Emily Traynor Guest Blog
I am an ecology graduate and live in North Cheshire and I want to make the natural world part of my future employment and this is my guest blog for FMBB.
I don’t think I can really pin point the moment of when my love affair with the Natural World began, maybe it has just slowly evolved over time, with the help of my family and close relatives of course it’s always been there.
No matter where I was, whether that be having a lunch break half way up a mountain or marooned on a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea, the world of birds were never far away. The lure of a passing Kestrel hovering beside a motorway, a Jackdaw cheekily trying to steal my lunch or the raucous cries of a Herring Gull being dominant at the seaside and a wakeup call for everyone were all the sights and sounds of my childhood.
My favourite place growing up was being taken across to Hilbre Island with my Uncle Alan and his dog Tessie; I spent many hours wandering around the island and enjoying the solitude and quietness of the place with only a Springer Spaniel as a companion.
I suppose my interest in Ornithology has come a bit late in life compared to most bird watchers; while I had been taken on bird watching excursions as a youngster I suppose I didn’t really have the patience to really learn anything from it, while I certainly enjoyed being outdoors after about 5 minutes in a bird hide my mind started to wander only for it to snap back to reality if something ‘interesting’ appeared. But doesn’t that affect us all at some stage?
So it has only been within the last few years that it’s something I have become more and more drawn to. I am beginning a process of gaining further knowledge through experience. I am eager to learn about many aspects of nature especially as I’m a trainee Biological Recorder with Wirral Wildlife, mainly recording plant species but with an interest in anything and everything!
Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)
One of the toughest things I’ve found as a beginner in Bird Watching is identifying species by their calls. The fact that there are so many calls (36 noted from one species the Great Tit) is astonishing and attributed to the one species is quite overwhelming to learn at times! Then there’s the Starling! Don’t get me started on that on!
So when I recently expressed an interest in improving my ornithological skills my uncle Bill decided to take me under his wing (no pun intended) and show me the ropes.
As I had been there many times growing up (I mainly remember seeing dead pheasants on the road) I asked whether I could accompany him on one of his many birding trips to Frodsham Marsh in Cheshire, he quickly agreed!
My favourite experience so far especially as the amount of times I’ve been down the marsh and wondered what that bird species was calling or singing and who made them. One song was difficult to get my head around so my uncle patiently guided me through the difference between Sedge and Reed Warbler and added the Grasshopper Warbler for good measure. All three are relatively small brown jobs and each is as different on closer inspection.
The Grasshopper warbler is unmistakable as they have an almost electrical buzz to their call, my Uncle said it seems amazing that a creature can make such a noise as it doesn’t seem a natural sound.
Sedge and Reed Warbler although different can be hard to distinguish between if there is a few birds calling within the same space. The one for me at least is the Reed Warbler which can be identified by the slight ‘gurra gurra gur gur’ within their call, they also have a slow relaxed tack call. Sedge warblers on the other hand seem almost desperate to be heard, they can’t sing fast enough. They also have almost Grasshopper like electrical trill within their call.
My adventures of the last few months visiting the marsh have included seeing Meadow Pipit, Skylark and then watching Marsh Harrier and Avocet for the first time, I had previously seen Lapwings while volunteering in Shropshire but not this close! I’ve also had the good fortune to observe other wildlife which would be hard to see elsewhere like a paired up couple of Common Hare.
I recently had the opportunity to observe a relatively rare occurrence at the marsh which is a Red-necked Grebe, in handsome summer plumage no less! They are an Amber listed species according to the RSPB and usually are only found in the South and East of the Country in Winter…so goodness knows what it’s doing here?
One arriving at the usual spot on Sunday afternoon I was quite surprised to see 5 cars parked up, I’ve never seen the marsh this busy. On walking down to the River Weaver I passed a birder who must have been in such a hurry he failed to hear the trill of a Sedge Warbler and see the not so subtle tremble of the Reed stalk as the bird moved up to the seed head, The bird went quiet and the stalk stopped moving, I quickly lost sight of the bird. oh well..
I took a slow walk along the River Weaver to the bend in the river where the bird was sitting on the water’s surface oblivious to its fan base that had slowly passed through over the last few days as word was passed on of its presence.
On reaching my destination I found a small party of birders. I was quickly told where the bird could be sighted and was offered the chance to look in someone’s spotting scope to get a better view, a quick glance and the bird went under the water. The most exciting thing the bird did was to catch a fish but only that lasted less than a minute before it was back to diving out of sight only to reappear a few metres away. I was quite surprised that as individuals slowly trickled away till there was only four of us left I realised that I had spent nearly 2 hours observing this bird! Time to move on I thought, a short distance away was the shooters pool which is where the Avocet and Lapwing families resided.
I managed to get some photos of one of the Avocets when it was disturbed by a Black Headed Gull, flying back and forth over the Weaver vocalizing its displeasure at having a predator so close by. The Lapwing family by comparison were quite relaxed and let their chick wander although not too far.
Suddenly my phone started to ring..argh! It was my lift back home calling to see where I was! I can’t wait for my next visit to Frodsham Marsh, till next time!
http://tigerlilyblue.wordpress.com/ My photography and nature blog.
Additional images by Paul Crawley and WSM.