As we began to walk around the park, accompanied by distant Fallow Deer and not so distant Goats (need to find out which breed) (if you had read my post, you would know what breed), unusual crow calls could be occasionally heard. We speculated on their origin but remained conservative. Maybe Cumbrian crows just have an unusual twang. As we stroll around further, a Treecreeper is spotted in a tree, and Jays and Pheasant abound. The path became higher given a nice vantage other the river, allowing us to watch Dipper in a way I hadn’t before. It would occasionally swim about on the surface of the water, which is a strange thing to watch a passerine do.  Kept an eye out for kingfisher, an although we were reliably informed of one in the area by James’ sweetheart, we had no luck. More goosander, black deer, and  spectacular Buzzard views later we decided to head back. As we tromped through the rather muddy path, the unusual crow noise could be heard again. James had a peek through his twin-monoculars(read: binoculars) and he spotted the third Raven of the trip. It flew low around us several times, occassionally landing in the trees surrounding us. It eventually perched (as perching birds are wont to do) on a tall conifer (it wasn’t a conifer, but nice try). It blessed us with fantastic views of it cronking away for 15 minutes. We eventually had to leave it behind, which seemed rather rude towards such a spectacular bird.

After James finished flirting with the grounds keeper, we made our way to Leighton Moss. On route we found a pair of regular looking Fallow Deer looking perturbed by the side of the road. A few reasonable sized flocks of starlings greeted us as we arrived at Leighton Moss. Sadly it was too dark to do any serious birding when we got there, but did manage Pintail. 

As the day drew to a close we headed to nearest village and filled our bellies with carbohydrates and our ears with more Alan Partridge.

Interesting fact of day 2. No wood pigeons were seen. More woodpeckers were seen on that day than pigeons. In fact, more ravens were seen than wood pigeons.

Day 3

We woke up to find an overcast murky morning. As we made our way to the furthest hide (being told it was the best place to see otters) we could hear moorhen and water rail calling out the fog. The darkness made identifying the nosey robins on the path more difficult than you’d imagine. After half an hour we reach the hide. While still murky we could make out a fair few ducks on the water. A Water Rail showed itself just in front of the hide before scuttling off behind some reeds. As the fog cleared we could make out an egret roost on an island at the opposite end of the water. We eventually counted 60+ Little Egret in the tall bare trees. It boggled our tiny Humberside minds. The next events happened in very quick succession and I’m having trouble remember the order. These things happened within about 10 minutes of each other
– The first egret to leave the roost seemed unusually large. As it was the first, there were no other egrets to compare it to at the time. (After seeing subsequent Little Egrets leave the roost, we came to the conclusion that the first bird we saw was likely a Great White Egret, but we couldn’t be completely sure)
– The Starling roost emerged from the reeds, with 20,000 birds flying about in the murk. It looked like this

–  A Marsh Harrier flew slowly across the reed beds
– A Bittern dropped into a patch of reeds right in front of us. We got some spectacularly close views before it plopped off into another nearby reedbed.
– Another water rail showed for a few minutes.
– 15 Goosander floated across the water

Quite a bird based bonanza to see before 9am. Getting up early works a treat.

We made our way to the other hides in search of the mysterious large egret. On the way we found a Marsh Tit and got utterly confused by a particularly small (normal sized) and streakless Fieldfare. The next hide gave us nice views of 5 Little Egret and a Peregrine landed in a distant tree before making a hasty exit. We tried the next hide. On route we found a nice array of lichen and moss which I may consider IDing one day. Possibly while recovering from surgery.

Lichen with a possibly special slug

Candle snuff?

After looking about in the next hide, James’ keen eyes finally proved themselves. A Great White Egret was found cheekily poking it’s head up from behind a nearby bank. As another Marsh Harrier passed over, it, and several Little Egret, flew off, giving us fantastic views of its massive gangly legs and yellow bill.

Happy with our relative success on the main reserve at Leighton Moss we tried our luck at the part of the reserve that looks over Morecambe Bay. Looking over the water proved rather tricky given the placement of the low morning sun.  We picked many of the usual waders, including Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank. At the second hide we managed to pick out a couple of Spotted Redshank amongst the regular variety, making me rather cocky with future ID’s. A Marsh Harrier came through and bothered things with its big bothery face. The Marsh Harrier scared up some Godwits allowing us to look at the markings on their wings and rump and determine the species. I have now forgotten what species they turned out to be.

Spotted redshank - Note the hook on the tip of the beak

A normal dirty common redshank. Eurgh

We headed to Martin Mere next. We got there and it was the most expensive thing on the entire planet so we didn’t go in (If I remember correctly, and I’m almost certain I am doing, it cost £1,400 per adult. Also, the man at the till was dressed like a pirate). We just stood around outside looking sad hoping a kind old lady would sneak us in under her shawl. It didn’t happen, largely because we had been sleeping in a car for 3 nights and looked like haunted bin liners. So we went home and that is all. This only took 2 weeks to write.

I will add to this that whilst we hung around outside, we saw a Field Vole amongst a small patch of trees, Robert spotted two Whooper Swans going over, and I spotted a White-Fronted Goose flying in amongst some Pink Footed Geese. Robert refused to look at the White Front for some reason.

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