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Monday, 6 April 2015

A Dip and a Year Tick. Hoylake to New Brighton, April 3rd & To Belfast April 4th

Friday 3rd April
Out into the rain early to try for the surf scoter, it meant leaving everything at the hotel and walking a mile plus out to the water's edge. Walking across the flat sands of Hoylake, it was clear that the chances of the surf scoter were very slim and so it proved. On reaching the sea the scoter were still a long way off in sporadic groups and there was no way I was going to see the special one.
I did see very close sanderling though and I videoed a distant flock of waders as they proved to be about 750 oystercatchers as they flew past and beyond towards Hilbre Island. A youtube moment.
With the tide coming in I backtracked all the way to the seawall and sat in a shelter there hoping that the rain would stop. It did to some extent but then the fog came in!
After collecting the bike and stuff and having seen no improvement in the fog, I decided to cycle to New Brighton. At least I should get the laughing gull that had been there for a very long time.
Cycling there was easy as a cycle path went along the top of the Wirral the whole way. I did stop a couple of times; once to photograph a lone purple sandpiper and then to look at a dead guillemot.
Arriving at the marine lake at New Brighton I scanned the water and pontoon where the laughing gull was supposed to be practically a full time resident.

It wasn't there.

I texted friends.

Sit and wait.

I did.

Well, no I didn't. I cycled around the lake to look over the Mersey and the Fort area. High tide, almost no beach and fog so thick you couldn't see the other side of the estuary. On occasions you couldn't see one end of the marine lake from the other.

I sat by a cafe.

Someone put out some chips.

Laughing gull on the year list!
It landed on the pontoon and walked through the large flock of roosting waders. The waders were 50:50 redshank and turnstones with 8 purple sandpipers in one corner.
Replete with photographs and videos of the laughing gull, bird number 176, I cycled to Seacombe and found the B and b I had stayed at back in 2010. It didn't seem to be in business anymore and I ended up cycling back through the rain to the Travelodge over looking the marine lake at New Brighton.

Saturday 4th April.

Now why couldn't yesterday have been like this? Sunshine came through the window of my hotel room and the sky was clear and blue. The laughing gull was there again, sitting amongst the waders. A group of people were releasing an injured cormorant onto the marine lake to stop any dogs from harassing it. They'd just found it floundering about on the beach. A couple of the men then stripped off! They were about to have a swim in the lake.

A quick cycle along the Mersey with wonderful views of Liverpool and down to the Stena Line ferry. With the bike quickly stowed away, one had to get on a double decker bus to get onto the ferry. That was a first.
A cabin with ensuite. I am being a bit indulgent this time. So after watching the sea as we went out into the Irish Sea I went and had a shower and a couple of hours kip. Interesting how it was only common gulls out at sea around the Mersey mouth.
Now I had hoped that the Wifi onboard would give me the opportunity to catch up with everything. No chance, it was slow and intermittent.
Dinner on board with views over the bow as we passed the Isle of Man. The sea was almost flat, just the smallest ripples and birding was a bit slow; just a few guillemots, mostly in pairs with a few manx shearwaters and kittiwakes. There was also the odd adult gannet.
Off Copeland there was few harbour porpoise and then a number of eider as we turned in towards Belfast Docks. A couple of great northern diver flew past and a few black guillemot and shag were nearby.
Belfast! How good to see the huge mural on a large block of flats, Vernon House, across from the first traffic lights you come to on the Shore Road, of a balaclavaed paramilitary man has been removed since my last visit but a shame that Vernon House's sign of welcome has also gone. More of a shame to me though was a huge mural on a building nearby. Just concentrate on the left and forget the right.

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