Trip reports

Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve

Giles Knight surveying choughs, N. Antrim

Sunday, 8 May 2016

On a very warm, sunny day nine members met at Woolston Eyes, a reserve situated under the M6
Thelwell Viaduct, known for its breeding Black-necked Grebe.

The reserve comprises mature trees, shrubs, rough meadow, wildflower meadow and pools which
are connected by a series of channels through the reeds and rushes. This makes for an extensive stretch of water with several hides affording excellent views.

We gathered on the wide cinder track alongside the Manchester Canal, with dense trees and shrubs. Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff emphasised the importance of the site for the warblers as well as the water birds.
Blackbird, Robin and Wren joined the chorus and Swift, Cormorant, Magpie and Wood Pigeon flew overhead.

We then drove along the track to park near the secured iron bridge across an offshoot of the Mersey.
This leads to the heart of the reserve, known as Bed 3, accessible only to members with a key. This is essentially to protect the site from vandalism, from which it has suffered in the past and provides an oasis for both members and the wildlife.
From the bridge we recorded Coot, Blackcap, Reed Bunting and Black-headed Gull (the first of many).

A Buzzard flew over as we walked up the grassy path towards the first screen hide, a Song Thrush and Great Tit were singing while, a Whitethroat declared its territory from a tall oak above bramble scrub.

From the screen we had our first view of a Black-necked Grebe, unfortunately keeping towards the back
of the pool. It was joined by a second, equally distant.
Greylag and Canada Geese were accompanied by Gadwall, Pochard, their chestnut heads resplendent in the sun, with Great-crested and little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Mallard, Lapwing, Mute swan, Coot and Moorhen, all looking at their best.
A Kestrel flew across, making only two birds of prey for the day.

Continuing along the path, we arrived alongside the rough meadow, we heard Grasshopper Warbler singing from large hawthorn bushes which were dotted about the meadow. Sadly, although we heard them several times, we were never to see them during the visit.

From the Tower hide, we added Reed and Sedge Warbler, with the islands dominated by very noisy and quarrelsome Black-headed Gulls.

A few members decided to brave the hot sun by taking lunch outside on a conveniently-placed bench, while the rest retreated to a relatively new and large Tower hide. The height afforded a cooling breeze and we were entertained by pair of Greylag with 10 goslings in tow and a pair of Canada with six bright yellow goslings, struggling up a steep bank.
A juvenile heron was joined by two adults to feed in a boggy channel where the reeds had been cut, and we were able to compare juvenile and adult Lesser black-backed Gulls.

From the last hide we heard a Water Rail and, finally, had close-up views of a pair of Black-necked Grebe, enjoying a tranquil stretch of water. We only counted four in total, but one of the wardens we met said ten had arrived with many more to come.

We recorded several species of butterfly : Orange tip, Peacock, Small white, Brimstone, Speckled wood and Small tortoiseshell.

Finally, we circuited the wild flower meadow with Grasshopper Warbler, still singing and still no sighting! Nevertheless, we had all enjoyed the day, especially in such lovely weather.