Marsh side and Mere Sands Wood 18.10.16

Overcast, breezy and very wet later

A small, but determined group met on a wind-swept car park at Marshside just after 10.30 and, blown along by a strong breeze, promptly repaired to the shelter of the nearby Visitor Centre. Here we were greeted by an enthusiastic and helpful pair of RSPB volunteers, who immediately directed our attention to a trio of Cattle Egrets (poking in the soft earth amongst the cattle!) and to a lone Ross’s Goose, apparently a regular winter visitor, whose white plumage was clearly visible, as was, occasionally, its bright orange beak. The chatter and general disturbance occasioned by our arrival was bemoaned (half-seriously?) by a couple of other birders, but the volunteers set them straight, pointing out that this was a VC and not a hide as such, thus some level of ‘noise’ was to be expected, at which the pair of them beat a hasty retreat for other quarters. The number of birds showing themselves on the marsh was less than on previous visits, but nonetheless we spent a rewarding hour or so scanning the landscape before us and gradually adding to our list with sightings of Redshank, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwing, amongst others.

Preparing ourselves for the icy blast coming off the sea with the incoming tide, we set off for the lower hide, pausing at the first screen on the corner of Marshide Road and Marine Drive where  a large number of Godwits were at rest facing into the wind on the far side of the pool. Pressing on, we again sort refuge from the strong breeze in the lower hide, from where we enjoyed close views of yet more Godwits, Redshank, a lone Pintail and a few Dunlins, bobbing and probing in the mud just in front of the hide.

After a while, ‘Time for lunch’ was the cry, taken literally by a raptor that had just been spotted, hunkered down on a low ridge on the far side of the pool, and which took off and swooped onto its unfortunate prey, right in front of us. It had all happened so quickly that identification was a matter of some discussion; merlin or sparrow hawk? Eventually a consensus emerged for the latter, at which point we did finally head off back towards the cars. Having decided against a session trying to spot activity along the shoreline, due to the strength of the wind which was buffeting us and a couple of Skylarks that rose bravely skywards, we headed for our next destination: Mere Sands Wood.

Lunch in the lecture room at the Visitor Centre at MSW was the usual convivial affair, but unfortunately, as we set out on our circuit round the site, the threatened rain finally arrived and for the rest of the afternoon just got heavier and heavier. Hardy souls that we are, however, we pressed on, visiting all the hides around the main lake. We added Little Grebe, Coot and Cormorant, amongst others, to our list, and at least some spirits were raised with brief views, first of a Kingfisher skimming across the water, then later of a Water Rail plodding along the reeds at the water’s edge: proof that in even the least promising of conditions there can be something to be enjoyed!

Bird List (BP)


  1. Cormorant
  2. Heron
  3. Little Egret
  4. Cattle Egret
  5. Pink-footed Goose
  6. Ross’ Goose
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Shelduck
  9. Wigeon
  10. Gadwall
  11. Teal
  12. Mallard
  13. Pintail
  14. Shoveler
  15. Sparrowhawk
  16. Kestrel
  17. Moorhen
  18. Lapwing
  19. Black-tailed Godwit
  20. Bar-tailed Godwit
  21. Curlew
  22. Redshank
  23. Dunlin
  24. Black-headed Gull
  25. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  26. Dunnock
  27. Magpie
  28. Carrion Crow

Mere Sands Wood

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Cormorant
  3. Heron
  4. Greylag Goose
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Teal
  7. Mallard
  8. Shoveler
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Water Rail
  11. Coot
  12. Black-headed Gull
  13. Wood Pigeon
  14. Kingfisher
  15. Jackdaw

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