I negotiated a canine-created minefield in the lush, flooded grass around Crosby Marine Lake this morning inbetween the icy deluges.
A day off meant some quality Snow Bunting time, whatever the weather or volume of festering barkers’ eggs.
The male Snow Bunting was at the seaward end of the small boating lake and was being watched by Sue and Stuart/Stewart (hi Sue and Stuart/Stewart), so I walked round to the back of them and enjoyed it trundling around the water’s edge until it flew off, trilling away to join a feeding flock of Starlings away down the lake.
As we headed towards the area, three Corn Buntings dropped in to drink from puddles on the footpath between the two lakes – I love seeing these things here, I think it’s such an interesting historical wintering population, so out of context with the rest of our local birds.
With the bird extinct as a breeder in North Wales, I often wonder if they come in from the South West Lancs mosslands via Rimrose Valley during the autumn and move back to the hinterland in spring – but if that’s the case, why don’t more of them do it?
You don’t tend to encounter them in many places elsewhere on the coastal strip in winter.
Yup, I lurvve a good Corn Bunting, even if they won’t let you get close enough for a decent pic on a wet, dark blustery November morning.
Also of interest was a colour-ringed Skylark – red over metal (left leg), yellow over green (right leg) one of Ian Wolfenden’s study birds no doubt.
There was no sign of the male Snow Bunt though, so I went back up to the top of the boating lake, settled down by a low embryo dune and waited.
Buntings, larks and finches tend to like this sheltered spot, and it wasn’t long before the Snow Bunting came back in again with a few Skylarks, all flickering snow-flake wings.
I watched it for 45 minutes or so as it grabbed grass stems to strip them of seeds just a few feet from where I was sitting.
(Fieldcraft is not walking slowly up to a Snow Bunting until it flies. No, that doesn’t count. If there’s one around just hunker down and let the bird come to you, it’s far more rewarding).
After a time the larks were spooked by a swooping gull and they rose into the wind and out over the dunes towards the beach, taking the Snow Bunting with them.
Time to go home and get warm via a Great Crested Grebe on the main marine lake, and Water Rail and Goldcrest up at Sands Lake, Ainsdale.
A whistle-stop around the bird fair at Martin Mere was as good a way to catch up with a few old friends as any this morning, but it did use up a fair bit of valuable bright winter sun.
A walk round Hesketh Out Marsh afterwards was time well spent, once the crack of salvoes from the clay pigeon shoot behind had petered out and it got a bit more peaceful.
There were at least 11 female-type Goosanders forming a classy flotilla right down at the west end, with two Goldeneye and the long-staying two Great Crested Grebes.
A family party of ten Whoopers sailed about on the back pools.
Tree Sparrows, Linnets, Goldfinches, Long Tailed Tits, Robin, Goldcrest, Blackbirds, Redwing, Song Thrush and Chaffinches in the hawthorns, while Wigeon numbers began to swell out on the water.
A Great White Egret flew through, long black legs trailing behind it forever, heading out down the estuary towards Marshside, and there were up to five Marsh Harriers, Peregrine and two Common Buzzards.
Single Spotted Redshank and Greenshank, eight Dunlin and two Blackwits, but distant on the rear pools.
Nothing you wouldn’t expect to find at HoM at this time of year, but pleasant walking the bank anyway, avoiding the sheep-poop landmines.
Another look at the finch flock around the car park just before I left revealed a bright white bum in the darkening branches, betraying a Brambling.
It was dropping down into the paddocks to feed, but always kept deep in the willow branches when it flew back up.
Brambling is a bonus locally of course, but I hope the next one is a bit more obliging…
The raw cold and stillness as always comes as a bit of a surprise after autumn.
Little Owl in the usual place on the way out to Mere Sands today, with Bullfinch, Siskin, Greater ‘Pecker and Nuthatch there.
Plenty of Teal on the open water.
And at Martin Mere, Redwings, Bullfinch, two Cetti’s Warblers, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzards and clamouring Pink Feet and Whoopers of course.
Clusters of Fieldfares, Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds across the mosses.
They say April is the cruellest month, but it’s not, it’s November.
There were loads of ’em.
Two swarms of a few hundred each on the outer marsh and numerous smaller groups comprising of 20-50 birds commuting between Marshside Two and the outer marsh, as I trundled north from the sandplant this afternoon.
The November-appropriate windchill, brisk north westerly, bright sun and Starling buffet made for good hunting conditions for Sprawks, Merlin and Kestrel, and a Common Buzzard cruised above.
A Great White Egret was way out off the old wildlfowler’s car park, and Pinkies were scattered about in the vegetation, and getting used to passing cars, cyclists and birders.
Likewise the two Stonechats were showing off around the Sandplant lagoon.
Four Cattle Egrets were doing their cow thing as usual north of Marshside Road, but although Nels was busy, busy, busy, there were relatively few birds off here when I was there – the geese, Blackwits and Ruff were at the back of the marsh, only a few gulls were about and no smaller waders were visible, apart from squelchy Snipe.
Despite the Sycamores shedding most of their leaves down Range Lane, the feeding flocks down there were still paying hard to get.
Long Tailed Tits weren’t bothered, flitting about in the sun, but the Blackbirds, Goldcrests, other titmice and finches were playing hard to to get, preferring to lurk in the shadows at the back of the bushes and trees as I made way down to Cabin Hill.
Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and a single Fieldfare were among the Blackbirds stuffing their faces with hawthorn berries hidden from the hard November sun by the tangle of branches.
Quiet otherwise though – up to 20 Skylarks in Marsh Farm’s fields and about 70 Pink Feet there, and the resident corvids giving the resident Common Buzzards the usual neighbourly hassle.
Stonechat and Linnets in the gorse clumps.
Over at Lunt Meadows, parties of 8-12 Common Snipe were dropping in fairly frequently (I counted at least 60 birds), and thousands of Pink Feet rose on the horizon from the mosslands before heading out to roost on the Alt estuary.
I left before it got too cold, before the Shorties stirred and before the shutters really started clattering.
On the upside I stopped to enjoy a covey of nine Grey Partridges in the ploughed fields north of the reserve entrance – don’t see them so much now, whether the trees have leaves on or not.