You should always find time for a Raven

I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw the great big black shape halting in the strong westerly past the office window this morning, especially when the Raven dropped down onto the roof apex just beneath my desk!
I hardly dared breathe as I tried to get a few pics of it through the window before it climbed back into the air again – just a magnificent thing.
For all its massive size it showed the typical lightness of movement of the species that was as entrancing as ever, gently lifting into the air for a few seconds only to drop down onto the roof again and bounce along the apex with an acrobat’s grace.
One of the Magpies that bred next to the office at Ainsdale squawked in to mob it, but the Raven merely batted its eyelids and smiled, before the midget beside it became an annoyance.
The Raven fluffed up to form an even bigger shape and the Magpie cleared off.

For all its agility it found the westerly a bit of a challenge as it perched on the roof, and soon lifted off, an absolute master once in the air again.

Then it was gone and the wall to wall events, meetings and reports came rushing back in.
I know they’re regular on the coast now, but Raven is still my favourite bird – what a beast.
A privilege to be so close to a critter that just exudes “wild”.
May you keep on “cronking” for years to come…

Locked out.

Nels Hide was still locked up way past 1pm today and with it access barred to one of the few interesting bits of water on the reserve at the moment – it summed up a midday visit to Marshside.
At least the two juve Greenshanks dropped in briefly in front of Sandgrounders Hide to feed with a small group of Blackwits before calling and heading off to the south, presumably back to the lagoon in front of the access verboten Nels.
Under broiling brightening skies, there was little else to get excited about.
Out over the wibbly wobbly heat haze of the Ribble, Lancaster, Typhoon and Spitfire shimmered above Blackpool for the airshow there.

Sprawk, Kestrel and Peregrine were hunting over the saltmarsh.
I called into the Sandplant where a flock of about 40 House Martins and a few Swallows and Sand Martins were basking on the new “berms” or collecting grit/sand, presumably to shore up nest sites on the housing estate.

On the upside, I spent a fine minute or two up close and personal with a Ruddy Darter on the Green Beach north of Ainsdale during a guided walk yesterday.
The beast let me get to within a few centimetres and there wasn’t a locked hide in sight.

And there was me thinking bug-time was over…

My quest for the white whale

I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.

Okay, my dark desire is not quite as driven as crazy old Ahab’s, but I really want to see the leucistic “white” Sarnie Tern that’s been popping up in the roost between Ainsdale and Birkdale this past week.
I couldn’t get away from a job to see it yesterday, it wasn’t there on Tuesday, and I couldn’t find the damn thing today.
Odd how the obsession can get you – it’s not like it’s a tick or anything, but I need to see this critter!!!

Plenty of other terns in the roost today, with over 300 Sarnies, including a colour-ringed bird (blue with white lettering anyone?), Common Terns and just the one young Little Tern still hanging out with it’s bigger cousins.
As I counted the terns, more and more swept in and Sanderlings scurried about just a few feet from my position.

Ainsdale Sandwich Tern roost count 11.8.17:

Sandwich Tern 359
(juves = 29; 6 ringed birds, and one with a blue colour ring with white lettering)
Common Tern 24
Little Tern 1 juve

Only minor disturbance today – one jogger and one walker, otherwise the birds were left in peace before heading out to fish and bathe after the tide began to fall back.

Don’t forget if you make a count of Sandwich Terns on Ainsdale beach this autumn, please submit it to my work email at – for the second year we are surveying the tern roost and establishing the level of disturbance it suffers, so all data will be gratefully received – many thanks (and thanks to the Friends of the Sefton Coast volunteers who are helping out with the survey this year).

Sandwiches before lunch

With an army of volunteers enlisted from the splendid “Friends of the Sefton Coast” for the second Sandwich Tern roost survey at Ainsdale this year, it was beginning to appear that I wouldn’t get a look-in.
Fortunately for me, unforseens meant I got a chance deputise and nip down for the count today recording the terns, looking for rings and monitoring the amount of disturbance.
With an afternoon job in Southport I couldn’t stay long, but it was worth it for the sound of the terns and the sight of ’em winging in against an inky horizon.

Count as follows:

Ainsdale beach, 1055-1210:

Sandwich Tern 337
(adults 307, juves 30; one colour ringed subadult, orange on left leg, metal ring on right)
Common Tern 36
Arctic Tern 4
Little Tern 3
(adult 1, juves 2)

Roost disturbance – dog walkers x4; jogger 1.

The dog disturbance was unfortunately far more predictable than the Little Terns – I was made up to see three of the midget gems dwarfed by the Sarnies and Commons, and even attempted an ill-advised zoom digi-scope record shot…. you can just make two of ’em out can’t you?

Many thanks to all the volunteers who are helping with this project this year – but if anyone else wants to submit any Sandwich Tern counts to me from the beach between Ainsdale and Birkdale, they can do so by emailing them to my work email at:
I’ll be collating a report on this second annual survey, any ringing returns and the amount of disturbance once the counts are completed in September.
Hopefully this will highlight the importance of this roost (over 2,700 birds at its peak last year) and the significance of disturbance on these birds.
Muchas gracias.

Snorkelling on the mosses

I had to drop off a snorkel and face mask for my godson Spud (so named because of the uncanny resemblance he bore to a potato at birth – he’s much older now, but still has the look of a King Edward about him), so I detoured via Plex to have a butcher’s at the stubble fields.
Best not dwell too much on what a teenager needs a snorkel and face mask for in the late summer dry West Lancs farmlands, but at least the stubble fields were interesting, being hunted over by Kestrel, Common Buzzard and a fine young Marsh Harrier.

The Marsh Harrier repeatedly pitched into the stubble, presumably after invertebrates, when it wasn’t scattering Woodpigeons and Stock Doves on lazy forays into the stiffening westerly.
I was always the wrong side of the wind to get particularly close to the harrier, but it was fun watching it for half an hour or so before the raptors melted away and the heavy rain swept in.
Ahh, so that’s what he wanted the snorkel for….