After the best part of two weeks confined to barracks, a half hour up at Crossens grabbed at lunchtime was a breath of fresh air.
Even better as a Water Pipit dropped down right in front of me, just a metre or two beneath the pavement by the pull-in.
But before I could get bins on the tail-pumper and start enjoying close views a family party of Pinks flapped in and spooked the pipit, sending it skittering up into the air.
D’oh! Bloody geese.
Luckily it popped up again on the first pool just below the wildfowler’s pull-in, a few minutes later, and although a bit further away I was able to watch the bird feeding undisturbed for ten minutes amongst the Blackwits, Ruff, Snipe, Lapwings etc.
They blend in amongst the splashes of water, cow-poached mud and tussocks so well, but those pale undercrackers always give them away.
A fleeting few moments but after a world restricted to bird-feeder action (nothing wrong with Blackcaps etc but you can have too much of a good thing), fly-over Fieldfares and an errant flock of Whoopers taking a loop out from the mosses, they did the job.
There are plenty of other pale, grey waders on the coast during the shorter days of course, but for some reason none seem as wintry to me as Barwits.
Dunno why – Grey Plover are just as, well, grey, while Dunlin and Sanderling are devoid of colour too, but Bar-Tailed Godwits just look cold.
Elegant, but cold.
I watched this one while I was surveying down at Crosby this morning, as it strode through the icy water at the tide’s edge. Good arctic vibe to it, but I bet the bird wished it had a nice pair of thermal socks.
Fairly unremarkable survey-wise today, although a count of just shy of 500 roosting Lapwings first thing was fun, before the incoming tide pushed them back inland, presumably to the fields around Little Crosby and Sniggery Wood.
On the way in, 11 Little Egrets were feeding in flooded fields just outside of Hightown. I checked them for Cattle Egrets given Pete Gardiner’s recent sighting near here, but no joy.
The wind strengthened and squalls increased as the tide came in, gusting past a force six SWly, and even though the Mersey mouth seemed empty apart from coasting gulls and Cormorants, it must be worth a check tomorrow at Crosby and Southport Marine Lakes – and the Sands Lake at Ainsdale – for storm-blown goodies.
They seem to have been a bit fickle so far this winter, so I was pleased when a 57-strong flock of Twite pitched down in front of me in the rain this morning on the Southport beach entrance slipway.
The finches were washing in the “grip mouldings” in the lower sections of the slipway, using the depressions like tailor made baths, before flying the short distance to the crushed shell upper beach to flap about and dry off, while snarfing the odd tide-born seed.
Way too dark and wet to get reasonable pictures, although a bit of video on YouTube here kinda illustrates the behaviour, and you can just hear their calls over the camera/rain/road white noise.
Despite the poor conditions those yellow bills and curry faces stood out, and occasionally the flash of a colour ring was visible, but they wouldn’t sit still long enough to get a clear combination in the gloom.
Some waited patiently for their turn in the bath, others less so.
The Snow Bunting was still doing its thing further up the beach nearer the pier (but I think there have been enough pictures taken of that for the time being), and five Pied Wags got acrobatic, snatching midges in between the dog-walkers.
Nearby seven Goldeneye at the north end of Southport Marine Lake, Little Grebes, gulls etc.
The Ness Pit Hide was rammed at Far Ings today – everyone needs a New Year’s Day Bittern after all (and I’m no exception) – but with loud chatter and clattering shutters it wasn’t that surprising that the Bitterns kept their distance.
One bird did break cover a few times while I was there, stalking across the cleared rides in the reeds, but it spent the majority of its time lurking in cover.
During one appearance I shot a bit of video, which you can watch on YouTube here. Turn the volume down to imagine you have the hide to yourself and all the clicks, whirrs and pops of a digital world have gone. Nice feet.
I alway enjoy a visit to this reserve in the shadow of the Humber Bridge when I’m over east, and apart from the Bitterns (a second bird broke cover to fly along the back of the pit), the birding was suitably reedy with Bearded Tit, Cetti’s Warbler and Water Rail, the wind hissing through the phragmites, and at least three Marsh Harrier floating overhead.
Goldeneye, Tufties, Gadwall, Shoveler, Great Crested and Little Grebes out on the chilly open water.