Monday 31 December 2012

What was and what might be

The Safari was well and truly whooped by Monika in our annual birding challenge this year - excluding our trip Down Under.
We dipped a few birds this year but even those wouldn't have got us near her total.
On the patches bad misses were House Sparrow and House Martin in the garden, on Patch 1 house martin (again!) and Common Gull, Patch 2 failures were the Blue Tit (arrrggghhh), Collared Dove (how'd that happen?) and Fulmar while at the nature reserve we were on site twice when a Redshank was present and no Meadow Pipits or Skylarks for us there either (how'd we miss those two?). If only yesterday's swirling flock of Lapwings (you did get it didn't you?) had  had a Golden Plover, Ruff, Redshank or Black Tailed Godwit with them - used to get good numbers of Golden Plovers in the fields to the east.
No Lifers for us this year and it was surprising how many of the so called common species we saw only once or twice; Common Sandpiper, Corn Bunting, Cuckoo, Fulmar, Goosander, Grey Partridge (can that still be called a 'common' species?), Mediterranean Gulls were hard to come by this year - used to be able to sniff em out a mile away!, Spotted Flycatcher, and Tawny Owl; maybe we should get out more!
Mammals were odd to say the least with great sightings of Otters and Bottle Nosed Dolphins and probable Minke Whales but no Stoats or Weasels - no, we're not  kidding!
The highlights were too many to mention but our Numbat darting into Aussie Glen's back 'garden' is THE highlight of the last 50 years wildlife watching rather than just the last 12 months! Every day being out with nature is a highlight although you can tire of rain, rain and more rain.
So what for 2013? We/ve set a bird target of 200 again for Monika to beat. We have trips to Northumberland/Scottish Borders and Oban on the Scottish West coast to look forward too which might make out 200 a git easier to reach...nothing out of the British Isles though. A MARINElife survey is planned, might get two in this year, who knows!
The biggest change is that we are abandoning Patch 1 now that Frank is struggling to get that far so no more chance of emulating or bettering the Iberian Chiffchaff of a couple or springs ago. We'll still visit but not that regularly. Instead we are going to concentrate on the North Blackpool Pond Trail where we do our Winter Thrushes Survey and have enjoyed some decent vis migging, there's deffo more to find there.
One thing we don't want to be doing too much of is haring round the countryside twitching, burning expensive fuel for fun, although we will be visiting some old favourites from time to time. Moore NR, Leighton Moss RSPB, HoM RSPB, Marshside RSPB, Martin Mere WWT, Brockholes LWT, Mere Sands Wood LWT, to name but a few...looks like the sustainability angle just went right out the window! We also have a trip to the Midlands in about a months time to places unknown with m'Laddo round his local patch(es) which should be good.
Like they say if you don't get out you won't see nowt so off we went to the nature reserve to see if we could fluke upon that 100th species.
We turned up at lunchtime and alreaady the light was poor so all our pics are taken at ISO Ridiculous and are the best we could squeeze out of the camera.
This Herring Gull was playing 'Paddling Pete' on the grass as we drove up to the hide.
 Then a few yards further on who should put in another appearance - Snowy as PL like to call him
We got in to the hide jsut in time as the heavens opened - which proved to be bath time for this female Mallard.
 Her hubby wasn't impressed
 Although he seem to perk up once the deluge had passed
 and indulged in a bit of stretching
 There are still plenty of Teal on the reserve
Gulls were very much in evidence today ass we missed the Iceland Gull by seconds, it may have even flown over us and we didn't pick it out of the flock that was flushed by ??? from the SE corner minutes earlier which we were scanning hopefully for a Mediterranean Gull. Shed loads of Black Headed Gulls though with a few starting to get their summery heads.
Then we got a txt from JS saying his mate had just seen the Long Eared Owls (must be Monday!!!) in the place they hung out last winter...well that's the first time this back end. So we hot footed it over that so fast as it took Frank over 1/2 an hour to walk the 500 yards...grrrrr. But on the way did we hear the Kingfisher at the overflow??? Sounded like their shrill piping call but if it was we couldn't locate the bird. From the bridge we could see TWO Little Egrets (buses anyone?) on the flood but as we raised the long lens something (not us far to far away) flushed them to another flood in a dip in the field and out of sight.
The field the shooters aren't supposed to be in held 18 Pink Footed Geese. Apologies for the poor quality.
Eventually we reached the owls and it took a further 10 minutes or more to actually find them secreted in the scrub. We've marked the places to look from with two scuff marks on the grass verge by the path, hopefully they won't wash away overnight and folks will have a clue where to start looking tomorrow morning....assuming they read this. A grey one to the east, not too difficult and a brown one to the west, much trickier limbo dancing required if you're over four feet tall to get the right angle.
A slow traipse back to the hide gave us nothing new and we sat there chewing the fat with MJ and MMcG until a family came in and we all gave encouragement to a keen young photographer on one of his first outings with his Christmas camera...he seemed to be doing rather better than we were as well judging by the ones he was reviewing on his camera's rear screen! All credit too him and great to see such enthusiasm in a youngster...hope he fills many SD cards!
The Iceland Gull failed to show itself again, nor anything else out of the ordinary for that matter, and with terribly cold tootsies we pulled the plug on 2012 and finished the year on 99 for the nature reserve (100 if you can count two Little Egrets as it was only earlier in the week we got our first there!).
Where to next? Well it all kicks off again tomorrow, the last day of 'freedom', so we'll be back on the nature reserve and heading for 125 in 2013. Might get a safari to somewhere else in too, possibly the NBPT on foot.
In the meantime let us know if 2012 was a a hit or miss in your outback
Happy New Year to all our readers - we hope it's a good one for you all

Sunday 30 December 2012

Not going to plan

The Safari went down to the nature reserve for the next in the series of the Long Eared Owl walks. First thing we noticed was a large flock of - well you work out what they are - there were about 150 or more when a second bigger flock joined them making at least 350.
If you haven't got it by now the next pic should be the give away.
No owls again! What is it with them and Sundays? Do they go to church? They were there on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve so can't be far away. We did count 94 Wigeon but there must have been many more sheltering from the strong wind and lashing showers, the Teal too were mostly hiding with only about 500 on show at best and still the Green Winged Teal from the estuary refuses to come in!
Whilst watching two different shooters walking through the east fields were they aren't supposed to be (too far away for a pic of their faces) a Little Egret flew over them and went to its fishing place on the flooded field; later it was seen on the scrape on the nature reserve.
Two Great Blacked Backed Gulls caused the usual duck mayhem but we couldn't find anything else gully, we had hoped the gales and thunder in the night might have brought something like a Little Gull or a Kittiwake in - how long is it since we saw on of those on the nature reserve? A Common Scoter might have been a good find for the ton up but that wasn't to be either. A Raven would have done over the fields but the best we could find there was two Stock Doves and a Buzzard. The Kingfisher wasn't down the dyke, will it be there tomorrow?
At least we got a large boot (trunk; for our US of A readers) load of firewood from a dumped pile of brash - Flowering Cherry, good stuff, when it's ready next winter.
Here's a few from the trail cam in the garden. We extended the distance between camera and feeder by 50% by taking the feeder right to the end of the branch but it's still not quite enough.
Good to see the variety that comes in as looking out of the window we rarely see anything - last night's Long Tailed Tits didn't stop within range unfortunately.
Blue Tit and male Chaffinch
Great Tit
Greenfinch and Chaffinch
Greenfinch and Great Tit
Two Greenfinches
We've extended the branch by using a length of Bamboo cane to see if that'll work, might swing round too much in the forecast strong winds again tonight.
Where to next? Tomorrow is the last chance saloon for the hundred up at the nature reserve. We'll be there but will that elusive last species and will the cane be long enough??? The light on the feeder might be a bit better too which would be a boon.
In the meantime let us know what's flocking in your outback.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Nearly forgot!

The Safari has got out of synch over the holidays and didn't realise it wad the 'weekend' and so time for our Winter Thrushes Survey. The rain eased a bit and we set off rather later in the morning than we've done on our previous surveys. The world and his dog were out too which didn't help matters, nor did a plethora of prowling cats. Overhead a Sparrowhawk swooped around being mobbed by a Carrion Crow until after a while it took umbrage and lashed out making a strike causing the crow to back off.
Passing through the gate on to the North Blackpool Pond Trail we soon came across the finch flock which today played host to at least nine Greenfinches along with the usual Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Plenty of Blackbirds were poking around under the trees which boded well for the rest of the walk. The first of our five Grey Squirrels was here too.
Once at our survey start position we began recording...but where had all the Blackbirds gone? All the usual spots where they hang out were devoid! We picked up odd ones here and there but nothing like previous visits. And where have all the Redwings and Fieldfares from the other day disappeared to? Eventually a different thrush to put on the survey sheet; a Mistle Thrush was heard from the tallest tree in the cemetery.
Even the still berry-laden Cotoneaster bushes/hedge on the industrial estate lacked any Blackbirds. We caught up with four together round the corner when they were flushed by yet another dog walker. he stopped to ask what we were up to - probably saw the clip board and thought some developer was waying up the place - we passed a couple of minutes while his dog charged about disturbing anything it could point its nose at - he was sort of interested in the survey but told us there were no thrushes round here; too many damned Magpies, he did like seeing the Grey Squirrels (or at least his dog did) and he once saw a Pheasant (or his dog flushed it - more than quite scarce on the NBPT). So there you have a 'random' sample of the great British public's knowledge of wildlife - like none-natives, don't like innocuous and rather beautiful natives and have no idea that Blackbirds are thrushes...probably wouldn't know a thrush if one warbled down his ear.
The rest of the survey was across the football fields and around Linden Pond where FARG had been working recently, it was now double the size and probably depth as well and the fields were more fit for water polo than footy. A couple more Blackbirds were added to the tally. The fields are backed on to by a housing estate and two of the remaining trees have various feeders put out by the residents, here a flock of 11 Goldfinches came in to feed. A little further on our route cuts between this estate and a newer posher one where a garden always has plenty of food on offer and another nine Goldfinches were taking advantage.
The hedgerow leading to the old farmhouses still has berries but was thrushless save for a single Blackbird with another on the path to the Community Orchard. here there were more Blue and Great Tits and a Robin.
In the orchard the same two Grey Squirrels we saw on the previous survey were still collecting material for their drey and the same black cat was still watching them intently.
We had  a look at the landslip on the way back and noted that four large Hawthorns had slumped in to the dyke. we wouldn't be surprised if these and the two or three still standing are all removed which would be a big shame as they are extremely old.
The finch flock was still around but we now counted 12 Blackbirds under the trees.
Once off the NBPT and in to suburbia nothing else was noted as the rain came on heavy again; then we heard a Dunnock call and looking up - as that's where the sound seemed to come from rather than down where they normally are - we spotted two displaying on the ridge of a roof ! Don't think we've ever seen them that high or that exposed before!.
After downloading our results we checked the trail-cam which had been sitting in our Silver Birch tree looking at our feeder since yesterday morning. Suffice to say our birdless garden isn't that birdless after all. We set it up too close to the feeder (no indication of minimum focus distance in the instruction manual) so the pics were all just out of focus but blurry pics were obtained of Blue and Great Tits, a juvenile Greenfinch, a Blackbird and a Robin. We also saw, but the camera didn't, a Chaffinch on the lower ports of the feeder...we've now set it up again a little further from the feeder and hopefully both top and bottom feeder ports will be in view...we'll find out tomorrow afternoon. Both Woodpigeons and Collared Doves were seen visiting the spilled seed on the ground and as it started to get dark a Long Tailed Tit was heard when we went out to get some firewood for Little Bertha - did that call in at the feeder??? - All will be revealed this time tomorrow!
Where to next? Some fierce overnight winds are forecast and yet more rain but tomorrow doesn't look quite as wet as we feared so a safari to the nature reserve may well be on the cards in the morning to see if anything has been blown in.
In the meantime let us know what the great unwashed 'know' in your outback.

Friday 28 December 2012

100 up...but

The Safari only saw next door's cat on the trail-cam this morning, maybe the Fox was a pure fluke and they don't visit the garden that often, time will tell although at the moment it's been pointing at the bird feeder high in a tree; Long Tailed Field Mouse in the morning?
After a turkey and chutney butty we headed off to the nature reserve - we're determined to get that 100th species for the year there.
judging by the stiffening breeze we thought the best of the birds would be visible from the 'West Planting' hide and as we unloaded Frank we could hear Whooper Swans not too far away....from the hide we could see they were further than we thought right over the far side and being chased by the some of the local Mute Swans.
The majority of the birds were tucked out of the wind too far in to the edge of the reeds to be seen properly and those that were in view were mostly asleep.

A 2nd winter male and a female Goldeneye were amongst the throng, like Pochard somewhat scarcer than in 'normal' years, must still be mild on the continent.
Although there may have been some Mute Swans  out of sight to our right we still counted 23.
Conditions for pics were poor on the gloomiest of afternoons.

About 70 Lapwings flew round from time to time and (legal?) shooting in the SE fields brought 108 Canada Geese to the sanctuary of the water along with a dubious hybrid thingy. Seven Grey Lags Geese were already present.
Not coming to the reserve but also disturbed by the gunshots was a flock of around 250 Jackdaws.
A good many scans through the gulls gave us nothing mega but there were a good number of Common Gulls.

This Great Black Backed Gull was indulging in thuggery flying round and terrorising the others. 

A couple of Herring Gulls had already moulted their winter plumage and were looking rather dapper when sat next to their less advanced friends.

Here's just a few of the 1000 or so Teal, all horizontal stripers...again!
And here's a view looking down the mere from the 'form' - how many species of waterfowl can you see? Number 100 isn't in there, it was unphotographable on the nearby reed edge; a White Cheeked (= Bahama) Pintail...uncountable so we're still 'stuck'  on 99!
Shortly after that pic was taken a flock of about 100 Woodpigeons flew over us heading SW into town Moving round to the Feeding Station it was almost dark mid-afternoon. A Coal Tit was pick of the small stuff but more interesting was a female reed Bunting clinging to the fat-ball feeeder - never seen that before, tried to get a pic but we missed it, wonder how long they've been doing that.

Plenty of Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches and Dunnocks but not much else until this Great Spotted Woodpecker came in and fortunately fed from the nearer of the two peanut feeders.

 As ever the 'lead refugees' were on hand to mop up any spillages
Behind the hide is a small patch of woodland and appearing through the leaf litter were several shoots of Bluebells, think these are the invasive Spanish Bluebells (or possibly hybrids).

Not a bad couple of hours and it didn't rain!
Where to next? back again tomorrow to try for that all important 100th species perhaps - could be a bit weather dependent.
In the meantime let us know who;s looking dapper in your outback.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Slip sliding away

The Safari reckons you can't beat bit of Mr Simon. 
This morning there seemed to be a bit of northbound Pink footed goose movement with two flocks of over 200 Pink Footed Geese seen flying directly over CR's place.
Then we took Frank for a meander along the southern portion of the southern section of the North Blackpool Pond Trail.
A nice morning to be out, mild with hardly a breath of wind and for a very refreshing change - no rain. 
As soon as we were through the gate the birds appeared, hordes of Blackbirds chucking leaf litter everywhere with Chaffinches following them around. Two Grey Squirrels hid 'things' under the trees, perhaps the same things the Blackbirds were digging up? Above several Goldfinches wrestled the seeds out of the Alder catkins.  We couldn't find any Redpolls or the Brambling(s?).
In the fields there were more Blackbirds and eight Magpies chattering vociferously at something unseen. 
A little further along the path splits. we took the high road to avoid the potential water hazard by the bridge with His Nibs. A couple or three months ago we noticed a crack in the ground, today the the crack was no more...while it's not the SW or S Wales it is a real landslip. A couple of veteran Hawthorn trees have slid down in to the dyke which is a shame as they were very popular with the late autumn berry chompers.
Good job he kept to the far side of the path as a new crack was seen right against the edging stones so the patch could crumble under his weight at any time!
And judging by this pic he has a fair bit of weight to do some crumbling with.
All those turkey left-overs and lack of exercise aren't doing him any favours.
Down at the horse gate the big poached muddy puddle hosted a Grey Wagtail.  just a bit too far in the dark for a decent pic

Also in the field were a large number of Starlings having a wash and brush up in a little puddle. A dozen each of Fieldfares and Redwings were close by too.
Another check for anything in the finch flock on the way back was unsuccessful. 
Mid afternoon gave us a flock of about 100 Pink Footed Geese heading south over Base Camp.
At sundown we met up with our Extreme Photographer at the nature reserve for a moonlit wander round to see if we could see any of the owls out n about. The Barn Owl wasn't in his box but the Little Owl put in a brief appearance on the barn roof. Close by the Cetti's Warbler sang from the reeds and several Snipe headed out to feed in the flooded fields.
Flights of both Mute and Whooper Swans came low over our heads to roost on the water. As always, on the water was a tight flock of Coot, about 300 of them.
We set off across the rough fields going high and low but found now owls or anything else for that matter, all was very quiet. Coming full almost full circle we sat in the hide for a fair while hoping for a Fox, Roe Deer, Bittern or any one of the owls, but nothing materialised....not even the moon' clouds had come in and rain was starting - time for tea.
Where to next? The forecast almost continual rain and some visiting might put paid to any more safaris this year but if we can get out we will. Trail-cam might turn up something.
In the meantime let us know what's sliding rapidly downhill in your outback.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Boxing Day bits n piecs

The Safari was visited by Santa who scuttled down the chimney with a trail-cam...We like Santa! The drive down to the family was quite eventful but with no Roe Deer in the usual motorway junction/interchange. In our regular motorway count Buzzards narrowly beat Kestrels 3 v 2.  We did see a nice herd of five Roe Deer in an area we've never seen them before. A flock of Pink Footed Geese rummaged across a stubble field while a large but not far from the end of the motorway not too far from Ma n Da's a large (but not  that big by current standards) flock of several hundred Woodpigeons was settled in the tops of line of tall trees. 
After family fun and feastings was enjoyed and we'd got back to Base Camp and started tinkering with our new trail-cam, checking the settings etc etc etc until we found a set of half charged up batteries and took the card out of the regular camera. we went outside and placed it on the edge of the patio.
Not expecting anything of note we flicked through the pics it had taken in the night...

There's no bait there, in fact we couldn't find anything in the flower bed that might have been of interest...Not seen a Fox in the garden for years...just how often do they come in? It's a wonder Frank doesn't get more excited in the garden cos if he gets a sniff of one when we're out mayhem usually ensues! Bait will be out tonight to find out which way they are/it is coming in...what a great start!!! Well chuffed and the logistics of lots of projects already being worked out.
After a bit of brekky we headed out to the nature reserve.
Frank was with us and we parked at the wetland which meant the morning was going to be a long walk for him. A Coal Tit singing just outside the reserve entrance gate was pick of the slow sniffy walk in. The previous two days the Long Eared Owls have been present but difficult, today they were back to being invisible. The swines! A Whooper Swan was on the water. Walking a little beyond the 'owls' we heard two very close shots fired followed by two more...from a second gun, too close together for a reload. Shooting/Armed Trespass is not allowed in the area we heard the shots come from. Frank was slow but we eventually reached the embankment where we could see what was going on - two guys working the perimeter of the closest field with a black Labrador.
Anyone recognise them? Let us know and we'll pass the details to the Boys in Blue. Maybe they should get a letter from our Legal Dept too.

Unfortunately we didn't get a clear shot of the second guy with the green wooly 'shooting' style hat on.
At 11.35 they let of a single shot which flushed about 45 Shoveler, half as many Teal and all the gulls from the east end of the nature reserve. 
15 Cormorants were on the bund, one already had its white breeding thigh patch, two had flecks of white appearing.  Five more Whooper Swans flew in of which we managed to get this horribly blurry pic of two of them. Think you just about be able to tell they are Whoopers.

Viewing the water from the hide we enjoyed the spectacle of about 1000 Teal being harassed by a Great Black Backed Gull. Just two male Pochards were found. Seven Gadwall were secreted through the Teal. Yesterday a huge count of nearly 250 Wigeon had been made but there was nowhere near that number today. A Cetti's Warbler sang from the reeds to our right.
We came out of the hide and saw two Redwings land in a bankside tree. As we approached to get within range for a pic PL came in to view. We took our  eye off the Redwings and promptly lost them. But he had seen the leucistic Blackbird - it's not been seen since the summer as far as we know. Again a dreadful pic - it was at this point we discovered the camera was still set up for yesterday's indoor family pics - b*gger! At least four other Blackbirds hopped in and out of the Bramble thicket along with a Song Thrush.
We could still hear Whooper Swans on the water so went to see if we could get a better pic. They were with nine Mute Swans poking around in the reedbeds so no chance of a pic.
Behind them, sat on a post, being mobbed by Magpies was a Buzzard. The first one we've seen actually 'grounded' within the nature reserve. Buzzard and Whooper Swans in the same FoV at the nature reserve - must be Christmas!
Continuing the circuit we heard an unknown number of Fieldfares chacking away in the scrub behind the Feeding Station. At the FS itself there was very little save for a couple of female Pheasants.
Then it was back to Base Camp with a very tired and very very wet Frank for a left over turkey and stuffing butty or two and more fiddling with the trail-cam getting it set up for tonight's vigil.
Where to next? Might be back there tomoz, a Raven was seen in/over the nearby park this arvo - could that be 100 if it sticks around??? A Bewick's Swan would be nice.
In the meantime let us know who's breaking the law of the land in your outback.

Monday 24 December 2012

Flower for Christmas

The Safari left the front door at Base Camp this morning and saw that our rose has  a bud starting to open on its uppermost branch.
But will it open for tomorrow?
We went out up to another blogger's patch for a bite to eat after an all morning cookathon in advance of the morrow's feasting and festivities...only sprouts n roasties to do in the morning apart from transporting all we've done so far 50 miles down the motorway.
Before settling down in the snug by the fire in the pub we had a wander along the old railway line that overlooks the estuary and salt marsh. The tide was well out and there was a huge number of Lapwings and Golden Plover on the exposed mudflats, didn't have time or the equipment to do any sort of guesstimate count, PW might have some proper counts over the holiday so check out his link.
An unseen predator got them all up and the sight was a proper wildlife spectacle with thousands of birds in the air...unfortunately too far away and too dull for a photo.
So that was today and a bonus post for you all we weren't expecting to give you.
Where to next? Deffo won't be posting tomorrow so season's greetings and best wishes to all the Safari's readers wherever you are.
In the meantime let us know what;s wheeling around in your outback.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Invisible owls 0; visible owls 2

The Safari had two strikes at the nature reserve today. we joined the Ranger's Long Eared Owl walk which once again failed to provide an owl - where are they hiding? One was seen in the 'right place' during the week so why do they sneak off on Sundays? The weather yesterday was worse than abominable so they must be hunkered down down somewhere more sheltered and secluded.
Whilst we were looking for them we found a couple of Fieldfares.
The morning sunlight on the reeds was very nice to see...any sunlight is nice to see at the moment!
A good scout round for the Bee Orchid rosettes and found ten of them!
Nothing much was about but at the feeding station the usual 'garden' birds were in their usual abundance along with a Moorhen a couple of Pheasants and a Coal Tit.
Outside the hide a procession of Christmas puddings, Santas, elves and other sundry festive characters ran past in the annual charity fancy dress cross-country race...we were trying to get pics of the Pussy Willow that was opening above it really spring already? Don't think so; winter must still have a sting or three left in its tail.
We were back after lunch for another couple of hours. We hoped to scan through the 1000 or so Teal and perhaps last weekend's Iceland Gull might reappear. We settled down in the hide only to find hardly any Teal on view and barely a gull to be seen.
Ducks included several Shovelers
and more Wigeon than are normally found here but hard to count as they were scattered an not all visible from one place. Our best count was 38 but there could have been double that.
The nearest bird to us at one time was a nice male Wigeon that refused to wake up but kept going round in dozy circles.
 Several Mute Swans graced the mere but no Whoopers today...unless there were some in the flood in the fields to the east.
We met up with some friends who told us the Little Egret was in the fields close we went...and they were right, there it was on a large flood close to the dyke.
The first we've seen here and number 99 for the nature reserve and its environs this year. Looks like there's big puddle on the road in the distance. Shame we missed the two Redshanks this year, and we failed to see any Common Sandpipers. No Skylarks or Meadow Pipits either...we really should have reach the ton...maybe that'll be the Safari's target next year.
Watching the egret for a few minutes we saw it catch a couple of things - winding the scope up we saw they were fish!!!???!!! In a field???!!!??? Must have been washed in when the dyke broke its banks. It ate at least seven while we were watching.
At one time it stretched its head up and we watched a Peregrine stoop at a Feral Pigeon which it narrowly missed and had a half halfhearted second stab at, that was one lucky pigeon.
The egret settled down again on our side of the pool but it was now having some interest taken in it by a Buzzard perched on the top of a nearby Hawthorn.
About 20 Fieldfares and half as many Redwings flew past and a Cetti's Warbler called then sang from the reeds behind us. A Reed Bunting dropped in from on high.
We had another look at the mere and there were still no gulls but many more Teal were on view but still all were 'normal' Teal. A 2nd winter male Goldeneye was pick of the ducks.
Then we noticed the smallest Starling murmuration we've ever witnessed, there were seven of them wheeling around trying to throw shapes until they dropped in tot the reeds to roost.
Nine Cormorants were on the remains of the bund with a single Lapwing. In the corner seven Gadwall appeared but where are the Mallards? We reckon there were no more than 20 of them scattered around.
We didn't count the Tufted Ducks but saw not a single Pochard, there are still about 300 Coot though.
As the light faded we went back onto the embankment to look for the Barn wasn't looking out of its box and we were a bit disappointed but looking back there it was peering out in the gathering gloom. Looking 120 degrees to the north east we saw the Little Owl was on the barn roof...not bad two owls in view at the same time when this morning we couldn't find the 'star of the show'.
We watched the Barn Owl bobbing about in the entrance of his box and then he came out and sat on the ledge outside. We looked back at the Little Owl and turning back round saw we'd missed the Barn Owl fly off - how'd that happen? We scanned the island top, grasslands and top of the reeds to no Bitterns either...where are they???
A very enjoyable couple of hours.
Where to next? There'll be no safaris until Boxing day perhaps so wherever you are have a gud un...
In the meantime let us know what's missing from your outback.