About Graham Clarkson

Born & brought up in Marshside, I started birding there in the mid 1970s & made my first birding trip to Martin Mere in 1977. I've lived, worked & birdied in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland & Gloucestershire & I've spent time working in Kazakhstan & Madagascar. I enjoy birding my various West Lancashire patches, making frequent birding visits throughout the north-west of England and North Wales. I stray elsewhere in the UK & enjoy birding abroad from time to time. I'm particularly interested in wildfowl (especially pink-footed geese) with an interest in waders & raptors, bird counts & surveys & conservation. I'm trying to get the hang of photography & digiscoping - I'll get there eventually.

My degree from Edge Hill University is in conservation biology. I've guided on numerous birding days out & trips & guided birding holidays to Lesvos, Andalucia, Extremedura, Majorca, Camargue, Hungary, Finland & Florida. I enjoy showing people birds & habitats & helping them learn more about birds & enjoy birding. I'm currently involved with the Birdwatching and Beyond course at Edge Hill and a brand new venture; Skein Birding.

As well as birding I'm interested in captive breeding & reintroduction projects & zoos, how they're managed & how they contribute to conservation. I'm a proud Lancastrian & love the Lancashire countryside & landscapes. I'm an Evertonian & also keep up with what's happening at Southport, PNE & Bristol Rovers. Gardening, dogs (I have a Labrador & a Tibetan Terrier) and keeping chickens (especially Marsh Daisys & Scots Dumpy Bantams). Ruth & I have two marvellous boys who both love nature too. I hope you find the blog and subjects covered interesting; please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Last WeBS of 2012

Waders on Birkdale Beach 30/12/12

Due to high tides earlier in the month we decided to move the Ribble WeBS to 30th December. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the howling gales today made life difficult for counters. Local ringing legends Dave Fletcher and Brain Hopkins have recently started helping me with the large sector I cover (stretching from Southport Pier south to Pontins at Ainsdale) and the help was most welcome today in miserable conditions. Between us we counted; 4897 Dunlin; 1145 Knot; 420 Sanderling; 2365 Bar-tailed Godwits; 322 Grey Plover; 12 Turnstone; 3675 Oystercatcher; 2165 Cormorant; 3152 Herring Gulls and 270 Great Black-backed Gulls.  Not a bad haul considering. Bumped into John Dempsey and had a good chat, he's off to Thailand soon to spot some rarer waders with some of the areas finest twitchers. Spoon-billed Sandpiper should be on the agenda. I hope they see some, I really do.

Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits, Birkdale Beach 30/12/12
Wader cloud, Birkdale Beach 30/12/12

Christmas and rain stopped play

I spent Christmas with the family down in Hereford. It was great for the kids and we all had a smashing time. Unfortunately the weather was wet and grey, so not conducive to birding and with the flood plains of the Wye and Lugg full, not conducive to getting around either.
Pair of Mute Swans swimming around the King's Meadow in Hereford on Christmas Day.
The Lugg floodplain full up at Christmas
Floods at Bodenham on Boxing Day
Got back home to Lancashire on the 27th December to more grey, dank, wet days; hardly inspiring stuff. I did haul myself out a couple of times and managed big flocks of Whooper Swans at Bescar, Hundred End and Low Meadows. The herd at Hundred End contained five Bewick's Swans and a big flock of Pink-feet there held three Barnacle Geese. A couple of Jack Snipe near Rufford station were worth noting, as were a flock of 21 Yellowhammers nearby. Hopefully some sun soon. Please.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Wild Goose Chase Project

The Wild Goose Chase is a project aimed at filling in and bringing up to date our knowledge on how Pink-footed Geese, Whooper Swans and Bewick's Swans are using land in North Merseyside (Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens) and West Lancashire.

We are particularly interested in how these birds are using the landscape so we can answer questions such as 'Where is a population feeding?', 'What do they need to survive?' and 'What can we do to avoid disrupting them?' This project is supported by RSPB and WWT conservation officers and researchers and the county bird recorder. No need to send records of birds on nature reserves and other protected sites such as RSPB, WWT, LWT or Natural England land. You can always send you records through on a spreadsheet (see the webpage). Please do contriubte your records (including old ones) may well be really useful. Thank you.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Swanning around the Ribble coast and wetlands

Due to various work and family commitments I've hardly been out recently. This morning I really felt the pull of the estuary and headed out at about 9.30. I was briefly distracted by a flock of Whooper Swans on the Burscough Moss side of Curlew lane. Due to the proximity of Martin Mere and it's feeding and roosting potential this area regularly holds good numbers of Whoopers in the winter; 324 were there this morning. I then headed over to the RSPB reserve at Hesketh Out Marsh and decided to have another look for the Bewick's Swans that some other local Ribble patchers have been seeing recently. Colin Bushell, Charlie Liggett and Nick Godden have all reported seeing some lately. Walking along the seawall I could hear a large flock of Swans towards Hundred End; I headed up there and duly found the flock and was able to spend some time counting them, 435 Whoopers, 22 Bewick's and seven Mutes. I'm always delighted to see the Bewick's, the decline of which has been well documented locally. An uncontrolled black Labrador unfortunately flushed the Swans causing Charlie to give me a ring to find out what has caused the flush (he was guiding a walk on the eastern bank); he'd seen a Peregrine. 525 Shelducks and c.350 Pink-footed Geese were feeding in the same general area as the Swans; c.300m form the main fracking base....

Other species noted on the RSPB reserve were a female Merlin, two female Kestrels, a Buzzard, four Little Egrets, seven Herons, 220 Mallard and 315 Wigeon. A decent morning, would have loved to stayed out longer but family duties called and that as that.

Bewick's Swans (six or seven?) mixed with Whooper Swans at Hundred End 16/12/12
Whooper Swans and Bewick's Swans heading towards Hesketh Bank 16/12/12
Whooper Swans flying over the seawall at Hesketh Out Marsh 16/12/12

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bleak but worthwhile

Sean and Kim Ashton and I met at a bleak Marshside pre-dawn to count the Ribble Pink-footed Goose roost. It was a little disappoining as the usual numbers weren't out on the river and we settled for the odds and ends roosting on the RSPB reserve, with a few more on the saltmarsh and c.800 that we later discovered further up the NNR on Banks marsh; our total was 3457. Banks marsh held c.25,000 Wigeon, most of them close in on the splashes and that's always worth getting out early for. Whooper Swans were a feature this morning, with 28 on the NNR; 307 at Hundred End; 265 at Windmill farm and 190 on Burscough Moss.

Kim and Sean headed to Martin Mere where they were delighted to see the obliging Woodcock in front of the Janet Kear hide. I nipped in there later on as Kim and Sean were leaving, and managed to see the Woodcock again, pretty much where it was yesterday, hunkered down a bramble patch. A male and female Brambling were visiting the feeders in front of the hide, interesting to see that they were both ringed; presumably a result of the fine work the South West Lancashire ringing group were doing at the recent North West Birdwatching festival on site. Lots of Whooper Swans on the mere, I estimated 800.

Counters have been sending me Pink-footed Goose counts throught the day; Nick Godden and Jean Roberts counted 20,300 at Pilling; Graham Stirzaker counted 3650 on the Wyre (seven Eurasian White-fronts there too); Tom Clare counted 9950 at Martin Mere (most of these seemed to be feeding near my house in Burscough early this afternoon); and lastly Dave Mallett counted 110 off Hightown on Taylor's bank. The counts for Simonswood, Cocker's Dyke, Low Meadows will get to me in the week and I'll publish the counts in due course.

Male Brambling on the feeders in front of Janet Kear hide at Martin Mere today.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hither & tither

I was working down at Slimbridge on Thursday and early Friday morning and managed an hours birding on Thursday afternoon. The meeting I was at was in the McNiece room, above the swan observatory and it was really inspiring to see four Common Cranes fly past the window! Always good to see Bewick's Swans and I counted c.110 scattered around, with many dropping onto the rushy pen late afternoon to join flocks of Pintail, Tufted Duck and Pochards dining on there. The tack piece is a superb piece of wet grassland just beyond the rushy pen and it was full of birds; Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, Redshank, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits - a bit like a mini Marshside. A Peregrine blasted through spooking everything,  including two Buzzards. I picked up the 'resident' Long-billed Dowitcher in a flock of passing Black-tailed Godwits heading to an outer part of the reserve. The reserve and its diverse habitats at Slimbridge is well managed by Dave Paynter and Martin McGill, their assistant James Lees and an excellent team of hard working volunteers; the work they do can really appreciated when the birds put on a show.
Friday morning in the freezing dawn was a treat as the four Common Cranes, 18 Eurasian White-fronted Geese and numerous Bewick's Swans flew right overhead - an antidote to the three hour M5-M6 drive later that morning.

Steve Sweetnam and I birded Martin Mere this morning and enjoyed the Whooper Swan spectacle (great to see visitors enjoying the new fed time at 10.30) and the throngs of other waterfowl species. I counted a couple of species with 98 Ruff and 485 Lapwings being of interest. I missed the male Hen Harrier that was around, but did see the adult female Marsh Harrier, four Buzzards, two Kestrels and a Woodcock (skulking in front of Janet Kear hide). We checked the titmouse flocks and managed four Coal Tits, two Treecreepers and two Goldcrests. A single adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose grazing with a small group of Pink-feet at the back of the mere was nice to see but the highlight of the morning was the clouds of Woodpigeons between Geldhey and Bescar; I estimated 37,000!

A drive down Curlew Lane and Mere Lane produced 14 Corn Buntings and at least eight Yellowhammers. A brief visit to Mere Sands Wood was worthwhile with a Water Rail from the Lancaster hide and 1190 Teal and 56 Shoveler from Marshsall hide. Cold, hunger and family responsibilities caused a 3p.m. finish but I'll be out at dawn - it's the last coordinated Pink-foot count of the year. Bring it on.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Whopping Whooper count

I was housebound this morning except for a brief excursion round the corner to check if the Waxwings were present; they were atop a tall poplar along Red Cat Lane and flew off west at about 10.30. When Ruth returned home I was given the green light to get out from under her feet and hastily made my way to WWT Martin Mere to have a look for the Bewick's Swans seen yesterday. I popped into Infocus to get an update from Andy and then headed for UU hide to look through the massed Pink-feet, c.7000 were present, with much coming and going. No other species were with the flock but the 'pied' pair did put in an appearance and neck collar PHP was there. I took the opportunity to do some counting; Shelduck 920; 265 Wigeon; 1630 Teal (the drake Green-winged Teal was with them); 12 Shoveler; 16 Pochard;  840 Coot; and 225 Lapwing. I counted 43 Ruff but Andy has counted 63 earlier in the day.  Three Buzzards were lazing about and an adult Peregrine scared in the living daylights out of all the Teal before alighting in it's usual post.

From UU I could see a distant female Aythya and closer inspection proved it to be the female Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrid that has spent the last fw winters on the mere. As the light faded it was clear to both Andy and I that big numbers of Whooper swan were piling onto the mere. I proceeded to count them a got three counts of between 2400 and 2500, we settled on the average which was 2480; a reserve record! More pink-feet arrived and the total at dark was 11600. I never did see any Bewick's though.......

Whoopers being fed in front of Raines observatory at 3.15
The female Ferruginous Duck x Pochard Hybrid with Pochards in front of the Infocus shop at dusk (below)

One of the lazy Buzzards

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Great intentions

I had planned to get out onto the estuary this morning to find some Bewick's Swans. One of the kids was poorly and that soon put a stop to that cunning little plan. I did manage an hour at Tarlscough Moss looking at geese mid-morning but that was it - family duties called. Mid-afternoon I took the dog for a stroll; just out of the house I heard some Waxwings and saw five of them at the top of a tall poplar along Red Cat Lane. I nipped back home, dropped off the dog, picked up the camera and tried to get a better look at the Waxwings (incidentally some had also been seen this afternoon just up the road at WWT Martin Mere). I relocated the birds (total of six) further along Red Cat Lane at thier 'regular' haunt feeding in an ormamental Rowan (the variety with the pale pink berries) and was soon joined by Graham Jones and his partner Amy and later by Frank Whitney, Lousie Wisniewski and a couple of other local birders. Everyone seemed to enjoyed decent views and I managed some okay snaps (I'm fairly new to his photography game so please be gentle and patient). Turns out that a couple a Bewick's turned up at the mere today - they'll be out on that estuary somewhere.

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Friday, 30 November 2012

Pied Pink-feet

I was working at Martin Mere briefly yesterday and managed half an hour in the hides. While chatting with Whooper Swan researcher David Walsh I noticed a white looking goose in the distance, in amongst a big flock of pink-feet. Brief scope views proved it to be a 'pied' pink-footed goose. Turns out two had been seen earlier in the week by Martin Mere regular Gordon Taylor. Gordon kindly sent me a photo of one of them which I put on the Ribble Estuary Nature facebook group last night. Any road, I was driving past Martin Mere this lunchtime and noticed a big flock of pinks on windmill farm, despite not having my scope I had a quick look through the flock and picked up yesterdays pied pink, but this time with the second pied bird. Luckily I had my camera with me! Apparently these same birds were recently at the RSPB Strathbeg reserve in Aberdeenshire. I see a pied pink-foot or two most winters but it's the first time I've seen a pair together. It's been interesting this winter for aberrant pinks; two leucistic birds, two orange-legged birds, two Danish collared birds and now two pied birds. Who said Pink-feet were boring?

Pair of 'pied' Pink-footed Geese at Windmill Farm, close to WWT Martin Mere. 30/11/12.
Pink-feet coming in to land at WWT Martin Mere. 29/11/12.
Golden late afternoon sunshine over the mere at WWT Martin Mere. 29/11/12.
Pink-feet on Windmill Farm. 30/11/12.

Birdwatching and Beyond course

After a year off Dr Alan Bedford and I will be running our Birdwatching and Beyond course from Edge Hill University from January 2013. This will the the sixth time we've run this particular course. Alan and I have been planning the fieldtrips and thinking about the course content and will finalise exact details over the next couple of weeks. We intend to visit a range of sites over the year (the course runs for 12 months) including Bowland; Angelsey; Leighton Moss, Martin Mere; Burton Mere Wetlands; Denbighshire Moors; Flintshire Coast; Ribble Estuary; Mere sands Wood; Pennington Flash; Frodsham; Walney; Caerlaverock with evenings visits to a range of local sites. The course includes some evening, classroom based seminars and caters for a wide range of abilities and subject areas. If you would like to register your interest in the course please email Alan; bedforda@edgehill.ac.uk and he'll get back to you. The course is limited to 15 participants so get your name down early if you are seriously interested.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

North-west Birdwatching festival WWT Martin Mere 24-25 November 2012

It's the annual North-west birdwatching festival at WWT Martin Mere this weekend. Lots going on including 8a.m.opening - a good oppurtuniy to get some biding done prior to browsing the stalls for bargain books. Dr Alan Bedford and I will be guiding walks from 11a.m. each day and I'll be speaking at 1pm. on both days about birding the Ribble coast and wetlands. More details on the WWT website;

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Hundred End's hundreds of Whoopers

I enjoyed a couple of hours exploring around Hundred End and Hesketh Out Marsh this afternoon. The sun was shining which made it particularly enjoyable. From the seawall at Hundred End I scanned the NNR and could see huge but distant clouds of waders and wildfowl wheeling around over the pools and saltmarsh, the tide was dropping and I saw the resident Great White Egret grabbing fish stranded in tidal pools. A distant flock of c.600 Pink-feet provided company for a single Barnacle Goose, but the flock was to far away to look through properly. A Kingfisher flew by and briefly perched on the metal barrier of the Hundred End sluice gates; a unexpected splash of colour. Three separate groups of Whooper Swans could be seen from the seawall, the largest of 259 was a couple of fields inland of Hesketh Out Marsh and contained six broods of one, eight of two, four of three and one of four. I didn't go through the other groups in detail; 76 near Shore Road and 15 on the NNR. 62 Tree Sparrows in the hedges inland of HOM was the biggest flock I've seen around there for a long time. I bumped into Colin and Angie Bushell out birding/dog walking and we discussed seeing Hen Harriers; which we pretty much instantly did, a distant ring-tail hunting along the outer seawall, flushing flocks of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard as it did so. Colin and Angie carried on with the dogs and saw a female Goosander on the Scaup pool and I happily headed home for a warming brew and a double helping of football carnage...

Whoopers drifting past at Hundred End
Looking towards Hundred End and beyond form Hesketh Out Marsh

Sunday, 11 November 2012

It started and ended with Pink-feet

Coordinated pink-footed goose count this morning and I met with Sean and Kim Ashton at 7a.m. at Marshside sandworks to count the Ribble roost. The slight elevation on the footprint of the old Mt Baker allows viewing up river past the mouth of the Crossens channel as far as the edge of the Ribble National Nature Reserve. The exact site of goose roost varies and it can be spread from the end of the haul road all the way east along the mudflats towards Lytham and beyond. It's a big job, hence three of us tackling it. Over an hour we counted the grand total of 23,774; a marvellous, life affirming sight and sound in the early morning sunshine.

Pink-feet heading inland over the sandworks this morning
Sunrise over Marshside with skeins of Pink-feet heading inland to feed
The goose count was finished at 8a.m. and Steve Sweetnam picked me up and we headed to Euston Street in Preston where we immediately connected with 67 Waxwings perched in treetops trying to avoid being harassed by an obviously irritated Mistle Thrush.
Some of the Preston Waxwings this morning
While watching the Preston Waxwings Frank Whitney, a fellow Burscough birder, called me to say he'd just found a group of Waxwings while out dog-wailking near his house in Burscough. Steve and I thought it rude not to go and have a look at them and we duly arrived  and saw 20 of these amazing little birds with Frank and Phil Boardman. By this time Steve and I were ready for a big breakfast and TC's in Mere Brow duly obliged. Post breakfast  we considered our options and headed to the seawall at Banks from where we scannned the vast expanse of saltmarsh that is the Ribble NNR. The NNR rarely disappoints and we quickly saw a Great White Egret, 18 Little Egrets and a Spoonbill. The vast flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing and Golden Plover were constantly flushing and on closer inspection a total of three Peregrines were seen harassing flocks. All of Peregrines were dopey juvs, one of them had a speculative strike at a Shelduck.
Steve was keen for a mooch across Churchtown Moss and we drove across in the direction of Bescar Lane. c.40 Fieldfares near four lane ends were nice to see and three Buzzards were drifting around there. We checked a couple of Pheasant feeders in one of the copses for Brambling, none were seen but a pair of calling Nuthatches is still noteworthy on that part of the moss. Heading towards Bescar Lane huge three huge flocks of Woodpigeons could be seen, I estimated 13000. No Crane out there but at least another four Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk.
Some of the Woodpigeons near Bescar Lane today
Our last journey was searching for Harriers across the mosses between Halsall and Ainsdale. We didn't see any, but we did see big flocks of my favourite bird; you already know, don't you?
Pink-feet feeding close to the housing estate at Carr Moss near Ainsdale
We choose a flock adjacent to the housing estate off Carr Lane in Ainsdale to look through and it was worthwhile, despite being mithered by some of the local nutters. 6200 geese were present, one a Barnacle Goose, one a Greylag Goose and best of all one was an adult  Greenland white-fronted Goose (my first this winter). I found three neck-collared birds; FIU, PBH and PVJ. Another huge flock (c.6000) of Woodpigeons could be seen over the local copses and in the distance another field full of Pink-feet could be seen. Alas, we ran out of time but a good session in the field. Can't beat it.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Flocking at the mere

I spent much of my free time this weekend looking through and at the big flocks of pink-foot geese at Martin Mere, 7000 have been present all weekend. The geese have been feeding on the outer fields to the south and west of the reserve and heading on to plover field to roost and when spooked. All this action has been easy to view from the UU hide. Not much with the flocks other than a single lecuistic bird, a probably wild greylag,  a couple of neck collared bird and Colin Bushell saw a brent goose in flight today. All the usual wetland species on show, with whooper swans, teal, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, ruff, lapwings, snipe all very easy to see. Raptors included four buzzards, four peregrines, a marsh harrier, a sparrowhawk and a kestrel. Both Colin and I searched for the reported firecrest and couldn't find it, although I did enjoy seeing goldcrests and coal tits amongst the roving long-tailed tit flocks. Lots of visitors enjoying the the sunshine and the birds, long may it continue.

Pink-feet taking off from plover field
Pink-feet determined not to crash into the UU hide
Can you spot the odd one out?
Landing gear being lowered as pinks come back to land on plover field

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The ageing process

Bumped into Playful Pete, Alan Wright and Dave Nickeas at Marshside on Saturday morning and enjoyed a few hours birding and chatting with them. Birding highlights were a female Hen Harrier, three Merlins, a Peregrine and a distant, though obliging, Great White Egret. Of course the best birds of all were the numerous Pink-footed Geese all around Marshside and Crossens. Playful and I reminisced about derby days past and nonsense we'd got up to on the Scillies, and how we'd never behave like that nowadays. We're older, wiser, more mature.  I suppose these kinds of recollections, fond and otherwise, are part of any birder or football fans ageing process. Talking of ageing, Dave was actually 47 yesterday so I'm sure he's well aware of the ageing process; for his birthday treat Dave decided not to head up the tracks to see his beloved West Ham take in the pie-eaters, instead he graced Haigh Ave and enjoyed the Sandgrounder's 2.2 with Hereford.

Anyway back to ageing. Knowing the age of birds is useful in terms of definitive identification and this can can be applied to conservation science. Knowing a species productivity in any give year helps us to observe and record changes in populations, these changes in turn can help us better understand our environment and the changes to it. As you know I'm involved in counting Pink-footed Geese and I also try to age flocks and work out brood sizes. This data is useful to WWT, RSPB and BTO. Folk sometimes ask  how do you age geese? So, here are a few tips;

In early autumn telling adults from youngsters is fairly easy with good views and practice; adults have broad white edges to the feathers on the upper margin of the flank - it looks like a long white stripe across the flank, this is lacking in juveniles until much later in the winter. The flank feathers on adults are broad, with pale squarish tips contrasting with the small, narrow tipped flank feathers on juveniles. If you look at the coverts on adults you'll notice that that they are squarish with broad pale tips, contrast this with the smaller, narrower tipped coverts on juveniles (most of these coverts aren't moulted until the spring). The tertial feathers on juveniles in the ealry winter are shorter and norrower in juveniles. Juveniles often have less distinct neck furrows and duller bare parts than adults. If you watch a flock of geese carefully and take your time you can often pick out family groups based on behaviuor, next time you're at one of the goose feeding grounds have a proper look.
So, below are some pics of adult and juvenile Pink-footed Geese.

Juvenile Pink-footed Goose (foreground) with an adult (rear)
Juvenile Pink-footed Goose (right)
Typical view of feeding Pink-feet, juvenile (foreground) and adult (rear)
Danish 2SB, a fine adult male Pink-footed Goose, with a juvenile in the backgound.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Halsall Whoopers

Today's dinnertime peregrinations took me to Halsall Moss where I happened upon a splendid herd of whooper swans on a flood surrounded by unharvested wheat fields. I initially thought 400, or maybe 500 hundred birds so I set about counting them. My first count 860, so I checked again and got 863 and again, 863. As the swans were behaving I counted the juveniles, 48 in total with seven broods of one; eleven broods of two; four broods of three; one brood of four and one brood of five. A single ruff was with c.450 lapwings in the same flood. Great to talk to Mr Pilkington who has farmed in Halsall (initially with his father) since 1933 and lived on the same road as me in Marshside for many years. Mr Pilkington likes whooper swans and only scares them off growing crops. A nice man, the swans are lucky.
As I made my way home I drove to the back of Martin Mere and at an elevated spot counted the whooper swans there; 67 in total with two broods of two and two breeds of three. A single tundra bean goose was present with a large flock of pink-feet near to Doehyles. I wish dinnertimes and autumn days were be longer....

Halsall whoopers
Big, long line of whoopers

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Playful & YBW join forces in no show

As arranged I went to pick Playful Pete up from Albert Road early this morning but he didn't show. He later let me know that he'd go himself into a bit of a mess celebrating his teams 1.0 demolition of some relegation rivals or other. Peteless, I proceeding on to Marshside where it was a misty and cold start followed by warm sunshine. Lots of geese to look through and I also enjoyed raptor searching, seeing; x3 Merlin, x2 Sparrowhawk (see photo below), x1 Kestrel and x1 Peregrine. As usual Crossens and Marshside were both packed full of flocks of waterbirds. I nipped to Lytham Road for a spot of breakfast, where I got a message from Colin Bushell that he'd found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Birkdale. I downed my brew, scoffed my bacon and met up with Colin and spent an hour or so with him failing to see the YBW, but enjoying some decent conversation and equisite sunshine. Nice to see The Brick, Neill Hunt and Mikey Boy Stocker there too. I nipped back to Marshside to gaze at geese (a pair of Barnacles with the pinks were the only new thing) and soak up the bird-filled ambience.

2SB or is it B2S? a Danish ringed pink-foot that Colin Bushell and I have both seen recently was on Crossens outer this morning. A paired male with no youngsters.

A couple of Sparrowhawks catching a few rays on Marshside saltmarsh this morning
Sunrise over Rimmer's marsh at Marshside

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Morning glory

I got to Marshside just before sunrise this morning and the first bird I saw was a superb barn owl hunting in front of the car park and then flying over the road onto Sutton's. c.2200 pink-feet lifted off Rimmer's and headed straight out to graze the adjacent saltmarsh. The Ribble pink-foot roost held c.12100 birds, these drifted inland in dribs and drabs through the morning providing a constant spectacle. I manged to get my first redwing (just one) and fieldfare (two) of the autumn, but other than a couple of goldcrests in the sandworks vis mig wasn't really happening. Two great white egrets dropped on the western end of Banks marsh together and I counted 26 little egrets there, with ten very distant whooper swans on the edge of the marsh. Other birders I enjoyed the company of were playful Pete, Mad Dog and Carlos The Mild.; big Davey Mallett joined us later on. It was the first time this autumn I've managed to see the sexy seven raptors; kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, female marsh harrier, female hen harrier; at least three merlins and three peregrines - all busily doing there thing out on the saltmarsh, with at least two different peregrines bombing over Sutton's and Crossens inner scaring the life out of the hiige flocks of teal, wigeon, black-tailed godwits and lapwings. A glorious morning with a beautiful sunrise, good company and amazing birds.

Sunrise over North Meols
Mad Dog, Carlos The Mild & Playful Pete at the summit of Mount Clarko
Pink-feet dropping onto Sutton's with Winter Hill in the background

Friday, 19 October 2012

Goose gazing

Managed a goose watching session at WWT Martin Mere this afternoon, it was really rewarding with a spectacular show being put on by the winged wonders. Visitors to the reserve were wowed by the sight and sound of these magnificent birds and I enjoyed helping out fellow birders get onto birds from the United Utilities hide. I reckon a total of c.9700 pink-feet were shared between plover field, the mere and Tarlscough Moss, from where flocks could be seen rising and falling. Amongst the flocks I picked out two leucistic, two orange-legged and two neck-collared (ICT & TTI) pink-feet. Also among the flock were an adult tundra bean goose, a barnacle goose and a Eurasian white-fronted goose (probably a second year bird), it sounds like at least one other white-front was knocking about; how many are there out and about I wonder? Some photos below. I've got some decent video too, but I can't seem to upload it. Marshside beckons at dawn and I've got a pass out for Sunday, so I'm looking forward to more anserine frolics.

tundra bean goose on the mere
Eurasian white-front on the edge of the mere
leucisitc pink-foot on the mere
orange-legged pink-foot on the edge of the mere
pink-feet dropping onto plover field