A Cold Day Out Over The Border In Cheshire Mostly

A bitterly cold RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Cheshire.

We set off east along the North Wales coast, once the car had de-frosted, passing a winter landscape covered in snow. The car told us it was below freezing but we of course were lovely and warm with all our modern creature comforts, heated seats, heated steering wheel…

How times have changed and I thought of some of the early twitches, chases for rare birds, that I had set off for in winter. Way back in the 1970’s three of us left north Wales one winter evening, after work, and headed for Cornwall. It was so so cold; I can still remember it clearly all these years later. We were in Trevor Jones’s Triumph Herald, with a canvas sun roof, not good for below freezing! It got worse, reaching the midlands we hit freezing fog, we could bare see an inch! We could only continue to move forward by following the white-line on the edge of the hard shoulder! Not at all safe but we had a bird to see! We did eventually reach Cornwall, only after being stopped three times by the Police. Guess they could not believe a car from North Wales was on their roads in freezing fog in December in the middle of the night? Even funnier when Trevor told the officers he was from Llanfairfechan and we were going birdwatching.

We arrived before dawn, somehow, and tried to get some sleep before it was light enough to look for birds. It was so cold our breath froze on the inside of the car, it was like being in an igloo! Again we were disturbed by the law, a young policewoman knocked on the frosted up window, which at first was welded shut with ice, to ask if we were OK? Well, we were alive, but far from OK! So cold.

At last we realised that it was getting light through the ice on the inside of the windows and we tumbled out of the Herald into a Cornish dawn. At least it was dry and calm even if bitter cold. We jumped up and down trying to get feeling back into our limbs.

We join a few other dishevelled birders and walked along the river bank in search of our bird. Slowly the sun crept over the horizon but the temperature didn’t raise much. Then a large blue-grey and white bird flew along the river. You would not believe how quickly the bitter cold, discomfit and lack of sleep can be forgotten. Belted Kingfisher! What a fantastic bird, a lifer for all of us of course, and the first to ever be twitch able in the UK, elated! Luckily this Jackdaw sized Kingfisher perched above the river on a telegraph wire and we soaked up the views.

Eventually the cold was remembered and we headed off for a full fry-up proper breakfast and boy did it taste good!

Anyway, got a bit distracted there with the day-dreaming! Back on the cold A55 we neared the Wales – England border and turned off alongside an industrial estate just in Wales still. The flat fields here, close to the Dee Estuary often hold wild swans and we hoped to find some. The fields were white with snow, but not deep, and we saw some swans. We were able to get closer near Shotwick Boating Lake and through the Leica telescopes enjoyed wonderful views. Four species of swan here! Mute Swans of course but we noticed the bird on the left of the flock looked a bit smaller and through the scopes we were delighted to see it was a Bewick’s Swan, pretty rare in Wales, all be it only a few yards inside the border. At least two Bewick’s were in the flock along with Whoopers, tricky to count as some of the birds were in dead ground just their backs visible. As we watched these beautiful birds two escaped Black Swan flew in to complete the set. An Egyptian Goose was feeding nearby, another good bird for Wales and two Marsh Harriers hunted the area. Good to catch up with our great friend Allan Conlin, also birding here.

Bewicks Swan and Whooper Welney

Bewick's Swans, these photographed in Norfolk but very similar to ones we saw.

We ventured across the border into England, Cheshire in fact, and down to Burton Marsh on the Dee Estuary. It was a cold scene indeed; the whole vast vista was white with snow and frost, brrr. We had a scan but very few birds were on show. We opted for RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve just up the road and the hope of a hot drink.

All the pools were frozen over but we did get a hot chocolate! Scanning the frozen marsh we were lucky to see a Cattle Egret fly past, a great year tick. Two Marsh Harriers, same birds we had seen earlier, were back and forth over the icy scene, flushing waders including Common Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits and lots of Lapwings. Great to catch up with reserve regular Tony Lovatt here.

Next we continued east and met up with Mark Symes from Leica for a very nice pub lunch and to talk all things binoculars. We made lots of plans including some exciting ideas for Bird Fair so stay tuned here for more news soon. As always great to see Mark and lots of laughs.

Full of good food we drove the three miles south to Focalpoint Optics, Sevenoakes Sawmill, Northwich Road, Antrobus, Northwich, just a couple of minutes south off the M56. The new shop here looks great and has lots of birding kit! Amazing range of binoculars and telescopes here, and great to see a wide range of Leica kit, including Noctivid binoculars, the best in the world. If you have not tried the Noctivids yet pop down to Focalpoint Optics and you will be blown away.

As always we were greeted with a very warm welcome a cuppa and homemade cookies, we like coming here! It was great to bump into another old friend here too, John Gregory from Alan’s Birdline North West days.

A fun day seeing great birds and catching up with great people!

If you would more details on Leica optics or on any of our Birdwatching Trips please email us here…


We look forward to enjoying great birds and wildlife with you soon!

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