The Safari once again has to apologise for not keeping you up to date with our goings-on of which there’s been plenty this last three weeks or so since we last out pen to keyboard.
We’ll start with our most recent adventure, a run out an hour down the motorway with CR to twitch a long staying Little Gull. Can you believe that TWITCHING a Little Gull, it’s not as if they’re THAT scarce but then looking at our records we note that we dipped some earlier this year and didn’t see any at all last year so as usual we can resist everything except temptation and the temptation was too much so off we went.
We parked the car and got our gear out as a Nuthatch called from the trees above us and then walking the track to the reservoir we got good close views of a Jay. Arriving at the small reservoir it has been frequenting for some time now we saw a decent sized flock of Black Headed Gulls spread across the water, would finding our quarry prove tricky? Most of them were towards the far side and a quick scan of the closer ones revealed no interloper so we trotted off along the embankment passing a Little Grebe and a small flotilla of Tufted Ducks (wonder where that Ring Necked Duck that turned up as a one-day-wonder not far from here disappeared too) to the other side where the low sunlight made viewing uncomfortable at some angles and badly silhouetted the gulls on the water.
Making our way slowly along the far bank we checked the gulls in the field to our left just in case there was a Mediterranean Gull feeding with the Black Heads in the stubble, there wasn’t and we didn’t expect to see the Little Gull there as they mostly feed of insects taken at or near the surface of the water. Overhead we heard Meadow Pipits and Skylarks passing southwards, most too high up in the blue sky to be able to see.
Checking the water every few yards as each next cluster of gulls became easier to look at after a few such checks we spotted the Little Gull – couldn’t have been easier…it was the nearest bird to us no more than 10 yards out from the bank. Our plan now was to casually walk past it a short way trying not to spook it and get in a good position with the sun over our shoulder to be able to get a good look at it. No problem it totally ignored us even with Monty sniffing his way along the track. Seems like it’s become pretty immune to the multitude of dogs walked round the res.
Little Gull– 2nd winter pumage. PYLC #180)
A bonny little bird and so confiding. After a couple of minutes it swam closer to the bank pecking at what we imagined to be tiny flies on the water’s surface. And then turned parallel to the bank not 10 feet out and began to paddle towards us. Gently sitting down lower to the water we hoped to get some nice pics, all the while holding on to Monty just in case he decided to make a lunge for it as it passed by, thankfully he was a good dog and totally ignored it.
At its closest even though we got as low to the water’s edge as possible we were still looking down on it – maybe we should have lain down but it was a bit soggy after a heavy dew down there.
Really nice to get acquainted with this delicate little gull again and such stupendous views too. we have a bit of a ‘soft-spot’ for them as in the late 70’s we did a stint at wardening a rare British nesting attempt in the Norfolk Broads but sadly the eggs failed to hatch.
Completing the circuit of the reservoir we almost trod on an un-noticed Grey Wagtail and watched two Little Grebes swim out of range of the camera – the light was poor with a hazy mist descending by know anyway. The mist seemed ot have dropped a few birds there were now some Redwings about and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew out of the woods and across the corner of the res to an isolated stand of bushes.There seemed ot be a few more Blackbirds about now too.
We bumped into the birder who’d originally found the Little Gull and he told us he’s been watching it advance its plumage from 1st summer to 2nd winter over the last few weeks, we didn’t realise it had been here that long. After a few minutes chat we told him we were heading off to the nearby Doffcocker Lodge reserve which he told us didn’t get much in the way of birds but Bitterns have been seen at dusk in the small reedbed in recent winters and it was generally very underwatched during the week.
In the end our visit turned out to be more of a dog walk rather than a birding extravaganza with only a Robin being heard near the car park and some decidedly dodgy Grey Lag Geese hybrid type farmyard thingies begging for bread at the dam. The wooded areas were devoid of birds and the lake almost devoid too bar a handful each of Mallards and Tufted Ducks and down by the causeway a couple of Great Crested Grebes. Most exciting were the three Red Breasted Mergansers that flew over the causeway but went on their way and didn’t land on the main lake.
We’ve had a couple of good morning’s out at Marton Mere tyrying to connect with some visible migration. Our first attempt was a bit duff, we were too early everything decided to be on the move after we’d got home so the following day we went half an hour later and connected with rakes of Redwings passing through, perhaps the most we’ve ever seen there in any one session. lots of Jackdaws too but we had no camera with us.
A couple of days later we had another bash this time with CR. There were fewer Redwings and they were very flighty but we managed to get a couple of shots to bring up #179 for our PYLC – seems weird counting them backwards.
The previous week we’d had a safari out with CR to Pennington Flash in the hope of picking up a Redwing or Fieldfare or two and maybe some more good views of their Kingfishers too.
We saw no winter thrushes and hardly even a Blackbird either but the feeding station at the Bunting Hide was a hive of activity. Here we managed to get a replacement for our earlier very poor Willow Tit pic for our PYLC . There were three of them coming and going throughout the day.
Plenty of other birds were taking advantage of the free handouts too.
Moorhen– not entirely sure what it’s doing up a tree; don’t think it is either
On a previous visit we’d seen a Mediterranean Gull hanging around the car park with the other gulls waiting for people to come and throw some bread at the Canada Geese and Mute Swans. We’d brought a few rounds of sliced white which C threw out over the water, we weren’t able to locate any Mediterranean Gulls in the resulting scrum. But close in to the bank and not bothered by the offer of bread were the two Egyptian Geese another birder had told us about earlier. As feral as you like but they are wild so count on our challenge for #178
Earlier that week there’d been a small influx of Yellow Browed Warblers into the Fylde and those in the know had had success staking out Watson Road Park, a noted hotspot for these Siberian Sprites and other rarities over the years. We’d left Marton Mere and had just arrived back at Base Camp when the news broke, the park is in the opposite direction but had we learned of it before we left the Mere we’d have gone for it. Fortunately poor afternoon and overnight weather meant it stayed put and was seen early in the morning so picking up CR again off we popped. We soon spotted a posse of local birders some with garden chairs looking at a particular Sycamore tree in the corner of the park. Monty got a bit restless while we waited so we strolled off only to get a txt from C saying it was back on the tree. A bit challenging to get pics of up in the still leafy canopy against the light but we got some great views with our bins. A Chiffchaff was lurking in the trees in the other side of the park too. Hope the lads we spoke to who’d traveled all the way from Stockport managed to see the warbler.
Yellow Browed Warbler– PYLC #177
As luck would have it we had a family arrangement on the South-side that would take us right past the plover, it would have been rude not to stop. It was busy with birders some looking through scopes and cameras but many just standing round chatting. We asked the nearest group if it had been seen recently and if so where – they pointed to the nearest group of birds about 50 yards away, “there, on the right of the sleeping Oystercatcher. It doesn’t take long to locate a solitary Oystercatcher 50 yards away.
Through the scope we could see the Kentish Plover was asleep and facing into the stiff breeze tucked in under a tiny sandbank to keep at least partially out of the wind. It didn’t raise its head often and we were lucky to catch one of those times. Not being particularly happy with our distant shots we tried digi-scoping it and was pleased that it did look round at the throng of birders eagerly waiting for it to do something. A good bird for our Challenge (#176) and one that was well off the radar.
A very welcome and very tasty bacon butty was waiting for us at our brother’s a little later.
Best we could manage with the camera
Not long after we’d got back from Menorca we learned of a Caspian Gull that had taken up residence not far away on the coast Over Wyre. Always partial to a good gull we picked up CR on a breezy morning an off we went. It didn’t take long to find the gull on a more or less empty saltmarsh and mudflats save for a few Redshanks. But it didn’t look in the best of health.
We walked on a bit further along the seawall seeing a flock of about 50 Linnets and a handful of Little Egrets but what we really wanted to find was some Golden Plovers. With no luck we walked back towards the car passing the Caspian Gull but not noticing it tucked away behind the vegetation so we had to retrace our steps a way to check it was still there. Lucky we did as we were able to point it out to a visiting birder. With a bit of extra time we walked past the track to the car and continued along the seawall. A good decision as it happened as a hundred yards or so further on a Carrion Crow was having an aerial duel with something similar in size, a quick look through the bins – a Short Eared Owl, nice!
Not a bad morning’s birding!
And that, my friends, brings you just about up to date. We hope you’ve enjoyed the tales of our safaris.
Where to next? Bad weather may hinder us for the next couple of days but after that we’ve a further-flung and, hopefully, very exciting safari coming up.
In the meantime let us know who’s the best gull in your outback this week
There’s more pics from our adventures on our Flickr site