Monday, 30 April 2012

 Liverpool RSPB field Trip report - Black Grouse Lek
Sunday 29/04/12

Sunday found us up before the lark, leaving Liverpool at 4am in the pitch dark for a 5am meet at UPM Tilhill’s, Coed Llandegla Forest in Denbighshire. We arrived at the visitor centre just as dawn was breaking on the horizon. And flaming Palinka it was cold, 2 degrees Celsius with a bitter wind chill which soon got the better of my insulated gloves.
Seven hardy souls made it to Llandegla Moor in search of the lekking Black Grouse (tetrao tetrix), we were not disappointed. The count being 13 males and one grey female (ratio doesn't seem right to me somehow!). The species is red-listed in Wales, which means it is of the highest conservation concern. 50% of the Welsh Black Grouse population lives within one mile of the forest. The Lek, is an early spring display site, the male grouse mock fight to impress an audience of females - well hidden from our eyes this morning.  There are currently estimated to be 328 lekking males in Wales, a positive recovery over recent years. The Moor is managed for the grouse; the heather is cut consecutively, which forces new growth and allows the cotton grass and bilberry to gain a foothold, providing year round food for the grouse and their chicks.

A 30 minute walk through the forest brought us to our hiding place, a converted ships container – all mod cons here, magnolia walls, carpet on the seating bench, and a speaker transmitting the bird calls from a microphone hidden on the moor.  Although  400 metres away the  male birds  were easily visible on the open ground,  drooped wings, pure white tails feathers fanned out, bubbling, screeching  and strutting their stuff to impress the females. Just like miniature Capercaillies.  The highlight and best view by far was when the 13 males took to the air disturbed by a passing crow, their striking white wing bars evident as they quickly returned to their Lek and the important business of the day.
After half an hour or so the weather started to deteriate and the forecast rain fell as snow, time for a sharp exit… But just as we were leaving a rogue male flew towards the hide giving us a closer view. Apparently this bird has taken to displaying on a rise near to the container, its thought (hopefully) he could be starting up a new Lek.  

Taking the trail back through the forest offered us some protection from the inclement weather and gave us the other highlight of the day; Crossbills flying overhead and then a family group feeding in a Larch. Hooked bill, red underside and rich red rump a glorious male, a juvenile and the female of a more green hue. Despite the weather the dawn chorus was in full voice,  Willow warblers, Song thrush, Nuthatches and Robins sang out.  Overhead  small groups of Siskin and Redpoll flitted through the canopy. A Tree pipit in a tree gave us a closer view, as did a Coal tit, and Goldcrest.
As the snow came down we retreated to the Oneplanet cafe for a full Welsh breakfast, a bacon bap or would you rather have porridge and home produced honey?  We left at 9am just as the hordes of weather resistant mountain bikers arrived for the day.
Our day list: Crow-Dunnock-Blackbird-Woodpigeon-Siskin-Crossbill-Black grouse-Tree pipit-Goldcrest-Robin-Redpoll-Mallard-Canada Goose-Coal tit-Collared dove-Chaffinch-Jackdaw-Jay-Song Thrush.
Julie our RSPB guide at Llandega tells us ‘there be Nightjars’ on site and they plan to hold future Wednesday night viewing events - barbecue supper included !… so, get your white hankies ready and watch this space.
Report compiled by Stores and Laura.
Ps  Palinka is a Hungarian brandy – just getting ready for the groups big trip!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Liverpool RSPB Field trip report
RSPB Leighton Moss Sunday 22/04/12.

16 determined birders ignored the weather forecast and headed out to RSPB Leighton moss. We were not disappointed. 
Our first highlight of the day came with a chance sighting of 3 frolicking Otters, splashing about in the sunshine, observed from the roadside on the way into the reserve the first tick of the day and it wasn't a bird!

Once inside the reserve we were only confined to quarters on  2 occasions - when it really was raining stair-rods, but this proved to be no hardship tucked away  in the reserves  cosy hides observing -  smart spring migrant Garganey. A pair of Great Crested Grebes performing their ‘running on water’ courting ritual, pond weed offerings clenched in beaks. The barbarism of 2 male Moorhens locked in a fighting frenzy, furiously kicking out with their feet.  And the ‘Ahh’ moment? Watching the wobbly antics of 2 clutches of Greylag goslings finding their feet.

Without doubt one of the major events of the trip was the Osprey that flew in from the estuary ahead of a squally band of rain, you’ve never seen so many people move so fast, jostling to get a better view as the bird flew over the Eric Morecambe hide on the look out for its fish dinner. Other diners on the pools, alongside the many Godwits and Redshank were impressive Spotted Redshank, Avocets and Egrets. After lunch the group had a lucky break with a tip off of where to find the lonely, lingering Glossy Ibis, another tick for the day.

A walk round to the public hide rewarded us with some great views of a pair of Marsh Harriers flying low along the tree line and woodland slopes. A comical moment was a peckish Cormorant struggling to swallow a rather large eel, believe me that eel wasn’t going out without a fight; you could see it wriggling all the way down.

The day finished with the group taking a diversion from the road home. Stopping off on the A6 to a riverside spot, where we were told a kingfisher hung out; the bird was there but sadly only a few of us got a fleeting turquoise glimpse of it as it swooped along the riverbank. A dippy Grey Wagtail was a welcome bonus to our tick list.

The tickmasters list recorded 70 species seen and a few that got away, being heard but not observed, Reed warbler, and most frustratingly Cetti's warbler and Bearded Tit...Ping.  

Bar headed goose-Greylag goose-Pheasant-Collared dove-Robin-Woodpigeon-Jackdaw-Mallard-Great tit-Blue tit-Chaffinch-Buzzard-Black headed gull-Coot-Great crested grebe-Pochard-Gadwall-Tufted duck-Garganey-Canada goose-Greenfinch-Lapwing-Teal-Moorhen-Shoveler-Reed bunting-Great spotted woodpecker-Wigeon-Lesser black backed gull-Wren-Blackcap-Bullfinch-Coal tit-Magpie-Marsh tit-Dunnock-Grey heron-Chiff-chaff-Swallow-Spotted redshank-Pied wagtail-Shelduck-Avocet-Redshank-Oystercatcher-Little egret-Black tailed godwit-Carrion crow-Osprey-Meadow pipit-Long tailed tit-Goldfinch-House sparrow-Glossy ibis-Mute swan-Feral pigeon-Kestrel-Sparrowhawk-Marsh harrier-Cormorant-Great black backed gull-Little grebe-House martin-Sand martin-Willow warbler-Grey wagtail-Kingfisher-Skylark -Song Thrush.
A mix of heavy down pours and sunshine, but we didn’t get wet, and a great day out was had by all even if we did leave behind the sea odyssey spectacular.

Stores & Laura.