Sunday, 28 February 2016

Yet more invisible owls

The Safari was feeling decidedly liverish did the last of the BTO Goldfinch survey watches yesterday morning. We'd been out until ridiculous o'clock supping copious excessive quantities of fine ale with good friends and Wifey to her favourite karaoke haunt. Wifey is a very good singer, we don't sing, the agonised shrieks and howls of those suffering unmentionable torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition are nothing in comparison at our attempts at warbling. Blurred double vision aside we counted four Goldfinches for the survey, one of our higher counts! six Greenfinches was a good count too. This has to have been one of the easiest citizen science surveys ever devised and if there's something similar soon we'd recommend you take part.
Wifey went out swimming and we had a sneaky hour at the nature reserve doing nothing other than looking for the Tawny Owl that had been reported again from the same place the previous afternoon. God to know it's still about. We looked high and low and east and west but couldn't see any sign of it. After a while another birder, from out of town, turned up. He wasn't over-impressed by the mega lurking in the trees behind the hedge but was, not unsurprisingly, more interested in seeing the Long Eared Owls which he naturally assumed we were looking at/for. We took him the extra 100 yards or so along the path and showed him one very easy, one not quite so easy and one very tricky Long Eared Owls. We both then went to look at the mere to see if the Iceland Gull was present, the other of his day's target species. We couldn't see it from the path but as we were now time constrained suggested he go down to the Viewing Platform and see if it could seen from there.
Later in the afternoon we were back for another longer look and met up with PL. We both looked high and low and east and west but again had no success. From not seeing the Tawny Owl we went to the Viewing Platform to try our luck with the Bittern(s). We stood there for the best part of two hours listening to the multitude of Cetti's Warblers, a couple deafeningly close, squealing Water Rails and a hweeting Chiffchaff. Behind us in the trees there was an unseen Goldcrest calling.
In the pool in front of us there was a pair of Teal and pairs each of fighting Coots and fighting Moorhens. The light began to fade and as it did so the Teal became more active and started feeding all around the pool eventually coming right to the bank below us.
By now toes and fingers were cooling down rapidly and with no sign of anything beginning with B, namely Bittern, Bearded Tit or Barn Owl we called it a day.
After breakfast Wifey was able to identify a Wren (Wifey #49) from its song drifting in on the gentle breeze through the bedroom window.
At lunchtime we picked up JH and GB at the prom and took them to the nature reserve for their first visit in 15 years, they have been out of town and ' overseas' for that time though. Indeed while waiting for their tram to arrive we had a scan of the sea and in the distance beyond the windfarm we could see the grey shapes of the tops of the hills of their previous residence, the Isle of Man. It wasn't a particularly birding visit more a social natter and show them what's been going on in the last decade and a half - more reeds!!! said GB.
Our first stop was the lively Feeding Station where there were birds a plenty. Most were flitting around too quickly, it was cold overnight and they were busy piling on the pounds for another cold night ahead. We failed miserably with the Coal Tits and only just managed a almost passable pic of one of the several Long Tailed Tits.
The rotters just wouldn't keep still! We wanted a pic of the Moorhen family that was sneaking around too, but they wouldn't sneak far enough out of the scrub for us, the cracking male Reed Bunting was behaving in exactly the same manner, refusing to come out into the open.
Continuing round we stopped briefly at Ice Station Zebra, it was lovely out on the grass with warm sun on our backs but as soon as we entered the hide there was a temperature plummet of about 50C. Gulls aplenty were on the water in front of us but not the Iceland Gull today. The only noteworthies were the large increase in numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls as they return from their wintering grounds on the tips and coasts of Spain, Portugal and North Africa. A Coot came into the reeds in front of us but wouldn't venture into open water, it looked like it was prospecting suitable nesting locations.
Crossing the bridge at the east end the view over the new stream the air was so clear it was almost possible to tick Red Grouse on the Bowland fells (but not Hen Harriers - cos they've killed them all!) 
Looking the other way the light was strong but back lit a patch of Teasels beautifully.
A quick jaunt out of the reserve took us through the sunny glade along the path illuminating a some well opened Blackthorn flowers.
And although it's still winter coming on spring we spotted a nice fungus growing on a broken stump deep in the wet scrub.
A few yards later we were at our target but they weren't showing quite as well as yesterday, Not only that we could only find two of the three.
Can you see the second owl?
We approached the Viewing Platform and rounding the last tree managed to only flush a flippin Bittern (109, MMLNR #76) right from the edge of the pool where we hoped it would be with PL yesterday. Unfortunately our chatter had it fly round to the left and drop into the dense reedbed not to be seen again.
Today it was warm on the bench sat in the sunshine, very pleasant indeed. As usual Cetti's Warblers verbally sparred with each other and Water Rails screamed at each other. The pair of Teal were still in the pool and a Little Grebe called unseen from the hidden pool to our right. After a while the Teal started moving around again, what a difference a bit of light makes.
As ever time ran out and we had to make tracks. On the way back to the car we passed a good show of Crocuses we helped school children plant in the years running up to the Millennium.
Shame the other circle gets trodden on and wrecked by both dogs and humans walking on them - maybe we shouldn't have planted them so near the gate...ohhh hang on maybe the numpties should respect them and keep themselves and their mutts off them.
But enough of the ranting and doom and gloom this was a lovely day out with good company and plenty of warm sunshine.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 where a couple of days of light winds should have calmed down the sea enough to have a good look at what's out there.
In the meantime let us know who's been showing themselves off in the sunshine in your outback.


1 comment:

Jane Hards Photography said...

"looks like a cormorant/heron type thingy bird but paler" was my attempt at identifying the Bittern, who was anything but little. Great day out at one of Blackpool hidden gems, Marton Mere.