I met up with local birder Nick Green who took me to a park in Bamber Bridge to get my second tick of the week in the form of a Jack Snipe. The bird had been there for several days sat in a small stretch of ditch that hadn't frozen over in the cold weather we've experienced here of late. On our way Reece noticed a Snipe we flushed which had first led Nick to explore the area more carefully several days before. I managed a few poor shots on a second visit, the auto focus struggled with all the vegitation plus I was wary of local dog walkers as their pets which were taking some interest in me and I didn't want to flush the bird.
I have been down to the Brockholes section of the Ribble on several occasions over the past few days with the hope of getting some reasonable photos of the red headed Smew but with the bird relocating on more than one occasion and the light being poor these record shots are about as best I could manage up to now. Today (29th) it has been showing very well and the light hasn't been to bad but on my arrival I was told the bird had relocated after being in one location for most of the day. After a quick walk up stream I decided to head back as time was running out, meeting up with a local birder (sorry I should know your name) who told me it was back in the original location behind the Tickled Trout Hotel. I didn't have time to stop but put the word out as others were looking for it (thanks Colin for the mention). I'm hoping it hangs around for another 24 hours so I can pay another visit to see this rare Lancashire winter visitor and put my new sigma lens to the test.
ABOVE AND BELOW POOR RECORD SHOTS OF THE SMEW ABOVE WITH A FEMALE GOLDENEYE
I’ve only managed a few trips out since the trip up to Leighton Moss mainly to Cuerden Valley Park.
Cuerden Valley Park
Sightings whilst walking the dogs included a single Goldcrest, a small number of Tit flocks including Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal, Chafinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Buzzard, a mix of Corvids and 2 Roe Deer.
Home on the feeders
We’ve had the usual visitors of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Greenfinch and Goldfinch plus Starling, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, and House Sparrow. The latter being a very rare visitor to our feeders.
2 brief trips down to the River Ribble today around the Brockholes Wetland entrance gave views of Goldeneye (increased numbers in the afternoon 12+), Goosander, Heron, Mallard, Canada Geese, Black-headed & Herring Gull and on the afternoons visit what looks like a first winter Smew (a first for me). I’m hoping the Smew is still there tomorrow morning as on today’s mornings visit I forgot the battery for my camera and in the afternoon I’d forgotten to replace my SD card!! (though the light was poor for photography). The Smew was showing very well at first on an ice flow on the near bank then on the far bank along with a female Goosander about 200m upstream from the entrance to Brockholes Wetland.
The plan was to try and photograph the Bittern at Leighton Moss and with the pools all frozen over now was going to be our best chance. Parking up by the public hide track we headed down towards the grit trays in search of the Bearded Tits but no such luck on this occasion but we were told that Bittern had been seen by the Lillians Hide so off we went after picking up a Waxwing in the garden of the house by the path. We didn't have to wait long as Reece saw a Bittern fly across the front of the hide (I was wandering around the paths!) and land in the reeds near a small pool of open water. It was about 5 minutes before it made an appearance but gave good views for at least an hour as it nervously moved around the reed edge.
ABOVE AND BELOW BITTERN @ LEIGHTON MOSS
It was whilst watching the Bittern Reece spotted a Water Rail sculcing amongst the reeds. Reece wasn't the only one watching as the Water Rail broke cover a Carrion Crow flew in. The Rail dashed for cover but there was only ever going to be one winner.
ABOVE AND BELOW A CARRION CROW MAKING A MEAL OF A WATER RAIL
After a fine early lunch / late breakfast in the cafe we headed back to see if we could catch the Waxwing again. 30+ were on show flying between the garden and the golf course feeding on berries and apples.
ABOVE AND BELOW WAXWING
On the way home we called in at both Heysham where we saw 20 Twite and what I think is a first winter Linnet. Then down to Bradshaw Lane feeding station with Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow with Whooper Swan and Shellduck over.
ABOVE TWITE AND WHAT I THINK IS A 1ST WINTER LINNET
I remembered the camera this morning but didn't have any of the oppertunities as I did walking the dogs yesterday. The feeders have been like a motorway service station today with constant visits from Dunock, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Starling, Blue & Great Tit.
An hour down at Brockholes Nature Reserve before sundown just to stretch the legs and get a little fresh air brought several species of Thrush at the top end of the reserve. On the feeders were Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robbin, Wren, Blackbird, Blue & Great Tit and Reed Bunting. The pools were frozen over appart from a small section of number 1 where a mix of Gulls, Mallard and a few Coot took advantage of the open water.
ABOVE FIELDFARE BELOW MISTLE THRUSH
ABOVE MALE REED BUNTING BELOW OUR WINTER FAVOURITE THE ROBIN
With the 6" plus of snow falling last night we had more than the usual visitors to the feeders this morning with Goldfinch, Grenfinch, Blue & Great Tit, Starlings, Blackbird, Dunock and not to be out done by Colin (see Ribble to Amazon Blog) our very own Robin on the fat ball.
Out with the dogs at Stags lodge this morning were amongst the usual suspects 5 Siskin on the sheep feeders and 2 Buzzard over head being mobbed by several crows. I also got very close views of a Wren in a local garden, typical I didn't have the camera with me as there were some great photo oppertunities. Maybe tomorrow!!
With having the day off work Mrs G and I decided to walk the dogs up at Cuerden Valley Park. Not always an easy thing dog walking and bird watching but I did see plenty around including A distant flock of 20 Fieldfare, 4 Jay, Severel Tit flocks including Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal though no sign of any Goldcrest amongst them, the usual corvids, Mallard, Black-headed Gull and a small flock of Canada Geese that had just flown in on the lake, Dunock, Wren, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Nuthatch and 5 Bullfinch including the Female below feeding in the paddock.
The plan was to head over to HOM for an hour or so and try and get to grips with my new sigma lens. There seemed quite a mixed flock feeding next to the car park so I wanted to attempt to get some better photographs than last weeks visit. Best laid plans and all that............ The light was poor, and with the flocks keeping mainly to the bushes between me and the sun anything reasonable was a no hoper. Anyway Linnet, Reed Bunting, and a single Yellowhammer were all on show. No Brambling this week for me but numbers have been reported seen today though I did see both Peregrine and Marsh Harrier from the car park. I moved up the approach road viewing Chaffinch, more Reed Buntings, Redwing and large numbers of Fieldfare. Turning left at the farm I walked about half a mile down the track scouring the fields for something interesting a single Merlin, more Fieldfare and Linnet, 2 Magpies, a Pheasant, Skylark and 75+ Meadow Pipit were aabout all I could find.
Both Reece and I headed out to Hesketh Out Marsh today to have a further look around after fridays visit and an email from Colin Bushell giving me a little more information on the area. Well the temperature wasn't as cold as Friday and we got a few more sightings but no sign of the Barn Owl though it was afternoon. First stop was a scan across the field to the east of he car park with a large flock of Linnet mixed with Chaffinch, Tree Sparrow and Brambling.
LINNET, TREE SPARROW AND BRAMBLING IN THE FIELD NEXT TO THE CAR PARK
A scan from the platform gave distant views of Pink-footed Geese, a few Redshank, Kestrel, Curlew, Shellduck and Mallard. From the platform we headed west and added 4 Dunlin which dropped in with a couple of Redshank. More Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Blue Tit were in the hedges as well as more views odf the Merlin and a Buzzard and Little Egret over. A large number of Teal could be seen in one of the distches as well as a second Kestrel and we flushed 2 Woodcock in seperate locations, one as we were leaving the car park. A Sparrowhawk made an appearance on the way back to the car and we were told of a Female Hen Harrier having been seen from the platform wilst we were wandering around!
ABOVE 1500+ PINK FOOTED GEESE BY THE RIBBLE
ABOVE SPARROWHAWK (TAKEN BY REECE) BELOW TREE SPAROW
The plan was to have a good look around Hesketh Out Marsh then head up to Marshside to both see what was about and try my new lens out but with the temperature at -8 when I left home I wasn't for stopping out for long! I spent about an hour or so at each place and called in at Preston docks on the way back to see if I could catch up with the Iceland Gull again.
At HOM there seemed to be plenty of Meadow Pipits around, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch 2 Kestrel and 3 Song Thrush. Curlew and the odd Redshank were the only waders I managed to see and a single Little Egret as I left the reserve. The supprise of the trip was this Barn Owl which I watched for 15 minutes as it searched for a meal along the path.
After watching the Barn Owl I decided to head back to the car to thaw out and make my way up to Marshside. No one seemed to ba around when I got there so I headed around the Sand Plant to see if there was anything showing. A large flock of 20+ Greenfinch, Goldfinch and again plenty of Meadow Pipit. The only raptor to make an appearance was a male Kestrel which was a dissapointment after last year but there's plenty of time yet. I sat for about 45 minutes behind the sand plant watching the Pink-footed Geese come and go hoping to pick something out but as usual no such luck.