|On the Red Rocks, looking towards Hilbre Island - L Bimson|
Another sunny Saturday saw an expanded Leasowe light brigade (16 of us today) rocking at the Red Rocks, well maybe a slow fox trot, as the weather was a just a bit too chilly with the wind blowing in off the Irish sea, it sucked away any warmth provided by the bright sunshine. Alas it would also be detrimental to our bird watching, as the mudflats were devoid of bird life; a few distant birds could be seen flying about Hilbre Island.
|Hilbre Island - N Prendergast|
We didn’t tarry, just long enough for Chris to point out the buildings and the ringers heligan traps on Hilbre, and the importance of this dropping off point for migrants and feeding birds waiting for the tide to turn. We took the path along the coast towards West Kirby, checking the scrub, marsh and reed beds, backed by the Royal golf course.
Despite the recent weather being poor and spring slow to burst the buds. Our migrants were back, chiff chaff and whitethroat sang. Swallows skimmed the marsh, swooping over the head of a single Wheatear braving the blow. An elusive sedge warbler was in fine voice in the reed bed but despite straining every eyeball, he evaded our gaze. More familiar birds were about, always a joy to behold a skylark high in the sky, fluttering then parachuting down, all the time singing his territorial warbling song. Another melodious attractive finch is the linnet, another opportunity for Chris to point out identifying marking on its chest and tail. (Skylarks and Linnets are both on the conservation red list along with our House Sparrows)
|Reed bed & Dunes - L Bimson|
Other more common a garden birds, wrens, house sparrows, goldfinches and blackbirds, flitted between the neighbouring gardens and the gorse/ shrubs.
Our only birds of prey for the day were a buzzard and later a sparrowhawk smoothly gliding through from the gardens and out over the golf course.
The reed beds only other obvious occupants were reed buntings, a few snoozing Mallards and a hidden Moorhen prrp!
Exploring the nearby natterjack slacks, we came across some tadpoles but these would be the offspring of frogs, the natterjack breeding a little later in the year.
Looking out over the shore from the sand dunes, 2 shelduck were accompanied by a party of 4 white wagtails, a little further out a mixed flock of dunlin and ringed plover busily probed the mud. Gregarious, skittish, and fast of foot, a pleasure to watch, suddenly taking flight on mass spooked by an unseen foe, twisting and turning in unison until landing on the sandstone safety of little eye.
|Busy...Ringed Plover & Dunlin - L Bimson|
Returning to the rocks, waiting for the tide to race in, we took timeout to admire various early flowers, garden escapees or deliberately scattered? Narcissi and grape hyacinths, free seeding Honesty and cranesbills. Nettles flourished along the path, Chris determined to show us white/red dead nettles don’t sting!
Pretty clumps of White Sea scurvy shone out,
one of the first plants to flower on the marsh. The only butterflies to brave
the blow were small tortoiseshells, seen sunning themselves in sheltered areas.
|Sea scurvy - L Bimson|
|Tortoiseshell - N Prendergast|
We hoped the distant waders on the shoreline near Hoylake life boat station would be flushed our way by the incoming tide, however once again the wind was against us and the only birds to come our way was a solitary cormorant, a group of 4 curlews and a large party of mixed gulls. The only bird of note, a distant Gannet further out on the horizon, past the wind turbines, travelling out to sea.
Time for home. Not a great haul for the day, only 28 species seen, but another informative amble in the fresh sea air and a home baked lemon curd cake from Tomo to finish the day - Yummy.
Our Red Rocks Day list: 28 species
Shelduck, mallard, buzzard, ringed plover, dunlin, cormorant, curlew, gannet, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull , herring gull, wood pigeon, skylark, swallow, meadow pipit, white wagtail, wren, wheatear, blackbird, house sparrow, whitethroat, chiff chaff, magpie, carrion crow, chaffinch, goldfinch, linnet, reed bunting.