The Safari's brother's big day over on the South-side was preceded by a rather unusual event for the 1st of December. Just as we were closing the front door to leave a White Tailed Bumble Bee flew past us and landed on the weirdly still in flower ‘spring flowering’ Ceanothus bush...to say we weren’t expecting that as the temperature couldn't have been any more than 4°C.
Driving to the venue we pasted the big marshland nature reserve (the ‘latest sightings’ info is little late on here so for up to date info check out GC and CB (when he's not in South America) which was mostly frozen but the grazing areas on both the inland and coastal marshes held large flocks of Pink Footed Geese. A Little Egret was seen in one of the coastal gutters.
A bit of a fuzzy head greeted us the following morning but we were still on site on the North Blackpool Pond Trail to do the BTO Winter Thrushes survey. A crisp and frosty walk started off with a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, just what you need with a hangover, and then had us meeting a friend we’ve not seen for awhile out with his dog who told us he’d just passed a large flock of mixed finches on the other side of the railway line – just outside our survey square. Blackbirds were already in evidence and once on our ‘square’ hit the recording sheet on the clipboard with sustained regularity.
Also notable were the numbers of Grey Squirrels which included one busily chomping away at Field Maple seeds and another pair adding more dry leaves to their drey in a large hole in a Sycamore tree, unbeknowingly being eyed up by one of the local cats.
A Siskin flew over calling and had we been at our vis migging position at the railway bridge would have passed low over our head.
A pair of Moorhens fed in the open on the pasture to our left probably forced out of the cover of their ditch because it was frozen.
The cemetery was dead, nothing moved at all apart from a Heron flying over. We would have expected something, at least a Blackbird, Robin, Wren, or a Dunnock to be in the leaf-litter under the dense boundary hedge but there was nothing!
More Blackbirds were found in the industrial estate feeding on Cotoneaster shrubs planted to brighten the austere surroundings – the Blackbirds don’t care what the buildings look like provided the berry trees and shrubs aren’t pruned so heavily that the all important berries aren’t lost.
A Meadow Pipit sprang up from a weedy area of one of the units’ car parks.
In the nearby housing estate the House Sparrow flock was about 30 strong which is always good to see and cheery to hear.
Beyond the end of the survey but within spitting distance there is the remnant hedgerow and again this was crawling with Blackbirds, at least 25 were plucking berries from the tall Hawthorns or feeding in the leaf-litter.
There was no sign of the finch flock this morning so it may be that the recent Brambling has moved on, unless the flock has found some feeders in a local garden.
After lunch we took Frank to the nature reserve where he was able to walk all the way round...at last!!!
The mere was partially frozen and there was a decent sized flock of gulls to look through later – first we had an appointment with a Long Eared Owl. We sort of knew where it would be but met some visiting birders coming from that direction who hadn’t been able to find it. They retraced their steps with us and fortunately the owl was easy to find but well secreted in the scrub.
|Can yer see 'im?|
Our Extreme Photographer joined us (without camera today) and we had a look over the water and ice from the hide. Nothing untoward in the gulls but at least three dozen Shoveler flew past us, something unknown had flushed them from further up. A few checks of the Teal didn’t give us the Green Winged Teal we would have liked but most were sheltering out of sight in the reedbeds.
The Feeding Station was lively and we could work out if there were two or three Coal Tits.
Beneath the feeders lurked three female Pheasants, what exquisitely marked creatures they are, waiting for the smaller birds to throw unwanted seeds to the floor.
A female Great Spotted Woodpecker came in and promptly made a vicious stab at a Coal Tit that dared land on its feeder.
A Woodpigeon tried in vain to get a the feed, it is well guarded from the dreaded Grey Squirrels, we noticed that bullgog clips have had to be used to thwart their attempts at entry!
Two passes were made by a male Sparrowhawk, the first blitzing through at breakneck sped less than an inch off the ground and a little later another ambush from the scrub at the back in which he narrowly missed a Blue Tit as he sped past the feeder flying side-on with a taloned leg outstretched.
Time was pressing as we had a quick look at more gulls from the Bird Club hide and here heard a Cetti’s Warbler calling. All too soon it was time to go and a bit too early for any Starlings to start coming in or the Barn Owl to think about coming out.
Another family visit saw us driving down the motorway this time where somehow the impossible happened and we forgot to look for the Roe Deer in their usual field although there was a Buzzard in a tree when we realised we had to turn round quick for a last chance look – Wifey was driving!
On the way back rain was falling quite heavily and this prevented any chance of any chance Barn Owl sightings...until we got to the Roe Deer Zone, where on the opposite side of the motorway an owl was sat on a post but it was dark so not a Barn Owl and could have been any of the ‘big, brown three’.
Nothing from patch 2 today other than a male Eider and a soaking from a large wave that over-topped the wall – yuk.
In the darkness of early evening Patch 1 gave us the roosting Peregrine.
Where to next? More shenanigans from a wet and windy Patch 2 probably.
In the meantime let us know who's peeping out of where in your outback