L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Martin Mere WWT and Lunt Meadows – 7th December 2014

This wasn’t the wettest trip we have had and it wasn’t the coldest or the most windy but it was certainly trying it’s best to be because all day we had frequent showers, quite often with hail plus an icy wind. The wind was blowing the rain and hail sideways, luckily we were often in a hide when it was at its hardest but we had to leave the viewing slot windows closed as the wind was blowing the rain into the hides and wetting the seats.

Just outside the visitors' centre was a large pool of water which had on it a good selection of our beautiful wildfowl, although I think these were some of the captive birds it did give us the chance to appreciate just how beautiful they are close up. You could clearly see the pale green patches on the back of the heads of some male Eiders and compare these with the duller females; there were Goldeneye, Pintail, Wigeon and a few Bewick and Whooper Swans. At odd times, they would swim together so we could compare the size of the slightly smaller Bewick and the smaller patch of yellow on its black beak.

A little further away is the larger area of water known as “The Mere” where you get more of the wild birds and here we saw a number of Whooper Swans, groups of Canada Geese, Greylag Geese and Pink-footed Geese, a lot of Shelduck plus Pochard, Pintail and Wigeon. A good number of Lapwings were seen but most of the other waders were more of a telescope job to see, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and the fify Ruff that Pekka counted. Also through his scope he spotted Stonechat and earlier another bird watcher let some of us have a look through his scope at a Buzzard perched on a fence stump.

Not long after a Kestrel was seen hovering in the distance, a Great Black-backed Gull was on a small island and we spotted three Herons just standing in the reeds on some smaller patches of water over to one side. Looking out from a different side of the hide we saw Magpies on a few occasions coming down to feed on a dead rabbit in the grass.

As we walked round to the different hides various smaller birds were seen such as Redwing, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Reed Bunting and everyone’s Christmas favourite, the Robin.

It was time to move onto our second place of call over at Lunt Meadows, where in contrast to last year, we didn’t see anything unusual. On the areas of water we saw two Little Egrets and with the Black-headed Gulls were a few Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Coot and a Cormorant was seen and as we were standing watching we had Linnet, Robin, Wren and a Sparrowhawk flew past.

Even in the middle of all this bad weather I still found some White Dead Nettle in flower in contrast to the bright red Rose-hips on some Wild Rose bushes. We walked on a little further and as we stood on a bridge over a river looking out over some fields once again the scopes came in handy to check a large group of birds on the ground. These were mostly Rooks plus some Crows and Jackdaws with a group of Starlings near them.

After this, we decided to call it a day and head for home where we could all thaw out. Thanks to Al for the trip and to Joan and Jim for my lift.
Jeff Hurst

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Leighton Moss RSPB and Sizergh Castle – 9th November 2014

Some of our members started their bird watching at Sizergh Castle in the hope of seeing Hawfinch and were again successful, although I believe only a distant view up in some trees.

Leighton Moss RSPB (c) Alan Wilcox 2014
The other members went directly to Leighton Moss but a few decided to travel up there while it was still dark so they could be there for first light to try to see the Otters. One member arrived before we did and as he parked his car he saw a Barn Owl fly away. A little later, when we were parking up I heard some Redwings calling as they flew over and as we were walking a few Curlews flew past.

Our patience was finally rewarded by the sight of three otters although again only a distant view but we could make out two of them, possibly young ones play fighting and as they tumbled round in the water. Occasionally we could see their tails flip up into the air.

While we were waiting for the others to arrive we had time to look at the birds that were there. A male Pheasant walked past in front of us, a Grey Heron was feeding, a few Snipe were nearby and a Water Rail briefly came out from the reeds a few times. In the distance on the far side of the water we could just make out a Peregrine Falcon perched in the bare branches of a tree, and out on the water there were Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, a female Goldeneye, a pair of Mute Swans with six large young that were now as big as their parents and a group of Greylag Geese flew in.

We were told the Bearded Tits had been seen on the grit trays, so our next stop was the public causeway where some of our members were lucky and saw some but although we stopped there for quite a while none showed up while we were there so we eventually walked onto the public hide where the birds were much as had already been seen, except for a Marsh Harrier that flew past and away in the distance.

Not long after we thought it was coming back again as we saw this large birds in the distance over the reeds and flying towards the hide but suddenly the bird turned to one side and we could see it was Bittern now showing up well with the sun shining on it. Flying over the water for a short distance then over the reed beds again where it dropped into and out of sight. While on the causeway some of our members also heard a Cetti’s Warbler.

As we walked between the various hides, I noticed that odd plants still had a few flowers on them. I saw Ragwort, Knapweed, Herb Robert and some of the Blackberry still had some blossom. It was interesting to see some of the old gnarled trees covered in various Lichens, Moss and Polypody ferns growing on them. Joan also identified one fungus we saw as Verdigris Roundhead.

From another hide we had another good view of a female Marsh Harrier, a Kingfisher was perched in a tree for a few minutes and a Buzzard flew over. It was also from this hide that we saw two Red Deer feeding along the edge of the reeds. While walking back from this hide we saw a single Oystercatcher flying over and later saw a Goldcrest and a Marsh Tit from quite close.

Throughout the day various members had seen Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Reed Bunting among other more common birds. As we thought there would be difficulty parking near the hides on the coast, we came straight home but some members were lucky to get in and rounded off their day by having good views of both Little Egret and Great White Egret.

Great White Egret (c) Alan Wilcox 2014
We had seen some really good birds and some members even saw the three otters later in the morning from the public hide. We had been out much earlier to have distant views of them, but it was worth it to be out early and then see the sun just showing through and giving a golden glow to the reed beds that only a minute earlier had been dull and in shadow.

I still have not had a good view of an otter, I could make out some details but I suppose this gives me a good reason for trying again sometime.

Thanks to Al for organising this trip and to Joan and Jim for my lift home.
Jeff Hurst

Happy New Year to You All

As the new year begins we resume our indoor meetings on Friday January 16th at 7:30pm in the Derby Room at Leigh Library.  Everyone is welcome.

For our guest sepaker we welcome back Mr Gordon Yates, with his presentation entitled: 
 "Snowy Owl, King of the Arctic"

This landscape is of Svalbard, just one of the places to which Gordon takes us.