2013 is going to be a busy year. I can feel it. I'll be busy at work, WWT is moving forward and this adds to our 'to do' lists; new objectives; new problems to solve; new opportunities. The birdwatching and beyond course that Alan Bedford and I run from Edge Hill University is fully booked and that'll take at least a day per month; that's a day per month out in the field though looking at birds. Hopefully I'll be able to continue to help RSPB with breeding bird surveys on the Ribble, the Ribble WeBS and coordinating the International Grey Goose Census for WWT in Lancashire. My lads are growing too; they need time and patience and my wife is 40 this year and expecting a range of exciting 'events'. Looks like I might have bitten off rather too much..... hopefully the birding won't suffer!
Despite thinking hard about all the of above I managed a couple of hours out and about locally on January 1st. The dog needed walking so we set off down Crabtree Lane and enjoyed a range of common local species; 18 Whooper Swans feeding in a pool alongside the railway line; six Corn Buntings and 32 Skylarks flushed from stubble; numerous skeins of Pink-footed Geese overhead; two Siskins flying high, heading south; Redwings and Fieldfares probing in a muck pile. Commoner garden birds were encountered on the walk home. Shortly afterwards I headed for Curlew Lane; the rural lane that more or less connects Martin Mere and Mere Sands Wood, it's well known to local birders and round the corner from my house. I spied a large flock of finches in a lone alder along the lane and managed to quietly pull up to have a close look, they were Chaffinches, with the exception of a single male Brambling. I then headed to Mere Lane and picked up a male Hen Harrier heading over the lane from the Tarlscough Moss direction, it followed the line of Mere Sands Wood and headed over Curlew Lane and was lost; a mega start to the birding year! Two Buzzards and two Kestrels followed; as did the rain.....that was the end of birding.
This morning I headed out and initially wished I hadn't due to the poor light and torrential rain. Marshside was heaving with birds; thousands of Black-tailed Godwits; Lapwings; Golden Plovers; Teals and Wigeons with a supporting cast of Gadwall; Pintail; Shoveler and Pink-feet. They all flushed when a Peregrine blasted through. Four Little Egrets were nice to see. No sign of the recent Spoonbill or Green-winged Teal, but nevertheless a superb spectacle. If even a hint of sunshine had appeared it would have been Marshside at it's best. Soaking wet I got back in the car and headed for Mere Sands Wood. I wasn't disappointed, 'the wood' produced some decent birds; 30 Siskins; 11 Redpolls; 2 Bullfinch; 1 Brambling; numerous Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings; 6 Goldcrest; 2 Water Rails; 560 Teal; 14 Goosander. Not a bad selection for an hour walking in the rain. A pleasant, if wet and dull start to what promises to be a busy year. At least I've got birding trips planned to the Solway and North Wales before I go back to work next week. Happy days.
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.