21 Feb 2010

Owls, Geese and Dowitchers.

Sunday morning and the snows back. Unbelievably after the beautiful day yesterday I woke to find leaden skies and several inches of snow! With Molly recovering from an operation and not being allowed to walk far it looks as if we'll be house-bound for most of the day. With Janet in London for the weekend its just me and the dog fending for ourselves as best as we can.

The week started with a quick trip to IMF with Al Orton where the Long-billed Dowitcher had taken up very temporary residence. Not only that but we had an extra bonus when an Egyptian Goose flew in! I've seen more Dowitchers in Cheshire than these feral breeders.

With Jan up very early for her trip Saturday I decided to spend a couple of hours at Burton Marsh and walked along the track to the Decca Pools where plenty of wildfowl seemed to be congregating. it was a beautiful clear frosty morning with hardly a cloud in the sky.  The fields behind the pools were full of finches and buntings with a flock of at least 150 skylarks being one of the highlights.

A careful and patient search of the mobile finch flocks was required to pick out a couple of Brambling whilst amongst the commoner Reed Buntings a single male Yellowhammer glowed in its canary coloured plumage. Elsewhere on the reserve a flock of 30 Yellowhammers has been feeding in a sacraficial crop. It's nice to see so many birds together - 200+ Linnets, 30+ Reed Buntings, 50+ Chaffinches and of course the Skylarks, all feeding in one area of stubble where the farmer has left it stand for the winter.

I made a quick visit to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB but didn't go into the hide as the full car park suggested there wasn't going to be much room! Instead I scanned the new area of the reserve out towards Shotwick and picked out the Egyptian Goose again. A couple of Water Rails showed well foraging in the wet leaf litter at the bottom of the path but the main attraction was the huge numbers of Pinkfeet feeding just off the reserve. I reckoned there were 600+ - surely a record number for the county in recent times.

Just as  Iwas pulling up at home Mark 'Groucho' Payne rang to say he was heading over as Lou was going to the cinema. Arranging to meet at mine we once again set off to Burton where this time we also saw the wintering Marsh Harrier and some superb Short-eared Owls.

Once again a patient scan of the stubble was rewarded with a Brambling and then it was back to IMF to try and catch up with the Egyptian Goose for Mark. Unfortunately some complete numpty had left the hide, climbed a fence and up the bund shielding visitors from the scrapes and frightened off all the birds and the Egyptian Goose had disappeared. Still we picked out 5 Ruff on the new flood and eagle-eyed Groucho found a single Spotted Redshank. With the light fading and the temperature dropping fast the RSPB showed its caring side and made two cold members a welcome cup of tea! We also had a chance to see the plans for the reserve expansion. It really is going to be a stunning place. Already the creation of a new wetland habitiat has attracted a Bittern and the big flock of Pinkfeet. Unfortunately it appears as if the cold winter has decimated the local Little Egret population and we only saw 3 -4 birds all day. Hopefully some may have just moved to milder areas but a lot will have died.

The garden feeders have now attracted a male Blackcap!

Finally, Allan and the rest of the Antarctic cruisers have returned and his blog will be updated over the next few weeks to include some photo's of some of the stunning birds they've seen:


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