Saturday, 22 August 2015

Pennington Flash

Here's my first post of four, from a recent stay Up North with Hazel and Mike. On the first day, we visited Pennington Flash, a site in Greater Manchester based around a large open lake, in hope of catching up with a long-staying adult Sabine's Gull. When we arrived at the country park/nature reserve at about 12.30pm on Monday, we already knew that the Sab's hadn't been reported that day, and that this meant it had probably gone, based on its reliable showiness from first light to dusk in previous days. The weather was changeable (and really it stayed that way all week) - some sun, some cloud, some breeze.

These are not the gulls you're looking for. The first hide, overlooking the main flash, was the one from which the Sab's had regularly been seen, but all that was there today was a crowd of Black-headed Gulls.

The main flash is very big and populated by manky Mallards, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Coots and Lesser Black-backs as well as plenty of Black-headeds. I also spotted a couple of Common Terns.

We followed the circular trail, which led us away from the main lake and its associated playgrounds, golf course, and masses of children. When the sun came out we saw insects, including a Southern Hawker that hovered at face height in front of each of us in turn, inspecting us, before resuming its circuit of a small clearing. A stay in a hide overlooking a pretty and petite lagoon should have produced a Kingfisher sighting (we heard it) but didn't. Instead we watched a family of Mute Swans drift slowly into view from a hidden corner of the lagoon, to join a motley crowd of moulting Teals, Gadwalls and Mallards.

The next hide, overlooking a marshy sheltered patch off the main flash, offered a bit more. A moulting Gadwall drake trotted across a low soggy-looking island, while more distantly were Shovelers and Teals. A Green Sandpiper was picking its way around the island shores, while a Grey Heron hunted nearer to the hide - another seven or so herons sat in hunched postures at the water's edge. A Mallard duck and her lone duckling turned up. There was a pair of Stock Doves feeding on another bit of shore and a Woodpigeon was flying back and forth with nesting material.

None of the other hides produced very much, with one notable exception. The Bunting hide looks out over an expansive and busy feeding station. The various tables and hanging feeders are interspersed with a range of nicely thought-out natural perches, and everything is VERY close to the hide windows, making this very much a photographer's hide (especially if they have the sense to use a zoom lens). Stuff seen here - let's see if I can remember... Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Jay, Magpie, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Nuthatch. And a Moorhen. And a couple of Grey Squirrels. And, allegedly, there are also Willow Tits visiting here, which I'd loved to have seen, but none showed up during our quite lengthy stay here.

The light was none too clever but it was still very easy to fire off a few hundred shots here and get some quite nice ones. From the top - Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Jay, Nuthatch, and a nice blue-eyed baby Woodpigeon.

We got back to the start, and gave the first hide one more try, but now there were a couple of workmen busy strimming out on the shore in front of it and all birdlife had departed. (I mistyped 'strimming' as 'stripping' then. That would have been a lot more interesting.)

One last pic, from the main flash this time - a Coot showing off its awesome flight skills.

I am not sure if I've visited this place before. I have the idea that I HAVE, back when I was at uni, and that I saw a Long-eared Owl here. But I'm not sure, and nothing about this visit felt familiar. It's clearly a pretty good site - I'm sure a lot of good wildfowl shows up in winter, and that feeding station is, hands down, the best spot I've ever been to for that kind of photography. The departure of the Sabine's Gull - well, that's a bit of a shame (for me, good news for the gull though as it really did need to get on its way), but I'm still glad we came here.

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