This weekend I found myself a little further afield than usual staying in Manchester with my new favourite double act Kane Brides and Gillian Dinsmore. Twas all in all a great weekend with Sunday marking my first visit to WWT Martin Mere and Saturday providing me with an introduction to ringing courtesy of Kane and his garden. The ringing was fantastic and I'd like to think I wasn't too bad at it, definitely something I will take up once I'm done at university and have some more time on my hands. Only four birds were caught consisting of two Goldfinch, a Blue Tit and much to my delight a female Bullfinch which looked even more appealing in the hand though sadly her mate proved too wiley for the mist net on that occasion. This aside the weekend was spectacularly birdy providing me with two lifers and a number of year ticks as well as stacks of memorable bits and bobs.. Martin Mere takes the biscuit so to speak when it comes to great nature reserves with the sites handsome array of captive waterfowl only adding to the experience, hope this post does it justice..
|More than delighted with this photo, hence the cover!|
Truth be told one of Sunday's birdy delights occurred even before reaching Martin Mere itself. On the approach to the site we were delighted to glance a large flock of swans by the roadside a few hundred meters ahead. Obviously we assumed these would take flight as we approached but instead found ourselves just meters from a good 75 or so Whooper Swans and a smaller number of Mute Swans as they fed quite contently by the roadside. Kane soon drew my attention to a juvenile bird which appeared considerably smaller than its neighbors.. a Bewick's Swan! What a delight, and only feet away from the car window. A such I couldn't believe my luck. Obviously this bird was a little out of place and without any adults in sight its chances of returning to Siberia look fairly slim though it may well spend the winter in Iceland with its larger cousins. Wherever it ends up, what a bird and what a start to the day!
|Rather charming little Bewick's, good luck to it!|
Arriving at the site and quickly taking up residence in the 'swan hide' I was left gobsmacked by the sheer number of birds outside the hide. Large, small, white, brown, underwater, in the air or on the ground I was presented with a virtual smorgasbord of avian delights ready to be picked apart at will. Obviously the stars here where the Whoopers which showed delightfully close outside the hide (especially during feeding time) so much so that I was given a rare insight into the lives of these beauties as they went about squabbling, displaying and feeding within arms reach. Pintail were present in force with at least 75 of them looking rather dapper in the sunshine alongside large numbers of Mallard, Shelduck and Wigeon. This was by far the greatest accumulation of this species I have seen to date and as such made for quite the spectacle on its on own! Beautiful birds. Also on the mere were a number of Pochard, Goldeneye, Greylag Geese and Teal which only added to the wildfowl bonanza laid out in front of me. The exposed areas of mud held a good 20 Ruff including an absolutely corking breeding plumage male (a first for me) and a large flock of 25+ Avocet alongside a smaller number of Oystercatcher, Black-Tailed Godwit and Lapwing whilst Tree Sparrows and Feral Pigeons set about clearing up the remaining 'swan feed'. All of this of course added to already productive feel of the day. Another bird present in front of the hide was a cracking little Ross's Goose which looked more than a little out of place amongst its commoner relatives. I've purposely left this bird to last because I know that many people turn their noses up at talk of feral birds. As far as i'm concerned however this bird remains as wild as the Whoopers that surrounded it a fact made all the more apparent due to its timid nature and unwillingness to come for the grain placed out for its much more obliging cousins. As such i'm having this lifer, like it or lump it!
|A beauty however you choose to see it.|
|Can't beat a Pintail! Gorgeous duck.|
A walk around the wooded/hedged areas of the site turned up the usual suspects with Great tit, Blue tit, Robin, Blackbird and Woodpigeon going about their business alongside a few more showy species such as Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Collared Dove though these species quickly fell into insignificance when I reached the glamorous looking harrier hide and began to scan the wetlands for a few more choice suspects. Nothing too exciting here however though the commoner bits 'n' bobs showed nicely with Tufted Duck being the prominent wildfowl species alongside smaller numbers of Mallard, Teal, Canada Goose and Goldeneye. A distant flock of Pink-Footed Geese was nice to see whilst a few waders put in an appearance with Redshank new for the day and another group of Blackwits yielding some impressively rustic summer plumaged individuals. New birds were few and far between after departing the hide but some did trickle in (though nothing to the standard of the previous species), these included; Chaffinch, Moorhen, Coot, Great Black-Backed Gull, Gadwall and Pheasant though these did little to hold my attention. The day ended with a exceedingly good views of the Whooper flock as they were fed outside the hide where everything from swans to Pintail to pigeons were drawn to within touching distance giving myself and the other 30 or so people in the hide quite the show! It was nice to see a number of kids enjoying the spectacle too, such things always give me a little hope for the future.
and there you have it! Swans, ducks, geese and a lovely weekend away in new surroundings. What more could I ask for? Well a trip abroad I suppose but as I've already been asked by Kane and Gillian if i'd like to accompany them to Estonia in May I have that too! Thanks guys, can't wait. Back to normality now however as I eagerly await the arrival of the first summer migrants to the grounds of my university here in Penrith. Last year Redstart and Willow Warbler were my first migratory ticks here but this year I'm somewhat fancying the more dowdy additions of Chiffchaff and Sand Martin, only time will tell! Chow for now, and hopefully by this time next week I will have a lot of otter photographs to post as a result of my camera trapping exploits! Fingers, toes and all other appendages crossed!
|An unusually confiding pair of Ruff.|
|Rather sullen looking Whooper Swan.|
|Always had a soft spot for Pochard|
|and again because.. Well just look at it!|