1 Greenshank, 2 Whimbrel…

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Tide too low to lure me into a seawatch this morning despite the blow, so it was off to Nels for a lazy afternoon.
Fewer Dunlins (12+) about in the lengthening grass, with 15-20 Blackwits and a nice Greenshank that fed in the open areas of water before drifting down Marshside One and into the longer vegetation.
Two Little Egrets and plenty of noisy Avocets.
A Peregrine ripped through, but shortly after two Whimbrel dropped in before they headed out onto the estuary calling away.

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All the waders too far off to allow anything but pants digiscoping – situation normal, but great to play hide-and-seek with them through the channels and grasses.
Chiffchaff and Whitethroat round the Sandplant, gazillions of hirundines and Swifts feeding low, and a Common Tern on the Sandplant lagoon, scowling at the BHG cacophony.

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All a bit of a blur

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Not surprising given the driving rain, raging hooley and downright unseasonal brrrr this morning, that there were plenty of seabirds offshore at Ainsdale over the falling tide.
Now the view from the office window is never the sharpest thanks to years of salt and rain, but at least you can see Manxies and Gannets.
I had a look before 9am for about 20 mins, then another gander with the tide well out at lunchtime (mercifully you could see out of the window of the tower by then and the heat haze hadn’t gone terminal yet).
A large flock of Manxies was obviously checking the coast for food – initially they were right out on the horizon, just the distinctive flight action giving them away as they broke the skyline, but later they came in a whole lot closer, some diving into the swell with all the elegance of a poorly flung half-brick.
You can forgive them that though – great birds.
Small groups of auks moving offshore, but most too far out to name, while a steady, light southerly flow of Gannets, including striking piebald sub-adults posed no i.d. problems (just put Cape Gannet out of your mind and you’ll be alright).

Ainsdale 0830-0900, 1245-1305:

Gannet 41
Manx Shearwater 124
Auk sp 10
Razorbill 4
Little Egret 1

While the latter was not a seawatching first for me on this coast, it certainly looked odd flapping south over the waves…

Hard on the eye, but not in a bad way.

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Once we’d cleared away the empties after Mrs D’s birthday festivities yesterday (It’s what “Big Joe’s Skip Hire Inc” is for) I nipped out for an hour or two, picking Bazzo up from Marshside at 1330 and tootling over to Martin Mere, where the superb adult White Winged Black Tern was dancing over Wood End Marsh, giving reasonable scope views (but it was a bugger to digiscope) from the North West Water/United Utilities Hide, whatever the thing is called.
Excellent find by Andy Bunting – thanks Andy.

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Eye-wateringly distant from the Ronnie Barker Hide (where we went first), but better from the United Utilities shebang.
While we were there, one of the Temminck’s Stints ambled out into the open, moving so slowly, like a midget grey tortoise with a nice clean breast band, you could still make out those stumpy little legs set far back on the body, its small head and attenuated rear end though – it’s the speck to the left of the sedge in this shot!!!

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I know, I know – long distance is hard on the eye, but not quite so painful when the birds are of this quality… Temminck’s Stint and White Winged Black Tern in the same scope view can only be a good thing.
At least four Little Ringed Plover about at the mere, and a pair of Common Terns.
All very satisfactory so far, so we called in to Curlew Lane on the way back to admire five Yellow Wagtails (three males and two females).
Strange to have to “twitch” these wonderful birds, but that’s what population decline means I guess.

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Corn Buntings and Skylarks getting us all nostalgic on this marvellous moss lane too.
Before Raccoonface’s birthday bash really got going yesterday I’d paid Plex and Haskayne Cutting a visit – Yellowhammers love sunshine, and three males were singing on the Cutting, with another one in song on the west side of Plex by the caravan site and a further two feeding on one of the ploughed fields.
Otherwise depressingly Cow Parsley summery, with Haskayne Cutting sporting a nice range of Marsh Orchids and Marsh Marigolds, but sadly just the ghosts of long gone Turtle Dove and Lesser Whitethroat.

Still more stripey jelly

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Another sunshine-and-cloud lunchtime high tide at Ainsdale saw the horizon turned into heat haze jelly and the sea striped with the shadows of the broken cloud above….and not much was on the move (again), but I gave it a go from the dunes anyway from 1245-1345.
Frustrating as the wind was still good, strong and from the right direction.
Bazzo fared better down at Formby (see comment on previous entry), but it was very quiet off Ainsdale.
At least the terns were closer in today, with up to 18 Sandwich Terns moving up and down the coast, although the highlight was a nice tight flock of five Arctic Terns heading south (wrong direction guys) about 200 metres out.
Fewer Gannets today – perhaps 20 close enough in to rise above being big white blobs in the shimmering horizon, and 19 Common Scoter still resolutely riding the swell…non-breeders I guess.

Nels

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Spent two hours in Nels this afternoon, giving the waders a good sifting.
The heavy rain last night and this morning meant water levels were a bit higher (too deep for stinty-winty action anyway), but the Dunlin flock began swirling about after an early afternoon nap, dropping into the flooded grasses to feed just to the right of Nels.
At least three Curlew Sandpipers, all in various stages of summer plumage.
A single female Ruff flew in briefly.
One Dunlin with a bright straw yellow central crown stripe nearly had me falling off my scope until it emerged from the grass to show full summer plumage apart from the aberrant head-gear.
Weird.
A pair of Garganey materialised from the vegetation briefly, looking mighty shifty, and the Avocets and Reed Warblers were as noisy as ever.

Elevenses with Machiavelli

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A fine few hours at Marshside this morning, started off down at Hesketh Rd, where Mad Dog Bannon was showing as well as the drake Garganey on the pool there, before both disappeared – the former off dog-walking, the latter steaming across the water and into the reeds by the SSSI ditch.

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Sedge and Reed Warblers and Whitethroats were defying the strong wind to keep on singing from the roadside scrub there before I headed up to Nels to join Bazzo, Neill and Trops.
Large numbers of Swifts forced down low by the cooler conditions – trying (and failing) to digiscope ’em made a frustrating diversion from checking through the Dunlin horde.

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2-300 Dunlin at least with three Curlew Sands, Ringed Plover, Blackwit and Avocets, but it was hard grilling them as they scurried through the grasses.
We all had a good drool over the new love of Trop’s life though, his huge lickety-split new Swaro, which I believe cost ten times the national debt of Greece and is substantially more fun than putting up fencing…

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Moochin’ round the edges…

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Way too much on at work this week to get with it birdwise in what is usually one of the best weeks of the year, but I managed a few lunchtime strolls round Sands Lake at Ainsdale where Common Sand was predictable, as where Yellow Bellied Slider on sunnier days and sulky looking Willow Warblers that scowled outta the branches when they weren’t singing their brains out.

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When the sun came out I had my first Blue Tailed Damselfly of the year, basking on a nettle leaf, and Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing away.

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Big Swift influx on Wednesday, while offshore from the tower Gannets, Great Crested Grebe, RB Mergs and still one or two Red Throated Divers from Ainsdale, but only 18 Common Scoter now.
Working down at the National Trust at Formby today, where Houndstongue is in flower and an Emperor Moth raced over the heather at Larkhill Lane.
Angle Shades at Dempsey Towers on Thursday night, but no Swifts back there yet…

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Hold tight.

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The wind was tearing across Plex this morning and the sun was hard and bright – hardly ideal conditions for another entirely fruitless Dotterel hunt (if they were predictable, everyone would do it, and the tracks would be a nightmare).
Whitethroats were grimly clinging to perches as the wind scooped up topsoil and the place went all dustbowl on me.
Only three singing Corn Bunting, but the morning was getting on…
Little moving here today (apart from the topsoil) – just a few Wheatears, but at least the Lapwings are settling down again after the latest round of ploughing.
Dropped into Haskayne Cutting on the off-chance it may be a bit sheltered, but the place was like a wind tunnel apart from the southern section, where fading Orange-Tips were still feeding on Cuckooflowers.
Blackcap, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats, but this was not a day for checking through scrub and willows as they were tossed about like seaweed in a storm-tide.

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When you start thinking about getting into hoverflies, you know it’s time to head for the hills.

A constant stream

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Tied up with various “stuff” today, so couldn’t find time for a proper seawatch off Ainsdale, which was a pity given the 9m tide, squalls and heaven-sent south westerly battering hell out of the coast.
One thing was obvious though; there was a MAJOR movement of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters taking place – I couldn’t begin to estimate how many were passing from the tower, but I do know that every time I looked out parties of both were sweeping south, often pretty close inshore, pretty much all afternoon until the tide fell back and the kitesurfers came out to play.
Superb to see the Manxies and Gannets effortlessly sailing south at speed, riding the wind like poor man’s albatrosses.
One or two were steaming north, but most were piling down into Liverpool Bay.
Certainly hundreds of birds involved, with two Fulmars, occasional Common Scoter (scoter numbers have really dwindled away now and will remain low until the end of July) and a Guillemot too revealed in snatched glimpses out of the salt-stained window – if only I could have ‘scoped it properly… ah well, there will doubtless be other days.

Wet ‘n’ dry

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0445 and the rain set in long before sun up this morning – and kept on coming throughout a Dawn Chorus event I led down at Sands Lake very early doors.
Didn’t take long before even the most Paramo-ed and Goretex-ed of those who turned up were drenched to the skin, but top marks to everyone who stuck it out until 0730, and tried to look interested as the rain sluiced off their bins and I attempted to explain the finer points of phyllosc wing formulae.
Nothing unexpected, but Chiffies, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler were giving it the beans despite the downpour.
A Common Sandpiper was whirring about the edges too.
Afterwards I drove up to Wheatear Corner for a glimpse of the marsh before brekkie – a single Whimbrel and an interesting looking pipit that soon dissolved into just a very pale Mipit as the rain intensified was all I could pull out of the murk.
I swung round and zipped onto Plex before coffee cravings won the day – 12 Whimbrel out there and several truly soggy Wheatears was the best of a wet job.

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Once me kit had dried out and I was fed and watered, I popped out onto the mosses again late afternoon with bright sunshine bouncing off vast swathes of rapeseed oil on the Withins, Stock Doves, Lapwings and Wheatears, while Haskayne Cutting had plenty of Orange-Tips hurtling round from clump to clump of Cuckoo flowers, Peacock butterflies, Tree Sparrow, Chiffies and Blackcaps, but not a great deal else.
Just needed those Dotterel to realise the error of their ways and make the short flight from Wirral…how inconsiderate can a wader be???