Thursday, 13 December 2018

A one day road trip

The Safari picked up CR last Monday and off we went down the motorway towards Bolton. Many years ago we used to do a bit of work out that way at Anglezarke reservoir and up towards Rivington Pike but we'd never heard of the little reservoir just a couple of miles beyond, High Rid. Our reason for going out that way was to twitch the Velvet Scoter that had been hanging round on the res for the past couple of weeks. With news that it was still there on Sunday come Monday morning we felt we just had to have a trip out.
The weather wasn't great with low cloud and a lot of drizzle but on arrival at the reservoir it didn't take long to find the bird - it was only 10 yards out from the bank right in the nearest corner.
Our 194th species for the year and number 177 on our Photo Year List Challenge - not many days left now and the front runners are around 100 species ahead so we'll never catch up but it's all about the taking part and challenging yourself to get better/different/more interesting photos not just the 'winning'...Honest!
Our quarry was feeding in the margins and sailed past us working it's way towards the far end of the res so we tucked ourselves below the crest of the embankment and and tried to get ahead of it. Our plan nearly worked but the bird had other ideas and flew off to the furthest corner, nothing for it but to walk round that way taking in the drizzle and scenery. Also on the lake was a flotilla of Tufted Ducks a few Mallards (aren't there always) and a handful of Goldeneyes. Small numbers of Black Headed and Common Gulls drifted in and out and we picked up a Little Grebe too.
We'd just reached the nearest corner of the res when the scoter decided it was going to fly down to the other end again....dohhh but the exercise is good for you! We retraced our steps and caught up with it as it fished close in along the edge at the top end close to where we'd first seen it. This time we were able to get closer pics by peeking our head over the embankment so as not to flush it seeing as it was so close. If only the 600mm lens wasn't in dock but it was still close enough for the 300mm, shame the light wasn't a bit better.
A good bird to see close up, normally we only see them miles out to sea as a dot in the telescope and even then not that frequently. We also saw it do its little shimmy lift out of the water without stretching its wings as is diagnostic with this species; our much more frequently seen species, Common Scoters stretch their wings out when they do the shimmy thing. We hoped we'd get a pic of it but it only did it once all the time we were there.
Our tummies were now telling us lunchtime was rapidly approaching so it was back to the car for the second leg of the day's safari over to Lunt Meadows just north of Liverpool.
45 minutes later we were chomping our butties in the reserve car park having passed two Jays on the way - a species we still haven't been able to submit to the SD card for the Challenge.
Here we hoped to see a Short Eared Owl or two and possibly some Grey Partridges as on our last visit here without a camera we'd seen several large coveys, the most we've seen in one day for a great many years. However it was the large number of Lapwings constantly taking to the air that caught our attention first. They were up and down all afternoon but we never did get to see what was spooking them - probably nothing!
No sign of any Grey Partridges in the fields as we approached the first pool, where we'd seen most of them last time but a pair of very active Little Egrets caught our eye. There was some argy-bargy going on with one chasing the other hither and thither around the pool. Eventually the action drew close to the screen we were approaching and from there after a cautious approach they gave good views. One, presumably female, just wanted to get on with the job of catching some fish but the other, presumably male was chasing her around something rotten and wouldn't let her settle. We think he was wanting to get amorous but she was having none of it.
Come back and stand still for a minute why don't you
If I have to fly after you one more time!!!
She was still trying to resist his advances over an hour later after we'd moved to the next screen and chatted to a trio of birders who told us a Short Eared Owl had been seen on the far side of the river earlier in the day. With not too much space and not a lot going on at the screen we decided to walk up to then along the river. A good move as it happened. About half way along the embankment heading south a Short Eared Owl picked up form the side of the embankment not far in front of us. Whether it was going to anyway or whether it saw/heard us coming we're not sure but it flew away from us a few yards and then settled on a post. we took a few pics of it in the distance and then edged 10 yards closer took some more pics and had a good bins look before edging another 10 yards closer and repeating the performance. Our next attempt at edging 10 yards closer didn't work, we must have reached its zone of tolerance and it flew off crossing the river, doubling back behind us and dropping down behind the embankment on the far side of the river and out of sight.
Job done though, PYLC number 178.
But we hoped if we hung around another hour or more we'd get closer views as it/they came out to hunt nearer dusk.
In the meantime we waited around the pumphouse area ready to shoot off either north or south along the river embankment should any owls reappear. The supporting cast was good with a lot of Black Tailed Godwits on the Pumphouse Pool with a developing gull roost, about 100 Pink Footed Geese were in a cropped field on the far side of the river, the Lapwings were up and down like  yo-yos and a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly. Not so welcome was the American Mink that swam past us.
Then we spotted in the distance the Short Eared Owl as up and hunting again, back where we first saw it so of we went. It was quartering back and forth along the side of the embankment so we reckoned if we got to a spot just in front of where it was coming too and waited we'd be quids in. And as luck would have it the plan worked.
Again we could have done with a bit better light, an ominously dark black, thick black cloud had settled right in front of the setting sun, and the 600mm. Once again the owl did as it had done before and scarpered across the river not to be seen again. 
We waited and waited for it to come out to no avail but then there was a call of Barn Owl from another birder. It was miles away at the far end of the reserve but in time came closer passing in from the the mew and still under construction hide...don't think it's going to be big enough to fit all the potential owl photographers in.
The Barn Owl did come within range...just - and it as getting darker by the minute.
Great stuff! Always a pleasure to see Barny.
In other news we've had a couple of visits to Marton Mere this week. Somehow we've managed to miss the Otter which has been seen every day. 
A panic by the gulls alerted us to something interesting but we were unsighted under the big tree you're probably not supposed to be under but which could use a bit of screen making out of the living Willows on the water's edge. A Bittern emerged from behind the twigs and branches and flew high above the gulls. We probably got a bit excited and didn't let the camera do its thing but it was a fair way off for the 300 and that has focused on the trees beyond - darned thing!
And it was only seconds before it was hidden behind the trunks of the trees we were hiding under.
Unfortunately we couldn't find anything unusual in the gull flock. The Bittern and then a very loud jet flying just above the low cloud frightened all the duck out in to the open, there were at least 500 Teal, no Green Winged Teal as far as we could tell, and 170 odd Wigeon, a good count for here.
Earlier we'd noticed a big flock of Fieldfares numbering at least 30 flying over Lawson's Field before turning back towards the reserve. We re-found them 'round the back' where we hoped to spot a Long Eared Owl secreted in a former 'usual' place - no such luck this season.
Typical twig ridden view
A better but all to infrequent view - crackers aren't they
A few yards further on this nice Bracket Fungus caught our eye. The Fylde coast is pretty lacking in fungi, there's precious little mature woodland and the prevailing westerlies along the coast prevent spores from inland reaching us and colonising. But there's always an exception and this lovely purple job is one of them - no idea which species it is but it's very gaudy in a subtle sort of way for a Fylde coast.
The Feeding Station has been quite busy, mostly with a sackful of female Pheasants - refugees from - the shooting woods a mile or so away they always seem to find the free food!
On a more serious note it's high time there were some restrictions on the number of Pheasants that gett released, over 40 million of them annually with a total weight of far more than the weight of all the native breeding birds combined and all without some much as a by your leave. And yet there's so many hoops to jump through to re-release a former native that in most circumstances became extinct due to the same huntin shootin fishin types - we're thinking about the recent proposal to bring White Tailed Eagles back to the south coast on the Isle of Wight - bring em on we say, would we go for a look at them in a lowland setting you betcha!!! 
On our second visit there was little food left in the feeders so we snuck in - naughty - and moved the only feeder with some nuts left in it to a branch closer to the windows.
You'd travel a long way to see a Blue Tit if they were rare - little stunners, never take them for granted
Back at the car a speckly looking Carrion Crow was working the verge across the road.
An afternoon wander round Stanley Park with our group of young children in a very chilly and blustery wind gave us this flock of Pink Footed Geese flying over us as we set off.
A chilly afternoon wasn't conducive to seeing a lot of birds but the kids did enjoy seeing the Ring Necked Parakeet popping in and out of its nesting hole - not that it's nesting at this time of year just doing a bit of house keeping. 
In other news the local Bluebells are showing well in the Rock Gardens - WHY??? It's still only early December to crying out loud.
And turning round we saw these red berries, we think they're a plant we'd never heard of until the other day when we were shown a pic of one from Stanley Park, Stinking Iris.
A bit of research suggests they are a native species of damp undergrowth - that figures, so our thought that they might have been planted in the early days of the parks is probably way off the mark. The way to tell is to crush the leaves and sniff then for a hint of roast beef - it doesn't stink at all, another of those wildlife misnomers! And now we have to check we haven't been told about it before at Marton Mere and had forgotten about it.
Where to next? Another safari with CR tomorrow up north.

In the meantime let us know who's 

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