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.
As part of our recent sightings post, once a month the Marshside Interns (myself and Hazel Watson) are going to spend a couple of hours monitoring and identifying the vast array of different species that visit the reserve . We thought it would be a bit of fun to challenge our visitors to do the same – and for you to let us know how you get on via this blog. So this morning we set off in pretty wet and cold conditions with a view to cover the entire reserve, early mornings can give you some amazing sunrises at Marshside but not today, check out a sunrise I prepared from earlier in the week…… Sunrise by Barry Smith In two and a half hours we didn’t quite manage to cover the whole reserve, plenty of stops meant it took longer than we’d anticipated. The challenge this month is to beat our total of 46 different species – we’d hoped to break fifty, maybe next time!! Below is a breakdown of the different birds we identified, giving you a great idea of the type of species you can expect to see while taking a stroll around the reserve. shelduck , mallard , shoveler , wigeon , teal , pintail , moorhen , pink footed goose , greylag goose , canada goose , mute swan , redshank , common snipe , black tailed godwit , golden plover , lapwing , curlew , little egret , grey heron , lesser black-backed gull , great black-backed gull , herring gull , black-headed gull , common gull , carrion crow , magpie , jackdaw , robin , song thrush , blackbird , house sparrow , dunnock , wren , starling , blue tit , pied wagtail , goldfinch , chaffinch , wood pigeon , feral pigeon , goldcrest , reed bunting , skylark , kestrel , merlin , buzzard . Pintail by Barry Smith For us the highlight was definitely seeing the merlin perched on a post in the outer marsh, please let us know your highlights if you get the chance – it would be great to hear from you.
So Christmas has been and gone and everybody is starting to feel like they need to get outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. It appears that the snow goose may well have enjoyed the festive period here at Marshside, it was seen on Boxing day on Rimmer’s Marsh along with a mixture of p ink footed geese and greylag geese . Sandgrounders hide continues to provide brilliant views of our large flocks of lapwing and golden plover , along with huge amounts of wigeon and teal with the odd pochard also making an appearance. I managed to get a really good picture of a black tailed godwit while I was out working on Sutton’s Marsh last week, there are good numbers of these along with c urlew and plenty of common snipe . black tailed godwit by Barry Smith Other highlights from our Sandgrounders hide include kingfisher , bewick swan , whooper swan , little grebe and pintail . Further out towards the centre of the reserve you will see the imposing great black-backed gull sitting amongst flocks of black headed gulls and for those with a real attention to detail you may even be able to pick out the odd Mediterranean gull . The birds of prey have been busy doing what they do, diving and swooping around the various lagoons and scattering everything in their wake. Earlier this morning I was treated to the sight of a nearby Peregrine ambushing a flock of wigeon before it settled on the grass to plot it’s next attack (Giving me a brief photo opportunity – not the greatest I admit). Peregrine by Barry Smith We’ve also had some good sightings of kestrel , buzzard , sparrowhawk and merlin . Round and about the reserve we’ve seen small flocks of goldfinch and greenfinch along with twite, reed bunting , a Cettis warbler, pied wagtail and a single (interesting) sighting of a ring necked parakeet . Happy new year from all of the staff and volunteers at Marshside, lets hope 2017 is a good one – All the best.