Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Marshside RSPB, Southport

As we're currently having a new bathroom fitted, I've been resolved to not being able to get out of the house much for the next two weeks. However, today the work was brought to halt at 11am and, as it was sunny, I decided to shoot off to one of my favourite places in the North-West: Marshside RSPB in Southport. Marshside rarely disappoints, especially when the weather is good, and entrance and car-parking is completely free of charge which makes it even better.  Here's another short experimental video taken using my DSLR.

I started by walking down the winding track known as the Sand Road that goes to through the salt marshes to the beach. I knew I'd missed the high tide, but that couldn't be helped today, and so any hopes of reaching the tideline were soon forgotten. On the way to the beach I saw a Kestrel, many Skylarks and House Martins, a few Swifts and Gulls and a Meadow Pipit or two. I also had a possible sighting of a pair of Whinchat but without bins I couldn't be completely sure.

My main aim today was photography and my first decent subject was a Ringed Plover calling from a little further down the track. At times I got quite close but unfortunately it didn't stay still for long, so the photos are not as sharp as they could be.

On the way back to the hides I came across these Skylarks sandbathing in the glorious weather.

As I walked around the perimeter of the old sandworks I saw these birds which I think are both Meadow Pipits - please correct me if I'm wrong.

There were a lot of small Woodpigeon flocks over the marsh as well as a few Gulls and the occasional Swift. Blackpool Tower and the Big One rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach were very clear today, when often the haze makes them difficult to see.

As I approached Sandgrounders Hide I could hear a cacophony of noise coming from the Black-headed Gull colonies on the small islands in the pool here - the last time I was here a couple of hundred were just starting to nest and now the air was full of the sound of their offspring too.

Next I saw a single Avocet furiously feeding, rapidly bobbing up and down in the water.

My next subjects were the Black-tailed Godwits and as some were quite close today, I got my best photographs ever of these wonderful waders - at least one was in it's orange brown summer plumage too.

Finally I took some photographs of a picturesque adult Shelduck and it's young:

After spending a good 45 minutes here, I carried on to Nels Hide, a short walk which always seems a little longer than expected, especially when you're carrying heavy camera gear.  On the way I came across this solitary Woodpigeon sunning itself on a post:

There were several Avocets around but the main attraction today was a pair of Oystercatchers which were nesting right in front of the hide.  On my previous visit it was the Avocets that were nesting here and I didn't hold much hope of their eggs surviving as the nests were practically floating due to the very high water levels here.  Thankfully a good few chicks do seem to have made it.

The pair of Oystercatchers were on a small patch of land which was not much above water level - the male (I assume) was busy strutting his stuff at the far end of the island and didn't get too close to the nest where the female (I also assume) was sitting on the eggs.

The female sat on the eggs most of the time I was here and so I wasn't sure how many eggs there were.

And then for a brief moment she got up to move things around a I got a glimpse of three eggs.

There was also a very vociferous little Redshank frequent;y making itself heard from time to time on the edges of the small island quite close to the Oystercatchers.

A large group of young Mallards with a parent swam quietly past the hide.

There was also a very pretty white duck (which I assume to be an escaped female Red-crested Pochard or a hybrid of one) with a brown cap associating closely with a female Mallard.

A single male Wigeon seemed to have been left behind when all his mates had left.  I can remember seeing fields full of nothing but whistling Wigeon last time I came.

A pair of Gadwall put in a brief appearance in front of the hide before swimming off somewhere.

I also saw a Sedge Warbler, many Lapwing and a single male Shoveler which looked like it was moulting at this hide today and just before I left to get home for the England match against Ukraine in the Euro 2012 tournament, an Avocet family with two adults and two young put in an appearance, which was a great way to end a very nice afternoon of birding.

On the way back to the car a came across this fine-looking Lesser Black-backed Gull sitting high up on a lamppost: