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Biggest Twitch
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A text message from Rob Sandham mid-morning asked if Alan, Ruth sadly otherwise engaged, fancied a trip to the Wirral to look for a Red-rumped Swallow seen earlier that day. He thought about it. Then came a text message from Martin Jones asking the same thing. Ok let’s ok for it! Quick email to Rob but unfortunately he could not get away until 1pm, but in the mean time had made arrangements to go with Marc Hughes. Back to Martin and plans were made to meet at Conwy RSPB at 11am.
Martin arrived bang on time, Alan had just seen five Common Sandpiper on the estuary but these were trumped by Martin’s Glaucous Gull as he came past Menai Bridge.
Quickly onto the A55 and east to the Wirral where the going was slower in traffic. But early afternoon saw them arrive at Moreton, near Birkenhead. The area did not look particularly promising, pretty built-up and what open areas there were, no public access. Near Carr Lane they spotted three birders stood by the road not looking at anything. We parked and walked over to join them. Long faces told the story before they asked no sign of the Red-rumped Swallow. No swallows or martins at all had been seen. Within seconds Alan and Martin picked up some House Martins feeding over some willow, quite distant. These came and went and came back, a few Barn Swallows passed through. A Sedge Warbler sang their first of the year and Martin got back Common Sandpiper flying over. After nearly an hour still no sign and Alan trudged back to the car to update Birdline North-West (09068 700249) with the news that the Red-rumped Swallow had gone. Birdline updated Alan returned to join Martin, before he could reach him Martin was shouting. The Red-rumped Swallow flew in with a group of House Martins and mobbed a Sparrowhawk right over-head! What a lovely bird with it’s pale orange rump, orange neck collar and long tail streamers, just great. Luckily this rarity stayed in view for several minutes and all five birders saw it well. All too soon the swallow drifted off west with the House Martins and apparently this was the last sighting of it, whew!
Martin was keen to add more birds to his year list and wanted Mandarin duck next. There is a site on the Wirral at Raeby Mere but neither of them could remember quite where it was. No problem, Martin opened his glove box in the car and produced the solution, no not a map, nothing so old fashioned. He had Satnav! The neat little device was placed on the dash board fired up, Raeby Mere entered and a voice announced “Turn around when possible” Martin did and they were off. Next thing was a bit of a surprise for Alan, a loud mooing noise came from the Satnav, did it detect farm animals? No speed cameras and for fun Martin had set the automated alert to sound like a cow! With more instructions from the Satnav we were soon at the mere.
No sign of any Mandarin on the first scan. A family were feeding some Mallard at the edge of the lake and seeing us called out “what are the orange ones?” Could be what they were looking for. Down at the waters edge they could see more of the lake shore and a pair of Mandarin were sitting on a log showing well. Excellent, they thanked the family and told them a little about their orange ducks and were out of there.
Quick drive down to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB reserve and they were very lucky, the wanted drake Green-winged Teal and drake Garganey were both seen quickly. These rare ducks were both visible from the field above the path down to the hide so this saved a good chunk of time. They also saw Spotted Redshanks, Avocets and a pair of Stock Doves.
Down to nearby Burton Marsh and a calling Green Woodpecker gave great views by the railway bridge. Out on the marsh a Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Little Egrets all showed but sign of the Spoonbill seen earlier in the day.
Next stop Frodsham and the chance of a long staying Cattle Egret near the River Weaver. They quickly found the spot but no sign of the egret. The cattle were in the field but no sign of a Cattle Egret. Walking down towards the farm a little gave a better view and there was a white blob next to a cow. The Cattle Egret was feeding by a small pond in a depression which has been hidden from view. Great views with the scope.
A wonderful afternoon birding, many thanks to Martin for driving and providing the high tech help to quickly find our birding sites, great fun.
Would you like to go birding with Alan? See Black Grouse leking? Upland raptors? Seabird colonies on Anglesey? Special birds of Snowdonia including Ring Ouzel and Twite? Classic North Wales – Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Redstart and Hawfinch? Or a tailor made day to suit you?
See below for details….
Would you like to come birding with The Biggest Twitch? Well now you can!
We are putting together a package of birding tours here in the UK, Europe and further a field using our huge experience to share our enthusiasm for birds, wildlife and wild places with you. We offer custom tours throughout the year in North Wales, day trips or longer to see all the special birds, dates to suit you. Who better to guide you than the author of “The Best Birdwatching Sites in North Wales”?
Highlights could include Red-billed Chough, Black and Red Grouse, Dipper, Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Goshawk, Atlantic Puffin, Ring Ouzel, Hawfinch.  Expect to see a lot of birds! or call Alan on 07778 677141We are offering the following trips as set departure tours:Galapagos Islands and Ecuador: April 2010 – there’s been a lot of interest already!
India, Tigers and the north: November 2010We offer custom tours to the following countries with dates to suit you for an individual tour, or you can join a group of like-minded people:Spain, visiting Extremadura and/or the Coto de Doñana
Eastern Turkey for wonderful birds and mountain scenery
Finland and Norway with the very best guides for all the owls and woodpeckersIf you would like more details of any of these, please email us at  We would love you to join us for wonderful birds and much more!


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