Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Reflections of Marshside - 10 June 2013

Having endured some horrible weather during my recent visits to Marshside, it was a pleasure to arrive this morning in glorious, calm, sunny conditions. Even if such conditions present a Catch-22 scenario here, as you look out directly into the glare of the morning sun from the east-south-east facing hides.

I started the day in Nel's Hide and was soon checking the Avocet nests and hoping for some successes. But it all looked pretty much as it was on my last visit, with some birds permanently on their nest and others sometimes on, sometimes off. Most worrying was a nest with four eggs that was visited occasionally by the male and female feeding nearby, but neither sat on the eggs during the 90 minutes that I was there. Better news came when I found an adult with three chicks across on the east shore, close to the waters edge and surrounded by plenty of nearby cover.

In a ditch to the left of the hide, a clutch of recently fledged Reed Warbler entertained me as they playfully flitted in and out of the reeds, with their excitement reaching a crescendo whenever the parents returned to feed them.

Out on the flash, the calm waters were entrancing, if feeling a little unnatural! It is rarely so still here, with the slightest puff from the prevailing off-shore westerlies usually sufficient to sustain a steady corrugation. Even the Lapwing (often on the wing at the sound of a Peregrine breaking wind from 5 miles away) were still and restful in the mirror-like water.

I moved on to the Sandgrounders Hide where an early Curlew Sandpiper was showing well but distant, two-thirds of the way down the right-hand channel. In partial moult from it's breeding plumage, it was magnificent looking with plenty of the rusty-red colouring still visible. It was my bird of the day but there were other contenders.

A very unique looking pale form male Ruff, complete with white feathery mane, was giving brief and tantalising glimpses from a watery hollow about 30 metres out. It was an agonising two hours before it emerged and slowly fed its way into the open but it was certainly worth the wait.

With a dozen or more people in the hide, it is hard to believe that what came next was witnessed solely by me and a covert Redshank! A Mediterranean Gull (2nd summer) simply dropped out of the sky with a bill full of something tasty, paused for a second or two directly in front of me, and was off again. How I managed to react so fast to get the shot, I'm not sure. How everyone else had missed it was even more of a mystery and I had a few of those 'are you sure' looks, before my 3" view-back did a tour!

I can't visit Marshside without taking a number of shots of the resident (non-breeding) Black-tailed Godwits. Looking as splendid as ever, I could have included any number of classically posed birds here, but I've gone for this one as it sums up what you get from these wonderful birds... guaranteed character!

Fabulous day at a fabulous place.