Monday, 22 February 2016

A Trip to Lancashire

Today I decided it was time I visited Martin Mere WWT again, especially as there have been up to four Barn Owls giving glorious views and photographs recently. Luckily the sun was shining and so I had a good day out, in spite of not actually seeing any Owls.  I started outside Martin Mere with a small group of  Pink-footed Geese feeding in a stubble field, and for once they didn't fly away immediately as soon as I appeared.


There were also Lapwing and Pied Wagtails feeding in the same field:



I then went into the reserve where I found the 'new' Discovery Hide - last time I came this wasn't here and I was quite impressed with it.  I had good view of Whooper Swans and Shelduck as well as a few other species.





On to the Ron Barker Hide and whilst waiting for the Barn Owls to appear, this Song Thrush was busy digging for worms in the sunshine.



No Barn Owl for me today, so I had to make do with distant views of a Marsh Harrier:




Just as I was leaving a Grey Heron flew across the front of the hide:

Then off to Banks to have a look for the famous Little Owl on Gravel Lane. When I arrived there was already someone waiting in front of the barn, so I was very hopeful. It was A year ago almost to the day when I first came to this spot following a nightmare of an accident involving me trying to stop my old motorhome rolling backwards across a dual carriageway.  I hurt my leg quite badly and so couldn't walk very well for a few weeks - that's when I decided to come to Banks to photograph this Owl from a sitting position inside the van.  I got some good photos on that day and you can see them here. However, today I left after 45 minutes not having seen it.

My next stop was Marsh Road in Banks where another Barn Owl been photographed recently - I found the field and the post shown in the photograph, but didn't see any birds in the area at all, not even the swans at Hundred Lane End.



So my next destination was the salt marsh opposite Crossen's Marsh north-west of Marshside RSPB. Here I found more Pinkfeet feeding in amongst the many Wigeon and a few Teal. I love the way the colour on the drake Teal's head change from blue to teal green depending on the light:

I'm not sure if this is one pair or two pairs of Pinkfeet :)


A quick stop at Sandgrounder's Hide produced nothing much, especially as the water levels are so high. I could only add a few Coot and a distant Little Egret to my day list here, although there were some Wigeon and Shelduck fairly close too.

And so on to Nel's Hide, which I've found to be the best of all the places at Marshside in my recent visits.  The last time I was here was in January on a Leigh Ornithological Society fieldtrip.  That day the water levels were very high and the birds were distant, but we were treated to some amazing large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Teal and Wigeon as well as Pintail, Shelduck, Mute Swans and the usuals.  Today I was hoping the water levels would be low enough for some gravel banks to appear, but unfortunately it wasn't the case.  All I saw close by were Tufted Ducks and Coots, with the odd Wigeon and Shelduck passing by.



On my way back to the car I did manage to get a photo of a drake Shoveler as it motored it's way past the roadside viewing screen.





So my quest to see a Barn Owl had failed up to now, but I had one last trick up my sleeve - I could call in at Lunt Meadows on the way home.  Barn Owls are pretty much guaranteed here every night at dusk and I wasn't disappointed. I had a quick stop at the Marine Lake in Southport to try to pick out the Mediterranean Gull, but my ID skills are really not that good for distant birds and gulls in particular.



By the time I arrived at Lunt Meadows the light was too poor and the bird too distant for a good photo, but at least I saw it!  It was good to catch up with Susan and Peter Wilson, Gary Clarke and a few others as we chatted in the ever failing light.


So I had a good if not great day, and I'm satisfied with one or two of the photos I took.  I only saw about 22 species in total but it's not all about the lists - it's just so good to be out in the sunshine enjoying the fresh air and chatting to like-minded people, isn't it?

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