Eccleston Mere

I had a quick look around this morning...

Mute Swan 7  (2 adult, 5 juv)
Chiffchaff 1
Several more juvenile chiffchaff/willow warbler - too fast for me to id.
Goldcrest 1

Lots of coot and tufted duck on the water and one male mallard with a very pale supercillium that made me walk around to the other side just to make sure!

Damian P

Corncrake at Fir Tree farm, Kings Moss 1/9/14

On 1st September 2014 I was due to go to Warrington to harvest Lesser Knapweed seed. At 9am I received a call telling me that my expected lift would not be arriving til 11am. I had a quick look round Inglenook farm in Rainford,  where we are based. There was little around apart from my first returning Wheatear of the autumn. As I had time to kill I thought I'd go and have a look in the sheep fields at Windle Moss farm as I have had Common Redsarts there in the past as well as regular Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings. On arrival the first bird I put my bins on was a Spotted Flycatcher flycatching from a Hawtorn bush. I watched it for while as it was constantly harassed by a Reed Bunting. Pleased with this sighting I headed back to Inglenook only to find that we had been let down with our lift. As well as our wildflower production fields at Inglenook we also have some considerable land at Fir Tree farm in Kings Moss so I decided to take my tractor up there and mow some weedy areas ready for re-sowing in the autumn. The area I was concentrating on was around 2 hectares sown in the spring with Cornflower and Corn Poppy but due to the heavy infestation with arable weeds it was not worth us harvesting it and a very thick sward had grown up. At around 14:00 I saw a small bird just behind the front left hand wheel of the tractor. My tractor is an old 1980s Ford (6410 if anyones interested) and this bird was therefore less than 6 feet away from where I sat. I watched it as it crept out into the newly mown stubble keeping on a low profile with its neck stretched out in front of it and its long strong looking legs behind. I was initially at a total loss as to what it was. I am very familiar with Pheasants and both Partridges of all ages and for some reason my initial thought was it was a Quail (a bird I have also flushed with our combine in the past). Then it dawned on me exactly what it was. By this time it had crept about 2m from the tractor and I was able to watch it closely though my bins which are always round my neck when I'm mowing (this habit has lead to stunning views of birds like Jack Snipe and Hen Harrier in the past). The bird appeared to be largely orangey brown with black spots along its back. The head appeared to be a similar colour with no obvious grey which leads me to think it was either a female or an immature bird and it had a pale strong looking billl. It was obviously smaller than a Partridge but larger and longer than a Qail. I watched until it reached the edge of the field a disappeared into heavy cover in the adjacent cow field. I sat and watched for about 30 minutes but there was no further sign. I put the news out on Twitter and Birdguides (who put it down as being in Manchester!). I stayed for another 45 minutes before leaving the site. I returned later where I told the farmer who owns the land. He was made up and said he remembers them being on the farm in the 1950's when the area was largely hay meadow. Following a tweet, Paul Brady turned up at about 17:00 and we searched for a further hour without success. Alan Abbot who owns the land did report seeing a small bird cross a tractor track and possibly hearing a Corncrake type call. I have been back up there today (3rd) and mown the rest of the field but sadly there was no sign. I am of the opinion that it is possible that birds like this and others like Jack Snipe and Quail are far more regular, on passage, in our area than we think. If I had not disturbed this bird it would have slipped under the radar as apparently they rarely call away from breeding sites. I've seen some amazing birds this year but this has to be up there with them all.
Kind regards
Damian Young