A furtive, but purposeful movement on my peripheral, then a large dark form on frosted wings disappearing over the dune ridge into the sun ahead of me – a classic Ring Ouzel encounter on Ainsdale LNR at lunchtime today.
Despite cresting the ridge as carefully as possible the ouzel was still flying out of nearby birch scrub way before I relocated it, long-winged and powerful in the hard spring sun.
The bird, a big, strongly marked male, with a large bib and huge white wing panels always stayed one jump ahead of me – skulking, wary, wild and altogether awkward.
It pitched into one of the pines to the east of the LNR sheep enclosure – Rouzels love to hide in these trees, undetected until THEY decide to break cover, and often perch hidden in plain sight (see rubbish pic below).
It stayed put as walkers passed underneath the tree, before dropping down to feed in one of the areas we have cleared this winter, up against the fence and boundary with the NNR (Dusky Warbler hunters may know it as the spot with the pine log stepping stones over a flooded, muddy exposed slack).
Even here it rarely left the shadows, always keeping the sun behind it as it rooted about for invertebrates in the mud, making it hard to follow.
I had no wish to risk flushing the bird, so watched it at a distance as it fed, happy to see one in what is a traditional spot for them each spring, just beyond range of my struggling bridge camera…
But it must be said they have been thin on the ground in this specific area this year – this is only the second this season that I know of.
In contrast at least one has been lurking in the south west corner of the NNR sheep enclosures approximately half a mile away as the Rouzel flies for three weeks at least now. I always prefer to see them on LNR home turf, and early morning visits down to the long grass are hard at the moment because of dawn surveying duties at Marshside.
You can’t be everywhere at once.
Apart from this and a few hirundines moving through, the dunes were fairly quiet on another blue sky day, although the Willow Warblers, Stonechats and Whitethroats were in good voice.
Leaving Ainsdale Discovery Centre at 4.25pm I was surprised to see a Short Eared Owl circling high above Pontins, before it wheeled back and dropped down north into the dunes with screaming and yelping gulls littering its wake.