Quality murk

Same as it ever was, yet always different – I snatched a few hours scanning the Ribble winter murk from the Sandplant at Marshside this afternoon.

It has been so long since I was last down that it took me an hour to realise someone had pinched the big golf ball at BAE Systems, Warton – which goes some way towards explaining why my directions may have been a bit confusing for fellow observers at first.

Peregrine, Common Buzzard and Merlin virtually torpid as they perched on posts and tide dumped timber, before one of the latter put a bit of fizz in the afternoon, speeding over the vegetation in the gloom.

Much further out the Snow Goose flew in at about 1.45pm with a couple of Pinks, its black wingtips just visible, before landing at interstellar range out on the furthest reaches of Banks Marsh.

Even at 60x mag, it was a white goose-shaped blob that disappeared down dips and hollows frequently, and came no closer than the moons of Jupiter.

One of the Short Eared Owls was cruising over the bleached grasses at the edge of Crossens Outer, but it was nearer 2.30pm before the first male Hen Harrier appeared.

Within 30 minutes there were three – two males and a ringtail – up and crowding the same ‘scope view as two dashing Merlins that were doing their best to hammer the Mipit population.

Stunning to watch the five raptors tumbling and twisting in the air.

Couldn’t make much out on the ringtail harrier, but one of the males was brighter and cleaner than the other, which had a clearly darker mantle.

“Clean” and “dirty” (per Ken Morrison) or “pale” and “dark” (Graham Clarkson) – just fine to chat to you both again this afternoon chaps.

A Great White Egret out on Crossens Outer as visibility melted into wishful thinking at 3.30pm.

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