Monday, 24 February 2014

No wind, no rain, warm sun - wot's goin on?

The Safari had a rare day off today as Wifey is working in the Big Smoke again and we had to stay home and look after Frank. No hardship on a day like today, he even had a lie in waking us up an hour after he normally does. We had a bit of brekky and watched the clouds clear and the wind drop, time to load him into the Land Rover and aim northwards and invaded a couple of other birders' patches
We had several target birds to connect with but even if we didn't find them it with the sun out for a change it was going to be a good day's safari-ing anyway.
First stop was the farmland feeding station which was already busy. The hedge was full of Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows and a Dunnock. Down the track a couple of partridges scuttled through the undergrowth and eventually showed themselves to be released for shooting Red Legged Partridges which don't go on our list, bonny birds though, shame to fill them with lead really, although they probably taste good, are free range (after release from the breeding pens) and are more or less organic so we'd hazard a guess they're probably better for you than factory farmed meat.
Scanning back along the top of the hedge there was one of the target species, a Corn Bunting  (108), and a second already down on the seed. Another hedge scan revealed a female Yellowhammer (109), things were bobbing along nicely.
Not the best of pics taken through the car window.
We gave it a good wait hoping that all the activity would produce a raptor, preferably a Merlin or a Hen Harrier. It did but neither of those two. In the distance a huge flock of Lapwings and Golden Plovers kept rising up and wheeling round beyond the little wood...a Buzzard appear and perched up in said wood. Deffo worth the wait if only to see the masses of plovers in the air, it was a real wildlife spectacle of the highest order.
Moving down the lane a mile or so we stopped at the second feeding station, passing a right bonny male Yellowhammer on the roadside hedge and a small flock of Pink Footed Geese feeding on left over potatoes in the fields either side of the road on the way. Not much was at the grain there, a couple of Reed Buntings and a few Chaffinches, another Yellowhammer and another couple of Corn Buntings. Again no Hen Harrier quartering the rough fields.
The field adjacent to the track has been ripped to pull out any Bog Oak stumps out of the peat that might foul the plough. There were plenty scattered around showing that this area was once woodland, possibly something like Alder Carr as it would have been seasonally very wet.
Time to move on again so we pointed the bonnet northwards to the top end of our day's adventure. A good bird was spotted from the driving seat at about 45mph, the Glossy Ibis was in the usual field with at least half a dozen Little Egrets, we made a mental note to call in on the way back.  Arriving at the creeks the tide was well out and there was plenty of mud exposed - perfect!
Our first port of call was the main car park to give Frank a stretch and sniff and to check out the outer marsh but once on the old railway bride we could see numpties with dogs way out in both directions, consequently there wasn't a bird to be seen; what is it with these people, they have miles of specially designated paths to walk their mutts but no they have to disturb the habitat - willfully or recklessly disturbing a Designated wildlife area, pretty sure this one is an SSSI should be punishable by death - in this habitat by being buried up the neck in the mud at low tide! Soon make the pillards think twice about wandering around willy-nilly.
Nothing for it but to drive round the the pool where we found another birding couple just leaving and telling us they'd seen the usual suspects, Goldeneyes, Tufted Ducks, a couple of Little Grebes, Teal, Wigeon, all nice but nothing earth shattering. Behind us on the creek they asked what the long legged silvery grey bird was, a Grey Plover nowhere near  its summer garb. Also there were plenty of Redshanks, Teal and another Little Grebe. Three Black Tailed Godwits flew in as we were having our lunch.
We thought we'd seen a Spotted Redshank from the car as we approached the little hump backed bridge but couldn't be sure as we were concentrating on the upcoming cars approaching from the other side. From where we now stood we couldn't see them so leaving Frank to have a rest we took the scope and wandered back the way we'd come and sure enough there they were, tow of them together, Spotted Redshanks (110). Oystercatchers and Curlews flew over our heads and we could hear a Skylark singing, it was turning into a very pleasant day to be out.
Spotted Redshank
For comparison
Lovely elegant birds
Next it was time to cross the canal and circumnavigate the little docks to go and chase down a herd of swans that has been in the area for a while. Cruising the lanes we saw small very distant groups of swans that probably didn't hold the ones we wanted to see so we ignored them. Then rounding a bend there, through a gap in the hedge we saw the flock of flocks, well over 100 of them! And fortunately conveniently sited by a little bit of a lay-by on the single track lane.
Setting her scope up on a very narrow footbridge, only just wide enough to make the tripod functionable, we started to scan. It took a good for tries, moving back and forth along the bridge to get the best views obscured by branches and reeds from the hedge and ditch right in front of us but eventually right at the back of the herd we found a pair of adult Bewick's Swans (111). Fair reward for our persistence and a relief too as earlier in the week we'd told HW that they had our name on them. Skylarks were singing unseen above us and a covey of partridges  broke cover and came in to view behind the Bewick's Swans. It took a while to nail them as Grey Partridges (112) against the strong light, a good 'scarce' in the FoV combo - not that Grey Partridges should be scarce at all and even these might be 'left-overs' from shooting releases although they are at least native and do go on the list.

Frank had been cooped up in the back so we drove to the car park on the marsh at the end of the lane and let him out immediately flushing what we thought was a Merlin off the fence post right behind the Land Rover, we hadn't noticed it as we reversed up to the grassy bank.
Frank jumped out and we found the Merlin was now actually a female Kestrel sat on a lump of mud away across the field but Frank had his nose in something on the other side of the bank...a dead Brown Hare - that's what the Kestrel had been on and being down the bank why we hadn't seen it on the fence-posts. we hope it has died of natural causes and not been run down by scrotes with dogs.
But have a close look at those teeth - what's that groove for, we've seen a few dead Brown Hares over the years and do know for a fact they taste good, but have never taken any interest in their teeth before. It's so well defined it has to have a purpose.
There was yet another numpty woman with a whole pack of dogs out on the scar, fortunately the tide was out and the birds don't use it at this time being spread out over the huge expanse of the mud-flats but she no doubt would have been there causing mayhem had the tide been in, another dog walker had only four dogs two of which were running amock through the sheep in the field which hadn't yet lambed - if they hadder been our sheep both barrels from the Purdey would have been in order and we don't even like sheep!
We'd seen enough and made our way back to the Glossy Ibis to find that there were no no Little Egrets visible from the lane to the church and a group of birders looking for them. We drove to the top and back to tell them the bad news then left them to find any other birds there, once on the main road we looked up the field to see a single Little Egret still there so back tracked to let them know.
The group had said that the dark bellied Brent Goose was showing quite close at its usual place, normally it's a dot in the distance so we called in there on the way back. 
Frank had another mooch and sniff while we set up the scope, finding the Brent Goose (113) within a couple of minutes well separated from its usual Shelduck and Pink Footed Geese friends of both of which there were a goodly number.
Little Egrets appeared here and there as they walked in and out of the numerous creeks and behind us in the shrubby woods two cockerels crowed extremely loudly.
We called back at the frst feeding station where this time the grain was largely ignored just a couple of Chaffinches lingering in the hedge but a movement on the ditch side of the track caught our eye, another splendidly marked Grey Partridge.

Apologies for the poor shot but it was a long way down the track beyond the seed dump. Think these are going to elevated to become our faves, yes above even Moorhens and Mediterranean Gulls - well they are little stunners aren't they and a bird of our youth when we roamed the fields near our ancestral home in the very earliest days of our safari-ing adventures - sadly we just don't see them anything like often enough these days.
Returning to the main road we saw an odd blob behind a horse in the field and pulled over to rub our eyes, blink and look again.
Not everyday you see a Rhea in rural Lancashire!
A call in at the Dyke gave us a Little Egret, plenty of Redshanks, nothing of note in the gull roost and a Bar Tailed Godwit but no Twite; we were to learn back at Base Camp that half a dozen had been seen there earlier...dohhh - but in fact apart from a handful of Starlings there were no small birds at all not even in the hedge on the drive up the track to the seawall. Way out on the mudfalts was yet another bloke and his pesky dog!!!
A quick call in at the promenade in the village also failed to give us any Twite but we were surprised to see scaffolding and workmen at the Black Redstart's building site that has been dormant for how many years.
By now we'd long finished the coffee in the flask and were feeling parched, Frank had done enough sniffing so back to Base Camp we went, pretty happy with the day's safari-ing.
Where to next? Another day off tomorrow but Wifey is back sometime in the afternoon so we can't go so far...nature reserve to see if the change in the weather has moved anything around perhaps.
In the meantime let us know who's been moved in to favourite spot in your outback.


Scyrene said...

This is why I need to learn to drive ASAP.

cliff said...

A top day out day with some great birds & photos.

The Hare photos are quite graphic - you'll be getting in trouble with the PC brigade - did you see this earlier today?