Marshside and Mere Sands Wood 26.04.16

Bright, chilly and very breezy at first, with just a few spots of rain later

Those who had made it to the Marshside car park were almost swept off their feet as they booted up by an icy blast, which was blowing in from the north. Undaunted, however, we ventured down onto the foreshore, drawn by the song of sky larks, the sight of oystercatchers and general evidence of avian movement amongst the bushes and scrub. Indeed, we soon had good views of the said sky larks soaring high above us and seemingly untroubled by the strength of the wind. House martins sped overhead and a small flock of goldfinches also drew our attention by their colour and call, but some other small birds further off unfortunately defied identification.

Arriving in the welcome shelter of RSPB hide we were almost immediately treated to a memorable spectacle; the female of the pair of avocets that had made a nesting site on the little island immediately in front of the hide, promptly laid an egg – the first of what was likely to be a clutch of four. Had we not seen this happen it would have been almost impossible to make out the egg, so well camouflaged was it. Indeed to the casual viewer (or predator) it looked like just another pebble!

Although not quite as eggciting, the next hour or so was very productive in terms of sightings: in addition to the usual range of waterfowl both a redshank and a common sandpiper were identified, a lone swallow obligingly rested on the fence adjacent to the hide and we all enjoyed the sight of large numbers of black-tailed godwits, many of which were coming into their bright chestnut orange summer plumage. Reports of the presence of a mediterranean gull amongst the hundreds of black-headed gulls led to some determined scanning and this was rewarded eventually by the the pretty certain identification of an immature specimen that took off, not long after all the gulls had taken flight at the approach of a peregrine that had crossed the lakes.

A brief visit to Nel’s Hide, some 400 metres south down Marine Drive, afforded good views of a pair of active little grebe and, in the distance, some teal and pochard. Re-grouping in the car park, we then headed for Mere Sands Wood to rendezvous with other members of the Team for lunch in the class room in the VC. Hunger satisfied, and notes of sightings compared, the enlarged group then set out on a circuit of the reserve.

Sadly this afternoon session did not afford a sighting of the common tern that had been spotted earlier in the morning by the sub-team but plenty of sand martins were seen skimming back and forth across the lake and the usual mix of cormorant, tufted ducks and shoveler were seen.  However, we struggled somewhat to catch glimpses of many woodland birds, apart from a wren enjoying a sand bath just below one of the hides and a pair of long-tailed tits feeding on a willow just in front of another. Our identification skills were put to the test at one point, trying to distinguish a bird that could have been either a chiffchaff or a willow warbler and which, at least while in view, steadfastly refused to sing! In the end, the consensus was for the former – on account of its dark legs – but the presence of the latter bird was confirmed soon after as the distinctive descending notes of its song were heard from the depths of the shrubbery alongside the path.

IMG_2254With darkening skies to urge us on, the progress towards the VC and car park was relatively speedy, although we did catch sight of a solitary song thrush in the meadow and a quick visit to the feeders behind the VC added a bullfinch and a reed bunting to our list, which after four to five hours’ birding had grown to an impressive length.

Bird List (MH)

1. Mute swan
2. Canada goose
3. Greylag goose
4. Shelduck
5. Mallard
6. Gadwall
7. Shoveler
8. Teal
9. Pochard
10. Tufted duck
11. Pheasant
12. Great crested grebe
13. Little grebe
14. Cormorant
15. Little egret
16. Grey heron
17. Common buzzard
18. Peregrine
19. Moorhen
20. Coot
21. Avocet
22. Oystercatcher
23. Lapwing
24. Common sandpiper
25. Redshank
26. Black-tailed godwit
27. Black-headed gull
28. Mediterranean gull
29. Herring gull
30. Lesser black-backed gull
31. Wood pigeon
32. Skylark
33. Sand martin
34. Swallow
35. House martin
36. Meadow pipit
37. Wren
38. Dunnock
39. Robin
40. Blackbird
41. Song thrush
42. Chiffchaff
43. Long-tailed tit
44. Blue tit
45. Great tit
46. Starling
47. Jay
48. Magpie
49. Jackdaw
50. Carrion crow
51. Chaffinch
52. Greenfinch
53. Goldfinch
54. Bullfinch
55. Reed bunting



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