Saturday, 30 October 2010

'Mexican' gold

The Safari had a Fox with a bit of a hind quarter limp on shortened Patch 1 early morning do. Frank was given his breakfast and sent upstairs while we grabbed the scope and the Land Rover keys and set off without him.
An hour later we were on site before dawn at a stake out. In the gloom a friendly Robin appeared.

We scuffed the ground as a large herbivore might do and he soon found a worm that took him a bit to wrangle down.

We've never taken a pic of a wild bird with the macro setting on the camera before! The lens was within 6 inches of him(her?). Something caught his attention.
We hadn't put any food on the scope he just hopped up on the off-chance.
And stopped there for a good while - macro again!
Pity it was still quite gloomy and the pics are a bit grainy.
We were well chuffed to have this amazingly close interaction with a such a tiny and truly wild creature. Brilliant! Made our day.
As we were concentrating on the little Robin we heard a roar like the drumming of a thousand hooves on the plains but it wasn't hooves it was Starling's wings.
No idea how many are in the pic but this is only a small part of the flock, by the time the camera had found something to focus on MOST of them had passed over - they're going from left to right. We guesstimated 15000 but how many there actually were is anyone's guess, if that makes sense.
At our stake out we heard a Jay and several Water Rails calling. Over 350 Fieldfares, in several parties, came over the hill from the north and dropped in to the woods. An early Buzzard called from somewhere behind us, as did our quarry, sounds like someone twanging a tight elastic band...
Four Reed Buntings went over all headed west and a Heron did a low pass but probably saw us and turned around.
In the distance a flock of about 50 Golden Plovers looked like they were going to land but there was no sign of them later so they mustn't have done.
As the sun peered over the crest of the hill to the east it illuminated the trees on the top of the hill on the opposite side of the valley, bringing out all the autumn golds - beautiful. If that wasn't enough a shower brought on a rainbow - stunning...what a safari this was turning out to be.
There is supposed to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and today there was...
The golden reeds held feathered gold, or at least feathered tawny!
Four Bearded Tits (184) in this pic but our best count was eight together.
The grit trays are just a bit far for the big camera so we tried digiscoping them - difficult as the little blighters won't keep still.
Reasonably happy with the results.
Whoever called them Bearded Tits has obviously never seen a moustache!
You can almost see the Magnificent Seven coming to the rescue of those guys...were's his sombrero?
A Weasel shot across the open area and into the reeds near the trays - we dipped it...not seen one yet this year!
The battery in the little camera was getting a bit low by now and we headed off to see if there were any early morning Red Deer at the other end of the reserve. There wasn't but it didn't matter it was a grand morning to be out, even allowing for the showers, they didn't do anything to dampen our spirits.
After our Mustellid miss earlier we had the back end of either a Stoat or a Mink disappearing into the path side reeds in a flash as we rounded a corner.
More Bearded Tits were heard then seen at the far hide, as they were at all the hides we visited! Probably saw a minimum of 15, possibly more than our grand total for the last 20 years!
From the path side bushes a Marsh Tit called but we didn't get on it.
Ducks included a few Gadwall, the ubiquitous Mallards, about three dozen Wigeon, some Pochard and Tufted Ducks. There were plenty of Teal too but when a shooting party fired up in the woods opposite they beggared off down to where we had come from, probably about 250 or so of them altogether. Couldn't find any Snipe bizarrely and a thorough search of the muddy bit revealed no Jack Snipe - hardly surprising.
A total plonker in a microlight flew low, only about 100 feet, over the reserve right along its length flushing everything - what a total dork.
The feeding station was busy, Coal Tits, more Marsh Tits but far too quick to get a pic of, plenty of Greenfinches and Chaffinches, this young male was having a ball searching through the leaf-litter at the base of a tree.
Best of all was a Bullfinch - one of the Safari's favourite birds. But could we get the camera to focus on the bird - next camera WILL have manual focus!!!
He started venturing on to the feeders but only stopped very briefly. Then a Sparrowhawk wazzed through a put everything off sending them fleeing in to cover.
Eventually hunger overcame fear and they started to drift back...a squeaky 'peuu' call alerted us to the Bullfinch again but this time it was the female who at least stopped long enough for her pic to be taken.

Next up we hit the coastal many Little Egrets!!!!!?????!!!!!
The nearest pool held an enormous number of Black Tailed Godwits and a lot of Redshanks. A Kingfisher was heard and fleetingly seen as it flew low past the hide...and was later found on a post by one of the other birders. A bit distant but great views, if that makes sense.
A kerfuffle between two Little Egrets had us pondering...watching the brief scuffle at an angle through an unopened window we couldn't see much detail but it looked like one was much bigger than the other, unfortunately the 'smaller' one landed in the open while the larger disappeared into a creek before we could get enough on it...bally typical! If on Monday the Great White Egret comes up on the reserve's website as seen today then we're claiming (stringing) it. We should have gone the few yards further to the next hide and either seen if it was in view from there or asked the incumbents what they had seen but we spent too much time chatting birdy chat and then the phone alarm went off indicating going home time.
we really could have stayed out till well after dark here today, beautiful.
Back at Base Camp whilst riting this rubbish a Long Tailed Field Mouse scampered around the tubs of dying plants just outside the windy - gee he's wick!
Where to next? Back to reality
In the meantime let us know if you had a good day in your outback.


cliff said...

Sounds like a grand days birding Dave.
I considered heading that way myself this morning but thought it maybe a bit on the busy side - was there a crowd at the grit trays?

I note 2 Bearded Tits have been seen at Martin Mere, what chance some turning up at our Mere?


Warren Baker said...

That Robin has obviously got attached to man after being ringed ! Thoses beardies were also sporting much bling, have you reported the colours ?

Quite a post todat Dave !

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Cliff - no crowds at 07.30 not a soul until 8.15, birds showed at about 8.30. Guess saturday is less busy than Sunday. About the 2 Martin Mere birds, two days earlier the rangers very briefly heard just one twang but didn't see anything after a few minutes: 'probable' beardy. Overnight northerlies at the time...hmmm interesting!
I've got big F tomorrow so mere is likely venue.
Warren - 101 juvvy beardies blinged so far this year plus almost all the adults, the population is currently high. A great day out and unfortunately one I can't do too often as big F ain't allowed in, he could view the beardes but that's about it.


Craig said...

Hi Dave, Im glad you had a great time at Leighton moss (like the beardies pics).
It was great to hear about your robin encounter, and it brought back memories of a robin i befriended at a place i used to camp at each weekend (you know where im talking about haha).
My robin friend would often take mealworms from my hand and i became very fond of that robin.
These days when i see robins i always think of those wonderful times i had camping and the robin i was privileged to befriend.

best wishes,

Monika said...

A couple of amazing encounters there! Interesting to see the bands on the robin and the tits (which are truly stunning birds). Nice photos today!