Sunday, 26 February 2012

26 February 2012

A pleasant morning around Westport, although it was rather quiet on the birding front, it felt as though Westport was waiting for the arrival of it's first spring migrants with the first buds of the year appearing on the Hawthorne and Willow trees, and by this time next month we will hopefully have a few added to the year list, it felt slightly cooler than the 7c probably due to the light WNW breeze, visit from 06.45 til 09.00.

There were 9 Mute Swans today, 7 on the boating lake and 2 on the main lake but no sign of last weeks yellow ringed adult, 25 Tufted Duck were split between 6 on the boating lake and 19 on the main lake, a couple of Mistle Thrushes were by the visitor centre with possibly another pair along the canal side, just 2 Pied Wagtails today along the front of the main lake, the 2 pair of Goldeneye remain on the main lake displaying and calling constantly, a single Greylag Goose was with Canada Geese on the boating lake, back to the main lake, 11 mainly male Pochard a single Common Gull and 4 Great Crested Grebes, in total 5 Jackdaws flew over in three separate groups, there was a good passage of large Gulls this morning, all of which were heading in a NW direction, they consisted of 22 Herring Gulls and 71 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
On the old gas works, 3 Stock Doves was the highest count for a while, a Bullfinch flew over with another later on the old sewage works, along the canal side of the main lake a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over a single Siskin was heard calling but not seen and a Kestrel flew over.
As I walked home along the canal I watched a Blackbird collecting nest material and taking it into a nearby bush, the first nesting bird of the year down Westport.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

22 February 2012

It felt almost spring like first thing this morning at 11c, well that was until the SW breeze got up and the rain came followed by an argument with another dog walker!!

There was a good count of 12 Mute Swans on the  boating lake including the regularly seen yellow rung bird, the resident pair were on the main lake, 3 Tufted Duck were on the boating lake plus another 27 on the main lake, a single Great Crested Grebe was also on the boating lake along with the male Shoveler, my first at Westport this year, although it's been around now for a few days, a further 4 Great Crested Grebes were displaying on the main lake along with 2 pair of Goldeneye, 6 Pochard were also present this morning along with a pair of Goosander briefly, 5 Pied Wagtails were along the grass edge of the main lake and a pair of Mistle Thrushes were along the canal side with a single Chaffinch, on the old gas works just a single Stock Dove was present and a adult Herring Gull flew over with a 1st winter on the main lake later, in the reserve a single Coal Tit and the Canada Geese have started to mark there territories with 8 pairs present, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was by the bottom gate and lastly a Common Gull landed on the main lake as I left.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

15 February 2012

After the excitement of Sunday and a busy few days at work I was looking forward to a morning stroll around the park, although not very productive in quality of birds it was never the less a decent morning, much much warmer at 5c with pretty much all the ice gone from the main lake and around 40% still ice covered on the boating lake, the small pools in the reserve still remain pretty much iced over, wind was a light WNW, visit from 07.20 til 09.05.

On the boating lake there were 4 Tufted Duck with a further 31 on the main lake, 7 Mute Swans were on the boating lake and the resident pair on the main, just a single Great Crested Grebe remains after 3 were seen yesterday and Pochard have nosedived to just 3 males, a couple of Jackdaws flew over calling, Herring Gulls were hard to count as some appeared then disappeared and what were possibly new birds came in, but there were 3 present at any one time and probably more went through, what I at first thought and identified as a Peregrine at the time was actually a Kestrel, it was carrying something in it's talons and just wasn't flying as a Kestrel normally does, it's jizz seemed more Peregrine like, but having checked some details in a reference book I now realise I made a mistake and it was just a Kestrel, at least 3 or 4 Common Gulls were knocking around all adults and a Grey Heron flew across the back of the main lake.
At least 3 Pied Wagtails were around the playing field area and a couple of Mistle Thrushes, in the old sewage works a Jay flew over and a male Bullfinch was along the stream, 2 Stock Doves were on the old gas works plus a Great Spotted Woodpecker, in the reserve along the middle path a small flock of Tits held singles of Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Treecreeper, by the bottom gate a single Willow Tit plus a Siskin flew over, 2 Greenfinches were along the sidings and finally 2 Greylag Geese were with the Canada Geese on the playing field, a Westport year tick for me (the resident ones are domestic, in case anyone is wondering).

Sunday, 12 February 2012

12 February 2012

After a week away from Westport with work and feeling a bit under the weather I was rather looking forward too this mornings visit, that was until I opened the front door, I sent a text to Nick about it being my first day out for a week and I can't see a thing, his reply 'and it's duck count day'. It was foggy last Sunday but this was twice as bad and it wasn't going to make easy birding this morning, the good news was it was much warmer at 2c and the main lake was now around 40% ice free, although you wouldn't know this from the bottom end with the fog, no wind of note but it was apparently a light WSW, visit from 07.25 til 10.00.

A couple of Mistle Thrushes were on the playing field and I could hear Redwing calling through the fog and later we saw 6 on the playing field, on the boating lake Mute Swan numbers have increased with 11 (2 adult and the rest youngsters), the 2 resident adults were on the main lake, a single Tufted Duck was on the boating lake and with just 19 on the main lake it was a very poor count, also on the main lake 5 Wigeon which was a Westport year tick for me, 7 Pochard and a single Great Crested Grebe.
As we made our way into the nature reserve a Grey Wagtail flew over, another Westport year tick out of the way, the only other bird of note in here was a Grey Heron flushed off the stream, 2 Stock Doves were on the old gas works and as we made our way along the canal side of the main lake we had a single Great Spotted Woodpecker and a flock of around 40 Goldfinches.

We'd made our way back to the boating lake were Nick wanted to count the Mallard for the WEBS count, we'd noticed a flock of Gulls in the middle on the ice and as I was looking through them for a Yellow-legged Gull I couldn't believe my eyes when a full adult GLAUCOUS GULL landed in the middle of the group, I rather casually told Nick what I was looking at and within minutes the news was out and over the next 30 minutes or so at least 20 birders had been able to connect with it.
It did fly off briefly only to land a little bit further away on the main lake, this is the first record at Westport since 2004 and a Westport tick for me!!
Previous records of Glaucous Gull at Westport, kindly provided by Nick Smith, are as follows:
Glaucous Gull
3w on Jan 24th.
Glaucous Gull
1w roosted Feb 19th.
Glaucous Gull
3w on Jan 27th, Feb 12th, 24th and 25th.

Glaucous Gull
1w on Jan 18, 26th, Feb 2nd. 2w on Feb 2nd. 3/4w Feb 8th and 16th. Adult Jan 1st, two adults from Jan 2nd to March 3rd.
Glaucous Gull
1st yr April 4th.
Glaucous Gull
2w Feb 6-21, 1st w Feb 28. 1w Dec 16
Glaucous Gull
1w on Jan 8th and 19th.
Glaucous Gull
1w Jan 14. 1w flew s with Herring Gulls 24 dec.
Glaucous Gull
A 1w for five minutes on Feb 1st.
Glaucous Gull
A 1w on Dec 27th.

Below are a few of the photo's I managed of the bird in foggy conditions, I've had to adjust the photo's to give better light and cropped a couple of them. I've saved the best til last, but I'm sure some of the other lads will have better photo's.

I'm not sure what it is with Westport at the moment, possibly the fog or is it just turning into the place to be on a Sunday, but for the second Sunday on the trot it has come up with the goods, this time a phone call from Phil Jones had me running down there, and it was well worth it with 11 Whooper Swans sat on the ice, these are the first at Westport since January 2010, and only the second county record this year, they were still present as I left and look settled so hopefully will still be present in the morning, these put Westport on 64 species for the year and a added bonus was they were Westport ticks for me, two in a day, not a bad day at all!!

Previous records of Whooper Swan at Westport, kindly provided by Nick Smith, are as follows:

Whooper Swan
Three adults on Dec 31st
Whooper Swan
Four Jan 1st.
Whooper Swan
Adult on 27th April was the bird that wintered with Mute Swans at Sandbach
Whooper Swan
Three on dec 10th.
Whooper Swan
Tame one with Mute Swans July 2-4th.
Whooper Swan
An adult on Oct 28th was joined by seven more on 29th.
Whooper Swan
A tame feral adult on Apr 17th, 19th to 28th and May 1st to 23rd.
Whooper Swan
Two adults on Jan 29th.
Whooper Swan
13 adults flew thru on Nov 19th to SE
Whooper Swan
17 adults flew high NW on Mar 13th
Whooper Swan
Two probable feral birds associated with Mute Swans from May 4th to 6th.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

05 February 2012

Despite the 4" of snow and heavy fog it didn't turn out to be to bad a morning around Westport for myself with three Westport year ticks added, it was hard going at times in the snow but at least there weren't too many people about, the fog was very heavy which made counting the ducks rather difficult.

Temp was 1c with a pretty much non existent NW wind, visit from 07.30 til 09.30.

As you can see from the above photo's the conditions weren't very good for birding, but I met up with Nick and we soldiered on, we had a good count of Bullfinches today with 5 seen around various parts of the park, 6 Mute Swans were on the boating lake and just the 2 adult birds on the main lake, this is the first time I've seen the young separated from there parents, a single Pied Wagtail was along the canal side of the main lake, as were 2 Mistle Thrushes at opposite ends, a Sparrowhawk flew across near the visitor centre and at least 40 Goldfinches were in the tree tops near here, on the main lake there were 54 Tufted Duck which includes 2 seen on the boating lake, a Willow Tit was calling near the bottom entrance and later I saw what was probably the same bird along the canal side, we decided to walk the brook by the bottom entrance to see if we could flush a Snipe or Water Rail, no luck with either of these but we did flush a single Teal which Nick managed to pick up on.
By the nature reserve a couple of Siskin were with a single Goldfinch, 3 Chaffinch were in the nature reserve and we flushed 1 possibly 2 Grey Herons from Fowlea Brook, incredibly this is a Westport year tick for me, we also had a Buzzard, Jay and Coal Tit, back at the main lake and through the fog we managed to add a single Pochard, 2 Goldeneye and a great record of 25 Lapwing sat on the ice, this is by far my largest count of Lapwing at Westport (not including flyovers).

Excuse the poor photo of the Lapwing on the ice but it was rather difficult through the fog to get a decent photo, these were my second year ticks of the day, my last came as I was heading for home with a Goldcrest in the Long-tailed Tit flock between the canal and the playing field.

Later in the morning Phil Jones had a  male Reed Bunting by the top pool, another Westport year tick taking this years total to 61 for the year, also three Fieldfare flew over briefly.

And then things get really bizarre, Nick Smith happened to be on Birdforum this afternoon when he notices a message from 'matt4scfc' saying that a Knot was at Westport along with two Pintail, the message appeared at 16.31 and the sighting was at 15.00, Nick rushed down to Westport to find the Knot roosting on the ice on the main lake but no sign of the Pintail, following on from last months Iceland Gull this is a Westport MEGA in every sense of the word, according to the Westport Lake Bird Report 2002 by Dave Kelsall & Jeff Jones there is just one previous record from 20th November 2002, I do recall seeing one briefly with Bill Low in the early 90's that flew North over the main lake but I never ticked it as I just didn't get any decent views of it.
So were was I while all this was going on, well I was outside making the lovely 'snow castles' below with my girlfriends kids.

I'd forgotten my phone was on silent and when I went to take the lovely shot above I noticed five missed calls from Nick, panic set in as I then found a text just saying 'possible Knot', I rung him straight away, to find he was still at Westport looking at the Knot on the ice, the problem was it was now rather dark (17.52), I don't think I've run so fast for a bird since my 'Scillies' days and boy did it show, when I reached them I was so out of breath I just couldn't even look through the scope, it was now very dark and all I could make out was a small wader type bird on the ice, after not being able to tick the one back in the 90's too then not be able to realistically tick this one was a huge blow, but my fault for having my phone on silent and forgetting about it, the Knot takes the Westport year list to 62, congratulations to 'matt4scfc' for a superb find.
Just on a side note, I was talking to Nick around Westport this morning about Knot, he had seen one yesterday on one of the gravel pits in South Staffs and had commented on how it was his first winter record in Staffs, not bad to pick up your second one a day later on your local patch!
Below is Phil Jones's picture of the Knot this evening in the fading light, fingers crossed he's hoping it hangs around in the roost tonight for some photo's of it tomorrow, sadly I'm at work at 05.30.

I've just received some additional information from Nick regarding Knot records at Westport, this is actually the 7th record for Westport, with singles in 90, two records in 92 (one of which is the one I saw briefly with Bill Low),  and singles in 2000, 2001 and 2005, I can understand the 2002 report missing 2005 but bit surprised the others weren't in the records as well as 2002 the report covered all rare and scarce birds at Westport for all years.

Westport Lake Bird Report 2011

The Westport Lake Bird Report 2011 is now available for anyone who would like a copy, just e-mail me at and I will forward a copy to you in PDF file format, if you require another file type please let me know.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

02 February 2012

Just a quick visit down for an hour and 20mins, felt a bit warmer at 2c but must of been a very cold night as the main lake was 90% froze over.

Most of the birds were either gathered around the edge of the patch of open water or within it, 4 Common Gulls and 3 Herring Gulls were among the Black-headed Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls, on the water 7 Mute Swans were present with 2 of these being on the boating lake, 4 Goldeneye, 2 Teal and a single Great Crested Grebe were all crammed into the small patch of open water.
At the top of the main lake there was another patch of open water which held 25 Pochard and some of the Tufted Duck flock which numbered an impressive 94.

Around the edge of the main lake a small flock of Siskin, a single Great Spotted Woodpecker and 6 Song Thrushes were together on the old sewage works, as was a rather friendly Robin.
4 Pied Wagtails were on the playing field as I left.

Yesterday I took a rather appalling photo of a Treecreeper, so Pete Lunt has sent me this one he took the other day.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

01 February 2012

A cold but pleasant morning around Westport, although the temp was -1c it felt a bit warmer in the sunshine, probably helped by the fact there was only a very light E wind, visit from 07.45 til 09.30.

About 80% of the boating lake was frozen as were all the small pools in the nature reserve but all the main lake was ice free, on the boating lake there was just one Mute Swan with the usual 4 on the main lake, a small number of Black-headed Gulls were roosting on the ice.

Almost every morning as I've walked along the boating lake a Willow Tit has been calling from the small wood near Price's Field and it was there again this morning, I also had another by the top pool, a couple of Bullfinches were by the sidings and another couple by the top pool, on the main lake, 14 Pochard, just 28 Tufted Duck, 3 Goldeneye, 2 Great Crested Grebe and a couple of Common Gulls amongst the Black-headed Gulls.
In the nature reserve it was quite lively this morning with several Tit flocks going through which included, 4 Siskin, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Jay, 2 Treecreeper, 3 Chaffinch, a single Greenfinch and 2 Coal Tit.
Below is a poor picture of one of the Treecreepers.

A Sparrowhawk also went through one of the Tit flocks and a Buzzard flew overhead, on the old gas works the Stock Doves have increased to 3 and on the old sewage works a Kestrel was sat on the telegraph pole, this is my first this year at Westport, as shown in another poor picture below!

Just a quick look back into January, it's hasn't exactly been a barn storming month with just 59 species recorded, 6 down on 2010 and a massive 10 down on 2011.
Their have however been a few highlights, the biggie was the Iceland Gull which went through on the 21st, the first record at Westport since 2009, also 5 Pintail were present on the main lake for a few hours on the 11th, 5 Wigeon were on the main lake on the 5th, a distant flock of Golden Plover were the first to be recorded for a few years on the 11th, and a Green Woodpecker was a unusual find mid month, strange in that they normally hang around for a few weeks and months and not just a one day stay.