Dusky brush-off

Even by the standards of sneaky Dusky Warblers worldwide, the wintering Ainsdale bird is one skulky little weasel.
Since Andy Spottiswood nailed it in November I’ve heard the bird a handful of times and had rubbish flight views.
I must thank Jack Taylor for letting me use his great pictures of this most elusive of birds on the blog, taken during an encounter he enjoyed about a fortnight ago.
I was working on Ainsdale LNR this afternoon so I decided to stroll over to the National Nature Reserve for another go at it.
I concentrated on the area west of the Pinfold Path just outside the eastern boundary of the reserve’s grazing enclosure from 3pm to 3.50pm.

The warbler is favouring this area at the moment (however it can be highly mobile, popping up along the northern and western edges of the enclosure too this winter), and after 15 minutes of silence I heard it calling.
After another five minutes it emerged from the Creeping Willow to shimmy through briars giving me great, if brief views, then with the very height of disdain, it disappeared again.

The area is not that hard to find – just look for the big red circle with the giant white lollipop in, but it is seriously flooded – think Grimpen Mire with fewer slavering hounds (although not by much) and don’t forget your wellies.
The Dusky is a master of invisibility of course, given away only when it calls, but those hard irritated “tack-tack-tacks” don’t last long.
It only got vocal four times while I was there today and I had three views.
Occasionally the warbler emerges from the Creeping Willow to flick through the bare branches of isolated Hawthorns and that’s when you get a glimpse, but you have to be fast before it drops out of sight again.
It is pointless chasing the bird as it will go to ground (and there is a lot of cover to hide a lowdown and dirty Dusky Warbler here).

Jack did very well to get these images – thanks again.
Seven Teal were whistling away from the large flooded slack over the fence and a Water Rail squealed briefly while I was there.
Wrens, Reed Bunts, Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, six Fieldfare and a Redwing too.
When the Woodpigeons started bombing across the dunes and into the pine belt to roost I headed home.

All still there then

A cold easterly strafed Marshside this morning – it’d flay the skin off you given the chance, and everything was wisely hunkering down.
5-600 spangly Golden Plover were on Crossens Inner, with considerably more Lapwings, but the main pack of Blackwits was crammed together for warmth south of Marshside Road.
At least one of the Golden Plover was coming into summer plumage – you can just see its black belly on the right of this blurry crop.

Two marauding GBBs behaving badly meant they didn’t stay settled for long – duck numbers were low too, possibly as much to do with the recent cold snap as the badass GBBs, although plenty of Pinks were dotted about on the outer marsh.
Two Common Buzzard and single Merlin, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Kestrel looked like they were struggling out there, and the usual Great White Egret was feeding just opposite the old wildfowlers’ car park site.

Over the tide seven Common Scoter were snoozing on the chop off the Sandplant, and five Pochard were with the distant Tufties in the reed-fringed channel to the north of Nels.

Let’s ride this baby to Mexico!

Amazing what you find down the back of the digital sofa.
I’m not a great fan of nostalgia, but even I have to accept if you can’t go out, you can at least go back, so I’ve had a trawl through the trip reports from my old birdblog (2002-2014) and came upon this jaunt Barry McCarthy, Paul Thomason, Neill Hunt and I took to Mexico back in 2010.
From Yucatan to Chiapas and back in a Nissan X-Trail. What could possibly go wrong?

It was a great adventure, with many laughs, birds and beer.
If you want to have a read, you can see it here or visit via the links list on the right.
Sadly Barry is no longer with us, but stripping the old html and links then trying to clean up my woeful digi-scoped images have passed a few hours of another Covid screwed weekend and made me smile.

We ended up driving over 3,700km, through coastal scrub, secondary woodland, marshes, mountains and rainforest.
And while I fear many sites will have inevitably changed in the 11 years since we were there, there are few places as thrilling as Mexico.
Apologies for subjecting you to holiday snaps over a decade old then, there’s always the Blackbirds in the garden to count instead.
Good news is I won’t add any more to the Mexico blog, bad news is I’ve also found the files for Costa Rica, Thailand, Morocco, Norway/Finland and Israel.
Viva Don Muchos!

Up the hooter and down the lake

The latest Lateral Flow Test at Splashworld was as good a reason as any for a stroll at the top end of Southport Marine Lake this afternoon.
I think it was Oscar Wilde who said “Gulling is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, so I checked through small numbers of young Herring Gulls, GBB and BHGs below the Lakeside Inn and up at the shelter, while I waited for the negative result text to ping through.

As Ron Jackson rightly points out it was Samuel Johnson, not Wilde ( and of course he was talking about patriotism, not gulls).

Anyway, gull wise, nothing out of the ordinary, but the walk cleared the tubes after my weekly swabbing…

Six Goldeneye (four ducks, two drakes) between the islands and eight Pochard (two groups of six and two) were tight against the lower island.
On the northern island a Buzzard was perched up – can’t remember seeing one here before, it was probably ratting, or attempting to, until 22 Magpie and 3 Carrion Crows ganged up on it.
More than 70 Cormorant sheltering in the lee of the island behind the theatre and the Great Crested Grebe was there too.
Usual Little Grebes bobbing about in the swell.

A few Twite were bouncing around over the seawall between the West Lancs Yacht Club and the sluice.

Snow Finch, Snow Geese…sorta

The tense territorial dispute as we tussled for work-at-home space at Dempsey Towers was high stakes stuff. Bigly.
Who knew we’d ever need more than one table?
How will we make the crayons go round?
Just where exactly is the water cooler (and as someone who usually works in the dunes, what is a water cooler???)?
With the wisdom of Solomon, Mrs D decided hot-desking was the answer and before you knew it I was overlooking the feeders from the back bedroom window and tap-tappity-tapping away today.
As the white hell of two or three tiny snowflakes floated down, a male Blackcap came in (the first I have noticed at home this winter – strange as they seem widespread on the coast) and this odd part albino Goldfinch, which has popped by several times since November, appeared again.
Blurry and through the window, it’s the first time I’ve got a camera near it, but it almost constitutes a “snow finch” especially when it has its back to you showing off its white bum.
Pushing the tenuous “snow” theme still further Mrs D recorded the Pinks heading out to roost on the coast on her phone this evening as the no-show big snow flickered down over Ainsdale.
You can watch that on YouTube here.
The closest I’ll be getting to Snow Geese this winter I fear.
What are you seeing in your back garden/shared workspace war-zone?

Cold feet

Even with the toastiest knitted Norwegian Christmas socks on, two hours standing in the shadows of the Sandplant’s northern slopes is enough to guarantee numb feet.
Fairly quiet birdwise too today – presumably recent frosts have made it harder for the apex predators to hunt with one of the male Hen Harriers quartering the outer marsh in a distinctly half-hearted fashion, pitching down to rest in the vegetation all too frequently.
You won’t catch anything behaving like that.
A few zippy 90 degree mid-air swerves after Skylarks and pipits led to nothing, but were impressive to watch nonetheless.
Two Merlins, a Sprawk, two Ravens, two Buzzards, a Kestrel and 4-5 Marsh Harriers were out there too, with Rock Pipits calling overhead and 3-4 Great White Egrets (one almost close, the others so far away they were in a different tier.)

Off we go again

Mud and ice and quite a lot of visitors stretching their legs along the Alt, but Lunt Meadows was as good a place to start as any.
Two Barn Owls at least (one patrolling to the south, the other up at the north end, where it hunted from the fenceposts), Water Rails squealing from cover, but wildfowl numbers were down because of the freeze up I guess, with Mallard and Teal, four Pochard and a scattering of Gadwall crowded around the few areas of open water.
At least three Common Buzzards up (of various hues), Kestrel and on the narrow strip of clear water on the north pool, three Goosanders (a male and two redheads) with a further redhead type flying down the Alt.

After admiring the Barn Owl up on the north end, a movement caught my eye in the dense brambles and rank vegetation below the bank and a tubby Cetti’s Warbler appeared, bog snorkelling through the rotting grasses before melting away again.
When you see them well, those greys and warm browns are really attractive – must get a proper pic one day.
The Cetti’s called a few times before it headed off into cover just to the north of the pumphouse.
A Raven croaked through and a single Golden Plover was overhead.
Despite the ice several group of Snipe were still on site and a Woodcock piled into the woodland disappearing into the branches.
I detoured to North Moss Lane on the way home, where three of Trops’ Cattle Egrets were still following the Aberdeen Angus, although with the herd two fields back, the birds were distant.
The others had probably already headed off to roost.
I took the hint.