Friday, 19 February 2010

A cracking day out at Leighton Moss!

At the end of December 2009, I came to the decision that 2010 was going to be my last year of yearlisting and from then on, I would concentrate on building up my British list.

So on Tuesday 9th February it was my dad's birthday and seeing as though I wouldn't be able to see him on that day, I decided to get the train home on Friday 5th and spend the weekend with him instead. As usual, I had some great birding in store for him as well as a great day out. It was also a chance to bag up on some wanted birds at Leighton Moss.

Having promptly told my dad that we were going to Leighton Moss up near Silverdale near Morecame Bay on the Saturday, myself, dad and grandad left early on Saturday morning at 8:30am and headed north towards Leighton. Seeing as though I could potentially get more than half a dozen yearticks, this trip was going to be mega and it sure was too! Driving north, the temperature overnight had dropped to 1 degree or something ridiculous and throughout the journey, we ventured in and out of fog patches. Not nice driving conditions for my grandad though.

As it was my dad's birthday and he hadn't seen Hawfinch for several years now, we decided to call in at Sizergh by the cafe there and see if we could pin some down. On arriving in the car-park, not a single person to be seen. It was good in a way because the birds wouldn't have been disturbed! As soon as we all got out of the car, a familiar noise: ''tick, tick, tick''. We could hear this sound. A male Hawfinch then appeared behind us and sat on top of a tree for about 2 minutes. I was too late to get any close up shots but the bird did stick around for a good while and I managed to get a decent shot of one close by. We saw at least 4 birds in the space of half an hour. Mega birding. 1 down and 6 to go!

Snow Geese next and a quick stop on the top road near Warton Crag and walk along a small path revealed a view stretching right across to the Eric Morecambe hides. A quick scan with the bins revealed 4 white blobs in with the Greylags - Bingo! We enjoyed distant views but at least that was them on the yearlist! As my friend Ciaran Hatsell later informed me that night, that he had a Bean Goose and a White-fronted Goose in with them some 2 weeks back, I just hope my need for the Snow Geese didn't draw my attention away from missing the other 2 species of geese?! I will never know now, but I am sure to pick them up soon, especially Bean Goose as there are 2 down on Plex Moss back home, so I will hopefully get them as I am going home next Friday for a week as I have time off at university. A Marsh Tit was seen for a few minutes too. 3 down and 4 to go!!

It was then onto the grit trays down by the causeway for Bearded Tits. Would we see these stunning birds? I had promised my dad and grandad them today and they were not dissapointed! Although the views weren't the greatest, they both managed to catch sight of at least 2 Bearded Tits. As I had seen good views before them, I walked further along the causeway and one popped out on top of the reeds and so they got great views! 3 targets in the bag and 4 left! A Green Woodpecker called twice too and then a very brief flight view. 5 down and 2 to go!

As the stomachs began to rumble, we headed for the Eric Morecambe pools and nothing much to report there except a few Redshank, Little Egret and 2 Greenshanks, lots of waders at the far end of the pools but too distant to check. The fog rolled in again which didn't help matters! Lunch was a warm welcome and this was enjoyed as we had seen 4 out of my 7 targets for the day: Hawfinch, Snow Goose, Green Woodpecker and Bearded Tit!

Back to the main reserve and a quick stop in Lilian's hide where the Bittern had been showing well for the last few days. Did we see it you say? Oh yes, but unfortunately the chap to out right in the section where it sticks out (if you know where I mean) mumbled: ''Oh, there is a Bittern flying across there'' and that was it?! This guy expected someone to get onto this bird with those awful directions! Unfortunately my dad nor grandad saw it but I managed to turn promptly to my right and immediatey clocked eyes on this Bittern as it flew across and landed in the reeds to our right. The scope was already set up and I was straight on the bird in the reeds, although, it proved difficult to see, because as soon as it landed, it put it's head straight up in the air alongside the reeds and when it put it's head down; well then that was it. Not a chance of seeing it now. The bird wasn't seen again. Taking into account the fog had rolled in at Lilian's hide and I was looking through fog. 6 down and 1 to go!

Some of you will know that there was a Juvenile Rose-Coloured Starling up in Kendal. This wasn't too far from Leighton but my dad and grandad didn't want to go. However, when 2 chaps walked in and sat down in the hide and said: ''We have just been watching the Rose-Coloured Starling up in Kendal and it was showing really well'! Ooooo, how that made me mad! By this point my dad was off his seat and talking to the chaps to get directions to the bird! Unbelievable! I was going to get my dad to twitch something? Wow! He never twitches anymore. On further inspection, the voice was rather familiar to me and it was good friend Mike Malpass. We obtained directions and off we went in search of the Starling.

Grandad wasn't going to drive, so my dad drove. After reaching Kendal, we were soon lost! As my dad had only ever seen one in Cornwall years ago and my granadad had never seen one, I was determined to get us to the bird! We got lost a second time and my dad turned round and said: ''Right, I have had enough now and were going home''.. Wo son wo... no were f***** not! I told him to pull into this car sales garage and I went and asked the chap inside where ''Rusland Park'' was. He very kindly showed me on google maps on his computer and then drew me a map and it turns out we were a half a mile from the bird. Huge thanks to the car sales chap and we were back on the road! An easy drawn map saw us watching the bird within 15 minutes of departure. The bird was sat in a tall willow tree down this drive amongst Starlings. Mega! At last, wooooo! The bird then flew down and proceeded to feed on the apple that it was coming down to feed on every day. The bird then sat in a bush in the garden and this is the point where the best pictures appeared. Half an hour with the bird was enough and we headed for home. All 7 bagged!

With all 7 target birds in the bag and the yearlist upto 145, a fantastic days birding, we headed for home. Again, in the fog!

A ringed Black-Headed Gull outside Lilian's hide on the post was impossible to read - it would have been nice to get some numbers.

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