Birdwatchers: Whixall Moss 23rd November 2016

Our destination for November was Whixall Moss, a site without facilities. So we met on the Whitchurch bypass to take advantage of the services there. And from there we plunged into some of Shropshire’s country lanes. There was a signpost off the main road, but they were few and far between thereafter.

We stopped on the approach road to the Moss, where the fields either side were flooded after recent rain, and were very quickly into identifying a larger number of birds on the floods, in the vegetation and flying around. Fieldfares were much in evidence, with large numbers using fruiting shrubs to feed and larger trees to digest and rest in. Flocks of Lapwings seemed jittery, often taking to the air perhaps because a Buzzard was spotted sitting on a post (with another shortly after). Kestrel was our second raptor on electricity wires, Teal and Mallard were shifting around on the floods, and a couple of Meadow Pipits were seen in the wet grass.

Bill then picked out one Snipe, and Louise another, immobile among the wet grass clumps. And then a couple of birds gave us pause for thought, as they followed each other up and down a tree by a bridge, behaving almost as if they had a nest close by – a pair of Stonechats, in less than usual wetland habitat. A Jack Snipe flew over, its shorter bill plainly visible, and as we got up towards the canal, Redwings began to appear among the flocks of Fieldfare. There must have been an overnight arrival for so many winter thrushes to be around.

We drove up to the car park, and then set off into the moss on a tree-lined ride. Activity dwindled rapidly, and it wasn’t until we approached the open mossland that we ran into a feeding tit flock, which included the three common tit species, but also Long-tailed Tit, a couple of Goldcrests and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Out on the Moss we had to work hard to find additional birds for our list. Meadow Pipits were present, and we added a third perched Buzzard. We found another pair of wintering Stonechat, but of the hoped for Great Grey Shrike, and wintering raptors, despite diligent searching, no sign. We walked back to the car park, ate our sandwiches and added a Jay, fighting with a Magpie, to our tally.

Our second venue for the day was Ellesmere, a different deeper water environment producing a diverse suite of avifauna, thus increasing the number of new species for the day. Early gulls began to gather throughout the afternoon for their evening roost, with Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed prominent, with fewer Common and Herring. Great Crested and Little Grebes were seen fishing, along with 5 Goldeneye. Good numbers of Goosander were resting on the mere, with one flock containing 22 birds, and a similar number of Wigeon. A single genuine Greylag was seen on the far side of the lake among a number of farmyard imposters. A single iridescent large dark green duck caught our attention, generating much discussion. Two minutes with Google later confirmed it as a Cayuga duck, a domesticated breed originating in the US, often used as an ornamental bird.

A Peregrine flew directly over our heads near the visitor centre carrying its pigeon prey, while we searched for the reported Long-tailed Duck. Again no luck, although we did connect with the male Mandarin, following first Mallard and then Goosander along the far shore. So with the failure in finding either of our target birds, members gained an insight into the disappointment of a twitcher dipping on his or her quarry! The reducing temperature finally drove us back into our cars, and we set off for the hours’ journey home, with 49 species for the day.

                                                                                                                                   Richard Howells

Whixall Moss & Ellesmere Bird List 23rd November 2016

Greylag Goose Single at Ellesmere on far side of mere
Canada Goose Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Mute Swan Ellesmere
Mandarin Duck Ellesmere
Eurasian Wigeon Ellesmere
Mallard Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Teal Whixall Moss
Tufted Duck Ellesmere
Common Goldeneye Ellesmere 1 male + 4 females (approx)
Goosander Ellesmere 22 in one flock
Ring-necked Pheasant Whixall Moss, heard and seen.
Little Grebe ruficollis Ellesmere probably 4
Great Crested Grebe Ellesmere
Great Cormorant Ellesmere many roosting on the island
Grey Heron Ellesmere
Eurasian Buzzard 3 at Whixall Moss, all perched
Eurasian Kestrel Whixall Moss
Peregrine Ellesmere carrying Wood Pigeon
Common Moorhen Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Eurasian Coot Ellesmere
Northern Lapwing Whixall Moss
Jack Snipe Whixall Moss single flew over.
Common Snipe Whixall Moss 2 seen in flooded fields.
Black-headed Gull Ellesmere
Common Gull Ellesmere
Herring Gull Ellesmere
Lesser Black-backed Gull Ellesmere numbers increased in mid-afternoon
Feral Pigeon Ellesmere
Wood-Pigeon Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Great Spotted Woodpecker Whixall Moss, flew into tree scattering Fieldfare
Eurasian Jay Whixall Moss single interacting with Magpie.
Eurasian Magpie Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Rook Whixall Moss
Carrion Crow Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Great Tit Whixall Moss
Eurasian Blue Tit Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Long-tailed Tit Whixall Moss with tit flock central ride.
Winter Wren Whixall Moss
Goldcrest Whixall Moss
European Robin Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Stonechat Whixall Moss – 2 pairs
Eurasian Blackbird Whixall Moss
Fieldfare 100s Whixall Moss
Redwing Whixall Moss
European Starling Whixall Moss & Ellesmere
Meadow Pipit Whixall Moss
Chaffinch Whixall Moss
European Goldfinch Whixall Moss
Reed Bunting Whixall Moss on floods and with tit flock