Monday, 12 October 2009

Lancs: Brockholes Wetland LWT & South Ribble Marshes - 12th Oct 2009.

The day began with three hours on the local patch, Brockholes Wetland LWT. The eclipse drake Garganey was still present for the fourth day, eclipse drake Pintail still, ad Whooper Swan new-in, a Green Sandpiper, and 15 Redwing > north.

Above: ad Whooper Swan, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 12th Oct 2009.

Late morning, Councillor John F. Wright texted with his intention to book half a day off and visit the Stocks Reservoir area in the afternoon. I quite fancied doing a recce of the new RSPB reserve at Hesketh Outer Marsh now it was officially open and succeeded against the odds in persuading the normally stubborn Councillor to head to the Ribble Marshes instead of Bowland. It was to be a good decision.

We arrived at Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB at 14:30 and noted a couple of birders to the far right of the car park. They were watching a few thousand Pink-feet in stubble, also containing 7 Whooper Swan, 2 Barnacle Geese and a 'Blue Snow Goose type'.

Above: Pink-feet and Whooper Swans, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs - 11th Oct 2009.

Although distant with heathaze a problem, we did not think the bird was a Snow Goose, but probably a Ross's Goose hybrid, perhaps Ross's x Barnacle, although the bird did appear larger than the accompanying Barnacles with which it always associated and noticeably smaller than the Pink-feet. The head and bill size/structure appeared 'Ross's-like' to us. Finer detail was hard to discern and when the Geese flew, the bird was lost immediately only to be relocated in a stubble field further away, in worse haze. EDIT - THE GOOSE IS APPARENTLY A PINK-FOOT X BARNACLE HYBRID!

Above & below: Ross's Goose hybrid, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs, 12th Oct 2009.A distant Peregrine and six 6 Buzzard were noted before we moved to the viewing screen. Upon looking out from the screen, I was simply blown away with the potential of this site, a feeling I have not had since my first visit to Brockholes Wetland in 1998!!! - In the years to come this reserve is going to be simply MINDBLOWING!!

Above & below: View from the screen, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, 12th Oct 2009.

Birdwise from the viewing screen, the highlight was a colour-ringed Little Egret, with another couple of unringed birds present.

Above & below: colour ringed Little Egret, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs, 12th Oct 2009. Details of the birds history will be added in due course.

Single Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Golden Plover, 20 Redshank, 15 Lapwing, 10 teal & 2 Pintail were noted from the screen.

Approaching late afternoon, next stop was Old Hollow Farm, Banks Marsh, and a check of the saltmarsh pools. Being long established, the pools were much busier that the newly created reseve at Hesketh, with c120 Golden Plover, 20+ Dunlin, 2 juv Curlew Sandpiper, Lapwings, Redshank. and 2 Little Egret.

JW had a millisecond view of a wader in the far right hand corner of the furthest saltmarsh pool before it went out of view. This briefest of views aroused his curiosity sufficiently for us to both train our scopes on the area. c1 min passed, before one of those magic birding moments occurred and a Dowitcher walked out into view... followed moments later by another!!!

Both birds were juv Long-billed Dowitchers. The birds fed very actively together and despite the distance and strong low evening sunlight from the west, the birds appeared unremarkably patterned above and detail such as the plain tertials with narrow pale fringes could be seen. Obtaining images at that distance in poor digiscoping light was another matter however, and below are the best I could manage with both still camera and camcorder.

Above: 2 juv Long-billed Dowitcher, Old Hollow Farm, Banks Marsh, Lancs - 12th Oct 2009.
Below: The Dowitchers were on the furthest pool, just below Cllr
Wrights right shoulder.

It was one of those magical, atmospeheric evenings on the Marshes, with little wind and plenty of birds to see. The evening roost flight of several thousand Pink-feet down the central channel of the Ribble and two Little Owls on the Mossland roads followed by a celebratory pint in honour of the Dowitchers in the Bluebell Arms in Preston rounded off an excellent day.