Monday, 28 October 2013

Lend a hand for nature this winter

Merseyside people urged to lend a hand for nature this winter. As the days and nights become colder, many people are tempted to retreat from the garden and snuggle indoors until spring. But before getting too comfortable, spare a thought for the wildlife shivering outside and follow the RSPB s top tips to help birds and other creatures get through the coldest months.

At this time of year, all types of wildlife will start preparing for the winter, and the RSPB is calling on the residents of Merseyside to lend a helping hand to ensure there is enough food and shelter.

Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer for the RSPB s Dee Estuary nature reserve, said:   Autumn is a great time of year to do all sorts of jobs to give nature a home in your outside space  whether it s a
large garden or a small window box: build or buy a hedgehog shelter, also known as a  hogitat ; put up nest boxes; dig a pond or tidy up your existing one; or you could even plant bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next summer.

But if this sounds like a lot of hard work, don t worry, doing nothing can also help: holding off pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything.  Leaving them until around February next year means the berries will be able to be eaten throughout the winter.
There are a number of simple things that can be done in the garden to help nature now and in the coming months:

Put up a nestbox Many birds, such as tits and wrens, use nestboxes as safe places to sleep through the autumn and winter.
Plus, if it goes up now, it will be ready in plenty of time for next spring when birds are looking for a new home.
Build an insect home Bugs also need somewhere to spend thewinter. Short lengths of drinking straws, hollow canes or plant stems, tied in bundles make great shelters for lacewings and ladybirds.
Putting off the pruning of borders and shrubs until early spring will also provide a home for insects through winter.  

Stock up the bird table Birds use up a lot of energy keeping warm so winter is the most important time to make sure they are well fed. Bird seed mixes are available to buy but scraps will also do very nicely. The more variety of food provided, the greater range of species are likely to be attracted.

Plant a fruiting hedge At this time of year, traditional
countryside hedges are full of blackberries, elderberries, rosehips and sloes, forming a supply of food for birds through the winter. Mimic the traditional hedgerow by planting a fruiting hedge.

Take care on Bonfire Night If celebrating 5 November with a bang, do not set fireworks off near trees and bushes as it could disturb roosting birds and cause them to move on and use up valuable energy they can t afford to use.  Also, take extra care when building a bonfire.  Log piles and leaves are the perfect spot for hibernating hedgehogs and they will usually be buried right at the bottom. Build bonfires on the day to ensure no prickly guests have moved in.  
The RSPB recently launched a campaign to help tackle the crisis facing the UK s threatened wildlife. Giving Nature a Home is urging everyone to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside
spaces. The charity hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

The campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report, which revealed that 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied, including garden favourites like starlings, hedgehogs and some butterflies, have declined over recent decades.  And they are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.

The Giving Nature a Home website provides excellent information about helping nature in any outside space   whether it s a huge garden or a small planting tub on a balcony. Find out more at Or
visit one of your local RSPB reserves, such as Burton Mere Wetlands or Marshside, for face-to-face, expert advice from knowledgeable staff and volunteers.

To find your local RSPB reserve, or seasonal events taking place near

No snow but a beaut of a Bunting

Snow Bunting -Rhodie Blythe

Having heard on the Tyno grapevine that there was a Grey Phalarope at Gronant and that the Snow Bunting was still around the New Brighton area, Ann and I decided to journey to Wild Wales.  We did ask a few others if they wished to join us, sadly all had other commitments!

Well, what a lovely day we had, the sun shone and we arrived at Gronant to see several people with extremely large scopes looking at the lake.  We then spotted the Grey Phalarope, spinning dementedly and pecking furiously at the water. 
 There was obviously lots of lovely food around for this very pretty bird.  
En route to the beach we saw a Little Egret.  We ventured down to the beach to be greeted by a very large colony of Cormorants sitting on the shore line.  We heard a skylark, saw Linnets and of course a lovely array of Black Headed Gulls, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and a Great Black Backed Gull.   A Grey Heron flew over head.  Oyster Catchers were looking very smart and close to them Ann spotted Ringed Plover, dashing about looking for food. 
After a further look at the Grey Phalarope we decided that Point of Ayr was just too close to pass, so we had a wander down there.  The new screen hide is very smart but it does have a roof!!  Sitting eating our butties a Redshank came close by followed by a Little Egret, and then a Curlew.  We did have a lovely view of them.  Soon a large flock of Lapwing came across.  Ann spotted Shelduck in the distance and Shelduck Tours was reinstated!!  We also saw House Sparrows, a Skylark, Long Tailed Tits, a very striking Robin and a dear little – very noisy – Wren.

Having eaten our lunch it was decided that perhaps the Snow Bunting would be the icing on our delicious cake, so off we went to New Brighton – Peaty would have been proud of our map reading abilities!  We walked along the sea wall seeing the usual gulls etc., then Ann spotted some Turnstone running along in the strong wind – but still no Snow Bunting.  Within sight of the car and almost despairing, we trudged across the field when Ann said is that a Sparrow?  No, to our delight it was the Snow Bunting, having a seed/insectfest protected by the car park wall.  We watched it for ages, revelling in its antics, as it sat down to feed, stood up, turning this way and that, almost showing off for us, the audience.  It has such lovely colouring with the edge of the tail highlighted in white and, of course, the amazing beak.

Back to Liverpool and home just as the weather turned wet but what a lovely happy day we had.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Pools set to improve home for nature at RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh

RSPB Hesketh viewing platform

New pools are being created at RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh to help give nature a home and provide more feeding areas for the reserve’s special nesting birds.

In a bid to improve the site for birds such as lapwings, redshanks and avocets, shallow ditches are being dug and dams installed to hold water. Land drains, which were installed when the area was farmed, are also being removed to increase the wetness of the site.

The work has been made possible by a grant of £48,786 awarded by The Veolia Environmental Trust through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Tony Baker, RSPB Ribble Sites Manager, said: “The work to retain some water on the marsh at low tide will make the site much more attractive to wildlife and as a result, we hope to encourage more visitors to come and see the incredible nature this area has to offer.

“Increasing the wetness of the site is especially important in dry spells like we enjoyed this year, when the wet edges will help the parent birds supply insects for their hungry chicks to eat.”

The Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, Paul Taylor, added: “We support community and environmental projects across the UK and it is great to hear that this scheme is going well. I look forward to hearing about how the works are benefiting birdlife, and, in turn, creating a wildlife haven for all to enjoy.”

The work builds on the initial restoration of the site, which took place between 2006 and 2008. This saw the reserve transform from a featureless field into a vibrant saltmarsh providing a home for a variety of wildlife.

Hesketh Out Marsh was isolated from the estuary in 1980 by a private developer and was used for growing crops until the RSPB purchased the land in 2006.  Due to rising sea levels, we urgently need to replace some of the saltmarsh being lost in the UK.  Every year an area the size of 140 football pitches (140 hectares) disappears beneath the waves.  In partnership with the Environment Agency, we have restored the land to saltmarsh and pools.  The tide is now free to flow in and out twice daily. Soil taken from the restored creeks and pools has been used to build stronger sea defences to protect homes and farmland inland. The project has created more homes for wildlife and better protection from flooding for people

The restoration of Hesketh Out Marsh forms part of the Ribble Coast and Wetlands Futurescape, an ambitious conservation project in which the RSPB is aiming to work with a range of partners to create a network of linked wildlife havens across the area.

For details about Hesketh Out Marsh visit
For the latest news on Hesketh Out Marsh and other RSPB news in the North West, visit  

Chris visits 'La Baie de Somme'

La Baie de Somme

Some photos (mainly just record shots as neither my camera nor my technique was up to the distances) are on my flikr pages (
The region around the estuary of the Somme is a haven for water birds and an important migration stop.  On the northern shores is the region of Marquenterre.  Originally created by polderisation for farming, it soon began to attract birds and the owners began to manage it for wildlife.  Today there is the Parc du Marquenterre, a formally laid out reserve and the Domaine du Marquenterre, a less formal region in private ownership which offers guided walking tours or electric car hire.   I only had time to visit the Parc. 
It's very well laid out, with good footpaths leading to and often through the hides.  Signposting is exemplary, and they've even thought to put in a composting toilet half way round!  In mid September it was a bit early for migrants, but I still managed quite a good species list, including my first great white egret and cattle egret.
Around the other side of the bay is the much advertised Maison de la Baie de Somme et de l'Oiseaux,  a small museum mostly devoted to a collection of stuffed birds, with ducks arranged by species on shelves and others in dioramas.  Not exactly birding, but quite interesting to a relative beginner like myself.  The museum also has information on the seals which can be seen at several places around the bay, and on the evolution of the landscape.  There's a small collection of captive ducks outside, and a massive one of carved decoy ducks inside.
Although wildlife and conservation are promoted in the region, fowling is an historical and continuing tradition.  Many etangs have flotillas of suspiciously still ducks.  In a way, the hunting mania benefits birds because reserves are protected from development.  One such area is the Hable d'Ault, near Cayeux.  It attracts both birders and hunters, which seems a bit odd to my English sensibilities, but c'est la guerre.  This is a much less organised region, without a good road and with no facilities.  The landscape is reminiscent of Dungeness, vast areas of pebbles partly covered in vegetation.  Some commercial extraction continues.  A large shingle bank separates the road from the sea and a fence keeps you mostly on the road, but small lakes are easily visible.  It was fairly quiet, (apart from the duck hunters!) but there was a good variety of birds including little terns and flocks of tiny serin.  Time was limited here, and the road was very bad for our vehicle, so I only saw a fraction of the reserve.

We returned to England via Folkestone, so I took the chance to visit rspb Dungeness, where I am reliably informed I saw a little stint.  This is  a reserve where a good scope would be a big advantage as the gravel pit lakes are extensive.  Oh, and I also saw a great white egret.  I don't know, you wait all your life to see one then two come along in the same week!

Chris Daniels

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Trip to Isle of Man

Instead of flying east from Liverpool, I went north west, to the Isle of Man. At Liverpool John Lennon airport, there was delay announcement after delay announcement, apology after apology because of the French air traffic controllers strike. I was able to stroll straight through, and just a short 25 minute flight, I was at Ronaldsway before I was able to fasten my seat belt.

I took the bus to Douglas, and wanted to get rid of my luggage and walk the promenade and take in the Irish sea air. I was staying on the fifth floor of a four storey building and was in the fourth chimney pot on the right, my neighbour answered to the name of Jack. My alarm call at dawn was a herring gull calling in gull language “hello world”.

My breakfast was fruit juice, a full English, cereal, toast and tea or coffee, that set me up for the day. I usually like an early breakfast but had to start at 8 am. I took a bus to Port Erin and saw immediately a pair of Eiders in the bay. Although the day was sunny, there was quite a wind blowing. I walked to Port St Mary, taking a detour to the Calf of Man. Here I saw gannets, shags, more eiders, and looked up to see 8 whooper swans, flying towards Martin Mere.

There were lots of seals resting on the rocks. I called in at the Sound cafĂ© and was fortunate to call in when I did as a coach load arrived shortly after. House martins and swallows were still here, and I was delighted to see stonechats, one of my favourite birds, also rock pipits and pied wags. I continued onto Port St Mary, passing through Cregneash, then onto Castletown, seeing wigeon and teal on the shore line, then that higher pitched call “Jack”, Choughs were performing their acrobatics.

I went to Port Erin the following day and went right towards Peel, I set off hoping to make my way along the coast towards Dalby and then Peel, my book said 16 miles. I made it three years ago. I saw stonechats again, meadow and rock pipits, ravens and choughs, rooks and jackdaws.

I made my way from  Milner’s Tower and down into a valley and then made my way up again on the other side and then I noticed my camera lens cap was missing. My first reaction was to turn back and tried to retrace my steps. Half way down I decided was it worth it? It is only a lens cap, I can get another, so I made my way back up again. Then, a change of mind, I decided to find it, thinking I might not be able to get another cap that fits. It was a needle in a haystack job. I found it right at the bottom of the valley and was relieved. Then I thought I would never make it to Peel, and decided to take a different route back to Port Erin. I saw a footpath through some woods and walked through the tightly packed conifers seeing tit flocks, robins, wrens and goldcrest. The path seemed to fizzle out and I could see the path I had come down towards the valley. The problem I faced was either making my way through about fifty yards of bramble to the path or going back along the route I had just come along. I chose the fifty yards to the path on the steep hill. With hindsight that wasn’t the best option. It is likely that no one had taken that route since Sweyn Forkbeard in 950 AD.  I had cuts on my arms and legs. I was hoping no one would spot me struggling to make my way through the thick bramble. I don't think they did.

I made it back to the path. Walking back up the hill was a struggle and it was now quite warm and my coat had to come off. Eventually I found my way back to Port Erin. I found a park bench for a rest and closed my eyes for five minutes. I woke up, looked down and my lens cap was missing.

The next day, after another hearty breakfast, I stated my next destination to my landlady, who always wore a blue hairnet. Laxey I told her, and I set off passing a post box and posted my application form for the Krypton Factor, after yesterday’s exploits.

I was dropped off by the Laxey Wheel, and made my way along the coastal path. I took detours to two private nature reserves, making sure this time to keep to the main paths. Choughs, jackdaws and hooded crows were showing well along the coast along with many herring gulls. In the second nature reserve I saw teal, tufted duck, mallards, coot and little grebe.

It was warm again and the detours I took made the distance about 14 miles, so was fairly tired when I made it to Onchan Hill. Then down to Douglas, where I saw turnstone, curlew, oystercatcher and redshank on the beach. There were herring gulls, great black backed and black headed gulls, as well as many rock pipits and pied wagtails feeding on the seaweed.

Monday, saw me going in the same direction, but past Laxey through to Ramsey. I didn’t want to walk as much and walked at a sedate pace. On the front I saw Canada geese, mute swan and cormorants in amongst all the boats. Walking along the beach I saw turnstone, ringed plover, oystercatchers and curlew. Later walking along the north shore I saw a peregrine falcon causing havoc amongst the oystercatchers. It was the only raptor I saw. I stumbled across Ballure reservoir run by the Manx Water Authority and although looked a great place for birding I didn’t see any birds on the lake. The notice board did suggest that wildfowl do over winter there, they just hadn’t arrived yet. I walked around a pleasant wooded area and saw a large tit flock, goldfinch, siskin and goldcrest. It was getting on and made the long bus journey to Douglas.

My last day I didn’t want to spend too far away from Douglas and went to Summerhill Glen, on the way to Onchan, where I used to stay in the early seventies in the summer holidays with my Aunty. It was again a lovely warm day and I was fortunate that hairnet Harriet allowed me to keep the luggage at the hotel after I had checked out. I later went on the promenade and was delighted to see two red throated divers in the harbour. One was being harassed by a herring gull whenever it resurfaced.

I collected my luggage and bussed it to Ronaldsway for my 5 pm flight. As I entered the airport I was thinking how things had run smoothly. I looked at the tv monitor to check my flight, and was surprised to see a message I hadn’t seen before: “bag drop suspended”. Not sure what that meant I sat waiting for it to change. Then an announcement, the entire network for my airline was down and no check- ins for taking place until it was fixed. Another flight to Gatwick had been delayed for 2 hours.

I was glad when I heard that the check in was reassuming and could all Liverpool passengers make their way to leave their luggage. I presented my boarding pass and passport to the assistant, she looked at the computer and said my name wasn’t on the list. I was surprised as I had just given her the boarding pass. She called her supervisor and then printed off a new boarding pass. I made my way to the departure lounge and then went to go through Customs. I was just about to hand my pass over when I saw that Loopy Linda had given me a pass for London Gatwick. I quickly made my way back to the check in desk and she had the correct pass waiting for me. I was in a bit of a panic as the flight was due to depart in 20 minutes. No problems getting through Customs but whilst I was boarding the plane I had a horrible thought. Where was my luggage going to end up, Gatwick or Liverpool? I had an uncomfortable flight wondering what would become of them.

I nervously waiting at the baggage reclaim area, and breathed a sigh of relief when my case came out of the conveyor belt. Out of interest I looked at the stickers on the case and saw one for Liverpool and one for Gatwick. I had somehow got away with it.

I had an enjoyable few days in the Isle of Man despite changing boarding passes and missing lens caps with about 70 species of birds seen. If I make it over there again I might take the Isle of Man Steam packet ferry.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Just one in five UK children connected to nature

 RSPB Wildlife Explorers Liverpool

Just one in five UK children  connected to nature , groundbreaking study finds For the first time ever, a study to determine how connected UK children are to nature has been carried out.

A three-year research project, undertaken by the RSPB, found that only 21% of children in the UK have a level of connection to nature that can be considered  realistic and achievable  for all children. The report s findings will be released at an event at the Houses of Parliament tonight [16 October].

The report comes as a result of growing concerns over generations of children with little or no contact with the natural world and wildlife, which the RSPB believes is one of the biggest threats to UK nature.

The new study shows there are statistically significant differences between children s connection to nature at a national level across the UK, as well as between boys and girls, and British urban and rural

In May, 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report , which revealed 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over
recent decades. The charity believes that ensuring young people are connected to nature will mean they develop deeply-held feelings and attitudes towards wildlife and the world we all live in, and as a
result will care enough to help save it in the future.

Dr Mike Clarke, RSPB Chief Executive, will address MPs at a reception tonight, where he will reveal the report s findings and urge governments and local authorities to adopt this new approach.  He will
say:  This report is ground-breaking stuff. Millions of people are increasingly worried that today's children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn t been given the attention it deserves.

Nature is in trouble, and children s connection to nature is closely linked to this. The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is being lost at a dramatic rate. We can all take action to put
nature back into childhood, to ensure young people have better lives and a better future.

For the first time, we have created a baseline that we and others can use to measure just how connected to nature the UK s children really  are. By adopting this new approach, we can all monitor childrens connection and we are recommending that governments and local authorities take action to increase it through policy and practice decisions.

Over the last decade, a large amount of research has been carried out into the diverse benefits for children of contact with nature and outdoor experiences. These benefits include positive impacts on education, physical health emotional wellbeing and personal and social skills.

Evidence about the impact of an inactive and indoors childhood has grown over the summer with the Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation calling for a return to the  traditional outdoors childhood 

The RSPB believes everyone, from governments to organisations and individuals, has a role to play in connecting children to nature, which is why it has signed up to The Wild Network. The Wild Network is a
unique and pioneering collaboration between organisations with an aim to let kids get back their  wild time  and reverse the trend of children losing touch with the natural world and playing outdoors.

In North West England, the RSPB has a number of nature reserves offering a range of facilities and activities to encourage children and their families to get more connected with nature. On 31 October, Leighton Moss at Silverdale is giving children the opportunity to make a hedgehog hotel for their garden. The reserve also
runs Nature Tots, a monthly interactive trail for toddlers with the next event on 6 November.

The kind support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Essex made this research possible.

Andrew Barnett, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in the UK, says:  We are delighted to have supported this groundbreaking study. Robust evidence of children s connection with nature will be a
powerful lever for change.

Find out what the RSPB is doing in North West England on Facebook at RSPB North West England.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Peckers and Liszters Tour Oct 2013

Fourteen of us went on a memorable Hungarian trip to Bukk Hills. This was the Peckers and Liszters second trip to Hungary, with 6 of us having made the trip in spring last year. For many of us, there were plenty of birds we have never seen before in store, including eight species of woodpecker, white tailed and imperial eagles, and long eared owls. Some lovely treats later when the weather improved with Queen of Spain Fritillary, Clouded yellow and Eastern bath white butterflies. Three things that come to mind about our trip. Lowra, shelduck and Manu, more about them later.

We all arrived at the Rocket just before noon for a mini bus ride to Manchester airport. The flight arrived on time, and we were met at the airport by Ged, author, tour guide, expert on woodpeckers and wearer of dodgy Hungarian hats and Atilla, the driver. A two hour drive to the Nomad hotel in a small village called Noszvaj. Ged has been living many years in Hungary and his pronunciation has been influenced by speaking Hungarian, because Laura became “ Low” (sounds like Pow) ra.

The anticipation was building, when we saw the hotel. We had ten minutes to grab a key for our rooms, a quick wash and the meal was ready for us, the first of many excellent dishes. We were given the itinerary from Ged. He likes to keep things simple and we were told, seven, eight and nine to remember for the next morning, seven for the pre breakfast walk, eight for breakfast, and nine for the mini bus ride.  We were introduced to the tour mascot: Manu, that was not appreciated by everyone, but adored by the Everton contingent of the group.
The next morning, most complained about not having slept very well, but we all made the pre breakfast walk at 7. Whilst waiting for the walk to start, we saw great spotted woodpecker, song thrush, blackbird, jay and great tit. In the road leading to the park we saw black redstart, tree sparrow, marsh tit and nuthatch. In the boating lake there were four mallards that greeted us each morning.

Within the first hour, surrounded by wooded hills we had spotted some fantastic birds, including for most a “lifer” grey headed woodpecker, also great spotted woodpeckers. Ravens were soaring high, as well as buzzards and sparrowhawks. Also flying were redwing and white wagtails. We saw chiffchaffs and willow warblers flitting about in the branches.  It was amusing to compare the long tailed tits from those that we see in the UK with their white heads. Whilst on our way back some were fortunate to see a black woodpecker, flying away from us. The bird appeared to wake up at 7.45 am.

After a good breakfast, we made our own sandwiches and rolls for a packed lunch for later. The highlight being the Eggy bread, and the owner was christened by Rhodie as the eggy bread lady.

The tour really started at 9am when we set off for the Bukk Hills in the mini bus. We arrived at Hor Valley, the weather was getting colder and a bit windy, autumn was here. Buzzards were soaring, linnets, goldfinch and chaffinches were seen, everyone with their binoculars at the ready, not wanting to miss out on our target birds. Neil volunteered, or was he deliberately chosen?, to search for a tawny owl. With a stick he tried to flush one out from a hole in a tree, with Ged calling to “keep your face away from the hole”.
He didn’t manage to flush the owl, the hole was empty. Neil had trouble getting back to the path. We were searching now for the white backed woodpecker. It was proving elusive, despite Ged’s calls to attract them. There was evidence of them, and Ged pointed out the signs on the hornbeam trees, where the white backed feed on the wood-boring beetle larvae. 

Along the way we saw treecreeper, nuthatch and robins, middle and great spotted woodpeckers were also seen. A few managed to get a glimpse of some crossbills, Fantastic views, but still no white backed. Some were beginning to wonder whether we would see one at all, then when all appeared to be lost Ged heard the call, and Neil spotted the white backed. As it turned out the bird was voted the bird of the tour and was a “lifer” for most of us.

 It flew from tree to tree and then landed allowing great views and those who were alert were able to get a photo of the wonderful bird. On our way back to the mini bus we managed to see the Lesser spotted too. We were all relieved and feeling pleased with ourselves, we hadn’t doubted for a minute that the bird would show.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Cserepfalu, in search of the Syrian woodpecker, but we couldn’t find one. We also stopped at the Bogacs Reservoir and we saw mallards, small numbers of teal, heron and a few white wagtail. A debate started and continued about whether Tomo had seen a shelduck on the water. It gave rise to the creation of a new tour operator: Shelduck Tours.

We arrived back at the hotel and had an excellent meal with duck on the menu, apart from the Veggies. We wondered if there might be a duck less on the boating lake in Noszvaj. A check list of the birds spotted and everything else, including mammals, butterflies, insects and amphibians. 
Curiously shelduck was missing from the “official” list. We all dressed for the occasion and bright green, or any colour that stood out in honour of Arnie’s trainers. Sadly Arnie had changed the colour of his footwear at the last minute to the colour of royal blue. After many beers, palinkas and bacardi and (not very much coke) we headed back to our rooms, hoping that we hadn’t drank too much for the 7 o’clock walk next morning.

Most made the early call, with only a couple late, and they soon caught up. The wind was stronger and the temperature had dropped over night. It was a lot quieter than the day before and no grey headed woodpecker. The three drake and one female mallards were there to greet us and they weren’t caught for last night’s evening meal.

After another hearty breakfast and making up the packed lunches for later we set off on time, passing through Szentistvan, Tiszababolna and Poroszlo. In Szentistvan, we saw a roost of eight long eared owls. We had fabulous views and surprising for most that we were able to get so close, compared to viewing them in the UK. Tomo spotted a great grey shrike on a post, as we were driving, we managed to get some great shots. Later, we walked across a field and we had about an hour of a wonderful raptor experience. We saw hen harrier, buzzard, marsh harrier, imperial eagle, white tailed eagle, sparrowhawk and kestrel. Also we saw many swallows, skylark and crested lark, linnet and some lucky to spot a red throated pipit. Also spotted were Brown hares zigzagging across the fields.

In Tiszababolna we had a further treat when we saw Common crane (about 50), pygmy cormorant and Tyno was reminded every time a bird was flying by Ged, reference to us missing out on this small cormorant on the peckers and Liszters tour last year. We saw white tailed eagle, magnificently flying high. From a tower hide we saw spotted redshank, ruff and dunlin. In the fields walking back great white egrets, curlew and lapwing were seen. We saw common spadefoot toad and tree frog, and in the distance roe deer and a wily fox.
Later at lake Tisza, approaching our platform by the sluice gate, we flushed a purple heron. With our telescopes we saw little and great crested grebes, mallards, shovelers, teal and four ferruginous ducks in flight. In the distance we saw White tailed eagles, imperial eagles and marsh harriers. We were just packing up our telescopes when Tyno stayed behind for a short spell and we were grateful, as a little crake showed from the reeds. The nervous bird then was disturbed by a coot and didn’t make another appearance.  

The highlight of the day were two stops to see 20 roosting long eared owls, that had everyone out of the mini bus with their cameras, often risking crossing the road with plenty of traffic to get a better view.

We had had a great day with over 60 species of bird seen. We made our way back to the hotel and had another excellent meal, followed by our check list and the beer continued to flow. Despite a cold day, we had all thawed out.

The next, our last full day in Hungary, was a case of catching up on what birds that had been missed. The weather had improved, the wind had dropped, and the sun was shining. The seven o’clock start was notable for the green woodpecker, as well as the great and middle spotted woodpeckers.

Making our way at 9 am prompt we started at Hor Valley and were rewarded with some great bird including hawfinch, which had eluded us in previous days, linnet, yellowhammer, goldfinch and chaffinch. We saw plenty of buzzards and ravens flying high and jays flying from tree to tree. As the weather was warmer we saw lots of butterflies, including Queen of Spain Fritillary.
Carol took an excellent photograph of a Swallowtail caterpillar.

We stopped in two villages in search for the, so far, missing Syrian woodpecker. The first village was unsuccessful. The second after a refreshment break, whilst Anne and Lowra were showing off their table tennis skills, a Syrian was spotted and was proving to be difficult to get good views, but eventually, thanks to Neil again, we had great sightings, and we also had the local villagers out wondering who had invaded their peaceful day. Neil, had set the wheels in motion for his Shelduck tours venture, he could rival Ged in spotting the important birds.

The next stop at Bogacs Reservoir a surprise was in store for us, four black storks. We saw the magnificent birds in flight and in the water feeding. Also seen were grey plover, ruff, dunlin, pintail, teal and mallards. Butterflies were plentiful with Clouded Yellow, Small White, Red Admiral & Comma . Here, we saw a murmuration of starlings with a sparrowhawk disturbing them.

A wonderful beef goulash meal was awaiting us for our final meal, apart from the two vegetarians, who no doubt had an equally tasty meal. Second helpings were given to those who wanted more. Happy birthday wishes were sung, ever so slightly out of tune, to Atilla’s partner. More practice needed I think.
Everyone was getting ready for the evening when Arnie received a ransom note, written in Hungarian, Manu had been kidnapped and to ensure his safe return, Arnie was instructed to pay for the beer all night. Arnie was in a state of shock, how dare someone remove his beloved Manu and demand such things. He took it out on a startled Phil, and using an instrument usually reserved for slicing salami, Phil turned a whiter shade of pale, and swore his innocence. Arnie, taking great care, placed the knife in his trousers and took an unusual walk back to the kitchen to ensure the safe return. It was noticed nobody ate any salami in their sandwiches the next day.

A great debate had started, accusations and pleads of innocence were thrown from both sides. Then, suddenly the mystery had been solved, Barbara’s brother came into the room, with Manu. The safe return was ensured, without any ransom being paid. Arnie,  most relieved, slept soundly that night with half an eye open watching out for Manu on his bedside table.

The next morning, Friday and our last day, was a lovely morning and all the usual suspects were present in the park, with great, middle and lesser woodpeckers showing well. The four mallards were fed by Lowra, we would all miss them.
We set off on time again at 9 am getting much of our driving out of the way early, today we were in search of the great bustards. Making our way to Kiskunsag, Ged spotted a pair of black woodpeckers and we hung around for them to make a reappearance.
We set off again and called into a wooded area nearer to our destination  but no black woodpecker. We then tried for the bustards, and over lunch, a saker falcon was spotted in the distance, wonderful views. We thought we saw the bustards in the distance but it was a false alarm, just hooded crows.  Here we saw Eastern bath white and clouded yellow  butterflies.

Then whilst driving Ged called for Atilla to stop, he had spotted the great bustards, 8 of them, that later increased to 13. Then when watching them Rob spotted a goshawk that was flying low right in front of us. Another excellent day was now drawing to a close and when we stopped at a service station to say our goodbyes to Ged and Atilla before the airport, there was still time to see a distant Imperial eagle perched on a pylon, crested larks were in the car park, in amongst the Hungarian truckers.

Neil was supposed to be first to leave, for his flight to Barcelona, but as it turned out he left after us after the flight was delayed. We made it back to Manchester in one piece and everyone was rather tired after being travelling for most of the day. Two became one when we heard one of our coaches had been stolen, but that wasn’t going to spoil our holiday.

A big thank you to Ged, Chris, Laura and Tomo for the way the trip was organised, to Atilla for his excellent driving and patience. For everyone for sharing their expert knowledge , especially Carol and Rob and not forgetting the soil specialist in the group; Peaty. To Arnie, Neil, Rhodie, and Phil for keeping us entertained with their wit. Thanks also to everyone who shared their photographs. Everyone contributed to this holiday and it won’t be forgotten for some time.

Shelduck tours will be putting out flyers for the next tour, watch this space….


Saturday, 12 October 2013

Miranda Krestovnikoff becomes RSPB President

History and wildlife presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff has been elected as the new President of the RSPB, Europe s largest nature conservation charity.

The RSPB hopes that Miranda s enthusiasm and expertise will inspire more people to become interested in wildlife and do their bit to give nature a home.

RSPB members at yesterday s AGM in London elected Miranda as their newpresident (Saturday 12th October).

She is the third female president since the organisation was founded in 1889, and takes over from fellow TV presenter Kate Humble. The charity has now had a female President for more years than a male President.

Miranda is best known as a wildlife expert on BBC 1 s The One Show and as one of the original Coast team members.

She has also recently presented BBC1 s Britain s Big Wildlife Revival, appeared on Celebrity Masterchef and become a regular on BBC Radio 4 s Costing the Earth, Living World and Tweet of the Day.

Her interest in nature stems from a childhood spent outdoors in her family garden in Buckinghamshire and roaming around nearby Burnham Beeches, which led her to study a Zoology degree at Bristol University
and volunteer with various wildlife organisations. A trained diver, Miranda is interested in wildlife both above and below the waves.

Miranda says:  Being asked to be President of the RSPB is a huge honour and a massive responsibility, but I m very much looking forward to the challenge. When I was first asked if I d consider putting myself up for
election, I felt very flattered.

 The charity s aims and beliefs fit perfectly with my own   we can all play our part in giving nature a home and the only way our future generations will want to play their part is if they feel connected to nature from an early age.

 I am a genuine nature lover   I enjoy nothing more than spending time outside with my family and showing my children what s out there   be it a glamorous, majestic bird of prey or a quirkier creature like a slow

In her new role, Miranda aims to increase support for the RSPB and build wider awareness of its work. She wants to celebrate British wildlife and raise awareness of the fascinating creatures we have on our doorstep. In particular she wants to enthuse children about nature, and help adults learn how to enthuse their children.

She says:  Many people still don t realise that whales and dolphins can be seen from UK shores and that we have some of the most endangered birds in the world above our heads.

I hope that, through my presenting work and opportunities with the RSPB I can spread this message even further and that everyone finds it as exciting as I do!

Mike Clarke, RSPB Chief Executive says:  The start of Miranda s RSPB Presidency comes at a time when nature is facing huge challenges. To meet these challenges we need to grow support for nature by inspiring
more people to enjoy it, care about it and save it.

Miranda brings a natural ability to enthuse others about nature and we are pleased to welcome her as our new President. We re sure she can help encourage more people to enjoy wildlife   be that feeding their
garden birds, visiting nature reserves or getting involved with some of our campaigning work.

Miranda takes over from Kate Humble, who has served four years as RSPB president.

Mike Clarke says:  On behalf of the whole organisation I d like to thank Kate for her time as RSPB president. Kate made an important contribution to our conservation work by spreading her enthusiasm for
nature and wildlife to others and increasing our support. She will continue to support us in any way she can and we look forward to our paths crossing in the future. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013


 After our RSPB group trip to Hungary it was back to a bit of local birding. I'm sure Lowra (sic) will be posting a report on our fantastic trip very this space.

A turtle dove is a very rare bird in the north west, so it was great to catch up with one over at Leasowe, present for the second day,

with the collared doves as you cross over the bridge on Lingham lane.

Also present in the horse paddocks were 2 wheatear, 1 whinchat.

Chiffchaff still around but no sign of YBW.

Sparrowhawk patrolling the edges of the fields where plenty of goldfinch, linnets, meadow pipits and pied wagtails.