Trip reports

An unexpected party at the wader fest

An unexpected party at the wader fest
Waders at the Pt of Ayr. Laura Bimson

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sunday dawned bright breezy and coolish, autumn was in the air, in the distance threatening black clouds lurked. We were at the Point of Ayr RSPB site, one of three reserves on the Dee Estuary. The salt marsh at the Point provides an excellent habitat for ground-nesting waders, as well as a rich supply of seeds for dabbling ducks such as teal, feeding in the creeks in winter.

Our walk began two hours before high tide and found 11 hopeful watchers gathered on the beach, however our numbers were not complete and something reminiscent of the Hobbit's 'An unexpected party' chapter occurred as more of our local group arrived in their two's and threes until we were a happy 20!

Telescopes and bino's scanned out towards the wind turbines, and through the assorted gulls. Terns were expected but were few and far between, instead we had scoters and shelduck and even a seal bobbing close to shore. Swallows swooped along the beach, finches and warblers flitted through the shrubs behind the sea defences; where the gulls had already taken a defensive position against the expected poor weather.

The immediate shoreline held no surprises and sadly no masked ranks of sandwich terns, but larger flocks were visible further on down the beach towards the new hide area, a wader fest perhaps? As the tide came in we meandered are way along the embankment towards the RSPB Hide. The embankment dotted with wildflowers and attractive to small tortoiseshell and white butterflies, gives views of the marsh to the left, including inlets that were favoured by a few little Egrets. A ditch backed by and trees and shrubs runs along the right. Lots of little un's zipped through these trees and caused lots of id confusion about what warbler was that! Willow warbler, chiffchaff, erh? Long tailed tits, dunnock and robins were easier to id!

The open backed hide that overlooks the marsh and river mouth is a solid structure although open to the elements in poor weather, but better than nothing and it prevents you from disturbing the roosting birds on the salt marsh. As the water rose, large flocks of oystercatcher, curlew, herring, black headed and black-backed gulls were driven towards the marsh and a sandy beach to our left, along with over 15 little egrets, various ducks mainly shelduck and mallard, about 8 cormorants, and a small flock of redshank that flew back and forth along a creek in front of the hide. Once again the only terns seen were two sarnies flying towards the shore, and then lost from view.

The tide abated and as dark clouds threatened we made our escape, some of us were lucky enough to see a stoat scramble along the embankment, in search of dinner no doubt; talking of which, the Clwyd bakery shop on the Talacre campsite is worth a visit if you're feeling peckish - cheap, tasty pasties, butties and cakes.

After a standing lunch stop, a few of the party decamped to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands hopeful of seeing a reported little stint. On arrival we were disappointed to hear we had just missed a kingfisher swooping in front of the hide, drat. But we did thanks to Sean's spotting skills and a stonking new scope quickly locate the little stint. Other welcome sightings were of a single bar headed goose amongst the Canadians, ruff, 7 stripy snipe, 2 spotted redshank, a curlew sandpiper, a sedge and a reed warbler. Also worthy of mention were some alternative flying predators, brown and common hawker, and emperor dragonflies.

Time to go, but not before three of our party caught a glimpse of that kingfisher, better luck next time for the rest.
We left just as the rain came in; pretty glad we weren't on the beach during the ensuing deluge!

Species seen - not in order

Swallow, robin, sedge warbler ,reed warbler, linnet ,blue tit, gt tit, goldfinch ,black headed gull , common gull, herring gull, curlew, teal, mallard, tufted duck, pintail, bar headed goose, canadian goose, greylag goose, black swan, ruff, little stint, redshank, spotted redshank, meadow pipit, buzzard, chaffinch, willow warbler, chiffchaff, little grebe, scoter, snipe, little egret, coot, moorhen, bar tailed godwit, black backed gull, ringed plover, dunlin, sandwich tern, shelduck, shoveler, curlew sandpiper, long tailed tit, dunnock. skylark, yellowhammer, sparrowhawk, starling, chaffinch, cormorant, gadwall, lapwing, pied wagtail, white wagtail, crow, wood pigeon, house martin, sand martin, wigeon and collared dove.