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Woolston Eyes Monthly Sightings

2023-01-31

It was a changeable morning with increasingly blustery westerly winds bringing scudding clouds and a mix of sunshine and showers. We started at dawn on No.3 bed, where a pair of Pintail, 7 Shelduck, 75 Pink-footed Geese, 50 Redwings and male and female Marsh Harriers were notable. It was also interesting to watch two Cormorants displaying, carrying twigs and reeds around. In recent years No.3 bed has held a sizeable roost of Cormorants, which is often a precursor to breeding - it’d be nice to add another species to our extensive breeding list - so fingers crossed. More often than not, we focus our efforts on Nos.3 and 4 beds, which hold the largest numbers of birds. Today, though, we made an effort to explore No.2 bed, which is an operational site, receiving dredgings from the Ship Canal. This activity can create some really superb habitat at times, with flooded woodland and extensive pools forming and such is the case at the moment. Counts from here included: 13 more Pintail, 6 Shelducks and 100 Teal among many of the commoner species. Then it was a trek over to the No.4 bed viewing platform to count the wildfowl. A further 8 Pintail brought the day’s total to 23, our highest count for many a year, while 2,000 Teal were constantly being flushed by two hunting Marsh Harriers, a female and a different male to the one observed on No.3 bed, making three in all. Photo of a Sparrowhawk Cheers David Bowman (with Dan Owen)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-28

It was calm and overcast today and we set ourselves the task of counting our wildfowl, starting in No.3 bed, then covering the Ship Canal as far as Bollin Point before moving on to No.4 bed and finishing at the Weir Basin. Numbers present included: 2,000 Teal, 457 Tufted Duck, 35 Pochard, 4 Goldeneyes, 7 Shelducks, 92 Gadwall, 71 Shoveler, 63 Mallard, 13 Mute Swans, 12 Great Crested Grebes and 11 Little Grebes. We didn’t have time to cover No.2 bed, which always holds decent numbers of wildfowl, so numbers present were likely to have been higher than recorded. As ever, when you’re covering seven miles or so on the Reserve, you come across some nice incidental sightings. The pick of these were: 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Marsh Harrier, 2 Goldcrests, 125 Redwings, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Water Rails, 7 Cetti’s Warblers, 1 Treecreeper, 8 Lesser Redpolls and 3 Siskins.
The photo is a recent drone shot of the No.4 bed wetland, which is now completed, flooding nicely, open to permit holders and holding masses of birds. Cheers David Bowman (with Dan Owen, Helen Wynn, Dave Steel and Brian Baird)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-26

We met this morning with our RSPB Wardens, Lizzie Hill and John Ball, to review progress with using the Truxor to open up channels and pools in the reed-bed on No.3 bed. It is now looking in prime condition, ahead of the next breeding season and hopefully, we can repeat or exceed last year’s record number of Black-necked Grebe young. Otherwise it was a fairly lazy morning, with highlights of: 1 Chiffchaff, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 8 singing Cetti’s Warblers, 2 Kingfishers and a Water Rail, along with 57 Tufted Ducks, 20 Pochard, 6 Shelduck, 15 Shoveler and 2 Little Grebes. Most of the wildfowl are currently attracted to the shallowly flooded reeds on the east cell of No.4 bed, where 2,000 Teal are regularly feeding. Interestingly, yesterday Dave Hackett managed to count an astonishing 975 Tufted Ducks between No.3 bed and Bollin Point, so the Reserve is probably currently holding in excess of 4,000 wildfowl. Photo of a Long-tailed Tit Cheers David Bowman (with Dan Owen)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-25

A huge influx of Tufted Duck with the majority on No.3 bed and the river. Only a few days ago the WeBS count recorded a Reserve total of 245 so I was amazed to find 975 which was an absolute minimum as I did not cover No.4 bed or the canal to the west of the car park! 22 Pochard were also present and a sign of spring was a singing Song Thrush on Butchersfield Tip. A skein of 120 Pink-footed Geese flew east over No.1 bed.

Submitted by: Dave Hackett

2023-01-24

Photo of a drake Gadwall Cheers David

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-24

A really productive morning on No.3 bed, where our RSPB Assistant Warden, Lizzie Hill, had organised the annual reed-cutting. This is done using a Truxor, which is an aquatic, mechanised cutter and results in much improved habitat for our breeding and wintering water-birds. Then it was a trek over to No.4 bed, where most of the wildfowl had congregated, with highlights of: 12 Pintail, 2 Wigeon, 2,000 Teal, 125 Gadwall and 85 Coot. Other records of note between the two beds included 2 wintering Chiffchaffs, 85 Redwings and a Brambling, the latter reported feeding with 60 Chaffinches on the North Meadow. We rounded off the morning with a count of the wildfowl on the Weir Basin, scanning to see if the large flock of diving ducks had brought in anything unusual, with Scaup and Smew always a possibility at the time of year. In the event, we had to be content with: 19 Pochard, 252 Tufted Ducks, 8 Shelduck, 24 Mallards, 4 Gadwall, 10 Teal, 18 Coot and 4 Moorhens. Photo of the Truxor in action Cheers David Bowman (with Dan Owen)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-22

It was one of those wonderful winter mornings, yesterday, with blue skies and a crisp hoar frost adding sparkle to to the landscape. As all of the lagoons were frozen, apart from a small pool on the No.4 bed wetland being kept open by masses of Teal, we had fairly low expectations of the numbers of water-birds likely to be present for the monthly Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS). In the event, we were pleasantly surprised to find 2,000 Teal, along with around another 1,000 water-birds. Full details of the count will be posted here, when the final totals have been collated. Other sightings of note included an early singing Willow Tit on No.4 bed, a couple of Pink-footed Goose skeins, 10 Shelducks on No.3 bed, which are likely to be from our returning breeding population and a group of 25 Pied Wagtails feeding together on the icy margins of the one small open pool on No.4 bed. Photo of a Shelduck Cheers David Bowman (with Helen Wynn and Brian Baird)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-18

In spite of the cold it was a lovely winter’s day and I covered the whole reserve apart from No.4 bed which I did on Monday. Whilst there was nothing unusual about there were reasonable numbers of wildfowl. The highlights were 320 Black-headed Gulls including about 200 flying west at dusk, 256 Canada Geese (c200 tat Bollin Point), 315 Tufted Duck ( c100 at Bollin Point) 55 Coot, 68 Gadwall, c250 Teal, 10 Shelduck and a single male Pochard in the Weir Basin. 19 Cormorant included 15 roosting in the favorite tree between Nos. 2 and 3 beds. At the locks were 2 Herring Gulls and 2 Great Back-backed Gulls. About 20 Redwing were on No.1 bed.

Submitted by: Dave Hackett

2023-01-14

It was drizzly early on, clearing as the morning progressed. We started in No.3 bed, where a Marsh Harrier came out of its roost to stir up the wildfowl, which included a pair of Pintails, 12 Pochard and 20 Tufted Duck among the more numerous Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Mallard. Finches noted included 3 Lesser Redpolls, 6 Bullfinches, 40 Greenfinches and 25 Chaffinches. With the rain lifting, Dave Steel and I decided to walk down to the eastern end of the Reserve, checking to see if Jack Snipe and Snipe had returned to the area of No.1 bed where numbers had been building prior to the prolonged cold spell before Christmas. In the event, the weedy area around Elevated Pools held 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Common Snipe, 9 Meadow Pipits and 6 Skylarks, as well as a Woodcock which flushed as we were leaving. Then it was an amble down to Bollin Point to count the wildfowl, with 10 more Lesser Redpolls feeding in Alders and 195 Tufted Duck the most notable sightings. The link is to a short video showing a few of this week’s birds, including Pintail and Marsh Harrier. https://youtu.be/PBSRLyo0lOM Cheers David

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-12

It was nice to arrive on No.3 bed this morning to a dry and mild dawn, after the recent heavy rain, though blustery showers did arrive by mid-morning. From the Morgan Hide the female Marsh Harrier, which has been roosting on No.3 bed for the past few weeks, was harassing the wildfowl, which included 225 Teal, 6 Shelducks, 3 Pochard, 45 Tufted Ducks, 15 Gadwall, 21 Mallards, 18 Shoveler and male and female Pintails. The latter are elegant ducks which are very scarce breeders in the UK, with less than 30 pairs most years, though up to 20,000 arrive to winter around our sheltered coasts and estuaries. Last year, a couple of pairs stayed with us throughout most of the breeding season and we’re hopeful that we’ll soon be able to prove them breeding. Over on No.4 bed, the coppicing programme for Willow Tits is progressing well and the recent downpours have brought the water level on the western cell almost to its maximum capacity. The eastern cell is also filling nicely and between the two, I counted around 1,000 wildfowl of nine species. Photo of the west cell on No.4 bed Cheers David Bowman

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-10

With high winds and driving rain this morning, it was a dash for the shelter of the Morgan Hide, a hot cup of coffee and a lazy morning. There was plenty of action, though, with a female Marsh Harrier coming out of its roost at dawn but quickly thinking better of it, dropping back into cover and flushing 250 Teal out onto the open water in the process. Other wildfowl sheltering around the Morgan Hide scrape included 12 Pochard, 19 Tufted Ducks, 1 Shelduck, 16 Shoveler, 19 Gadwall and 51 Mallards. Despite the weather, the feeders were busy, with 2 Bramblings, 50 Greenfinches, 40 Chaffinches and 7 Bullfinches competing for access with the tit flocks. Underneath the feeders 9 Pheasants, a few Blackbirds and 15 Moorhens were hoovering up any fallen seed, with six of the latter sporting orange colour-rings from Kieran Fosters’ teams’ contribution to the national Moorhen colour-ringing project. The 19 which have been ringed on No.3 bed over the past few weeks is the most from any UK site so far. By lunchtime, with the rain threatening to stop, the Marsh Harrier was joined by a male Peregrine in stirring up the wildfowl, while Water Rail, Kingfisher and Snipe were added to the day list. Photo of a Blue Tit Cheers David Bowman

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-07

Photo of a Long-tailed Tit Cheers David

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-07

Photo of the eastern cell on No.4 bed Cheers David

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-07

Although the morning started with strong winds and rain at dawn, it soon cleared to produce blue skies, scudding clouds and brilliant light. We started in No.3 bed, which was relatively quiet, before moving on to No.4 bed, where the new wetland was thronging with birds. More than 800 Teal were enjoying the increasingly flooded vegetation on the new wetland, along with scores of Gadwall and Mallard, 16 Shovelers, 5 Shelducks, 3 Pochard, 2 Wigeon and 10 Tufted Ducks on the western cell and the Loop. Other notable sightings included four Willow Tits, including a pair bimbling around in one of the newly coppiced areas, a wintering Chiffchaff, 7 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Water Rails, 4 Cetti’s Warblers and 9 Bullfinches. As an aside, if any permit holders are thinking of visiting the viewing platform on No.4 bed, please be aware that the approach path has flooded in the recent rains and wellies are essential. Record shot of Thursday’s Scaup Cheers David Bowman (with Helen Wynn, Brian Baird and Dave Steel)

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-05

Well, that was a nice opener to the year. Walking on to No.3 bed at dawn, in mild overcast conditions, two Woodcocks flushed from underfoot and then a female Marsh Harrier flushed 125 Teal from cover in front of the Morgan Hide. Now that the sluice has been closed for a more than a month, the water level on the bed is rising nicely, as evidenced by the presence of a few Pochard and Tufted Ducks diving actively. Later on, we walked onto No.4 bed. Here, too, both cells have benefited from the recent wet weather, with nearly 900 Teal present, mainly in the freshly flooded eastern cell. Other nice sightings included two Stonechats, never that common on the Reserve, and a Green Sandpiper. Then it was back to No.3 bed where the bird of the day had been found by John Tymon - a nice 2nd calendar-year drake Scaup, among a flock of 150 Tufted Duck which had dropped in. Finally, another Stonechat was found in front of the South Screen, capping an excellent morning. The link is to a brief video showing the Stonechats and Scaup. Cheers David Bowman (with Dan Owen) https://youtu.be/Eu9qFH-v5eo

Submitted by: David Bowman

2023-01-04

It has been some time since I walked the whole reserve but today I was able to cover all areas apart from No.4 bed. Perhaps the most noteworthy sighting was of 538 Tufted Duck, of which about 250 were at Bollin Point and 205 on No.3 bed. Also on No.3 bed were 200 Teal, a male Pintail and a pair of Pochard. 2 Herring Gulls were at Latchford Locks and 2 Nuthatch in the wood to the north of No.1 bed. There was very little on the river which was flowing very fast due to the recent rain. A single Snowdrop in flower on No.3 bed was an early sign of spring!

Submitted by: Dave Hackett