Saturday, November 18, 2006

Anser birding trip to Lancashire 2 to 4 November 2006

Pink-footed Geese near Pilling, Lancashire 3 November 2006 M.J.McGill
Ruff at WWT Martin Mere 2 November 2006 M.J.McGill
Male Snow Bunting at Fluke Hall/Pilling 3 November 2006 M.J.McGill
Glossy Ibis at Fluke Hall, Pilling 3 November 2006 M.J.McGill

Anser birding trip to Lancashire 2-4 November 2006

2 November 2006
Six of us travelled to the north-west in glorious weather to view some of the best reserves in the area. On the way up we stopped off at a service area then headed to Sandbach Flashes where a male American Wigeon had been seen a couple of days before. We searched the Eurasian Wigeon flock but it was not present. A few hundred wildfowl and a flock of Lapwing were also feeding or roosting in the sunshine and a group of c10 Ruff fed among them. A party of Tree Sparrows was a welcome sight. This broke the journey up nicely before we headed off to WWT Martin Mere.

At Martin Mere we arrived with fresh news of the Glossy Ibis that had been touring the county for a few weeks being present on the mere. As we entered the hide it became apparent that it had gone. Thousands of wildfowl and waders could be seen with about 60 outrageously tame Ruff feeding just feet in front of the hide. The Whooper Swan flock was feeding and roosting on the mere along with flocks of Pink-footed Geese and every duck species you would expect, a single Ruddy Duck bobbed around among this busy scene. On the various feeders we saw many Tree Sparrows. After lunch we visited the Ron Barker hide where we logged at least 3 different Marsh Harriers and a female Merlin which initially had a kill. Near to the hide a pair of Stonechat busily fed among the weeds and the marshes from here held more wildfowl and waders. A Kingfisher flashed over the hide as we left. To end the day we returned to the mere where more views of the many birds were enjoyed along with a Peregrine and the harriers.

3 November 2006
After picking everyone up we got onto the motorway and drove up to the northern coastal parts of Lancashire. In a flooded field at Fluke Hall near Pilling we were treated to 200 Whooper Swans, 2 Bewick’s Swans, the Glossy Ibis and a variety of duck. A Little Egret was seen in flight with Grey Wagtail, Siskin and flocks of Tree Sparrows also logged.

At a nearby car park a male Snow Bunting proved to be extremely confiding despite being flushed by birders and dog walkers. We had tea at a café and viewed the slipway at Knott End on Sea. A male Eider was sleeping with Turnstone, Redshank and a number of waders fed on the mudflats. We decided to leave these until the next day to get better views.

A drive around the fields at Pilling soon rewarded us with great views of c 700 Pink-footed Geese in the maize. A Barnacle Goose was also found as was a Barnacle x Pinkfoot hybrid. We called in at Lane Ends but it was not very fruitful, only the distant Little Egrets were noted in the tidal creeks. A short drive to Leighton Moss RSPB and after soup and sandwiches we walked through the wood to the public hide. Nuthatch, Marsh Tit and Bullfinch were all notable as we passed the feeders. At the public hide a flock of Pochard that was scanned by MJM held a female Ferruginous Duck. It was mainly sleeping at the far end of the mere among the other diving duck. Other birders in the hide said it was an escape with a ring so it was played down and basically ignored. On arriving home the next day I found that the escaped bird was a male, indeed it was ringed and very tame but was actually present on Hodbarrow RSPB in Cumbria. The female Ferruginous was reported on the 5th from Leighton Moss, the day after we had seen it! As of 24 November this bird has been seen at Pine Lake and is thought to be a possible hybrid (Ferruginous x Pochard) several examples of which have occured in Gloucestershire in recent years.

A Snipe slept on the edges of the pool and Gadwall were fairly numerous on the mere. We left the hide to watch the gritting tables for Bearded Tits. Two were calling regularly from the reeds and gave very brief views or flight views. They were reluctant to come out as one or two folk were a bit noisy. A further two were seen flying over us and dropped out of sight. After the evening meal we attended a great talk by Graham Clarkson RSPB on the wildlife of Marshside.

4 November 2006
We began the day with a quick search of the lanes near to Martin Mere and the groups accommodation, we were rewarded with 13 Corn Bunting and a covey of Grey Partridge. The tide was due to come in so we headed off to Marshside RSPB to catch up with roosting waders. We parked up and walked out to the edge of the estuary where thousands of roosting waders could be seen along with huge numbers of Wigeon and Shelduck. The few perches available on the vast saltmarsh held up to three Merlin which dashed around us after the many Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Flocks of waders flew past to join the roost. A distant raptor enticed us to get closer and turned out to be a female Hen Harrier. A visit to some of the hides at Marshside rewarded us with thousands of Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin and a few other waders along with massive flocks of Teal and Wigeon, Pintail were also present in good numbers. A female Goldeneye that was seen in flight earlier was also bobbing around in this busy scene.

Another stop for a hot drink and a snack (hefty Lancashire style) in a stylish Southport coffee shop followed before we headed out onto the Southport pier. The views of feeding waders as the mudflats became exposed were excellent. Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Knot and Oystercatcher were all benefiting from this very important habitat. A quick stop at the main hide where many Black-tailed Godwit were feeding preceded the group becoming the first official visitors to the RSPB’s latest purchase, Hesketh out Marsh, there are big plans and a big future for this development. On our visit we noted a flock of 2500 Pink-footed Geese, Marsh Harrier and c50 Whooper Swan but we were fortunate enough to relocate a Rough-legged Buzzard that had been found less than an hour before. This concluded the birding for the weekend and we returned to Gloucestershire in good time. Thanks to Graham Clarkson for sharing his local patch and wonderful knowledge of the wildlife of the area (and for putting me up) and to Neil Smart for sharing his knowledge/scope. Special thanks go to Bettie, Wendy, Pam and Kate for coming along on this trip and for enjoying their birding so much, great to see.

PS I am slightly envious of the large flocks of Pink-footed Geese that can be seen and heard from Graham’s back bedroom/living room/kitchen etc! I hope we may be able to repeat this trip in 2007.

Martin J McGill


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