Thursday, 6 September 2012

Pennington Flash

With the prospect of some nice sunshine and good photographs, I set off for Pennington Flash today in search of a photograph of a bird that I've not got very close to before - the Knot.  A single bird had been reported on the Manchester Birding Forum for a couple of days and it seemed to be sticking around.  There had also been a couple of special birds that had caused a bit of a birding commotion here last weekend - a Black Tern and an American Black Tern, but there was next to no chance of them being here today.

The end of the Spit

When I got to Horrocks Hide, the vegetation on the spit had been cut down and visibility was much better than last time I came.  It was good to see the Lapwings and Cormorants back in some numbers as well as the usual Black-headed Gulls. I met Barry Hulme and Bill Harrison in the hide and they told me the Knot was showing at Ramsdale's Hide round the corner - so after a quick look around during which time I managed to spot a Pochard and a Great Crested Grebe, I set off in search of my goal.

Knot from Ramsdale's Hide

I found the Knot almost immediately, and then spent most of the time wishing it would come closer. The mid-morning light at Ramsdale's Hide is not great for photographs, and so I wasn't really happy with any of the distant photos I took today - ah well, I'll just have to come back when the birds are closer.

Knot my best photos!

I couldn't see the Green Sandpiper here today either but there were a couple of Little Grebes diving in front of the hide as well as some Teal, Mallards, Coots, a Gadwall pair and some Shovelers.

Little Grebe from Ramsdale's Hide

I left Ramsdale's and walked round to the viewing area overlooking the far end of the spit. There is usually a Kestrel around these parts and today was no different, although it didn't hang around for long.  I noticed that a chunky new structure had been built high up on the canal bank overlooking the Flash, and wondered if it was for viewing the area - I'll have to investigate this on my next visit, I thought to myself.

The unmistakable bill of a Shoveler - a male in eclipse plumage

With nothing much showing here, I set off back through the woodland walk to Teal Hide, and chatted to a couple of birders on the way.  At Teal there was a group of seven or eight Shovelers, the males being in eclipse and looking quite similar to the females.  But the water level was very high and there was no chance of any waders, just the 'usual suspects' of Coots, Moorhens, Mallards and a pair of Gadwall.  A single Mute Swan was also present. Barry and Bill caught up with me here, and told me that a pair of Greenshank has landed near the spit and were giving Jon Taverner some very good views in front of Horrock's Hide - I just had to return, and quickly.

On the way back to Horrocks, I called in briefly at Lapwing Hide, where the vegetation is so high you can't even see the water and Pengy's Hide where there just a couple of Mallards and Coots.  No point in staying here I thought, and made off in search of the Greenshank.

Greenshank from Horrocks Hide

When I got to Horrocks, Jon Taverner was firing away with his big 500mm prime lens and 1.7x teleconverter.  The birds were in his ideal position, well-lit and only 5 metres or so away.  I struggled to get my camera gear out and setup quickly enough, whilst all the time the birds were moving away.  I quickly fired off a few shots just to get 'something' in case they disappeared.  Then I settled down a bit and waited for them to get into a good position.

Greenshank pair resting

The Greenshank did a tour of the whole spit and were chased by Lapwing on several occasions. But unfortunately, whilst I was there, they didn't come close to the hide again. However. I did get my best ever shots of a Greenshank here today. There were also four or five Common Snipe lurking in the vegetation and occasionally coming out in to the open, but they were too far away and too well-camouflaged for photos.

Grey Heron from Tom Edmonson's Hide

After chatting to Jon (who was fairly well-satisfied with his own Greenshank shots) and a couple of other birders, I decided to go back to Tom Edmonson's Hide which I'd skipped on the way to Ramsdale's when looking for the Knot.  I was hoping to see a Kingfisher, as they have been reported here quite frequently.  When I got to the hide, a Grey Heron was perched on a post in front of the viewing area.

Grey Heron

I love Herons, and so I spent most of my time taking photos of it and another juvenile which appeared later and which went fishing.  I did briefly get a glimpse of a Kingfisher,  an iridescent blue flash across the water, but that was all.

Grey Heron Landing

On the way back to the car I called in briefly at Horrocks again, just to see if the Greenshank had come close again - they had, but had then disappeared to the far end of the spit.  And so I went home quite satisfied with my birding activities and with two new birds to add to my year and life list.

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