Sankey Valley 03.03.15

Bright with plenty of clear blue sky, but strong, icy wind

A hard core of the Team gathered in the parking area near what used to be Sankey Bridges railway station (closed 1949), competing for space with heavy road re-surfacing equipment. Setting off along the path parallel to the disused St Helens Canal we could hear the birds, but catching sight of them was an entirely different matter. And so it proved for the rest of the morning; although we heard its alarm call on several occasions, no-one actually saw a Blackbird!

However, making our way in a clockwise direction along the track round the capped tip between Sankey Brook and the canal, the woodland and hedgerow birds that we did catch sight of, showed particularly well in the clear light. We were also treated to the sight of the first of several Kestrel seen during the morning, hovering in the strong wind and clearly visible against the bright blue sky.

A little further on, the sight of several hundred gulls, Black-headed, Lesser Black Back and Herring, awaited us on Richmond Bank, out in the middle of the Mersey. Just as we were all wishing someone had a scope, better to engage in that delightful pastime of differentiating between various species of gull, we were distracted by the sight hundreds of starlings rising from over the tip on the other side of the river and creating a spectacular murmuration.

Heading back towards the canal, a tantalising glimpse of a small bird that might, or might not have been a Stonechat, led to an intense scrutiny of the various field guides carried, and although the sighting could not be established for certain, a local birder encountered later on our walk, did confirm the presence of these birds, at least a few weeks ago.

At the Ferry Tavern, the furthest point of our walk, the strength of the westerly wind and the incoming tide was clearly apparent out on the river, with a series of what looked like mini-bores coming upstream. A careful survey of the opposite shore revealed both a solitary Redshank, which conveniently moved into a patch of sunlight to reveal its brightly coloured legs and, perhaps more unusually, a Pheasant that was feeding close to the water’s edge.

With the chill of the wind beginning to penetrate, it was decided to turn back towards our starting point. On this stretch, along the canal which looked almost attractive, reflecting the blueness of the sky and with a fine growth of reeds on the far side, we had good views both of  a pair of soaring Buzzards and some more Kestrel searching for prey on either side of the canal, but, for the rest, the birds mostly seemed to be keeping well hidden in the trees and bushes.

Not quite a flamingo, but almost as exotic!
Not quite a flamingo, but almost as exotic!

Finally, with thoughts of lunch perhaps beginning to dim our attentiveness, we almost missed a single pair of Gadwall which were sharing a small pond, adjacent to the canal, with some not especially welcoming Mallard: a reminder, perhaps, that the true birder always looks twice!

Bird List for Sankey Bridges (BP)

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Shelduck
  6. Gadwall
  7. Mallard
  8. Buzzard
  9. Kestrel
  10. Pheasant
  11. Moorhen
  12. Coot
  13. Redshank
  14. Herring Gull
  15. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  16. Black-headed Gull
  17. Woodpigeon
  18. Robin
  19. Long-tailed Tit
  20. Great Tit
  21. Blue Tit
  22. Magpie
  23. Jackdaw
  24. Carrion Crow
  25. Starling
  26. House Sparrow
  27. Bullfinch
  28. Goldfinch

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