Sunday, 21 December 2014

Fourth time unlucky

The Safari set off with Frank on wild-goose chase number 4 late morning today. As we came over the brow of the little rise we saw there was no-one stood on the verge at the corner in the distance, probably not a good sign we thought. A car was close behind so we couldn't slow down too much to get a proper look at the fields through the too tall to see over and too thick to see through hedge. A gap were someone has done remarkably well to crash through didn't give us any geese, nor did the gateway where the fly-tippers incessantly dump their rubbish so it was down to the farmland feeding station to try our luck there. At the double gate half way down the farm track there was no sign of any geese in the fields but the feeding station was like Piccadilly Circus at rush hour - never seen so many cars there, almost not enough space to squeeze the Land Rover in! But where was everybody? FB And PS were stood at the gate but obviously chatting and not looking at anything. There was nothing of note out across the railway they told us, the goose flock was miles away along the track, far too far to drag Frank...and they said that most of the flock was out of sight down the wrong side of a slight raise and the place to view them from was very exposed to the howling gale. so we didn't bother with the geese today. The lads did show us another feeding station at the back of the farm we weren't aware of. It was pretty lively with at least nine Long Tailed Tits, several each of Blue and Great Tits, a Robin and a Dunnock
What to do next? After a little thought we headed up north to see if we could get a proper look at the Shore Lark and a chance of the recent Snow Bunting and Grey Phalarope which have been seen near the Shore Lark in recent days.
It took a while to get up there through the Christmas shopping traffic - we do get the impression that corporate businesses in America and China must be rubbing their hands in glee at the amount of tat-to-become-landfill-in-a-couple-of-weeks that's being bought, this rampant consumerism has to be stopped before it brings us to a stop on a dead planet.
Once at the car park we got a seen-from-the-car tick, the Shore Lark! Another birder was tucked in behind the only bush big enough to give shelter and was taking photos so the bird must have been in front of him, a quick scan of the field through the windscreen and there it was. We let Frank out, grabbed the scope and went to join him, hoping the bush was big enough to shelter two. It was but the Shore Lark was still too far away for our lens.
Never mind the dreadful pic we enjoyed cracking scope views for a good few minutes as it searched around successfully for niblets in the grass.
Our friend left to look for the Grey Phalarope and we set off in the other direction to look for the Snow Bunting, we hadn't gone far when another birder came towards us and told us it was showing well but well round the corner, too far for Frank to walk so we did a U-ey and had a look on the dropping tide at the multitude of gulls arriving to feed on the strandline.
A sand-bank a hundred yards or more offshore meant there was a large area of slack water not being stirred up by the wind, a good place to look for the Grey Phal. We didn't see it but the gulls were well worth a good searching through just in case, most on the shoreline but many bobbing about gently on the water. In front of us right under our nose we spotted a movement, a few Turnstones were poking around in the sand rather than turning stones to collect what looked like Sandhoppers but it was that windy it was hard to hold the bins or camera steady. We tried a bit of video filming but didn't get it quite right so we've deleted it and aren't going to show you but it has giving us the impetus to make a New Year's resolution to try to do more video and put together some short 'wildlife documentaries' Haha that should be fun but not sure what the finished result will be AND we'll have to remember to do it!
We caught up with the first birder who'd spent more time than us looking at the waders than we had and kindly pointed out three Purple Sandpipers, it's been a good season for this species along our coast. Nice to see them in a natural setting for a change rather than roosting on the concrete wall of the old boating pool. More Turnstones, Sandlings with a few Dunlins and Ringed Plovers were on the beach too. 
He hadn't had any joy with the phalarope either and was hopeful of a white winger amongst the throng of gulls but neither us could find either of those. He went off to check the marine lake, just in case...we take it he was unsuccessful cos he didn't come running back and nothing appeared on the birding websites later.
The gulls were having a rare ol' time with the washed up shellfish and some of them were chowing down on Sea Mice and appeared to have a technique for removing most of the hairs before swallowing.
A couple of old boys appeared and walked down the beach to where they had put out fixed fishing lines. Seems a bit risky as there were dogs running round in and out of the water right where they were only minutes earlier just waiting to stand on a hook! Not that we particularly like the dogs on the beach running around flushing all the birds coming in to feed when they need it most. It's only part of  Ramsar Site, SPA and SSSI for crying out loud.
The first chap had at least four Codling, which went in his bucket, two looked very small v close to the minimum size but already dead. The other had less luck with only two tiny Dabs again taken but dead.
Frank was tired by now and the wind was keen so we bottled out of the rest of the day and took him back to Base Camp to rest his weary bones in front of the fire.
Not a long day out on safari but very enjoyable despite not seeing everything on offer and the brisk, chilly wind...just good to be out really.
Where to next? Well it's holiday season so we could end up anywhere.
In the meantime let us know who's still too far away but giving great views in your outback

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