Sunday, 27 February 2011

High Tides and Green Grass....

It's been a while. Sometimes things just get hectic and things drop off the radar, in this case the blogging. I've hardly been out either so there has been little to report to be honest.

I decided to try and get out recently only to discover on my arrival at the shore there were no longer any birds on the mudflats! Natch!

On closer inspection there were, but numbers were seriously impoverished compared to the first few weeks of the year. Perhaps the recent big tides had pushed them off my patch.

10 metre tides had flooded the marsh a couple of weeks ago providing excellent views of some marshy winter specials. Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Water Rail were duly added to the yearlist.

It was great to catch up with the SEOs after a winter that had seemed to be bereft of my favourite owl. They just kept coming out of the flooding marsh! I saw 7, the final count between Riverbank Road and Heswall Golf Course rose to 10. The marsh at Riverbank Road flooded completely.

As well as big tides we had a weekend of high winds (£120s worth of damage to our slate roof was a pain!) that provided more birding adventures on the Dee. On the crossing to Hilbre sands were whipped up to sting the face, the only way to get walk was backwards to avoid damage to the eyes! The sands were wind animated, coming in waves as the gusts thrust shorewards. the sand waves mimicked the waves of the tide that were waiting to come rusing in when the tide turned.

The tide that followed churned up and ripped off huge swathes of vegetation from the marsh and once it had retreated the grassy deposits left behind rendered the sandy shores meadow-like.

The gales revealed which species on the Dee were that hardiest. On the wind lashed shore there were just Curlew, Shelduck, Pintail and, still noisy and still fighting, Oystercatcher. Add to that list several windswept birders who described the day as bracing, exhilarating and our decsion to go birding in 60mph winds as questionable or awesome depending on how much sand you got in your eyes.

We made it home in one piece but not all were so lucky. A massive jelly fish washed up on the shore was interesting to see, not a great place to end up for it though.

One individual that did get a lucky escape was a female House Sparrow at the feeding station at Wirral Country Park. In the absence of anything on the shore half an hour was spent in the hide watching the busy tits and finches feeding, squabbling and chirruping away. The peace is shattered by the male Sparrowhawk. He usually sweeps out over the short grass area, winds himself up for an attack then accellerates along the hedgerow to reach attack speed for a lightning strike at the feeders before zooming off to feed (or curse his luck) out of sight.

This time the attacking thrust is much slower and everything scatters into the surrounding hedges except for 2 House Sparrows. Instead the male and female Sparrow sit tight in the Hawthorn under the bird table. The Sprawk doesn't leave, he must be hungry, he sits and waits for them to emerge from their thorny sanctuary.

Every now and then he darts at the bush to try and flush them into the open. The male Sparrow makes a break for it as Sprawk goes for his Mrs and is gone into the trees. So much for chivalry! The Sprawk returns to his vantage point to wait out his lunch. This allows the kit to be deployed and a few frames of this fine raptor to be captured. As he dances about the floor surrounding the bush the female Sparrow watches until he is on the opposite side of her makeshift prison and makes a break for it. She escapes and the Sprawk goes hungry.

There is always something to see on the Dee....

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