Sunday, 12 February 2017

Still a bit dull, damp and dreary

The Safari hasn't seen much on Patch 2 during the week, the garden feeders remain totally untouched despite there being flocks of about 50 Greenfinches and 25 Goldfinches roosting nearby. Even the Peregrine on the tower has become a little unpredictable.
A visit to the nature reserve for a look round before a meeting saw Monty there for the first time, which curtailed our birding a little. The best bird we came across was the Barn Owl (94, MMLNR #39) on its usual window ledge at dusk. The only pic we took to add to our species tally for our Year Bird Challenge was this grotty attempt at a few Wigeon (YBC # 70) in the gloom.
On Saturday Wifey had family duties so we were able to take Monty on a more serious birding safari. We decided to take him north over the river with a few target species to aim for. We parked up and walked along the little promenade. The tide was up but on its way down but hadn't covered the little saltmarsh. No sign of target one along there so we walked to the tiny ferry terminal and had a look around the new posh apartment block for target species number two. It wasn't giving itself up either. We did spot three gentlemen crouched down at the top of the slip with big lenses pointing at something on the very small tide line. Target species one was there, about two dozen of them, Twite (95, YBC #71) and so we tied Monty to a nearby post so he could see what we were doing and joined the 'throng'. Gloomy with drizzle in the air but our pics weren't too bad.
Pleased with these pics as it's a species we somehow managed to avoid last year. 
From there we had wander down to the golf course hoping to see an Eider in the river mouth, there weren't any today. A quick look around the apartments, yet again there was no sign of target two, the Black Redstart. Back to the car we went, spotting a Little Egret and a pair of Shelducks feeding close in to the prom. The egret disappeared down one of the many little creeks not to be seen again leaving us the Shelducks (96, YBC #72). The dire conditions didn't do their fabulous plumage any favours.
Plenty of Redshanks and Sanderlings were on the mud but no Knots which we could have been grateful for although we shouldn't have too much trouble catching up with them somewhere before the year is out...Famous last words??? Once in the car we drove down to the slipway for a last look for the Black Redstart, several other birders were there but hadn't even come across the Twite, where had they nicked off to?
With no joy we headed inland passing the first farmland feeding station as there were already three cars parked up so no chance of squeezing in a fourth. Around the bend we saw a couple of Stock Doves (97) fly over the hedge in front of us. We had the second feeding station to ourselves and parked as close down the track as we dared needing to be at an angle to point the lens out of the window, in the Land Rover this wouldn't have been a problem but Monty hasn't been trained in hauling stuck cars out of the muddy edges of farm tracks. We did get a few pics of the farmland specialities. There were a lot of Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows but our eyes were peeled for even more colourful fare. First up though was the very common, although perhaps declining a little, Collared Doves (YBC #73)
Nice but not colourful enough, we were hoping for something a little brighter, when all of a sudden there were three of them. You really can't beat a Yellowhammer (98, #YBC #74) what a shame they have disappeared from much of our countryside. How could we let something so bright and cheery go?
And if we struggle with something 'pretty' what chance does something 'dull and boring' have? Like this Corn Bunting (99, YBC #75)
Actually there's been a bit of good news regarding Corn Buntings from Scotland where farmers have joined together to provide better habitat and very importantly late winter seed to provide sufficient food through the 'hungry period' of late winter and early spring. See the full story here 
No Stock Doves turned up here though. Returning to the first feeding station we did manage to squeeze in but there wasn't anything on the seed so we continued round the corner to see if we could find the goose flock. Easily done just stop by the the gang with the scopes parked up on the roadside.
One of the lads was kind enough to give us a look through his scope at the Red Breasted Goose (100). It had been hard to spot being right at the back of the flock which was spread across several fields and was spending most of its time down a little dip out of sight. The only way to try to get a pic was take lots of shots across the whole flock in that area. At one time something spooked them and all their heads went up - time to hit the shutter button! 
Well we got a few of the White Fronted Geese (101, YBC #76) that were in with the thousand or more Pink Footed Geese, but the diminutive Red Breasted Goose mustn't have had a long enough neck to clear the dip from where it was stood as there was no sign of it in any of our pics.
Why can't the odd ones out be at the front of the flock when we go a-goosing? These were only a couple of hundred yards away over the roadside hedge...There's still a dip in the field though, no doubt had the RBG been with this group it would have been hiding in that dead ground all the time we were there!
Time was pushing on now and Monty needed a bit of a run so we went to the furthest point of our journey and let him our at the car park overlooking the big saltmarsh. The tide was now well out so no birds were close in. We took him for a walk around the pond which was quite apart from a pair of Tufted Ducks and an unseen calling Moorhen. Once he'd had a good run round and a bit of play with a couple of other dogs we headed back to Base Camp but took the minor detour to the first feeding station. This time there wasn't a car in sight but as we pulled up the birds on the seen, mostly Stock Doves and Woodpigeons, we waited a long time for them to return but they didn't. Turning round it was time to go but only a few hundred yards down the lane we spotted a Buzzard sat on the remains of a bale over the hedge. We stopped and reversed and got the camera through the window, even though it was only mid-afternoon it was really gloomy, too gloomy for pics really. OK it's identifiable so Buzzard (YBC #77) goes into the album.
Hopefully we'll be able to swap it for a better, clearer pic taken in daylight sooner rather than later.
All in all not a bad day out on safari.
We didn't get a chance to get out on Sunday.
Where to next? Patch 2 at lunchtime or maybe the waste depot, what a great place to enjoy your butties.
In the meantime let us know who's hiding down a hole in your outback.

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