I returned to work this week after injuring my leg four weeks ago. I can't say I was really looking forward to it as I'd got used to being early-retired again without the pressures of the daily work ritual. It's not that I don't like my part-time job, but the journey to and from work each day is a real pain - it takes me an hour and half each way to do a 35 minute trip and it's traffic jams and stop/start all the way. So I was really looking forward to going out somewhere today on my day off and Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB is the place I chose.
The main reason for coming here today was to see the Long-eared Owl which has been around for a few weeks now. I didn't doubt that I was going to see it, but the main question was how good a view would I get.
The bird has been seen by many people over the last three week including birders, photographers and the general public. However it seems that some people are just not satisfied with the view they get, and they have to get even closer. Apparently, some members of the public have even thrown things at the bird in an attempt to make it fly. This type of behaviour from whosoever is just not on - the birds' welfare and protection is paramount and all those who perform such selfish acts should consider their actions and think about whether or not they did the right thing.
When I arrived another bird photographer pointing his lens at the bird, so locating it was quite easy. It was only 15 metres or so off the path and 3-4 metres off the ground. However, from a distance it did look like it was actually part of the tree!
I spent quite a while here trying to get a decent shot without leaving the path. Although this is the closest I've ever been to a Long-eared Owl and it wasn't particularly deep in the vegetation as they so often are, there were quite a few annoying pieces of bramble criss-crossing it's face most of the time as well as leaves with spots on that sometimes looked like the bird's eye. And to cap it all, the bird hardly moved at except for the very occasional bit of preening.
After a couple of hours here I went off to the Inner Marsh Farm Hide, a few hundred metres down the path. Here I saw Teal, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen and Mallards and that was about it. I didn't stay too long as a bloke sat down next to me and started eating a large biscuit in a very crinkly package that made a lot of noise. I moved on quickly grumbling to myself.
On my way back I stopped at the Owl's roosting place again, but all that had changed was that there was now a different group of people looking at it - the bird hadn't moved an inch. So the shots you can see here are the best I could do today under the prevailing circumstances and, with everything considered, I am fairly satisfied with the results. Incidentally, a Goldcrest also put in a brief appearance in the same bush as the Owl, but there was no chance of getting a photograph of it.
On my way back to the car we were treated to a fly-over by a couple of thousand Pink-footed Geese which were flying up the estuary towards the sea. They made amazing fractal-like patterns with their overlapping v-shaped flight formations. I'll put a couple of photos here later, but none of them do justice to the spectacle - you had to be there to appreciate how wonderful it was.
I picked up a pair of Wrens on the marshy land crossed by the boardwalks and several Grey Herons flew over me on their way to a Heronry in the tall trees bordering the reserve. On my way down to see the Owl I'd heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling in the trees near the mere, so I had a look for it on the way back, but I didn't see or hear it again.
I also stopped at a couple of the feeders hoping to see some Siskin (which have been very scare this year) somewhere, but all I saw were Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit and a Brown Rat feeding on the seed droppings under a feeder.
I decided to go home via Denhall Lane where I could have something to eat in the car whilst looking out for Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers on the saltmarsh. I was also hoping to see a Great White Egret and after a short while I did. At one point a Little Egret landed alongside the Great White which looked huge in comparison. There weren't any raptors around though which was a little disappointing.
So I'd had a pretty good day on the whole - funny how seeing just one bird can make your day and your trip worthwhile.