Sunday, 19 April 2015

Up north - day 4

Tuesday was the sunniest day of our whole stay, and we decided to spend it at Martin Mere WWT, with a look at RSPB Marshside if time allowed. Martin Mere follows the standard WWT layout, with a collection of captive exotic wildfowl and a wider expanse of natural habitat beyond.

The first large pool beyond the way in was full of wild Mallards and Shelducks, plus an assortment of not-wild things including Whooper and Bewick's Swans, Goldeneyes, Pintails and Eiders. As we watched them, a staff member went in to throw some seed about, and the ducks went nuts.

One of the first atttractions you reach on going through the doors is an enclosure of those ubiquitous Short-clawed Asian Otters. The otters were not on view but something else was - sitting all hunched up on the seating rail surrounding the enclosure was a Chiffchaff which had obviously flown full tilt into the glass panel above.

Poor little thing. It seemed basically OK, just stunned, was able to move its head so no broken neck. Paul moved it away from the busy otter area and put it in a tucked-away corner of a small wildlife garden.

We checked out all of the displays, which as well as the usual array of ducks, geese and swans also included flamingos and screamers, and there was a walk-in aviary containing Avocets and a pair of African Crowned Cranes. I did take a few shots of the exotica but tried to concentrate on wild stuff.

These drake Shovelers were doing some bill-jousting.

Elsewhere, Mallards were behaving badly. Any female Mallards, whether paired or single, who don't yet have a nest are vulnerable to this sort of thing, as the drakes go all out to try to get a bit of DNA into the next generation. However, the females have a secret weapon - complex internal anatomy meaning that they can select which male gets to inseminate them and which get effectively sent down a blind alley.

I wonder if this very advanced intersex Mallard still gets unwanted male attention. I also wonder whether old male-like females like this go into eclipse plumage. Will have to ask Google...

Lots of Black-headed Gulls here. This is a first-summer, developing its first ever black head (invariably the young ones are a few weeks behind the adults).

Also lots of hirundines, mainly Swallows this time.

After a mini-lunch we went into the wild part of the reserve. This is based around a large marshy water body (the titular 'mere'). Martin Mere is famous for its visiting Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans, which are of course not here at the moment, but there was plenty to keep us amused, including lots of singing little birds like this Chaffinch.

If you go right at the way in you go through Tree Sparrow country. They are well catered for here, with tons of nestboxes and plenty of large feeder trays to keep the Cyrils out.

A medley of Tree Spuggies. Paul was particularly pleased to see them, as he's a big fan of House Sparrows but had not seen their country cousins before.

Halfway down this trail, a pair of Tawny Owls were very well-hidden in an ivy-cloaked tree.

Heading the other way, I found a lone Whooper Swan, which for whatever reason couldn't or didn't want to migrate north with the others.

A singing Blackcap in deep cover. The light angle was appalling - photoshopping to reveal it really is a Blackcap has made the background look like the middle of a nuclear explosion, sorry about that.

In the woods were clumps of this attractive flower, which I believe is False Oxlip - a hybrid between Cowslip and Primrose.

More dreadful lighting - Med Gull coming off the mere.

We were on our way out to the car park when a distant raptor appeared overhead, and circled close enough to reveal itself to be a young Peregrine.

We decided there was time to visit the nearby RSPB Marshside, a newish wetland reserve near Southport, which featured in this blog way back in 2009. It has developed quite a bit since then, with more established water bodies and vegetation.

We spent quite a while in Nel's hide where two drake Pintails were feeding quite close at hand. Further off were masses and masses of Black-tailed Godwits.

Other wildfowl around included Shovelers.

A flock of beautifully marked Golden Plovers went by at the far side of the water.

On the way down to Sandgrounder's hide, we passed a Gorse bush, which on one of its limbs bore these extraordinary double flowers.

Sandgrounder's doubles as the visitor centre here, and was closed, it being well after 6pm. From the viewing slots adjacent to the hide we could see a female Avocet sitting quietly on her nest on a small gravelly island.

A lone Redshank was picking its way around the same island, oblivious to the sitting Avocet sending it death glares. When the Avocet chicks hatch, this sort of thing will not be tolerated! And that was the end of day 4.

1 comment:

Penny Taylor said...

That poor wee sweet chiffchaff! Glad it was ok!