I’m slightly late with my sightings blog this week as we’ve been busy over at Hesketh out marsh carrying out some essential habitat management work, if you haven’t had a chance to get over there it’s definitely worth a visit – expect to see large flocks of redshank , lapwing and oystercatcher – also short eared owl , barn owl and marsh harrier have all been spotted recently – check out our winter overview on the Hesketh out marsh page for more in depth details. View of Hesketh out marsh by Barry Smith Anyway, back to Marshside…….To me it feels like spring is on it’s way, daffodils have already started appearing in my garden and the birds are noticeably more vocal as the days begin to stretch out longer. One of our spring/summer visitors returned to the reserve on Sunday, two avocets made an appearance on Rimmer’s marsh and could be seen from Nel’s hide amongst a large flock of black headed gulls – the avocets return around this time to breed so lets hope this will be another successful year for them. We’ve had a couple of other new sightings this week, two ruff have been reported on Rimmer’s marsh and on Crossens outer there have been reports of a water pipit and a european white fronted goose among the flocks of pink footed geese . I have noticed large numbers of shelduck and oystercatcher around the reserve, golden plover have been taking to the air – twinkling in the late winter sun as lapwing , curlew and redshank call shrilly across the marshes. Shelduck and oystercatcher by Barry Smith A spotted redshank has been seen amongst a flock of redshank and a jack snipe was reported from Sandgrounder’s hide where you can also expect to find plenty of our regular visitors – in the water…… pochard , gadwall , pintail, wigeon, shoveler and teal while in the air you can (almost) guarantee peregrine , hen harrier, merlin and buzzard . A final spring note………The brown hares are busy chasing each other around the marsh, I’ve not seen any boxing but it’s only a matter of time. Brown hare by Barry Smith Of course you know that all this mention of spring means one thing? A cold snap coming in just to prove that winter hasn’t quite lost it’s grip – we’ll find out in the next few weeks!!
Back to the usual sightings blog this week, with lots of interesting things to report. There have been a couple of lovely clear days giving great views out across the marshes to Blackpool, thought I’d share a picture taken during my lunch earlier today…… View of Blackpool by Barry Smith It’s not just the view that’s appealing, the outer marshes are the places to see some spectacular stuff – hen harrier , peregrine , kestrel and merlin have all been spotted hunting for prey this week, sailing above the pink footed geese and black headed gulls . A couple of stonechats have also been reported, busily feeding on insects and keeping an eye out for predators from the top of any vantage point available. Rimmer’s marsh has had large numbers of pink footed geese, shelduck and a few greylag geese – whilst amongst the pools there have been wigeon , teal, pintail and shoveler – not forgetting to mention mallard, tufted duck and lots of displaying coots. There have also been two bewick swans spending a bit of time on the marsh, always good to see. Shoveler by Barry Smith From Sandgrounder’s hide we have once again been treated with the spectacle of large flocks of golden plover (2000+) and lapwing (1000+), oystercatcher , curlew and snipe are offering regular views and the kingfisher continues to make it’s darting visits around Rainford’s pool and Junction pool. While I was working earlier today I stopped to take in the sight and sound of a few hundred wigeon grazing on the grasses – waddling and whistling their way around the marsh…….it’s probably been the soundtrack to my internship so far. Wigeon by Barry Smith A final rundown around the reserve includes meadow pipit , skylark , greenfinch , goldfinch and twite .
You may remember that we set you a challenge last month to beat 46 sightings from around the reserve in a two hour window…….well it’s come around already so I’ve been out around the marshes to see what I could find. I set out around 10 O’clock this morning with the sun shining brightly over the reserve, albeit with a little bit of cloud involved. Sunshine on the marsh by Barry Smith I started out at the footpath from Fairclough’s pool and went all the way along the path to Marine drive, you get a great array of birds along this stretch of the reserve. There is plenty of bramble, scrub and willow to your right hand side where you’ll find birds foraging for invertebrates – I know it’s difficult to turn your gaze away from the reserve but it’s worth it!! Along this stretch I saw blackbird , song thrush , mistle thrush , blue tit , great tit , greenfinch , chaffinch and goldfinch along with the high pitched sound of a couple of goldcrest flitting in amongst the willow – unfortunately I couldn’t see them so I won’t add this to my total!! Wren and robin were making plenty of noise and giving the house sparrows a run for their money as I walked by the school area. Up above there was a buzzard being mobbed by a crew of jackdaw and plenty of gulls – lesser black-backed gull , herring gull and black headed gull . To my left, and within the reserve I saw large groups of curlew , black-tailed godwit , and redshank with a few common snipe and plenty of wigeon , teal and pink footed geese . Carrion crow , jackdaw and starling were feeding amongst the grass with large flocks of lapwing and golden plover taking flight and landing every minute or so – presumably startled by a nearby raptor (but never seen). Over at Sandgrounder’s hide there were two cormorants catching some rays alongside Rainford’s pool, jumping in and out for a dip like they were on their holidays. Shelduck , shoveler , mute swan and oystercatcher were also around the lagoons with moorhen , coot and pintail feeding amongst the reeds. Cormorants by Barry Smith A special mention has to go to the sky lark this week, providing a glorious spectacle between Sandgrounder’s hide and Nel’s hide – Belting out a song and rising steeply into the air, hanging for a couple of seconds and then parachuting back down – feels almost like summer. Once I got to Nel’s hide there were lots of tufted duck and black tailed godwit , a grey heron was moving stealthily amongst the reeds with mallard and canada geese completing my ‘challenge list’…….. Hang on I’ve just noticed wood pigeon and little egret making a total of 42, slightly less than last month and I’m still looking to break 50, let me know if you manage more.
As the big garden bird watch is nearly upon us I thought I’d get out on the reserve and see how many garden birds I could spot in half an hour – it should have been an hour but it was so cold out there I couldn’t wait to get back to the truck! The first to show it’s face was a cheeky robin sitting boldly on a fence post, not at all bothered as I pulled up by the cattle pen on Marshside Road…… Robin by Barry Smith In the same area I identified blackbird , song thrush , mistle thrush , wren, goldfinch and blue tit – along with three wood pigeon sheltering from the icy wind. A quick walk along the path brought a large flock of house sparrow chattering away in the brambles and a few linnet took flight out into Rimmer’s marsh as I approached. Large flocks of starling were foraging on Sutton’s marsh along with a pied wagtail and a couple of carrion crows. Out on the reserve we’ve had sky lark , twite , linnet and rock pipit . On the way back to the truck I spotted a snipe wheeling in and managed to get a decent picture before it quickly flew away – even though I knew exactly where it was it still managed to camouflage itself against a female wigeon . Snipe by Barry Smith Although Rainford’s pool was frozen over earlier today it has been very busy all week – gadwall , pintail , pochard and tufted duck along with large numbers of wigeon and teal . It is very important for all of our birds to keep their energy levels up during these cold periods – we’ve had flocks of curlew feeding out on the marshes where they have been joined by golden plover , lapwing and black tailed godwit . It amazes me how many raptors you can see in a single day at Marshside – kestrel , sparrowhawk , buzzard , merlin , peregrine and a hen harrier have all been reported this week. We were also visited by a stoat while working on the fence line at Sutton’s marsh east, busily hunting in the undergrowth until it got too close and beat a hasty retreat.
A couple of days have been thick and drizzly this week – the kind of rain that soaks your outer layer in an instant and cuts visibility down to zero…….my mum used to call it scotch mist, not ideal conditions for digging out your binoculars but you just never know what might turn up. Saturday saw a visit from the Sefton coast landscape partnership group who spent a number of hours with John Dempsey exploring the reserve, cold winds didn’t dampen their enthusiasm and they managed to identify 46 species in total. Sky lark , black tailed godwit , merlin , and a mixed flock of twite and linnet were all sighted during the walk – A hen harrier was also seen way out on Crossens out marsh and a tundra bean goose was identified amongst a flock of pink footed geese – a couple of sightings for the bean goose were logged on Rimmer’s marsh and marshside sands. We have had another excellent week at Sandgrounder’s hide with regular kingfisher fly-by’s on and around Rainford’s pool and the great white egret continues to show itself on most days. Gadwall , pochard , tufted duck and pintail have arrived in good numbers and can be seen at numerous areas within the reserve. Nel’s hide was a good spot for tufted duck today….. Tufted ducks at Nel’s by Barry Smith Across the reserve there are constant sightings of peregrine , sparrowhawk , kestrel and buzzard with raven and great black-backed gulls providing an imposing presence around the pools. With the sun shining I decided to get out for a quick look around the marshes this afternoon, there was plenty to see from the viewing point at Fairclough’s pool and it was nice to capture a brighter view of the reserve. Viewpoint by Barry Smith And just a final note that 3 cattle egret were seen on Sutton’s marsh earlier this morning, I had heard reports of them roosting with the little egrets but had not seen them myself since the cattle were moved off the marsh – great news.
Low flying Mute Swans over Marshside
A Dunnock seen at Marshside on Monday 16th Jan.
An aerial view of the main lake and Sandgrounders Hide at Marshside RSPB taken on 16/01/2017.
It has been an interesting week here at Marshside with the weather pretty much dictating where the birds can go on the reserve. There have been some really strong (and cold) winds which have seen our birds struggling to get around – lets face it when you see a flock of pink footed geese flying backwards you know it’s a windy day!! Geese in reverse by Barry Smith For those brave enough to face the conditions head on it’s proved to be a rewarding experience, large flocks of wigeon were reported over on Sutton’s marsh east, around 5000 were hunkered down against the wind. We’ve also seen 4000 golden plover and 2000 lapwing spending time in both the east and west areas of Sutton’s marsh. A great white egret has been touring the reserve and pochard , tufted duck , gadwall and little grebe have all been enjoying the high water levels. The winds today have been particularly strong and I have been out fixing some of our infrastructure that was damaged overnight. The water rail at Nel’s hide continues to remain elusive as a number of people have heard it recently but not actually seen it……pretty much standard. Wigeon on choppy waters by Barry Smith Redshank , curlew , oystercatcher and black-tailed godwit have been feeding around the muddy areas and lagoons – further out in the marsh (amongst the brown hare ) you’ll see them spending their time probing in the soft earth for worms. Out and about there has been a large flock of twite , long tailed tits and goldfinch – buzzard , merlin , peregrine and kestrel complete the report for this week.