Fast food

A lazy, “cut right through you, rather than go around you” north westerly today, but the skies were blue and the Ribble was full of life…
At Marshside Black Headed Gull was trying to chase down Teal around Polly’s Creek – strange behaviour, and inevitably unsuccessful, but perhaps it had been watching the GBBs hauling down Wigeon?
Two Merlin were tearing around Crossens Outer, repeatedly scorching through the Lapwing and Golden Plover flocks – I did wonder if this was a sneaky tactic in that the Merlins were hidden in the swirling and panicking waders, which they seemed to ignore, so that when one dropped down onto a Redshank on a channel, it never saw death coming.
The Golden Plover accelerated away from the terror as rapidly as only they can.

The Merlin seemed to pounce on the Redshank while it was on the deck – which I’ve never seen one do before.
Come to think of it, I’ve never seen one take a Redshank either, but it has been recorded elsewhere (British Birds, June 1988).
Smug as the Merlin appeared, it managed to hold on to its lunch for no more than two minutes before a Carrion Crow flew in and snatched it.
That’s pool.
Up at Hesketh Out Marsh I spent a while enjoying 3,000 odd Pinkies, a fine ringtail Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, and Peregrine.
Whistling Wigeon confetti filled the air every time the falcon launched itself into the sky – or two marauding GBBs lumbered through.
Magnificent, if nippy.

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The Rezillos made me do it.

It always strikes me as unfair, or at the very least cosmically ironic, that the older and better you get at bad behaviour, the longer it takes you to recover.
So while Saturday night was great, yesterday was all a bit of a fuzzy blur.
You could almost hear the celestial laughter.
Personally I blame The Rezillos.
Better today though, so I headed north for round two with the Fylde’s invisible Snow Buntings.
True to form, there was no sign of them on the dog-raddled beach north of the sandplant at St Anne’s (inevitably they had been there earlier in the day) and after two hours of cursing pooches, I took a break.
Time for a short drive inland to Lytham Moss, where a Todd’s Canada Goose had been lurking with a few thousand Pinkies.
Presumably it was last week’s bird from our side of the Great Divide, so it was certainly worth the ride.
But there were no geeses there, only birders, including Mickey Boy Stocker. They had thousand yard stares and no Todd’s.
The day was hardly shaping up as planned, so I drove back to the beach for a final crack at the Snow Bunts.
After all they’re a bit like Frosties – when you know there’s some there, you’ve just gotta have ’em.
No sign again, but after walking the length of the place, I glanced back just before leaving at 2.40pm (always a good idea) and there was a distant Snow Bunting sitting like a discarded potato out on the sands.
It scurried back into the dunes as I approached.

I circled round behind it and saw both birds on a ridge fairly close, before they ran back out onto the beach as the afternoon light began to fade. Mike joined me and we watched the sneaky little weasels for 15 minutes or so.

Possibly the most devious Snow Buntings I’ve come across in a long while – these critters can run AND they can hide…

White wing weather

Many thanks (again) to Des Ney for sending me this smashing picture of a young Glauc on the beach north of Fisherman’s Path at Freshfield yesterday.
“I’ve had quite an interesting week so far on the beach”, Des explained. “Found a sadly deceased Grey Seal at Freshfield after the high winds and rough seas. Today I photographed what I’ve since been informed is a Glaucous Gull which was a nice find”.
Indeed it is Des – it has been a few years since two fine Glaucs wintered between Ainsdale and Birkdale, so I hope this one sticks around.

Consistency is all.

Battled out into the fierce hooley this morning with Neill and Duncan, to enjoy a bright sunny day.
The nippy north westerly was gusting right up to force seven and beyond, and made it difficult to find birds, or at times stand up – it was the first outing for my big coat this winter.
I’m pleased to say we were as consistent as ever – earlier in the week I’d driven north with the guys and we had managed to miss the long-staying Great Grey Shrike at Leighton Moss, then miss the long-staying Snow Buntings over at Lytham, limping home with Marsh Tit, Great White Egret and a few Marsh Harriers (although lots of laughs) to show for the expedition.
Today we were sharp as ever, missing the Med Gull on Southport Marine Lake (it has been just about Superglued to the area around the cafe immediately below the bridge for the last two years), and the ever-reliable Twite around the pier were not.
The Water Pipits were predictably absent from Crossens, but on the upside we watched two Ravens playing in the gale over the sea wall, dancing on the air while we struggled to remain upright.

Marvellous things.

We walked north along the seawall at Banks to ‘scope about 1500 Pink Feet on the fields immediately inland, but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary amongst ’em, and out on Boundary Lane at least two Bewick’s Swans were still with the Whooper herd there.
After that we just had time to not see the Little Owl at Banks (the door on his barn is bashed in – he won’t like that) and fail to connect with the Cattle Egrets off Town Lane.
Either you’ve got it, or you haven’t.
Oh dear…

White posts and waxwings

“Brrrrriiiinnnng….brrrriiinnng….brrriiinnng” went the two Waxwings as they scoffed berries from the central reservation on the A565 at Banks this morning as Neill and I watched ’em.
Lovely things as ever, if the racing traffic was a bit of a distraction.
Even better one of them (presumably a male, looking at the size of its crest), was colour ringed.
Who does that?
Yellow under metal (BTO) on the right leg, yellow, green and red on the left leg – see pics below.

The ringed bird had a pronounced “nail” on its bill tip too. Odd.
We watched the Waxwings for about 30 minutes or so, not forgetting to year tick the Banks Little Owl chilling on its barn on full zoom across the fields (don’t worry purists, I did motor round so we could “drive-by” tick it as well…).

Earlier we started off on the marsh with the young Scaup and Pochards in front of Nels at 60x hyper-zoom from the Hesketh Rd platform, Water Rail squealing in the SSSI ditch and at least three Sprawks in the area.
From the Sandplant the sub-adult male Hen Harrier was sitting out in the distance, two Merlin were hunting and Peregrine, 3 Marsh Harrier and Kestrels were about.
The Hen Harrier was a blob in the mist through the camera, but showed quite well via the ‘scope as an almost warm spell of all too brief sun got the Skylarks singing.

See?
Distant blobbbage.
At least the white survey posts make finding birds easy peasy out there these days (assuming you know which white post folk are referring too).
Neill picked up a group of four Barnacle Geese with the Pinks, and two Stonechats were on the fenceline.
Post-Waxwings I drove out onto Boundary Lane in the badlands, where a herd of about 200 Whoopers held at least six Bewick’s Swans – there were possibly more as a few distant white lumps were dozing, heads and necks hidden.

After that we buzzed over to Martin Mere (hi Andy) before hatching a cunning and inevitably messy, beer-related Sunday afternoon plan…

Alle alle….oops

Many thanks to Des Ney for sending me these pictures of a Little Auk he discovered on the tideline near the end of Fisherman’s Path, Freshfield, just before Christmas.
Des found the corpse on December 22nd.
“Visually the bird seemed in good condition with no obvious cause of death”, Des explained.
“I think in days prior to the find there may have been some strong winds and heavy seas which may have been a contributory factor”.
Not often you come across a Dovekie, dead or alive, on our coastline.

Just walking

Started a new series of winter walks at work today, with the first taking us through Birkdale Local Nature Reserve this morning.
Fairly quiet – just one feeding flock of titmice, and on the way down to the station at Ainsdale, Chiffchaff and two Goldcrests calling.
Best of all though a Short Eared Owl was hunting the dune ridge on the seaward side of the Coast Road and a short time later another Shortie came in from the east, high, while being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.
Later in the day I was in the dunes again with the Natural Alternatives group and had two Jack Snipe and a Water Rail as we shambled along.
A few Chaffinches seemed to be moving through too.
All good stuff.

You want it darker

I can’t spend my life waiting for the sun to break through (it’ll be back again someday I’m sure), so I headed down to the marsh despite the gloomy grey half-light which persisted all day.
Even though Marshside felt subdued in the uninspiring conditions, there were still birds everywhere – good numbers of waders and wildfowl, while even the greyest of days doesn’t seem so bad when the raptors are putting on the kind of show they are at the moment.
Two Peregrines, including the big young galooty one that keeps lunging at Pink Feet (fat chance), powered about, while young Marsh Harriers were spooking everything and tussling with at least two Hen Harriers.
At one point a fine male Hen Harrier, young Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard were all wheeling around in my scope view at the same time – what an eyeful!
Merlins screamed around as the bigger raptors broke the skyline for a pleasingly large audience there to appreciate the show.

Up at Hesketh Out Marsh the drake American Wigeon was sailing about with the main Wigeon herd off the old “bus stop” hide viewing platform, which was handy for the car park, even if it was way too dark to take decent pictures of the thing.

Occasionally the yankee wandered off into the vegetation to graze with the rest of the flock, but always returned to the water.
It’s forehead blaze looked a bit lemony to me, but that was probably just a case of me getting the camera exposure wrong in the appalling light…

A splash of colour on a grey day.

Don’t know about you, but these grey winter days really bring me down.
On days when it feels like the sun hasn’t bothered to come up, I think the best thing for me to do is try to catch up with my “Birdblog Goa” blog.

I’ve put a few more updates on now, please take a look.
Let’s face it if Orange Headed Thrush, Bluethroat, Citrine Wag and Collared Kingfisher don’t brighten up your day, it’s probably best to just stay in bed….

Supermarket loyalty

Still roaming about the Humber, I called into see the four Waxwings at Hessle this morning as they commuted between the Aldi and Sainsburys car parks either side of Priory Way.
Aldi seemed their favourite, with a few more berries on the trees, although when I left they’d just jumped ship to Sainsburys and were scanning the area from the treetops as they do.

Across the river I visited Far Ings, but with several working parties hard at it on this great reserve, the reedbeds were predictably quiet – apart from the odd supervised fire that is….
A few Goldeneye, winter thrushes and a single Marsh Harrier patrolling the area in the raw cold.

From there I drove the short distance round to Bonby Carr, where at least four Short Eared Owls were hunting the marshy wide open expanses, much to the joy of the big lens and camouflage underpants brigade.
Up to ten owls have been here this winter.

To be fair, the photographers were all sensibly parked and behaving impeccably, scanning the fields from the track side, and causing no disturbance to the birds as they quartered the area.
After a quick burst of amateurish P900 blattage, I left them to it and birded my way back to Immingham.