Rixton Clay Pits 17.11.15

Dull and overcast, and threatening rain

Undaunted by the dire weather forecasts, a dozen members of the Team congregated at the Rixton Clay Pits car park (kindly opened for us by Marcus of the Warrington Ranger Team) eager to see what this site had to offer us. After the usual confab, and sight of a Kestrel perched up in a tree on the other side of the busy A57, we moved off to the Visitor Centre, where we met the said Marcus, and made such use of the facilities as was required.

Waiting for the group to re-assemble, some were soon scanning the fields opposite where, besides a large number of corvids, some geese were feeding in the soft ground. After much discussion and squinting through binoculars, the consensus emerged that these were Pink Feet, due in the main to the lack of any blackness about their heads. No such discussion was needed, however, when the unmistakable cheeck of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker caused us to turn back towards the Visitor Centre where the said bird displayed itself high in a nearby tree for all to see.

With spirits suitably lifted, we set off across the reserve following the ‘red trail’ and soon found plenty of avian noise and activity amongst the bushes and undergrowth. Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch and a variety of titmice were noted as we headed towards the first of the several pools stretching across the site. There were fewer waterfowl in evidence than seen in some of our previous visits, but two pair of Shoveler were present, busily swimming back and forth, as is their wont.

Having negotiated a couple of rather challenging stiles, we headed towards Moat Lane, resolved on this occasion to venture out on to Rixton Moss. Views across the pools en route were difficult due to the density of the trees and bushes, but a family of Mallard was spotted – parents and a brood of a dozen ducklings – which led to a short discussion re the longevity and taste of such fowl.

A drizzle set in as we moved towards the Moss, but spirits were not dampened as we proceeded on our way, noting that the nearby tip was apparently being capped and thus no longer such a draw for the hundreds of gulls that it had been in the past. The fisheries, however, seemed to attract a fair number of Black-headed Gulls, some of which rather bizarrely had come to rest on electricity wires, and in the background we noted the first of the flocks of starlings, that over the next half-hour or so seemed to become ever more numerous. It was here too that we first heard the plaintive call of a Buzzard, but despite a determined scanning, a sighting of this raptor (under threat again from gamekeepers, if recent newspaper reports are accurate) was not achieved. The Moss appeared less than welcoming as the drizzle increased momentarily, and it was decided that we had tarried long enough and should now head back from this furthest point of our expedition.

Re-tracing our steps along the track, with the rain having thankfully ceased, we did at last catch sight of that Buzzard that had been teasing us for so long, as well as a couple of Redwing that were feeding on the berries in a small tree near the track. (We had earlier almost certainly seen Redwing flying overhead, but their movement and the poor light had prevented a definitive identification.)

The last significant sight of the morning, just before we got back to the Reserve, was what can only perhaps be described as a ‘practice’ murmuration, as several hundred Starlings wheeled low, back and forth, less disciplined than usual, before dropping on to electricity wires that were visibly dipping under their combined weight. It looked for all the world as if they were preparing to roost early, and there was speculation as to whether the impending threat of Storm Barney had in some way or other communicated itself to them.

But with that threat in the back of our minds, it was decided to make our way back to the car park without further delay, thankful that we had had a much better morning’s birding than many of us had thought possible. (CG)

[In fact as will be seen, our morning’s count was somewhat better than that of our previous visit, earlier this year in January.]

Bird List (MH)

1. Mute swan
2. Pink-footed goose
3. Mallard +ducklings!
4. Gadwall
5. Shoveler
6. Tufted duck
7. Cormorant
8. Grey heron
9. Common buzzard
10. Kestrel
11. Moorhen
12. Coot
13. Lapwing
14. Black-headed gull
15. Lesser black-backed gull
16. Woodpigeon
17. Collared dove
18. Feral pigeon
19. Great spotted woodpecker
20. Wren
21. Dunnock
22. Robin
23. Blackbird
24. Redwing
25. Long-tailed tit
26. Blue tit
27. Great tit
28. Nuthatch
29. Starling
30. Jay
31. Magpie
32. Jackdaw
33. Carrion crow
34. House sparrow
35. Chaffinch
36. Goldfinch
37. Bullfinch

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