The Safari joined the North Blackpool Pond Trail volunteers on Thursday morning to assist in a bit of pond clearance at one of the top ponds along the trail, so good for its aquatic life it's listed by the Freshwater Habitats Trust as one of their Flagship Ponds.
It is having a bit of trouble with Willow bushes and Reedmace becoming dominant and excluding the open water species the pond was identified as being important for so several days of work parties have been arranged to knock back the vegetation succession to provide more open water so the scarcer species can thrive again. We did a little bit of branch dragging to keep the dead-hedge (built to protect one side of the pond from unnecessary access) team supplied and took a few pics. Unfortunately we had to leave before lunch so you're only seeing half the work that was done...we'll have to nip back this coming week to get some 'after' pics.
|Into the wet Willow thicket|
|The first layer of the dead-hedge|
|Out comes the Typha|
|The dead-hedge is coming along nicely|
|The Willow is being reduced too|
|More to do but now there's lots of open water|
|Many hands making light work of the Typha side of the pond too as brew time approaches|
The following day we'd arranged to have a further flung safari with CR and as luck would have it we got the easily the best day of the week for the weather, wall to wall sunshine and no wind...it was even quite warm for late January - no hat or gloves needed! There's been a few scarce local birds in the Lancaster area recently so we decided to head for those before going on up to Leighton Moss especially as the light would be best for them earlier in the morning.
The Black Throated Diver was our first stop and an easy find. We drew up by an old fella laying the roadside hedge, we could have joined him rather than twitch the diver as not half an hour earlier we'd taken our axes out of the car! He asked if the bird was still there an a very quick scan with the bins revealed it was if a little distant half way across the reservoir and in the shade of the bankside wood.
It was swimming into the better lit part of the res but was diving regularly not surfacing for long so we got lots of shots like this. (96, PYLC #66)
Next up was the Chough at Heysham so the sat -nav was set and almost at our destination we should have ignored it and taken the direct route for some reason it didn't want us to go on but took us on a loop round the back of town which took us past one of the areas it had been seen so we stopped for a quick look but saw too many dogwalkers so moved on quickly. We should have looked longer and harder as this appeared on the Heysham Obs blog later "Pale-bellied Brent Goose - on the shore off the childrens play area, viewable from Knowlys road vantage point" - precisely where we had parked the car- - dohhhhh!!!! - Isn't hindsight is a wonderful thing
A check of the blog showed the Chough had favoured the other end of Half Moon Bay in the last couple of days which was our intended destination anyway so off we went again ignoring the sat-nav's directions. Again there were dogwalkers everywhere so we weren't too hopeful but it was a good day for a wander so off we went and after scanning the cliffs and having no joy looking in the sheep fields spotted two blokes down on the cliff edge with cameras - bingo - - if you want to find the bird look for the birders! Not ten yards beyond them was a black shape poking around on the cliff edge across a little gully and then we saw the red legs and bill, Chough hits the year list at #97 but could we get a pic for our Photo Year List Challenge?
Cautiously we approached the two lads especially the last 20 yards or so but to no avail either we or something else spooked the bird and it flew past us back the way we'd come from calling loudly. We swung the camera round pressed the shutter button and fired a few shots off hoping for the best. (PYLC #67)Not good but there was another couple of birders behind us who saw where it may have landed so we retraced our steps. It wasn't in the sheep field nor could we find it on the cliffs although the light looking at the cliff edge was absolutely dire. But we had a little luck when the two lads who were watching it earlier relocated it in the dog walking field of all places.When flying past us it was often too close for the camera, the action was that quick and sudden we didn't get the chance to zoom out a bit!
It was now approaching lunchtime so we decided to move on to Leighton Moss giving the potential of a Glaucous Gull in Heysham harbour a miss aiming straight to the marshes where we heard a Greenshank (98) flying off into the distance before we got to the first hide. The Lapwings were very unsettled often taking flight.
There wasn't much else on the pool, a few Teal, Wigeon and Pintail and a scattering of Redshank, the only close-ish bird was one of those Redshanks.
A lady in the hide called out a Kingfisher but it left its perch as soon as we got to her side of the hide and lifted the camera
Don't think we'll be adding this one to our Photo Year Bird Challenge album - not unless it's still the best we have of a Kingfisher come tea time on 31st December
Leighton Moss was busy! Very busy, so busy it took two laps of the car park to get a lucky space as someone was leaving. There's too many retired folk with too much time on their hands and too much money for optics these days!!!!! - Enough said!
We had some seed normally destined for the garden at Base Camp in our pocket and put it out on a favoured tree trunk a waited - didn't have to wait long before the birds started arriving for the free hand out
And with them came a Marsh Tit (99, PYLC #68)
The group of Snipe (100 - can't believe it's taken us this long to find a Snipe!) in the corner weren't for having their pic taken. With little else happening their we moved on to the next hide where a Little Egret flew off but we checked the other egret to find it was actually the much scarcer Great White Egret (101). It didn't fly off with the Little Egret but strayed put and did some serious fishing catching several Sticklebacks. Brilliant to watch but the light made photographing a brilliantly white bird 'challenging'. (PYBC #69)
C mentioned it would be nice to see a Marsh Harrier and lo and behold one appeared as if by magic giving great views but taking most people in the hide by surprise so no-one got any pics. C now had mythical status and was asked to produce all manner of good stuff like Bitterns, Otters and Bearded Tits, sadly none of those would oblige.
At the Causeway hide (formerly the Public hide) we had superb views of the Teal which started doing a bit of displaying in the afternoon sunshine.
Once again the Marsh Harrier put in an appearance but it was nearer Yorkshire than to us! Not the best pics but just about identifiable so OK for the Challenge - in at #70.
A young Mute Swan from last year's brood took exception to an adult that got into its space and off it shot like a rocket
Don't think we've ever noticed an immature chase an adult like this - it's invariably the other way round but chase it did and persistent too covering 10s of yards with it's double-footed paddle until the adult was well away from where it wasn't wanted.
And then time was up...hat a great day out on safari and all the better for being out in the lovely sunshine.Where to next? We've got some beach and marine wildlife escapades lined up this week.
In the meantime let us know who's getting all flighty in the sunshine in your outback