Marshside Fieldtrip - 19th January 2014

It was a dull start to the day as we set off from Leigh, but as we got nearer to Southport the sun was starting to show through so as we were travelling along the coast road towards Marshside the low sunshine gave a golden glow to the dead stalks of the saltmarsh grasses that it was now lighting up. Even at the car park the sun was showing a group of small birds off well as they perched on the bushes round where the old sand works used to be. I counted more than fifty birds and on a closer check we found they were mostly Goldfinch and Greenfinch with a few Reed Buntings and Linnets mixed in.

Once at the Sandgrounder’s Hide we could see Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shoveler plus Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and a Ross’s Goose that has now been there for the last few weeks. As we came outside a few Pink-footed Geese flew past but our attention was soon drawn across the road to the saltmarsh where someone had seen a male Hen Harrier. We managed to find it but it was a very distant view, whenever it flew up we could see its lighter underside, pale grey back and black wing tips then it was soon down again. On one occasion when it flew up we could see a second Harrier also in the air which was much larger and this turned out to be a female Marsh Harrier. At the same time we could see a Peregrine Falcon perched on an old tree branch and although this was also way out on the saltmarsh it wasn’t quite as far because through the telescopes the markings on its breast were shown up well in the sunshine, and when I had a look I could see it preening its feathers.

While we were on the edge of the saltmarsh we could hear Skylark and Curlew and a Snipe was seen to fly up, the odd Cormorant flew past, Kestrel was seen and way in the distance a cloud like shape we could see was actually a large group of waders that would most likely be Knot or Dunlin. Checking towards the water’s edge we could also see a good number of Shelduck.

It was decided to leave Nel’s Hide until after we had made a visit to Hesketh Out Marsh in the hope that the sun would have moved round a little by then so we could see what was there. On our way to Hesketh Out Marsh we passed a large group of swans in fields not far from the road and these turned out to be both Whooper Swans and Mute Swans. At the viewing area we could see that the Shelduck numbers also continued along to this area plus some Teal, Redshank and Curlew was seen as was a Buzzard, Little Egret, PheasantMeadow Pipit as well as a distant Peregrine Falcon.

Female Long-tailed Duck - (c) Martyn Jones
On returning to Marshside we walked to Nel’s Hide where we saw good numbers of Pintail, there was a large group of Black-tailed Godwits, a lot of Lapwings and David saw a few Turnstones. There were also a lot of gulls that were mostly Black-headed but a closer look through them gave us Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Earlier in the day the odd Great Black-backed Gull had also been seen. On our way back to the cars we stopped to have a look through the viewing screen on the corner of Marshside Road where very appropriately for us our last new bird of our visit to Marshside was a Long Tailed Duck but you had to be quick to see it as it would soon dive again. In fact I think it was under the water much more that it was on the surface.

Short-eared Owl - (c) Martyn Jones
Our visit to Marshside had come to an end but the day wasn’t quite over, we had seen some good wildfowl and five species of birds of prey so we were well pleased with that but we didn’t know what was waiting for us at another site nearer to Liverpool where Short Eared Owls had been seen, as we were reasonably close to the area we were going to have a look.

Short-eared Owl - (c) Martyn Jones
Not long after we arrived in the late afternoon we saw our first Short Eared Owl, with the setting sun now low in the sky and showing off the birds colours perfectly. As we watched we then saw other owls a little further away and eventually we counted at least four different birds flying in different places.

Barn Owl at Dusk - (c) Martyn Jones
As the light began to fade a Barn Owl was seen in another area but it was thought there were two Barn Owls as another bird was seen way over to one side to where the first bird was seen a few times. A Kestrel was hovering not far from us and at dusk we had one more surprise when a ringtail Harrier was flying in at right angles to us. Eventually the bird saw us and turned again to fly away from us and out of sight but as it banked over on its side as it turned we could see all the marking on its wings in the last remaining bit of light.

Barn Owl at Dusk - (c) Martyn Jones
We had been standing still for some time and we were now feeling the cold so as soon as we had seen the Harrier two of our members made their way back to their car. A little later we all caught up with them when they took great delight in telling us they had just disturbed a Little Owl and watched it fly away and out of sight as they got back to the car. I can’t bring myself to say their names but you know who you were! How could Teresa and Eric enjoy seeing a Little Owl so much when they knew all the other members hadn’t seen it? What a way to finish our day as dusk was closing in and all the good light had now gone.

Thanks to David for leading this trip (keep off your skate board Al) and to Martyn for giving Joan and myself a lift.
Jeff Hurst

1 comment:

David Shallcross said...

Just a small edit.
Thanks Jeff for your report and to Martyn for the photos, a great day out.

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