About Graham Clarkson
Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Monday, 23 March 2015
Thursday, 13 February 2014
I've been working down at Slinbridge for the last couple of days and chaired a meeting for most of that time. Some of the subject matter was a little dry, but it was great to have useful discussions on the future of managing captive Baer's Pochards and wether or not they'll contribute to any future conservation breeding projects. Excellent contributions from my ace colleagues made it even more interesting.
Being away from home when a storm rages is a rare occurrence and not much fun, plenty of damage to Burscough while I was away, including our back gates being trashed; at least we didn't have our back door smashed in....
The game at Goodison was cancelled so at least I'll get to go to that game! Sitting having a pint with a Kopite colleague as their score was coming in wasn't ideal to be honest, especially while worrying about the family at home.
The meeting today was lively to say the least and as chair I managed to get one of the best seats - overlooking the Tack Piece, a flooded area of wet grassland. It was seething with huge flocks of Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Teal and Wigeon, with a supporting cast of European White-fronts, Bewick's Swans and a group of four Common Cranes. Peter Scott's avian Serengeti in action! These were occasional distractions while discussing the merits of colour marking wildfowl.
Post meeting I was keen to get home prior to the next storm predicted for Friday. However, I took little detour and armed with fine directions from Martin McGill I headed to Shirehill Farm in South Glos to search out the Red-flanked Bluetail that's recently taken up residence alongside Broodmead Brook. I was fortunate to see this amazing little bird (similar size to a Robin) straightaway and although it must be familiar with the hail storms it encountered today, on its Taiga breeding grounds, I'm sure it'd be much happier wintering somewhere in South Asia. It did seem to enjoy the mealworms but down for it though! A beautiful bird and I'm glad I went to have a look at it; the last one I saw was in Finland several years back.
I was able to reflect on its beauty and I slowly trudged up the M5/M6 this evening. Birding certainly does create memories of great birds and great places that can be called on during more humdrum and routine times.
Raven over Shirehill Farm this afternoon
Sunday, 2 February 2014
Jon Bowen and Martin McDerby met me at home this morning with a view to getting out for a day of local birding. We set off at 8a.m. and had flock on c.120 Fieldfares along Red Cat Lane - biggest flock there this winter. 40 Corn Buntings and 75 Linnets showed well down Curlew Lane, where scanning the regular Whooper and Mute Swan flock failed to reveal a Bewick's Swan, a Black Swan there was hardly consolation!
A cloud of Lapwings, distantly over Martin Mere, betrayed the presence of a predator and sure enough a Peregrine was lazily soaring over the cloud of c.3500 Lapwings. A Merlin whizzed past and a Little Egret flew by as we studied the masses of distant Pink-footed Geese feeding on Tarlscough Moss. Scanning the goose flock revealed at least five Barnacle Geese, presumably some of the 35 I saw at Martin Mere on Saturday (prior to shooting off to Goodison to enjoy a fine 2.1 victory over the Villa; what a superb free kick from Mirallas!). Several Stock Doves scooted about, some hares frolicked and a pair of Grey Partridges carelessly rasped, failing to evade us. A brief trip across Green Lane at Holmes produced Red-legged Partridges, another Little Egret, some Whooper Swans on the big irrigation pond and a very confiding Corn Bunting.
Lock Lane at Sollom and heading towards Bretherton over the Douglas was a little disappointing with views of Reed Buntings and a Nuthatch at the back of Bank Hall were the only birds of note. A fine pair of elderly English Setters had lost none of the aloof nobility this breed exhibits. Lovely dogs.
A breakfast stop at TC's on the bypass was appreciated - nice one Martin! Next productive stop was the beach accessed from Weld Road at Birkdale (although a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier on the Coast Road was noted). It often amazes me how dopey folk are when it comes to the coast - it's as if folk have no concept of either tides or weather. Some of the cars had been parked in perilous places and the mercy of the tide.
The jolly onto the sands was very productive and well worth the trek and soaking. Martin was waiting back at the car and we headed off to Lunt for our last stop of the day.
Lunt is a small village close to the River Alt and partnership project between Environment Agency, Forestry Commision and Lancashire Wildlife Trust has created an interesting flood relief area that doubles as a nature reserve. The site became famous recently due to a range of Neolithic artefacts being found during excavation. Lunt Meadows is watched over by a dedicated band of local birders and wildlife photographers who have been finding and documenting an interesting range of species over the past couple over years. We certainly enjoyed our visit late this afternoon with the highlights being a ringtail Hen Harrier, eight Kestrels, six Buzzards, two Sparrowhawks, a Barn Owl, a Short-eared Owl, three Little Egrets and numerous skeins of Pink-footed Geese. A wonderful site and it'll be great to see it develop.