A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Thursday, 15 January 2015

New Year Birding

As I had 5 days off after New Year before heading back to work, I was keen to target a variety of birds in the North West around Wales and Cheshire. I finally managed to catch up with the redhead Smew at Newchurch Common (which took absolutely ages to find, being tucked away camouflaged in an out of the way bank under some branches), before heading over to the female Long-tailed Duck at Fagl Lane Quarry in Hope. Again, I’ve never seen a drake of this species, and all three females of this sea dwelling duck have been on inland freshwater pools.

Absolute record shot of the redhead Smew
Long-tailed duck
The lovely but distant female Long-tailed Duck
With some time to spare before it got dark, we headed over to the swans at Shotwick fields, wondering if any Bewick’s would still be present. We needn’t have worried, as they were not only there but feeding in the highest numbers I’ve seen this winter, with around 30 Bewick’s present - a huge improvement on the 9 or so just after Christmas. With Whooper Swans, Mutes and an Australian Black Swan all in the same field, it was great to compare all the species together.

Digiscoped pic of the distant swan flock - all 4 species present
After my Birthday I had a day to spare, so made the most of a number of birds available around the area. I called in at Shotwick boating lake again to catch up with one of the three Black-necked Grebes that have been present for a while, before driving over to a good site for Mandarin not too far from home. At first the pool looked depressingly empty, but I soon spotted two females and two males sitting near the closest bank. A wader near the car had caught my eye upon arrival, and after hiding behind a small hill for around ten minutes out of sight, I eventually managed to get good views of it as a Green Sand – a nice record for this time of year.

Black-necked Grebe

Mandarin Duck

Green Sandpiper

After lunch, a trip to Moore produced a welcome Pintail on the smallest pool, and the reliable Tawny Owl which has made a welcome return to his roost site after a near 3 year absence.

Tawny Owl

With a report of a Glaucous gull on Pumphouse Pool just an hour earlier, I headed over on the off chance it might call in to the pool again for a rest, bath and preen. Searching though the tremendous flock of gulls present for the remainder of the afternoon, I sadly couldn’t relocate it, although a cracking find of a juv Iceland gull (my first self-find of this species) was a great consolation! Never too confident with gulls, I was pleased I had been able to pick out this white winger amongst the hundreds of other juvenile gulls on the lake. Another strange gull also caught my eye on the bank – an adult bird with pure white wings and a pale grey back. However, something wasn’t quite right. The bird itself seemed quick small – ruling out a Glauc, although it didn’t have the right beak or facial structure for an Iceland gull, looking quite fierce and Herring gull like. One possibility could be a Herring x Iceland hybrid. However, the whole flock annoyingly flushed before I could get a photo, so it will definitely be worth keeping an eye out for this individual again. 
Iceland Gull
Scope shot of the Iceland gull - no sign of the Glauc though

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