Mark Abram and I enjoyed a few hours at Leighton Moss today. For the first time in years, I saw Bearded Tits at the grit trays. Lower hide produced a close encounter with a snipe and a distant view of a bittern (but not close enough for a decent shot). At public hide the sun eventually came out to illuminate a Marsh Harrier.
The weather outside is frightful, but the birding is so delightful.
Snow and ice plastered the Pennines today but gritters had cleared the M62 just enough to warrant a trip to Wakefield. An unusual birding destination may be, but "Blyth's Pipit" isn't a usual sort of bird. (Actually it's dull as hell, but rare enough to draw me to a disused bit of scrub opposite a new-build housing estate in Yorkshire). Luckily I found it straight away (again, with help from other birders).
Well, hunting for quite a few things actually, but that doesn't rhyme.
A seasonal sprinkling of winter-visiting birds drew me and Eddie towards the Lancashire coastline once more on this particularly windy, rainy and dark winter solstice. First stop: Fairhaven Lake. Viewing the water from the sea-wall side we avoided the prevailing wind from pummelling our faces.
Mission accomplished, news of a Snow Bunting and a Grey Phalarope at Rossall Point lured us northwards along the prom to Fleetwood. After parking up, we were greeted by this character again, this time out for a stroll on the lawn.
After viewing the Shore Lark we headed for the beach in search of the next winter showpiece: Snow Bunting.
Almost as compliant as a Leighton Moss Robin, the Snow Bunting flew straight towards us and began perching / posing on prominent pebbles just 20 feet away.
After the 10 minute photo-shoot, the model flitted off so we headed back to the car snapping at other small birds along the high tide line.
By lunch time, the day was already a success. So what had we got to lose by heading for Southport in search of the American Wigeon? Arriving at the main hide, we asked the RSPB wardens if they knew its last whereabouts. "Its over there somewhere," came the reply. We looked left only to see thousands of ducks in the far distance, scattered on the ground and filling the air too. I didn't rate our chances much, but we decided to drive off in that general direction anyway. On arrival, we were greeted by a lone friendly birder who, amazingly enough, had trawled through the masses of teal and wigeon and had actually managed to find the bird in question. An outrageous (and somewhat cheeky) stroke of luck to end a perfect day's birding.
A Shore Lark had been reported at Rossall Point, Fleetwood. Arriving at 9am with the tide nice and high, Eddie and I spotted it straight away (the dozen or so other birders also helped).