The Safari has enjoyed to bright crisp mornings this week. The colder weather has brought a few more birds to the feeders at Base Camp including at long last the first Coal Tit of the autumn. Of most note have been the much larger than usual number of Blackbirds enticed in by the good crop of berries on next door's Rowan trees. The sunny mornings have offered several lovely autumnal photo opportunities.
A wander over to Marton Mere yesterday gave us a nice Mistle Thrush dropping in from on high on the top of pathside bush right in front of us. We get the impression that they are far less numerous locally than in recent years but in the NW they are about as common as they were back in 1995 but then the population rose by a massive 50% in the early naughties before dropping back to 'normal. Perhaps that's why we think they are less common now - certainly extinct as a local breeder around Patch 1 now especially as their favourite nesting trees have been felled, both for dubious reasons too. We don't hear them singing in the early part of the year from over by the railway as we used to only a couple or so years ago and we've not had one in the garden at Base Camp, actually usually on the TV aerial rather than down on the ground IN the garden, since 2013!
We met up with LR in the Feeding Station hide, still not a great deal happening in there despite the dropping temperatures. Grey Squirrels entertained us with their acrobat antics trying to defeat the anti-squirrrel baffles and Pheasants mopped up the spillage below - bring on the aliens. Natives were represented by a small number of Chaffinches, Great and Blue Tits, a Robin, a Wren, a Dunnock and a gaggle of Magpies.
A look from the Bittern-spotting area didn't give us any Bitterns and not a whole lot else apart from a lorra lorra Coots, maybe over 200 of the the little black beauties, LT picked up a Little Grebe on the far side that we didn't manage to get on.
Cetti's Warblers shouted at each other from the depths of the reedbed, by the time we'd completed the circuit we'd heard half a dozen of them. A couple of them were, as always, at the Fylde Bird Club hide but better than them was a female Goosander that circled round to the left of us and fortunately came in and landed right below us. Our first here for a few years, 2015 in fact.
Leaving the water we continued round to the embankment to have a listen for any Bearded Tits without any joy; everywhere else in west Lancashire/SW Cumbria seems to have them so why not us? Surely it can only be a matter of time before someone drops on them.
Talking of dropping on we watched a male Kestrel do a bit of hovering over the field to the east before swooping round to take up position on the big post a Barn Owl nesting box used to sit on. It didn't stay there long before dropping off and coming up with lunch of hat looked like a Short Tailed Field Vole. Leaving it to it's lunch we pressed on finding the scrub quiet save for a couple of Redwings, we've still not had a Fieldfare over on the side of the country this autumn. Then LR shouted out "Egret!". We looked over towards the water only to see him pointing the opposite way - we spun round with the bins to our eyes and saw that it was quite long winged and definitely black footed rather than yellow-footed - - get in! A Great White Egret which is a site tick for us despite what it says in the birds of Marton Mere 2nd Ed an event we don't recall back in February 2012. Maybe AB can confirm we were with him on that day and we did see it.
Anyway it was good to see on, we think it was a fly-over and hadn't been grounded somewhere round the mere.
At the Viewing Platform there was still no sign of any Bitterns but we did start to notice some small loose flocks of Starlings going past.
None seemed to turn back so we guess they were heading to the pier to roost. but then we saw more starting to congregate down at the far end, over the reedbed and fields.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Starlings was that there were two large flocks and individual smaller flocks joining them seemed to know which one they belonged to. The ones at our end spent much less time flying round, well you couldn't call it a murmuration by any stretch of the imagination, but dropped in to the reeds to roost very quickly and newly arriving flocks went straight in to settle down for the night. Whereas the ones at the far end built up in numbers and had a bit of a murmurate before funneling down in to the reeds, not all of them mind and late joining flocks continued to fly round before dropping in, so much so that there were still a lot in the air when we had to leave but the western lot close to us had now gone quiet deep in the reedbed and very few were coming in to add to their number now. How do they know who is who and where they should go to join their mates?
Today's Marton Mere meander was much quieter, we couldn't find anything to point the camera at all the way round. Our best sighting was a Red Admiral butterfly on a sunny but still quite chilly morning and we think we may have heard a Bullfinch but a five minute wait listening for a second call proved fruitless.
A couple of Goldcrests were best of the rest, like we said it wasn't too lively for us today, had we not been dragged hither and thither by Monty we might have had a bit more time to stand and study the surroundings a bit more thoroughly and found a bit more but it wasn't to be.
In the meantime let us know who's swarming round your outback