Rixton Clay Pits 27.01.15

Overcast and feeling mild, except when exposed to the wind from the Moss

Some eighteen or so members of the Team gathered in the Nature Reserve car park (opened courtesy of the Warrington Ranger Service) to take advantage of what was forecast to be the last reasonable weather before the storms which threaten major disruption over the coming days. IMG_1215Our first port of call was the Visitor Centre to pick up leaflets and to take advantage of the view point looking across the lower end of the reserve, an area that we had traversed on earlier visits, but without perhaps appreciating its full extent. As we threaded our way across, following one of the well-marked trails, we were treated to the sight of a pair of Kestrels, one male and one female, flying backwards and forwards before coming to rest in a nearby tree, and evidently determined not to stray too far from each other at what must be the start of the breeding season.

The lake at western end of the reserve revealed a small number of waterfowl including Shoveler, Gadwall and Moorhen, all apparently unperturbed by the presence of a busy main road just a few yards away.  There was plenty of activity in the trees and hedgerows along the edge of Moat Lane, but, despite the absence of foliage, it was sometimes difficult to locate and identify birds before they flew off to a new perch – usually somewhat further away! Nonetheless, a pair of Bullfinches and the first of quite a few Goldfinches encountered during the morning were sighted, before we moved on towards the next large lake on which there was plenty to observe, including a good number of Tufted Duck and Gadwall, and a lone Heron partially obscured amongst the reeds.

Encouraged by the progress so far, or perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, the Team now struck out confidently into largely uncharted territory following the way-marked ‘Amber Ambler’ trail. Plenty seemed to be going on in the hedgerows alongside the path and in the trees above us with tits of various kinds flitting to and fro, and a particularly sharp pair of eyes made out the restless activity of a Goldcrest, which disappeared, unfortunately, before many in the group had caught sight of it. The ‘Amber Ambler’ gave place to the ‘Blue Pacer’ and the sighting of a lone Mute Swan walking along the path ahead of us, but it was then that our troubles began in earnest. The track deteriorated into a muddy scramble as we circumnavigated the last of the lakes. There was some talk of turning back, but, thanks to  some strategically proffered helping hands, we all reached a boardwalk, evidently installed for the anglers who frequent this area, and progress was once again reasonably easy (and secure). After crossing the last area of the reserve where there was evidence of a programme of coppicing, it was finally decided to turn back towards the Visitor Centre and the car park.

A little deflated by the paucity of sightings through this last section (a lustily singing Robin and a solitary pair of Mallard were the highlights!), it seemed that the morning was coming to something of a disappointing end, but, walking along a short section of Moat Lane, our spirits were quickly lifted, first by a small flock of Redwing clearly visible high up in the trees; by the briefest of glimpses of a Sparrowhawk; and then by the sighting of the first of several Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which showed themselves over the next few minutes.  And finally, as we threaded our way back across the reserve and over those challenging stiles, about a dozen Teal flew overhead, their size and cross-like silhouettes making identification comparatively easy and providing a satisfying conclusion to our visit to this interesting and surprisingly extensive site.

Thanks to our photographers, who didn’t have it easy today, and to Barbara who managed both to keep the list and struggle through the mud!

Bird list for Rixton (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Gadwall
  5. Teal
  6. Mallard
  7. Shoveler
  8. Tufted Duck
  9. Sparrowhawk
  10. Buzzard
  11. Kestrel
  12. Pheasant
  13. Moorhen
  14. Coot
  15. Woodpigeon
  16. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  17. Goldcrest
  18. Wren
  19. Blackbird
  20. Fieldfare
  21. Redwing
  22. Robin
  23. Long-tailed Tit
  24. Coal Tit
  25. Great Tit
  26. Blue Tit
  27. Nuthatch
  28. Magpie
  29. Carrion Crow
  30. Starling
  31. Bullfinch
  32. Goldfinch
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