Monday, October 25, 2010

Avoiding Percy

School half term means Monday child minding duties for Nana and Granddad, but only after I snuck out into the frost to Pilling for an hour or two.

I always go down Wheel Lane; it’s the quickest Pilling point to reach and often the most fruitful destination that includes Ridge Farm, Fluke Hall and the Hi-fly stubble fields. I was wary this morning, keen to avoid being seen by strangers on the lookout for Plastic Percy the Red-breasted Goose, visitors to Pilling who might assume that I too was a fellow traveller out for a tick only; the people looking to latch onto someone who knew the whereabouts of Percy, and almost certainly unimpressed that a dude like me was visiting my second home of 30 odd years and that I was not busting a gut to see the object of their desires today.

Fortunately I arrived early and there was no one in the gateway so I parked up for a quick look at the wild geese and the swans. Many Pink-footed Geese were just flying in from the marsh, alighting on the stubble recently replenished with yet more wheat. I’m not sure when Hi-fly spread the largesse, maybe late in the evening when the geese have gone to the outer marsh? But from the way the geese know to hit different spots at first light suggests that the shooters are moving the wheat drops around different parts of the stubble fields. Good hygiene practice at least, if not very sporting of them. There were enormous numbers of birds, and I later revised my estimate of the combined geese here to a figure in the region of 22,500, plus or minus 10%.

Around the frosty flood were 28 Whooper Swans, some of them at that moment heading off to inland fields; maybe for peace and quiet, where they might not be surrounded by the constant comings and goings, the wall of sound made by 20,000 + geese?

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

It must be cold and early if there are no cars already parked, no doggie walkers, no horse boxes unloading Dobbin to chase the waders from the Fluke Hall beach; no birders either today. There were several Chaffinch dropping periodically into the trees, 2 Brambling on call, plus 8 or more Greenfinches. It wasn’t until I got closer to Ridge Farm that things bucked up with 18 Tree Sparrows, 8 Skylark and a gang of 10 Reed Buntings sticking together on the hedgerow. As there was no one about I walked back via the sea wall and the shore hoping for sight or sound of a Lap or Snow Bunting that might accord with the minus temperatures; instead I got a Wheatear, bobbing up and down to keep warm, both of us.

Reed Bunting


At Lane Ends too were Reed Buntings, with at least two calling from below the car park, an overhead Redpoll plus 3 separate Brambling calls, one from the trees then two overhead. I noticed 2 Redwing fly from the nearest trees and head east, and 2 Pied Wagtail down on the shore. A flock of 200+ Starlings packed tight on the marsh, suggested a raptor might be about, but it wasn’t the expected Merlin or Peregrine, rather a male Sparrowhawk that grabbed a Starling then headed for the sanctity of the Lane Ends trees for the meal.

At Pilling Water 80 Teal and 2 Pintail came off the wildfowler’s pools. It was here that when I looked west I revised my goose count as what appeared to be the entire Icelandic goose population erupted en masse from the stubble; they filled the horizon with a mass of blurred grey with a complementary distant din before panicking out to the green marsh. I can only think the cause of the commotion was an overzealous Percy hunter who stuck arms and legs through the hedge on the assumption that all geese are content with being viewed at close quarters, but preferably through a screen.

Pink-footed Goose

Behind the sea wall I found 2 Meadow Pipits, and 7 Skylarks, with alongside the wildfowler's boundary, a single Reed Bunting.

Meadow Pipit

My two hours were up; I’d had a very pleasant time just birding, seeing real birds, and neatly avoided bumping into Percy or his pursuers.

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