The Safari wouldn't have minded a trip over the water to have a gawp at the Glaucous Winged Gull and the Vega Gull that turned up recently, not to mention the five Ring Billed Gulls at the famous Nimmo's Pier in Galway - saw one there on our only visit many years ago to see the Double Crested Cormorant.
This morning saw last night's snow still lying on the ground but the local Magpies were busy building up their new nest some of it being scavenged from last year's nest.
After our Sunday morning traditional big bacon butty breakfast it was time to have a chilly wander round the nature reserve. One the way we counted three big snowmen and saw sledging fun being had on the slopes of the golf course near the hospital. The park lake was nearly all frozen over so we hoped there's be plenty of ice on the reserve too.
We started at the FBC hide where the water was far from frozen, the approach to the hide gave us our first Song Thrush here (MMLNR #56). There were a decent number of water ducks and a few gulls to look at. Always hopeful of a good gull we set about checking them over. Eventually something a bit different dropped in, a Herring Gull with a bit too much white in its wingtip and worthy of closer inspection.
After a while it was disturbed by another gull landing too close and we were able to get a bit of an open wing shot. Looks like a Scandinavian bird but not from too far north. Long white P10 tip big mirrors on P9 no mark on P5 and small 'pearls' on P6, 7 and 8. The mantle wasn't appreciably darker than the normal 'argenteus' Herring Gulls.
A Great Crested Grebe (MMLNR #56) was on the water with the other waterfowl. Time to move on and see what else we could find. The only frozen water was in the corner where there were a few Black Headed Gulls roosting.
|We're sure you'll find the odd one out|
From there we crossed the bridge and saw a Buzzard (MMLNR #59) sat in the Hawthorn bushes at the end of the dyke. The fields still had a smattering of snow and the large puddle/flood was frozen solid, the only things moving were a few Carrion Crows and a couple of Jackdaws. In the far distance there was a decent flock of gulls but too far away to do any justice too.
Continuing our stroll we left the reserve passing calling Water Rail and Cetti's Warbler on the way, but we still can't find a Reed Bunting.
We can't go to the reserve and not have a look at the Long Eared Owls, today we could only find one of them. While we were watching it doing nothing as usual we were able to be able to show it through the scope a couple of families out enjoying the wintery conditions.
Retracing our steps back into the reserve (the owl is in the reserve but you have to view it from outside over the fence) we passed the reedbed on our left to the sound of a calling Chiffchaff (93, MMLNR #60). We couldn't see any more owls from this side either.
|Looking up the main north path. The owls are slightly behind and to the right of this pic|
A heavy and cold shower came down so we moved on quickly to the Feeding Station. At the feeders it was busy due to the cold weather, the two Coal Tits were top of the list here, still no Reed Bunting for us though.
Once the rain had stopped we continued our circuit looking over the mere from the 'Bramble Patch' - needs a bench here (hint hint!) but almost all the ducks and gulls were down the far end so we didn't stay long and went back to the Bird Club hide where MJ and EP were already counting the waterfowl.
There were at least 400 Teal, 50 Wigeon, 75 Mallards, 33 Gadwall, 50 something Tufted Ducks, 4 male Pochards and a female and a pair of Goldeneyes, Coot numbers were up around 100 possibly swelled by birds forced off the frozen park lake. We stayed a while enjoying the spectable.
As we left we saw a Blackthorn coming into unseasonal flower.
Another excellent mooch round the reserve and a few more species for our Patchwork Challenge.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow - weather permitting.
In the meantime let us know who's being unseasonal in your outback