Friday, 20 February 2015

High Tide, Cottage Lane on the Wirral - 20/02/15

With the prospect of a 10.3 metre high tide and fair weather today, I set off for the Wirral just before 9am this morning. After doing a bit of research last night, I decided to try a different part of the coastline than last time, a mile or so further north than Parkgate down a small road called Cottage Lane.  I and many others were expecting a raptor-fest but yet again it didn't really happen.

I arrived in good time and there were only a couple of other birders that were present, which was in total contrast to the madness that is Parkgate on one of these days.  From my vantage point on the old sea wall I could see the many car windscreens glistening on the 'old baths' car park there in the intermittent sunshine.

The first view of a distant raptor was that of a Merlin sat on some driftwood branches on the edge of the saltmarsh. As the tide came in the driftwood became surrounded by water and the Merlin was replaced by a much larger Peregrine Falcon, at first low down and then later sitting on top of the dead branches. It remained here for a very long time even when totally surrounded by water and was eventually joined by a Carrion Crow sitting almost alongside.

The water didn't seem to make much progress for ages and then suddenly around 11:40am it started to flood in at some speed and did reach the sea wall here.  This was great because I've never seen it come this far in before. Small flocks of Redshank, Oystercatcher and a few Godwits were on the move now, being displaced at the water's edge by the incoming tide.  There were also plenty of ShelduckTeal and the odd Canada Goose on the water and quite a few Little Egrets started to pop their heads up and fly. A skein of about thirty Pink-footed Geese also flew up the estuary making their trademark 'wink-winking' call.

As I was looking at a very nice Grey Heron through my scope, I spotted a Short-eared Owl flying low against the tideline - it was a fleeting glimpse that no-one else in my little group of birders picked up on.  It was quite a while before another appeared and it may have been the same bird.  In this second view the bird was on the ground and looking round - it had pretty long 'ear' tufts for a Shortie and it had those wonderful staring eyes.  It was possibly sat on some prey as it flew off not to return.

However the best bird for me today was my first ever Water Pipit, thankfully pointed out by another birder as I'd never have spotted it myself.  It was in amongst a whole crowd of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and even a couple of Rock Pipits all feeding on the marsh.  Today was definitely the day of the Little Brown Jobs: I've never seen so many Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits feeding in one place.

Just before I left and whilst I was busy trying to get at least a decent Reed Bunting photo, a Kestrel landed on a vole or mouse not five metres in front of me and flew off before I had chance to photograph it.  I've got a couple of blurred shots of it flying away carrying something - typical.

And that was pretty much it for today, no close views of Owls, no Hen Harriers or Great White Egret for me, but not bad to come away with a Lifer.

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