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The Safari can’t believe what’s happening -two posts in almost as manny days…what’s going on???
We had a quick afternoon out with CR, more of a dog walk really, without our camera up at Rossall. There’d been a couple of good pics of a returning Purple Sandpiper by top dollar photo duo D & JM so we thought we’d go and have a shuffy. Due to wet weather and bad light we didn’t take a camera, even CR only took his ‘easy-to-stash
-in-the-event-of-inclement-weather’ 300mm. Walking along the promenade the beach adjacent was pretty quiet with just the occasional Sanderling working the incoming tide and a couple of Ringed Plovers being spotted until a very nicely marked winter plumage Grey Plover dropped in on the water’s edge fairly close by. Several, at least five, very active Wheatears kept us on our toes – could we turn any of them into a different kind of Wheatear a la the Pauls – the answer, a resounding no they were all ‘normal’ Wheatears.
It wasn’t until we were almost at the new seawall that we came across the Purple Sandpipers – yes plural! Now there were two of them. And fairly tame they were too running around together on the higher parts of the wall not yet covered by the rising waters. Despite the grotty light it wasn’t raining and how we wished we’d bitten the bullet and brought a camera. As the tide rose they skipped off the beach and started running around the promenade coming within a few feet of us if we stood still – they weren’t even phased by the presence of a certain large black dog provided he remained fairly still too. C got some pretty good pics and we resolved to get back there ASAP when the light was better and there was less of a threat of rain.
Our chance came two afternoons later. This time the walk down the prom was worryingly quiet but once we got closer to the new seawall we could see a birder so our hopes were raised. It was local lad K who kindly put us on to the (now) single Purple Sandpiper hugging the very base of the seawall below our feet. It get anything like a shot involved very precariously lying down and leaning as far over the wall as we dared hoping our feet were heavy enough to counterbalance the not insubstantial extra weight of the 600mm lens! Our dare paid off and we were rewarded with this intimate shot of it preening unaware of us peering down at it only five or six feet above. Had the worst happened we’d have landed on it with a dull thud and that would have been the end of both it and us!
One advantage of leaning over the wall was that we had the opportunity to be the ‘right side’ of the light when the sun briefly shone
As the tide came in its favoured areas were being covered and it moved to a new part of the wall but tended to stick very close to the wall’s base. Now we were able to wander down the nearest slipway and get ‘eye-level’ with it at the risk of getting wet feet from the larger incoming waves if we took our eye off them. Here it gleaned small flies off the wall and Sandhoppers from the tiny bit of still exposed beach on the few occasions it ventured away from the wall.
After a while it got fed up or became full up and flitted up onto the nearest groyne for a bit of rest offering some pretty good photo opportunities allowing us the chance to get easily our best ever pics of this species. It’s a shame the sun didn’t break through the clouds while it was sat up there so some hint of purple could be seen on its plumage.
The following morning we picked up CR again this time heading to Marton Mere for a mooch around. We’d been a couple of days earlier but not seen much apart from hearing a good number of Cetti’s Warblers. This morning we were hoping there’d been an overnight arrival of Redwings as some had been reported as passing over the previous night, we’d had a listen when out later with Monty but unfortunately heard zilch, their thin ‘tseeeep’ is one of THE sounds of autumn.
It wasn’t to be, the walk up to the embankment was very quiet apart from the odd ticking Robin here and there.
Along the embankment we started to hear Cetti’s Warblers but they weren’t as vocal as on our previous visit.
From the Bird Club Hide we had a male Sparrowhawk set down on a clump of cut reed after narrowly failing to catch a Snipe and upsettting about two dozen Teal on the scrape in the process. Over in the distance there was a Buzzard on the barn – we don’t often see Buzzards actually on buildings, fence posts yes barns no! A male Kestrel hovered over the field in front of the barn – a three raptor view – not bad! and a couple of Stock Dove sat on the opposite end of the barn to the Buzzard – very wise!
Moving down to Heron Hide (aka Ice Station Zebra for its notable ‘warmth’ in the winter months) it was a relief to see there was a bit of view down a channel through the reeds (Typha). It’ll be better if the roosting Starlings get over that way and crush the standing reeds over and then we get a bit of frost on them too. There was a bit of duck and Coot action but best of all, for us at least, was our first sighting of a Great Crested Grebe there this year, although to be fair we’ve not been for a few months over the summer silly season.
Drake Shoveler coming out of eclipse plumage
Female Tufted Ducks
At the bench and viewing platform the Volunteer Rangers have recently constructed we admired the exceptional view of the water and reedbeds hoping to spot a Bittern or an Otter. We didn’t but it won’t be long before we do as it’s in the perfect position – Thank you.
While we were there TS came along and told us of the wondrous sightings he’d had over the summer while we’ve been keeping away including a stunning close encounter with a Hobby catching dragonflies, a fantastic experience. He’s done well this summer! While we were chatting a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over us.
It was now time to spend some time in the Feeding Station where it was quite lively but not up to full winter blitz yet. A Coal Tit was probably star of the show among the Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins, Dunnocks and single Chaffinch and ubiquitous Grey Squirrel. Easy winner of the cuteness competition was this young Rabbit that grazed away few feet from the window occasionally glancing in our direction when it heard the camera shutters clicking.
The scrub in the main part of the reserve was largely devoid of birds despite the Hawthorns being bedecked with berries there weren’t even any Blackbirds making themselves obvious. Despite the concerns about pollinator numbers it seems they’ve been busy this spring as the trees, Rowans, Whitebeams etc, are bursting woth berries. It’s such a shame that on our tor out to the east through the farming country there’s barely a berry left on mile upon mile of wayside and field boundary hedge as they’ve almost all been hacked back by the farmers already – come on farmers you can do better than this.
Our journey away from the coast was to local scenic site Beacon Fell Country Park, again mostly a dog walk so we didn’t take the camera which was jst as well as it lashed it down most of the time we were there and we saw precious little wildlife apart from a very quick Robin and heard a few Goldcrests in the conifer plantations.
A couple of wnters ago a torndo type ofwind tore through a significant part of the forest downing many trees and damaging others. One such damaged tree has been turned in to a beautiful GoldenEagle. We’d love to see a real one soaring over the skies of Lancashire but with the intense illegal persecution on the grouse moors across the valley that sight is sadly very unlikely…but maybe one day you never know…Sign here to help eagles(and other birds of prey) survive in Lancashire
A few yards along the soggy trail a bright red thing caught our eye, a plastic sweet wrapper? Surely not, indeed not; a very bright fungus and not just one of them some others just pushing through the leaf litter too. We think it’s Russula emetica but it could be one of the other Russula species not something we’ve come across for man years. Bonny whatever it is and the slugs seem to like it.
As we were nearing the car park on our return from the summit viewpoint a flock of finches erupted from the tree-tops and annoyingly went the wrong way back up the hill towards the summit and disappeared into the thickest part of the forest. There were about two dozen and from the loud excitable calls we’d say they were Crossbills, a return visit in better weather conditions is required.
A very wet but not pleasurable afternoon on the hill.
Where to next? News of a Kentish Plover on the South-side is very tempting, not seen one for a long time.
In the meantime let us know let us know who’s flitting around the tree-tops in your outback.