Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Great Day for a Great Egret

I had a feeling today was going to be a good day.
First thing, I had a merlin flying around over my house - it was uttering a soft persistent call I don't recall ever hearing before, no idea what it was up to!

I then trundled off through Freeman's Wood in the lovely sunlight, scattering multiple redwings and blackbirds. Best bird by far was my first woodcock of the season - always a favourite of mine, these birds have the capacity to brighten any day. In the absence of a photo, here's a drawing I did of one ages ago...

Things were still relatively quiet at Freeman's Pools; 5 tufted duck, 9 gadwall, 2 goldeneye and the usual scattering of little grebes, coot, teal and wigeon, etc.
Frog Pond was hosting a few more wigeon and gadwall plus several redshank and curlew.

A racket drew my attention to a hedge bordering the maize fields. A formidable gathering of chaffinches, blackbirds, blue tits and the odd robin was seriously bothered by something.
After a bit of manoevering I found the source of their excitement - a rather angry looking little owl. Despite their status as regular Aldcliffe birds, this is the first little owl I've seen in the area for a good couple of years. I used to have two guaranteed spots for finding these diminutive hunters on the patch but alas those days appear to have gone. Hopefully this individual marks the return of these fab little predators to the area.

Next, I checked the flooded fields by the Wildfowlers' Pools. A gaggle of garrulous greylags were gathered here along with large numbers of teal. Several mallard, moorhen and a lone female pintail were here too.
Four black-tailed godwits were feeding alongside several redshank. Half a dozen pied wagtails and a meadow pipit were picking around the edges of the wet areas.

A quick scan over the marsh revealed yet more greylags and Canada geese but little else beyond a few black-headed gulls and little egrets.
I walked the tideline to Cadaver Corner but it was pretty quiet with just 4 common snipe coming up from Snipe Bog.
Out on the muddy river edges I could see large numbers of golden plover and lapwing.

I was daydreaming about finding a desert wheatear (as I often do) when I noticed a large white bird flying languidly at mid-height over the marsh. I knew what it was straight away and as I lifted my binocs to my eyes I allowed myself a little smile; my first, long-awaited great egret on the patch. Phew!
I watched the egret as it flew in a direct line toward Freeman's Pools but it carried on and disappeared over Lancaster. I wonder if any sharp-eyed shoppers spotted it? Could be worth checking the roost at Skerton Weir later?
To put in into context, although this was the first great egret that I have seen in the Aldcliffe area (though somewhat ironically I was looking at one yesterday at Leighton Moss...) it isn't the first to have occurred here.
The first was an individual that spent a short time on the Lune near Snatchems back in 2004 (before it moved on to Leighton Moss where I did see it later the same day). And then a second bird stopped by in 2011 when I was in Canada. So, this constitutes the third patch record.

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