Painted Ladies everywhere on the coast today, with large numbers of Peacocks and Red Admirals drifting through with them.
Reccying a walk there were double figures resting on the hot sand at Hightown beach this morning, some apparently taking salt from the sand, but many more tottered through.
Med Gull, 120+ Curlew, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Little Egret and Common Sand on the Alt too, with Redshanks, Oycs, Dunlin and Turnstone (plus two Shelduck creches) but the Painted Ladies were the striking feature today.
Big numbers of Painted Ladies in Formby and Ainsdale too, with the buddleias at Dempsey Towers groaning under the weight of ’em – okay, there were at least 30 in the early evening, with 13 Peacocks, 8 Red Admirals, 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Large Whites and 10+ Gatekeepers.
They must all have been grateful for the sun after two days of rain.
Shame it’s forecast to tip it down tomorrow too…

Dog days and Sarnies

The Swifts and House Martins seemed to have enjoyed the sultry heat of the last week, and fledged Goldcrests were a diversion in the garden as increasing numbers of waders on the coast begin to ease the summer dog days into memory.
Young Willow Warblers have been calling away as they moved through the dunes for the last fortnight, but in smaller numbers it seems to me than when the “Irish Sea Willow Warbler Movement” was a big thing.
That could just be my powers of recollection playing tricks though.
Plenty of time for more of the sherbet lemons to ripple through I suppose.
At Hightown a Common Seal has been hauling out on the Alt Estuary.
With just a handful of records it is still a rare beastie on our coastline.
Further up the sands, Sandwich Tern numbers are starting to build between Ainsdale and Birkdale.
I’ll be co-ordinating a survey count again this year for Green Sefton – if anyone is interested in taking part, please email me at john.dempsey@sefton.gov.uk
Now in their fourth year the purpose of the counts in August and September is not only to record numbers in this relatively new autumn roost (seven years ago, anything over 200 birds was unusual, now counts frequently top 1,000), but also document the types of disturbance the birds suffer from.
This ranges from dog walkers and horse riders to photographers, drones, joggers and even birders (don’t get me going about fieldcraft again).
It is important to collate this info.
Volunteers also record colour-ringed birds, including the famous leucistic individual ringed as nestling at the Sands of Forvie in 2017.
Birds from Norfolk, Ireland, Holland and even the Po Delta in Italy have all popped up over the years, as have Black and Little Terns (plus Arctics and Commons).
Occasionally Arctic Skuas rip through too, like the pack of four I saw in the pic above on 24/8/17 (I know there’s only two amongst the terns in the picture, but I couldn’t fit ’em all in) and it doesn’t get much more exciting than that!
I’ll be hosting an introductory chat about the survey at Ainsdale Discovery Centre (PR8 2QB) at 6.30pm on Thursday August 1st, for those who want to find out more.
If you’d like to come, please let me know via the email address mentioned earlier.
Counts typically take an hour.
Even if you don’t want to help out, please send me any Sandwich Tern counts you make between now and the end of September between Ainsdale and Birkdale to the email address above, as the more data we get, the more evidence we have to improve protections for the roosts on this stretch of the coastline.
In that vein, many thanks to Phil Smith for already blogging counts of the terns this year – 70 birds and rising.
Now, has it stopped raining yet? It may finally be time for a bit of birding…

Freshening up

The wind was almost brisk enough for a seawatch this morning; shame the tides are so pants at the moment.
A squawking Jay moving through the garden was a precursor of autumn, but with mucho domestico on the horizon, time was tight today, so I raced down to the marsh and had a quick look at the Junction Pool late morning.
Given the quality of the birds, the flaps had a mini-twitch on.
The Glossy Galoot was doing its thing still, with the Cattle Egret, Avocets and in with the roosting Blackwits, a dozing Spotted Redshank and two Knot stood out.

Later after the cows waded into the middle of the pool and those lacking in patience or any semblance of fieldcraft climbed up the bank to spook everything (ffs it’s just a Glossy Ibis, if you stand by the screen you will see it without freaking everything else out), the SpotRed was one of the few birds remaining on the pool and was looking decidedly self-conscious, as they do.

I attempted a shaky video of it, but the bird just looked embarrassed by the whole affair, and to be honest, so was I.
Up the road a Common Sand was doing that funny “pooter” feeding thing, snatching midges on the channel in front of Sandgrounders, and a Lesser Black Back swept in to grab one of the BHGs chicks on the island.
It gulped the snackette down in seconds.
Diverting up to HOM I was completely zapped by the grace and beauty of the Arctic Terns there, before heading back into the machine.

Limestoned again

Tree Pipits squinted down at me, and young Redstarts flitted about as I walked and jumped up the crazy paved clints and grykes of Hutton Roof Crags this afternoon.

Ravens, Green and Greater ‘Peckers called, but to be truthful I was spending more time looking at my feet and avoiding falling through the gaps while trying to find butterflies and botanicals at the same time… no one told me limestone pavements would demand such a level of concentration.

There was Angular Solomon’s Seal, Juniper, Hart’s Tongue Ferns, Lily of the Valley, Thyme and Lady’s Mantle galore, but it took me some time to find today’s orchid target – a fine Dark Red Helleborine, pushing up from one of the fern-choked grykes.

Cracker – it made all the ankle twisting worth it!
Butterflies were good too, but tricky as most were very active, hardly landing at all.

Dark Green Frits (pictured above) were the most obliging, and Ringlets, but I also had Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Grayling, Small Tortoiseshell, and one, possibly two, High Brown Frits and an unreasonably speedy Pearl Bordered type that showed no signs of stopping…

Burnished water snail death.

The sky was as blue as the Sea Lavender and Viper’s Bugloss splashed along the coast road. Again.
And although Marshside had a touch of the “Groundhog Day” about it, you can’t really argue with a point blank Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret scampering amongst the coos, and 30-50 Swifts hawking over the outer marsh.
Conditions were much the same as last Sunday, when I watched two Knot fly in with the Blackwits, and laughed at the latter poking BHGs up the bum in front of Sandgrounders (well, if you had a bill that long, you would, wouldn’t you?).
Today the ibis was feeding under the Junction Pool screen, largely a silhouette in the afternoon glare, dealing death to water snails as it fed and fed and fed – presumably the prey isn’t that nutritious on the marsh ‘cos the bird is always eating.

Common Sand and Avocets about too, although Nels was just about dried up, so I guess the ibis will be spending most of its time at the Junction Pool for the time being.
I attempted a bad video of it feeding, which you can watch on YouTube here, complete with a Scalextric Sunday afternoon soundtrack.
It’s not very good, but there you go.
Common Sandpiper at the Junction Pool amongst the Avocets too, and Reed Warblers still zipping about carrying food.
A brief dragonfly over the Junction Pool as I watched the silhouetted ibis appeared to be a Black Tailed Skimmer, but it didn’t hang around for long…
The ibis often melted away into the reeds, but I can’t see it wandering too far from the Marshside Road junction while water levels stay so low…


It has been at least 35 years since I last saw a Gull Billed Tern in the UK, possibly longer, and now that my memory has more holes in it than what passes for political logic these days, I can’t really remember the bird.
Mercifully my mind appears to have blotted out any number of Ferruginous Ducks too.
I can live with the latter gap, but I thought I’d refresh the memory with a trip over to Thurstaston this afternoon.
Also enjoying an afternoon off, I picked up fellow public servant Alan Wright and drove through the tunnel to the other side, pulling up at the Dee Sailing Club (why, oh why did I leave my boating cap and blazer at home???) at 1.30pm.

A pleasant enough spot to while away a few hours, we chatted with Jack Taylor, who picked up the tern distantly sailing north along the scum line offshore at 1.45pm – it disappeared to our right, before what appeared to be the same bird flew back up the estuary again at 2.05pm.
Reasonable scope views.
That was it then until the tern reappeared as the tide fell back the exposing sand banks and channels beneath us at 3.45pm.
It flew towards us before pitching down in the wibbly wobbly afternoon heat.

Then the Gull Billed treated us to a flypast – shining as white in the afternoon sun as the adult Med Gull that had floated past a few minutes earlier on the upbeat, but looking greyer on the downstroke.

Something of a primary wedge was evident, and it had a solid black cap, but its dark bill was heavy and distinctive – nice bird.
Ah, it all comes flooding back…..