Sunday, May 27, 2012


Had a great morning's birdwatching at Llandegla in North Wales on Friday 18th May. Jane and I joined an RSPB group watching the Black Grouse lek on the moorland. At least 8 males were seen but they were too distant to photograph. Other avian highlights included Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Redstart and good numbers of Common Crossbills, some of which were carrying fir cones from the forest floor back into the trees in order to remove the seeds in a safe place.
We then drove to Wrexham where we watched a male Peregrine perched on the roof of the police station.
The female could be heard calling, presumably from the nest. At the time of our visit there were apparently two chicks in the nest. They should fledge successfully in what must be one of the most secure nest sites in the country!
On Friday 25th we spent a beautiful day canoeing 10 miles down the River Wye in Herefordshire. We counted an amazing 7 Kingfishers during the day and I saw my first Red Kites of the year while picnicking on the river bank. The sun shone all day which was great because it helped me to dry quickly after I fell in the river at the very end of our journey! 
Kingfisher, Mere Sands Wood, Lancashire, June 2009.

Red Kite, Gigrin, January 2010.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


After a brief visit to Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB, I walked to Burton Point to look for a Cuckoo that had been seen earlier. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the bird but ample compensation came in the form of a pair of Stonechats. The female was more confiding than the male.

I finished the day off by trying to get some photos of Skylarks by Leasowe Lighthouse.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sandstone Trail

The Sandstone Trail is a long-distance footpath starting in Whitchurch and meandering north through some of Cheshire's finest countryside before finishing in Frodsham. Last year Helsby Running Club revived the Sandstone Trail Challenge, a long distance walking event that also supports runners.
My friend Jane and I completed the Challenge last year and enjoyed it so much that we took part again last Saturday (the 12th of May). Officially the trail is 34 miles long but Helsby Running Club measure it at just under 33 miles. Not a great deal of difference when you're covering that distance. Also the total elevation is about 3700 feet, that's higher than Snowdon! The field of entrants is split evenly between runners and walkers and there is a cut-off time of around 12 hours.
We fully enter into the spirit of the event and its non-competitive nature; so much so that we view it as a 33 mile long picnic.
The weather was kind to us again this year with no rain and a few sunny spells but it was unseasonably cool. As per last year we kept a record of all the birds seen and heard along the way. Highlight for me was a stunning male Wheatear near Delamere, while Jane saw her first Goldcrest of the year along the canal near Whitchurch. We recorded a total of 41 species which was one up on last year and included a few recently arrived migrants such as Lesser Whitethroat as well as residents such as Raven.
True to our competitive nature we stopped for a welcome coffee in a pleasant little cafe near Delamere. This was in addition to the cake and biscuit checkpoints along the route. It took us just over 10 hours to complete the course through a combination of steady walking and occasional downhill running. Its amazing how quickly the time goes on such adventures and a great day was enjoyed by all the runners and walkers. Many thanks must go to the organisers for a superb event; roll on next year.

At the start in Whitchurch.
Somewhere in deepest Cheshire following
the yellow markers.

Approaching Beeston Castle, halfway-ish.

Overlooking the River Mersey, not far to go.

The following day I lined up with 5000 other runners on Chester racecourse for the start of the Chester Half Marathon. I had a few doubts about my sanity in entering this event straight after the Sandstone Trail, but you live once so why not? The route was a total change from the previous few years' races and was a bit more "undulating". I didn't feel too bad for the first 5 miles and kept at an average 6.30 min/mile pace, but at around the 7 miles mark the previous day's exertions began to take their toll and my legs started to feel heavy. I pushed on buoyed by the public support in the villages that we ran through. Mile 12 was downhill so I upped the pace a little to 6.25 min/mile, but this was before the final hill up into Chester where I slowed considerably. Turning into Northgate Street the finish was in sight and the cheers from all the supporters crammed onto the pavements urged me on to a sprint finish (well it felt fast!). My finish time was 1 hour 25 mins which was a great result considering.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Drove out to Crewe yesterday to look for the reported Wryneck as I have never seen one in Cheshire. The bird had been found at a site that I hadn't visited before, Maw Green Tip; birders often visit the most unusual places. On arrival in the area I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of birdlife to be seen, Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and even a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. But the Wryneck was proving elusive so I settled down on a grassy bank and enjoyed something even rarer this Spring, a bit of warm sunshine! After about an hour the Wryneck flew between two stands of gorse, perched briefly on a bare branch, then dived for cover never to be seen again that day. No photographs, but at least it was a Cheshire tick.
I made my way slowly back to the car and came across a small flock of Wheatears that I photographed in the early evening sunshine.
Saturday training update - did my first longish run since the London Marathon, ran 10 miles at 6.50 pace, but legs still not quite recovered.

Male Wheatear with takeaway.
Not the prettiest perch but a lovely bird.

Back lit shot of male Wheatear.