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.
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.
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.)
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.