Saturday 18th April
On the road again! A bumpy cycle along the dockside road to Seaforth and views of the reserve through the fencing. In 2010 I hadn't been able to see much and it was only after I'd left that the news of a Wilson's phalarope came out. No news of such a quality bird today and I instead enjoyed close vies of a male wheatear.
Down to the beach to see the Antony Gormley statues and along to Hightown with beautiful sunny weather and a few willow warblers in bushes.
I reached Freshfields and went down to the red squirrel reserve to see the little tykes. Quite a few of them about and lovely to see.
Sunday 19th April
Up early from my wild camp tent and soon on the way to Southport via a cycle path that skirted Ainsdale sands.
Now I lived in Southport way back in 1978 and was keen to see the changes. First one noted was the massive spread of spartina grass on the seashore. In 1978 the saltmarsh grasses had stopped around the area where there used to be a sand-winning plant at the end of Marshside Road to the north of the pier. Today the whole of the beach length to Ainsdale, with the exception of a short area near to the pier, had extensive grass areas. I wonder how much higher the beach is nowadays compared to the 70s. I remember being told that the Ribble Estuary, for which Southport is at its head, is rising as London is falling supposedly due to the wobble that Britain is experiencing geologically. I wonder if that's true? Google!!
Other changes included a new cafe on the end of the pier and coastal road improvements. A large multiplex cinema on the seafront; now that hadn't been there before.
On reaching the start of the Marshside RSPB reserve, I stopped to look over a wet grassland area and immediately heard a whitethroat, bird number 184. A couple of ruff going into summer plumage were attractive birds and with the continuing sunshine, birding was going to be pleasant.
To the visitor's centre and no presence of any RSPB staff, I looked out over the reserve. Avocets, summer plumaged black-tailed godwits and quick fly through merlin together with a few swallows were amongst the masses of black-headed gulls and their clamour.
Leaving the bike at the centre I went over to the track the lorries used to take to win the sand and walked to the tide's edge. This was where the RSPB staff all were together with a group of people watching as the tide was swiftly coming in, inundating the saltmarsh. Today's tide was going to be one of the year's highest and cover most of the marsh at its height.
Large flocks of waders were going past, mostly dunlin and grey plover and on the sea there was a small group of eider, 3 males and 2 females. A pair of red-breasted mergansers flew past.
Now I hadn't looked over the whole of the wet grassland area that I'd seen the corner of earlier in the day so I walked over to view that. A first year little gull added another one to the year list and a group of passing house martins added another. A pair of adult Med' gulls and more waders in summer finery, I enjoyed the birding and company in the hide overlooking the area before retrieving my bike and set off north.
Villa! The FA Cup semi final against Liverpool. My team were at 1 – 1 when I found a pub at Banks that had a large screen and food. Carvery bought, I sat amongst the friendly Liverpool fans glad to see me in my celebration of 1982 Villa shirt. Were they thump! The Everton fans amongst the crowd were chatty but 2 Liverpool fans were a little 1970s with their comments.
Villa were the better team. Now that was a shock. Grealish took the ball forward, passed to Delph who turned inside 3 defenders and banged it in. I politely clapped. No I didn't. I went spare! GOAL!!!!!!
I actually got out of the pub at the end of the match unscathed.
Monday 20th April
Off to Hesketh Bank RSPB reserve, a simple flat road and a gorgeous day. Soon there and up the bank to the bus shelter-like viewing position. From there I could see over the maturing habitat that has been created by making a breech in the sea wall nearer to the Ribble Estuary. The hope is as that sea level rises due to climate change (not for the better!), high tides will bring sea water into the area making a new extensive saltmarsh. So far so good as when I last visited here, and slept on the bench in the shelter, the landscape had just been scraped and was bare and muddy. Now with grasses dominating, the landscape had improved. Birds seen were rather sparse but it was low tide. 6 white wagtails, the sub-species of our British pied wagtail, were seen and a couple of male wheatears. A few swallows were also seen but little else. A local birder told me that a dog walker who'd let the dogs off the lead had disturbed a pair of grey partridge. They would have been a year tick.
Off to Martin Mere WWT reserve, quickly reached on flat roads over the Moss. Along roads I knew so well from when I used to live in Southport, I went past a farm and saw a couple of alpacas! Memories of Peru. Hello Chontachaka! Hello Chaskawasi-Manu. Hello Mani & Katia and the boys! Love to you all.
Into Martin Mere WWT reserve and after a quick photo for their facebook page etc, I was off birding. A new to me walkway around the large reedbed behind the harrier hide brought me a couple of year ticks, common whitethroat and a yellow wagtail; the latter on the biological filters of the sewage works there. This I saw by climbing onto a fence post to get a view of the beds.
The best thing though was a fabulous stoat that was charging towards me as I scrambled for my camera. I eventually managed to get a short video sequence of it before it disappeared down a small dark hole very close to me. As I turned my camera off. It popped up vertically to check me out. What a photo that would have made.
Next it was to all of the hides skirting the mere itself, ending up at what I know as the Miller's Bridge hide. I was in there for over an hour when a strange text came from Phil Andrews. Spotted Crake, Martin Mere, seen from the hide I was in . . . all alone.
I ran out to see whether anyone else was around. I wanted that spotted crake. No one around. I ran back to the In Focus shop and received an explanation. A photograph of a spotted crake being disturbed by a stoat a couple of hours ago had just been posted on Rare Bird Alert. With just 10 minutes before closing time there was no chance of having a go for the bird. I left and started cycling for Bolton.
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