Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Green, Green Sandpiper of Home

I finally came across a green sandpiper down on the patch this afternoon - the first I've seen since I returned to the area.
Although primarily a spring and late summer/autumn passage wader in much of Britain, green sandpipers have been regularly over-wintering in the Aldcliffe area for several years. As such, this is usually one of the best places in Lancashire to 'year-tick' them early in the year.
The high water levels following the exceptionally wet summer and autumn (so we hear...) has presumably rendered the site unsuitable for much of the winter. Perhaps it's no coincidence that this one has appeared as the muddy areas around the flood and Wildfowlers' Pools are expanding as the water recedes.
Having spent the last 3 years getting to grips with solitary sandpiper it's great to see a green again, and check out all those features.
It was pretty horrible out there today; the blustery winds, hail and showers made being outdoors a trifle unpleasant.

A fraction of the gulls in the fields
Out on the marsh there were about 1000 restless pink-footed geese, but they were keeping their distance and I wasn't able to get a chance to go through them well. Easier to view were the 800+ black-headed gulls feeding in the newly slurried fields directly south of Aldcliffe Hall Lane (aka Railway Crossing Lane). Rather amazingly, I couldn't locate a single Mediterranean gull among the mass of birds. Where the hell are the Meds? I haven't caught up with one of these cracking larids since getting back - looks like I may just have to pop over to Heysham and get one in the bag.
There were a few common gulls and a handful of herring gulls mixed in, but nothing else of note.

On Freeman's Pools the redhead smew was still lurking around on the small sluiced pool to the west of the main water. It's been hanging around here for the last few days and can be extremely tricky to see as it appears to prefer hugging the invisible edges. Consequently, a few visiting listers have dipped on it.

Black poplar
While checking the smaller pools, take a moment to admire the rather rare and magnificent old female black poplar (pictured) that you have to pass along the path up to the Marsh Point viewing spot.   

I was pleased to see a brown hare a couple of days ago, again my first since I stepped foot back on British soil. I was beginning to worry that the lurcher-loving poachers that frequent the Aldcliffe area from time to time had wiped them all out, so it's great to know that their local extinction is still on hold.
Talking of such things, I couldn't help but notice the four 'sportswear'-clad weed-toking identi-kid youths emerging from a gap in Freeman's Wood's defences at the weekend. Their .22 rifle complete with sights had me secretly thinking that that fence around the wood isn't altogether a bad thing...


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