Tuesday 30 April 2024

A change of scenery

The Safari picked up CR and sped off down the motorway to Brockholes where we met up with IH. This was another weather induced alternative safari venue, our original plan was to head north to look for more snakes and stuff but increasingly poor weather forecasts for up north forced us into a last minute change of plan. So we decided to stay south of the worst of the weather an visit a site we should go to more often but don't.

From the car park we could see three Roe Deer grazing on the march beyond the visitor centre - that's two safari's running the first thing we've seen were deer! Off we went to the floating visitor centre for a closer view from their cafe terrace. Not a bad start to the day.

In the eaves of the cafe roof were a number of cobwebs, each full to busting with little black midges, we hope they're the non-biting type!
A quick look at the fish, either Rudd or Roach it's hard to tell them apart from above, as we crossed the boardwalk back to terra firma and over to the riverside walk beyond. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs sang in the trees lining the lake as we passed. At the river the little wooded area a sign invited us to look for Jays...our Challenge bogey bird. Would this be the only one we saw never mind photographed today?
In the river IH soon found a couple of Redshanks and a Common Sandpiper on the far bank and we picked out a male Goosander with a couple of Mallards while high in the distance but all too quickly disappearing behond a row of tall trees was a large bird probably the resident Osprey but it never reappeared for confirmation.

One resident that did make his presence known was 'Kevin the car park Kestrel'. A very popular character with the regular visitors. We first saw him high in a tall tree.

But after a few minutes he swooped down right in front of us to a much smaller riverside bush.

From there he went a little further away to land on a short sign board but for some inexplicable reason all our shots were blurry, it's possible he was too close and we had our lens' focus limiter set to >10m. Whatever it was it was very annoying when we downloaded our pics later that evening. Kevin made his excuses and left us to continue our walk. The river was now quite, there were very few Sand Martins about and no Common Terns fishing and no further sign of any Ospreys.
Cutting back 'inland' IH had to go back to his car so we slowly ambled in that direction, we'd not gone far when CR spotted an Orange Tip butterfly. The sun when behind a cloud and the butterfly settled on one of its favouritev food-plalts, Cuckoo Flower. Expecting it to flit off as soon ass the sun reappeared we took a few shots with the 600mm lens.
But as it stayed put we were able to get the macro lens out and get down on our hands and knees for a much closer (and cleaner) shot. There were three of these butterflies on that small patch of Cuckoo Flower grounded by that cloud.
Reaching the car park we could hear a Sedge Warbler in the distance then saw someone pointing a camera at a patch of reeds not far away...probably there then! She walked on before we reached her and although we could still hear the Sedge Warbler couldn't see it in the thick vegetation. Persistance paid off and we got a fleeting glimpse of it as it sang from a bit of a hollow in the reedbed but there was no chance getting a pic. Hopefully there would be others around the site for us to have a go at.
We had our lunch at the Lookout hide where we tried to get some Sand Martin pics as they tazzed to and fro in and out of the nesting bank...they were mostly too quick for us and it wasn't the best shooting through the big glass window at a bit of an angle.
Also at an artificial nest site was a Common Tern, the nest platform was a bit too far away for a pic but luckily it came closer to sit on a float (for the anti-blue-green algae pumps?) #143 for our Challenge.
From outside the hide we tried again to get some Sand Martin shots but failed miserably. A pair of Great Crested Grebes did their dance for us though.

Moving on to the next view point a group of birders pointed out a showy but distant Sedge Warbler to us, happy days - #144.
We watched numerous Black Headed Gulls and now two Common Terns picking hatching insects of the water and scanned the island for Little Ringed Plovers but saw none. The next hide gave us closer views of the hawking gulls and terns but not really any good opportunities for pics due to intervening bankside vegetation. Outside the hide though CR had found an Alder Fly and a small Alder tree covered in hundreds of Alder Beetles, it's not that long ago these were quite uncommon now they're so numerous they're defoliating large trees.
A couple of small 7-Spot Ladybirds were close by too. A bit of sunshine was bringing some insects out at last. The walk to the Motorway Hide didn't give us much and from the hide the most interesting thing was a clump of Timothy grass bedecked with a species of small snail, how odd. There were a few snails on the surrounding grass but nothing like the density this small clump had attracted.
Beyond the hide the edge of the path had a Brown-Lipped Banded Snail every few inches for many yards, all singles spaced about 3 to four inches apart - how weird, what was all that about?
From there it was into the woodland with its floor of Wild Garlic and Bluebells but not many birds as we'd now hit the mid-day birdy lull. We were concerned by the amount of large trees that had been felled, almost all were Ash so we guess it was somethihng to do with the current outbreak of Ash Dieback Disease but sad to see and we did wonder if any of these might have survived and become ressistant to it in the furute or could have been left as standing dead timber for a whole host of invertebrates. One tree that wasn't marked for felling had us intigued for a bit.  A lovely patterned bark
with a Beech-like leaf
identified it as a Hornbeam, a species we don't see on the Fylde coast. Hornbeam is a known attractor of the lovely but usually elusive Hawfinch and these did formerly occur in these woods until at least 40 years ago. 
Continuing our circuit back to the visitor centre when we were almost there a flock of Whimbrel flew overhead from behind us
And awy they went over the low hill on the far bank of the river. At the visitor centre one of the Roe Deers was still grazing.
While on the water a Great Crested Grebe sailed past with a small fish.
As we followed it to see where it might be nesting we spotted a couple of Coots squaring up for a fight and it developed into a pretty rough affair.
And then it was all over as suddenly as it started, just the wings up clucking and posturing to suggest anything had happened. Fortunately no-one got drowned.
Now with a bit of time left in the afternoon we decided to leave and head for a site not far away and new to all of us, Grimsargh Wetlands, built from a series of small redundant reservoirs. It holds a good number of roosting Whimbrels at this time of yearand we hoped to see some. Which we did but no sooner had we arrived than they departed stage right.
What else could we find?IH noticed that one of the pair of Great Black Backed Gulls on the little island closest to us was sporting a Darvik ring.
Back at Base Camp we were able to inspect our pics and found it to read R16:D
We put the info on Euring and within hours had had a reply, that doesn't happen often. Apparently it was ringed as a chick on Dalkey Island, Dublin in early July 2020 and photographed there 10 days later. After that it wasn't reported again until late February '23 when it was seen at a landfill site not too far from here. There were no more reports until early April this year when it has commuted between this site and the one we just left. The pair looked pretty settled here so will they breed here?
While we were observing the gulls we noticed a Little Ringed Plover flying around. A species we never seem to get a decent pic of and today was no different, being far too far away.
And then it happened! CR shouted Jay! As one flew across the pool and landed in the nearest tree along the bank, allbeit on the 'wrong' side of it, obviously been taking lessons from last week's Willow Warblers. We seen one flash acrosss the car park earlier in the day at Brockholes but that one vanished into thick vegetation, thankfully this one stayed still just long enough to get one snap off before it flew leaving just a blurry tail in the bottom corner of the next frame.
Bogey bird down, #145 and only 20 to go to reach our target. The next seven months could be painfully slow!
Looking along the bank the other way IH had seen a large number of Early Purple Orchids in flower, always good to see.
Sadly they are declining throughout the country and as they can take as much as eight years between germinating and flowering are extremely vulnerable to any change in their habitat. 
A series of seven whistles filled the air heralding the return(?) of the flock of Whimbrels we'd watched leave minutes after arriving. Unfortunately they landed on farther of the two islands.
And finally some bizarre news - we'd spent the day at two wetland sites and not seen any species of egrets so todays result is Herons win hands down! Not sure how much double counting went on today but as we had at least one at each site then the final score must have been 2(+?) - 0

At the weekend news broke of three Spoonbills on the freshwater marsh down towards Preston. One that is on our list of potential 'to gets'. The next morning we were out with t'mutt when the pocket pinged with news one was still present so back to Base Camp we went as fast as t'mutt would allow - which is not very!!! We grabbed the camera and bins and set off almost immediately hitting frustratingly slow traffic...don't these people know birds have wings and can fly at any given moment...get a move on!!!!!!

Well we got to the site in about 40 minutes, way longer that it should have taken and fortunately it was still there, feeding well down the pool, as we drove past the row of parked cars in the lane looking for somewhere to pull in with a view. We found just the right place, lowered the car windows stuck the camera out and ARRRGGGHHHH schoolboy error - no card in the camera. T'mutt had to cover his ears as a rant of expletives rattled round the inside of the car. Back to Base Camp it was then.

The following day the news broke in the same fashion that it was still there so we dragged t'mutt back to Base Camp threw him in the car went inside for the camera checked it had a card in it and grabbed a spare battery too just to be on the safe side.A much quicker journey today, or so we thought...until we got held up by a bin waggon doing its rounds on a narrow but busy main road. No need to panic, the Spoonbill was still there. It was catching quite sizeable fish, we'd never thought or even imagined there'd be fish in that pool as we've seen it dry out in hot summers.

At least you can tell what it is, #146; yesterday's too far zoomed in phone pic could have been a snowman - well it is still cold enough...when will this winter end?

Where to next? Probably northwards again but where exactly will no doubt be weather dependent.

In the meantime let us know who's coming into flower in your outback.

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