New Year At Martin Mere 2013
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On the 2nd January some friends and I spent the day at the WWT reserve at Martin Mere, the perfect way to blow away those New Year cobwebs. Although the weather was rather dull and drizzly two incidents helped brighten up the day.

In the morning we watched the wildfowl being fed on the main lake then moved down to the Ron Barker hide to look for the Barn Owl that had been reported hunting over the Pump House field area over the previous few days. However it had started raining quite heavily now and this obviously discouraged the owl from hunting since there was no sign of it.

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Between showers we then headed back toward the Visitor Centre to visit the hides over on the other side of the reserve. As we passed the In Focus shop a customer who was leaving asked us “Have you seen the Sparrowhawk?” Well no, we hadn’t, so we immediately rushed in. It was standing on the bank between the shop and the Swan Link hide tucking in to its prey that it had just killed. Obviously we hadn’t seen that happen but we were told that the victim was a Great Spotted Woodpecker. There was a ‘scope on the bird so we had a really good view.

However the shop proprietor was closing up for lunch so we headed straight up to the Swan Link hide to have another view. Most people in the hide were quite oblivious of what had happened and were busy concentrating on the Whooper Swans and other wildfowl on the lake. The Sparrowhawk was quite far up the bank and you had to squint sideways out of the window to see it. However it was very close, about 15-20 feet away, and despite the commotion continued to feed on its prey for another 10 minutes or so.

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After it had eaten its fill, rather than fly away, it hopped up onto a post by the waterside and spent the next few minutes cleaning its feet. So we had even clearer views before it flew off across the lake scattering the ducks before it.

Thoroughly heartened by this sighting we then set off toward the United Utilities hide, stopping first at the little hide on the corner to see what was on the feeders. As we went in one of the occupants asked us “Have you seen the Woodcock?” Well no, we hadn’t seen that either, but were keen to find out more.

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The bird was on the other side of the pond partly obscured by the reeds. From the hide we could see the shape of its back and head but not much more, typical of previous Woodcock sightings in a tangle of undergrowth. However I discovered that by going out of the hide and peering round the left hand edge of the hide screen a much better view was possible. In fact from this angle the whole bird was clearly in view out in the open. The light was very poor but I managed to get some photos.

We carried on round to the United Utilities hide from where we found some Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, a couple of Common Buzzard, and had another sighting of Sparrowhawk, possibly the same one as before. On returning to the corner hide we found that the Woodcock was still in the same place and we were able to introduce some more visitors to their first view of Woodcock.

What an amazing start to birding for 2013.

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