WeBS on the estuary today. Frank Whitney joined me to boost his year list and Brian Hopkins, Dave Fletcher and I set about our work on the rather large Birkdale/Ainsdale sector. With a high predicted tide and a nip in the air I set fast pace to get down to my favoured counting spot. Lots of waders on the beach, unfortunately they were continually disturbed by some frivolous horse riders and dog walkers, who do seem to be genuinely blind to the damage they do charging at the flocks. It'd be so good to see some effective wardening in place to help educate beach users. Perhaps RSPB, the rangers service and Natural England could get together and come down to the beach to see the problems occurring and maybe formulate an action plan to educate beach users and reduce disturbance of the wader roosts; perhaps using volunteer rangers? I know Dr Phil Smith, the renowned Sefton Coast expert feels the same way. I think something does need to be done. I appreciate this would be difficult to achieve given the current financial climate and the threat of restructuring that maybe hangs over all of the mentioned organisations, but given all the problems our migratory shorebirds are facing it does seem that these special birds need help in the wintering grounds. Education is the key and groups of trained volunteers would surely be able to help? After all the Ribble is the nation's top estuary for waterbirds......
So, back to the birds themselves. The following were the highlights amongst the wheeling flocks; Dunlin 1186, Knot 6700, Sanderling 463, Bar-tailed Godwit 4300 (a high count), Oystercatcher 2503 and Grey Plover 208. Offshore;12 Common Scoters, six Great Crested Grebes and five Red-throated Divers and a single Grey Seal bobbing around. As the tide rose and waders attempted to settle we left them well alone and headed back toward the car park seeing Jack Snipe and Common Snipe as we went and a Water Rail scurried off into the club-rush to the side of us. A flock of 117 Pink-footed Geese had been grazing off Weld Road all morning and were floating on the tide as we headed to the car park. Frank and I bumped into Sean and Kim Ashton who joined us and were pleased to see the Jack Snipe and a Merlin as it darted past the flocks of waders. In the distance a flock of finches were constantly disturbed by walkers, we decided to go and check them out and were delighted to discover they were all Twite; 46 in total. Despite all the disturbance it was a good count. Sean, Kim, Frank and I headed up the coast towards Marshside and Crossens to look for the Spoonbill, we didn't see it, but did see several Little Egrets, another Merlin, a Peregrine and flight views of a Great White Egret. Not a bad morning at all.
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'm lucky as I've worked at both sites and have a unique insight into how the sites are managed for birds. I've lived & worked in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland & Gloucestershire & I've spent time working in Kazakhstan & Madagascar. I enjoy birding my various West Lancashire patches, making frequent visits to the Ribble coastline & other sites in the north-west of England. I stray elsewhere in the UK & enjoy birding abroad from time to time. I'm particularly interested in wildfowl, with an interest in waders & raptors, bird counts & surveys & in habitat & species conservation. I'm trying to get the hang of photography & digiscoping - I'll get there eventually. My degree is in conservation biology & I work for a conservation charity and volunteer for others. 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 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 a keen season ticket holding Evertonian & also keep up with what's happening at Southport, PNE & Bristol Rovers. 2014 may bring a second dog & some chickens - watch this space! I hope you find the blog interesting - please feel free to leave a comment.