Looking Back At A Raid Over The Border To Boost The 2019 Year List

Long tailed Tit 2

Long-tailed Tits are always a delight to see on any day.

Our great friend Martin, a fellow North Wales birder, has recently taken early retirement and it was great to catch up with him. Martin picked up Alan here in Llandudno at 7am and they headed east crossing the border into England. Not having had the chance to go birding together for ages it was really good to have a whole day to get out and enjoy birds together, and hopefully boost the 2019 UK Year List.

First stop was at Hope Carr Nature Reserve, Greater Manchester where a very rare bird had been seen on and off recently, a Blyth’s Reed Warbler, a bird that should be wintering in India! The area can’t really be described as scenic, next to a rather whiffy sewage-works the area of scrub doesn’t look the sort of place a mega rare bird would be! But that is one of the most amazing things about birding – almost anything can turn up anywhere! Alan and Martin scanned the patches of bramble in the hope of catching sight of this rare warbler, that hadn’t been seen for three days but had been elusive in the past so worth a try. Two Chiffchaffs were the nearest thing they could find and Martin got a second year tick in the shape of a fly-over Green Sandpiper that Alan missed but he did add Stock Dove that Martin already had. After nearly three hours it was time to admit defeat and move on.

Bullfinch 1

Bullfinch another bird that is always a wonderful sight to enjoy.

At nearby Pennington Flash Country Park the car-park was just about full, the sunny weather and it being half-term locally had brought out lots of people to enjoy the lake. Martin and Alan headed across a grassy area to the edge of woodland and the “Bunting Hide”. Here, in front of the hide, was a well -stocked feeding station and plenty of birds. Beautiful Bullfinches showed off nice and close and Reed Buntings came in to feed on the plentiful food. They didn’t have to wait long, thankfully, for the target bird here, Willow Tit. This lovely fawn brown, black-capped tit made several visits to the feeders though always moving quickly making it very tricky to photograph. Long-tailed Tits also showed off here, one bird taking a peanut from the feeder, holding it in one foot the bird hung up-side down with the other foot and fed on the nut! Amazing bit of behaviour not noticed before and very funny to watch.

Corn Bunting 2 Spain

Corn Bunting are now very rare birds indeed in Wales so hopping across the border gave us a year tick.

Next an area of farmland not far from the flash where Martin had watched a large finch flock in January and perhaps the chance of more year ticks. Sadly, the stubble field that had held the finches had been ploughed and not a finch to be seen. Walking along the lane Skylarks were singing in the warm sunshine and Lapwing were on the ploughed field but no new birds. Then Martin spotted a bird on top of the hedge up-ahead, through the Leica telescope great views were had of a Corn Bunting! A great bird to see here and a year tick for both, brilliant, Corn Buntings are sadly very scarce these days. A second Corn Bunting popped up even closer and as they turned to walk back to the car three Tree Sparrows magically appeared in the hedge! Amazing the area had seemed devoid of “finches” on arrival then suddenly two target birds seen with moments of each other, job done!

Heading back west the Dee Estuary was the next stop; here it was cooler and windier but still plenty of birds. At Neston two Marsh Harriers hunted the partly flooded salt-marsh where big flocks of Pink-footed Geese call and masses of Black-headed Gulls swooped over the areas of water. Alan picked out a Green Sandpiper zooming low over the marsh, nice to get that one back.

Always a real thrill to see Short-eared Owls and a wonderful addition to the 2019 list.

Moving on to Parkgate Marsh, just to the north, more Marsh Harrier were on the wing quartering the grassland with at least four birds hunting here. Two wonderful ring-tail Hen Harriers allowed amazing views through the scopes in the late afternoon sunlight. Always a real thrill to watch these rare raptors as they floated on the breeze, Martin managed to get some photos. Martin had hoped to see a Short-eared Owl to add to his list and had just commented “does not look like any owls today” when Alan said “Short-eared Owl!” Sure enough there was a gorgeous Short-eared Owl slowing flying low over the marsh, luckily this wonderful bird was in the mood to show off and even perched on a post in the sun, wow! Three Great-white Egrets were also on show here along with waders, wildfowl and two Kestrels.

Cattle Egret doing what a Cattle Egrets do - follow cattle about.

Time to head back across the border into Wales but just time for one last bird, a Cattle Egret had been seen near the border in fields at Puddington so it was worth a look. The guys were very pleasantly surprised to see not a Cattle Egret but three Cattle Egrets! Amazing, these birds are still pretty rare up here so to see three together was a brilliant end to a great day out. Alan’s UK year list had shot up to 136 – not bad considering much of January was spent in Uganda where over 500 species were enjoyed!

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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