A million shades of grey

It must seem odd to the Sunday drivers droning past along Marine Drive when they glance over at the line of birders staring out at what appears to be nothing on the mighty Ribble marshes from the Crossens pull-in.
It feels pretty strange being the person doing the ‘scoping sometimes too, and a few hours staring into the gloom with the ‘scope on full zoom today were fairly testing.
Numbing feet, cold fingertips.
The sesh was made easier by the company of Graham Clarkson, Stuart Darbyshire, Dave Bickerton, John Wright, Austin Morley and Dave Nickeas et al.
The geese were distant at all times, grazing out on Banks Marsh, with about 1,000 dropping in and out of the potato field behind the seawall at Banks.
The Brant wasn’t with them.
I continued searching for the Grey-Bellied Brant that Graham had dug out in the gale yesterday morning, and although four Barnacle Geese were obvious even at range I couldn’t see the visitor from the high Canadian arctic isles.
Great White Egrets, Merlin, Ravens, Marsh Harriers, and of course the dozing Long-Billed Dowitcher over at Glencoyne Drive, made the search all the easier, but it was a grey day made for ‘scoping grey geese.
At least plenty of birders were searching for the bird, which Stuart first found a few winters back.
It spends most of the winter down in Norfolk, first calling in to the Ribble in April 2018 (You Tube video of it from Norfolk in 2018 here) and drops into the Ribble on the way back north.
After a few fruitless hours, I drove round to Old Hollow Farm to search from the seawall there – Stuart was there already and after 15 minutes or so in the fading afternoon light, admiring the Twite flock (see pic at the top of this entry), Marsh Harrier, male Hen Harrier and Great White Egrets, he picked the grey belly up at long range.
So I tried a few VERY long range pictures.
Which was probably a mistake.
Sometimes there just aren’t enough pixels.

Like a conventional Brant, the grey belly’s bright white flanks were startlingly obvious, so that it stood out when it left the longer vegetation, almost reminiscent of a giant Oystercatcher as it grazed in the murk – apart from the big orange bill and legs obvs.
As it waddled closer, the grey brown hues to the back and lower breast were visible, contracting with its sooty black head and neck and white collar.
Interesting bird.
I look forward to seeing it again over the next few weeks, hopefully when it’s a bit closer, at a range a little less interplanetary perhaps…

7 thoughts on “A million shades of grey

  1. That is a great article about the Long-billed Dowitcher at Glencoyne Drive. I see the “dowitcher expert” said he would have liked to have seen a shot of the bird from the front to see the shape of the crown. I managed to get such a shot yesterday. The crown is convex not concave as would be expected with a long billed D. I wanted to send it to you but don’t know how to. I can be reached on i.chisnall@yahoo.co.uk
    Best wishes


  2. Took the opportunity to have a longer look at the cattle egrets near Dobbies Southport this afternoon. There were eight that I could see, giving remarkably good views from the road, apparently unfazed by passing traffic or the quite close proximity of the idiot with the bins. At least one of the birds is showing signs of ochre colouring developing on the head and back. Amazing that these birds are so easily viewable given that just a few short years ago they were considered twitchable in this country…


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