Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Swift End

I promise not to use the “w” word. You know, it starts in “w” ends in “r”. But I was quite determined to get out for a while today, even if it meant getting around a few spots, probably watching from the car in the hope that the sun might appear for a few seconds in between the “showers”, and the gale would ease.

So I started at Knott End as the tide began to run in backed by a very stiff north westerly. With a quick look along the shore, then a look off the jetty the immediately obvious obvious was the lack of Black-headed Gulls and Sandwich Terns, the gulls relocated onto wet fields and the terns moved on after a few days and nights blasting from the winds, while tucked up in bed I dreamt about rarer creatures. A few Lesser Blacks and Herring Gulls filled the vacancies on the shore created by the absent Black Headed Gulls.

The squalls came and went, the estuary water pitched up and down, as did my count of Eider not far off the jetty but I settled on a round thirty, a precise count impossible as the birds appeared then disappeared behind the troughs or became invisible through the rain. Half a dozen Shelduck mooched on the shore and a couple of parties of Knot numbering c2000 went up river towards Barnaby’s together with a couple of hundred Oystercatchers. I had the usual gaggle of Redshank below the jetty with fifteen Ringed Plover and a single Turnstone.

The Shelduck theme was repeated at Lane Ends where I counted 95 out on the marsh and spotted a Peregrine, waiting patiently as they do. A single Little Egret made an appearance from a ditch to fly west towards Fluke hall. Plenty of Lapwing and Curlew huddled on the green marsh but I was counting via binoculars, not daring to put up a scope this morning.

I had been tipped off that the RSPB’s “big wheel rotary ditcher” might make an appearance Over Wyre at Cockerham where plans are afoot to recreate some wader habitat.

Always one to seek out a easy tick I made my way to Cockerham, close to the spots that years ago, before draining, gave us Pectoral Sandpiper, on one memorable day several Wood Sandpipers, plus over the years many broods of Lapwings and Redshank to ring. It was a Lapwing from here at Cockerham first ringed in June 1987 that was found close by the same spot in July 2003, 16 plus years! Somewhat ironic that in those intervening years and after, Lapwings virtually disappeared as a breeding species, but here we are realising that actually it is better that Lapwings are around.

The RSPB tell us that, “the ditching machine is a giant rotating digger pulled by a tractor. Around ten times faster than a conventional digger, it chisels accurately through the surface of fields to create shallow ditches and pools that are excellent for wetland wildlife”. Anyway I saw it ploughing through the field, regurgitating soil out of its nether regions, flinging it up and away. It made one pass through the field, partly I think for the dozen or so spectators and their 4x4s gathered to watch, so I thought to return when the sun came out for a picture of the beast doing its best but in the meantime taking a quick look at Conder.

Well birding is never entirely predictable and whilst Conder is pretty consistent, there are obviously both species and numbers passing through there that I don’t catch up with, e.g. the elusive Wood Sandpiper and now Osprey! But it never bothers me, there‘s always the next day, and how much better to find these things yourself rather than on the whim of a pager or text message.

But, they were there, the Motley Crew, Kingfisher, Spot Red, Greenshank, Snipe and Grey Heron, but no star attractions, no celebrities. Even that Jeremy Lane guy couldn’t turn me up a lower down the bill Mediterranean Gull, just a few hundred common Black- headed Gull. Isn’t birding a local patch brilliant?

I stopped back at Braides just in time to see a single Swift fly over the fields as did several Swallows. But the party had ended, all the vehicles gone, even the super duper ditcher, just a single furrow to show, but some hopeful black & yellow field markers. Maybe it was a demonstration day, I must email my contact.

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