Saturday, 21 February 2015

21st February 2015

Weather: NW-5, overcast and cool. 

With the years highest tides occurring this weekend, Parkgate was very much the place to be with good numbers of Raptors, waders and wildfowl being recorded on the flood tide.

The Laughing Gull continues to be a draw at New Brighton. At Hoylake another scarce Wirral gull was located mid afternoon at Kings Gap. A 1st year Glaucous Gull was found amongst the thousands of  larger gulls at approximately 2.30. The bird remained until at least 3.20pm allowing a few locals to twitch what has become a rare Wirral bird. 

White wings Gulls on Wirral tend to come through in March or April as our bird last year (see last years entry 4th April), so today's bird falls a little earlier than we have come to expect.

Some pretty poor record shots were managed but considering the distance (1km) observers did well to get anything at all !!

Offshore, huge number of Common Scoter continue seen from Hoylake promenade with a conservative estimate of c 3000 birds. We continue to look hard for Wirrals first Surf Scoter but no joy. Yet !!


Centre bird . The distinctive Tertial step of Glaucous is just about visible in this photo (AMC)

Middle bird, primaries obscured by Herring Gull (AEH)

Friday, 20 February 2015

Friday 20th February 2015

Weather; Cloudy, light westerly f2

The Laughing Gull remains in the New Brighton marine lake area. There are now 3 Snow Buntings on the beach in the Derby pool area, Wallasey.

At Neston Old Quay area the large spring tide caused the usual havoc with the local birds and mammals. The ever advancing waters disturbed over 100 Skylarks, 30 Reed Buntings and 50 Pipits, probably mainly Rock Pipits, from the outer marshes. Other birds seen from the Old Quay were 2 Merlins, 2 Peregrine, a ringtail  Hen Harrier, a Great White Egret, a Water Rail, and large numbers of Common Snipe, Pink-footed Geese, Pintail, Teal and Wigeon. A Water Pipit was on the Old Quay itself. Another Water Pipit was at the sewage works as were 4 Chiffchaffs.

The high tide also forced good numbers of assorted small mammals from the marsh. Many Field Voles emerged, with some running in panic between observer's legs and even over their feet. A Harvest Mouse was also well seen. Observers KAD, DH, MGT, EW.
Field Vole cowering from predators in a sandy hollow.  EW

Harvest Mouse, another refugee from the high tide.   EW
Harvest Mouse.   EW

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tuesday 17th February 2015

Weather; Mainly overcast with some sunny spells. Wind  W f3

A decent assortment of birds in the Neston Old Quay area today. Out on the saltmarsh were 2 Merlins, a ringtail Hen Harrier, 2 Great White Egrets, over 60 Skylarks and 11 Rock Pipits. 

The Rock Pipits wintering on the saltmarsh are now thought likely to be of the Scandinavian race littoralis. This race is in most cases identical with our British Rock Pipits (petrosus race), especially in winter plumage. A minority of individuals can be told apart, however, and there was at one obvious littoralis seen.  There is a major habitat difference between Rock and Water Pipits at the Old Quay, Rock Pipits being found well out on the saltmarsh whereas Water Pipits are restricted to the freshwater influenced area of the marsh just in front of the Old Quay. They are often present along the freshwater stream. 2 Birds were here today. Confusion between littoralis Rock Pipits and Water Pipits does occur on high spring tides when both species are forced off the marsh together. Otherwise confusion between the two at this location may have been overstated in the past.

Water Pipit in winter plumage, Neston sewage works. An I.D. clincher can be seen here. Note the pure white along the whole of the outer web of the outermost tail feather and on the tip of the inner web. Note also the white wedge towards the tip of the outer web of the second outermost tail feather. All races of Rock Pipit lack this latter feature with most showing a rather greyish white colour along the outermost tail feather only, although some littoralis birds can appear white here, .     EW  
Scandinavian Rock Pipit (littoralis race), Neston saltmarsh around 1 mile out from Old Quay. A bad shot but they are very shy!! A very grey and white bird with a strong white super and white wing bars. The slight brown cast is caused by the direct sunlight and the foreground vegetation. In life the whole of the upperparts including the rump and upper tail coverts were the same shade of blue-grey. The grey rump colour is never shown by Water Pipit. Note the thick and diffuse underpart streaking, especially on the flanks, compared with that of Water Pipit, but sharing the white ground colour of the underparts. This bird may already be in summer plumage.   EW
Another Water Pipit was well seen on the eastern sprinkler bed of the Nearby Neston sewage works viewable from the eastern boundary fence along the line of Birch trees. Very muddy here, take wellies. 3 Chiffchaff, 50 Redwing, 8 Meadow Pipits and 4 Grey Wagtails were also in the area.
Water Pipit in winter plumage at Neston sewage works. A well streaked individual. The streaking, however, is weaker on the flanks, unlike with Rock Pipits, Note the warm brown tone of the upperparts, becoming especially obvious on the rump and upper tail coverts. Other pointers are the greyish tone on the nape, (not as distinct on this bird as on others), the long white super and white wing bars. (These last two features, however, can be shared with some littoralis Rock Pipits, especially those in summer plumage) The leg colour of both Water and Rock Pipits can be variable, especially in winter.         EW      

Monday, 16 February 2015

Monday 16th February 2015

Weather; Dull, overcast, light wind f2.

5 Shoveller, including 2 males, were at sea off the lighthouse car park this morning. They are rather unusual records at this location, 47 Great-crested Grebes were also offshore and Grey Plover numbers have built up to over 200 off Leasowe, a good count.

The small winter Thrush flock remains in the paddocks west of the lighthouse with 23 Fieldfare and 15 Redwings counted today.

The Laughing Gull remains at the marine lake at New Brighton and continues to show well at times on the pontoon.

There are now 4 Snow Buntings on the beach in the Derby pool/Wallasey coastguard area, 2 birds being newly arrived today.
The 2 new Snow Buntings at Wallasey   DH

Observer DH  

Friday, 6 February 2015

6th February 2015

Weather: N1/2, cool and sunny

The 1st winter Laughing Gull continues to show well at New Brighton Marine Lake. As promised we are delighted to bring you the finders article from the three Manchester based birders who found the Gull.

The two Snow Buntings also remain on Wallasey Shore and also showing well.

A high tide sea watch on a flat calm day produced the highest numbers of Common Scoter of the week with approximately 7000 birds being recorded. Other sea duck included 6 Red breasted Mergansers, 19 Goldeneye, 27 Scaup, 14 Eider and several Red throated Diver. 
Two skiens of Pink footed Geese, the largest of which numbered 170 headed North over the north shore mid morning

The adult winter Mediterranean Gull was again n the Gull roost at Hoylake whilst a Peregrine hunted the inner shore.

Although there was no sign today of yesterdays American Wigeon the Long eared Owl has returned to the reserve on the IMF side.

Laughing Gull Finders Article by Mike Brown
Winter birding on the Wirral, especially on calm clear days such as Tuesday 2nd Feb, is always a pleasure, with a range of habitats and birds amongst the best in Britain, so it is with target species of snow bunting, purple sandpiper, water pipit and long eared owl that myself, Heath Green and Mike Rutter set off from Manchester at 7am for New Brighton. On arrival, after a quick search of the tideline debris we achieved our first objective, delightful views of the two snow buntings in beautiful light, one handsome ad w male and a young female, shuffling quietly amongst the flotsam and jetsam, their plumage matching the habitat to the point where they ‘disappeared’ when they froze because of the proximity of a passing dog walker. Happy but chilly we set of for the excellent Seaside cafĂ© opposite the marine lake for some ‘Full English’ refreshment , a quick scan of the pontoon there revealed small numbers of redshank, turnstone and herring gull, it was 45 minutes till high tide, when any purple sandpipers in the area would surely arrive to snooze and preen for a while. After a delicious breakfast, optics retrieved from the car, MR and I wandered toward the west end of the marine lake where, keen as always, HG had already set up his scope. It was at that moment HG looked up and said “take a look at this gull, I’m sure it’s a flipping  laughing gull!”. We all hurriedly got on the bird in question, luckily the only small larid present, so grilling it was easy. All three of us has had several laughing gulls over the years but when you are twitching a rarity you have usually brushed up on all the plumage and jizz details beforehand, this bird had caught us on the hop, but sure enough, one by one, using our collective memory, all the field marks were identified, the mid-grey mantle, black primaries, long dark slightly droopy bill, thin white crescents above and below the eye, indistinct short hood, broad black tail band, longish dark grey legs and overall elongated profile confirmed we were indeed looking at a 1st winter laughing gull, however, just to be absolutely certain, I went and fetched the battered copy of the Collins field guide from the car, reading aloud from page 196 the last few pieces of the puzzle dropped neatly into place, grey areas on the flanks and breast and when the bird made a short flight from one end of the pontoon to the other, dusky underwing markings and a broad black band on the rear of the inner wing. Excitement then turned to worry, what if the bird cleared off before anyone else saw it?! Looking around I saw two people over to our left who were also watching the birds on the pontoon, this turned out to be a lady called Ruth Elsby and her husband, Ruth had a camera so we explained the situation and asked her to take some record shots and email them to myself and HG just in case. None of us could remember a twitchable laughing gull in Cheshire so we decided to phone the news in to Birdguides and set off for Neston to look for water pipits, and just for the record, there were 11 purple sandpipers showing well that morning. On arrival at Neston we bumped into local birder heading meaningfully for his car and asked him had he seen any water pipits? His immediate reply was “there’s a laughing gull at New Brighton!”. As we stood explaining what had happened previously his mobile phone rang twice, the first call was from another local birder who was at the marine lake saying he’d seen the bird briefly but it was heading out to sea, followed closely by the second call to say it had reappeared on the pontoon, relief! He continued on his way and we had excellent views of water pipit on the sewage works, along with two wintering chiff chaffs, unfortunately the long eared owl which had been showing well at Burton Mere wetlands centre the day before had gone, but we weren’t complaining. I’m sure there are many Wirral birders who frequent New Brighton far more regularly than myself, but that, to me, is one of the attractions of birding, anyone can be in the right place at the right moment and discover an exciting vagrant! The laughing gull is still being seen regularly as I write, I hope everyone who connects with it enjoys it as much as my friends and I did.

Good luck and great birding to you all.

Mike Brown.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A second Wirral Yank !!

Weather: Wind-N-1/2, sunny and cold

The 1st winter Laughing Gull continued to perform well at New Brighton Marine Lake, commuting between the beach and the Pontoon. Finders article coming soon!

A sea watch from Hoylake over the tide saw a good number of sea Duck yet again including over 1000 Common Scoter, 39  Scaup, 9 Goldeneye, 5 Red b Merganser, a drake Eider, 15 Red throated and 1 Black throated Diver 

The ringed Mediterranean Gull was also again in the Gull roost opposite the promenade Shelter 

Two Snow Buntings remain on Wallasey Shoreline.

Wader counts included 270 Curlew, 400 Oystercatcher, 280 Redshank, 900 Dunlin, 48 Grey Plover and 22 Sanderling.

Further south, Wirral's second American vagrant of the week was discovered at Burton Mere Wetland by Colin Wells; A drake American Wigeon was amongst 200 or so Eurasion Wigeon and showed well most of the afternoon. This bird  brings Colin's American Wigeon finds to an incredible tally of seven (so far) on the Dee/BMW

With two American vagrants now on Wirral who knows what else is out there waiting to be found. 

Laughing Gull (Austin Morley)

American Wigeon (AMC)

American Wigeon (AMC)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

4th February 2015

Weather: N-2/3 sunny and very cold.

The 1st winter Laughing Gull remained at New Brighton Marine Lake until approximately 10.25 when it flew over the sea wall and lost to view. The bird was not relocated until late afternoon on the beach/breakwater behind Fort Perch Rock. The pattern (over two days) appears to be one of roosting over the high tide on the pontoon then moving to the beach as the tide ebbs. 

Mediterranean Gulls today included an adult at the Derby Pool car park and an adult summer and a ringed adult winter on Hoylake beach. The two Snow Buntings remain on Wallasey shore

Offshore sea duck were on the move including  200 Common Scoter, 2 Mallard, 3 Goldeneye, 6 Scaup and several Red throated Diver from  Hoylake. A further 14 Scaup were off the Lighthouse Car park just after high water.

A small flock of winter thrushes in the paddocks included 27 Fieldfare.

1st winter Laughing Gull (BSB)

1st winter Laughing Gull (AEH)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Laughing Gull!!!!

Wind: N-1/2, clear and sunny

At New Brighton Marine lake a 1st winter Laughing Gull was found roosting on the Pontoon. Congratulations to visiting birders Mike Brown et al on their truly fantastic find. The bird was located sharing the pontoon with a selection of waders including 150 Redshank, 1 Dunlin, 60 Turnstone, 1 Sanderling and the usual dozen Purple Sandpiper.

There have been only 3 previous records of  Laughing Gulls on Wirral with only two being accepted by BBRC. 

Other birds seen today during a brief sea watch from Hoyllake included. Red throated Diver, 2 drake Scaup and 1000 Common Scoter.

The two Snow Buntings remain on the shore between Leasowe Bay and Wallasey Coastguards.

!st winter Laughing Gull (AMC)
1st winter Laughing Gull (SRW)

!st winter Laughing Gull (KD)

1sr Winter Laughing Gull (AMC)