Source Wading through Wigeon

Pickled Herrings

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I had Friday off for a few afternoon beers watching the Cheltenham Gold Cup with mates so took the opportunity to do some birding first thing. Hesketh now has 2 Spotted Reds, one of which was starting to moult into its summer finery. Still plenty of other waders on offer, but the bitter easterly wasn’t conducive for a pleasant stroll along the sea wall.

On the way to Marshide, the geese were still in the same field as last weekend, so I changed my plans and spent an hour looking at them instead of visiting the marsh. No Whitefront, but did find one of the now regular orange-legged Pinks and also a neck collar bird “LCT” before I went home via the bakers for some stomach lining.

Today was a bit of a write off due to a slight(!) hangover. Managed an hour this afternoon at the marine lake and Marshside. Male and female Scaup still on Rimmers, and the marine lake was full of Herrings including a ssp argentatus with yellow tinged legs, yellow orbital ring, darker mantle and a nice P10 .

Also another Yorkshire colour ringed bird to go with one I had a couple of weeks ago.

Ended the day at Wildfowlers pull in and managed to finally see the Water Pipit near the stone trough – unfortunately it wouldn’t play ball for a photo – this Snipe was a bit more obliging.

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Source Wading through Wigeon

From Russia with Love

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As I made my way to Hesketh in the driving rain, I questioned the sense in attempting the sea wall in this weather. Beggars can’t be choosers so I rocked and rolled up the  challenging entrance road and stuck the waterproofs on. A Barn Owl hunting by the car park again lifted the spirits

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As I got to the top of the bank, first impression wasn’t great as there seemed to be little on the pools, but then a small flock of Dunlin went che-reeting past and I could see through the scope that the water past the log was full of waders. A good grilling of them produced 13 species in all with the highlights being my first Spotted Red and Greenshank of the year feeding together, Jack Snipe, 30+ Grey Plover, 300+ Dunlin and my first 2 site Avocets of the year too – cue some distant, murky wader record shots……

2 or 3 Marsh Harrier hunting the out marsh, but not the hoped for Hen. The rain stopped, but the better waders has disappeared – spooked by a neon clad jogger. On to Marshside where a throng of admirable volunteers were cleaning up the foreshore after the recent big tides. No room to park at the Sand Plant so I had a quick scan of Rimmers and the Scaup was still gatecrashing the Tuftie party (pic from the other day).

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Time to head home, but I’d noticed a big flock of geese the other day in the ploughed fields near Crossens so I pulled in by the car wash and had a walk to see if I could find them again. Something spooked them from a distant field and they ending up whiffling in opposite me into the field by the road. A good scan through them produced a Russian Whitefront peeking out and a leucistic Pink.

The group then went airborne again and landed even closer, with the Whitefront helpfully being the nearest bird and on its own. With very few belly stripes, I presume it’s a 2nd winter bird. A great way to the end the day however old it is.

I won’t mention the football, but GET IN!

Source Wading through Wigeon

Twite right

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Started the morning well with a Sprawk causing a ripple of excitement in the field at the bottom of the garden – a quick scan produced 10 Snipe feeding away just the other side of my fence. Wonder how many these birds the cold spell has displaced? These looked to be feeding well now the permafrost has subsided.


On to Hesketh where the only thing more frozen than the pools was me by the time I’d walked up the sea wall. A Jack Snipe out of the ditch on the way up the entrance road and a Barn Owl was just about the only birds on offer. The owl and one feeding on Crossens Sluice later were out despite the fierce wind – I guess they need to feed after several days of snow and gales.

I nearly turned around until I spotted a decent sized finch flock rise in the distance. As I got nearer the flock, I nestled myself into the bank and hoped they’d work their way towards me. Almost immediately, a Merlin shot through and shifted them to virtually under my feet. There were at least 50 Twite in with Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Linnet and Meadow Pipit. 20 minutes with the birds as they fed around me was the highlight of the day – capped by the fact they are rare at HOM and this was maybe a site record count. They remind me of holidays to Scottish Isles on the West coast in Spring when I was a kid – super birds.

On to Marshside and a brief stop at the Wildfowlers pull in produced my first Barnacle of the year distantly with the Pinks on Crossens Outer, but other than that, the frozen conditions had reduced the number of birds considerably.


I knew the Marine Lake would be clear of ice so I checked it from a number of viewpoints. Well worthwhile as it held drake Red-breasted Merganser, the 1st w drake Scaup, 10 Pochard, 100+ Tufted Duck, 8 Goldeneye, GC Grebe, a stunning Med Gull and hundreds of Herrings (although still no white winger for my efforts).

The tide was big, but not quite high enough to push the geese out of the long grass – I watched the distant flocks moving about for a while along with Peregrine and Marsh Harrier and then went home for lunch after a great morning.

Here’s a few pics of the Hightown Bean Goose from last week to end with….

Source Wading through Wigeon

Stale BLT’s

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Great conditions for birding this morning, but someone had forgotten to tell the birds to turn up at Hesketh so the tramp up and down the seawall was probably best described as “good exercise”. A nice Merlin perched up the only highlight.


Banks Marsh had a few more birds and a Little Stint was on one of the pools, sliding on the ice with some Dunlin and Lapwing. The picture below demonstrates how frustratingly distant this site can be for small waders. Another Merlin was perched up on the outer marsh and several thousand Pinks were shimmering in the distance.


On to Marshside where there was a small over head passage of Siskin and some of the BLT Godwits on Crossens Inner were starting to don their breeding colours. Yesterday there were 3 Little Stints here, but the waders were flushed  before I could look at them this morning.


The Avocet flock on Rimmers had increased to double figures and the Scaup was still napping in front of Nels. I picked up a few Patchwork Challenge ticks on the golf course and then had a wasted trip to beach where the sea (and the gulls) were about 3 miles out!

Finally a quick look at the marine lake, and my old scottish mate T:96J was hanging out with the locals (pic from the other week).


Hopefully next weeks cold snap will push some decent wildfowl our way – we need a shake up, it all feels a bit stale out there…


Source Wading through Wigeon

Up the swanny

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Some decent birds around the patches over the last couple of days. First thing Friday at Marshside produced 2 of the wintering Little Stints scampering around Crossens Inner with a few Dunlin.

Whilst driving along the coast road I noticed 5 white blobs on Rimmers that looked smaller than the resident Mutes – I pulled up at the platform and found my first 5  Bewick’s of the year, so was glad I’d stopped. The Scaup was still in front of Nels albeit a tad distant!

Dawn start at Hesketh Out Marsh today was a bit on a non event, but 2 GWE’s feeding in the fields together were good to see – I still remember them as rare and they always give a little thrill. There has certainly been in a shift in their feeding habits this winter, now frequently seen in the farm fields rather than way out on the out marsh in the gutters. I wonder what’s caused that change – maybe a greater number of them out there?

Marshside was very much “as you were”, so I made the effort to trudge up to Nels for some better views of the Scaup – lazy so and so had its head in most of the time.

On to Ainsdale for high tide to check the gull flocks – just the standard fare, but it was nice to see a few Ringo’s chasing each other around the sands getting ready for Spring.

Roll on some migration…….

Source Wading through Wigeon

Up Periscaup

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Felt like I needed a submarine at times today – monsoon conditions on the Ribble! Only managed a couple of hours before the rain stopped play, but good for the mind and the soul to get out and enjoy some nature.

First stop was a dash up to Nels at Marshside for a bit of shelter. 8 Pochard on the way were nice – they even had a 1:1 ratio male/female which is rare to see now.


In the hide and there were a group of Tufties making the most of a flooded Rimmers Marsh. In them, I found a 1st winter drake Scaup which is presumably the bird seen at Martin Mere last weekend. I always like seeing these, great looking birds.



After that the rain lulled me into a false sense of security and appeared to ease off, so I drove up to Ainsdale and went out on to the sands looking at gulls. There must have  been a few thousand along the tide line, but no sooner had I started working through them than the rain came back with a vengeance. After 20 mins, with the visibility now down to less than 50m and soaked to the skin despite my waterproofs, I called it a day.

Down periscope…..

Source Wading through Wigeon

Oh Carolina

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Yet another damp Saturday morning start – it’s almost like the weather gods save the worst for the weekend. At least the Met Office managed to be reasonably accurate for once.

Hesketh Out Marsh was full of Wigeon and the flocks also held decent number of both Pintail and Shoveler. The usual raptors out on Banks and a GWE peeping out of the gutters, but nothing much of note.

Then my luck changed as I parked up at the wildfowlers pull in at Marshside to have a scan over the recently , tide rejuvenated Crossens Outer Marsh. There had been an obvious influx of Teal so I got the scope out and had good go through them. After a few minutes a vertical white stripe caught my eye in the very distant group of duck and a Green-winged Teal swam into view – brilliant. Nice to get my first american wildfowl find of the winter after untold hours of pretty fruitless scanning. The bird was first picked up at 10am and was still there at 1pm when I checked again on my way home – has the Martin Mere bird been seen today?

The record shots are just that, but you get the idea – it was distant, and in poor light, but it’s a pure bird and I’m happy.

Not much else around the other Southport sites I visited, but 2 Turnstone near the sand plant and the raptors were causing some chaos with the Marshside Ducks – Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel all in attendance.


Ducks spooked by a Sparrowhawk on Rimmers

Source Wading through Wigeon

Rear Window

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I wasn’t intending on doing the RSPB garden birdwatch today as I had a lot on, including buying and setting up a new laptop – joy of joys!

I did manage a few moments of gazing out of the back window during the morning and that proved very productive.

I started with my first Raven of the year been blown over the top of the house quite low down. That was followed by 3 Buzzards, 1 of which flushed a Snipe out of one of the pond areas.

Then, I noticed a white blob out of the corner of my eye. I looked at it, did a double take and then grabbed the camera – Great White Egret in the back field – House List MEGA!!!!!!


Just goes to show that staying in sometimes pays dividends – brilliant!

Source Wading through Wigeon

car birding

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Managed an hour or so first thing at Hesketh before the really bad weather hit and forced me back to the car. Reduced number of Wigeon on the pools and not much else new. 6 species of raptor out on Banks Marsh including Merlin, Peregrine and Marsh Harrier.

A look at Crossens Inner before the mist reduced visibility entirely produced a nice flock of Goldies with a sprinkling of Dunlin, but not much else.


On to the marine lake which had plenty of Herring Gulls so I gave the younger birds a grilling to try and find some ssp argentatus. This, bird was presumably of that race. Very large, nice “glauc” bill and some darker mantle feathers coming through – the quality of the images is testament to the incessant rain!

Not a very successful day so I’ll sign off with some images of a stunning Red-breasted Merganser I found earlier in the week – also on Southport Marine Lake

That’s better….. Spent the rest of the day making sure the HOM list is as accurate as possible Hesketh Out Marsh Map & Bird List

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Snow joy

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Dreadful conditions on Ainsdale Beach this morning hoping to catch up with some of yesterday’s gull invasion. Horizontal snow with only me and the hardiest of dog walkers stupid enough to brave the sands. Did have distant, on route, views of the sleeping Red-throat again as I scanned the Marine Lake for gulls first thing.


There were a few gulls knocking about, but not the hoped for throngs. No white wingers, just 6 ssp argentatus Herrings the only gulls of note. Interesting to see at least 5,000 Scoter offshore, but conditions made viewing them difficult. I half expected a Surf with the numbers, but didn’t even pick up a Velvet. Barwits, Sanderling, Grey Plover etc made up the rest of the cast. A nice drake Goosander on Sands Lake and drake Pochard too.

IMG_5484 A quick look at the Marine Lake again on the way home for lunch with the family, and a couple more argentatus here, but nothing else of note. I love the structure of these northern birds – look at the size of that head! He’s behind you….


A full airing cupboard of wet clothes, but a pretty empty notebook.