Another dawn start at Hesketh hoping for more views of the Dowitcher, but not to be. The Wigeon numbers have greatly reduced with many now out by the river or on Banks, but there was still a thousand or so to work through. There were 5 Goosander on the West and a Spotted Red in with the Lapwing, Snipe, Redshank and Dunlin.
As I got to the west end, there was a bit of a commotion on the pools so I scanned the reserve and picked up this Shortie perched up distantly on the grass – a brightener for any day regardless of the gloomy conditions.
Then soon after, the male ringtail Hen Harrier came over the outer sea wall close in to give a great fly by view (despite the pictures). This was the first of a full house of the magnificent 7 raptors that are gracing our estuary this winter – Merlin, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel seen from Hesketh and a female Sparrowhawk at Marshside.
Also from the west end a Green Sand calling as it rose from one of the small creeks, a Common Gull in a ploughed field with Black-heads and Herrings, a Woodcock flushed from the Willow scrub and a Grey Plover.
A trudge back to the car park and the Whoopers had settled in the field by Dib Road today – nice to have my very own brass section for my visit!
The east part of the reserve looks really good at the minute and there was another 1,000+ Wigeon on one of the far pools, as well as 3 Greenshank calling away.
Then I noticed a small diving duck on one of the distant pools with a group of 4 Little Grebes. As it came into focus in the scope, I was well chuffed to find a red head Smew. I don’t think I’ve seen one since the last bird at Hesketh many years ago – they are a pretty rare bird on the Ribble. That makes the 3rd sawbill species of the year at Hesketh and a nice addition to my Patchwork Challenge year list. The record shots aren’t great as the light was still very poor, but you get the idea. Cracking little birds….