I thought I'd go somewhere new to try my new monopod out. At 12.45am, it was getting a bit late on this overcast winter's day, but I decided to go out anyway. I chose to visit Chorlton Water Park as there had been reports of fairly large numbers of Siskin there over the last few days. I used to travel the route from home quite regularly when I worked as a part time youth leader at Fielden Park Youth Club in Didsbury, but I don't remember having actually ever been to the Water Park before.
After parking up and finding the water, I chose to walk down a woodland path first, partly because it had started to rain and partly because it looked quite promising. Well, apart from a Blue Tit popping out of a nest box, a robin singing, a blackbird and a crow, there was not much here and so I climbed the few short steps off the woodland path and resumed my walk on the main footpath.
I could only see a couple of Goosander, lots of Gulls and Coots and a few Mallard and Canada Geese on the water and so I veered off the tarmac path and up a short rise into the area known as Barlow Tip in search of Alder trees which Siskins particularly like. But very shortly the ground became waterlogged and boggy and so I soon retreated back to the main path.
Here I met a man walking a dog and we chatted for a while about cameras, binoculars and the dog. I was going to ask him if he knew where the Siskins were, but it became evident that he didn't know anything about birds and so I didn't bother. Another bloke walked past with binoculars around his neck and so I asked him instead, and although he hadn't seen any today, he pointed me in the direction of were he'd thought they'd would be.
And so, after finishing my chat with the first chap, I set off again along the main path in search of Alder trees and Siskin. On the way I stopped a couple of times to try out my camera on the monopod, firstly for some distant Goosander on the main Water Park and then for a pair of Pochard nestling under the trees which overhang the water. It was very dark and gloomy and so none of the shots I took today are that good, but I liked the feel of the monopod even though it was still quite hard to keep the camera absolutely still. I hope with practice that the monopod will improve the quality of my bird photos.
When I reached the Alder trees I had a good look round but to no avail - no Siskins in sight anywhere. So I continued wallking up the path through the trees until I reached a bridge over the River Mersey, from which I could see a distant pair of Goosander on the river. I saw this as an opportunity to get some close pictures of the Goosander, as the river is not very wide and they haven't got many places to go on the water except towards me or away from me. So I slowly walked down the river bank, past a group of seven or eight Mallards without disturbing them, to get as close as possible.
The birds were bobbing around in front of some rough water and would often dive and disappear fro a while. I managed to get some shots, but the poor light meant slow shutter speeds and that means blurred images. They took a ride on the fast flowing current past me and in a matter of seconds were a 100m or so downstream. I went after them and got a few more shots before they sailed out of range. It was a shame, because on a bright day I probably would have got some much better pictures - this is as close as I've ever come to Goosander.
I returned to the Water Park and had another look for the Siskin, but by now the light was failing fast. So I set off back to the car, stopping in a couple of places to take some more photos of another pair of Goosander and a distant Great Crested Grebe. Just before I returned to the car park, some headphone-clad idiot allowed his dog to lurch after the Canada Geese and Tufted Ducks which has gathered in what seems like an area where people feed them - not just once but several times. He did nothing about this and just poured himself a drink seemingly oblivious to this act of wildlife terrorising. I didn't feel like saying anything to him however, he didn't look the type to take my comments kindly.
After a quick look at the feeding station where there were a couple of Grey Squirrels, a Long-tailed Tit, a Blackbird and a Robin, I set off for home. It's a good place and I'll be back soon even though I never did see any Siskin today.
Here's some arty flying gulls pictures with which to end: