Sunday, 17 February 2013

That Sterling Moss

View from the Public Hide at Leighton Moss
The most notable thing about my cycle from Freeman's Pools to Conder today concerned the movement of two very different bird species.
Having seen none so far this winter, skylarks were very much in evidence along the Lune estuary throughout the 3 hours I was out. Primarily in ones and twos, most were moving in a southerly direction although a couple were simply circling around at height over the marshes. Breeders returning from winter sites to establish territories?
The other birds that seemed uncharacteristically numerous were common buzzards. I appreciate that these birds are widespread and relatively common along the lune these days, but I saw at least 7 individuals between Aldcliffe and Ashton Hall. Three of these were headed purposefully south, at height. Perhaps it was just a good day for buteos to get out and declare their intentions, as opposed to this being actual movement? 
Aldcliffe was a little quiet for most of the week from what I could see. I got out most days at one point or another; some days were pleasant and mild, others were absolutely horrendous.
The redhead smew remained faithful throughout at Freeman's Pools. It relocated to one of the small satellite pools in the north west corner while the Lancashire Wildlife Trust staff were on site doing some major habitat management courtesy of Environment Agency diggers. In fact it seemed to be about the only bird that wasn't completely freaked out by this intrusion!
One highlight included a pair of lesser redpoll feeding on rosebay willowherb seeds at the cutting just south of Snipe Bog on Thursday. Redpolls are generally pretty scarce in north Lancashire and are barely annual in the Aldcliffe area.

Looking out from the Griesdale Hide
Yesterday (Saturday) I tore myself away from the patch and headed out to Leighton Moss. I first visited this expansive RSPB reserve as an 11-year old, back in 1878. It was February then too, and the meres were all frozen. I had 7 bittern sightings that memorable day, but I went home somewhat disappointed as I'd really wanted to see a grey heron...
Anyhoo, the reserve was nice and quiet when I arrived and I had most of the hides pretty much to myself. As I headed out to the Griesdale Hide I was accompanied by the almost incessant squealing of water rails emanating from the dense reedbeds. From the hide itself it was fairly standard fayre with a couple of cormorants sat up in a tree and good numbers of wildfowl including teal, wigeon, mallard and gadwall. The two little egrets elegantly fishing in the shallows would have been a remarkable sight not too many years ago but now they are to be expected.
Birds visible from the nearby Jackson hide were much the same, with pintail, greylag and mute swan added to the mix.
Lilian's hide provided a few more birds, including common gull, black-headed gull, tufted ducks and my first pochard of the year. Another year-tick came in the form of a marsh harrier sat preening in a distant willow.

A robin - what's not to love?
I then walked over to the Public causeway where I soon heard the cacophonous sound of a Cetti's warbler exploding from the reeds. It was fairly close to the pathway so I decided to hang around and see if I could catch of glimpse of the famously skulky bird. A reed stem moved and was followed by a brief flash of the bird's tail. The warbler continued to call, moving all the time but keeping well hidden from view until a blue tit arrived on the scene. The Cetti's seemed to become slightly agitated by the other bird and flew up toward the tit before plunging back down in the reed stems. Oh well, not the best views I've ever had of the species, but nice to see nonetheless!

Long-tailed tit poses nicely.
I stopped at the Public hide for a quick scan before carrying on along the causeway.
More water rails squealed and I heard the not-too-distant 'ping' of a bearded tit but failed to catch sight of the dapper parrotbill. As I trundled along the path to the Lower hide I bagged a fly-over siskin, had views of a great-spotted woodpecker and plenty of other common woodland birds.  
One of the great things about a place like Leighton Moss is that one can get pretty good views of lots of common birds. Most active birders, myself included, tend to ignore the more familiar species as a matter of course, but it's quite hard to ignore even a robin or chaffinch at arm's length. Then the camera inevitably comes out. So, forgive me for posting these shots - I just couldn't help it!
Also, bare in mind that I've been 'starved' of many of these common birds for the last 3 years and am sort of looking at them through 'new' eyes... (my Canadian pals will appreciate them at least!). 

Having added snipe and great-black backed gull to the day-list I took the path that leads to the 'blue-gate' by the road stopping to take a few shots of a very confiding (ie stupid) pheasant.
The walk back to the reserve was uneventful, but pleasant enough thanks to the bright, mild conditions.
Things have certainly changed since my inaugural visit to this large reserve back in the late 1970s, but one thing remains the same - it's a wonderful place where members of the public can get close and cosy with nature. And that can only be a good thing.

Just to prove that I haven't turned into a total dude, I did stop at Warton Stock Car track (located at the glamorous location of Carnforth Slag Heaps) on my way home to see if I could see the black redstart that's been hanging around there lately. I haven't been to this area for at least 20 years, and had forgotten just how horrible this place is. Anyway, I had the place to myself and soon found the bird, a smart but flighty individual, it appears to be first-year male.    



Phil said...

Hope you framed the Queen's telegram Jon.

ray said...

As someone has already noticed, 1878 does seem a trifle unlikely. the flood looked very promising this morning with loads of stuff, but only 2 Dunlins were, as they say, of interest. It looked ideal for "the" Green Sand but I couldn't find it. Someone with your incredible years of experience would probably pick it out. Best wishes from ray.

Jon Carter said...

Just to clarify, the date was intentional. I was trying to emphasize the fact that I'm a bit of an old fart in an 'amusing' manner. It would appear that I failed. Darn it.

ray said...

Which bit of an old fart are you ? The methane bit I suppose. There were 19 Dunlin on the Flood by teatime. Ray