I’m posting for Thursday because I didn’t get chance to do a write up from my usual trip out to Pilling.
There’s nothing better than getting out birding after being marooned indoors for a few days by inclement weather, especially when there are stories of thousands of thrushes heading south and west from Norway. Apart from the mad rush of early October the autumn has been a poor one for thrushes whereby I’m not seeing any Redwings, Fieldfares, extra numbers of Blackbirds and certainly no Song Thrushes. Yesterday drew another blank, even after I checked the hedgerows of both Ridge Farm and Fluke Hall, hawthorn highlights there just several Greenfinches.
The fields at Ridge Farm are as wet as I’ve ever seen them, as evidenced by 250+ Black-headed Gulls, 12 Black-tailed Godwits and even 10 Snipe rising from the stubble and upwards of 25 Skylark. There was a hovering Buzzard, soon pestered by the local crows, the Buzzard then heading off back inland. I found more Black-tailed Godwits on the Fluke Hall fields with another 60 or so together with 18 Redshank, 90 Lapwing, 6 Curlew and several more Snipe. A couple of shoots have reduced the number of Red-legged Partridge but still 150+ to see in place of any native partridges.
There are a lot of Shelduck about at the moment, with a count of 500+ along the shore where a concentrated effort could almost certainly have doubled the guestimate. Unlike most of the UK’s wild duck population Shelducks are protected by law from shooting. But as a species they are far from easy to approach, being just as wild as the “permissible quarry” of Teal, Wigeon and Pintail which also spend most of their time out on the shore and marsh.
Pilling Marsh, distant Heysham
I managed to place myself in a handy spot to get a few pictures as a dozen or two Shelduck came in from the marsh heading for the shooter’s pools where wheat is put out to attract wildfowl in. The wind was just strengthening, making the Shelduck slow down their approach flight, some almost vertical before they landed, others applying the brakes perfectly in time, yet others miscuing and then having to go round again for another landing attempt. Their circlings reminded me of a flight to India some years ago where we spent an hour or more viewing Dabolim Airport from a great height, going around in circles and wondering if we’d ever land, until eventually we scraped home by the skin of our nervous fingers and a holiday in Glorious Goa.
There’s a close-up of a Shelduck being ringed at the Wildfowl Trust winter catch of a few years ago.
A walk along the sea wall produced another 30+ Skylarks and a welcome if brief Merlin in the usual low dash over the marsh. I say usual but it was my first autumnal Merlin, the species appearing slow to return to its coastal haunts this year. The Merlin had appeared from near Pilling Water the spot where I found 15 or so feeding Meadow Pipits, these birds so late in the autumn as to be potential winterers. One sat up on a fence post and watched my progress along the path.
Just 7 Whooper Swans today so it appears the Icelandic swans have left Pilling for more appealing places: no worries, I’ll make do with a picture of Mute Swans. How do swans fly so close together without causing a major pile-up in the airways?
There was a headless Pink-footed Goose behind the sea wall, a spot I don’t often see a Red Fox but the decapitated evidence suggests one may have been along quite recently, leaving the crows and gulls to follow on. I can’t imagine a pinkie being nabbed by a fox unless the goose was injured in some way, perhaps as a result of a recent shoot on the marsh.
ex Pink-footed Goose