Keyless at Woolston, Remanded to Risley – 8 May 2013

A dozen birdwatchers met up in Sandbach on a warm, windy morning to find that the key to open the treasures of Woolston had been mislaid. An alternate destination was sought and nearby Risley Moss came to mind. And we were quickly up the 20 miles of motorway to the M62, and parking up at Warrington’s Risley Moss LNR. Not renowned as a bird-rich environment, that and the emergent leaves on the trees ensured that it was difficult to see birds, and that hearing them was to be at least as important. And so we set to work with a will.

The car park had its resident guardian Robin, and a Chiffchaff’s song was heard. And as we moved off, a Garden Warbler serenaded us from the picnic ground. We walked through woodland to the Mossland Hide to find a Canada on a nest and a pair of Tufted Ducks. A Lesser Black-backed Gull flew over, and just outside the hide a Willow Warbler’s descending, wandering trill assured us that summer(!) would be here soon.

We walked back to the Woodland Hide, and watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker with its beak buried in a feeder. The usual suspect Tits were making good use of the feeders, with the occasional Coal Tit joining them. A Chaffinch hoovered up the spillage and a Jay zoomed around the background.

We moved on to Risley’s main draw, the Tower Hide, overlooking a wide mossland view until the eyes are drawn to the Tip in the middle distance. In front of the viewing area stood a solitary silver birch, and from its branches several birds sang. The first was Yellowhammer bemoaning the loss of its cheese, then the Whitethroat’s scratchy song played out and finally a Willow Warbler joined in. A couple of Linnets bounced around the foreground, and a couple of Redshanks paddled in a shallow pool. Overhead a Sparrowhawk glided into view from the wood behind us, and Snipe fled away over the Moss. A Buzzard and a Swift were picked out over the tip.

A mobile phone message informed us of the availability of a spare key to Woolston, so lunch at the Tower Hide’s picnic tables was rapidly consumed, and a Blackcap was both seen and heard on the walk back to the car park. And we were soon walking across the suspension bridge into Woolston Eyes No 3 bed. The first blind and the Sybil Hogg hide proved fruitful with Tufted, Canada, Shoveler and Pochard all present in small numbers, and a Whitethroat sang from reedtops in front of the hide. Attention was then focussed on a pair of smallish birds diving to feed. The dark heads and yellow-bronze eyefans quickly identified them as Black-necked Grebes, the species for which Woolston is famous. Gadwall drifted out from behind the reeds, while Reed Buntings crash-landed into the top of them.

We walked on to the massive John Morgan hide, where the star attraction’s label went to the Swift, as a flock of 30 or more hawked insects under lowering skies – another species whose appearance is associated with summer’s coming. A couple of Great Crested Grebes pointed at each other and a single Greylag swam across the lagoon, while we picked out House Martin from the crowd of Swallows.

And suddenly it was over, rush hour approached and we made our way home on the back roads, reflecting on the 51 species seen, 35 at Risley and 31 at Woolston.

Bird List – Woolston Eyes – Sandbach U3A Trip – 8 May 2013


Risley Moss  Woolston Eyes
Mute Swan Entrance lagoon
Greylag Goose John Morgan hide
Greater Canada Goose On nest, Mossland Hide Seen from blind.
Shelduck Seen from Sybil Hogg Hide
Gadwall Seen from Sybil Hogg Hide
Mallard Common Common
Shoveler Seen from Sybil Hogg Hide
Pochard Seen from Sybil Hogg Hide
Tufted Duck Seen from Mossland Hide Seen from Sybil Hogg Hide
Pheasant Heard from Mossland Hide Seen near Tower Hide
Great Crested Grebe Sybil Hogg & John Morgan hides
Black-necked Grebe 3 seen from blind & Sybil Hogg hide
Cormorant Seen flying down ship canal
Grey Heron Seen from Tower Hide
Sparrowhawk Seen from Tower Hide
Buzzard Seen from Tower Hide, over tip Seen over north side of reserve
Moorhen Seen from Mossland Hide Seen from Sybil Hogg hide
Common Coot Seen from John Morgan hide
Lapwing Seen from Mossland Hide
Common Snipe Seen from Tower Hide in flight
Redshank 2 from Tower Hide 2 from Sybil Hogg & 2, John Morgan
Black-headed Gull Seen from Tower Hide Breeding on small islands throughout
Lesser Black-backed Gull Seen from Mossland Hide
Stock Dove Seen from Mossland Hide
Wood-Pigeon Seen from car park
Swift Seen from Tower Hide, over tip 30 hawking seen from John Morgan
Swallow Several over Main Lagoon
House Martin 2 over Main Lagoon
Great Spotted Woodpecker Seen from Woodland Hide
Wren Seen & heard several times Central area
Dunnock Seen from Woodland Hide
Robin Seen from car park Seen from John Morgan hide
Blackbird Seen on woodland walk Central area
Sedge Warbler 1 near blind, 1 from John Morgan
Blackcap Seen & heard near Visitor Centre
Garden Warbler One singing in Picnic Area One heard
Whitethroat Seen from Tower Hide One in front of blind
Chiffchaff Seen & heard from car park
Willow Warbler Seen & heard from Mossland Hide
Blue Tit Seen from Woodland Hide
Great Tit Seen from Woodland Hide Seen from Tower Hide
Coal Tit Seen from Woodland Hide
Jay Seen from Woodland Hide
Magpie Seen from Mossland Hide Seen from John Morgan hide
Carrion Crow Seen from Mossland Hide
Jackdaw Seen from Mossland Hide
Chaffinch Seen from Woodland Hide
Greenfinch Seen on feeders John Morgan hide
Linnet Seen from Tower Hide
Yellowhammer Singing in front of Tower Hide
Reed Bunting Sybil Hogg & John Morgan hides
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