Trip reports

A tale of Wirral Wanderings, Wondrous waders and a Wretched Fox

A tale of Wirral Wanderings, Wondrous waders and a Wretched Fox
Fox trapped on the marsh at Parkgate

Sunday, 2 February 2014

If the recent weather had anything to do with it, our Wirral wander was about to be a gale lashed wash out, never believe the weather forecast, fortunately for our group the day dawned cold, bright and gustier rather than gale force.
Our first stop on our wander was the Leasowe lighthouse area. A terrific area offering mixed habitats, shoreline, marshy reed beds and fields. From our vantage point of the sea wall we observed the birds dashing on the tideline, small groups of curlew, shelduck and oystercatchers amongst the bigger flocks, the gulls were squabbling and pecking at some puzzling unfortunate on the shore. The welcome voices of Skylarks sang over head as we walked along the sea wall, we were accompanied by a solitary turnstone busy foraging for things only could see. Eventually we reached a point along the wall were a rocky groyne had been constructed out from the wall towards the sea. This proved to be great place to stop as this was were our waders escaping the incoming tide took refuge; dunlin, redshank oystercatchers, lapwing, turnstones and solitary sanderling sat huddled together. Fidgeting, jostling then taking flight, a wonderful aerial ballet, a shimmering silvery cloud of dunlin wheeling and whirling in unison, a spectacle to put the Snettisham knot to shame.

Time was tight today as we planned to get to Parkgate marsh for the high tide after midday, so we dragged ourselves away from our waders to investigate the paddocks and reed bed area behind the seawall. No rarities and strangely no visiting winter thrushes today, sparrows, finches, meadow pipits, song thrushes and tits were the order of the day; even the wagtails were the more usual black and white.

The morning pressed on time, we just had time to make a dash to New Brighton's marine lake were we assured to see Purple sandpipers. Boy was it busy when we arrived, the windy weather combined with the expected high tide, made the sea heave and swell, crashing against and above the sea wall, here the Sunday walkers had been joined by ranks of excited onlookers, there to witness the crashing sea.

Arriving at the lake we were not disappointed, we found our sandpipers 16 in total clustered alongside yet more redshank, turnstones and dunlin. 4 cormorants stood on the pontoon corners, as if on guard over the restless flock, one of these guards displayed an attractive white, crested head plumage, which identified it as continental fellow, very striking. An unexpected bonus was a solitary red breasted merganser preening and fishing on the lake, an eye catching stunning individual.

Leaving the lake we rushed to Parkgate, anticipation was high as the previous days high tide had brought in all manner of raptors eager to feast, short eared owls, Kestrels, peregrine falcon and hen Harriers. Good grief from one football crowd to another, the promenade and sea wall was packed with spectators. We made our way along the path away from the boathouse and promenade. The tide was already on its way in, flushing birds up into the air above the marsh. The Marsh was alive with a multitude of skylarks, pipits and linnets.

One forlorn, dejected fox sat on a marshy clump stuck between the tidal water and the massed ranks of humans on the seawall, a sad sight an unhappy soul unable to find the courage to make a break for it, to the safety of the fields behind, and here he stayed for how long we don't know, still crouched on his soggy island as we left.

Shortly after arriving we saw our first 'shortie' quartering along the shoreline, deep languid eats, and a most splendid owl. Our second was a kestrel hovering over the marsh, searching for an unfortunate mammal trying to escape the waters. Exploring the waters lapping against the sea wall were surprised not to see more stranded creatures, a sign perhaps that the previous day's high tide may have flushed most out already, a thought certainly indicted by a fellow members account of watching a kestrel take 6 mice or voles from her shop windowsill vantage point the previous day! A second and third sighting of short eared owls was too follow, one being an owl sitting on the marsh, mobbed by skylarks but content to sit and digest his dinner. We were due to leave when a small bird fluttered down along the path in front of us, fevered scrutiny through the bino's confirmed this to be a twite, a welcome sighting for many.

We left the RSPB stand and the retreating spectators and headed for our last destination of the day, remarkably busy RSPB Burton Mere wetlands, other birders had obviously had the same idea. The scrapes seemed less busy than our December visit; the usual geese and ducks were there but hidden amongst them was a charming bar headed goose and a single godwit. A black swan was feeding with the whoopers on the reserve perimeter fields, noticeably smaller than his fellow swans. No sign of the water rail, little stint or golden plover, a single little egret briefly dropped into the waters by marsh covert hide.
A gt spotted woodpecker high in a tree was the last bird to be seen as we wearily left for home. It had been a long day, a busy day, but a great day and to cap it all on the way home five travellers were treated to a wake of seven buzzards hopping round a field edge, on the hunt for a wormy dinner no doubt!