Saturday, 18 November 2017

November 18th

Pretty quite this morning just eighteen Canada Geese over heading west , six drake Pochard still . Good numbers of Bullfinch around eight birds possibly more , along with Goldcrest , Treecreeper , Goldfinch and plenty of Long-tailed Tits.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

November 15th

Six drake Pochard this morning along with 100 Coot , 73 Tufted Duck , 33 Mallard , eight Great Crested Grebe's and a single Little Grebe . Four Canada Geese flew over heading north , also noted Jay , Goldcrest , Grey Wagtail , Bullfinch , Greenfinch , Goldfinch and good numbers of Long-tailed Tits. The single overwintering Chiffchaff has been seen on three occasions now feeding on the overhanging Willows around the mere. You will find all the sightings on the information board situated on the wall at the visitor's centre.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Pochard Decline

We currently have four drake Pochard which hopefully will be joined by a few more as the weeks go by and stay with us for the winter period. It was a different story not so many years ago with counts at Astbury Mere above fourty during the winter period not uncommon. Numbers continue to fall both locally and also right across North West Europe . The UK breeding total is around 500 pairs , but during the winter it is estimated that around 59,000 arrive here from the breeding grounds in the east . Their long movements are explicable because the shallow waters that they favour are likely to be the first to freeze . The numbers reaching the UK have however dropped considerably in recent years as the warming climate allows more lakes and rivers in eastern Europe and Russia to remain ice free , so Pochard do not need to move as far. There is a strong differential migration with females moving farther south , probably due to the aggression from the earlier migration of males. But where both sexes share the same site the females hold their own and do not loose out on feeding opportunities . Pochard are largely an inland species and not so long ago most of the larger meres in Cheshire held good numbers of this scarce breeding bird. Pochard are primarily vegetarian , diving for their food in shallow water with abundant plant life although they do take small invertebrates .

Monday, 13 November 2017

November 13th

Another cold and frosty start this morning crisp underfoot . Not a great deal to mention pretty quite really the Aythya (Pochard X Tufted) is still present also a single Little Grebe and three drake Pochard . Tufted Duck numbers are holding steady with a count of 73 along with 100 Coot , and we still have eight Great Crested Grebe's present . A Grey Heron was fishing along the fisherman's side and a single Raven called overhead. Eight Bullfinch noted on my walk around also a couple of calling Goldcrest.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Our first drake Goldeneye for three years was on the mere yesterday afternoon , we usually get a couple of females overwinter but it's nice to see a drake back will it stay!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Mike Atkinson Photography

A big thank you to local bird photographer Mike Atkinson for letting me use some of his suberb images for our web site. Look on the links section to view some of Mike's work he also runs Bird Photography tutorials a must for any up and coming bird photographer.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Aythya Hybrid

A interesting Aythya duck arrived just over two weeks ago on 23rd October. At first it kept its distance and identification was a little tricky , but over time it has become more confiding and the features of Pochard X Tufted Duck can clearly be seen . Hybrids can always prove a challenge until true parentage becomes obvious. The male of this pairing can be confused with Scaup but are generally smaller and can have a peaked head appearance . The Pochard influence makes the mantle and flanks darker , greyer and more solid looking than Scaup , while head may show a brown tint at close range. Unlike Scaup bill shows large black tip and wing stripe shows grey colouration characteristic of Pochard. Just look at the middle image and see how much the head colour can change at different angles.

November 8th

Looks like we have an overwintering Chiffchaff as one was calling then seen feeding in over hanging willows on the waters edge , just to the left of the sailing club this morning. Also noted were three Cormorants , single Grey Heron ,and only handful of Redwing passing overhead . A couple drake Pochard still present and two Raven overhead. The Aythya hybrid duck Pochard X Tufted Duck was showing really well early morning .

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

November 7th

Our second ever Hawfinch this morning found by Jack just after 7-30 along the top wood , just seven days after our first one. Eleven Teal were new in overnight and the four Pochard are still present. The Aythya Hybrid (Pochard X Tufted) was showing very well this morning so I managed to run off some more image's just for reference purposes as the plumage is changing. Twenty seven Redwing flew over heading east along with three Fieldfare and a single Stock Dove. The resident Sparrowhawk was seen on couple of occasions , and Pied and Grey Wagtails were on the sailing Club shoreline. Jack had a Great Black Backed Gull just after first light this morning leave the mere , this is the first confirmed record for over three years.
Aythya Hybrid (Pochard x Tufted).

Monday, 6 November 2017

November 6th

Nice little selection early morning , Fly overs included 317 Wood Pigeon , 7 Fieldfare , 13 Redwing , 2 Stock Dove , single Raven, 2 Lapwing , 3 Rook and 3 female Goosander . Also noted Grey Heron feeding along the fisherman's shore , three drake and a female Pochard , Little Grebe , Grey and Pied Wagtails , six Bullfinch , two Jay , Goldcrest , Nuthatch and Kingfisher.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Sightings Board

Sightings board up and running located at the visitor's center by the main doors.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

November 2nd

Great Spotted Woodpecker , Coal Tit , Goldcrest and Treecreeper all in visitor's center car park this morning , also Siskin over. M Stubbs. Drake Pochard and Little Grebe on the mere and Aythya Duck still present .

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

November 1st

Brambling calling again as it flew over this morning this is the third time in the last four days now , so possibly feeding either around the mere or very close by. Also a single Cormorant over. M Stubbs.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Oct 31st

A juvenile Peregrine made three attempts at trying to take a Coot off the water at 7-30 this morning but failed miserably . We now have two female Pochard but no sign of yesterday's female Wigeon and Goldeneye . The Aythya type duck is still present and two Grey Wagtails were feeding by the sailing club. We should have our bird information board up this week just had my keys from Matt the ranger , also there will be more information on Duck counts , and monthly sightings etc inside the visitor's center.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Hawfinch site first

BOOM......Hawfinch flying over south at 7-30 . Whilst doing another Vis mig this morning a single Hawfinch flew south this is the first record for this species at the site . With hundreds daily reported on the birdlines moving through the country it was only a matter of time. Watched between 7-00 and 8-30 this morning it soon became obvious that there was not the numbers moving like yesterday . Total for one half hours was 434 Wood Pigeon , 31 Redwing , 11 Fieldfare , 16 Meadow Pipits , 4 Pied Wagtails , 2 Siskin , and a single Brambling . Also noted were a female Sparrowhawk , 5 Rook , 2 Grey Wagtail , 13 Goldfinch and a Grey Heron . A female Goldeneye flew in at 8-10 and was photographed also on the water was a female Wigeon and female Pochard .
Goldeneye (female).

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Vis Mig this morning

Two and half hours at first light with Mark Stubbs produced 1200 plus Wood Pigeon , 87 Redwing , 23 Fieldfare , 92 Starling , 500 plus B H Gulls , 43 Lapwing , 36 L B B Gulls , 3 Siskin , 1 Brambling , 4 Meadow Pipits , 5 Rook , Sparrowhawk , 2 Tawny Owl , Kingfisher , 3 Grey Wagtail , 8 Pied Wagtails , Grey Heron , female Pochard and a drake Shoveler .......................................... To put the above into a bit more detail Mark arrived about fourty minutes before me while it was still dark and heard the two Tawny Owls calling and Pipistrelle Bats flying around. Just before I arrived he had Redwing calling overhead and then a Brambling. I arrived just as it was getting light and it was obvious that Wood Pigeons were moving in good numbers with small flocks of tens and twenties going over , we ended up with around 1200 birds. Redwing and Fieldfare started to appear with again small numbers of anywhere from four to ten birds at a time. Two Siskin flew over together then later another single appeared . Two counts of Lapwing with eight and then thirty five these are still scarce birds at the site with only a single being recorded this year. Four Meadow Pipits passed over again not regular at this site. And the Brambling record is only the second in last seventeen years. Small numbers of Starlings were also moving in total we had ninety two. Around 500 Black-headed Gulls also flew from there roosting site along with 36 Lesser Black Backed Gulls. All this took place during first two hours of daylight by 9-00 it had almost stopped.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

October 26th

Tufted Duck numbers are still increasing possibly due to sailing club not sailing at present due to the amount of green algae on the water. A count of 86 this morning which is thirty plus more than last week . The Aythya hybrid duck is still present and we now have two Little Grebe's back hopefully they will winter here . There are eight Great Crested Grebe's that includes the three juveniles , also a good number of Black-headed Gulls this morning . Meadow Pipits and Skylark's flew over but not in any good numbers , also a single Raven , Buzzard and Sparrowhawk . Also noted this morning Kingfisher, Jay , Goldcrest , Bullfinch , Greenfinch , Chaffinch , Goldfinch and a party of twelve Long-tailed Tits.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Hybrid Link

Check out this link for Tufted x Pochard hybrids....................

October 25th

Aythya Duck still present of which I took another set of images this time with better light. Also Kingfisher and Little Grebe along with a male Sparrowhawk and a single Grey Wagtail . Four Skylark and couple of Meadow Pipits passed over heading south along with a single Raven and two Cormorants . Four Goldcrest were amongst a large Long-tailed Tit flock which had at least 16 individuals .Still not had the first Redwings of the autumn yet with loads of berry laiden trees in the car park Iam sure it won't be long. Some images to follow later.
(male Sparrowhawk).
Aythya Hybrid .
Aythya Hybrid .

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Aythya Hybrid

Second bite at the cherry today just had to see if I could get better images the light was against me but the bird was a lot closer, my thoughts now are Tufted / Pochard hybrid but I would love to be proved wrong. Identification of Tufted × Pochard hybrid male generally smaller than Scaup , with slightly peaked head appearance . Pochard influence makes mantle and flanks darker , greyer and more solid looking than Scaup's while head may show brown tint at close range . Unlike Scaup bill shows large black tip , wing bar often shows grey coloration . Whatever it is it's certainly interesting.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Interesting Aythya Duck

Scanning through the Tufted Ducks this morning I came across a Aythya duck that stopped me in my tracks , my fist thought was immature drake Greater Scaup but something wasn't right it seems to small , then immature drake Lesser Scaup went through my mind , having seen and found a couple over the years but then again they were slightly easier they were all adult drakes , but the head shape and bill don't look right. It certainly is interesting and could just be one of those Aythya Hybrids that never get solved possibly a Tufted / Pochard cross maybe. A few phone calls were made and it wasn't long before Andy , Mark and Jack turned up there after we had a lengthy discussion. Also noted today were Little Grebe , Kingfisher ,and passing overhead two Raven , 12 Skylark (scarce at the mere), single Meadow Pipit , Pied and Grey Wagtail .Images below are the best I could manage from the distance it was, it never came close at all. If it stays and moults out it might show its true identity, if anyone has any thoughts at all please get in touch .

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Late Swallow's

Jack had six late Swallow's over the mere yesterday also a single Little Grebe.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Pochard Back

The first returning Pochard of the autumn have arrived back with a pair on the mere this morning . Also a Peregrine was seen attempting to catch Wood Pigeons on a couple of occasions but gave it up as a bad job and moved off east. Two Cormorant flew over heading south and a pair of Grey Wagtails were feeding along sailing club shore line. Also noted a single Jay , two Bullfinch and a count of 97 Coot so numbers still rising.
Peregrine .
Pochard (female).
Pochard (female).

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Back to reality

After two weeks in Norfolk of Harrier's , Crane's and Owls etc it's now back to the the mere and reality. No sign of yesterday's female Goldeneye that Andy saw but duck numbers are increasing with 42× Mallard , 57×Tufted Duck and 63×Coot . Still a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebe's with three juveniles and a single Canada Goose . 105× Wood Pigeon flew over in a single flock heading south but no sign as yet of any Redwings. Also noted were a couple of Jays and Rooks a single Bullfinch and a Grey Wagtail feeding along the shoreline . Like I said earlier back to reality with a bang !

Friday, 13 October 2017


The first Goldeneye of the autumn was found today by A Goodwin , also a single singing Chiffchaff.

Monday, 9 October 2017


Twenty three Wigeon and a female type Pintail at the mere this afternoon , M Stubbs. Both these species are scarce at this site and the Pintail record being only the second in last ten years.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Dragons Added

I have just been passed some old Dragonfly records from the Cheshire county recorder and we can add Blue-tailed Damselfly and Black-tailed Skimmer to the site list. I am still in Norfolk for another week , so hopefully update site on my return. Some good news from Matt the ranger we are being allowed a sightings information board which the trust is kindly paying for . And it will be fixed on the wall of the visitor's centre and hopefully myself and a couple of birding colleagues will be able to keep it updated on a regular basis. Many thanks to David Kitching for the Dragonfly information , and a big thank you to the Trustees of Astbury for agreeing and funding our wildlife information board.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Moth Nights

Their are no more moth nights planned this year but hopefully will continue next spring with at least one a month through untill Autumn watch this space.

Missing Records

Has anyone seen these three little beauties during past twenty years or so at the site, as there are no records for them at all . Small Heath , Wall and Dark-green Fritillary. Images below to jog your memory.
Small Heath.
Dark-green Fritillary.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bats and Migration

Met up with Mark just after 6-00 this morning and this time he had his bat detector . We had good numbers of Soprano Pipistrelle flying around our heads along with common Pipistrelle and also picked up the calls of Brown Long-eared and Noctule. Mark thought he had Daubentens aswell but not 100% sure so we left of the list , so we do have all five of the common species here at Astbury . It was then getting light so decided to have couple hours watching the skies for any signs of migration . We had 27 Meadow Pipits , 10 Swallow , 3 Grey Wagtail , 3 Pied Wagtails and two possible Stock Dove and five Greylag Geese all heading south . A flock of 45 Mallard arrived obviously disturbed from another water close by . Three Sparrowhawk in the air together possibly adults and a single juvenile or could possibly have been three juveniles but to far away to confirm , also three Rook flew south not a common site here . The now resident Kingfisher made several fly bye's , four Cormorant flew straight over and another single dropped onto the water . A single Grey Heron was disturbed by fisherman , still several Chiffchaff calling along with Bullfinch and Goldcrest . And Mark had Buzzard over which I missed , so all in all not a bad couple of hours at the Mere.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Bat Walk

Mark walked around at half-light this morning and came across 13 small Pipistrelle Bats which were either Common or Soprano . He said he could not rule out others like Long-eared , Noctule and Daubentens. I think Mark is intending to go back early one morning with a bat detector to find out what is exactly there.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtails are not that common at the mere but there is a pair that breed nearby and visit on occasions. So it was nice to be able to capture this juvenile in some nice early morning light on the sailing club beach. Also noted this morning were several Chiffchaff still singing , a single Raven over and the Kingfisher still present. Mark Stubbs had a walk around mid-morning and picked up Meadow Pipits, Great Spotted Woodpecker , Nuthatch , Jay , two Buzzard's and Goldcrest . Butterflies noted two Comma , Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Missing Records

Here is a list of Birds , Butterflies and Dragonflies that there are no records for from Astbury . Please look closely at the list you may just have seen one on your visit to the mere and just passed it off without a second thought. Iam trying to put all records onto a database so they are all in one place your help is needed with absent sightings. If you recognise any on the list below please get in touch by the e mail listed or contact one of our park Rangers who will pass the information on. Birds.......Bewick Swan , Mandarin , Little Egret , Snipe , Ringed Plover , Osprey , Glaucous Gull , Arctic Tern , Wood Warbler , Grasshopper Warbler , Spotted Flycatcher , Pied Flycatcher , Firecrest , Common Redpoll ................. Butterflies.......Small Heath , Wall , Dark Green Fritillary ........ Dragonflies........Blue-tailed Damselfly , Emerald Damselfly , Black-tailed Skimmer , Four-spotted Chaser , Migrant Hawker , Emperor Dragonfly and Ruddy Darter.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Foggy Start

A foggy start this morning it wasn't until around 9-30 that it started to clear. And when it did it turned out to be quite a nice morning with lovely blue skies.I spent most the morning around the conservation area as you couldn't see a thing on the water . Plenty of activity with a family party of Bullfinch 's and Goldfinch's , also female Sparrowhawk made a pass but was unsuccessful. Two Chiffchaff were also present and a single Jay flew over.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Monday 18th September

A party of seven Bullfinch two adults and five juveniles have been present in the conservation area for around a week now . Today was the first time I managed a photo of one of the juveniles. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling from by the visitor's centre , and five Swallow's over the car park. The Kingfisher was seen again in gorsey corner early morning and a single Grey Wagtail was in front of the sailing club. Several Chiffchaff are still in good voice and on the water there are 77 Coot , 40 Tufted Duck , 24 Mallard , six adult Great Crested Grebe and four juveniles.
Bullfinch (juvenile).

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Species Month by Month

We don't get that many species of birds at the mere compared with other waters nearby but each month is consistent with between 52 and 54 per month with April being the exception with 59. January 52... February 54... March 55... April 59... May 54...June 53... July 52... August 54. At present September stands at 54 species for the month . We are also one up on last year's final total with 87 species for the year.

Sunday 17th Sept

Decided to get up early and see if I could see any Pink-footed Geese going over as there were a few reports local yesterday morning, with skiens moving west to east. At 6-00 I saw the early cloud and low mist so didn't bother wrong move. A text from Mark Stubbs saying he had a few Meadow Pipits moving over then a call saying adult Hobby our first sighting this year made me move. Total from Mark was thirteen Mipits , three Pied Wagtails , single Grey Wagtail , a adult Hobby and the Kingfisher. Also noted was a single Mistle Thrush , five Bullfinch around twelve Swallow's moving through and a female Sparrowhawk .

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

New site record

Many thanks to Colin Lythgoe for letting me have some of his old birding records for Astbury in year 2007 and 2010 , his sightings have given us another new record for the site . He watched a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for 20 minutes on 08/01/10 that now brings the site list to 144 species. Please if you have any old records look at the species list on the right hand side of this page you might find out that you are sitting on a rare or scarce record for the sight , or even a first . How common you may think your sighting is please send it to myself e mail listed on side of page , or I visit daily if you see me say hello and have a chat . Or pass them onto Matt the ranger of the park who will forward them on . Regards Steve.

Wednesday 13th Sept

They only thing new in this morning were three Sand Martin's and a single Swallow.
Wood Pigeon.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Tuesday 12th Sept

Another early start in hope again of something out of the ordinary arrived at 6-30 to finally see the Kingfisher dart across in front of me , managed to catch up with it another four times on my walk around. Alas no rare gulls this morning just the usual Black-headed Gull flock which is getting larger by the day. Two Common Tern's dropped in at 6-45 and departed again at around 7-00 took a few photos but light poor at that time in morning. Five Chiffchaff were heard singing also a couple young Willow Warblers , and three Bullfinch were noted. A Common Sandpiper flew from sailng club shore and disappeared over the far side along fisherman's shoreline.Five House Martin's circled over the car park as I was leaving .

Monday, 11 September 2017

Monday 11th Sept

With strong overnight north westerlies I set off for a early morning walk around the mere in anticipation that something just something might have got blown in !!!!!! NOTHING. Just the normal Grebe's , Coots , Mallards and Tufted Ducks. A couple of Chiffchaff were singing and a large party of Long-tailed Tits feeding in overhanging Willows. Eighteen Wood Pigeon went south overhead along with a single Stock Dove . A Raven flew west then half hour later back east and a Cormorant attempted to land but thought twice about it and flew south. Just before I left seven Canada Geese flew in . John had a Kingfisher again in gorsey corner at mid day , and I paid another visit at 18-00 to no avail just three Swallow's and a single House Martin.
1st winter Black-headed Gull.
Canada Geese.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday 9th

A brief look at the Mere this evening in the hope of something different but alas it wasn't to be. Eight adult Great Crested Grebe's noted along with the four juveniles. Numbers of Black headed Gulls are starting to increase .

Book Launch

A must for all serious Cheshire Birders out today Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire & Wirral , by Allan Conlin & Eddie Williams.