Saturday 15 January 2022

12th January 2022, Martin Mere Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Centre, WWT.


The two charities I am supporting this Biking Birder year. Thanks to those who have made a donation so far. Every donation is wonderful. Thanks everyone.

        Up early with an incredible long-lasting sunrise to light up my room as I pack and prepare to move on.

        The cycle ride to Martin Mere W&WT Centre is negotiated reasonably quickly and I arrive at the centre at 9.30 am, perfectly timing my arrival with the centre's winter opening time.

        Outside to bird once the bike is stored away and having met the centre's curator for the first time, (thanks for the safe place for my bike and all my worldly goods) I am soon in the Discovery Hide. A Beautiful sunny day, there are birds aplenty, ducks of course with Pochard, Tufties, Mallard, Wigeon, Shelduck and lots of superb looking Pintail*. Whooper Swans*! New bird for the BIGBY list, Big Green Big Year, the beautiful yellow-billed swans are feeding nearby and a star goes next to the name on my notebook list next to their name, another star goes next to Pintail too. Another new bird is Greylag*

        Black-tailed Godwits* are the next new bird for the year and one is incredibly close on the water's edge, probably searching for any grain that the ducks and geese have missed amongst the stones. Birds are regularly fed grain here and watching the daily feed, watching as shovelfuls of grain are thrown out for the birds by a W&WT staff member from a wheelbarrow, is always a delight.

        I take the path to my left on leaving the hide and go to the next bird hide that overlooks a corner section of the large Martin Mere. Eleven Ruff*, new bird, are on the gravelly mud in front and a female Goldeneye is out on the water.

        An Oystercatcher*, a magpie carrying a carrot, is amongst the large Lapwing flocks on the grass around two edges of the mere. A few Meadow Pipits* are disturbed from the grass and take flight as a Buzzard flies over to land on a large straw bale. A Little Egret* is slowly making its way along the nearby water edge. I wonder by how many Little Egrets outnumber Grey Herons these days, if indeed they do. The perception is that the Little Egret population has exploded since their arrival in the early 1980s. (Looking at the BTO Heronry survey data for 2019, occupied nest-wise, Grey Herons still have the upperhand; 9,940 Grey Heron nests and 1,103 Little Egret nest. )

        A birder, Barrie Cooper, comes into the hide and the next hour or so is spent nattering birds and sharing birds on view. Barrie is a Naturetrek group leader and has incredible bird knowledge and a wealth of stories. Barrie is also a Green Birder! 

        To Ron Barker hide, which I can't think of as anything other than the Miller's Bridge hide, so named many decades ago, back when I used to bird here whilst living in nearby Southport.

        At least three Marsh Harriers* are flying out over the now W&WT nature reserve grasslands. A nearby female has her legs contstantly down, talons exposed but seems not to be effected by this unusual stance. A Great White Egret* takes off in the distance and disappears behind a large reedbed. Barrie then finds a Stonechat* in the field containing a huge long-horned bull to the right.

        Time for lunch, into the W&WT cafe where a lack of vegan options is disappointing, especially when I compare the menu to the one proferred by the W&WT HQ at Slimbridge but what the hey, life's too short to worry about this.

        Through the wildfowl collection area in order to get to the Janet Kear hide, I remember having the opportunity to meet Sir Peter Scott many years ago, when he and Dr Janet Kear came into the Miller's Bridge hide. I wanted to go over and say thank you for a letter that Sir Peter had written to me when I was a scabby ten-year old Brummie kid but I was too shy! Ridiculous looking back, an opportunity to say thank you should never be missed, like telling your wife how much you love her a million times a day! Regrets, I have a few...

Karen, my beautiful late wife. I dedicate all Acorns Children's Hospice donations to her. 

        Titmice, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches are taking advantage of the food on offer in the feeders and then two of one of the target birds here comes and joins them, Tree Sparrows*, one of my favourite birds. Unfortunately there is no sign of the other target bird, Willow Tit.

        My lovely visit to Martin Mere W&WT Centre ends with my day list of birds standing at 48, so close to the magic Fifty but not to be today. Last year I went around the UK, visiting RSPB and W&WT nature reserves, over 130 of them and I made day lists at each. As last year was an Olympic year, I thought of fifty species seen as a Gold medal, 40 silver and thirty bronze. So a silver medal today for Martin Mere.

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