News archive

April 2011

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Pair of Scottish crossbills at nest

What are you 'lekking' at ?

We may have had to leave Wirral by 4.30 am, for a 5.30 start at Llandegla Forest, but all who attended agreed that the early morning start was well worth it. The moon had just sunk below the horizon and the sun was just a mere light smudge as we set off from the car park. The forest was already alive to the calls and songs of many birds. Within a short while we stumbled across a party of Crossbills, feeding high in the trees and keeping in contact with each other with their distinctive calls. Siskin also roamed about the forest, flying over and calling. Chaffinch were everywhere and we even heard Nuthatch calling. As we walked towards the hide we came across more parties of Crossbill and Siskin. Even before we arrived at the hide, we could hear the Black Cock's calls (really a series of strange squeaks and bubbles) as they strutted around the lek. On arriving at the hide we found up to 6 males 'strutting their stuff' about 300 yards in front of the hide. Despite being black and white they often proved very elusive to see as they moved in and out of the long grass. The looked almost comical but clearly for the Black Grouse this was serious business as the more dominant males tried to hold onto the central better ground of the lek. Some lucky watchers also found a female Ring Ouzel, a good find, but the bird flew off before most could see it. Several Tree Pipit (and the odd confusing Meadow Pipit!) could be heard calling and observed doing their 'parachute' display flight. A pair of Stonechat were out on the moor, perhaps a pair recently arrived to set up a breeding territory ? All too quickly it was time to return to the cars but on the way back we once again came across family parties Crossbill (even seeing a female feed a begging youngster), flocks of Siskin as well as Willow Warblers singing in the now warmer air. In one of the clearings within the forest we came across a female Redstart, whilst a surprise the bird was a welcome distraction from the 'usual' woodland birds we had expected to see. We may have been tired but our step quickened as we approached the centre - was it the lure of the award winning 'big breakfast' at the cafe? Our thanks go to Julie Rogers and her team of helpers, who with their tremendous knowledge about the forest and it's wildlife together with their friendly approach made this a morning to remember.