Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sunday's walk around Marshside

Sorry for the delay in putting this on the blog. The groups last walk of the year is always to RSPB Marshside and we meet at 10.30 on Sunday 7th. We started looking at the outer salt marsh and was greeted with a merlin, then kestrel, I picked out a long distance peregrine and then we added a superb grey male hen harrier!

There had been reports of 2 short eared owls on the marsh but talking to other birders they hadn't seen them although some said that 3pm was their favourite time! It had been a very cold, frosty night and that normally means that birds have to feed quickly and earlier and so we quickly added the short eared owl to are day list.

I used to say that December on the coast can be very Mediterranean and so it turned out as little egrets and then the long stay and wandering glossy ibis flew in. This bird has been around the North West for close to 2years. It reminds me a cormorant with a long stick in its beak!

The wigeon, pintail, teal, mallard, pink feet, canada's, greylags, shoveler, pochard, tufted and ruddy duck made up the waterfowl. It was another good day out at a reserve that needs more hides and heaters!

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Secrets Out!!


The concentrations of millions of ducks, geese, swans and wading birds, which spend the winter in the UK, are among our greatest wildlife spectacles, and the latest report into the numbers of these birds proves the importance of the North West region.

But the report also reveals that some dramatic changes are taking place with our birdlife across the UK. Some species are increasing, while others are decreasing alarmingly.

Many of the most important sites for waterbirds in winter are in the North West.
The Ribble Estuary is internationally important for 16 species of birds; along with the Wash this site has the highest number of species of international importance. The Ribble is also the most important site in the UK for the wigeon, a type of duck whose population has fallen by one-fifth nationally.

The Dee Estuary holds the largest UK concentrations of pintail - a type of duck - and the redshank, a wading bird which across the UK reached its lowest population level for 20 years.

The Mersey Estuary holds the largest concentrations for shelduck, and the dunlin – a type of wading bird whose population has reached the lowest level across the UK since 1970.

Morecambe Bay is the most important UK site for curlew, the UK’s largest wading bird. The curlew is also one of the UK’s most threatened birds as it is edging towards global extinction.

Dr Peter Robertson, Head of Conservation, RSPB Northern England, said: “This report shows that our estuaries and wetlands are wonderful places for wildlife and they deserve to remain so.

The estuaries in the North West are vital staging posts for international travellers. Climate Change and industrial development threaten these wonderful places and the RSPB will continue to do everything in its power to protect them.”

“We are blessed with years of information, chronicling the ups and downs of these international travellers. This information must present a wake-up call to protect these sites, rather than provide a record of how important they once were.”

The key findings from this year’s report, from across the UK, include:

· The numbers of Bewick’s swan fell by around one third.
· The numbers of European and Greenland white-fronted geese suffered further declines.
· The number of dunlin, one of the UK’s most abundant waders, was the lowest since 1970.
· The numbers of wigeon, teal and shoveler - types of duck - all fell, with wigeon suffering a decline of one fifth.
· The number of redshank – a type of wader – declined for the third year running, reaching its lowest level for 20 years.
· The UK’s two species of godwit – types of wading bird – showed differing trends. The graph for black-tailed godwit – a bird of global conservation concern – reached its highest level; although the closely-related bar-tailed godwit, reached its lowest level to date, after a five-year decline.
· Avocets increased, reaching record numbers.

Research is needed to determine whether declines are due to birds short-stopping (that is, birds wintering closer to their breeding grounds, and hence occurring in the UK in smaller numbers) or whether they are ‘real’ global population declines.

This year’s report reveals that five sites in the UK are internationally-important for 12 species of bird, or more, these are: the Ribble (16 species); The Wash (16 species); the Humber (12 species); Morecambe Bay (12 species) and the Thames (12 species).

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Picture included!!

I have to say as the Liverpool group leader I get lots of emails or phone calls about birds. Most are just a description of a British bird or some are of caged birds that have escaped. So it was great to come home and receive an email from Mike Cain, of a bird photographed in a friends garden in Bowering park. A woodcock is a great garden bird to have on your list. its rare to get a photo of a sitting birds as they usually fly when flushed.
Thanks Mike.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Always keep watching...cos you end up smiling!

Yesterday it was dry and sunny, and having spent over an hour in the dentists chair and he still hasnt sorted out the problem he created, I was not a happy birder. Infact I was very miserable driving back to work but the M57 is a wildlife haven if you can drive and watch at the same time. Slow and thermalling buzzards with magpies hassling them is a good sight but then the cast of jays, great spotted woodpeckers, canada geese wasnt bad, but I was still not happy. As I drove toward switch island I noticed an owl being mobbed by magpies. As the end of the motorway loomed the bird drifted closer and a smile came over my face looking at this wonderful short eared owl. No more pain!


Picture courtesy of RSPB images.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance

As some of you will know I carry out bird surveys on two local farms for the VF&A section of RSPB. This means that I walk the farms each week, especially in the breeding season, and report my sightings so that it forms a small part of the overall data collated by the society.

Quite often, and in winter in particular, it means I get cold and wet ! However the rewards can be superb. Watching a buzzard get harried by a sparrowhawk is one such instance, another is seeing an adult wren feeding it's newly fledged young with insects. This year a highlight was seeing three newly fledged swallows sitting on the branch of a tree over a pond and the parent birds flying in to feed them without even stopping to perch.

The best so far though was to find barn owls breeding in a box up in the apex of - yes, a barn!

Not only that but seeing the four owlets ringed, thanks to Chris and his myriad contacts.

Last Thursday evening saw us assemble with the ringer and the farming family and watch the owlets brought daown in bags, weighed, ringed, sexed and their age determined. Did you know that barn owl chicks can be aged to the day by measuring the length of a primary feather from its unfurling point to the tip? These four were from 37 to 43 days old and they hatch at two day intervals.

Although late in the year for breeding ( it is thought that this is a second brood but not in the same site) the chicks were well developed and weighed between 350 and 450 grammes each.

They will fledge in another 30 or so days and probably be still dependant on the parent birds for another month after that.

It's sights and experiences like this that make it all worthwhile.
Enjoy the pictures
Phil Antrobus

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Field Trip to Frodsham marsh.

The night before the group outing to Frodsham it rained and rained but you should always know that the weather is a fickle thing. Sunday was dry and warm under all the waterproofs. We heard kingfisher on the Weaver but didnt see it, but as we walked down the river I quickly noticed a flock of redshanks and a smaller bird with a white rump. As we got to view the waders were they stopped I managed to find 2 curlew sandpipers in full winter plumage. We walked around the marsh finding farmland birds and other waders. Later on we came across an Ariel with a kestrel on the top a buzzard on the bottom and a sparrowhawk flying past. A good day out to a wonderful place. Chris

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Frodsham Marsh - 5/10/08

A visit to a relatively local venue. Meet at the garden centre on the way into Frodsham. Hopefully a good mix of birds will be seen, with both Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint on number 6 tank recently.

Farmland birds should also be noted and the Weaver Bend will give us a chance to catch up with some freshwater species.

Walking should be easy, if a little muddy in places after the recent rain! There will be no facilities on site, so wrap up warm and bring some lunch!

Monday, 29 September 2008


Here's a fine picture of some of the volunteers who helped to crew the Liverbird Wildlife Discovery Cruises this year. They be a motley crew, who cuss and spit, all in the aid of supporting the Liverpool RSPB on the Mersey Ferry Snowdrop. The group has for the last 6 years provided support to RSPB staff on these cruises. A big thank you to Tim Melling, RSPB staff for adding the excitement and Stephen Menzie for being the spotter and co commentator.

The Wildlife cruises are a partnership between RSPB, National Museums Liverpool, and Mersey Ferries and this year for the first time we were joined by The Environment Agency who have donated 25 pairs of binoculars for the public to use.

The river Mersey and the bay is great for birds of many different types and cruises give you a great chance to see some of this.
Chumming is not for the faint hearted but it does attract a following cast of gulls.

Thank you to all the volunteers, Laura, Brenda, Ann, Ste, Phil, Howard and our friends from Chester group. I look forward to next years cruises and a fresh pair of marigolds!!


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Good bye to Mary the Kiwi.

The Kiwi is one of the special birds of New Zealand. And as Capital of Culture draws to an end, we have had to say good bye to our Kiwi. Mary Thompson came to Liverpool in January this year to do some work and bird at the same time. Mary got to see the our wonderful estuaries and the large number of wading birds we attract. Mary lives on South Island and is used to watching around 130 bar tailed godwits on there winter haunts and not much else, apart from all the UK birds we took and released over their. We at Liverpool hope the flight home went OK and keep in touch.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008






See you there ...Laura

Monday, 23 June 2008

Sunday 29th June - Sefton Park Gardens Open Day

LIVERPOOL RSPB will be at Sefton Park's Gardens Open Day on Sunday 29th June - 12pm to 5pm .

Why not join us at the event at the Palm House.

Closely observe the birds at our feeding station's through telescopes. Volunteers will be on hand for bird identification, general information on garden birdwatching and the RSPB.
Kids, make your own pine cone feeder to take home.

See you there ... Laura

Friday, 6 June 2008

Spot of Mothing?

So do you know your Drinker (pictured left) from a Herald or an Old Lady from a Elephant Hawk Moth . Enter the fascinating world of Moths.... No, not just the flittery things some of you squidge in your clothes cupboard.

National Moth night is Saturday 07th June 2008. If you know your moths count them.

If you need some help go the National moth websites or you you can find a few of the more common ones on our webpage :

Happy mothing ...Laura

Elephant Hawk Moth

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Know Your Farmland birds

Today the group walk was around Tarbock looking at farmland species. We parked up by the now closed Brickwall pub and were greeted to a singing yellowhammer, swallows, swifts and woodpigeon. The idea of these walks to look at birds in their habitat and learn and understand more of the pressures they face. We headed off along the Netherley Rd towards Ox Lane and the new housing development of the old farm.

We seem to have walked into the yellowhammer capital as eventually I counted possibly 8 pairs holding territory in this small area. Whitethroat, willow warbler chiffchaff and skylark were all singing away as was a single lapwing we noted in the centre of a autumn sown crop. Farmland birds have been declining over the last 30 years due to the changes in farmland production. My favourite butterfly the orangetip was also showing its self to the group. We soon added linnet, goldfinch, robin, pied wagtail, kestrel but were have the tree sparrows gone! Further down the road we found blackcap, sedge warbler and grey wagtail. On the way back to the cars we watched a single buzzard and found just one tree sparrow close to one of the yellowhammers area. I have to say the best bit of the day was watching the swallows collecting nesting material.
Keep birding.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Know your farmland birds

The groups next field trip is Saturday 10th May. It is the 'know your farmland birds' walk at Tarbock just on the farm edge of south Liverpool. Meet at the Brickwall pub on the Netherley rd at 9.30am.
See you there.

Monday, 5 May 2008


I have walked up Pendle Hill a few times but normally in good weather and I know how strenuous it can be. As a group of birders it is famous as a stopping off point for Dotterel and this was the target get species for the group outing.

Unfortunately being a Bank holiday the weather turned wet and nasty. There had been 7 birds the day before but they had left by 12.30. 6 of us started the accent at 10.45 and reached the split in the path or base camp. At this point Bren decided that the chest infection she picked up travelling back from Belize made the walk a bit too much. 5 of us pushed on to the summit and started the search. Meadow pipits, skylarks, wheatears were seen easily the song of curlews were also noted. We got to the wall and started looking for dotterel. I quickly found 1 then 2 more and a golden plover. As we all got on the birds were started to count and ended up with 6 of these wonderful birds.

A long walk down and a trip into Barley village helped us added a number of species such as woodland birds, warblers, ducks. A female blackcap was fly catching on the stream and a robin held about 10 flies in its beak on its way to feed its young.
We carried on checking the stream looking for the other D bird of the day. I quickly found the Dipper and got the rest of the group on to these smart birds.
A good outing for the group.
Keep birding

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Debut of a new speaker

On Monday it was the groups AGM. 50 people attended and Ste Menzie gave the group his first ever talk, on birds of Catalonia. It was greatly appreciated and all thought the young man has a future, subject to me not forgetting the laser pointer.
For more info on what Ste gets up to check out his blog.
Thanks Ste and well done.

There are no woodpecker in Ireland

Sorry for the lack of posts but hope to sort that out now!! Been very busy playing hide and seek!

I was recently contacted by Robin a birder in Belfast after some good spots in Liverpool to see woodpeckers. It appears that the UK have a number of birds that just aren't found in Ireland and he sent me a list of 3 woodpeckers, nuthatch, willow tit, jay, brambling, and yellow wagtail.
Sunday 13th April I collected Robin at 9am and we headed out to Moore nature reserve. We quickly saw swallow, chiffchaff, willow warbler, but no sign of the wood bangers. We walked to the feeding station just as a willow tit was leaving but it showed in the trees for awhile. We heard great spotted in the trees and then saw one feeding on peanuts.
That was 2 new birds, how about some more. A quick look in the wood on are way back and we added lesser spotted woodpecker. If only birding was this easy. We wanted the third but green woodpecker isn't a regular anymore at Moore, so we headed back to Liverpool and the Black Woods my recommendation for great spotted woodpecker.
We arrived back in Liverpool to rain but quickly saw 4 different great spotted at the Woodview rd end of the park followed up by a pair of nuthatch and stock doves. In less than 3 hours Robin had 4 new birds and lots to brag about when he got back home.
Its great to take other birders out and show them something new.
Keep Birding

Saturday, 29 March 2008

BIg Garden Birdwatch result 2008

Well 'You could knock me over with a feather'
The Goldfinch top of the tree in Merseyside.
I'm lucky to see a couple in my garden throughout the year! ...O.K. own up whose being greedy keeping all the Goldies to themselves.
Full results for Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire on our website:

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Stone the Crows ...What have they done to Sefton Park

It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s really quite sad to see the Coot’s making their nesting rafts in the mud, but were told by the council that the Sefton Park restoration will be wonderful. Something hard to imagine when you see just how many mature trees have succumbed to the chainsaw - selective thinning apparently. Yes I can understand a good de-silt (and the removal of hundreds bottles, cans, house bricks and other unidentifiable objects) will certainly benefit the wildlife in the long term: fish, shellfish and birds and there is some water remaining in the the middle of the lake, but it just seems they’ve started it a bit late, I guess the ducks will have to find somewhere else to breed this year. (Maybe it’s just as well as I noticed the part of the fencing was down around the lake and of course unleashed doggies were having a great time chasing the Mallards that were left on the mud)

So why are they doing it : The idea is that the park should to be returned to its Victorian appearance (great if we can restore the structures i.e. the bandstand, aviary cafĂ© etc and keep the vandals off) but surely their intention with time was that the park would grow and mature into the vistas we see today, or should I say yesterday.... still the council state they are replanting new trees, providing alternative temporary nesting sites, refilling each lake as it completed and consulting with ecologists through out the year …I’m sure we’ll find out if they don’t, as this is certainly generating great debate on Merseyside.

By the way don't really stone the crows, it's much more fun feeding them peanuts instead!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

A taste of the Med in north Wales

Sewatching off Llanfairfechan prom saw the group catching up with the usual coastal suspects - a single Great Northern Diver was the highlight for those who managed to pick it up on the choppy sea, with a supporting cast of at least 30 Red-throated Divers and 3 Razorbills - but it was the final bird of the day that added the most colour to the trip. A Hoopoe, an early spring overshoot from Spain, had somehow managed to end up on a windswept hillside southwest of Llanrwst. It showed well for the group in a hail shower, not the sort of weather the bird would be used to!

Photo © Stephen Menzie

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside....

Sunday 9 th March is Liverpool RSPB’S annual day out at the seaside. Lovely Llanfairfechan near to RSPB Conwy in North Wales.

The promenade at Llanfairfechan is fast getting the reputation of the place to be to see Divers, Grebes and Scoters on the North Wales coast. In 2006 the group's trip produced excellent views of great northern diver, red throated diver,and a single male black scoter. Dependant on time and the weather our itinerary usually involves a spell seawatching, looking for all manner of Seabirds, Waders and Waterfowl, in a howling gale who knows!
Then an incursion to the sewage works ! Lovely, an excellent spot for Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail and if were really lucky the spectacular Firecrest. The Llandulas Breakwater, Conwy... Llanddulas is known for thousands of gulls that congregate at the river mouth following a gorging session at the local dump. A possible look-see at the excellent Madryn reserve on the shore of Traeth Lafan, home of Cormorants, Lapwing, Snipe, Grebes and Greenshanks . And for the finale, a rush for steaming Coffee and retail therapy at RSPB Conwy, oh and a little saunter around the reserve of course, 200 species of Waders and wildfowl have been recorded at this exciting reserve…. you may just might catch sight of that elusive Water Rail..
Trip details click:

By the way Llanfairfechan means "The Little (or Lesser) Church of St. Mary". Well you just might need that snippet in the pub quiz.

Friday, 29 February 2008

The biofuels campaign

Can wildlife survive the biofuels surge?

The current rush to biofuels is causing nothing short of disaster for wildlife habitat across the world.
In some areas, extensively farmed lands with wildlife-friendly features are being converted to more intensive farming for biofuel crops. In other areas, valuable natural ecosystems such as forests, peatlands and grasslands are being cleared, drained and ploughed up to grow biofuels.
Wonderful places for wildlife are being made into wastelands for wildlife.
Don't put wildlife in your tank
Read about it here:

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Mere Sands Wood Outing

Mere Sands has always been a favourite of mine for a quiet walk around and see a good number of birds in a short amount of time. Last Sunday, 24th Feb. I lead the group walk around this wonderful Lancashire Wildlife trust site. We all watched the goings on at the various feeding stations. Good numbers of reed buntings, chaffinch, blackbirds there is 3 in this picture, tree sparrows, nuthatch and lots more, kept us all amused for awhile. We were informed that the water rail shows quite well at the Lancaster hide but we had missed it and there was no food out.

Some of the action at the feeding the stations was being photographed by Laura. A pair of siskins joined the rest of the birds and that helped highlight some of the differences of the finch family.
A stroll around the mere and the hides between the rain shows helped to really increase our list for the day including treecreeper and lots of ducks such as gadwall, teal, wigeon and a female pochard.
We had lunch back at the Lancaster hide and the feeding table had been filled, and so out popped the water rail. When you look at it's toes they look like worms are escaping over the wood!!
The only downside to the day or not was seeing a dead tawny owl in the visitor centre that had been found on the reserve.
It was a good day out for all 25 of us.
Keep birding.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Monday night talk

Monday 18th February, Stephen Murphy, who works for Natural England, will giving the group talk on his work with Hen Harriers in the North West. Doors open at 7p.m. and Stephen's talk starts at 7.30p.m. Laura will be there with a vast amount of bird food and feeders.
See you there.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


Some of the members of the group asked for some local walks looking at habitats and the birds that live there. So yesterday I led a short walk around the Black Woods and Childwall Woods and fields.

As this was a woodland walk we expected lots of tits, thrush's, magpies and what ever turned up.

Well what did we see you ask? In the Black Woods it was really good to see lots of dead and rotting trees. In this small wood there was probally 4 to 5 pairs of great spotted woodpecker. With all this rotting timber, treecrepper and nuthatch were doing very well feeding on the wood munching insects.
One of the major surprises for all of us was the wonderfull views of a buzzard flying over the wood 4 miles from the centre of Liverpool. Could this be a new breeding bird in Liverpool for 08!
The outing was quickly over but as we were all saying goodbye a goldcrest flew from the conifers on the roundabout on Woolton rd.
Keep birding.