge Hill

Myself and Paul Brady went on a long walk around Billinge this morning. We started at the hill and then walked across Crank Road then down the public footpath that runs along Promised Land Farm. We then walked through the woods at Fir Tree Farm and back across Crank Road to Red Barn Road and then back up to Billinge Hill again. The highlights were the spotted flycatcher which was feeding from the wires near to the summit of Billinge Hill, the yellow wagtail which was behind one of the houses on Red Barn Road, and the wheatear which was in the horse paddocks south of Billinge Hill. The majority of the warblers were either near to the summit of Billinge hill or near to the disused building on Red Barn Road. There was lots of bird activity at the hill this morning.

Spotted Flycatcher 1
Yellow Wagtail 1 (juv)
Wheatear 1
Willow tit 3
Tree sparrow 25 (a single flock along Red Barn Road)
Blackcap 4
Willow Warbler 5
Chiffchaff 5 (2 singing)
Whitethroat 6
Coal tit 2
Goldcrest 2
Grey Partridge 2
Meadow pipit 1
Grey wagtail 1
Yellowhammer many
Linnet 2
Kestrel 1
Buzzard 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Lots of swallows and 1 house martin

Damian P

France Holiday

I've just got back from a two week holiday in Brittany with the family. We had a fantastic time and will definitely be going back to France again next year. I didn't really do much birding but managed to see at least three new species - marsh tit, green woodpecker, and manx shearwater. I may have seen a sooty shearwater as well but am not sure...

Here's the manx shearwater...(or is this a Balearic??)

There were also lots of butterflies and moths about including this beautiful swallowtail which I haven't seen before...
I'm not sure what these are..

We went to the Sept Iles nature reserve on a boat trip one day, the gannet colony there is amazing.
Other birds of note were this stonechat which was happy to pose for me near Ploumanac'h,
and this spotted flycatcher which was at Tregamere Zoo. Weirdly, the only two spotted flycatchers I've ever seen have been at zoos!
Damian P

Rainford Mosslands

Wheatear 1 Clare's Moss, Old Coach Road
Yellow Wagtail 1 Dairy Farm Road
Swallow 100 on wires Dairy Farm Road, 100 Mossborough Hall.
Buzzard 3 Old Coach Road

Fairly quiet on the mosslands this afternoon, though the mid afternoon heat probably didn't help. The Wheatear was on the fence alongside the old horse paddocks on Clare's Moss.

Inglenook Farm, Rainford bypass

Yellow Wagtail 1
Curlew 1

Also, large-flowered hemp-nettle.

An arable weed and a Red Data list species.

Old Coach Road



Eccleston Mere

At least 30 swifts circling high over the Mere this evening, also about the same number of house martins and swallows. The two adult mute swans are still present, and at least one kingfisher and a buzzard.

Very quiet at the moment, but it was the same this time last year, yet by the end of the month we had an American black tern at the mere! The forecast for the next few days looks good for another Yank or two, but perhaps it's a bit much to expect another to drop in at Eccleston Mere......

Six Two-barred Crossbills South Yorkshire

An amazing total of SIX Two-barred Crossbills feeding in larches near Broomhead reservoir in South Yorkshire today, an adult female and five juveniles. They've been there for at least two days.
Digi-scoped adult female Two-barred Crossbill.

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 2
Mute Swan 2 adults
Nuthatch 1
Great spotted woodpecker 1
Buzzard 1
Swift 2
House Martin 20
Swallow 10

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 2
Mute Swan 2 adults
Teal 1
Tufted Duck 1

Not much happening at the mere at the moment, but the Kingfishers are showing quite well, often sitting on around the yacht club.

Newton Lake

Newton Lake, NLW Monday 5th August 2013 1 Common Sandpiper first seen on the causway then flew off to what mud was exposed due to high water levels. Later flew back to the causeway before again being disturbed and flying back to the exposed bit of mud. Also male and female Bullfinch at top of steps by the overflow. Peter.

New Cut Lane and Old Coach Road

I went to try and find the yellow wagtail again this morning but didn't see one today.

Grey Partridge 2 on New Cut Lane
Common Whitethroat 5 along New Cut Lane
Yellowhammer 4
Skylark 5
Tree Sparrow 10
A mixed flock of around 30 reed bunting and meadow pipit on New Cut Lane between the Old Coach Road and Mossborough Hall Lane

Also one weird looking ?meadow pipit with a ridiculous bill!..

(See the gallery for more photos)

I also took the kids to Pennington Flash this afternoon. On the way I saw a bird fly up underneath the bridge at Haydock Island about woodpigeon sized. I glanced at it on my way under the bridge and saw it's head and breast. It was a BOP with a moustachial stripe and had streaks down it's breast - I'm guessing it was a peregrine.
Damian P

Newton Lake.

Newton lake, NNL 1 Common Sandpiper viewed from left side same place As last weeks plovers were.

Hebridean tour

Just completed a fantastic camping tour of the Hebrides. We visited 12 islands, Mull, Iona, Ulva, Staffa, Lunga, Skye, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula, Berneray, Eriskay and Harris. I saw lots of great birds, including, White-tailed Sea Eagle and I found a Great Shearwater at sea and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Berneray. In all I got two lifers (Sea Eagle and Great Shearwater) and eight year ticks putting me on 217 for the year so far, Year ticks included Corncrake and summer plumage Great northern Diver.

Amongst the great dragonflies we saw, two were new to me, the fabulous Azure Hawker and Highland Darter. Butterflies included Scotch Argus and many Dark green Fritillaries. The machair and silver sand beaches of the Outer Hebrides were a stunning sight, and included species such as Frog Orchid and Great Yellow Bumblebee. Mammals seen during the holiday included Otter and Pine Martin.

Full details will appear on my blog soon, but here are three photos.

Great northern Diver.


Adult White-tailed Sea Eagle.