Cutting it fine

Always like to get to Spurn at least once a year, but even I admit I was cutting it a bit fine for 2018.
Luckily I noticed a window of opportunity post-Staropramens last night and pre-Indian banquet in Grimsby with the Outlaws tonight.
So I rocked up at the crack of 10am today to check Easington Lagoons, having cruised over the Humber Bridge in the morning murk.
This was a bit like a spaceship ride, so all was good.
No sign of the long-staying Shorelarks despite walking the area at the north end of the lagoons for an hour as the morning sea fishermen arrived, all sweary and weighed down with kit.
Salty sea-dogs. Yaaarrrrr!
A quick look at Spurn proper was quiet too – it’s the first time I’ve seen the big Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor centre, new car park and odd “have you seen a Brent Goose?” style engagement signs (really?), so that was all a bit of a culture shock.
I bumped into Colin Bushell, who was down with the hootenanay lurgey – the best excuse, if excuse were needed, for a New Year restorative or five later.
Colin had seen the long-staying Eurasian White-front with the Whoopers off Easington Straight, plus a Black Throated Diver out on the Humber, but not much else.

I decided to try for the Shorelarks again, although as I returned to Easington Lagoons, birders were still walking off site empty-handed at noon.
Never mind, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I headed to the muddy area between the northernmost two lagoons and immediately came across the two Shorelarks, quietly trundling around in their own universe.

End of year gloomy as the day was, it was hard to get a clear photograph of the birds – especially when they launched into sudden sprints along the mud, which they did frequently.
Splendid things though, worth an hour of anyone’s time…

Right, that Hogmanay Jalfrezi ain’t going to eat itself, and I’m sure that somewhere out in the cosmic-o-sphere there’s a few bottles of Kingfisher that need my urgent attention.
Happy New Year all.
Ta ta for now.

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Last refuge of the scoundrel…

Effectively ending any illusion of me attempting back garden birding, this youngish Sprawk swept in to scatter everything from the feeders at Dempsey Towers in the grey vaccuum after Crimbo today.
Nothing cheesier than a back garden Sprawk shot.
I could have pretended I was trying to get photographs of the wintering female Blackcap I suppose, but once the Sprawk went through, the warbler understandably kept a lowish profile in the gathering gloom…

After the Sprawk had cleared off, the Blackcap was still hustled out by Starlings and Jackdaws – mebbe I should put a “caged in” fat feeder up for her….
For those interested in something a little less monochrome, perhaps I could recommend to you Birdblog Goa – I’ve just started the thing, and it should take a week or so to compile an ill-disciplined report of our latest gallivanting, but please take a look and let me know what you think….

Opening my Christmas presents early…

Life certainly feels better with a Pitta in my pants, but it took a few attempts before we connected with this glorious male Indian Pitta, courtesy of Chris Kehoe, during our recent trip to Goa.
Yup, two weeks in Goa, getting back at the weekend, meant most of my Christmas prezzies came early (although I still have high hopes for a set of Banana Splits jim-jams).
Thanks to my travelling companions, Paul and John Thomason and Chris Kehoe, we had a blast – hitting most of our targets and still finding time to gorge on superb Indian cuisine, guzzle litres of Kingfisher beer and haggle endlessly with street sellers over a reasonable price for a Ganesh statuette (the latter are compulsory purchases).

The birding was excellent, even if some had gone a bit overboard on the colour scheme – yes Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, I’m talking to you

The Pallas’s Gulls weren’t bad either…

I’ll write up a separate blog on the whole fortnight, with over 280 species scored, and put a link on here, meanwhile I thought I’d better connect again after a lengthy absence, thank everyone who continued to read and support the blog while I was away, and wish you all a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Hope you have a great festive hooley, and please try to follow the sage advice of our Goan friends – no horn music plastic parking.

Owt about?

Been away for a while (more of that later all things being well), so what have I missed?
What’s about?

Back in the hedge

All too busy and everything, plus all usual the December stuff, but the Blackbirds out at Haskayne Cutting are always good value for a bit of r’n’r.
The detail on some of the younger birds can be quite eye-catching, when you’re not distracted by Fieldfares and Redwings that is….

Anyone seeing anything? Please let me know with the comments thingy….

An impressive turn of speed

A fine drake Goosander was back on the Sands Lake at Ainsdale today and shy as ever – as soon as it saw me approaching up the boardwalk it steamed to the far side of the water and lurked in the shadows and overhanging branches.
Skittish as usual, but occasionally it would “speed paddle” like a feathered battleship low through the more regular winter quackery, but never moved out into the open water and bright winter sun.

This was probably as well given my parlous lack of understanding of ISOs and exposures…
Handsome bird though.

A Chiffchaff was calling at the top end of the lake, with Goldcrest and Wrens up there too.

Two days of night

Grey, dark and drizzly is only to be expected at this time of year of course, but a whole weekend of it can take the crease out of a chap’s strides.
True the blue skies tried to muscle the gloom away this afternoon, but the shortening day was nearly over by then, and not much use to anyone but owl paparazzi.
It goes without saying that all the seasonal gloom without heavy prolonged rain doesn’t bode well for critters like the coast’s Natterjacks either – we’re gonna need some PROPER rainfall if the slacks are to be sufficiently flooded and ready for ’em next Spring.
Fingers crossed, but don’t hold your breath.

In the meantime the dreich, although mild, was clearly conducive to the growing numbers of Lapwings, Curlews and Blackwits at Marshside today, with at least 1,000 of the former, and good numbers of Curlews too, which were spooked by a clumsy young Peregrine and damp and mardy Merlins.
Situation normal.

This way up

It was wonderful sitting quietly behind the visitor centre at Mere Sands Wood today watching the regulars swooping into the feeding station – Nuthatches, Treecreeper, Goldcrests, Bullfinches, titmice galore – including a frustratingly brief Willow Tit, Siskin overhead, Redwing and Blackbirds.
Very peaceful, but by Baby Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a Duck Billed Platypus (the mother-in-law is having a few issues with her knitted nativity scene this year), it got mighty cold, mighty quick while sitting still.

Over at Martin Mere for the NW Bird Festival hooha I called into say howdy to the massed ranks of the In Focus team poised to feed an optics frenzy and we watched no fewer than four young Marsh Harriers along the distant fenceline before the day got busy.
The 2017 Lancs Bird Report was more in my financial sphere, so I picked up a copy – and you should too – before I subjected an unfortunate audience to my death by Powerpoint talk on “The Flora and Fauna of the Sefton Coast”.
Many thanks to all who joined me – it meant a great deal that you were prepared to sit through my whistle-stop tour of the coast’s highlights at such an early hour.
I know where I’d rather be at 10am on a Sunday morning, and it wouldn’t be sitting in a lecture hall listening to some eejit blathering on about Petalwort and Dark Green Frits…

“Big coat” time looming…

A rawgreymurky November day to be sure, but not quite nippy enough to break out your big coat yet I think (although I confess mine was stashed in the boot just in case).
Banished from the house while Mrs D practised for her next concert with the Southport Orchestra tomorrow, I decided to spend my exile up on the marsh.
A GBB was polishing off its Teal elevenses in front of Sandgrounders Hide, so the place was unsurprisingly pretty quiet – watching the brute rip the duck to pieces was enough to put a chap off his tiffin.

A Marsh Harrier cut north above Crossens Channel, still swollen from the morning’s high tide, as the Fylde melted in the murk, and a Raven was just ‘scopable in the gloom.
A check around the cow-poached mud between the pull-in and the concrete trough up at Crossens revealed about 10 Meadow Pipits, Pied Wag, Grey Wag and one, possibly two, Water Pipits.

The tail-pumping pipits were as awkward as they always are, keeping distant and flighty, but at least one revealed a key Water Pipit ID feature; namely it smiled and watched as I released one tripod leg, then a second and a third, waited while I loosened the tripod head lock and panned my ‘scope onto it…then flew as soon as I focussed in.
Sigh.
I spent 45 minutes or so checking through the pipits but there was no further sign – presumably away down Crossens Channel out of sight, so I drove up to HOM, to test the “no big coat necessary” thesis to the limits at one of the coldest places on the planet.
Stacks of Tree Sparrows and up to 100 Whoopers were minesweeping the fields, with Yellowhammer, Chaffinches, Song Thrush lurking in the hedgerow with the sparrows.
I love a good hedgerow and it delayed the stroll up to East HOM to see the redhead Smew, which was present, but distant, diving amongst the Wigeon throng, while a Greenshank yelped somewhere out on the vast expanse.

Not the closest views I’ve ever had of one, but no Smew is to be sniffed at.
*If braving the November chill ain’t your cup of tea, I’m delivering a “death by Powerpoint” talk at the North West Birdfair on Sunday at 10am on “The Flora and Fauna of the Sefton Coast”.
If you’re at the event, please come along, I could do with the company….

Birds and berries

For once the wintering Fieldfares on Plex Moss dropped the aloof and skittish act as they gorged on hawthorns and other berries at Haskayne Cutting in the glorious afternoon sun today.
Despite the last vestiges of autumn warmth, settling down into the shaded side of the roadside hedgerow guaranteed a numb backside and soaked undercrackers, but it was worth it to watch the Fieldfares feeding just across the road from me.
Wary as ever, they generally kept a branch or two between me and them, and even though I was motionless in deep shadow, they knew I was there and peered at me when they weren’t stuffing their sunlit Scandinavian faces.

Fabulous birds.
They chuntered and chacked, but kept on feeding – perhaps these thrushes were new arrivals rather than the usual winter flock which turned up at the start of October as per.
There were good numbers of Blackbirds in the Cutting today too, with smaller numbers of Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrush.
But the Fieldfares were the stars…

All in all it was very pleasant in Haskayne Cutting this afternoon – Jays, thrushes and Long Tailed Tits were rippling through the branches as the last leaves drifted down to the ground, and a few smallish flocks of Pinks (500 birds tops) were on Plex itself.

Otherwise Buzzards up in the blue and a female Kestrel feeding on the corpse of a Pheasant – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one take carrion before (the croaker, pre-croaking, would certainly have been too big to be a target for the little falcon)…anyone else seen ’em feed on carrion????