Our group always look forward to this visit to our local RSPB reserve, which usually produces a good number of birds, many at close quarters. We visited on Tuesday 7th November 2017.
It also has the luxury of a visitor centre heated by a fire when the colder/wetter days arrive. The weather forecast was not very promising and we thought we may end up spending a lot of time in the visitor centre (Reception hide), but 15 people turned out for the trip and were treated to better than expected weather. Although it was windy, it was reasonably dry.
We met at the reserve and decided to spend the first couple of hours in the area between the visitor centre and the bunker hide. We gained a reasonable count of the regular birds such as gulls, lapwings, ducks, etc. Over in the field we saw a lovely flock of pink-footed geese and one white-fronted goose, which was a lovely surprise.
We decided to have lunch at Station Rd before walking along towards Decca pools for high tide. There we enjoyed sightings of peregrine, great white egret, marsh harrier and greenfinch. As it was getting chillier and increasingly windy, and as the visitor centre was nice and warm, we decided it was time return to the reserve.
We spent some time viewing the scrape while enjoying a hot drink, and then some of the group decided to call it a day. The remainder walked around the Meres and visited the Marsh Covert hide. Speaking with some regulars we discovered that the birds from Inner Marsh hide had flown to the scrape in front of the visitor centre, so we decided not to walk over to the hide but to return to the visitor centre for another hot drink. Members of the group then started to head for home.
As the final two of us were readying ourselves to leave, the sparrowhawk flew through creating chaos amongst the birds. This ended the day with a respectable count of 49 birds.
On Wednesday 22nd November, only five members made the journey to the Ellesmere area of Shropshire.
The Mere in Ellesmere, where we met, was created by the retreating ice age and subsequent melt water some 10,000 years ago and is the largest of nine meres and mosses to be found in a small area around the town of Ellesmere. The day was still and the lake is surrounded by trees which produced beautiful reflections in the winter sunshine. We set off on the path round the the east and north side of the lake. There were lots of waterfowl and gulls on the lake, and we identified Mallard, Tufted and Wigeon and Goosander, Mute Swan, Common, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Coot, Moorhen and Great-crested Grebe from our first scan of the lake. We saw a number of Redwing feeding on the fruit of some very large Yew trees, and heard Fieldfare, but, despite much looking were unable to see one. Further round the Mere we added Mistle Thrush and had much closer views of the pair of Goosander that we had seen distantly earlier; the male was particularly fine with his bottle-green head and cream coloured body. We then returned to our cars and speculated on the parentage of the flock of Grey-lag Geese that was in front of the visitor centre; the geese seemed to be a mixture of Grey-lag and Canada with White-fronted and some exotic, probably the Brown Chinese Goose.
After eating our lunch on the picnic tables we headed off to find our second Mere of the day, Colemere, less then five miles away. On the way we passed Wood Lane, a Shropshire Wildlife Trust reserve. Disused sand and gravel workings form the reserve which consists of several large lagoons with islands and is surrounded by a working landscape with mountainous heaps of sand from the quarrying activities that take place adjacent to the reserve. There were bird feeders with tits and finches including a fleeting glimpse a Greenfinch, and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. The hides were not accessible, but we were able to see across one lagoon which, surprisingly, had a flock of Shelduck along with several Snipe, a Green Sandpiper and lots of Lapwing.
We then continued our journey to Colemere where we planned to take the path which goes round the lake, a distance of about two miles. It was a very pleasant walk, through old woodland with large oak and beech trees and the views of the lake seen through the trees were spectacular. On the lake was a flock of over twenty Goosander, interestingly all female; we were not aware that Goosander wintered in single sex flocks. In the trees lots of Cormorant were roosting, along with several Grey Heron. The light was fading as we neared the end of our walk and a large flock of Cormorant gathered in the centre of the mere, presumably before flying to the trees to roost. There was not much bird life in the woodland, but we did add Jay to our list, and almost at the last bend we had fleeting glimpses of two Kingfisher flying low over the water.
In all we had identified forty-eight species of bird, and had a very pleasant walk in the winter sunshine in doing so.