24 Hour Birding People

Photo: Female Smew, always a great bird to see on a Bird Race

24 hour Bird Races are a great way to enjoy birding, see the sites of an area and raise money for conservation

On May 4th 1996 I joined Chris Done, Tom Lowe and Stuart Naylor to form a Cheshire Bird Race team, The Unstoppable Birding Machine

Bird Races require good planning and from December we started to look at Cheshire bird reports, tide tables and maps during planning sessions at the Moss Trooper pub, whilst in the days prior to the Race we did plenty field research of the areas we were looking to visit

Many thanks to Birdnet, Birdline NorthWest, Dave Walters, Tony Broome, Jane Turner, Hugh Pulsford, Richard Bonser, Jeff Clarke, Bill Morton, Steve Barber, Mike Holmes and Jonathan Williams for support

The day was a great celebration of birdwatching and we raised £170 through sponsorship (most people sponsored us per species seen) with the money given to Woolston Eyes Conservation Group and Birdwatch European Wetlands Appeal


At midnight it was a case of “May The 4th Be With You” for The Unstoppable Birding Machine

A white blob swimming across a pond was a Mute Swan, a “grunting” Ruddy Duck, a “quacking” Mallard, a “honking” Canada Goose, a “whinnying” Little Grebe, various squeaks and trills from Moorhen and Coot, and we heard the low hoot of a Long-eared Owl

From this start we were beginning to sense that it could be a good day as we sped on to Frodsham


Driving along the track to Marsh Farm we did some headlight birding and saw a Little Owl on a fence-post and a male Wheatear

The full-moon and industrial, artificial light lit up the Frodsham Marshes and in a walk-about we were able to record Shelduck, 3 more Wheatears, 8 species of wader – Greenshank, Lapwing, Curlew, “squelching” Snipe, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper and Redshank, and the vocals of Skylark, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, taking the list to 22 species at around 2:30am


Our next site gave us two more species of Owl – Barn and Tawny, then we headed to the south-western hills, where 3 Mandarins were sat on a small pool, and we experienced the dawn chorus at Peckforton Castle, with Cuckoo, 3 male Pied Flycatchers, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper and 2 Ravens

A Peregrine was holding the fort at Beeston and then we raced to the woods near the Pheasant Inn – Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Redstart – and Bickerton for a very obliging Tree Pipit


A walk along the Rivacre Valley took us to 69 species with Jay, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch and Goldfinch, then a dash up the West Wirral to Thurstaston and Caldy where Swift, Yellowhammer, Whimbrel, Redpoll, Linnet, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose and Bullfinch were all added to the list

Herring Gulls on West Kirby Marine Lake brought up 79 at 9am as we started a commando run out over the mud-flats

Our planning of the day included checking the tide tables and the timing was spot-on allowing us to migrant watch and sea-watch on the picturesque Hilbre Island

Tree Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were on Middle Eye amongst numbers of Meadow Pipits, then we jogged up to the sea-watching hide on the north side of Hilbre

Waders were on the shore in front of the hide – 2 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone and Oystercatcher, and a Rock Pipit called to notify us of it’s presence, we turned round to note its’ black legs and plumage features

On the sea Gannets, Great Crested Grebe, Guillemot, Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorant and Great Black-backed Gull

Two Razorbills on the sea and a Fulmar shearing through also gave close views

Jane Turner called us on the mobile during the sea-watch to let us know that there was a Red-legged Partridge at Red Rocks and, after running from Hilbre to West Kirby, we sped round to see the Partridge sunning itself on a roof-top, bringing up the 100 species

Four migrant White Wagtails on the shore here and the first Kestrel of the day hovered into view

Inner Marsh Farm on the Dee Estuary, and it’s flock of Black-tailed Godwits, was the next site and we had the advantage of having a spotter in the hide, Richard Bonser, who got us onto a second-summer Mediterranean Gull, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Pintail


In quick succession we looked at the different tanks on Frodsham Marsh, on Number 3 Golden Plovers, on Number 4 Little Stint and Little Ringed Plover, on number 5 a pair of Grey Partridge and on number 6, Little Egret, Pochard and Shoveler, whilst on the River Weaver, we identified a female Greater Scaup amongst the Tufted Ducks and saw the long-staying Red-throated Diver


Four big birds were seen in the Northwich area – a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, a stunning summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe, Tree Sparrow and Lesser Whitethroat


At Tatton Park, lingering winter ducks were a female Smew and 10 Goldeneye, and thanks to Hugh Pulsford we had access to Radnor Mere, where Barnacle Goose and Buzzard were seen, and a phenomenal site was a bathing Kingfisher in a stream at Poynton


At Toot Hill we began scanning and picked up a raptor in the distance that flew closer in the sun-shine and revealed its’ cream crown and chocolate brown plumage – a female Marsh Harrier, a very exciting sight flying around Macclesfield Forest! Other birders also saw an Osprey here, making it a great day for birds of prey

More eastern specialities were seen, Siskin at Macclesfield Forest Visitor Centre, Dipper and Grey Wagtail at Wildboarclough, and roosting Goosanders on Bosley Reservoir, whilst we also spent some time helping an old lady start her car

Roding Woodcock at Trentabank Reservoir took the day-list up to a huge 141 species


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s