News archive

March 2017

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sparrows on top, but a bad year for tits

Sparrows on top, but a bad year for tits

We've been sifting through around half a million people's Big Garden Birdwatch sightings - a total of over 8 million birds. And finally, the results are in.
This year saw an increase in the numbers of birds visiting gardens. For example, in 2016, starlings were seen in 40% of gardens in 2016, compared with 50% this year. Thank you to everyone who is giving nature a home in their garden: with more birds visiting gardens this year, there's a reward for your efforts.
A bad year for tits

This year's Big Garden Birdwatch saw a downturn in sightings of blue tits, great tits and coal tits - all down by at least 10% on last year's figures


There was an explosion in the number of waxwings visiting gardens this year. A lack of berries in their native Scandinavia prompted an "irruption" of these stunning birds, with hundreds of sightings across the UK, even as far west as Wales and Ireland.

Pied wagtails

These bobbing black and white birds moved up the garden charts to a new high of 29 this year. They are frequently seen in urban areas, dashing about pavements and car parks in search of food, and often gather at dusk to form large roosts in city centres.

Merseyside House sparrow 1
Merseyside Blackbird 2
Merseyside Starling 3
Merseyside Woodpigeon 4
Merseyside Blue tit 5
Merseyside Goldfinch 6
Merseyside Magpie 7
Merseyside Robin 8
Merseyside Great tit 9
Merseyside Feral pigeon 10
Merseyside Collared dove 11
Merseyside Dunnock 12
Merseyside Long-tailed tit 13
Merseyside Chaffinch 14
Merseyside Coal tit 15
Merseyside Common gull 16
Merseyside Carrion crow 17
Merseyside Greenfinch 18
Merseyside Jackdaw 19
Merseyside Wren 20

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mum's go free this Mothers' Day at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Mum's go free this Mothers' Day at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Mum's go free this Mothers' Day at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Enjoy a family day out at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands this Mothers' Day (26 March) where mums will be treated to free entry and a free hot drink whilst taking in the wildlife spectacle on offer. Dozens of elegant avocets, one of the nature reserve's star birds, will be preparing to raise their families, whilst a stroll along the nature trails will get visitors close to budding trees and early spring flowers.
Throughout March families can take part in the 'Baby Birds trail' - a self-led quiz to learn more about the reserve's resident birds and their young ones. Normal admission charges apply to non-members, no additional charge for the event. Available 9.30 am-4.30 pm daily in March.
On any day, Explorer Backpacks are available to hire packed with everything needed to discover more about the creatures that call Burton Mere Wetlands home. No booking required, cost £2.50. Families can also have a go at self-led den building close to the visitor facilities, at no additional cost.
Visitors can currently enjoy lunch at the reserve, as the RSPB has teamed up with a local catering van business offering hot and cold sandwiches, soup and burgers on-site from Wednesday to Sunday every week between 10.30 am and 3.30 pm.
Venue: RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Puddington Lane, Burton, Cheshire, CH64 5SF

Contact: For further details visit or phone the visitor reception on 0151 353 8478.

Burton Mere Wetlands is the gateway to the RSPB's Dee Estuary nature reserve. From the comfort of the reception building, visitors can see nesting avocets and lapwings in the summer and huge flocks of ducks, geese and swans in winter. Water voles and badgers are resident here, whilst the summer months are alive with flickering colours from the countless dragonflies and butterflies.

Four miles up the road at Parkgate, the vast saltmarsh provides internationally important habitat for thousands of wading birds and wildfowl, but one of the biggest draws are the birds of prey and owls; hen harriers, peregrine falcons and short-eared owls are amongst the most captivating winter visitors. During exceptionally high spring tides, the saltmarsh becomes flooded and the resident harvest mice, field voles and the like can be seen fleeing the rising water.

Point of Ayr lies at the tip of the Welsh side of the estuary, where thousands of wading birds gather to roost at high tide, and a huge variety of migrant birds stop off to feed and nest on the saltmarsh. Natterjack toads breed in the sand dunes and the critically endangered Sandhill Rustic Moth thrives here.

A programme of events runs at all three sites throughout the year, please visit

Location and opening times:
RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Puddington Lane, Burton, Cheshire, CH64 5SF. The reserve is open every day except Christmas Day, 9 am until dusk (up to 9 pm in summer). Our visitor reception is open 9.30 am-5 pm, February to October, and 9.30 am-4.30 pm November to January.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

John Shrikes Gold? As You Shrike It?

John Shrikes Gold? As You Shrike It?

Like a fair few others in the group I've signed up for the 200 bird challenge. Although I've kept a year list for the past few years I've found I've enjoyed having a more focused target than the more open-ended 'pot as many birds as you can' approach. Apart from raw numbers, another part of the quest was to try to discover some new locations rather than focusing on the old favourites (so no visit to cold, blustery Marshside just yet).

Having signed up to the our What's App group I noticed that the Frodsham Little Stints seemed to be hanging around and, as it would be a new site for me, with birds that wouldn't be scared of a drop of rain should the weather be inclement, I decided to give it a go.

Armed with my trusty 'Where to Watch Birds: North West England' book (a Christmas present from a few years back) I set out from the station and, consulting the map for the Frodsham walk in said tome, promptly took a wrong turning at the end of Marsh Lane. Not the end of the world, just a slightly longer walk to Number 6 tank, favoured hangout of the Little Stints. After crossing the bridge over the M56 I tried to work out my location from the map. I gave up Geography before GCSE, colouring-in never being my forte, and was trying to get my bearings (was that slightly flooded field on my right really number 6 tank? Can't see what all the fuss is about personally. Maybe it's just because the tide's out) when, I noticed a plump-looking bird on top one of the trees at the end of said field.

One of the birding sayings I've come to value is 'What else could it have been?' It certainly wasn't a magpie and I knew it had to be a Grey Shrike but... which one? Was I to be denied a lifer, and my best self-found bird to date because I was iffy on the distinction between Great and Lesser Butcher Birds of the Grey variety?
So, on to What's App I went, raising my eyes every few seconds to keep my eyes on the bird, which seemed perfectly happy atop its thorny perch. Within minutes I had half a dozen replies, then Chris Tynan called to say he was on his way, having already put the sighting up on Birdguides, plus other local birding websites. Eep!

As you can imagine, this was not the best time to look up and see that the bird had flown. But it clearly liked these particular trees so it'd come back... wouldn't it?
Seeing as it'd take Chris a while to get to Frodsham I continued on the walk around number six tank, thinking I'd meet him at Marsh Lane. Though it was wet and muddy it wasn't actually raining and there was other birdlife about - three Stonechats were nice to see after that particularly harsh winter a few years back, as were a pair of calling Raven, plus a Kestrel and Buzzard. I met Chris scoping the waders (Stints keeping their heads down) and we started to make our way back to Marsh Lane. The first sign of the impressive speed of the local grapevine was a car coming the other way, who followed us to the site. Though the bird was no longer on its favoured perch, Chris quickly got on to it and confirmed it.
And thus the Great Grey Shrike passed from a 'probable' to a confirmed' and I've spent most of the last two days feeling like I'm floating six inches off the floor!

So, to sum it all up, the system works - I got quick diagnostic help, Chris got the info out quickly so that a fair few of our group got to see it (as well as other local birders), the local warden said that there'd been one a couple of years back but, before then, there'd hadn't been one for thirty years (after which I was floating nine inches off the floor) so it'll now go on the his blog and do its bit to raise the profile of Frodsham Marsh as a site and I suspect it may well merit a mention in the rarities section of a future edition of BirdWatching magazine.
Which, considering I went the wrong way at the wrong time (it was low tide so, rarity apart, it was generally pretty quiet) is quite a result.

Don't forget we have a popular, well used Whatsapp group - Contact Chris Tynan to join group 07831 352870

Short video Shrike hunting/hovering: