I chose a great day for the short hop across the Mersey (or under it to be precise) for a birding day at Leasowe, North Wirral.
My diary notes for the day included the heavily underlined phrase " The first really warm day of the year" and it was glorious. So good that I almost gave up on the birding idea in favour of one of my favourite walks, a 10 mile round trip coastal walk to West Kirby. I compromised and with camera and bin's set off along the coast towards Hoylake.
The tide was out, which at Leasowe leaves a narrow channel about 25 meters wide and running adjacent to the sea wall. On the far side of the channel, 40 Redshank were busy feeding along with a few Dunlin and a Curlew. I took a few shots and moved on but only managed about 50 meters before a frenzy of alarm calls stopped me in my tracks. Turning back to see what the fuss was, I was amazed to see a number of Redshank mobbing a Curlew! Strange, I thought, as I was quite used to seeing both species coexisting in almost perfect harmony at my local Mersey Estuary patch. I walked back and the penny dropped... it was a Whimbrel and my first this year. I bagged a few shots for the records, before giving myself a mental beating for initially mistaking the bird for a Curlew at such a relatively short distance. But exoneration came later that evening when reviewing the photo's and seeing that the first bird was indeed a Curlew and the Whimbrel must have arrived after I had walked away.
I am still a lttle curious as to why the Redshank - often wary but generally at ease in the presence of Curlew - should react so aggressively to the arrival of a Whimbrel! They obviously have no trouble telling them apart and (in this area at least) must see the Whimbrel as an uncommon visitor and thus a threat.
A little further on, I found a dozen Turnstone, a couple of Wheatear and a sudden abundance of Swallows. Whilst the expansive sands that stretched out to my right were dotted with small pockets of gulls, mostly Herring and Lesser Black-backed, plus the odd Great Black-backed and one Black-headed.
On the walk back I took a detour down Park Lane for a look at the meadows, where notable finds were Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Reaching the end of the lane, I continued along the footpath for a look at the horse paddocks and found 20+ Wheatear had dropped in, plus a couple of White Wagtails, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Skylark and a small flock of Linnet.
I had clocked up 30 species but added a wonderful 31st near to the old café where a male Common Redstart flew across my windscreen and into the left-hand bushes. I needed to be certain so I parked up and slowly edged behind the bushes where I tracked it down for confirmation of another UK year √ before it flew off over the new café (burger van).
I had a great day but I have to admit to spending the evening nursing a badly sunburned neck!