Wigeon 2

The male wigeon below were at RSPB Marshside, Lancashire, in November.

The brown head of winter contrasts with the iridescent green seen in the mating season. These birds still show remarkable patterning, from the fluffy brown head, the bright white splash on the side, those sharply outlined wing feathers and the detailed engraving on the grey back and side. And what a difference when the sun came out.

wigeon 2 pair

This pair exhibit some differences between male and female, but not so marked as in summer.

Sundown at Martin Mere

One of the delights of visiting WWT Martin Mere, Lancashire, in November is to see the feeding of the thousands of birds – ducks, waders, geese, whooper swans, with flocks of lapwings wheeling overhead, sometimes a starling murmuration, more geese and swans circling and descending gracefully onto the water,…

This is soon followed by the gradual descent of the sun to the horizon behind the mere, as the birds begin to settle for the night.

At such times all seems well with the world.

Black Tailed Godwit

A number of smaller birds were taking their chances in the mêlée of larger ducks, geese and swans at feeding time at WWT Martin Mere. I concentrated my camera onto these small waders, which turned out to be black tailed godwits. As waders go, they are reasonably large, much bigger than the delightful ruffs that were also scampering around.

Interesting features in these photographs are:

  • the comparatively huge feet of the pink footed goose in the first picture,
  • the seemingly transparent leg in the second picture and
  • the seemingly sinister coot in the background of the last one.

Stubble field farmhouse

Today, after an unseasonably warm month, typical November weather has finally arrived – cold, wind, and rain. Yesterday afternoon, in marked contrast, we had balmy sunshine, giving wonderful light for photographs in the late afternoon.

I love the effect on this otherwise rather undistinguished Lancashire farmhouse, set on the edge of a stubble field.

Teal dabblers

This common teal was taking advantage of the start of the winter feeding regime at WWT Martin Mere at the end of October.

teal

Teal are the smallest of the dabbling ducks, which may dabble on the water or ‘upend’ to get at things below (as opposed to divers). According to WWT Slimbridge, “Dabbling ducks legs are further central than other types of duck enabling them to walk well on land and graze. Dabbling ducks tend to take flight when spooked or on the move and are able to take flight straight from the water, unlike divers which have to run across the water to gain momentum.”

Some teal are resident in the UK, and many over-winter here, which this one might be is not clear to me.

This bird is of course the origin of the name of the colour teal.

Another Place

One of my favourite places to visit in the North West of England is Crosby Beach, home to Antony Gormley’s Another Place. The beach is studded with statues of a man looking out to sea, and the effect is remarkable.

The statues, beach, sea, skyline and offshore wind farms provide almost infinite possibilities for photography (not forgetting the starlings).

another placeI rather like this one, at telephoto zoom, showing pooled water on the beach, with the windfarm in the background. In between is the deepwater channel where you occasionally see vessels making their way to/from Liverpool. The shadow on the horizon is the hills of North Wales.

The large sandy beach makes a good place to walk, but is not usually appropriate for traditional ‘bucket and spade’ activities as there is usually a fair wind.

And what’s this about wind farms being an eyesore? In the right place they can even add to the natural beauty of a location, which is not really something you can say about a nuclear power station. Yes I’m biased.

 

Murmuration

One of the UK’s spectacular natural sights is the autumn murmuration (gathering) of huge flocks of starlings preparing to roost as night begins to fall.

murmuration 1We received a treat at the end of October when we encountered one at WWT Martin Mere, while we were actually waiting to see the pink footed geese coming in at dusk. This was at a relatively early stage. More and more groups of starlings joined in, and the gathering went on for more than half an hour.Read More »

Goldeneye

WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire makes it easy to take photos of various birds attracted to the ready availability of food. The migratory goldeneye is not usually present in England in the summer. I don’t know if this one nursed an injury. It certainly struggled to get a share of food against a gang of bigger and stronger mallards.

goldeneye

Summer colouring is rather drab compared to the resplendent male plumage of the winter (see goldeneye). But how those eyes stand out!

Pink footed migration

One of the marvels of autumn is the great bird migrations, some of which we can see in the UK. We were lucky enough to go to WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire a couple of weeks ago for a late evening opening to see thousands of migrating pink footed geese coming in for the night. We spent a happy couple of hours in bird hides, as the light gradually faded, watching skein after skein of geese, some going in different directions, come in to land or splash, until lake and banks were covered.

geese-pink-footeds-greylags

goose-greylag
Greylag

The most easily visible geese were the greylags that are at Martin Mere all year round.

geese-pink-footed
Pink footed

The migrating pink footed geese were more difficult to see close up as they keep their distance. These are darker than the greylags, but easily confused as both have pink feet! These geese use Martin Mere as a staging post and move further south after a few weeks.

It’s not just about the geese. In the quiet of evening we also saw hares, a kingfisher, a marsh harrier, a murmuration of starlings, many lapwings, shelducks and others. Martin Mere also has enclosures containing birds from many parts of the world, and otters.

Martin Mere is also really child oriented, with things to do and a really good children’s play area. Granddaughter loves going there so that she can feed the great variety of ducks from the supplied bags of seed (small fee).

WWT Martin Mere is well deserving of support for all the conservation work they do, not only in UK but across the world – birds do not know of coountry boundaries.