After 12 months or so, the L.O.S. returned to some normality after last season’s field trips had been cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. So our September trip took us to Marshside RSPB in Southport, one of our regular venues. On a serene, windless day, friends old and new met up at the car park along Marine Drive and the view across the vast salt marsh was as clear as clear can be, with the mountains of the Lake District plain for all to see. The only thing we couldn’t see was the sea itself, although not unusual for the Southport Coast.
Without further ado, the group took the short walk to Sandgrounders Hide. Although the pools in front of the hide still contained some water, it was noticeable how little of it was present across the reserve. Still, masses of Black-tailed Godwit preened and fed in what was available. Other birds of note were Teal, Wigeon and the odd Shoveler, all in partial moult along with Little Egret, Canada and Greylag geese. The odd swarm of Starlings flitted from patch to patch, but there was not much else to see in the grand scheme of things.
A few headed off towards Nel’s Hide, but the majority took a walk round the old Sand Works where the only real sighting was a single female Wheatear. No birds of prey appeared for us over the marsh although the redeveloped sand banks look like they should provide a good viewing post in the winter. As we left the Sand Plant the others met up with us, showing their disappointment. The pools outside Nel’s hide were completely dry and, apart from the odd grazing Wood Pigeon, quite birdless as well.
All was not lost though, as Jean Richardson, our botanical expert for the day, provided some knowledge of the local plant life, with a particular interest in edible ones! Here are some of things she found:
|Common Glasswort - growing on salty marsh|
|Common Cord -Grass which helps to stabilise the wet mud on the marsh|
Time to head out towards the distant shoreline along the Sand Road opposite the car park and out into the salt marsh itself. Good numbers of Swallows and House Martins were seen, feeding in the last throes of summer, before heading south to warmer climes. It was good to see a few small skein of Pink-footed Geese, early arrivals from further north.
Other birds of note, were Skylark, Meadow Pipit and a few more Wheatear further down the track. Four Great Black-backed Gulls, a Grey Heron and the usual Little Egret were noted, so commonplace these days as to not really be worth a mention at times. There were also some distant wader flocks moving along the distant shoreline. As we headed back for some lunch at the car park a single male Wheatear showed well from a clump of bramble, joined by a male Common Whitethroat, which took some spotting hiding amongst the undergrowth.
After a light lunch and a well-deserved brew, we decided to head off to Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB, some fifteen minutes up the coast. Here we headed left of the car park, and Karen’s View Point. Here the birding improved and, in stark contrast to the Marshside reserve itself, significantly more water and therefore more birds.
Here some 300 hundred plus Wigeon and probably more out of binocular range. The scope picked up two Avocet and a distant Great White Egret. Gatherings of Teal, Mallard and the odd Mute Swan. A charm of 100 or more Goldfinch moved from area to area in search of food, their golden wing bars glistening in the late afternoon light.
From the Karen’s View Point we retraced our steps back past the car park and off to where the River Douglas converges with the River Ribble. On the way we saw a Great White Egret in the distance with a Little Egret fairly close to give a rough size comparison.
We also saw more birds of prey, a male and female Kestrel, and a single Buzzard. Also, our first big congregation of Gulls, mainly Herring and Black-headed Gull. On arrival at the Douglas, the odd Great Black-backed Gull, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls, more Herring and the humble Black-headed Gull.
There were around a hundred or so Canada Geese and a handful of Greylags. Other birds to note a small flock of Meadow Pipit and a small flock of Linnet.
Probably not the best birding trip the group has ever been on, but one to remember after our Covid nightmare. It was really great to have a couple of new people on board and hopefully they'll return on future trips - they said they would. It's good for the soul and mental wellbeing.
Thank you all, until next time.
L.O.S. Field Trips Co-ordinator