The Jam’s song on the stereo this morning on the way out was pretty apt – as I opened the car door at Hesketh the sound of guns from the outer marsh put a mass of duck up on the western part of the reserve. Thankfully they whirled around a few times, but then dropped back in.
As I got to the top of the bank by the old shelter, I noticed a distant pale bird swooping up and down on the inner fields. I looked through the bins, and both the adult male and the ringtail male Hen Harriers were tussling together – superb. The ringtail disappeared, but the grey was present for about an hour hunting and then resting up on the hedges. What a bird!
In between snatches of the Harrier, I starting scanning through the duck. There was at least 10,000 birds just on the West – I love Hesketh when it’s like this, you feel that almost anything could appear in the flocks as you’re working through them.
After a couple of sweeps, I picked up a distant American Wigeon. I managed to get a little closer and it looked like it was the same bird as last months. It is interesting that it disappeared from here on the 10th November and then shortly after, a bird was found at Leighton. That bird hasn’t been seen since Friday and now my bird is back here. We already know birds move between the 2 sites with colour ringed Avocet records, so really interesting if the Wigeon flocks are also moving up and down the coast.
Quite an aggressive bird, it certainly intimidates the Eurasian drakes. I watched it for quite a while, enjoying the way its head pattern changes with the light and angle. The duck flock also held a lot of Teal, 20+ Pintail, Shovelers and a few Gadwall, but nothing rarer – one day I’ll find a Falcated Duck!
A Water Pipit overhead was a nice addition, as were a couple of Marsh Harrier, a Spotted Red and a GWE on Banks.
I moved across to the East and there were yet more duck on this side. At least 1,000 Teal and to be honest, I was pretty surprised I didn’t find a Green-winged, but there were plenty in gutters that I couldn’t see so maybe next time.
As I was leaving, a Merlin took a small bird in mid-air about 30m away from me and then settled on a post for its lunch. Nice note to end on.
A quick look at the gulls on the marine lake and the only bird of note was this Yorkshire rung Herring – I can’t remember if I’ve seen this one before or not, Y:970.
Gulling was how I spent most of Saturday morning – I watched the birds at the Suez waste site near Blackpool for over 3 hours. Nothing rare, but a nice rotation of birds and several ssp argentatus Herrings plus some oddballs like this yellow-legged Herring. I’ll definitely try that site again over the winter.