Brian Woolley rocks!

Not only did Brian Woolley find a stonking Broad-Billed Sandpiper at Marshside this afternoon, but he found it resting up just a few metres from the Sandgrounders Hide screens, giving breathtaking views.

Brilliant Brian!

While there have been a few on the marsh over the years, this was the first gettable one in a long time – my second “marsh tick” in a week or so – the place is on form.

Better than the stilt? Whisper it quietly, but probably, yes.

If there is a correlation between the desirability of a species at Marshside and the number of skid marks left by rapidly arriving motors in the car park, then BBS must be near the top of the list.

I have seen a few Broad-Billeds in the UK over the years, but never one as close as this.

Very shaky videos on You Tube here, here and here. Sorry I was too excited – grown-ups will have better.

The sandpiper was chilling on the bank of the Sandplant Lagoon when I first arrived, just a metre or so from a Canada Goose, blinking in the sun, and showing off that wonderful head pattern and bill….

After a time the Canada Goose lumbered towards the marsh mega and the sandpiper scurried off to the shallows and muddy edges of the lagoon.


A wonderful bird, I left it getting in touch with its inner Jack Snipe, crouching down amongst the muddy edges, but I’m sure this beauty kept delighting its growing audience for a good while after…

Thanks again Brian.

Lots of happy Marshside birders this evening.

Back on the rocks.

A cold, grey dawn, but it was still pleasant surveying the roost north of Burbo Bank before high tide this morning, with waders and terns congregating at favoured spots.

Six Whimbrel were huddled up looking miserable and largely silent (numbers out on the banks increased when the tide fell back), pondering a short (as the Whimbrel trills that is) jaunt to North Moss Lane perhaps?

At least two of the Grey Plovers had orange leg flags, but I could only get the details on this one below (LL orange flag CX, RL BTO ring, blue colour ring)…

I think orange-flagged birds were ringed just across the Alt in 2018, but I’ll see if I can get specific details on this bird…

Interesting, but not as spectacular as some of the summer plumage individuals nearby, including a fine preening bird (video on YouTube here) at the water’s edge.

Not to be outdone, some of the Turnstones are looking sharp now, and it struck me that if crows could be trained to pick up fag butts in Sweden, perhaps Turnstones could be encouraged to remove chewing gum from pavements with the right incentives… they look like they’d be good at it.

Groppers, Whitethroat and Willow Warblers were singing in the dunes behind me as I counted, but the noisiest customers this morning were 55 Sandwich Terns (and one Common Tern) which preened, squawked, displayed and occasionally copulated in the Blitz Beach rubble.

Mercifully the morning warmed up as the tide fell back, and my first Wall Brown of the year basked on a sheltered piece of rubble just below me.

It looked a little worn already.

A few Swallows started to trickle north and a Greenshank dropped onto the outer Alt banks to feed alongside a Redshank, no longer stuck between some rocks and a hard place as the tide receded.

Big Leggy

There can’t be too many places in the UK where birders, having given a cursory glance to an impossibly elegant Black-Winged Stilt just metres away, and fired off a few frames, proceed to ‘scope beyond the bird for hours to check the remaining flocks of Pink Feet on the marsh.

I guess it’s a Lancs thing… decades of scanning grey brown wildfowl through the winter months leaves its scars of course.

To be fair there were at least five Russian White-fronts amongst the Pinks on Crossens Inner Marsh at Marshside today (John Wright had a further two off Sandgrounders earlier), while later on, Clarko picked up the Tundra Bean and Barnacle from Sandgrounders.

Good numbers of hirundines over the marsh and at least six Little Ringed Plovers hurtling about the place, with plenty of close Ruffs and Reeves.

Having said all that the stilt was too good to ignore really – the bird was feeding just a few metres from the bank at the back of Crossens Inner just up from Dawlish Drive.

Sometimes it was so close you had to look through the wires of the fenceline to watch the bird as Orange-Tips tottered by.

A long-legged replay of the dowitcher a few years ago.

I confess I papped the stilt mercilessly, before goosing duty.

Too much? I’ve posted three videos on YouTube here, here and here too.

Smashing as the stilt was, it was a good giggle checking through the geese with Graham Clarkson and Neill Hunt, between putting the world to rights…

Finished up with a quick scan from Hesketh Road, where the drake Garganey was feeding and snoozing at the back of Fairclough’s Pool.

Seasonals and the chicken show

The quartet of Cattle Egrets were busy about the Moss Angus herd at the end of North Moss Lane, Formby, this afternoon, chasing flies around the cow-pats in the spring sun.

One of the four appeared to be lame, hobbled by what seemed to be an encrustation of mud and poop on one of its feet – an occupational hazard for these things I guess.

Tried a bit of video as one of the egrets chased flies in the bright sun, you can watch it on YouTube here.

At the other end of North Moss Lane, at least 48 Whimbrel were feeding in the usual fields (I would expect numbers to continue to rise over the next week or so as they do each spring), although the flock was scattered and generally at the back of the field behind the sheep and lambs while I was there.

Heat haze, distant, hard light.

The strong, cool easterly was blasting across Plex sending top soil up into the air, while a single sub-adult Golden Plover set the pulse racing at distance, a pale wader with a timid “stop-start” gait, before it emerged from the sprouting crops.


Always one jump ahead…

The Ring Ouzel was gliding away from me on powerful wings almost as soon as I raised my bins at lunchtime – par for the course at Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve in spring.

Despite me reverting to full “greased panther” mode this most wariest of birds was always one step ahead of my risible attempts at fieldcraft.

I never got close, although did manage the poor image of the male above as it hid in the centre of a clump of birch scrub and willow south of Shore Road.

They do like hiding in plain sight – can you see it in the uncropped picture below?

(Clue: It’s in the bottom right).

After a few brief glimpses I left it hidden in the scrub, chacking occasionally.

The air still felt cool and apart from two new Whitethroats and perhaps five different Willow Warblers, this area of the dunes felt quiet, although the odd Swallow scudded through.

Plenty of spring left yet though.

Stuart Darbyshire had better luck with the camera yesterday evening when he called at Marshside and had the Black-Winged Stilt closer to Nels Hide in better light – thanks to Stuart for sending me this superb image!

The stilt was still about today – evening light looks best for the best views, and Nels hide is open late.

A Marshside blocker falls

Apologies to the finder, but super well-done to whoever discovered the Black-Winged Stilt at Marshside today and got the news out so fast.

A few Bank Holiday plans went up in a wisp of exhaust smoke (mine included), but it was worth it to get the gangly-legged one onto my Marshside list from a crowded Nels hide.

The first one since a brief bird on Polly’s Pool in April 1984 (sorry Neill), EVERYONE came out to see it.

Splendid even at range and heavily backlit by the Marshside spring shimmer.

Very dodgy video clips on YouTube here and here.

The marsh was on serious form today, with Tundra Bean Goose and Snow Goose still on Crossens Outer (more dodgy vid from the Bean feast here) and a Garganey drake (even more dodgy video here) from the Hesketh Rd platform, while Reed Warblers chuntered in the SSSI ditch and Swallows scooted overhead.

All absolutely fab, think I got away with the unscheduled Marshside dart (sorry mum!).

Welcome back Mr Angry

The crop choice and population dynamics of farmland bird species on Plex may alter over the years, but the “days without end” feel at this point in the calendar doesn’t.

Sure, I’ll be scanning suitable fields at all hours in the hope a few Dotterel drop in over the next few weeks, but the truth of it is that years upon years, or days without end, have passed since I last found a trip on Plex.

Gotta keep looking though, and today a particularly bad-tempered Willow Tit that scolded me as I walked along a damp path, more than justified another trawl around Plex.

It could be as long as twenty years since I last saw one out there, and while the bird may just have been moving through, it is unlikely at this time of year, so precise location details are not necessary – or wise.

This is breeding season after all.

Orange-Tips feeding on Cuckoo Flowers, flushes of Marsh Marigolds and Cowslips blooming are clues enough to those familiar with the moss, and the limited tracts of splendid wet woodland habitat there.

As is often the way, the Willow Tit’s irritable nasal calls gave it away before it flew into the branches (Willow appropriately enough) above me to call away for a minute or so then it moved off south.

Interesting, and quite wonderful to see one of Britain’s fastest declining species pushing back and appearing in old territories again. Even if they are really bad-tempered.

Mr Angry’s YouTube clips here and here.

Otherwise the Moss was the usual splendid mix of Lapwing, Skylark, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting, albeit in noticeably declining numbers.

In a similarly agricultural mood a farmland survey between Little Crosby and Hall Road yesterday revealed a fine dusting of 23 White Wagtails with Pieds and a few Wheatears on the tilled field south of Sniggery Wood, with Skylarks, Corn Bunts, Linnet, Lapwings, Brown Hares and a “new” pair of Grey Partridge elsewhere in the vicinity.

Migrants are still moving through Ainsdale LNR of course, albeit in frustratingly small numbers compared to the arrivals elsewhere around Sefton, but Wheatears are never to be sniffed at.

A male Redstart hugged the interior of a hawthorn on Wednesday (13.4.22), as they often do here (always check the lowest branches folks) and refused to play for the P900.

Early Easter eggs

As the rain eased on Ainsdale Local Nature Reserve a young female Marsh Harrier swept in to pillage the neighbouring gull colony amid a cloud of screaming Black Headed Gulls.

Presumably trying to grab what eggs it could, the raptor dropped into the colony again and again, probably giving the local Buzzards bad ideas as they sat huddled up, grounded and drenched on nearby dunes in the NNR.

A strong passage of Mipits today, with plenty of Wheatears – eight around Ainsdale Discovery Centre first thing as a few Swallows bombed north, and another six in the dunes when I went for a walk at lunchtime…

It had rained Wheatears and small parties of Sand Martins darted through.

Time for some wibbly wobbly Wheatear video – fresh on YouTube here.

At least seven singing Willow Warblers south of the office too, with a few more spring arrivals on the cards over the next few days I hope.

Worth a drenching

A day that saw a steady increase in the number of spring migrants along the coast was topped off in fine style at Marshside this evening.

Andy Pryce’s female Ring Ouzel, which he discovered this morning, had been joined by a gorgeous male. I assumed this was the bird found by Pete Allen and Stuart Darbyshire yesterday.

Whatever, they were a treat, despite the torrential downpour that coincided with my hasty scurry up the public footpath between Hesketh Road and Marshside Road after work.

Worth drowning the P900 for.

Both birds were along the 12th fairway at Hesketh Golf Course (viewable without straying too far onto this private course) and were feeding in the rain, occasionally flying back into cover when hassled by Blackbirds.


The ouzels were justification enough for the “mini-twitch”, but a male Redstart which moved left through the trees on the course, a vision in black, white, aqua and orange, was the icing on the cake – shame it didn’t hang around.

As I left, Tony Baker, who was also “ouzelling”, pointed out two Water Voles on the ditch that runs parallel with the footpath – you can just make one out in the gloom under the bank in the pic below…

As I said, numbers of migrants have been picking up all day, with more Wheatears, a few more Willow Warblers, Meadow Pipit passage and bands of Sand Martins, plus my first few Swallows of the year, moving north through the dunes at Ainsdale during the day.

A singing Willow Warbler was back in the garden at Dempsey Towers first thing.

A bit more rain tonight could make tomorrow morning very promising, and it’s shaping up nicely for the long weekend too…

In a galaxy far, far away…

Tempting as it is to stare balefully at the barometer, willing conditions to improve, sometimes ya just gotta get out.

After the rush of early migrants mid-March, it seems as if this is slowing to be another chilly and tardy spring, for the next few days at least, so I took a trip off the usual track this afternoon to have a look at the Red-necked Grebe at Pennington Flash.

The grebe, albeit in spanking summer plumage was MILES away over by the sailing club, so I had to make do with 60x zoom views through the ‘scope (which is largely what scopes are for after all).

It spent a fair bit of time asleep or sparring with larger, local Great Crested Grebes in a distant galaxy far, far away.

A fine bird – you can just make it out in front of what I believe to be one of the rings of Saturn on the back bank in the first full zoom image (or it may be an old tractor tyre), and then it is the dark blob behind what appears to be either the Death Star or the Moon in the second…

A brisk cold south westerly and waves made it even harder to watch the damn thing.