Trip reports


Tawny Owl-Graham Croucher

Friday, 18 May 2018

This year's group holiday to Lancashire was a visit to four new reserves for the majority of the party. We set out early and arrived at our first destination Coombes Valley which is in Staffordshire. To get there we had to drive down some narrow country lanes which might have been explained by the fact that the satnav had been set to car as opposed to coach. The target birds for this reserve were dipper, redstart and pied flycatcher.
As we set out along the trails at different paces the group split into much smaller groups and while descending through the woodland we were accompanied by a melody of bird song with robins, chiff chaffs, wrens, blackcaps, blackbirds and many others all competing to see who could sing longest and loudest. We crossed the river where it was hoped the dipper might be but try as we might it failed to show itself. In fact it was hard to see many birds with so much leaf on the trees. However we soon saw a bird rise up from the grass and sit quite openly on a bare tree. Binoculars were quickly raised to identify the bird and it was one of our targets a male redstart. It stayed stationary for a while allowing a few people to see it, whilst others waited to see if it would reappear, which it did. Others moved on along the trail and soon had sightings of two female redstarts.
After stopping to devour our packed lunches, we saw a buzzard flying high above us with swifts and swallows. We continued along the wooded trail towards the visitors centre. As the name of the reserve implies it is a valley and whilst we had enjoyed the downward leg of the trail we were now faced with the uphill return which required several breaks to regain ones breath. On this walk back we did manage to see some of the elusive birds such as the chiffchaff and willow warbler. As the group gathered to eat ice cream before we set off for our journey to Morecambe it was discovered that a couple of our group had also managed to see a pied flycatcher. Everyone agreed that this was a beautiful reserve where in addition to the birds there were a number of butterflies to be seen especially orange tip, green veined white, small copper and small white.
We arrived at our hotel in Morecambe a little later than expected due to the traffic on the motorway and roadworks causing changes to one way systems. We were ushered in for our dinner and after checking in we were treated to a wonderful sunset over Morecambe Bay which many people photographed as they walked along the promenade before relaxing in the hotel lounges.
Saturday saw us make a short journey to visit Lancashire Wildlife Trusts premier reserve, Brockholes. The view from the floating visitors centre, gave people sightings of reed buntings, lapwings and a grey heron with mallards and other ducks. This reserve has three trails of varying length and the group set out in different directions along all these trails. On the longest the trails we came to the lookout hide. It was from here we saw, common tern, ringed plover, little ringed plover and green sandpiper. As we walked along the path occasionally having to dodge the cyclists who also have access we saw on a feeder tree sparrows, dunnocks and tits. We entered the wooded part of the trail and despite hearing birds all around us they were able to keep themselves hidden from view. Stopping off in the hides along the trail we learned that a common sandpiper had been seen by some of our group. We returned to the visitors centre for our lunch. After lunch people either retraced their steps back to the hide or walked along the other trails. In total over 50 species were seen at this reserve. As we arrived back at our hotel, eagle eyed observers on the coach had spotted a male eider duck swimming in Morecambe Bay. During the walks along the promenade birds such as dunlin, turnstone and ringed plover were also seen.
Sunday saw us make the even shorter journey to RSPB Leighton Moss. Our coach trip saw us pass Carnforth Station twice, where they shot the film Brief Encounter. Our coach driver had been distracted by the station and missed our turn off or that was his excuse. The targets for the day were otter, osprey and bearded tit. On our arrival were met by a volunteer who gave us some information about the reserve and where we might see some of the birds.
The majority of people set out for the Lower Trail and as we approached the Causeway Hide we were able to see the scaup, which was swimming alongside a pochard for easy comparison. It was along this part of the trail that bearded tit were seen although for some it was just a fleeting sighting. We finally reached the end of the trail at the Lower Hide where otters had been seen on a regular basis but no-one from our group managed to see them on this occasion. Other people who went off in different directions had wonderful views of an osprey fishing in front of the hide. After enjoying a lunch in the excellent café at Leighton Moss people dispersed among the shorter walks whilst some retraced their steps along the lower trail. A group of five red deer were seen amongst the reeds and when they moved along they disturbed a little egret which had been hidden from view.
As we sat around eating ice creams before boarding the coach to return to Morecambe we were called to the feeders where a bullfinch was in full view and most people were able to see it before it moved away. On his return Graham our birdwatching coach driver showed us pictures of the tawny owl he had managed to spot and show others in the group.
Monday saw us depart our hotel in Morecambe for the trip to Middleton Lakes which was about halfway home. Middleton Lakes is a fairly new reserve for the RSPB and after refreshments people set off on a pleasant walk along a tree lined path stopping to look at the feeders where great spotted woodpecker are a frequent visitor. We also looked at some of the juvenile herons amongst the heronry there. It is about a half mile walk from the carpark to the start of the main trails around the lake and as we reached the start we looked upwards to see several hobbys feeding upon the many insects flying about. The walk around the lakes was about two miles and we were accompanied by the songs of the Cetti's warbler, reed buntings, sedge warblers and whitethroats. The lakes had plenty of ducks and geese on them. After finally refreshing ourselves with more tea and cake we set off on our journey home.
To sum up the group managed to see 103 species of birds. We had sunny weather all holiday, fantastic views across Morecambe Bay and four great reserves which gave much pleasure to everyone. The group said how much they were looking forward to Spain in 2019.