Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Infamous Bridge

The bridge has happened! 

I, and no doubt many others have been waiting for what seems an age for the promised bridge spanning the Tame and joining Dosthill and Middleton sides of the RSPB reserve together to be put in place. The RSPB have kept us informed along the way, but at each anticipate date, something transpired to put the project back and postpone it to a later date. However, the wait is now over. The crane arrived on site and the bridge was lowered into place. It's not open to pedestrians just yet, but I understand it will be in the next week or so. 

I just had to pop down on Sunday morning and have a look. It was great to see it in place and I am looking forward to crossing it.


The Dosthill side of the reserve had already provided me with my first Oystercatcher of the year on the 18th of January. This frosty Sunday morning, there were 9 Oystercatcher, they did look good flying low over the water calling. 
Apart from a flyover Green Sandpiper, the bridge and the Oystercatcher were the highlights of the morning. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

It's becoming something of a habit.

It seems that without really planning it, my visits to RSPB Leighton Moss are becoming something of a routine, and a very enjoyable routine at that. As I've mentioned before, planning weeks ahead allows for bargain train travel, this return trip costing £22.00 from the Midlands to Silverdale.

For the first time this visit I didn't head straight for the visitors centre and Leighton Moss main reserve, but decided to find the main Hides overlooking some of Morecambe Bay. It wasn't much of a walk and on route I passed a field full of Greylags, I had a scan through them but found nothing unusual.

On reaching the first hide, the Allen hide, I set up my scope and started having a scan about. There were loads of Black-Tailed Godwit and plenty of my favourite duck the Pintail. The Godwit flock was impressive to watch, as were the three Red-Breasted Mergansers that appeared from behind one of the small islands. All year firsts for me and already making my effort to travel here worthwhile.

Red-breasted merganser

I was surprised and couldn't help but smile on reaching the Eric Morecambe memorial hide. Brilliant!

I spent a good hour in this hide. There were plenty of waders to watch, the Mergansers moved to this end of the bay and a Perigrine put in regular apperances causing all the waders to simultaneously take flight, a real spectacle.

Some birders that had arrived at the hide informed me some White Fronted Geese had been seen in flight heading in this direction but had not been located yet. I made a mental note to myself to check that field full of Greylags on my walk back to the visitors centre. I did exactly that, and as luck would have it there they were, five White Fronted Geese.

White Fronted Geese

On arrival at the visitors centre I popped into the cafe and had two very nice cups of coffee. One to drink now, and one made in my thermal mug to drink later. I decide a nice piece of homemade shortbread would probably go well with this, I was right, it did!

I had a slow walk around the reserve visiting most of the hides. On the pathway I noticed a Marsh Tit and decided to try and Digiscope it. They never keep still, out of over 30 pictures, this one was the best.

Marsh Tit

As usual, all the bird pictures taken today were taken through the scope with a little Nikon P300 camera.

I decided to have a good scan about from the Grisedale hide and picked up a Spotted Redshank. I watched it working the water and catching and eating small fish. I have never seen a Spotted Redshank eating fish before. This one caught at least 5 small fish and struggled to swallow everyone of them.

Spotted Redshank
Struggling with another fish


I also saw two magnificent Red Deer Stags looking very impressive with their antlers adorned with reeds from the Reedbed they emerged from. They grazed for a minute or so then dissapeared back into the reedbeds.

What can I say? There was so much going on the day flew by, and I'm already thinking about planning my next visit.


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Target Achieved

Last year I set myself the target of getting some good views of the Badgers in a local Badger Sett I am aware of, and maybe trying to photograph them. The first part has been achieved many times over, with some outstanding views of the Badgers. It becomes addictive, and before you know it, you want to head out every night Badger watching. It’s a strange feeling, but a couple of times the adult Badgers and I, both aware of each others presence have stared directly in each others direction, eyes meeting. This contact, if that is the correct word, causes the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up and gives me an enormous feeling of wellbeing, its difficult to put into words. However, if you are a regular Badger watcher, I’m sure you know what I mean, and how being in the presence of the biggest member of the Weasel family quickly becomes a bit of an addiction.

This week I managed to get out on Tuesday evening for a couple of hours. I intended looking for Badgers. My luck was in, and I soon stumbled across a pair of Badgers digging and probably eating plant roots. Its been mild, so they may have located a few nutritious worms.

I quietly picked a likely looking spot I have baited up before, and put a helping of peanuts down, about 20 mins later, two Badgers were feeding avidly on them. This was designed as a strategy to fulfil the second part of my target, to photograph a Badger. I had just purchased an infrared camera and have been impatiently awaiting its arrival. It arrived on Wednesday, and I spent Wednesday evening experimenting with the camera and working through the user manual to see what it could do.

Thursday evening and I find myself with a couple of spare hours at my disposal. I couldn’t resist. I headed out to the Badgers, set up the camera on a tripod and hoped they would show. I had again baited an area lightly with peanuts in an attempt to get them to hang around for a few pictures. Eventually, a Badger made an appearance. Just a solitary one tonight. Quite a big specimen, a Boar I think. It found the peanuts and got its picture taken. I hope to get plenty more and maybe some video in the near future. I will be keeping an eye on these over the course of the year.

I was very pleased with my first record shot Badger pictures.






Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Local Otters

Tuesday evening after work and I decided to make the most of the bright moon and go for a wander. I walked along the river Anker and the freezing temperature and bright illumination made it a very enjoyable experience. The moon was that bright, I didn't turn my torch on once, and I was out for two and a half hours. I heard a few Tawny's calling, but didn't actually see one. It is quite amazing the detail that could be seen through the binoculars under the moonlight though.


The highlight of the evening, maybe of the year, was spotting local Otters. Actually, I saw one, but another could clearly be heard in the reed bed, hissing, mewing and cracking the marginal ice as it moved through. The other, put on a great show, fishing and diving all over the river, occasionally getting out and patrolling the margin. I was absolutely made up watching it. I tried a bit of moon light photography obviously no flash, no good I'm afraid!

On the way home, I decided to try and photograph a tree in the dark using the flash. I like the way it looks, a bit eerie.

Wednesday evening, and was again raring to get down to the river and try to locate the Otters. Got my gear together and arranged to pick up Pete. Started the car up only to find it had developed a fault. Sounds like the exhaust! Evenings plans cancelled. Will get car to dealership in the morning.
The car is back and all repaired. Saturday morning and Pete and I headed out to Whitemoor Haye. We hadn't been there for a while and fancied a change. There were some large flocks of starlings and plenty of Yellowhammers about, a few Redwing were also spotted.

As we viewed the large flock of Mutes grazing in one of the adjacent fields, I spotted a distant Black Swan. I attempted to take pictures with my SX40 hand held when suddenly a flock of Whooper Swans photo bombed the picture as they came in to land.

We counted 10, but there could of been more in amongst the Mutes. Later in the day, they were still there and now there were a few more of them.

At just before 4pm, they were again reported.

So all in all, a very worthwhile morning out. No sign of the Tree Sparrows I actually went looking for though. Although a little flock of them were reported later that morning.

The Whoopers were reported still in residence on Sunday morning. Jon and I went to Kingsbury looking for Redpoll or Siskin, both have been thin on the ground in the area this winter. No luck. The lakes all had a lid on them after a cold few days.

Sunday late afternoon ended in glorious winter sunshine. Mrs Moocher and I ventured out with Taz for a walk. The weak winter sunshine did little to raise the temperature.

We watched Cormorants coming into roost and enjoyed a hot coffee whilst watching a pair of Barn Owl. Another great weekend!