Coach Trip To Marshside & Martin Mere - 19th January 2014

We arrived at the due time at The Guild for the first coach trip of 2014 to find the coach waiting for us so we didn't have to hang around on a draughty street corner and could climb aboard in an orderly manner before setting off for our first destination Southport. The weather forecast was for a bright sunny day and though it was raining when we set off we could see the sky brightening as we approached the coast. We cruised through the centre of Southport heading for the Marina but also scouting about in the hope of spotting toilets.

As we approached the Marina we were rewarded by the sight of small skeins of Pink-footed Geese flying by and this omen, and the brightening weather, made us feel that it was going to be a good day.

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We arrived at the Marina to find that the amazons of Merchant Taylor's School had beaten us there and several craft were sculling up and down the lake whilst being shouted at by men in motorboats. And they say that birding is a strange pastime! The rowing activities put paid to the hope of spotting any unusual birds that occasionally are seen on the lake but the sharp eyes of the group soon sought out all of the birds that normally frequent such a habitat, Mute Swans, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, and most pleasing, Little Grebe. A Peregrine Falcon cruised past over the trees hoping for an easy breakfast.

We then all climbed back on the coach for the short journey to Marshside. On arrival, The Team then had a choice to make, to walk down to Nell's hide or to go in the opposite direction and look over the marsh opposite Sandgrounders hide. There was another option in the bushes beside the car park but I will gloss over that!

The few that chose Nell's hide we're rewarded with a sighting of a female Long-tailed Duck which then took umbrage and flew off! Those who chose the marsh were rewarded with prolonged views of both Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier, which were quartering the grassland looking for lunch. Those who chose the bushes were accompanied by smaller birds that included Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, and Yellowhammer.

There were sightings of Little Egret and the constant bobbing of the heads of Pink-footed Geese in the long grass of the marsh.

The ponds in front of the hides were full of ducks and waders, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Shelduck, Teal, Tufted Ducks, Golden Plover, Lapwing, and Black Tailed Godwits. Some of these species, particularly the Wigeon and the Godwits were in very large numbers. The Ross's Goose that has been on the site for some time obligingly paraded in front of the Sandgrounders hide and allowed another tick in the book. Some Members amused themselves by spotting the several hares that were hopping about on the far side of the ponds. Later viewings over the marsh were rewarded with a distant Merlin.

Because of the good weather forecast and being a weekend the site was rather busy and some of the hides were very full at times. Because of the orientation of the hides on this site the viewing is often directly into the sun with a significant glare and this can make viewing uncomfortable. This doesn't spoil anyone's enjoyment however and we marvelled at the sheer number of birds and delighted in the constant whistling of Teal.

We then made the short journey to Martin Mere and as we travelled along gazing at very soggy fields there was a sudden and synchronised chorus of 'BARN OWL' and there it was, close alongside the coach. A short but satisfying view and a very nice surprise in an unexpected location.

We arrived at the WWT centre and marvelled at the expertise of the driver as she reversed the coach into a rather confined space.

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Martin Mere always starts with a smile as there are bird feeders at the gate into the 'wild' site and invariably there are Tree Sparrows at this location and we were not disappointed. The light was particularly good and we had excellent views of the Sparrows and also of Wren, Dunnock, and various Titmice.

The group then split into smaller groups and spread out across the site visiting the various hides. Previous checking of the website had confirmed that there was one Bewick's Swan (above left) among the 1200 Whooper Swans! Quite a challenge, but birders are a very generous breed and are always willing to share their expertise and findings and the lone bird was soon pointed out.

There were very large numbers of swans, geese, and ducks on the ponds but very few waders. The lone example that I spotted was Ruff (right). Other members of our group added Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. There was a total of 70 species noted for the day.

Then there was a whisper that there was a Tawny Owl in one of the ivy-covered trees. It wasn't difficult to find the tree, as there was a small group of people below it all craning their necks and straining their eyeballs to find it. But find it we did, though the bird just sat there ignoring us all with a haughty disdain.

It was then time for the relatively short journey back to Wilmslow and all agreeing with our initial thought that it had been a good day!

Photos by Chris S

CHRIS S

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