Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Is it an ill wind?

The safari was out on the nature reserve at dawn in a bitingly brisk easterly wind; the thermometer told us it was 2°C but the windchill made it feel more like minus 2 and then some too! Ever hopeful that the recently reported presumed Otter (someone else – a none naturalist - has also reported a Beaver on site over the Christmas period…same animal…hmm v. interesting indeedy...) might put in an appearance we stood facing that wind for well over an hour, until the pain in the toes became unbearable and frost bite set in – there is a definite need for heaters in the wellies.
The last Otter recorded by a local naturalist at this site was in the pre-DDT days of the early 1950s, although there is a record on the National Biodiversity Network of one on 30th September 1970, via Liverpool Museum, but the recorder is unknown.
Most of the ice had melted due to the wind so the gulls were sat on the water facing away. No white wingers were evident. But as we were scanning them a group rose up off the small patch of remaining ice at the far end of the mere and started mobbing a raptor. Spinning the scope round and focusing quickly we got on a gorgeous ring tailed Hen Harrier – not a regular species at this site at all…probably would be many more if they were allowed to nest in peace on the hills we can see in the distance – is it possible to prosecute the unbelievably wealthy? – no point fining people who have several billion quid in the bank is it! Anyway after a couple of minutes floating around on its raised wings it got fed up of the attention the gulls were giving it and dipped behind the embankment out of sight, where it spooked the flock of about forty or so feral Barnacle Geese that normally reside in the nearby zoo.
We then gave the ducks a good seeing to; plenty of Teal on today, not far short of a thousand but no yankee Green Winged version unfortunately (bit of a misnomer that as ours have green ‘wings’ too, maybe they should be called Vertical Striped Teal as that is the easiest field mark to pick out). The one from the south side has been frozen off from its normal site so must be lurking somewhere…(Late edit - hybrid Eurasian x Green Winged Teal found in the afternoon) two male Pintails were a good find among the more usual Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon and Shovelers. Diving ducks were notable by there absence with only a handful each of Pochard and Tufted Duck and three female Goldeneyes. With so many other water bodies being frozen, or partially so, we would have expected to have seen more of these. (No Ring Necked Ducks either – hope the one up the road stays put for a few more days…please…pretty please!) (Late edit – it hasn’t - it’s b*ggered awf and reappeared further away - the rat!).
We were still working through the gulls, as they were coming and going all morning, when the ranger joined us. Another little flurry of panicky gull activity put us onto a Bittern which dropped in to the reedbed at the far end; we didn’t see where it came from - possibly the overflow area in the SE corner. A Kestrel hovered over the area where we had earlier seen the Hen Harrier and as we scoped that a little male Sparrowhawk shot through. High overhead there was a continual passage southwards of well over a thousand Pink Footed Geese, in several skeins, moving out from their roosting sites to feed, but no Whooper Swans, or Bewick’s for that matter which have been in the area recently after a few years absence. No way of picking out the Eurasian and Greenland White Fronts or the Tundra Bean Goose (rossicus type) that may or may not have been with them, all three ‘species’ (I use the term loosely) have been within a couple of miles of the site in the last few days.
The only decent gull was a nice big bruiser of a Great Black Back, not particularly noteworthy but then when I was the warden we certainly didn’t see them every day.
A Water Rail fluttered past the viewing platform, more dangly legs than effective wings, must have been too slippery on the ice to warrant its more normal scurrying locomotion.
After a good hour standing still the toes were now totally frozen beyond the point of discomfort and it was way past time to go to work so begrudgingly we had to leave without having a full wander about.
Later we got a call from the ranger that four Long Eared Owls were showing – we could have driven round to get these – and on his extended rounds he had also picked up a Woodcock, a Kingfisher followed by a cracking adult Mediterranean Gull sat on the frozen park lake...doh we didn’t look there on the way to the office!
A very chilly short shuffy Patch 2 over the seawall blimp at lunchtime revealed nothing more exciting than seventeen Redshanks on the beach and two Great Crested Grebes going north over the sea.
The only wildlife shot for you today is a fairly poor Derbyshire Blackbird, (for those that remember ‘Play School’ – it’s through the blurred window),

so you can also have a pic or two of Frank too; he’s looking rather forlorn probably because his earrings aren’t a matching pair or he doesn’t like the colour of the ball his Uncle Rob got him for Christmas.

It’s not your rugby ball, is it Frank? (note deer poo behind his ID tags)

"Sure ain't" says Frank but I suppose he'll get full use out of it once it's warm enough to get back in the sea.
Best wishes to one and all for 2010 – even if it isn’t that where you are.
Many thanks to those folks who have looked in on this drivel over the last year, I hope you’ve enjoyed the rubbish wot I have rote (I am, after all, a self-confessed literary genius you know)…more to come in 2010 no doubt with tales of allsorts of (mis)adventures wot the safari will be getting up to.
Many thanks too to my regular and not so regular commenters – all comments are gratefully received – if you’re out there we’d be thrilled to get to know you wherever you are.
Where to next? Patchwork probably (Collared Dove singing long before dawn on Patch 1 this morning), with a New Year’s Day safari somewhere a bit different coming up – will the hands be steady enough to hold the camera?
In the meantime let us know where you didn’t look for the goody in your outback today.


Warren Baker said...

blimey dave that was a long old post, some great species of birds seen today though.

Re: prosecuting the wealthy - its the wealthy who do the prosecuting!

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Warren - long winded yes - literary genius - probably not!