Sunday, 10 January 2016

Christmas Trip to the UK 2015

Between the rain storms I managed to get out for a few relatively brief birding sessions when I was home for the Christmas break.  I was happy to get out to be honest as the rain seemed never ending at times and the river at the bottom of our garden was over a metre higher than usual and rushing through at a frightening pace.  Anyway once it settled I got a short walk by the river and found the

Mallards were not at all upset by the onslaught of endless rain and screaming winds.  Only hours after

it all ended they were back out doing what they do around the riverbank.

One bird I don't get to see much on the river is the Goosander or Merganser (Mergus merganser).  Its not that they don't like rivers, they do but around this areas they tend to prefer the two lakes on the other side of town.  Anyhow this female was watching me very carefully as I tried to get a bit closer.

This little chap was quite happy to pose for photos, just don't get too close.  Dippers (or White Throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus) are a fairly common sight all along the river below our garden.  They will be establishing territories around now in preparation for the breeding season.  The territory is simply a length of river from 300 to 1000m and they care little about what happens a few meters either side of the river.

The little Blue Tits were all about as were their cousins the Great Tit and the Long Tailed Tit but neither were in place where there was enough light to take a photo, as you can see there was little enough light even for this photo.

In addition in the also seen group were the common Pheasant, Robins, Blackbirds, Wren and a couple of Moorhen.  A windy and damp walk but a nice one nonetheless.

Before setting off for home this time I decided I wanted to get over to the Ribble Estuary, to the west of Preston, to do a little birding.  I had never been there before but there is a nice RSPB reserve there so I thought that might be a good place to start.

Well suffice it to say that the weather almost killed my chances but on the morning of the last day of 2015 I jumped in the car all kitted up for a nice days birding.  Blue skies were the order of the day when I arrived and I headed off up to the viewpoint to see what I could see.  Maybe a Whooper Swan or two perhaps??

The viewing point was a handy little place with no frills, just how I like them and right below on the back side were some flooded fields.

and guess who I found there?  Our old fiend the White / Pied Wagtail.  I am sure I was only looking at these guys a few weeks back in Riyadh.

Out in front of the shelter was a collection of small ponds, the one directly in front had about 30 Shelduck feeding away.  

This pond had little else apart from a single Curlew feeding on the bank

and a lone Shag, drying its wings.  I walked along the top of the dike towards the west and came to some other larger ponds which played host to some Teal

I managed to get this shot of one that was reasonably close but all the ducks were very wary.  This area is a wildlife reserve but a friendly gentleman I met on my walk tells me that the reserve is almost entirely surrounded by shooting clubs, so I guess its understandable.

Anyway this little shot gives you an idea of the numbers of this duck that was about. Mind you that is only one small corner of the pond they occupied.

A bit further along was the Wigeon Pond. I have managed to crop out a few as a kind or record shot but there were areas where you could not see the water, there were that many ducks.  Also joining them was a little Egret.  Apologies for the photos but these were on max range.  I did not venture onto the marsh to get closer, actually I'm not sure you can, the barbed wire fence being a kind of giveaway.

Further along still was the Mallard pond, although there were only around 30 or so of these.

By the time I got down that far the weather was turning and skies were jet black.  I was pleased to be greeted on my way back by his little chap


Always a pleasure to see and hear, the Robin is always about rain hail or shine.

The trip back to the car was also enlivened by a sighting of a single cock Pheasant who was not quite as happy to see me as I was him, but then that's probably the shooters fault rather than mine.

As I got back to the car three Black Headed Gulls had landed in the field to see what they could get from the pools, but no Swans!!!

I was a little disappointed as I drove away with the rain bouncing off the car, I had not seen the Swans, but otherwise quite happy with what I had seen.  Then as I approached the main road off to the left in a field.....

Thirty two of them, absolute crackers one and all.  They were happily feeding away on the grass.  The day was complete even if I did only get about two and a half hours birding.

To use a much overused quotation;  "I'll Be Back!!!"

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