Sunday, 14 April 2013

Almost didn't go out in the rain

The Safari took Frank out at 06.30 in  (yes he treated us to a lie in today, must be Sunday!) and as soon as he was back in his bed with his early morning chew we snuck out in a strong but very mild southerly wind, the temperature was 'already' 12.5C making it the warmest dawn for a long long time. It didn't feel that warm in the wind and there was heavy drizzle in the air.
We went over the hill to Chat Alley thinking the overnight rain might have dropped a few bits n bobs and there would be some vis mig going on too! Wrong!!!
A quick scan of the park by our car parking spot only gave us a couple of Blackbirds and a singing Dunnock, so just local birds and nothing out of the ordinary. The walk acroass to Chat Alley didn't give us any overhead Meadow Pipits or 'alba' Wagtails so we were beginning to think we were in for a dead loss.
A Chiffchaff in thee little ornamental gardens at the top of the cliff raised our spirits but they soon waned the further we walked without seeing or hearing anything else of note. At the Go-kart track an 'alba' Wagtail was heard but then found and discovered to be a 'normal' Pied Wagtail. Without the scope we didn't look out to sea much as the tide was well out and the sea a long way off but one time we did we caught sight of an odd looking duck flying south well offshore...well we thought and stared and stared and thought but couldn't tell what it could be until it banked...a Gadwall; never seen one of those out to sea before!
Bits of litter blowing in the wind looked like flitting birds but sadly weren't. A few Meadow Pipits started to be heard but only in ones and twos, hardly floodgates worth, and eventually we found a striking male Wheatear (130) on the rocks at the bottom of the grassy cliffs...nice one, the morning's target species where there going to be any other chats about, a nice Stonechat or perhaps a Black Redstart, or any of the others would do....No, nothing more was found and we turned round and dropped down to the lower walk at Pipit Slab.
We came across another male Wheatear but it could have been the same one back tracking southwards a bit so we didn't add a tally strike in the notebook. Then we heard a Redshank calling above us, looking up it appeared to glide over the fence at the top of the cliff and land on the grass beyond...never seen one up there before so that would have been interesting to confirm had it done so when we were up there only a few minutes earlier.
A Meadow Pipit was watched as it sang briefly doing a bit a parachute display flight, they would probably be able to nest here if the area wasn't so badly disturbed by dogs and children running mock on the slope, as would Wheatears perhaps.
Not a single hirundine was seen and we only heard a couple more Meadow Pipits and another 'alba' Wagtail
A more thorough look round the park gave us at least one Goldcrest which was nice.
Back at Base Camp crumpets were made for breakfast while the rain hammered down - it looked set in for the rest of the day. Whilst chomping our crumpets and having a slurp of tea in the bedroom we stared out of the window at the grey skies and falling rain and noticed a movement in the pond below us. A Frog was peering out from the water's surface and seemed to have its legs stuck on backwards! We got the scope and tried digi-phone-scoping. Not the best result but not bad considering its at a sharp angle through a very dirty double glazed window with bad hand shake holding the phone. A pair of Frogs in amplexus...should be some more spawn tomorrow to replace the previous dollop that has been frozen.

We even tried a bit of digi-phone-videoing - the performers didn't really perform.

Also in the garden was the first Dunnock since the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch beck at the end of January although we have heard them nearby daily for weeks - just not seen one in the garden, and a pair of Blackbirds are building in our small clump of Ivy growing up the garage wall. Not seen today were the Great Tits who are building in the nest box, they should be cosy this season cos we've ut out a load of combings from a heavily moulting Frank.
We were thinking of not going out in the rain when it eased a bit so we loaded frank into the Land Rover and went to the nature reserve. We parked by the bridge hoping there might be a Wheatear and White Wagtail or two on the ploughed field. We had a quick look while Frank was still sniffing around but only saw a lot of Woodpigeons, a few Lapwings and seven Grey Lag Geese, the only small birds were several Linnets. Frank was still sniffing when the rain started to come down heavy, we watched a dark curtain of it lash across the field and decided to head for the shelter of the nearest hide.
Our mate MMcG was already in there and as we looked out we saw that the rain had dropped a fair few Sand Martins, but were there any other hirundines to be found, we picked up a swift that looked a bit chunky and got MMcG on to it, almost in unison we said to each other "it's got a white belly!" The task was on now to check iwhat we'd seen was actually what we'd seen and what we'd seen wasn't an aberrant Common Swift because both of us had our suspicions as to what it actually was. It stayed high and quite distant but once it came lower against the darker background of the trees in the distance it was clear we'd found the nature reserve's first, Fylde's second, and Lancashire's 8th or 9th Alpine Swift (131, MMLNR #83) and a GB & I Lifer for us...well chuffed!!!
Crackin pic here (and a few others equally good) from MMcG, the white/pale chin looks so obvious in a still photo but was almost impossible to see in flight!
We stayed on the bird while MMcG got the news out. It flew off away to the NE before any of the other birders had had a chance to get down but fortunately it didn't go ourt of sight and came back. It stayed for abuot an hour and a half and several people were able to get down for a look at it.
Also on site were several Swallows (132, 84) and an Willow Warbler (133, 85) sang to our right above the Cetti's Warbler's head.
An American Mink scuttled along the face of the island intently watched by a Coot and a pair of Magpies. Would much rather have seen last night's Otter than that foreign intruder.
It was a while before we had searched through enough Swallows and Sand Martins to find a House Martin (134, 86).
Best of the rest was a Peacock butterfly and a Bumble Bee sp.
All in all a rather good day, and following on from last Sunday's Red Kite what will we find next Sunday...after all these things happen in threes don't they?
In the meantime let us know what the rain dropped in in your outback.


cliff said...

Well done getting the Swift Dave, what an excellent find. You're getting some terrific sightings at the Mere at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Back of the net with that Swift, Dave. Nice one :)