Sunday, 18 January 2009

South of the river

A bit of Ebay business saw the safari travel south of the Ribble today. Business completed it was time to hit some of the wildlife hotspots. First stop a bleak cold windswept beach at Ainsdale where we found five Snow Buntings dodging the dog walkers, kite surfers, and the few hardy birders. Can you see them? There are 2 blurred blobs in the picture - the poor camera wasn't sure what to focus on and with the wind in my face I couldn't really make them out in the view finder so it was a case of point, click and hope!
They were pretty little things, the white wings of the males flashing really brightly every time they took flight from yet another disturbance...(shame really they must have wasted so much energy today) no wonder some people call them 'snowflakes'.
Moving a little further up the coast to Birkdale (both Viking settlements) we called in at the Twite flock and within a few minutes we were again stood out on a cold exposed windswept beach/salt marsh looking for small well camouflaged flighty birds. A few Skylarks and Starlings were feeding on the marsh but nothing smaller. Then we spotted a flock of about 40 small brown birds, a quick check revealed at least some of them had the tell tale pale yellow bill. Twite were in the chance of a photo each time we approached them they moved further down the beach. time to leave them alone and get out of the wind.

The safari bunked in to the windfree and relatively warmth sand grounders hide at RSPB's splendid Marshside reserve. Plenty to look at including a couple of Little Egrets. Not so long ago these were a 'twitch' species to add to your list, not any more, common as muck - round here anyway! We watched a Great Black Backed Gull trying to be a Peregrine Falcon. It would soar and swoop over the flocks of duck and waders putting them to flight and a couple of times actually had an unsuccessful stab at catching a victim in mid air - something I have not seen these bully boys doing before. They continued to harass the flocks probably looking for sick, weak or injured birds, which the two pictured above eventually did. not sure what it was they had as it was hidden behind a tussock but it could have been a Teal. Whatever it was was picked up by its wing and given a bit of a shake but it must have had enough life left to fight back or escape as these two brutes gave up on it.

A study of the gulls in one of the pools revealed one to be a little different, perhaps a Yellow Legged Gull, but John Dempesy et al from Mersey Bird Blog (see blog links on right) who were also in the hide assured me I was mistaken. I bow to their superior experience of the species and am relieved I didn't add an erroneous sighting to the day's log.

With darkness gathering it was time to head back north, as we drove past the end of the marsh another Little Egret flew just above our vehicle, superb, just like being on the Mediterranean coast but without sun, sand or warmth.

Where to next? Anything could happen in the next few this space.

In the meantime let us know whats on your beach this week.

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