Category Archives: Grasshopper warblers

Burton Marshes

I visited Burton Marshes on Tuesday last week. My Tuesday afternoon visits there, on the way to my Dad's, are becoming something of a habit. I just sat in the car for a couple of hours, taking in the view, watching the occasional little egret through my binoculars, and generally chilling out. Just before I left, I was delighted to spot a whitethroat—a relative rarity for me—in the hawthorn a few yards in front of the car. Of course, by the time I'd got my camera out, it had gone. Still, though.

I was back at Burton Marshes this Tuesday. The weather was glorious, so I sat on one of the benches for 15 minutes, trying (unsuccessfully) to spot any of a number of grasshopper warblers I could hear singing their hearts out in the nearby reeds. They realy do sound uncannily like grasshoppers. But no joy.

I then decided to take a short walk up to Burton Point. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as I was soon rewarded with my first proper sighting this summer of a wheatear—several wheatears, in fact. A short while later, I was positively cock-a-hoop to spot three whinchats perched on a bush in a large expanse of sedge, flitting up into the air occasionally after flies. I'm sure I must have seen whinchats before, but I can't hand-on-heart swear that I have, so chalk one up on my unwritten life list.

Rook
Rook.
Wheatear
Wheatear.
Whinchat
Whinchat.
Whinchat
Whinchat.
Little egrets
Little egrets.

There were a few more whinchats farther down the track, and several little egrets flew overhead. On the whole, a delightful and productive short walk.

Gorse
Gorse.
Burton Point
Burton Point.
Burton Marshes
Burton Marshes.

As I returned to the car, I was even jammy enough to spot a whitethroat—the same one as last week, I guess—and actually managed to take a couple of snaps. I was particularly pleased with the first one, which I had to focus manually (as I did with some of my earlier whinchat shots) due to there being too much undergrowth in the way for the camera's autofocus mechanism to deal with.

Whitethroat
Whitethroat.
Whitethroat
Whitethroat.

Note to self: Try focusing manually more often.

More photos »

Three new species

To Carolyn's for a quick walk around 'her' field. The cow parsley is out in force at the moment. It looks magnificent.

Last weekend, I finally took the trouble to look up the name of the plant with the characteristic leaves and brown stem which grows in abundance in the field behind the house (and in our lawn!). To my surprise, it turned out to be sorrel. So I searched some out in Carolyn's field and got her to try a couple of leaves. Bitter, but surprisingly refreshing. Apparently, farm-workers used to chew on sorrel leaves to slake their thirst when working in the fields.

Cow parsley
Cow parsley at Burton Marshes.

Then down to Burton Marshes for 20 minutes nature waiting. I hadn't been down there for years, and couldn't believe my luck: reed warblers, sedge warblers, and grasshopper warblers—three new species for me. I must have seen them there before as a child, but warblers are buggers to identify. Now, thanks to my digital camera and iPhone British birds app (which even plays the birds' songs for you—a great way to identify warblers), I was able to work out which little brown jobs were which. The grasshopper warbler's call was amazing: I kept wondering what the loud, grasshopper-like noise was, and then the penny dropped!

Sedge warbler
Sedge warbler.

I also saw whitethroats, little egrets (both firsts for me on the Wirral), and a kestrel put in an appearance.

Good things come to those who wait 20 minutes.

Slideshow of photos from this evening »