Squally showers at first, brighter later, but very windy
A determined dozen members of the Team made their way to Martin Mere on a rather blustery morning and arrived just in time for one of the first showers of the day. However, gathering in the shelter of the Visitor Centre we were able to enjoy close-up views of Goldeneye and Pintails and begin our tally for the day, adding a dozen or so species within a matter of minutes. Although it was tempting to linger, there was a general consensus that we had to press on, so we took advantage of a slight easing of the rain and made for the new Discovery Hide just a few yards from the VC.
From relative comfort and behind the shelter of large windows we enjoyed a good view across the Mere and were particularly pleased to be able to make out a number of Ruff moving back and forth on the far shore. Prolonged observation showed that the Ruff were present in some number, the marbled patterning of their plumage standing out from the more uniform colouring of the Lapwings and Greylag Geese amongst which they were moving.
With the rain having more or less abated, we next set off for the Ron Barker Hide, passing ‘Tawny Owl Corner’, but without catching a glimpse of an owl or indeed of many other birds. The strength of the wind seemed to be discouraging much movement from smaller birds, although a few Tree Sparrows were being lured to some feeders just near the path. Ensconced in the Ron Barker Hide we were greeted by a fine specimen of vulpes vulpes, no doubt on the look out for a late morning snack, and treated to the first of several fine displays by a Marsh Harrier, lazily moving over the reed beds, soaring and gliding and generally unsettling large numbers of Lapwings that soared up into the sky at frequent intervals. Other birds, such as the large number of Teal, whose distinctive call echoed over the lake, seemed less bothered and were content to rest on the water.
Having had our fill of the Harrier, thought then turned to the ‘fill’ of lunch which was enjoyed in various locations, before we met up again at the Gladstone Hide. From here we again enjoyed views of the Ruff and also picked out a pair of Stock Dove, a little incongruous amongst so many waterfowl. The Janet Kerr Hide, despite its feeders, held little of interest, save for pheasants which paraded in front of us for close inspection.
At the Harrier Hide we encountered a problem that we had not expected; sun! The skies having cleared in the west, the brightness was now making some viewing difficult, but nonetheless we had sightings again of the Marsh Harrier and of a lone Little Grebe that was identified by its constant diving in the deeper water off to our left.
Determined to get all we could out of what was turning out to be a much better day than anticipated, we next made for the United Utilities Hide (a first visit for some members of the group). Here we enjoyed our very own ‘Wild Goose Chase’ which comprised two parts: first our efforts to distinguish between Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, and second to identify a small white goose that some could see clearly from the upper level of the hide, but which others, on the lower level, confused with some farmyard geese that were in roughly the same location.
With plenty of ideas about the identity of this individual, but nothing settled, we set off finally to witness the daily feeding of the birds from the Discovery Hide. This was indeed a much better experience than that previously enjoyed from the old Swan Link Hide, especially as we could see everything from behind the windows that were protection from what was by now a really strong wind blowing in from the west. Another novel feature was a short talk by an assistant warden which included many facts about the origins of the site and about the birds that we could see before us. (Everyone will perhaps have remembered a different fact, but the one that sticks in my mind was the speed of flight of the Whooper Swans on their journey back to Iceland: with a following wind, sometimes in excess of 60mph!)
And just before the conclusion of the talk, there was some excitement as the small goose that had caught our interest previously flew in to join the throng of wildfowl enjoying the
wheat on the shore’s edge. Close-up views enabled a definitive identification – a Ross’s Goose – a native of NW Canada and probably an escapee. In any case, it was added to our tally, and proved to be the final cherry on the cake of an excellent day’s birding.
Bird List (BP)
- Little Grebe
- Grey Heron
- Whooper Swan
- Pink-footed Goose
- Greylag Goose
- Ross’s Goose
- Canada Goose
- Tufted Duck
- Marsh Harrier
- Golden Plover
- Black-headed Gull
- Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Great Black-backed Gull
- Feral Dove
- Great Tit
- Blue Tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Tree Sparrow