Trip reports

RSPB Marshside Reserve - 21 January 2007

Male merlin perched on mossy hummock, Shetland Isles

Monday, 19 February 2007

Organising a field trip is always something of a gamble. Whilst there are many factors which we can control, the weather certainly isn't one of them! As the Sunday of our trip to the RPSB Marshside reserve at Southport drew closer, the weather forecast didn't look too appealing, with strong winds and sleet and hail showers predicted. Unfortunately for once the forecasters got it right, forcing the intrepid Lichfield & District Group to seek shelter from a couple of hailstorms in the heated hide or the shelter of the minibus with the call 'It'll brighten up soon!'.

Before the adverse conditions set in however we had a magical hour out on the saltflats. Luckily our arrival was 40 minutes before high tide so we were able to position ourselves and watch events unfold. It's not often that you can enjoy great views of Merlin, Peregrine and Short-eared Owl all at the same time along with an accompanying cast of waders, but that's just what happened.

The Owls were the real stars of the show quartering the ground with their long, lazy wing flaps, occasionally drifting quite close showing their flat faces and huge eyes. How they managed such controlled flight in the high winds which were buffeting the coast was amazing.

We spent a very enjoyable hour watching the sea creep closer, forcing distant waders into view before noticing that the wind had increased in strength and the dark clouds on the horizon were now much closer. Time to retreat. Despite the winter weather we enjoyed a great day's birding and managed to see 55 species of birds - not bad for a short winter's day in a hailstorm.