Sunday, 24 January 2010

A drippy dippy day

The safari had mixed fortunes on a tick and twitchathon south of the river today. A wet day with wet optics, a wet dog and wet clothes...not overly pleasant but at least it wasn't windy or too cold.
So what were the targets and what did we (not) get. First tick of the day was an easy drive by Little Egret (91) but the hoped for Great White Egret seems to have done a bunk. We whizzed past the marsh and called in to look for the Red Crested Pochard, we weren't sure where to look on the large marine lake but no sign. A lot of Coot all sat in the middle well out of the way a KB's snatching hands. Going further down the coast we hit the Twite, or rather didn't - no sign of the little Twites! Frank found a football and the kicking/chasing there-of put up a few Meadow Pipits (92) and several Skylarks (93). Later he 'found' two Snipe but not the hoped (longed) for Jack Snipe.
Back to the marsh were a very nice young man told us that the Bittern was showing well about ten minutes walk up the road. Worth seeing a Bittern out in the open anytime so off we went. Got it! Stalking about in knee high grass - weird or what but worth the walk. Also out there was a stonking male Hen Harrier (94). It's ages since we've seen a full blown male. There would be more if 'others' up river from here didn't stamp on their eggs or set Ferrets on their chick (allegedly of course) - oh sorry those chicks were killed by truly wild Weasels...
A female Kestrel sat on a nearby post but we didn't see any of the multitude of Short Eared Owls. A Merlin (95) had a right go at a Starling it had separated at the flock but a Crow and a Black Headed Gull came to the rescue mobbing the raptor so much that it had no chance of catching its lunch. Things aren't going to badly. A quick check at the hide got us two Little Grebes (96) but nothing else. News there was that the Red Crested Pochard was present yesterday so we went to the exact location and dipped! No sign of it nor any of the Tufted Ducks it was associating with.
Time to move stop Curlew Lane, famed for it's flock of Corn Buntings and being on the title sequence of a 1980s BBC show called Watching with was loosely based on birding. No Corn Buntings, but the easy to get Rooks (97) were ticked off. No Grey Partridges either...doh, have to come back in spring.
Next on the agenda the Peter Scott duck zoo that is Martin Mere WWT - larger but nowhere near as good as somewhere with a similar name nearer home. What a lot of Whooper Swans but we learned as we left that we had misssed the two Bewick's Swans by only a few minutes - sounds like they flew off while we were parking the car. The car park was chocka - I used to come here on my bike many years ago (mid 1970s) and bunk in at the far corner, you had to be careful not to be seen by the wardens as there were so few people in the reserve then. There is a massive steel gate there now. Plenty of Ruff (98) were pecking about in the margins. Below are some rough pictures of them taken in the rainy murk.
Pintail are always a joy.
A monster of a Peregrine sat out the rain on a post - she could have swallowed our male from the water tower whole, (he was back up there last night). Not a lot else out of the ordinary on the water. A quick look at the feeders got us a whole heap of Tree Sparrows (99) but the reported Tawny Owl wasn't showing.
Enough was enough and time to move on. Where to? We stopped at my cousin's equestrian centre for a brew but she'd gone abroad skiing - alright for some AND it's her fault we have Frank, so he didn't get the chance to meet his 'cousins'. After leaving the horses behind we FORGOT to call in at the new RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh reserve where there were supposed to be a flock of Bewick's Swans...doh. So was there time to see if the four Smew were still on the river Ribble?...No - it was getting dark by now. What about fluking a Goosander as we crossed back over the bridge to our side? No - too much traffic...Needed fuel so we dropped in to Preston Docks to fill up. Lots and lots and lots of gulls in the dock. A good scan with the bins found what looked very like a 1st winter/moulting into 1st summer Mediterranean Gull right over the other side. A long way off and horrid light, not only that it was partially obscured by an adult Herring Gull. Nothing for it but to set the scope up. As we were pulling out the legs of the tripod a young family came and stood next to me and promptly emptied a whole loaf of bread over the side...result; 2500 gulls in the air...IDIOTS!!!...No chance of relocating it in the ensuing melee...
So the day ended one tick short of the target...I'll let you know what the final year target is next week - but we are about half way there.
Where to next? Back to the Patches.
In the meantime let us know what you missed in your outback today.

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