Thursday, 6 December 2018

Dingy December days give typical winter fare

The Safari and Monty have mostly been getting wet this week, for the last two days its been perpetual dusk. Earlier in the week a frosty start gave the opportunity for a dry - well at least not rainy - wander round Marton Mere, it wasn't that dry underfoot...think big puddles and quagmires.
The early morning frost was melting and the limp sun was lifting a cold mist over the wetlands as we walked in. To further brighten the morning a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly but otherwise all was quiet. Certainly no sign of the Roe Deer that was spotted very early morning a few days previously. Our prize of a king-size Mars Bar to the first person the get a pic of a deer on the reserve is still up for grabs...
To give Monty more of a run we chose to walk round the perimeter of the reserve where we heard but couldn't see a couple of Goldcrests in the dense Blackthorn boundary hedge. We had a look for any Long Eared Owls from the few places it's now possible to see over the hedge but yet again all the previously favoured spots were uninhabited. Where are they? Are there any about? News of a roosting Tawny Owl nearby a few days ago may not be good news for any Long Eared Owls as there's a bit of intra-guild competition between the two species and sometimes aggression too from the larger and much more powerful Tawny Owls. Maybe any LEOs that have been around have been scared off/eaten??? 
Nothing of note was noted along the embankment and the few remaining trees in that corner of the caravan site were devoid of birds. We parked up in the Fylde bird Club hide and enjoyed a bit of sunshine illuminating a nice variety of water birds, about 50 Teal, there was a Green Winged Teal at this time of year back in '94 and we checked the 'normal' Teal just in case...none - unless there's an unidentifiable female in the flock! Mallards, Shoveler, Gadwall, a dozen or more Wigeon, the flock of Grey Lag Geese with a (the?) neck collared bird that was too distant to read and to get a pic of with the 300mm - our 600mm is in dock for auto-focus issues to be sorted, hope it's not going to be too expensive to sort out, a a real life lesson in filling out those 5 year warranty cards/web pages!!!
The Coot had yet another mass panic but we couldn't see what had caused it. News was that one had been taken by the Otter a day or so ago so they have good reason to scatter. Otters are fairly catholic in their diet but the do prefer fish so if ours is eating Coots does that mean there's not many fish of a suitable size or just a super-abundance of pretty clumsy and easy to catch Coots available?
The Coot panic made a good flock of gulls lift off the water to our left but they settled back down in the same place out of sight from our vantage point in the hide so e left to check them over from 'under the trees'. The now fallen Typha here allows good views over the western end of the mere and the all important gull flock although today we didn't find anything other than Herring Gulls and a couple of Black Headed Gulls in the flock.
Another Cetti's Warbler sang from close to the Dragonfly Den hide and the recently cut swathes through the reedbed played host to a few Coots, a couple of Moorhens and a Heron.
There wasn't anything to point the lens at until we came across this Robin sitting at the side of the track.
we got a snap off and then it dived down to the path to collect a tiny morsel it had somehow seen and then returned to a perch close to the one it left but just a little further away from us. But as we inched closer trying to get closer than before for the 300mm to bed more effective a dog walker appeared from found the other side of the bush and the Robin was gone.
The Feeding Station was well provisioned but there was little activity apart from the ubiquitous aliens, Pheasants and Grey Squirrels, so we chose not to stay long.
It's not often you come across a solitary Goldfinch but this one feeding on the soggy heads of a Spear Thistle was just that, there were no others to be seen or heard in the immediate vicinity. Where were its chums?
Again we tried to inch closer to get a better range for the 300mm but this time we spooked it and off it went. We imagined that once it took flight others would join it from their hiding places but none did.
Just outside the reserve the morning's frost and mist had created artistic droplets all over the vegetation  -we couldn't resist snapping away at some of the Rose Hips at one of the path junctions.
As our walk neared its end there's a few Apple trees with a good number of windfall apples still lying on the ground. We could see some Blackbird activity in and under the trees so approached cautiously.
There were several, probably at least double figures lurking in the undergrowth but were quite aggressive towards each other with lots of chasing rivals off to get to the best fruit so it was quite tricky to keep tabs on them all. We did however see the pale rump of a Fieldfare lift up through the twiggery and heard the unmistakable 'whacka chacka' call as it did so. It then took some careful repositioning to be able to see it anything like well up in the top of the tree, this was easily our best view.

It shifted position and we lost sight of it somewhere round the back of the tree and lower down but thought we'd refound it again when we saw a 'paler than a Blackbird' movement at the foot of the tree. Not the Fieldfare but a Song Thrush this time.
By now a cluster of dog walkers was closing down on us and their mutts were running amok here there and everywhere through the vegetation - needless to say that was the end of any chance of seeing the Fieldfare again as most of the birds took flight and went over behind us back the way we'd come from towards the reserve. 
We did see LR's favourite gull though, a Black Headed Gull that has been pacing up and down the track for a good few winters now - wonder where it hangs out during the summer, a local nesting colony on the Lancashire coastal marshes or much much further away???

November ended with 192 bird species on our year list of which we'd got pics of 176 for our Photo Year List Challenge - a rather unexpectedly high 'strike-rate' of  91.6666666666666666% and we still haven't been able to submit such local species as Jay, Yellowhammer or Corn Bunting to the SD card.

Where to next? Blimey anywhere will do as soon as this dreek rainy weather gives over.

in the meantime let us know who's got the track side eagle eyes in your outback.

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