I’ve not done a lot of birding this year: a new family member who keeps me happily preoccupied with public transport on many of my weekend days off, an exceptional workload, and a period of ill-health saw to that. But today, my last day of birding for 2011, was a great ending which has enthused me for the year ahead, in which I shall undoubtedly see a lot in January and then hardly get out again until December!
This morning I headed out with Andy Pryce to see the Glaucous Gull at Weld Rd again. Andy was on the bird within seconds of getting out of the car: it was showing well feeding on a mound of shrimp detritus deposited by a local shrimper. But the weather was foul, and after a while we headed off, firstly to Crossens Inner by way of Dawlish Drive. Here we quickly found seventeen Barnacle Geese and counted 4 Eurasian White-fronted Geese by the time the mother of all hailstorms forced a retreat! There were probably more, but the weather was evil.
Plans to head for the American Wigeon found by John Aitchison yesterday on the Douglas close to Hesketh Out Marsh were re-evaluated given the weather and the lack of shelter out that way, and as we were both carrying WWT membership cards that hardly ever get used we took the less-(fool)hardy option and headed instead to Martin Mere.
Here, the expected huge numbers of Whooper Swans made for fair viewing, and a Hen Harrier was a pleasant early surprise. From the Janet Kear Hide the stars of the show were four brown rats, until a Sparrowhawk whizzed past the feeders scaring off half a dozen Reed Buntings, before a Marsh Harrier gave great close views in the field beyond. As we arrived in the Harrier Hide there was more Marsh Harrier action (a different bird) and the huge numbers of Wigeon and Teal caused Andy and I to joke that we would probably find our own yankee bird, whether an American Wigeon or a Green-winged Teal. And sure enough, it took only a few minutes of scanning the huge numbers of ducks with my bins before I spotted a near-vertical light stripe on the breast of a teal, having found what turned out to be Martin Mere’s first Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) of 2011.
Thanks to Andy for shooting the video ~
Finding that the new cafe at Martin Mere doesn’t sell beer, unlike its predecessor, was a bit of a disappointment, though: what are zoos today coming to?! Good job I had some Glenmorangie in the hipflask.
This 1st winter Glaucous Gull ~ Larus hyperboreus ~ has been at Birkdale, Merseyside, since around 20th December 2011. It’s feeding well but has a gammy right leg and lies down for long periods (as you will see) … let’s hope it makes it. I caught up with it today – it was very, very windy, and in the video you can see Godwits almost getting blown over! – so the film is exceptionally wobbly and serves merely as a record.
Sometimes seen around the car park at Weld Road, I found it a few hundred metres further down towards Ainsdale, past Taggs Island, in with a large wader roost at high tide. I also had an adult Med Gull, a handful of Twite, several jack Snipe, and some glorious wader sights at what was a very high tide – 9.5m with the wind right behind it. Great mid-winter birding. Sublime guitar playing on the video by Tony McManus replaces the horrible wind noise captured by the Nikon P5100 that I shot this on, through a Swarovski ATS80HD.
Photography was even harder due to the very high winds, but here are a couple of record shots …