Monday, 21 February 2011

Warton Marsh (saturday and sunday)

With high tides over the weekend I thought that Warton Marsh would be the place to be to catch up with some tricky species that only show well over the highest of tides. On Saturday I arrived 45 minutes before high tide and the water had already covered the outer marsh flushing lots of birds closer to the bank. 8 Little Egrets were counted feeding in the various channels and pools being formed by the incoming water. I spotted a familiar Honda jazz parked up and sure enough Maurice Jones was stood behind the open boot lid which provided a very nice shelter from the wind. He got me onto a Short Eared Owl (yeartick) perched on the rapidly flooding outer marsh and over the next 20 minutes we counted 5 birds in all hunting, at one point 4 were in the scope at once! A female Peregrine Falcon mobbed the owls for a short while before going off in pursuit of a flock of waders, and a stunning female Merlin shot over the marsh before perching up on a post giving brilliant views of this charismatic little falcon. A flock of 10 Whooper Swans (6 juveniles) drifted in on the tide and small flocks of Pink Footed, Greylag and Canada geese took off from the marsh as the water approached. As high tide approached we turned our attention to the pipits which were slowly making their way towards us. A small flock of birds landed amongst some drift wood next to the bank and we were given great views of at least 2 Water Pipits (year tick), which searched for food amongst at least 10 Rock Pipits and lots of Meadow Pipits allowing a good comparison between the 3 species.

After this we headed to Starr Gate to do my first proper seawatching session of the year. I quickly logged at least 500 Common Scoter (year tick) close inshore, a single Red Throated Diver, at least 6 Great Crested Grebes and 8 Pintail south. I had been speaking to Starr Gate regular Dave McGrath the previous evening and he had told me of a large flock of gulls that feeds on the dropping tide to the south of the promenade so I headed here in the hope of bagging something interesting. After some time I located an adult Yellow Legged Gull (year tick) amongst a group of large gulls on the waters edge. I suspect this flock could produce something interesting in the near future.

On Sunday the weather had turned chillier with a biting south-easterly wind. Nevertheless a large crowd of birders had gathered at Warton Bank to watch the tide once again come rushing up to the bank. The best birds were a pair of Marsh Harriers (year tick) seen distantly hunting over Hesketh out marsh on the opposite side of the river. Unfortunately they didn't cross over to the Fylde side so they are yet to make it onto my Fylde year list. Only 3 Short Eared Owls were seen and they seemed less inclined to hunt than on the previous day, but the female Merlin once again zoomed past us and perched up on it's favourite post, giving brilliant views. The Pipits put on another instructive showing close to the bank with at least 3 Water Pipits seen with similar number of Rock and Meadow to previous days, also a candidate for Scandinavian Rock Pipit was briefly seen but not all the features could be noted whilst it was on view.

British Yearlist 2011 - 127 species
Fylde Yearlist 2011 - 126 species

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