Marshside RSPB 14.11.17

Heavy cloud, misty and a little drizzle at times

Having arrived in a somewhat windswept car park at Marshside, members of the Team lost no time in making for the shelter of the nearby Visitor Centre, only to find that seating space was at a premium due to the presence of another birding group who were busy scanning the very wet-looking marsh. However, a bit of tactical manoeuvring soon meant that we too had good views of the birds that were present in some number, although not always easy to spot both on account of the undulating nature of the terrain and the fact that many, including Canada, Greylag and Pink-fotted Geese, had settled on the far side of the lakes in front of us.

The sighting of a raptor sitting quietly on top of a post in the middle distance led to a good deal of discussion regarding its identification, before a consensus emerged from all present, including the RSPB volunteer, that it was a female Merlin. Later, at least one other of these birds was noted, similarly resting, presumably satisfied after an early breakfast, and offering good views even in the generally overcast conditions. The deepening gloom made difficult the identification of some Egrets whose white plumage stood out from afar. One, the nearest, was clearly a black-billed Little Egret, but three or four others, further off and only intermittently showing themselves, were harder to identify until a temporary improvement in the light levels showed a pale coloured bill on at least one of them, and their penchant for the company of the cattle grazing on the far side of the reserve suggested that these were in fact a group of Cattle Egrets, that had apparently been present on the site for some time.

Unusually perhaps for this site, there was little activity in the air; Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits occasionally rose up for a brief swirl across the sky, but seemingly just for the fun of it and not as a result of the threat of a passing raptor. Indeed most birds seemed happy either resting in the lee of some clump of vegetation or feeding in the ground made soft by the recent heavy rains.

After lunch we set off for Nel’s hide and were almost immediately stopped in our tracks, as a Stonechat was spotted perched on top of one of the bushes alongside the path and apparently quite happy for us to approach to within three or four metres before flying off. Nel’s hide brought  good views of Pintails, which were present in good number, as well as a small group of Gadwall. Further off a lone Curlew was spotted, as well as a number of Redshank that were busily probing the mud and moving to and fro in the shallow water. And almost as soon as someone had suggested that it was unusual that we had not seen a Heron, not one, but three were spotted in quick succession! A comparison of the gulls in front of the hide led to the conclusion by the Team that, in addition to Black-headed and Herring Gulls, there were also a pair of Common Gulls present, their dark eyes and black-tipped bills, clearly marking them as different from the rest.

A distinct drop in temperature – or perhaps we had opened too many of the windows in the hide in our keenness to get good views of the birds? – then suggested that it was perhaps time to call an end to what had been both a challenging and fulfilling day’s birding, enlivened, as ever, by the usual TT camaraderie. (CG)

Bird List (MH)

  1. Shelduck
  2. Wigeon
  3. Little grebe
  4. Mallard
  5. Great black-backed gull
  6. Lesser black-backed gull
  7. Merlin
  8. Canada goose
  9. Lapwing
  10. Curlew
  11. Pink- footed goose
  12. Black- tailed godwit
  13. Cattle egret
  14. Little egret
  15. Teal
  16. Shoveler
  17. Goldfinch
  18. Greylag goose
  19. Starling
  20. Mute swan
  21. Black-headed gull
  22. Herring gull
  23. Kestrel
  24. Pied wagtail
  25. Robin
  26. Moorhen
  27. Stonechat
  28. Magpie
  29. Gadwall
  30. Tufted duck
  31. Pintail
  32. Coot
  33. Redshank
  34. Jackdaw
  35. Grey heron
  36. Common gull
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