(In which the Weasel heads North and ends up in a raptorfest…)
Early start enroute to Hadwins and across the Moss from Crosby to the M57,tales of Short Eared Growlers and Iron age spearheads – a place I need to return too methinks…
And on to another moss,Leighton Moss an RSPB reserve near to Silverdale in Lancashire and home to some very interesting birds and mammals and in the middle of an HLF facelift that will bring in more visitors,although numbers would probably be down owing to the snow flurries that met us on the approach via the M6.
Nuthatches and Greenfinch in the car park and on to the feeding station for a grab at Brambling,seen already this year but always a quality bonus from a bird table,anyway we dipped but managed a sprightly male Bullfinch along with the usual suspects.
Down to Lillians hide,a warm and comfy experience compared to most,with a fine selection of quackies including Tufties,Gadwall,Teal and a few Goldeneye,a few gulls and a couple of Snipe in the shallows.
In the past I have seen both Bittern and Otter, but today no such luck.
Onwards and downwards as we noticed a fine selection of Scarlet Elf Cup fungi on the way too the next hide, down to Griesdale, dipping on Cettis Warbler in the process!
This is all very well but the Weasel is here for one main reason and suddenly one appears to the left of the hide – MARSH HARRIER – a superb bird of Prey that didn’t used to be available to British birders in the Winter but now,thanks to Climate Change and food availability we have overwintering Marsh harriers and on this occasion we have at least three in the air at once,two males and a stunning female showing a bronze head and extensive epaulettes – slighter than a Buzzard and a real acrobat of the skies, what a bird!
A quick check over the back fields and hills shows a number of circling raptors with a distinct V shaped profile,common Buzzards.
After a dinnertime snow shower in the Public Hide we decided to give Woodwell a search and look for the star bird, Hawfinch, which I always describe in Lars Johnson’s ‘Birds of Europe’ depiction as resembling the Kray twins!
Disappointed again I suggest a stop off at Wharton Crag, where a Raven is constantly cronking and agitated, but 20 minutes gives us no Peregrine and just as we are about to leave from behind the rock comes a fast and furious male peregrine with hunting on its mind as it makes a beeline for the Estuary,follow that bird!
The Allen Pools next and a bonus early sighting on the list as one of the waders is Identified as a Spot Red, along with several other bog standard Redshanks – cool.
Just as we settle down I spy a low flying flash of electra blue – can only be a Kingfisher, i shout at the last minute and only me gets onto the bird – bugger. Luckily the Shellster refinds it and Andrea gets my scope on it and many folk in the hide get their first ever glimpse of the River King and its otherworldly colours.
Just then,before we gather breath, the female harrier arrives and quarters the outer marsh, as she traverses the ditches and dykes, she is suddenly harried herself by a very large female Peregrine who upends underneath her and she manages to give her the slip,perching on the ground,whilst the Peg enters a bank of rough grass and rushes and looks towards us with her head constantly moving and her barrel like chest and massive muscle to compensate for her wings hitting the air at 90 MPH shines out like a beacon.
PEREGRINE middle of vegetation
Apologies for the poor pic, digiscoped through a hide at around 2 miles out:
Where do we go from here,how do we top that?
Easy a sneak back to the Tim Jackson hide for a crack at the deer as dusk settles in…
Well ‘no eyed deer’ (sorry!) but Andrea needs a fag, Ian accompanies her outside (ever the gent) and both burst into the hide shouting ‘Barn Owl’ as my first for the site travelles over the top of the hide and hunts over the reedbeds – fantastic!
Last, but by no means, least Mrs Weasel asks what the bird is in the fork of the tree, its difficult,big and brown,erm straggly,erm,erm, it exits showing a full hipped white flash and a tell tale silhouette – female Sprog, and this Sparrowhawk was not for hanging around and exited left as the 12th Little Egret flew past to the roost.
A fine day in the company of Predator and Prey wasn’t over yet, as the junction of the M6/M58 saw a mighty fine, healthy Dog Fox slink in front of the car and into the side vegetation,Saturday night under the plastic palm trees,Fox out for the night Weasel and crew home to bed.