Friday 24 November 2023

We've gone twitchy all of a sudden

 The Safari heard news of a Waxwing at one of their favourite sites in nearby Preston over the usual local social media outlets last weekend. Due to serious family stuff there was no way we'd be able to go there an then but we hoped they might stick around a couple of days or so, the strteet it was in has several Rowan trees which often have a plethora of berries. The following day news broke that there were now two birds present; and then three! How do they find these 'regular' places? - we must have stood in that street at least three times over the last 20 odd years. There's no way that it's inherited knowledge as it's often too long between visits for parents to take their offspring, could it be scent that guides them, these berries giving off a 'we're ripe' odour  that the birds can detect on the wind and home in on? Whatever the reason they find the little street their increasing number was the impetus we needed to decide to make the 15 mile trip down the motorway as soon as possible. Tuesday morning arrived and we had a the afternoon available and better still news was now that there were four present. After lunch we picked up CR and headed east. The roads were clear and we made good time but after parking up we were told we should have been there ten minutes ago. Well at least they were about and would probably come back after a short wait and a small group of birders had set off to see if there was any sign of them on any nearby berry laden trees or bushes.

One thing that did strike us as we looked around the trees and rooftop aerials for any sign of them was the large clumps of Mistletoe in several of the trees - don't  recall that being there on previous visits.

The rooftops and aerials gave us a pair of Collared Doves and a couple of Woodpigeons. A few minutes later a small flock of Goldfinches appeared at the top of the furthest tree down the street. It was good to see that all the street's trees had a Tree Preservation Order number on thenm too.

After a good while the local Mistle Thrush showed up, really good to see they're still about as they have become much harder to come by round our way in recent years. It was followed by three Blackbirds all of which came and went as if they had a curcuit they were following. But alas the Waxwings were still a 'been and gone'. 

All of a sudden, after about an hour, DB shouted "that was them" as four birds shot over high above the houses. He went off after them and came back a good while later having found them in some trees overloooking the canal a few hundred yards away. "Rubbish views against the low sun, just silhouettes really - useless for photographs". There were several folk who wanted a look so he showed the way and set off like the Pied Piper with a straggle of birders in his wake. After crossing the road and going down the track to the little marina/stopping point on the canal we scanned the trees opposite where they had been half an hour earlier but there was no sign of them. Back to the street it was just in case they had turned their attention back to the berries. No they hadn't. We hung around a few more minutes and decided to get some pics of the Blackbirds before the light totally went. These short winter days can be a real pain!

And then the light faded too much for pics so we hit the trail back up the motorway to Base Camp. Waxwings will have to go down on the spreadsheet in Bold red letters - a dip!
There are plenty about this year and there does seem to  be an abundance of berries in places so hopefully we'll be more successful with them as the season progresses.
The following day three turned on the edge of Stanley Park only three miles from Base Camp but unfortuantely we weere unable to get out when the news broke and even if we had gone it's likely they would have flown off before we arrived as they weren't around long.
On the same day TS texted the Safari to say there was a Long Tailed Duck on Marton Mere, again we weren't able to get out but that did stick and was still there the next day, and the next! Phew, once again we had an hour or more free in the afternoon so went for a shuffy. It was a cool and blustery, bright and sunny afternoon. We arrived on site to the news from some birders that they hadn't seen it from the north west corner, as we chatted a flock of noisy squawking Ring Necked Parakeets flew over from the direction of the Feeding Station. We knew the duck could be elusive so went down to the bench for a look anyway. We aimed to give it at least half an hour but Monty the mutt started to get impatient and wanted to get on the move again. We set off and immediately bumped into TS who told us it tended to hang around with the four Goldeneyes on site and probably got itself tucked in the sheltered inflow channel. We'd already decided to wander round to the bench in the south west corner so that now sounded like a good plan.
A good plan it was, we didn't have to wait too long before the Goldeneyes appeared as if from nowhere. There were four, two females, a male and an immature male. We only managed pics of the two females.
To see over the encroaching vegetation we had to stand on the bench while being buffeted by the 50 mph wind, that Buddliea bush, Alder tree and 'Larry's Willow' really need to go! Not the best conditions to try to hold a long lens steady. We perservered and after a few minutes the Long Tailed Duck came out of the reeds, the last one we saw here was way back in 1998.
It didn't hang around with the Goldeneyes for long, instead started to make it's way across towards the area we'd been at earlier while the Goleneyes moved eastwards along the reed edge and out of sight. It dived frequently and spent minutes at a time under water sometimes moving a considerable distance too. It's appearances at the surface were brief and unpredictable so it was tricky to get any pics of particularly as it was all too often obscured by the aforementioned trees and shrubs. After a while a noisy gaggle of Grey Lag Geese came up from the east and it wasn't happy about their appearance and kept a distance in front of them as they approached before they all sailed past the Heron into the channel and out of sight.
Once the duck was out of sight we thought we'd best give it a few minutes in case the Grey Lag Geese settled down and it swam out again. They might have done but it didn't. However a large female Sparrowhawk flew past at great speed and once again their was a great deal of sqawking from the parakeets at the Feeding Station. She obviously had a plan and a tast for the exotic. Chatting to TS who was at our first bench on the phone the sky behind him blackened and a rainbow appeared.
He was of the opinion that the front would miss us and we agreed because the south westerly wind was taking it away from us, we might just catch the edge of it. We stayed to see if anything would fly in front of the raibow and give us a pleasing arty shot. A couple of Herring Gulls did but too far away and our pics were deleted straight away, then a Black Headed Gull followed suit, this time much closer, and we firred away again.
We totally missed the Stock Dove that flew past towards Stanley Park but did get this Woodpigeon but missed it while it was in front of the rainbow - ah well you can't have everything! It looks as though it's had a good supper before retiring to bed for the night just look at its crop - full to busting!
A few spots of light rain fell, our cue to leave. Unfortunately we'd left it too late to leave - once out of the shelter of the big Bramble thicket behind the bench we realised the wind had changed from south westerly to west north westerly bringing the storm front back towards us and we now had several hundred yards across open country to walk to the car in torrential diving rain - Monty the mutt doesn't mind a bit of weather and wouldn't be hurried - - we got absolutely drenched!
Where to next? It could be anywhere who knows? 

In the meantime let us know who's coming and going in your outback.

1 comment:

Seumus said...

I think the ultra violet plays a part in birds finding food Dave. The waxy coating on the berries will be visible to the Waxwings within the ultra violet spectrum that is visible to them.