Shropshire Meres 25th November 2015 (Sandbach U3A Birdwatching Group)

The trip over to Shropshire was marred by rain, occasionally heavy, not forecast for this early in the day. Despite the damp conditions 14 of us assembled in Colemere’s car park, where rainproofs were the order of the day. From the hillock alongside the car park, we were quickly watching 20-odd Greylag Geese, which were not quite part of the massive Canada flock. Great Crested Grebes dotted the mere, while a couple of Common Gulls were picked out of the Lesser Black-backs and Black-headed Gulls on view.

The rain misted up telescope lenses, so it was time to move on. Moorhen was spotted in its usual sailing club haunt, and binocular lenses also attracted moisture as they were turned upwards searching out a charm of Goldfinch in the tree tops with a couple of Greenfinch thrown in for good measure. Rain set in more heavily as we traversed the south-western side of the mere footpath, with just one sighting of note, a female Goosander fishing fairly close in.

The end of Colemere was also quiet, but at last the weather had started to relent. We ran into a Long-tailed Tit flock, hanging from upper branches at all angles, and in among them separated out a Marsh Tit. We added more common species as we approached the canal bridge, where a male Bullfinch was prospecting the trees screening the canal. From the bridge we could see a number of Pheasants along a field side, evading the shoot that seemed to be in progress around Ellesmere, but as our numbers on the bridge grew, so the Pheasants faded in to the rank grass of the field edge.

We continued through the woods on the mere’s north side, noting a Song Thrush high in a bush, and several Redwing plundering a holly bush of its berries. Our path encountered another tit flock, more varied this time with Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, together with a Goldcrest, a Treecreeper, and a Chiffchaff, emboldened into staying on by the extended autumnal (and thus warmer) weather.

We moved on to Wood Lane Gravel Pits, a Shropshire Wildlife Trust managed reserve, to take full advantage of their hide to provide us with a dry venue for lunch. Bites of sandwich were interspersed with binocular and telescope examination of our surroundings. A Snipe was pinned down on one of the islets across the lagoon from the hide, but before all of us could latch on to it, a wisp of 20 or so circled the lagoon five or six times before settling on the two small islands. A total of 28 Snipe were counted, quite a large number, and it was unusual to see as many as ten birds together in the open in the telescope view.

Lunch was further interrupted by nature’s topaz torpedo, as a Kingfisher flashed across in front of us. It landed just out of sight, but was soon plunging into the water just within our sight, either bathing or taking small items of prey off the surface of the water. It completed its display with a flypast in the opposite direction, up and over the bank alongside the hide and onto the pool behind us. Our cooling cups of coffee seemed a little mundane after that. We added Heron, Herring Gull and Coal Tit, before moving on to the second hide, presiding over a recently re-profiled (and birdless) scrape system. A hint that we should move on.

To extract the maximum from the day, we stopped at Hanmer Mere, but not before watching a Kestrel being harried by three Crows just outside Welshampton. Hanmer is a long mere stretching away from the road, so scopes were necessary to examine the residents of the far end. Here were several small groups of Wigeon, three or four Tufted Duck and a similar number of Teal. A lone Fieldfare overhead brought our day to an end. Despite the weather we managed to see 48 species. Home in time for tea.

Information is starting to trickle in from the Species Expert (a Portuguese gentleman) from the International Wader Study Group about the Black-tailed Godwit seen on our trip to Marshside, sporting blue and  white rings. This bird was ringed in Scotland by Raymond Duncan and the Grampian/Tay Ringing Group. Its life history should be forwarded to us in due course, and will be included in a future report.

Shropshire Meres Trip List 25th November 2015

Mute Swan 18 Hanmer Mere
Greylag Goose Colemere, flock of 24
Canada Goose Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Wigeon Hanmer Mere
Teal 3 Hanmer Mere
Mallard Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Tufted Duck 3 Hanmer Mere
Goosander Colemere, female.
Pheasant Colemere
Great Crested Grebe Colemere
Cormorant Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Grey Heron Wood Lane, one.
Kestrel Hovering near Welshampton, mobbed by 3 Crows
Moorhen Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Coot Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Lapwing Colemere & Wood Lane, flocks of 20 or so in flight.
Snipe 28 @ Wood Lane
Black-headed Gull Colemere and large number at Wood Lane.
Common Gull Several Colemere and Wood Lane
Lesser Black-backed Gull Half a dozen at Colemere, and 20+ Wood Lane
Herring Gull 2 at Wood Lane
Wood-Pigeon Colemere and Hanmer Mere.
Kingfisher Wood Lane, Single
Wren Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Dunnock Colemere
Robin Colemere, Wood Lane.
Blackbird Colemere, Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Fieldfare Hanmer Mere, one in flight.
Song Thrush 1 @ Colemere
Redwing Several Colemere
Goldcrest 1 @ Colemere
Chiffchaff 1 @ Colemere
Long-tailed-Tit Colemere
Blue Tit Colemere, Wood Lane.
Great Tit Colemere, Wood Lane.
Coal Tit Wood Lane, one on feeder.
Marsh Tit 1 @ Colemere
Wood Nuthatch Colemere, one flew over car park on arrival.
Treecreeper 1 @ Colemere
Magpie Wood Lane and Hanmer Mere.
Jackdaw Colemere
Rook Wood Lane
Crow Colemere and Hanmer Mere.
Starling Wood Lane, small flocks on tip.
Chaffinch Colemere, Wood Lane.
Greenfinch 2 @ Colemere
Goldfinch Colemere and Hanmer Mere.
Bullfinch Colemere, male.