Trip reports

Wild Goose Chase

Flock of pink-footed geese at dawn over Loch of Strathbeg

Saturday, 28 February 2009

On a dull grey February morning, 8 members of the local RSPB group met at Conder Green to await the mini bus that was to take them on their wild goose chase.
Before setting off, a quick look over the marsh found a Merlin sat on a post, whilst a charm of Goldfinch flitted over the grasses. A swirl of waders in the sky turned into several hundred Bar tailed Godwits, which landed on the mud flats of the Lune estuary.
The first stop on our chase was a quick look at Conder Pool were we saw the following: Little Grebe, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Redshank & Oystercatcher.
The lanes south of Glasson saw the first geese - a group of 59 Pinkfeet (2 days earlier there had been c2000). Thankfully, the swans had stayed put on Moss Lane with a mixture of Mute Swan, Whooper & Bewicks Swan (nice to see juvenile Whooper & Bewicks).
Continuing on our way, we called in at Lane Ends to scan the marsh. A flash of white in a gully revealed itself as a Little Egret (a species that 5-6 yrs ago was a rarity in our area and now fairly common).
Leaving Lane Ends and in an adjacent field we saw c1000 Pinkfooted Geese. They were very wary, no sooner had we started to 'scope them, than they took to the air.
We then proceeded to Fluke Hall, where in worsening weather, a further c2500 Pinkfooted Geese were seen 2 fields in away from the road. As the rain continued, it was decided to take lunch & hope the weather improved.
After lunch & as the rain had ceased the Pinkfooted Geese were 'scoped for any oddities, with negative results, so our attention turned to the waders massing on the edge of the tide. These were mainly as follows:
Oystercatcher (large roost), lesser numbers of Knot, Dunlin, Grey Plover & Bar tailed Godwit.
As we backtracked our way to Lane Ends, skeins of geese were landing to join many already in the fields adjoining the seawall. Giving them time to settle before alighting the bus to scope them, we found the following in the c4000 Pinkfooted Geese :- a Barnacle Goose & Dark Bellied Brent Goose, but unfortunately no definite sighting of a Bean Goose (reported in with them), but not for want of trying.
We continued our chase around Eagland Hill, but no geese were seen in any inland fields.
We stopped near the game bird hatchery on Bradshaw Lane in the hope that the Short Eared Owl would oblige. Almost to order, it floated in front of us, giving all excellent views as it hunted & perched.
The next stop was the feeding station & again we were in luck:
Treesparrows in numbers, along with Corn Bunting, Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, plus 4 Brown Rats.
(This feeding station must be a boon to the birds in winter to enable them establish a breeding population for the coming Spring, many thanks to all involved).
As we headed home, a stop at Cockersands was made as the tide ebbed. Waders seen: Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black & Bar Tailed Godwit; also a male & female Red Breasted Merganser on the river. In the fields, Brown Hares (5) were observed. Of interest in many of the fields was the fact that Lapwing appeared to be setting up territory & Skylark were singing. Spring hopefully is on its way!
Our last stop was to check Conder Creek, where Greenshank & Spotted Redshank were added to the days list.
All in all, a succesful outing, even if numbers were on the low side (and much to Robin's disgust, we dipped on the Bean Goose). I think the trip was enjoyed by all. Many thanks to Robin Horner for the driving. Apologies for any species omitted.
JW Bateman (RSPB Local Group Leader)